Credit Card Guide, Estate Planning

An Overview of Filial Responsibility Laws

Father in a wheelchair and son outsideTaking care of aging parents is something you may need to plan for, especially if you think one or both of them might need long-term care. One thing you may not know is that some states have filial responsibility laws that require adult children to help financially with the cost of nursing home care. Whether these laws affect you or not depends largely on where you live and what financial resources your parents have to cover long-term care. But it’s important to understand how these laws work to avoid any financial surprises as your parents age.

Filial Responsibility Laws, Definition

Filial responsibility laws are legal rules that hold adult children financially responsible for their parents’ medical care when parents are unable to pay. More than half of U.S. states have some type of filial support or responsibility law, including:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

Puerto Rico also has laws regarding filial responsibility. Broadly speaking, these laws require adult children to help pay for things like medical care and basic needs when a parent is impoverished. But the way the laws are applied can vary from state to state. For example, some states may include mental health treatment as a situation requiring children to pay while others don’t. States can also place time limitations on how long adult children are required to pay.

When Do Filial Responsibility Laws Apply?

If you live in a state that has filial responsibility guidelines on the books, it’s important to understand when those laws can be applied.

Generally, you may have an obligation to pay for your parents’ medical care if all of the following apply:

  • One or both parents are receiving some type of state government-sponsored financial support to help pay for food, housing, utilities or other expenses
  • One or both parents has nursing home bills they can’t pay
  • One or both parents qualifies for indigent status, which means their Social Security benefits don’t cover their expenses
  • One or both parents are ineligible for Medicaid help to pay for long-term care
  • It’s established that you have the ability to pay outstanding nursing home bills

If you live in a state with filial responsibility laws, it’s possible that the nursing home providing care to one or both of your parents could come after you personally to collect on any outstanding bills owed. This means the nursing home would have to sue you in small claims court.

If the lawsuit is successful, the nursing home would then be able to take additional collection actions against you. That might include garnishing your wages or levying your bank account, depending on what your state allows.

Whether you’re actually subject to any of those actions or a lawsuit depends on whether the nursing home or care provider believes that you have the ability to pay. If you’re sued by a nursing home, you may be able to avoid further collection actions if you can show that because of your income, liabilities or other circumstances, you’re not able to pay any medical bills owed by your parents.

Filial Responsibility Laws and Medicaid

Senior care living areaWhile Medicare does not pay for long-term care expenses, Medicaid can. Medicaid eligibility guidelines vary from state to state but generally, aging seniors need to be income- and asset-eligible to qualify. If your aging parents are able to get Medicaid to help pay for long-term care, then filial responsibility laws don’t apply. Instead, Medicaid can paid for long-term care costs.

There is, however, a potential wrinkle to be aware of. Medicaid estate recovery laws allow nursing homes and long-term care providers to seek reimbursement for long-term care costs from the deceased person’s estate. Specifically, if your parents transferred assets to a trust then your state’s Medicaid program may be able to recover funds from the trust.

You wouldn’t have to worry about being sued personally in that case. But if your parents used a trust as part of their estate plan, any Medicaid recovery efforts could shrink the pool of assets you stand to inherit.

Talk to Your Parents About Estate Planning and Long-Term Care

If you live in a state with filial responsibility laws (or even if you don’t), it’s important to have an ongoing conversation with your parents about estate planning, end-of-life care and where that fits into your financial plans.

You can start with the basics and discuss what kind of care your parents expect to need and who they want to provide it. For example, they may want or expect you to care for them in your home or be allowed to stay in their own home with the help of a nursing aide. If that’s the case, it’s important to discuss whether that’s feasible financially.

If you believe that a nursing home stay is likely then you may want to talk to them about purchasing long-term care insurance or a hybrid life insurance policy that includes long-term care coverage. A hybrid policy can help pay for long-term care if needed and leave a death benefit for you (and your siblings if you have them) if your parents don’t require nursing home care.

Speaking of siblings, you may also want to discuss shared responsibility for caregiving, financial or otherwise, if you have brothers and sisters. This can help prevent resentment from arising later if one of you is taking on more of the financial or emotional burdens associated with caring for aging parents.

If your parents took out a reverse mortgage to provide income in retirement, it’s also important to discuss the implications of moving to a nursing home. Reverse mortgages generally must be repaid in full if long-term care means moving out of the home. In that instance, you may have to sell the home to repay a reverse mortgage.

The Bottom Line

elderly woman in a wheelchair outsideFilial responsibility laws could hold you responsible for your parents’ medical bills if they’re unable to pay what’s owed. If you live in a state that has these laws, it’s important to know when you may be subject to them. Helping your parents to plan ahead financially for long-term needs can help reduce the possibility of you being on the hook for nursing care costs unexpectedly.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about what filial responsibility laws could mean for you if you live in a state that enforces them. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be a complicated process. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help you connect, in just minutes, with professional advisors in your local area. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • When discussing financial planning with your parents, there are other things you may want to cover in addition to long-term care. For example, you might ask whether they’ve drafted a will yet or if they think they may need a trust for Medicaid planning. Helping them to draft an advance healthcare directive and a power of attorney can ensure that you or another family member has the authority to make medical and financial decisions on your parents’ behalf if they’re unable to do so.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Halfpoint, ©iStock.com/byryo, ©iStock.com/Halfpoint

The post An Overview of Filial Responsibility Laws appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Family Finance, Home Loans

How Tapping Home Equity Can Pay the Taxes on a Roth IRA Conversion

Single Family Home with Beige Clapboard Exterior and Trees in Autumn Colors (Foliage) in Sleepy Hollow, Hudson Valley, New York. OlegAlbinsky/iStock

The benefits of incorporating a Roth IRA into your retirement strategy are often praised by financial advisers, citing the ability for money to grow tax-free for decades and provide tax-free income in retirement. While a Roth IRA conversion is one way to take advantage of this savings tool, the tax implications of converting investments from a traditional retirement account to a Roth IRA typically deter most people. Yet the effects of new legislation and persistent market volatility make a Roth IRA conversion worth considering, and paying for it doesn’t have to break the bank.

