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.

Use a Lifetime of Skills to Give Back During Retirement

The professional skills you’ve honed during your career are still incredibly valuable even though you’re retired. Rarely has there been a greater need for talented and dedicated people with a wide variety of skills to pitch in and give back in retirement to their communities. But giving back is also good for you. Many studies link volunteer work to increased longevity and improved mental health for seniors.

Discuss these three questions with your spouse to help decide what kind of volunteer position could be right for you.

  1. What skills do you have to give back?

Charitable organizations have many of the same needs that for-profit companies do, including office management, event planning, accounting, data entry, graphic design, IT, and team building.

However, these organizations can also benefit from skills that you might take for granted. With a little training you could become a tutor, helping students of all ages master basic reading or mathematics. If you’re good at wrangling kids, you could help at an after school program. If you’re good at wrangling adults, you could help your charity of choice organize groups of volunteers during large events like fund drives.

One word of caution to seniors who ended their careers in the C-suite: not being the boss can take some getting used to. Remember that volunteer organizations have developed best practices that they know will help them achieve their objectives while also keeping everyone safe. Knowing when to tap into your executive experience and when to dig in with the rest of the volunteers is just another part of retirement you’ll need to adjust to.

  1. How much time should you commit?

One benefit of taking on a volunteer position is that it can help fill some of the hours that you used to spend working. Many seniors find that having places to be and things to do adds more structure and meaning to their days, especially when they’re giving back.

Designing the perfect retirement schedule is often a process of trial and error, especially if you’re married. As you and your spouse adjust to spending more time together, you’ll also explore ways to spend time apart. If you’re enthusiastic about volunteering, you might be tempted to jump in with both feet. But early in your retirement, building a little flexibility into your schedule might be best. After all, volunteer work is still work. In some cases, volunteering might even be more physically and emotionally demanding than your old job. Make sure you’re still leaving yourself time to unwind, bond with your spouse, play some golf, and progress through that list of great books you want to read.

  1. What causes are closest to your heart?

Your retirement was already going to be very different than your parents’ or grandparents’. Today’s retirees are healthier, more active, and living longer than previous generations of seniors. Thanks to technology and new media, you’re also more connected to the wider world.

But you’re also retiring at a truly historical moment. The combination of the Covid-19 pandemic, economic struggles, and social unrest in American cities has created many needs. Your abilities and your passion have never been more valuable to charitable organizations, non-profits, schools, churches, and civic groups.

Again, you may feel compelled to start to give back as much as you can, right away. But take some time to find the best match between your skills. Your experience, your interests, and what your community needs are most important. The better that fit is, the more rewarding your volunteer work – and your retirement – will be.

If you’re wondering how to integrate a volunteer position into your retirement, we have a new tool that might help. Give us a call and we can work through your Ideal Week in Retirement exercise together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Get Away In Your Own Backyard

Summer travel plans are up in the air right now as federal and local governments sort through the best strategies for keeping COVID-19 under control. Although it’s disappointing to put off a vacation or big family party you’ve been planning forever, there are still recreational options right in your backyard that will get your family outside safely. If you’re starting to reschedule your summer, keep these ideas in mind to make the most out of the months ahead.

Stay safe

No matter where you go or what you decide to do, social distancing is still Rule 1.

The CDC recommends that you and members of your household stay at least six feet away from other people, even in open air. If you visit a public park, avoid group activities or team sports like basketball, soccer, or football that put you in close contact with other people and shared equipment. Avoid public facilities like bathrooms and playgrounds. Hiking trails and taking bike rides are good alternatives.

Also, make sure you bring along a cloth face covering and some hand sanitizer, avoid touching your face, and wash up when you get home.

 Find a nearby National Park

According to the National Park Foundation, there are 62 sites in the U.S. that include “National Park” in their name, including such famous destinations as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.

But before you load up the camper, keep in mind that the CDC recommends staying close to home. Long-distance travel will require stops to refuel, eat, and use public restrooms, which could expose you and your family to germs – as well as spread your own.

