Financial Planning

Estate Planning Documents Every Single Woman Needs

Estate planning documents for single women

Estate planning is an essential part of anyone’s financial plan. I’ll explain in this article why it’s critical for single women.

If you don’t have a proper plan in place, your state’s laws will dictate who receives the assets under your estate. State laws usually designate beneficiaries in this order: spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins. If you have children and die without a will, the state will decide who the guardian will be. This is all true even if you’re in a relationship without being legally married. 

Suppose you’re hoping to designate your possessions to a significant other, extended relatives, close friends, or charitable organizations. In that case, it’s critical to put together an estate plan. And more importantly, to appoint a person for your children’s guardianship, creating a will is a crucial step. Thankfully, this is easier than it sounds. The following is a list of primary estate planning documents and their purpose: 

Will or living revocable trust

Although these titles are often used interchangeably, wills and living trusts are two different documents. The most significant difference: both transfer an estate to designated heirs, but only trusts skip over the probate court. Plus, a will lays out your wishes for after you die while a living revocable trust becomes effective immediately and can be revised anytime while you are living. 

Suppose you are a woman with significant assets. In that case, a revocable living trust will keep your assets away from court-supervised distribution. If you have a more modest estate, a will may suffice.

A living revocable trust also helps your beneficiaries avoid the hassle and expense of a lengthy probate process. Living revocable trusts have benefits, but they cost more to create and require management. The choice between a will and a living trust is a personal one. Whichever path you take, it’s always a good idea to seek the advice of professional advisors. 

Healthcare proxy/durable medical power of attorney

As the name suggests, this type of power of attorney deals strictly with your health care decisions and medical treatments. With your healthcare proxy document, you’ll appoint an agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you’re incapable of making them on your own. This is an important responsibility, and it’s essential to choose someone you trust and be transparent with them on the specifics of your wishes. 

The financial power of attorney

While the medical power of attorney or healthcare proxy deals with health specifics, the financial power of attorney deals with financial matters. Your financial power of attorney document grants another individual the power to make financial decisions for you while you are alive but not capable of handling things yourself.

Your power of attorney is your legal representative for financial matters. Should you be hospitalized or incapacitated, they’ll handle financial tasks, like managing your bank accounts and paying your bills from a designated account. You can choose to designate a power of attorney that is effective immediately or kicks in after a specific event occurs (ex. coma, Alzheimer’s, mental disability, or an inability to communicate your wishes directly). 

The Challenge Of Naming Representatives

It is one thing to get the will, living trust, financial and healthcare powers of attorney created. The other challenge is to decide who will be your legal representatives. Married couples usually name each other, but being single, you need to decide who will handle your affairs and find out if they are willing to do it. If you have a will, you will need an executor, and if you have a living trust, you will need a successor trustee. Then you will need to choose your powers of attorney for health and finances. Most people choose from personal relationships, but it’s also possible to hire professionals for these roles. As you are preparing to start your estate planning, besides organizing your financial assets, it’s just as important to decide who will represent you.

If you’re a single woman and want to talk about your estate plan with a trusted financial planner, please connect with us. We are here to help.

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Single and Thinking About Retirement? Five Tips to Help You Get There

Single Women Retirement Planning
Single Women Retirement Planning

Most of us dream about the day that we can take a break. We envision a full, long-lasting retirement that is free of financial worries and packed with more of the things we enjoy spending our time on. Whether you’re planning to retire at the traditional age of 65 or you’re aiming to get there earlier, being single doesn’t have to slow you down.

Use your unique strengths to your advantage, and plan for a retirement filled with time spent with friends and family, giving back, reading books, traveling, and everything else you enjoy. If you’re thinking ahead to your retirement, but you’re not sure where to start, here are a few tips that will help you get there:

Revisit your spending and saving

The start of your retirement planning is a great time to check in with your spending or looking at it in reverse, at your savings rate. Could you be saving more money? Are you spending on things that aren’t important to you? Are you wasting money anywhere, such as trial subscriptions you forgot to cancel that are now costing you money annually? Paying for a high-priced gym that you rarely use? Highlight anything you think can be cut out or reduced. Savings gives you freedom and it’s something you have control over, more than your investment returns or even your income.  Then, use Vanguard’s handy retirement calculator to compare your current monthly income to what you’ll need in retirement. 

