Financial planning is the DNA that defines how each of us will evolve in our financial lives. At eBIS, we want to engineer that DNA through a thorough understanding of you and your goals. We let your information and personal situation guide our financial recommendations by gathering relevant data points and letting them dictate a course of action. We define 7 primary planning goals, as the “rungs” in the DNA double helix ladder, that we engineer specifically for you in your financial plan. Taken together, they form your personal Financial Planning DNA. It covers the core components of financial planning and provides recommendations that act as your blueprint for financial success as you evolve through time, including maintenance services as your life situation changes.
Our Financial Planning solution is engineered around your financial goals, and it often requires integration with other professionals (tax, estate, family law, etc.) and, where money management is needed, with an Investment Management solution. eBIS provides these integration points as part of our planning service, aiming to provide a seamless experience across the important aspects of your financial life. Goals can be met when planned for, and we provide robust, integrated solutions to help you get there.
Below please find a description of each of the 7 planning goals that we manage in our Financial Planning solution and the services offered within each one.
Throughout our lives, we must plan for large discretionary expenditures: a house, car, boat, etc. That planning includes a savings approach to accumulate the necessary capital for the purchase or down payment, as well as an analysis of initial financing and refinancing options. Our financial plans specify a recommended savings and financing approach for asset purchases, tailored to your circumstances.
Large expenditures also entail the management of liquidity requirements. As a purchase target date approaches, cash must be on hand. eBIS manages these liquidity requirements through integration with our Investment Management solution, selling securities in a tax-sensitive way to provide the necessary liquidity.
eBIS also offers financial advice on existing assets. Given the interest rate environment, does it make sense to payoff or refinance a mortgage or secured loan? Can your revolving debt be consolidated or restructured under a lower interest rate? We analyze such questions and provide recommendations to lower your aggregate financing costs.
Family financial planning covers some of the most substantial life changes that we can face: getting married or divorced or the passing of a spouse. If you face any of these events, eBIS will work with you and your family law attorney to clearly communicate and document the financial and life planning implications.
Making the important decision to join another person in marriage has important financial repercussions. We work closely with your family law attorney to ensure that your assets are structured and titled in accord with your wishes and the appropriate legal statutes in your state of residence (community property, joint tenants, tenants in common, etc.), as well as any special circumstances, such as a prenuptial agreement and separate property designations. Our goal is to ensure that your financial interests are protected both before and after your wedding day.
Marriage may also mean a need for joint financial goals, and eBIS works with both parties in a marriage to understand the new circumstances. Marriage can mean a change in cash flow management (savings and expenditures), depending on the work status of your spouse. It can lead to a need for family planning around child rearing costs and eduction savings. eBIS ensures that the financial implications of joining someone in matrimony are accounted for in your financial plan.
Marriage usually necessitates changing your will and estate structures. eBIS helps coordinate the financial implications of these changes, working closely with your estate planning attorney.
Engaging in a divorce is often a harrowing decision, with emotional repercussions. While we cannot change the emotional strife of the end of a marriage, eBIS can work with you to mitigate the financial stress. We work closely with your family law attorney to structure a divorce settlement suited to your interests, helping to select assets most appropriate for you given your tax circumstances and financial needs. A common mistake is selecting low cost basis assets in a divorce settlement, only to sell them at a high tax cost.
Divorce means a need for revised financial goals, and eBIS works with you to understand the new circumstances. Divorce can mean a change in cash flow management (income, savings and expenditures) for you, especially if spousal maintenance (alimony) is included in the divorce settlement (and revised tax implications under Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) or you are a non-working spouse. It can lead to a new approach for family planning around child rearing costs and eduction savings. eBIS ensures that the financial implications of separating from someone are accounted for in your financial plan.
As part of our Investment Management solution, we will coordinate with our custodian to re-title all assets retained in your name following the divorce. Divorce also necessitates changing your will and estate structures. eBIS helps coordinate the financial implications of these changes, working closely with your estate planning attorney.
