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February 2013

Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, is looking to improve her company’s performance. In a memo from the company’s human resources department to all employees, Mayer made her intentions clear. In order to build a more cohesive company of employees, all work from home arrangements are canceled.

The confidential memo was made public by Kara Swisher at AllThingsD. The letter called for all employees who normally work outside of Yahoo premises to show up at the office. Even those who might need to wait at home for the cable guy on rare occasions were suggested to reconsider their absence from the office.

This seems to be a step backwards. We are in an employment recession, in which workers are continually told to just be thankful they have their jobs and to accept any abuse their employers present by uttering, “Thank you, sir, may I have another?”

Despite this economic condition where the balance of power is weighted heavily towards employers, companies have been trending towards offering more flexible working arrangements. The arguments in favor of flex-time and working from home are reasonably strong:

  • Flexibility is a benefit that employees want, and when employers provide it, boosts morale. Better morale, in turn, inspires workers to enjoy their jobs, and happier employees make better employees.
  • Workers often report fewer distractions and more time spent working when they are in an environment outside of the office. That leads to higher productivity, and higher productivity is good for the company.

Why does the CEO of Yahoo want to move backwards, taking away one of the beneficial features of working for a twenty-first century technology company, where most job functions can be completed well regardless of location? She states her reasons in the memo:

  • Working side-by-side spurs communication and collaboration.
  • Impromptu discussions and meetings foster better decisions and insights.
  • “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”

I will argue with the last point, but otherwise, Mayer has identified the benefits of physical presence. There is no denying that something has been amiss with Yahoo. As a company, it is losing its relevance in a tech world dominated by Google, Apple, and Microsoft. It may not be fair to take away benefits that employees appreciate, particularly when many undoubtedly accepted the Yahoo job offer with the expectation that these benefits would continue be available. And there is probably validity to that thought that this is a way to trim down the fat: employees who love Yahoo will stay and put up with the change, while employees who may not have been as dedicated to their job will leave.

I’ve seen this attitude at companies before. Voluntary attrition always backfires. By making conditions worse for employees in an effort to let a portion of the workforce go without explicitly firing people, Yahoo stands to lose its best employees, not its worst. It’s simple: the best employees have more options open to them, despite the high unemployment rate. The best employees have worked hard to increase their personal human capital — their employability, their desirability, their potential value to others. These folks can do better than Yahoo. They can find a job relatively quickly, one offering the benefits no longer available at the waning tech behemoth.

Nevertheless, a company during its growing period needs people who are going to be 100 percent dedicated to the tasks at hand. No one ever became a superstar without sacrificing something from their personal life, and Mayer is looking for a company of superstars. Excellence requires personal sacrifice, and that means less time for family and less time for friends. Mayer seems to be hunting excellence, and anyone not prepared to make those required sacrifices is not welcome to the team. This often unfairly targets moms, who disproportionately take care of home-focused responsibilities, and are looking for that work/life balance so often lauded by human resource departments.

It’s no wonder that people are calling Yahoo’s move a step in the wrong direction for gender equality in the workplace.

Marissa Mayer is familiar with making personal sacrifices. She skipped her own maternity leave to continue to work. Her attitude has done well for her; she is the CEO of Yahoo.

Not every developer at Yahoo has designs for being an executive at a major company. In fact, most of the developers I know aren’t interested in management at all, and they’re quite happy to quietly code from whatever location they happen to be at the moment, meet with each other over the phone and through online video conferencing, and put it more hours than expected because they aren’t wasting time by commuting, wasting energy with small-talk among co-workers already wasting time in the office, and wasting attention through constant distractions. They’re happy to stretch out in their own space rather than being confined to a tiny cubicle.

The CEO of Yahoo wants a leaner company. Without saying so explicitly in the memo, she wants Yahoo to operate like a start-up, where employees put the mission of the company above all else, including their personal lives. She wants to breed work superstars. Judging from the reaction, this is a drastic change from Yahoo’s current corporate culture, and it could be just the thing to shake it up.

