My estate is worth millions of dollars. How do I stop my daughters’ husbands from getting their hands on it?

My wife and I live in California, as do three of our four grown daughters. We are revisiting our family trust for the first time in many years, as we’re getting older and have gradually built an estate worth a couple of million dollars. We want to make sure that, in case our daughters get divorced, our hard-earned savings go to them and not their ex-husbands. 

We consulted with two estate attorneys and got different answers. The first said there’s nothing we can do to legally enforce that the inheritance stays separate; the most we could do is put in some wording along the lines of “It is our wish that the money stays separate.” The second attorney said that we can make our children sign a prenup as a condition of their inheritance. 

Furthermore, we have one daughter who has already been married for five years and has three children; another daughter who just got engaged; and two other children, who are single. Our married daughter does not have a prenuptial agreement. How do we protect our gift to her? A retroactive prenup? How should we proceed?

Father of Four Girls

Related: They’re threatening to go to a lawyer’: My in-laws gave us $300,000 and are on the deed to our home. Now they insist we give our niece $125,000.

“Don’t allow this money to become a cudgel with which to control your daughters’ lives.”


MarketWatch illustration

Dear Father,

Money should bring freedom and opportunity, not control and coercion. 

Your intentions tread a fine line between expectations and legality. There is only so much you can do to prevent your daughters from sharing their inheritance with their spouses, assuming they all marry and some of those marriages end in divorce. It is a credit to you that you have amassed a couple of million dollars, but don’t allow this money to become a cudgel with which to pull the purse strings in your daughters’ lives. 

One solution to your problem: You could set up a bloodline trust, a revocable trust that sets out how you should leave your assets to your direct beneficiaries — in this case, your daughters — and which becomes irrevocable upon your death. It can only be used for your daughters and their children, and because it becomes irrevocable upon your death, it cannot be accessed by creditors, should you have any. There are downsides. For example, such a trust could, unless otherwise specified, exclude stepchildren and adopted children.

First, the good news: Inheritance in California is considered separate property. Whether you leave your children real estate or brokerage or savings accounts, that money will remain nonmarital property unless your daughters use it to upgrade their family home or in some other way commingle those assets with their community property. So that pre-empts the need for your married daughter to ask her spouse to sign a postnuptial agreement.

On that subject, however, it’s not wise to use this inheritance to tell your daughters what they should do within their marriages. There should be a clear boundary between your relationship with your adult children and their relationships with their respective partners and spouses. It’s not a good idea to interfere in the latter. Doing so may cause discord in their relationships and also cause unnecessary hurt and tension in your own relationships with your daughters.

“California is one of a few states that strictly adheres to community-property laws, which declare that assets acquired during a marriage [are] community, also known as marital, property,” according to Myers Family Law in Roseville, Calif. “However, even California draws a line when it comes to personal inheritances, including inheritances that were received while married. Inheritances are treated as separate property, belonging to the individual who received the inheritance.”

Legal gymnastics

Requesting in your last will and testament that your daughters receive their share of your estate on the condition that they don’t share any of it with their husbands presents a lot of impractical and legal gymnastics. What they do with their inheritance is their business, unless you put those assets in a trust with strict instructions on how those assets should be used — for your grandchildren’s education, for example — or use the trust to provide an annual income.

There are so many variables beyond your control. What if you die before your wife, and she has different ideas about how your joint estate should be settled? What if your daughter’s husband is asked to sign a prenup, and replies, “No way — who does your father think he is?” The best course of action is to make your daughters aware of how to manage separate assets that are inherited, and how they could be accidentally commingled.

Think about the quality time you have left with your family. You don’t want Thanksgiving dinners to turn into a battle royale or, worse, a situation where your daughters and their partners gradually pull away and reevaluate their relationships with you. You have worked hard for your money, and you are attempting to protect your family fortune. But there are times in life when you can do too much, and hold your family too tight, even if that is not your intention. 

Ask yourself some soul-searching questions before you proceed. Do you really want to force your children to sign a prenup in order to receive their inheritance? Prenups can be challenged and changed at a later date. What is more important: the couple of million dollars you will leave behind, or the relationships you have with your daughters while you are still here? Don’t put a price on your daughters’ love for you — or on their love for their spouses.

Sorry for being preachy, but even Shakespeare wrote a play about estate planning. It was called “King Lear.”

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

Previous columns by Quentin Fottrell:

‘I grew up pretty poor’: I got an annual bonus. After I pay off my credit cards, I’ll have $10,000. What should I do with it?

‘I received an insurance-claim check for $22,000’: Why on earth does it take five days for my check to clear?

‘I want to protect my family’: My wealthy father, 49, is marrying his third wife. How do I broach the subject of my inheritance?

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My brothers are co-owners on $1.9 million of our mother’s bank and brokerage accounts. She now has Alzheimer’s. How can I rectify this?

I have three adult siblings living in different states, and we are disputing the circumstances surrounding the joint accounts shared with our 85-year-old mother, who has early stage Alzheimer’s. Our mom has a net worth of around $2 million, which is spread across several different bank and brokerage accounts. Late in life, she added a different sibling as a co-owner on each of her accounts to help manage her money.  

My brother “Joe” is listed as the sole co-owner on the bulk of our mother’s brokerage accounts, totaling $1.3 million, while my brother “Andy” is the sole co-owner of a $600,000 bank account and I am the sole co-owner of a $100,000 brokerage account. I think our mom simply forgot to add my sister, “Sue,” as a co-owner on any account. Her intention has always been for the four of us to equally inherit her assets.

I suggested to my three siblings that we should change all the accounts to sole ownership under our mother’s name with four equal beneficiaries. I thought this could avoid many possible complications with gift taxes and distribution at the time of our mother’s death, since as it stands, each co-owner would have to divide the money from their co-ownership account and send it to the other siblings.

