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Getting Started: Establishing a Financial Safety Net

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In times of crisis, you don't want to be shaking pennies out of a piggy bank. Having a financial safety net in place can ensure that you're protected when a financial emergency arises. One way to accomplish this is by setting up a cash reserve, a pool of readily available funds that can help you meet emergency or highly urgent short-term needs.


How much is enough?
Most financial professionals suggest that you have three to six months' worth of living expenses in your cash reserve. The actual amount, however, should be based on your particular circumstances. Do you have a mortgage? Do you have short-term and long-term disability protection? Are you paying for your child's orthodontics? Are you making car payments? Other factors you need to consider include your job security, health, and income. The bottom line: Without an emergency fund, a period of crisis (e.g., unemployment, disability) could be financially devastating. Building your cash reserve

If you haven't establ…

Retirement Planning: Basics

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You may have a very idealistic vision of retirement — doing all of the things that you never seem to have time to do now. But how do you pursue that vision? Social Security may be around when you retire, but the benefit that you get from Uncle Sam may not provide enough income for your retirement years. To make matters worse, few employers today offer a traditional company pension plan that guarantees you a specific income at retirement. On top of that, people are living longer and must find ways to fund those additional years of retirement. Such eye-opening facts mean that today, sound retirement planning is critical.
But there's good news: Retirement planning is easier than it used to be, thanks to the many tools and resources available. Here are some basic steps to get you started.
Determine your retirement income needs It's common to discuss desired annual retirement income as a percentage of your current income. Depending on whom you're talking to, that percentage co…

Business Succession Planning

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When developing a succession plan for your business, you must make many decisions. Should you sell your business or give it away? Should you structure your plan to go into effect during your lifetime or at your death? Should you transfer your ownership interest to family members, co-owners, employees, or an outside party? The key is to pick the best plan for your circumstances and objectives, and to seek help from financial and legal advisors to carry out this plan. Selling your business Selling your business outright You can sell your business outright, choosing the right time to sell — now, at your retirement, at your death, or anytime in between. The sale proceeds can be used to maintain your lifestyle, or to pay estate taxes and other final expenses. As long as the price is at least equal to the full fair market value of the business, the sale will not be subject to gift taxes. But, if the sale occurs before your death, it may result in capital gains tax. Transferring your busines…

Training Successor Management

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Why should you be concerned about training successor management? Many business succession plans focus on the succession of ownership but neglect to address the issue of management succession. Whether you expect the management team that will follow you to the corner office to come from inside or outside the company, you should consider training one or several people to serve as interim or successor management. This can serve multiple purposes. First, having trained successor management in the business can work into your short-term contingency plan established to cover your unexpected absence from the business (due to death, for instance). Second, trained successor management can serve as interim management during the transition period during and after your withdrawal from the business at your retirement, while your interest is being transferred after your death, or when you head out for that long vacation you have been yearning for. Ensure the smooth transition of responsibilities Whe…

Determining the Value of your Business

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What is valuation? Assignment of price or dollar value The basic concept of valuation is to determine a justifiable dollar value or price for a total or partial interest in your closely held business. It is the process of answering the question, "How much is your closely held business worth?" Business valuation plays a critical role in determining gift and estate tax liability and/or the appropriate selling price for an interest. Because valuing a business is so important, you should be very careful when selecting an appraiser. What is the importance of determining taxable value? Business valuation key component to estate or succession planning Business valuation is a critical component to your estate or business succession planning. Your business may be your largest asset, and if you plan to engage in either one of these types of planning, at some point you will need to determine the taxable value of your business interest. An incorrect value (i.e., one that is underestima…

Transferring your Family Business

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As a business owner, you're going to have to decide when will be the right time to step out of the family business and how you'll do it. There are many estate planning tools you can use to transfer your business. Selecting the right one will depend on whether you plan to retire from the business or keep it until you die.

Perhaps you have children or other family members who wish to continue the business after your death. Obviously, you'll want to transfer your business to your successors at its full value. However, with income, gift, and potential estate taxes, it takes careful planning to prevent some (or all) of the business assets from being sold to pay them, perhaps leaving little for your beneficiaries. Therefore, business succession planning must include ways not only to ensure the continuity of your business, but also to do so with the smallest possible tax consequences.

Some of the more common strategies for minimizing taxes are explained briefly in the following …