You’re Scared to Bring it Up

weber_bioBrad Weber AIF®, Regional Director, Retirement Plan Services

A 2004 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association says that 73% of Americans name money as the number one factor that affects their stress level. Number one. The New York Times reports that couples who reported disagreeing about finance once a week were over 30% more likely to get divorced than couples who reported disagreements a few times a month.1 So, in addition to being stress-inducing public enemy number one, money is also highly implicated in whether or not we stay married. It’s no wonder then that we tread lightly around retirement or don’t bring it up at all!

The most common behavior in response to the overwhelming anxiety of preparing for three decades of not working is that we may ignore the conversation entirely. After all, we erroneously suppose, “If I ignore it maybe it will go away.” As anyone who has ever put off a project can attest, it never goes away and anxiety is only compounded as a deadline approaches. In college this may have been as inconsequential as pulling an all-nighter and receiving a subpar grade. With retirement planning, it could quite literally have disastrous personal consequences.

A recent study by the American Institute of CPAs2 found that speaking to children about money to children was among parents’ lowest priorities. In fact, money issues were trumped by good manners, sound eating habits, the need for good grades, the dangers of drugs, and the risks of smoking in terms of perceived importance. Our reticence to talk about money is certainly not out of lack of need. An Accenture report states that Baby Boomers will leave $30 trillion to their children in the next 30 years. This doesn’t even take into account the almost $12 trillion that MetLife predicts that Boomers will receive from their parents. The fact is, money will be changing hands within families at an unprecedented rate in the years to come and we are ill equipped to make the exchange.

There are a number of reasons why talking about money may be so difficult. One is that there has been a vitriolic reaction against the wealthy in the wake of the Occupy Wall Street movement and the global financial crisis. This sentiment was illustrated quite vividly in the September 24, 2016 Fortune magazine cover article, “Is It Still OK To Be Rich In America?” Another reason for this taboo may have a higher source.

The Bible, the best-selling book of all time and a foundational text for a majority of Americans, mentions money no less than 250 times. While not all Biblical references to money are negative, there are certainly enough references to “filthy lucre” to give pause. To a nation founded on Protestant ideals about work and morality, the notion of wealth as potentially corrosive is one that is deeply embedded in the collective American consciousness.

John Levy, a counselor to people who have recently inherited money found the following reasons for the money taboo among his clientele (as cited in O’Neil, 1993):3

  • Good taste – “It’s just not done.”
  • Fear of manipulation – “It will give them power over me.”
  • Concern for spoiling children – “They will never make anything of themselves.”
  • Embarrassment – “I don’t deserve to be so much better off than others.”
  • Fear of being judged – “All they can see is my money.”

Perhaps some of the reasons above are resonant with your personal situation and perhaps not, but it seems difficult to deny that money is a subject that puts us all on eggshells. Consider a handful of your best friends. No doubt you could tell me much about their lives; joys and struggles, highs and lows. But I doubt if you could tell me their exact salary, savings or other relevant financial indicators, because we simply don’t talk about them. While this is fine in polite company, this tendency toward silence can extend beyond the cocktail party circuit. Conversations about money tend to be emotionally fraught and tinged with shame and as such, are best handled by professionals adept at de-stigmatizing and reorienting our sometimes misguided thoughts about preparing for our financial future.

Solution: Begin a dialogue around retirement preparedness today with a professional at your place of employment or through a trusted financial advisor. Just as silence leads to greater inaction, a simple conversation can lead to life-changing progress.

For 10 years, Brinker Capital Retirement Plan Services has been working with advisors to offer plan sponsors the solutions to help participants reach their retirement goals.  The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Sources:

1 “Money Fights Predict Divorce Rates,” Catherine Rampell, The New York Times, December 7, 2009.

2  “Money Among Lowest Priorities in Talks Between Parents, Kids,” AICPA, August 9, 2012.

3 “The Paradox of Success,” John O’Neil. New York: Putnam, 1993.

Wisdom, Not Just Wealth

John_SolomonJohn Solomon, Executive Vice President, Wealth Advisory

When it comes to passing assets down to the next generation, many parents worry heirs are ill-equipped to handle sudden wealth. In a recent survey, 80% of Americans said they planned to transfer their wealth, but only 45% actually had a plan in place (State Street Global Advisors). For those with a plan, the focus seems to be on the technical aspects of the transfer—wills, trusts and other estate planning strategies.