Sue is named as power of attorney and could manage our mother’s individual accounts as needed. However, Joe is adamant that the current setup of co-ownership of accounts is the best way to help our mother, especially to protect her against financial fraud in case she needs to move to a nursing home. He insists there will be no gift taxes with the eventual distribution and that this setup is straightforward and easy to co-manage.

This situation is causing a lot of stress and distrust among my siblings, which I hate. I suggested we change things in order to make our mother’s financial situation as simple as possible, especially at the time of death, and not because I don’t trust Joe. Right now, no one is touching our mother’s accounts, and I am paying most of her expenses, as she lives with me.

Please advise.

Frustrated Sibling

Also read: My wife and I sold our home to her son at a $100,000 discount. He’s now selling at a $250,000 profit. Do I ask for a cut?

“Sue, as power of attorney, should be able to withdraw money from your mother’s other accounts and/or set up a bank account with those funds in your mom’s name,” the Moneyist writes.


MarketWatch illustration

Dear Frustrated,

Your brothers have every reason to act like white truffle butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths.

Between them, they have sewn up your mother’s largest bank accounts, and you are very likely dependent on the kindness of these brothers to either add you to the accounts as co-owners or distribute the funds between all four siblings after your mother passes away. 

I would not hold my breath for Joe or Andy to do either of these things. They can just as easily resist with politeness and smiles as with anger and resentment. I’m sorry to say that the most damaging actions — for you and your sister— have already been taken. 

We may never know the conversations that took place when your brothers were added as co-owners. But there is a very important difference between a “co-owner” and a “co-signer” on an account. The latter can withdraw money but does not own the money in the account.

If your mother was not of sound mind or her mental capacity was diminished when your brothers were added to these accounts, or if she had intended to add them as co-signers, there may be a case where you can contest your brothers’ ownership of these accounts.

The legal framework around such cases vary depending on the state, but it’s usually up to the estate of the original owner of the account to prove that there was elder abuse and/or undue influence taking place. As always, you should consult an attorney who specializes in elder law.

Limitations to power-of-attorney duties 

Sue, as power of attorney, should be able to withdraw money from your mother’s other accounts and/or set up a bank account with those funds in your mom’s name. She should preserve these funds for additional medical bills and long-term care as her condition progresses.

But the bottom line is that without the cooperation of your two brothers after your mother dies, failing any legal case to reverse matters, you will remain with the sole ownership of the $100,000 brokerage account, and the four of you will inherit whatever else is left in the estate. 

It’s virtually impossible to say without more information, but Sue, as power of attorney, is unlikely to have the ability to change the ownership of these accounts unless that is specified in the terms of her POA contract. That would also depend on the laws of your state.

“The power of attorney permits the agent to access their parent’s bank accounts, make deposits and write checks,” Jupiter, Fla.-based Welch Law says in this POA overview. “However, it doesn’t create any ownership interest in the bank accounts. It allows access and signing authority.”

The law firm continues: “If the person’s parent wants to add them to the account, they become a joint owner of the account. When this happens, the person has the same authority as the parent, accessing the account and making deposits and withdrawals.”

But those with power of attorney cannot self-deal when it comes to their parent’s finances. “As a POA, they are a fiduciary, which means they have a legally enforceable responsibility to put their parent’s benefits above their own,” Welch Law adds.

You should not have to pay for your mother’s care out of your own bank account. Your sister, as power of attorney, should be managing that. Talk to your siblings about your mother’s Alzheimer’s and how the four of you plan to manage her care in the months and years ahead.

Will your brothers fulfill their promise and make you and your sister whole? Only time will tell.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

Previous columns by Quentin Fottrell:

‘I don’t like the idea of dying alone’: I’m 54, twice divorced and have $2.3 million. My girlfriend wants to get married. How do I protect myself?

‘If I say the sky is blue, she’ll tell me it’s green’: My daughter, 19, will inherit $800,000. How can she invest in her future?

‘They have no running water’: Our neighbors constantly hit us up for money. My husband gave them $400. Is it selfish to say no?



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My Tinder match asked if I ‘rent or own’ my apartment. Is it gauche to ask financial questions before a first date?

I met a guy on Tinder
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and had an introductory telephone conversation, which I always think is a good idea before making the effort to meet in person. During our 15-minute telephone conversation, he told me about his divorce, his job and his hobbies. He described himself as easygoing and outdoorsy, and someone who likes to socialize and play sports. 

He talked a lot about his children, for five minutes or longer. He said he owned a small house. He asked what I did for a living, when my last relationship was, what neighborhood I lived in and — this stuck in my craw — whether I rented or owned my apartment and if it was a studio, one- or two-bedroom apartment. I felt uncomfortable, but I answered.

I live in New York City, and I happen to own my apartment, but I felt like he was sizing me up and trying to get a picture of my finances before he decided to meet me. He also asked how long I’ve been in my apartment, probably to assess how much equity I had in it. I replied, “a while,” as I already felt like he was getting too into my finances for a first conversation.

Once he was satisfied with my answers to these questions, he suggested we meet. I am busy this weekend, so he suggested driving into the city during the week. Based on his job and profession, I can reasonably estimate that I earn about twice his salary, though this does not mean anything to me, and I could care less. But given his money-related questions, I find that ironic.

I asked some friends. Some did a spit take, while others felt such questions were fair game. What do you think?

Irritated Even Before Our First Date

Related: I want my father to quitclaim his home so I can refinance it — and take out a $200,000 annuity for my sister and me. Is this wise?

“Based on his questions, it’s important to him that you have the same level of financial security that he does. If it were not an issue for him, he would not have asked.”


MarketWatch illustration

Dear Irritated,

He is not your real-estate agent or financial adviser, so I agree that it’s strange for a virtual stranger to quiz you on your living arrangements.

