With a little planning you can successfully navigate the important events in your life.
- How much can you afford?
- What are your insurance needs? Do you need GAP which pays for the “gap” between what you owe and what your vehicle’s worth, or Mechanical Breakdown and Disability Insurance?
- Check vehicle safety records from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; review fuel economy and see side-by-side comparisons; and use the NADA Pricing Guide, a trusted resource for information on new and used cars.
- Shopping for a used car? Check a CARFAX report to look for possible past vehicle damage and understand that most privately-sold vehicles are sold “as is”. Consider taking the vehicle to a trusted mechanic for an inspection, ask for maintenance records, verify the car has a clean title and make sure to test drive it in different conditions.
- Private party auto transactions can be stressful and intimidating if you’re not prepared. Review our checklists for information that can help you buy or sell a vehicle with confidence.
- Though financial aid in the form of grants, scholarships and work-study programs can significantly reduce the cost of a college degree, studies show costs continue to rise. To reduce dependence on student loans, consider these common ways of saving for college.
- 529 Plans are state-sponsored, and the funds can be used for approved college expenses. Benefits include high lifetime contribution limits, tax exempt earnings and withdrawals, low investment limits and generally no income limitations or age restrictions.
- Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA) is an account where contributions grow on a tax-deferred basis and withdrawals are tax free if used for a broad range of educational expenses. ESAs have a lower annual contribution limit of $2,000; income and age restrictions apply.
- Series EE (issued after 1989) and Series I Savings Bonds may be used to fund qualified higher education expenses. Federal taxes can be deferred until redemption or maturity and earnings grow free from state or local income taxes. Contributions are not tax deductible and purchases are limited to $10,000 annually for EE Bonds.
- Determine where you are financially as a couple. List your individual assets (bank accounts, investments, retirement plans, etc.) and liabilities (credit card debt, student loans, mortgages, etc.), then create a combined budget and prioritize your financial goals.
- Understand your individual money habits and find your individual financial strengths.
- Divide financial tasks, like balancing the checkbook, paying bills and investing.
- Find a system that works for both of you.
- Understand what insurance coverage you need and update your beneficiaries.
- The cost of your home should be less than 2½ times your gross annual salary. If you have significant debt, you may need to adjust your price range.
- Your monthly housing expense (including mortgage payments, property taxes and insurance) should be less than 30% of your take home pay.
- Get pre-qualified using basic information on your income, debts and other factors. Or get pre-approved by allowing a lender to run your credit while considering your income, debts and other factors. (A pre-approval expires within four months.)
- Learn about First-Time Home Buyer programs, down payment assistance and evaluate different loan options.
- Attend a free home buying seminar.
- You’re probably thinking about maternity leave. Under current regulations of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you can use 12 weeks of FMLA for the birth of a child, for prenatal care and incapacity relating to pregnancy. Part of your FMLA leave may be covered by short-term disability (typically 6 weeks), but keep in mind you might not receive 100% of your salary.
- Remember to review your insurance benefits and understand what is covered and how much to expect in out-of-pocket expenses for delivery and newborn care.
- Review your insurance policies and find the coverage that best suits the needs of your growing family.
- Update your family budget to include new expenses like diapers and all the accessories that go with babies – cribs, car seats, onesies, diapers, wipes… Did we say diapers? And start planning for childcare if you plan to return to work.
- It is never too early to start saving. You can open a youth savings account for your little one as soon as you have their Social Security number.
- Help your child get started on the road to financial independence with our Ent-exclusive Parents Guide to Raising Money-Smart Kids.
- Saving for your future can be daunting. How much will you need? How will inflation affect you? What happens if you lose your job or your marital status changes? For practical ideas and answers to retirement questions for each stage of your life, check out Retirement Central or speak with an Ent Investment Services* registered representative. Learn about Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs).
- Company-sponsored 401(k) Plans which are funded by employee contributions and often a percentage of matching funds from the employer. Most plans offer a variety of investment vehicles including stocks, mutual funds and money market accounts.
