Financial Advisor

Hannah Moore: One of Dallas’s Top Financial Planners Since 2014

D Magazine, one of Dallas’s top publications, has been on a mission to provide a spotlight for the area since 1974. They share everything from local arts, culture, politics, fashion, food, and nightlife, but they’re particularly great at providing locals a list of the “best” in different categories.

I’ve been named one of D Magazine’s Top Financial Planners in Dallas for four years running.

What I Love About Being a Financial Planner

I love my job. I think quite a few people say they love their jobs, but for me, it’s really true. Working with my clients is truly a privilege — they’re some of the most amazing and interesting people I’ve ever met. But aside from my great clients, I also love the work involved in being a Certified Financial Planner™. Why? Well, there are a few reasons...

What It’s Like for a Financial Planner to Watch the Market Fall

When the markets fall, it can be intimidating for everyone — including your financial planner. As an individual, watching your account balances fall is stressful and, as a financial planner, we watch that happen to each of our clients. It’s hard to see our clients struggle.

From Living High on the Hog to Pinching Pennies: When Your Lifestyle Has to Change

Clients describe the meeting as shocking, even while admitting that they knew it was coming. It’s the financial planning meeting in which we look at their retirement projections to see if they are on track to meet their financial goals.

Some couples have figured it out. They know what they can spend; they live on a budget and have saved enough to be comfortable the rest of their lives. But for other couples, the meeting highlights adjustments they knew they needed to make.

And by adjustments, that can mean dramatic changes in their current lifestyle.

What to do when your lifestyle needs to change?

Get concrete numbers

When you come to terms with the fact that your lifestyle has to change, get concrete numbers. Talking in the abstract about needing to “cut back” is a lot different than knowing exactly how much money you need to be saving every year and what your ending budget number needs to be.

There are important numbers to consider when looking at spending cuts versus retirement dates or goals. If you were to work an extra year or five years, how does that change your financial picture? Often, those changes can have a dramatic effect on what you need to cut back.

Work with a financial planner

There are resources online, but I encourage you to find a financial planner you feel comfortable with and work with them through this process. Besides developing a relationship that aids financial recommendations, they can give you insights based on similar people’s experiences that they’ve worked with. A good financial planner will get to know you personally and offer advice tailored for you and your situation.

A knowledgeable financial planner will also help you identify the other areas in your finances to be aware of, expert advice that will help you should something unexpected happen. One gap in your insurance and an unfortunate incident can destroy your financial plan and everything you are working towards. Obviously, I’m biased, but I truly believe that the investment is worth it.

Identify your values

Knowing your values makes financial decisions so much simpler. It becomes easy to lose sight of what is really important to us, much of which doesn’t require a lot of money, and focus on the extras of life. Living life within your values creates the framework by which you begin to make intentional decisions.

In his New York Times column, David Brooks says it well: “Early in life you choose your identity by getting things. But later in an affluent life you discover or update your identity by throwing away what is no longer useful, true and beautiful.”

Consider Cutting Back Big

Big lifestyle changes are hard. Much of the popular advice you hear these days advocates cutting back on purchases like your everyday latte at Starbucks. While it’s true that small changes can make a difference, those results will be more subtle and long-term.

When you are faced with a lifestyle change, you must put all the options on the table. Some may be painful: downsizing your house, trading in your leased car, looking for another job, moving for a promotion, cutting your annual vacation. However, it’s necessary to consider every way in which you can make a significant change.

Begin Evaluating Every Option

Look at a list of all of your expenses and evaluate every line item. Begin by asking “why”. After evaluating what you money is being spent on specifically, ask why you are choosing to spend money on the items that you are. What are the alternatives? Even when alternative options seem far outside the realm of possibility, still include them. The purpose of this step is not to solve the problem, but to brainstorm every possible solution. Considering options that seem far from what you are willing to do (like trading your car for public transportation), give perspective and bring attention to the luxuries that you have in life.

Below are some examples of line item evaluations:

Car Payment: $650/month

Why am I spending money on this? Because I need transportation!

Why am I choosing my current option? Two cars are more convenient for our family and I’ve always wanted a BMW.

What are the alternatives? Sell it and have one car in the family, sell and buy a nicer car, sell and buy a less expensive car, sell and buy a used car, take public transportation.

