In 1900, the average American lifespan was 47 years of age. Today, our life expectancy is 78.8 years. So many people are wondering if their retirement funds will last long enough, and that question is causing a great deal of anxiety. In addition, it also has people wondering if they'll be able to leave any financial inheritance to their families. It is causing many families to redefine what a legacy is and how to pass it on.
Some people are restructuring their assets so they can leave legacies when they pass, while others are giving away money in advance. About 62 percent of Americans age 50 or older are currently providing financial assistance to family members according to a study by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave. That support averages $15,000 per year — more when the giver has more resources. Luckily, you can give away $14,000 per recipient per year without triggering tax penalties or disclosures. After $14,000 the giver must fill out a gift tax return.
Here are some other ways to pass on your legacy while you live and upon your death.
• Grandparents can set up a 529 plan to build a college fund for grandchildren.
• Others use inheritances from their parents to purchase life insurance policies that will pay out even more than the initial inheritance.
• Some families purchase real estate (like a vacation home or property) that is held in trust or owned equally by all heirs.
• Still others create trusts that pay for their retirement years and which will then pass on to family members when the principals die.
• Many set up smaller trusts that will distribute assets year after year to favorite charities.
• Set up an annuity. An annuity is a contract between you and an insurance company in which you make a lump sum payment or series of payments and in return obtain regular disbursements beginning either immediately or in the future. The goal of annuities is to provide a steady stream of income during retirement.
• If insurable, using life insurance to fund the estate is a great way to leverage assets so that they are available to both generations.
There is also great concern that in living longer you may also need care that will sap your assets long before you die. There are strategies that you can put in place that will put some of your assets away from the reach of the government when it seeks to recoup those Medicaid charges.
If you are wondering how long you can afford to live and still pass on assets to loved ones, take time to learn how to plan for retirement. Work with a financial planner and an estate planning attorney to see your options. Like any journey, you need to know where your starting and ending points are. A financial plan will tell you where you stand today, but also where you want to get to, and the strategies you need to make it happen. In addition, an estate plan will provide a road map for your loved ones to begin their journey.