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Where to Store Your Legal Documents

After you meet with an attorney and have your estate planning documents prepared, you must decide where to store them so that your wishes are executed properly upon your passing.

Original Will vs. Holographic Will

The original will is the legal document that you signed; a holographic will is simply a handwritten will or a copy of the will that isn’t the original. Handwritten wills are only allowed in a few states, so it’s important to have the proper document.

If there’s a chance that family or friends might contest your will, then ensuring that the original will is accessible to the court is very important. While a copy of the will carries weight in court and can reinforce a claim, an original document is more likely to prevail if someone challenges your estate.

Where Should the Documents Be Stored?

Because the original will is such an important document, especially in the case of a contested estate, storing it in a safe place is paramount. There are a number of options for storage, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. read more…

Taking Control of Your Household Budget

All households, no matter their income, must decide how best to allocate their resources and manage their budgets. These decisions can be difficult as they require balancing immediate desires and short-term needs with savings and long-term investments. But having an intentional conversation about this topic allows you to commit to a plan that can help you achieve your future financial goals and ultimately provide greater control over your resources.

Developing a household budget requires understanding your regular revenues (employment income, investment income, rental income, etc.) and expenses (mortgage, monthly groceries, car payment, etc.). You also need to identify your long-term financial goals and any irregular expenses you expect in the near future, such as a major vacation. With this information in hand, you’re ready to develop a monthly household budget. In the budget, you determine how your revenues should be allocated to the various expenses and other goals. This approach is systematic and allows you to evaluate your spending, saving and investing needs together.

Where to Start?

First, list all your expenses. Start with your fixed costs, which are set amounts paid each month, such as a house mortgage or rent, car payment, cell phone bill, child care costs, etc. Next, list your variable expenses, which are expenses that occur each month, but the dollar amount varies, such as groceries, gas, entertainment, etc. Utilities may be variable or fixed, depending on the utility, but be sure to include them.

You should also brainstorm items that occur inconsistently throughout the year, but where saving each month would be helpful, such as travel, home improvement, clothing, etc. If you’re planning to save more for retirement, make note of that as well so you remember to plan for that monthly contribution. read more…

Mega Backdoor Roth IRA Explained!

Most employees are aware they can contribute to their employer’s retirement plan through pre-tax and Roth contributions. Employees can contribute up to $18,500 a year ($24,500 if age 50 or older) from their paychecks. What people are less aware of is whether their retirement plan allows for additional after-tax contributions beyond this limit.

It turns out that many retirement plans permit you to contribute an additional $20,000 after-tax a year to the plan, which can be converted tax-free to Roth at your convenience. This more than doubles what most individuals can contribute to their retirement plan to $38,500, which goes much further in working toward replacing your income in retirement. This benefit is even greater when both spouses have this option available. read more…

The Importance of Having a Will

As Wealth Advisors, we provide advice on all aspects of your financial situation, and work with a network of carefully selected professionals in taxes, estate planning and insurance to devise appropriate solutions that will help you achieve your goals. This article is a collaboration between Merriman Advisor Geoff Curran and Evan Monez, attorney at Montgomery Purdue Blankinship & Austin PLLC, who is one such member of our professional network team.


Though we try to stave off the inevitable as long as we can, it’s a fact of life that eventually, everyone dies. When this occurs, the deceased person’s family, while still grieving their loss, must deal with the transfer of the decedent’s assets. If you don’t have estate planning documents in place when your time comes, the laws of the state you live in determine how your estate is distributed. This is especially complex if you have children under age 18, children from previous marriages, property in different states or an estate large enough to be subject to federal or state estate taxes.

With some advance planning, you can ensure your assets pass as you intend, with as little trouble as possible for your loved ones. This article discusses Washington State law, and the rules discussed here may differ in other states. Please consult a licensed attorney in your state to understand how your state laws apply to the concepts in this article. read more…

How Required Minimum Distributions Work!

When you reach age 70½, or you inherit a retirement account you plan on stretching the life of, you’re legally required to take an annual withdrawal called a required minimum distribution (RMD) from your retirement account. Failure to take your RMD results in a 50% penalty on the RMD. Below is a list of frequently asked questions regarding required minimum distributions.

When do I have to take my first RMD?

You must take your first required minimum distribution by April 1 of the year after you turn 70½. For example, if you turn 70½ on December 15, 2017, you need to take your first RMD by April 1, 2018. Keep in mind that if you wait until 2018 to take your first RMD in this example, you would have to take two RMDs that year. Since two RMDs in one year could push you up into a higher tax bracket, it’s advisable to take your first RMD by December 31 of the year you turn 70½.

What accounts do I have to take an RMD from?

RMDs apply to pre-tax retirement accounts such as Traditional IRA, Rollover IRA, SEP IRA, Simple IRA, 403(b), 457, and 401(k)s. RMDs do not apply to Roth IRAs.

Current law does require RMDs be taken from Roth 401(k)s, but you can easily avoid this by rolling that account into a Roth IRA. read more…

The Importance of Integrating Your Retirement Plans into a Household-Wide Allocation

For many households, their workplace retirement plan(s) are a large and important part of their retirement nest egg. These retirement plans represent anywhere from 10% to 100% of one’s retirement savings. Since for many families it represents greater than 50% of their retirement savings, how your retirement plan is invested has a big impact on your ability to reach your financial goals.

If, for example, your retirement plan is invested too conservatively in bonds and stable value mutual funds, you may not be exposed to the fluctuations of the stock market. However, you’re at a greater risk of not growing your account to meet your inflation-adjusted spending needs in retirement. Similarly, if invested too aggressively in, say, all small company stocks, your investments may be exposed to more stock market risk than your retirement spending plan requires. Often households invest their workplace retirement plans in a generic mix of stock and bond mutual funds or default into the target date retirement fund that most closely matches the year they turn age 65.

When creating a retirement spending plan, whether on your own or with an advisor, the asset allocation (mix of stocks and bonds) required to meet your goals is something you can control, which has been proven to have the greatest impact on your results. If you have investments outside of your employer retirement plan, such as an individual retirement account (IRA) and/or a taxable investment account, these accounts should be coordinated with your employer retirement plan.

By incorporating your retirement plans into your overall allocation, you can pick the best investment options available in your retirement plan and manage your wealth like it’s one portfolio, instead of viewing accounts separately.

Benefits of viewing all your accounts as one portfolio can include: read more…

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