Also, even though parks are technically “open,” many of their public facilities aren’t. That means no restrooms or cafeterias. Maintaining a safe social distance could also be challenging at more popular parks, especially as the weather turns warmer.

If the big parks are outside your radius, our wider National Park System spans 419 sites, including historical battlefields, monuments, nature trails, rivers, and preserves. Take a look at the National Park Foundation’s database. There’s probably an interesting, beautiful spot near you that you’ve never noticed before.

Explore local options

Many state and country parks are open as well, with many of the same restrictions in place. You can take a long walk or bike ride with members of your family, as long as you can maintain safe distance from other folks. But depending on your local health guidelines, playgrounds and public restrooms might still be off limits. Check state and county websites for more information about what facilities are available and plan ahead, especially if you’re bringing children along.

Kids are one reason that your local neighborhood park is still a great option for a day out; emergency bathroom breaks and snack time are a lot easier to manage when your house is just down the block. Neighborhood parks can also be less of a crowding hazard, making it easier for your family to maintain safe social distance.

Of course, that empty playground is more tempting in a small park too. Before you head outside, have an age-appropriate chat with your kids about why they need to stay off public equipment.

REALLY local options 

If your home has private yard space, wake up your inner child, especially if you have children of your own. Kids who see their parents really throwing themselves into family time are going to feel a little less anxious and sad about things they can’t do right now.

When you’re not working or teaching, leave your phone inside and make this family time special. Plan a treasure hunt. Lead a backyard yoga session. Organize a family soccer game. Plant flowers together. As the weather improves, move inside activities outside, like meals, story time, and board games.

Finally, use the space available to you to embrace some of the simplicity that this situation has created. Hang up a hammock or set up some extra reading chairs around the fire pit. One of the reasons we struggle to fill time during quarantine is that rushing through our normal lives makes us feel like we should always be doing something. Older children and adults should take advantage of extra downtime to think, reflect, and be creative.

We know summer travel is just one of many ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted your life. As our country and our local communities start to reopen, please be safe, and please be in touch if we can help in any way.

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.

 

 

Will A Vacation Home Provide a Good Return on Life?

A vacation home can provide years of enjoyment and fond memories for multiple generations of your family. They can also create an extra layer of headaches and expenses that prove more trouble than they’re worth.

Here are 4 reasons to think twice before buying a vacation home, even if doing so won’t break the bank:

Full-time bills for part-time enjoyment.

Most workers receive around two weeks of vacation time from their employers. Self-employed “gig economy” workers or small business owners might manage to carve out a few extra days. Or, they might be so busy running their businesses that even a week of vacation time is a stretch.

Regardless, the bills associated with your second home are going to be there 52 weeks of the year: mortgage payments, electricity, basic upkeep, etc. Are you going to spend enough time at your vacation property to justify those costs?

“Landlord” is a job.

Many folks plan to offset the expense of a vacation home by renting it when they’re not using it. This can be an effective way to earn some extra money and make your mortgage payments without stressing your finances.

But when you rent out a property you own, you’re taking on a new job: landlord. That means vetting potential renters and dealing with any unruly folks who slip through your screening process. That means more wear-and-tear on the house, appliances, and furniture. That means repairs. That means complicated insurance and tax issues.

And all that means more work while you’re still working.

Maybe taking on that job appeals to you, especially if you’re retired and enjoy doing handiwork. But if you don’t want to add “landlord” to your resume, don’t use renting your vacation home to justify the purchase.

Visit more, travel less.

Buying something new is exciting, especially when it’s a big-ticket purchase like a vehicle or home. But that excitement can be surprisingly fleeting. Take your new sports car around the block a few times, and it’s suddenly just your car. Watch a few movies in your fancy home theatre, and suddenly it’s just your TV.

A vacation home could be an exception to that rule, especially if it becomes a focal point for family gatherings. In that case, what you’re really buying isn’t a home: it’s an experience of time shared with loved ones. The same holds true if your vacation home is near activities you and your spouse both enjoy, like a cluster of great golf courses or a vibrant restaurant scene.