My suggestion is for Yahoo to make coming to the office an enjoyable experience. If people like to be there, they won’t think so much about how they miss working from the couch in their living room or being available for family at all hours. Eventually, Yahoo will reverse this possibility. In order to make Yahoo a relevant company again, something like this could be the shake-up the company needs.

There are better ways to make this change, though. Canceling an expected privilege of working for a technology company with a memo from human resources is not going to be well-received, and it will likely have the opposite effect on employee morale. The goal is for employees to make sacrifices for the sake of building a better company, but Yahoo needs to represent something worth sacrificing for first, and that comes from great leadership. It appears that Yahoo is not there yet.

Photo: Flickr

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This week has been dubbed American Saves Week by the Consumer Federation of America, a non-profit organization founded in 1968 “to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education,” according to the organization’s website. All this week, the group and many partners in the non-profit world, in the financial industry, and among publishers will be promoting concepts related to responsible care of personal finances.

Banking Deal: Earn 1.30% APY on an FDIC-insured savings account at Synchrony Bank.

Although I had always been aware of the importance of saving money — whether for emergencies, for the distant future, or for upcoming purchases — my problem as a kid and a young adult was that I thought I wasn’t earning enough money to save. And if you looked at my cash flow statement at the time, you wouldn’t have been able to argue with that.

My first permanent job out of college was with a non-profit organization 66 miles from my home, up the New Jersey Turnpike. It required travel over the weekends, and there wasn’t much reimbursement for those expenses. Considering rent and other basic expenses, my low salary was barely enough to cover my ability to maintain the job. If I were to take into account the number of hours I worked, I would be too scared to determine my effective hourly rate.

All things aside, it could have been a very satisfying job, under other circumstances. But it wasn’t, and I suffered mentally and financially. Nevertheless, I started contributing just a little bit into savings. Although I thought I wasn’t earning enough money to save, I found occasional opportunities to choose to deposit rather than spend. I made some sacrifices. I moved closer to the job. I did what I could to start moving in the right direction, even if slowly.

I was part of the 64 percent of Americans who, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, wouldn’t be able to come up with $1,000 to pay for an unexpected expense without neglecting responsibilities or going into debt.

The best changes came after I left that job. I found myself a less stimulating but more financially responsible position, learned more about personal finance, and found out what it was like to be able to save money regularly rather than haphazardly.

When you have a positive cash flow every month and you are out of debt, every dollar you earn goes to you — not to the credit card companies, not to the banks’ profit lines. Sure, you still have expenses, but when you have money left over after your basic needs are covered, you have the choice of saving or spending without going into debt. And having that choice is freedom; everything else is a form of financial slavery (or indenture).

Savers don’t always have it easy. The government is charged with the task of stimulating the economy, and the widely accepted theory is that the economy grows more when people spend compared to when they save. At the same time, in difficult economic environments when people are concerned about the security of their jobs and paychecks, people are inclined to save money for financial protection.

Consumers who put money into savings accounts while the economy was running smoothly were rewarded with interest rates as high as 5 percent, with bonus rates even higher. This was almost double the rate of inflation. In other words, you could hold your money in a bank account for a year, and it would be “worth” more in terms of purchasing power than it was worth when you deposited the funds. Banks were willing to pay high rates because they were able to use savers’ money to lend to other customers, many of whom were making so much money in the real estate market, flipping houses for example, that the banks were able to sell expensive loans.

In today’s environment, the banks aren’t writing as many loans, and the financial industry is flowing with low-cost money from the Federal Reserve. There’s no need to pay customers high interest rates on savings accounts because the banks have everything they need at government-inspired low rates.

In this economic situation, there are some financial experts who are saying this is a good time for borrowers, not savers. Borrowers are being rewarded with low rates, particularly in the real estate market. This is supposed to inspire the real estate market, and then eventually the stock market and the economy as a whole, but two things are still keeping this recovery slow: the unemployment rate is still higher than it’s been during better economic times and banks are more stingy with loan qualifications than they were during happier periods. As a result, people don’t feel great about their jobs and potential for future income. So while we may be out of the Great Recession, we don’t feel fully recovered.