Make small changes

Now that you’ve revisited your spending vs savings rate and identified areas that could use improvement, start making small, incremental changes. Save takeout or restaurant meals for weekends; make coffee at home instead of suffering through long drive-thru lines; cancel unused services or subscriptions. Discretionary items like these add up quickly to cost us thousands each year. Aim for improvement, not deprivation and watch your savings grow. Cutting out all discretionary spending isn’t sustainable long-term. Choose the changes and budget cuts that make the most sense to you and your goals.

Max out your savings

Reallocate the funds from your discretionary budget cuts to your retirement accounts or investment accounts. While opting for easy alternatives may have been eating up all of your extra cash, maxing out your savings opportunities will make you extra cash. When it comes to saving for retirement, compound interest is your best friend. Start spending time with her as soon as you can.

Diversify

Any personal finance expert will tell you that it’s not enough to match your employer’s contributions (or fully fund your Solo 401(k) if you’re self-employed). Investing outside of your retirement account in mutual funds, ETFs, or individual stocks can help you create additional streams of income when you’re settling comfortably into your retirement.

Work a little longer than you think you can stand

While you are working your salary funds your expenses. When you stop working you are going to rely on other income sources: social security, maybe a pension, and withdrawals from your retirement and investment accounts. If your retirement projections are at all iffy – meaning, it seems your money may not last through your retirement years, it pays to stay employed. Most people want to maintain their standard of living in retirement not have to reduce it. Staying employed and savings as much as you can in those last years of working is one way to get you closer to your goal.

No one-size-fits-all plan for retirement

There’s no one-size-fits-all plan for retirement. But if your end goal is a retirement free of financial worries, there are plenty of actionable steps you can take now to set your future self up for success. A lack of financial stress helps us better connect with the people we love, sleep better, stay healthy, and enjoy both the destination and the journey. Employ financial strategies that will help you move consistently toward your goals.  

If you need a retirement plan and want to work with a trusted financial partner, we encourage you to explore our services and schedule an introductory phone call.

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Selfcare, Learning And Trying New Things During The Age Of COVID And Black Lives Matter

Photo by Madison Lavern, Unsplash

As our usual routines and habits get upended and disrupted due to COVID, we have had to find new ones to replace them. The way we dress, eat meals, get exercise, socialize, work, and play has changed. I have discovered new ways to practice self-care. I renewed my interest in more in-depth learning, particularly about Black history as the Black Lives Matter movement has taken center-stage along with COVID. I am attempting something new, a podcast – challenging me in so many ways, personally and professionally. 

SELF-CARE

Instead of going to the gym, I exercise either by taking long walks outdoors or via Zoom classes. Surprisingly, I feel fitter than pre-COVID due to my new routine. I found an instructor I love on a website called “Daily Om,” Sarah Rector. She expertly leads classes to tone different parts of the body: the inner thighs, abs, legs, arms, and shoulders. Daily Om’s courses are pre-recorded. I also discovered a live-streamed Yoga class taught by Sarana Miller, a calm yogini who has a wide following. Because the yoga class is live, it offers a sense of community lacking with pre-recorded courses. Yoga is an excellent antidote to anxiety and hunched-over-the-keyboard bodies.

LEARNING

The Black Lives Matter movement has motivated me to learn more about Black History and examine my own thinking and behavior about race. I am a big fan of Audible, and I have listened to “How To Be An Antiracist,” “I’m Still Here,” and “So You Want To Talk About Race.” Next on my listening list, “The Warmth Of Other Suns.” I have also watched the documentaries/movies “I Am Not Your Negro”, “13th,” and “The Help.” These books and movies at times make me cringe and make me wonder why change in matters of racial justice is so slow. I know I want to be part of the solution.

