It’s Time for XYPN Live 2019 in St. Louis

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This week’s post is a short update to let you know that I am attending XYPN Live 2019. This is a conference for those of us who are XY Planning Network members. We take time off from working in our business to work on our business.

Me attending XYPN Live 2019.

Me attending XYPN Live 2019.

The XY Planning Network provides consumers access to fee-only advisers who are dedicated to working in your best interest regardless of assets or age. Click XY Planning so you can learn more about the network and the type of work members do.

This financial conference is not your father’s financial conference. You won’t find a sea of older advisers clad in the stereotypical blue blazers, tassel shoes, and Oxford shirts. Here it’s a much younger, hip, diverse, and generally t-shirt and shorts wearing group of advisers. Three years ago, there were just over 500 advisers. This year we have exceeded 1,000 and have members in Australia, Canada, and new this year visitors from Italy deciding if they want to join.

I love this conference because we are forging bonds and sharing our expertise. By sharing we grow, and by growing we are able to provide financial planning services to a much wider segment of society. No longer do you need to have a minimum portfolio size to access quality financial planning services.

Fellow advisers and new friends.

Fellow advisers and new friends.

Reach out and let me know when you would like to get started on your financial planning. As an independent Certified Financial Planner™, I can help you with your goals. #talktometuesday #getstarted #HowIcanHelpYou #GetHelp #Hireaplanner #CFPPro #savemoney #goals

Should I Fund My Child’s Education Before My Own Retirement?

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It’s a battle that many families face: save for retirement, or fund a child’s education? For a lot of families, education is a very high priority. Many parents struggled to put themselves through school and they simply want to remove that barrier for their child. It’s admirable and shows love. Financially, though, it may not be the best choice.

Let’s face it, higher education has become expensive; prohibitively so for many students. The idea of paying for or greatly defraying that cost by socking away money for your youngster from an early age is very appealing. But it may not be the best financial move you can make.

Ask yourself this: do you want your child to be the one who helps you bathe and go to the toilet in your old age? Most likely not. And your child, even though they love you, most likely doesn’t want to be your caretaker either.

For the vast majority of people, the point is they should save for their own retirement and potential long-term care needs first. Your goal should be to save at least 15% of your income, or more, over the course of your working life. Max out retirement plans and IRAs that you are eligible for, have a cash savings, and even a taxable investment account. Get your financial house in order as a first priority. Hit those targets first and then consider saving for your child’s education.

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It may sound cold, but your child can always do what millions before them have done, and that is borrow or work to pay for their education. Don’t forget the myriad scholarships, grants, and other school aid or work programs that may be available to them. Your child will have the rest of their adult life to pay back education. There is also the possibility your child may inherit your residual estate. As for you, you cannot borrow to pay for retirement. And, the last time I checked, no one was handing out retirement grants, scholarships, or work study payments for retirement.

Take care of yourself first. If you do have any extra, then it can go towards your child’s education. But make sure you know if you do have that extra. As an independent Certified Financial Planner™, I can help you plan for retirement and prioritize your goals.Contact me and let’s get started. #talktometuesday #education #Hireaplanner #retirement #stressfree #lifeplan #savings

Who Wins? Put Time on Your Side to Save a Million

Nate, Ashley, and Sohn are all concerned about having some cash in the future. They each have a different approach as to how to save. The one thing that is constant is that they can each earn 8% on their contributions until age 65. Nate is working during high school and wants to save $5,000 per year, every year, starting at age 15 and making his last contribution at age 21. Nate doesn’t think he’ll need to save after that.

Ashley thinks she has the better approach. Ashley wants to save $5,000 per year starting in college at age 21 and save $5,000 per year, every year, until age 30. At that point, she thinks she can stop and not save any money after that.

Sohn wants to enjoy life and doesn’t want to start saving until age 30. Sohn plans to save $5,000 per year starting at age 30 and saving that amount every year through age 65. Sohn feels this will be the best way to approach saving for the future.

Start small, save consistently over time.

Start small, save consistently over time.

So, who has the most at age 65? Nate only put away a total of $35,000 of his own money. Ashley did better and put away a tidy sum of $50,000. Sohn managed to put away a whopping $180,000 by age 65. Have you figured out who has the most at age 65? It’s Nate.

Wait, what? Yes. Even though Nate only put away $35,000, with the miracle of compound interest his total contributions had more time to grow at our hypothetical 8% rate. This is the miracle of compound interest and the time value of money. Nate ended up with just over $1,424,000 at age 65. Ashley and Sohn did alright as well, but they didn’t earn as much as Nate due to not being invested as long. Ashley ended up with just over $1,156,600 and Sohn ended up with just over $1,010,300 (figures have been rounded down).