Without the financial reward of savings interest rates above inflation, why still save? Why not take advantage of low interest rates and buy assets that have a good chance of appreciating in value? I have some thoughts about my motivation, which I’ll share here. What motivates you to continue saving without the financial reward?

Here’s why I save:

  • It’s not all about the interest. My savings accounts may be part of my overall financial strategy, but it’s not an investment in which I expect to earn money. I don’t need to earn interest to save, though the higher the interest, the better. The purpose of saving money is partly for emergencies. Knowing I can get to my savings quickly and that it won’t lose value (except for inflation) keeps at least some of my money in a bank account.
  • Saving provides financial freedom. If you want to buy a $1,000 television but you have to put it on your credit card, you may end up paying $1,500 or more for it. By the time you’ve made your last payment, the television might only be worth $500 or less! That’s not as good of an example as something that happened to me recently. My mother was in the hospital on the other side of the country; because I had savings set aside, I could buy a flight at the last minute. Normally I’d only buy airplane tickets in advance to avoid high prices, but that’s not always possible. The flexibility to do what I need to do, when I need to do it, without needing to ask whether it would create a financial hardship, is the kind of freedom provided by saving.
  • Saving makes me feel good. I have a fully-funded emergency plan. It involves more than just cash or savings accounts. It has tiered access, and is more helpful and more rewarding than just an emergency fund. Being protected from emergencies in this matter makes me feel secure in knowing that I’m unlikely to face an unexpected expense that I can’t handle.
  • I can take more risk in other areas of my life. With a strong back-up plan and healthy human capital, I can afford to take some risks with my life. I quit my regular job to work for myself a few years ago, but only after I was secure with my finances. I could move out of my apartment, absorbing the expenses, if it makes sense for me to move. I’m able to diversify my assets across a broad range of investments, with a meaningful investment in many thanks to my savings.

Perhaps the day will return when savers are rewarded with higher interest rates, but I’m not counting on that happening any time soon. If not for earning interest, why do you save money?

Photo: Flickr

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Calculating your net worth is easy. First find the value of all your assets, including your bank accounts, cash lying around the house, investments, and major assets like real property. Next find the value of all your liabilities, including loans, credit card balances, bills you have to pay soon. Subtract the liabilities value from the assets value and you have your net worth. If you want more detail around that, here’s how to calculate your net worth, with discussion about nuances of the calculation.

Knowing your net worth is a great starting point for gaining control of your monetary situation with an eventual goal of financial independence. Net worth provides an answer to “Where are we now?” that is essential, especially when tracked over time, for feedback on whether your financial decisions are working to your benefit.

Net worth is only part of the story of a person’s full worth. You’ll also need to track your income and expenses to give yourself context for increases or decreases in your net worth month to month. But even this does not tell the complete story.

Financial capital is the monetary value of everything you own, your net worth, but human capital looks outside of just today’s assets and liabilities. Human capital has many definitions, but from a personal perspective, your human capital is your ability to earn income or increase your net worth in the future. A human resources department look at human capital from the business’s perspective, but that’s not what the intent is here.

Personal human capital much more difficult to measure than net worth or financial capital because it relies on qualitative analysis rather than quantitative analysis, and requires some educated guesses rather than provable measurements.

It’s possible to increase your human capital by achieving certain tasks or taking a specific approach to living your life. If it’s possible to increase something, there must be a way of measuring it to determine if you’re successful, and if so, how successful you are.

In general, the things that increase your human capital are also likely to increase your appeal to potential employers. Some companies refer to their employees as the “human capital” of the business, and that concept isn’t far from what I’m exploring.

These are the factors that will go into the formula for calculating your human capital. This is an open discussion; if you have any suggestions for tweaks, provide comments below, and we can discuss changes, and ultimately build an official human capital formula.

