Robo Advisors have arrived, but life often calls for a Human Touch

Money Matters

After years of development, numerous robo advisors have entered the world of investment management. Still, many investors may not fully understand exactly what robos do, or how they do it. A robo advisor is a digital platform that uses advanced algorithms (based on various financial models and assumptions) to select and manage investments. To keep costs relatively low, portfolios are typically composed of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds that track market indexes. The recommended allocations, available strategies, and various other features can differ significantly from one service to another. To start the process, the investor fills out a standard online questionnaire designed to determine his or her risk tolerance and investment objectives. The software builds a portfolio with a mix of assets that align with the client’s stated short- and long-term financial goals, such as saving for a home purchase, a child’s college expenses, or retirement. This kind of cutting-edge technology may be especially appealing to younger investors, who are more comfortable with managing their lives on electronic devices — and who may not have as much at stake. However, some risks may not be fully understood. Robo advisors have yet to be tested by an economic downturn or times of extreme market volatility, when panicked and/or inexperienced investors may be more likely to abandon their investment strategies without a familiar voice to guide them through the storm.

A financial advisor can provide personalized, face-to-face guidance to clients as they accumulate wealth and their needs become more complex. To put it simply, there are still some critical things that people can do better than computers.

  1. Get to know their clients. The true value of a financial advisor may lie in emotional intelligence and interaction. When personal relationships are formed, advisors gain insight into each client’s unique financial picture, including their priorities, pressing concerns, and psychological tendencies.
  2. Offer more choices & comprehensive service. Robo advisors can manage investment assets for less than the fees normally charged by personal financial advisors. But robo services are typically limited to portfolio management, and their reliance on ETFs and mutual funds means that investors may not have access to individual stocks and bonds, or to some types of alternative investments and strategies.
  3. Provide accountability & perspective. What happens when an investor veers off track and is not making sufficient progress toward his or her stated financial goals? While it may be easy to ignore the recommendations of a robo advisor, it might be more difficult to disregard a trusted advisor. The prospect of regular checkups with a real person who cares about a client’s future might inspire more realistic decisions about spending and saving. A financial advisor typically can keep clients better informed by discussing the financial issues that matter to them, which may help give them more confidence in their decisions.

 – Hal B. Holland, Jr., RFC®

Vice President, Senior Advisor

Vision Financial Group 

4505 Pine Tree Circle, Birmingham, AL 35243

205-970-4909, www.vision-financialgroup.com

Prepared by Broadridge Communication Solutions, Inc. Investment advisory services offered through Investment Advisors, a division of ProEquities, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.  Securities offered through ProEquities Inc., a registered broker-dealer and member of FINRA and SIPC.  Vision Financial Group, Inc. and West Alabama Bank are independent of ProEquities, Inc. Securities and insurance products offered are not bank deposits, have no bank guarantee, are not FDIC insured, and may lose value.Prepared for: Save New Client

 

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Using a Trust to Protect Your Children from Divorce & Creditors

Using a Trust to Protect Your Children from Divorce & Creditors

Legal Matters

presented by: Bradford & Holliman, Estate Planning

Parents frequently ask us how they can leave their assets to their children when they die without those assets being vulnerable to a child later divorcing or having problems with debt. The sentiments expressed by the parents are almost always the same: “We want our child to have our assets, we do not want an ex-spouse or creditor to have our assets.”

The typical Last Will and Testament that leaves everything to the child or percentages to children cannot provide this kind of protection because once the assets become the property of a child, they become subject to the laws governing divorce or other debt collection. However, parents can create trusts to hold the assets they leave for children that will protect the assets from divorce or other creditors. These trusts can be set up to provide assets to a child as needed. Since the assets are not placed into the child’s name, the assets do not become the property of the child which would be subject to division or seizure. Of course, not all trusts can accomplish this goal. The trust must contain the right provisions and restrictions to accomplish asset protection for a child.

Parents may choose to use a Last Will and Testament that has the proper trust provisions inside the Will; or, they may choose to use a Revocable Living Trust that completely avoids the probate court process at death while providing protection for the heirs. If you wish to provide protection for children or other heirs, talk with your estate planning attorney to determine the best way to achieve your specific goals.

