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Tough Love

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I recently met with a client, who confirmed my decision to start my own company focused on financial fitness and well-being. In my previous job as a financial advisor, I was primarily responsible for managing his money (or his assets), and he has significant money.  In my new role, I help my clients manage and understand their assets as well as their liabilities (credit cards, student loans and other debts). This is an important change for this client in particular. Even though he has substantial assets, in the past few years, his spending has gotten out of control to the point that now his debt between his home and credit cards is almost as much as his investment portfolio. When we sat down recently, we started discussing the plan of how we were going to stop some of his bad spending habits and focus more on the lifestyle that he would like to live which would require less money over time. He said to me, “Shannon, I need tough love. I need someone to tell me NOT to buy things.” He wished that his partner was that person, but his partner was just along for the ride with him.

I see this so much in relationships. There is frequently one person who is the “spender” and one person who is the “saver.” This difference in financial personality types often leads to years of fighting and many times, divorce. For those who stay together, it certainly causes strains at various points in the relationship as the saver has a difficult time telling the spender “No” and giving that person tough love. Relationships are hard enough as it is and when you are working through it day in and day out, you pick your battles and sometimes you let the “spending battle” go for another day. The problem with this strategy is that the spending battle does not go away, and bad spending habits as a couple can create huge problems over time. I love that I can now give tough love to my clients so that his or her significant others can give them a different kind of love. But if you do not have a third party like me, don’t be afraid to use tough love with your overspending loved one. They need it. They may not like you for doing it, but they will be happy that you did down the road. Embrace tough love and save them and their finances from becoming a disaster.

Top Ten Quotes about Finance and Money

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10) A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don’t need it. Bob Hope

9) Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants. Epictetus

8) The way to become rich is to put all your eggs in one basket and then watch that basket. – Andrew Carnegie

7) It is not the creation of wealth that is wrong, but the love of money for its own sake. Margaret Thatcher

6) The hardest thing to understand in the world is the income tax. Albert Einstein

5) When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is. Oscar Wilde

4) All I ask is the chance to prove that money can’t make me happy. Spike Milligan

3) Security depends not so much upon how much you have, as upon how much you can do without. Joseph Wood Krutch

2) If saving money is wrong, I don’t want to be right! William Shatner

1) Do what you love and the money will follow. Marsha Sinetar

Music Mondays – Home by Daughtry

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I will probably write a few blogs about home and the joys of returning home. Due to the poor economy and bleak job prospects for recent college grads, many young people are graduating and moving home. Because of this, the media has dubbed this generation the “Peter Pan” or “Boomerang” Generation. According to a Pew Research Study, 36% of 18-31 year olds live with their parents. This is close to 22 million people and the highest level in four decades. When I left for college, I was told by both of my parents that I could not come home, and I had to take care of myself. Granted the time was different, but it would have been nice to know that I had a “safety net” when I left.

If you are reading this and you are boomeranging, I think you should feel thankful that you are able to go home. I know that you wish your roomie was your best friend and not your dad, but it’s actually very Financially Blonde to move back in with your parents. Close to 40% of your income typically goes to housing costs. If you can avoid paying those for as long as possible, then you give yourself a better opportunity to get off on the right foot financially when you are ready (assuming you are saving what you would have been paying in living costs while at home). You also give yourself the most flexibility about where you can move next. If you’re not committed to a lease, then you give yourself more options as far as jobs, graduate school, or relationships. So when you get bummed that your scenery has not changed since high school, listen to Daughtry sing of home and the eagerness he feels as he yearns to return there. Enjoy this time. You may actually miss it one day!

Top Ten Cities I Would Love To Visit

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I don’t have many regrets in life, but one of the few that I have is not traveling abroad more before I had my son. The handful of times that I did leave the country, I had a profound experience, and I developed an appreciation for the various cultures that I got to witness. When my son is older, we plan to travel with him as much as possible. I think it is important to have an understanding and appreciation for all cultures, and the best way to develop that (other than living in NYC) is to travel overseas and get immersed in it. So, the top ten cities that I would love to visit include:

10) Siem Reap, Cambodia – I love that this city has completely reinvented itself from the city I learned about in history class 20+ years ago. I have had friends visit and say amazing things about the food and culture, and I would love to see for myself.