All three were smart to save, and smart to stick to their savings plan. Nate however, started the earliest, contributed the least, and wound up in the lead at age 65. Nate also contributed less of his lifetime earnings so he ended up with a nice savings balance and the use of his money during his life. Ashley was a close second. However, Sohn had to contribute a very sizeable amount to his savings during his working years.

The moral is to start saving and investing as early as possible. This example assumes a set amount of $5,000 per year and a hypothetical 8% growth rate. Your goal may be different. You may be able to save more, or less, and your growth rate could be very different. Remember, the return is hypothetical for illustrative purposes only and is not a guarantee of any future performance. You should work with a financial planner to set personal goals.

As an independent Certified Financial Planner™, I can help you plan your savings and refine your goals.You may not have fifty years to save, but don’t delay, start today! Contact me and let’s get started on a savings plan. #talktometuesday #education #Hireaplanner #stressfree #savings #saveamillion #startearly

Use Credit Card Features and Outsmart Budgeting

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This week’s post is a specific focus on technology. Mainly, the new and expanding features available on most credit card products. Some of these extend to banking debit cards as well. Be sure to check what your card issuer offers whether it’s a credit or debit card.

A huge help in budgeting and keeping your spending in check is the alerts feature on your account. Each provider offers a variety of alerts such as balance, foreign transaction, card not present, and specific limit spent per transaction.

For example, I recently got a new Visa card through a major retailer because it provides zero annual fee, cash-back on every purchase, no foreign transaction fees, identity theft, and fraud alerts. For me, I liked the fact that I can customize the alert features that I want to receive that mean the most to me. You should check your card issuer’s options to see what is available to you and use the alerts that make sense for you.

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My favorite is the balance alert. I opt to receive an email at the end of the week that tells me my current balance. This is very useful in budgeting and keeping my spending under control. The added benefit is that if I have a balance that it surprising, I can use the app to review my purchases and make sure they are all mine.

Many card issuers offer these features in various ways. My particular card will allow me to go into the alerts section of my profile and select the alerts I want, and also set various spending thresholds, and whether I want a text or an email. For most alerts, I can also elect to receive that notification daily, weekly, or monthly. You should see what your issuer offers and select what works for you. Sometimes, technology really can be our friend and make budgeting a snap!  

As an independent Certified Financial Planner™, I can help you understand your options and set up a system that works for you.  Contact me and let’s get started. #talktometuesday #education #Hireaplanner #cash #credit #debit #feature #alert #alerts #budget #technology

Cash for Kids – Make it Visible

Last week I wrote about how money is becoming invisible, especially in the age of apps and home delivery services. One reader suggested I follow up with a post about teaching kids about money and that it’s not invisible. Ok, it was my mom. Thanks, mom!

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It is true, kids today don’t actually see cash and they need to. I wrote about talking to kids about money back in January in my post Three Ways to Teach Children Good Money Habits. While the three habits outlined in that post are good ways to teach kids about money, don’t forget the actual, physical cash aspect.

If your child receives an allowance or some form of pay, be sure that they receive part of it in physical cash. Start early with children and show them each type of coin and bill and be sure they understand how much it is. This lesson can start with very young children. When I was little, I had a collection of foreign coins and unique coins. It taught me that there are various forms of money and that was a great early lesson.

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For older kids and especially teens, it’s more about learning where that cash comes from and being able to manage their own money (both physical cash and invisible cash on cards or in accounts). One important lesson should be that money is not free and that there is always a trade off to earn or receive that money. Children should know the source of their cash and what was exchanged in order for them to have that cash. Whether it’s your time in exchange for an hourly wage, their time in exchange for an hourly wage, or another avenue such as an insurance payout, inheritance, or gift. They need to know the supply and also know that it isn’t endless.

If you give an allowance, make sure part of that allowance is in cash and establish with your child how long that cash amount has to last them (i.e., how many days or weeks). This will help them learn money management skills. If they know they need to stretch their actual cash received over a certain time period, they can learn to budget based on their needs.

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Physical cash shouldn’t be alien to kids. Teach them about it, let them see it, tell them what it is and how much value it has, and have them be involved in their own cash management. If you are planning a foreign vacation, currency exchange adds another level to their lesson. Let them be involved and learn these skills early. Make sure that children understand that cash is real and physical, and not just invisible and a vague concept tied to a plastic card they see you using. The card may signal to them that there is an unlimited supply of money.

As an independent Certified Financial Planner™, I can help you plan for these conversations.Contact me and let’s get your children acquainted with cash. #talktometuesday #education #Hireaplanner #tax #stressfree #tip #tipping #savings #cash #cashinhand #kids #teens #teensandmoney

Beware of Invisible Money!

