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 What Does the Money Conversation Look Like?
April 16, 2014

Having a conversation about money is extremely important, especially when you have kids. I believe too many of us live unconsciously with our money. When we have a meeting or take the time to talk about our money we take it from an unconscious level through to a conscious level. Here are some tips to start a conversation about money.

1. Start a family 401(k). This is one of the best ways to have a conversation about money with your family. Sit down as a family and set a goal that you want as a family, such as a trip somewhere. Take a big jar and set the amounts. This could be a jar or an account that your kids can contribute money into and you can match them a certain percentage. This will teach them good saving habits early. So, your kids put in $1.00 a week and you will also match them $0.50. This way, as a family you figure out a goal of what you want and then accumulate the money for that. This teaches your kids to have a goal and to save for things that they want. It also teaches kids the vocabulary of investing and the terms relating to money, it forces you to have a conversation around healthy money habits.

2. Kids Allowance. Give your kids an allowance and have them divide it into three categories. 50% to save, 25% to spend and 25% to donate to a charity of their choosing. When you give your kids an allowance you open up the conversation about money and encourage them to have independence with their money.

3. Wants vs Needs. Make sure that your kids know the difference from a want and a ned. Have them take a piece of paper and divide it into two columns. On one side write "Wants" and on the other side write "Needs." Talk about different things they want/need and help them place it in the correct column. Another helpful thing to do is when the Sunday paper comes with all of the advertisements, have them cut out different items and place them under the correct column.

4. If you are in the sandwich generation it is also important to have conversations with your parents about estate planning. You can start by telling your parents you need to do your own will or trust and ask them who they recommend you use and how you should set it up.

Have a conversation about money. It will help make money less scary and help take the fear out of it and also help you live consciously.

 

Is my credit combined with my husband's or do we each have our own credit?
April 9, 2014

You each have your own credit score; it follows your Social Security number. It is especially important for women to make sure they have credit under their own name. Once women get married, often their husband's name goes first on just about everything: credit cards, mortgage, electric bill, etc. Or worse, only his name goes on those items. If you don't have a checking account, money market savings account or credit card, consider gett one - in your name. Take the credit card and charge a small purchase on it once a month; then every month pay the bill in full to establish a good credit score. The other important thing you can do is run your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. It is free and will show you what debts youhave in your name and that of your significant other.

 

Add to Your IRA by April 15th
April 2, 2014

Did you know that you still have until April 15th of this year to put money away for 2013 in your Roth or Traditional IRA? You can put $5,500 into your account for 2013 and $6,500 if you are over the age of 50. Make sure you see if you qualify and if so take advantage of the Roth or Traditonal IRA. You don't want to miss out on being able to contribute to your retirement.

The income limit for last year to contribute to a Roth IRA is $112,000 for a single person and $178,000 for a married couple filing a joint retur. So, if you make more than those amounts you cannot add to your Roth IRA.

The other thing to consider is setting up a Roth IRA for your child. As long as someone has earned income and is within the income limits, you can add to the Roth IRA for the child. if your child makes $2,000 in the summer, you can put $2,000 in. If they make $6,000, you are limited to the $5,500 contribution limit. Remember the Roth IRA can be taken out tax free for their first home purchase, higher education or they can leave it in the Roth IRA for their own retirement.

The Roth IRA offers tax deferral on any earnings in the account. Withdrawals from the account may be tax free, as long as they are considered qualified. Limitations and restrictions may apply. Withdrawals prior to age 59 1/2 may result in a 10% IRS penalty tax. Future tax laws can change at any time and may impact the benefits of the Roth IRA. Their tax treatment may also change. Please seek advice from your tax professional regarding your specific tax situation.

 

I'm wondering if I should rush to pay off my mortgage?
March 26, 2014

Paying off a mortgage is obviously a great way to eliminate debt, but you need to tak a hard look at the numbers. If you have a great interest rate you generally don't need to. A low rate is a great thing as well as al the interest you pay on your mortgage could be deductible. And if you have a low-interest mortgage, you should usually first focus on maxing out retirement plans before paying extra on your mortgage; it's better to get rid of any high-interest debt first. If your mortgage interest rate is much higher than what you could make by investing the money within the same time period, then it's a good idea to pay if off. Also, having equity in your home allows you to set up a home equity line of credit, which is a way to access cash in case of an emergency.

 

Women Are Smarter
March 19, 2014

Do you know that women are smarter when it comes to investing? According to the University of California at Davis, they found that singlewomen's portolios earned, on average 2.3% points more per year than single men. Yes, we as women truly are smart! But, where women are not smart is that women typically start saving later than men and once women finally start saving, we start saving less. Now that is not smart! So, let's get smart about our money and build our confidence by taking the time to really learn and understand our money. How?

  1. Learn one new thing about money everyday.
  2. Do a Roth IRA
  3. Look at your 401(k) and investment statements
  4. Meet with a Financial Advisor

So, take some time and learn about your money for no one cares more about your money than you. Remember, we as women are smarter, at least when it comes to shopping....and getting dressed in clothes that match and coordinate...and we can remember every detail from 10 years ago and of course...investing!
 

