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The misconception of UTMA and UGMA accounts: what you need to know

KJ: A bit shocking of a headline I imagine for anyone who has setup an UTMA or UGMA account for their son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandchild, cousin, whomever. In theory, I like the concept of an UTMA and UGMA account, but in reality, I think they are highly over utilized for what their intended purpose is.

Short for Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA) or Uniform Gift to Minors (UGMA), it even says it in the name that it’s a gift or transfer TO the minor.

So, what is the misconception? With an UTMA or UGMA account, any money you gift to the account is considered an irrevocable gift to the beneficiary. That’s right, it is a gift of money (or investments) that you have given to a minor, and it’s up to a designated ‘custodian’ (i.e. generally the parent) who oversees the account on behalf of the minor until they are of age.

Sure, it’s a great way to potentially help set aside some designated funds for a minor, but once the minor reaches the age of majority (depends on the state, but it is either 18 or 21), then they legally have full control of the account to do whatever they may want to do with the account. Woah. Anything? Yep!

One nice feature is that you can use the funds for the benefit of the minor at any age (can be junior high, high school, college, etc.) for living expenses unlike a 529 plan that must be used for qualified higher education expenses. See also our post on into to funding education where we also talk about other higher education funding accounts and their pros/cons.

Figure Sitting And Reading Book With Idea Bulb Stock Image

An UTMA/UGMA becomes the child’s account
While traditionally common to help set aside some funds for education for a child, many parents don’t often realize that the account is legally the child’s to use however they would want once they reach a certain age. Plus, if the parent wants to recapture some of the funds (say it wasn’t all used for education or other support for the child), then it is up to the minor to actually gift the money back to the parents! Sure, a saving grace is often that the child probably has no idea how to access the funds unless the parent discusses it with them, but still. They might begin to wonder why they have a 1099 for an account in their name!

Taxation implications
There really aren’t too many positive income tax implications for an UTMA/UGMA. The first $1,000 of gains/income each year (for 2014) is tax-free, and the second $1,000 is taxed at the child’s tax rates (typically very, very low), but any gains above that are taxed at the parent’s income tax rates. It prevents parents from being able to shift a lot of assets to their child to avoid a higher income tax bracket.

Know the restrictions
While I’m not 100% anti-UTMA and UGMA accounts – in fact, we have one setup for my nieces – the person setting them up often doesn’t quite realize the implications for how the account can be used. For us, Angela and I wanted it to be used for whatever K&G may want when they get to a certain age – be it school, help with a car down payment, help with a house down payment, etc. We knew the implications of setting up the account and how it may ultimately be used beforehand.

Consider other options
Sure, these account types CAN be appropriate from time-to-time to help fund education for a child, and they can be appropriate for a parent truly wanting to gift some funds to their child to use however they want.

However, for those parents hoping to exclusively use it for higher education costs and to potentially “recapture” whatever may be left, there are much better uses of the funds. Maybe a 529 plan would be more suitable (where the donor continues to control the account after the beneficiary is of the age of majority), and if you wanted to gift the account back to yourself at the end of the time period, you generally can find a way to do so much easier (noting there could be some gift tax and income tax implications for earnings in the 529 plan account not used for higher education).

With a 529 plan, you can also reassign the beneficiary to another child, relative, etc. if the first child either doesn’t go to college or attends a less expensive college than you planned (woohoo for your budget!). Something you don’t have the ability to do with an UTMA/UGMA.

UTMA/UGMA accounts may impact financial aid options
One factor impacting your out-of-pocket education costs is eligibility for financial aid. A downside to the UTMA/UGMA accounts is that the value of an UTMA/UGMA account may reduce the child’s ability to receive financial assistance in college. In fact, it isn’t uncommon to see financial aid reduced by 20%+ of the value that is owned in an UTMA/UGMA.

    Do you have an UTMA or UGMA setup for anyone?
    What made you decide to open that account type?
    If you chose a 529 plan, why?

Image courtesy of Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

The misconception of UTMA and UGMA accounts: what you need to know is copyrighted by TheSimpleMoneyBlog.com without consent to republish.

Some of the links in the post above may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. We feel strongly about only recommending products or services we use personally and/or believe will add value to you, our readers. Read more about our commitment to providing quality product recommendations.

Ten financial commandments to live by in your 20′s

Old Antique Book
KJ: If you were to create Ten Commandments that would apply to your financial life in your 20′s, what would be on the list? Fortunately, MSN money recently wrote an article on 10 financial commandments for your 20′s that outlined their list of ten items that all Gen Y’ers should abide by. Do any of these resonate with you? Whether you’re in your twenties now (or were at some point), what words of wisdom would you impart on the younger generation of the shoulda-woulda-coulda?

