Women and Investing: POWER

In my previous blog, Women and Investing: Seize Your Power, I challenged you with the most important task: START. Below I’ve mapped out exactly what you need to do to achieve your POWER!

A Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) research study found that both men and women view wealth as a way to provide them with financial security and independence. But after those goals are reached, women want their wealth to provide for society at large. The POWER steps below work for both men and women. The point is to employ a plan. A plan is your key to financial security, independence and more. Fifty-three percent of those women surveyed said they did not have a financial advisor. Of those who did have a financial advisor, 67% said they felt misunderstood. This translates into underleveraged assets which represents a lost opportunity for women to meet their hopes and dreams.1              

In my practice at Maxima Wealth Management, I guide all my clients through the steps below. I highly recommend you establish a relationship with a financial advisor who will walk you through these steps or steps similar as you realize your POWER. Recognize what’s important to you in a relationship (i.e. understanding, trusting, educational, 2-way communication), interview a few options and pick the advisor who speaks to you.   

Present Situation

In my opinion, the foundation of all financial plans is to clearly assess your current financial situation. This will include creating a balance sheet that shows your assets and liabilities, completing a budget as an honest picture of where your money comes from and where it goes and accomplishing a risk tolerance questionnaire. The first step of most important projects can seem overwhelming, but I promise you once you accomplish the above-mentioned tasks the remaining steps emPOWERing you to financial freedom are less complicated.

Objectives and Goals

Now, I didn’t say the next steps wouldn’t require some thought, but hopefully this step is fun and inspiring. Once you’ve clarified your current financial situation, the next task is to specifically identify what your goals and objectives are for your future. This includes exploring and understanding what your values, lifestyle and attitudes around money are. It’s also your opportunity to put on paper what your dreams are, what your hopes and fears are and what you want your legacy to be. This task is where you get to define your POWER. Embrace it.

Willpower, Discipline and Dedication

This next step can sometimes be the most difficult but you can recruit support. Once your personal plan has been developed, you will need to vow to be disciplined and dedicated to stay on track. Willpower is key and you must pledge to yourself to exercise it. If you are devoted to meet your goals and objectives, you will be successful and realize the POWER you have. 

As with any goal in life (i.e. weight loss or preparing to run ½ marathon), strength and support can be key to ensure you overcome any challenges along the way. This is when having an effective financial advisor can be your most intangible strength. As with any important and long-term relationship, I recommend you choose a financial advisor who understands you, who you trust, who communicates with you in your language, who will cheer you on to meet your goals and who will guide you through the difficult times. In my practice, I devote the first meeting with all prospective clients as a time of introduction and “getting to know” each other. It is very important to me for my clients to trust me and to be comfortable with my style. In turn, I want to be comfortable with my clients and their expectations. I commit to be their advisor and cheerleader and this doesn’t always stop at the door of investments.

Execute the Plan

The next step is to put your plan in play – execute it. This may require completing paperwork and establishing automatic investments or expediting a more aggressive payment plan for your liabilities, i.e. mortgage. Once this step is complete, you are on the road to the financial future you’ve envisioned.

Review Periodically

This final task is one that will be ongoing. Periodic review of your progress enhances the achievement of your goals/objectives. And, with so many things in life, your situation may change and new challenges or opportunities could emerge causing your plan to be revised accordingly. So, make sure you get with your financial advisor and review your plan periodically.

If you need a financial advisor or know someone who would benefit from one, please send them my contact information along with this blog.

1 Harnessing the Power of the Purse: Female Investors and Global Opportunities for Growth, Talentinnovation.org/_private/assets/PopHealthcare_ExecSumm-CTI

Women and Investing: Seize Your Power

I am sure you have thought of a million reasons to keep putting retirement planning on the backburner. But actually, there are 65 trillion reasons for you to seize your power and start planning for your retirement now. Read more about Women and Investing.        

Women and Wealth

Women create, control and influence over $25.4 trillion of wealth in the United States. This equates to 39% of the nation’s estimated $65 trillion investable assets and by 2030 it is estimated that women will control 66% of United States’ wealth.1 Women are an economic source of influence and power. We are not just impacting the growth of wealth, but making important decisions as to how it is allocated.