 

Are there hiden costs associated with buying a home?
March 12, 2014

You are right to realize there are other costs you might incur besides just the mortgage pyament, closing fees, other commissions you may pay to the real estate agent and any other costs of the actual purchase. You don't want to do all you can to buy a house, then move in and hav eno money for a bed to sleep in or a couch to sit on. Some other expenses you want to factor in are insurance and taxes, which you will have to pay yearly, plus maintenance and improvement costs. You might assume you'll encounter these costs when you first move in, but remember, they may recur over the years as well.

 

Getting out of your comfort zone
March 5, 2014

What's comfortable when it comes to your money? Ignoring it? Wishing you had a different financial situation? Wishing or hoping your life will be different is generally not going to change anything. You need to get out of your comfort zone and get a plan.

My life dramaticaly changed 3 1/2 years ago personally and I was instructed to write down 5 things I would do different each day. This was the push I needed to get me out of my comfort zone. After a few weeks I rewrote my bucket list and eventually renamed it my "Live it List" for I'm not dying and instead plan on living my life to the fullest. The term "Bucket List" to me was a negative, things I wanted to do before I die so instead I renamed it to something a bit more powerful and uplifting.

So how do you get out of your comfort zone when it comes to your money?

  1. Learn one thing about money everyday. It could be the definition of a financial term, maybe how your company 401(k) works or maybe learn what a Structured CD is. Just take a few minutues everyday to learn something new regarding money.
  2. Get a Financial Advisor that you trust. Many Financial Advisors including myself offer a free initial consultation. You want to make sure you like this Financial Advisor and make sure that they are a good fit for you and that you trust them with your money.
  3. Buy an individual stock. A stock is a share or ownership in a company. It is recommended that the value of this individual stock be no more than 5--10% of your portfolio though.
  4. Write down where you want to be in one year financially. What are your goals? Do you want to pay off a debt? Save for retirement? Save for college? Make sure that this goal is attainable.

 

I get a HUGE tax refund back every year and I'm wondering how I should invest the money?
February 26, 2014

Getting a huge tax refund back every year is NOT a good thing. If you have a refund every year, this means you are giving the government an interest-free loan. It's better to have a larger paycheck every month and use the money throughout the year to spend, save or invest. If you are using credit cards throughout the year you are being charged an interest on those purchases and this can dramatically hurt your financial situation. Take the refund and pay off any credit card debt that you have, fund your Traditional or Roth IRA or put the money in a money market account to buid some liquid money. Make sure to change your withholding for next year to minimize your refund and get more each paycheck throughout the year. You can then automatically set up that extra money in your paycheck to go into your Traditional or Roth IRA.

 

I'm looking at going back to school but realize I would need to take out some loans. Is this ok?
February 19, 2014

There is good debt and bad debt. Good debt is ok: a mortgage, student loans or something that is an investment in you. Bad debt is basically anything else: credit cards, personal loans, etc. However, when you take out loans for school you may be offered more money than you truly need for school expenses. Don't be tempted, you don't want to use this money to help keep up your standard of living. Student loans are for school.

 

I have a lot of debt and don't know where to start. I am overwhelmed and frustrated. What is the first step I should take?
February 12, 2014

The first step is to gather all your financial information. You want to know how much debt you have and the interest rate on each mortgage, credit card, student loan, etc. When looking at saving fo rthe future, it is important to get rid of debt. Then stop using your credit cards; if youhave credit cards you can't pay off in full every month you are living beyond your means and you will want to make a budget for yourself. You may want to You may want to look at consolidating any credit card debt you may have. Consolidating your credit card debt is taking all the credit cards you have a balance on and merging them-transferring all the balances to one card (preferably with a lower interest rate). If you are a homeowner, you may want to take out a home equity loan or line of credit, because the interest rate may be lower than your credit card, and any interest paid is tax deductable. Be careful if you do this though, because you are now attaching credit card debt to your house and if you don't make the payments, you could lose your home. Once you have analyzed your debt, you can start to pay it off, either by consolidation or one loan at a time. Start by paying the most money to the account with the highest interest rate. If you are committed to whittling away your debt this way, pretty soon you will start to see it shrink.

 

I have been told I should have an emergency fund. What is this and how much should I have in that account?
February 5, 2014

Any financial advisor is going to recommend you have "liquid money" set aside that will cover six to twelve months of expenses. By liquid, I mean accesible: it is underneath your mattress, in your pocket, or ideally, in some type of account where you earn interest, such as a money market account. Liquid money is for unexpected events that tap your pocketbook. For example, if you lose your job, you will need money to pay the mortgage and montly bills until you can replace that lost income. In the case of a car accident, you will need liquid dollars to cover car repairs and possibly some medical expenses. It might make it easier if you odn't focus too much on the number of months - think more about the dollar amount so you know how much you need to set aside so you can sleep at night. Ideally, this money is immediately accessible, of course, but youa lso want to earn as much interest as you can. Money market accounts are more liquid than CDs (Certificates of Deposit) and typically pay more interest than savings accounts. Account services vary, however, so shop around for rates, fees and services.
 

I have all these expenses that I know I cannot cut back. Should I get a second job?
January 29, 2014

There is almost always an area you can cut back on. Do you have recurring expenses every month, such as a haircut? An easy way to cut some of these recurring costs can be to stretch the calendar a little more. Try adding a couple more weeks to the time between each appointment, so instead of getting a haircut every six weeks, try getting one every eight weeks or more if you have handle it. At an averge of $50 per cut, that can save you $150 a year, sometimes more. Try looking at your calendar and see where else you can stretch the date a little so you can save some money this year. However, if you find you just can't cut back enough, then you will have to get a second job, find a job that pays more or ask for a raise. You can also make a little extra money by having a garage sale or selling some of your items you don't use anymore.