The loss of your spouse can represent the most difficult emotional period of your life. Importantly, the death of your spouse has financial ramifications that eBIS can help you understand and plan for with revised financial goals. Initially, we can analyze whole and variable life insurance claiming strategies prior to death. Becoming a widow can mean a change in cash flow management (savings and expenditures) for you, potentially offset by Social Security spousal/dependent survivor benefits and life insurance payouts. We also advise on special situations that can reduce survivor benefits, such as the Government Pension Offset rule. eBIS ensures that the financial implications of losing your life partner are accounted for in your financial plan.
As part of our Investment Management solution, eBIS will coordinate with our custodian to re-title all assets transferred to your name following the death of your spouse. The event can also necessitate changing your will and estate structures. eBIS helps coordinate the financial implications of these changes, working closely with your estate planning attorney.
Planning for education costs is a stark and necessary reality in the United States. Many families choose private education for their children from preschool onward (primary, high school, college, post-graduate), necessitating considerable expenditures and capital planning. Even public universities are costly, with tuition and fees that can exceed $30,000/yr and often rising well above the rate of inflation. Then, of course, there’s your own education expenditures and debt management. For planning purposes, eBIS manages education costs under the following two categories:
Education Savings Strategies
A number of education savings vehicles, some tax advantaged, are available to aid in financial planning. eBIS will recommend the most appropriate of these vehicles, depending on your circumstances.
529 Plans: Now available for qualified education expenses (K through higher education, excluding home-schooling) of a named beneficiary (which can be changed), with the contributor retaining investment discretion. High yearly contribution limits ($100k-$350k, by state) with no income restrictions on contributor, with withdrawals for K – 12 costs capped at $10k. Accounts are tax advantaged, using after-tax federal dollars, with funds avoiding taxation both during accumulation and at distribution. Each plan is sponsored by a state, some of which offer a state tax deduction for contributions by in-state residents. Considered an asset of the donor in financial aid calculations.
Coverdell Education Savings Accounts: Available for qualified education expenses, at any education level, of a named beneficiary (which can be changed), with the contributor retaining investment discretion only until the child reaches 18, at which time control passes to the beneficiary. Contributions are non-revocable and cannot be transferred to contributor as beneficiary. Low yearly contribution limits ($2,000) with some income restrictions on contributor. Accounts are tax advantaged, using after-tax dollars, with funds avoiding taxation both during accumulation and at distribution, but are considered under the beneficiary’s tax ID. Considered as an asset of the parent in financial aid calculations. Can be transferred to a 529 plan under same beneficiary.
UGMA/UTMA (Uniform Gift/Transfer to Minors Act): Assets are owned by child and considered as a resource to the child in financial aid calculations. Avoids estate tax to the donor and funds are taxed moving forward at child’s tax rate, without a tax shelter. There are no restrictions on use of funds for education or otherwise.
The effect of these accounts on financial aid for the beneficiary should also factor into the contribution decision. It is equally important to consider the timing and magnitude of the savings strategy, with early savers having the luxury of a longer accumulation period and investment compounding. eBIS will work with you to structure a regular contribution strategy tailored to your situation, and we can manage the investment of these savings contributions through our Investment Management solution.
Education Debt Management
It is quite common to accumulate significant loan debt in pursuit of higher education. eBIS provides analysis and recommendations on the options to lower the loan interest burden and pay down student debt. First, we analyze your current interest rate and recommend options to consolidate and/or refinance your federal and private loans. Financial technology can play a role here, with many new lending innovations in the marketplace to lower the interest burden based on type of degree earned, rather than credit profile. Next, we recommend a debt pay down strategy in light of the lowest available financing cost, federal and state policies on debt payment caps, and other available retirement (IRA, 401(k), etc.) savings options; debt reduction should be balanced against the benefits of pre-tax savings options.
