Tag Archives: Financial Tips

Suddenly Single: Planning to Go It Alone

Untitled-logo trustMost of us cannot imagine the sudden loss of our spouse. Yet, difficult as it may seem to accept, U.S. Census data indicates that the overwhelming majority of married women will be on their own for a significant number of their later years. Should this happen to you, you might be thrust into economic self-survival at a time when you may feel particularly vulnerable and least able to cope. Nevertheless, serious decisions would have to be made, often having a lasting impact on your future financial well- being.

Planning for the Unimaginable

There is an unpredictable aspect of “sudden loss” in that we never quite know how we will react to certain events until they actually occur. While no one can ever be totally prepared to deal with personal trauma compounded by legal and financial matters, there are steps you can take to help you navigate through this difficult period.

The key is to find a way to help provide structure in your life at a time when structure may be disintegrating.

It Happened. . .What Do I Do?

When the initial shockwaves hit, there are matters that will require immediate attention: notification of family and friends; funeral arrangements; and contacting an attorney to review the will and handle the legal aspects of your spouse’s estate. Let your closest friends and most trusted advisors help you with some of these details and short-term decision-making, but proceed with caution regarding major financial decisions such as whether to sell your home, borrow or lend money, invest, make major purchases, and make work/career changes.

During this period, you will most likely face competing demands on your financial resources. If your spouse was the primary income earner, it may take some time to assess your financial situation. During the first few months, pay bills that need to be paid, but spend cautiously, paying attention to cash flow and liquidity.

Rebuilding After the Shockwaves

Certain timetables (e.g., timely filing of tax returns) can’t be overlooked, but much of the financial recovery process should be orchestrated to match your emotional recovery. Some of the important aspects that will have to be addressed eventually will include assessing the needs of dependent children; making housing decisions; determining your income needs; making decisions about insurance settlements; evaluating your insurance needs; and managing money on your own.

Many of these decisions may flow naturally from an appraisal of your needs (and/or desires) to participate in the workforce. Will you want to work? Will economic necessity dictate that you must work? If you are currently employed, will you stay in the same position? If you have not worked for some years, how well will your skills fit the job market? Will you need to acquire more education or enhance your technical skills?

While professional advice will be helpful, don’t allow yourself to be pressured in areas in which you need more time. Your goal should be to develop a sense of command and control concerning your financial future. Align yourself with advisors who will have the patience to work with you at your pace, advisors who will help you gain the knowledge and confidence necessary to go it alone.

Obviously, the earlier you begin to educate yourself concerning financial matters, the better prepared you will be to withstand the impact of facing sudden loss. The quality of your life may depend on your financial skills and your willingness to take responsibility for managing your own financial affairs.

If you have questions about the financial implications of divorce, email our Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, Marcia.Henderson@syb.com, for help!

Resource information provided by Financial Media Exchange.

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Remarriage: Altering Your Financial Plan to Meet Your Needs

Untitled-logo trustIn previous generations, husband’s traditionally handled the family finances. While this arrangement may have worked well during the husband’s lifetime, the consequences of the wife’s lack of involvement in the family’s finances often became clear after her spouse died. Today, more women are actively directing the outcome of their personal finances, and for good reason.

Women need to plan for a time when they may be on their own. Through divorce, widowhood, or personal choice, the odds are high that a woman will be independent at some point in her lifetime. Financial planning is essential for women throughout life, but it becomes especially important in the event of remarriage, as financial arrangements may need to be made for ex-spouses and children.

If you are in a second marriage or about to remarry, you may want to consider the following important points about managing your personal finances:

Bank Accounts. Should married couples combine their bank accounts or keep them separate? Or, perhaps combine certain accounts and keep others separate? There is no right or wrong choice—this is a personal decision. An open and honest discussion may reveal whether or not you and your spouse are financially compatible regarding spending habits, saving, investing, debt, etc. If there is a marked difference in the way you both handle money, then separating your finances may be a better plan.

Prior Debt. Will each spouse be responsible for the other’s prior debt, and if so, to what extent? Keeping the indebted spouse’s prior debt separate may help ensure that the other spouse’s property remains out of reach from creditors.

Property Acquired before Remarriage. Owning previously acquired property in your own name can prevent the risk of losing personal property to your spouse’s potential creditors. Also, doing so may have estate tax benefits. Keeping your property in your own name can help to minimize estate taxes while providing an inheritance for children from a previous marriage.

