fbpx
Beneficiary Planning

Beneficiary Planning: What You Need to Know

Presented by Robert C. Blakely 

 

Designating a beneficiary on retirement accounts is one of the most important—yet one of the most frequently neglected—retirement and financial planning tasks. Oftentimes people forget to update beneficiaries after major life events. A beneficiary is any person or entity that an account owner chooses to receive the benefits of a retirement account in the event the account owner dies.

Here are some important factors to consider when selecting beneficiaries for your retirement accounts:

  1. Don’t leave a beneficiary form blank, and don’t name your estate as beneficiary. Failing to name an individual, or individuals, as your beneficiary could deprive your heirs or loved ones of inheriting your retirement assets. Another downside of not naming a beneficiary: your retirement assets would need to go through the lengthy probate process and could be subject to creditors.

 

  1. Make a beneficiary designation for each retirement account that you own. People often make the mistake of assuming that the beneficiary they name on one account will dictate who the beneficiary is on their other retirement accounts, but that is not the case. You need to have a valid beneficiary on file for each account.

 

  1. Remember that beneficiary designations take precedence over wills. Retirement assets are distributed according to the named beneficiary, regardless of any other agreements, such as wills.

 

  1. Keep your beneficiary designations current. Many people fail to update their beneficiary designations after major life events, such as a marriage, divorce, or new addition to the family.

 

  1. Consider consulting a professional. You may wish to seek the guidance of an experienced attorney, CPA, or financial advisor to help you make the best choices for you and your heirs.

 

This material has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute either tax or legal advice. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a tax preparer, professional tax advisor, or lawyer.

Engage with the entire Blakely Financial team at WWW.BLAKELYFINANCIAL.COM to see what other expert advice we can provide towards your financial well-being.

ROBERT BLAKELY, CFP® is a financial advisor with BLAKELY FINANCIAL, INC. located at 1022 Hutton Ln., Suite 109, High Point, NC 27262. He is the founder and president of Blakely Financial, Inc.

Blakely Financial, Inc. is an independent financial planning and investment management firm that provides clarity, insight, and guidance to help our clients attain their financial goals.

Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser.

Diversification and asset allocation programs do not assure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets, and cannot guarantee that any objective or goal will be achieved.

Mortgage and Debt Rules of Thumb

Mortgage and Debt Rules of Thumb

Presented by Robert C. Blakely

Most people carry some amount of debt, whether in the form of a student loan, a mortgage, or a car loan. Indeed, making large purchases using someone else’s money is often a smart financial move. Borrowing is convenient, allowing you to purchase big-ticket items with less out-of-pocket cash. And, with today’s attractive interest rates, it’s relatively low cost. But taking on any amount of debt comes with risk. A financial setback can reduce your ability to repay a loan, and any amount of debt may prevent you from taking advantage of other financial opportunities.

How Much Debt Can You Afford to Take On?

When analyzing your ability to carry debt, take a close look at your personal finances, focusing on the following factors:

Liquidity. If you suddenly lost your job, would you have enough cash at the ready to cover your current liabilities? It’s a good idea to maintain an emergency fund to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses. But don’t go overboard. Guard against keeping more than 120 percent of your six-month expense estimate in low-yielding investments. And don’t let more than 5 percent of your cash reserves sit in a non-interest-bearing checking account.

Current debt. Your total contractual monthly debt payments (i.e., the minimum required payments) should come to no more than 36 percent of your monthly gross income. The amount of consumer debt you carry—credit card balances, automobile loans and leases, and debt related to other lifestyle purchases—should amount to less than 10 percent of your monthly gross income. If your consumer debt ratio is 20 percent or more, avoid taking on additional debt.

Housing expenses. As a general rule, your monthly housing costs—including your mortgage or rent, home insurance, real estate taxes, association fees, and other required expenses—shouldn’t amount to more than 31 percent of your monthly gross income. If you’re shopping for a mortgage, keep in mind that lenders use their own formulas to calculate how much home you can afford based on your gross monthly income, your current housing expenses, and your other long-term debt, such as auto and student loans. For a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration, your housing expenses and long-term debt should not exceed 43 percent of your monthly gross income.

