It’s almost Thanksgiving, a holiday that once celebrated the harvest season. Although many of us today may not be directly connected to agriculture, we still gather on Thanksgiving with our loved ones to share whatever “bounty” we may have. But this practice doesn’t have to begin and end with food. Why not incorporate the spirit of sharing into your overall financial strategy?
Here are a few suggestions for doing just that:
Make financial gifts. You could give shares of stock to your loved ones, or perhaps give them money to help fund their IRAs. (They must have earned income, however, to be eligible to contribute to an IRA.) You can give up to $14,000 per year, per recipient. If you are married, you and your spouse can each give up to the $14,000 yearly limit.
Invest in your children’s future. To help your children meet the high costs of higher education, you might want to invest in a college savings vehicle. One option to consider is a 529 plan. When you contribute to a 529 plan, your earnings are subject to tax-free growth potential and distributions are free of federal taxes, provided they are used for qualified higher education expenses. (Keep in mind, though, that Section 529 plan distributions not used for these qualified expenses may be subject to income tax and a 10% penalty.) Furthermore, if you invest in your home state’s 529 plan, you may receive state tax incentives. Tax issues for 529 plans can be complex, though, so you’ll need to consult with your tax advisor about your situation. Another benefit of 529 plans: You control the assets right up to the point at which they are actually used. So, if you have been putting away money for a particular child (or grandchild) and he or she decides against college, you can easily switch to another beneficiary.
Review your insurance policies. If something were to happen to you, is your life insurance sufficient to take care of your family? In other words, would there be enough money available to pay off your mortgage, send your children to college and help your surviving spouse meet at least some of his or her retirement expenses? A financial professional can help you determine if your life insurance is sufficient for your needs.
Consider involving your family with your estate plans. To help ensure your wishes get carried out the way you intended, consider keeping family members informed of your estate strategy, which could involve your will, living trust, power of attorney and other legal documents. And don’t forget to keep your beneficiary designations up to date on your retirement accounts and your life insurance policy. So if you’ve gone through changes in your family situation, such as a divorce or remarriage, work with your professional team, including your financial advisor and your tax and legal advisors, to make ensure your investment strategy aligns with your estate goals.
Once the turkey is eaten and the football games have ended, Thanksgiving will draw to a close. But consider these strategies sharing your “bounty” with your loved ones all year long — and throughout your lifetime.