Have you noticed that budgeting is a challenge and you seem to overspend on a regular basis? Feel like you are tipping more due to automation and social pressure? Do you feel that you never actually see your money? You’re not alone and you are not crazy.

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Shopping and paying for services we use without touching or seeing our money has never been easier thanks to technology. If it’s 9 p.m. and we want our favorite burger or need to get across town – no problem! There’s an app for that. Whether having food delivered or having ourselves delivered across town, we no longer need cash. Most apps and online accounts require linking to a payment card of some type, usually your debit or credit card, and that can be a problem for budgeting. Through linking, and the desire for ease and convenience, it can be harder to rein in spending when we don’t actually see and handle our cash.

Even when we get takeout these days the merchant generally has a card reader system in place with a convenient screen that recommends a tip amount. For dining in, this can be handy and you should tip based on service. However, for takeout and the casual stop for coffee or baked goods, you may be over tipping by a considerable amount. Especially if there is no option to not tip. With the merchant right in front of us, and folks in line behind us, we have a tendency to over tip on smaller purchases or purchases such as takeout that arguably do not require a tip. (You can read this brief overview on takeout tipping from the Des Moines Register.) Compounding the problem is the fact that this is automatic, so again, we don’t actually see our money!

The proliferation of card readers, delivery apps, rideshare and food delivery services, and even task apps (think dog walking, package pick-up, etc.) has given rise to the gig economy, an increase in tipping, and a lack of actually seeing our money and how much we spend. It’s not uncommon for your rideshare app to start a tip recommendation at 15% and go as high as 20% or even 25%. Historically, taxi drivers got between 10% and 15% and maybe extra for unusual circumstances. Many apps and services require auto-renewal so you forget what you are paying and when.

Courtesy of the Des Moines Register (2015).

Courtesy of the Des Moines Register (2015).

Here are some tips on tipping and auto-renewal!

For takeout food that you are picking up, you don’t need to tip, but it is appreciated. A tip of 10% on food you are picking up yourself is considered sufficient but again, not necessary. If the order is particularly large, complex, or troublesome, you do need to tip.

For food delivery, tip at least 10% and more if the weather is foul, or the delivery is particularly large or complicated.

For taxi and/or rideshare drivers, tip 15% unless the driver is unusually helpful, battling horrendous road conditions, or had to help you with your luggage. If the fare is $10 or under, 10% should suffice, but do not give less than $1. For luggage, consider an extra $1 to $2 per bag.

For coffee shops, bakeries, sandwich shops, etc., where you are in a line and it is a casual grab and go type environment, if the staff have a noticeable tip container, tip your order change, or a $1.  Think about it, if your coffee comes to $3 and you tip 60 cents, you are actually leaving a 20% tip!

Always keep in mind that it is best to tip in cash. This way the recipient actually gets the money and their company cannot manipulate the hourly wage to ‘adjust’ the amount paid out by the company. Wage theft, anyone?

Tip on the subtotal, not the total. We are already paying Uncle Sam enough and we don’t need to inflate our tip amounts by including sales taxes in the calculation.

Set calendar reminders when you enroll in a service that requires auto-renewal. Make sure it is about 45 days prior to the subscription ending. That way you have time to decide if you want to renew or how to go about canceling.

If possible, set a spending cap with automatic payments. This will help keep you aware of what you are spending.  

Finally, review your monthly bank and credit card statements. If you need to set spending limits, go back to using cash whenever you can. Make your cash visible again! Try setting alerts on your spending and checking your app, online service, or credit and debit card balances more frequently so you know what you have spent.

It’s your hard-earned money. As an independent Certified Financial Planner™, I can help you plan for annual expenses and set budgets.Contact me and let’s get reacquainted with your cash. #talktometuesday #education #Hireaplanner #tax #stressfree #tip #tipping #savings #cash #cashinhand

Estate Planning is an Act of Love

These days, even dying can be complicated. Proper estate planning can mitigate disastrous transfer taxes, probate expenses, and ensure your assets are transferred to your desired heirs. You cannot assume those who survive you will carry out your wishes. You need to take action in advance, especially here in California where simply owning and transferring a home can be costly if not handled properly. By planning in advance, you take control and personalize the experience of estate planning.

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Estate planning involves more than just the disposition and transfer of your assets. It is used to make health care decisions in advance, and select those you want to be involved in making financial and health care decisions for you in the event of your incapacity.  It's very personal.

There are five good reasons to plan. Basically, you are planning for your own peace of mind and your own legacy.

1. You control your property and your legacy. Without estate planning, you are subject to the laws of intestacy and the state determines disposition of your property.