Based on his questions, it’s important to him that you have the same level of financial security that he does. If it were not an issue for him, he would not have asked. It’s as simple as that. Similarly, if he were wealthy beyond his wildest dreams, he may care less than someone who has climbed partly up the property ladder. But do I think it’s a bit much to ask in a first conversation? Yes.

Don’t give the Greek chorus too much importance. Whether or not other people are comfortable with such questions in a first call is immaterial; if you are not comfortable, you have your answer. You, after all, are the person who will have to date him, and expect him to show a semblance of emotional intelligence and sensitivity. It’s imperative to be able to read the room.

Let there be no mistake: If he is asking a question about your real-estate holdings or finances, he’s interested in them as a way of assessing (or judging) your suitability as a partner. Maybe he romanticizes his relationship prospects based on first impressions, and wonders whether he could combine assets and live in splendor. But words and questions have meaning.

Social acceptability vs. social mobility 

In America, it may be seen as more acceptable than in some European countries to ask what you do for a living, and even whether you rent or own in a big city like New York. The U.S. is a country of immigrants, and has more immigrants than any other population in the world, according to the Pew Research Center

The idea is to strive, work hard, and do better than the previous generation, although a majority of Americans reportedly doubt the attainability of generation-to-generation upward mobility, and millions of people are reassessing their relationship to work-life balance in the wake of the pandemic.

Wealth and looks play a role in whether someone swipes left or right, but the former appears to become more important when a connection is made with a partner who is deemed attractive. “When long-term interest is considered, the physical attractiveness of the model appeared to serve as an initial hurdle that had to be cleared prior to any other factors being considered by the participants,” according to this 2020 study.

People do swipe right based on economic factors. It would be foolhardy or idealistic to suggest that they don’t. If, however, a man poses in sunglasses with two thumbs up next to a Lamborghini, listing bitcoin
BTCUSD,
+1.57%

trading as one of his pastimes, chances are he doesn’t own that Lamborghini and, in my estimation, may have “Tinder Swindler”-level intentions.

And if a potential partner is both attractive and wealthy? That seems to be an appealing combination. Female online daters are 10 times more likely to click on profiles with men who have higher incomes, at least according to this study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, while male online daters are equally likely to click on women’s profiles, regardless of income. 

I don’t put too much stock in studies that say men are looking for attractive partners, while women are more interested in men who look wealthy. You could probably do an analysis of any online dating site and gather a sample that would give you conclusions that say pretty much anything you want them to say. It all depends on the individual: Someone who knows the exact size of their backyard and strives to keep up with the Joneses is more likely to ask whether you rent or own.

In other words, this fellow who grilled you over your own socioeconomic circumstances may still be a perfect match — for someone else.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

Previous columns by Quentin Fottrell:

I want my son to inherit my $1.2 million house. Should I leave it to my second husband in my will? He promised to pass it on.

My adult sons live rent-free in my house, while I pay for 50% of utilities in my second husband’s condo

My brother lives in our parents’ home, which we’ll inherit 50/50. I want to keep it in the family for my children. How do I protect my interests?



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#Tinder #match #asked #rent #apartment #gauche #financial #questions #date

‘I can’t afford to keep paying for two households’: My adult sons live rent-free in my house, while I pay for 50% of utilities in my second husband’s condo

In 2007, my now ex-husband and I bought a home, where we lived as a family with our two boys for just a few years before we divorced in 2009. I refinanced the house in my name, and have paid the mortgage and utilities as a single parent ever since. 

In 2016, I met and started dating a man. We lived apart, only about 10 to 15 minutes from each other. In 2021, after I battled cancer, he proposed and I accepted. Since we only lived a few minutes apart, I stayed at my husband’s two-bedroom condo Thursday through Sunday, and spent Sunday through Thursday at my house, where I worked from home. I did this for years. 

My oldest son moved back in with me in 2021. He graduated high school in 2017 and I gave him a gap year living at my house to decide on his next move, after which he moved out and started his career. He lived on his own for a year, then lived with my parents for a year. He met a girl; they signed a lease and then the pandemic hit. After their lease was up, they broke up, and he decided to go back to college full time. I agreed that he could live in my home while he attended college. His tuition is covered by grants and a 529 fund his grandmother set up.

In 2022, my then boyfriend and I married. However, we still didn’t move in together full time, as I still had my house, and my youngest son had not yet graduated high school. I wanted to be home with him. 

Helping to support two households

My youngest son, 19, graduated high school in 2023. Later that summer, I moved out of my house to stay with my husband full time. I pay 50% of the expenses living with my husband and 100% of the expenses for my house, where the boys live. 

I kept both households going so my youngest could have a gap year of his own, and to cushion my oldest, whom I really didn’t think would go to college, while he attended to his studies. They are young and finding their way, and I wanted to give them the support I felt like they needed. But here we are in 2024, and I can’t afford to keep both households running without impacting my ability to save for retirement.

Here’s my dilemma: I don’t know how to get my boys out of my house so I can clean it up, stage it and list it for sale. We live in an area where the average two-bedroom apartment rents for $1,800 a month. My youngest works full time following his passion for BMWs and makes about $2,400 a month. My oldest, 25, works part time in retail and makes about $1,000 a month while he attends college. They both work within 3 miles of my home. They simply can’t afford to move out, and I can’t afford to keep paying for two households.

To complicate matters, I have about $100,000 in equity in the house, and I’d like to use it to pay off some small debts and buy a car, as well as put the rest in retirement.  But my mother, who has had a long and successful career in real estate, thinks I should wait it out and let my equity continue to build, giving the boys some cushion while they are still finding their way. 

Do I shop around and find them an apartment, help them set up utilities and help them with movers? Do we build a project plan with a deadline, or just keep looking for places in the hope that we eventually find one we like? Do I subsidize their monthly expenses and give them each $400 a month for utilities, if they cover their rent? 