A Roth IRA conversion uses assets from a traditional or rollover IRA, 401(k), SEP or Simple IRA to fund a Roth IRA. Unlike regular contributions to a Roth IRA, which are constrained by income limitations and annual contribution caps, there are no restrictions when converting retirement assets to a Roth IRA. Any amount can be converted regardless of your age, income, or employment status. But the Roth IRA conversion doesn’t come without a cost.

When you convert pre-tax assets in a traditional retirement account to your Roth IRA, the conversion is treated as income and you must pay taxes on the assets converted. The amount you pay in taxes depends on your income tax bracket for the year. In some cases, a substantial conversion in one year could boost taxable income by multiple brackets. To help manage that liability, a series of partial conversions over several years could be planned to keep the distributions within a targeted tax bracket.

For many retirees, income from a traditional IRA or 401(k) can create a tax headache, especially when required minimum distributions (RMDs) raise their tax bracket. That’s where a Roth IRA comes in.

A Roth IRA provides the flexibility to take tax-free withdrawals in retirement when you want and in whatever amount you want. This is unlike other retirement accounts that have RMDs beginning at age 72. The RMDs are taxable income, which means that in addition to your tax bracket they can also impact your Medicare premium bracket and the taxation of your Social Security benefit, whereas distributions from the Roth IRA will not.

This year the CARES Act temporarily pauses RMDs from traditional retirement accounts. So, if you are 72 or older and you don’t take your RMD then your income will be lower. This provides a potential opportunity to make a larger conversion while maintaining the same income tax rate.

Additionally, since the Secure Act of 2020 eliminated the stretch provisions for inherited retirement plans, the Roth IRA is also a great estate planning tool. Non-spousal heirs can no longer take distributions over their life expectancy, but rather all distributions must be taken within 10 years. While this is true as well for an inherited Roth IRA, the distribution would not be a taxable event.

The cost of an IRA conversion can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Conventional wisdom is to pay the resulting tax bill with non-taxable assets from outside the retirement plan. Using plan assets would defeat the purpose of the conversion as you will permanently give up a portion of the capital that is accumulating on a tax-free basis. In addition, if you’re under age 59 ½, the portion of plan assets used to pay for the conversion could also be subject to a 10% tax penalty.

If you have the cash on hand, that’s likely the best way to cover the tax implications. But depending on the size of the conversion and your tax bracket, the up-front costs could be significant. Another option is to take out a loan against your life insurance policy. While this permanently reduces the policy value if not repaid, the loan doesn’t count as taxable income so long as the policy isn’t surrendered, doesn’t lapse, and the amount owed doesn’t exceed the premiums paid. If any of these do occur then the tax implications will likely be even larger than the taxes paid on the Roth IRA conversion.

Considering a reverse mortgage

Alternatively, tapping into your home equity can provide the means to pay the taxes. You could leverage current low interest rates and get a home equity line of credit (HELOC), though many banks have stopped accepting applications for HELOCs in recent months. Additionally, a HELOC will require a monthly mortgage payment, decreasing your cash flow.

For homeowners age 62 or older, a reverse mortgage could pay the tax liabilities from the Roth IRA conversion, creating tax and cash-flow flexibility and potentially a higher net worth.

With a reverse mortgage, the available line of credit grows and compounds at a value that is tied to current interest rates. This can be particularly beneficial with a series of partial Roth IRA conversions as it provides a growing resource to pay future tax bills. The line of credit also provides flexibility to convert a greater portion of your retirement assets during market plunges, so you only pay taxes on the lower value at the time of the conversion and not on any gains in the Roth IRA when the markets recover.

Since there are no principal or interest payments required for as long as you live in your home, the line of credit from a reverse mortgage provides the liquidity to pay for the Roth IRA conversion with no impact on household cash flow or the need to sell other invested assets.

A good rule of thumb is to use a reverse mortgage if your home equity is less than or equal to the value of the retirement assets you plan to convert. If the home represents a major portion of your net worth, a reverse mortgage may not be the best option to cover the tax bill. In this case, the reverse could better serve as a tax-free source of supplemental income, or to pay for in-home care, or other retirement expenses that distributions from the smaller invested assets may not be able to cover.

Evaluating the use of a reverse mortgage also depends on the projected costs in comparison with the projected returns. For example, if interest rates on a reverse line of credit are at 3%, and your home appreciates at a 3% rate, you could borrow 50% of your home equity and still maintain a 50% retained equity position throughout the duration of the loan. Even if the home only appreciated at a 1% rate, you would still have a retained equity position.

