Navigating Life’s Transitions

Navigating Life’s Transitions By Rewriting Your Story

Your plans for the future are really a story that you tell yourself. Some of the chapters are easy to imagine and plan, like buying your first home, sending your kids to college, or picking out dream retirement destinations with your spouse. But life has a way of throwing unexpected plot twists at you, such as, say, a global pandemic that upends how you live and work. If you feel like your story has lost some of its most important plot threads, use this three-step method to find a new happy ending and navigate life’s transitions.

  1. Accept

An unexpected job loss. The death of a loved one. Losing your home in a fire. A major illness.

Life is never the same after you experience these kinds of unexpected transitions. Your lifestyle might change. Perhaps your relationships might change. Your daily routine might change. And your long-term personal, professional, and financial goals might have to change as well.

Letting in feelings like sadness, embarrassment, and fear can be very challenging. If you’re having trouble expressing yourself to your spouse or another confidant, try journaling. Getting your thoughts and emotions down on paper can help open you up for the conversations you’re going to need to have as you navigate through this new transition.

  1. Edit

Now that you’ve accepted this change in your life, you need to figure out how you’re going to adapt to it. Big transitions often feel so overwhelming that they can be paralyzing. Where do you start?

Start with today.

Break the new transition down into smaller parts. What is one thing on your list that you can accomplish today and that you can build on tomorrow? If your doctor says you have to start eating better, make a new shopping list. Need to exercise more? Buy a pair of running shoes. Brush up your resume so you can start a job hunt. Register for an online class that will help you make a career change. If it’s time to tighten the family belt, cancel that streaming subscription you never use.

Racking up smaller daily wins will make this new transition feel a little more manageable every single day. You might also create some new habits that will make you healthier, happier, and more productive.

  1. Rewrite

In the moment, unexpected transitions can feel like an end. But as you gain personal momentum from your new routine, you’ll start to see that there are opportunities ahead of you as well. And when you finally close this chapter, you can start writing a new one.

Some of the details in this revised chapter might be a little different than you imagined before. But not all change is bad. Maybe, instead of retiring to that beachfront condo, you remodel the family home and have your grandkids over more often. If you have to hang up your tennis racket, taking long walks with your spouse could be a new way to exercise, unwind, and spend time together. Now that one phase of your career is over, it might be time to promote yourself to CEO of your own company.

If you’re really struggling to see a way through an unexpected transition, here’s an easy daily win to get you started: get in touch with us. We can review your $Lifeline in-person or over a video chat to figure out if any of your anticipated transitions need to be edited. We can also coordinate with other professionals like your attorney or accountant to iron out any other major adjustments you might need to make.

No matter how your life story continues to change, we’re here to help you make the next chapter the best one yet.

You can also find some great resources for transition on the AARP website.

Build Your Bucket List

Covid-19 has delayed many dream vacations, family reunions, and road trips this year. But as we all navigate the space between things we can do, things we can’t do, and things we still want to do in the future, there’s an opportunity to reflect on the bucket list goals that are truly important to us.

Get your family together and ask yourselves these three questions. Your answers will help you build a better bucket list full of things you’ll enjoy doing today and look forward to doing safely someday soon.

  1. How disappointed are we?

Before Covid-19, you probably felt free to fill up your bucket list with anything you could responsibly budget for. But it’s possible that not all of those items were of equal importance to you. A trip to Paris that you and your spouse had been planning for years is probably dear to your heart. A spur-of-the-moment booking for a zipline trip, maybe not so much.

If you’re sifting through a bunch of returns, refunds, and cancellations right now, think about how you really feel about those disrupted plans. Are you disappointed? Indifferent? Relieved to be getting that money back? Is this a trip that should stay on the family bucket list? Or would you rather use those funds to add something even more special to a trip everyone really wants to take? Sure, ziplining could be fun. But an extra night at a five-star resort might be unforgettable.

  1. Why did we want to do this?

If you’re trying to sell your children on a substitute for Disney World … well, good luck. Keep that trip on the bucket list for next year.

But the motivations behind some of your other bucket list items might not be as clear-cut as riding roller coasters or visiting a favorite beach. Was this bucket list item a true dream destination, or was it just a pit stop on your way to somewhere else? Were you just looking for a reason to cash in some saved vacation days? Is this really an activity your children will enjoy? Are you forcing a trip – any trip – just because you want your whole family to do something together?

  1. What can we do instead?

Some of your answers might lead you to alternative fun closer to home. If the real purpose of a trip was golf, the money you’re saving on travel could buy you quite a few rounds at a nice course within driving distance. Buy a couple lessons while you’re at it and you might enjoy that dream round even more when you finally tee up.

You might not feel comfortable packing up the camper and heading to the Grand Canyon right now. But the U.S. National Parks system is more extensive than many people realize. There’s probably a scenic spot closer to home that you’ve never explored before.

Many families are also adapting to Covid-19 by focusing on new, short-term bucket list items. If you’re not going to travel this summer, you could take online classes and learn an instrument. Rescheduling your trip to Puerto Vallarta? Take family Spanish lessons so you’ll have an easier time getting around when you do go. Get serious about your exercise goals and develop a running or cycling regiment you can stick to. Set a family reading challenge. Could you learn to cook a new French meal every week? Basketball camp might be cancelled, but the hoop above your garage is still there. How high can your daughter increase her free throw percentage before the end of summer?

There are no perfect substitutes for all your bucket list items during Covid-19. But with a little flexibility and some creativity, your family can still have a fun and fulfilling summer.

And if you need one more activity to round out your week, schedule a family brainstorming session for trips that are staying on the bucket list. Let everyone share their ideas on how to make the trip you couldn’t take this year into an even better trip next year. Planning ahead will give everyone something to look forward to.

Is there anything we can do to help you make progress on your bucket list? Don’t hesitate to contact us up if you want revisit your $Lifeline or start budgeting for all the summers still ahead of you and your family.

 

 

Pandemic Shows Need To Keep Up With Technology

Technology has helped to bridge some of the gaps that Covid-19 opened between us, our loved ones, and our communities. Thanks to video chat you’ve been able to check in on family. We’ve done drive by birthday celebrations and graduations. You’ve used streaming services to watch movies and listen to music. You’ve used online news services and social media to keep up on current events and important health care developments. The pandemic clearly shows the need to keep up with technology.

So, now that you’re a pro Zoomer and Netflix afficionado, you might be wondering, what’s next?

Here are three areas of your retirement that developing technology could improve.

  1. Monitoring and improving your health.

Fitness tracking has exploded beyond the Fitbit bracelets your kids and grandkids are wearing. Most smart phones have basic apps built in that keep track of how much you’re moving during the day. Dig a little deeper into those apps and you’ll find ways to track your diet, notifications that will nudge you off the couch or remind you take medication, and even exercise routines you can follow at home.

In order to maintain social distancing during Covid-19, many doctors are moving some of their services online. Video chat can be a safe and secure way for seniors to get non-emergency medical advice without having to go to a doctor’s office. These advances could also put more of your medical information online where it’s easier for you to access and share with other doctors and specialists.

  1. Developing hobbies and pursuing higher learning.

So many skilled professionals used their talents and expertise to help us learn and grow during Covid-19. Online videos and mini classes taught us to exercise, bake, draw, play an instrument, and learn new languages, all from the comfort of home.

If learning something new during Covid-19 has sparked an interest in continuing your education, keep going. It’s likely your local university or community college offers a wide variety of online classes. Many institutions also offer heavily discounted or even free tuition for seniors. There are also sites like Coursera or edX that let you choose between auditing classes or taking a more serious track towards college credit.

For something a little less regimented, there are also many online platforms that will help you develop hobbies and casual interests into real talents. Scroll past the silly stuff and YouTube can be a fantastic educational resource. Many content creators even structure their videos as sequential lessons designed to ramp up challenges as your skills increase. Your local gym, art studio, or country club might also have branched into online classes during the pandemic.

  1. Balancing your books.

Getting comfortable with accessing your financial information online can be a little scary. But if you follow the same common sense you use when you banish fishy emails to your spam folder, you’ll be able to check in on your accounts with confidence and ease. You might also start moving more of your bill payments online. Automating can help ensure you’re making payments on time and sticking within your budget.

Speaking of budgets, one of the biggest adjustments that retirees face is transitioning from living off a regular paycheck to living off a fixed income. Retirement might be the first time in your life that you’ve had to set – and stick to – a strict monthly budget. Apps and online services can help you get started with budgeting and make adjustments as necessary. You can also use these apps to track progress towards some of your retirement goals. Watching the money you’ve earmarked for a dream vacation grow is going to keep you motivated to hit that goal and excited to plan with your spouse.

Of course, there’s another important part of your financial planning that you can access online: your financial advisor. We’re always available for a video chat or to work through one of our retirement planning tools with you. Schedule a call and we can talk about how the tech skills you’ve developed during Covid-19 can add some exciting new dimensions to your retirement.

Start Your Retirement Business Now

What do Netflix, GE, Trader Joe’s, Microsoft, Disney, and FedEx have in common?

They all started during economic downturns.

Your vision for your own retirement business might not be on the same scale as those giants. But history shows that it’s not only possible to start a great new company during retirement, it might be ideal. That’s especially true if you have an idea and some capital that you’ve earmarked for starting a new company once you’ve retired.

