Calmer Waters
With all the promise a new year has brought, investors hope for less volatility.
by Bill Donahue

“May you live in interesting times.”
This bandied-about phrase of seemingly Chinese origin certainly applies to the past few years in the United States, as events at home and around the world have aroused our curiosity and held our attention. With COVID-19 vaccinations gaining wider distribution and a new administration in Washington, D.C., pledging to take a different approach to taming the pandemic, Americans are hopeful the world will begin to right itself in short order. 
These developments should be good news to investors, according to one locally based financial advisor, because the financial markets tend to react unkindly to “interesting times.”
“The markets like stability,” says the advisor, who commented on the condition of anonymity. “Some people have made a lot of money the past few years because of their risk tolerance. There are always opportunities to take advantage of in times of volatility, but I also think everyday people would like to see more stability. No matter how much you like roller coasters, at some point you just want the ride to stop.”
Americans experienced yet another shock in early January, given the chaos that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol Building as Congress certified the results of the 2020 presidential election. Continued civic unrest has the potential to affect the markets in the short term, but investors should look past the headlines and plan for the longer term. 
“We don’t always get the kind of news we would like to see,” the advisor adds. “It’s easy to get caught up in the stress and drama of what’s going on in the world around us, but we have to resist the temptation to let our short-term fears affect our long-term plans. For people who are 10 or 20 years from retirement, you shouldn’t make decisions about the money you’re going to need 10 or 20 years from now based on today’s current events.”
In recent months we spoke to a number of wealth planners, estate-planning attorneys, and other professionals. They shared their perspective on some of the many ways in which investors can preserve and protect their assets—for themselves and for future generations. Following are choice excerpts from those interviews. 

“The pandemic has shown that you shouldn’t procrastinate, because you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Waiting until tomorrow can have dire consequences. If you haven’t organized your assets so they will benefit your family and those you love because you’ll ‘get to it later,’ later may not come.”
—Brian R. Price, chairperson of the Trusts and Estates Practice at Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia LLC, Chalfont and Huntingdon Valley

“When someone is retiring, what they’re really looking to do is recreate the paycheck from when they were working. It also involves budgeting for monthly expenses, and it’s much easier to budget for set monthly costs than it is to anticipate a $6,000 to $10,000 surgery. Through insurance, you can take a lot of those random costs out of the equation. A monthly premium can take a lot of those risks away.”  
—Chris Dodge, Medicare and retiree medical specialist with Market Street Wealth Management, based in West Chester

“It’s not the worst thing that can happen if you die without a will. But if you don’t have a will, you’ve made your estate more complicated and expensive for your loved ones. Without a will, how your estate gets distributed to loved ones and maybe minor children is decided by somebody else. A judge gets involved, and there may be conflicting claims. Eventually it will be straightened out, but in the meantime it can be a mess. The half of Americans that have wills see the value in estate planning. And if they see it for themselves, they’ll see it for their children.”  
—R. Leonard Davis III, who leads the estate and business practice groups at Drake, Hileman & Davis, P.C., multiple area offices

“When you get divorced, regardless of gender, so much is in flux. You’re used to having a partner to make decisions with and be a sounding board. ‘Should we buy a new house?’ ‘Should we buy or lease a car?’ ‘Should we buy a vacation home down the shore?’ These aren’t everyday decisions, so naturally you want to run them by someone, but the person you used to have as that sounding board is no longer there. If you were the spouse who got off the career track for the good of the family, it’s scary to realize that you now have to support yourself. Fear is a powerful emotion, and it often prevents people from making a decision that might be better for them in the long run. By taking away that fear, you can make decisions with a clearer mind.”
—Jill B. Steinberg, partner and managing director of Beacon Pointe Advisors, based in Bala Cynwyd  

“Too often, people believe you sign your [estate planning] documents and you’re done, which is usually not true. Many individuals have significant assets in retirement accounts and life insurance policies, all of which have beneficiary designations. If your attorney doesn’t draft and incorporate these details into your estate plan, your assets won’t be distributed according to your wishes. It’s important to ask your estate planning attorney whether he or she will handle your beneficiary designations for you, and take that extra step to make sure the plan actually works before it’s too late.” 
—Karen M. Stockmal, the founder of KMS Law Offices LLC, an estate planning firm with offices in Berwyn and Philadelphia

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life magazine, January 2021