2. You are able to plan for the unexpected in advance! Rarely do we get this type of advantage in life.

3. You avoid probate - the very costly, very public, time consuming disposition of your assets. Estate planning can save your heirs a tremendous amount of money.

4. You can plan for physical or mental incapacity in advance. This way you have a say in who participates in your care.

5. Your estate plan is a guide for your family and loved ones. It's an act of love and a way to show you care.

Here’s a quick overview of the key documents and what they basically do. If you are creating a multigenerational trust, have a business or need to create a special needs trust, you will likely need more than what is listed here.

Will - the most commonly known document. A will allows you to transfer property at your death in a desired manner. Keep in mind that a will alone does not avoid probate.

Living Will - different than a will. A living will makes your wishes known if you are unable to communicate. The living will is where you outline who you want to care for children for example.

Power of Attorney - appoints someone of your choosing to speak and act on your behalf for financial and/or health matters.

Health Care Proxy - or, medical power of attorney, appoints someone to make health care decisions for you if you are unable.

Living Trust - also called a revocable or inter vivos trust, is a legal arrangement that holds your assets during your life, and transfers them to your desired beneficiaries upon death. A living trust is one method used to avoid probate.

Beneficiary Designation - allows you to name an heir to receive certain types of assets thus avoiding probate by contract or operation of law. Think about accounts like your retirement plan, an IRA, or a life insurance policy. You can name an heir and the asset passes directly to the person you name.

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Keep in mind that you are allowed to make changes to your plan. Your decisions are not set in stone and your estate planning documents should be reviewed for necessary changes every three to five years, and especially at major life events such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of a new child. Your estate planning complexity may also grow and change over time as your assets grow and your situation changes.

As an independent Certified Financial Planner™, I can help you prepare for meeting with an estate planning attorney. Contact me and let’s get started. #talktometuesday #education #Hireaplanner #estateplanning #estate #legacy #stressfree #taxsavings

Is a Golden Girls Arrangement Right for You?

Housing is a huge financial challenge for many people all over America today. Expensive housing is no longer relegated just to the coasts. The changing dynamic of American society is contributing to some of the angst of finding housing. Today, we have more single seniors, especially women, than ever before. This is leading many people to seek alternative housing solutions.

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If you are in this category, are you a candidate for a Golden Girls living arrangement? The Golden Girls was a popular NBC television comedy that ran from 1985 until 1992. The show featured four mature women who became roommates to offset the cost of living and fend off loneliness as they aged. If you’ve never seen the show, check out a few episodes. If you find that you are in the market for this type of living arrangement, keep in mind that there are some tips to keep in mind.

First, you need to understand that shared housing is very different than living on your own. Compromise will be necessary, as will having house rules in writing and enforced. Many people underestimate the need for laying out rules and structure in writing and in advance and making sure that all house members understand and adhere to the rules.

You need to decide how common expenses will be handled. Is there a master tenant who charges a rent sufficient to cover your share of the utilities and maintenance, or will the expenses be shared and divided each month as they are incurred? Whichever method works best is fine, but the expenses and how they are shared and paid should be outlined and agreed to in advance.

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Maintenance is a critical component. To avoid squabbling over chores such as house cleaning and lawn work (if needed), consider hiring this done. A cleaning service will relieve each member of having to clean, and avoid conflict over who cleans and the quality of their work. It’s money well spent.

Keep in mind that you are roommates. It doesn’t mean that you are going to become best friends, but having companionship as you age can be beneficial. It can help reduce loneliness and keep you active. If your new living situation is a good match, there is a good chance you will start to grow a friendship.

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Don’t assume that your roommates will be your caretaker. That’s not the point of shared housing. Advanced planning for your care and when you should leave the home should be arranged by you in advance and not left to your roommates. If you find you need daily assistance with care it may be time to leave the shared housing situation. Outline this in advance and don’t burden your housemates.

There are a lot of things to consider, but shared housing can be very beneficial, especially for seniors. If you are thinking it is time to partner up, do your homework in advance and consider interviewing friends or family who are already in shared housing. Organizations like AARP and your local senior center may have good resources as well.

I have experience in shared housing. As an independent Certified Financial Planner™, I can help you determine if shared housing is a good fit for you. Contact me and let’s get started! #talktometuesday #Hireaplanner #budget #sharedhousing #roommate #GoldenGirls #CFPPro #housing

Ho Ho Ho, It’s Christmas in July

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Christmas 2019 is just 23 weeks away as of this writing. My gift to you is some advice on how to handle that extra expense. Not everyone celebrates Christmas but for a large number of families this is a major holiday and a very big expense. Christmas can be fun, but it puts many folks into a financial tailspin and creates unnecessary stress. So, how do you prepare for the expense in your budget to avoid the tailspin and reduce stress?

