What Does It Cost to Die?

Okay, a strange question, but hey if you aren’t thinking about it now, when you die your poor family will be and they won’t like what you have not prepared for. Here’s why…

A recent survey of funeral homes shows the average cost for a funeral is $7,500.  In New York and California it is twice that much! Iowa and Oklahoma is a bit less than this amount. The point is, however, that dying is darned expensive!! 

We all know how emotional it can be to have a loved one pass away, but to put that kind of cash burden on family on top of that emotional stress is awful.

Some time back, I attended a funeral and sat with the surviving family members.  They talked openly about the funeral and burial costs and how they didn’t know anything about how to proceed so they just let the funeral home make all the decisions for them about their father.  In retrospect, they regretted that decision, so they met as a family to talk about what they could have done better to make the death of their father more bearable and less financially taxing.

Here are the things they discussed that they didn’t do or didn’t urge their father to do before he died that would make a difference if they did do them for other family members upon their deaths:

  1. Make a list of all assets and where they were located.
  2. Record who is in charge of each particular asset and the ongoing expenses for that asset.
  3. Determine whether assets can be sold upon death and what the tax implications might be upon sale.

Another thing they had  not planned on was the cost of an attorney to help settle their father’s affairs. They decided they could not navigate the court system, organize a funeral, and meet with the tax preparer all at the same time, so they approached an attorney they knew who said he could handle all these matters for them quickly and simply.  This sounded attractive to each of the four members of the family so they hired this attorney and started to do his assignments. However, they soon found the list of to-do’s becoming longer and longer and the cost to retain this attorney more and more prohibitive. If their father had done some of this work before his death and helped his family members be prepared to settle his estate, hiring an attorney for this length of time would have been totally unnecessary.

The family finally reached out to Money Mastery and we are coaching them on how to gather all the financial information simply, effectively, and without the high cost of an attorney. 

As they have followed the Money Mastery program, their heads are starting to clear and they are more openly discussing as a family what to do going forward as other loved ones pass away. It has created a healthy respect for each other and in the end they have all now recorded what they each want done in the case of their own deaths. They are determined not to let this happen to them again.

For more information on how to properly organize and settle your estate contact me directly:

How to Prepare Financially for 2017

Goals are helpful but everyone always complains about how hard New Year’s resolutions are to keep.  So what can you do to make the New Year financially successful and ensure that goals you set in January don’t end up on the back burner by February?  Here are some of my thoughts about money and personal organization that can bring a lot of success to your financial life in 2017:

New Year Challenge: During the first month of the year, sit down with your spouse and start the discussion by announcing that you are dead, at least on paper. Then begin asking him or her the following thought-provoking questions and see how many of them they can answer without any prompting from you. This little exercise will reveal just how organized you are financially (oh, and how well you can communicate about such things).

  1. How much life insurance do I have on my life?
  2. Where is the policy?
  3. Who is the agent to call and report my death?
  4. How much debt do I have?
  5. Will you have to sell the house or refinance the mortgage, and how do you find out which you will need to do?
  6. Do I have any savings or safety deposit boxes?
  7. What investments do I have?
  8. Do I have a will or trust?
  9. How long will it take to clear assets and take ownership of the trust
  10. Who is the executor of my estate?
  11. Do I have a burial plot paid for?
  12. Does anyone owe me money, and how can you find out?
  13. Where do I keep my tax returns and who prepares them?
  14. Does Social Security pay a death benefit to you upon my death?
  15. How much will Social Security pay you when I die, and why/when?
  16. What attorney should you use and what will be his/her average costs to settle the estate?
  17. Where will the funeral be held and what will it cost?

Now you may be thinking that some of these questions most couples would know the answer to, together. But you might be surprised by how many spouses stay completely out of the finances and let the other partner handle everything. When their spouse dies, they have no idea what to do or what problems they may have to handle.  Asking these questions gets you both thinking and gives you a chance to review exactly what each partner knows or doesn’t know and what needs to be done to get on top of things financially so BOTH people are taking responsibility for the financial success of the marriage.

I urge yo to take this challenge in the New Year as a catalyst for getting completely and totally organized financially. For more ideas on financial organization, contact me at The Money Mastery Master Planner organizational system I use personally and with my clients will totally change your life and help make 2017 the best year ever!

