For many people, finding time to keep on top of financial matters is challenging. But given many Americans have additional time these next few weeks as the country works through Covid-19, this could be an excellent time to make progress on critical but simple financial matters.

Cornerstone will share during this time ideas to help you make progress on these matters, starting today with updating Beneficiary Designations. Please pass along to anyone you feel may be interested in this topic.

Assets pass to beneficiaries, including spouses, in different forms. The most common tools used to distribute assets are trusts, wills, and a document commonly referred to as Beneficiary Designation. Beneficiary Designation assets are not transferred to loved ones by trusts or wills. Instead, these assets go directly to the beneficiaries named. For this reason, this is an essential tool that requires attention.

Here’s a list of assets that are distributed via beneficiary designation:

  • 401k, 403b and 457 accounts
  • IRA and Roth IRA accounts
  • Defined Benefit accounts
  • Life Insurance policies
  • Annuities
  • Payable on Death (POD) bank accounts
  • Transfer on Death (TOD) investment accounts
  • Property that has joint tenancy with rights of survivorship

Most everyone saving for future needs owns at least one of these assets. The problem is, these assets are occasionally left unattended if there is a change in an investor’s life (death of a significant other, divorce, marriage, change in family and relationships, and so on). Unfortunately, we hear stories about loved ones who were devastated personally and financially due to an outdated beneficiary designation form.

If you have questions on how this all works, would like a thinking partner, or would like assistance on how to update your accounts, please contact Cornerstone for help. Reviewing beneficiary designation is part of our client planning process. We are happy to extend a complimentary review to you as a way to help you make the most of this time. And as an opportunity to learn more about how we can help in other areas.

This offer to review beneficiary designations is extended to your friends, family, and colleagues. While some people may have an investment or financial advisor, most don’t work with a Certified Financial Planner™. We are happy to fill in this gap if we can and help them with other questions they may have about their personal finances.

Right now, as we deal with Covid-19, we are walking through history. There is no need for you or your family and friends to walk through this alone.

Scammers, fraudsters, and other criminals are taking advantage of rapidly changing data and facts associated with COVID-19, both in the workplace and in our homes. Government agencies, corporations, and news outlets continue to warn individuals to be mindful of increased fraudulent activities during these uncertain times.

These scams, which can be sent via email, text message, and social media claim to provide COVID-19 updates, sell products, ask for charitable donations, or reference government aid packages. These messages appear to be legitimate in nature but seek to fraudulently obtain personal information, financial gain, and create panic. Use these tips to identify and avoid scams:

  • Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts claiming to have inside information on the virus. There are currently no vaccines, potions, lozenges, or other prescriptions available online or in-store to treat or cure COVID-19.
  • Do your homework prior to donating to charities or crowdfunding sites. Confirm the validity of the organization as fraudsters are now advertising fake charities. Do not let anyone rush you into a donation, particularly those who ask for cash, gift cards, or wiring of funds.
  • Do not click on links or open attachments from sources you do not know. Cybercriminals are using the COVID-19 headline as a tactic to spread viruses and steal information. Do not provide personal information, payment information or sensitive workplace information via suspicious email addresses.
  • Be suspicious of urgent demands and emergency requests. The health and safety of you and your family is the top priority. Do not fall for scammers threatening fees or fines, cancelled deliveries, and health concerns in exchange for financial gain.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Many individuals have begun to receive robo-calls and social media requests for social security numbers, banking information, and gift cards. Scammers promise high paying work from home opportunities, free sanitation and cleaning, as well as COVID-19 protection in exchange for payment and sensitive information.
  • Be mindful of scammers using government aid packages for criminal gain. Lawmakers have announced plans to send Americans checks to assist with the financial burden of the virus, with details still in discussion. The government will not request payment, nor will anyone reach out requesting personally sensitive health or financial information in exchange for financial support.
  • Obtain your news from a trusted source. Be mindful of text message scams, social media polls and fraudulent email accounts sharing false information to create panic. Before acting on information, review its source and check a trusted news outlet to confirm its validity.

When in doubt, ask a coworker, family member, or friend for their opinion. Two sets of eyes are better than one. If you believe you have fallen victim of a scam, call your local police at their non-emergency number and consider reporting to the FBI’s IC3 Internet Crime Database.

If you have any questions or concerns during this, please do not hesitate to reach out.

We continue to wish everyone good health as we all work to get through this challenging time.