I know this is probably easy for other people, but I am at a loss as to how and when to do this. We all feel stuck, scared and anxious. Any advice is appreciated.

Wife & Mother

Related: My cousin left his estate to 6 relatives, but only one cousin, worth $30 million, received the inheritance — due to an ‘unexpected surprise’

“On the subject of mothers, listen to your own. If you can rent out your home, pay the mortgage and wait for the value to increase, do that.”


MarketWatch illustration

Dear Wife & Mother,

The longer you support your two adult sons, the longer they will lean on you and need you as their personal ATM. You’ve brought them over the finish line, and then some. You raised them, educated them, and fed and clothed and housed them. Now you are paying for their electricity and other bills. It’s time for your sons to stand on their own two feet and, as my Irish mother would say, cut their cloth according to its measure.

On the subject of mothers, listen to your own. If you can rent out your home, pay the mortgage and wait for the value to increase, do that. Your mother works in real estate and knows what she’s talking about. Real estate, in an ideal world, is a long-term game. It’s time for your sons to downsize to a small apartment, and experience the joys of paying their own way and standing on their own two feet. You need to cut the cord.

Act with integrity and intention. The best way to make a big move — and this is probably as big a move emotionally as it is financially — is to prepare. Sit down with your sons and an independent financial adviser, and do a forensic accounting of their income and expenditure and where they spend their money. I can almost guarantee you that their subsidized lifestyle lends itself to spending money in areas where they could easily cut back.

There is an underlying feeling of guilt in your letter. Have you done enough? Yes. Should you do more? No, you have done plenty, and you’re now putting your sons before your own financial peace of mind and retirement. Does it make you a bad person, or an unfeeling one, if you decide to cut them off? Of course not. Quite the contrary: You can lead by example by showing them what it means to make tough decisions and stick to them.

When you have accounted for your sons’ income and expenditure, look at rentals in your neighborhood or adjoining neighborhoods, if need be. The aim is for them to start taking responsibility for themselves. They don’t need a two-bedroom apartment. They can live in a one-bedroom condo and take turns sleeping on the sofa bed. This is a rite of passage, and it teaches young people the value of money and what it means to take accountability for oneself.

The share of adult children in the U.S. living with their parents has steadily risen since the 1960s. In 2020, during the pandemic, one-third of children ages 18 to 34 lived with their parents as non-caregivers. Men and 18- to 24-year-olds, respectively, were more likely to live at home than women and 25- to 34-year-olds, according to a study distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Parents get support at home; kids get to experience a low-cost lifestyle.

But while the NBER found social benefits to living with adult children and that it does not necessarily delay, retirement, the benefits of providing your children with a head start by giving them somewhere to live start to decline when your ability to save for retirement is impeded, and you’re burning money supporting two households. This is also money you can put towards vacations and new cars, and building a future with your husband. You deserve to enjoy life and put yourself first for a change. Tell your sons, “You’re ready. I’m ready. I love you. Let’s do this.””

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

Previous columns by Quentin Fottrell:

‘She’s obsessed’: My mom moved into my house and refuses to move out. She has paid for repairs and appliances. What should I do?

My parents want to pay off my $200,000 mortgage, and move into my rental. They say I’ll owe my sister $100,000. Is this fair?

‘I hate the 9-to-5 grind’: I want more time with my newborn son. Should I give up my job and dip into my six-figure trust fund?



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#afford #paying #households #adult #sons #live #rentfree #house #pay #utilities #husbands #condo

I’m a 61-year-old single librarian and ‘proud’ Democrat from Maine. Should I move to Florida like Jeff Bezos?

I finally have something in common with Jeff Bezos. He is moving to Miami. I too am thinking of moving to Florida in the next year or so. My parents retired there 25 years ago; my father passed away in 2019, but my mom is still alive. I am also nearing retirement, and thought I would follow in their footsteps. I have a house in Maine, which I intend to sell when I finally make the move. I’ve lived here for 11 glorious years, and made a lot of friends. I’m a librarian, but don’t believe anything or everything you have heard about librarians, we are a social lot. 

I’m 61 and earn $85,000 a year, and have a lot of friends. But I reckon my mom has only a few good years yet, and she is slowing down. I bought my house for $160,000 and it’s now worth $350,000 or thereabouts, if I can sell it with the way interest rates are going. If not, I could rent it out. So my question is: Should I retire to Florida like Jeff Bezos? I’ve been window shopping for properties around Sarasota and Tampa, but I’m flexible. I am proud to live in a blue state, but I also want to be within an hour or so of my mom, so I can see her as often as possible. 

I’ve been feeling restless and, frankly, glum lately. And I thought this change would do me good. Am I mad? Is this a good move?

Florida Bound

Related: My ex-husband is suing for half of our children’s 529 plans — eight years after our divorce. Is he entitled to plunder these accounts?

“No matter how many billions of dollars you have in the bank, there’s one thing that money can’t buy — time.”


MarketWatch illustration

Dear Florida Bound,

You and Jeff Bezos do share that one concern about wanting to be near your aging parents. No matter how many billions of dollars you have in the bank, there’s one thing that money can’t buy — time. The Cape Canaveral operations of his space company, Blue Origin, are also in Florida, so it’s a convenient business move and a tax-savvy one. Maine has a capital gains and income tax; but Florida, like Washington, has no state income tax; unlike Washington, it has no capital-gains tax. You and Bezos will be following in the footsteps of former president Donald Trump, who lived in New York before he tax domiciled at his Mar-a-Lago Palm Beach estate. 

