Successful Aging Requires “Whole Life” Planning

We often equate preparing for old age with achieving the financial security needed to sustain us throughout life.  However, a truly successful and fulfilling aging experience requires planning and preparation in all areas of life.

Financial planning is indeed important, but money alone cannot “buy” happiness, good health, meaningful relationships, and purposeful activities.  In The Late-Start Investor, John Wasik wrote:

“Instead of absorbing an obsolete view of retirement, you should consider what I call your New Prosperity.  This includes a flexible life plan that provides for your financial, vocational, physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.  Unless you look at your future holistically, merely saving up a pile of money will be a meaningless act.” (more…)

Do Good … and Give Yourself a (Tax) Break

If you read this post  from Matt Grodin, CPA, you know that recent changes in the federal tax law have resulted in fewer deductions at tax time for many California taxpayers.

You can, however, secure an increasingly elusive tax break if you bunch your charitable gifts into one tax year.  Through a philanthropic vehicle called a donor-advised fund, the donor receives the tax benefit in the year of the contribution to the donor-advised fund while retaining the ability to donate the proceeds over time and to charities of their choosing. The National Philanthropic Trust describes donor-advised funds as “a charitable savings account.” (more…)

Saving for Private Kindergarten? Yes, It’s a Thing. And You Should Consider It.

You have no idea where your toddler or preschooler will attend college—though you might be hoping they choose your alma mater—but you might already be thinking about your options for their kindergarten, primary and secondary education.

If non-public school is on your radar, you can fund a good chunk of their tuition with a 529 plan similar to the one you’ve set up for them for college. Thanks to changes in the federal tax code that took effect Jan. 1, 2018, you can make tax-free withdraws of up to $10,000 a year for pre-college tuition at private schools. Parochial school tuition is eligible as well. (more…)

Buying Life Insurance: How Much and What Kind?

life-insurance-umbrellaYou are likely to need life insurance if others depend on you for financial support, if you provide your family with such services as child care, if you need to consider protecting a surviving spouse or if you have accumulated substantial assets. There are several types of life insurance that you may want to consider. (more…)

I Feel Weird Saying This, But I Have Too Much Money

Dear Emilie: I’m panicking because I’m sitting on a pile of cash and feel paralyzed. What should I do with it? Save it for an emergency? Pay down my mortgage? Invest it? – Super Saver

Dear Super Saver: This is a good problem to have! Let’s set some priorities for using this money wisely and minimizing taxes.

First, do you have an emergency fund of readily accessible cash? Set aside three to six months of living expense in a money market fund or savings account. This is the money you can easily tap to cover living expenses if you lose your job. (more…)

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Your Estate Plan

“Does it spark joy?” That’s what Japanese organizing guru Marie Kondo says you should ask yourself when you’re deciding whether to keep each item in your home. The author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” says that if something doesn’t bring you happiness, you should set it free so it can delight someone else.

I doubt that anyone would say that their estate plan “sparks joy.” That doesn’t mean you need to get rid of it, though! But these documents, like your possessions, should be reevaluated periodically. (more…)

Taxes Aren’t Due for Months, so Now is a Great Time to Think about Them

Tax planning is like exercise: You may not always be motivated to do it, but once you’re tackled the task, you feel so much better. (And fortunately for everyone, you don’t need to do tax planning several times a week, consistently, to see a lasting benefit.) I’ve asked Matt Grodin, a San Mateo certified public accountant, to answer three taxing questions:

What are some of key changes in the federal tax law that will affect Bay Area taxpayers?

There’s a $10,000 limit on deductions for state taxes and a $750,000 limit for deductions on new mortgage debt. Previously, home buyers could deduct up to $1 million. As you know, home prices in the Bay Area keep rising to new heights—the median home price hit $820,000 in April—so any restriction on mortgage deductions isn’t exactly good news. (more…)

Your Second Wind – Starting Up a New Business in Retirement

Not that long ago, retirement meant being put out to pasture, with long days punctuated by occasional games of golf and bridge. But today, with lengthening life expectancies and dwindling pensions, many Americans are looking to retirement as an opportunity to start a new business. “We’ve never before seen so many seniors who are this active and doing so many things,” says Lisa Gundry, a professor of management at DePaul University’s Kellstadt Graduate School, who has worked with seniors in DePaul’s business incubator program. “They’ve accumulated enough financial security so that they are better able to take a risk on a business than someone who is younger and has a mortgage and small children.” (more…)

Reflect On Your Money Memories

Our attitudes and beliefs about money have their roots in value-laden messages we have picked up along life’s journey. These money messages are not only clothed in the words of others, but in their actions as well.

The following paragraphs include a series of questions designed to jog your money memories. To gain insight into your financial beliefs and behaviors, look first to your childhood experiences.

In your home growing up, was there an atmosphere of plenty or scarcity? How did your parents and grandparents demonstrate their money beliefs? Did the adults in your life demonstrate responsible or irresponsible money management behavior? (more…)

Increasing Happiness is a Matter of Intention

For many years, the prevailing theory was that individuals have a genetically determined happiness set point.

In other words, scientists believed that each person could temporarily experience more happiness (depending on circumstances, relationships, and life events), but would then slide back to his or her “pre-programmed” set point.  In fact, less than two decades ago, one researcher was quoted as saying, “It may be that trying to be happier is as futile as trying to be taller.” (more…)