Considerations for Women

Statistically we know that women live longer than men. This raises unique risks women face during retirement compared to men. The top five are: health care and extended care expenses, outliving assets, losing a spouse’s retirement assets, inflation, and living on a fixed income with less spending power.

Another consideration is that men and women are retiring earlier as well as over 1/3 of women retire just because their spouse does.2 This forces them to dip into their retirement assets earlier and still require it to last a lifetime.

Women also tend to take breaks from their careers to attend to family situations – such as having children or becoming unpaid caregivers to older parents. This decreases contributions to retirement accounts, reduces household income and may even make re-entry into a career challenging.

When it comes to money and finances studies show that women, like men want security, independence, and freedom. But after that, they want more. A Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) research study found that 79 percent of women surveyed in the U.S. “want to invest in organizations that promote social well-being.”      This investment can be done in many different ways, but the result is the same: women want the use of their wealth to match up with their values.

Gain Confidence and Seize Your Power

So, what’s stopping you? Studies show that women in the U.S. are 44% less likely then U.S. men to think they are knowledgeable in finances.1 When actually we are the most financially literate women in the world. This lack of confidence is a big factor in how women invest and how much risk we assume. But this is something that can be addressed with education, guidance and experience.     

How to Start

1.Make a list of your planning goals and objectives – i.e. at what age do you (and your spouse) want to retire, do you want to travel, do you want to leave a legacy to your heirs or an organization

2. Get a good investment professional – Of course there is a lot of information available via the internet, but there can be a lot of value in having an advisor you trust. My recommendation is to interview a couple and choose someone who can support your financial goals and understand your individual situation.

The most important task for you now is to START and Seize Your Power.

1 Harnessing the Power of the Purse: Female Investors and Global Opportunities for Growth, Talentinnovation.org/_private/assets/PopHealthcare_ExecSumm-CTI&nbsp

2 Nationwide Healthcare Costs in Retirement Consumer Study. 2012

Exercising Financial Mindfulness and Its Impact on Your Investments

As a financial planner I practice planning for the future, so incorporating the concept of financial mindfulness might seem counterintuitive but I believe there’s a place for it.

As a reminder, from my Blog, Six Suggested Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress through Mindfulness, I referred to Psychology Today’s definition of mindfulness as “a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Mindfulness means living in the moment”.

So, the question is how do we apply this concept to financial planning? After some research and education, what I learned is that my practice of financial planning actually leads to my clients’ financial mindfulness. Our process allows my clients to make wealth building decisions based on expectations for the long-term gain rather than worrying about short-term loss.

3 Basic Concepts of Mindfulness Applied to Investing

In addition to having a financial plan, financial mindfulness can be enriched by training your mind to make better financial decisions. Below I discuss 3 concepts applied to 3 conditions that can cause problems, whether it be with your financial future or a 3-day vacation to Vegas. I propose that exercising basic concepts of mindfulness can help you avoid such traps.

1. Perspective

We know from my Blog, Behavior Finance: Does Fear and Emotion Drive Financial Behavior, that Prospect Theory and others can lead to irrational investment decisions. Prospect Theory believes that people value gains more positively than they value losses negatively, and therefore make decisions based on these perceptions.

Applying the concept of perspective and looking at the big picture can help with how we view losses in our portfolio values from one day to another. We know that historically the market has made long-term gains despite periods of volatility. A portfolio’s asset allocation determines its exposure to risk factors, how to allocate is one of the most important factors in achieving successful investment results as well as mitigate losses. At Maxima Wealth Management, I spend a significant amount of time analyzing and determining the appropriate asset allocation plan based on your personal risk factor tolerance.      

2. Gratitude

In today’s 24-hour news cycle, constant knowledge of what’s happening in the world – typically negative news – can exacerbate decision making. Making financial decisions while stressed could lead to irrational decisions or no decisions at all.

As your financial adviser, it’s my job to be your filter and keep you focused on what’s important to your plan. Mindfulness teaches us to make a note of what we are grateful for a concept that helps with reducing anxiety and re-focus on our goals. Follow this link and read the six tips to reduce stress.

3. Balance

Short-term needs and long-term goals, how do you do both? Financial goal setting requires that you focus on today so that you can have what you want in the future. Goals will drive your moment by moment decisions and help create your Investment Plan.

