Sarah Stewart Legal Group, PLLC

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Month: May 2018

5 Ways to Support a Caregiver

By Sarah Stewart Legal Group

Caregiving takes on many forms.  Parents are caregivers for their children.  Adults may have caregivers if they have Special Needs or health and mobility issues.

Caregivers face a lot of challenges. On top of juggling their own careers, family lives, and lifestyles, they now take on the responsibility of caring for another person and managing that person’s life.

Caregiving is often a thankless  job.  Family members and friends may not understand the physical and emotional toll caregiving can take on the caregiver.

If you know a caregiver, reach out and offer your support. Here are 5 ways.

(1) Offer Your Friendship

Simply being a sounding board for your friend in their time of need and checking in on them can help the caregiver in your life.  Offer to take them out for coffee or dinner, or drop in to say hi.  Let them know they’re still important in your life.

(2) Lend A Hand

Offer to visit the person needing care and give the caregiver a break to attend to the caregiver’s needs.  Bring dinner by for the caregiver and the person needing assistance.  Schedule a respite service or dinner delivery for the caregiver if you don’t live locally, or can’t help personally.

(3) Avoid Judging

Make a point to avoid criticizing the caregiver.  If you think something can be done better or differently, come up with a solution, such as taking on that matter yourself, or helping hire a respite worker who can.

Caregivers struggle enough with their duties and responsibilities and feeling like they aren’t doing enough.  Offering a helping hand will always go further than arguing and critiquing.

(4) Avoid Complaining

Sometimes families can add more stress to caregivers by complaining about things the caregivers really can’t control, such as the condition of the house before the caregiver stepped in, the locations of items owned by the person, legal requirements and processes, or other matters the caregiver simply can’t control.

Though family members may think they’re helping by pointing out these problems, chances are, your caregiver already knows.  Bringing them up to the caregiver can make them feel helpless and add to their stress.

(5) Avoid Telling Them How They Can Be Better or What They’re Doing Wrong

This is another area of stress for caregivers.  The stress only increases when the person suggesting how the caregiver can improve isn’t present to see the circumstances or help out themselves.

Instead of focusing on the negative, focus on the positive things the caregiver is doing for the family, how their actions help you, and how you can help the caregiver. Unless you have strong reason to believe otherwise, trust that they are doing their best.

Most caregivers are doing the best they can for their families, often with limited time and resources.  They simply need a little compassion from the people who matter most to them in their lives.

Of course, there can be situations where the “caregiver” is actually taking advantage of the person they are caring for.  If you believe a caregiver is abusing the person they are caring for emotionally, physically or financially, report their actions to Adult Protective Services or Child Protective Services.

If you know a caregiver facing legal difficulty getting care for the person they’re caring for, have them reach out to an attorney today!

10 Retirement Tips for Millennials

By Sarah Stewart Legal Group

Definitions of Millennials vary.  But, ultimately, when someone refers to a Millennial, they mean someone in their 20s or 30s.  Millennials tend to focus on their day-to-day financial needs and forget to focus on their future and retirement.

If you begin following these 10 tips now, you can have a financially free future, and yes, even retire one day.

(1) Start Saving Today

An interesting thing about investing money is money compounds.  That means the longer the money is invested, the more money it can make for you.

For example, if a 25 year old wants to have $1 million in retirement, they can start today and invest $880.21 per month with a 5% return.  If a 35 year old wants to retire with $1 million, they have to invest $1,679.23 each month with a 5% return.  For a 45 year old, the monthly investment would have to be $3,741.27 on a 5% return.

Find a great investment program that works for you.  Look for high returns and low fees.  And, start investing for your future!

(2) Be Consistent

Figure out how much you can save for retirement each month.  Then, do it!  Put your retirement account drafts on automatic withdrawal.  Try to increase the amount you’re saving each year until you reach the maximum amount allowed by the IRS.

(3) Have an Emergency Fund

Something will always come up.  The furnace will break.  The hot water heater will blow out.  The car will need new tires.

Plan for your emergencies now!  Save a little each month until you save 6 to 9 months of living expenses in a savings account.  This fund will be invaluable to you when you need it!

(4) Live Within Your Means

Buy what you need and what you can afford. Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. It will pay off in the long run.

(5) Balance

Realize that you need to treat yourself sometimes and you need to save others.  The secret is balancing the two.  Find your balance.

(6) Don’t Forget Insurance

Term life insurance policies for Millennials are cheap.  Buy them while you’re young to protect your family when you’re older.

Also, remember that we’re not immortal.  Look into disability policies.  If you get hurt, they can help you pay the bills while you recover.

(7) Buy Low Sell High

When investing in stocks be sure to do your research on the best stocks to invest in.  But, once you know, remember the rule.  Always buy your stocks when they’re low and sell them when they’re high for the best return on investment.

(8) Grow Your Investments While You Grow

When you get that raise or promotion, devote a percentage of it to your investments.  That way, you can enjoy your hard work now, with the percentage you enjoy from your raise today, and in the future, with the percentage you devote to your investments.

(9) Pay Off Debts

Let’s say you pay off your car and get an extra $200 in your pocket each month.  Instead of using that money on furniture or a new toy, use that extra money to pay off the next lowest debt.  Continue this process until you’re debt free and imagine the lifestyle you can live!

(10) Determine Your Savings Goal

If we want to achieve a goal, we have to know what that goal is.  We can’t get where we’re going if we don’t know where we’re going.