9) Istanbul, Turkey – I can’t think of this city without thinking of the song by They Might Be Giants. Despite the song, though, I have a few friends from Turkey, and their amazing stories of their homeland from the cuisine to the terrain have made me want to add it to my “must-visit” destination list.

8) Cape Town, South Africa – I have been a fan of South African wines for many years, and the wine tours alone would make this city an interesting one for me. However, I have a friend who lived here with her husband for four years and gave me many more reasons to enjoy this great city.

7) Sydney, Australia – I don’t love the idea of spending the greater part of a day on a plane to try to get anywhere; however, after watching Oprah’s trip to Sydney during her last season, I realized that some flights are worth the effort.

6) Hong Kong, China – My son has a friend from China who takes Mandarin classes regularly and tries to educate my son on Chinese culture. I love this friend because he has inspired a sense of adventure in my son who counts China high on his list of places to visit. And I happen to have family living in Hong Kong, so maybe we can crash with them?

5) San Jose, Costa Rica – When I first started dating my husband, I went on a family vacation to Italy and he went on a singles cruise to Costa Rica (It was booked before we met). I LOVED Italy, but seeing his pictures from Costa Rica made me want to spend time there as well.

4) Paris, France – One of my family’s favorite movies is Ratatouille. Every time we watch it, my husband makes Ratatouille “Remy style” and we plan our trip to Paris including where we plan to eat and visit.

3) Cuzco, Peru – This is typically the starting point for hikes up to Macchu Picchu and filled with a great history of the Incan Empire. Hiking Macchu Picchu is an absolute bucket list item for me.

2) Vancouver, Canada – I love the mountains and a cool environment. Ever since this city hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics, it has made my list of places to visit.

1) Dublin, Ireland – I am Irish, and I am told by my mom, named after the Shannon River in Ireland. I am proud of my heritage; however, I have never been to Ireland. I look forward to this trip the most!

The Me Market

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Investment Advice

When I was a financial advisor, I met with people and knew they expected to be sitting across from the next Oracle of Omaha or at least the Oracle of Westchester County.  They had the assumption that because I was “in the business,” I had special insight into the markets and how to make them lots of money.  Truthfully, I thought that when I became a financial advisor, I would acquire that very knowledge.  Then I became a financial advisor, and I liken the journey to that of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.  I was hoping to reach the end of the training and meet the Wizard, who would grant my ragtag friends and me everything we ever wanted.  And similar to Dorothy, what I learned when I pulled back the curtain is that the Wizard is just an old guy hiding behind gadgets trying to make us believe in miracles.  Wall Street is FULL of old white guys trying to convince us to believe in market miracles. Just as Dorothy and her friends learned that they held the magic within themselves, the same applies for success in your personal wealth. There truly is no great and powerful market miracle except the one that is inside you. Advisors love to talk about “Asset Allocation” and the value of having your investments in different asset categories, which then leads you to invest in different markets. The “traditional” markets include: the bond market, stock market,  and real estate market. What I realized is that there is one market that is more powerful, with the ability to provide the most consistent returns over time – it is what I call the “ME” market.

The ME market is what you are able to save every year.  On average, a well-diversified portfolio will give you 6-8% returns over time. This means if you have $10,000 to invest, you would make around $600­–$800 a year from the traditional markets. The wizards of Wall Street want us all to believe that 6-8% returns are a good thing. Don’t get me wrong – positive returns are better than nothing. If I found $600 on the street, I would be happy. However, there is a better market to rely on and that is the ME. Can you challenge yourself to save (i.e. make) more than $600 a year or $50 a month? If you are employed, I KNOW you can!! In fact, I bet you could save $1,000 or more. If you can do this, then you can expect a 10% or greater return on your money. If you could get to $3,000 a year or $250 a month, you would have given yourself a 30% return for the year. There is not a SINGLE investment or market that you could invest in that would GUARANTEE you a 30% return for the year. But if you commit to the ME market, the ME market can outperform the other markets consistently over time. I challenge you to invest in the ME market and prove all of the old white guys wrong.  Whatever you have saved, whether it’s $0, $10,000, or $100,000, make it a goal to beat the Wall Street numbers this year and make more than 6-8%. If you don’t know how to start or you don’t think you can do it, reach out to me, and I’ll help you.  Keep me posted on your progress and keys to success so we can all beat the wizards this year!