Once you have developed and implemented a plan, it is important to review the plan periodically. It makes good sense to review your plan and to reassess your situation at least on an annual basis. This will keep you on track to meet your goals while keeping you focused on your short-term decisions.

I hope now you can agree there’s value in financial mindfulness. Remember keep things in perspective, be grateful and above all, strive for balance, one of the greatest gifts of mindfulness. You are in control and can begin the process of retraining yourself to a state of financial mindfulness.

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Six Suggested Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress through Mindfulness

The holiday season is a time to enjoy special time with family and friends, eat tasty food, show our love and appreciation through gifts and celebrate our faith. However, for some it can be the most stressful time of the year.

My blogs for the month of December address holiday season stress and financial stress through a concept now referred to as Mindfulness. This concept was introduced to me many years ago; however, more recently it was presented to me and I paid attention while attending an Air Force conference. Since the conference, I have worked on utilizing Mindfulness in my own life and I really wanted to share it with my blog readers.

What is Mindfulness?

Psychology Today defines mindfulness as “a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Mindfulness means living in the moment”.

Six Suggested Tips

I offer the following tips that you can apply not only during the holiday season – a time that can be very stressful to some, but also throughout your life. If you are facing times of high anxiety (good or bad) it can be difficult to focus your attention on the present and appreciate everything and everyone. These tips can help you with being mindful.

1. Live in the moment and be present

My experience has shown me that most stress is the result of anxiety about the future or being preoccupied with the past. By just focusing on the present, your mind naturally calms down and your anxiety is reduced. I know at certain times in our lives, especially holiday season, this is not as easy as it sounds. However, every once in a while, if you pledge to yourself to redirect your attention from thinking and pay attention to what is happening at that moment you can begin to retrain yourself to be present.

2. Eat some chocolate and/or go for a short walk

Another tip on your way to mindfulness is a brief walk. Walking is an immediate stress reliever and mood booster. While on your walk take in the sights, appreciate the sounds and smells. Don’t rush it and try to focus on your awareness of your walk.

Chocolate Taste-Wheel

Did you know that chocolate has a wide range of flavors? When you eat it do you take time to really taste the flavors and smell the aromas? At this time of year there are so many different kinds of food to enjoy and it’s so easy to eat too much, too fast and then not even notice all the wonderful flavors. I challenge you to treat yourself to some chocolate. But, eat it and take the time to enjoy it. Try to figure out the flavors. Below is a “chocolate wheel” that shows you the many flavors.

3. On one hand count what you are grateful for

Once a day think of 5 things (1 for each finger, thumb) that you are grateful for. The first 3 or 4 may be easy, but thinking of that last one can sometimes become challenging. This is okay as the exercise is prompting you to be aware and notice the small things in life.

4. Be willing to ask for help

This can be done by simply asking each person coming to your holiday event to bring a dish to share. Or maybe you were assigned to bring cookies to the office potluck. If you don’t have the time to bake them, buy them. These events are more enjoyable if you can take the time to appreciate the festivities and enjoy spending time with family/friends.

5. Be kind and gentle/have compassion – both for yourself and others

The holiday season can trigger a variety of emotions for many people and not all are happy. Unfortunately, the holidays can be reminders of loss, grief or loneliness. It’s important to acknowledge whatever emotions you have versus ignoring them.

Make sure you don’t forget to take care of yourself. Get a good night’s sleep, exercise, relax and have fun. This will help you recharge and be more attentive to others making the holidays more enjoyable for everyone.

6. Balance the “should” with awareness of your own needs and expand how you communicate care

Be careful to recognize your needs and balance them with trying to please everyone’s expectations. It’s great if you enjoy planning the perfect dinner or getting the perfect gift, but make sure to appreciate how it affects you. Don’t forget that you deserve to enjoy the holiday too, but it’s your responsibility to make that happen.

The holiday season for most cultures entails gift-giving. But gift-giving and showing you care can be accomplished in a number of ways. You can explore how you show you care by answering the following questions before buying something:

  1. What are you trying to communicate with the gift?
  2. Are there other ways to show your feelings, i.e. spend quality time, express your feelings directly, or do something nice/supportive?

Above all, remember to be present, no matter how busy you get. You control your own happiness and can begin the process of retraining yourself to a state of mindfulness. Happy Holidays!