But if your vacation home is just a nice house, that “getaway” feeling is going to become just another part of your regular routine. Vacationing will start to feel like visiting, or worse, like walking into another set of rooms in your house. When vacation time rolls around, it’s going to be hard to justify spending additional money on “bucket list” travel when you know your second house is just sitting there, racking up mortgage interest, waiting for you to replace the leaky water heater.

Retire TO, not FROM.

So: you don’t want to be a handyman, you dream of crisscrossing Europe, and vacationing for more than 10 days per year makes you antsy.

Still, there’s that voice in the back of your head saying, “We love that place. We have the money. If we don’t buy now, we never will.”

Why not?

Maybe buying a second house isn’t going to improve your Return on Life right now. But retiring to your favorite vacation destination could be an invigorating change of scenery. There’s a big difference between putting off your goals until it’s too late and putting a plan in place that will let you hit that goal when the time is right.

In the meantime, keep that favorite spot in your vacation rotation. Who knows? After a few more years, the shine might wear off and you’ll start dreaming about a new retirement home.

Ready to move but not sure where to go? Check out Money.com for the 8 best cities to retire in.

And as your plans evolve, make sure you keep us in the loop. Wherever you decide to settle down, our planning process can help you get there.

 

 

2019 Was One For The Ages | Heritage Wealth Weekly

About face!

2019 was a remarkable year for investors with many asset classes delivering positive performance. Both the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, a gauge of U.S. stock market performance, and the Dow Jones Global (ex U.S.) Index delivered double-digit increases (see the below table). Bonds and gold rallied, too, delivering positive returns for the year.

Possibly the most important factor contributing to asset performance in 2019 was an ‘about face’ by the United States Federal Reserve. Axios reported:

“The Fed’s 180-degree turn was the story of 2019, asset managers and market analysts say…Chairman Jerome Powell and the U.S. central bank went from raising interest rates for a fourth time at the close of 2018 and giving market watchers the explicit expectation this would continue in 2019, to doing the opposite. The Fed cut rates thrice and even began re-padding its balance sheet in the last quarter of the year, bringing it back above $4 trillion.”

How Did Markets React to the Fed?

The Fed’s policy decision gave investment markets a boost, however, it did little to quell investors’ worries about potential recession and the impact of the U.S.-China trade war, reported The Wall Street Journal. As a result, investors moved money from U.S. stock markets into bonds and other investments they perceived to be safer throughout the year.

During the fourth quarter of 2019, U.S. markets delivered positive returns despite uncertainty about the strength of the U.S. economy created by inconsistent economic data. For example, the last jobs report of the year indicated unemployment remained near a 50-year low. Yet, in 2019, workers experienced the highest number of layoffs in a decade.

Many layoffs during the year were the result of corporate bankruptcies, especially in the retail sector. Investors who took time to evaluate the juxtaposition of unemployment levels and layoffs may have recognized disruptions in the retail sector has potential to create opportunities for investors.

How Do The Economic Indicators Look?

A closely watched indicator during 2019 was manufacturing. In December, Fox News reported, “The ISM Manufacturing Index fell for the fifth month in a row to 47.2 in December, down from November’s reading of 48.1. That’s the weakest reading since June 2009, when it hit 46.3, and well below the 49 reading that economists surveyed by Reuters expected.”

One of the reasons for weakness in manufacturing is the U.S.-China trade war. Late in the fourth quarter, concerns about trade subsided after the announcement of a phase one trade deal. The agreement is scheduled to be signed on January 15, 2020.

Continued progress in resolving the trade war could help boost economic growth in the United States. At the end of 2019, United States gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced in the country, was expected to remain slow and steady during 2020. However, forecasters at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia expected the economies of nine states to contract during the first six months of the new year.

From a geopolitical perspective, the 2020s are beginning just like the last decade did, with all eyes on Iran.