Planning for Your Own Death Is Important, But Seldom Done…

Carve out some time to discuss your financial situation in the event you die.  What are your wishes?  What cemetery will you be buried in?  Have you titled your property correctly so you don’t have to wait for the probate court to decide things for two years?  How should you designate a beneficiary?  Why and when do you need an attorney?

Beyond these very big, but standard issues let me just point out one other discussion point that perhaps you have never thought to discuss in preparation for your death:  Create a document and determine a location in which to store this document for passwords and other absolutely important information.  Passwords give your surviving family members access to bank accounts, utilities, insurance products, and so forth.  Be sure the document includes account numbers and other vital information to go along with the password. I review my key contacts with my spouse each January so we are both up-to-date about auto and homeowner’s insurance policies. We also review the current Screen shot 2016-06-03 at 1.42.28 PMstatus of our living trust, along with any agreements we may have entered into.  I update the password document and make sure PIN numbers, where to find birth and marriage certificates, titles to the car, where the key to our safety deposit box is kept, and other important information are included. That way, if I die, my spouse knows what’s going on, and when we both die, our kids can more easily settle our estate.

We all pass away, so why not plan for this?  Save time and money by getting organized in advance and do like the elementary schools do by establishing a quarterly financial “fire drill” so to speak.  If the elementary school caught on fire, small children have practiced what they would do to save their life.  Most schools don’t catch on fire, but you will surely die.  This is a certain event just like taxes.  Save grief and headache for your survivors by planning ahead and then review for any changes at least once a year.

Getting to Know Your Financial Adviser Will Bring Peace at Time of Spouse’s Death

Almost 75 percent of all widows fire their financial adviser immediately upon the death of their spouse because there is no relationship of trust.  In over 45 years of meeting with client, I have often seen the wife resist talking about death and will sometimes have an excuse about missing the meeting when we are going to be discussing estate settlement. She will say something like, “My husband will take care of all this.”  Or, “Bill will catch me up to date later.”  This is a serious mistake.

When a spouse passes away,  financial issues must be addressed or the costs of not doing so can destroy the widow’s future.  If you are a woman who has relied a little too much on your husband to take care of the finances, now is the time to get comfortable with estate planning and settlement and especially with how your finances are going to be play out after your spouse’s death.

Here are some of the issues widows and widowers must deal with after death:

  1. Titling of property.
  2. The need for at least 12 death certificates (many people order just one but find they must submit an original in order to claim Social Security benefits, or life insurance proceeds, and so forth. If you do not get an appropriate amount at death and have to reorder, it can take months before additional ones are issued. Meanwhile, you can’t file insurance claims or get Social Security income.
  3. The need for a joint banking account. So, for example, if a refund check in the name of her spouse arrives from a magazine subscription  six months later, she can deposit it.  Perhaps a refund check is sent in the name of her deceased husband from an over payment on an insurance contract, or a business debt is paid.  There are many examples of why a joint banking account is needed.

All of these things and many more are reasons why having a good relationship with a qualified financial adviser can help you when your spouse dies.  Using the old “trial-and-error” technique on 50 financial issues upon the death of your spouse is a horrible experience.  Find a good adviser you trust, then review ALL financial issues annually. Planning ahead will help you find peace at a time of grieving. 

For more information about financial coaching and how it can help you even more than just a good financial adviser, contact me:

You Will Never Get More than 26 Cents on Every Dollar from Your 401(k)

Most people take a traditional approach and save retirement money in a 401(k), 403(b), or TSP.  When they retire and start taking their income, they get so nervous about running out of money that when they die, they have only used 26 cents of every $1 .  Statistics show that when you are being careful and only take out enough money to live on, when you die you will still have the majority of that money left in your savings.  For example, if you have been able to save $400,000, you will die with about $300,000 left if you withdraw too caustiously.  Maybe in your case, you’ve only saved $100,000 or $200,000, but the point is, you will have a large amount of money left in the account when you die if you don’t use money wisely during your entire retirement period. This “left over” money could have helped you enjoy retirement so much more.  Why do millions of people play this game, only to receive 26 percent of their hard-earned money?  This scene plays out all across the nation and you are the main act.

