Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Common Retirement Planning Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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Retirement planning is crucial in ensuring financial independence and continuous cash flow even beyond working age. While the process may be relatively simple, some people still make mistakes——whether knowingly or unknowingly—that otherwise defeat the purpose. The following are three of the most common blunders people make with retirement planning that everyone should avoid: 

1. Disregarding the value of ‘employer match.’ The U.S. retirement savings plan 401(k) (tax-qualified, defined-contribution pension) is not mandatory for all employers, but for those who offer it to their employees, a match program (employer pays part of it) is often offered. Employees, especially those have worked at the company long enough to have an absolute right to any portion of the account value, must take advantage of this benefit. For the match money to be fully accessed by employees, however, they must also play their part in co-funding their 401(k).

2. Taking a loan from retirement account. It is a cardinal sin to take a loan out of a retirement savings account. Emergencies sometimes force people to do this but as much as possible, other sources must be tapped for this purpose. Retirement funds are often parked in investment machines such as stocks, bonds, and dividend-yielding opportunities. This means that when people pay the money back, the money they took out may have just lost the opportunity to grow and compound.
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3. Putting all eggs in just one basket. Diversification is key to achieving reliable returns. When one builds an investment portfolio for his or her retirement, it is necessary to place his or her many in various investment instruments (some portions must go to equities, others on fixed-income assets, and so on). A lack of proper diversification can be detrimental to the investment.

Linda O. Foster specializes in federal employee benefits, estate planning, and retirement planning, offering tax-advantaged low-cost investments and financial planning guidance to her clients. For more about her professional background, click here.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Checklist: Components that Constitute a Good Estate Plan

Investopedia.com defines estate planning as “the collection of preparation tasks that serve to manage an individual’s asset base in the event of their incapacitation or death, including the bequest of assets to heirs and the settlement of estate taxes.”

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Estate planning encompasses plenty of factors and must be started as soon as one acquires a substantial amount of assets such as bank savings, properties, jewelry, and other investments. As people age and goals change, estate plans must be redesigned to satisfy new demands. Poor or inadequate estate planning can lead to financial burdens to loved ones; estate taxes, which could be as high as 40 percent, still apply even after the owner dies. Regardless of the estate’s size, one has to carry out effective preparation.

The following are the most important components of or tasks that must be accomplished in estate planning:

  • Creating a will
  • Assigning a guardian for living dependents
  • Managing estate taxes by setting up trust accounts for the beneficiaries
  • Naming an executor of the estate to oversee the terms of the will
  • Frequent gifting to qualify for the annual exclusion from federal gift taxes
  • Buying IRAs, 401(k)s, and life insurance; the policy benefits can be used to pay off the estate tax
  • Establishing a durable power of attorney (POA) to direct other assets and investments
  • Setting up funeral arrangements

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Washington-based Linda O. Foster advises her clients on how to reach their financial goals and enhance their estate plans by offering tax-advantaged low-cost investment options. To arrange an appointment with her, click here.