Estate planning allows you, not the courts, to make important decisions about your assets in the event you are incapacitated or deceased. Estate plans can be complicated, and it is usually best to seek the services of an attorney who specializes in estate planning when you’re ready to draw up a will, living will, trust and powers of attorney.
When major changes occur in your life, like marriage, divorce, birth of children or grandchildren, retirement or the death of a spouse, it is important to review and revise your estate plan as appropriate.
To ensure your wishes are properly fulfilled, a comprehensive estate plan should include:
- A will, which allows you to select your heirs; plan for distribution of your assets; designate charitable gifts; appoint a guardian for minor children; and even establish a trust for your spouse or children.
- A living will, which complements the medical durable power of attorney by stating your specific wishes to refuse treatments that artificially prolong life. A living will, also known as a medical care directive, must be signed and witnessed to be valid.
- A trust, which is a legal document containing instructions for managing your assets during your lifetime, if you become physically or mentally impaired or upon your death.
- Powers of Attorney, which may be financial or medical. The durable financial power of attorney is a simple, inexpensive and reliable way to arrange for someone to handle your finances if you become unable to do so. The medical durable power of attorney allows you to name a health care agent to make medical care decisions consistent with your wishes if you are not able to express these wishes directly to your doctor or family.
Most married couples own property or accounts jointly, which allows everything to pass to the surviving spouse. Jointly-held assets are not controlled by wills or trusts and are not subject to probate proceedings.
Beneficiary designations let you name the individual(s) you want to receive your assets in a particular account on your death. The most common examples include life insurance policies, beneficiary deeds, 401(k) plans and Individual Retirement Accounts.
At a point in time, those who have given us care suddenly require care in turn due to physical or mental limitations or sudden illness. When this occurs, assess your loved one’s situation and think about the type of care and support they need.
The AARP Caregiving Resource Center provides an assessment checklist to explore the different areas of your loved one’s life in order to get a full picture.
- Review end-of-life decisions to ensure their wishes are met while they have the capacity to do so. You’ll also want to discuss their wishes for a funeral or graveside service. Understand how services will be paid for – prepaid funeral plan, a funeral policy, life insurance policy or with a funeral benefit as an armed forces veteran. Planning ahead can ease the emotional burden on surviving family while making sure they have the service they want.
- Know where important documents are located. If you are the personal representative for the will or the trustee for a trust, make sure you and your parents have copies of the documents. You should also have a list of your parents’ bank, brokerage and retirement accounts, and know where to find birth and marriage certificates, real-estate deeds, vehicle titles and tax records.
- Know the names and telephone numbers of your parents’ doctors, lawyer and financial advisors and the location of their safe box.
- Talk with your parents about the steps they can take to help ensure they stay financially secure. If the time is right, be honest with your parents about your desire to help manage their finances. Your involvement now might start with paying bills, writing checks, reviewing insurance policies, understanding health care options and managing their investment portfolio. A few simple advance planning tools, like a financial power of attorney, joint accounts and perhaps a trust, can help protect a parent or loved one and give you the authority to act on their behalf when necessary.
As our parents age, they become financially and physically vulnerable, it’s very important to make them aware of frauds and scams perpetrated by criminals who prey on the elderly. There may be family members or friends who try to take advantage of your loved one’s diminished capacity. Be on the lookout for these signs of elder financial abuse:
- New authorized signers on a person’s account or changes in beneficiaries
- Account withdrawals that are inconsistent with an older person’s typical activity
- Caregiver, relative or friend showing excessive interest in an older person’s finances or assets
To report suspected abuse, visit the following websites:
*Non-deposit investment products and services are offered through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. ("CFS"), a registered broker-dealer (Member FINRA SIPC) and SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Products offered through CFS: are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guarantees or obligations of the credit union, and may involve investment risk including possible loss of principal. Investment Representatives are registered through CFS. Ent Credit Union has contracted with CFS to make non-deposit investment products and services available to credit union members.
eVISION® is a trademark of CUSO Financial Services, L.P. System response and account access times may vary due to market conditions, system performance and other factors. Complete pricing schedule available online. Ent is affiliated with CFS.
For specific tax advice please contact a qualified tax professional.