TRYING SOMETHING NEW

Podcasts seem to be more popular than ever, and new ones keep sprouting up. I’m very excited about the debut of Michele Obama’s podcast, “Higher Ground,” on July 29, 2020. I won’t miss an episode of Brene Brown’s podcast, “Unlocking Us.” Brene shares her wisdom about emotional awareness and interviews soulful people (including many of the authors of the books I noted above). 

I decided to start my own podcast, “Financial Finesse,” about two months ago. My plan is to interview women about their money and their lives and how they intertwine. It’s a learning curve, but one that I am thoroughly enjoying. In my latest episode, “Young Women, Money and Black Lives Matter,” I interview four women of color. The women were my students during a Personal Finance class I taught last summer. I know you will find their money stories inspiring and educational, particularly about the different challenges POC face when it comes to money and credit.

Trying new things like this podcast has made shelter-in-place more bearable as it expands my skills and creates community. 

I hope that you are finding ways to grow and expand during these challenging times. 

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Emotionally Charged Money: Inheritance

Image: money from heaven

Image: money from heavenYou may be one of the many Baby Boomers or  Gen-Xers who have received an inheritance or will in the future. Studies predict that the wealth transfer from the “Greatest Generation” to their heirs will total in the trillions. If you are or will be a beneficiary, it pays to prepare yourself, as no money is more emotionally charged than inherited money.

There can be several reasons why emotional thinking can outweigh rational thoughts when it comes to inheritance. If you received it from your parents, you may recall how hard they worked for it. Your dad toiled at the office and your mom took care of the home and kids. You remember how they rarely relaxed or took a vacation, because they wanted to create a good life for you and not be a burden to you in their old age.  You may feel unworthy of their largesse.

Or, an inheritance can create a rift between you and your friends or family who aren’t as fortunate. You may feel guilty about your new change in financial status. You may also feel shame about how other people, in general, have so much less than you.

My clients who have received inheritances talk about feeling anxious, relieved, worried, happy, sad, guilty, and elated. These are natural reactions and to be expected. Problems arise when emotions dictate how you spend, invest, and save the funds.

Tips for Managing an Inheritance

Take a moment to absorb some of these ideas to prepare yourself and handle this potentially life-changing event:

  • Talk to a trusted professional about your feelings about the inheritance. Process them as much as possible before taking any action.
  • Make a list of things/experiences you want to buy and be careful not to overspend.
  • Create a plan for charitable giving and learn about giving vehicles such as donor-advised funds.
  • Carefully way out the pros and cons of lending family or friends money.
  • Develop a plan for investing the funds so as to earn a good return.
  • Do some financial planning. This windfall may be just what you needed to fund your retirement.
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Updated for 2020: Triple Tax Savings For You: Health Savings Plan (HSAs) Explained

Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

If you don’t know about Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s) and are eligible to open one, you’re missing out on an excellent savings vehicle with fantastic tax benefits.

What is an HSA?

An HSA is a tax-exempt trust or custodial account established with a bank, insurance company or other IRS-approved entity. They are triple tax-advantaged – contributions are pre-tax/tax-deductible, earnings grow tax-free, and withdrawals are tax-free if used for qualified medical expenses. Hence, the triple tax savings.

These accounts are for medical expenses, but you don’t have to use up the balance during the year. Unused balances roll over from year to year, and you can invest the money for growth. For people who have adequate cash flow, low to average health care costs, and pay high taxes – the best way to use HSA’s is as a long-term savings account for medical expenses in retirement when healthcare costs tend to go up. In this case, you will benefit most from opening an HSA that has good investment options – low-cost ETF’s and mutual funds and take full advantage of compounding growth of your funds.

