Author Archives: belinda

I Did NOT Know That!

You know those moments when you learn something new that you can’t believe you did not know before now, and depending what it is, you may even feel like a bit of a dummy for not knowing?

We all have them.

I had one of these moments last week when my brother came over to change out a kitchen faucet. According to You Tube, this is a very simple task, but we may be about the worst homeowners ever when it comes to stuff like this. My brother, on the other hand, is great at this stuff and owns his own handyman business, CJD Property Specialists. We know it will end up costing us twice as much if we attempt is ourselves, so we gave him a call.

But that’s not even the “I feel like a dummy part”. That came when I asked my brother to fill the soap dispenser while he was down under the sink.

“What are you talking about Sue, you don’t fill that from under here, the pump dispenser comes off from up top.”

 Wait a minute…WHAT? It does?!

We have been emptying all supplies out from under the sink for 20 years to crawl under, unscrew the plastic bottle and fill it up. We never knew! Is it just us?!?! We felt like idiots.

But here’s the thing, if someone has never been taught or shown something…has never studied, practiced or had any interest in the subject matter at hand… why should they beat up on themselves for not knowing it?

You shouldn’t!

I often hear clients and others I speak with putting themselves down for being “horrible with financial stuff”. It really bothers me, in an empathetic way, because why would they or should they be good at it?

I’m good at it because I love it, study it, and practice it every day. If “financial stuff” is not something you love, study and keep up with every day, why would you be good at it? The tough part about this subject matter is that dealing with “financial stuff” is indeed a necessity in all of our day to day lives. And so is general plumbing, to some extent, but not as much.

We all have our strengths and passions in areas where we excel and then have those areas where we don’t, and that’s ok. That’s the beauty of being able to hire someone to handle what we don’t do well or don’t have the time or interest to do well.   

I’ll leave you with a few financial savings tips that just may be a “I did not know that!” for you:

  1. You can make contributions to an IRA for the previous calendar year up until the tax filing deadline each year (for 2021 contributions, you have until Monday, April 18th this year, due to the usual April 15th deadline falling on Good Friday and Passover). 
     
  2. If you max out your 401(k) contributions before year end, you may not be getting the full benefit of your employer match. Ask your HR department if they do what’s called a “year-end true up”, otherwise you may be leaving money on the table.
     
  3. If you start a new job with an employer that does not allow you to participate in their retirement savings plan right away, making you a “non-covered employee” by IRS standards, you may be eligible to make a deductible IRA contribution for that tax year, even if your income is above the threshold normally eligible to take the deduction.

My Favorite Quotes

Be that person who wakes up with purpose and intent. Be that person who shows up and never gives up. Be that person who believes anything is possible and is willing to work for it. 

– Unknown

Why I Don’t Share My Shampoo

I’ve shared this one before, but since I have many new readers, and since I once again splurged at the salon during my last hair appointment, I thought I would share it again.
 
If you are a regular of my newsletter, you know I live in a houseful of the opposite sex, who don’t have an appreciation for the finer things in life, like magical shampoo that carries you off to the tropics or sweeps you away to the spa at Canyon Ranch.
 
It’s like a 3 minute (or 10) staycation in the comfort of my own shower.
 
Have you ever thought about why these products we love are so expensive?

Introducing the “Pink Tax”…and why it is worth being aware of.

Have you ever heard of the Pink Tax? This is not an actual tax levied by the state or federal government, but rather refers to what has been described as “a discriminatory pricing practice” that lends itself to charging women more for “substantially similar” products and services. That part is real.
 
If you have daughters, you’ve probably uttered the words, “geez, girls are expensive”, at least once.
 
Health and beauty care products, kid’s toys, clothing, dry cleaning and car repair services are found to be the biggest offenders of the pink tax.  
 
Not for nothing, but in my house, regardless of gender, we don’t know what is legit for car repairs. But I suppose, “generally speaking”, men have (or are perceived to have) more general car knowledge and may be less likely to be quoted an unreasonable price.
 
Toy pricing came as a surprise to me. One example cited in the piece I read was a blue bike helmet costing less than the same helmet in pink. Same manufacturer, same product, different color. Maybe pink decals cost more?
 
Probably not.
 
The State of New York actually passed a “Pink Tax Ban” in 2020, prohibiting this practice and requiring certain service providers to present price lists for standard services upon request.
 
“Upon request” being the key words there. I’m not sure how the state will effectively police this. Time will tell, but it’s a start.
 