Taxes play a critical role in determining the income that you retain; it is perhaps the most important planning consideration, especially in high tax states like California and New York. At eBIS, we first analyze your most recent tax returns to determine your marginal tax rates at the federal, state, and local levels, which in large part guides our tax planning approach. We then recommend an investment strategy based on your specific tax circumstance, and integrate that approach with our Investment Management solution. We also build your financial plan around specific situations that affect realized taxes, as follows:
Compensation comes in many forms beyond direct wages. Many of these forms have specific tax consequences that require diligent analysis and management. These forms of compensation include:
- Deferred compensation
- Restricted Stock Units (RSU)
- Incentive Stock Options (ISO)
- Non Qualified Stock Options (NQSO)
- Employee Stock Purchase Plans (ESPP)
- Profit sharing plans
- Defined benefit plans
eBIS will analyze all forms of compensation that you currently receive and are eligible for and recommend an approach for claiming and income recognition to minimize your tax burden based on current tax law, including changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act affecting areas like Deferred compensation, ISOs, and Alternative Minimum Tax. This service includes analysis of company-specific 10b5-1 plans for selling of securities by corporate insiders, as well as guidance on 83(b) elections for restricted stock and Net Unrealized Appreciation (NUA) tax mitigation strategies for company shares held in corporate retirement plans.
Investors can accumulate concentrated positions in certain securities for a number of reasons: stock grants/exercised options/stock purchase plans from an employer, inherited securities from relatives, securities transferred as part of a divorce settlement, etc. eBIS will help you plan for and manage the tax consequences of diversifying these positions, as outlined in detail in our Investment Management solution.
Taxation of Insurance Payouts
The taxation of insurance payouts is quite complex and can depend on variables such as the type of insurance, policy holder, payor/beneficiary, tax basis, interest/investment appreciation, and whether pre- or post-tax money was used to pay the insurance premiums. eBIS will tailor a tax strategy for your insurance holdings so that the after-tax benefit of the insurance is what you expect and meets the needs of the policy beneficiaries.
Merger, Buyout, Sale of a Business
Corporate America is rife with corporate business transactions. Companies merge, are taken over, sold, etc., often introducing unique tax consequences from liquidity events for employees and business owners. eBIS will work with you to analyze any corporate action and implement a plan to minimize tax consequences, often in concert with your corporate attorney and tax professional, and manage proceeds from a liquidity event through our Investment Management solution.
Alternative Minimum Tax
eBIS will analyze your exposure to Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) based on current tax law, your income, and tax deductions, in consultation with your tax professional. If exposed to AMT, we can recommend a strategy to lower your AMT calculation through avenues such as delayed income recognition and recognition of income through AMT-free investment vehicles.
Roth IRAs have very beneficial characteristics for investors. For instance, the accounts accumulate gains and distribute funds tax-free, have no required minimum distributions in retirement, and pass to your heirs with distribution schedules more favorable than traditional IRAs. However, a conversion of traditional IRA assets to Roth accounts has specific tax consequences that must be considered carefully. Among the variables to consider in a Roth conversion: 1) your current marginal tax rates and projected future rates; 2) length of time to retirement; 3) total IRA assets and cost basis across accounts; 4) availability of non-retirement assets to pay for the conversion tax; 5) current market valuation. eBIS provides an analysis of these factors and recommends an approach to maximize your long-term wealth. We also implement a personal timing strategy for each Roth conversion in light of the elimination of re-characterizations under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act; tax circumstances must be very clear when committing to the conversion.
Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs)
All IRAs and qualified retirement plans are subject to RMDs by the Internal Revenue Service, beginning the year after you turn 70 1/2. The IRS publishes a RMD schedule based on assumed lifespan. As a planning item, it is important to maximize the income you recognize at low tax brackets prior to receiving RMDs, of particular importance for those who retire in their 60s or earlier. eBIS provides this analysis, recommending a schedule for retirement account distributions and Roth IRA conversions based on your specific income circumstances. The recommendations can include ways to delay RMDs, such as a rollover from an IRA to a 401(k) if you are still employed beyond the RMD age floor. We also manage the distribution of RMDs through our Investment Management solution, ensuring you receive the necessary distributions without tax penalty. If your estate plan includes charitable giving, a Qualified Charitable Distribution as a RMD can be an effective way to lower your tax burden.