For those who are on a tighter budget, HSA’s are a great tool for lowering the cost of your medical costs through tax-saving. HSA funds can also be accessed when an emergency hits -such as with a sudden job loss or healthcare crisis as with COVID-19.

Eligibility

You must be an “eligible individual” to qualify for an HSA, which means that:

  • You must have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). The IRS definition of a “high-deductible” plan in 2020 is a policy with a deductible of at least $1,400 per individual or $2,800 for a family, and whose out-of-pocket maximum is at most $6,900 per individual and or $13,800 per family.You can enroll in a high-deductible health plan through your employer, or on your own as an employee or a self-employed individual.There can be advantages to joining your employer’s plan: if the HSA is part of a Section 125 cafeteria plan and administered by a payroll deduction, the contributions will not only be Federal tax-free, they will be free of FICA taxes as well – an additional tax savings of 7.65%.Your employer may make contributions on your behalf that aren’t counted against your maximum contribution and are exempt from FICA taxes as well. Self-employed individuals do not avoid FICA taxes with their contributions to an HSA. Each State taxes HSA’s differently. For example, California prohibits a state tax deduction for an HSA contribution.
  • You cannot have other health-care coverage except what the IRS considers permissible coverage, for example, plans with limited coverage, such as dental or vision plans.
  • You can’t be a Medicare recipient. Some people who are still working at age 65 delay Medicare so they can continue contributing to an HSA -this could be a good strategy for certain individuals.
  • You can’t be a dependent on someone else’s income tax return.

Contribution Limits for 2020

If you qualify, you can contribute as much as $3,550 to an HSA in 2020 if you have individual health coverage, or $7,100 if you have a family health plan. Moreover, if you’re 55 or older, you can contribute an additional $1,000 as a catch-up contribution. Contribution amounts can be flexible and can be made any time during the year up to the tax-filing deadline in April of the next year. For, 2020 the deadline for contributions has been extended until July 15th.

The money in your HSA remains available for future qualified medical expenses even if you change health insurance plans, change employers or retire. Funds left in your account continue to grow tax-free.

What medical expenses are eligible?

You would use your HSA funds for health expenses that aren’t covered by your traditional health insurance, and many are eligible*, for example:

  • Acupuncture
  • Alcoholism treatment
  • Ambulance services
  • Chiropractors
  • Contact lens supplies
  • Dental treatments
  • Diagnostic services
  • Doctor’s fees
  • Eye exams, glasses, and surgery
  • Fertility services
  • Guide dogs
  • Hearing aids and batteries
  • Hospital services
  • Insulin
  • Lab fees
  • Prescription medications
  • Over the counter medicines and supplies*
  • Menstrual care products*
  • Nursing services
  • Surgery
  • Psychiatric care
  • Telephone equipment for the visually or hearing impaired
  • Therapy or counseling
  • Wheelchairs
  • X-rays

*New with the passage of the CARES Act in March 2020.

Whether you have a self-only or a family health insurance policy, HSA money may be spent on medical expenses for you, your spouse and current tax dependents.

You can’t pay medical insurance premiums out of your HSA. However, HSAs can pay for premiums for long-term care insurance (subject to certain limits); health-care continuation coverage (e.g. COBRA); health-care coverage while receiving federal or state unemployment compensation; and Medicare parts A, B, D, Medicare HMO, and Medicare Advantage Plan premiums, if you’re at least 65. HSA’s cannot be used to cover Medigap premiums.  

Penalties for Non-Compliance

The penalty for taking a non-qualified withdrawal from an HSA is high – you must pay taxes on it plus a 20% penalty if you are under age 65.  So the triple-tax benefit is broken. If you are over 65, there is no penalty on non-qualified withdrawals, but taxes apply in the year of the withdrawal. 

Mechanics of Opening An Account and Using It

You must have an HDHP before you can sign up for a Health Savings Account. Besides working with your employer’s option if you are an employee, many institutions offer HSA’s including insurance companies, banks, or credit unions. You can search the internet for HSA providers.