The point I want to make on this topic is this:
I believe the best defense for stuff like this is a good offense.   
How do you create a good offense?
 
AWARENESS. Through awareness, you create knowledge and power, and that goes for anything.
 
As women, are we always unaware we are paying more? Of course not. Sometimes we make the choice to. I am fully aware I am paying more for my “spa” shampoo, which is why I treasure every drop and don’t share it with the men in my house, but I do have the choice to buy a lower cost product and still get my hair clean.
 
If you’ve never heard of the pink tax before this, now you are aware that it is actually a thing and you can be an informed consumer. Granted, you probably don’t want to smell like Axe body spray or Old Spice just to pay a lower price, but you can still make choices of one product over another or ask informed questions of a service provider.
 
Be AWARE. Stay INFORMED. The best defense is a good OFFENSE.

My Favorite Quotes

Here’s a good one to help you reflect back on my newsletter last month regarding New Year Resolutions.

“Just a reminder that you don’t have to make resolutions. Or huge decisions. Or big proclamations. You can just set some sweet intentions and take each day as it comes.”

-Victoria Erickson, Author

Real Change Takes Time

So here we are kicking off 2022. Happy New Year!
 
Another 365 days to attempt to fulfill our New Year’s Resolutions.
 
Or not.
 
I’ve never been a big fan of making New Year’s resolutions. They tend to be too big and too overwhelming for most of us to see them through. We end up beating ourselves up a little bit each month for either not having started them OR for already having let them fall by the wayside.
 
What AM I a big fan of?   Goals, Planning and Timelines, ANYTIME of the year!
 
True change takes multiple baby steps all strung together over time, not one giant step all at once.
 
Baby Step + Baby Step + Baby Step = Meaningful Change!
 
I did a quick Google search to see which resolutions continuously make the list. You can probably guess the top ones without even looking. We’ve all made those!
 
Although not #1 or even #2, declarations such as “Save More Money” and “Get Finances Organized” do make the Top 5.
 
Issues around money are one of the greatest stressors in our lives, so it’s not surprising that it consistently makes the list.
 
But here’s the thing – resolutions like the ones above are much too broad!
 
I can almost guarantee the year will come and go and you will not have taken any steps to “save more money” or “get finances organized”.
 
And not because you’re a failure, or unmotivated, or any other negative tag you may give yourself, but because you’re HUMAN.
 
Nothing happens overnight, and sometimes these lofty resolutions we set for ourselves in January only leave us feeling defeated when we don’t accomplish them.
 
Whatever your resolutions may be, BREAK THEM DOWN. Set one small baby step at a time and a date to have it completed. When you accomplish that one, set a new one. Think small, but more frequent.
 
I promise you, over time, you will see the results you are looking for. Happy New Year!

My Favorite Quotes

“It’s wise to accept that human faults are inevitable. Factor that in and KEEP GOING.”

-Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple

THIS Drives Me Crazy!

Last week, I was out running errands and listening to the local news station on the radio. The 60 second financial segment came on, and they were talking about the volatility of the S&P and how the month of September had ended with “significant” losses.

I get it, it’s the news, and we all know their main goal is to sensationalize EVERYTHING.

Here’s the part that burns me.

The reporter goes on to make a comment, and I’m paraphrasing, about near retirees and how this will seriously impact their ability to retire.

And not just for near retirees, but comments along the lines of, “investors saw their 401(k)’s take a huge hit last month”.

What?!?!

In my not so humble opinion, this is reckless reporting of the “facts”. It’s sensationalism and exaggeration and although it is FACT that the S&P saw a decline in September, it leaves out other very important FACTS, and sends anxious listeners into a panic.

Here are two key facts, one which was reported, the other which was not.

The S&P finished the month of September “down” by 4.7%.
Listeners definitely got the gist of that message, and then some.

Here’s what was NOT reported:

The S&P is UP 16% year to date through 10/11/21 (see lovely trend line in graph below).

Yes, that’s right, your 401(k) may have seen a decline in September, but I will bet the bank that if you have a well-diversified portfolio of investments, you still have more now than you did in January.
 
Heck, even if you only own the S&P index, you can see above that you are definitely up for the year.
 
I’ll leave you with two final thoughts that I know I’ve touted before:
 
Growing your wealth is not about one month of returns, positive or negative. You are in it for the long game. This means consistent and diversified savings of your earnings over time. DO NOT PANIC.
 
The stock market is always going to have up and down DAYS, MONTHS and YEARS.
Always has…always will. And that’s a fact!