Projected returns on the Roth IRA conversion would also need to be evaluated. For simplicity’s sake, let us assume you borrow a total of $250,000 from your reverse line of credit to pay the tax bills on $1 million conversion. If you accrue interest on the line of credit balance at a 3% rate and the Roth IRA grows at a 6% tax-free rate, the return could be quite compelling over time.

Of course, there are no guarantees on any projections, which is why you should consult a financial professional and evaluate your specific situation. A number of “what if” scenarios should be considered including changes in interest and tax rates, home and investment growth rates, and legacy desires. These considerations will help determine if using a reverse mortgage to take advantage of the benefits of a Roth IRA conversion could be a retirement strategy that makes sense for you.

The post How Tapping Home Equity Can Pay the Taxes on a Roth IRA Conversion appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

Bank Accounts, Budgeting, Insurance, Investing

The Top Financial Resolutions for 2021

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The most surefire way to achieve your financial resolutions and stay within that budget you made is to earn more money.

1. Make A Realistic Budget And Stick To It

Source: thepennyhoarder.com
And the truth is, your credit card company doesn’t really care. It’s just getting rich by ripping you off with high interest rates. But a website called AmOne wants to help.
The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.
Whatever your financial goals are this year, we know you can achieve them! Here’s to making 2021 your best financial year yet.

2. Look For A Better Job: Make up to $69/Hour

Have you made your resolutions yet? It can feel a little daunting trying to figure out what you need to focus on, so we made it easy: These are the resolutions everyone else is taking on in 2021, according to a survey by Wallethub, and you should, too. Plus — how to accomplish them.

Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.
When it comes to your credit score, it’s important to stay organized and keep tabs on it. After all, it’ll play an essential role in any big purchase you want to make — whether that’s a home or a car.
AmOne won’t make you stand in line or call your bank, either. And if you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online. It takes just two minutes, and it could help you pay off your debt years faster.
Enter your email address here to get a free Aspiration Spend and Save account. After you confirm your email, securely link your bank account so they can start helping you get extra cash. Your money is FDIC insured and they use a military-grade encryption which is nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”
You don’t have to be an accountant or even really good at math to be successful in this business. In fact, all you need are decent computer skills and a passion for helping business owners tackle real-world problems. The ability to stay moderately organized is helpful, too.
If you’re under the age of 54 and want to get a fast life insurance quote without a medical exam or even getting up from the couch, get a free quote from Bestow.
Those are the perks of working as a bookkeeper, says Ben Robinson, a CPA and business owner who teaches others to become virtual bookkeepers through online courses called Bookkeepers.com.

3. Pay Off Credit Card Debt: Wipe Out All Your Debt by Tomorrow

Kari Faber is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.
Can you open an excel spreadsheet? Does earning an hour sound appealing? How about the freedom to work remotely while helping others succeed?
James Cooper, of Atlanta, used Credit Sesame to raise his credit score nearly 300 points in six months.*** “They showed me the ins and outs — how to dot the I’s and cross the T’s,” he said.
So if you’re looking to get your credit score back on track — or even if it is on track and you want to bump it up — try using a free website called Credit Sesame.
50% of your take-home income every month covers your fixed expenses — rent, utilities, groceries, minimum debt payments, etc. 30% goes towards the things you can live without, but don’t want to (like food delivery, a Netflix subscription and travel). Finally, the last 20% of your monthly income is dedicated to your financial goals.
We recommend the 50/30/20 method. It’s simple, yet effective, and has a bit of a cult following, too! Here’s how it shakes out:

4. Monitor Your Credit Report

It’s easy to get swept up in the joy that is payday and immediately start buying things you don’t need. But as the final financial resolution on this list, paying your bills right away can help keep the rest of your goals on track.
If you owe your credit card companies ,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.
Have you thought about how your family would manage without your income if something happened to you? How they’ll pay the bills? Send the kids through school? Now’s a good time to start planning for the future by looking into a term life insurance policy.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
Did your credit score take a dive this year? Or is still stuck at a “fair” grade? Then monitoring any changes on your credit reporting and working to improve your score should be one of your financial resolutions for this year, too.
Within two minutes, you’ll get access to your credit score, any debt-carrying accounts and a handful of personalized tips to improve your score. You’ll even be able to spot any errors holding you back (one in five reports have one).

5. Get Insured In Case Of A Catastrophe. You Could Give Your Family up to $1 Million

***Like Cooper, 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days.
Rates start at just a month. The peace of mind knowing your family is taken care of is priceless.
It’s easy to slip away from our good financial habits as the year goes on, so it’s particularly important to find a budgeting system that works for your lifestyle and won’t be hard to maintain.
So prioritize your emergency fund this year. If you don’t have one yet, start by opening an account that will help you grow your money.
2020 was actually a good year for paying down credit card debt — Americans did more of it this year than they ever have.

6. Add A Month To Your Emergency Fund

Having an emergency fund is important; you know that. But it’s easy to deprioritize it when things are going fine. And as 2020 showed us, you can lose your job at the drop of a hat, meaning a full emergency fund can be what keeps your lights on.
This one sounds familiar, right? Oft-regarded as Old Faithful when it comes to New Years’ resolutions, it holds that title for good reason. Having a budget you can actually stick to will set you up for financial success, no matter what your goals are.
You’re probably thinking: I don’t have the time or money for that. But your application can take minutes — and you could leave your family up to million with a company called Bestow.
Not too shabby!
Talk about a scary year. If a global pandemic didn’t have you thinking about your own mortality, what else could? With that thought in mind, people are adding “buy life insurance” to their list of 2021 to-dos.