Depending on the HSA, reimbursements are made by check, ACH transfer, or ATM withdrawal. Good recordkeeping is critical because there are no time restrictions or deadlines for when you can reimburse yourself from the account. You have to keep your receipts to document the date of purchase and also as proof the expense is qualified.  Medical expenses you incurred before the HSA was open aren’t eligible.

Fees

Some HSAs charge monthly maintenance or per-transaction fees, which vary by institution. Some providers waive the fees if you maintain a certain minimum balance. So, it pays to shop around.

What happens to your HSA when you die?

If you designate someone other than a spouse as a beneficiary, the fair market value of the account on the date of death is taxable to the recipient in the year of your death.  If your beneficiary is your spouse, he/she can use the HSA are their own. If you die without a designated beneficiary, the value goes into your estate and is includable on your final tax return.

As you can see, there are many benefits to HSA’s, here are a few more that are unique to this savings vehicle:

  • There are no maximum income thresholds that you can disqualify you from opening an HSA.
  • There are no Required Minimum Distributions (RMD’s).
  • You can be unemployed and contribute to an HSA.

I think you can agree that if you can afford to pay your uncovered medical expenses out of pocket now, and can fully fund your HSA every year invested for growth, you will have a nice nest-egg for health expenses when you are no longer working.

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The CARES Act Reviewed: Part III Expanded Unemployment Benefits

Photo Credit: Annie Spratt, Unsplash

MILLIONS OF PEOPLE ARE OUT OF WORK

With millions of people out of work due to the Coronavirus, the CARES Act provides much-needed relief in the form of expanded unemployment benefits. It covers workers previously ineligible for benefits, including self-employed, part-time workers, gig workers, freelancers, and independent contractors. It also helps those who have recently exhausted their weeks of benefits and those who haven’t earned enough to qualify for state unemployment. And, it offers benefits to those who are personally affected by the virus due to being ill themselves or being a caretaker to a family member who is sick and many more.

A new program of this size and scope will take a lot of time to get set up and it’s challenging to get the most up-to-date and accurate information. For people who are applying for benefits, the wait-times are long, and state websites are crashing. And there are stories that some workers won’t get the full benefit due to not being able to document their income fully. But it will help many people.

DETAILS
Here are details that I have been able to glean so far:

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation

This is an addition to regular state unemployment checks.
Those who have lost their jobs will get whatever their state usually provides for unemployment, plus $600 per week for up to July 31.

Federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation:

People who have exhausted their regular State benefits (which max-out at 26 weeks in California), could get up to 13 more weeks, for a total of 39 weeks.

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

For newly eligible workers.
The program will provide temporary unemployment assistance to the self-employed and people unable to work for many reasons due to the COVID-19 emergency, for example, people who have contracted the virus, caretakers, people who can’t work because of quarantines, or the person’s place of business has closed. This program does not require a person to actively seek work to receive benefits like most state programs. The benefits are available for the duration of the covered person’s inability to work, beginning retroactively to January 27, 2020, and ending on December 31, 2020, up to a maximum of 39 weeks. These benefits will be no less than $600 a week.

Federal Incentives to Create Short-Time Compensation Programs

The Federal Government will fund 100% of the costs for states that currently have an STC program (California has one) and 50% for those states that choose to implement one through December 2020. These programs are also known as work-sharing or shared-work programs and are an alternative to layoffs for employers experiencing a reduction in available work.

Note: This bill leaves out those workers who are able to work from home, and those receiving paid sick leave or paid family leave. New entrants to the workforce who cannot find jobs would also be ineligible.

Here are some additional resources:

If you missed Part II: Retirement Account Provisions, go here

Next up: The CARES ACT and Small-Business Provisions

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CARES Act Review Part II: Retirement Account Provisions

Photo Credit: Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash

There are several retirement account provisions in the CARES ACT meant to reduce your tax liability or help with current cash flow or both. Here are the details:

1. RMD-REQUIRED MINIMUM DISTRIBUTIONS

You don’t have to take your RMD (Required Minimum Distribution) for 2020, whether it be from an IRA (regular, Simple, SEP), inherited IRA, 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans or 457(b) plans.