Ask your grandparents or a CPA or an estate planning attorney, and youshutterstock_261713222 will find that every retiree gets nervous about out-living their money, so they spend as little as possible.  When you decided to put your savings into a 401(k), you deferred your taxes.  We all know this.  And by deferring your taxes, you have more money in this retirement account.  The number will be bigger, of course because of the taxes you did not have to pay.  As you reach retirement with more money, you feel rewarded.

Now comes the rude awakening at retirement:  You will prepare monthly withdrawals to pay living expenses and find that if you draw out a certain amount you will run out of money in the 8th year.  Perhaps you lower this retirement income withdrawal amount and push that  7 years to 23 years.  This is an improvement, but in 23 years you will be 88.   What happens when you are still living at age 94, like my mother?  So you are forced to adjust this income amount downward once again, and finally get your income to last until age 95.

But this places two huge problem squarely upon your shoulders:

  1. Now you are hoping to die before you run out of money.
  2. And now you must figure out how to live on this lower amount.

This lower amount forces you to spend less, be very careful not to travel any more, be careful when buying a new car.  You have to change things up and always be thinking in terms of what you can’t do, where you can’t go, and many other things you thought you might be able to do when you were working.

GameOverYour story ends here:  You saved money your entire life and now you will be careful how you spend and then die before age 95 with three-quarters of all your money going to your loved ones.  Beneficiaries are the ones who receive this “left-over” retirement money and will pay up to 50 percent of what they receive in taxes.

Example:  If your beneficiaries have an annual income of $60,000 and they add your retirement income of say $100,000 for this example, they will pay tax on $160,000.  Therefore, of your 100,000, they only receive $50,000 of it after tax.  How do you feel about that?  Who just got screwed on this deal?  Answer:  You!  And you are dead.  You will have been buried 6 feet into the ground and have no influence on anything.  All your hard work and saving money goes unrewarded in this case. You were only able to use 26 cents on each dollar you saved, while passing on the rest.  Although your beneficiaries receive this money, it forces them to pay half of it in taxes because of the added tax bracket your money caused them.

No one is left alive who knows your story.  No one knows how hard you worked and saved and went without, just so you could save money towards your future but then only get 26 cents on the dollar.  You worked hard to save, and now you will scrimp and save at retirement, only to die and pay the government the absolute maximum amount of taxes possible.  Because of this extra tax you will only get 26 Cents of every one of your own dollars.

What’s the Solution?

My solution is don’t do a 401(k).  If your employer matches your contribution, only deposit enough for the match.  When changing employment, you are allowed to roll over this money into an IRA, or convert it to a tax-free Roth IRA.  There are other options, but for this short discussion, I implore you not to voluntarily participate in a 401(k) unless all your work is only worth 26 percent of your time.

For more information on what I can do to help you plan for a real retirement, email me today for a no-cost consultation: or go to for more info.

Why Organizing Your Finances Is So Important

Perhaps you feel like you’re drowning in debt right now or can’t get your spending under control, so a discussion on the importance of financial organization may not seem very relevant to you. But no matter your financial state, whether on top of things and looking for ways to generate more cash flow, or struggling to pay the bills, financial organization is for everyone.

Financial organization is essential to ordering and controlling some of the complex issues that surround finances. It is also vital if additional wealth is going to be created and most importantly, retained.

I have found over several years of coaching that most people have a financial junk drawer, sort of like this one:

Organizing Finances: JunkIf you were to examine your own financial junk drawer what would it look like? Perhaps it would resemble this picture where a mishmash of important financial and legal documents have been tossed. Financial success demands that you adopt an organizational system that will help you get rid of this junk drawer and arrange and order your financial life. Once a system is in place, disorganization and procrastination will diminish, making it much easier for you to get out of debt, start saving for the future, and even create more wealth.
  • Organization will help you sort out complex emotional thoughts and feelings related to money.
  • Organization will help you make good spending decisions.Organization will help you make good investment choices.
  • Organization will help you get out of debt – quickly!
  • Organization creates additional wealth because it helps you make the most out of the hard-earned assets you create through good long-term planning.

One of the most important ways to get organized financially is to look at how your money and assets are taxed and to get your estate in order so that it can be settled easily upon your death.

