Wealth review in the new year: Five priorities


Jeff Otis


Welcome to 2020! The snow is back in Woodinville, kids have been home from school and some are still going strong with their New Year’s resolutions now two weeks in. 

Now that the Seahawks are eliminated from post-season play, giving everyone back their weekends again, and in the spirit of starting fresh in a new year, let’s dedicate a little time to getting our financial lives organized for this new decade. Here are five areas to prioritize.

1. Estate Plan Review 

Far too often, people fail to adequately update their wills and estates. It is recommended you review your estate plan every 3-5 years, or if you have a major change in your family, assets or your goals. Do you want your assets to go to heirs? To charity? Did you intend on making the state of Washington a beneficiary of your estate? Can you benefit from establishing trust accounts for your spouse and children? It’s smart to keep your estate plan current to ensure you are leaving the legacy you intend.

2. Insurance Review

Given how many insurance payments are now set up on auto-pay, this area can remain out-of-sight and out-of-mind. It is recommended to review your insurance coverage every three years. A quick review of home and auto policies, life and disability insurance, long-term care coverage, and assessing the need for umbrella insurance could be well worth your time. 

3. Asset Allocation Review

It’s not uncommon for investors to set target allocations for their accounts and then leave them alone. Those allocations, especially given the incredible upswing we’ve seen in stock values, can shift over time and potentially put you into too aggressive or too conservative of an asset mix given your goals and risk tolerance. It is recommended to review your allocations at least annually. A review here can help provide those insights and help determine the next steps.

4. IRA Beneficiary Review

This is connected to point No. 1, but it also needs to be highlighted. The beneficiaries on your retirement accounts, such as 401ks and IRAs, should reflect your current plan. IRAs payout directly to beneficiaries, so it’s important these are updated and reflect your plan. Any custodian, such as Charles Schwab or Fidelity, should be able to provide you with current beneficiary information on your accounts.

5. Scrub for high-cost fees

The investment world has evolved over the past 20-30 years and introduced a new arena of very inexpensive fund options. Many investors are still invested in higher-cost funds, many of which pay out sizeable commissions to their financial advisor. 

Tax implications certainly need to be considered, but it could make sense to replace higher-cost mutual funds with lower-cost funds, maintain a similar allocation and reduce the overall amount of fees you are paying along the way. 

Reviewing these main areas in your estate plan, insurance coverage and investment strategy can go a long way to providing the peace of mind many are looking for in their financial lives. What better way to start off the new decade!

Jeff Otis is a senior financial consultant and partner at Evergreen Gavekal, a local wealth management firm serving high net worth and ultra-high net worth families. He can be reached at 425.467.4624 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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