 

I don't have any credit cards or any debt. I live on cash. Is this a bad thing?
January 22, 2014

Congratulations on being completely debt-free! However, in today's world, this could actually hurt you in the future. Without credit cards or any liabilities, you wll not have a credit history; it is that history lenders use to decide if they want to give you a loan. If you ever plan on buying a home, a car or applying for a business or personal loan, you need the payment history that comes with owning and using a credit card. However, it is important to use credit cards wisely and to understand your credit. To establish a good credit history, get a major credit card. Then just make a few small purchases a month, only about 30-50 percent of your credit limit. Then pay it off in full every month.

 

I just got engaged. My fiancee and I are both horrible with money and have little to save after we pay our bills. What should we do to save for a wedding?
January 15, 2014

It astounds me that the average cost of a wedding is $25,000. That is a lot of money. Imagine what you could do with $25,000 as you start your life together. Your wedding day is a very special day and you want to remember it for the rest of your life - but do you want to be paying for it for the rest of your life? It is still possible to have a beautiful and memorable wedding day without running up enormous debts. I would suggest setting a budget before you start planning your wedding so you only spend what you can afford. Think about how many people you want to invite; think about where you want the reception and how much you want to spend on food and beverages. When you have a budget to start planning, you know exactly how much you can afford when ordering everything. Then figure out how much extra you have every month to save towards wedding costs and set up a savings or money market account that you put money into automatically every month (you want a money market or savings account so that the money is liquid and accessible to you as you are making down payments on the wedding but also earning some interest on the money). Again, it's not how much money you make, but how much you spend. Finally, remember: In the end, people may remember what a great party you threw, but what they'll really treasure is being there to see the happy looks on the bride's and groom's faces.
 

 

My husband and I are thinking that I should quit my job and stay at home with our kids. How do I know if I can afford this?
January 8, 2014

With child care costs so expensive, it may make more financial sense for you or your spouse to stay at home with the children. I have a number of clients whose daycare costs them more than their mortgage every month. However, before you decide to quit, sit down with your spouse, weigh the pros and cons and crunch the numbers. If one spouse stays at home, what will that do not only to your cash flow in the short term but to your retirement plan? If both soues work, how will that affect your liabilities (your regular debts, like house payments or rent, utility bills, etc) and your monthly budget? What about health-care coverage and other company benefits? Does one spouse have better and/or less expensive health benefits than the other? Answering these questions will help you deicde whether you can afford it, and who should stay home.
 

 

When I think of a budget it seems overwhelming. Where do I start?
January 1, 2014

You can start by developing a budget from today forward. It's hard to go back in time and figure out where your money went, so just start by tracking where you spend your money for this next month. You can use our monthly budget worksheet to show you how. You'll need to know how much you spend on food, gas, clothes and how much you are saving. If you don't know this, our budget worksheet can help you figure out these expenses so you can begin to develop your monthly budget.

At the end of the month you can then sit down and see where your money went. Then you are able to focus on where you want to be spending your money and even more importantly, where you want to be saving. It is easy, just print out our budget worksheet found on our website and take 15 minutes every day to write down where you spend; don't try to do your entire budget all at once. From here, you can develop a budget for what you will spend and save for in the next year.

 

Credit Card Debt
December 25, 2013

Credit carde debt seems like it is a problem that keeps affecting more and more people each year. According to the VIP Forum analysis, only about 48% of credit card holders owe less than $1,000.00. It is very important to work at keeping your credit card debt to a minimum. If you have credit card debt you are living beyond your means or something could have happend in your life such as a medical issue, divorce, death, etc. Most credit card companies charge extremely high interest rates on purchases you make. Also, there might be finance charges that you pay just for using the card. In the end, you pay the companies much more for what you buy. Try only putting purchases on your credit card that you know you can pay for at the end of the month. This way you can continuously pay off the balance on the credit card each month and keep the extra charges to a minimum.

 

Gift to Kids
December 18, 2013

I know you are busy shopping and running around during the holidays, but this holiday season, try thinking outside the box - the gift box that is. Did you know that opening an IRA account in a child's name, gifting assets via an Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) or Uinform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) custodial account, utilizing a 529 plan or even giving shares of stock may be wonderful ways to introduce children to the benefits of long-term investing while giving you a break from holiday shopping?

Anyone can gift up to $14,000 for 2013 to anyone and you can put htis money in any of the accounts listed above. Giving money to kids as a gift for the holidays is a gift that can help the kids you know save for their higher education and help them on the right financial path.

 

T. Rowe Price Forsees Market Correction
December 11, 2013

So far this year, through December 3, 2013, the S&P 500 is up 26 percent. However, John Linehan, head of the U.S. equity division T. Rowe Price, "What goes up at some point must come down." He states at a press briefing on December 3rd, that 2013 will be one of the few years in the post-war ear that hasn't had a correction of more than 5 percent. He feels that in some point in 2014, we're probably due.

I feel that there are signs out there or a correction that we should be careful of. Stocks could suffer a non-recession-related correction and investors should prepare for it. Proceed with caution this next year when it comes to your investments.

*Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index and cannot be invested into direcly.
The economic forecasts set forth herein may not develop as predicted. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and not intended as specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Consult your financial advisor before making investment decisions.

 

 

Consolidating Old Accounts
December 4, 2013

The other day a new client came into my office with a large stack of papers. Let's just say it was overflowing out of an organizer box! This huge stack of papers was made up of all of her investment and retirement account statements. I know this new client felt embarrassed but i told her that she was not alone, and that I was here to help her. I also told her how common her situation is. You receive so much in the mail regarding your financial situation and it all can be overwhelming.

So, for her we toold the old 401k's and rolled them over, we consolidated various bank and investment accounts and helped to minimize paperwork and maximize their assets. If you have a stack of statements, feel free to bring them into our office. We can help you consolidate or just figure out what to keep, shred or toss.

 

Company Retirement Plans
November 27, 2013

It is hard enough finding, not to mention the expense of training, good employees these days. So, why risk losing them to another employer just because you lack a good retirement plan? Many companies are learning it may be a smart business decision to offer a retirement plan. The plans are potentially a good deal for your employees and the tax advantages you may enjoy could be helpful for your company. Business owners have many options regarding setting up a retirement plan. You can set up a SEP IRA, SIMPLE IRA, 401(k) plan, profit sharing plan, defined benefit plan or a single 401(k). The list goes on and on.

Most business owners start with the SEP IRA. With the SEP IRA< you are able to put up to 25% of your net income away and that amount is completely deductible for you. You could also do a SIngle 401(k), which is just like a SEP IRA but allows you to take out a loan for up to 50% of the balance in the 401(k). Remember, taking a loan on your 401(k) is not the best option but sometimes the only. If you have employes that have been with you for 2 of the last 5 years, you could also look at a SIMPLE IRA. With the plan, you are able to put $11,500 away and if you are over 50, you can put $14,000 away. Keep in mind that the earnings portion of withdrawals will be taxed as ordinary income. Withdrawals prior to age 50 1/2 may also be subject to a 10% IRS penalty.

There also is the option of a defined benefit plan. Defined benefit plans are great for those employers that have a few highly compensated employees (such as a law firm, doctor or dental clinic) and the rest of the workforce is not.

If your company is rapidly growing and expanding, you could have a 401(k) plan. When you have a 401(k) plan you generally add more cost but could also add more liability. Getting a proposal and having an independent Financial Advisor look at your current retirement plan and all your options can help you make the best decision.

 

What Is Important?
November 20, 2013

When you spend, save and invest your money, you want to purchase or save to purchase later on the things you want. To make sure that you are saving and spending your money in the way that will make you happy is to spend and save in accordance with your values. It is important to you to have a cup of coffee each day from the coffee shop, realize that there are other things you most likely will need to give up. Look at where you spend your money every month and scrutinize your expenses. Look at the $500 a month car payment you have. Is that really that important to you? It's looking at where your money is going and seeing if you are investing and spending your money in accordance with what you value and what is important to you.

I'm not giving you permission to not pay your bills, but to look at where you are spending money each month and to make sure it makes sense with your financial dreams and your current situation.

 

Gifting
November 13, 2013

In any given year, one can give away up to $14,000 without triggering a gift tax. This is $14,000 per person per year. So, if you have a son, daughter, son-inlaws, daughter-in-laws and grandkids, you can gift up to $14,000 a year to each one of them. Some individuals gift actual stock and may gift actual cash. The benefit is that this money comes our of our estate, which could help minimize estaet taxes.

Only with the 529 plan can you speed up the gifting for 5 years. So, you can put ($14,000 x 5 = $70,000) away today in a 529 plan but then you cannot add for the next 5 years. This can be a great estate planning tool for people that want to take money out of their estate if they want to help kids or grandkids for college.

Prior to investing in a 529 plan, investors should consider whether the investor's or designated beneficiary's home state offers any state tax or other benefit that are only available for investments in such state's qualified tuition program. Withdrawals used for qualified expenses are federally tax free. Tax treatment at the state level may vary. Please consult with your tax advisor before investing.

 

Charity
November 6, 2013

Is naming a charity as one of your beneficiaries always a good idea? No, it is not. If you want to arrange for charitable gifts from your IRA assets upon your death, you can certainly do that. However, it may not always be the best strategy from a gifting perspective to name the charity as one in a group of beneficiaries. This is an excellent time to consider creating a separate IRA for the amount to be paid to the charity upon your death. The charity, unlike your heirs, can receive the IRA benefit free of estate and income tax. Because of special tax breaks for charities, the IRA assets will be worth more to the charity than the after-tax amount that would be available to your heirs.

So, bottom line is that it may be a better strategy to gift your Roth IRA to your kids and your Traditional IRA to your charity of choice. *

 

Business Owner Questions
October 30, 2013

As a business owner, you should be able to answer the following questions:

Are you paying too much for plan administration services for your qualified retirement plan?
There are a variety of fees associated with a retirement plan; with the operating expense for the investment options, as well as the annual administrative fee accounting for the majority of the plan expenses. Recently, we prepared a proposal for a company that had a large 401(k) plan and the company last year paid over $100,000 to their retirement plan provider just in administration costs. Know what you are paying and what you are receiving. Know what fees the company pays and what fees are being passed on to the employees.