Education related to the field you’re pursuing. Some careers require more advanced degrees than others. For example, doctors complete a graduate medical program beyond earning a bachelor’s degree and have residency requirements before they can be placed in a full position; a teacher requires state certification, in some cases a master’s degree, and continuing education; a certified public accountant requires a degree or experience plus a successful certification.

In general, the more education you have, the more you have an ability to earn more money throughout your lifetime. The biggest gap is between those with just high school diplomas and those with a college education.

Let’s call this variable er (for education — related). Its value will be the years of education beyond high school that pertain directly to your current employment. It may be zero if your work is in a completely different field than your education.

Other education. It’s very common to pursue a career unrelated to your degree. Many friends studied one subject in college and either found a passion in another field or were faced with reality that seemed to required pursuing a career in a more lucrative position. Not all unrelated education are equal in terms of human capital, however. An education in music limits what you might be able to pursue other than an arts-related career if you aren’t already in an arts-related career.

The pertinence of the specific course of study decreases as you distance yourself from college through time, so at some point, it’s more relevant that you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree — any bachelor’s degree — than what you studied. This variable will be es (for education — supplemental).

Your remaining years of work. Your age plays a role in your human capital, but it’s related mostly to how many years you may be able to continue working, from either a physical or mental perspective. This is impossible to predict with certainty, but an estimate is fine. Unless you work at a job that is literally killing you slowly, it’s safe to say you can continue working until you’re at least 70 if you need to. So one possible approach is to subtract your current age from 70. This variable will be labeled y.

Your years of experience. The more you work in your field, the more of a chance you have of receiving jobs with more responsibility and higher compensation. Jump to a new field, and if your job function is different, you may have to work from the bottom again. Measured in years, your experience will be called x.

Your brand cultivation. If you’re well-known in your industry — perhaps you are a published author, speak at conferences, or are a household name — you are better positioned for earning a living in the future. Judging our own brand presence is difficult to do, and the more popular you seem to be, the more likely it is you’ll overestimate your importance. Neil Gaiman can probable call any television producer and get a job writing a script for writing any television show and his books are quite popular, but his talents may be overshadowed by the shadow of the brand of someone like Stephenie Meyer, whose agent can likely close a lucrative deal with one call.

And just ask any reality television star who was famous for fifteen minutes — your brand can disappear and lose relevancy in an instant, so this is something that can change frequently.

Just give yourself a brand cultivation value of 1 to 10, with 10 being a name you see in the media every day, and 2 being published for a niche audience, like a scientific journal. This will be the variable b, and I expect most people should rate themselves a 1 or a 2.

Your human network. How many people call you call out of the blue and ask for a favor, with a reasonable expectation that these people will help you to the best of their abilities? That’s the real value of a human network. If you can tell someone you need a job and they can come back with some suggestions, you’re able to make use of your human network. If you haven’t cultivated a network, your reach is smaller. This is similar to a “Klout” rating on Twitter; how influential are you?

Forget about your number of LinkedIn connections, Twitter followers, or Facebook friends. How many people can you really count on to be connected enough and willing to help you in a time of need? This is the value of your human network, or the variable n. It has a maximum of 60, because after about 60 the value of each additional connection will decrease.

Your involvement in a community. If you are involved in volunteering for an organization or active in your local economy, your human capital is higher. Involvement tends to increase your human network and your brand cultivation, but it has value just on its own. Consider how involved you are in activities outside of your job, on a scale of 1 to 10. This is the variable i.

Your drive for advancement. You will only move forward if you want to succeed. I’ve worked with people who were satisfied with where they were in life. They had no desire to earn more money, no desire to advance in their jobs, no desire for additional responsibilities. That’s a happy place to be, and if that’s you, you’re bound to stay roughly where you are. But if you’re fully driven to advance and are motivated to move forward with the income-earning aspect of your life, you can reach the potential that is promised by the other factors.

