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Planning Briefs


Key Knowledge Topics

Estate Tax

Income Tax




Modern Families


Business Owners

Real Estate Investors




Slick TV ads often make financial planning and wealth management sound simple, but it’s usually not. Managing wealth requires knowing a lot about highly technical topics, like taxes, government regulations, and finance as well as history, psychology and how to communicate with loved ones about sensitive issues. This article highlights some of the knowledge needed to manage wealth and why it’s often so daunting without the help of an independent personal financial advisor who is familiar with your situation.

Estate tax is in flux. The $12 million personal exemption from estate tax is set to revert to $5 million on January 1, 2026.  However, this could change, depending on Congress and financial, economic, and political events. For families with more than $5 million in taxable assets, strategic estate planning can save thousands — or tens of thousands — on estate taxes. Coordinating legal, tax, and investment advice is the job of a dedicated financial professional.


Income tax brackets are also uncertain. Income tax planning includes watching Washington and acting strategically before and after the November 2022 election results are decided. With the long-term federal, as a percentage of gross domestic product, expected to soar in the next decade, pressure is building for a tax-rate increase.    


Charitable strategies are always important, not only because giving back is the right thing to do but also because it can be a money-saving venture. Supporting a cause can build on your legacy and inspire the next generations in your family to keep your causes top of mind.


IRAs are more important than ever in creating a strategic financial plan because that is where Americans save for retirement. After retiring, assets in 401(k) accounts can be managed by you in IRAs. For income tax purposes, they are treated the same as 401(k), 403(b) and other federally-qualified retirement accounts. They grow tax-free only until you withdraw money and withdrawals are taxed at your ordinary income tax rate. However, Roth IRAs are totally tax-free. Even withdrawals are tax-free.   Converting a 401(k) to an IRA, converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, and planning how your IRA accounts will be distributed to loved ones or charity upon your demise requires understanding the federal laws on qualified retirement accounts and knowledge of financial economics. The tax advantage of Roth IRAs must be calculated based on your current income, life expectancy, and other factors, and individuals must weight the cost of paying taxes on withdrawal from a traditional IRA or 401(k) to place assets in a Roth IRA and get tax-free income for life as well as estate tax benefits to heirs.


Psychology’s pivotal role in financial decisions has come to be recognized only in the last two decades. The burgeoning field of behavioral finance is now part of the investment knowledge needed to avoid making mental mistakes, reacting emotionally to bad news, and recency bias.


Modern families have spawned new legal and accounting strategies to protect family members from horror stories in estate planning. People are living longer than ever and are wealthier than ever. With half of all marriages ending in divorce, families are split asunder by injustice and argument over assets.

Consider this example: After a 50-year marriage and raising two children, Edith, a 75-year-old succumbed after a long battle with cancer. Ed, her 75-year-old spouse, could not stand living alone and remarried a server he met at the casino. A year after marrying Rita, a 50-year-old with two children, Ed dies. Rita, and her children, inherit Ed’s $3 million portfolio and two homes. His children get nothing because he never created a Will.

Another example is a couple who, upon the marriage of their child, give the newlyweds a $1 million down payment on a home. Ten years later, when their child is divorced, the value of the home must be split evenly with their child’s spouse.


Trusts, prenuptial agreements, insurance, and qualified retirement accounts must be structured to protect your children, spouse, and other loved ones from losing control of assets you give them when you die. That’s a routine part of the new landscape of financial planning for modern families.


Business owners contend with a unique set of circumstances involving:

  • corporate form of business or entities, (LLC, S-Corp, or Corporation, etc.)

  • partnerships

  • equity ownership

  • business and personal liability for debts and other risks

  • income earned annually

  • buy/sell agreements

  • family impact

  • taxation of the business

Real estate investors and doctors have all of the same variables to consider but they have some added twists. For instance, owners of apartment buildings with swimming pools may face a large liability if someone drowns. Protecting yourself from slip-and-fall lawsuits and other risks inherent in developing and owning real estate. It is just one aspect of knowledge needed to invest wisely in real estate. Successful business owners often find it advantageous to purchase a building to house their business by setting up a real estate entity that owns the building and leasing it to the existing operating business. This is a common real estate strategy for doctors as well as business owners.     


Investing is thought by many individuals to be the only knowledge or by far the main knowledge topic required to manage wealth and make a sound financial plan, but it is only one aspect of the job. Investing is important but the other aspects listed above are often just as important.


Retirement is a mashup of all of the topics previously discussed. To create a smart retirement plan requires knowledge of investing, tax, and the full range of topics mentioned here which may be required or come in handy.

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