Q&A: A sudden death brings a financial quandary

Dear Liz: My son suddenly passed away and his $1-million life insurance policy was awarded to me, his mother. I want the money to be divided equally between his two children for future use. They are 18 and 15 now. What financial vehicle should I use? The funds are in my money market account just waiting to be placed into something.

Answer: Please use some of the money to pay for individualized counsel from advisors who are fiduciaries. Fiduciary means the advisor is required to put your best interests first. Most advisors are not fiduciaries but you can find financial planners who are through the National Assn. of Personal Financial Advisors, the XY Planning Network, the Garrett Planning Network and the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners.

The vehicle or vehicles you use for the money will depend on your goals and how you want to distribute the funds over time. You’ll need good advice about how to invest, minimize taxes and incorporate the money into your own estate plan. Distributing money to your grandchildren can trigger the need to file gift tax returns, although you wouldn’t actually owe gift taxes until you’d given away millions of dollars.

Your son may have chosen you as his beneficiary because he trusted you to do right by his children. Or he may not have updated his beneficiaries since applying for the policy. (More than a few ex-spouses have wound up with life insurance proceeds because the policy owner didn’t update the beneficiaries after the divorce.) It’s a good idea to check the beneficiaries on any life insurance once a year or after any major life change to make sure the money is still going where you want.

The high price of money shame

The U.S. suicide rate has risen dramatically in recent years, and certified money coach Tammy Lally of Washington, D.C., is convinced money shame is a contributing factor.

Lally’s brother died by suicide in 2007 after receiving a foreclosure notice. Shortly afterward, Lally’s mortgage business collapsed in the Great Recession. She says she went from driving a Mercedes and living in an oceanfront house to filing for bankruptcy.

“It blew me away, the level of pain and sadness that I was experiencing,” Lally says. “I didn’t tell anybody. I was pretending like nothing was going on.”

In my latest for the Associated Press, the origins of money shame and what can be done about it.

How to create a retirement paycheck that lasts

Saving and investing for retirement may actually be easier than deciding how to safely spend what you’ve accumulated.

Withdraw too much and you could run out of money. Withdraw too little and you might stint on some retirement pleasures you could actually afford. Taxes and Medicare premiums should be considered, too, since both could be inflated by the wrong withdrawal strategies.

Financial planners use powerful software to model various ways to tap retirement funds so they can recommend the best options for their clients. Recently, some companies introduced similar software that consumers can use to find the most tax-efficient, sustainable strategies.

In my latest for the Associated Press, a look at the pros and cons of these new programs.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Overcoming your fear of your college debt. Also in the news: 3 simple ways to boost your savings, tools and tactics to do your own financial planning, and overcoming your financial fears.

Are You Afraid of Your College Debt?
Start by knowing where you stand.

3 Simple Ways to Boost Your Savings
Easy peasy.

Tools and Tactics to Do Your Own Financial Planning
Tackling it on your own.

Things people seem to fear financially are not always worth worrying about
You can relax.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 wrong ideas you might have about financial planning. Also in the news: Bringing retirement savings goals closer, tips for back-to-school shopping, and how to kick your adult child out of the house.

5 Wrong Ideas You Might Have About Financial Planning
It’s not just for rich people.

If You Can’t Picture Retirement, Bring Savings Goals Closer
Saving for freedom.

Cross Items Off Your Back-to-School List With These Tips

How to Kick Your Adult Child Out of the House
Placing limits on your generosity.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How much you should contribute to an IRA and how often. Also in the news: Creating a meaningful financial plan, what you should tell your financial advisor, and how to avoid drunk shopping binges.

How Much Should I Contribute to an IRA — and How Often?
Establishing a schedule.

Ask Why, Not What for a Meaningful Financial Plan
Setting the tone.

What You Should Tell Your Financial Advisor
Important information to share.

How to Avoid Drunk Shopping Binges
Valuable advice.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Straightforward answers to your Roth IRA questions. Also in the news: Disney vacation pros share budgeting tips for trips, how to jumpstart your financial plan by ditching this phrase, and what to ask yourself before dipping into your emergency fund.

7 Straightforward Answers to Your Roth IRA Questions
Everything you need to know.

Disney Vacation Pros Dish Up Budgeting Tips for Trips
More money for mouse ears.

Ditch This Phrase and Jump-Start Your Financial Plan
No more dwelling on the past.

What to Ask Yourself Before Dipping Into Your Emergency Fund
Is it really an emergency?

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: The 4 best times to file taxes. Also in the news: What’s different in this year’s tax filings, 5 traits shared by the best financial planners, and could this be the year to buy a house?

The 4 Best Times to File Taxes

Never Mind Tax Reform — What’s Different When I File This Year?

The Best Financial Planners Share These 5 Traits

Is 2018 the year to buy a house?
Could this be the year?

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Don’t skip life insurance because of cost when having a baby. Also in the news: Wells Fargo could owe you money, crooks are targeting ATMs, and what you need to know about special needs financial planning.

Having a Baby? Don’t Skip Life Insurance Because of Cost
The sooner the better.

$110 Million Wells Fargo Payout Could Put Money in Your Pocket
If you got caught up in the fake fees scam, it’s time to get your money back.

Better Check Your Balance: Crooks Targeting ATMs
The return of the skimmers.

What to Know About Special Needs Financial Planning
Preparing for the unknown.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How medical bill advocates can slash your costs. Also in the news: How two-factor authentication protects your online info, how investing apps can foil financial planning, and four credit card trends for 2017.

How Medical Bill Advocates Can Slash Your Costs
An advocate will go to bat to reduce your medical costs.

How Two-Factor Authentication Protects Your Online Info
Taking the important steps to protect your online information.

Investing apps can foil financial planning
Trusting your intuitions.

4 credit card trends for 2017 and what they mean for you
The good news and the bad news.