Talking to your family about money is arguably one of the more difficult conversations to have, but the reality is, it's a key part of financial planning.
The "sandwich generation" often finds themselves in the middle of these conversations - having to talk to their own parents about their financial situation and talking to their children about their finances. While the conversations can feel uncomfortable at first, they can be very rewarding over time and can help avoid unintended consequences for family members.
Over the next few months we can review key conversations we should have with family members.
n One of the first conversations to have is coming to agreement on personal retirement savings/goals/lifestyle. What do you want retirement to look like? How long do you want to work? Do you love your occupation and plan on working as long as possible, or do you want the earliest retirement date possible, or some mix of the two? Where do you want to retire? What activities will you fill your time with?
For some retirement is truly a blessing, but for others it's a curse. Far to often we see someone retire, lose all social connections, and spend most of their days watching television.
n Another conversation is who will be the family CFO? Not so much as an "in charge" position but to monitor finances, make sure money is allocated to priorities, that the "vacation fund" gets funded, etc. The family CFO is not so much a position of authority as a position of responsibility. Maybe it's just the responsibility to make sure everyone is on the same page.
n Talk about estate planning, who gets what? The home? The retirement accounts? Vehicles? Only 4 in 10 adults in America have wills, which sets up a potential expensive, and nasty family confrontation when kids are forced to make decisions.
Think about the tax situation of each of your kids and consider the after-tax inheritance. We call this intergenerational tax planning. Often in a family one child has very high income, and one has a very low income. Leaving the home and physical assets to the child with the high income, and the IRA's to the lower-income child often makes a lot more sense from a tax stand point.
If your kids will be funding college for their kids, maybe leaving money to a trust for the grandchild's education makes sense from a tax and financial aid stand point.
Consider, do you want to be "fair" or "equitable" to loved ones when leaving an estate. In many (if not most) cases it's not possible to be fair and equitable. As heartbreaking as it is, we live in a world with an opioid crisis, most families face some level of trauma from this crisis, and it's difficult to make decisions.
If you have that in your family, do you really want to leave a child with an addiction a large sum of cash? Have you spent a small fortune on rehabs and court cost for one child, and not others? What is "fair" in this scenario? Talk with a seasoned financial professional about common ideas that families use in this situation.
n What do you do with a family business? Family businesses are a very touchy subject, and almost always brings some level of disagreement. Often one child spent years helping build the business, taking a lower income than they could have elsewhere (often to save on payroll taxes), did not build the large 401K, while other children went on to good paying jobs at the plant, bank, corporate America, or wherever. Is it "fail" to split the estate equally? Probably not.
Will you sell the business to a trusted insider who is, or is not, your child? A sale to anyone needs to be planned out at least 5 years in advance, even if you don't know who the eventual buyer will be.
Dean Owen is a local CPA, with a master's degree in taxation, and a personal financial specialist, a financial planning designation only achievable by CPA's. He is also a former college professor and author of several books. He can be reached at Dean@owencpa.com or 270-554-0720.