Sir at her home in Oxnard, California, on
September 25, 2013, where she cared for her father
until his passing in March. Suki's father left her
a healthy inheritance. "I can't imagine
myself not working, not being productive, not
helping people," says Sukran Sir, who would
like to teach yoga.
ANGELES ó In March, Sukran Sir lost her father. Then
she lost her job.
was more bad news: The 58-year-old Ventura County,
Calif., resident was expecting to get unemployment
benefits but hasnít heard whether she qualifies,
despite two phone interviews.
who goes by the nickname "Suki," is counting
on her inheritance to help turn things around. Sirís
father, Suleyman, a former aerospace engineer, left her
about $80,000 in cash and stocks and the family home in
even that gain wonít ensure a comfortable retirement,
and it comes wrapped in complications.
have so many friends who are in my situation, either
taking care of their parents or their parents have just
passed away or are about to," Sir said. "Our
parents didnít think very carefully about estate
planning or trusts. He was like, ĎYouíre my
daughter, of course it is going to you.í He thought
there wouldnít be any problems."
baby boomers are finding out that the bequests theyíd
been counting on may not be quite the windfall theyíd
expected. Theyíre receiving less money than had been
anticipated as recently as the 1990s, when experts were
projecting a huge wealth transfer as the postwar
generation passed on.
average inheritance is actually quite small, just
fractionally above $40,000," said Anthony Webb,
senior research economist at Boston Collegeís Center
for Retirement Research.
attributed the diminished payout to stock market
downturns and the recession. In addition, boomersí
parents are living longer and facing higher costs for
health services and long-term care.
average home price in America is only a fraction of what
it is in Southern California," Webb said, "and
itís very easy for that housing wealth to be eaten up
by long-term care costs and the like."
is better off than most. Her parents left her a
mortgage-free home valued at about $420,000, bringing
her inheritance up to about $500,000.
estate planning can be confusing, and the hand-over isnít
already has made a common mistake: She closed her fatherís
bank and credit union accounts shortly after his death
and now sheís having trouble cashing dividend checks
from an investment account because they were made out to
her fatherís estate.
not prematurely close the deceasedís bank
accounts," said certified financial planner Sandra
C. Field, who reviewed Sirís finances. "Wait six
months, nine months or even a year."
ran into more difficulties because funds from the credit
union were made out to the estate.
would have been easier for Sir if her father had
established "payable on death" bank accounts
naming her as the designated recipient or had set up a
"transfer on death" designation affidavit,
the picture, Field said, is that rush of emotions that
comes with an inheritance for adult children nearing the
end of their working years.
are terrified about doing something wrong," Field
said. "They tend to have some debt, not a lot of
savings.... Some view it as their last chance to save
people havenít saved enough on their own to maintain
their accustomed lifestyle in retirement. Among those
ages 55 to 64 with 401(k) plans or IRAs, the average
amount saved per household was just $120,000, Webb said,
and they are the lucky ones. Among those with no 401(k)
or IRA accounts, Webb said, "itís pretty certain
that they have virtually nothing in savings."
has about $100,000 in savings and investments as well as
about $18,000 in credit card debt.
dreams of being able to travel to places such as her
native country, Turkey. She had planned to do some
serious remodeling on her Oxnard home, perhaps even
replacing the roof.
would like to move eventually to the Santa Monica area,
where she lived before she returned to the familyís
Oxnard home in 2000 to help her father care for her
mother, Ismet, who died in 2009.
that, Sir had spent summers in Ireland with her husband.
They have been separated for years but never formalized
the arrangement or divorced.
since August, Sir said she would like to teach yoga or
sell homes, once she gets a real estate license. Over
the years, Sir has worked in product management and
advertising in the publishing and music industries.
think I will be working until the end," she said.
"I canít imagine myself not working, not being
productive, not helping people."
the meantime, Sir is renting out part of her home for
$700 a month.
first stop on Fieldís road map for Sir: Find a job.
going to need a job that pays at least $20,000 a
year," said Field, adding that "$40,000 to
$50,000 in income would be even better and give her more
should be a payroll job with a salary and benefits
rather than one as an independent contractor, as Sirís
preferred work as a yoga instructor or real estate agent
often may be classified.
has no siblings and no children, so she is going to have
to look out for herself," Field said. "She
needs a job that will provide healthcare and disability.
I would really like her to find a job where she has a
consistent paycheck, a consistent cash flow. When you
are an independent contractor, you also pay more in
taxes," Field said.
situation is not desperate. She has options," Field
said. "If she didnít have the house, she would be
in a different position. She is very talented and
extremely personable, which should help her get
soon as she can, Field said, Sir should have all of her
inherited assets transferred to accounts in her own
name. Some of those transfers began late last week,
giving Sir access to some badly needed cash.
the stock Sirís father left her has been transferred
to her name, Field said, she should sell it and pay off
the two of her three credit cards with high interest
also wants Sir to keep a sharp eye on her budget to
avoid running up more credit card debt. Now that Sir is
in charge of the house and has taken on a tenant, she
might find her expenses, such as home repair, higher
than she anticipated.
many financial planners, Field thinks people tend to
underestimate how much they are actually spending and
advises they keep close track of expenditures for
she finds a job, she should start 401(k) contributions
as soon as she can. If that isnít possible, Sir should
begin contributing to an IRA.
should also hold off on the $8,000 in home repairs and
remodeling she had planned.
the bare minimum in repairs for the house for two
years," Field said, which would give Sir time
"to decide whether she would relocate to Los
she does move south, Field said, Sir "could easily
get $2,200 a month renting the home to a family."
said that Sir should also consider getting a legal
separation, which would allow her to file taxes as a
single person. Filing married, but separately, as she
has in the past, has stuck her in a higher tax bracket.
she has worked for much of her adult life, Sir can
expect to receive $1,580 in Social Security when she
reaches 66 years and two months in age.
said she would like to see Sir "put off taking your
payments as long as you can until full retirement age.
If you are working, delay."
Sir, itís still a lot to consider and absorb,
especially with the emotions still so tender just seven
months after her fatherís death.
have been constant reminders of loss; when she was
trying to prepare the room her tenant would be renting,
several attempts at shampooing were required, for
example, to remove any sign of the ruts in the carpeting
from her momís wheelchair.
have been so overwhelmed and so concerned," Sir
said. "To me, it was just so complicated."