No. 1: Develop a marketable skill
Check! – I would like to say that we have developed some pretty marketable skills. I’m a whiz-kid when it comes to spreadsheets, and Angela is at the forefront when it comes to interpersonal relationships and knowing how to sell [insert product or initiative] just about anything.

No. 2: Establish a budget
Check! – I would say we’re pretty on-board with this one. While the last few months have been a bit of a stretch with some extra items that have come up with our house, we always come back to “how can we pay for this without keeping anything on the credit card”? Sometimes expenses – and income – ebbs and flows, and this past quarter we decided to take the plunge and finally get around to some of the things around the house we had been holding off on for a while (read, finally painted our deck and got some patio furniture!).

Check out our tips on budget basics and building your first budget.

No. 3: Get insured
Check! – I would say we have this one down stat. I’m covered through my work, and Angela has coverage through her work for health insurance. Plus, we’ve got our ducks in a row for homeowner’s, car, life insurance, etc.

No. 4: Make a debt-repayment plan
Check! – None needed on this one. ‘Nuff said. Other than the house, we’re debt free!

No. 5: Build an emergency fund
Check! – Reached our goal for the emergency fund, but we continue to pad it for the next car purchase or big purchase down the line.

No. 6: Start saving for retirement
Check! – Between 401(k)s, Roth IRAs, and HSAs (that we intend to use as supplemental retirement by letting it grow over time instead of spending it today), we’re working toward that goal!

No. 7: Build up your credit history
Check! – With our process of putting all our expenses on a credit card to rack up some nice rewards and then paying it in full each month, coupled with our home loan, we’re on the track we need to be to establish some good long-term credit.

No. 8: Quit the Bank of Mom and Dad
Check! – Fortunately, once we got out of college, we were immediately on our own dime and learned to take care of ourself. We still thoroughly enjoy the “chef de Mom y Dad” when we get to spend time with family for meals, but no loans that we owe to our parents! This was a very high priority and goal for Angela and I as we started our adult lives together. We don’t want to owe anyone anything!

No. 9: Clean up your online presence
Check! – What happens on the internet, stays on the internet. Learn to keep a classy profile and think twice before you post something seemingly benign!

No. 10: Get your key financial documents in order
Check(ish)! We have most of our financial affairs and documents in order. One of our goals for this next quarter is to [finally] get our estate plan and wills in order. Being that I work in the industry, you’d think I would have this down, but we haven’t gotten around to it yet. Otherwise, between downloading our monthly statements from all accounts, reviewing Mint.com regularly, and discussing our quarterly presentation together, I would say the rest of our financial documents are in about as good order as they could be.

    What financial commandments do you live by?
    What would you tell your 20-something self?
    Share with us the rules that guide your life!

Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Ten financial commandments to live by in your 20s is copyrighted by TheSimpleMoneyBlog.com without consent to republish.

Some of the links in the post above may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. We feel strongly about only recommending products or services we use personally and/or believe will add value to you, our readers. Read more about our commitment to providing quality product recommendations.

How does the Affordable Care Act affect me? You may be impacted even if you have employer health insurance.

KJ: With this year bringing a lot of healthcare changes we wanted to dedicate a post to some of the changes that have occurred and what you may be going through (or will go through).

We stumbled across a nice little decision site where Mint.com partnered with TurboTax to help you understand your options when it comes to healthcare coverage this year. Check out the site at: TurboTax and Mint.com health care considerations.

Heap Of Dollars With Stethoscope

So, what has changed? Well the most obvious change is that (generally speaking) you are now required to get health insurance, otherwise you could face some stiff penalties. See the below excerpt directly from the healthcare.gov website:

    The penalty in 2014 is calculated one of 2 ways. If you or your dependents don’t have insurance that qualifies as minimum essential coverage you’ll pay whichever of these amounts is higher:

      1% of your yearly household income. (Only the amount of income above the tax filing threshold, $10,150 for an individual, is used to calculate the penalty.) The maximum penalty is the national average premium for a bronze plan.
      $95 per person for the year ($47.50 per child under 18). The maximum penalty per family using this method is $285.

    The way the penalty is calculated, a single adult with household income below $19,650 would pay the $95 flat rate. A single adult with household income above $19,650 would pay an amount based on the 1% rate. (If income is below $10,150, no penalty is owed.)

    The penalty increases every year. In 2015 it’s 2% of income or $325 per person. In 2016 and later years it’s 2.5% of income or $695 per person. After that it’s adjusted for inflation.

    If you’re uninsured for just part of the year, 1/12 of the yearly penalty applies to each month you’re uninsured. If you’re uninsured for less than 3 months, you don’t have to make a payment.

    You’ll pay the fee on your 2014 federal income tax return. Most people will file this return in 2015.