To get properly organized, you should work on each of the following three areas:
  1. Personal Organization: This kind of organization is where you get your household and personal and family life in order; important documents and paperwork are filed so that you can find them quickly and so that if you die, your family doesn’t have a nightmare ahead of them in settling things.
  2. Estate Organization: This is where you determine your personal net worth by completing asset schedules for property, real estate, bank accounts, and so forth. When you know how much you are (or are not) worth, you will be motivated to get out of debt so that you can be worth something or to learn how to vigorously protect your wealth from taxes, bad decisions, and market downturns.
  3. Estate Settlement: This kind of organization makes it easy for your family to distribute money, property, and special family heirlooms to those you want them to go to. Getting organized here also gives you the opportunity to write down your life history and express feelings to loved ones, and to let family know how you want your funeral and final arrangements to go.
If you are thinking about getting better organized financially, contact me for more ideas:, 801-292-1099.

What Are the Financial Risks Associated with Your Death?

When will you die?  That seems to be a stupid question, because nobody knows when they will die.  But what if you died tomorrow?  If you knew for absolute surety that you would be gone tomorrow, what would you do today?  Now that you have some thoughts in front of you, overlay all your financial concerns associated with such questions. What would your death mean financially to your loved ones?  What money issues would they face because you are gone?

What we leave behind when we die is called our “legacy.” What will be the legacy you leave your family? What will be your community legacy or your spiritual legacy? What will be your financial legacy? Will your death be a hardship for loved ones? Once you allow yourself to contemplate such questions, you will begin to get a whole lot more concerned with what you want to have happen and what you don’t wantmy-goals to have happen when you die. As you make a list of things that you need to do to ensure the outcome you desire, this list becomes a high priority and you will realize you have to begin working on it now if you want to leave behind a legacy you can be proud of.

Here is a partial checklist designed to help you think about some items that you may need to take care of now before it’s too late:

1. Get cash reserves in place that will be enough to pay your debts and bury you.

2. Ensure you have enough income for dependents, i.e. life insurance.

3. Create a will and/or trust declaring your final wishes.

4. Name a guardian for your minor children and be sure this is in your will and/or trust.

5. Get assets organized in one place with instructions for your heirs on how they need to be distributed.

6. Prepare final/funeral wishes and final goodbyes (letters to loved one, life history, “emotional” legacies, etc.).

7. Record passwords and access instructions to computers that have information about your personal and financial information so that it won’t be difficult for your loved ones to sort out your affairs.

8. Bequeath special items, like a gun to a son, or china and furniture to daughters, etc.

20429. Make amends with anyone you feel you have offended or that has offended you.

10. Arrange photographs with descriptions so your family can continue to pass these along knowing what they are about.

Don’t get depressed over this subject, just get prepared.  What I have done for the last several years, when someone asks a favor of me, is to ask them for a favor in return by being willing to come to my funeral.  I wait to see if I get a verbal yes, and then don’t push the issue. In one such instance, a young man I had helped in the Boy Scout program played the piano really well.  I was so impressed I asked him if he would be willing to play at my funeral.  He reluctantly said yes.  So I offered money, to see what he would say.  “I will be happy to pay you $25 now, or name your price, if you will play.”  He smiled and said “no, I will be happy to do this.” He said I had helped him with his Scouting activities a ton, so there would be no charge.  Sometimes it’s good to think about how you want to be remembered when you die rather than worry so much about all that’s happening around you right now, then get prepared, spiritually, socially, and financially for your desired outcome.

Few people get prepared for what will be a certain event.  In my experience, this kind of preparation really helps leave good memories and alleviates a whole lot of financial worry while you are still alive.

What If I Died Tonight?

It’s never easy to think about your own death.

But if you’re smart and you want to create even more wealth for you and your loved ones, you’ll put aside those uncomfortable feelings and imagine what life would be like for your family financially if you suddenly died tonight, killed in a car accident, let’s suppose, on your way home from the office.

You’re dead…now what? Who would own your car? What name is on the title? In whose name is the house? What would happen to your children? Whose names are on your bank accounts? Could your spouse get to the money in them? Would your spouse have any way to support the family? What about your burial…will that be problematic and emotionally difficult for your family because you didn’t make any decisions about your final wishes? Would your family know how you want your assets distributed?