How open am I to changing this (or do a scale of 1-10 on how important this is)?

If you were to change, what would be the monthly/yearly cost difference?

Eating Out: $400/month

Why am I spending money on this? Because we need to eat.

Why am I choosing my current option? We enjoy eating at restaurants and it’s convenient.

What are the alternatives? Eating out less, purchasing ready-made meals, personal chef, cooking all meals at home.

How open am I to changing this (or scale of 1-10)?

If I did make a change, what would be the monthly/yearly cost difference?

Begin to make decisions

After you have worked through your line item evaluations and identified what’s important to you, start making decisions.

As with so much in life, these decisions are not easy or clear cut. Every decision is a trade-off. What is right for one family is not going to be right for the next.

Remember to reflect back on why you are making these changes. It takes courage to make big decisions when your lifestyle has to change, but knowing why you are changing can make all the difference in the world.

If you find yourself unsure of your future and aren’t even sure if you need to cut back, I encourage you to consult with a financial advisor and begin the journey to achieving your financial goals.

 

You're the Next Contestant . . . Why It's Hard to Talk About Money in Marriage

They could have been contestants on The Newlywed Game, their answers revealing how little they were in agreement on matters of married life. She wanted to travel to Europe and experience the finer things in life. He wanted to know how they were going to pay for their retirement and day to day expenses. She was missing out on life and she blamed him. Their financial lives were unstable and he blamed her. You could feel the tension in the room. The meeting could have used the experienced refereeing of a game show host. These conversations are all too common in my work.

Finding consensus with your spouse is one of the most important aspects of your financial life. Financial harmony within a marriage is critical to financial success.

Why is this so hard? It really shouldn’t be, but as many couples know, it is.

Talking about money is threatening

Regardless of financial situation, something about money strikes at the core of who we are. It defines our status in the world, what we can and cannot have. Money is integrated into every area of our lives, whether we like it or not. Even the most basic choices in life, like the shirt you are wearing or what you do for dinner tonight, is the result of a money decision.

There are conflicting values within each of us when it comes to money. For example, will it really matter if you eat out for lunch today? Surely it won’t affect your college savings. Setting aside money is great, but what about spending a little on that trip you’ve always wanted to take? Add another person into the equation and you have all the makings of an uncomfortable, but entertaining game show: the conflicts are endless.

When it comes down to it, we’re not talking just about money, we’re talking about values.

Ok, so these conversations are threatening, but they need to take place. So what do you do about it?

Make the conversation safe

The fastest way to make a conversation not feel “safe” is to start accusing your spouse. Remember, this is a values conversation, not just a money conversation. Neither of you want what is important to you to be minimized or insulted.

The goal of each conversation is to understand your spouse and for your spouse to understand you. Granted, sometimes you may never understand why your spouse has to spend money on that, but realizing it’s important to your spouse allows you to respect their decision.

Practical steps to making the conversation safe:

  • Find a time that works for both of you. Trying to have a financial conversation when you are multitasking or concerned about everything else in life will only lead to frustration.
  • Know each other’s strengths. If one of you hates math, budgeting can be more difficult. Forcing a spouse who hates math to balance the budget to the closest penny may be the equivalent to torture. Find a middle ground.
  • Remember the person you fell in love with. Conversations can be tense, but remember what drew you to your spouse in the first place. If this is your focus, the edge will come off your voice and your spouse will feel the difference.

Establish ground rules

Which topics are off limits or which topics need to wait until the end?

What happens when you or your spouse gets overwhelmed in the details? Does the meeting stop? Do you take a fifteen minute break? Know what your triggers are and plan for them before you walk into the discussion.

Other ground rules may be to limit the amount of time you spend on the conversation. One person may not be able to focus longer than 30 minutes, making anything over that time fruitless.

Some people may want the numbers ahead of time. They may need time to process and think through their feelings before the discussion, allowing them to not feel blindsided in the conversation.

Go beyond the numbers

As you work through your budget, commit to talking about what’s below the surface. Instead of becoming defensive over numbers, share what they represent and why their important. For example,

“This line is important to be because .....”

Being aware and identifying why you are spending, saving or investing your money is incredibly important for yourself and your spouse. You have to lead the conversation to find the underlying issues.