Melanie Bradford Holliman 

Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC

Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trust.

2491 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, Ala. 35124

205-663-0281, www.bradfordholliman.com

This article is for educational purposes and is not intended for specific legal advice.

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Summer Signals a Great Time to Find Your Dream Home

Summer Signals a Great Time to Find Your Dream Home

The Home Front 

presented by: HomeTown Lenders

For several reasons, summer is a great time to launch your search for a new home. The inventory is broader right now, so you are more likely to find the house that checks off all your dream home boxes. The nicer weather and longer days make house hunting more pleasurable. Plus, if you have children to consider, summer means the kids are more likely to be available to look at homes with you and give you their buy in on home prospects. You also have the advantage of transitioning to your new home while school is out.

But before you start looking, remember to first make sure you are approved for the mortgage loan you will need to make your home dream a reality. Our team here at HomeTown Lenders offers you the most innovative and creative mortgage financing solutions available in our community and we operate from a core belief that “exceeding expectations is the only way to do business.”

We do business:

  • Treating every customer the same
  • Showing respect
  • Taking time to find the loan that is right for the customer
  • Shaking hands
  • Putting a name with a face and becoming friends
  • Celebrating with you in finding the loan you need and being in the home you want.

A home loan is the biggest purchase most of us will ever make so at HomeTown we strive to do what is best for you and treat you like family. In today’s world of “it’s just a click away” wouldn’t you rather put a face with a name? Be able to talk, vent or just ask for the right information from a person that lives in the same city, town you do? Local, hometown support at every stage of home ownership is what we are all about.

Call or visit us today!

Scott Moulton 

Central Alabama Division Manager, HomeTown Lenders

NMLS#40425

“Local, Hometown Support at Every Stage of Home Ownership”

Contact us today for all your mortgage needs.

Call Scott Moulton at 205-986-4200

Visit us at www.htlenders.com

501 Riverchase Parkway East, Suite 200.Birmingham AL, 35244

 

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5 Steps to Handling Finances When Your Spouse Has Died

5 Steps to Handling Finances When Your Spouse Has Died

Money Matters

Losing a spouse is a stressful transition, and the added pressure of having to settle the estate and organize finances can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make dealing with these matters less difficult.

  1. Notify others. When your spouse dies, your first step should be to contact anyone who is close to you and your spouse, and anyone who may help you with funeral preparations. Next, contact your attorney and other financial professionals. These professionals can help you prepare to contact life insurance companies, government agencies, and your spouse’s employer for information on how you can file for benefits.
  2. Get advice. Getting expert advice is essential. An attorney can help you go over your spouse’s will and start estate settlement procedures. Your funeral director may help you obtain copies of the death certificate and applications for Social Security and veterans benefits. Your financial advisor or life insurance agent can assist you with the claims process.
  3. Locate important documents and financial records and keep them organized. Before you can begin to settle your spouse’s estate or apply for insurance proceeds or government benefits, locate important documents and financial records. You may need to obtain certified copies of certain documents. For example, you’ll need a certified copy of your spouse’s death certificate to apply for life insurance proceeds. To apply for Social Security benefits, you’ll need to provide birth, marriage, and death certificates. Having all of the information you need when you need it is important. Start by organizing all the documents by topic area, setting up a file for each. For example, you may want to set up separate files for estate records, insurance, government benefits, tax information, etc. Store your files in a safe but readily accessible place.
  4. Evaluate short-term income and expenses. When your spouse dies, you may have immediate expenses to handle, such as funeral costs or credit card debt. If you expect money from an insurance or estate settlement, it may take time for this money to arrive. Don’t panic- you have several options. If you are a beneficiary of a life insurance policy, you may be able to get the life insurance proceeds soon after you file or ask the insurance company if they’ll give you an advance. In the meantime, you can use credit cards for certain expenses, take out a cash advance against a credit card, or negotiate with creditors to allow you to postpone payment of certain debts for 30 days or more, if necessary.
  5. Avoid hasty decisions. Don’t think about moving from your current home until you can make a decision based on reason rather than emotion. Don’t spend money impulsively, or loan money to others without reviewing your finances first. When you’re grieving, you may be especially vulnerable to pressure from salespeople or others. Finally, don’t make quick decisions about your investment portfolio. Take time to create a financial plan to fit your new life and make sure you are comfortable with the amount of risk you are taking. This may change over time.