Billionaires — not unlike retirees — tend to move out of states with estate taxes, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. The trend grows stronger as billionaires grow older. But whether you’re a billionaire or a mild-mannered librarian, when you move, you should move. If you spend more than 183 days in Maine per year and/or still have a home there, and you do not spend a similar amount of time in Florida, the tax folks in Maine could ask you to pay Maine income tax. You may have to keep records of your comings and goings (airline tickets and credit-card receipts etc.), but tax agencies can also subpoena your cell-phone records.

Should you move to Florida? Be prepared for the humidity — and the culture shock. You may be used to those lovely 78°F/26°C summers in Maine. Try swapping that for 95°F/35°C. Florida is a very different place to Maine, both culturally and politically. You may find yourself living next-door to an equally proud Trump supporter. If you enjoy living in a blue state, assuming you are a supporter of President Joe Biden, how would that make you feel? Or are you living in a Democratic blue cocoon (or lagoon)? Do you have friends across the political divide? We have a presidential election in November 2024. Expect nerves to be frayed.

The good news — yes, I have good news too — house prices in Maine and Florida are almost identical. The average price hovers at $390,000 in both states, according to Zillow
Z,
-1.58%
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Just be aware of the rising cost of flood and home insurance in the Sunshine State. You are also likely to be surrounded by people your own age: Florida is the top state for retirees, per a report released this year by SmartAsset, which analyzed U.S. Census Bureau migration data. A warm climate and zero state income taxes consistently prove to be a double winner: Florida netted 78,000 senior residents from other U.S. states in 2021 — the latest year for which data available — three times as many as Arizona, No. 2 on the list.

I spoke to friends who have retired to Florida and they say it’s not a homogenous, one-size-fits-all state. “It’s not all beaches, hurricanes, stifling year-round temperatures, and condos,” one says. “It’s possible to escape northern winters without committing to these conditions.” One retiree cited Gainesville in north-central Florida, the home of the University of Florida, as “diverse and stimulating,” but noted that the nearest airports are in Jacksonville (72 miles), Orlando (124 miles), and Tampa (140 miles). Another Sarasota retiree was more circumspect, and told me: “Be careful how you advertise your political affiliation.”

Perhaps where you belong for now is close to your mother. Spending time with her is a top priority, but brace yourself for a new living experience in Florida (and, while we’re at it, alligators). The siren call of home grows stronger as we get older, but “home” also means different things to different people. For some, it’s a place where they can live comfortably, and within their means. For others, it’s where they have a strong sense of community, be that friends, family, or like-minded individuals, or those with whom we can respectfully disagree. People who have a support system around them tend to live longer, so keep that in mind too. 

We can change so much about our circumstances: buy a new car, try a new hairstyle, even go to a plastic surgeon for a new face. There are all sorts of remedies at our fingertips. If all else fails, there’s a pill for that. Or an app that will change our life, or at the very least lull us to sleep with the sound of whales or waves. We may be tempted to believe that if we could change our circumstances, our house, our job, our bank account, or even the town, city, state or country where we live, that we could reinvent ourselves in our own eyes and the eyes of others, and turn our frowns upside down.

There’s just one, not insubstantial problem: we take ourselves — and all of our neuroses — with us.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

Previous columns by Quentin Fottrell:

If I buy a home with an inheritance and only put my name on the deed, does my husband have any rights? 

I cosigned my boyfriend’s mortgage, but I’m not on the deed. I didn’t want to marry again after a costly divorce. How do I protect myself?

My mother claims I’m in her will but refuses to show it to me. Should she put my name on the deed to her home?



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‘I’m 62 and ready for my golden years’: I’ve $1.7 million in annuities, Roths and index funds. Can I afford to never work again?

I’m going to preface this by saying that I know I am in a great long-term position. It’s the short term that is of concern.

I am 62, single with no dependents. I own my smallish home outright and it’s worth $1 million due to the location. I own my car outright and I have no debt. My IRA and small Roth accounts have about $350,000 with an additional $840,000 in two guaranteed-income deferred annuities rolled over from a couple old 401(k)s in 2020. There’s $520,000 in my regular brokerage accounts (mostly Vanguard Index funds). I have $42,000 invested in two eReits and $10,000 in Series I Bonds. I have $71,000 in a higher-yield savings account and $12,000 in a checking account.

I had always planned to retire at 65 and live off my savings until filing for SSI between 67 and 70 (approx $3,400 to $4,100, depending on when I file). A year ago at 61, I abruptly quit a good-paying new job due to a bad work environment, and a week later, my elderly parent had a serious medical issue. I decided to take time off to help navigate care, and just be present — without all of the stress of a pretty demanding job. A year after quitting, I figured out that I have no desire to go back to what I was doing and, quite frankly, have to desire to work at all! 

‘I’m not afraid of running out of money long term. It’s the next 5 to 7 years that are really causing me heartache.’

So here (finally) is my concern. My expenses are at least $3,000 per month give or take. Given what I have in savings and no plans to file for Social Security Insurance for at least five years, what do I continue to live on, especially if I don’t go back to work? I most likely have some house expenses (new roof, garage door, etc.) in the near future, plus, I want to travel sooner than later so $71,000 won’t last that long especially with this inflation. Do I sell off some of my mutual fund shares to boost my savings? 

At some point (most likely in the next two years) there may be about $75,000 of inheritance, but I’m not factoring that into the equation for now. I think I’ve done almost everything right, and I’m ready for my golden years. I’m not afraid of running out of money long term. It’s the next five to seven years that are really causing me heartache. What are your thoughts?

Short-term Angst

Dear Angst,

Life is short, but we all hope for a long retirement, and it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important when we are “nose-down” in the rat race. We only have one life, and most of us, if we’re lucky, have two parents and/or sometimes one good parent. If we are blessed with one or both, it’s a gift if we can afford to take that time with them, especially if they have pressing medical issues. Thankfully, you had planned ahead, and you were able to do just that.

