Most of us, regardless of our net worth, don’t want our finances made public, even after we’ve passed away. On the other hand, since most of us aren’t celebrities with $70 million in assets, how much attention would the general population give to our finances, even if they were given a public airing? More than you might think, and not for the relatively benign purpose of critiquing our decisions. The privacy provisions contained in specific legal agree-ments, such as trusts, merit thoughtful consideration. If you want to protect your assets and your heirs, Attorney Daniel Purtell declares: “The very best defense is proactive estate and financial planning prior to death or disability.”
In general, any “life-changing event” should trigger a beneficiary review. These are events that reconfigure your finances or your relationships. An annual beneficiary check-up is a good idea, too. Life-changing events include divorce, death of a spouse, additional children or grandchildren, change in employment status, move, and dormant financial assets. Have you had any life-changing events in the past year?
“Don’t have a pension? Don’t worry. Most people don’t. They will get to retire, and so will you.” This is the optimistic opening statement from a 20-page white paper titled “A Pension Promise to Oneself” by Stephen Sexauer and Laurence Seigel, published in the November-December 2013 issue of the Financial Analysts Journal. The stated goal of the paper: To give Americans a simple model for retirement planning that “compresses 40-80 years of dynamic complexity into something that they can manage and understand” with a simple formula that “reduces the retirement calculation to a multiplication problem that a fifth grader can solve.” Simple? Yes. But is it accurate?
Intervention in a complex system always creates unanticipated – and often undesirable – outcomes.Economists and sociologists call this the Law of Unintended Consequences. And while the unintended consequences that get our attention tend to be negative, there may be “happy accidents” as well. As the details from each phase of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) become apparent, some financial commentators think they may have uncovered some unexpectedly favorable possibilities.
Social Security is a group plan in which current taxes fund current benefits; even though taxes and benefits are calculated based on individual incomes, Social Security does not keep separate accounts for each future recipient. Although previous tax collections built significant reserves, since 2010 Social Security has run an annual deficit, and the shortfall between the taxes and benefits is increasing. Consequently, even though it was intended to be a plan for all Americans, the economic benefits from Social Security project to be sharply divided along generational lines – with some modest winners and big losers.
As “outsiders” in the financial services arena, financial news outlets and personalities may claim to be independent sources of financial information. Good journalists and reporters can certainly be valuable watchdogs, uncovering bad behavior and alerting consumers. And since their primary product is information, there is strong incentive to get the facts, present them accurately, and offer good advice. The reality: all information sources have biases, and potential conflicts of interest. In a sea of financial data and commentary, understanding the different constraints financial information providers operate under should help you evaluate the trustworthiness of the source, and whether the information is not only accurate, but in line with your perspectives on financial success.