Retirement planning is perhaps the most neglected aspect of personal finance; eBIS considers retirement readiness one of the most important issues facing America, with 52% of American households “at risk” of not having enough savings to maintain their working life living standards in retirement . In this light, we make retirement planning a primary focus of our business, both for individuals and organizations through our Retirement Plan Fiduciary Services solution, tailored for organizations offering a defined contribution retirement plan. Retirement readiness requires consistent, diligent planning, taking into account each of the four components of retirement planning: target age planning, qualified retirement plan strategies, IRA contributions, and Social Security claiming strategies. eBIS puts together a comprehensive retirement strategy for each client using these building blocks. Then, we help you implement the strategy and adjust to new life variables as they inevitably occur.
Target Age Retirement Planning
One of the most prominent questions in financial planning: “When can I retire?” Simple to ask, a bit more difficult to answer. We work with you to define your best path to retirement, outlining various scenarios and the requirements to realize each one. First, we define the variables that influence retirement readiness: current savings, retirement age, lifespan, annual savings contributions, assumed investment returns, drawdown assumptions, pension income, etc. We use these inputs to run monte-carlo simulations that produce probabilities of retirement success, i.e., not outliving your money. By manipulating each variable, you can see how your probability of success changes, finally settling on a scenario that best suits your retirement goals. With your retirement goal in place, we construct a financial plan around it. The plan will include a recommended risk level in your investment portfolio and targeted annual savings contributions, along with the appropriate investment program through our Investment Management solution. In the end, “When can I retire?” is really your decision based on variables under your control; we help you understand these variables and tailor a target age retirement planning strategy to your preferences.
Qualified Retirement Plan Strategies
Many employers today offer either a defined contribution (DC) retirement plan (401(k), 403(b), 457, myRA plan (government plan)) or a defined benefit (traditional pension) plan. For defined contribution plans, eBIS will analyze the plan and recommend a contribution and investment strategy, taking into consideration variables such as to-date contributions, company match, profit sharing, plan costs, plan menu quality, and brokerage window. We marry your defined contribution investment strategy with your overall investment objectives, ensuring that the least tax efficient investments are placed in the DC plan while maintaining the overall target risk allocation. DC plan investment recommendations through our retirement planning service are coordinated across your holistic net worth. Should you leave your place of employment, eBIS will provide guidance on how to manage your assets in the plan and if/when to roll them over to an IRA.
If self-employed or working for a small business, eBIS will recommend a SEP/SIMPLE IRA or individual 401(k) contribution strategy using the same criteria as used for larger qualified retirement plans, but with visibility to the unique, and potentially higher, contribution limits afforded these plans.
For defined benefit (DB) pension plans, eBIS will analyze the plan structure and recommend a corporate service and payout strategy to maximize your benefits, taking into consideration years of service, vesting rules, inflation adjustments, lump sum and partial cash out options, and distribution schedules.
eBIS coordinates your tax-deferred and tax-free savings options through IRA vehicles with your qualified retirement plan strategy. As an overriding principle, we recommend limiting realized taxes and maximizing free money, and IRAs can help with the former, while qualified retirement plans potentially help in both areas. Depending on the retirement plan with your employer and realized income, you may be eligible for a deductible IRA contribution. If not, you may be eligible for a direct Roth IRA contribution. At the very least, you will be able to contribute to a traditional IRA with after-tax dollars. These contributions are potentially convertible to a Roth IRA, advisable for the Roth’s tax-free status on accumulation and distribution. If over 50 years old, you are eligible for an additional catch-up contribution. eBIS will ensure that you maximize your IRA contribution allowance in the appropriate IRA vehicle, and we offer services to manage the investment of those funds through our Investment Management solution.
For those subject to a high deductible health care plan, Healthcare Savings Accounts (HSA) can act as a tax-sheltered savings vehicle, similar to an IRA. Pre-tax (or after-tax with deduction) dollars can accumulate and be disbursed tax-free if used for qualifying health costs, including long-term care premiums. Importantly, earned income is not required to make contributions, funds can be disbursed as ordinary income without penalty for any reason after age 65 and are not subject to required minimum distributions. Thus, they can act as an important retirement planning resource, while avoiding the onerous IRA distribution rules. eBIS will recommend a HSA strategy, if eligible, as part of your retirement financial plan.