It’s not bad to not be driven towards advancement. Many people put a higher priority on other aspects of life, like family. There’s no judgment of values, but the drive to move forward greatly affects your human capital and earning potential. Rate your drive from 1 to 10, and label it with the variable d.

Your health. Health is important because it can affect your ability to earn income over your lifetime as well as your likelihood of facing a medical problem. Of course, someone completely healthy can have an accident that requires expensive medical care. Insurance companies do a good job of understanding someone’s health profile and likelihood of costs related to that person, but there’s no need to get that level of detail for our human capital calculation. All I would look for is a health rating, from 1, dying, to 10, in great shape with no real health risks.

Smokers receive a low rating while working out regularly would move the needle higher. This is the variable h.

Bonus points. Special skills and attributes are bound to affect your human capital. Use this list to define a value for the variable z, with a maximum value of 10. Add one point…

  • … for each major language you speak mostly fluently, other than your primary language.
  • … if you are an optimist rather than a pessimist.
  • … if you are proficient at public speaking.
  • … if you have a variety of interests outside of your career.
  • … if you can play a musical instrument or are otherwise inclined towards a talent with arts.
  • … if you are skilled in the forward-looking field (as an application developer, for example).
  • … if you are able and willing to be flexible with your future goals and career paths.
  • … if you are self-motivating and like to get things done.
  • … if you have a strong support network of friends and family who help you emotionally, not necessarily with business
  • … if you travel at least occasionally, exposing yourself to different cultures.

Now that we have all the variables, we need to put them into a formula that makes sense.

Ch = (y + 0.1d × (er + 0.5es + x + 5b + 0.25n + 0.5i + z) ) × Log(h)

The result, Ch, is a factor for human capital that can be applied to your income today to predict your future lifetime income.

Example

Let’s say a person for the example, Harry, has two years of post-college education relating to his field and four years of unrelated education. At the age of 35, he has at least another 35 years of work ahead of him if he does’t retire. He has 10 years of experience in his current role. He is relatively unknown in his field, but is well-respected within his organization, so his brand penetration is a value of 1. He has worked to build a network of colleagues and leaders in his field, and estimates there may be 10 people he can count on if he needed a professional favor.

He is moderately involved in his community and with his college alumni association, and rates himself a 5 in this area. He rates his health a 7 thanks to eating well and exercising regularly. let’s say Harry’s fully driven, with a score of 10 out of 10 in that category.

Harry receives 6 bonus points based on his answers to the above questions. Using the above calculation, his human capital, Ch, is 54.93.

Now that we have a number, we need to know if it’s good or bad. In the formula, brand cultivation is heavily weighted. If you’re famous, the possibilities are almost endless. I did limit the factor, though, because as I mentioned above, most people are likely to overestimate the importance of their own brand. A good result will be higher than the number of working years left (y) plus ten, a mediocre result would be around y,, and a bad result would be below y..

We can use the number to estimate the future income of a person, not taking inflation into account. With a result of 48.83 and a salary today of $50,000, we can roughly estimate Harry might earn $2,746,569 over the rest of his career. That takes into account his potential for growth, which relies on things like his brand strength, his health, his experience, and his attitude.

You can’t always just use your annual income as a guide, though; if your income is not sustainable or temporary, use a figure that is similar to what someone who does your work might earn if the extra circumstances weren’t applicable.

Is this accurate? It would require extensive research to determine if the income prediction is valid, but the purpose of the formula is to create a metric that can be used to track progress in the increase of human capital over time as well as person-to-person comparisons.

What do you think about the formula for human capital? Do you agree with the weightings? Are any factors missing?

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To prepare for the idea that someday I may no longer be alive, but also as a matter of general organization, I have created a revocable living trust. The primary benefit of this type of trust is to avoid a hassle for those who may be dealing with my estate after I die. No, I don’t have a large piece of property somewhere in the south of France. My estate is just my assets — bank accounts, investments, business interests — as modest as they are. Without a trust, the process of probate could be expensive and disorderly, but with a trust, probate can be avoided altogether.