Lower your expectations

You may walk into a financial conversation with your spouse and expect to come to a conclusion by the end of it. Anything short of this may be a failure in your mind. Lower your expectations. Financial conversations are never a one and done type of deal. The first conversation may simply be to identify a problem. Turn your expectations into goals and realize that it may take time before you end up where you want to be.

There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain when you take the necessary steps to open the lines of financial communication with your spouse. While it may be difficult to return to the rosy glow of honeymooners, thoughtful, deliberate conversations about money in marriage can bring you one step closer to wedded bliss.

How to Interview Financial Advisors

Not every financial planner is going to offer you what you need. Working with a financial planner requires making sure that you have a good fit. We've already gone over how to decide whether you need a financial planner and making sure you're on the same page with your spouse. Now you need to make sure that the financial planner sitting in front of you is the right person to work with.

The first meeting is an interview

If you're going to pay a person to do a job for you, you need to make sure they can do that job successfully. Use the following questions to get a sense of the services this financial planner offers, compared to what you're looking for.

Learn about their business

  • How do you charge your clients for services?
  • What is your investment philosophy?
  • What do your financial plans usually look like?
  • What will my experience be as you create a financial plan for me?
  • What is your ideal client?

Learn about their qualifications

  • Are you a fiduciary?

A fiduciary is a person morally and legally bound to make financial decisions solely based on the interest of the client. A fiduciary will therefore make different decisions based on different clients and will not make decisions based on how much money he is going to get out of the deal.

  • What certifications do you have?

I have heard of "financial advisors" recommending investments to high net worth clients without understanding how it will affect their year-end taxes. Others have given basic retirement advice that is simply wrong. Avoiding these situations is easy if you ask for credentials.

CFP® is a designation meaning Certified Financial Planner™. CFP® professionals must pass a certification examination, which requires an understanding of the areas that affect your financial plan, and agree to abide by the board's code of ethics in regards to their clients. A CFP® gives clients the confidence that their financial planner is held to a certain standard.

CPA® is a Certified Public Accountant. In order to receive this designation, accounting practitioners are required not only to pass a test, but to demonstrate extensive experience in their field. CPAs provide insight into complex tax issues, such as stock options and how to reduce one’s overall tax liability.

CFA®designates Chartered Financial Analysts. Like the other designations above, it requires testing and extensive work in order to receive the designation of CFA®.  People who hold this designation are going to be trained in how to extensively evaluate individual stocks and investments.

There are many designations that have not been listed here. Unfortunately, many of those can be obtained via a quick test of knowledge or even a short seminar. While there are definitely capable advisors who do not have a CFP®, a CPA®, or a CFA®, these designations provide the best initial understanding of a financial planner's knowledge and background. Practitioners with these designations are knowledgeable on all aspects of your finances and how they will affect your life.

Give yourself time before your first meeting to prepare your questions. Is there anything specific you'd like to remember to ask? Review your questions after the meeting.  How did you feel about the answers this financial planner gave in response?

Preparing for your meeting gives you the confidence to choose the best possible advisor for your financial planning needs.

Why Your Net Worth Statement Isn’t Doing You Any Good

Throw your Net Worth Statement in the trash. Every year most Americans look at this piece of paper riddled with dollars and cents and they draw drastic conclusions about their financial success. Often when I sit down with clients, there is a tendency to look solely at that final number—the one you get when you subtract your total liabilities from your total assets—and derive satisfaction only if the number is higher than the previous year’s.

We’ve been wrongly conditioned to identify success and happiness with larger amounts of money in our bank accounts, and very rarely do we celebrate the milestones that our money helped us experience.

I invite you to consider your upcoming year and events. Think about things like family reunions, big football games, Caribbean vacations, taking a road trip along the California coast, decorating the new guest bedroom and so on. These are all things that your finances empowered you to enjoy. Amend your Net Worth Statement to include a new line item:

“Where My Money Took Me”

I’ll be inviting my own clients to amend their Net Worth Statements this year, as I have amended my own from 2014. For my family, I added: the trips I took to meet my baby niece and the beauty that I saw on a trip to the Northwest. I also included buying a new home, the luxury of decorating it and buying the furniture we wanted to make our guests feel welcome and comfortable.

Yes, the figures are important, but it would be a shame to not include the life we've been able to experience because of them.

