Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)

This article is a transcript of the Buckingham Weekly Perspectives video.

In this episode of Buckingham Weekly Perspectives, Chief Investment Officer Kevin Grogan explores the concept of central bank digital currency (CBDC), the evolution of our fiscal system and the future of money.

Thanks to advances in technology, the world is increasingly becoming more automated. Our monetary system is no exception. In this episode of Buckingham Weekly Perspectives, Chief Investment Officer Kevin Grogan explores the concept of central bank digital currency (CBDC), the evolution of our fiscal system and the future of money.

Transcript:

Kevin Grogan: We had a question come in asking about the Central Bank digital currency. So today’s video is going to talk about what they are and how they might affect investors. So a central bank digital currency or CBDC would be the abbreviation can be thought of as a digital form of paper money. Meaning that it would be issued by the Federal Reserve and it is effectively a liability of a central bank. And Americans have long held money predominantly in a digital form. For example, money has long been held in bank accounts recorded as computer entries held on a commercial bank’s Ledger.

How does a CBDC differ from paper money?

Kevin Grogan: A CBDC though would differ from existing digital money because a CBDC would be a liability of the Federal Reserve just like paper money is while a deposit at a bank is a liability of that bank. So that’s the primary difference between what a CBDC would be versus what a deposit held that a bank is it’s who is that a liability of it’s either a liability of the bank in today’s world or a liability of the Federal Reserve like paper money is today and it’s important to note too that Federal Reserve payment technologies have evolved over time. So one example is back in the 1970s the FED develops the Automated Clearing House system or ACH system that allows for an electronic alternative to paper checks.

How have cryptocurrencies have pushed modern banking?

Kevin Grogan: And recent technological advances have ushered in a new wave of financial products and services including digital wallets Mobile payment apps and new digital currencies such as cryptocurrencies and stable coins. And these technological advances have led central banks around the world not just here in the US with the Federal Reserve but other central banks as well to start exploring the possibility of issuing a central bank digital currency. And so I think right now in terms of the State of Affairs, it’s very much and sort of a research exploratory phase. I don’t think anything is imminent here. And in fact the Federal Reserve at least in terms of their stance today has said they would not issue a CBDC without an authorizing law that’s passed by Congress and signed into law by the president. So for now nothing too much happening here other than discussion research and analysis so far. If you do have any questions on anything, I’ve covered today, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your advisor.

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2023 Planning Considerations and Strategies for Individual Taxpayers

Tax planning shouldn’t simply focus on hindsight. Upcoming life changes and external factors such as tax policy developments also deserve attention and may offer opportunities to consider. With 2023 bringing the largest inflation adjustments in nearly 40 years, this is especially true, making it a great time to see how they could affect you.

IRS Inflation Adjustments

The IRS makes inflation adjustments annually, and the increases have two purposes:

  1. To prevent tax bracket creep for those whose income keeps pace with inflation.
  2. To limit government revenue increases resulting from inflation.

Since the 1980s, the adjustment amounts have held within relatively predictable ranges. Given inflationary pressures, the 2023 adjustments represent the sharpest increase in nearly four decades. More than 60 provisions ranging from Social Security payments to income bracket and retirement savings limits received significant increases.

This should come as welcome news for the many households who saw their purchasing power decrease throughout 2022. However, even with these increases, as compared to January 2022, many families will still have less net income on an after-tax, inflation-adjusted basis. This article provides an overview of some key IRS inflation adjustments and the tax planning strategies associated with them.

Click here for a summary PDF of our 2023 Tax Guide.

Selection of IRS Inflation Adjustments

2023 Tax Planning Considerations

Standard Deduction

In 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act significantly increased the standard deduction amounts, making it unnecessary for many taxpayers to itemize. If this is the case for you, then strategically managing adjustable below-the-line deductions (charitable contributions, payments of state and local taxes, medical expenses, etc.) to maximize itemization may not be necessary. It also highlights the importance of effectively managing above-the-line deductions, which can be taken regardless of whether someone uses the standard deduction or itemizes. These include deductions for items such as Traditional IRA or HSA contributions, student loan interest and self-employed retirement contributions, among others.