7. Pay Bills Right After Payday

But what if you could create that higher-paying and more rewarding job? There’s an idea…
Want to check for yourself? It’s free and only takes about 90 seconds to sign up.
But there’s still work to be done, which is why paying off credit card debt is one of the top financial resolutions this year.  Because if you still have credit card debt, you know. The anxiety, the interest rates, the fear you’re never going to escape…
It means you can avoid late fees on your utilities, which can really add up and destroy your budget. You can pay off your credit card debt without mounting interest charges. And you can prevent any hiccups that would dock your credit score a few points.
Robinson shares what it takes to be a virtual bookkeeper, plus tips for making this career work for you in his free class at Bookkeepers.com. If you stick with the classes, you could be running your own business in just a few months.
One way to do that is with a company called Aspiration. It lets you earn up to 16 times the average interest on the money in your account.
2020 made that really hard for most people. Which is why finding a better job, that you actually enjoy — and will pay you more — is a top resolution for 2021.
You can make up to an hour, according to data from Intuit, the creator of QuickBooks, and you have no commute. It’s a great opportunity for parents who want a part-time job, recent college grads or anyone who wants to bring in real money working from home.

Car Insurance

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Auto Insurance Coverage

Recent data suggests that the average driver will spend close to $100,000 on car insurance over their lifetime. That’s a staggering sum of money, especially when you consider estimates that suggest Americans will pay over $500,000 in that time just to own, operate, and maintain a car.

$100,000 is a lot of money to spend on something that you may never benefit from, something that you’re only buying because your state authorities told you too. But while car insurance policies are essential, the amount that the average consumer spends on them is not.

In this guide, we’ll look at the ways you can save money on auto insurance premiums and get the most value out of this necessary expense.

Build Your Credit Report

Never underestimate the value of a high credit score and a clean credit report. Not only can it help when applying for a car loan, increasing the value of the car you can purchase and decreasing the interest rates you’re charged, but it will also reduce your car insurance rates.

There is no easy and quick way to turn a bad credit report into a good credit report, but there are a few simple changes you can make that could increase your score enough to make a difference. These include:

  • Stop applying for new lines of credit.
  • Become an authorized user on a respectable user’s credit card.
  • Increase credit limits on your active credit cards.
  • Pay off as much debt as you can, focusing on credit cards and personal loans first.
  • Don’t close your credit card accounts after clearing them.

If you don’t have any credit at all, which is true for many teen drivers getting behind the wheel for the first time, try the following options:

  • Credit builder loans
  • Secured credit cards
  • Lending circles

Choose Your Car Carefully

A new car is a great way to get a high-tech, customized vehicle, but it’s not ideal if you’re looking to save on insurance costs.

New vehicles cost more to insure because they are a greater liability, with more expensive parts and greater overall value. If you want to save on your auto insurance coverage, look for a car that is at least a few years old, has a number of safety features and a high safety rating.

The cheaper, the better, but only to a point. You want something that won’t leave you in complete financial ruin if it’s wrecked in a car accident and you don’t have the insurance to cover it, but something that won’t breakdown every few miles and leave you stranded and broke every other week.

Drive Safely and Prove Your Worth

Your driving record is just as important as your credit report, if not more so. The more at-fault accidents, traffic tickets, and insurance claims you have, the higher your car insurance rates will be.

A single conviction won’t last forever and the impact will eventually dissipate, so even if you have a few blemishes on your record now, just keep driving safely and you’ll be able to reap the benefits before long.

It takes time to prove your worth to insurance companies, but there are a few things you can do to expedite this process. The first is to take a defensive driving course. In some states and for some demographics (mostly seniors and young drivers), you’ll be offered a discount for completing one of these courses.

The next step is to consider a usage-based program. These are offered by most major insurance companies and can track your driving habits to determine what kind of driver you are. If you’re driving safe and doing very low mileage, you could start seeing some noticeable changes in just a few months. The majority of providers will even give you a discount just for signing up.

Pay Everything Upfront

Most policyholders pay their premiums monthly and it may seem like that’s the best thing to do. $100 a month seems infinitely more manageable than $1,200 a year. 

It is an attitude that many people have, and it’s one that often leads to debt and poor decisions.

Millions of Americans have credit card debt because a $200 monthly payment seems more achievable than a $5,000 payoff, even though the former carries a phenomenal interest rate. It’s also why countless first-time buyers rush into getting mortgages with small down payments and high-interest rates, even though doing so could mean they are paying twice as much money over the term.

Whenever you can benefit from making an upfront payment, do it. This is true for your loan debt and credit card debt, and it’s also true for your car insurance premiums.

Many insurance providers offer you an upfront payment discount of up to 5%. It doesn’t sound like much, but every little helps. If you have a $3,000 car insurance policy, that 5% adds up to $150. Add a few more discounts and you can save even more money and make an even bigger dent in your insurance rates.

Combine Policies and Vehicles

Insurance companies that offer multiple types of insurance tend to offer discounts when you purchase several products from them.

Known as multi-policy discounts or “bundling”, these offers are common with homeowners insurance and auto insurance, but they are also offered with renters insurance and life insurance.