In 2009 and 2010, the Iranian Green Revolution captured the world’s attention as social media provided insight to post-election turbulence and unrest in Iran. Last week, the first of the new decade, all eyes were again on the Middle East as tensions between the United States and Iran flared after the death of a top Iranian military leader targeted by the United States.

After rallying on the first day of the new decade, some major U.S. stock markets declined on news of heightened tensions in the Middle East and concerns about the potential consequences, such as the disruption of oil supplies.

what a decade!

While some have called the 2010s a ‘lost decade’ because there was little economic growth, we disagree with the assessment. The decade was filled with remarkable events in politics, sports, science, pop culture, and other areas of interest. Here are a few memorable events from the past decade:

NASA’s Voyager 1 probe left the solar system.

Launched in 1977 to explore planets including Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, the probe left our solar system in 2013. It will continue to send data until 2025.

 

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law

The controversial law, which Encyclopedia Britannica reported, “required most individuals to secure health insurance or pay fines, made coverage easier and less costly to obtain. This cracked down on abusive insurance practices, and attempted to rein in the rising costs of health care,” remains under challenge in American courts.

 

eSports became an industry

To the delight of people who would prefer to spend their time gaming, online games became a recognized form of sports competition, complete with news coverage and multimillion-dollar prize money.

 

Civil and social movements changed thinking

There were pro-democracy protests in the Middle East (Arab Spring), and social movements in the United States (Occupy, Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, and MeToo, among others). MIT explained, “…a successful movement can change how we think and talk about key social issues.”

 

The Higgs Boson particle was found

Any fan of the television show, The Big Bang Theory, will know exactly how much this meant to Sheldon Cooper. The television show’s popularity was also a phenomenon of the last decade.

 

Carli Lloyd scored the fastest hat trick in World Cup soccer

Carli Lloyd scored a hat trick – three goals – in 13 minutes for the U.S. women’s national team during the World Cup final against Japan in 2015. She also played on the team that won the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

Hurricanes, earthquakes, and storms wrought destruction

Countries around the world were pummeled by storms during the decade. Hurricanes and tropical storms like Irene, Sandy, Harvey, Irma, Michael, Dorian, and Maria did significant damage in the United States and its territories. One of the most memorable was the Great Japanese earthquake and tsunami that preceded the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.

 

The Chicago Cubs broke the curse

Advised by their manager to go out there and, “Try not to suck,” the Cubs won the World Series for the first time since 1908.

 

Entertainment took a turn toward streaming

Deadline Hollywood reported, “It is impossible to find a corner of the industry that has not been reshaped by streaming, from the pay TV ecosystem and movie exhibition to labor negotiations and talent deals.”

 

The 2010s provided disruptions and delights. Let’s hope the events of the coming decade will make the world a better place. For a closer look at 2019 in review, check out this link.

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But, that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But, if you do nothing, there will be no result.”

–Mahatma Gandhi, Lawyer, politician, social activist

Like what you’re reading, be sure to check out our other blog posts.

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.

 

 

 

Heritage Insider Weekly | Hong Kong Protests Continue

Big market swings, protests in Hong Kong, and potentially more interest rate cuts. We break it all down in this week’s Heritage Insider.

Like our videos? There is plenty more where that came from.

Unfamiliar with the Hong Kong protests? Read more about it here.

Working In Retirement? Here’s 3 Reasons Why You Should

It might sound a little crazy but there are many benefits to working even though you no longer need the money for your living or retirement needs.

These “retirement workers” have discovered that part-time jobs or volunteer positions allow them to keep a nice pace in life and find a balance among using their talents, enjoying recreation, traveling, and spending time with family. Some of our most ambitious clients even start brand new companies in retirement.

Here are three important benefits of working in retirement that might persuade you to clock back in a couple days every week.

Working is good for you.

Retiring early is a very popular goal right now. But while it makes sense to want to enjoy your assets when you’re younger, a recent study links retirement with decreased mental and physical activity and higher instances of illness.