Tax Brackets

All tax brackets increased by an average of 7%. Unless you had a significant increase in income, that gives a fair amount of room to remain in the bracket you were in for 2021, even if very close. By reviewing this early in the year, you can determine whether additional tax-reduction strategies could further reduce income so that you remain in the same bracket.

Long-Term Capital Gains Brackets

Long-term capital gains receive very advantageous tax treatment, so it’s important to ensure you benefit from them when possible. Proper planning can reveal opportunities and help prevent the following undesirable consequences:

  • Unless necessary, hold appreciated investment assets for at least a year before selling. Doing so earlier will result in them being taxed at ordinary income rates, which are much higher than capital gains rates.
  • Consider whether you may be subject to an additional net investment income tax (NIIT) of 3.8%. The NIIT is an additional tax on investment income for single filers with modified adjusted income (MAGI) exceeding $200,000, and joint filers with MAGI exceeding $250,000. If this is a possibility for you, it’s important to review in more depth with your advisor and tax professional.
  • Account for asset location in your overall investment asset tax planning. If you have investment accounts with different types of tax treatment (e.g., taxable, tax-deferred and tax-free), strategically placing certain investments in certain accounts can help you significantly reduce the long-term impact of taxes on your portfolio.

Tax-Advantaged Accounts

It’s important to maximize tax-advantaged options available, such as retirement accounts and HSA plans. As previously mentioned, contributions to many of these accounts are eligible for an above-the-line deduction that taxpayers can take whether they itemize or not. Not only do they help save on tax payments today, but they also provide ongoing tax benefits in the form of tax deferral. Planning early can allow you to spread those contributions out over the year as opposed to potential last-minute large sums to help reduce taxes.

It is also important, however, to take a long-term view of tax deferral. It can be tempting to defer as much as possible to lower taxes today. But doing so could have adverse effects on tax payments in the future. The tax consequences for when the money is distributed should be considered. The decision to pay more taxes today could even come in the form of making non-deductible Roth IRA contributions (for those who qualify), or by converting tax-deferred accounts into a Roth IRA to allow for tax-free growth.

Other Inflation Adjustments

This article outlines only some of the key items that were adjusted for inflation. Depending on your situation, you may want to explore others, such as the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, Gift Tax Exclusion or Qualified Adoption Expenses.

We recommend speaking with your financial advisor to discuss which inflation adjustments would be most relevant to your circumstances as you begin tax planning for 2023.

Key Dates and Deadlines

For informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as specific investment, accounting, legal, or tax advice. Certain information is based upon third party data and may become outdated or otherwise superseded without notice. Third party information is deemed to be reliable, but its accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) nor any other federal or state agency have approved, determined the accuracy, or confirmed adequacy of the content presented above. R-23-4935

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2022’s Investment Lessons

While each year features new twists on the age-old investment stories, smart investors know how to apply the same basic principles to every event. That’s why one of my favorite sayings is that there’s nothing new in investing, only investment history you don’t know. Last year, however, investors did experience something that happened for the first time in history. In my top 10 lessons of 2022, I’ll explain what we learned from the markets and why sticking to a well-thought-out financial plan remains the best strategy.

Lesson 1: Just because something hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it won’t.

Last year was particularly difficult for many investors because it was the first time that both the S&P 500 and 20-year Treasury bonds experienced double-digit declines. Although this was a first, investors should not be taken off guard. There are five other years in history — 1931, 1969, 1973, 1977 and 2018 — when both produced negative returns. Despite the historical precedent, the losses were a big surprise for investors who, influenced by recency bias, came to believe that safe bonds were a sure hedge for risky stocks.

Lesson 2: Young, unprofitable companies are not good investments.

In 2022, the finance craze was investing in disruptive, innovation companies with recent IPOs. By the end of the year, these investments had all repriced lower. Investing in young companies that are unprofitable but have high investment spending — making investors think they are poised for growth — has produced poor returns historically. And while exciting investment narratives that capture the public’s attention may be different, the basic principles of investing are always the same.

Lesson 3: Markets are less liquid and thus more volatile.

