As many Americans do, you may have started 2020 with vigor and the hope for a positive new year. But then our lives were changed like never before.
As 2020 showed us, life doesn’t always go as planned. And when it comes to our finances, there are many threats that most people don’t see coming. (Working as a financial advisor in Greenville, SC, I’ve seen this happen time and time again.) As we look forward to a fresh start in 2021, have you addressed these concerns?
At Global View, we’ve helped many new clients this year create and stress-test their financial plans against different what-if scenarios to make sure they are protected from potential threats. Come year-end, we also work to update our clients’ plans so they reflect any changes, from a new job or a new child to the sale of a business or loss of a loved one.
Here’s a quick look at 6 scenarios that can lead to choppy financial waters, and what to do about each.
Unfortunately, divorce rates were high in 2020.
Prenuptial agreements specify assets for each spouse in the event of a divorce: That’s why they can be a good idea. If you don’t have one, take steps to ensure that the division of assets in your divorce is fair and equitable. Be sure to include all assets, including investment accounts, retirement accounts, real estate and other valuables.
Don’t forget to review your beneficiaries for all financial and retirement accounts after your divorce. If your ex-spouse was the beneficiary, it likely needs to be changed.
Similarly, review your estate plan thoroughly. If your spouse was to receive your assets upon your death, do you want that to be changed? Were your spouse or in-laws a designated power of attorney?
Wills and trusts often specify education and child-rearing plans for dependent children in the event of a death as well. If yours does, consider whether it needs updating in light of new arrangements?
Business Disputes with Family/Employees
If you’re a business owner, business disputes with family (if it’s a family-owned business) and/or employees is a real risk. Always take care to protect your business against potential fallout from disputes.
In a family business, don’t let family ties take precedence over business judgment. Remember that the goals of a business and the goals of a family are different. Run your business to achieve its goals. But also run your family to achieve its goals – emotional support and perpetuating the generations. It can be a good idea to set up a family council quite separate from the business, so that trusted family members can advise on emotional issues.
If possible, try to resolve disputes as soon as you know about them. Don’t let them grow and fester.
Lawsuits are, unfortunately, part of the business world. As a business owner, insulate yourself against any personal financial responsibility for a lawsuit by consulting an attorney and your financial advisor about the best way to do so.
Specific business types protect owners and upper-level executives from personal liability in case of a lawsuit against the company. If your business isn’t so organized, your own assets could be on the hook if a court’s decision goes against your company.
Death of a Loved One
The death of a loved one is tragic. While nothing can compensate you for the loss, it is prudent to plan so that a death is not economically devastating on top of the severe emotional consequences.
For example, if you’ve received a financial inheritance, make a plan for the money with a financial advisor you trust! Everyone will have an idea for how you should use your inheritance (just read our blog post: A Man Inherits a Million Dollars, Walks Into a Bar Asking Questions …), but making decisions in times of emotional loss is not wise. Your short-term goals may not match your long-term plans.
You’ll also want to consider how your own death will affect those you love.
If you are a breadwinner or have children you support, make sure you have a plan to continue that support if something was to happen to you or the other parent. Without a plan in place, your family could be thrown into financial difficulty.
Another thing to consider: Anyone with assets should have a current and valid will. Wills are not only for the old!
If you or a loved one pass away without a will, your assets may not be directed as you wish. It will also prolong the estate settlement process, potentially for years.
Think about how that would affect your family and make a plan.
Serious Illness or Disability
Your estate plan should coordinate with your financial and retirement plan. Powers of attorney in case of serious illness or disability, for example, are essential, though not widely known, components of both.
A financial power of attorney names a trusted individual to make financial decisions for you should you become seriously ill or disabled and unable to communicate your wishes or discharge your financial obligations, such as paying your bills.
A healthcare power of attorney names a trusted individual to make healthcare decisions on your behalf should you become too ill or incapacitated to make them yourself.
The two powers of attorney can designate the same person or different people for each.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, anyone can become seriously ill suddenly and unexpectedly. Powers of attorney should be a priority for everyone, but sadly, they are not. As a financial advisor in Greenville, SC, I have seen what can happen when this occurs.
Market Downturns, Volatility and Investment Loss
Volatility is an inherent part of the stock market. Stocks will always move down as well as go up, due to earnings, broad trends and the overall economic outlook.
Prepare for market volatility and downturns by allocating your total investment and retirement portfolios to take advantage of the relatively high return of stocks overall, averaged through time, and the stability of cash instruments (such as certificates of deposit) and bonds.
Common portfolio strategies include combining stocks and cash/bonds at various percentages to harness the strengths of each and temper the weaknesses (volatility, for stocks; relatively low returns, for cash/bonds).
If you’re relatively young, your portfolio can be overweighted in stocks, as you have decades to recover from market volatility. If you’re a decade or so from retirement, you may want to place more of your portfolio in bonds, to guard against a major downturn eroding your assets right before you retire. However, it really comes down to your risk tolerance.
If the markets do tumble, don’t react immediately and emotionally by selling your stocks. Historically, the S&P has always recovered and moved even higher for nearly a century. Selling falling stocks simply locks in your losses while removing the possibility of the stocks rising again – because you’ll no longer own them.
Are You Prepared for 2021?
The above events are just some of the curveballs life can throw your way that can threaten your financial well-being.
As we approach a new year, make it a priority to discuss your finances with a fiduciary financial advisor to make sure your portfolios and your financial plan protect you optimally against unexpected events.
If you’re not currently working with a financial advisor or feel it’s time for a change, schedule a no-obligation consultation with the Global View team. Global View Investment Advisors LLC is a fee-only, fiduciary financial advisory firm headquartered in Greenville, SC that serves investors nationwide. Our mission is to provide truly independent, conflict-free advice and complete wealth management services, so you can protect and maximize the wealth you’ve built.
As we all learned in 2020, life doesn’t always go as planned, so get a conversation about your finances started! There’s no better time than now.