Current coverage can still mean changes coming
However, just because you have coverage through your employer doesn’t mean you won’t be experiencing any changes! I didn’t see a whole lot of changes with my employment (other than more behind-the-scenes changes to deductibles, calculation of out of pocket maximums, premium costs to the employer, etc.), but it really means there was an increased cost for the employer. And, we should all know what that means – a cost that would ultimately impact the employees over time.

Expanded options in many cases
More options are always better, right? Well, it can be. But it seems like sometimes we have decision overload with so many options. Think of the last time you went to the grocery store and were selecting cereal. There are literally hundreds of options, so sometimes the choice is a no-brainer while at other times you are balancing budget/taste/craving/amount-before-it-expires/health.

For Angela’s changes at work, she had quite a drastic change in her health insurance options that were available. They took the approach of how the public health insurance exchanges work. The end result – SIGNIFICANTLY more options for coverage. Not only did we have to decide about the particular insurance type to analyze (bronze, silver, and gold level plans), but we then had to select the individual carrier too within that framework! Some insurance providers were a clear winner (or loser) while others were very close. How then did we decide how to proceed?

As with everything else that applies to personal finances, you have to run the numbers and calculate the differences. It required quite a bit more work in terms of analyzing what the potential out-of-pocket costs would run under a normal year, taking into account how it would be different if there were a catastrophe or significant medical costs. The key with this calculation is to also evaluate what the monthly premium costs are too that come out of your paycheck. If you know you have certain prescription costs, regular doctors visits, or an upcoming surgery, be sure to include those as well. So, it should look like:

    Monthly Premiums
    + Estimated Doctors Visits Costs (noting generally preventive and annual visits would be excluded)
    + Surgery Costs
    + Copays
    + Prescription costs
    = Total Estimated Out of Pocket for the Year

In some cases, you may notice a significant rise in costs over the prior year depending on your situation, but you may also be able to identify ways to reduce your out-of-pocket costs.

Be sure to balance the impact to your bottom-line
Whichever option you chose, take into consideration your cash flow needs and emergency fund available. If you select the lower out-of-pocket health insurance costs that is coupled with a higher deductible, be sure you have the cash and emergency fund to handle that increase! If not, work to make it your goal for this year to build that up even greater, so you can take advantage of the lower premium options in future years.

It’s all a balancing act, and one you can only truly know with 20/20 hindsight, but that doesn’t mean you should just keep everything the same year-after-year. Take a look at what the numbers would end up being. It isn’t going to be perfect, but the more you project, the more you learn how to project, so use each projection as a learning experience of how you can improve your analyses!

    Have you had any changes to your health insurance coverage?
    How did you decide which option to select?
    Hopefully the TurboTax tool will help you with your decisions!

Image courtesy of Baitong333 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

How does the Affordable Care Act affect me? You may be impacted even if you have employer health insurance. is copyrighted by TheSimpleMoneyBlog.com without consent to republish.

Some of the links in the post above may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. We feel strongly about only recommending products or services we use personally and/or believe will add value to you, our readers. Read more about our commitment to providing quality product recommendations.

What does cash flow mean and how do I apply it to my life?

Stack of Bank Note and Pen Calculator On Note Book
KJ: One of the most critical concepts to managing your family’s finances is to understand cash flow. What it means, how your family receives it, and how to plan around it. We’ve dedicated a post to helping you understand this financial metric and how you can apply it to your personal situation.

Definition of cash flow
Cash flow is essentially a look at all of the monies deposited into your account from whichever sources derived less all of your expenses and cash outflows – in whatever form it may be.

Make an inventory of your cash inflows
Make a list of your income and income cash flows. It may be earned income or it may be considered “unearned.” Include specific information about the regularity of the cash flows (weekly, biweekly, semi-monthly, quarterly, yearly) as well as the level of certainty (regularly recurring, one-time payments, variable payments (commissions, bonuses), etc.). Below is a list of a few common income flows:

    Salary
    Commissions
    Bonuses
    Child support
    Alimony
    IRA distributions
    Income from bonds paid to you*
    Income from stocks paid to you*
    Income from other investments or business interests*
    Income from a savings account paid to you*
    Credit card bonuses or rewards (we save ALL of these!)

*Pay particular attention to only include these items in your household’s cash flow if there is some regularity to them and the amounts are paid to your checking account and not reinvested within the account. If the amounts are simply reinvested or paid within an account you don’t use for your expenses or cash flow, then counting them is not going to help improve your cash flow!

