financial planning

For One Life Only!

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There are restless spirits all around us. The neighbor that seems to be racing everywhere they go, the friend that seems addicted to making big changes. There are people who make us wonder, “When will it be enough?”

Sometimes we are those people. Sometimes we look down only to realize we’re on a treadmill. But here’s the good news: there are plenty of ways to get our needs met, to not want for anything and to not be wrapped up in the wanting. We talk a lot about helping clients put words to their dreams, but dreams need not be lofty. Here are a few guidelines that have proven helpful.

“The right amount is best.” In her book Lagom, writer Niki Brantmark describes this Swedish principle of the same name. Not enough is not enough. Too much of a good thing can be a good thing, but often is not. The right amount is best.

Social comparison, or “keeping up with the Joneses” can corrode happiness or financial health, if we aren’t conscious of our emotions and purposeful about our responses and reactions. It helps to focus on our own needs, rather than what others have. (And I doubt the Joneses care what you have anyway.)

When working on goals, it sometimes helps to define three outcomes: minimum acceptable levels, reasonable targets that feel within reach, and “stretch” goals that require creative thinking and approaches to get to. This may help you be more aware of options and possibilities.

Life is not a cage, and we are not doomed to the hamster wheel. We are each the star of our own personal drama, and we get to decide what works.

Get your ticket, one life only!

Clients, if you would like to talk about your goals or anything else, please email us or call.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.


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A Carousel of Goals

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Many of us have ridden on a merry-go-round, a carousel, at one time or another, haven’t we? In my earliest childhood memory, I regretted that I could only ride one of the colorful horses at a time. I knew which one I wanted first, but then there were others that I seemed to need a turn with. My folks arranged another ride, then another, so I could try a variety of them.

Life is like that, too. We tend to be consumed by different goals or interests at different times, even while others strive for our attention.

I spent a dozen years from age 40 on establishing the business at 228 Main; commerce was the theme of that chapter. Before that, my children received more time and energy. After that, a decade of snowbirding to Florida taught me to balance business with pursuits normally reserved for the retired. Family health issues then became the dominant concern.

Now, at an age when many are climbing on the retirement horse, I’m back on the business horse. Some of my contemporaries are spending more time in warmer places in winter, while I just sold my Florida home. It’s like I’m doing things backward, but don’t we all pick different seats on the carousel? Different preferences?

I wonder whether this is the latest manifestation of my contrarian nature, that approaching age 65 I am committing, more than ever, to my work and business. Or is this just a piece of a very old pattern, my intent to work to age 92?

I am not sure of the answers to those questions, but I do know this: I’m content in this chapter. My efforts are fulfilling; I have the time and space to do the things one might do to try to stay healthy; I am happy with my connections to you and others in my life. My life feels integrated, all aspects.

At the heart of this sense of fulfillment is being of service. No matter which goal currently has your attention, if there is something you would like to work on together, please email me or call.


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What To Do with Stupid Questions

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For a lot of people, there is nothing scarier than raising their hand—in the classroom, in the boardroom, wherever. 

“What if I ask a stupid question? Everyone will think I’m totally lost…” 

“What if what I’m asking for is outrageous? Everyone will think I’m greedy, delusional…” 

We’ve known plenty of teachers who trot out the old line that “there are no stupid questions.” Our fear of judgment, of facing what we don’t know, of owning our dreams—that feels way more real than pretending that no one will judge us. 

Sometimes, though, we are our own best foil. We talk ourselves out of what we want before we even let ourselves say it out loud! We go into negotiations muzzled by our fear, so we ask for less than we want. We refuse to raise our hand, so we never get the answers we need. 

But we’ve got a trick for this, and we practice it in every conversation. Whether we’re working with each other on the staff, with you, or with our friends and colleagues at LPL, we wield a powerful tool that can defeat any stupid question. 

Curiosity.  

Curiosity is by far the best treatment for that fear: you just have to let yourself be more interested finding solutions and gaining understanding than you are afraid of how you look. 

And clients, we think it applies to you, too. When we work on your financial plans and planning, honest answers take us farther. Where are you headed? What are your dreams? What ideas and questions do you have? 

Why lowball our goals before we even get to work on them? Let’s give them a fighting chance. 

Clients, when you’re ready to talk about this or anything else, write or call. 


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Don’t Let Anybody “Should” All Over You

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Trying to lose weight? Maybe you could focus on exercise, on diet, or on a combination of factors.  

Trying to repair something around the house? Maybe you could watch a tutorial and try your hand at it, or maybe you could hire out the work. 

But which way should you do it? 

The thrilling answer for many of life’s challenges and goals is that it depends. Lots of paths can lead to success. When we work with you, our clients, on your financial challenges and goals, the same is true.  

  • “What should I be doing to plan for retirement?” 
  • “What should I do with this inheritance?” 
  • “What should I do about this account?” 

It depends. That’s why we’re here to work with you, wherever you are in your process. 

Telling people what they “should” do with their money seems, to us, kind of gross. And we don’t want anyone to “should” all over you! 

I first heard this advice years ago from speaker and author Amy Florian, and it has roots with German theorist Karen Horney who talked about the “tyranny of the shoulds”: if we get too wrapped up with what we imagine what we “should” be doing, we lose sight of what we have and what’s within our control. 

The idea comes to mind whenever I read or hear some supposed expert on whether you “should” pay off your mortgage early or “should” retire at a certain age or “should” do anything. (I believe, quite often it comes from financial planners who seem to think they’ve been ordained to tell people how to live.) 

We think the first priority when you engage us on any issue is to outline the range of possibilities; then we can look together at the options and their ramifications. We’ll tell you what we think, but we will not tell you what to do.  