Last year we saw heightened volatility across markets, even those considered safer, including Treasury bonds and municipal bonds. Investors should be prepared for greater volatility because, for many reasons, markets have become less liquid. When there is low liquidity, big market swings are much more likely because it’s harder to buy and sell a security without affecting its price. Accepting that market swings are becoming more frequent should help investors stay the course.

Lesson 4: Gold is not an inflation hedge over your investment horizon, and neither is bitcoin.

Although gold had performed extremely well in the past few years, in 2022 it disappointed investors, just when an inflation hedge was needed most. Last year proved that buying this shiny security won’t save your portfolio from inflation in the short run — though it might if your investment horizon is at least 100 years. The same goes for bitcoin, which cryptocurrency investors and advocates have also promoted as a hedge against inflation.

Lesson 5: Value investing is not dead.

Value investing is a time-tested strategy in which investors buy securities that appear cheap relative to some fundamental anchor. Although decades of evidence have demonstrated the benefits of value investing, many investors fled value stocks after they underperformed for a relatively short four-year period starting in November 2016. But those that stayed the course were rewarded: between November 2020 and December 2022, value stocks once again outperformed growth stocks around the globe.

Lesson 6: Be aware of recency bias – don’t invest in something just because it has done well.

Historically, investors tend to buy yesterday’s winners (after the great performance) and sell yesterday’s losers (after the loss has already been incurred). Unfortunately, a return in a past year doesn’t necessarily predict the same return the next year. For example, in 2021, the Dow Jones Select REIT index outperformed the S&P 500, with a 45.9% return compared with 28.7%. In 2022, however, it underperformed, with a -26% return compared with -18.1% for the S&P 500.

Lesson 7: Diversification is as important as ever.

After the Great Recession, many argued that diversification no longer works because risky assets have become too correlated. However, diversification benefits also come from the dispersion of returns, or the range of returns in a group of stocks. Last year we saw a wide dispersion of returns once again, consistent with the last 20 years, showing that diversification still has strong benefits, particularly international diversification. For example, U.S. small-value stocks outperformed the S&P 500, and international and emerging markets stocks did as well.

Lesson 8: Active management is a loser’s game in bull or bear markets.

Last year was another in which the majority of active funds underperformed even though proponents claim active managers outperform in bear markets. And even when active management does lead to an investor’s portfolio outperforming benchmarks, it’s typically short lived.

Lesson 9: A liquidity premium is not a free lunch — it’s compensation for taking risk.

Illiquid assets are those that cannot easily be converted into cash, such as private equity, venture capital, reinsurance risk and private credit. Because of this risk, investors require some additional compensation when investing in them. That’s known as a liquidity premium. The risk becomes greater during difficult economic times when investors may be desiring liquidity. Last year reinforced that investors should only allocate what they can afford to illiquid holdings.

Lesson 10: Ignore all market forecasts.

Market movements are often dominated by surprises, which, of course, can’t be predicted. For the Federal Reserve, the big surprise in 2022 was that inflation turned out to be higher than expected. In fact, inflation as measured by the Fed’s preferred price index ended up being more than double its forecast for the year. As economic forecasts are often wrong, it’s unlikely that market strategists will be able to forecast future performance. The lesson for investors is to tune out predictions. Instead, stick to your investment plan, focus on diversification, and rebalance your portfolio when needed.

Summary

Every investor makes mistakes. However, smart investors don’t repeat the same mistakes and expect different outcomes. By utilizing the 10 lessons 2022 taught us, you can avoid making common investment errors. It’s also important to know your financial history and have an investment plan backed by evidence. If you don’t have a strategy, read my book “Investment Mistakes Even Smart Investors Make and How to Avoid Them” or schedule time with your financial advisor.

For a more detailed look at Larry Swedroe’s 2022 investment lessons, see his recently published article on AdvisorPerspectives.com.

For informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as specific investment, accounting, legal, or tax advice. Certain information is based upon third party sources which may become outdated or otherwise superseded without notice. Third party information is deemed to be reliable, but its accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. Indices are not available for direct investment. Their performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio nor do indices represent results of actual trading. Total return includes reinvestment of dividends and capital gains. Mentions of securities are to demonstrate passive funds versus active funds, and low-cost funds. The mentions of specific securities should not be construed as recommendations of securities. Performance is historical and past performance is not an indication of future results. By clicking on any of the links above, you acknowledge that they are solely for your convenience, and do not necessarily imply any affiliations, sponsorships, endorsements, or representations whatsoever by us regarding third-party websites. We are not responsible for the content, availability, or privacy policies of these sites, and shall not be responsible or liable for any information, opinions, advice, products or services available on or through them.

The opinions expressed by featured authors are their own and may not accurately reflect those of the Buckingham Strategic Wealth® or Buckingham Strategic Partners®, collectively Buckingham Wealth Partners. Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) nor any other federal or state agency have approved, determined the accuracy, or confirmed the adequacy of this article. R-23-4973

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What is the Treasury Debt Ceiling?

Last week the United States hit its debt ceiling of $31.4 trillion. What does this mean for the economy and you? In this episode of Buckingham Weekly Perspectives, Head of Investment Research Jared Kizer explains what the debt ceiling is, practical considerations and the potential impact of this important event.

This Has Been a Test: Developing a Financial Plan You Can Stick With

Think back to December 2019. The economy was humming. Unemployment, interest rates, and inflation were at historically low levels. But then what happened?

  • A global pandemic hit. By the end of March, the S&P 500 had dropped nearly 20% in value.1
  • Later in the year, scientists announced that they’d developed a vaccine, and markets roared back.
  • FAANG stocks soared … before giving up a lot of gains.2
  • Meme stocks shot way up … and fell back down.
  • Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies reached record highs … and then crashed.
  • Inflation spiked to the highest levels most of us have ever experienced.3
  • And Russia invaded Ukraine, sparking a humanitarian crisis and geopolitical uncertainty.

I don’t know anyone who predicted all of that back in December 2019. But what if someone had? What would you have done?

Next question: What if that person told you that, despite all that news, the Russell 3000 would average a return of 10% a year over the next three years?4 Would you have believed them? Would you have stayed in the market?

Because that’s what happened. A yearly return of 10%! That’s pretty darn close to the stock market’s historical average over the past century.5

The conclusion I hope you reach is that it’s unrealistic to think you can outguess markets. You’re probably better off expecting that markets do their job of capturing the human ingenuity taking place every day across thousands of publicly traded companies around the world. 

What do I mean by markets doing their job? When news of the pandemic hit, markets adjusted and prices went down. In other words, when uncertainty peaked around March 2020, investors demanded a higher return to jump into the market. Then, when news of a vaccine spread, the market adjusted its expectations accordingly. In the short term, there are often wild swings up or down. Making a change during either can be dangerous.

The past three years were a good test of whether or not you had an investment plan that was sensible to stick with. So take a moment to think about why you did what you did, and prepare for next time. Because the next three years may be just as uncertain.

First, make sure your investment plan is sensible and based on financial science. Second, make sure it’s realistic for you and your own unique situation. Even the greatest plan is no good if you can’t stick with it during tough times. Invest in markets in whatever asset mix is right for you. If you’re not sure, talk with a financial advisor who can help you.

I don’t make predictions, but I do believe in the power of human ingenuity to fix problems big and small, innovating the whole way. What has stayed constant throughout my life is the power of people to make progress in the face of challenges.

We’ve seen it in the fight against COVID-19, where vaccines developed at lightning speed are now being administered around the world. We’ve seen it in the continued progress of gene therapy, which is revolutionizing the treatment of multiple diseases. So as we start 2023, let’s remember the lessons of the past three years. Let’s develop—and stick to—plans that take us through the short-term ups and downs of market fluctuations so we can capture the long-term benefits of human ingenuity.

Authored by David Booth, Executive Chairman and Founder, Dimensional Fund Advisors. Used with permission.