These are tough questions that are worth asking now, while you can. That’s how the rich get rich and stay that way — they contemplate how their life, and death, will affect others. They think about the future and plan ways to protect valuable assets. They shutterstock 2_160261025differ from the average consumer who, as Gloria Steinem put it, “plans for Saturday night, [while] rich people plan for four generations!”

Even though everyone knows they need to address these important financial planning issues, most people put it off. Statistics show that only two in every seven families have a will made out in writing, and of those, only 20 percent are wills that have been updated in the last five years. And what if both you and your spouse die unexpectedly and leave minor children behind? If you have not made provisions to care for them, any money available in your estate could be drastically reduced by court costs as legal proceedings ensue about who will be guardian for your children. Many people assume that family members will have automatic rights to their children if they should die, but this simply isn’t so.  The state in which you live will apply its child protection laws to your case, forcing all family members involved to be screened by the state in order to determine who will actually end up being guardians over the children.  And what about a trust?  A simple will can protect minor children but doesn’t go far in protecting your family from probate and from the decisions of the court as a trust can often do.

By taking the time to organize your finances and plan how you want your estate handled at your death, you can avoid the cost and hassle of such things as probate, appraisal fees, forced sales, and exceptionally high federal and state inheritance tax.


How to Get Started… 

One of the best ways to start organizing your finances is to “kill” yourself on paper. Work through each financial issue from your burial, to life insurance payouts, to the way your assets are titled, and see what kind of problems your family might encounter for which you have not prepared.

One of the best ways to deal with any problems you uncover is to utilize estate organizing tools.  You should look for an organizational system that is comprehensive in nature, and includes sections that will prompt HourGlassyou to take care of every area of your financial life, including how you spend, pay down debt, pay taxes, run your business, and manage your estate.  It should help you easily order and store in one place, all essential estate planning and distribution information including copies of wills, trusts, and other important documents.  A comprehensive system that has all vital information organized into one place allows an estate planning attorney to quickly and efficiently review your information, thus saving valuable attorney’s fees.

What happens when organizing tools are not utilized? One of my clients, I’ll call Frederick, declined to take my advice in organizing all his paperwork into a comprehensive system. When he passed away, his daughter, inexperienced in settling an estate, spent countless hours listing assets, getting appraisals, and updating financial information. It cost her thousands of dollars more than it needed to and hours of wasted time.

To learn more about proper estate organization and planning that go into the type of comprehensive detail you really need to protect your family when you die, call me (888) 292-1099, ext. 1.  I welcome your comments or questions.

The Importance of Setting Up a Trust, No Matter How Much Money You Do, or Don’t Have

Recently I reviewed and updated my trust.  I learned again how important it is to get organized and stay that way.  So many situations change in our life requiring that we adjust and keep up to date.  Many years ago I witnessed a family with several financial needs, but when their husband and father died they couldn’t get any assets for two years while the probate court was appraising and declaring who would ultimately receive these assets.  I watched this family struggle for a long time before the small business the father owned could be sold and some assets became available.  If he had set up a living trust before he died, nothing would have delayed any part of the operation of the business.  I watched the value of this business go from $500,000 down to a probated amount after two years of court nonsense of $42,000.  A living trust could have prevented all of this.

Here is why a trust is so important, as outlined to me by my attorney:

  • Upon your death, a trust lets your heirs skip probate court and all the costs of an attorney and appraisals, not to mention the time it will take to settle your estate without a trust (up to 2 years beforeCemetery assets are distributed). 
  • All your financial affairs are kept private.
  • The trust spells out who your beneficiaries are and when they can receive money and assets.  For minor children this is a must.
  • With a trust, you can name guardians for your minor children that a judge will not have to rule upon in court if both you and your spouse die at the same time — whomever you have named can take immediate custody of your children and have all legal rights to care for them.
  • A trust includes a “pour-over will” that allows you to include assets that you forgot to specifically name in the trust.  
  • A trust can provide a power of attorney in case you become incapacitated and need someone else to manage your affairs.
  • A trust can provide a medical directive, giving someone you have named authority to make decisions about your health care.
  • If you have a child that is handicapped, a trust can spell out the resources you want used to take care of his/her needs. (Keep in mind there are two types of trusts: a revocable trust which is  changeable during your lifetime, and an irrevocable trust, which cannot be changed. If you have a special needs child and need to lock down assets to manage their care, then be sure to set up an irrevocable trust.)