Home Ownership. Many married couples choose to title property jointly as tenants by entirety. When one spouse dies, the home passes to the surviving spouse tax-free. However, there may be estate tax consequences when the surviving spouse dies. Be sure to consult with a qualified tax professional beforehand.

Retirement. Saving for retirement is one of the major financial goals for married couples. Women, in particular, have unique concerns when planning for retirement. First, women typically live longer than men, so their retirement income needs to last longer. In addition, women often spend more time out of the workforce than men as a result of caregiving responsibilities, and therefore are less likely to have pensions and full Social Security benefits. According to the U.S. Department of Labor in 2013, when women work, they typically earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. Consequently, the gap between gender incomes makes it especially important for women to prepare for retirement.

Insurance. Disability income insurance can help replace a portion of your income in the event you are unable to work due to sustaining an injury or illness. This type of insurance provides funds that can be used for bills and expenses. Similarly, life insurance provides a death benefit that can be used by your family. Proceeds can help ensure that children from a prior or current marriage can attend college, the mortgage can be paid, and the surviving spouse has some replacement income.

Estate Planning. It is important for blended families to plan for the final disposition of assets. Trusts can be a valuable tool to minimize estate taxes and to help ensure that your assets are distributed to heirs according to your wishes. For example, at your death, your assets can pass to a trust, from which your surviving spouse will receive income without direct access to the assets. At the death of the surviving spouse, the assets can then pass to children from your current or previous marriage. This provides ongoing income for your surviving spouse and an inheritance for your children, as well. In addition, if the surviving spouse later remarries, the trust can be designed to preclude your assets from their marital or community property.

Every woman who remarries needs to balance her financial past with her financial future. By addressing the management of your personal finances as soon as possible, you can avoid disputes and build financial independence for your extended and blended families.

If you have questions about the financial implications of divorce, email our Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, Marcia.Henderson@syb.com, for help!

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7 Tips for Choosing a Financial Caregiver

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According to the National Council on Aging, almost 90 percent of the financial abuse committed against older Americans is done by someone they know. More than ever, it is imperative for seniors to select a trustworthy person to properly manage their finances and personal affairs.

Fraudsters often prey on seniors experiencing cognitive decline, limited mobility and other disabilities that require them to rely more heavily on others for help. Appointing someone you trust to handle your financial matters aids tremendously in the fight against these crimes.

In recognition of May as Older Americans Month, we want to share seven tips to help choose the right financial caregiver and prevent financial abuse:

  • When delegating financial decisions, make sure it’s someone you trust. If you are unable to facilitate financial transactions, carefully choose a trustworthy person to act as your agent in all financial matters.
  • Know who is in your home. Conduct a thorough background check on all individuals you hire for personal care or home care services. Check references and credentials before you let them into your personal space.
  • Never sign something you don’t understand. Consult with a financial advisor or attorney before signing any document that appears suspicious or unclear.
  • Understand the terms of assigning a Power of Attorney. Granting someone POA gives them the authority to act and make decisions on your behalf, including managing and having access to your bank and other financial accounts. Make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions of consenting a legal agent before you do so.
  • Always trust your instincts. Exploiters and abusers are very skilled. They can be very charming and forceful in their efforts to exploit you. Don’t be fooled – if something doesn’t feel right, it may not be.
  • Safeguard your personal information. Shred old bills, junk mail, bank statements and other personal documents you no longer need. Leaving unwanted personal documents around the house could lead to the misuse of your information. If you come across keepsake documents opt to store them in a locked cabinet or safe deposit box at your nearest bank.
  • Keep personal items out of plain sight. Lock up checkbooks, credit cards and other monetary instruments to prevent unauthorized use.Resource information provided by the American Bankers Association.

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7 Worthwhile Ways to Use Your Tax Refund

 

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According to the Internal Revenue Service, more than 70 percent of the nation’s taxpayers received a tax refund averaging nearly $3,000 in 2017 and will get a similar amount this year. As Americans receive their refunds along with additional benefits coming from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in December, we have highlighted seven tips to help them use their money wisely.

To help consumers make the most out of their money, We have provided you with the following tips.