Working keeps your mind and body active. It makes you engage in problem solving and creative thinking. It keeps you mindful about your health and appearance so that you make a good impression on colleagues and customers. It challenges you to keep achieving and rewards you when you do.

And, if nothing else, it keeps you from vegging out on the couch all day and driving your spouse crazy!

Work can give you a sense of purpose.

Many retirees struggle with the transition to retirement because their sense of purpose and identity is so tied to their work. Without that familiar job and its schedule and responsibilities, some retirees struggle to find a reason to get out of bed in the morning. A part-time job can restore some of that sense of structure and drive.

In fact, you might find that working in retirement gives you an even greater sense of purpose than your former career did. You might have worked a job you didn’t 100% love in order to support your family. Now that you no longer need to worry about that, you can take that community college teaching position. You can work a couple days every week at that non-profit that’s making a difference in your community. You can set up regular volunteer hours at a charitable organization that’s close to your heart. You can feel like you’re making a contribution to society without worrying about the size of your paycheck.

Work can improve your connections to other people.

Early retirement can be a period of isolation for some folks. Your friends and family might still be busy working and raising children. The familiar social interactions you enjoyed at work are gone. You and your spouse probably share some common interests, but you can’t spend every single second together.

It’s important for retirees to be open to making new personal connections in retirement. A new workplace is a great place to start that process. You’ll meet new people from different walks of life. You’ll work with and help people who can benefit from your personal wisdom and your professional skill set. You might meet other retired seniors who, like you, are trying to stay active and put their talents to good use. And the more involved you are in your community, the more curious and adventurous you’re going to be about trying new restaurants, shopping in new stores, and interacting with more people.

Of course, working in retirement can affect other aspects of your financial planning even if you don’t need the money, such as taxes, withdrawal rates, and your relationship with your spouse. If you’re considering a new part-time job, let’s schedule a conversation to discuss any adjustments we should be thinking about so that you get the best life possible with the extra bit of money you’ll soon have.

For more on working in retirement, check out this cool article from Nerd Wallet that gives you a few things to consider.

The Longevity Effect

Longevity can be both a gift, and a curse. This generation of retirees is going to live longer than any in history. Today’s seniors are healthier, more active, and receiving better preventative care. And on top of that, a growing group of scientists is trying to harness technology and modern medicine to slow down the aging process.

Experts call the cumulative effect of these changes to life expectancy “the longevity effect.” They project that extending our years of healthy living can have tremendous benefits both to individuals and to society as a whole.

Let’s look at some of the cutting-edge advances in slowing biological aging, as well as what experts recommend folks can do right now to stay more than just young at heart.

Genetic Testing

You’ve probably seen products like AncestryDNA that can give you a robust genealogical profile from your saliva. Scientists are continuing to progress on more sophisticated versions of this technology that will be able to use your genes to test for serious diseases. There’s even hope of being able to test for genes that are associated with longevity, and others that could eventually shorten your lifespan.

We all know that the best medicine is preventative. But if scientists can perfect this “road map” for life expectancy, the implications for your financial planning could be enormous. An accurate longevity expectancy could make it much easier to plan ahead for significant medical expenses that might not be covered by Medicare. And if you had a better idea of when you were likely to start “slowing down” later in your retirement, you might enjoy your early retirement years more and worry less about running out of money.

Fighting “Zombie Cells”

The cells in our bodies are constantly dividing. After a certain number of divisions, cells usually die. Those that don’t – so-called “zombie cells” – can build up in our bodies over time and interfere with how our healthy cells operate.

Scientists are looking for ways to clear out zombie cells via “interventions” such as pills. Clear out the zombies, and you’re eliminating cellular environments ripe for things like cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and osteoporosis. The more resistant we are to these kinds of diseases, the greater our longevity will be. And the longer you live without having to cope with a debilitating disease, the longer you’ll be able to work part-time, volunteer, play your favorite sports, and vacation with your favorite people.

In the Meantime

There’s no guarantee that these specific medicines and technologies will be ready for the general public during your retirement. But it is safe to assume that advances both gradual and rapid will continue to improve the quality of your health care.