Savings. Although the standard recommended savings rate is 10 percent of gross income, your guideline should depend on your age, goals, and stage of life. For example, you should save more as you age, and as retirement nears, you may need to ramp up your savings to 20 percent or 30 percent of your income. Direct deposits, automatic contributions to retirement accounts, and electronic transfers from checking accounts to savings accounts can help you make saving a habit.

Evaluating Mortgage Options

If you’re in the market for a new home, the myriad of mortgage choices can be overwhelming. Fixed or variable interest rate? Fifteen- or thirty-year term? If it were merely a question of which mortgage provided the lowest long-term costs, the answer would be simple. In reality, the best mortgage for a particular household depends on how long the homeowner plans to stay in the house, the available down payment, the predictability of cash flow, and the borrower’s tolerance for fluctuating payments.

How long will you be there? One rule of thumb is to choose a mortgage based on how long you plan to stay in the home. If you plan to stay 5 years or less, consider renting. If you plan to live in the house for 5 to 10 years and have a high tolerance for fluctuating payments, consider a variable-rate mortgage for a longer term, such as 30 years, to help keep the cost down. If the home is a long-term investment, choose a fixed-rate mortgage with a shorter term, such as 15 or 20 years.

Is a variable-rate mortgage worth the risk? Because the monthly payments are typically lower with variable-rate mortgages, they are generally the easiest to qualify for—and may enable you to purchase a more expensive home.

Variable-rate mortgages also allow you to take advantage of falling interest rates without the cost of refinancing. But keep in mind that it’s generally not wise to take on a variable-rate mortgage simply because you qualify for one. Although these mortgages offer the lowest interest rate, they’re also the riskiest, as the monthly payment can increase to an amount that may prove difficult to meet. Selecting a shorter loan term, such as 15 years, can help lessen this risk.

Remember, when it comes to taking on debt, the loan amount you qualify for and the amount you can comfortably afford to repay may not be one and the same. Be sure to consider your special circumstances before taking on debt to buy a home or make another major purchase. For more tips on homeownership, read our article on Five Tips When Shopping for a Mortgage.

This material has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute either tax or legal advice. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a tax preparer, professional tax advisor, or lawyer.

Engage with the entire Blakely Financial team at WWW.BLAKELYFINANCIAL.COM to see what other expert advice we can provide towards your financial well-being.

ROBERT BLAKELY, CFP® is a financial advisor with BLAKELY FINANCIAL, INC. located at 1022 Hutton Ln., Suite 109, High Point, NC 27262. He is the founder and president of Blakely Financial, Inc.

Blakely Financial, Inc. is an independent financial planning and investment management firm that provides clarity, insight, and guidance to help our clients attain their financial goals.

Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser.

Diversification and asset allocation programs do not assure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets, and cannot guarantee that any objective or goal will be achieved.

Five Money Tips: Shopping for a Mortgage

Five Money Tips: Shopping for a Mortgage

Presented by Robert C. Blakely

Shopping for a mortgage can be daunting, even for homeowners who have been through the process before. By being prepared, doing your homework, and asking questions, you can find a suitable mortgage for your circumstances.

Tip #1: Obtain your credit report. It goes without saying that borrowers with the best credit history get the best terms.

To determine your credit score, a tool used to determine your creditworthiness, lenders rely on three reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Before you begin shopping for a mortgage, get your credit report from all three agencies at www.annualcreditreport.com. If you haven’t requested a report within the last 12 months, there is no charge. Correct any errors immediately and take steps to improve your score.

Tip #2: Know how much you can afford. There is a difference between what lenders are willing to lend you and how much you can afford. In their efforts to increase their compensation, real estate agents and mortgage brokers look to get you into the most expensive home and the largest mortgage you can qualify for. But only you can determine how much you can afford.

