American households are comprising fewer and fewer “traditional” families – those headed by two married, opposite-sex partners who may or may not have joint children. While married couples represented 78% of U.S. households in 1950, by 2010, that number had dropped to just 48%. We have seen a rise in many different family configurations, including unmarried couples, same-sex couples (either married or unmarried), blended families, multigenerational families, single-parent families, and those housing adult children. If you live in one of these nontraditional households, family financial planning can present a special challenge. This article will focus on the particular needs of same-sex and unmarried partners.
Our last post focused on the family financial planning needs of same-sex and unmarried partners. In this week’s article, we will take a look at special considerations for multigenerational and blended families.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 70% of people will need long-term care at some point in their lives. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported this year that 40% of those turning 65 will have need two or more years of long-term care, and 43% of those receiving long-term care are under 65. Despite these facts, the vast majority of Americans have not planned for this very likely expense. Many are under the misconception that their health insurance or Medicare will cover it. In fact, Medicare only covers a narrow range of costs. While it will pay for medically necessary skilled care, the choice of setting is limited, and it will not pay for assistance with daily tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, and personal care. Medicare provides no funding for assisted living facilities. Private health insurance generally does not cover long-term care costs. Providing for long-term care has become a critically important, but still widely overlooked, aspect of financial planning.
Social responsibility is a rising phenomenon in the financial planning and investment world. Its roots can be traced to 18th century religious movements, such as the Quakers, who would in no way participate in the slave trade, and the Methodists, whose founder chided followers to avoid doing harm by avoiding industries such as tanning and chemical production. In the 1920s, socially responsible investing (SRI) tended to be more about avoiding “sin” stocks, such as tobacco and alcohol. Today, however, SRI is becoming a common way for people with a wide range of values to express them in the marketplace.
One of the most effective ways to secure your financial future is to get rid of your current debt. Student loans are growing source of debt among Americans, second only to mortgage debt. According to Forbes, the average U.S. college graduate now enters the workforce with $26,000 in debt, and 10% accumulate over $40,000 in student loans. This level of debt can be a tremendous burden and force borrowers to delay life important life events such as home ownership, starting a business, or starting a family. Prolonged payments can also make it exceedingly difficult to save and invest for future needs. Fortunately, programs are available to help many borrowers lighten their debt load. If you are carrying student loan debt, dealing with it in the most cost-effective way possible should be a key part of your financial plan. It’s important to know if you qualify for reduced payments and/or forgiveness of all or part of your student loans. Failing to take advantage of programs like these might mean paying several thousand dollars more than you must toward your student loan debt. That is money that you could otherwise be using for retirement savings, buying a home, or funding your child’s education.
It’s not that we’ve been slacking…
The news about Gen X’s preparedness for retirement is less than encouraging. Their plight is not, however, a result of the “slacker” mentality with which Gen Xers are often branded. Workers currently in their mid 30s to late 40s have had a number of economic hurdles to overcome, including the bursting of the real estate bubble, a skyrocketing income gap that has been squeezing out the middle class, the stock market plunge, and massive student loan debt acquired at a time when we believed that a good education would translate into a good job.
Once your child begins working and earning income, setting up a Roth IRA can be both an excellent way to teach your child about money management and a tax-effective means of growing a fund for the child’s future needs.
If you own a small business, chances are that it is tying up the majority of your wealth at the expense of your personal financial security. That is what a recent survey by CNBC and the Financial Planning Association (FPA) found. The poll sampled 178 financial advisors across the U.S. who provide services to small business clients aged 35-70 and found that on average, 70% of small business owners’ wealth is invested in their companies. Many of the advisors expressed that this creates a high degree of financial risk for these business owners and their families.
Many couples decide to get married without giving a lot of thought to financial planning. If your love is strong, you can figure out these little details, right? Maybe, but by taking the time and energy to talk about your financial life together before the wedding day, you are giving yourselves a much better chance of marital harmony in the coming years. If you and your betrothed have different attitudes, values, habits, and goals around money, it is much better to find this out now than after you have joined your financial destinies.
If you are new to investing, an index mutual fund is a logical place to begin. Index funds have comparatively low costs and carry less risk than actively managed funds. They obviate the need to pick outperforming stocks, since the fund’s purpose is simply to mirror its index through diverse investments. Index funds also make it easy to maintain the asset allocation that is most appropriate for your needs. Warren Buffet touted the virtues of the index fund in his 2014 letter to shareholders: “The goal of the non-professional should not be to pick winners – neither he nor his "helpers" can do that – but should rather be to own a cross-section of businesses that in aggregate are bound to do well. A low-cost S&P 500 index fund will achieve this goal.”