Estate planning, financial planning have slightly different focus

Financial planning and estate planning, while they do intersect, are slightly separate disciplines. In terms of financial planning, retirement planning is a foremost issue. Many worry about whether they will have enough money to last them through retirement. And that is a legitimate concern.

One way that financial planners approach this question is by determining how much money one can safely withdraw from their investments upon retirement. The term applicable to this question is "withdrawal rate," which refers to how much one can tap into investments without running out of money before death.

The matter can be rather complicated, because markets shift, tax rates change, financial needs change and investments don't always perform up to par. This all makes it difficult to perfectly plan on being able to withdraw a certain amount without the risk of running out of money. It is made more difficult by the fact that people are living longer and longer, and it is easy to live another 30 years after one retires, depending on when one does so. Financial planners have a number of strategies they use to help their clients ensure adequate funding for retirement.

Estate planning works with the strategies set up in financial planning, but has its own set of goals. These include asset protection; probate avoidance; tax minimization and avoidance; selection of guardians, personal representatives, and trustees; succession planning; and planning for illness and incapacity.

It is important to consult professionals for each area to ensure all one's needs are met.

Source: Time, "The 7 Biggest Retirement Planning Mistakes," Dan Kadlec, April 17, 2012.

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