So why wait? Here are 4 reasons why you should consider starting your retirement business now, even if you’re not ready to retire.

  1. Stay busy.

No matter what stage of your life and career you’re at, it’s likely that Covid-19 and quarantining have given you a little extra time at home. If you’re struggling to fill those hours, ask yourself, “What am I going to do when I’m retired, and I have EIGHT extra hours to fill every day?”

One reason that many seniors put off retirement is that working gives them something to do and a sense of purpose. When retirement rolls around, many of them struggle to create a new schedule that provides that same sense of structure. The foundation you lay today for your new business while killing time in quarantine could grow into a structure that will make your retirement more fulfilling.

  1. Put your experience to use.

Many retirees look back on their careers and think, “If only I knew then what I know now, I would have …”

What?

What would you do differently? What pitfalls would you avoid? What risks would you take? Which ideas would you chase, and which would you leave by the wayside? What strengths would you focus on? What weaknesses would you improve, or offset by creating a key partnership?

There’s so much more to your career than the skillset you’ve developed. You also have the benefit of all your experiences, the good and the bad. Use that lifetime of learning to build a better business.

  1. New realities and new opportunities.

It’s very likely that the home office will soon just be “the office” for many people. That’s one example of how Covid-19 has changed how, where, when, and why we work.

But the best entrepreneurs find opportunity in disruption. Your new retirement company might not be a brick-and-mortar operation. Instead, you might be able to invest the money you’ll save on things like rent and utilities by upgrading your technology infrastructure or building a remote support team.

Of course, the global marketplace has been disrupted too. But many professional services can survive or even thrive during disruption. Accounting, virtual administration, and expert consulting are always in demand. Other services, such as home or auto repair, landscaping, or graphic design can be provided without breaching social distancing recommendations. Your dream restaurant concept could be adapted into a cost-efficient food truck. Children who are struggling with learning at home could benefit from virtual tutoring.

Somewhere there’s a new niche that you are uniquely qualified to fill. Find it and be the first to set up shop.

  1. It’s not work if you love doing it.

Retirement is when many people finally focus on the passions and interests they didn’t have time to pursue when they were working full time. Aspiring entrepreneurs have that same opportunity. Hiring yourself as CEO of your new company will allow you to focus on the parts of your work that truly inspire you.

You could also develop your talents and hobbies into an entirely different career. Open an online store and start selling the pies your friends and family go wild over. Post pictures of your latest woodworking project and see if there’s a potential customer base.

The Covid-19 pandemic has made each of us reflect on what our lives were like before and what we want them to be like going forward. If you think that dedicating some of your time and financial resources to starting your own retirement business could improve your Return on Life, schedule a meeting or virtual call with us.

Gain Personal Momentum Coming Out of the Pandemic

Part 1: Better Habits for a Healthier Mind 

Since the Covid-19 outbreak we’ve all had to make adjustments so that we could cover our basic needs, care for our loved ones, and remain productive during quarantine. No matter how well you’ve adapted to these extraordinary circumstances, there’s probably a part of you that feels like you’ve been just trying to get through the next day. But it’s important that we create some personal momentum as life returns to normal, so we can hit the ground running.

And, to your credit, you have!

But as the country begins to reopen, it’s time to stop “getting by” and start approaching our lives and work with the same vigor we had before the pandemic. Regaining our old momentum isn’t going to be as easy as flipping a switch. So we asked some leading experts on behavior and peak performance what mental strategies they would recommend to help us start building personal momentum as we approach, hopefully, the end of quarantine life. 

  1. Live in your “Present Box.”

Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Beth Kurland says that evolution instilled a “wandering mind” in humans as a survival mechanism. We’re never totally in the present because our survival instinct is constantly reminding us of things we overcame in the past and alerting us to potential future dangers. Dr. Kurland says, “In this pandemic of uncertainty, these kinds of mental ruminations can really increase a lot of the anxiety that people are experiencing.”

The more that we focus on the here and now, the less anxious we are going to be, and the more motivated we will feel to tackle immediate problems. To help achieve this mental shift, Dr. Kurland recommends drawing two large boxes on a sheet of paper. Label one “The Present,” and label the other “What If?” Then, write the things that are occupying your mind in the appropriate box. According to Dr. Kurland, separating what’s happening right now from what could happen helps us “to really think about what is in our sphere of influence, what we have personal agency and control over.”

Yes, eventually, you might have to move some of those “What Ifs?” into your “Present” box. But for the moment, try to imagine putting a lid on your “What Ifs?” and structure your time around what you need to do – and can do – today.

  1. More Teflon, less Velcro.

Psychologist Rick Hanson says, “The mind is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.” The anxiety and worry we’re all experiencing during quarantine only enhances our tendency to dwell on the negative and overlook the many good things we have in our lives.

Dr. Kurland believes that an added benefit of her Two Boxes exercise is that the more present we are, the more likely we are to notice and appreciate the positive. For example, many of us are feeling closer to our extended friends and families thanks to Zoom calls and care packages. Other folks have used the working from home experience to chart new career paths.

However, a Teflon mindset doesn’t mean boxing away some of the real emotional hardships you’ve experienced during the pandemic. Instead, Dr. Kurland encourages us to find a healthy balance between letting our feelings in and not letting them keep us down.

“I think it’s really important to acknowledge and have an opportunity to process those emotions,” Dr. Kurland says. “But try to both hold a space for the grief, the sadness that may be there, and also really find ways to notice the moments where we can really appreciate the positive things that we can take in. The warm glance from a family member or a kind word from a coworker. These kinds of things that really, as we take them in, can help us to get through a difficult day, a difficult moment.”

  1. Separate good stress from bad stress.

“Stress is good to a certain extent,” says Commander David Sears, who served for 20 years in active duty within the United States Special Operations Command as a U.S. Navy SEAL officer. In Commander Sears’ experience, stress can be a catalyst for growth and improvement. Right now stress is instilling good new habits in you, such as wearing a mask when you go shopping or retooling your monthly budget to adjust for changes in your work and living conditions.

But Commander Sears cautions, “You can get overwhelmed by stress and then it starts to become chronic, debilitating and it turns into a sort of pain.” To manage his own stress response, Commander Sears leans on lessons from his military service, including the importance of having a support system around you and finding order in a personal routine.

“It’s Physical Distancing”

“This whole idea of social distancing that we have is wrong,” says Commander Sears. “It’s physical distancing. We still need that social interaction, you need to have those communications. And you have to put in some structure in order to put some sanity into your life. Maybe develop your own schedule in the morning: I’m going to get up, I’m going to work out, I’m still going to put on my pants and get out of my pajamas. I’m going to then go to my first project of the day, then I’m going to go to the second. You might even need to implement a little more structure and discipline in your life in these times so you don’t feel like you’re wandering.”

We understand that transitioning back to living and working outside of your home is going to present its own set of challenges. We hope the expert strategies discussed here will help you approach those challenges from a more positive place. We’re also available for video calls or in-person meetings to discuss how your Life-Centered financial plan can help you build more momentum towards living your best possible life after quarantine.

If you would like to create personal momentum in your personal finances, reach out to us.

Additional Government Resources

Use the Pandemic as a Catalyst for Change

The coronavirus pandemic has put all our short-term needs front and center, creating a lot of change in it’s path. Just getting through one week of virtual work meetings, grade school math lessons, and grocery shopping can be a challenge. And if you’re one of the millions of Americans struggling with income loss or unemployment, those daily to-dos can feel even more pressing.

However, as the conversation starts shifting towards when and how to reopen the country, it’s worth taking a few moments to broaden our perspective beyond immediate concerns. As hard as this experience has been, social distancing has probably changed the way you live, work, spend, and communicate in a few positive ways as well. Some of the habits you’ve developed over the last couple months might be worth bringing with you once we’re all out in the wider world again.

Change how you work. 

Your first few virtual conference calls were probably awkward, with participants struggling to adjust audio/video equipment and talking over each other. Now that we’ve all learned the “language” of Zoom and Skype, those meetings are becoming much more productive.

Whether you’re a boss or an employee, explore how remote working arrangements could save time and create a more flexible and personal work routine. Once your company isn’t in crisis mode, integrating more virtual meetings into your communication rhythm might make your workforce feel more connected, especially if you have offices across the country or overseas.

Change how you eat.

Except for the occasional curbside pickup run to support our local restaurants, most of us are eating our meals at home. Working through all those cookbooks has been an educational and entertaining way to pass time in quarantine. But it’s also been better for your health, especially if you’re not drifting in and out of the kitchen for snacks all day.

Develop a solid menu of at-home meals you can keep in rotation so that after the pandemic your family will still be spending some extra quality time together while eating quality food.

Change how you budget. 

Whether you’ve economized just by staying home or made some tough cuts out of necessity, quarantine has probably had a profound impact on how you spend your money. Some folks are setting a monthly budget for the very first time.

That’s a habit we hope will continue after this crisis passes. The single biggest factor in your financial plan is your spending. If you have extra cash right now because you’re not filling up your gas tank every other day and popping into coffee shops, we recommend using those funds to top off your emergency savings accounts. We can also discuss if increasing contributions to your retirement and investment accounts might be a good move while prices are low.

Social distancing might have made you look at some of your non-essential spending in a different light. Under normal circumstances, were you really using those social club and gym memberships enough to justify the expense? Are there entertainment subscriptions you’re still not really using, even during lockdown? How much money could you save on food if you keep planning out weekly meals before grocery store runs?

