Over the years, we have found that most of our clients fit into one of three segments:
Our Rising Success Clients are typically ages 30-45, their careers are taking off, cash flow is strong, and their bank and investment account balances are growing. They are usually juggling family life with work and other interests, and thus have specific needs and financial objectives.
Here are the top five questions we have been getting from our Rising Success clients:
- “Should we go with a 30-year mortgage or a 15-year mortgage?”
We lean towards the 30-year option. As of writing this article, 30-year mortgage rates sit at 3.50%, while 15-year are at 3%. Even though the rates for a 30-year are a bit higher, it carries a lower monthly obligation and thus flexibility with cash flow. The payment on a $300k 30-year mortgage would be $724 per month lower than that of a 15-year. These extra funds can either be invested in the equity markets, with an opportunity for higher returns over the 15-year period, or they can be applied to principle reduction on the mortgage, or a combination of the two. The flexibility is the key aspect to choosing 30- vs. 15-year with the reduced monthly obligation.
- “We need to create (or update) our estate plan. What does that entail?”
Most estate plans have three main components:
- Last Will and Testament (how your assets are distributed at your death and who facilitates that)
- Financial Durable Power of Attorney (who makes financial decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated)
- Medical Durable Power of Attorney (who makes medical decision on your behalf should you become incapacitated)
Depending on complexity, there may be other documents and aspects to your estate plan. My wife and I put our initial estate plan in place in 2007. Since then, many things have changed…most notably, we have added four children to our household. When we reached out to our attorney last month to talk about updating our will and estate plan, we were very pleased to learn that most of the heavy lifting (communication and updating) could be done via phone and email.*
*This is based on my personal experience working with a specific estate planning attorney. P&A can offer suggestions and general direction on estate planning topics; however, the development and implementation of a formal estate plan must be by a licensed attorney.
- “We have money building up in our savings account earning next to nothing, can we do anything different with those monies?”
Most often when this is the case, debt is at a manageable level, clients are funding their retirement accounts, and their incomes are still outpacing their expenses. This is very healthy. The answer to this question is: set up an after-tax brokerage account.
Important characteristics of an after-tax brokerage (investment) account:
- An electronic link can be set up between said account and your preferred bank account. This allows for easy online transfers between the two accounts.
- This sort of account has the liquidity of a bank savings account (you can get at your money within a day or two) yet with the ability to invest in the equity markets and, over time, the ability to achieve higher rates of return.
- Schwab will lend you up to 50% of the value of your account, no paperwork and no questions asked, at competitive interest rates.
- “How can we save money for our kids?”
If the goal is to save money for a specific purpose, like college, the best avenue to do this is via a state-sponsored 529 plan. By saving monies this way, parents may receive a current year state income tax deduction, the monies grow tax-free, and all future withdrawals for qualified college expenses are tax-free (tuition, room and board, books, etc.). That said, with any sort of account where the IRS provides a tax incentive, there are strings attached. If you want to use the monies in the future for anything other than college expenses, taxes and penalties will likely apply.
If the goal is to save the monies for no specific purpose other than to build the base for a future savings strategy and/or to serve as an educational tool for your kids to understand how the market works, then a custodial brokerage account is a good option. Like the after-tax brokerage account we mentioned in our answer to question #3, this sort of account can be set up with the parent as custodian and the child as the beneficiary and can be electronically linked to the bank account of your choice. Monies can be invested in mutual funds, ETFs, stocks, or bonds. Important to note, once the child turns 21 (or the age of majority in your state), the account needs to be converted to their name alone.
- “We know it is still a ways off…but can you help us figure out if we are saving enough for retirement?”
Why yes, we can! We have developed a specific, simple, financial planning process we call “Finding the Balance.” This planning process is designed to deliver specific guidance on savings and spending strategies (without having to create a detailed budget), which helps our clients to find the elusive balance between living in the present and preparing for the future.
There are no forms to fill out or homework to complete. The process takes roughly an hour and is highly interactive and engaging. Our goal is to help you feel confident that you are properly saving for the future, which in turn may allow you to live, and spend or give, more freely in the present.
If you have these same questions or others, let us help. You can connect with us right here.