5 Things Your Financial Planner Wishes You Would Do

Every client I have is a different relationship. I work hard to understand my clients as individuals and to learn what is different about what each of them needs and how they like to work. The best clients understand that there are things they can do to contribute to a productive relationship with their advisor. Here are some of the ways to be a great client to your financial planner:

Talk About Concerns

Money is often a very difficult thing to talk about. There is a lot of stress wrapped up in money, and a lot of potential for feeling vulnerable. Unfortunately, what that means is that it is even more important that every concern, every fear is really addressed. A good financial advisor is understanding of the fears and concerns regarding finances. A great client will have trust in their advisor to provide great information without being rude. This goes for concerns about fees, about the future of your money, about the decisions being made by your advisor, and about anything else you can think of. Voicing concerns early and often avoids future rework and strengthens the relationship you have with your financial advisor. It actually helps me do my job better!

Be Aware of Fees

My clients know that I am clear and upfront about all of my fees. I have even written here about fee structures for financial advisors. However, the best clients make a point to understand these fees also, in order to avoid misunderstandings later in the game. Great clients are not the ones that would overpay; they simply do not want me to work for free.

Be Present in Meetings

Sometimes this means taking notes during our meetings, sometimes this means just turning off phones. I always make myself available to my clients in case questions arise the day after a meeting, and even the most present clients will have these questions on occasion. Great clients know, though, that we are in this together.

Engage

Engaging is about dialogue, more than just talking about concerns. It means voicing hopes as well as concerns, explaining what you're hearing, and asking for clarification when you need it. Sometimes things don't make sense! Some of the best learning experiences I have as an advisor center around clients who haven't understood what we are talking about. When my clients tell me they don't understand, I learn to do better. The "ah-ha" moments teach me the most. A client will rephrase what I've been saying and teach me a new way of communicating the idea to future clients.

Let's enjoy the process!

Finances are not always fun. They can be frustrating; they can be the source of worry and shame. That doesn't mean that my relationship with my clients needs to be similarly frustrating! Great clients know that we are in this together to make the best improvements we can. We learn together and are grateful for that process. I am so grateful for my clients and it is amazing when they feel the same!

Determine if Hiring a Financial Advisor is Right for You

Deciding whether or not you need a financial advisor is the first step in getting your financial house in order. In making this important decision, let's look at the type of person who benefits most from working with a financial advisor.

She has a full schedule

You know the importance of financial planning , but don't have the time to commit to learning all the intricacies involved in managing your money. To you, spending time with family and doing things you enjoy are more important. A financial advisor can do the work and let you live life.

He is intimidated

To this person, money is a confusing thing. I work with a lot of people who are highly competent in every area of their life and yet feel intimidated by investing. This could be largely in part because they have never had to do it or they just don't feel comfortable with numbers. A financial advisor can easily alleviate many of the financial fears you might have.

She is facing a major life transition

You don't know what you don't know. Going through a transition, whether it be retirement, the recent loss of your spouse or switching jobs, can be a tremendous source of stress, both in terms of finances and life in general. Walking with a financial advisor through those times of transition, especially an advisor who has been trained in working with transitions, can be invaluable.

He values financial advice

You may not be able to watch your finances on a regular basis. In this circumstance, you may want financial advice to guide you toward the future you desire.

Financial decisions weigh heavily on her

If financial decisions keep you up at night, you are probably in need of an advisor. A well-developed plan should ease financial concerns and allow you to focus on the things that are important in life.

There's the marriage issue

Managing your finances on your own is one thing, partnering with your spouse is another. This can be done well, but even if one spouse is very comfortable managing the finances, if the other spouse is not, an advisor may be a benefit to both.

Not everyone needs a financial advisor

This may sound strange coming from a professional financial advisor, but it's important to recognize that when it comes to finances, one solution is not right for everyone. Anyone who tells you anything different is lying to you!

Here are the characteristics of someone who probably doesn't need a financial advisor:

They love personal finance and read about it all the time

There is a wealth of information on the internet about personal finance. There are entire websites set up to provide the step-by-step guidance on how to get your financial house in order. To some, this is an exiting way to spend an evening. People who enjoy it will not need a professional to take it off their plate.

They have the time to learn and manage their investments going forward

It's one thing to know how to do something and another thing to actually do it and do it consistently. Financial planning takes consistent time and effort. Those who are willing to put in that time and effort do not need a financial advisor.