FOOTNOTES

  • S&P data © 2022 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved. Indices are not available for direct investment. Index returns are not representative of actual portfolios and do not reflect costs and fees associated with an actual investment. Decrease of 19.6% was from Jan. 1, 2020–March 31, 2020.
  • Facebook-parent Meta, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google-parent Alphabet.
  • Gwynn Guilford, “U.S. Inflation Hit 7% in December, Fastest Pace Since 1982,” Wall Street Journal, January 12, 2022.
  • In US dollars. Russell 3000 Index annual returns December 2019–November 2022. Copyright © FTSE Russell. All rights reserved.
  • In US dollars. S&P 500 Index annual returns 1926–2021. S&P data © 2022 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved. Indices are not available for direct investment; therefore, their performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio.

DISCLOSURES

The information in this material is intended for the recipient’s background information and use only. It is provided in good faith and without any warranty or representation as to accuracy or completeness. Information and opinions presented in this material have been obtained or derived from sources believed by Dimensional to be reliable, and Dimensional has reasonable grounds to believe that all factual information herein is true as at the date of this material. It does not constitute investment advice, a recommendation, or an offer of any services or products for sale and is not intended to provide a sufficient basis on which to make an investment decision. Before acting on any information in this document, you should consider whether it is appropriate for your particular circumstances and, if appropriate, seek professional advice. It is the responsibility of any persons wishing to make a purchase to inform themselves of and observe all applicable laws and regulations. Unauthorized reproduction or transmission of this material is strictly prohibited. Dimensional accepts no responsibility for loss arising from the use of the information contained herein.

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Risks
Investments involve risks. The investment return and principal value of an investment may fluctuate so that an investor’s shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original value. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. There is no guarantee strategies will be successful.

Ring in the New Year with a Fresh Look at Your Financial Plan

January is not only a perfect time to implement your personal and professional resolutions – it’s also a great reminder to review your financial goals, plans and strategies. Decades of data have proven that successful financial outcomes are more likely to happen because of purposeful and thoughtful planning. As we start 2023, I recommend my clients reflect on their personal situation over the past year and consider how changes may impact their current plans.

I’ve compiled a checklist to get your year off to a fiscally fit start:

1. Get Organized

At the start of the year, it is helpful to have a full picture of what your anticipated overall income streams and cash requirements are going to be for the year. Plan for larger expenditures, especially if you will be withdrawing from your pool of investments to pay for them. You don’t want any needed funds at risk in the stock market; with advanced notice, you may reduce any associated tax liabilities as well. Make sure you have a good account of all current assets and liabilities; it’s essential to know what dollars you have available to you.

2. Identify Changes in Your Goals

Each year can be filled with surprises in your personal situation that may change your long-term goals and current objectives. Without a clear end goal in mind, you won’t know whether you’re saving too much or too little to meet short- and longer-term objectives such as funding education, buying a home or retiring. It’s important to reevaluate your goals annually as with life events such as marriage, the birth of a child, divorce, a new business venture or death of a loved one.

3. Adjust Your Plan Accordingly

When I work with my clients, my foremost concern is ensuring they aren’t at risk of running out of money during their lifetime. To do this, we build a plan based on the context of their current needs, wants and wishes. By starting with your goals in mind, you can revise a savings plan, update a portfolio allocation strategy, calculate a realistic retirement date and more.

While planning is vital for a healthy financial life, it’s equally important to make sure you aren’t suppressing your lifestyle too much along the way to retirement. Life is meant to be enjoyed! While we focus a lot on non-working years, you want to have fun during your working years as well. With proper preparation, you can strike that balance between planning for the future and living in the now. Or as I like to call it, giving yourself “permission to spend.”

4. Develop and Maintain a Budget

Regardless of your economic position, it’s essential to know where your dollars are going. This is often the single most difficult form of homework for clients. Your budget and your plan are only as good as the assumptions being used. If you are looking for a starting point, there are some great online options such as Mint and You Need a Budget. If technology isn’t your thing, you can also utilize a basic budget template like the one provided here.

Once you know what your goals, spending needs and available monthly dollars are, it’s time to determine if you are falling short or have an overage. To account for all of your money, I suggest assigning every dollar to a spend, save or give bucket.