Work with an advisor to calculate your retirement needs based on the lifestyle you hope to live.  Make a plan to save for that goal, and follow it.

7 Little Known Adoption Facts

By Sarah Stewart Legal Group

With over 135,000 children adopted each year and nearly 428,000 children in foster care, adoption is common in the U.S.  Adoption is a wonderful option for many families. But, the process is complicated and can be emotional for everyone involved.

Here are 7 facts you may not have known about adoption in the U.S.

(1) A Lot of People Are Affected By Adoption

Nearly 100 million U.S. citizens have adoption in their families. Almost 60 % of Americans have adopted or have experience with adoption. And, according to data from 2013, 7 million Americans living that year were adopted.

(2) You Can Get Tax Breaks with Adoption

Adoptive parents can take advantage of 2 main tax benefits.  First, parents can get a tax credit for some expenses paid to adopt a child. For 2017, the maximum credit amount is $13,570. Second, parents can exclude employer- provided adoption assistance from their incomes.

(3) It Can Be Expensive

There are several different avenues people can take to adopt.  Their options include private adoption, adoption through a government agency, or international adoption.  Each choice comes with its own special price tag.

International adoptions cost the most and can range from $15,000 to upwards of $40,000.  Private adoptions range from $8,000 up to $40,000.  And adoptions from government agencies generally carry a lot of financial assistance, so they can range from $0 to around $3,000. Generally speaking, the lower the risk, the greater the cost.

(4) Kids Looking for Families Can Be Older

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates the average age of a child waiting for an adoptive family is 7.7 years old and around 11 % of foster children spend 5 years or more in foster care. Don’t count out older children if you plan to adopt.

(5) Celebrities Are Adopting

Celebrities have increased the visibility and viability of adoption as a family choice in the U.S. Sheryl Crow, Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie, and Madonna are just a few of many celebrities who have adopted children.

(6) LGTBQ Couples Can Have a Hard Time Adopting

Statistics show LGTBQ couples are raising about 4 % of America’s adopted children. However, some states have laws that allow adoption agencies to deny placements with families that have lifestyles that contradict the agencies’ religious beliefs.

These laws found in states like South Dakota, and close to approval in Oklahoma, make adoption more difficult for these families.

(7) Controversy Surrounds the Well-Being of Adopted Children

According the the Atlantic, a 2015 study found that adopted children are “significantly likelier than birth children to have behavior and learning problems.” The study found that despite the fact most adopted children grow up in homes where the parents are wealthier and more attentive than their birth families, nearly 2 times as many adopted children were diagnosed with learning disabilities than children raised in a home with birth parents.

However, in terms of physical health, adopted children fair better than their counterparts raised in their birth families’ homes.

A 2007 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found 85 % of adopted children have very good or excellent health, are more likely to have health insurance, and are less likely to live in poverty.

If you’re considering adoption, reach out to a professional today to help!

 

5 Financial Concerns to Address Before You Remarry

By Sarah Stewart Legal Group

People who choose to remarry have more to lose than they did the first time around.  They have a more established career, more assets, and, often, children from a previous marriage.  When you remarry you need to be more cautious of protecting your assets and family before you begin your marital bliss.

(1) Determine Your Consolidated Net Worth

Couples who remarry can have complex financial issues that should be addressed prior to the wedding.  Some may be paying child support or alimony, have investments in their names, and already started tax and estate planning strategies for their assets.

Couples should discuss these matters prior to the wedding.  Sit down and decide what your net worth is individually and then talk about it and determine what your joint net worth will be.  This discussion can open up more opportunities to discuss your money management styles and who will handle what in your marriage.

(2) Make a Marriage Agreement – in Writing

I know, I know.  It doesn’t sound romantic to talk about the possibility of divorce before you’re even married.  But, as someone who has been there before, you know the reality that your marital bliss could end one day, and you must properly prepare.

Each party should welcome a marriage agreement, in the form of a prenuptial agreement, preferably.  These documents allow you to specify what assets you want to keep separate in your marriage, so that you can claim them free and clear in a divorce.

(3) Talk About the Kids

Blended families create many different kinds of dynamics.  But, regardless of your family’s dynamic, the fact remains that the children and the spouse should be accounted for in financial and estate plans.  Children cost a lot of money.  You must be on the same page with your new spouse about what you will and won’t pay for when it comes to the kids.

Will you both contribute to the care of the children? Or will the spouse who brings the children to the marriage be solely responsible?  What if one of you makes significantly more than the other?  How will you plan for the children’s expenses?

Do you want your ex-spouse to manage any money that you leave to the children?  If not, you will need a more complex estate plan for your children.  Speak with financial planners and an attorney with experience in estate planning to plan for your blended family.

(4) Update Beneficiaries

Life insurance, retirement accounts, even banking accounts can have beneficiaries named that will receive these assets at your death.  It is very easy to forget to update beneficiaries on all of your accounts, but it is extremely important to do so after every major life event.  Marriage is one of the most important.

When you create a life with someone new, you want to know they’ll be taken care of when you are gone.  If you don’t update your beneficiaries, your Mom or Brother will still get the money if something happens to you, and your spouse will struggle.

(5) Change Your Wealth and Estate Plans

Another easy area to forget to update is your legal documents and wealth plans.  We often create these important documents and check it off our list, to leave them collecting dust in the safety deposit box.  But, as life changes, so do your plans.

Be sure to update these documents after you get married by reaching out to your estate and wealth planning professionals!

 

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