Are you spending too much time administering the plan?
Administration of the plan can be relatively easy. If administration is a burden for you or your human resources director you need to look at the options available to you. Some plans have Third Party administrators that are separate from the fund administration and this can sometimes add more time and/or expense.

Does your current plan have trouble passing discrimination testing?
If so, you may want to look at a safe harbor plan. This could help you and your highly compensated employees put more money away.

Does you plan offer employees investment options?
A simple RFP (Request for Proposal) or analysis of your plan will help you know this. One of our wealth managers can provide you with a complete analysis of your plan at no charge.

If any of these questions ring true for you, a turnkey, benefit-sensitive retirement plan may be just what you need. As a Plan Sponsor you should benchmark your plan every three years (according to the Department of Labor) to ensure your retirement plan is competitive in terms of fee's and investment choices.
 

IRA for Kids
October 23, 2013

If you have an enterprising son or daughter who has earned income through an after-school or summer job, you can help them open up an IRA. Your kids are eligible for the Roth or Traditional IRA as long as they have earned income. When setting up the account, a parent or another adult will be asked to cosign the paperwork accepting legal responsibility for investing the child's money. Once established, you and/or the child can contribute an amount equal to his or her income, or $5,000.00, whichever is less to the IRA for the year. Opening an IRA not only encourages your child to save more, but you can also help him or her choose from a wide range of investment options and track their progress over time. Your child can put this money in a Roth IRA and with a Roth IRA, they can invest in virtually anything inside the Roth IRA, such as stocks, bonds or mutual funds. Also, with the Roth IRA, withdrawals from the account may be tax free, as long as they are considered qualified such as for their first home purchase, higher education or it can be left in there for their own retirement. Withdrawals prior to age 59 1/2 could be subject to a 10% IRS penalty. Future tax laws can change at any time and may impact the benefits of Roth IRA's. Their tax treatment may change.

 

Stocks and Bonds
October 16, 2013

Do you know the difference between a stock and a bond? A key difference between them is that stocks make no promises about dividends or returns. A company's dividend may be as regular as a heartbeat, but the company is under no obligations to pay it. And while the company stock might be very profitable at one time, it could also go down and cause a loss unexpectely. When a company issues a bond, the company promises to pay back your principal (the face value) plus interest. If you buy the bond and hold it to maturity, in most cases you know exactly how much you are going to get back. That is why bonds are also known as "fixed income investments." Bonds are rated and some bonds are not backed by anything, so you need to be aware of the risk you taking with your investments. Bond values decine as interest rates rise so if you need to redeem the bond prior to maturity, it may be worth less than what you paid.

 

Succession Planning
October 9, 2013

Have you considered what needs to be done with your business when you are doing your estate planning? If you own a business, it is important to have a management succession plan and also have a buy/sell agreement for your business interests.

You worked years to build your business and sometimes are so busy working in the business that you may forget to work on the business. Having a succession plan in place will make sure your strategy for your business can remain intact if something were to happen to you. You want to protect your asset (your business) and have a plan in place if there is a divorce, change in partners, death, acquisition of a business or sale.

A buy/sell agreement is a legally binding agreement between co-owners of a business that governs the situation if a co-owner dies or is otherwise forced to leave the business or chooses to leave the business.

A buy/sell agreement should generally be funded by life insurance. There are many different types of life insurance you could put in place. Term insurance generally is the least expensive and most widely used option. A financial advisor can help you manage your investments personally and your 401(k) for your business but they should also help you with your succession planning. An independent Financial Advisor can help you get quotes from various insurance companies and retirement providers and can help you make the best decision possible.

Another reason having a buy/sell agreement in place is important is in the case of divorce. I've helped a number of business owners through the divorce process and having a buy/sell agreement and plan in place was extremely helpful in facilitating.

National Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October 2, 2013

"Domestic violence causes far more pain than the visible marks of bruises and scars. It is devastating to be abused by someone that you love and think loves you in return. It is estimated that approximately 3 million incidents of domestic violence are reported each year in the United States" - Dianne Feinstein, Senator

Here are some scary statistics:

  • Every 9 seconds, a woman is battered in the U.S. (Family Violence Prevention Fund, 1994)
  • 95% of all victims of domestic violence are women (Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, U.S. Dept. of Justice)
  • Domestic Violence is the single major cause of injury to women, more than muggings and car accidents combined (First Comprehensive National Health Study of American Women, The Commonwealth Fund, 1993)
  • Domestic Violence is the cause of 30% of physical disabilities in women (California Department of Social Services, 1994)

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. I was shocked to learn that 1 in 4 women are in an abusive relationship and 1 in 3 women will be abused in her lifetime, according to the International Rescue Committee. When I used to think of abuse, I thought of black and blue eys and being pushed through a shower door or thrown down a flight of stairs. Well, in my opinion, emotional abuse can be worse. For the bruises will go away, but the effects of being emotionally and financially abused can last a long time.

Financial abuse is when every penny you spend is watched like a hawk and anything you buy get scrutinized. Having a checking and savings account, your IRA and 401(k) and your car title all in your own name will help guard against financial powerlessness.