Change how you live.

We’ve all experienced the coronavirus pandemic in both public and personal ways. Some of us can’t wait to jump right back into our old routines and add in a few positive habits we’ve picked up during quarantine.

But maybe working from home has made you realize that you want to keep working from home – as your own boss.

Maybe the necessity of social distancing has made you think about all those unrealized vacation dreams.

Perhaps video chatting with friends and family scattered across the country has you thinking about relocating.

Maybe you’ve been asking yourself, “Before all this started, was I really using my money to live my best possible life?”

If the coronavirus pandemic has added some new transitions and destinations to your financial $Lifeline, the best time to start making those plans is right now. We are online and ready to talk about the changes you want to make to keep your financial plan in sync with the life you want to live.

Experiencing anxiety during the pandemic is normal. Just don’t let that sense of uncertainty lead you to one of these serious money mistakes.

 

We Plan For A Reason

We Plan for a Reason

 

We’re still in the early stages of understanding how the coronavirus outbreak will affect global health care and economics for the rest of the year, but it’s more important now than ever to stick to a plan. When we look at your most recent life plan, we can see events that we’ve been anticipating for quite some time: children heading off to college, home upgrades, family vacations, elder care for your parents, and, of course, your own retirement.

 

Here’s why guiding you and your family through these life transitions is still the central focus of our planning, even during a significant bout of market volatility.

 

  1. The big picture is always brighter.

 

Nobody could have predicted that a virus outbreak would disrupt global business right in the middle of a contentious presidential election cycle. But market history did tell us that the record-breaking bull market of 2009-2019 wasn’t going to last forever. What goes up eventually comes down.

 

The further you pull back when you’re looking at market returns, the smaller today’s volatility looks, especially in comparison to big life transitions plotted on a 30 or 40-year $Lifeline. Continuing to work towards those events we can see coming is a much more effective strategy than trying to predict the next natural disaster, the next market downturn, or the next president.

 

  1. You have options.

 

While major market volatility is never about just one thing, the coronavirus is making it hard for companies around the world to buy raw materials from China and sell to Chinese customers. Stocks in the energy, travel, technology, and consumer goods sectors have been hit especially hard.

 

Luckily, your portfolio is not overly invested in any one company or any one sector. Spreading out your assets across a wide variety of investments – including more stable bonds and cash savings – provides some options during volatility. Diversification gives us the means to scout for rebalancing opportunities when prices are low. It also provides reserves that we can tap if you need a little extra help weathering market fluctuations.

 

What’s going to guide the decisions we make during this market correction, and the next one? How are we going to decide which levers, if any, to pull, and which to leave alone?

 

  1. STICK TO THE PLAN.

 

We can’t plan for the next significant market shakeup. What we can do is use the tools at our disposal to keep you and your family on track to navigate your $Lifeline transitions and achieve your financial goals, no matter what’s going on outside of your home.

That’s why there’s no “one-size-fits-all” answer when folks wonder what they should do during a moment like this. The millennial who just started working and investing is at a very different point on his financial journey than the CEO eyeing retirement in the next five years. The couple planning to start their own business has different financial needs than the couple with three smart children all angling for Ivy League schools. And the retiree planning to golf her way across the country probably doesn’t have the same concerns as the retiree whose husband is experiencing ongoing health problems.

 

These scenarios all require their own unique, personalized plans. Some folks will make the most progress towards their goals by sticking to their current saving and investing strategies, even as the markets are unsettled. Others might need to increase allocations to their cash reserves. And still others might look for “buy low” opportunities that will pay off in the long run. In each case, the client’s $Lifeline is our guide, not today’s headlines.

 

We understand that volatility can be worrying, especially if you’re nearing retirement or newly retired. If you’d like to review your most recent plan and hear a little more about our current market perspective, make an appointment to visit our offices. Whether news is good, bad, or somewhere in between, you can rely on our Life-Centered Planning process to keep your best interests first and your life goals in perspective.

 

 

Relocating On Your Mind? Consider These Questions First

Housing is a large item on any person’s budget. But folks about to enter or leave the workforce have to be especially thoughtful about how their living situation is going to impact their financial plan – especially if they’re contemplating the thought of relocating.

Could leaving behind the hustle and bustle of a big city improve your Return on Life? Before you start packing up, ask yourself these four important questions about relocating:

How will you fill your days?

Traffic, street noise, crowds, pricey restaurants and shopping – yes, city life can be exhausting.

But cities also provide tremendous opportunities to stay stimulated, connected with other people, and curious.

No matter how passionate the arts community is in that suburb you’re eying, it’s not going to compare with the museums and theatres you’re used to frequenting on the weekends.

Downtown, your meals might rotate between Italian, Thai, Middle Eastern, sushi, tapas, and all of the fascinating people those meals bring you in contact with. Some of that cultural variety might trickle out to the nearest suburbs … eventually.

Widely available public transportation means you can leave the car at home, especially if you’re getting older and driving is becoming more challenging.

Finally, what are the all-in costs of moving? Not just the difference in what a pizza costs, but the differences in taxes, insurance, health care? What about the cost of hiring a realtor and getting a lifetime of stuff from here to there?

Sure, the internet and cable TV mean that you don’t have to live in a major metropolis to stay connected to the wider world. Yes, suburban or small-town life might be more cost-effective. But make sure that unplugging from city life is going to be relaxing and not boring, cost-effective and not more costly.

What is wrong with home now?

Change can be good, but relocation is a big change. Millennial newlyweds looking to buy a home in an excellent school district might be following a long-term dream for their family. So is the retired couple that’s always wanted to live on the beach prepping to relocate to Florida.

But there are certain things about your living situation that change can’t “fix.” If you’ve become too much of a homebody since retirement, you need to put more thought into creating a schedule that revolves around your passions, your skills, and the people you love. Is moving going to help you do that? Or will you feel even more isolated in a new place?

Moving to a home with nicer amenities sounds appealing. But why do you really want to trade your downtown condo for a house with a theatre in the basement and jacuzzi in the backyard? Because you love those things? Or because you need somewhere to collapse after another week of working too hard at a job you don’t like? Is your housing problem really a career problem?

Will it be difficult to visit loved ones?

Our friends and family round out our golf foursomes. They attend our weekly dinner parties. They show up at our kids’ concerts. They fill grandma and grandpa with pride. They meet us for lunch on short notice. And they are our first line of support during life’s major transitions.

Who is going to fill those roles for you if you move? Are you moving closer to your loved ones? Or so far away that you could be in danger of losing touch?

What makes you happy?

They say home is where your heart is. Ultimately, where you live should make your heart feel full. And as your life changes, your definition of fulfillment might change along with it. When you’re young, a studio apartment next to the subway might feel enormous. Maybe your life will fit in that apartment forever. Or maybe your family, your career goals, and your financial means will redefine happiness and lead you someplace new.

Do you anticipate a major move somewhere in your future? Let’s plot that transition on your $Lifeline and discuss how we can start planning ahead together.

Also, for more fantastic retirement resources head on over to the AARP website.

How To Use A Legacy Letter

Your legacy isn’t just about your assets.

 

Of course, as part of our Life-Centered Planning process, we will help you coordinate with attorneys and tax experts to create an estate plan that will provide for your heirs in accordance with your last wishes.

 

But hopefully, after years of planning for a better Return on Life, you’ve come to appreciate what your money can and cannot buy. That’s why we recommend that our clients write a Legacy Letter to help their heirs think about their own relationships to money in more meaningful ways.

 

What is a Legacy Letter?

 

A Legacy Letter is a way for you to share your values, life lessons, cherished memories, hopes for your family’s future. It also covers anything else that is really important to you.

 

This isn’t a will, so you won’t be assigning any of your assets. And this isn’t a family history, although you might include things you learned from your own parents and grandparents that you want your heirs to be mindful of in their own lives. This is you, reflecting on a life well-lived, passing on everything you’ve accumulated that can’t be bought or sold.

 

One of the great things about this exercise is that your Legacy Letter can be whatever you want it to be. It could be a typed or hand-written letter. It could be an audio or video recording. It could even be a mix, such as a printed list of your most cherished values accompanied by an mp3 you dictate into your phone. Use whatever media makes it easiest for you to speak to your family in your own voice.

 

What will my heirs want to know?

 

Some folks look at their kids and grandkids, immersed in their cell phones, and think, “My family won’t appreciate a letter like that, they just want the money.”

 

But eventually, your heirs are going to confront many of the same life and money challenges you have. They will face the scary prospect of leaving an unfulfilling career. They likely will also wonder how much support to their children is too much. They’ll be tempted to make a big-ticket purchase just to keep up with the Joneses.

 

Explaining how you did or didn’t stick to your values at these memorable moments will show your heirs that you can’t just throw money at life’s problems. Your Legacy Letter will be a road map leading your family to better decisions and more fulfilling uses of their time and assets. And if your estate plan includes charitable giving, explaining why particular causes were important to you could inspire a tradition of giving in your family that does good for generations.

 

When should I write my Legacy Letter?

 

The golden rule of all estate planning is: don’t wait. If something unexpected happens to you or your spouse, it’s so important that you have a plan in place that protects your assets and distributes them as you see fit.

