The Benefits of Estate Planning

The Benefits of Estate Planning

It’s the one personal finance topic people often try to avoid, even though they know they shouldn’t. Estate planning refers to a number of activities dealing with how decisions are made and assets are handled and disposed of just prior to and following death or incapacity. 

While far from the most upbeat of topics, it’s a very important one to contend with nonetheless. But rather than focus on specific estate planning strategies, let’s consider the potential benefits of addressing this issue at all. 

Leave a legacy. Many people want to leave something tangible to those they love, whether to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews or friends. Knowing that your lifetime of hard work and saving can make affording college, buying a first house, a car, or starting a business easier or possible for someone you love can be gratifying. A final will and testament spells out the specifics of how your assets are disposed of. And you can also leave an explanatory letter to your beneficiaries to let them know what they meant to you, why a gift was made and how you hope your bequest will help enrich their lives. 

Unburden your loved ones. Making difficult end-of-life medical decisions can be stressful and anxiety ridden for those who care about you. But this is a burden you can take off their shoulders by putting in place advanced directives — otherwise known as a living will — that express your wishes for continuation of life-support and other medical decisions if you aren’t able to make them for yourself. And it’s a very loving thing to do for your children or other family members 

Support a charity. Do you have a charity that means a lot to you? You can leave a lasting gift by remembering that nonprofit organization in your will. Whether you want to support curing childhood diseases, environmental efforts, animal welfare, or a church, synagogue or mosque, you can take comfort in knowing that you’ll help support the causes that matter most to you even after you’re gone. 

Take control. Estate planning in some ways, is the ultimate assertion of control over your final destiny. Whether through the establishment of a trust, the creation of a will or the documentation of your advance directives, youll be able to maintain greater control over important decisions throughout your life and beyond. 

Remember, estate planning isnt only for the wealthy. Everyone will have to make end-of-life decisions that have tremendous consequences for themselves and their loved ones. Once you have all the essential documents in place, you most likely will not have to revisit these decisions very often. And with an appropriate estate plan in place, you can get on with enjoying your life in the here and now. 


The Blueprint for Better Banking

The Blueprint for Better Banking

In many ways, banking is the foundation of your personal finances. A bank can be your hub for managing daily expenses, paying household bills and housing your emergency fund.  

But what type of bank is best for you? Brick-and-mortar banks have long kept the funds of community members safe and secure, but online banking is a modern and convenient way to manage money. Both have their advantages, so the best choice is the one that fits your specific needs.  

The Rise of Online Banking  

While the coronavirus pandemic pushed online banking to the fore, the trend was already there. In fact, four in five customers prefer to manage their finances digitally rather than in person according to the 2020 Chase Digital Banking Attitudes Study. 

People go digital for many reasons, including: 

  • Convenience of 24/7 access to account management, allowing you to schedule transactions whenever you want, rather than be subject tobankershours. 
  • Easy to access when youre on the road for work or for fun. 
  • Potentially higher interest rates on savings accounts. 

On the other hand, its important to be aware of the potential downsides, including that it could take longer to access your funds. You also might have more limited products and services to choose from. There are also risks of technology disruptions, and you may have more restricted or expensive ATM service. 

Familiarity of Brick-and-Mortar Banks  

The local branch of your bank houses a business relationship that might span generations. During your childhood, your parents may have taken you there to open a passbook savings account. You might even have warm feelings and memories of milestones like buying your first car or signing the mortgage to your first home. There are lots of reasons many people prefer a physical bank, including: 

  • Interaction with people who know your needs as a customer. 
  • Services like safety deposit boxes and notaries. 
  • Local, low-cost or no-fee ATMs. 
  • In-person assistance when you need it. 
  • Greater sense of securityknowing where your money is. 

On the other hand, physical branches generally come with downsides such as generally lower CD and savings account rates, limited hours and typically higher fees. 

Best of Both Worlds 

Both physical and internet banks can offer FDIC insurance, which protects your deposits up to $250,000 in the event of a bank failure. Additionally, many brick-and-mortar banks offer digital banking services like online bill pay and mobile check deposit. This lets you access online banking while still retaining many of the benefits of physical branches, including access to fee-free ATMs and personal attention when needed.   

Neither option has to be a one-stop shop for all your banking needs. You can keep your household checking account at the bank down the road for the personalized service and your emergency fund in an online bank for the higher yield it may offer. As you review your choices, your Well Cents financial professional can help you find the best fit for your in-person and online banking needs. 


How to Save Money Furnishing Your Home

How to Save Money Furnishing Your Home

You’ve purchased a house and want to turn it into a home with new furnishings. But you have few leftover funds after closing costs and an inflated housing market. Here are some tips to feather your nest without breaking the bank.

1. Shop closeout sales. This may seem like obvious advice but look for better-quality furniture at end-of-season or discontinued prices — as opposed to pieces that are designed to be offered at lower price points. This allows you to purchase better, more durable items at a lower cost.

2. Consider secondhand. Explore your local thrift and antique stores for older furniture that may be even better than what you can find new. However, focus on case goods (furniture made from wood) as opposed to upholstered items — you never know if there might be a lingering smell or other problem. Also, stay away from used items for babies and children, which might not adhere to current safety standards.

3. Go multifunction. These days, there’s a lot of cleverly designed furniture that can pull off more than just one function. You can find coffee tables that raise up to dining height and ottomans that conceal hidden storage. And sometimes, well-planned furniture placement can help you do less with more. For example, a small desk can double as a nightstand. 

4. Model good behavior. If you’re lucky, you may be able to find a model home clearance center near you that resells pieces designers selected to stage builder homes for sale. This can be a great way to get stylish furniture at a fraction of the retail price.