You can combine several vehicles onto the same auto insurance policy, as well, saving much more than if you were to purchase separate policies.

These discounts are essential for multi-car households, but they are not limited to cars. Many insurers will also let you add boats, ATVs, motorcycles, and other vehicles onto the same policy.

Shop Around

Before you settle on a single policy, shop around, compare as many car insurance quotes as you can, try multiple different insurance options (uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, comprehensive coverage, collision coverage) and make sure you’re getting the lowest rates for the best cover.

Too many drivers make the mistake of going with the same provider their friends or parents have; the same provider they have used for a number of years. In doing so, they could be missing out on huge savings. 

You could be forgiven for thinking that all providers offer similar rates and that the difference between them is minor. But regardless of your age, gender, and state, the difference between one provider and the next could be up to 200%!

Check if You’re Covered Elsewhere

Car insurance companies offer a number of add-ons and optional coverage options. These are enticing, as they cover you for numerous eventualities and some of them cost just a few dollars extra a month. But all of those dollars add up and could result in you paying much more than you need for cover you already have.

Roadside assistance is a great example of this. It will help you if you are stranded by the side of the road, assisting with services such as tire changes, fuel delivery, towing, and more. But if you have a premium credit card or are a member of an automobile club, you may already have that cover.

The same goes for rental car coverage, which is often purchased at the rental car counter. Although it has its uses, if you have an auto insurance policy, travel insurance, and a premium credit card, you’re probably already covered. In fact, many Visa credit cards offer this service completely free of charge when you use your Visa to pay the bill, but only if you reject the waivers sold by the rental car company.

Bottom Line: Best Auto Insurance Companies

​Car insurance coverage varies from state to state and provider to provider. There is no “best” company, as even the ones with consistently affordable rates will not be the best option in all states or for all demographics.

In our research, we found that GEICO was consistently one of the cheapest providers for good drivers, bad credit drivers, and even high risk drivers. GEICO also offers personal injury protection, collision insurance, medical payments, uninsured motorist coverage, and more, making them the most complete provider for the majority of drivers.

However, in some states, local farm bureaus come out on top, offering very cheap bodily injury liability coverage and property damage liability coverage, and giving policyholders a level of care and attention that they might not find with the bigger, national providers. USAA, which offers cheap car insurance to members of the military, also leads the way in the majority of states, but only for those who meet the criteria.

Simply put, there is no right insurance provider for you, just like there is no right coverage. That’s why it’s important to shop around, chop and change your coverage options, and don’t assume that any type of coverage or provider is right for you until you’ve looked at the numbers.

 

 

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Auto Insurance Coverage is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Home Buying

10 Financial Steps to Take Before Having Kids

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), raising a child to the age of 18 sets families back an average of $233,610, and that’s for each child. This figure doesn’t even include the cost of college, which is growing faster than inflation. 

CollegeBoard data found that for the 2019-2020 school year, the average in-state, four-year school costs $21,950 per year including tuition, fees, and room and board. 

Kids can add meaning to your life, and most parents would say they’re well worth the cost. But having your financial ducks in a row — before having kids — can help you spend more time with your new family instead of worrying about paying the bills.

10 Financial Moves to Make Before Having Kids

If you want to have kids and reach your long-term financial goals, you’ll need to make some strategic moves early on. There are plenty of ways to set yourself up for success, but here are the most important ones. 

1. Start Using a Monthly Budget

When you’re young and child-free, it’s easy to spend more than you planned on fun activities and nonessentials. But having kids has a way of ruining your carefree spending habits, and that’s especially true if you’ve spent most of your adult life buying whatever catches your eye.

That’s why it’s smart to start using a monthly budget before having kids. It helps you prioritize each dollar you earn every month so you’re tracking your family’s short- and long-term goals.

You can create a simple budget with a pen and paper. Each month, list your income and recurring monthly expenses in separate columns, and then log your purchases throughout the month. This gives you a high-level perspective about money going in and out of your budget. You can also use a digital budgeting tool, like Mint, Qube Money, or You Need a Budget (YNAB) to get a handle on your finances. 

Regardless of which budgeting tool you choose, create categories for savings (e.g. an emergency fund, vacation fund, etc.) and investments. Treat these expense categories just like regular bills as a way to commit to your family’s money goals. Your budget should provide a rough guide that helps you cover household expenses and save for the future while leaving some money for fun.

2. Build an Emergency Fund

Most experts suggest keeping three- to six-months of expenses in an emergency fund. Having an emergency fund is even more crucial when you have kids. You never know when you’ll face a broken arm, requiring you to cover your entire health care deductible in one fell swoop. 

It’s also possible your child could be born with a critical medical condition that requires you to take time away from work. And don’t forget about the other emergencies you can face, from a roof that needs replacing to a job loss or income reduction. 

Your best bet is opening a high-yield savings account and saving up at least three months of expenses before becoming a parent. You’ll never regret having this money set aside, but you’ll easily regret not having savings in an emergency.

3. Boost Your Retirement Savings Percentage

Your retirement might be decades away, but making retirement savings a priority is a lot easier when you don’t have kids. And with the magic of compound interest that lets your money grow exponentially over time, you’ll want to get started ASAP. 

By boosting your retirement savings percentage before having kids, you’ll also learn how to live on a lower amount of take-home pay. Try boosting your retirement savings percentage a little each year until you have kids. 