First of all, don’t wait until December to “find the money” or worse, default to putting all of your charges on credit you can’t afford. That’s how we get into a financial tailspin. Here are few ways to tackle Christmas saving and spending.

Create a separate sub-category in your annual savings budget and save for Christmas like you would for a larger, long-term goal. Set a goal amount of total spend and break it down by weeks or months until Christmas. The sooner you start in the year the easier it will be on you.

Next, determine an amount per person per category. For example, allocate more money per person for your children, another amount per person for extended family and friends that you buy for, and finally, a lower per person amount for those you have to buy for such as service personnel, co-workers, educators, coaches, etc. Don’t forget to include an amount for extras such as shared meals, travel, donations and other non-gift cash expenses. If you always provide the wine or the goose for a family gathering, you have a historical record of what this cost you so be sure to include that expense.

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Open a Christmas Club account and banish the credit cards! These accounts are not as common as they used to be, but lots of credit unions still offer Christmas Club or holiday accounts. Credit unions would be happy to help you start an account so check with your credit union to see what they offer and what the terms are for the account. Use your Christmas Club account funds and put those credit cards on ice!

Shop early. When you see something on sale that is perfect for someone, go ahead and buy it. It’s one less person on your list to shop for and it spreads your shopping and spending out over the next several months. Just keep track of who you have bought for so you don’t overspend.

When it comes to credit cards, use the card that gives something to you. This is either cashback, miles, or points. Whichever is your best card for a bonus or refund, and hopefully lowest interest rate, is the card to use.

Here are a few survival tips:

Set a budget amount and stick to it!

Start early in the year saving weekly or monthly.

Open a Christmas Club account and banish the credit cards.

Avoid Black Friday but shop sales from Labor Day through Christmas.

Take advantage of Cyber Monday for must have items.

Group online items and buy from sites that offer free shipping.

Finally, buy something for yourself!

You can take the stress out of Christmas shopping with a little foresight and planning. As an independent Certified Financial Planner™, I can help you set an appropriate spending goal and layout a plan for Christmas spending that won’t put you into a financial tailspin. Contact me and let’s get started! #talktometuesday#Hireaplanner#Christmas #Christmas2019#budget#ChristmasClub #CFPPro #budget

Mother Nature Reminds Us: You Need Earthquake Insurance!

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With the 7.1 earthquake July 5, 2019 in Ridgecrest, California, Mother Nature reminded us yet again that you do indeed need earthquake insurance. The 7.1 quake shook an area that had just the day before been shaken by a 6.4 earthquake on the July 4th. holiday. The result of all of this is that many homeowner’s suffered cracked walls, collapsed foundations, loss of water, power, and in some cases, loss of use of their home.

Let’s clear up some common misconceptions right now. Your standard homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover damage from earthquakes (stated as “earth movement” in many policies). If you are unable to use your residence due to a quake, you are on the hook for repairs and the cost of displacement (paying to stay somewhere else). Your policy may however cover fire after an earthquake. Renters, you are not safe either. Your renter’s policy does not cover earthquakes. Many renters think they are covered by their landlord’s policy. Surprise! Your landlord’s coverage does not cover you! So, don’t think your landlord’s policy will cover replacement of your valuables or for you to stay in an alternate dwelling (displacement) during reconstruction. 

If you don’t believe me, call your insurance company and ask them. Be sure to ask your agent a few different ways: am I covered for earthquakes? does my policy cover displacement due to quakes? does my policy cover repairs if my house slips off of its foundation due to a quake?  Going without earthquake insurance is very risky in places such as California that have frequent quakes. Even small quakes can cause expensive damage to a home’s foundation or infrastructure.

Damaged home, near epicenter, in Trona, California, US. (Photo: Reuters)

Damaged home, near epicenter, in Trona, California, US. (Photo: Reuters)

Many folks remember the days when earthquake insurance was unaffordable to most. Times have changed and you can structure a policy to fit your needs through the California Earthquake Authority. You should start by getting a free estimate from CEA. By walking through the CEA estimator, you can craft an affordable policy. Here are ways to make your policy affordable:

Consider a higher deductible and self-insure for a larger amount. Hopefully you have your emergency fund in place and a quake would definitely be an emergency!

Reduce personal property coverage. Really assess what you need and what’s not worth insuring.

Ask CEA about discounts for retro-fitting already done (i.e., shear-walling, anchoring, etc.).

Reduce breakable items coverage unless you have very expensive dishes, glassware, and collectibles.

Renters, your focus will likely be on displacement coverage and personal property replacement given that you are not the dwelling owner. A renter’s earthquake policy is very affordable given that you may need to find a new home.