My next blog will explore the concept of Financial Mindfulness. Be sure to sign up for an email version of my blogs

14 Ways to Get on Track with Your 2018 Financial Goals

School is back in session; football season is in full swing and while most of Arizona does not experience leaves falling we know we are nearing the end of the year and entering the fall season. What a great time to review that you are on track with your financial goals. This can seem like a daunting task, but I believe that with a checklist anything is achievable.

To simplify this task, I am providing a detailed financial planning checklist. The below guidelines provide additional details on the checklist items.

1.  Maximize Retirement Plan Contributions:

If you have a 401(k) or other retirement plan at work, remember to make your allowable 2018 contributions before year-end. In 2018, you can elect to defer up to $18,500 of your compensation to a 401(k). Those aged 50-plus can defer an extra $6,000 for a total of $24,500. Additionally, some plans allow you to make after tax contributions, up to the IRS limit of $55,000.

2.  Fund Non-Deductible IRAs & Convert to Roth:

Although your income may be too high to make a direct contribution to a Roth IRA, you can fund a Roth IRA by making a non-deductible IRA contribution and immediately converting it to a Roth IRA.

3.  Take Required Minimum Distributions:

If you are 70 ½ you must take your Required Minimum Distribution for 2017. If you have several IRA accounts, you may take the distribution from just one, but the distribution must be calculated on the aggregate of your IRA balances. Please note once an RMD is taken, it is irrevocably distributed (and taxable).

4.  Make Deferred Comp Elections:

If applicable you will need to determine ahead of year-end whether to defer a portion of your 2018 compensation. Benefits of deferring include possible tax savings and the opportunity to grow assets at a potentially higher rate of return. As with any investment decision, it is important to weigh out the benefits of deferring with your liquidity needs, time horizon and lifestyle choices. Additionally, you will be required to decide on a distribution election at the time of selection.

5.  Use up Flexible Saving Account (FSA) Money:

Time is running out to spend down the balance in you FSA plan. The IRS allows you to carry over $500 into next year. Anything above and beyond this amount will be lost. You have until December 31st to submit all claims.

6.  Make Charitable Contributions:

All charitable contributions must be made prior to December 31st to be taken as a deduction on this year’s tax return. If you do intend to make gifts, this should be considered along with a review of your portfolio as you may have highly appreciated stock that can be used for additional leverage on your gift. If you do intend to make a gift for 2018, we encourage you to do so by December 1st.

7.  Complete Annual Exclusion Gifts:

In 2018, you can gift $15,000 person ($30,000 per couple, if the election is made to split gifts) to any individual. You should continue to use this annual exemption to help transfer assets and reduce your taxable estate. Please keep in mind contributions to 529 plans are considered gifts as are premiums paid on life insurance policies owned in an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust. The current lifetime gift exemption is $11,200,000 in 2018 (double from that in 2017).

8.  Fund 529 Plans:

If you plan to contribute to a 529 account this year, be sure to do so by December 31st to take advantage of annual gift exclusions and to qualify for any state tax deductions on your 2018 taxes. If you pay for college directly to the institution, your payment is not considered a gift and there is no limitation on your contributions. (Please remember contributions to 529 plans are considered gifts)

9.  Review Estate Planning Documents:

Maybe you don’t have an estate plan, then now is a good time to get one in place. Without an estate plan, you and your property may end up in a court-supervised guardianship if you become incapacitated, as well as possibly end up in probate court once you die. Perhaps more concerning, if you don’t have a will, the state where you live at the time of your death could essentially create one for you regardless of your desires. If you do have an estate plan in place, it is a good time to review with your attorney in case anything has changed.

10. Review Beneficiary Designations/Communicate with Beneficiaries:

Year-end is a good time to review and update all of your beneficiary designations for your retirement accounts and life insurance policies.

11. Analyze Taxable Accounts for Tax-Loss Harvesting Opportunities:

There may be opportunities in your portfolio to sell out of a down position to book the tax loss. These losses can be used to offset up to $3,000 of ordinary income each year as well as an unlimited amount of capital gains. These losses can also be carried forward to future tax years. When using this strategy, make sure you do not violate the “wash sale” tax rules.

