Over the years, we’ve had the privilege of guiding clients through all kinds of financial dilemmas, both pleasant and difficult. No matter the situation, our aim is to provide clients with thoughtful solutions that will help them move toward their ultimate goals.
The hypothetical case studies below are not intended to depict actual client experiences. Instead, we’ve highlighted some common financial challenges individuals and families may encounter and created fictional narratives that discuss various ways we would address these situations.
We respect client privacy. If you find yourself in a similar situation to one of the scenarios below, we welcome the opportunity to put our problem-solving skills to work on your behalf.
A young couple with two small children, a single income, and a list of financial goals— student loans to pay off, replacing a car in poor condition, and wishing to make some home improvements. They receive an inheritance of $300,000 and wondered how they should allocate it among their multiple goals.
To start, we would 1) assess each type of inherited asset, 3) calculate how much they expected to receive net of taxes, 2) summarize relevant tax implications and 4) discuss the possibility of attaining their goals.
In this example, we’ll assume that half of the Husband’s inheritance is in a retirement account worth over $150,000. Because he is young and has limited retirement assets, we would recommend that he transfer the retirement account to an Inherited IRA. This would ensure the ongoing deferral of taxes on any appreciation in the account and minimize the current tax impact.
From there, we would prioritize their current list of goals and work with them to determine how to best use their assets to meet both immediate and long-term goals.
Depending on a variety of factors, we would typically advise younger clients to set aside some portion of an inheritance toward an emergency fund and their retirement. In this scenario, we would also recommend the couple pay off student loans and credit cards, as this would improve their monthly cash flow. If there were funds left over we would set aside money to fund college savings, purchase a new car and update their home, but only after some debt was paid down. We would also recommend they acquire life insurance to protect the family.
A man in his early 60s, approaching retirement, recently found out his job is being eliminated. He and his wife, have established a good nest egg of retirement assets and a substantial joint account. But at 61, the husband is unsure if he wants to retire and he is wondering about the financial implications.
Being offered an early retirement can be a dream come true for some and a psychological blow for others. Before making the decision to retire from full time work, we normally give our clients a bit of homework.
We also want clients to provide us with a list of financial priorities beyond simply paying existing expenses. Do they want to help fund their children or grandchildren’s educations? Do they want to travel? Do they plan to relocate? All of these goals will play a part in our planning process.
In this scenario, we would provide the couple with retirement income projections to help them decide if they could maintain their current lifestyle through a longer retirement. We would also want them to take into consideration any costs associated with healthcare, since an employer plan would no longer be available.
The husband decided that although the couple would be financially okay if he retired, he was not mentally or emotionally prepared to leave full time work. He started a consulting business and is continuing to work in the same field, but on a part-time basis. This is an increasingly popular choice among Baby Boomers (See: “Many Baby Boomers are Choosing Entrepreneurship Instead of Retiring”, Entrepreneur May 2015)
An older couple purchased a long-term care (LTC) policy many years ago, hoping that they would never have to use it. However, the husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and now requires a lot of assistance from his wife to perform everyday functions.
The benefit on their LTC policy pays $8,000 a month, with a short 20-day elimination period. But they are hesitant to start the claims process and worry about the out-of-pocket expense during the Elimination Period.
Having no idea what a client’s life expectancy might be, we would typically advise someone in this situation to start the claims process as soon as possible. We recommend that they first exhaust the LTC resource that they’ve been paying for over the years, preserving their liquid assets in case they’re needed later on.
In this scenario, the LTC policy also includes a Care Coordinator at no additional cost—a service that’s offered only after the elimination period ends—and the husband’s portion of their monthly premium will be suspended as long as he is on claim. This is further evidence that getting started right away should save them more money in the long run.
The couple started the claims process immediately. Once their elimination period ended, they were entitled to receive $8,000 a month in benefits. They also took advantage of a Care Coordinator to help them plan for an appropriate course of care moving forward.
A single woman, approaching retirement, has competing financial priorities. She would like to retire at the end of the year, but right before she announced her intentions at work, her adult son told her he was finally ready to pursue a college degree and wants her financial help. She is torn between supporting his dream and following her own.
Our recommendations are influenced by many factors – the age of the client, assets saved toward retirement, current income, income needs in retirement, number of years the client can (and realistically will) continue working, to name a few.
We would typically advise a client in her situation to place a higher priority on her retirement than on funding her son’s education expenses. Simply put – there are no loans for retirement. Children can obtain loans to fund college expenses, but parents can’t obtain a loan for retirement. (See: “Why You Shouldn’t Raid Your Retirement Fund for a Child’s College Education” U.S. News 2/24/2017)
We’ll assume that this situation is somewhat different. She had been accumulating money in an investment account that wasn’t earmarked for any specific goal, and it had grown substantially over the years.
This kind of savings account with no clear intention or goal is an “opportunity fund” that can be used for whatever unexpected needs or desires arise. Many people use such a fund to jumpstart a new business or finance a home addition. In this instance, she decided that she could use it to support her son’s college education while also holding true to her retirement plans.
In this scenario, the investor had enough money to fund both financial needs. However, we would typically recommend that an investor make certain their retirement needs are met (including an “emergency fund” separate from their retirement account) before college funding is undertaken. Again, supporting a child’s education is a generous act on the part of a parent, but it should not take precedence over retirement.
A single woman who is both retired and committed to charitable giving. Every year she donates around $25,000 to a number of different charities, but is required to pay income tax on that money. This tax burden is beginning to weigh on her.
We would typically look at all retirement assets in order to fully understand the financial situation. In this scenario, the investor’s account held a number of long-term appreciated securities. Current tax law allows individuals to donate securities directly to the charitable organization, instead of making cash withdrawals from an IRA. By doing so, she could take advantage of a tax law that would make her donations tax-deductible. In addition, the $25,000 yearly contribution was less than 30% of her retirement income, which meant that she could donate her long-term securities for full-market value.
The above scenario meant she could have the best of both worlds—tax savings and a continued commitment to charity. By taking advantage of existing tax laws, she remained committed to charitable giving while reducing her taxable income.
A single man in his early 50s, who is committed to saving for retirement early. In this scenario, he has also received a mid-sized inheritance from a recently deceased family member.
The first thing we would evaluate is whether any taxes might be owed on inherited funds. The investor was the sole beneficiary on his uncle’s life insurance policy and the only heir to his bank savings account, neither of which are taxable to a beneficiary.
When an expected inheritance is received, there can be a temptation to simply spend the money on immediate wants and needs, as opposed to formulating a specific plan to maximize this windfall.
If this individual had credit card balances with high interest rates, we would recommend that he pay them off first. Being free of consumer debt can have a dramatic impact on your quality of life.
The next step would be to set up an emergency fund. Most advisers recommend you maintain three to six months’ expenses in bank account. At the very least, we would recommend you have enough to cover a large unexpected expense.
After addressing the first two items, the investor was able to set aside a portion of his inheritance for living expenses, which enabled him to create a plan to max out contributions to his retirement plan for 8-10 years.
This individual began a ten-year plan to use his inheritance money as non-taxable income, allowing him to max out his retirement contributions. This plan is designed to place him on track to achieve his goal of early retirement.
If you have any questions relating to your own
circumstances, please contact us.