As an avid advocate for women seeking financial freedom and security, I have supported not only my clients but also prospective clients through domestic abuse. What we often fail to realize is that domestic abuse touches every aspect of a woman's life. Not only can a woman be isolated from friends and family, but her own finances as well. I had a client once that started writing out checks for $20 extra over the amount of her original purchase at the checkout. Doing this was the only way that allowed her to save money to exit her unhealthy relationship.

"Financial abuse happens over a long period of time. You may not even notice it happening. Be empowered and know who has access and what names are associated with your accounts." - Nicole MIddendorf

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, please seek help for them. If they need financial help have them call our office. Also, here are a few resources that I recommend and volunteer with: Domestic Abuse Project 612-874-7063, Cornerstone 952-884-0376 and Tubman 612-825-0000.

 

Money is a Vehicle
September 25, 2013

Life is more than just about money. Money is simply a vehicle. It is your choice. Every morning when you wake up, I beleive you have the choice to be in a good mood or a bad mood. When it comes to your money, you also have a choice. You have a choice to be a spender or a seller. Do you want to save and save to buy things you want or do you choose to buy the things today and end up paying more for them by using credit cards? It is your choice.

Money is a vehicle. It is a piece of paper or a plastic card or a number that shows up on your computer or your monthly statement.

A few years ago, Oprah was hosting her show and made the comment that we as Americans were living unconsiously with our money. The word "unconsious" completely resonated with me and it has been my mission ever since to help you live consciously with your money. Look at your money as a vehicle and it is simply there to get you where you want to go. You have control over your vehicle and you can choose how fast that vehicle goes and what it looks like

 

Teaching Your Teen About Money
September 18, 2013

Your teen is becoming more independent, but still needs plenty of advice from you. With more money to spend and more opportunities to spend it, your teen can easily get into financial trouble. So, before money burns a hole in your child's pocket, teach him or her a few financial lessons. With your help, your teen could soon develop the self-confidence and skills he or she needs to successfully manage money in the real world.

Lesson 1: Handling earnings from a job
Teens often have more expenses that younger children, and your child may be coming to your for money more often. Encourage your teen to get a part-time job that will enable them to earn money for expenses. A teen who is too young to get a job outside the home can make extra cash by babysitting or doing odd jobs for you. Here are some things you might want to discuss when they start working:

  • Agree on what your child's pay should be used for
  • Talk to your teen about taxes
  • Introduce your teen to the concept of paying yourself first. Encourage them to deposit a portion of every paycheck in a savings account before spending any of it.

Lesson 2: Developing a budget
Your goal is to teach your teen how to achieve a balance between money coming in and money going out. Start by listing out all sources of regular income and then brainstorming a list of regular expenses. Finally subtract the expenses from the income. If the result shows they won't have enough income to meet their expenses, you will need to help them come up with a plan for making up the shortfall. Here are some ways to help your teen learn about budgeting:

  • Consider giving out a monthly, rather than weekly allowance
  • Encourage your teen to think spending decisions through rather than buying items right away
  • Suggest ways your teen can earn more money or cut back on expenses
  • Show your teen how to modify a budget by categorizing expenses as needs
  • Resist the temptation to bail your teen out

Lesson 3: Saving for the future
Here are some ways to encourage your teen to save for the future:

  • Have your teen put savings goals in writing to make them more concrete
  • Encourage them to set goals that are based on their values
  • Motivate them by offering to match what they save towards the long-term goal
  • Praise them for showing responsibility when they reach the goal
  • Open up a savings account

Lesson 4: Using credit wisely
Discuss the following things with your teen before he or she uses a credit card

  • Set limits on what the card can be used for
  • Review the credit card agreement and make sure your child understands how much interest will accrue on the unpaid balance
  • Agree on how the bill will be paid and what will happen if your child can't pay the bill
  • Make sure your child understands how long it will take to pay it off if they only pay the minimum balance.

 

Being Rational
September 11, 2013

There are many ways to be irrational with your money. Being and acting rational with your money is extremely important. There are 4 common things that can be major mistakes. Have you ever noticed one of these 4 things happening to you or those you know?

Anchoring - When you become fixated on one piece of data, even though it's out of date. "If I paid $80 for stock that is now under $70, I won't sell it until it gets back to $80 because that's my anchor," says Frank Murtha, co-founder of consulting firm MarketPsych.

What you can do: Present the change as an opportunity to move into a potentially lucrative new investment

Endowment Effect - Placing more value on things you own simply because you own them and you've become emotionally attached to them.

Whatn you can do: Learn what you stand to lose by sticking with this choice and what you could gain by agreeing to sell.

Overconfidence - The belief that you can outperform the market consistently.

What you can do: Use the "Ulysses Strategy." This term refers to the plan Ulysses used to be able to hear the Sirens' song without flinging himself into the sea - having his crew tie him to the mast. With overconfident investors, it means committing to a balanced strategy, with contingencies for specific conditions.

Disposition Effect - Selling profitable holdings tooe arly and unprofitable ones too late.

What you can do: Try the Ulysses strategy too!

 

Cutting off the Kids
September 4, 2013

Acording to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, only 54% of Americans aged 28-24 have a full-time job. Of course, some of the less-thankfully-employed young adults are still working part-time and/or attending some institutions for higher learning.