5. Maximize Your Savings

To ensure you are maximizing your money, work with your advisor to review popular savings opportunities, such as:

Company Retirement Plans – Don’t miss out on free money. Take note of whether your company offers a matching contribution, and if so, what is needed to earn your match. You can save up to $22,500 per year in these plans with a $7,500 catch-up contribution option for those 50 and older. It will also be helpful to explore if your plan includes traditional pre-tax or Roth post-tax deferral options. Your advisor can help you decide which path will be most beneficial to you from a tax standpoint.
Health Savings Account (HSA) – This may be beneficial for those on a high deductible health plan. Built like an IRA but for health care, a 2023 HSA allows an individual to annually contribute a maximum of $3,850; a family may fund the account up to $7,750. For those 55 and older, you are eligible to contribute another $1,000.
Individual Roth IRA – You may invest $6,500 annually, plus a $1,000 catch-up contribution option for those 50 and older.
Individual Traditional IRA – Like an Individual Roth IRA, you may invest $6,500, plus a $1,000 catch-up contribution for those 50 and older.
College 529s – Every person can give up to $17,000 to any individual without having to do a special tax filing as part of an annual exclusion for estate taxes.
Custodial Accounts – With this strategy, you must be mindful of 529 contribution amounts to ensure you stay within annual exclusion totals as noted above. There are retirement and non-retirement account options.
Donor Advised Fund (DAF) – Think of this as a Roth IRA for charity and a means for enhancing your gifting power. The idea is to give dollars today using appreciated stock to your DAF with the flexibility to donate to charity over time. Meanwhile you enjoy an upfront tax deduction and the ability to invest and grow tax-free dollars over time.

6. Protect Your Wealth

Have any changes over the last year impacted how your dollars are protected? With proper planning you can safeguard your wealth from creditors, fraudsters or an unforeseen life event. Keep these items in mind as you consider the plan you have in place.

Review and update your account titling and beneficiary designations on all accounts including checking and savings accounts.
Assess who is overseeing your health care decisions, finances and guardianship of minor children when you are no longer able to do so. Consider creating and/or updating your power of attorney for health and financial matters, estate documents including a revocable trust and appoint an executor of your will. Once you have a current estate plan, it’s critical you work with your attorney and advisor to implement it properly.
Utilize strategies to protect your assets and your identity. This includes freezing your credit, regularly monitoring your bank account and credit card transactions, reviewing your credit report annually, assigning a pin number to your tax return and signing up for theft prevention services such as LifeLock or Identity Guard.
To minimize gaps and ensure your insurance coverages are cost effective, evaluate your life, disability and long-term care needs. It’s also recommended you review property and casualty insurance coverages.

Rarely does one’s plan withstand the test of time. Life inevitably changes, almost as quickly as tax and estate laws. Plans should be created, implemented and monitored for changes; a good financial advisor can help hold you accountable, provide proactive advice and be your best advocate.

About the author: Erica Bouchard, CFP®
As a respected, resourceful problem solver and an enthusiastic collaborator, Erica delivers comprehensive long-term plans to her clients, all while accounting for complex dynamics and their ever-changing needs. She invests her time and energy in rigorous continuing education and is committed to bringing skill, insight and confidence to Buckingham client relationships.

For informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as specific investment, accounting, legal, or tax advice. Certain information is based upon third party information which may become outdated or otherwise superseded without notice. Third-party information is deemed reliable, but its accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) nor any other federal or state agency have approved, determined the accuracy, or confirmed adequacy of this article. By clicking on any of the links above, you acknowledge that they are solely for your convenience, and do not necessarily imply any affiliations, sponsorships, endorsements, or representations whatsoever by us regarding third-party websites. We are not responsible for the content, availability, or privacy policies of these sites, and shall not be responsible or liable for any information, opinions, advice, products, or services available on or through them. R-22-4846

Buckingham Weekly Perspectives | Three Tax Tips for 2022

While the year may almost be over, what you do NOW may still impact your finances in 2023. In this episode of Buckingham Weekly Perspectives, Chief Planning Officer Jeffrey Levine shares three tips you can utilize immediately to lower your 2022 tax liability.

How to Share Your Values with Legacy Letters

Legacy_Letters_Image

In wealth planning, it’s important to consider not just tangible assets but also the impact you hope to make on your community and family. This is often called one’s legacy, and a big component of that is intangible assets: your values and life lessons that can be passed down to future generations.