Make an inventory of your cash outflows
Prepare an equally detailed list of all of your expenses. Pay particular attention to the timing, amounts, and frequency of each expense that you may have in a year. Below is a list of common expenses to consider:

    Rent
    Mortgage (including interest, taxes, and insurance)
    Homeowner’s Association dues (HOA)
    Insurance (life, health, auto, disability, etc.)
    Food (groceries, dining out, fast food)
    Utilities (television, internet, phone, water, gas, electricity)
    Charitable donations
    Pet (grooming, food, veterinary)
    Medicine/Doctor (medication, doctor visits)
    IRA contributions
    401(k) contributions
    HSA contributions
    Savings account contributions
    Investment account contributions
    Taxes (state and federal income tax – can be yearly, quarterly, and/or withheld from a paycheck)
    Travel (hotel, estimated food, airline)
    Credit card payments and interest (hopefully you’re not paying any and the cards are paid off!)
    Child support paid
    Alimony paid

Evaluate the net number
Add up all the income sources and subtract out all of the expense categories for each month. If you find that you come up with a negative number, then something’s gotta give – no wonder you’re having cash flow issues!

If you and your family have a complicated cash flow situation with irregular income payments, then consider projecting out all of these items throughout the course of a year.

Even if your calculation turns out positive, doesn’t mean you’re on the track that you need to be. Look closely at the savings contributions (IRA, 401(k), HSA, savings, investment account) to make sure you are putting aside the amount of money you need.

Having a comprehensive view of where all of your expenses are going will allow you better decision-making power to choose how to reallocate those scarce resources. It could allow you the knowledge to know when, where, and how to cut out certain items from the budget if something unexpected happens – like a roof repair, fallen tree, or garage breakdown!

AJ: The need to “find” money in order to cover additional expense costs in a given month is my ongoing motivation for budget tracking. What comes in is pretty consistent in our household but what goes out is always variable. We’re constantly making improvements to our home, getting involved in charitable opportunities and going out with friends and family, so variable expenses are the name of our game. Without understanding the in there’s no way to stay ahead of the out.

KJ: One reality you may be living is you could have a very positive net worth or savings targets, but your cash flow is very tight in certain periods throughout the year – particularly common for what I call “lumpy” cash inflows throughout a year. Figuring out both when and why those happen can help you single out what can be done. Maybe it’s keeping more in a readily accessible savings or emergency fund or maybe it’s switching the timing of some of your expenses (as able) to help get you on track. Try funding those irregular expenses into a specific account each month to make sure there is sufficient cash there when the expense is ready to be paid. This can be very common with life insurance premiums, quarterly taxes, or real estate taxes, but you may find you have other expenses like this.

    What tools have you used to build a cash flow statement for you and your family?
    Are you cash flow positive or negative?
    Share with us the tools you are using to get on track or to stay on track.

Image courtesy of khunaspix / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

What does cash flow mean and how do I apply it to my life? is copyrighted by TheSimpleMoneyBlog.com without consent to republish.

Some of the links in the post above may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. We feel strongly about only recommending products or services we use personally and/or believe will add value to you, our readers. Read more about our commitment to providing quality product recommendations.

Would you take a job with more money or more flexibility?

Words Show Choices of Family Career and Work
KJ: Surely the job that would pay you the most should be top priority and make the decision of what path you take an easy one, right? The reality is that most of us at some point in our lives or careers will be faced with this dilemma. Is it better for you and your family to accept the higher paying position at the expense of flexibility? The answer for you may be much different than your young-self had always imagined. Since few people have both a rich income and the flexibility they need to fit their lifestyle, the reality is that most of us will be faced with this decision at some point.

Given the unique answer for each of us, this post has a slightly different format where we propose a series of questions to reflect upon.

How much more money?
Are you talking a modest bump or a leap?
Is a lot of the increase based on an uncertain stock payout, bonus, or other variable payment?

What flexibility are you losing?
Are you losing out on the ability to break away from work an hour or two early to go to a doctor, pick up a sick child, or take time off when you’re sick?
Can you work from home or is your access restricted?
Do you have one pool for time off, or are they compartmentalized to sick days and personal days?
Does one of the jobs have “flex” time – where you can work 7-4, 8-5, 9-6, etc.?

Is part-time what you are seeking?
Does your family need someone to stay home with children or the care of a parent or sibling?
If a higher paying job doesn’t allow you the part-time flexibility you need to be able to care of those in need of your support, is it more important to be there with them to provide support or is the income support your primary goal?

Which job has better long-term prospects?
Sometimes a smaller step now could lead to a much bigger step in the future (if that’s what you’re looking for).
A college graduate may be intrigued by a shiny, high profile job right away (with often little to no future growth), but what about the path that gets you ahead of the curve 5 to 10 years later instead?
Sometimes it can be a challenge to balance the here-and-now versus the uncertain future on where the opportunities may rise.

    Have you had to contemplate a higher paying job versus a job with more flexibility?
    What caused you to lean one direction or the other?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Would you take a job with more money or more flexibility? is copyrighted by TheSimpleMoneyBlog.com without consent to republish.

Some of the links in the post above may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. We feel strongly about only recommending products or services we use personally and/or believe will add value to you, our readers. Read more about our commitment to providing quality product recommendations.

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