Wills and trusts, when prepared correctly, can help transfer wealth efficiently and effectively. They help provide direction on how to divvy out assets and can even give guidance to heirs about how to manage this new wealth. An ethical will, on the other hand, aims to transfer intangibles like life lessons, core values, aspirations, and wisdom.

Ethical wills, also known as legacy letters, are not legally binding, but they present a way to talk about values and beliefs pertaining to wealth and help to share personal lessons you have learned along your journey. Most importantly, it helps you articulate what it is about money that is important to you; how your wealth fueled your passions and enabled you to support the ones you love. It’s a place to talk about your past financial successes and failures.

shutterstock_240954376Money has long been considered a taboo topic because it is emotional and highly revealing. How you handle your money and the thought-process you use for spending and making investment decisions speaks to your core values and the inner force driving your actions. An ethical will can help you describe your relationship with money, explain how you used your wealth to bring your hopes and aspirations to fruition, and how you would like your wealth to serve the next several generations. It also gives you an opportunity to provide historical perspectives and references and bring to light past financial successes and failures. You can explain how your wealth was initially created and if it was even passed down through the generations prior. The goal in sharing your family’s financial ancestry is to emphasize family values and the profound impact they have made in your life.

Communication is the key element of successful wealth transfer. An ethical will gives that one last opportunity to punctuate what truly matters to you about the wealth your heirs will inherit.

The Brinker Capital Wealth Advisory team delivers exceptional service and support to meet the unique wealth management needs of high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth investors, family offices, institutions, and endowments.The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Guiding Your Child to Financial Independence

John_SolomonJohn Solomon, Executive Vice President, Wealth Advisory

Good money management is a fine example of a skill best learned young. The earlier your child gains control over their financial world, the more time your child has to make thoughtful decisions that bring them closer to financial freedom and the fulfillment of their life goals.

You can guide your child towards financial independence by imparting these valuable lessons:

Promote Him/Her to Account Manager

The best way to encourage financial responsibility is to make your child responsible for their financial decisions.

When your child is young, you most likely make all of the financial decisions for them. You probably opened their first bank account when he or she was just an infant. You instruct when to make a deposit and when money should be withdrawn.

At some point, well before the child reaches the age of maturity and can legally take independent action on the account, you should begin to cede some control. The child should start to take on the responsibility that comes with managing the account, getting comfortable with the decision-making needed to guide financial growth. After all, this is the money that will fund future whims.

Once children feel ownership over some pool of money, it should be the source of funding for non-essential items. As the account manager, the child then must decide whether he or she wants something badly enough to take money out of their account. If money is spent from the account, your child will have to figure out how to replenish it. Discretionary purchases exceeding the amount available in the account should be discouraged, to emphasize the notion that money is a limited resource.

Let Consequences Teach

There comes a time in a young adult’s life when they must live with the consequences of their decisions and circumstances. For example, often young drivers fail to consider insurance, fuel, and routine maintenance when they calculate how much they can afford to spend on a car. Increased expenses are a natural consequence of car ownership. Sometimes, these overlooked costs dawn on the teen only after the uninsured car is in the driveway, with an empty gas tank. This is a prime time for natural consequences teach the lesson. If you swoop in to protect your child from a painful lesson, they learn an entirely different lesson. They learn that when their money runs out, they simply need to tap into yours.

Encouraging Surfing

Before your child makes a purchase, insist upon comparison shopping. Encourage your son or daughter to surf the internet to explore the best deals available.

Make Them Honor Financial Commitments

Teenagers can come up with all kinds of creative excuses for not following through. Backing out of commitments, especially financial commitments, should be non-negotiable. If your child asks you to float them some money for an impulse purchase, make them pay you back. If your child agrees to shovel a driveway or babysit a neighbor, make sure they show up, on time and ready to work.

Set Guidelines

Before your child receives his or her first paycheck, you should talk about the importance of saving for both short- and long-term goals. Set the expectation that each a certain percentage of pay period should go towards meeting those objectives.