Review your current spending and obligations and add in closing costs, estimated monthly mortgage, property taxes, insurance, utilities, and maintenance. In addition, consider the following before you make your decision:

  • Will you have enough to pay for moving expenses, furnishings, repairs, or remodeling and still have enough money to make regular contributions to your emergency fund?
  • How soon will you be able to replenish your savings after the down payment?
  • If you were to lose your job, would you have enough money saved to get you through a rough period?
  • Would taking on too much debt prevent you from achieving other important financial goals?
  • If you purchase a home, how would your lifestyle have to change? How would you feel about that?

After answering these questions, you will have enough information to help decide how much you can afford without compromising your future happiness.

Tip #3: Failing to shop around can cost you thousands of dollars. Get quotes from at least three mortgage brokers or lenders. Just because a mortgage broker is independent doesn’t mean that he or she will offer you the best value available in the marketplace.

When making comparisons between brokers and lenders, be sure that the quote is for the same type of mortgage—that is, for the same amount, down payment, term, and type. This can make it easier to compare rates, fees, points, and insurance costs. And because interest rates can change daily, ask that the interest rate quoted to you is available on a set date. It is also helpful to ask for the loan’s annual percentage rate, as this takes into account additional loan costs such as points, broker fees, and other charges.

Comparing interest rates alone does not give you a fair assessment; you also need to understand overage costs. Overage is the difference between the lowest possible loan price that a lender can afford and the amount you are willing to pay. It can be built into the interest rate, points, or other fees. It is negotiable, so shop around.

Remember that “no-cost” can actually mean “hidden costs.” Virtually every mortgage incurs costs. They can be built into longer prepayment penalties (back-end fees), into commissions from the sale of related products or services, or through the interest earned by rolling closing costs into the loan principal. Study the lender’s good faith estimate (GFE) for a full disclosure of your costs.

Tip #4: Read everything and ask questions. A mortgage is a financial commitment you will have to deal with for a long time. It is always wise to have your own real estate attorney review any contracts you are asked to sign that have to do with your home purchase. If you don’t understand the different types of mortgages, terms, or mistakes to avoid, you may want to consult a good educational resource like www.mtgprofessor.com, a website sponsored by a Wharton School professor who is a specialist in this field.

Tip #5: Lock in your interest rate. Quotes are only estimates, and rates are subject to change. Although there are laws governing the use of GFEs, market forces can change the rates and costs before you get to closing. Small changes can have a big impact on affordability. To guarantee the terms quoted, ask for a written lock-in from the lender. (If rates drop, a lock-in can work against you, but remember that only the rate is locked in, not you.) Let the broker or lender know you are going to shop for the best deal.

This material has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute either tax or legal advice. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a tax preparer, professional tax advisor, or lawyer.

Engage with the entire Blakely Financial team at WWW.BLAKELYFINANCIAL.COM to see what other expert advice we can provide towards your financial well-being.

ROBERT BLAKELY, CFP® is a financial advisor with BLAKELY FINANCIAL, INC. located at 1022 Hutton Ln., Suite 109, High Point, NC 27262. He is the founder and president of Blakely Financial, Inc.

Blakely Financial, Inc. is an independent financial planning and investment management firm that provides clarity, insight, and guidance to help our clients attain their financial goals.

Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser.

Diversification and asset allocation programs do not assure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets, and cannot guarantee that any objective or goal will be achieved.

Family Financial Wellness

Family Financial Wellness

Family Financial Wellness

Presented by Robert Blakely, CFP®

Summer is almost here! Children will be out of school, and that means more time together as a family. What will you spend your time doing? Do you already speak to your children about financial matters? Perhaps this summer, as a family, you can focus on your family’s financial wellness.

What is family financial wellness? Simply put, it is how you and your family, together, prepare for the future. 

Managing your finances can be stressful and take time. If you are not proactive and do not put a plan in place, your physical and mental health can be affected; you can lose sleep and lose focus. So it is imperative for a healthy family and your peace of mind that you follow some simple steps to ensure financial wellness for all. 

