Monthly Archives: May 2016

Tips for Prepare for Emergencies

images-33Last week Kristen and Julia, our rising high-school senior, visited McGill University in Montreal, Canada.  By all accounts it was a hugely successful trip. Julia is thrilled at the prospect of furthering her education and expanding her horizons. She will be 18-years old soon and “on her own” as a freshman, hopefully, at a college of her choice.

Students may be worried about making new friends, studying, and adjusting to college life. Parents or guardians may share these concerns too, but they should not neglect legal and financial matters. Our 18 year-olds are now adults who can enter into contracts, make their own health care decisions, and are afforded levels of privacy to which we may not be accustomed. Who will make medical decisions on behalf of your child if he or she is unable to do so? What will you do if you need to get medical information in a time of an emergency? Will you be able to have access or make decisions on financial/tuition matters with the bursar’s office? Is it important to have access to your child’s academic record? Consider these items allowing parents/guardians to assist their adult children before they leave for college:


Health care proxy
: This document allows your child to name someone they know and trust to make medical decisions on their behalf, if for any reason, they are unable to make the decision or communicate their wishes. While standard forms may be available on-line through state medical societies, your estate planning attorney can draft this document.


HIPPA release:
 The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), a federal law, protects your child’s privacy even from parents. The act prohibits a health care provider from releasing any health care information unless your child provides the health care provider with a HIPPA release form naming you as an authorized recipient.


Durable power of attorney:
 This document allows your child to appoint an agent in order to manage his/ her financial matters. While parents may be paying the tuition bills, this does not grant authority to discuss or resolve their child’s financial issues with the college’s student accounts office or bursar’s office.


FERPA waiver:
 The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) governs privacy of educational records and prohibits an institution from discussing a student’s record with anyone unless the student has granted authorization. Colleges may allow students to grant access to one or more individuals via an on-line wavier form. However, remember your children are gaining independence and responsibility. Simply engaging your student may prove an equally, if not a more effective means of communication about how they are doing in school.

It is important to keep signed forms available as you may need them if your child is traveling, and remember that authorizations can be modified or updated as their circumstances change.

This is not legal advice so please be sure to contact your estate planning attorney to address these important issues.  If you don’t have an estate attorney ask your family, friends or financial advisor for recommendations.

How be Mindful About Costs

download-13I’m in the middle of wedding planning right now, and it has opened my eyes to just how incredibly expensive this whole thing can be!

 

I’m a frugal person at heart so the idea of spending a ton of money on one day seems a little silly to me. But it’s hard not to get caught up in all of it, and I’m finding that the costs are adding up quickly.

 

So, how do you have a wedding you love without spending more than you can afford? I’ve been thinking about this as I plan my own wedding. I’m fortunate that my parents have been very generous, and here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

 

Plan Ahead

 

Yeah, I know. Big surprise that the financial planner is encouraging you to plan ahead. But there are two reasons why it’s helpful to make a plan before making any final decisions.

 

First, it’s amazing how quickly even the little costs add up. There are so many different pieces to a wedding that you can make a lot of seemingly reasonable choices and still end up with a big total bill. By planning ahead, you can see that happen before you’ve actually committed to anything and make decisions accordingly.

 

Second, it’s easier to get good deals when you’re on top of things early. Venues get booked, DJs aren’t available, and prices go up. The longer you wait, the less likely it is you’ll get your first choice and the more likely it is you’ll have to pay extra.

 

The Knot has a fantastic wedding budget calculator that can help you allocate funds across all wedding expense categories.

 

Get Creative

 

Your wedding doesn’t have to be like every other wedding. It can not only be cheaper to do things your way, but it can make for a fun and unique experience.

 

A friend of mine had a fall wedding and served pies instead of a wedding cake. This option was delicious and at least half as expensive; with pie at $2 per slice and wedding cake at $4 or more. Another one enlisted the help of her friends to make their own floral arrangements. I’m making small ornaments for wedding favors, out of paper (not expensive) and supplies I already had on hand.

 

Music, in particular a live band, is another expense that can be reduced, involve friends who have musical talents or crowd source a playlist from all your guests. There are an infinite number of ways you can get creative, save money, and make the wedding yours in the process.

 

Consider Your Guests’ Budgets Too

 

Your friends and family want to come celebrate with you, but for many of them it’s a big financial commitment. Doing what you can to make it easier for them will be much appreciated.

 

I have a friend who had a camping option, as one of the accommodations for her wedding. Not only was the price right, but it was a memorable experience. Suggesting accommodation options to guests with a range of prices is always appreciated.

 

For our wedding, we’re trying to make sure that people know how to enjoy themselves during the weekend without having to spend a ton of extra money, so we’re giving them a map of our favorite hiking trails in the area. Little things like that won’t make all the costs go away, but every little bit helps.

How to Predict the Next Stock Market Crash

Since 2009, the stock market has pretty much gone straight up.

From a low of 676 on March 9, 2009, the S&P 500 stands at 2,090 as of June 21, 2016. That’s a 209% increase over a period of just over 7 years.

And yet, things have been a little rocky so far this year.

The stock market dropped 9% from 1/1 to 1/20. It dropped another 6% from 2/1 to 2/11. And it fell 2% from 6/9 to 6/15.

We’re still near all-time highs, but is it possible that we’re at the top? Am I ready to predict the next stock market crash?

Of Course Not

I’m guessing you saw this coming, but no I’m not predicting the next big stock market crash.

The truth is that I have no idea what the stock market is going to do over the coming months, and neither does anyone else, no matter how loud they yell at you from the TV.

While the stock market is an incredibly powerful place to grow your money over the long term, it can be a roller coaster ride in the short term. Big upswings are followed by big downswings, leaving you to watch somewhat helplessly as your account values rise and fall.

And there’s just no way to know what’s going to happen next. We may very well be in for a big crash in the near future. Or we may not. But there are a few things to keep in mind no matter what.

Focus on the Long Term

Short-term drops on the stock market like we’ve experienced this year are the norm. 5% and even 10% drops are not uncommon.

Big crashes are also the norm. We experienced them in 2008, 2000, and many other times throughout history.

And through all of that, two things have held up:

  1. No one has been able to consistently predict these crashes ahead of time. And remember, if you want to profit, you not only have to get OUT at the right time, but get back IN at the right time as well. Otherwise you’ll miss the recovery.
  2. Over the long-term, the stock market has always gone up. Not every day, every month, or every year. But you have always been rewarded for keeping your money in the market over the long term.

What to Expect Going Forward

I can’t predict what the stock market is going to do, but I can give you two more things to keep in mind.

First, no matter what happens there will be plenty of ups and downs along the way. Expect that going in.

Second, investment advisor Rick Ferri, a man I admire greatly, foresees long-term stock market returns in the 7-8% range and bond returns in the 4-5% range. The exact outcome will almost certainly be different, but the point is that well-informed, reasoned experts still expect returns to be positive going forward.

By the Way…

Despite those scary stats at the beginning of this article, did you know that the US stock market has returned just over 3% for the year as of the time I’m writing this?