 

That applies to your Legacy Letter as well. Your values are arguably your most important asset. In years to come, this letter will be a source of comfort and inspiration to your family.

 

And while this might seem like an activity for a retiree, many of our younger clients have told us that they found writing a Legacy Letter very beneficial. You can write a legacy letter at any stage of life. For example, if you’re getting married, you and your spouse could write a joint letter that describes your hopes and dreams for the future. If your children are launching into their careers, you could share your lessons about succeeding in life. The possibilities are endless. Many clients tell us they’re looking forward to updating their Legacy Letters with more life experiences down the road.

Give it some thought…

If you’re having trouble getting started with your own Legacy Letter, we’d be happy to help you jump-start the process. Make an appointment to come in and revisit or complete some of the Return on Life exercises we have available for you. Your stories and your values are every bit as important to us as your money. Let’s do a thorough review of your legacy planning to make sure you’ve secured the things that are most important to you for the people you love the most.

 

 

 

How To Improve Your Relationship With Money

Ever wonder how you can improve your relationship with money? Many people have a complicated relationship with money. Hang-ups carried over from childhood experiences get mixed together with positive and negative experiences from adulthood. Few people ever take the time to reflect on what money really means to them and how they can “get right” with money to make smarter decisions.

Take time to answer these 5 questions and you’ll do a better job of living your best life possible with the money you have.

1. What’s your first money memory?

Your earliest experiences with money probably happened in your home. You saw how your parents earned and managed their money. You probably compared the quality of your family home and vehicles to what you saw at friends’ and neighbors’ houses. An unexpected job loss or illness might have led to some very lean holidays or a skipped vacation. Or, if you grew up in an affluent household, you might have taken money for granted in a way you no longer do now that you’re the one earning it.

Identifying some of these early memories is critical to reassessing your relationship with money. Are you following positive examples towards decisions that are going to improve your life? Or, without even realizing it, are you repeating poor money habits that are going to hurt you in the long run?

2. Do you feel like money is your servant or your master?

Sometimes money makes us feel like we’re a hamster on a wheel, running as fast as we can without ever really getting anywhere. But if you never stop chasing after that next dollar, when it comes time to retire, all you’re going to have is money, and a whole lot of empty days on your calendar.

People who get the most out of their money recognize that it’s a tool they can use to skillfully navigate to where they want to be in life. So, instead of working too long and hard for more money, think about how to put the money you have to work for you.

3. What would you do if you had more money?

You’ve probably read about studies that show lottery winners don’t end up any happier than they were before their windfalls. This is a dramatic example proving some pretty conventional wisdom: money doesn’t buy happiness. That’s especially true if you’re stuck on your wheel for 40 hours every week just chasing more and more money.

If the idea of having more money gets you thinking about all the things you’d buy, it’s important to remember how quickly even the fanciest new car smell will fade.

If you would immediately quit your job if you had enough money to support your family and live comfortably, then maybe you need to think about a more fulfilling career.

Having more money might not “solve” some issues you’re currently experiencing, but asking what would you do if you had more money might lead you to new decisions that improve your current life satisfaction.

4. What would you do if you had more time?

Imagine you don’t have to work. You can spend every single day doing exactly what you want. What does your ideal week look like? What things are you doing? What hobbies are you perfecting? Where are you travelling? With whom are you spending your time?

These things often get pushed to the side when we’re busy working. But if your money isn’t providing you with opportunities to spend time doing what you love with the people you love, then your work-life balance might need an adjustment.

5. What would your life look like to you if it turned out “well”?

Hopefully by now you’re starting to think about how your relationship to money could be keeping you from getting the most out of your money.

The successful retirees that we work with don’t look back fondly on the amount of money they made or how much stuff they were able to buy. They tell us their lives turned out well because they used money to make progress towards major life goals. They say their money provided them the freedom to pursue their passions. And their sense of well-being increased as they committed time and resources to health, spirituality, and continual self-improvement.

When you reach retirement age, we want you to look back happily on a life well-lived. Come in and talk to us about how our interactive tools and Life-Centered Planning process can improve your relationship to your money.

There’s also some really great resources you can find at www.investopedia.com to help you improve your relationship with money.

How To “Spark Joy” In Your Finances

Get Your Financial House in Order


“Does this spark joy?”

Marie Kondo

Millions of people are asking themselves this question about their homes and possessions thanks to Marie Kondo and her wildly popular decluttering philosophy.

Once the kids are moved out, it’s just you, your spouse, and whatever is still boxed up in extra bedrooms and the basement. Whether you’re looking for joy or just a little less space and stuff to manage, you might be thinking about decluttering and “downsizing” into a smaller home before you retire.

But sometimes less can be more: more hassle, more complicated, and more expensive. Before you and your spouse order that dumpster and make a down payment on that condo, consider these important pros and cons of downsizing.

PRO: Make a change while you can still enjoy it.

The younger you are during a downsize, the less help you’re going to need clearing out what you don’t want and relocating. And a clean, organized home can be a great “blank slate” as you start easing into your new life. You might even organize a move around interests you want to pursue in retirement, like a community with golf and tennis facilities, or a burgeoning foodie hotspot with an exploding restaurant scene.

CON: You might make a change you don’t both enjoy.

Couples need to be very clear with each other about their expectations for what life is going to be like in retirement, and how each of you want to spend your time separately and together. A downsizing that moves you to a new town, away from friends, family, and familiar comforts, can go from exciting to exasperating very quickly if both spouses aren’t committed to adventuring together. One spouse might be happily teeing off while the other is puttering around the house bored silly.

And while a smaller house without kids and clutter might mean more room for you and your spouse, it’s still going to be closer quarters than you’re used to. Is less space going to provide you both with enough personal space?

PRO: Simplified living.

A smaller home means less upkeep. If you buy, you’ll probably pay less in taxes than you did at your larger house. With less space to heat and cool, and no kids soaking up extra water, food, and electricity, your monthly bills might go down. If your smaller house is relatively new, it might require less upkeep and age well right along with you.

CON: Simple isn’t free.

There’s a pretty good chance your current furniture isn’t going to fit or fit in at your new house. Our old stuff is never as valuable to resellers as we want it to be, so you’ll probably end up dipping into your nest egg to buy new furnishings. Anything you don’t want to get rid of you’re going to have to store, either in that beautiful, empty basement, or at a storage facility you’ll have to pay for. If you move to a different state, your smaller home might come with higher taxes. What you save on taxes buying a condo might be offset by association and communal maintenance fees.

PRO: Living the best life possible with your money.

The best reason to consider downsizing doesn’t really have anything to do with decluttering. It’s not about managing space or what to do with all your possessions.

No, the reason to downsize is because that smaller home you’re thinking about will allow you to live the life you want to live in retirement. It’s because that home is going to give you the space to do the things you want to do with the people you love, while minimizing the things you don’t want to do anymore.

Does that idea spark joy?

Then let’s talk. Come in and tell us why you’re thinking about downsizing. We’ll run some numbers and discuss how a new, smaller home could open a big new world of possibilities for you and your spouse. 

Financial Planning is About Making Your Life Plan A Reality

Many folks who have just begun working with us are surprised by how our planning process starts. We don’t begin by talking about IRAs, 401(k)s, or how much you’re saving. Instead, we begin by talking about you, not your money.

Putting your life before your financial plan.

As Life-Centered Planners, our process begins with understanding your life plan. We start by asking you about your family, your work, your home, your goals, and the things that you value the most.

Our job is to build a financial plan that will help you make your life plan a reality.

Of course, building wealth that will provide for your family and keep you comfortable today and in retirement is a part of that plan. So is monitoring your investments and assets and doing what we can to maximize your return on investment.

But we believe maximizing your Return on Life is just as important, if not more so. People who view money as an end in and of itself never feel like they have enough money. People who learn to view money as a tool start to see a whole new world of possibilities open in front of them.

Feeling free.

One of the most important things your money can do for you is provide a sense of freedom. If you don’t feel locked into chasing after the next dollar, you’ll start exploring what more you can get out of life than just more money.

Feeling free to use your money in ways that fulfill you is going to become extremely important once you retire. Afterall, you’re going to have to do something with the 40 hours every week you used to spend working! But you’re also going to have to allow yourself to stop focusing on saving and start enjoying the life that your assets can provide.

Again, having money and building wealth is a part of the plan. But it’s not THE plan in and of itself.

The earlier you start thinking about how you can use your money to balance your vocation with vacation, your sense of personal and professional progress with recreation and pleasure, and the demands of supporting your family with achieving your individual goals, the freer you’re going to feel.

And achieving that kind of freedom with your money isn’t just going to help you sleep soundly at night – it’s going to make you feel excited to get out of bed the next morning.

What’s coming next?

So, when does the planning process end?

If you’re like most of the people we work with, never.

Life-Centered Planning isn’t about hitting some number with your savings, investments, and assets. And we’re much more concerned about how your life is going than how the markets are performing.

Instead, the kinds of adjustments we’re going to make throughout the life of your plan will be in response to major transitions in your life.

Some transitions we’ll be able to anticipate, like a child going to college, a big family vacation you’ve been planning for, and, for many of you, the actual date of your retirement. Other transitions, like a sudden illness or a big out-of-state move for work, we’ll help you adjust for as necessary.