Go from 6% to 7%, then from 8% to 9%, for example. Ideally, you’ll get to the point where you’re saving 15% of your income or more before becoming a parent. If you’re already enrolled in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, this change can be done with a simple form. Ask your employer or your HR department for more information.

If you’re self-employed, you can still open a retirement account like a SEP IRA or Solo 401(k) and begin saving on your own. You can also consider a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA, both of which let you contribute up to $6,000 per year, or $7,000 if you’re ages 50 or older. 

4. Start a Parental Leave Fund

Since the U.S. doesn’t mandate paid leave for new parents, check with your employer to find out how much paid time off you might receive. The average amount of paid leave in the U.S. is 4.1 weeks, according to a study by WorldatWork, which means you might face partial pay or no pay for some weeks of your parental leave period. It all depends on your employer’s policy and how flexible it is.

Your best bet is figuring out how much time you can take off with pay, and then creating a plan to save up the income you’ll need to cover the rest of your leave. Let’s say you have four weeks of paid time off, but plan on taking 10 weeks of parental leave, for example. Open a new savings account and save weekly or monthly until you have six weeks of pay saved up. 

If you have six months to wait for the baby to arrive and you need $6,000 saved for parental leave, you could strive to set aside $1,000 per month for those ten weeks off. If you’re able to plan earlier, up to 12 months before the baby arrives, then you can cut your monthly savings amount and set aside just $500 per month.

5. Open a Health Savings Account (HSA)

A health savings account (HSA) is a tax-advantaged way to save up for health care expenses, including the cost of a hospital stay. This type of account is available to Americans who have a designated high-deductible health insurance plan (HDHP), meaning a deductible of at least $1,400 for individuals and at least $2,800 for families. HDHPs must also have maximum out-of-pocket limits below $6,900 for individuals and $13,800 for families. 

In 2020, individuals can contribute up to $3,550 to an HSA while families can save up to $7,100. This money is tax-advantaged in that it grows tax-free until you’re ready to use it. Moreover, you’ll never pay taxes or a penalty on your HSA funds if you use your distributions for qualified health care expenses. At the age of 65, you can even deduct money from your HSA and use it however you want without a penalty. 

6. Start Saving for College

The price of college will only get worse over time. To get a handle on it early and plan for your future child’s college tuition, start saving for their education in a separate account.  Once your child is born, you can open a 529 college savings account and list your child as its beneficiary. 

Some states offer tax benefits for those who contribute to a 529 account. For example, Indiana offers a 20% tax credit on up to $5,000 in 529 contributions each year, which gets you up to $1,000 back from the state at tax time. Many plans also let you invest in underlying investments to help your money grow faster than a traditional savings account. 

7. Pay Off Unsecured Debt

If you have credit card debt, pay it off before having kids. You’re not helping yourself by spending years lugging high-interest debt around. Paying off debt can free-up cash and save you thousands of dollars in interest every year. 

If you’re struggling to pay off your unsecured debt, there are several strategies to consider. Here are a few approaches:

Debt Snowball

This debt repayment approach requires you to make a large payment on your smallest account balance and only the minimum amount that’s due on other debt. As the months tick by, you’ll focus on paying off your smallest debt first, only to “snowball” the payments from fully paid accounts toward the next smallest debt. Eventually, the debt snowball should leave you with only your largest debts, then one debt, and then none.

Debt Avalanche

The debt avalanche is the opposite of the debt snowball, asking you to pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first, while paying the minimum payment on other debt. Once that account is fully paid, you’ll “avalanche” those payments to the next highest-rate debt. Eventually, you’ll only be left with your lowest-interest account until you’ve paid off all of your debt. 

Balance Transfer Credit Card

Another popular strategy involves transferring high-interest balances to a balance transfer credit card that offers 0% APR for a limited time. You might have to pay a balance transfer fee (often 3% to 5%), but the interest savings can make this strategy worth it.

If you try this strategy, make sure you have a plan to pay off your debt before your introductory offer ends. If you have 15 months at 0% APR, for example, calculate how much you need to pay each month for 15 months to repay your entire balance during that time. Any debt remaining after your introductory APR period ends will start accruing interest at the regular, variable interest rate. 

8. Consider Refinancing Other Debt

Ditching credit card debt is a no-brainer, but debt like student loans or your home mortgage can also weigh on your future family’s budget.

If you have student loan debt, look into refinancing your student loans with a private lender. A student loan refinance can help you lower the interest rate on your loans, find a manageable monthly payment, and simplify your repayment into one loan.

Private student loan rates are often considerably lower than rates you can get with federal loans — sometimes by half. The caveat with refinancing federal loans is that you’ll lose out on government protections, like deferment and forbearance, and loan forgiveness programs. Before refinancing your student loans, make sure you won’t need these benefits in the future. 

Also look into the prospect of refinancing your mortgage to secure a shorter repayment timeline, a lower monthly payment, or both. Today’s low interest rates have made mortgage refinancing a good deal for anyone who took out a mortgage several years ago. Compare today’s mortgage refinancing rates to see how much you can save. 

9. Buy Life Insurance

You should also buy life insurance before having kids. Don’t worry about picking up an expensive whole life policy. All you need is a term life insurance policy that covers at least 10 years of your salary, and hopefully more.