Many people reevaluated their relationship to work in recent years. You did so because you became a caretaker. The most fortunate among American workers were allowed to work from home from 2020, and where their work was the umbrella that protected their financial life and gave them the funds to live their life, by the end of the pandemic, that umbrella became their life which gave them the ability to work. It’s a profound change.

I’m going to take a wild guess here — well, not so wild — and say that a lot of people are reading your letter with their mouths agape, with not a small amount of envy. Some may see a touch of humble bragging to your financial achievements, but you acknowledge that you are in a healthy financial position, and have endeavored to do everything right. That, I’m sure, involved sacrifices along the way. So bravo to you. From a gratitude point of view, your financial list is a good one.

There are a couple of wrinkles, which may be useful for others to be aware of. Robert Seltzer, founder of Seltzer Business Management in Los Angeles, said he would not recommend a client to roll their 401(k)s into annuities due to their higher fees and lack of flexibility. Without working, your only taxable income would be derived from retirement account distributions and investment income — but if your taxable income is less than $41,675, therefore, you would pay no capital gains tax. 

Is it a good time to liquidate some stocks? You’ve played the long game. The S&P 500
SPX,
-0.29%

is up 2.7% over the past year; many people close to retirement have been spooked by stock-market volatility since 2020, but the S&P has increased more than 30% since the last trading session of 2019 — before the pandemic. Assuming you’ve been investing for the past three decades or more, and have experienced the miracle of compounding over that time, the time to enjoy your life is nigh. 

‘Assuming you’ve been investing for the past three decades or more, and have experienced the miracle of compounding over that time, the time to enjoy your life is nigh. ‘


— The Moneyist

Something to consider as you age: “As you transition from the accumulation stage of life to the distribution stage, it is important to recognize that your risk tolerance is changing,” says Mel Casey, a senior portfolio manager at FBB Capital Partners. “If the brokerage account index funds are all in stock funds, this should be addressed. A rebalancing over time to reduce stocks and increase bonds may lower the risk and prepare the account for eventual distributions.”

Meet with a financial adviser and work out your short- and long-term needs: what your income looks like before and after you tap your Social Security benefits. The good news is you have a healthy income awaiting you when you finally start drawing down money from your retirement accounts. It helps enormously that you have paid off your home — property taxes, insurance, food prices, car payments, gas, health insurance, etc. notwithstanding.

About that health insurance. No doubt you are already aware that this will be an extra expense before you qualify for Medicare at age 65. The average annual health-insurance premium for 2022 was $7,911 for single coverage, up slightly from $7,739 in the prior year, according to KFF, formerly known as the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit headquartered in San Francisco, Calif. (You can read more about signing up for Medicare and what it will cost here.)

Casey also has thoughts on healthcare costs as you get older. “You have three years until you can apply for Medicare and that will be an important time in terms of choosing the appropriate path,” he says. “In the meantime, some form of health insurance is advisable, if only to eliminate the ‘tail risk’ of a serious injury or illness which could erode this healthy savings very quickly.”

Withdrawing money for retirement

You could cover a substantial part of your expenses from your brokerage account and Roths ($870,000) or annuities ($840,000). While you have done a great job in growing long-term assets, there are relatively few liquid, short-term assets (emergency reserves), says Randall Watsek, financial adviser with Raymond James. “For someone in retirement without earned income to draw on for living expenses, having at least five years of reserves might greatly lower their stress level,” he adds.

Ideally, you want to take Social Security between 67 and 70. “From an average life expectancy basis, it works out roughly the same, whether you take Social Security at 62 or 70,” Watsek says. “You get more small payments if you take it earlier, or fewer large payments if you take it later. It makes most sense to delay Social Security if you have a family history of living into your 90s or 100s or if you’re still working.”

But if your parents have a history of living a long life, and you currently have good health, Seltzer said he would be open for more discussion about what age you should start claiming Social Security, and he would explore whether you are comfortable waiting until you reach 67 or 70 years of age. (This would warrant further discussion with your own financial adviser, and you can reevaluate your position every 12 months.)

As my colleague Alessandra Malito points out, help comes in many forms: financial consultant, wealth manager and investment adviser. Choose a fiduciary who is required to act in your best interests (rather than giving you advice with one eye on your needs and another eye on their commissions). In order to become a certified financial planner or CFP, you must complete a certificate or degree program, 6,000 hours of related experience and have passed an exam. 

“Broker-dealers are advisers who primarily sell securities and often charge commissions on their recommendations. Commissions aren’t inherently bad, but clients should understand what they’re being charged for and feel comfortable with those fees before proceeding with the advice,” Malito writes. Certified public accountants, chartered life underwriters, certified employee benefit specialists respectively deal with accounting, life insurance and benefits.

“The rule of thumb for taking distributions during retirement is 4%,” Seltzer added. “If you took a very conservative distribution rate of 3%, it would amount to $52,500 which is almost 50% higher than your expenses of $36,000. So, by living off of a mix of savings, distributions from the annuities and capital gains from your brokerage account, you should meet his cash-flow needs with paying very little tax.”

You’re doing just fine. Your $75,000 inheritance will also give you some freedom for the next year or two, and help you get over the finish line. If you travel, think about Airbnb-ing
ABNB,
+1.69%

your home, which would cover your accommodation costs. It may also encourage you to try living in a place for a month or more. As a cardiologist might tell a patient when they’re putting them on medication for the first time, “Start low, go slow.” Take your time. Don’t make any big decisions.

As one member of the Facebook
META,
-0.50%

Moneyist Group said, “If you’re a man please marry me!” I’ll leave that with you with God’s and your fiduciary’s blessings.

“Assuming you’ve been investing for the last three decades or more, and have experienced the miracle of compounding over that time, the time to enjoy your life is nigh.”


MarketWatch illustration

Readers write to me with all sorts of dilemmas. 