Banking Deal: Earn 1.30% APY on an FDIC-insured savings account at Synchrony Bank.

I met with an estate attorney last month, and we discussed the terms of the trust. Yesterday, the documents were complete, and I visited her office to sign the documents, including a Last Will and Testament, in front of witnesses. The general consensus is that at the age of thirty-six, I’m a somewhat ahead of the curve. People generally don’t begin to consider these things until later in life.

But I’ve been writing about personal finances for ten years; it’s time I completed some of the more fringe tasks of managing my own money.

A revocable living trust doesn’t necessarily provide any protection for your assets. Unlike an irrevocable trust, the owner (trustee) still retains control of the assets. Thus, assets in a trust still reachable by a court and they’re still counted in your total net worth when government programs determine whether you qualify for benefits. The trust is a legal document that defines what happens to your assets in a variety of situations, but is much more flexible than a will.

The benefits of a trust apply only to those assets that are placed within a trust. And that means re-titling or changing your accounts so the trust is the owner. This is a process that can be straightforward and easily completed or it can take some time, require specialized witnesses to signatures, or deal potentially with customer service representatives unfamiliar with the process.

Moving bank accounts into a trust

My first order of business is to consolidate my variety of bank accounts. At the height, I owned several dozen bank accounts. That’s not normal. I had so many open bank accounts because I’ve used my own money to test and review bank accounts for Consumerism Commentary readers, like this review of the American Express savings account. This has left me with small amounts of money in bank accounts all over the country.

I’ve been slowly closing these accounts over the past year, but I want to ensure there’s nothing left that’s not in just a few accounts. For now, those accounts are going to be Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct), Wells Fargo (where I recently received a new debit card declaring me a “customer since 1989”), and Chase Bank (a branch opened up a few years ago within walking distance).

Capital One 360 makes transferring accounts into a trust simple. It requires a one-page form which can be scanned and e-mailed, faxed, or sent via standard mail. Other banks may have a more involved process. I’ll be visiting my Wells Fargo and Chase branches to determine what is necessary to move assets into the trust. Sometimes, banks need to see the legal document, but the attorney who draws up the trust should be able to create pages that include what the bank needs to see without sharing personal details, like how you want your assets to be distributed. That information isn’t necessary for the bank’s process.

Moving investment accounts into a trust

My primary brokerage account is held at Vanguard. I’ve closed almost all of my other investment accounts, but I still have some shares of my former employer held with E*TRADE. To move assets into a trust at Vanguard, the company requires a two-step process. First, I must open a new account at Vanguard under the name of the trust. I will receive a new account number. Then, I simply transfer all assets from my personal account to the account within the trust.

One of the forms requires a signature guarantee. This isn’t as easy to find as a notary public. This requires me to sign the document in front of someone who has a special certification, and this is a service available in not many places other than investment banks. Luckily, I found a local bank branch that does offer signature guarantees for its customers, if the particular employee who has the authority happens to be in the branch on any particular day. I’ve done this once before for a Vanguard form; I will need to do it again to move my stock and bond funds into my revocable living trust.

Moving retirement accounts into a trust

I have IRAs at Vanguard, Fidelity, and TIAA-Cref. I’ve avoiding moving these accounts from one company to another. My preference would be to consolidate them at Vanguard, and this is something I might attempt to do some day. The IRAs consist of Roth IRAs and traditional IRAs. Some are rollovers from 401(k) accounts with former employers. I have an SEP IRA from when I considered myself self-employed. I have an Individual 401(k) from when I was saving for retirement with income from my business.

You can’t put retirement accounts into a trust. With retirement accounts, however, you can name beneficiaries, and while it’s possible to name the trust as a beneficiary, one reason prevents me from doing this with my IRAs. When a trust is named as a beneficiary to an IRA, the trust must begin making withdrawals from the IRA account when the funds come into the trust. This could create a tax problem for the trust’s eventual beneficiaries. In order to avoid this, I must name individual beneficiaries for the retirement accounts. This allows the beneficiaries to roll over the IRA they receive from the estate into their own IRA, avoiding any required distributions, additional unexpected income, and the tax consequences of that income.