There are four components to becoming financially well as a family: savings, expenses, debt, and risk protection. These can be crucial to your family’s financial wellness and improving in each area should be a priority for you and your family. The following are some simple steps that can help as you start down the path of family financial wellness.

To begin:

Spend less than you earn.

Begin by creating a budget. Keep track of every dollar that comes in and every dollar that goes out. This will allow you to see where you are spending your money and where you might be able to cut back.

Set up an emergency fund.

Relatively small expenses can be devastating if you do not plan for them. Set up an automatic transfer each month and put a portion of each check into this emergency fund. Then make a promise to yourself and your family that you won’t spend it unless it is in a true emergency.

Pay down your debt.

List all of your debt, including the monthly minimum payments and interest rates. Decide which you will pay off first and commit to that. Just do it!

Protect your family.

Purchase life insurance which will give you peace of mind knowing your family is taken care of should the worst happen. 

Save for retirement.

The best way to do this is to participate in your employer’s offered retirement plan. Many employers offer a match, so make sure you contribute to the plan so you can get this ‘free money’ and maximum benefit. If your employer does not offer any type of plan, make sure to contact a financial advisor to set up an automatic transfer into a retirement account.

 

Taking these simple steps – and working together as a family – will help promote a healthy relationship with money for your children but also put you on the path to financial wellness as a family!

Engage with the entire Blakely Financial team at WWW.BLAKELYFINANCIAL.COM to see what other expert advice we can provide towards your financial well-being.

ROBERT BLAKELY, CFP® is a financial advisor with BLAKELY FINANCIAL, INC. located at 1022 Hutton Lane, Suite 109, High Point, NC 27262. He is the founder and president of Blakely Financial, Inc.

Blakely Financial, Inc. is an independent financial planning and investment management firm that provides clarity, insight, and guidance to help our clients attain their financial goals.

Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Fixed insurance products and services offered through CES Insurance Agency or Blakely Financial, Inc.

To Keep or Not to Keep: A Guide to Common Records-Retention Questions

Presented by Robert Blakely CFP®, AIF®, ChFC

Living in an increasingly paperless world has its benefits, but when it comes to records retention, does it make a difference? Sure, digital recordkeeping on the cloud means more storage space, easy access, and less vulnerability to inadvertent destruction. But the questions of what to keep and for how long feel just as confusing as ever.

Keep or Toss. Whether your files are physical or electronic, the same principles and time frames for record retention apply. Below, we review some rules of thumb to consider for a few common financial documents. Keep in mind, though, this list is not exhaustive, and professional responsibilities and potential liability risks may vary.

ATM receipts, deposit slips, and credit card receipts. In general, you don’t need to hold onto monthly financial statements after you verified your transactions—that is unless statements include tax-related information. Also keep in mind that if you dispute a transaction included in a statement, in most cases, you have 60 days from the statement date. Beyond 60 days, the bank may be alleviated of liability associated with the charge—so you may be on your own to try to get your money back.

Paycheck stubs. Once you receive your annual W-2, it’s usually not necessary to retain your paystubs for the prior year. You may want to keep your year-end stub if it includes any tax-related information not reported on your W-2, however. Additionally, if you anticipate a life event in the near future that will require proof of recent income—applying for a home loan, for example—then plan to hang onto pay stubs from at least the past two months.

Tax returns. Determining when to purge tax returns usually depends on how long the IRS has to contest a given year’s return. In most cases, it’s a period of three years—assuming tax returns are filed properly and do not contain any knowingly fraudulent information. The time frame can extend up to six years for severely underreported income, and there’s no time limit for the IRS to contest fraudulent returns. The same timing applies to the supporting documentation used in preparing a tax return, so you should also retain the financial and tax documentation—investment statements showing gains or losses and evidence of charitable contributions, for example—pertinent to the corresponding year’s return. If you’re unsure how long you should keep a specific tax return and accompanying paperwork, be sure to check with your accountant. Additionally, the IRS offers some useful information on time limitations that apply to retaining tax returns.