It is your money, your choice. What will help you sleep easy each night? What dreams are worth  pursuing each day? 

So what “should” you do? Well, we’d gently recommend that you not let anybody “should” all over you! 

Clients, let us know when we can help you address any of those “should” type of questions you may have.


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The Abundance Conundrum

© Can Stock Photo / Thilien

People reaching retirement age these days have witnessed a huge evolution in how people live. Growing up, many never saw the inside of a restaurant except maybe once a year. Family road trips usually included a picnic basket with cheese or balony sandwiches. Larger families lived in smaller houses back then, so now each person has about double the living space.

Author Eric Barker notes that we probably have far more now than in the past, but we seem to be no happier. We instinctively believe that more will fix it: more money, more food, more things. The problem is the quest for what makes us feel good doesn’t have a finish line. “It’s a pie-eating contest and first prize is more pie.”

The pressure to fit in, to keep up with the neighbors is now compounded by social media, which generally shows the best version of everyone we know, and none of the problems. There have been many more pictures of expensive cars than of the tow trucks sometimes sent to repossess them. You see vacation photos from exotic places, but not the credit card bills which detail how they were financed.

Aggravating the situation, technology has given many the option of working all the time. Flexibility is nice, but in the olden days, you could leave your work at work and be engaged with your family when you were home. Now our work is in our pocket, so we have to make a decision: answer emails, or play with the kids or talk to neighbors or enjoy some other leisure.

Going with the flow is perhaps more costly than ever to our wealth and sense of wellbeing. Thinking about the fundamentals of our own happiness, pursuing our fondest ambitions in a mindful way, being thoughtful about how we spend our time: these might be the answer to the battle between “more” and “enough.”

Financial planning is at the root of a balanced approach to life and living. It begins with the attempt to define life on your terms, to learn your internal motivations, to clarify your understanding of success.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

Dealing with Financial Emergencies, Three Things

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The dramatic and unexpected events of 2020 have tested our adaptability and resourcefulness like no other. There are patterns in those who are navigating these times successfully.

1. Realize there are usually lessons in history to guide us; maintain perspective.
2. Avoid hasty decisions that could have negative long term consequences.
3. Look for the opportunity in the challenge, not vice versa.

By taking time to think about the context, understand our own situation, and get accurate information about whatever the new reality is, we usually can make better decisions.

In personal finance, tapping high interest credit cards to maintain spending in the face of income reductions may be necessary for some items. But any outlays that can be avoided, or are discretionary, should be deferred, not financed. The average credit card interest rate remains in double-digit territory, a huge drain.

In your investments, long term holdings should not be disrupted by short term considerations. When the situation changes in ways that everyone knows, the new circumstances are likely to be priced into the market already. So there may not be an edge in taking action. If you do not need the funds in hand for pressing purposes, you might leave them be.

The stress of the situation may be alleviated by working on things within your control. Practicing healthier habits with regard to exercise, nutrition, sleep, and alcohol can also reduce stress, while giving you a sense of conrol.

Finally, contact with other people is a necessity for social beings such as humans. It may be especially useful as you talk things out or need someone to bounce ideas off of. We would be happy to visit with you by phone or email, Zoom video or in person – about whatever is on your mind. Email us or call.

Special Relativity

© Can Stock Photo / Alexis84

A friend wrote to me recently about the two kinds of time. The time that gallops onward in an undistinguished blur, versus the time that resolves itself into perfect crystal moments that stretch on to forever. Haven’t we all had those kind of peak moments?

We seem more prone to the ‘undistinguished blur’ sort of time as the years go by, and routines get set. Perhaps breaking the routine, new experiences, are what sets those forever moments apart.

My friend concluded that if there is a secret to keeping time in a bottle, it must involve moving forward – a special kind of special relativity. This notion has some interesting aspects, including one that bears on our work for you, I believe.

Many financially independent retirees have noted that they spent much time when younger worrying about having enough money in later years. Then, when they get there, they discover that money is abundant, compared to time, which is finite.

If we spend our working years on a treadmill of accumulating a fortune for enjoyment way down the road, perhaps we live life in a routine, in which time is an undistinguished blur. This shortens the subjective experience of our lives.

Alternatively, we can work to understand and perhaps moderate what “enough” means, and balance living in the moment against our longer-term objectives. Would this leave us open to more new experiences, new ways of thinking and being, and that sense of moving forward that might bring about more of those ‘forever’ moments?

Hey, I don’t know either. But I’m in favor of more special moments, and less undistinguished routine. Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

A Nickel Is Too Much

© Can Stock Photo / eldadcarin

Once upon a time, a colorful character roamed the streets of our village, loudly proclaiming an unusual philosophy of money and wealth. “If you have a nickel in your pocket, that’s too much. You better spend it on something so you won’t have to worry about it any more.”

This fellow always paid his bills, raised a wonderful family, and left a legacy of love and service that lives on in his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. All who knew him (and everyone knew him) remember his joy and his generosity.

Without judging that philosophy, it is easy to see the benefit of combining a longer-term focus with the idea of enjoying the moments and days as they come. (Even this interesting old friend earned a secure retirement sufficient for his needs.)

Talking with clients over the past few weeks as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, the difference made by having some resources is astonishing.

  • People working at relatively advanced ages by choice have been able to temporarily withdraw from employment in exposed industries.
  • Retirees have seen some change in day to day activities like shopping and socializing, but parts of life including exercise and hobbies have been adapted to safer practices.
  • Some have made the choice to retire, having the resources for it, and wanting to avoid the stress of continuing exposure to health issues.

Money makes no one immune to disease. But those who have it have options that those without it do not. Before the virus showed up, we understood that money is awfully handy.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.