But the less work (and income) and more classes (and expenses) the kids have, the more likely it is that they are still relying on their parents for financial support. Precisely when moms and dads would rather be channeling any extra cash toward more urgent needs and preparing for their looming retirement. Here are a few ways to delicately help nudge, shove and kick the offspring out of the proverbial nest:

  1. Show them the (lack of) money - Explain to your kids and be honest of how much you have saved so far and how much you will be able to help them financially.
  2. Cap College Costs - Set a maximum that you will contribute to their college expenses, let the kids know and stick with that amount.
  3. Clamp down on Credit - Help your kids run their credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com.

 

Couples Retirement Readiness
August 28, 2013

How well are you communicating with your significant other about retirement? If you are wondering, we have included a simple questionnaire that can help you determine what you need to be talking about with your spouse.

Instructions: Do the assessment separately and then share your results. Put a T after the statements you believe are true, then add up all the true statements to get your score. Notice the areas that you may want to talk more about.

  • We have talked about our timetable for retirement.
  • We have planned for future medical and health care needs.
  • We know that our role may change as we go through transition.
  • Intimacy and affection are an important part of our relationship.
  • We make financial decisions together.
  • Having time together and time apart is important to both of us.
  • We talk about lifestyle and where we may want to live.
  • We agree on our obligations and responsibilities to family.
  • Social and community connections are a satisfying part of our lives.
  • We have shared values and know what is important to each other.

Scoring:

10 - Give each other a big hug. You're ready to write the "How To" book for couples

7-9 - Sounds like you're in sync. Ongoing communication is important as you plan for what is next

4-6 - You're on the right track. Practice listening to each other and sharing what's important to you

1-3 - Make time to talk about important issues related to retirement

*Source: The Couples Retirement Puzzle by Roberta Taylor and Dori Mintzer

 

Kids, College and Money
August 21, 2013

Do you plan on helping your child or grandchild pay for college? According to the College Board, a moderate college budget for an in-state public college for the 2012-2013 academic year averaged $22,261. A moderate budget at a private college averaged $43,289. That is just for one year! Over the past decade, expenses at public institutions have increased nearly 40% and costs will almost certainly continue to rise. So it is very important that families think about these costs while children are still young. You also want to look at where the money will come from, such as a current income, scholarships, work, loans or savings. By starting to save today, parents and grandparents can help their loved ones have the resources necessary to attend college. College savings plans are available, so find out which savings plan is right for you and your family.

 

The Sandwich Generation - Juggling Family Responsibilities
August 14, 2013

At a time when your career is reaching a peak and you are looking ahead to your own retirement, you may find yourself in the position of having to help your children with college expenses while at the same time looking after the needs of your aging parents. Squeezed in the middle, you've joined the ranks of the "sandwich generation."

What challenges will you face?
Your parents faced some of the same challenges that you may be facing now: adjusting to a new life as empty nesters and getting reacquainted with each other as a couple. However, life has grown even more complicated in recent years. Here are some of the things you can expect to face as a member of the sandwich generation today:

  • Your parents may need assistance as they become older
  • If your family is small and widely dispersed, you may end up as a the primary caregiver for your parents
  • If you've delayed having children so that you could focus on your career first, your childen may be starting college at the same time as your parents become dependent on you
  • You may be facing the challenges of "boomerang children" who have returned home after a divorce or job loss
  • Like many individuals, you may be incurring debt at an unprecedented rate, facing pension shortfalls and wondering about the future of Social Security

What can you do to prepare for the future?
If you take some time now to determine your goals and work on a flexible plan, you will sve much stress and expense in years to come. Here are some ways you can prepare now for the issues you face:

  • Start saving for the soaring costs of college
  • Work hard to control your debt
  • Review your financial goals regularly and make any changes that are necessary
  • Invest in your own future by putting as much as you can into a retirement plan
  • Encourage realistic expectations among your children
  • Talk to your parents about the provisions they've made for the future

Caring for your parents
Much depends on whether a parent is living with you or out of town. If your parents live a distance away, you have the responsibility of monitoring his or her welfare from afar. Daily phone calls can be time consuming and having to rely on your parent's support network may be frustrating. Travel to your parent's home may be expensive and you may worry about being away from your family. To reduce stress, try to involve your siblings in looking after Mom and Dad too. If your parent's needs are great enough, you may also want to consider hiring a professional geriatric care manager who can help oversee your parent's care and direct you to the resources your parent needs.

If your parent moves in with you, keep in mind the following points:

  • Share all your expectations in advance
  • Bear in mind that your parent needs a separate room and phone for space and privacy
  • Contact local, civic and religious organziations to find programs that will involve your parent in the community
  • Try to work with other family members and get them to help out
  • Be sympathetic and supportive of your children.

Consider the needs of your children
Your children may be feeling the effects of your situation more than you think, especially if they are teenagers. At a time when they are most in need of your patience and attention, you may be preoccupied with your parents and how to look after them. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Explain fully what changes may come about as you begin caring for your parent
  • Discuss college plans with them
  • Avoid dipping into your retirement savings to pay for college
  • Don't be afraid to discuss a target date for their departure
  • Don't neglect your own family when taking care of a parent

Most importantly, take care of yourself. Get enough rest and relaxation every evening, and stay involved with your friends and interests. Finally, keep lines of communication open with your spouse, parents, children and siblings.

 

Talk to Kids
August 7, 2013

It is so important to talk to your kids about money. I love it when my clients bring their kids into my office to meet with me and talk about money. Sometimes kids need to hear from a third party how to save and invest money. It is important to talk to kids of all ages about money so that they are on the right track for their financial future.