In some cases, your life plan might change simply because you want something different out of life. You might start contemplating a career change. You might decide home doesn’t feel like home anymore and start looking for a new house. You might lose yourself in a new hobby and decide to invest some time and money in perfecting it. You might decide it’s time to be your own boss and start a brand new company.

Planning for and reacting to these moments where your life and your money intersect is what we do best. Come in and talk to us about how Life-Centered Planning can help you get the best life possible with the money you have.  Visit Our Website to learn more.

We also have some really great resources on our YouTube Channel, so head on over there to check it out.

How To Test Drive Retirement

Want to Retire? Take It for a Test Drive

There are many reasons why people who could retire are hesitant to do so. Some people think they need to wait until they’re 65 or older. Some are worried about running out of money. Many parents want to keep supporting their children through some major life transition, like college, marriage, or buying a first home. 

Maybe the most common reason we see for a retirement delay is folks who just can’t imagine their lives without work. That’s understandable. A routine that’s sustained you and your family for 30 or 40 years can be a hard routine to shake. 

But retirement doesn’t have to be all or nothing right away. If just thinking about retiring makes you jittery, use these tips to ease into retirement a little at a time. 

1. Talk to your family.

Clear, open communication is an essential first step to approaching retirement. Be as honest as possible about what you’re feeling. What worries you about retirement? Does the idea excite you? What do you envision your days being like? Where do you want to live? What does your spouse want retirement life to be like? 

2. Talk to your employer.

Many companies have established programs to help longtime employees transition into retirement. You might be able to trim back your hours gradually to get an idea of what days without working will be like. You’re also going to want to double-check how any retirement benefits you may have are going to work. Discuss any large outstanding projects with your supervisor. Make a plan to finish what’s important to you so that you can leave your job feeling accomplished. 

Self-employed? Give your favorite employee (you) less hours and fewer clients! Update your succession plan and start giving the soon-to-be CEO more of your responsibilities. Make sure you have the absolute best people working for you in key leadership positions so that your company can keep prospering without your daily involvement. 

3. Make a “rough draft” of your retirement schedule. 

What are you passionate about? What are some hobbies you’d like to develop into a skilled craft? Do you want to get serious about working the kinks out of your golf swing? Are there household projects, repairs, or upgrades you want to tend to? A crazy idea you kicked around at work you’d like to build into a new company? A part-time job or volunteer position you’d like to take at an organization that’s important to you? New things you want to try? New places you want to visit? Grandkids you want to see more often?

Try filling out a calendar with some of your answers to these questions. As you start to scale back your work hours, take a few lessons or volunteer shifts. Sign up for a class. Leave town for a long weekend. See what appeals to you and what doesn’t. 

Remember, you don’t have to get your schedule right the first time! A successful retirement will involve some trial and error. Learn from things you don’t like and make a point to spend more time doing the things you do like. 

4. Review your finances. 

This is where we come in! 

Once you and your spouse have settled on a shared vision for retirement, we can help you create a financial plan to help ensure you are financially fit for (semi)-retirement. We’ll go through all of your sources of income, retirement accounts, pensions, savings, and other investments to lay out a projection of where your money is coming from and where it’s going.

We can coordinate all aspects of your situation and collaborate with you on the best course of action. You don’t have to face retirement alone and make big decisions without expert guidance. 

Coming in and talking to us about your retirement is a great “Step 1” option as well. So if you are dreaming of those days when work is optional, give us a call and we can help you through this phase of life.

For more retirement resources check out some of our other blog posts.

For more help with retirement, the AARP website can be a great resource as well.

How Are You Feeling About Financial Markets?

How Are You Feeling About Financial Markets?

Heritage Insider Weekly November 12, 2018

Some votes are still being counted but investors appear to be happy with the outcome of mid-term elections. Major U.S. stock indices in the United States moved higher last week, and the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII) Sentiment Survey reported:
 
“Optimism among individual investors about the short-term direction of stock prices is above average for just the second time in nine weeks…Bullish sentiment, expectations that stock prices will rise over the next six months, rose 3.4 percentage points to 41.3 percent. This is a five-week high. The historical average is 38.5 percent.”
 
Before you get too excited about the rise in optimism, you should know pessimism also remains at historically high levels. According to AAII:
 
“Bearish sentiment, expectations that stock prices will fall over the next six months, fell 3.3 percentage points to 31.2 percent. The drop was not steep enough to prevent pessimism from remaining above its historical average of 30.5 percent for the eighth time in nine weeks.”
 
So, from a historic perspective, investors are both more bullish and more bearish than average. If Sir John Templeton was correct, the mixed emotions of investors could be good news for stock markets. Templeton reportedly said, “Bull markets are born on pessimism, grow on skepticism, mature on optimism, and die on euphoria.”
 
While changes in sentiment are interesting market measurements, they shouldn’t be the only factor that influences investment decision-making. The most important gauge of an individual’s financial success is his or her progress toward achieving personal life goals – and goals change over time.
Let’s take a look at some performance figures…

Data as of 11/9/18
1-Week
Y-T-D
1-Year
3-Year
5-Year
10-Year
Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks)
2.1%
4.0%
7.6%
10.2%
9.4%
11.7%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S.
-0.3
-11.7
-9.4
3.2
0.3
4.7
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)
3.2
NA
2.3
2.3
2.8
3.8
Gold (per ounce)
-1.7
-6.6
-5.7
3.6
-1.1
4.9
Bloomberg Commodity Index
-1.2
-6.0
-5.2
-0.5
-7.7
-4.4
DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index
3.5
2.3
1.2
8.2
9.6
13.9
S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.
Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.
 
is A Zeal of zebras a better investment than a blessing of unicorns? 
Collective nouns are the names we use to describe collections or significant numbers of people, animals, and other things. The Oxford English Dictionary offered a few examples:
 
  • A gaggle of geese
  • A crash of rhinoceros
  • A glaring of cats
  • A stack of librarians
  • A groove of DJs
 
In recent years, some investors have shown great interest in blessings of unicorns. ‘Unicorns’ are private, start-up companies that have grown at an accelerated pace and are valued at $1 billion.
 
In early 2018, estimates suggested there were approximately 135 unicorns in the United States. Will Gornall and Ilya A. Strebulaev took a closer look and found some unicorns were just gussied-up horses, though, according to research published in the Journal of Financial Economics.
 
The pair developed a financial model for valuing unicorn companies and reported, “After adjusting for these valuation-inflating terms, almost one-half (65 out of 135) of unicorns lose their unicorn status.
 
Clearly, unicorn companies must be thoroughly researched. There is another opportunity Yifat Oron suggested deserves more attention from investors: zebra companies.  Oron’s article in Entrepreneur explained:
What is a unicorn company?
 
“Zebra companies are characterized by doing real business, not aiming to disrupt current markets, achieving profitability and demonstrating it for a while, and helping to solve a societal problem…zebra companies…are for-profit and for a cause. We think of these businesses as having a ‘double bottom line’ – they’re focused on alleviating social, environmental, or medical challenges while also tending to their own profitability.”
 
Including both types of companies in a portfolio seems like a reasonable approach.
 
If you were to choose a collective noun to describe investors, what would it be? An exuberance? A balance? An influence?
 
Weekly Focus – Think About It
 
“In his learnings under his brother Mahmoud, he had discovered that long human words rarely changed their meanings, but short words were slippery, changing without a pattern…Short human words were like trying to lift water with a knife.”
–Robert Heinlein, American science fiction writer
 
Have a great week.

3 Ways to Know When You Are Ready to Retire

3 Ways to Know When You Are Ready to Retire

Mike Desepoli, Heritage

There’s a pretty good chance that your parents and grandparents retired just because they turned 65. Today’s retirement is a bit more complicated than that. While age is still an important factor, your ability to connect your financial resources to your lifestyle goals is what will truly determine if you’re ready to retire.

Here are three important markers to cross before you crack open your nest egg:

  1. You’re financially ready.

The most common question we field from our clients is, “How much do I need to retire?” While there’s no magic number to hit, a few key checkpoints are:

  • You have a budget. Many clients who are preparing to retire tell us they’ve never kept a budget before. Time to start! If you have any big plans for early in your retirement, like remodeling your home or a dream vacation, let us know so we can discuss front-loading your annual withdrawal rate.
  • Your debts are paid. No, you don’t necessarily need to pay off a fixed-rate mortgage before you retire. But try to reduce or eliminate credit card balances and any other loans that are charging you interest.
  • Your age, retirement accounts, and Social Security plan are all in-sync. If you’re planning on retiring early, be sure that your retirement accounts won’t charge you any early withdrawal penalties for which you’re not prepared. Also keep in mind that the earlier you take Social Security the smaller your payments will be. Can you afford to live without Social Security until age 70 to maximize your benefits?
  • You and your spouse have a health care plan. Medicare insures individuals, not families. If only the retiree is 65, the younger spouse will need to buy health care elsewhere.
  1. You’re emotionally ready.

We spend so much of our lives working that our jobs become a large part of our identities. Rediscovering who we are once we stop working can be a major retirement challenge. To prepare for this emotional transition:

  • Talk to your spouse ahead of time. Don’t wait until your last day of work to discuss how both of you feel about retirement. What do each of you imagine life will be like? What are the things you’re excited to do? What are you afraid of? What can each of you do to make this new phase of life as fulfilling as possible?
  • Make a list. What are the things you’re passionate about? Something you’ve always wished you knew more about? A skill you’d like to develop? A cause that’s important to you? An ambitious business idea that was too ambitious for your former employer?
  • Check that your estate plan is in order. It’s understandable that many people avoid this part of their retirement planning. But putting together a legacy that could impact your family and community for generations can have tremendous emotional benefits. The peace of mind that comes from knowing the people you care about are taken care of can empower you to worry a little less and enjoy your retirement more.
  1. You’re ready to do new things.