This brings me to a final point that I wrote about during the firestorms. Make sure you have all of your vital documents ready and available in a grab-n-go binder or folder that is easy to locate and portable. You can read more at Do You Have a Special Grab-N-Go Emergency Binder.

As an independent Certified Financial Planner™, I can help you plan for the unexpected to mitigate risk.Contact me and let’s get started. #talktometuesday #education #Hireaplanner #Ridgecrest #quake #earthquake #risk #insurance #safetyfirst #California #CaliforniaEarthquakeAuthority

Save Money, But Don’t be Cheap

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Happy 4th. of July! Given it is a holiday week and many folks are enjoying some well-earned time off, I’ll keep this post fairly short.  As planners, we often harp on saving money, and while that is very important, it’s not always the best approach. Confused by that counter message?

What I am getting at is that when it comes to spending money, you need to take the Goldilocks approach: not too much, not too little, just right! Most Americans are conditioned through marketing to buy more than they need. Go ahead, all the extras are only a few bucks more! Act now and get a second free! That thinking and manner of spending can get you into hot water over time.

Your goal should be to strike a balance of quality, cost, and fulfillment. When shopping for something, make sure you are not buying at such a low price that the item you need is of low quality and will in the end cost you more because it needs to be replaced multiple times. Conversely, don’t overspend and buy features and services that you really will not use and simply don’t need.

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Gym memberships come to mind. Salesmen will quite often get you to buy the ultimate package pitching it as convenience, cost savings, and value because you deserve it! But how many times are you really going to go to the gym? Do you need 24-hour access? Towel service? If you are only going a few times per week, you likely will not need the top-tier service.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when it comes to spending your money. Don’t shop for an item based solely on price. Compare features, quality, and read reviews with a critical eye. Don’t fall for zero percent, low-down/no-down offers. Be aware of hidden backend fees on leases, special offers, and promotions. Be careful with rewards credit cards and balance transfers – they may cost more in the end! A brand name does not always guarantee high quality and value for your money so make sure you know the item or service before parting with your money.

Ultimately, take your time and do your homework when spending your money. Research your product or service and match it to your actual need and budget. Shop smart! As an independent Certified Financial Planner™, I can help you plan for purchases and services.Contact me and let’s get started. #talktometuesday #education #Hireaplanner #stressfree #savings #cheap #dontbecheap #spendmoney #CFPPro #savemoney #spendwisely

Take Pride in Your Finances Year-round

Pride month wraps up this week. As noted in my earlier blog posts this month, the LGBT community faces many financial hurdles just as we still face social and civil rights hurdles. Some hurdles, like acceptance, may take a lifetime to overcome. Others, such as improving your financial well being can begin immediately. So, take the euphoria of Pride and decide that it is time to help yourself on the road to financial fitness.

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It’s true that there are a variety of factors working against you. For example, LGBT folks often feel the need to live in high-priced areas such as New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles to feel safe, feel accepted, find community, and find fulfilling work. Many LGBT people tend to overspend in their youth influenced by glossy lifestyle magazines, blogs, and social media. This is a bit celebratory and is also perceived as a need for building community and acceptance. With age usually comes the wisdom that your friends will always be your friends and you don’t need to spend to impress. This takes time, and the debt incurred can be a challenge to overcome. LGBT folks still face hiring and workplace discrimination at various levels. This can lead to earning less, sporadic employment, or under employment, and compounds financial hurdles if you are living in a high-cost area and have a spending problem.

It’s not all dreary, so cheer up! We are making progress in society at large, and marriage equality has been a huge boost socially and financially. Here are a few things to keep you moving proudly forward.

Take Pride month euphoria and carry it forward with you into your personal life. Take Pride in your personal accomplishments and regularly build on those. You should especially take Pride in the fact that you acknowledge we can all be better with our finances. Start small, and build. Your first step is simply acknowledging you want to be better about your financial health and wealth.

Look at your most challenging area first. This is very personal for each of us and it may be spending, earning, lack of savings, etc.  Take one small step each month to make that less of a challenge. If it’s saving, look at ways to increase saving. If it’s spending, review and revise your spending plan. If it’s earning, document your performance improvements at work over time and ask for a raise. Are you interested in a side gig? That could help you earn more if you have the capacity to take on more work.  

Review your cash flow. Look at it monthly and calculate an annual estimate as well. Prepare a simple personal balance sheet and see where you stand. This exercise is valuable because it can help you with spending, saving, and earning. It really clarifies what’s going on in your financial life.

Generally speaking, most folks need to focus on building an emergency fund of cash, monitoring their monthly cash flow (know what you own, what you owe), and work on destroying debt. I am often asked which should occur first? The answer is that you work on all areas simultaneously, but in the beginning, you may need to focus more in one area. That’s where my final tip comes in: get help.

