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Clarity Financial Planning Services is an advocate for your financial future who takes a holistic approach to your needs and goals.

Should You Give Your Heirs Copies of Your Will?

One of the biggest hurdles when it comes to estate planning, is simply beginning. If you have done that, congratulations—many people avoid that first step. Once you have a will at the very least, they are other little glitches that may occur and we want you to be aware so that your diligence in planning for the future does not go awry.  (For example, we discussed what might happen if you do not sign your will.)

A columnist for NWI.com answered a question that people out there may have: Can I sign multiple copies of the will? In brief, Christopher Yugo wrote that while you can do this, you may not want to and explained why. Yugo noted that another legal expert may disagree and you will of course need to consult your own legal counsel on such a matter.

To respond to a reader’s question about giving a signed copy of a will to each of the questioner’s children, Yugo wrote: “Since the will is such an important document that you can amend or revoke, I’m not sure that it is a good idea having a couple of them floating around, even if the persons that have them are family members or loved ones.”

He went on to add that since wills contain personal information, you might not want to give an actual copy to others. You can certainly outline the terms of your will but you may not want to give out copies.

And whether you’ve seen a scripted drama with multiple wills or heard of a real-life family crisis involving multiple wills (such as the debate over Aretha Franklin’s estate), you can imagine that different wills could cause some turmoil. If you need to change your will for any reason, you might feel obligated to inform all the people who have copies of the old will and depending on the changes, that might cause some distress.

Remember that professionals like estate planning attorneys and Fee-Only financial planners will stick to the ethical codes of their profession and advise you as best they can about what is within the law and what is not. They may also, as an aside, let you know when something is legal but perhaps not advisable.

Women: Are You Investing Enough?

Sallie Krawcheck of Ellevest told CNBC that “The No. 1 investing mistake women make has nothing to do with where they invest.” In fact: 

When it comes to investing, the biggest mistake women make has nothing to do with where they’re choosing to invest their money — in fact, women tend to earn higher returns than men.

Rather, the issue is they’re not investing enough in the first place.”

When asked just who is her firm’s biggest competition, Krawcheck does not name another investing company; she says her competition is inertia. Women are hesitant to begin investing and when they do begin investing, they are hesitant about investing a lot of money.

She notes that women want to do their research and make sure they are investing in the right places…however between being busy and wanting to research, many women put off investing. And over time, they lose out on compound interest because of these delays.

She does discuss some budgeting percentages that she thinks are advisable, adding that it is difficult for some people to get to the point where they are investing 20% of their earnings. But she also notes that not investing enough and not starting sooner rather than later may be a bigger drain on a woman’s net worth than the gender pay gap.

In contrast to women, Krawcheck says that men tend to overtrade and be overzealous.

While Krawcheck doesn’t get into all the reasons why women do not invest more money, she does say the women tend to want to leave 70 cents of each dollar in cash. And you can imagine why: there is safety in having cash liquid and ready at hand. The risk of having money tied up in investments is one that many women feel they can’t afford to take,

If you are unsure about investing more or about investing at all, why not sit down with a Fee-Only financial planner? A planner who is not obligated to convince you to buy certain financial products can look at your financial outlook and retirement goals to help you find an amount you feel comfortable investing.

Read and Reflect on Fiction with Financial Themes

Summer isn’t over and there is still time to relax on the beach, the park, or your own backyard with a good book. And when we say good book, we don’t necessarily mean a book with financial advice.

USA Today’s “Alpha women and fancy yachts make for good summer investing and finance reading” offers suggestions for recreational ways that you can get more insight into your money management and your own financial habits. Reading informative texts is needed to learn about finances but you can also learn from fiction and memoirs. You read about other peoples’ triumphs, mistakes, and financial habits which give you a chance to reflect on your own. USA Today’s suggestions include books about women getting into venture capitalism, a Depression-era book about investments that may be too good to be true, and two books with financial parables, including one that goes back to ancient Babylon.

There has been research to show that reading novels can help you develop empathy for others. And perhaps reading novels in which characters find themselves in financial hot water may help you develop empathy for yourself or for others who make financial missteps. You may also find that reading novels that illustrate the complexities of being wealthy or of struggling financially can help you to feel more for people across the financial spectrum.