A living trust works like a quarterback on a football team.  You appoint a trustee, someone who will direct all the affairs of the trust assets. Usually you will be that trustee while you are living (you can name a successor trustee to take your place upon death; this could be your spouse, a child, or a trusted friend).  The terms of the trust allow you to 18284distribute 100 percent of your assets at death and there the trust ends, or it can continue on as a “living trust” and only distribute the earnings the assets accrue over time. The terms of the trust can be anything you wish, so give some thought to what you want.  One example is a lady who never married and had no children and loved her cats.  In her trust, she provided for their lifetime care after she passed.  Another example is the Kennedy family — the living trust Joseph Kennedy set up before his death is still in existence today and provides college education to all his family members.

The disadvantage of a living trust is the expense of setting one up.  They can cost more than $1,000 when you use an attorney.  However, if your assets are simple and you want to do-it-yourself, then I recommend using   They do a great job and will set up a calendar to remind you of changes in the law that might suggest an amendment to your trust to keep it compliant with your state laws.  The cost of this is about $500.  Just remember the state you live in has its own rules.  You can learn them, with some help, and set up a trust with guardianships, power of attorney and medical directives.

Once you have set up your trust, be sure to review it annually and make adjustments as needed.  Remember, a trust is to make an event that you know will happen — your death — easier for the loved ones you leave behind, protected from legal and court wranglings, and from unfair taxation.  Nobody gets out of this life alive and for sure, we can’t take anything with us so get organized now and save yourself and loved ones a lot of grief.

What to Do about Your Parents’ “Stuff” When they Die

Just last week I was listening to an estate planning attorney, Lee S. McCullough, III, tell of his discovery of the best system to divide up possessions after both parents have passed away.  Considering he has had tons of experience with hundreds of family settlements, I took very good notes.

McCullough has observed over the years how dividing up stuff after the death of a parent is emotional…very emotional. Hearts are saddened.  Time is short and there are many things to do. Surviving children must plan the funeral, prepare the obituary, take care of the parents’ house, be sure items that have been given by parents to surviving family members via wills/trusts have been  distributed, and so forth.

But what about all the other items in a household that have not been 8268bequeathed to anyone in particular but will still need to be divided up, such as kitchen appliances, furniture, dishes, etc.? To bring order to all this chaos, McCullough suggests holding a “family auction” where items that have not already been bequeathed can be bid on using fake money.

Here are his suggestions for holding the family auction:

  1. Establish ground rules.  Print them and have everyone review them in advance of holding an auction.
  2. Make a comprehensive list of all assets to be auctioned off.  Be sure each surviving child, or grandchild, reviews this list and knows what they really want the most.  Prioritize assets.
  3. Children only. Only have the children (or grandchildren as appropriate) of the deceased parents attend the auction.  No spouses are permitted.  This is very important.
  4. Distribute fake money.  Give out $20,000 of fake money to spend during the bidding process.  Every person gets an equal chance to bid for what they want.  When the $20,000 is spent but8259 more assets are available, only then consider distributing another $10,000 to each participant.  Everyone gets the same amount of fake money.

McCullough stresses that because surviving children will never have equal incomes and equal cash assets, the fake money auction is the best way to go in order to avoid hurt feelings among siblings.  Some families decide to hold an actual real-money auction where siblings bid against the “real evaluation” of the assets.  For example, there may be a baby-grand piano, which may have a value set at $5,000.  A cash-rich child can dominate the auction trying to buy the piano and create hurt feelings among other siblings.   Fake money levels the playing field.

McCullough has watched this play out over and over again.  He said that children learn very quickly how to prioritize the fake $20,000 so they can get what they want.  Also, he said there has not been the usual remorse after an auction is over, because if one of the surviving children really wanted something, they could have raised their bid amount and spent more of their $20,000 to get it.

We all know that money is emotional.  We all hear about how families get torn apart trying to divide up their parents’ stuff after a funeral.  By using fake money, holding  an auction, and keeping spouses out of the picture, you can keep your family members grounded emotionally and help set the tone for family harmony at a time when hearts are tender.