Ideally, the financial piece of this conversation should make you feel free enough to create a new retirement schedule based on the emotional piece. Plan your days around the people and passions that get you out of bed in the morning. Some ideas:

  • Work at something you love. Take a part-time job at a company that interests you. Turn that crazy idea you couldn’t sell to your old boss into your own business. Consult. Teach. Volunteer.
  • Keep learning. Brush up your high school French by enrolling in an online course. Learn some basic web design so you can showcase your photography portfolio or create an online store for your crafts. Sign up for cooking classes and get some new meals in your weekly rotation.
  • Get better at having fun. What’s the best way to lower your handicap or perfect your backhand? Take lessons from a pro. The second best? Organize weekly games with friends and family.
  • Travel. Planning out a big vacation can be a fun project for couples to do to together. And while you’re looking forward to that dream trip, take a few weekend jaunts out of town. Stay at the new bed and breakfast you keep hearing about. Visit your grandkids. Go on the road with a favorite sports team and enjoy the local flavor in a different city.
If you’re nearing retirement and struggling with these issues, working through the Return on Life tools with us might provide some clarity. Let’s discuss how we can help get you ready for the best retirement possible with the money you have.  

 

For more retirement resources visit the AARP website.

4 Things to consider Before Financially Bailing Out Your Children

4 Things to Consider Before Financially Bailing Out Your Adult Children

Mike Desepoli, Heritage Financial Advisory Group

According to a recent study by TD Ameritrade, 25% of baby boomers are supporting their family members financially (1). Support to adult children averages out to $10,000 per year. That’s $10,000 that boomers aren’t saving, contributing to retirement accounts, or investing.

Can your retirement afford that kind of generosity?

If you fall short of your retirement goals, is the adult you’re bailing out going to bail you out during your golden years?

Before you write your struggling young adult another big check, ask yourself these four key questions:

  1. What, specifically, is this money for?

The key word here is SPECIFICALLY.

Many parents tend to err on the side of protecting their child’s feelings when weighing financial support. We know asking for money can be embarrassing, and we don’t want to deepen that embarrassment. Or we’re worried that if we ask too many questions the child will become frustrated and hide serious problems from us going forward.

These are understandable concerns. But it’s also important that you understand whether your child needs support because of something beyond his or her control (a car accident, serious health issues, unexpected job loss) or because they’re struggling with basic adult responsibilities. If your child is making poor budgeting decisions or settling for underemployment, you may be throwing good money after bad.

Be tactful, but get to the root problem before you decide if your money is the best solution.

  1. What is the real cost to me?

Many parents are already helping their adult children more than they realize.

For example, you might not think much of letting your adult children stay on the family cell phone plan or piggyback on an HBO subscription. After all, it’s only twenty bucks a month, right?

But how long have you been giving your child that monthly free pass? Years? You can also set time limits. For example, tell your child they can remain on the family cell phone plan until age 25 or until they get married, whichever comes first.

 

Are you helping with larger monthly expenses, like student loan or car payments? When will it finally be time to pull the plug?

Our advice: get it all down on paper. Make a spreadsheet that accounts for the financial support you’re already giving your child, large and small. Seeing how even small expenses accumulate over time will be eye-opening for both of you and help inform a good decision.

  1. What are the terms of the bailout?

This is another area that parents tend to tiptoe around because they’re afraid of insulting their children. But do you know of any bank that’s going to loan your kids money indefinitely, charge no interest, and ask for no repayment? Then why should your money be subject to such lousy terms?

Your children have to understand that your generosity is not open-ended, especially as you near retirement age. You’ve probably made many sacrifices for them already. You should not sacrifice your financial security or the nest egg that is meant to support you in retirement.

If your children want you to “be the bank,” then you have every right to act like one. Set clear terms in writing, including a repayment schedule. In more serious cases, you might want to bring us a copy of this agreement so that we can include it in your estate plan.

  1. How else can I help?

It’s very likely that your child spent 16 or more years in school without learning a single thing about managing money. Financial literacy just isn’t taught in schools. This knowledge gap could be a big reason your young adult is struggling.

A BMO Wealth Institute survey found that two-third of parents give money to adult children when a sudden need arises (2). Does your child need money suddenly because he or she doesn’t know how to budget? Help find that balance between covering current expenses and contributing to savings and investment accounts.

Housing and transportation expenses can be a shock to recent college grads. You could help your child negotiate a car lease. You might help a child who’s already chasing after the Joneses by counselling against a rash home purchase that will stretch his or her finances thin.

Introducing your underemployed child to some of your professional connections might lead to a significant career upgrade.

One key connection you should be sure to tap: your fiduciary advisor! We’re always happy to help our clients’ adult children get on their feet. We consider this a service to our clients because we know that the less you’re worried about supporting your children, the more secure your own retirement goals will be.

 

Sources
  1. https://s1.q4cdn.com/959385532/files/doc_downloads/research/TDA-Financial-Support-Study-2015.pdf
  2. https://wealth.bmoharris.com/media/resource_pdf/bmowi-bank-of-mom-and-dad.pdf

A Simple Plan to Achieve More and Feel Good About It

A Simple Plan to Achieve More in Life and Feel Good About the Results

Mike Desepoli, Heritage

We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in the short-term and underestimate what we can accomplish in the long-term. The frustration that results is one big reason why so many New Year’s resolutions die before Spring.

But if you use these key strategies that are supported by deeply-held values – and science!  –  you’ll set better goals, achieve them, and feel better about yourself while doing so.

Know your values.

Knowing your values can provide real clarity on what you want to achieve in your life.

So ask yourself, what’s important to you? What makes you excited to get up in the morning? What are the passions and interests that fill your time when you’re not working? Who are the people you do those things with?

Another way to explore your values is to try new things. For example, volunteering at your local church or community center might reveal a passion for teaching or philanthropy that you never knew you had. These active experiments can become even more important as you age and start thinking about how you’ll stay happy and engaged in retirement.

Align your goals with your values.

Behavioral scientists have found that achieving goals is rarely a matter of ability or knowledge. For example, a person who wants to lose weight knows that eating ice cream with hot fudge five nights a week is not compatible with weight loss. Yet, the reason they keep downing that ice cream is often due to a lack of motivation. They might feel the immediate pleasure from the ice cream outweighs (no pun intended) the longer-term result of no weight loss, or worse, weight gain.

The more important a goal is to us, the more motivated we are to achieve it. Asking “Why?” can help you align your goals with your values and increase that motivational component:

  • Why should you stop eating ice cream five nights a week? Because I want to be healthier.
  • Why do you want to be healthier? So that I can live a longer and more active life.
  • Why do you want to live longer and be more active? So that I can do more things with my children and grandchildren.

Now we’ve identified core values – health and family – that are tied to the goal. These values will make the goal more important, and more likely to be reached.

Develop an action plan.

Asking “Why?” helps us move our goal-setting to a higher, value-driven space.

Asking “How?” helps us drill down into specific actions we can take to achieve those goals.

“I want to lose weight” is the sort of goal many people set and then abandon. That’s because it’s too unspecific. You can’t just “lose weight” every day until you hit your desired number.

So ask yourself, “How am I going to lose weight?” An answer like, “I’m going to exercise more” is closer, but still not actionable enough.

So how are you going to exercise more? Take a bike ride through your neighborhood every morning? Jog for 30 minutes after work three days every week?

Those are small but solid steps that you can use to develop an action plan. You might even go a little further and join a gym, start a neighborhood walk group, or hire a coach to add an extra layer of accountability and keep you on track. And yes, cut out the ice cream and hot fudge!

Measuring is Motivating.

Whatever goal you set, try to keep score. It could be as simple as pulling out a piece of blank paper and putting a checkmark on it for each day you don’t eat ice cream. We find that the act of keeping score creates its own momentum and can be like a “pat on the back” for a job well done.

Be resilient.

Even a perfectly-set, highly-motivated goal will be challenging. Some lazy Saturday you’ll snooze past your workout. You’ll cheat on your diet. An unexpected home repair might throw off your budgeting goals for the month. But that’s ok! We’re all human. Roll with it that day but then get right back to your plan.

All goals and personal improvements require effort. The grit we need to get over those inevitable humps is its own kind of skill that you can cultivate. Try to push yourself above and beyond your smaller targets. Welcome and accept feedback and criticism that can make you perform better. Prepare yourself to do better tomorrow when your alarm goes off.

And most importantly, stay positive. If your goals truly are aligned with your values, then working towards them shouldn’t feel like punishment. When you experience setbacks, try to embrace them as learning opportunities and adjust your action plan accordingly. And here’s an important piece of advice–when you hit small milestones on your way to big goals, treat yourself. We can all use a little positive reinforcement.

We’re here to help you.

What you aspire to achieve may require a financial commitment. Please contact us and we can discuss your particular situation and see how we can help you get on a faster path to achieving your life’s aspirations.