  • Save for emergencies.  More than 60 percent of Americans are not prepared for unexpected expenses. You can prepare by opening or adding to a savings account that serves as an “emergency fund.” Ideally, it should hold about three-to-six months of living expenses in case of sudden financial hardships like losing your job or having to replace your car.
  • Pay off debt.  Pay down existing balances either by chipping away at loans with the highest interest rates or eliminating smaller debt first.
  • Save for retirement, your child’s education or future health expenses. Open or increase contributions to a tax-deferred savings plan like a 401(k) or an IRA. Your bank can help set up an IRA, while a 401(k) is employer-sponsored. Look into opening a tax-advantaged 529 education savings plan to ensure school expenses will be covered when your child reaches college age. Or save for future health expenses with tax-free dollars by investing in a Health Savings Account.
  • Pay down your mortgage or student loans.  Make an extra payment on your mortgage or student loans each year to save money on interest while reducing the term of your loans. Be sure to inform your lender that your extra payments should be applied to principal, not interest.
  • Invest safely with U.S. savings bonds or municipal bonds. The U.S. Treasury allows for savings bond to be purchased using your tax refund for as little as $50. Savings bonds earn interest for a maximum of 30 years.
  • Invest in your current home.  Use your refund to invest in home improvements that will pay you back in the long run by increasing the value of your home.  This can include small, cost-effective upgrades like energy-efficient appliances that will pay off in both the short and long term – and with tax credits (as long as Congress continues to renew the program).
  • Donate to charity.  The benefit is two-fold: Giving to charity will make a difference in your community, and you can also claim the tax deduction, if you itemize.

Resource information provided by the American Bankers Association.

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4 TIPS TO GET FINANCIALLY FIT

The New Year is an ideal time to set new goals, as many vow to become more physically fit or get organized.  The New Year is also a great time to assess your finances, gain control and stick to a new budget or saving plan. Taking control of your personal finances will allow you to save and prepare for unexpected expenses.

Get financially fit this January.  Follow the tips below to get started.

Get Organized Consider treating yourself to a post-holiday gift of a financial organization system.  Alphabetized file folders, or filing systems specifically for financial organization are available in January as people begin to prepare for tax season.  Take advantage and start the New Year with an organizational system.  While you’re getting organized, consider buying a shredder to keep your personal information safe from identity theft.

Create a Budget Track your income and expenses to see how much money you have coming in and how much you spend.  If you have debt, establishing a budget will help you to pay down your debt while saving. Use computer software programs or basic budgeting worksheets to help create your budget.  Include as much information as you can and review your budget regularly.  Print several copies of this budgeting worksheet to help you get started.

  • Identify how you spend your money.
  • Set realistic goals, especially if you plan to cut some of your expenses.
  • Track your spending and review your budget often.
  • Points to consider when cutting debt:

Lower Your Debt Debt from student loans, mortgages and credit cards is nearly unavoidable.  Most families carry about $10,000 in credit card debt.  Spending more money than you bring in can lead to financial stress.  Establish a budget to pay down debts while you save.

  • Pay more than the minimum due and pay on time.
  • Pay off debt with higher interest rates first.
  • Transfer high rate debt to credit cards with a lower interest rate.
  • Use credit cards and loans for purchases that will appreciate in value like a home.

Save for the Unexpected and Beyond Pay yourself first.  Saving is important; it ensures a comfortable future that can endure financial surprises.  No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to begin saving.

  • Save at least 10 percent of your income for retirement.  Enroll in a retirement plan or consider optimizing an established retirement plan.  Contribute at least the maximum amount that your employer will match.  Contributions made to these types of plans are tax deductible.  If your employer does not offer a retirement savings plan, many banks offer Individual Retirement Accounts.  IRAs offer tax-deferred growth, meaning you pay taxes on your investment gains when you make withdrawals.
  • Financial advisors often recommend keeping about three months’ salary in a savings account in case of financial emergencies like hospital bills or loss of job.
  • Increase your contribution as your income increases.
  • If you receive direct deposit at work, ask your employer to send a specific amount to your savings account.  Because the money is put into an account before you have a chance to spend it, automatic savings plans are an easy and convenient way to save.  If your employer doesn’t offer direct deposit, many banks allow for automatic transfers from checking to savings accounts.

Resource information provided by the American Bankers Association

The Basics of Creating a Life Plan

by Claudette W. Patton, J.D.