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

By emailing your questions, you agree to have them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Co., the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

More from Quentin Fottrell: 

‘He’s content living paycheck to paycheck’: My husband won’t work or get a driver’s license. Now things have gotten even worse.

My wife wants us to spend $5,000 to attend her cousin’s destination wedding. I don’t want to go. Am I being selfish?

‘I feel used’: My partner stays with me 5 nights a week, even though he owns his own home. Should he pay for utilities and food? 



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#ready #golden #years #Ive #million #annuities #Roths #index #funds #afford #work

‘We’ve become a renting nation’: Landlords benefit from high house prices, but millions of renters find themselves trapped

When Nashville, Tenn., native Stephen Parker recently listed a mobile home that he owns on the rental market, he received about 30 applications in one week. “I priced it competitively,” he said.

Parker, who is also a real-estate agent, said that he sees rent growth staying strong as many people find it too expensive to purchase homes, a situation made worse by low inventory and high interest rates.

He bought his first investment property in 2020, and his portfolio of rentals has since grown. He owns various properties, including a small mobile home park, a duplex and several single-family homes. 

“We’ve become a renting nation,” Henry Stimler, an executive in the multifamily capital-markets division at the real-estate firm Newmark, told MarketWatch.

Renters have more flexibility and fewer of the responsibilities that come with home ownership, Stimler said, and they can more easily move to other cities and states. “I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” he said.

Nashville, for its part, was ranked one of the hottest real-estate markets of 2023 by Zillow
Z,
-0.72%
.
But with the surge in interest rates and demand, new residents may find buying property in that city expensive.

Stephen Parker, a landlord and real-estate agent from Tennessee, said demand for his rentals has been strong.


Stephen Parker

With homeownership continuing to be out of reach for many, landlords like Parker are poised to benefit. “You may be better off renting, especially if you don’t know if Nashville is where you’re going to be forever,” Parker told MarketWatch. 

Mortgage rates began climbing after the U.S. Federal Reserve began raising interest rates in early 2022. On Wednesday, the Mortgage Bankers Association said the 30-year rate was averaging 6.48%, up from 3.22% in early 2022.

Higher rates have added hundreds of dollars in interest costs to home buyers’ monthly payments. Buyers have subsequently seen the amount they can afford to pay for a house shrink, even as there are fewer homes for sale.

The U.S. economic outlook remains unclear — a situation compounded by the crisis in the banking sector. Many Americans are worried about job security and financial stability and are reluctant to purchase a home, according to Fannie Mae
FNMA,
-1.41%
.

Some good news: Rents appear to have stabilized. The government’s analysis of the housing sector shows that rents grew 0.8% in February, pushing the increase over the past year to a 42-year high of 8.8%. However, research from private sources — such as Apartment List — indicates that rent growth has slowed. After five straight months in which rents fell, national rents rose by 0.3% in February, the company said. 

‘I just want roots’

Jennifer Mark, a 49-year-old autotransfusionist in Goshen, Ind., lives in a $625-a-month one-bedroom apartment with her adult daughter and her husband. She’s been selling cupcake toppers on Etsy to bring in extra money.

But thanks to medical bills that are weighing on her credit score, Mark is not yet able to qualify for a Federal Housing Administration-backed loan and can’t purchase a home, although she has a budget of about $150,000.

Finding a two-bedroom to rent would make homeownership an even more distant prospect. The higher monthly rent would make it difficult for her to save for a home and to pay off the debts that are keeping her credit score low.

The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Goshen is $925 per month, up 12% from a year ago, according to Rent.com. For a decent apartment, the cost is closer to $1,200. “My God, rent is so high,” she said.

Renting also comes with restrictions. “If I’m going to be paying this much for rent, then I may as well own and be able to do what I want with my house and not have someone tell me, ‘Oh, you can’t have a cat. You can’t have a dog,’” she said.

She needs to pay off medical bills so she can achieve a credit score of at least 580 — a level she’s already surpassed on newer credit-scoring models not often used by mortgage lenders, like FICO 8 — and qualify for a loan.

Renting does have some perks, she said. She doesn’t have to worry about paying for plumbing or furnace issues, for instance. But owning a home is still her dream, and it remains out of reach. “I just want roots,” Mark said.

A generation of renters? 

The data shows a mixed picture for renters: While the U.S. is building a ton of apartments, home prices aren’t expected to fall enough to make owning one affordable for many lower-income Americans.

There are currently over 940,000 apartments under construction in the U.S., up 24.9% from a year ago, which is helping to address demand. The number of multifamily units under construction is at its highest level since 1974. 

But the supply is not helping all Americans equally. The U.S. is short approximately 7.3 million affordable, available rental homes for extremely low-income tenants, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

One of Stephen Parker’s rental units.


Stephen Parker

Newer units, meanwhile, have been targeted at higher-income renters, wrote Whitney Airgood-Obrycki, a senior research associate at the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, in a blog post this month.

And while rent growth has moderated for more expensive apartments in more sought-after neighborhoods, Airgood-Obrycki wrote, prices were rising faster at the end of last year for the lowest-quality units. 

Landlords are slowing rent increases, Redfin
RDFN,
-5.08%

deputy chief economist Taylor Marr said in a recent report, “because they’re grappling with a rise in vacancies as an influx of new apartments hits the market.” 

Renters — particularly in the multifamily sector — are more likely to stay put due to high interest rates, Stimler said.

“Those who bought apartment buildings last year and locked in historically low rates before rates started rising, they’re going to be okay, because less and less of their tenants are going to leave and become homeowners,” Stimler said. 

Some Americans feel like they are becoming a generation of permanent renters, losing out on the “American dream” of owning a home and building wealth through real estate. But Stimler said he did not think that was necessarily a bad thing. 

“Our parents got married at 21 or 22, settled down, bought a home, got on the property ladder, and that was their first property purchase,” Stimler said. “That was a huge milestone then. Today, we don’t have that need anymore.”