5. Repurpose existing pieces. Your current bedside tables might work well as end tables in your new living room. Likewise, your old sideboard could be a terrific TV stand in the guest room. Look for new uses for existing pieces to save money.

6. Use color to your advantage. Sometimes, you can get away with less when the “bones,” or background, of the room is great. Use a bold paint color to “furnish” your space or to create an accent wall. It’s amazing how different your old pieces can look against a new paint color.

7. Makeover existing pieces. Give existing furnishings a facelift with a fresh coat of paint or stain. Paint wood pieces white or a fun jewel tone. And it’s often more cost effective to reupholster an existing sofa (as long as the frame is in good shape) than purchase a new one.

8. Get personal with accessories. There’s no need to shop the big box décor stores for accessories when you can use your own travel souvenirs and personal memorabilia to add finishing touches to your space. A bowl of shells from a beach vacation and other natural elements can bring the outdoors in while stretching your dollars — and conjuring up fond memories.

Whatever you do, avoid raiding your retirement savings or running up a huge credit card bill to furnish your new abode. With a few smart strategies, a budget in hand and a little patience, you can make your home sweet indeed and still have enough money left for a housewarming party.

WellCents 4 Kids - Where Does Money Come From?

WellCents 4 Kids - Where Does Money Come From?

Penny, nickel, quarter, dime . . . you use money all the time. But did you ever wonder where it came from? Who decided that little pieces of metal and paper are worth something? You give someone a piece of paper and they give you a candy bar. Give them lots of paper, and maybe you get an Xbox. Yet, it can’t be just any paper — it has to be money. But what makes money so special? 

In prehistoric times, people didn’t have money – it hadn’t been invented yet! If you needed something, you swapped your stuff for someone else’s stuff. You have a cow that gives you milk. Your friend has an apple tree. You trade some of your milk for some of their apples. That’s called barter when you trade one thing for another.

Over time, certain things that were bartered became more valuable than other things — like cows — that could also make milk, or give you a calf (so then you’d have two cows!). Cows were one of the best things to barter — they were like iPads, everyone wanted one. In a way, cows were the first type of money!

But imagine trying to carry around a bunch of cows? You might need 10 cows just to go to the grocery store. Instead of bringing all those cows, people needed something smaller to take with them. A long time ago, special shells were used. You can fit a lot more shells in your pocket than cows. Each shell had value and could be used to buy things instead of barter.

Eventually, shells were replaced with something that didn’t break so easily — metal coins. The first coins were made in China in 10,000 B.C. — at first, they had little holes so they could be strung together. By 500 B.C. other countries like Turkey and Persia began to make coins using bronze, silver and gold. They were round and flat just like the ones we use today. Almost 2,000 years ago, China made paper money. And that idea eventually spread to other countries, including the United States.

So, the next time you look at a quarter or a dollar bill, you can think about the history of money and be really grateful you don’t have to carry a bunch of cows around!

Keep Car Costs Out of the Fast Lane

Keep Car Costs Out of the Fast Lane

Pandemic-related supply chain disruptions are impacting consumers across the globe. Buyers are seeing price increases in many classes of goods — particularly automobiles. Both new and used car costs have risen considerably. According to Kelley Blue Book, the U.S. standard for car pricing, the average cost for a new car rose to more than $40,000 in 2021, peaking at more than $45,000 in September, a 12.1% increase over the previous year. That means the same make and model of a new car might cost you as much as $4,800 more. And the average cost of a used car has risen to nearly $30,000, so there’s not much relief there. It’s a challenging time to be in the market to replace your ride. But there are a number of things you can do to keep the costs for your new — or used — vehicle out of the fast lane.

Shop nationally, not locally. Tempting as it might be to simply head to the dealership down the road and drive off the lot with a new SUV, resist the urge for immediate gratification. Use the reach of the internet to find the best available prices in your region or even the nation. Dealers will compete for business, and many will transfer cars to your area for a fee. There are even some completely virtual dealerships that can offer competitive pricing and delivery right to your door.

Shop early. If at all possible, don’t wait until your current car is on its last legs. Put time on your side to increase your chance of finding the best pricing on the make, model and mileage you want. The longer your time horizon, the more opportunities you’ll have to find a better price on the vehicle you’re looking for.

Be flexible. Does your new ride really need to be cherry red with aluminum alloy wheels and an upgraded sound system? If you can be happy with a few different colors and accessory packages that are readily available, you may save a few dollars.

Check insurance rates. Certain car models cost significantly more to insure. And you’ll be paying those premiums for as long as you drive the vehicle. Sportier cars, even used ones, can cost more than sedans when it comes to insurance coverage. Higher car costs can also mean higher replacement value in case of a collision — and higher insurance rates.

Research loan options. A longer-term loan may give you lower monthly payments, but the total interest you’ll pay will make that new car more expensive over the long term. According to Experian, more than 30% of new vehicle loans in the second quarter of 2021 fell into the 73- to 84-month range. Exceedingly long loans can carry higher interest rates and increase your risk of eventually becoming “upside down” in your loan. Bottom line: Find a payment plan that fits your budget within the shortest time frame you can manage. And don’t just take the loan the dealer offers — shop around. Consider prequalifying for a loan at your bank or credit union, or shop nationally for the most favorable terms.

Drive Your Car Budget in the Right Direction

Inflated automobile prices won’t last forever, so if you can wait a while before you make a purchase, being patient could work to your advantage. Talk with your financial professional to help determine your buying power in this market, and find out how much car you can afford while keeping your financial goals on track down the road.


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