Financial well-being is a broad topic with a multitude of moving parts. When starting the journey to understand and simplify an individual’s financial picture, there are a few pieces that should not be overlooked.
Establishing and maintaining an emergency fund is one of the most important things an individual, or family, can do. Having an emergency fund can allow for an improved ability to withstand unexpected events and overall uncertainty. Monthly expenses, family dynamic, and employment prospects are a few of the factors that should be taken into consideration when developing an emergency fund. An ideal emergency fund has between three- and six-months’ worth of expenses, but the exact amount will vary depending on the person and their situation. A great starting point for determining the size of an emergency fund is developing a budget.
ESTABLISHING A BUDGET
A budget is an important tool for keeping track of expenses and identifying areas where an individual may be overspending. By identifying these areas, resources can be re-allocated to savings, investments and other expenses that may be more beneficial. When developing a budget, traditional expenses such as mortgage/rent payments, utilities, vehicle payments, insurance payments, and groceries are not the only items that should be considered. Money spent on hobbies, interests, entertainment, and savings towards goals are some of the other expenses that should be accounted for. A budget can also be used to determine whether a large purchase, like a vehicle or a home, can be taken on comfortably.
CONTROLLING HOUSING COSTS
There are a variety of factors that need to be considered when determining whether it is time to buy a home, and what an individual can afford. The household budget will be one of the first things to look at and will help determine what can be saved towards a down payment each month, as well as the mortgage payment an individual or family can afford. Knowing the monthly mortgage payment that can be taken on comfortably can help determine the price of the home that can be purchased. Depending on the type of loan taken for the purchase of the home, a down payment between 5- and 25% of the purchase price may be required.
IMPORTANCE OF BASIC ESTATE DOCUMENTS
Estate planning can feel overwhelming, but that should not deter someone from understanding it’s importance. Basic estate documents are essential to communicating and honoring an individual’s wishes in the event they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves or are no longer living.
DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY (POA)
A Durable Power of Attorney designates an agent to act on behalf of an individual if they are incapable of making decisions for themselves due to either disability or mental incapacity. The durable POA will specify the powers that the agent has and what types of decisions they can make on behalf of the incapacitated individual. The document will also specify the extent to which the agent may act as the individual.
MEDICAL POWER OF ATTORNEY AND LIVING WILL/ADVANCE DIRECTIVES
Health Care wishes can vary greatly depending on the person. For this reason, it is important to put thought into the care that an individual deems acceptable to receive. Regardless of an individual’s age, it is important that these wishes are outlined before they are needed, as these directions are to be used if the individual has a medical crisis and is not able to make decisions for themselves. A Living Will specifically outlines the treatment an individual consents to or prohibits, and the medical power of attorney designates someone to make decisions on behalf of the incapacitated individual.
LAST WILL & TESTAMENT
The Last Will & Testament provides direction for how property should be distributed upon an individual’s death and if the individual has minor children, it can designate a legal guardian for the children. Providing this direction on how property should be distributed can remove confusion and disagreements for the surviving loved ones. An important point to remember is that if an individual dies without naming a guardian for their children, the courts will choose a guardian. In most cases, a family member, or multiple family members, will volunteer to be the guardian. Choosing a guardian and communicating that decision with them can allow for a less stressful and confusing transition for both the guardian and the children. It is important to remember that this is just an overview of a few important estate documents and should not be considered legal advice. Due to the importance of the accuracy of such documents, we recommend you work with an attorney when drafting estate documents.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Women control two-thirds of consumer spending¹
- Women hold 40% of total global wealth¹
- Women account for 40% of entrepreneurs world-wide¹
- 20% of First-time home buyers in 2021 were single women²
¹ Ron Shevlin. “The Four Things Women Want from Financial Services.” Forbes. June 1, 2020.
²National Association of REALTORS®. “Women Home Buyers.” National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers. 2021.
In our second podcast episode, our Ali Swart, CFP® and Samantha Spitzer, CFP®, CDFA® give their own opinions on foundational financial well-being concepts. Click here to listen.