Market uncertainty excites them

One of the biggest advantages of working with a financial advisor is staying on course when the market goes down. Making a mistake at the bottom of a market cycle can have significant implications on your portfolio. DIY investors must have the stomach for the market cycles and intuitively understand how markets work.

They want to be in control

This is sobering to write as I can be this person. I'm independent, self-employed and know that I am capable of learning most things. I'm learning to get help where needed, but know that if someone is not willing to give up control with their finances, they won't. People who cannot let go of control of their finances should not bother with employing an advisor.

They don't want to spend the money

If you don't want to pay for financial advice, then don't. You will always be thinking about the price tag, which will deter you from focusing on what's really important.

If it seems you are a person who does not need a financial advisor for any of these reasons, but you are still unsure of your next steps, schedule a call with me. I would love to point you in the right direction and give you the resources you need to help you get on track. There are absolutely no obligations or strings attached. I gain tremendous satisfaction from helping people with their finances, even when it means they do not use me as their financial advisor.

We Can't Be Good at Everything: When to Trust Professionals

When my husband and I bought our first house, it was with the intention of having a home office. I wanted the flexibility. I would still have the physical office, but being able to work from home was key in creating the work/life balance and flexibility that I desired. I wasn't nervous. Knowing that many had gone before me in having a successful home office, I felt confident as I started attacking the boxes. I had no idea what I was in for. After several hours of organizing and sifting through papers, I realized all I had really done in that time was create new piles out of old ones. I left for the day, figuring a fresh set of eyes would make the difference, but the next day was the same. I wasn’t making progress. I finally had to admit to myself that I’m just not as organized as I would like to think I am.

Some time ago, I probably would have just kept working at organizing and gotten no where. The internet is full of lists and great resources – “21 Ideas for Organizing Your Home Office” or “10 Ways to Organize Your Home Office.” I would have picked eight directions at once and gotten frustrated and walked away from each of the new approaches I discovered. But I have learned too much, and I know when I need help. The stakes were too high for me, because this wasn’t just about the office, it was about the next step in my career and spending time with people and causes that are important to me.

Thankfully, my friend Terri works at Top Drawer Organizing. She is a professional organizer and frankly a God send. I emailed my plea for help. In our initial exchange, I wrote, “I’m a little worried to be showing off my mess, but I need help more than I need to hide.” Isn’t that the truth. As Terri quickly assured me, “That’s what EVERYONE says!” She’s right. We all need help but want to hide. I had reached a point where I just couldn’t get out of my rut  I could successfully push paper around, but I wasn’t getting closer to an organized office. I couldn’t see what my next steps were.

Terri walked into the situation and immediately started walking me towards my end goal. A trained professional is best when asked to put together a mess. Within our three hour appointment, Terri had pinpointed the strategies that I specifically needed to solve my problems. Her solutions were going to work best for me because they were based on my work flow and personality all in the context of the space I had to work with. There was immediate progress and I was given a short list of what I needed to do. They were small, bite size items that I would enjoy doing (find this organizing tool in a color or design that makes you happy.)

I didn’t even know where to start, but Terri knew enough about organizing to know that there isn’t one right way, or a set of 10 ideas that will work for every home office. Terri wasn’t turning my office into her office, she was helping me build something that would work, just for me. Now, we are working together in organizing my home office. I have my “to-do” list and Terri has hers. I don’t know how to design a custom closet specifically for the masses of paper and the specific workflows that I have, but Terri does. And she’s good at it. I know that anything she does is going to be better than whatever I would put together and give me a greater chance of success. She ended up putting together an office that I am confident will work well for me into the future. And I know that at any point I begin to struggle or have problems, I can call Terri and she will be able to come in and pick up where we just left off.

Organization is not my strong-suit. It is difficult to admit when I can’t do something that sounds like it should be so easy, but these are the facts. We can’t be good at everything. This is why I am a financial planner. Finances are difficult, and the stakes are enormous. Maintaining your standard of living, sending your children or grandchildren to college, the confidence in knowing that you have a financial plan in place – these are high stakes. Many people don’t know where to start.

The internet has amassed more knowledge on personal finance than anyone could ever absorb and it continues to grow. However, just because there is a plentiful amount of knowledge available doesn’t mean that it is easy to apply it to your situation. What works for one may not work for the next. Working with a professional should provide a deep sense of clarity on what you need for your situation. Terri provided that clarity to me for my home office, and that’s what I strive to do with my clients on a daily basis in finance.