It is important to prioritize all tax-advantaged savings options before contributing to a taxable investment account. eBIS, through our retirement planning service, will provide a strategy to do just that.
Social Security Claiming Strategies
Social Security (SS) is one of the most important components of a retirement planning strategy. It represents a guaranteed cash flow annuity stream, depending on your work history, from the point of claim initiation through death, equivalent to annuities offered through traditional insurance companies. While conventional wisdom is to accept the SS annuity at your full retirement age (65-67, depending on year of birth), SS is available at any point between age 62 and 70, with an embedded compound payout increase with each year of delay. The appropriate claiming strategy should include analysis of potential SS benefits, existing retirement and non-retirement savings, outside insurance policies, family genetics and current health.
If only the decision variables were that simple. In addition, there are numerous other factors to consider, such as the SS benefits of a spouse or former spouse which, in some cases, can be claimed for yourself (restricted application options), spousal benefit timing, survivor benefits, and other foreign or government pensions that might invoke a Windfall Elimination Provision or government pension offset rule. As part of our retirement financial planning service, eBIS will analyze all of the variables that affect your SS benefits, in concert with your total financial picture, and recommend a claiming strategy that fits your circumstances, with a preference for limiting longevity risk (outliving your money).
eBIS will also provide counsel on the probabilities of SS benefit haircuts in the future, in light of projected SS trust fund shortfalls, tax policy, economic growth, etc., and provide mitigation approaches, where appropriate, in your financial plan.
- National Retirement Risk Index, September 2016, Center for Retirement Research
One of the core tenets of financial planning: determining what risks to take. If a risk has the potential for catastrophe, it should be mitigated or eliminated. Insurance thus serves an import role in your financial affairs, affording the opportunity to transfer catastrophic risk to another party. Insurance comes at a cost, of course, and eBIS, as part of our insurance financial planning service, provides counsel on the cost/benefit of each form of discretionary insurance (assuming everyone carries some form of car and homeowner’s/renter’s insurance). We analyze your specific circumstances and recommend a risk transfer strategy, using insurance, across seven primary risk categories. A comprehensive insurance strategy not only mitigates risk, but provides peace of mind for many clients. Knowing that events out of your control won’t derail your financial well-being allows for more peaceful sleep. Of important note, eBIS is a completely independent counsel on insurance; we are not registered to sell insurance in any state and we receive no commissions or kickbacks from the recommendations we make. Our sole objective is to provide unbiased, fact-based financial planning advice, free from conflicts of interest.
Perhaps the greatest catastrophe, both emotionally and financially, is the premature death of a family’s primary bread-winner. Financially, it means the earned income stream formerly provided by that bread-winner is no longer available, putting undue stress on the remaining family at the most inopportune time. Life insurance plays an important role in this circumstance, helping to buffer against the financial loss of the primary wage-earner in a family. Life insurance can take many forms with different embedded costs and benefits: term life, whole life, variable life, hybrid, etc. Each form can play a role in a financial plan, but the right product is entirely dependent on your circumstances. eBIS will work with you to understand your family dynamic: family constitution, incomes of both parties in the marriage, number of dependents and their annual expenses, total family assets. With a complete picture of your circumstances, eBIS can recommend a life insurance strategy that suits your needs and hedges against the worst mortality outcomes.
Disability insurance can play a role for those at risk of incapacitation in their work environment, be it physical, cognitive or emotional. Everyone is dependent on relative health to earn a living, and the loss of the faculties necessary to perform a job can have significant negative financial consequences. eBIS endeavors to understand your risk of disability and existing disability benefits offered through your job, Social Security, and private insurance. With that information, we construct a supplemental private insurance strategy to hedge potential loss of income due to injury of any kind.