Sources

https://www.belayadvisor.com/behavior/

https://99u.adobe.com/articles/55219/true-grit-how-to-build-up-your-resilience

Why Delay? You Can Start Improving Your Health Right Now!

Why Delay? You Can Start Improving Your Health Right Now!

Mike Desepoli, Heritage

A Common Scenario.

A busy 40- to 50-hour work week, kids that need shuttling to and from school and extracurriculars … and a gradually decreasing metabolism.

Sound familiar?

Young, working couples with no kids may have more time to be active and healthy. Long morning walks. Three trips to the gym every week. Playing organized sports with friends. Cooking their way through gourmet recipes.

Then life happens. Children. Promotions at work that lead to more responsibility and longer hours.

A couple’s free time together begins to dry up. Softball night turns into crashing on the couch for a few hours before bed. Weekend bike trips or trivia nights turn into weekend rushes to and from kids’ soccer tournaments. Gourmet cookbooks are replaced by fast food menus.

Then there’s the money crunch. Even couples with a financial plan in place tend to worry more about money once a mortgage, car payments, and children enter the picture. Many couples start pinching pennies at the expense of their creature comforts and well-being. New clothes and a replacement for that worn-out mattress aren’t as important as saving for college tuition or eventual retirement. Frozen meals and take-out are quick fixes when there’s so little time to cook a good meal before your daughter’s dance lessons.

The Result

The risks involved when we start neglecting our health are real, and harder to correct as we continue to age. But there are emotional consequences as well, especially if one spouse slips out of shape faster than the other. Innocuous suggestions like, “Let’s take a trip to the farmer’s market” or “How about we re-start our gym membership?” can feel laced with criticism. A loss of confidence, feelings of depression, and inattentiveness to basic hygiene and appearance can follow. Money – already the most common source of marital friction – will continue to be a barrier to self-improvement. Unhealthy people don’t like being told they’re unhealthy, and will often put off preventative care, like annual checkups.

If you or your spouse are struggling with a similar scenario, take a moment to work through the following questions and suggestions together:

Questions to Ask

Are you and your spouse able to maintain your health without any financial stress?

Do you and your spouse regularly confirm your health and overall well-being with your doctors?

Is your level of physical activity higher or lower now than it used to be? If you’re about to retire, do you anticipate a more or less active lifestyle?

What are some physical recreational activities that you enjoy?

What is a recreational activity you’ve never tried, but deep down always wanted to try?

How old is your furniture, especially your bed and mattress?

How many fresh meals do you and your spouse cook and eat at home every week?

Steps to Take
  • Get up and get out there! Admitting that you need to get moving is the first step! Hopefully, many more will follow!
  • Hate going to the gym? You’re not alone. Instead, incorporate some daily exercise into your routine. How about a bike ride through your neighborhood or a local park every morning? Carve a few hours out of your schedule for a weekly tee time or tennis lessons. Take small breaks during the day to stand, get away from your computer, stretch, or take short walks.
  • Don’t ignore your creature comforts! The cost of a new mattress you’ll sleep on for the next ten years will be a lot less than the cost of braces and trips to the chiropractor.
  • You are what you eat! Planning out a week’s worth of healthy, fresh meals will make your grocery bills much more manageable. You might even find that healthy organic and farm-fresh items aren’t as expensive as they seemed.
  • The best medicine is preventative. Spotting potential health concerns as early as possible will keep both you and your bank account from hurting.
A Better Return on Life

The better you and your spouse feel individually, the better you’re going to feel together. An interest in improving your health can lead to new activities and interests that you’ll enjoy pursuing together well into your retirement years. After all, when you finish working and the kids are out of the house, you’ll need to find a whole new routine. Sports and active recreation are great places to start, both to keep you moving every day and as inspiration to see more of the world once you have more time to do so. Today’s daily walk around the block might lead to a hiking trip in Yosemite one day that neither of you will ever forget.

If you’re struggling to stay active as you age, or worried that you can’t afford a healthier lifestyle, come talk to us. We’ll help you review your budget, analyze your long-term financial plan, and offer suggestions on how to get the best life possible with the money you have.

Giving: How To Do The Most Good Without Disrupting Your Financial Plan

Giving: How To Do The Most Good Without Disrupting Your Financial Plan

Lou Desepoli, Heritage

Many studies have shown that charitable giving provides greater happiness than buying more stuff. Eventually, you get used to your fancy new car, and the enjoyment it provides goes down. But giving forges feelings of connectedness and community that don’t fade away.

Incorporating charitable giving into your financial plan is a great way to make sure that your generosity is aligned with the things that are most important to you. Some forethought about these key issues will also make sure that your good intentions don’t throw off the rest of your long-term planning:

Have a purpose.

The most effective charitable giving is thoughtful and intentional. It may be helpful for you and your spouse to ask yourselves some questions that will narrow your focus, such as:

  • Do we want to give to a national or local cause?
  • Are there pressing issues in our community that we feel we can help impact?
  • Do we have any personal connections to causes, such as medical research or support for the arts?
  • Want to support friends or family by contributing to causes that impact their lives or fulfill their passions?
  • Do we want to support a religious organization, such as our church?
  • Are our charitable impulses motivated by on-going problems, such as education or homelessness, or would we rather position ourselves to react to events such as natural disasters

Do your homework.

Once you’ve settled on a cause, do some research on potential recipients. Visit the local nonprofit you’d like to support and meet with its leadership team. Is the organization running itself responsibly? Are there good, competent people in charge? Will these people get the job done? Don’t sink your money into a well-intentioned black hole.

If you’re looking to give to a national organization, keep in mind that even some of the biggest names have come under fire lately from watchdog groups for misusing donations. Make sure you’re giving to an organization that’s doing what it says it’s going to do with your money.

Also, remember that big organizations – even non-profits – have to manage things like overhead, salaries, and insurance. Are you happy supporting the organization itself? If you want to see your money in action more visibly, you might be happier giving locally.

Beware the internet.

Whenever something bad happens in the world, our inboxes and social media are flooded with donation links. Read before you click. Be especially wary of crowd-funded campaigns on sites like GoFundMe. The cause may sound worthy, but these sites do not provide meaningful oversight on every campaign. Your money could be going to a cause, or it could be going straight into a scam artist’s pocket. You’ll never know for sure unless you know the person organizing the campaign.

Find out what will do the most good.

There’s more than one way to give. Maybe the local adult literacy center needs volunteer tutors as much as it needs money. Perhaps you’d feel more fulfilled helping out at your church’s food bank than you would feel by writing a check. Taking a more active role in a cause that’s important to you might be the most valuable thing you can give.

However, if you want to help with large-scale problems outside your own community, like hurricane recovery on the other side of the country, money is usually the most effective way to contribute. Unlike toiletries or canned goods, money doesn’t have to be boxed and shipped. You’re better off contributing to large, trustworthy organizations that already have systems and pipelines in place.

Know your limits.

Especially as you near retirement age, your giving should be a planned part of your budget. Don’t make a large one-time contribution that’s going to force you to dip into an emergency savings fund. Don’t sign up for a recurring gift that’s going to put a strain on your monthly bills. If you can’t give as much money to a cause as you’d like, think about supplementing a smaller contribution with regular volunteering.

Sometimes our best intentions get us into the most trouble. It’s great that you and your spouse want to use your money to try to make the world a better place. But your comfort and happiness are important too. Even the wealthiest people have to say no.

If you are ever in doubt, let your core values be your guide. Apply the same principle to your giving as you do to the rest of your life-centered financial plan: use the money you have to get the best life possible. With a little planning, you’ll make life better for those around you as well.

 

For more info on this topic and many others, check out The #AskTheAdvisor Show

Facebook Data Scandal: What you need to know

Facebook data scandal: Here’s everything you need to know

Mike Desepoli, Heritage

Cambridge Analytica is in the midst of a media firestorm. This came after an undercover sting operation caught senior executives boasting about psychological manipulation, entrapment techniques and fake news campaigns. Alongside social media giant Facebook, the London-based elections consultancy is at the center of an ongoing dispute over the alleged harvesting and use of personal data.

What happened

It started with an explosive expose broadcast by Britain’s Channel 4 News on Monday. In it, senior executives at Cambridge Analytica, were caught on camera suggesting the firm could use sex workers, bribes and misinformation in order to try and help political candidates win votes around the world.

How did this initially come to light?

The Channel 4 News investigation followed articles published over the weekend by the New York Times and U.K. newspaper The Observer. The reports sought to outline how the data of millions of Facebook profiles ended up being given to Cambridge Analytica.

In this way, 50 million Facebook profiles were mined for data. Kogan then shared this with Cambridge Analytica, which allowed the firm to build a software solution. The software was used to help influence choices in elections, therefore spurring the narrative of collusion. This was according to a whistleblower, who revealed the alleged practices to both newspapers.

How has Facebook Stock responded?

As you might expect it’s been under quite a bit of pressure the last few days. It is currently off about 10% from recent all time highs made in February. With growing calls for executives to appear before congress, it will likely continue to be under pressure. In the news today, there is a group of investors who have filed a class action lawsuit against Facebook with the intention to recoup stock losses.

What happens next?

U.S. senators have urged Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress. They will likely ask about how the social media giant will protect its users. Meanwhile, in the U.K., Zuckerberg has been summoned by the chairman of a parliamentary committee in order to explain the “catastrophic failure” to lawmakers.