We wrote about “The Nest,” a book that tells the story of a family and the fallout that comes when an expected inheritance doesn’t turn out to be what a group of siblings thought it would be And even you are not in this particular situation, you may be able to understand that when you spend in the present relying on money to arrive in the future (be it an inheritance, a tax refund, or the lottery), you may find yourself on shaky ground.

And fiction stories are also a great way to start conversation with your children about spending and saving money.

Simplify Your Life and Improve Your Finances

The first week of August is Simplify Your Life Week. If you find that tackling money management directly is difficult you may find that if you can streamline and simplify your life, you may also find ways to save money. Once you see the benefits, you may seek out more direct financial planning help. You can simplify your life and improve your finances.

Decluttering: There are a number of sources that talk about the psychological effects of being surrounded my clutter. It can weigh you down and interfere with creativity. A cluttered environment can take up valuable time since you may not be able to find what you’re looking for.

Even if you aren’t sure that clutter really affects you psychologically, consider that on a practical level, more money is spent when you live in clutter. Some people streamline and find that they have purchased the same item in multiples—and this goes for necessities like cleaning supplies as well as recreational items like books.

Meal Planning: Another way to simplify your life is to plan your meals. If this has no appeal to you, consider that they are many ways to plan meals. Some people eat the same meals week after week. Others use meal planning apps with shopping lists that they follow for variety each week. Someone else may order meal prep kits. No matter how you do it, meal planning offers an opportunity to curb your food shopping budget and save time.

Set up Automatic Payments and Savings: We all have a lot to keep track of and one of the most important things we need to keep up with is bills and other financial obligations. Automating payments is a great way to simplify your life because you don’t have to worry about forgetting. And setting up automatic savings transfers allows you to make sure that you are saving money on a regular basis without having to remember to do this.

Tips for Saving on Summer Camp Costs

Illustration: http://english4childrentoday.blogspot.com

While some parents are reluctant to discuss finances with their children, it might be helpful in some cases for children to know just how much things like summer camp cost. Sometimes children must attend camps because their parents have to work. In other cases, children want to attend specialized camps. The costs for camps can add up whether they have daily rates, weekly rates, or rates for multiple weeks.

In “Is paying for summer camp a challenge? Here’s how to cover it without breaking the bank,” USA Today profiled one resourceful young lady who worked out a deal to attend a camp her parents didn’t have the money for and her mother noted that sometimes she has to give up spending time with friends to help out at the farm to earn towards the over $3700 summer camp bill. If her parents had not been honest about the costs, this young lady may never have gotten such great practice negotiating.

You may think that it is too late to get a summer camp discount for this summer but you never know. Some websites that offer coupons for activities are still offering discounts. Even if it is too late for this year, it certainly isn’t too late for next year. In some areas, parents have to start securing spots for summer camps in January. And there are some camps that offer scholarships that start looking at how they will allocate funds in the fall. The article notes that middle class families do not need to assume they won’t receive aid. Some camps offer fees on a sliding scale and give discounts to returning campers. 

In addition to researching grants, scholarships, and discounts, you may also need to spend some of your own money. One mother USA Today interviewed said that she puts money aside each week during the school year so summer camp costs don’t put a dent in her finances all at once. Even when you find low-cost camps or get discounts, there may excursion fees or additional food fees or other costs that go beyond the fee to attend the camp.

It is possible to send your kids to summer camp without breaking the bank but it will require some effort. If things didn’t work out so well this year, your family can start to plan and save for next summer.

Deciding When to Claim Social Security Isn’t a Guessing Game

The summation of a Bloomberg article that states that many Americans opt to receive Social Security benefits at the wrong time may be confusing: “Most retirees should wait longer to access their benefits, researchers find. Some should claim them sooner.”

Why does this advice seem to be contradictory? Because there is no one rule for claiming Social Security. It really depends on you and your situation.

You cannot guarantee you’ll live to 100 and beyond but if you have clear evidence that you may not live well into old age, perhaps you shouldn’t wait. If you are healthy and robust and think you will live well into old age, perhaps you should wait.