Health and Medicare Supplements
Health insurance in America is generally covered by two primary insurance providers: your employer during work years and federal or state government, through Medicare/VA or Medicaid, in retirement. For those not covered by a workplace healthcare plan, insurance is available through a federal or state-sponsored insurance marketplace, with various options on level of care, deductible, etc. During retirement, many people prefer a level of insurance above that offered by Medicare to cover costs like coverage outside the U.S., copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles. Medigap insurance, offered by private insurers, is the “gap” insurance offered against two components of Medicare: A & B. The level of gap coverage is specific to each insurer and plan, requiring analysis of your situation (health history, genetics, available assets, etc.) to find the right fit. Private insurance is offered through Medicare part C, in some instances covering more services than traditional Medicare A, B & D (prescription drugs). Some forms of healthcare, such as dental and vision, are regularly not covered by workplace or government insurance. As part of our health insurance financial planning service, eBIS will analyze your specific circumstances and recommend a comprehensive Medicare claiming and supplemental health insurance strategy, both during your working years and in retirement, best suited to you.
eBIS will also recommend Healthcare Spending Account (HSA) contributions based on your health insurance deductible and supplemental insurance and healthcare needs. HSAs can help lower the total cost of healthcare by sheltering income and investment gains from taxes if used to pay qualified expenses related to your healthcare.
Long-term care insurance, depending on the policy, can cover many of the costs associated with elder care: assisted living, nursing care, hospice, etc. These costs are important on two fronts: for our own care and the care of our elderly parents (and potentially other relatives). We generally loathe the thought of growing old ourselves and equally in seeing our parents and/or elderly relatives and loved ones deteriorate as they advance in age. As hard as it is emotionally, it can be equally taxing financially if not planned for in advance. The care of a loved one in his/her elder years, and the need for your own eventual care, can take many forms: in-home care, assisted living, nursing care, and long-term and terminal hospitalization. Importantly, traditional Medicare and Medigap coverage provide no benefits for these services. Thus, supplemental insurance and savings play an important role in planning for elder care. eBIS works with you to understand your and your loved-one’s medical history and care needs and recommends a comprehensive insurance and savings strategy for long-term care for your entire family. We also cash manage your investment portfolio in our Investment Management solution around potential liquidity needs for elder care.
Importantly, long-term care premiums are generally an acceptable use of Healthcare Spending Account (HSA) proceeds. eBIS will recommend a HSA savings program, depending on eligibility, during your working years in light of potential long-term care insurance needs.
Personal Liability Umbrella
Personal liability umbrella (PLU) insurance adds an extra layer of liability protection beyond traditional car and homeowner’s/renter’s insurance. PLU extends those policies beyond their stated coverages, potentially covering a greater share of your net worth. Should a liability event occur, such as you injuring someone in a car accident or someone injuring him/herself in your home, PLU would cover that liability up to the stated policy limits. As catastrophe insurance for those with a large net worth, PLU can play an important role. eBIS will work to understand all of your assets and existing insurance and recommend a PLU strategy to ensure your wealth is preserved, regardless of unforeseen events.
One of the biggest financial risks is outliving your money, known as longevity risk. Longevity risk has assumed greater significance in modern society with advances in medical care leading to longer lives, medical costs rising well above the rate of inflation, retirement savings rates lagging, and interest rates (and the ability to earn a reasonable risk-free return) plummeting in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis. The current environment really is a perfect storm of longevity risk. For some people, longevity insurance can play a role in their financial planning. This insurance provides an annuity stream at a point in the future when liquid assets have potentially decreased below a level necessary for sustainable cash flow to meet living expenses. For instance, the longevity annuity might start cash flows at age 85 and continue until death. It thus is a way to hedge a portion of longevity risk, and can be appropriate for those clients with a potentially long lifespan and/or with total assets at risk of depletion. As part of our insurance financial planning service, eBIS will analyze these variables specific to you and recommend an approach to mitigate longevity risk. Of note, these products can be purchased as qualified contracts in retirement accounts, potentially deferring the tax burden of Required Minimum Distributions.