PLANNING TIP: If you already withdrew your RMD for 2020, and the withdrawal has been within 60 days, you can redeposit it to your account and avoid tax. If a distribution was taken more than 60 days ago and you can qualify for the coronavirus-related distribution (described below) you can redeposit it and avoid tax. Note: Non-spouse inherited IRA beneficiaries cannot redeposit the withdrawal. 

2CORONAVIRUS DISTRIBUTIONS FROM RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS  – new more tax-friendly rules 

For 2020, the 10% penalty will be waived for taking an early distribution from your IRA or employer plan. Previously, distributions before the age of 59 1/2 incurred a 10% penalty in addition to tax owed (with a few hardship withdrawal exceptions).

  • The distribution can be up to $100,000
  • It must be taken in 2020
  • The income is spread over 3 years for tax purposes unless you proactively elect to include it all in 2020
  • Beginning on the day after receipt of a Coronavirus-related distribution, an individual has up to three years to repay the amount as qualified rollover distribution (in one or multiple payments). Any distribution going back to January 1, 2020 qualifies

PLANNING TIP:  If you elect to take a distribution, it may be beneficial to include the entire distribution in 2020 if you expect your income to significantly decline in 2020 and be higher in future years).​​​​​​

PLANNING TIP: In a perfect world, withdrawing from retirement accounts early should be a last resort. These accounts get tax-deferral benefits to incentivize us to save for our future non-earning years. The compounding that happens when the money is left to grow tax-deferred is invaluable in building a nest egg. However, keeping that caution in mind, these are challenging times and the loosening up of these rules may be very helpful to many people. The good news is that there is a way to pay it back and avoid tax and penalties.

 Eligibility (very broad):

  •  People diagnosed with COVID-19, or have a spouse or dependents diagnosed with the virus.
  •  People who are experiencing adverse financial consequences as a result of being quarantined, furloughed, laid off, reduced hours, unable to work because of childcare issues, and a handful of other similar reasons.
  •  Business owners that had to close or operate under reduced hours
  •  Meet some other reason that the IRS decides to say is OK

3. ​​​​​​​COMPANY RETIREMENT PLAN LOANS – a provision to further expand company retirement plan loans (like from a 401(k):

  • The maximum amount of an allowable plan loan doubled from $50,000 to $100,000
  • The loan may be for up to the present value of the participant’s account
  • Payment on plan loan otherwise owed may be delayed for one year

In addition, the usual 20% mandatory tax withholding for non-direct rollovers from company plans is waived for 2020.  However, you will still need to pay tax (at tax time) on any amounts that you don’t roll back into a retirement plan within 60 days.

Next up: A review of enhanced Unemployment Benefits in the CARES Act

If you missed Part I: Stimulus Payments go here.

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Late-Career Women and Burn-Out or When Can I Retire?

Photo Cred: Noah Silliman, Unsplash

Does this sound like you?
– 50-60 ish,
– have been working for 30-40 years,
– salaried employee,
– your boss is a pain,
– co-workers are all 20-30 years younger than you,
– some days are better than others,
– someone asks: when do you want to retire? and you say “tomorrow.”

If you answered yes, you aren’t alone. One of the most common reasons mid-life women seek financial help is to figure out if they can quit their jobs.

And, if you don’t have a clue whether this is possible or not, unless you dig in, look at the numbers, and project into the future, you won’t get the clarity you need to make such a big life-changing decision.

So, where do you start?

Things You Need To Know

– How much do you have saved?
– Are you getting the return you need on your investments?
– How much do you spend?
– When you retire and start withdrawing from your savings, what will your withdrawal rate be? Is it sustainable?
– Will your spending habits change once you quit your job?
– If you continue to work, what do you project your income to be?
– What do you want to do differently in this next phase of life? How much will it cost?
– What are your assumptions for inflation rates in the future?
– How much will health insurance cost if you are retiring before reaching Medicare eligibility?
– Will you be able to afford healthcare costs not covered by insurance in your older years (long term care)?