Term life insurance is extremely affordable and easy to buy. Many providers don’t even require a medical exam if you’re young and healthy. 

Once you start comparing life insurance quotes, you’ll be shocked at how affordable term coverage can be. With Bestow, for example, a thirty-year-old woman in good health can buy a 20-year term policy for $500,000 for as little as $20.41 per month. 

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10. Create a Will

A last will and testament lets you write down what should happen to your major assets upon your death. You can also state personal requests in writing, like whether you want to be kept on life support, and how you want your final arrangements handled.

A will can also formally define who you’d like to take over custody of your kids, if both parents die. If you don’t formally make this decision ahead of time, these deeply personal decisions might be left to the courts.

Fortunately, it’s not overly expensive to create a last will and testament. You can meet with a lawyer who can draw one up, or you can create your own using a platform like LegalZoom.

The Bottom Line

Having kids can be the most rewarding part of your life, but parenthood is far from cheap. You’ll need money for expenses you might’ve never considered before — and the cost of raising a family only goes up over time.

That’s why getting your money straightened out is essential before kids enter the picture. With a financial plan and savings built up, you can experience the joys of parenthood without financial stress.

The post 10 Financial Steps to Take Before Having Kids appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Life Insurance

Life Insurance Myths Debunked

Misconceptions and misunderstandings have perpetuated a number of life insurance myths over the years and prevented consumers from getting the cover they need. They see life insurance as something that it’s not, believing it to be out of their reach because of their lifestyle and their budget, or believing that it’s something it’s not.

If you have dependents, want them to live comfortably, and don’t have assets or funds to give them, you need life insurance coverage. And if you have been avoiding life insurance because of something you’ve been told or something you believe, it’s time to dispel those beliefs and get to the truth of the matter.

Myth 1: Life Insurance Premiums are Expensive

One of the most common myths concerning life insurance products is that they are too expensive. It only makes sense, to the uninitiated at least. After all, if they’re promising a death benefit of $200,000 over a twenty-year period, it stands to reason that they would seek to claim at least 25% of that balance to guarantee a profit.

In fact, a recent study found that consumers who had never purchased life insurance overestimated the premium costs by between 400% and 500%. That’s a massive difference.

If you’re in your 20s or 30s and are relatively healthy, you can get 20-year term insurance for less than $20 a month, and if anything happens during that term your beneficiaries will get $200,000. Life insurance companies can afford to offer such huge payouts and low premiums because the chances of a young person dying during that term are very slim.

Assuming you’re paying $20 a month for a 20-year term life insurance policy, this means you’re paying $4,800 over the term, or 2.4% of the total payout. However, the odds of a 20-year-old woman dying during this time are 1.42%, and these odds drop significantly if you remove smoking, drinking, risk-taking, and pre-existing conditions from the equation.

In other words, while it seems like a huge sum and a huge discrepancy, it still falls in favor of the life insurance company.

It’s a similar story for a 30-year-old. The odds of dying during the term are higher, but only just, as they are still less than 3%, leading to higher premiums but a great rate overall.

The older you get, the greater your risks become, but insurance companies want your money. They need you to sign on the dotted line, so they will continue to offer competitive prices. 

Keep this in mind the next time you purchase life insurance and are suspicious of the significant amount of coverage provided in relation to the cost.

Myth 2: It’s All About Money

Financial protection is important. You need a coverage amount that will cover the needs of your loved ones while also securing low premiums to make life easier for you. However, the generosity and cost of life insurance are the only factors to consider.

It’s important to consider the financial rating of the insurance company, which is acquired using a system such as A.M. Best and Moody’s. These ratings are used to determine the financial strength of a company, which is key, because you’re relying on them being around for many years to come and being rich enough to pay your death benefit when you die.

Myth 3: It’s All About the Death Benefit

While term life insurance policies are solely about the death benefit, which is paid upon the policyholder’s death, there are other options available. Whole life or permanent life insurance policies work like savings accounts as well as life insurance policies. They accumulate a cash value over the duration of the policy and the policyholder can cash this sum at any point.

If they do so, they will lose the potential death benefit and the policy will cease to exist, but it’s a good option to have if you ever find yourself in dire need of funds.

Myth 4: Insurers Find an Excuse Not to Pay

There was a time when pretty much all life insurance policies were reviewed upon the policyholder’s death. Thankfully, this changed with the introduction of a contestability period, which begins at the start of the policy and typically runs for up to 2 years.

If anything happens during this time, the policy can and will be reviewed and if any suspicions are raised, it will be contested. However, if this period passes, there is little the insurer can do. More importantly, if the policyholder was honest during the application process and the type of death is covered, the payout will be made.

The truth is that the vast majority of policies do not payout, but this is because the policies expire, the cash value is accepted, or the policyholder outlives the term. For policies that actually result in a death, the majority do payout. 

And why wouldn’t they? A life insurance company can expect to turn a profit via the underwriting process. It doesn’t need to use underhanded tactics or rob your loved ones of a payout to stay in the black.

Myth 5: My Dependents Will Survive Without Me

According to LIMRA, a research organization devoted to the insurance and financial sector, most Americans either have no coverage or not enough coverage. In both cases, they may assume their families will survive without a payout or that a small payout will be enough. There is some logic to this belief as it often comes after they perform a quick calculation, but that calculation is flawed.