“Millennials are much more transient,” he said. “They want to be able to pick up and leave, and go anywhere [and have] the ability to work from anywhere. All of these factors have led to a decline in the demand for single-family homes.”

Wherever you stand on that particular debate, one thing is clear: Landlords are benefiting from an increasingly unaffordable housing market, while millions of renters in the U.S. find themselves trapped.

“One man’s meat is another man’s poison,” Stimler said.

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‘I am angry’: I’m an unmarried stay-at-home mother in a 20-year relationship, but my boyfriend won’t put my name on the deed of our house. Am I unreasonable?

I have been in my relationship for almost 20 years. For personal reasons, we are not married but we have a 10-year-old child.

When our child was born, we decided that I would be a stay-at-home parent because my low-paying job didn’t cover the costs of child care, and at the time, we were stretched. I have been an at-home caregiver and homemaker for a decade. 

About two years ago, we finally saved enough to buy our first home. It’s a condo, but it’s ours. Since it was my first house purchase, I didn’t fully understand the process, so by the time my partner closed on the condo, I realized I was not on the deed. 

When I asked why I was left out, my partner made some noises about loan applications, the cost, etc. My credit score is higher than his, so if I were part of the loan process for the mortgage, wouldn’t it have been beneficial to us?

In the two years since we’ve bought and moved into our place, we’ve had several tense “discussions” about adding me to the deed. For me, even though I’m not an earner, I am still a working member of this household, so having my name on the deed is about equality in the relationship and family. 

When our child was born, we decided that I would be a stay-at-home parent because my low-paying job didn’t cover the costs of child care.

Through my labor as a homemaker, which includes meal preparation, cleaning, laundry and home maintenance — not to mention 24/7 childcare — I feel my role as a “stakeholder” in this family should include legally owning my home. Am I wrong?

Through the various discussions we’ve had, it seems my partner is unwilling to add me to the deed. First, he got angry whenever I tried to discuss it, and tried to make it sound as if I was being completely unreasonable. But now he says it’s because it’ll cost several thousand dollars, and that in the end, it “really shouldn’t matter.” 

But it does matter. To me, not being on the deed is a direct correlation to how I am devalued for my time and labor. I feel like I am considered “less than” simply because I am a woman, an at-home parent, and a homemaker. I am angry about my situation. 

Adding to the complication, we JUST purchased an upstairs neighbor’s condo with the intention of renting it out. After all the fuss about being excluded, my partner made sure my name is on the deed for this second unit. But because of this, my partner says having my name on the original home is “unnecessary.”

I want to continue to fight for my name to be added — to fully own BOTH properties. But my partner is still making me sound completely unreasonable, to spend thousands of dollars just for a “piece of paper.” I know we can afford the costs, and I feel the cost is worth it so I can be on equal footing in this family. And legally, it is not just a piece of paper to me. 

Am I really being unreasonable? Will the costs really outweigh the benefits? What can I do?

We live in New Jersey.

Thank you.

Not on the Deed

Dear Not on the Deed,

Common-law marriage is not recognized in New Jersey, so it’s up to unmarried couples to manage their joint assets the old-fashioned way. The father of your child has certainly done his best to do that, and has tipped the scales in his favor. 

You are either a committed couple in a long-term relationship with a view to sharing your lives, or you’re not. Not putting you on the mortgage — assuming he did so given your good credit — or the deed of your home is sharp practice. At this point, you would likely need to finance to put you on the mortgage, and may need to inform the lender to do the latter.

Put bluntly, you’re not being unreasonable. There is a huge amount of physical, mental and emotional labor involved in being a stay-at-home parent and homemaker, and an equal amount of time devoted to raising your son and taking care of your home while your partner attends to his 9-to-5 job.

Being in a long-term unmarried relationship can affect everything from taxes to real estate. “Unmarried couples do not have the same rights as married couples when it comes to estate planning,” according to the New Jersey-based Bronzino Law Firm.

“They aren’t eligible to inherit a portion of their partner’s estate, for example; and they don’t receive tax breaks on property that they plan to leave their long-term partner after their death, the way that married couples do,” the law firm writes.

There is a huge amount of physical, mental and emotional labor involved in being a stay-at-home parent and homemaker, and an equal amount of time devoted to raising your son.

Your partner would have to file a grant or warranty deed with the county clerk. This could come with ramifications for insurance and should be done in consultation with a lawyer. It should, in theory, only cost a few hundred dollars.

I say “in theory” as that does not account for the closing costs and, of course, if there is a significantly higher interest rate now than when the loan was first signed.

“Deeds are characterized by ‘guarantees’ the grantor makes about their interest in the property, and ‘promises” of future action the grantor will take if their representations are challenged,” according to the law firm of Earl White.

“Covenants are the defining feature of each type of deed,” he writes. “Sellers often guarantee a property is sold free and clear of mortgages and liens, and that the seller has authority to make the sale.”

Some broader context: A few years ago, Oxfam released a study that estimated women contributed $10.8 trillion to the world’s economy every year in unpaid labor. That’s three times the size of the world’s technology industry. 

The cost of you pursuing this does not outweigh the benefits. Your time is valuable. Your contribution to your partnership is valuable. Your sense of worth is valuable. And your role as a homemaker and a mother is also valuable. 

Yocan email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

More from Quentin Fottrell:

• ‘I’ve felt like an outsider my whole life’: My father died without a will, leaving behind my stepmother and her 4 children. Do I have any rights to his estate?
• ‘He was infatuated with her’: My brother had a drinking problem and took his own life. He left $6 million to his former girlfriend who used to buy him alcohol
• She had a will, but it was null and void’: My friend and her sister are fighting over their mother’s life-insurance policy and bank account. Who should win out?



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