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You can now search for a fee-only, LGBT friendly adviser from resources such as the Certified Financial Planner board of standard’s letsmakeaplan.org, or the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, or the XY Planning Network (fair disclosure, I am a NAPFA and XYPN member and in good standing with the CFP® board). You can also utilize technology to help you. There are many ways to go such as using budgeting apps, expense tracking, and even personal finance blogs (like this one!), and social media sites. As an LGBT community member, I can relate. And as an independent Certified Financial Planner™, I can help you understand your finances, define your goals, and take charge. Contact me and let’s get started.  Happy Pride!

#talktometuesday #getstarted #HowIcanHelpYou #GetHelp #Hireaplanner #Pride #Pride2019 #CFPPro #savemoney #LGBTQ #QueerMoney

Financial Planning for LGBT Relationships

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Many people think that with the passage of marriage equality, folks in the LGBT community no longer need financial planning for same-sex couples. True, marriage equality made things easier for those who want to marry and ushered in many protections under federal law. However, there are still challenges in the LGBT community regardless of your relationship status.

For starters, if you want to get married you probably should. There are a lot of benefits to being married that go far beyond financial considerations. Prior to marriage, there is a lot to discuss with your potential new spouse. Everything from monthly budget responsibilities to debt to estate planning should be discussed. You need to know that going into a marriage does have its own financial challenges.

Consider that if you are both high earning individuals, you may face the so-called marriage penalty. That is, your overall burden of taxation will likely increase.

You may encounter loss of government benefits if you are receiving benefits and marry someone who is a high earner. Prior to marriage, you should seek advice and review any benefits that could be at risk.

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On the positive side, marriage can lead to some very nice financial benefits. For starters, spouses have an unlimited marital deduction. What does this mean? Spouses can transfer an unlimited amount of assets to each other, at any time, even at death, tax free!

What about Social Security? Here too, there can be a benefit. A lower-earning spouse may be entitled to a higher payout based on the higher-earning spouse’s record. This can be a financial boon for the lower-earning spouse!

What about those who choose not to marry? This is where financial planning really comes into play. First of all, if you are in a relationship, but not married, you may need more planning than a comparable married couple. Let’s look at some examples.

For starters, the above noted unlimited marital deduction does not apply to those who are in a relationship, but not married. This means that you will at minimum need to have beneficiary forms in place, a will, and possibly other documentation so that your partner receives everything you intend to leave him or her. However, your heir may still face taxation that a legal spouse would not in the same situation.

Custody, visitation, and end-of-life planning rights may be more complicated if you are not the legal spouse. Depending upon your state of residence, you may not have any legal recognition should you need to make decisions for your partner.

Me and my husband enjoying a glass of bubbly at a family member’s home in Albion, CA.

Me and my husband enjoying a glass of bubbly at a family member’s home in Albion, CA.

On the plus side of not being married, if you are both earning high incomes, you will likely be filing separately at the federal level and this may reduce your overall taxation as a couple! That may be one of the few money-saving bright spots.

Separating may also be less complicated. There will be no dissolution procedure, alimony, or other support mandated if you are simply living together and not married.

If you are in a long-term, committed relationship and do not wish to marry, you should definitely seek out a fee-only Certified Financial Planner™ to go over your options with you. It’s likely that you will at minimum need to create a co-habitation agreement, retitle bank and investment accounts, and possibly set up a trust. Even with taking these steps, your partner may still be exposed to burdensome taxation and legal challenges that married couples wouldn’t face. A qualified estate planning attorney is worth the money and time for both married couples and those living together who do not wish to marry. For those who do marry, financial planning can help with aligning your goals, maximizing benefits, taxation, and a host of other financial concerns.

As an independent Certified Financial Planner™, I can help you understand your finances, define your goals, and take charge. Contact me and let’s get started. #talktometuesday #getstarted #HowIcanHelpYou #GetHelp #Hireaplanner #Pride #Pride2019 #CFPPro #savemoney #LGBTQ #QueerMoney

3 Tips for Pride Month to Get You on the Road to Better Finances

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No matter what letter you identify with in the LGBTQ rainbow, there are some basic steps you need to take to get your finances in order. So, take Pride in taking charge of improving your financial well-being. These first three steps seem easy, but embracing them and sticking to them will take commitment.