When the stakes are so high, and the rewards so big, it has to be okay to show your mess. Rarely is a person’s finance in top notch shape when they come to work with a financial planner – and that’s normal. If your finances were in order and you had confidence in your strategy, you may not need a financial planner. Working with a financial planner should help take you out of your rut and get you on track for your goals. One of the biggest benefits of working with a planner is the change of perspective that they can offer you. They will help you get a sense of confidence as you start to make progress towards your goals.

How I Learned to Embrace Life's Transitions

 
 

"What is wrong with you?!  You are all over the map!"  My husband was exasperated. "One day you want one thing and the next you want something completely different. Can you just pick?"

He was right – I was all over the map. We got married and ten weeks later I bought the financial planning firm I had been working in. I was overwhelmed with the transitions that were happening in my life. I was now expected to be a wife and a business owner, neither of which I had any experience, but desperately wanted to do both well. I was in uncharted territory. There were new expectations on me and I didn’t know how to meet those expectations, or even at times what the new expectations were. Many of the reference points that guided me so clearly before seemed irrelevant now and I felt lost.

Even through the uncertainty, there were several things I knew. I knew I was passionate about working in financial planning as well as working with recently widowed women. As I continued my research in how to best serve recently widowed women, I joined the Sudden Money program, an organization that trains financial advisors on how to help clients manage transition. In just the first set of training, my unknowing response to my recent transitions started to make sense. They use an illustration that shows what it’s like navigating your way through a transition.

There are several things this illustration clarified for me.

Transitions mean moving forward

Leaving behind life as it was is hard and oftentimes comes with many different layers of grief for what was lost. When I got married, even though that was a positive transition, I was still experiencing loss - the loss if independence that I had valued so dearly and the "options" I felt I had when it was just me. Grief, even when you are transitioning to something better is an important step in making a successful transition.

Transitions also require uncertainty

Uncertainty about what steps we need to take to the "new normal" and what that process will look like. It would be easy to list out the steps we need to take to get from point A to point B, but it's just not the way transitions work. Even the most planned transitions cannot account for the emotional experience of whoever is walking through it.

Transitions require a sense of hope

Hope that someday you will have a "new normal."  Hope that you're not broken forever and the pieces can be put back together, when the transition feels like a scene out of your worst nightmare. Hope that you can move into a new phase of life that will be fulfilling and filled with life. I hoped that someday I would be able to run a successful business that would have a meaningful impact on my client's lives while prioritizing my new husband and future family.

I learned several things about myself in my transition.

Lesson 1: It's okay to be "all over the board."  

That is a normal part of the transition process. Given this realization, I set up guidelines to protect myself during this period - no excessive spending, no big decisions, no commitments that would require a significant amount of my time and energy. This was important because I wanted to be successful, and knew I wasn't in the right frame of mind to make long lasting decisions. The last thing I wanted to do was to unknowingly sabotage my future. Many people had opinions, oftentimes unsolicited about what I should do yet few took the time to really listen to who I was and the values that I held most dear, regardless of situation. I knew that wherever life took me, these values were elements that were going to be the building blocks of my future.

Lesson 2: be patient with yourself

I realized it would take time to reach my "new normal" and that I had to go through the uncertainty and the process of transition before I could truly discover who I wanted to be at the end of the transition.

Lesson 3: care for Yourself

I started exercising on a regular basis and started counseling. I took notice of what I was eating and made sure that I was putting food in my body that would help instead of hurt me. Taking time for these things brought a sense of normalcy that helped guide me through my transitions. It kept me present in the process so I could confidently find the right path for me.

When there is a transition, it often includes many financial uncertainties. If you or someone you love is going through a recent transition and concerned about making wise decisions, schedule a free 30 minute consultation with Hannah.

To Have and to Hold, to Save and to Spend: Financial planning for two

I recently attended a wedding. The couple was in their 20s, and prior to the wedding I talked with the groom about some of their potential financial problems and stress related to money. That conversation generated several key take aways that are always good reminders.

Both parties want to be financially successful!