Let’s imagine, for instance, that you’re a 35-year man with two children aged 5 and 7 and a 35-year-old wife. You earn $40,000 a year and your wife earns the same. You have a $150,000 house and a $100,000 mortgage.

After doing some quick calculations, you may assume that your wife’s salary will be enough to keep her going and ensure your children are looked after until they are old enough to care for themselves. You don’t have any debt to worry about and the only issue is the house, so you settle on a relatively small death benefit of $100,000.

But you’re making a lot of potentially dangerous assumptions here. Firstly, anything could happen between now and your death. On the one hand, you could comfortably pay off the mortgage, but on the other hand, inflation could rise to a point where $100,000 is a fraction of what it once was, and debts could accumulate. 

Your wife could also lose her job, and if that doesn’t happen when you’re alive and can get more cover, it might happen when you die, and she’s so overcome by grief and the stress of raising two children that she’s forced to give it up.

And then you have to think about your children. What if they want a college education? Can your wife afford that on her own? And what about your funeral or your children’s weddings? What happens if one of them falls ill and incurs huge medical expenses? 

$100,000 is a lot of money to receive as a lump sum, and if you only think in terms of lump sums you may never escape that mindset. But it’s not a single sum designed to be spent freely and enjoyed. It’s a sum designed to last your loved ones for many years and to ensure they are covered for most worst-case scenarios.

By the same token, you shouldn’t assume that your loved ones will survive without you just because you’re not the breadwinner or you have paid off your mortgage. Things can turn ugly very quickly. It only takes a few unexpected bills for things to go south, at which point that house could fall victim to an equity loan, a second mortgage, and eventually be owned by the bank when your loved ones fall behind.

Myth 6: Premiums are Tax Deductible

The premiums of an individual policy are not tax-deductible. However, there are exceptions if the individual is self-employed and using the coverage for asset protection. It’s also worth noting that the death benefit is completely tax free.

Myth 7: You Can’t Get Insurance Above a Certain Age

The older you are, the harder it is to get the financial protection that life insurance can provide. But it’s not impossible, just a little bit more expensive. Your insurance needs increase as you get older and life insurance companies have recognized this. They provide short-term policies specifically tailored to seniors. 

Known as Seniors Life Insurance or Final Expense Insurance, these policies provide a low lump sum payout, often less than $50,000, that can be used to pay for a funeral or to clear debts. You can even pay it directly to the funeral home and arrange your own funeral. 

You may also still qualify for a term life insurance policy. Of course, traditional whole life insurance policies are out of the question, and if you have a health condition you may be refused even a short term policy, but don’t give up before you do your research and check your options. 

This is something that most insurance agents will be happy to help you with.

Myth 8: Young People Don’t Need Life Insurance

Life insurance provides you with peace of mind. It aims to provide cover during a difficult time and ensures that your loved ones have financial support when dealing with your death. If you have dependents, then it doesn’t really matter how old you are. It’s true that you will probably outlive the term if you are young and healthy, but no one knows what’s around the corner.

Death is a certainty; the only question is when, not if. By not purchasing life insurance when you have dependents, you’re rolling the dice and placing their future at risk.

The younger you are, the cheaper the premiums will be and the less of an impact they will have on your finances. What’s more, you can also opt for whole life insurance, locking a rate in early and avoiding the inevitable regrets when you’re 60, don’t have any cover and are being quoted astronomical premiums.

Myth 9: You Won’t Qualify if you are in Bad Health

If you have been diagnosed with a terminal disease, it’s unlikely that any insurer would cover you. However, if you have survived a serious disease or have a pre-existing medical condition, you may still qualify.

It’s all about risk, and if the insurer determines you’re more likely to survive the term than not, they will offer you a policy based on those probabilities. The less healthy they consider you to be, the more premiums you will pay and the lower your death benefit will be. But you can still get a worthwhile policy and it might be a lot cheaper than you think.

Myth 10: If You Have Money, You Don’t Need Insurance

If you have assets to leave your heirs, a life insurance policy is not as important as it might be for a stay at home parent or a low-income couple. However, it still has its uses. 

For instance, many high-income households have a lot of debt, and while the assets can typically cover this debt, it will eat into the estate. There are also estate taxes and legal fees to consider, all of which can significantly reduce the value of the estate.

In this case, a short term policy can provide some additional coverage and ensure that those extra costs are covered.

Myth 11: The Money is Lost if there are no Beneficiaries

If you die with no beneficiaries, the money will likely go to your estate, at which point the probate process will begin. If you have a will, this process will be relatively quick and painless, and your designated heirs will get what they are owed. 

If not, things could get messy and the process will be slow. What’s more, if you have any debts, your creditors will take what they are owed from your estate, including your death benefit.

Adding a beneficiary will prevent all of this, but don’t expect the insurer to contact your beneficiary and let them know. They expect the beneficiary to come to them. It’s important, therefore, to assign at least one (and preferably more) beneficiary and to make sure they know of the existence of the policy.

Summary: Life Insurance Myths Debunked

Now that we’ve debunked the myths concerning life insurance, it’s time for you to get out there and get the cover you need. The type of life insurance you need, and the amount of death benefit you will receive, all depends on your personal circumstances and health. 

This is a subject we have discussed at length here at PocketYourDollars.com, so check out our other guides on the subject.

Life Insurance Myths Debunked is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com