Stock Yards Bank Wealth Management & Trust


Preparing a Life Plan is all about living and making good choices about your legacy. Most people avoid planning because they think it’s morbid to think about death, but a Life Plan – estate planning – isn’t about dying at all. It’s simply providing direction for your legacy and determining how you want to be remembered by your community, family, charities, and personal causes. It is a chronicle of your life’s work with a plan to continue the fruits of your work for the benefit of others.

The most important question remains: “Do you want to control your personal life legacy?” A well written and thought out Life Plan keeps you in control of your life even after you’re gone. The list of those who do not plan is replete with examples of unintended ex- spouses, estranged siblings, children with addictions, and others being granted inheritances by state intestacy law (lawyer lingo for “without a will”). A recent example of a man who did not control his legacy is the music legend, Prince. According to court documents filed in a Minnesota probate court, Prince Roger Nelson left no instructions to divide his belongings. As a result, state law could divide his vast estate equally among 8 siblings. It is reported Prince has one surviving full sister, five surviving half siblings, and two deceased half siblings (with surviving children). Some of these heirs had not spoken with Prince in over twenty years. However, Minnesota state law does not distinguish between full and half siblings, plus any personal relationship to Prince is irrelevant. Would Prince have approved of this distribution? Would you?

The following is a Life Plan “Control Checklist” to assist in protecting and directing your legacy:

Control Who Inherits Your Legacy and Designate The Amount For Each Heir

Many people assume everything in an estate automatically goes to the spouse. Please be aware not every state law automatically passes the entire estate to a spouse! I repeat. A spouse may not automatically inherit everything without a Will. Some states only allow a spouse 1/3 of an estate due to parental inheritance distribution laws. According to Kentucky intestacy law, a spouse may be fourth in the line of distribution. Also, state laws typically divide assets equally to the state designated heirs without consideration of a spendthrift relative, or someone with special medical needs. Children born out of wedlock may not be recognized in some states. Charitable giving may not occur. Additionally, if no living descendants are located the estate may “escheat” (go to) to the state coffers.

Control Who Will Take Care Of Your Minor Children

Preparing a Will and naming a guardian for your children places you in control of the person(s) you desire to meet the needs of your children and reflect your values. Without a Will the court may select a guardian from any family member, regardless if you were estranged during your life. If no family member agrees to guardianship or is deemed appropriate, the court may choose a state appointed guardian such as foster care.

Control Estate Taxes

Controlling taxes is a continuous event during our lifetime. An estate plan continues the control in minimizing estate taxes. A spouse may not take an inheritance tax free. Now is the time to put a plan in place to ensure the maximum of your legacy goes to your heirs rather than for taxes. Let’s revisit the example of music legend Prince. Without a Will or other estate planning, roughly one half of Prince’s estate could go to Federal and state taxes.

Control Probate

Having an estate plan helps speed the probate process, reduces probate costs, or in some circumstances, avoids probate completely.

Control Who Does Not Inherit

Earlier we discussed a plan to choose the exact people who receive your legacy. Now, we draw attention to controlling who will not inherit from your estate. An estate plan is your personal outline and direction of exactly how you want your personal legacy to be distributed. The estate plan allows you to be as detailed as possible and gives you the opportunity to exclude heirs making your intention of distribution clear. For example, perhaps some family members are financially established and you want to distribute assets based upon need, perhaps a family member may be incapable or irresponsible with money management needing small distributions of money over time using a trust, or perhaps a family member participates in lifestyle choices you may not wish to support.

Control Family Feuding

Estate planning may reduce the fighting and conflict among family members. Executing a well drafted estate plan places you in control of potential conflicts. Family members may not view your clear directions of dividing assets in a favorable manner, but your intentions will be clear to the court. Further, some states allow forfeiture/no contest clauses, indicating if an heir contests your estate plan then the heir may forfeit any gift made under the Will.

Control Charitable Legacy

An estate plan allows your legacy to live on by personally choosing charitable giving reflective of your values, interests, and social concerns.

Control Financial and Medical Care

Through estate planning with a Durable Power of Attorney, you control your financial and medical care in the event of a disability.

You can take control of your Life Plan now by engaging an experienced estate planning attorney to assist with the personal legacy you want to create. An estate plan expresses your values and outlines how you desire your assets to be preserved and protected. Who is in control of your legacy?

For more information about Life Plans, please contact our Wealth Management and Trust department.