Friday, December 14th, 2012 | | |
CPA, JD, MSFS, MSM, CLU, ChFC, CFP, RFC, CFA, ChHC, RHU, FSS, RICP, CASL, CAP, REBC RIA and the list goes on. It’s no wonder you (and me) are confused. So, what designation should you look for when looking to work with an agent or professional advisor? It all depends on what you are looking to accomplish.
Let’s review some of the more commonly recognized designations.
CLU – Chartered Life Underwriter: If you are dealing with life insurance and related products such as long-term care insurance, disability insurance or annuities, this is the one to look for. A CLU has completed a series of eight college-level courses requiring 16 hours of exams covering topics such as risk management and estate planning. A CLU is an insurance specialist.
CFP – Certified Financial Planner: This specialist is trained in comprehensive financial planning, which requires a series of seven exams.
ChFC – Chartered Financial Consultant: This is similar to a CFP with training in overall financial planning. This designation requires the same course work as the CFP plus two electives such as executive compensation or macroeconomics.
LUTCF– Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow: This certification, which requires the completion of six courses, combines essential product knowledge with basic planning concepts.
RHU – Registered Health Underwriter: The RHU requires the completion of four courses on group and individual health insurance. This designation is the premier credential in the health insurance market. If you have questions about health insurance, the RHU is the professional with the expertise.
If you would like to learn more about these and other professional designations, go to The American College.
If you are looking for an agent or advisor to help you, you can start here, with LIFE’s Agent Locator. Everyone listed is a member of their professional organization, the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.
Tuesday, December 11th, 2012 | | |
As with much of the economy—the talk of fiscal cliffs and all—there is uncertainly about taxation in 2013. I wanted to let you know about a planning strategy before time runs out.
The marital deduction (IRC Sections 2056 and 2523) eliminates both the federal estate and gift tax on transfers of property between a husband and wife, in effect treating them as one economic unit. The amount of property that can be transferred between them is unlimited, meaning that a spouse can transfer all of his or her property to the other spouse, during lifetime or at death, and completely escape any federal estate or gift tax on this first transfer. However, property transferred in excess of the unified credit equivalent will ultimately be subject to estate tax in the estate of the surviving spouse.
Through use of the unlimited marital deduction, a married couple’s combined assets are untouched by federal estate tax, meaning that the full amount is available for the surviving spouse’s support and maintenance after the first spouse’s death. At the surviving spouse’s death, the marital deduction may not be available, meaning that the full value of the surviving spouse’s remaining estate will be exposed to federal estate taxation.
The 2010 Tax Relief Act, however, provides for “portability” of the maximum estate tax unified credit between spouses. This means that a surviving spouse can elect to take advantage of any unused portion of the estate tax unified credit of a spouse who dies in 2011 or 2012 (the equivalent of $5 million in 2011). As a result, with this election and careful estate planning, married couples can effectively shield up to $10 million from the federal estate and gift tax without use of marital deduction planning techniques, but only if one of the spouses dies in 2011 or 2012. Property transferred in excess of the combined $10 million unified credit equivalent will be subject to estate tax in the estate of the surviving spouse. (You may want to consider life insurance to pay the tax bill due when the spouse dies.)
If the surviving spouse is predeceased by more than one spouse, the additional exclusion amount available for use by the surviving spouse is equal to the lesser of $5 million or the unused exclusion of the last deceased spouse.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Since the 2010 Tax Relief Act “sunsets” at the end of 2012, portability of the unified credit exemption between spouses will not be available beginning in 2013 unless Congress takes action in the future.
If you’d like more information on how to make best use of the marital deduction, please contact your agent or financial advisor.
Friday, December 7th, 2012 | | |
The holidays are fast approaching, and high on the to-do list is the annual quest to find the just-right gifts for your loved ones. You probably have very specific criteria: You want something that addresses their needs, not just satisfies their desires, and something that will last beyond the holiday season.
You probably have no shortage of gift-giving ideas, but here’s one item you may not have considered: getting life insurance for yourself. Yes, yourself. You see, life insurance is a way to show your love year ’round, and is a gift that will keep on giving, even when you are no longer here.
It’s the gift of security, ensuring that those who rely on you now will be taken care of should anything unexpected happen to you. For example, because Mike Rowe listened to his insurance agent and kept his life policy in force despite having financial challenges, his wife CindyLu and his four children were provided for when he died at age 47 of brain cancer.
It’s the gift of a future, an investment against your children’s potential and unexpected needs. The experience of Norm and Sandy Page (another of LIFE’s realLIFEstories) illustrates this in a very clear way. When the couple’s son, Adam, was born with Spina Bifida, Norm and Sandy used some of the cash value from their whole life policies to not only pay for medical items not covered under health insurance, but also to help their son pursue his dream of securing a spot on the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team. He succeeded, and, at 18, Adam won a gold medal at the Paralympic Games in Vancouver.
It’s the gift of love and a way to help ease the sorrow that comes with loss. Both Missy Junk, orphaned at age 16, and John Butcher, whose 37-year-old wife died from an undiagnosed heart condition, learned that while nothing can replace those who’ve gone, knowing that they cared enough to insure their lives is evidence of the love they had for those left behind.
Because life insurance is an investment, you want to make sure you are purchasing the right amount and the right type for your needs and circumstances. Start by visiting Insurance 101 and the online Life Insurance Needs Calculator. Then, contact a qualified insurance professional in your area to start the application process.
It’s the ideal gift to give to those you love!
Tuesday, December 4th, 2012 | | |
Editor’s Note: We saw this infograpic on LifeHealthPro.com and thought it synthesized the bumps in the road that may await women on the road to retirement. It says that 35% of those who don’t currently work with an advisor would be open to doing so. If you need a place to start, go here.
Friday, November 30th, 2012 | | |
Ashlea Ebeling of Forbes wrote an article that more than half of folks who are required by law to take money out of their individual retirement accounts (IRAs) by year end had failed to do so as of the beginning of this month, according to a recent survey from Fidelity Investments. Perhaps these people don’t need the money in their IRAs to meet everyday expenses.
Why should you be concerned over the year-end deadline? If you miss it, the penalty you pay is 50% of the amount you should have taken out in distributions, according to Internal Revenue Service tables.
Here is a recap of the basic rules: IRA owners must normally begin taking annual required minimum distributions (RMDs) after they turn 70½ from their own traditional IRAs or IRAs inherited from a spouse, although not from their Roth accounts. Non-spousal IRA heirs of any age must take RMDs from both traditional and Roth accounts.
The amount you must take out is not arbitrary, but calculated based on your life expectancy and the balance in your IRAs the end of the prior year. There are also some special rules. When you turn 70½, you have until April 1 of the following year to take your first distribution. There is also an RMD required in the year of death, if the deceased is over 70½.
One reason to wait until year end to take your RMD distribution is to let the money continue to grow tax-deferred as long as possible. Another reason to hold off on taking distributions for this year is to see if Congress will reinstate the IRA-Charitable Rollover law, which expired on Dec. 31, 2011. It lets you direct the custodian of your pretax IRA to transfer up to $100,000 per year to a public charity, such as the LIFE Foundation without having to count that distribution in your income. In return, you’ll forego the charitable income tax deduction. But this strategy can leave you ahead whether or not you normally itemize deductions or not.
For more guidance on your IRA, contact your financial advisor.