As families and friends gather for the holidays, it’s a good time to reflect on your values and the principles that guide your life and financial decisions. One way to articulate these is to put pen to paper and create a legacy letter. This exercise is a chance to express your gratitude, share wisdom or make amends. It can also be a meaningful gift to your loved ones and yourself.

Why are legacy letters important?

Legacy letters communicate our love, values, beliefs, life lessons and wishes for future generations. These types of letters have been around for over 3,500 years. They originated with the Jewish faith and became popular in the Renaissance period but faded from use in the 1800s. Recently, they’ve re-emerged as a popular way for people of all faiths to share their life story. Several technology services have been developed to help people draft their stories on their own or with professional help.

A legacy letter offers a level of authenticity and truth that enables our loved ones to embrace our story and live and grow from it. It becomes a living document. A survey by Oxford University found that 81% of U.S. respondents want their heirs to have this intangible wealth.

When do I write a legacy letter?

You may be inspired to write, or update, a letter at milestones such as births, graduations, marriages, religious events or holidays. At three of my grandchildren’s baptisms, their parents and godparents wrote letters to the baby. Recently, at the oldest grandchild’s confirmation celebration, the letters were opened and read. For his eighth-grade graduation, his mother gave him a book that included written notes from all his teachers since pre-school. All of these would be considered legacy letters since they discuss wishes and values.

How do I write a legacy letter?

A legacy letter can take many forms — written, video, audio. Written is typically the best option since it will not rely on future technology to replay a recorded version. Nevertheless, I highly recommend you make the decision based on which format you are most comfortable in expressing your thoughts.

How long should my legacy letter be?

Making sure you know what you want to say and how you want to say it is more important than the length. Rather than focusing on word count, make sure the letter reflects your voice and answers questions your family would like to know. Often, that can be achieved in only a few pages, or you may feel compelled to write more. However, it does not need to be the length of an autobiography or memoir.

What should I include in my legacy letter?

Some questions you might want to consider when you sit down to write:

  • What in your life are you most grateful for?
  • What are your most treasured memories?
  • How are you involved with your community?
  • What are your plans for the future?
  • What is your hope for your family’s future?
  • What are you passionate about? And what about it excites you?
  • Do you have any regrets up until this point in your life?
  • What type of person would you like to be remembered as?

Is there anything I should not include in a legacy letter?

It’s important to understand that a legacy letter is not a legal document. Therefore, it is likely not appropriate to explain all the legal details of your wealth transfer plans. That’s what your estate documents and living trust are created for. However, you may choose to add greater context to your wealth plan so that your family understands what factors motivated your choices. Try to keep the tone positive and to share your story constructively.

What resources exist on writing a legacy letter?

Here are a few good book recommendations I share with my clients:

Your advisor’s role in legacy planning

Wishing you the best of luck on your writing journey; I hope that it helps you plan with a purpose. If you are looking for additional resources, your advisor can help to discuss how to define your goals and values and, of course, translate those into your wealth planning decisions.

R-22-4833

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Buckingham Connects Webcast: December 2022

In our final webcast of the year, Managing Director of Investment Strategy Kevin Grogan shared his perspective on the recent market optimism. He attributed the change to markets becoming more hopeful that the Federal Reserve will be able to bring inflation under control without causing a recession. He also answered clients’ most pressing questions about investing, including the differences between mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and an explainer on why diversification is still a winning strategy.

On the planning side, Chief Planning Officer Jeffrey Levine gave a rundown of his year-end checklist as we look toward tax season. Some notable to-dos include reviewing Roth conversions, tax-loss harvesting opportunities and estimated tax payments and withholdings. He also fielded questions from clients about tapping into home equity, the impact of midterm elections on financial plans and the upsides and downsides of annuities.

President Wendy Hartman ended with a positive note for 2023. She reminded clients that Buckingham’s team of advisors strive to bring clarity and education for any event – be it a personal development or pending legislation – that may change their financial plan. And Kevin reminded clients that whether a recession happens or not in the year ahead, it’s important to keep in mind that the markets have already priced in this risk. Find out more on what he expects for the bond market next year in his year-in-review video.

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