Tip one is to get organized! You need to know where are your financial documents. Pull together every document you can think of that involves your money. Think mortgage/lease agreement, bank statements (checking and savings), your latest tax filing, any investment statements you may have, insurance policies (home/renters, auto, health, long-term care, etc.), work benefit statements. Basically, any document that affects your financial life you need to have readily available. You also need to know what the document is, what it covers, and how it benefits you. If you don’t understand any of these documents, it’s time to consider making an appointment with a fee-only financial planner. My pro tip here is to keep all of these documents in one binder and have them readily available. An electronic copy is also a good idea. I like to offer my clients a grab-n-go binder to get them started. You customize yours as you see fit.

Tip two is to know what you owe and what you own. You’ve heard that old saying, ‘you don’t know, what you don’t know.’  Well, it couldn’t be more accurate when it comes to our financial picture. You must know and understand how much cash flow you have and how it is flowing. Prepare a simple, personal balance sheet detailing your assets, liabilities, and any equity. This is your snapshot in time of where you are and what you have. List all assets and equity on one side such as checking, savings, investments, home value, car value, etc. Next, list all of your liabilities such as credit card balances, car loans, student loans, mortgages, etc. Subtract your liabilities from the assets and this will yield your net worth at that time. If negative, don’t be discouraged. Again, this is a snapshot in time and you have the power to take control and make changes.

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Tip three is to conquer your cash flow. This is where it starts to get real. If you didn’t like the results from tip two, this is where the rubber meets the road. You need to become conscious of your spending. In fact, even if your results in tip two were positive, your spending should now be harnessed and become intentional. You need to develop a spending and savings plan for your monthly cash flow. Over time, you will start planning your cash flow annually, but for now, take it one month at a time. Spend intentionally! Choose where you spend your money and target things that benefit you financially, and emotionally. Always pay yourself first! This is key to building wealth. Be sure you are saving from your income; be sure you are enrolled in any employer plans that pay matching funds; make saving automatic. A good target is to always be saving 15% or more of any income you have. If you are not there don’t worry, just get started.  

These first three tips seem basic, but they do involve examining and changing your habits. It may be hard to get started, but you’ll be PROUD you did! You may also need help. Seek out a fee-only Certified Financial Planner™ to help you. Even if you have debt, it could be money well spent as fee-only planners are supposed to work in your best interest. Be careful not to confuse this term with fee-based, or generic terms such as financial advisor, broker, wealth manager, etc. Those professionals fulfill different needs in the financial services world. You can read more in my post, Fee-only vs. Fee-based Advisers: Is There a Difference. As an independent Certified Financial Planner™, I can help you understand your finances, define your goals, and take charge. Contact me and let’s get started. #talktometuesday #getstarted #HowIcanHelpYou #GetHelp #Hireaplanner #Pride #Pride2019 #CFPPro #savemoney #LGBTQ #QueerMoney

It’s Pride Month!

Photo by   Sharon McCutcheon   from   Pexels

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

Last year’s protests and controversy around corporate sponsorship of many Pride events got me thinking about not only corporate money at Pride, but money in the LGBT community in general. Pride can be motivating, exhilarating, and even inspiring. Unfortunately, I’ve learned it can also be a reminder for many within our community of the sharp differences we face when it comes to income inequality within the LGBT community.

It’s common these days to see LGBT people portrayed as affluent in movies, television dramas, and other media. Think of characters like Will on Will & Grace, or Mitch and Cam on Modern Family, of the three gay male roles, two are portrayed as attorneys which many perceive as high income in our society. Many gay rags such as the Advocate and Out are laden with ads pitching expensive clothing, accessories, and travel. Pride destinations also sell VIP packages and expensive add-ons that many in the community simply cannot afford.

Photo by   Sharon McCutcheon   from   Pexels

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

Don’t get me wrong, there are those in the community that have done very well for themselves. But the myth of six-figure DINCs with designer pets living in tony zip codes still persists. Don’t just take my word for it, dig into the article, There’s a Lot of Money at Pride, but Not Necessarily in LGBT Pockets from the Daily Beast in 2018 for a deeper perspective. Want more stats? Check out the Williams Institute report (PDF) from 2013 cited in the article. Admittedly, that report is older, but there are few resources available. However, a newer report, Intersecting Injustice: A National Call to Action (PDF) from 2018 doesn’t show much change.

Let’s turn this positive! In my own way of helping, I’m going to offer tips for Pride month over the next few #TalkToMeTuesday blog posts to help remedy this situation. Anyone, of any income level, can improve their financial health and well-being with some work. It does take persistence, time, and even sacrifice, but we all have it within ourselves to improve. 

As an independent Certified Financial Planner™, I can help you focus on your finances month-to-month and not just during Pride. Contact me and let’s get started. #talktometuesday #getstarted #HowIcanHelpYou #GetHelp #Hireaplanner #Pride #Pride2019 #CFPPro #savemoney #LGBTQ #QueerMoney