Annuities are one of the most common, and costly, insurance products available. In exchange for your capital, the insurance company pledges to make perpetual cash flow payments to you, usually until death, and can be fixed or variable in amount. These products do act as a hedge against longevity risk, but come at a cost: the insurance companies would not write annuity policies if they weren’t making money on them. The insurance companies set the annuity payments at a rate, in aggregate, where they have a very high probability of earning a profit by investing your capital for themselves. You trade investment and longevity risk for lower, albeit reliable (assuming solvency of the insurance company), returns (on average) and mortality risk (the risk of dying early, in which case the insurance company keeps your capital, depending on insurance riders). Add in the high fees, large withdrawal and surrender penalties, and poor inflation adjustments normally associated with this product, and the advantage of lowering longevity risk starts to loose luster. Furthermore, annuities contribute little in the primary benefit of insurance: mitigating the costs of catastrophe. Where longevity risk is a concern, eBIS generally recommends considering a longevity annuity, which generally has lower capital costs and fees than a straight annuity and specifically targets that risk without giving up the upside of investment returns on the lion’s share of your portfolio. Regardless, eBIS will analyze your specific circumstances and tailor an annuity recommendation for you.
It is important to note that Social Security (SS) is the most important annuity anyone owns, and implementing an intelligent claiming strategy (see Retirement) is by far everyone’s top priority in the annuity realm. SS is a guaranteed cash flow stream for life that compounds at an 8% rate for every year that you delay beyond your full retirement age. What a deal! eBIS recommends starting with the right SS claiming strategy, in combination with any defined benefit pension plans, to combat longevity risk, and progressing to private insurance annuities only as necessary.
Passing assets to beneficiaries is one of the most frequently overlooked aspects of financial planning. eBIS works closely with you to understand your estate wishes relative to tax law, existing estate structures, and your accumulated wealth. As part of your estate financial plan, we will recommend steps to take to further safeguard the transfer of your assets to two primary beneficiary types: heirs and charitable organizations. Often this plan includes recommendations for Investment Management of existing estate structures or coordination with your estate planning attorney for establishment of additional trusts and estate vehicles. In both cases, we provide supportive consultation, with the ultimate goal of putting your mind at ease knowing that your assets, representing a lifetime of work, experience, and learning, will be disbursed according to your wishes.
Asset Transfers to Heirs
Passing assets to beneficiaries with the lowest estate tax burden is a primary objective of many estate plans. With current Federal estate tax topping out at 40% and many states assessing an inheritance or estate tax as well, it’s imperative to understand the estate planning approach that will minimize estate taxes and maximize the net assets passing to your heirs. In concert with your estate planning attorney, we can help you:
- Establish an asset transfer strategy, conscious of the tax impact to the recipient, to limit gift tax liability and utilize the annual gift exclusion for each beneficiary;
- Define beneficiary strategies to minimize tax exposure, including beneficiary disclaim to charity;
- Establish and adhere to trust provisions, including investment management and liquidation of assets to meet distribution requirements;
- Ensure assets are titled correctly, especially if married, to maximize spousal exclusions;
- Advise on cost basis step-up on transfer out of estate, and validation of basis post transfer;
- Establish and manage spousal income trusts, such as a qualified terminable interest property trust (Q-TIP) and manage the invested assets to provide income for your spouse after you pass, with remainder assets passing to beneficiaries;
- Establish and manage the “alphabet soup” of potential intergenerational trust structures, e.g., GRAT, GRUT.
- Manage inherited IRAs and the required distribution schedules based on IRA type (traditional/Roth) and beneficiary profile.
Charitable Giving Strategies
Many people want to leave a legacy of philanthropy by donating during their lifetimes and/or bequeathing their assets to charities and endowments. The tax rules for charitable giving are quite complex, both while living and at death, as seen through various tax entities: trusts, your estate, and you as an individual or married couple. Whether you have a simple charitable giving strategy while living or a complex charitable estate plan, we will work very closely with you and your estate planning attorney to ensure that your detailed charitable giving wishes are honored. As part of your estate financial plan, eBIS can:
- Facilitate annual donations as directed;
- Prioritize appreciated securities and pre-tax IRAs for donation and inclusion in charitable trusts;
- Provide guidance on the tax implications of donations to charities vs. private foundations;
- Provide guidance on the tax implications of charitable donations and carve-outs, prioritized and differentiated across estate, trust, and individual/married tax entities;
- Provide guidance on charitable donations during your lifetime vs. a charitable bequest, including cost basis consequences;
- Help to establish and manage donor-advised funds;
- Help to establish and manage family foundations and endowments;
- Help to establish and manage the “alphabet soup” of potential charitable trust structures, e.g., CRT, CRUT, CLT;
- Provide trust accounting, including income, expense, trust fee and distribution tracking to appropriate beneficiaries.
