I work with many clients who have lost a spouse, gone through a divorce, or are wondering what they should do if something happens to their significant other who has been managing the money and finances. We also work with many clients who find themselves in a position of having to manage their parent’s finances.
No matter the situation, it is important for each person to be involved in the family finances – knowing where things are, who to call, and what to do in case an unforeseen event occurs. Maintaining transparency and having candid conversations about finances can also improve a couple’s relationship, as money is the most common thing that couples fight about. Likewise, sitting down with adult children and going over finances can save them a lot of heartache and confusion if they suddenly have to take over.
To get started, couples and families should have answers to the following questions and maintain a detailed record of current information in one easily accessible place:
- What bank(s) do we use?
- Who is our wealth manager?
- What does our investment portfolio look like?
- Do we have a mortgage, and if so, with which company?
- Do we have insurance? What kind? Who are the providers? What are the annual premiums?
- What is the status of our estate plan? Do we have a will or trust? Have we appointed Powers of Attorney? Do we have a health care directive? Who is our attorney?
- Who is our accountant? Who does our taxes?
- What other assets do we own – cars, boats, vacation homes, artwork, jewelry, etc.? Where are the titles and other documents? Whose name are they in?
- Where are the important documents – birth certificates, passports, marriage licenses?
- Where is the login information for all financial accounts?
- Make a list of savings and investments (401(k) plans, IRAs, 529 plans, savings accounts, taxable investment accounts)
- What is the financial position of any business that we own? How is the business structured? Is there a succession plan in place?
- What income comes in each month?
- The paystub from employers is a good place to look, or prior tax returns. If tax returns are not available, you can request a copy from the IRS with Form 4506 https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f4506.pdf
- What is being spent? What is our monthly budget? What bills are due each month?
- Look at mortgage payments, car payments, college debt, utility bills, credit card bills, taxes, insurance, any spending on the home, merchandise, and loans
- What is our cash flow position?
The next step would be for the family or couple to put together a financial plan – a road map of where they are and where they are going. So, what information goes into that financial plan?
- Your ages – this will help determine how long the plan will need to last, when you will receive social security, when you should apply for Medicare, when you will need to take required minimum distributions from retirement plans, etc.
- Your household income
- Do you have dependents?
- What state you are living in? This will determine taxes.
- Are you eligible for ex-spouse, widow/er, or disability benefits?
- What assets do you have – homes, cars, art, jewelry, insurance policies?
- What debt do you have – credit card, mortgage, car loan?
- Will you be getting an inheritance?
- Will you be selling a business?
- Do you have stock options?
- How are you currently invested?
- How should you be invested?
- Are you taking too much risk with your investments?
- Do you need to make changes to your investment allocation?
- If you are not yet retired, when do you plan to retire?
- Will you be moving to another state in retirement?
- Will you be getting social security? When and how much?
- Do you need to make changes to the amount you are spending?
- How long will the money last given the information above?
- What are your goals? Needs? Wants? Wishes? Will you meet them?
Having an open discussion, organizing all financial assets, creating a financial plan, and sharing that plan with family members will help alleviate any issues that arise when unforeseen events occur or circumstances change.
The wealth management team at Wealthspire can provide advice to get you and your family organized and help facilitate these important discussions. Reach out and be prepared!