The head of the European Parliament has also said it will carry out an investigation to see whether data was misused.

 

 

7 Simple Tips to Curb Your Spending

7 Simple Tips to Curb Your Spending

 By Mike Desepoli, Heritage

 

  1. Create a 30-day list

Make a new rule: you can’t buy anything (except necessities) until a 30-day waiting period has passed. Put a 30-day list on your refrigerator, and when you have the urge to buy something, put it on the list with today’s date. After a month has passed, you can buy the item. Many times the urge will have passed and you can just cross the item off the list. This works if you stick to your rule. The only exceptions would be groceries and other similar necessities.

  1. Don’t go to the mall

You only get the urge to buy on impulse if you’re in a shopping area (or if you’re watching TV). So, prevent the urge from happening in the first place by not going shopping. Don’t go to the mall or Walmart or other shopping areas. Only go to a store if you have a specific necessity to purchase, and go with a list. Don’t buy anything not on that list. Now get out as soon as possible. Don’t just walk around window shopping for entertainment, or you will be sorely tempted. Find other ways to have fun.

  1. Don’t go to online retail sites

Just as the mall will create the urge to buy, so will online sites such as Amazon. They make it too easy to buy something. Instead, stay away from these sites.

  1. Monitor your urges

Make it a point to monitor your urges, if it’s a big problem. Keep a little piece of paper, and put a tally mark on it every time you get the urge. This helps you to become more conscious of the urge, which is usually something we don’t even notice. Different symptoms can appear, such as faster breathing or a faster heart rate, when we have the urge. By becoming more aware of the changes in our body, we can begin to get the urges under control.

  1. Plan your purchases

Making a list before you go shopping is important. If you can make it a habit to stick to that list, you’ll eliminate a lot of little impulse buys. For other purchases, make it a habit to plan them, save for them, shop around, and even see if you can get it for free. Going through this process ensures that your purchases are more deliberate, and less on impulse. Plan ahead for birthday and Christmas gifts, and other large purchases that you know are coming up in the month ahead.

  1. Ask questions

Before you buy anything, ask yourself a series of questions. Is the purchase going to improve your life in some important way? Is the purchase supposed to make you feel better? Does it help you meet one of your life goals? Will it simplify your life? These are useful questions to help you evaluate the value of a purchase, and why you’re making it. Be honest with yourself — don’t try to sell yourself!

  1. Keep the end in mind

It’s useful to have clear goals in mind at all times. What do you want to do with your life? Do you have financial goals that you’re trying to accomplish, in the long-term and medium-term? Keep your savings goals in mind, and know when you’re about to make a purchase how the purchase will affect your goals.

Fore more information on this topic, check out our weekly Video Show by visiting the link below:

#AskTheAdvisor 59: 1 Simple Tip to Curb Your Spending Habits

What is a stock market correction? And a few other facts.

What is a stock market correction? And a few other facts you need to know

It’s been a crazy few days on Wall Street.

 

On Tuesday, the Dow plunged 567 points at the opening bell and briefly sank into correction territory before roaring back. On Monday, the Dow took its biggest single day point plunge in history.

Here’s what you need to know about what’s going on in the stock market.

What is a stock market correction?

A correction is a 10% decline in stocks from a recent high. In this case, that was less than two weeks ago, when the Dow closed at a record high of 26,616. A correction is less severe than a bear market, when stocks decline 20% from their recent highs. The stock market’s last correction began in the summer of 2015 and ended in February 2016.

Why is this happening?

The most immediate reason is a fear of inflation.

 

Last Friday’s jobs report was strong. Wages are rising, and unemployment is historically low. That’s great news for Main Street. But on Wall Street, it raises fears that inflation will finally pick up, and that the Federal Reserve will have to raise interest rates faster to fight it.

How are global markets reacting?

Overnight, world markets followed the United States’ lead and dropped. The Nikkei in Japan closed down 4.7%, China’s main stock index closed down 3.3%, and Australia’s closed down 3.2%. European markets were lower, but not as much as Asia. Stocks were down about 2% in Britain, Germany and France.

What does this mean for the rally?

From Election Day to the record high on January 26, the Dow climbed more than 8,000 points — a remarkable 45%. Many factors were behind the rapid rise: The ever-improving economy and job market, business optimism, record corporate profits, and the big business tax cut, which Republicans made law. The losses in the market since the beginning of last week wiped out about a quarter of that gain. The Dow began Tuesday up about 6,000 points since the election.

Is this the worst decline ever?

No.

Monday’s decline of 1,175 points on the Dow was, by far, the biggest point decline in history. The Dow had never lost more than 777 points in a single day. But in percentage terms, the declines of Friday and Monday are nowhere near the worst. On Black Monday in 1987, the Dow dropped an incredible 22%. That’s the equivalent of a 5,300-point decline today. And on several days during the financial crisis in 2008, the Dow dropped 6% or 7%. Monday’s decline was 4.6%. That was the worst for the Dow since August 2011.

 

Does all of this mean we’re entering a recession?

Stock market declines don’t cause recessions, and they do a pretty poor job of predicting whether one is coming. So while the market plunge might rattle investors and ding consumer confidence, it is not a sign that the economy is in trouble. Unemployment is at a 17-year low. Average hourly wages went up last month the most in eight years. Consumer and business confidence are near record levels. Economists say it would take a much bigger stock market move than Monday’s plunge to change that.

For more information visit us at Heritage Financial Advisory Group and check out the latest episode of The #AskTheAdvisor Show.

Stock Market Sell-Off: Heartburn, Not A Heart Attack

 

A 5 Step Plan to Retire Early

A 5-step plan to Retire Early

Cut spending, invest carefully, live simply — and comfortably

 

Wish you could retire right now? Give up the rat race, embrace a life of independence, reduce your stress, and have more time for what you value most — your family, education, travel? That might seem like a fantasy but to retire early is within reach of most Americans, if they would only take the steps to make it happen.

That’s not a sales pitch. It’s true. You, too, can retire the way you want, when you want.

While many think of retirement planning as a complex process, it doesn’t have to be. Below, we outline the key strategies learned by people who have done it — people who, without being millionaires, managed to retire in their 30s, 40s and 50s. If you’re eager to join the ranks of the financially independent, get going by following the steps below.

Step 1: How much do I need to save?

These days, a better term for “retirement” might be “financial independence.” That is, retirement isn’t connected to a specific age, and it may entail continuing to work or volunteer. It’s all about doing what you want, when you want.

And anyone can do it. Financial independence, after all, is a simple concept: you need enough money to create income to support your lifestyle for the rest of your life. That points to the crux of retirement planning: How much you need to save depends entirely on how much you spend. Your spending rate is the single biggest factor determining when you will be financially able to retire.

The first step to financial independence is figuring out where your money is going now. Monitoring and, if possible, reducing, your current spending has two important benefits: it frees up more money to be put aside in savings, and it reduces the amount you need each year to live on, thus lowering the total amount you need to save.

To track your spending and savings, check with your financial advisor to see if they offer an online service that can help you with this. At heritage, our clients utilize Heritage CFO to monitor and track their finances in real-time.

Certainly, your spending will change once you retire. You’ll stop sending money to savings. You won’t be spending money on commuting. Other costs may rise. Perhaps you’ll want to travel more, or you may encounter higher health-care costs.

Step 2: How do I invest?

Just as reining in spending is a recurring theme among early retirees, so is the idea of investing.  Successful retirees use the funds they have accumulated to generate growth and additional income by investing. Not all investment strategies are created equal, so make sure you find a strategy that is suitable for your goals and objectives.

Step 3: Housing costs in retirement

A key piece of retiring early is keeping your housing costs low. If you plan to live in the U.S., the ideal situation is to pay off your mortgage before retiring. But as noted in No. 1 above, the key to retiring early is a simple function of how much you spend versus how much you have in income. If you save enough such that you can cover your mortgage costs after retiring, then there’s no inherent problem with holding on to a mortgage.

Many retirees cite the significant psychological value of carrying no debt when they quit working.  However, with interest rates as low as they are, others argue that holding the mortgage and investing in the financial markets the cash that otherwise would pay off the mortgage can be a smart financial move.

Step 4: Paying for health care

Early retirees deal with the issue of health insurance in a variety of ways. Individual costs will vary widely, depending on the situation. Certainly, the availability of health insurance in the U.S., thanks to the Affordable Care Act, has made it easier for individuals to quit jobs they might otherwise have kept for the health insurance.

Step 5: Manage your taxes

Just as when we’re working, taxes are a consideration in retirement, whether you retire early or not. It’s crucial to include an estimate of your annual tax bill in your “total savings needed” amount.

Your tax bill may come in a variety of flavors. If you’re pulling your income out of a taxable brokerage account, you’ll most likely owe capital gains on those distributions.

Also, your Social Security benefits are taxable if your income exceeds a specific amount.

Keep in mind that, if you continue to do consulting or part-time work after you retire early, then any Social Security benefits you’ve claimed will be temporarily reduced.

 

About Heritage Financial Advisory Group

Heritage Financial Advisory Group’s mission is to inspire our clients to achieve true wealth through education, communication, and service which exceeds their expectations. We offer a comprehensive suite of investment management and financial planning solutions, serving families, business owners, executives and institutions. Contact one of our financial advisors to request a complimentary consultation. Visit us at Long Island Financial Advisor .