I have yet to find a couple in which one partner was intentionally trying to sabotage the finances to spite their spouse. There are certainly examples of financial addiction and abuse in marriages, but the vast majority of the time both paries want to be successful individually as well as together. The problem, therefore, is not one person, but an agreement on what it means to be financially successful as a team.

Definitions matter

At the wedding, the groom mentioned they experienced stress because the wife placed a lot of value on security (don’t all women!) and the husband had a mindset of “you only live once.” And guess what? They're both right!  Their conflict resided in the practical application of these values. Good financial planning is not about sacrificing all pleasures for future security, it is about a balance. That balance requires communication and reevaluation at every major life change.

Effective communication is the key to any successful financial plan

Finding the differences in attitudes towards money is only the first step. Being able to have conversations that effectively address those issues is absolutely essential to having a success financial plan and living compatibly with your spouse.

After this discussion, the groom and I were still left with the question of how to resolve this tension. The truth of financial planning is that there is rarely ever a solution that works in every situation. To me, this is what makes my job so interesting. There are always multiple solutions, and every client is going to need something slightly different in his or her (and in this case their) situation! Here are some of the potential solutions that the groom and I discussed, hoping to place both bride and groom on the same page.

Option 1: Find the definition of financial security.

The bride wants security, but security does not have to mean "always saving, never spending". If security is a driving force for a spouse, there may be ways to compromise while still allowing your spouse that secure financial net to fall back on.

This sense of security can be different for different people – a certain amount of money in the bank (this can vary greatly between people), a certain monthly income, a car paid off, a strategy in place to retire comfortably, a strategy for how they are going to pay for their children’s college or any number of things. Once these basic needs are met, it can free a person to begin to experience more enjoyable things in life and begin to spend more because – the groom is right – you do only live once. So begin by defining what security means to you and your spouse.

Option 2: Prioritize spontaneous spending.

For the groom, value was placed on enjoying the things that were important to him because life is short. To him, going through life without experiences, no matter how costly, would be failing financially, even if it meant that he was able to retire early or pay for his children’s college or never have to worry about money again.

Decide what’s important in spontaneous spending. Perhaps you and your spouse decide that you are going to value big spontaneous events – an exotic trip, tickets to watch your favorite college football team play in a bowl game, or that once in a lifetime front row seat at your favorite artist's concert. On the other hand, perhaps you and your spouse value the finer things in daily life – a nice car, season tickets to the theatre, ballet or sporting events, eating healthy, or regularly entertaining guests.

Option 3: Spend and save consciously

Know what the triggers are for spontaneous spending – is it something that you do when you are stressed or is it when you just can’t live without an experience? If it’s in response to a negative emotion, perhaps you can explore healthier ways of dealing with that stress then binge shopping. If it’s in relation to a positive event – you just couldn’t imagine missing the big game – then perhaps your household would benefit from setting up a “spontaneous fund” so that money can be taken out of “savings” without compromising security.

With a line item in your budget for spontaneous spending, you can better consider how that money is spent. For example, instead of buying the best seats at the game, consider sitting in a less expensive section or instead of staying at a four or five star hotel, you consider a three star hotel or perhaps lease your next car instead of buying a new car. This will allow spontaneous spending that keeps in mind both secure savings and future spontaneous spending.

While I enjoyed my conversation about marriage and finances with the soon-to-be newlywed, it wasn’t going to help fix their situation. Luckily, the groom knew that. His question to me was, “How do we talk about this?” which is a key question. He hit the nail on the head – it’s hard to talk about money. Working with a financial planner is a very effective way to begin the conversation around money. As a financial advisor, it is part of my job to provide a forum and the tools to help couples effectively talk about money.

Financial planning for two, forever

In the end, the newlyweds still had a lot of work to do. This was only the first financial planning conversation for the marriage, and there would be many more to come. It can be difficult in any relationship – new or old – to talk about money, but understanding the importance of communication and talking with a financial planner helped give this groom the tools he needed to start a happily-ever-after conversation with his bride.

Financial Planning in Complex Medical Situations: 4 Steps to Take

As of 2013, yearly unpaid hospital bills in the United States amounted to more than $40 billion. For families struggling to care for loved ones with complex health issues, the rising costs of healthcare and medical services can quickly decimate financial stability. Because the need for medical services is not always predictable, planning for medical expenses is the best way to guarantee security in difficult times.