12. Consider Roth IRA Conversion:

Anyone, regardless of income, is now eligible to convert a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. The Roth IRA carries significant income tax advantages for both you and your beneficiaries, especially if the conversion is done with reduced asset levels. Please consult with your accountant to discuss potential taxes that could be owed in the same year as the Roth conversion.

13. Review Income Tax Projections:

Year-end is a good time to meet with your accountant to review projections for the year and determine your expected tax status. Consider the following reasons why you may want to review your tax plan now: your living situation may have changed, you want to start saving money now, you still have time to qualify for 2018 tax deductions and credits. Please be sure to consult with your accountant on this.

14. Request Annual Credit Report:

We recommend that you review a full credit report annually to make sure there are no surprises. You are allowed one free copy of your credit report each year. To request, go to https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action. For those of you who have not done so already, you may want to consider signing up for a Credit Monitoring service.

This checklist is just one step in ensuring you on track with your financial goals. It is also important to take this time to meet with your financial adviser for a quarterly/year-end financial plan review.

Need help? I would love to speak with you about your personal financial plan. Please request a consultation!

Financial Spring Cleaning – Shred, Go Paperless, Credit Report, Budget, Insurance, and Beneficiaries

The other day a friend of mine posted that she was doing some “spring cleaning” in the dead-heat of the summer. Here in Arizona, and many places around the country these days, the best time to do some cleaning is when you are forced to “hibernate” due to the unbearable heat.

This got me thinking. What a great time to invest some time into Financial Spring Cleaning. The following is a list of tasks you can easily do during the dead-heat of the summer and help you prepare for a more clutter-free fall.

1.Shred Old Financial Paperwork

It’s important to know what to purge and how long to keep the other stuff

  • Copies of tax returns – it is actually recommended to keep these forever. Perhaps you can scan them or store electronically
  • Supporting tax documents/receipts – IRS says to keep as long as you are subject for audit – 6 years a good rule of thumb
  • Documents to support an insurance claim – inquire with your insurance agent for timeframe

2.Go paperless and back it up

It is my recommendation to ensure all your account statements are accessible online before throwing anything away (i.e. bank statements). Any electronic records you do maintain, ensure you back them up on a separate hard drive or cloud storage. It’s also good to have backups to your backups. You can subscribe to a back-up service that will automatically copy the contents on our computer to a secure cloud storage.

3.Review your credit report

Go to – annualcreditreport.com. It has been reported that as much as 70% of your report contains errors. These errors could be negatively impacting your ability to get a low interest rate.

4.Financial Budget

Review your budget and set up automatic bill pay – make sure you include paying yourself first. This is a great time to meet with your financial advisor. A review of your budget and credit report can be a good exercise to ensure you are still on track with meeting your retirement goals.

5.Insurance

Inventory all your insurance policies – home, auto, life, long-term care, and disability. Perhaps your home value has increased and your current policy doesn’t support the current value. You should also create a photographic inventory of the items in your house. This is necessary and helpful if you should ever need to file a claim.

6.Beneficiaries

Review the beneficiaries on all your accounts and estate planning documents (will, trust). It’s important to review these items to ensure they are consistent, i.e. IRA beneficiary and your will. Make sure your ex-spouse isn’t on your IRA, but your current spouse is identified in your will. Unfortunately, these oversights are seen a lot and can really create unnecessary hardships.

Conclusion

These items may not seem urgent and so it can be easy to procrastinate. However, just as with house spring cleaning the impact of delaying can create a house of chaos and can have significant results. Don’t let that happen to you. Take the dead-heat of summer and organize your financial house.

Need help? I would love to speak with you about your financial spring cleaning. Please request a consultation!

Ways to Fund a College Education – Using student loans, scholarships or college investments (529 Plan)

Summer is quickly coming to an end with school just around the corner. It is never too early to plan for college which includes the big question – how to pay?

Did you know that student loan debt is the second largest type of consumer debt (with mortgages being number one)? About one in nine people have a student loan with an approximate total of 1.3 trillion dollars. Knowing these statistics and working with parents and their kids as they prepare to pay for what can seem like a challenging and overwhelming feat drove me to want to write this blog in my series of Educating Kids About Money. In this final addition, I address the different ways to fund a college education, the idea of deciding which school or what kind of education, and whether school now or later.