The decision to semi-retire or retire is a big one not to be taken lightly. You can assess the viability of reaching your goal by taking a hard look at the facts and numbers and doing some analysis.

Best, Worst and Most Likely Outcomes

Best case outcome: You find out that you can retire or semi-retire when you want to. Worst case outcome: You have to work until you can’t any longer. Most likely case: You find out that you need to work and save for a few more years before reaching your goal.

And surprisingly, once you have clarity and a solid goal, you might find that work and your boss aren’t so bad after all.

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10 Tips to Being a Happily Self-Employed Person

A friend who recently left her corporate job and is now self-employed asked me how I manage to run a business while still enjoying an active, interesting life outside of work.  She wanted some suggestions, which made me reflect on what has been most important for me in achieving a healthy and happy work-life balance.

I focus on these ten goals – and I must emphasize that it is always a work in progress – I succeed at some better than others, but I’m always trying.

1. Be flexible about when you work and when you play.

Schedule your day creatively: wake up early to finish a project so you can slip out of the office for a long lunch with a friend, or work later in the evening so you can enjoy a daytime activity.

I find that fitting everything into a strict 8 AM-to-5 PM time frame is not my most effective or productive schedule. And hey, flexibility is one of the perks of self-employment people report valuing the most!

2. Don’t be afraid to say No.

If you receive an invitation to do something interesting – whether it be moderating a panel, traveling to a conference, becoming a member of a board, or chairing a committee – don’t say yes immediately.

Stop and think about how the request fits in with or enhances your priorities. No one can do everything, and you can quickly be overwhelmed if you say yes too often. If you get burnt out from being overcommitted you are no good to anyone.

3. Take great care of your physical self.

Regular exercise and healthy eating contribute to the energy, endurance, focus, and confidence of a successful career.

I make sure to schedule daily exercise and subscribe to Michael Pollan’s philosophy: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” I prioritize my physical health, which results in increased motivation and productivity. It’s a
win-win.

4. Quiet your mind.

For years I have been told that meditation reduces stress and anxiety and can increase productivity along with a multitude of other benefits. But I was too busy to slow down and try it.

I am now working on meditating in the morning – sometimes just going into a quiet room and taking a few deep breaths before starting the morning routine. I can now see where this habit is just as important as exercise and eating healthfully to having a balanced life.

5. Systematize everything you can.

This saves not only time, but the mental energy required to complete certain tasks and jobs. This applies to workflows at the office as well as household chores like paying bills.

Related: Financial Housekeeping: What To Do with Those “Old” 401(k)s

6. Spend time with people who lift you up.

Conversations and connections with positive, energetic people naturally make me feel positive and energetic, and those are the influences I choose to surround myself with. Seek out others to lift up – as a mentor, colleague, or friend – and empower optimism.

7. Work smarter, not longer or harder.

I used to sit at my desk until late in the evening, spending hours at my computer — which often resulted in a sore neck and shoulders (and being cranky when I got home) rather than my best work.

I am happier and more productive working in spurts – I work as a sprinter runs, with high-intensity, uninterrupted periods followed by a break to renew and refresh. I think more clearly and creatively, and stay fully engaged.

8. Develop support systems.

I am very lucky to have an extremely supportive spouse. We work as a team to manage the household, business, and pleasure aspects of our lives, and we outsource the tasks that we have neither the time or energy to do ourselves.

It’s tough to do it all, so play to your strengths and outsource what you need – personal assistant, tech support, housekeeper – delegate tasks so you can focus on that work-life balance.

9. Find a way to schedule uninterrupted work time.

If you are surrounded by people you are vulnerable to distractions. I find it’s much simpler to achieve a ‘flow’ state when I’m in a quiet space – and sometimes feel I accomplish a full day’s work in two hours when the flow is working.