Complex Medical Services Equal Large Expenses

Whether you’re coping with a current medical situation or in financial distress from a previous event, paying for large medical expenses can lead to an inability to access basic needs, ensure retirement security, and put food on the table. Though not a comprehensive list, the following medical costs tend to give families the most financial stress:

  • Rehabilitation. Both inpatient and outpatient rehabilitative services may be required, but not all insurance plans cover services 100%. As a result, you’re left to foot the bill or risk lack of medical care.
  • Case management. Some individuals require the assistance of a case manager to ensure basic needs are met, appointments are kept, or respite care is provided. Often, these services are not covered fully by insurance.
  • Special equipment. From mobility assistance to life-saving medical devices, special equipment can be costly. Paying for medical equipment is challenging without a plan in place to cover the expense.
  • Specialist services. Between medical specialists, special education, or transportation, services required in a complex medical situation can be expensive and eat into your budget.
  • Surgical and inpatient fees. When insurance plans don’t cover 100% of surgical and inpatient fees, individuals, and families are expected to pay for a portion of medical costs. A bill such as this can be quite high and can lead to a serious financial crisis.

Reduce Medical Expenses

Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to start on the path to reducing medical bills and improving financial health:

  • Review medical bills. Though keeping all medical bills and receipts is a good idea, be sure to carefully review them first. Ensure there are no duplicate charges or invoices for services not performed.
  • Establish an emergency fund. In an emergency, the best preparation is planning. Create an emergency or medical fund to stow away savings for the next unexpected expense.
  • Create a pre-tax medical fund. Though becoming more popular, pre-tax medical funds or Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are still widely underused. For individuals or families dealing with complex medical issues, an established medical fund can provide financial relief and peace of mind while saving real money on your taxes.
  • Adjust health coverage. Depending on your health needs, it’s wise to review your health coverage and determine if an adjustment is necessary. Choosing a plan with a higher premium that covers more services might be a better option.

Worry Less about Medical Bills

Taking these steps will help you worry less about medical bills and spend more time enjoying life. Consider working with a financial planner to evaluate existing medical bills, create a plan to reduce debt and prepare for future medical expenses.

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Reality Check: Are You Spending Too Much During Retirement?

Despite confidence in retirement stability increasing slightly across the board, many Americans are falling prey to the misconception that retirement planning is a low priority. Often citing cost of living as an excuse, those without a financial plan for retirement are headed for fiscal ruination. Whether you’ve diligently planned for retirement or not, overspending can lead to a future filled with financial insecurity.

The Facts on Retirement Spending

According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s 2014 Retirement Confidence Survey, nearly half of all retirees surveyed reported concerns about rising debt. Approximately 3 in 4 adults without a retirement savings account had less than $1,000 saved. Similarly, nearly 60% of retirees have less than $25,000 in savings. For those planning to live a long and fulfilling life, a lack of adequate savings puts a kink in well-laid plans. Sadly, less than 20% of retirees had more than a quarter million dollars saved.

What does this mean for you? Being outside that 20% may result in financial ruin and serious stress. Don’t let that happen – make a change now before it’s too late.

Planning for Retirement (It’s Not Too Late)

Even if you’re in retirement, there are things you can begin doing today to make your financial future more secure:

  • Evaluate needs and assets. The first step in responsible retirement spending is to evaluate your total assets and needs. Are you buying high-priced items, or are your financial problems stemming from recent medical expenses? Identify the major expenses contributing to your situation.
  • Hire a financial planner. When overspending on a fixed income, the quickest way to get back on track is to enlist the help of a financial planner. A thorough review of your financial status will enable an adviser to suggest the best course of action.
  • Reduce unsecured debt. With unsecured debt, each passing month leads to more interest and fees. A large part of achieving financial stability is reducing this debt so you can keep more of your hard-earned money.
  • Make wise investment decisions. Working with a financial advisor will help you identify and follow through with wise investment decisions. Depending on the market, financial gains will equip you to save more and achieve financial security during retirement.

Live Your Way

Ultimately, it’s up to you how to spend your hard-earned money. What isn’t up to you (or any of us) is how long we have to live. Overspending in retirement can lead to a crippling lack of funds for the future, and outliving your savings isn’t a pleasant way to spend your golden years. By realistically planning for retirement and spending money responsibly, you can ensure you’ll have paved the way to a more satisfying life.

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