The most important thing you can do to keep aging in check during retirement is to take advantage of the services Medicare provides right now. That starts with your free “Welcome to Medicare” visit, which will help you and your doctors get a baseline reading of your health upon retirement. Medicare also covers many vaccinations, a wide variety of preventative screenings and tests, an annual wellness checkup, and a depression screening if you’re struggling with the emotional transition into retirement.

These services might not sound as exciting as fighting zombie cells, but they’re the most effective ways to detect significant health problems while it’s still early enough to do something about them.

So while we’re all waiting for the next big medical breakthroughs, old fashioned common sense will go a long way towards a long and healthy retirement. Go to the doctor. Eat well. Exercise. Wear sunscreen. Pursue your passions with a vigor that will keep your body and mind energized.

And any time you want to review how your financial plan will take care of you at every phase of your retirement, don’t hesitate to call us up.

Source:

We also have some great return on life resources over at our website, so make sure to click here and check that out.

Increase Your Generosity Without Jeopardizing Your Retirement

How are you going to get the best, most fulfilling life possible with the money you have once you retire? Generosity is key, but it can be costly.

Study after study has shown that retirees who spend their time and money on experiences are much happier than those who just buy stuff. Charitable giving can be a particularly meaningful way to keep yourself active and put your assets to good use. Too much generosity can be costly, so it’s important you follow these steps.

Just as long as you don’t overdo it.

If you’re feeling an increased desire to give back now that you’ve retired, here are some tips on balancing your good intentions with what’s best for you and your family.

1. Do your homework.

Recently, there have been high-profile cases of fraud and misappropriated funds at some very famous charitable organizations. But even if you’re giving to a charity that is run well, you should understand where your money is really going. If you’re happy with your dollars helping a larger organization to pay its bills and employees, great. If you want your money to have a more immediate impact on those in need, consider giving to smaller organizations in your community.

Do some googling and check online watchdog databases to make sure your favored charity is on the up-and-up. And unless you know the organizers personally, avoid online crowd-funding campaigns that aren’t legally accountable for how they use donations.

2. Consider a volunteer position.

Your favorite non-profit or charitable organizations need money. But they also need manpower.

If you’re thinking about working part time in retirement and a paycheck isn’t really important to you, schedule regular volunteer hours instead. You’ll get all the same benefits of having a job: structure, responsibility, camaraderie. Plus, seniors who volunteer report lower levels of stress, an increased sense of purpose, and better physical and emotional health.

3. Teach, tutor, or consult.

When looking for a charitable outlet, don’t overlook the professional skills that you honed over your career.

You might not have the qualifications to teach at a school or university, but you could talk to your local community center about holding a seminar that could benefit your neighborhood. You might be done balancing your company’s books, but there are high school kids who could benefit from your mastery of math. Open your door to local small business owners or recent college graduates who need an entrepreneurial mentor.  

4. Make a plan.

It’s a scientific fact that giving makes us feel good. But some seniors may get too caught up in their generosity. They forget that gifts and donations are coming from that same pool of assets that are supposed to keep them safe and secure for the rest of their lives. They may have trouble setting limits and saying no.

There is indeed such a thing as too much giving. You might not think much about writing an extra check or two early in retirement. But seniors have to maintain a long-term perspective on their nest eggs. This generation of retirees is going to live longer, more active lives than any in history. You need to make sure that helping someone today isn’t going to make it harder to cover your health care and cost of living needs tomorrow.

So, if you and your spouse want to make regular charitable donations, it’s important that you come in and talk to us. We can incorporate giving into your monthly budget and retirement income plan. If you want to make your generosity more permanent, we can also help you establish a charitable trust and add sustained giving to your estate plan.

We’re always happy when our clients want to help others. But it’s our responsibility to make sure your financial plan covers your best interests first. Let’s work together on a plan that will make your retirement secure and the world around you a little brighter.

For more on topics like this, we are doing some really cool stuff with our podcast. Check it out.

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.