Moving a house into a trust

My primary residence is an apartment that I rent. If I owned a house, or any properties as investment, I would be going through the process of changing the ownership. More precisely, I’d most likely be allowing the attorney to handle those transfers. Since my trust is established before I’d be purchasing property, I may be able to buy a house as the trustee immediately, rather than purchasing the house as an individual and changing the title and transferring the deed later.

Moving a house into a trust doesn’t seem to be a difficult process, but it may be worthwhile to allow an estate attorney handle the paperwork.

Moving insurance into a trust

When you name a beneficiary of an life insurance policy, on the event of your death, the beneficiary will receive the proceeds of the policy and will avoid probate. But if the beneficiary is a minor, you may wish to name the trust as the beneficiary. Your trust can have language that allows a new trust to be established for any beneficiaries under an age you may specify — twenty-one and twenty-five are popular choices. This newly formed trust, coming into existence when you die, can set specific rules for how the life insurance proceeds (or any other assets inherited by the minor) can be used.

I do not have a life insurance policy. I’m currently the only individual being supported by my income, so life insurance is not a concern for me at the moment. That might change in the future. In fact, there may be many changes ahead. If I have children or get married, I’d be changing much of the terms of my revocable living trust. This type of trust gives me the flexibility to amend or restate the trust at any time.

While a revocable living trust can help with estate planning, its benefit is organizational. It can’t help you shelter all your assets from the estate tax. It can’t hide your wealth from creditors or the government. But it can give you an infinite amount of flexibility. You can be very specific about who receives the benefits of your estate and under what circumstances. Your trust can establish other trusts, exclude specific assets from your otherwise comprehensive plan (like a work of art someone other than your regular beneficiaries might appreciate). It can dictate your charitable desires with more flexibility than just a Last Will and Testament. And, in combination with other documents, can prepare your assets for circumstances other than your death.

Photo: Flickr

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SteveDH January 2013 Net Worth

by Luke Landes

Naked With Cash is the year-long series on Consumerism Commentary where seven readers’ households share their financial progress on a monthly basis. I’ve partnered with financial planners who will offer some guidance along the way. Read this introduction to learn more about the series. SteveDH is retired, and he and his wife have two grown […]

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Now Covered By Umbrella Insurance

by Luke Landes

There is nothing that can derail your financial success or path to independence as fast as being held liable for some kind of catastrophic loss without the appropriate level of insurance coverage. Automobile and homeowners insurance (or renter’s insurance) cover only up to a certain amount of your liability if you or your property is […]

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Stock Market Reaching Highs: Time to Exit?

by Luke Landes

On November 12, the world was still reacting to the election of Barack Obama to a second term in the White House. The financial media began its relentless coverage of the fiscal cliff. Market confidence was down, and so were the stock market indexes, immediately following the election results. This seemed to me to be […]

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Raising the Minimum Wage to $9

by Luke Landes

In his State of the Union address to the United States Congress and the television-viewing audience around the world, President Obama called for an increase in the federal minimum wage as a way to reduce poverty. If you believe that business owners have a right to pay whatever the market will bear, minimum wages, whether […]

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Maker’s Mark Adds Water

by Luke Landes

I’ve never had Maker’s Mark, but I do have friends who enjoy this particular brand of bourbon — or the bottles in which the bourbon is sold. With this latest piece of news, I’m wondering if the company believes the bottle is the product being sold rather than the alcohol inside. Beam, the corporate owner […]

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How to Adjust to a Global Employment Marketplace

by Luke Landes

Chances are good that there is someone else in the world who can do your job better than you can, who is willing to work a lot harder, who can spend more time on the job, and who will accept a lower salary for the same position. Thus is the inequity in the employment marketplace […]

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