Old 401(k) statements. Once you’ve confirmed your contributions are recorded accurately, there’s little need to keep each quarterly or monthly statement. It may be a good idea to keep each annual summary until the account is no longer active, however.

Estate planning documents. Although there’s usually no distinction about whether records need to be retained in paper or digital form, there are certain instances where it’s essential to have original legal documentation with the “wet” signature. This requirement holds true for estate planning documents. In most circumstances, a court will only accept a decedent’s original last will and testament—a copy will not suffice. If you’re unable to produce the original, the court may presume it doesn’t exist, deeming the copy invalid. It’s possible there are legal avenues you can pursue to get the court to accept a photocopy of a will, but this could prove to be a costly and stressful process.

Get Organized and Be Sure to Shred. A good records-filing system is key to helping you maintain and easily access important documents. If you’re storing things digitally, you can retain much more than any filing cabinet could hold, making it easy to take a more liberal approach to what you save. Keep in mind, the retention guidelines for many documents aren’t clear-cut. When you’re unsure, start by assessing what purpose the document may serve in the future. And it’s always important to consult the appropriate financial, tax, or legal professional for advice on specific records. Finally, remember when it comes to materials that include personal information, if you’re not keeping it, then you should be shredding it.

This material has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute either tax or legal advice. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a tax preparer, professional tax advisor, or lawyer.

###

Blakely Financial, Inc. is located at 1022 Hutton Lane Suite 109 High Point, NC 27262 and can be reached at 336.885.2530.

Securities and Advisory Services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Fixed insurance products and services offered through CES Insurance Agency or Blakely Financial, Inc.

© 2021 Commonwealth Financial Network®

The American Jobs Plan and Proposed Tax Policy

Presented by The Blakely Financial Team

On March 31, 2021, President Biden introduced the American Jobs Plan, a proposal designed to improve the country’s aging infrastructure. In total, the plan will invest more than $2 trillion over the next decade. The specific provisions of the proposal will likely change prior to making its way to Congress and will face steep opposition from Republican lawmakers. While it’s unclear if the plan will pass or in what form, the following is a high-level summary of what we know so far, based on the White House Fact Sheet.

Major Components
Infrastructure and transportation. A total of $650 billion will be invested into infrastructure at home. This will include clean drinking water, high-speed broadband internet, electrical infrastructure, affordable housing, public schools, learning centers, and community colleges. It will also be put toward modernizing Veterans Affairs hospitals. In addition, the plan will put $621 billion into transportation infrastructure with the goal of repairing bridges and roads; modernizing public transit; improving rail service, ports, waterways, and airports; and increasing use of electric vehicles.

American manufacturing. Biden also plans to invest a total of $580 billion in American manufacturing and small business, research and development, and workforce development.

Health care. A total of $400 billion will be put toward expanding access to quality, affordable care for the elderly and people with disabilities, with the goal of also creating new jobs and increasing pay, benefits, and opportunities for caregivers.

Corporate tax rate. The corporate tax rate will be increased from 21 percent to 28 percent.

Global minimum tax. The global minimum tax for U.S. multinational corporations will be increased from 10.5 percent to 21 percent.

Large corporations. The plan proposes a 15 percent minimum tax on the income large corporations use to report profits to investors.

The IRS. Funding to the IRS will be increased to help ramp up its enforcement of tax policies (i.e., audits) with corporations.