A great way to start talking about money is a family 401(k). With a family 401(k), you as a family come up with a goal for your money; you as a parent can offer a matching program as well. The goal could be a pool, a trip or a new "toy" for the family. So, for example, you put money in and then if your daughter puts $1.00 into the family 401(k), you could match her 50 cents. This way she can learn about 401(k)'s so that when she starts her first job she understands the concept of the 401(k) and ocncept of investing.

 

Education IRA
July 31, 2013

One vehicle commonly used for saving for college is the Education IRA, which is now known as the Coverdell Education Savings Account. I just wanted to remind you that you can put up to $2,000 away per year for your child in this account. You can contribute to this account until the child is 18 and htis money must be used for higher education. The child has until they are 30 to use the money for higher education. Money in the Coverdell Education Savings Account can be invested in stocks, bonds and mutual funds.

There is no deduction or beneift for you to put the money into the Coverdell. But, your child has the benefit of not having to pay taxes on the money if it is used for higher education.

 

Understanding Investment Terms and Concepts
July 24, 2013

Below are some summaries of some basic principles you should understand when evaluating an investment opportunity or making an investment decision. Rest assured, this is not rocket science. In fact, you'll see that the most important principle on which to base your investment education is simply good common sense.

Don't be intimidated by jargon
Don't worry if you can't understand the experts in the financial media right away. Much of what they say is jargon that is actually less complicated than it sounds. Don't hesitate to ask questions; when it comes to your money, the only dumb question is the one you don't ask. Don't wait to invest until you feel you know everything.

IRAs hold investments - they aren't investments themselves
Let's address a source of confusion that immediately throws many new investors off: If you have an individual retirement account (IRA), a 401(K) or other retirement plan at work, you should recognize the different between the account or plan and the actual investments you own within that account or plan. Your IRA or 401(k) is really just a container that holds investments and has special tax advantages. Some investments are best held in a tax-advantaged account; others may be more appropriate for a taxable account.

Understand stocks and bonds
If you buy stock in a company, you are literally buying a share of the company's earnings. You become an owner, or shareholder, of the company. If youbuy bonds, your're lending money to the company (or government body) that issued the bonds. You become a creditor, not an owner, of the bond issuer.

Don't put all your eggs in one basket
Consider several different types of investments in your portfolio. Examples of investment types include stocks, bonds, commodities, art and precious metals. Cash also is considered an asset class, and includes not only currency but cash alternatives such as money market instruments. Investment classes often rise and fall at different rates and times. Ideally, in a diversified portfolio of investments, if some are losing value during a particular period, others will be gaining value at the same time.

Recognize the tradeoff between an investment's risk and return
There is a direct relationship between investment risk and return, the lowest-risk investments typically offer the lowest return at any given time. The highest-risk investments will generally offer the chance for the highest returns. A higher return is your potential reward for taking greater risk.

Understand the power of compounding on your investment return
Compounding occurs when you "let your money ride." When you reinvest your investment returns, you begin to earn a "return on a return."

 

Cooperative Law
July 17, 2013

There is a new way to get divorced in Minnesota. It is called Cooperative Practice. Cooperative Practice is a client-centered approach aimed at helping clients reach agreements that satisfy their best interests. A cornerstone of the Cooperative Process is a Participation Agreement which defines and governs how the process will unfold. With the help of lawyers, clients customize their Participation Agreement to fit their unique needs and circumstances.

The Cooperative Practice Professions consist of a group of attorneys, mediators, neutral evaluators, therapists, child specialists, parenting specialists, Certified Divorce Financial Anaylysts and mortgage or real estate experts. You can check out their website at www.CooperativePracticeNetworkMinnesota.com.

Cooperative Practice offers a variety of benefits among the most significant being the opportunity to control outcomes, minimize conflict and ensure long-term sucess. A defined process can provide predictability and reduce stress and emotional upset. Cooperative Practice puts decision-making power right where it should be, in the hands of the parties and not in the hands of a stranger.

 

Where do you stand?
July 10, 2013

It is important to know where you stand in your life financially. So many times we all just go about our day living life, spending and investing our money without thinking about our money - really truly thinking about our money. It is important to know where you money goes when you spend it but it is also important to know where your money goes when you invest it. Are you spending and investing your money the way you want to or need to?

It is important to be aware of your money and to live consciously with how you spend and how you invest. Being aware and conscious with your money will help keep you focused and get you where you want to go.

 

Your Home as a Source of Dollars in Retirement
July 3, 2013

If you own a home, you may be wealthier than you think. The equity in your home could be one of your largest assets, especially if your mortgage has been paid down over the years or paid off. This home equity can be a valuable source of extra income during your retirement years.

Trading down can give you increased income
If your home is larger than you need, trading down to a smaller place may be a good way to increase your retirement income. The difference between the price that you receive for your present home and the cost of a smaller new home can be added to your retirement funds to provide you with additional investment income. The amount of cash thatyou can get by trading down depends on the value of your present home, the cost of purchasing a new home and the incidental costs involved in the trade (brokerage commissions, legal fees, closing costs, moving expenses). You should estimate these amounts to get some ideas of the net amount you will receive.

Trading down can reduce your housing costs
The other important financial benefit o