Mike Mungenast, Sr. Vice President, Senior Advisor 

Vision Financial Group 

4505 Pine Tree Circle, Birmingham, AL 35243

205-970-4909, www.vision-financialgroup.com

 

 

Prepared by Broadridge Communication Solutions, Inc.

Investment advisory services offered through Investment Advisors, a division of ProEquities, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.  Securities offered through ProEquities Inc., a registered broker-dealer and member of FINRA and SIPC.  Vision Financial Group, Inc. and West Alabama Bank are independent of ProEquities, Inc. Securities and insurance products offered are not bank deposits, have no bank guarantee, are not FDIC insured, and may lose value.

 

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Avoiding Probate When You Die: The Benefits of a Revocable Living Trust

Avoiding Probate When You Die: The Benefits of a Revocable Living Trust

Legal Matters

presented by: Bradford & Holliman, Estate Planning 

Many people prefer to avoid the probate court process stating that they want to avoid the time constraints the court system imposes before distributing to beneficiaries, the cost, and the fact that the contents of a Will are available to the general public for review.  Some try to outsmart the system by making gifts to children and others before death. However, this can have adverse tax consequences. Additionally, gifting is a poor option if there is a need to control how the beneficiary uses the money and assets after your death. For example, do you want your assets to be controlled by a trusted person for a beneficiary if you die or do you want your assets controlled by your ex-spouse for the benefit of your minor child? Do you want to leave assets to your child; but, not to the child’s ex-spouse in the event of a divorce?  Do you have an adult child that has substance abuse issues or poor money management problems? Are you worried that your spouse might re-marry and not leave your assets to your children?

An appropriate option to avoid probate and to address all of these complicated issues is the use of a revocable living trust. The trust is a contract that you create that has the terms that would normally be contained in a Will. At death, the person you name as a successor trustee steps into the role of trustee and begins to carry out the document according to its instructions without court interference. Your wishes can be implemented quickly and privately. Further, the cost is generally much cheaper than the cost of probating. A trust, allowing you to avoid probate and create conditions for how and when money and assets are to be used or given to beneficiaries can be complicated; but, an experienced estate planning attorney can help you to create a plan that will carry out your wishes and make it easy on your family at your death.

Melanie Bradford Holliman 

Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC

Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trust.

2491 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, Ala. 35124

205-663-0281, www.bradfordholliman.com

This article is for educational purposes and is not intended for specific legal advice.

 

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Getting the Most Out of Your Landscape Investment with DSLD

Getting the Most Out of Your Landscape Investment with DSLD

Special Feature

presented by: DSLD Land Management

We all know how important first impressions can be. It can be the make or break point of walking out of an interview with your dream job or walking away empty handed. What you may not realize is that first impressions are just as important for houses as they are for people. Landscaping – or “curb appeal” as some people like to call it – can mean the difference between a buyer stopping to take a closer look or driving by. Not only does good landscaping help create a positive first impression on a potential buyer, but it also helps increase the price you can get for your home. On average, good landscape design can add up to 20% to your overall home value. That’s because buying a home is an emotional purchase as well as an economic one and potential buyers want a house that’s as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside. Now that you know how much is at stake, here’s a few tips on how to get the best return on your investment.

  1. Know how much to invest. A good rule of thumb, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects, is to plan on investing 10% of your home’s value in landscaping. But don’t put that all into your yard or plants. You’ll also want to extend that money to structural improvements, like fences, pathways, and even outdoor living spaces.
  2. Make a Plan. Landscaping is like any other home improvement project – you need a solid plan to make it happen. There are plenty of factors to consider when planning a landscape project, including who’s going to be using your yard, what plants will thrive in your climate, and how much sunlight your yard gets. For a full list of tips on how to bring your landscape to life, see “6 Things to Consider When Designing a Landscape” on the www.DSLDland.com blog.
  3. Keep It Simple. While you might have a green thumb and love gardening, potential buyers may not share your passion. Those rose bushes or the extensive landscaping that you absolutely love can be seen as extra maintenance. The most appealing landscapes are ones that make the garden seem simple and effortless.
  4. Consider Outdoor Living Spaces. Landscaping doesn’t have to end with the garden. Consider adding a patio or an outdoor kitchen. These spaces are a great way to extend your home into nature, and they are especially appealing to people who love to entertain. An outdoor living area is an easy way to add functionality to your landscape design and value to your home.
  5. Hire a Pro. A landscape design-build firm like DSLD Land Management will help you come up with a plan that fits your needs, dreams, and budget. From choosing plants and putting your plan into action to developing the right maintenance schedule, a professional landscaper will help make sure that you get the best return on your landscaping investment.