Big-Picture Tax Proposals
While the American Jobs Plan proposes several tax changes specifically targeting corporations, Biden also discussed other tax changes during his campaign that would more directly affect individuals. These changes, which the administration may seek to implement in future legislation, could include the following:

  • Implement payroll taxes on wages greater than $400,000 (Taxpayers would not be subject to the tax between the social security wage cap [currently $142,800] and $400,000.)
  • Increase the long-term capital gains rate to 39.6 percent for taxpayers earning more than $1 million
  • Raise the top marginal income tax rate from 37 percent to 39.6 percent
  • Tax unrealized gains for individuals whose income exceeds a specified threshold
  • Eliminate the step up in basis rules applicable to inherited assets
  • Reduce the exclusion amount for federal estate and gift taxes (currently $11.7 million per individual)
  • Increase the child tax credit and expand eligibility for child and dependent care tax credit
  • Substitute a tax credit for tax deduction for retirement plan contributions
  • Provide tax relief for student debt (There are multiple proposals for how this may be implemented.)
  • Eliminate the qualified business income tax deduction for pass-through business owners
  • Eliminate 1031 exchanges for certain taxpayers whose income exceeds a specified threshold

Please note: These are informal proposals and are likely to change if incorporated into a bill. If they become law, you will be affected only if the rulings are specific to your financial situation. As always, we will continue to monitor the situation and will be there to help you navigate any future changes.

This material has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute either tax or legal advice. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a tax preparer, professional tax advisor, or lawyer.

###

Blakely Financial, Inc. is located at 1022 Hutton Lane Suite 109 High Point, NC 27262 and can be reached at 336.885.2530. Securities and Advisory Services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Fixed insurance products and services offered through CES Insurance Agency or Blakely Financial, Inc.

© 2021 Commonwealth Financial Network®

Traditional IRA Vs. Roth IRA: Choosing the Best Fit

Traditional IRA Vs. Roth IRA: Choosing the Best Fit
Presented by EMILY PROMISE CFP®, AIF®, APMA®, CRPC®

IRAs are a type of savings account designed to help you put money away for retirement in a tax-advantaged way. Two of the most common types are traditional and Roth IRAs. How do you know which one you should invest in? There are several factors to consider, so let’s take a closer look at their similarities and differences to help you choose the best fit.

The similarities between traditional and Roth IRAs include the following:

  • Contribution limits: Total annual contributions to your traditional and Roth IRAs combined cannot exceed $6,000 if you are younger than 50 or $7,000 if you are age 50 or older.
  • Contribution deadline: The deadline is the same as your tax return filing deadline (not including extensions).
  • Withdrawals: You can withdraw money at any time, but distributions may be subject to tax and penalty. For traditional IRAs, withdrawals prior to age 59½ may be subject to a 10 percent premature withdrawal penalty, unless an exception applies. For Roth IRAs, withdrawals of the principal are tax and penalty-free. If you are younger than 59½ and have had the account for less than five years, however, you may have to pay taxes and/or a penalty on any earnings withdrawn.
  • Rollovers: Direct rollovers are accepted from outside qualified retirement plans (i.e., 401(k)s), and they may be taxable.

There are, however, some key differences between these account types, as summarized below:

  • Traditional IRAs
    • Contributions may be tax-deductible, depending on your income level.
    • Contributions grow tax-deferred, meaning you pay taxes only when you withdraw the money.
    • You must begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) at age 72*.
  • Roth IRAs
    • Not everyone is eligible to contribute; income restrictions apply.
    • Contributions are not tax-deductible. But distributions are tax-free if the account has been open for at least five years and the account owner is age 59½ or has qualified for an early withdrawal exception.
    • Roth IRAs do not have RMDs.

There are a lot of details to take into consideration before deciding on which account you would like to open, and it’s important to be well-informed before making a decision. If you have further questions regarding either type of IRA and which one would be best for you, we welcome you to contact us.

Engage with the entire Blakely Financial team at WWW.BLAKELYFINANCIAL.COM to see what other expert advice we can provide towards your financial well-being.

EMILY PROMISE is a financial advisor with BLAKELY FINANCIAL, INC. located at 1022 Hutton Ln., Suite 109, High Point, NC 27262 and can be reached at (336) 885-2530.

Blakely Financial, Inc. is an independent financial planning and investment management firm that provides clarity, insight, and guidance to help our clients attain their financial goals.

Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser.

Prepared by Commonwealth Financial Network®

 

*If you turned age 70½ before January 1, 2020, then you must begin taking RMDs at age 70½.