But it isn’t just a guessing game. There are other factors to consider, such as your marital status. And beyond that, if you are married, do you make more or less than your spouse?

The Bloomberg article discusses a study which found that participants’ decisions about when to start receiving social Security benefits seemed random. That might make you suspect that people just don’t know enough about Social Security and that it is an issue of financial literacy. And while there are people who do not realize that they are locking in a lower rate by taking benefits in their 60s, the study found that:

“…affluent and educated retirees are more likely to make a mistake than are poorer and less-educated ones. Rather, the problem is that the ideal claiming decision can be very difficult psychologically. Balancing your savings with Social Security means, in effect, betting on when you are going to die.” Something that undoubtedly makes people uncomfortable.

Rather than become preoccupied with the very end of life, why not ask as Fee-Only financial planner to help you find a way to maximize your Social Security benefits and other resources to make the most of your golden years?

Spending on Little Luxuries Can Add Up…to More Happiness

In “The Personal Finance Industry is a Scam,” a writer for GQ discusses her thoughts on why “Suze Orman’s rant against coffee is the latest in cable-news advice that puts the blame for an increasingly unequal financial system on individuals.”

The writer recalled meeting Orman years earlier as an unpaid intern saddled with heavy law school debt. Orman told her not to worry about the student loan did since it didn’t affect her credit score. The writer found this advice to be disappointing, as she was hoping to hear something that would help her get on firmer financial footing. Paying off student loans affects an individual’s purchasing power and when many individuals have a lot of student loan debt, it affects the economy because those people cannot spend the money they must dedicate to student loans.

An investment strategist who writes for MarketWatch riffed on the GQ article, adding the kind of advice that the writer of the original article might have found useful was a young person starting out: “Buy all the coffee and avocado toast you want — but skimp on your house and car.” Instead of promoting the idea that the small luxuries add up, the writer thinks that you should spend on small things that make you happy in the moment but economize on big-ticket items. Rather than trying to keep up with appearances with a big house or car, you could spend modestly in those areas and leave room in your budget for the slightly expensive haircuts that make your feel your best every day or the avocado toast you really enjoy.

Some of these same principles can be found in Happy Money, a book that Clarity Financial Planning recommends; the book focuses on how to spend money on yourself and your family in ways that make you happier.

The Market Watch article includes a list of questions to help you assess your financial stability because if your needs are being adequately met, it is okay to consider how to spend you make yourself happier as opposed to doing just what all the experts say.

Remember that a Fee-Only financial planner is an expert who works directly with you so they don’t have to give one-size-fits-all advice.

Fee-Only Financial Planners Have Independence

On July 4th, the United States celebrates its Independence Day. And if you remember anything from history class, you know that the United States did not complete the process of becoming independent all in a day. It took time but July 4th was chosen to mark the occasion after there was a vote for independence on July 2.

While the founding of NAPFA (The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors) may not have had the same impact on the world stage as July 4th, things weren’t the same after a discussion about how to change things for the better in the field of financial advising began at a meeting of the Society of Independent Financial Advisors in 1982.

According to the NAPFA website:

“These independent-minded advisors did not yet have a name for what they were doing, but they knew that accepting commissions for the sales of financial products was putting them in direct conflict with the best interests of their clients. How could they serve the client first, yet have their compensation vary by what they sold to the client?

These planners began to exchange ideas about how to provide high-quality, long-term financial planning and access to a full range of investment and insurance products—but without the influence of commissions.”

What started with 125+ professionals is now an organization of over 3000 financial advisors dedicated to providing their clients with service that meets needs without having to work within the constraints of commissions.

This Independence Day, we want you to think about what it means to get advice from an independent financial planning professional. Financial advisors that work for brokerage firms are beholden to the firm and get commissions for getting you to buy certain financial projects.

As a Fee-Only financial planner, Claire Emory of Clarity Financial Planning proudly honors the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors’ (NAPFA) Fiduciary Oath.Clarity Financial Planning is here to offer financial advice that best fits you, your situation, and your goals so you can achieve your own financial independence.

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