Give Incentives

Some children seem hardwired to spend their money as quickly as it is earned while others save every penny. To encourage saving, consider providing financial incentives. For example, you may deposit $10 for every $100 your child puts in the bank.

Give Them a Peek

Many families don’t talk about money. Parents often worry their child will misconstrue the information, share it with others, become complacent, or endure an unnecessary burden. When you explain certain aspects of your financial life to your child, however, it provides context and clarity to your decisions. It also allows you to talk about what money means to you. Nothing makes an example clearer for a child as when you explain trade-offs you have made in your life, like buying a smaller house closer to work, so you spend less time commuting and more time with the family.

The Brinker Capital Wealth Advisory team delivers exceptional service and support to meet the unique wealth management needs of high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth investors, family offices, institutions, and endowments.The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Retire Healthy, Retire Happy

Sue BerginSue Bergin, President, Bergin Communications

Most retirement planning focuses on the nest egg. It involves making sure you have enough saved to live your retirement years the way in which you have dreamed. The laser-like focus on the bottom line, however, could prevent you from paying attention to the single most important predictor of retirement satisfaction. Your health.

According to MassMutual’s Health, Wealth and Happiness in Retirement study, health is typically more important than wealth when it comes to determining the well-being of American’s retirees. Retirees in better health are more likely to feel financially secure, enjoy retirement, feel fulfilled, and are less likely to experience negative emotions.

The study shows that the loss of health is more costly to a retiree’s overall experience than the loss of wealth. Consider these stats:

  • 76% of those with $250,000 or more in assets report having a positive retirement experience, compared to 68% of those with less than half the assets.
  • 80% of those in better health report having a positive experience in retirement, compared to only 59% of those who are in poorer health, regardless of their balance sheet.
  • 73% of retirees in better health report feelings of financial security compared to 51% of retirees in poorer health.
  • Retirees in poorer health were twice as likely to feel anxious about their finances and lack a sense of purpose, and three times more likely to feel lonely.

The bottom line…focus on your health!

To make the most of your retirement, your planning and preparation should focus as much on your health as it does your wealth.

AARP provides these helpful tips to incorporate into your retirement readiness checklist.

  • Seek preventative medical care by scheduling checkups and routine examinations, from annual physicals to teeth cleanings.
  • Work with your health care providers on a plan to improve or maintain your health.
  • Commit (or recommit) to eating healthy, exercising and adequate sleep.
  • Commit to staying mentally sharp with brain games, puzzles and books.
  • Stay in close contact with family and friends. Typically, your friends and family will be the first to notice if your health starts to slip.

For more tips from AARP, see 10 Steps to Get You Ready for Retirement.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

What to Do With All Those Gift Cards

Sue BerginSue Bergin

While the number of unused gift cards has shrunk over the last couple of years, an awful lot of money is still wasted on them. 5% to 7% of gift cards go unused each year. While that may not sound like much, it adds up quickly. In fact, from 2005 to 2011, $41 billion worth of gift cards were unredeemed. This breaks down to an average of $300 worth of unused gift cards per household.

Managing gift cards is low on most clients’ priority list. It is a “low-reward” activity that, if ignored, typically results in momentary levels of frustration at missed opportunities.

In the recipient’s mind, gift cards usually fall within one of two categories: unwanted, or intended for use at a later point.

shutterstock_41604499 [Converted]Unwanted gift cards can be ignored, donated to charity, re-gifted, or exchanged. Services such as Plastic Jungle, GiftCardRescue, and Cardpool facilitate exchanges between those who want cash for unused cards, and those who want to buy cards cheap.

Many gift card holders have no interest in selling or trading. They intend to use the card at some point…they just never get around to it. Along the way, the card gets lost, partially spent, or forgotten.

In today’s digital era, where there is a problem, there are one, two, twelve or twenty apps to solve it. Swagg, Passbook, GiftCards – Balance Tracker, Bamboo Wallet, GoWallet and MyMiniWallet are all apps that help manage gift card balances. There are many others. Some have features to manage loyalty cards, event tickets, and coupons along with gift cards. Some even offer an alert system to notify users when a gift card balance is about to expire.

Many of your clients may have put financial organization on their resolution list. Take the opportunity to spread the word about how easily gift cards can be managed.