INTERACTING WITH EBIS & OUR DELIVERY PROCESS
We firmly believe that success in financial planning means choosing a partnership based in trust, mutual respect, and open dialogue. We encourage you to get to know us; determine if those attributes are ones you see in our interactions. Financial planning is really an intimate disclosure and review of many aspects of your life, one you must be comfortable with in order to embrace and implement the recommendations that flow from it. We strive to be fact-based yet compassionate, doing our best to blend the science of planning with the art of effective listening, thoughtful communication and emotional intelligence.
We follow a repeatable delivery process to ensure all pertinent facts are gathered, analyzed and translated into a financial plan specific to your situation. That delivery process is outlined below.
As an important note, the eBIS financial planning solution is delivered in one of two ways: 1) as part of our Investment Management solution, in which case all financial planning services are included in our fee-only assets under management (AUM) charge (depending on total assets) and documented in your custom Investment Policy Statement (IPS), or 2) as a stand-alone documented financial plan, charged by the hour, without implementation services. Our financial plans cover each of the 7 subject areas outlined above.
eBIS provides a free initial consultation to any potential financial planning client. We will explain our planning philosophy and process, answer any questions you have, and provide initial feedback on your financial situation, the details of which are always held in confidence, backed by our non-disclosure policy and Privacy Statement. We also provide you with our regulatory form ADV Part 2, which details in plain english every aspect of our firm, including business practices, investment and planning philosophy and fees. The initial consultation is free of cost, obligation, and pressure; our goal is to help you and provide the information you need to make an informed decision. We are available after the initial consultation for follow-up questions and dialogue, as much as needed.
As a Registered Investment Adviser (RIA), our fees for financial planning are always fee-only, either a tiered percentage based on the amount of assets we manage for you or an hourly bill rate for a documented financial plan. We bill clients directly and do not receive 3rd party compensation in any form.
DISCOVERY & FINANCIAL PLAN DESIGN
Should you decide to become a client, we jointly execute an Account Agreement, outlining such items as our fiduciary duty to you, our non-disclosure/confidentiality policy, and fee schedule. Then, we initialize our discovery process. We ask each client to fill out a series of online surveys that gives us, as planners, the information necessary to make informed recommendations. Questions in the surveys cover subjects like personal information, goals, education needs, tax circumstances, and perspectives on risk.
As a firm, we employ the Socratic method of maieutics, allowing your input to, in large part, determine our recommendations for you. We don’t claim to know a single best path for every client, instead focusing on your circumstances based on your input. The data from this set of surveys gives us the foundation on which to compile your financial plan. We may reach out to you or your other professional advisers (tax accountant, estate attorney, etc.) for dialogue and clarification on certain points.
If you are an Investment Management client, your financial plan is embedded in the custom Investment Policy Statement that we formulate for you. If you engage with us solely for a financial plan, we will deliver a documented financial plan covering all 7 planning topics as the deliverable from our process and meet with you to discuss all recommendations.
MAINTENANCE & COMMUNICATION
Financial planning is a living and breathing process, one that is very fluid and can change unexpectedly through time. As a result, we encourage clients to contact us to revisit their financial plan whenever variables in their life change: new job, marriage, children, incapacitated parent, etc. At a minimum, we distribute an annual “change” survey, prompting you to inform us of any changes in your life pertinent to your financial plan. We will update our recommendations in your financial plan with the new information and engage you as appropriate.
Financial planning clients, and any interested parties designated by them, receive ongoing communication from eBIS through news releases, blog posts on investment topics, and email distributions concerning administrative items. In addition, we are available throughout the year to answer questions as they arise. We aspire to exceed your client service expectations and look forward to hearing from you.