Please see my other blogs on children and money here:

GOOD FINANCIAL HABITS: How and when to talk to kids about money

TEACHING CHILDREN ABOUT MONEY: Activities for preschoolers, middle childhood, and teenagers

As I’ve suggested in previous blogs and outlined on my website, there are 5 essential planning steps that can be applied as you help your child in this process. Keep in mind, as with all plans, the earlier you start the better; however, regardless of the timing you need to start! Having a plan can prevent any possible anxiety you and your child may experience just thinking of this subject.

Ways to Fund College Step 1: Assess the situation.

Ask your teenager to describe their goals after high-school. Do they want to go to college, join the military or peace corps, attend a technical school, go on a mission or maybe they are eligible for an internship?  This is a discussion that is best to have as soon as possible so proper planning can occur. Of course, keep in mind your child has every right to change their mind, but just starting the process gets you both thinking.

Ways to Fund College Step 2: Develop a plan.

Determine amount needed to meet their goal. Your financial advisor can assist with calculating as well as numerous tools available online. I like the resources available on Savingforcollege.com. Once you know the amount needed, you and your financial advisor can develop a plan. Again, it’s helpful to start this early so if any preparation required can occur – i.e. as a freshman your child can ensure they are taking the courses required to make them competitive for certain scholarships.

Ways to Fund College Step 3: Identify the tools you can use to meet their goal.

These tools include student loans, scholarships or college investments (529 Plan). This is the step that should be started as soon as possible. Meeting with your Financial Advisor can help before your child is out of pre-school. Check out a couple of these websites:

https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/

Savingforcollege.com

http://www.militaryspot.com/news/pros-and-cons-about-going-military-after-high-school

Ways to Fund College Step 4: Implement the tools that best meet your needs.

Most likely it will be a combination of tools available. If you are properly prepared you may be able to keep your loans at a minimum. The most important aspect is to clearly understand how your tools work. Please reach out to your Financial Advisor and School Guidance Counselor for assistance.

Ways to Fund College Step 5: Finalize the plan and review it often to ensure you and your teenage are on track throughout the year.

Once you and your teenage have a plan, review it quarterly or at least semi-annually (end of each semester) to ensure you are on track. This will help with investments as well as if your child needs to meet any application deadlines for scholarships. It will also keep your child enrolled in the best courses.

If you’re unsure as to where to begin, or you would like to create a financial plan including education planning, consider requesting a consultation with me.

TEACHING CHILDREN ABOUT MONEY: Activities for preschoolers, middle childhood, and teenagers

*Please see my first blog in this series:

GOOD FINANCIAL HABITS: How and When to Talk to Kids About Money

I bet at this time you are well into the ‘heat’ of the summer. Perhaps your kids are telling you, “I’m bored” or “what can I do; there’s nothing to do”. The following blog in my series about kids and money will give you some fun activities by age group to teach your kids various money concepts. These activities will help establish a life-long skill – financial literacy – without feeling like they are at school.

It’s important to remember that children grow and develop at different rates. So, please use this as a general guide. Choose the activities you feel are best given your child’s personal development.

Teaching Preschoolers About Money: Ages 3 to 5

From the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it is known that this is the time when children are learning to stay focused, planning, following directions, completing tasks and solving problems. This is also good time to teach patience with regard to money and the idea that you don’t get something right away. These lessons may be simple but long-lasting and beneficial forming important habits and financial foundations.

Money Activities:

  1. Provide a good mix of coins. Practice with your child sorting the coins by type, separating in different stacks. Count how many coins in each stack.
  2. Introduce the different types of coins, practicing their name and value – a different coin each day of the week
  3. Teach patience – offer your child a snack now (i.e. one cookie) or explain that in 15 minutes she could get a snack and a drink (i.e. cookie and milk). Encourage her to wait and be patient so she can get the drink with a treat.
  4. Practice charity – have your child select a toy they would like to give to a child who does not have any toys
  5. Play restaurant using the coins they have been learning; create a menu and let your child order and then pay with the coins
  6. Invest in a “piggy bank”, a clear glass one is best so your child can see the amount increase; encourage your child to put any coins they get in their piggy bank

Teaching Middle Childhood Kids about Money: Ages 6 to 12

This is the time when children begin noticing their family behaviors around money. It is also the time that other children will start influencing your child through peer pressure; however, parents have the strongest impact when it comes to financial attitudes. Use this as a good time to create productive habits that will shape how they save, earn and shop.