Tracking # 1-969549

The following article is courtesy of the Wall Street Journal

By Jason Zweig

March 13, 2020

With U.S. stocks down—at their worst—around 27% in 16 trading days, investors need to get out of the prognostication business. Nobody—not epidemiologists, not government officials, not economists and certainly not market strategists—can say how large an impact the coronavirus will end up having. The optimists might be wrong; so, might the pessimists.

Investing, now more than ever, is about controlling the controllable. You can’t control the markets. You can’t control the coronavirus. You can control your own behavior, although that requires making accurate, honest predictions about yourself.

Controlling the controllable doesn’t just mean shrugging off whatever is out of your power. It also means putting some calm and serious thought into what is within your power. Your future success may depend less on what markets do—and more on spending a few quiet minutes figuring out who you are as an investor.

Years ago, the psychologist Daniel Kahneman told me that one of the keys to investing is having what he called “a well-calibrated sense of your future regret.” By that, he meant that you need to be able to tell, in advance, how bad you will feel if your decisions turn out to be wrong. As he warned with that word “well-calibrated,” it isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Investors are full of false bravado. It’s a cinch to say you’ll buy more stocks if the market goes down 10%. It isn’t even that hard not just to say it but to do it—a few times. Buying the dips is almost fun when the market goes down a little bit every once in a while.

But when stocks go down 7% or more in a day twice in a single week, the person you thought you were last Friday isn’t the person you are this weekend. A week ago, you thought you were ready for whatever the market could throw at you. Now, you’d flinch if a toddler tossed a marshmallow at you.

Will you be able to keep buying all the way down if the market goes down another 25%—or more? Will you even be able to hold on? Can you stand watching every dollar you had in stocks turn into 50 cents or less?

On the other hand, what if the panic subsides and stocks resume their climb—after you impulsively moved to the safety of cash and bonds that generate almost no income? How badly will you kick yourself over getting out of the market because of fears that didn’t fully materialize?

At the most basic level, those are the two potential regrets most investors face: the risk of losing massive amounts of money if the epidemic worsens, versus the risk of missing out on what could be a robust rebound if the virus abates.

You can minimize one risk, but not both. As the poet W.H. Auden wrote in 1936, you can only take one path at a time:

“Clear, unscaleable, ahead

Rise the Mountains of Instead

From whose cold, cascading streams

None may drink except in dreams.”

Only by creating a circle of calm around yourself can you honestly evaluate which type of regret is likely to bother you more down the road.

First, if you were investing back in 2008-09, go back and look at your actual account activity—not your warm and fuzzy memories of it—to see what you did the last time markets were in meltdown.

If you bought or stood pat as the U.S. stock market dropped more than 55% between October 2007 and March 2009, you’re a good candidate to be able to weather this downdraft, too, without panicking.

However, if you’re in or near retirement now, then the need to protect your capital from further sudden erosion could make you more conservative than you were back then. So, consider that now, when you can—rather than later, when you will have to.

Also, regrets tend to be hotter and more painful when an outcome appears to be caused by your own actions rather than circumstances that seem beyond your control. Regret is also more intense when you take an action that is an unusual departure from your normal pattern.

So, taking small actions over time, rather than making a big drastic decision all at once, should help reduce your future regrets regardless of what the markets do from here.

If you feel you must sell stocks to calm yourself, do it gradually rather than in giant steps—ideally, by setting a new target level and then moving toward it over time in automatic fixed amounts or percentages that will take some emotion out of the decision.

Consider, also, that if you have tuition or another large bill coming due, you could pay with shares of stock or funds rather than cash. If you have shares that have fallen below your purchase price, you may be able to sell them to meet a large payment and then use up to $3,000 of the resulting loss to reduce your taxable income or to offset current or future gains. (Consult your accountant first!)

Conversely, if the market collapse makes you want to buy stocks, don’t do that impetuously either. Nibble in equal amounts over the course of weeks or months.

Above all, small steps are the best way to avoid big regrets.

While it is a good idea for most business offices to remain closed during this period (and in fact, some areas it is mandated), Cornerstone is set up technically to provide the same level of service remotely that we offer from our physical office. We have access to many items you might need during this time. So, please call if you would like. 925-824-2880. We want to assist you with your questions and concerns.

This offer extends to others in your lives who may feel unsettled and would like to talk. While they might have investment accounts or an investment plan, most do not have a financial plan to answer questions like “will I be ok?”

We are walking through history. There is no need for you or your friends to walk through this alone.