If you have to, leave your office or home and go sit in a library, coffee shop or other alternative space to get some uninterrupted time.

10. Know yourself and where you want to put your energy.

When you can identify what makes you happy, and what is meaningful, you’ll be able to seek out the activities that support those interests and values.

I have a strong desire to live a varied and interesting life, and that knowledge drives me to stretch my limits by challenging myself and re-defining what’s possible — while focusing on taking care of myself so that I can continue to do more.

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Financial Planning — It has nothing to do with luck.

This month of March you may be thinking about all things green – including your hard-earned cash! You may also hope that some good luck finds its way to you. Oddly enough, many people view luck as an integral part of their personal finances. The idea that wealth is a direct result of “getting lucky” with your job positions, salary, or the market pervades in our society despite evidence to the contrary.

Still, many believe that in order to find success in their financial lives, they need to catch some kind of a break. Something has to go exactly their way, and all of it is outside their control. It’s this kind of thinking that leads people to live a life of scarcity, rather than one of abundance.

Instead of focusing on the ways you’re lucky (or unlucky) with money, step outside that unhealthy mindset. This St. Patrick’s Day, you can start making your own luck with these three easy tips.

Look at Your Earnings

When was the last time you asked for a raise? In all likelihood, the answer may be “never.” In a culture that values being polite, asking for more money may feel rude or confrontational. Many of us want to avoid these conversations at all cost – not instigate them ourselves!

But the truth is, if you want to be earning more, you may need to ask for it. Of course, there’s a method to the art of salary negotiation. Shooting an email to your direct manager may not be the best course of action. However, taking the time to understand your company’s review policy, write a meeting agenda that outlines the value you provide to the organization, and speak candidly with your supervisors about why you believe you deserve a pay increase could be worth your while.

Ultimately, if you don’t feel the position you’re in is paying you what you’re worth when you compare the salaries at similar companies for similar roles, it may be time to start job hunting. You deserve to be paid fairly for the value you’re bringing to the table.

However, if you love your current job and aren’t ready to jump to a new position – but still want to be making more money each month – you might consider starting your very own side hustle! From monetizing a blog, to freelance writing, to launching a local consulting business – the options are endless. Bonus points if your side hustle can be consistently used into retirement as a valuable retirement income stream!

What Are Your Priorities?

If you’re still mentally linking wealth and luck, you may want to take a hard look at your financial priorities. All too often people think that there’s “never enough” money, when the truth is that there’s plenty of money available to them but they’re spending it in the wrong places. Change your narrative from one of “never enough” to one of abundance where money flows to and from you easily by prioritizing your spending.

You’re more likely to feel emotionally fulfilled (which is often synonymous with “lucky”) if you spend your money in areas that are important to you. Spending mindfully can look different for everyone, but setting a cash flow oriented budget and a few mindful money goals is a good place to start. It also helps to jot these things down. Your money priorities might look like:

  • Save for retirement
  • Pay down credit card debt
  • Spend more time with friends and family
  • Travel

You might notice that only two of those are distinctly money related – and that’s okay! You’re allowed to have both money-focused goals and spending priorities like travel or experiencing new things with the people you care about. In fact, focusing your spending on these more inwardly-focused goals will help you to feel “lucky” with money, and you’ll feel less of a need to spend frivolously.

Work With a Professional

Part of creating your own luck is creating a financial plan that meets your unique needs. A professional financial planner can help get you on the path to success by creating avenues that help your money start to work for you.

In the long term, working with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ helps you to grow your wealth and develop a relationship with a money-minded professional who can act as a sounding board, accountability partner, and counsel. Building this relationship, and working with them to develop a strategy that sets you up to live the life you want to live, is one of the best ways to start living in financial excellence. So, kick “luck” to the curb this March – you’re all the luck you need.

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Financial Planning — It has nothing to do with luck. Read More »

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