Allowance vs no allowance. Some experts recommend starting an allowance based on doing small jobs or daily/weekly chores. Don’t give them money for doing nothing, they need to understand that money is something earned. And, then there are experts who don’t agree with paying your child for doing something. They believe that allowance is a tool to teach how to manage money. Check out the link below for more information on the concept of allowances.

https://www.learnvest.com/2011/10/an-answer-for-every-allowance-question

Money Activities:

  1. Use coins to add up to a certain dollar amount – learn there are different combinations available
  2. Put dollar values on plastic cups and have child put correct amount in the cup
  3. Use set of die to learn values of coins/dollars
  4. Assign a coin (or dollar) value to each item that makes up a snowman (i.e. 5 for hat, 2 for eyes) and have your child build a snowman and show you the cost
  5. Have a conversation about what you can buy with a certain dollar amount
  6. Plan a family meal and take your child on a virtual shopping trip – walmart.com, amazon.com
  7. Have your child research different items they would like to buy and make shopping lists – where to buy, what to buy – this teaches the importance of comparison shopping and need vs. wants
  8. Let them watch you pay the monthly bills. This is a good opportunity to teach them the cost of different household items. Its also a good time to talk about debit and credit cards. They’ve already noticed you using them, so might as well explain how they work and the differences.
  9. During this period, I also recommend taking your child to your bank and open a savings account for them. You’ll want to use the money they’ve been able to save at home. Help them continue to save with their allowance and ask them how much they’ve saved. This will encourage them to save and give them confidence as it grows.

Teaching Teenagers About Money: Ages 13 to 18

So much growth can happen during this time frame. This is when your teen will have a chance to make financial choices, realize consequences and then consider if they would make the same decision next time. It is the period in their life when financial habits and standards are strengthened. It is also the time that your teen is granted more freedom so that when it’s time to move out or leave for college, he or she is able to make their own financial decisions. Take this time to prepare your teen for the financial responsibilities they will soon experience.

Money Activities:

  1. Open a checking account – practice balancing a checkbook
  2. Create a budget
  3. Calculate expenses of buying/owning a car
  4. Plan the dream prom – what to wear, where to eat
  5. Pick a publicly traded company and track its stock performance for a specific period of time
  6. Practice with a certain monthly income and expenses – how does your teen spend the income
  7. Start a conversation about their future and research costs/income opportunities– What does it look like? Will they live in an apartment or house? What kind of car with they drive? Do they have pets? What salary will they make?
  8. Compare college prices
  9. Get a summer job

GET THE MONEY CONVERSATION STARTED

You don’t have to be an expert in finance with a perfect track record to teach your child financial basics. Take this time to get the conversation started and be a positive role model. It may even help you organize your own finances and get you back on the pathway to the financial future you want.

GOOD FINANCIAL HABITS: How and When to Talk to Kids About Money

By now summer vacation has started for most kids and you might be trying to make sure you have plenty of activities planned to keep them busy. Feel free to refer to my upcoming 3 blogs as not only a good summer activity, but also the establishment of a life-long skill: financial literacy and your children.

As a Financial Planner, I often notice that families may not have considered setting good money habits with their children, for one reason or another. However, it’s never too late to start!

Teaching Children Money Issues

As a parent I am sure you spend quality time teaching your child life skills that will help them as they grow into independent, responsible, and respectable adults. Maybe you taught them the importance of treating people how they’d like to be treated or perhaps you taught them to change a tire or even cook. But have you spent any time with them discussing the wide range of money issues, from everyday skills as balancing a checking account to long-term planning for retirement?

Based on the 2018 T. Rowe Price survey, 10th Annual Parents, Kids and Money Survey, 66% of parents have some reluctance to discuss money with their kids. This could be because it is difficult to know what age to start teaching and how best to do it. Every child learns at different rates, but the following is a basic timeline of what and when money topics can be addressed. Also, I will delve more into each age group in my next blog.