My Favorite Quotes

“A goal without a plan is just a wish”

Are You Planning on Living to 100?
YOU SHOULD BE

Sometimes the Spirit moves me to attend a weekday mass. One thing that is different when I attend mass during the week is the age population. For obvious reasons, there are no young families and typically no working age adults. 

What is GLARINGLY different, while not surprising, is the GENDER of those age 70+ in attendance. 

You guessed it – WOMEN.

Women live longer than men. It’s that simple.

But when it comes to the financial implications of this fact for women, it’s not simple at all.

Merrill Lynch put out a study back in 2017 about women and financial wellness. Despite the fact that 2017 is feeling like a lifetime ago these days, there are some great points and statistics that I always refer back to. 

  • 42%  of women fear they will run out of money by age 80. This rises to 60% if they live to 100.
  • 41% of women report their biggest financial regret is not investing more.
  • 60% say that not having the knowledge to invest is their #1 barrier.
  • 87% feel basic financial management should be a standard part of the HS curriculum (I could not agree more).
  • 41% of mothers report that becoming a mom made it harder to advance their career.
  • 2/3rds of elder care for family members is provided by women. 

These last two points in particular point to the paradox that while we often find great joy and sense of purpose in providing care at these various life stages, and would “never trade that time for anything” (I speak from experience on both), it can also be extremely stressful and challenge us financially, both now and in our future.

Adding to this is the fact that some of us may be taking care of partners that age before us, and our mutual savings begins to diminish quickly on care needs arising for them, leaving less for the remaining partner to live out their life comfortably.

Finally, the study also reported almost 30% of women ages 30 to 44, which are important saving years due to the power of compounding, say they have not started planning at all for their future.

As a woman, you should be planning for your financial support at least through age 95.

And retirement and longevity planning shouldn’t be starting AT RETIREMENT, it should be well before, while you are earning an income and have time to make adjustments as needed.

There are always tradeoffs between our lives personally, professionally, financially and emotionally. Finding the balance between all of them is the ongoing challenge we as women continue to face.

My Favorite Quotes

This quote from the study highlights one of the reasons I particularly enjoy working with women in my practice.

“Women make more values-based decisions for themselves and their families, rather than just going for the bottom line. When you bring values into the conversation, it makes all the difference”. 

-Jeanette Schneider, Senior VP at US Trust

Confessions of a Financial Advisor

I often tell my clients that financial decisions are not always black and white – that it’s not always about the bottom line number.
 
There is often a gray area that comes into play and there is no formula for it on an Excel spreadsheet.
 
It’s called HUMAN EMOTION.

Last week, I “broke down” and made a purchase that wasn’t technically a need, but wasn’t necessarily a want either. I can definitely make the argument that it was needed for my mental well-being. Actually, I HAVE made this argument with myself, and won.
 
Do I have you wondering what the heck it was that I actually bought?
 
A fancy new car? Louis Vuitton bag? A year’s supply of Botox treatments?
 
Nope, nothing that fun.
 
 I bought new bedroom carpet. Woohoo. Exciting stuff.
 
Here’s the catch – the carpet I have now is LESS THAN A YEAR OLD.
 
I won’t bore you with the dirty details (and they are, quite literally, dirty). Although, it’s a very good story and I get lots of jaw-drop reactions from it, especially among women. I’ve become a master story teller with this one.
 
I’ll give you three words to shed some light on the matter:
 
Male  
Coffee (a whole mug, covering a very wide swath)
Bleach (yes, I said BLEACH)
 
I tried; I really did. I waited three months before breaking down. I laid down a throw rug to cover the damage, but it was a constant reminder of what was lurking beneath.
 
So that’s where the human emotion part of the financial equation came into play. Clearly, with the rug having just gone in last year, I didn’t WANT to replace it. But it wasn’t really a NEED either. It still served its purpose of covering the plywood floor underneath.  
 
So, the decision came down to this:
Which was going to tip the scale more? The EMOTIONAL SIDE of looking at the damaged carpet every day or the FINANCIAL SIDE of not wanting to pay for carpet less than a year after having paid for it the first time?
 
You already know the winner.
 
This is not to say we can ALWAYS let the emotional side rule. Human emotion is actually the piece of the equation that can get a lot of folks into trouble and a part that I help my clients manage in a healthy way.
 
But with a well thought out decision, taking BOTH financial and emotional factors into account, it very often can be the right move.

Favorite Quote

 “We didn’t realize we were making memories. We just thought we were having fun.” -Winnie the Pooh