David Sharp, Owner DSLD Land Management 

Bringing quality and value to Birmingham homes since 1983.

205-437-1012, www.dsldland.com

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The Probate Process: What Happens When You Die

The Probate Process: What Happens When You Die

Legal Matters   

Most people know they should have a Last Will and Testament. What they do not know is what happens after the testator (the person) dies.

A Will does not avoid the probate process. Instead, it works to make the process easier for the Personal Representative (also called the “Executor”). Of course, it also allows the testator to state who receives property/assets and who does not.

When a person dies, property within the estate is controlled by the Will. The Personal Representative must petition the court to accept the Will. Once the court accepts the Will as a valid document, the Personal Representative must notify any creditors that the estate is open so claims can be filed with the court. A publication notice is used to notify unknown creditors that an estate has been opened. Creditors have six months to file claims with the court. After the time for claims has passed, the Personal Representative pays any valid claims and begins the process of distributing property according to the terms of the Will.

At best, an estate can be closed within seven months; and, at worst, the estate may be open for years. Fees and costs for an estate range between 4% and 9% of the value of the estate. In other words, while the preparation of a Will can be relatively economical, probating the estate may be very expensive. Further, the entire process is public record and may be reviewed by anyone that wishes to view the court file. Finally, a Will must be probated in every state where property is held. If the testator owns property in several states, the time to wrap up the estate, fees and costs significantly increase.

Next month we will look at how to avoid probate.

Melanie Bradford Holliman 

Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC

Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trust.

2491 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, Ala. 35124

205-663-0281, www.bradfordholliman.com

This article is for educational purposes and is not intended for specific legal advice.

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“Successful Shred Day!”

“Successful Shred Day!”

Photo Fun

Vision Financial recently hosted its 4th Annual Shred Day which gave area residents a safe, free way to dispose of sensitive documents they no longer needed and recycle electronics. The event benefited Gone for Good, a division of United Ability, formerly United Cerebral Palsy.

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Retirement Questions to Think About

Retirement Questions to Think About

Money Matters

Reaching retirement, regardless if it is earlier or later than expected, is what most people want to discuss and plan for. No matter what stage of life you’re in, take some time to think through the process and answer these, as well as other questions.

How will you support yourself and your family?

You need to set a budget, then calculate all your income sources (Social Security, pension, dividend income, 401(k), part-time work).

Do I have enough to set aside for emergencies?

Things happen, such as car and household repairs, or even helping an adult child who might be having some difficulties.

How will I get my healthcare?

Cost of insurance and services continue to rise, so it is important to check out every option you have.

What do you want your retirement to look like?

You need to think about what you want your day to look like, and how and where you will spend your time. Think about what will excite you to get out of bed every morning.

What will your living situation be?

Do you plan to stay in your home, or perhaps move closer to your children and grandchildren? Perhaps you might want to move to the lake, beach, or even downsize.

These are only a few of the questions to be asking yourself. The key is to develop a plan at least two years prior to your expected retirement date, then work your plan.

-Bill Dowell

Vision Financial Group 

4505 Pine Tree Circle, Birmingham, AL 35243

205-970-4909, www.vision-financialgroup.com

 

 

Investment advisory services offered through Investment Advisors, a division of ProEquities, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.  Securities offered through ProEquities Inc., a registered broker-dealer and member of FINRA and SIPC.  Vision Financial Group, Inc. and West Alabama Bank are independent of ProEquities, Inc. Securities and insurance products offered are not bank deposits, have no bank guarantee, are not FDIC insured, and may lose value.

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