Good Financial Habits for Elementary School-Age

  • Ensure there is an understanding of needs and wants
  • Explain how money is earned/acquired
  • Show what household items cost
  • Make them responsible for buying something small (i.e. a favorite snack)
  • Set up an allowance/commission
  • Have them establish a small savings goals (i.e. a toy or flowers for mom/dad)
  • Open a savings account
  • Teach them about the different types of payment methods (i.e. cash, check, credit, debit)

Good Financial Habits for Middle School-Age

  • Make them responsible for some daily expenses (i.e. snacks)
  • Show them how to comparison shop
  • Teach them about advertising and making wise purchases
  • Teach them about savings accounts and earning interest
  • Have them watch you pay monthly bills and explain
  • Introduce investment basics (i.e. what is stock)

Good Financial Habits for High School-Age

  • Make them responsible for most daily expenses and entertainment (i.e. hobby, school clothes, portion of cell phone bill, bus money, some car expenses)
  • Assist them in finding a part-time or summer job (i.e. resume, job search)
  • Teach them about paychecks (i.e. taxes, W-4 form)
  • Open a checking account with a debit card
  • Teach them banking basics (i.e. balancing an account, ATMs, online banking)
  • Introduce credit basics (i.e. credit cards, loans, credit scores)
  • Discuss college costs (i.e. community college vs 4-year university, student loans, scholarships)
  • Interact with stock market – create a list of stocks and track their progress

Take time to teach your children

Money can be an exciting topic and kids want to learn how to earn, spend and save. Keep in mind that positive financial skills are the result of responsible habits. The more you make time to teach your kids and take advantage of teachable moments the easier it will be for your child to become a financially responsible adult.

Stay tuned for the next blogs in the series.

I have a passion for helping families set good, positive examples of how to spend money, how to earn money, and how to save money. All in a responsible manner.

Take a Vacation! 5 Steps to Plan your Vacation Fun and Budget

Now that your taxes are complete, you may feel you are ready for a vacation. Well, it’s actually a good time to start planning if you want a summer getaway.

Vacation budgets mean less stress

Too many people wait to start planning their vacation. Planning without a budget can cause higher costs, more stress, and an overall disappointing experience. If you can start your planning sooner rather than later you will ensure a fun, relaxing retreat.

Below are five categories or steps I recommend considering when planning for a vacation. They don’t necessarily need to be completed in any specific order; however, answers to certain questions may have an impact on your overall plan.

Step One -Vacation Buddies

First, who will be joining you on this getaway? I think this is the most important task. Determine who you will be vacationing with – significant other, kids, college friends, extended family or a mixture. Understanding this will guide you through the other steps in the planning process.

Step Two – What Kind of Vacation?

Second, what are you going to do? What do you want out of your vacation? Perhaps you want to take a “big” trip or maybe several “mini-vacas” makes more sense. You may even decide to do a local vacation, also known as a “staycation”.

Step Three – Where to Go?

Third, specifically where do you want to go? Perhaps it’s a country, city or an event. The answer to this question may lead to additional questions, such as what activities do you want to do. Perhaps you want to travel to a country and go on a long, planned hike or maybe you would prefer going to the coast and lay on the beach.

Step Four – Vacation Time and Accommodations

Fourth, when do you want to travel and for how many days? This is important do determine so you can get a jump on the last question addressing travel and accommodations. It can also prompt you to research the expected weather for the area you want to travel as well as special events/festivities that may be occurring during the time of your vacation.

Step Five – Vacation Budget or Fund

And fifth, how? How much are you willing to spend? How are you going to get to your chosen location? If you are spending the night, what are your accommodations going to be? It’s never too soon to start a “vacation fund”. Create a budget and figure out how much you need to contribute each month to have that amount ready before the vacation date arrives.

Travel and accommodations are the biggest items to address and the sooner you start researching for the best deals the better. Keep in mind you may be able to utilize mile rewards versus paying cash but remember the number of points needed is based on the dollar value of the ticket and ticket prices can go up as the plane fills, so booking early is important.

Conclusion

We all hope vacations are about relaxing and enjoying special time with family and friends. I want you to return from your vacation well rested, with great memories and less stress. Plan today so your retreat tomorrow is exactly how want it to be.

If you’re unsure as to where to begin, or you have not created a financial plan with vacations budgeted into your plan, consider requesting a consultation with me for productive savings ideas and assistance with getting started.