Music Mondays – Kinky Boots

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Lessons from Kinky Boots

I would call myself a theater geek. From the moment I was in summer camp in 4th Grade and sang “One” from A Chorus Line, I was hooked. When I was younger, I was painfully shy and insecure and the theater gave me an outlet to grow and express myself. I continued with this passion through high school; however, I became more “practical” in college and focused on my business major instead of acting, but I never lost my love for the art form. Living in New York, I have access to numerous shows on Broadway and I try to indulge as much as possible. Through Facebook, I discovered that a friend of mine (whose mom choreographed the high school plays I acted in) was cast in a new musical, Kinky Boots, which was written by Harvey Fierstein with music by Cyndi Lauper. The fact that Jeff was in the show alone made it a certainty that I would see it, but the creative combination of Fierstein and Lauper made me even more enthused. I was fortunate enough to see the show twice while it was in previews and I have to say it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had in the theater in a long time.

The musical tells the story of Charlie Price whose father passes away unexpectedly and leaves him with a family shoe manufacturing business that Charlie was not planning on running. Despite this change in plans, he takes over but after being inspired by a drag queen, Lola, Charlie decides to make shoes for drag queens instead. We hear the song, “Take What You Got” early in the play after Charlie loses his dad. This song not only provides a lesson in life, but a lesson in finances. Through the song, Charlie’s friend tells him that when life hands you something unexpected then sometimes you need to change course and re-write your life. These “life surprises” happen to all of us. And sometimes they have a financial impact as in the loss of a spouse, a job, or the unexpected gift of a child. As in the case of Charlie, we should not let this get us down, rather we should view this as an opportunity to re-write our lives and find something new and wonderful in that re-write. Charlie never expected to run his dad’s shoe company; however, when he took on that challenge, his life became something more rich and special. You may not have wanted to lose your job, move to a new city or take a pay cut; however, you have been given a gift to re-write the direction of your life. Embrace it and plan for it. You may have temporary pain while you are adjusting, but in the long run, it can be a beautiful gift.

When I create financial plans for clients, I always want them to prepare for the unexpected events in life. Even though we may not want these things to transpire, sometimes they are not in our control. What is in our control is how we respond to them and how we move forward. Sometimes you have to “take what you got, even when your life is in knots” but that doesn’t mean that when you “re-write the plot” it won’t have a brilliant ending.

Top Ten Free Or Cheap Things To Do

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Free Or Cheap Things To Do

10) Watching shows on my computer or i-Pad – I DVR a number of programs, but sometimes as a break from work, I like to pull up individual videos of Hoda and Kathie Lee or Jimmy Fallon.

9) Spending time with family – I have A LOT of family and when I was younger I hated spending time with them. As I have grown up, I have come to appreciate my family and enjoy our time together.

8) Visiting Museums – I have a great friend who has been working in the museum community for years and she has completely opened up my eyes to the joys of museum walking. As a Bank of America customer, I can go to museums for free on certain dates just by showing my debit card.

7) Cooking a new recipe – I have challenged myself to cook more and not only make yummy, healthy meals, but inexpensive ones. So far, the boys are happy and so is the bank account.

6) Pinteresting – I could spend hours pinning anything from quotes, to recipes, to tattoo pictures.

5) Walking / Working Out – I live in a beautiful part of New York and around this time of year, there is nothing better than getting out in the fresh air surrounded by fall colored trees.

4) Sleeping – Ever since becoming a mom over 7 years ago, sleep has become such a valuable resource and every night slept without interruption is more valuable than gold.

3) Google/Facebook or LinkedIn stalking people – I confess to being a web stalker. I can’t help it. And don’t judge because you know you do too!

2) Talking or Texting with friends – My dad recently said, “You can’t make new old friends.” It’s true. There is also a Girl Scouts song that says, “make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.” Also true. Love my new and old friends.

1) Reading – Three years ago I got a kindle and it changed my life. I make it a habit to support self-published authors, so I typically spend no more than $1.99 on a book that transports me to a whole new world for hours or days at a time and I love it!