Our advisors share their financial insight with you! Their writing is featured in local publications.
Kim Ciccarelli Kantor | Naples Daily News | March 2017
In a perfect world, you would know exactly what to do and who to call when your spouse passes. You would have checklist of key estate planning considerations, which you had discussed with your advisors and your spouse before they passed. But for all the preparation in the world, it can be difficult to know where to start amidst the sorrow and grief of losing your spouse.
Of course, your first responsibility is family: handling all of the necessary arrangements for your spouse’s funeral and coordinating with your family members. Next, you need to notify your advisors – specifically, your attorney and your family financial advisor – and set up a meeting to gain a better understanding of your responsibilities as the surviving spouse.
Unfortunately, many people fail to adequately prepare for their spouse’s death. Of course, most people execute and sign their key estate planning documents in accordance with their wishes. They work with their financial advisor to name beneficiaries and properly title assets. They open a safe deposit box and make sure there are multiple signors. They secured their domicile and filed the necessary homestead papers. They prepare a balance sheet or a ledger of assets.
While all of these steps are necessary and valuable to the estate planning process, these actions will not sufficiently prepare you for the reality of losing your spouse.
By completing a thorough post-death dress rehearsal with your spouse and advisor team, you will effectively bridge any gaps in your plan that could undermine the proper execution of your estate. Create a comprehensive list of the most important priorities to contemplate at the time of your spouse’s death. As morbid as a post-death rehearsal may sound, a detailed rundown of your responsibilities will prepare you for the worst imaginable scenarios.
For instance, pre-death planning is especially imperative if both you and your spouse are deceased or incapacitated, and you need to defer to your Power of Attorney or successor trustee for oversight. Without a complete understanding of your responsibilities after your spouse’s death, that situation could be a total nightmare.
Your life plan hinges on how well you settle your affairs and the decisions you make. Prior to meeting with your advisors, claim nothing, make no decisions, and do not inform institutions of your spouse’s passing. Instead, gather information in preparation for this time together. Visit your safe deposit box, and bring your original estate documents and your spouse’s death certificate. Review your cash balances in accounts that are in your name – both individual and joint – to ensure that you have “operating” funds during the estate settlement process. Create a list of funeral expenses and medical bills – but wait to pay until you’ve met with your advisors.
During the meeting, talk earnestly with your advisors, who are well-versed on your personal circumstances as well as the planning and distribution options under your plan. Have your advisors review a flow chart of how your affairs should be handled, as well as a checklist of items you will be required to complete in accord with your attorney. Determine who will handle your required income tax return filings, and be sure that creditors are notified if a formal process needs to be followed.
If you need more clarity about your immediate duties after your spouse’s death, run through the process before they pass away. Evaluate your list of executor activities, and seek out estate planning opportunities that allow you and your family with the flexibility you need.
Most importantly, address the question: “What are my most timely priorities?” Then, begin to move forward.
Jill Ciccarelli Rapps | Life in Naples Magazine | March 2017
Financial planning involves more than just discussing investments. In fact, our greatest asset is not a stock or a bond; it is our health.
An unhealthy lifestyle places a major strain on your finances, while embracing wellness can reduce your long-term financial burden. With the cost of health care rising exponentially, it is more important than ever to take care of yourself. By keeping your body and mind in top condition, you will find it easier to enjoy all aspects of your life.
Bad Habits Are Expensive
Unhealthy habits like smoking tobacco, drinking too much alcohol, eating junk food or buying sugary coffee drinks all come with huge price tags. Eliminating or reducing these bad habits will enrich your health, lower your chances of developing a costly long-term health condition, and save you hundreds of dollars every month. The money you save by kicking these habits can go towards preserving your family’s financial future.
Being Healthy Increases Your Earning Potential
Being in good health can increase your earning potential. The healthier you are, the more equipped you are to work longer hours and thrive in high-paying positions that have more demanding schedules and responsibilities. Being healthy also reduces the number of sick days you need to take, as well as the number of doctor’s visits you need to make. Lastly, healthy people can keep working and generating steady income well into their golden years.
Healthy Habits Save Money
Making small adjustments to your lifestyle can save a substantial amount of money over time. Biking and walking cost less than driving a car. Packing a healthy lunch rather than eating out is good for your waistline and your wallet. Unlike drinking sodas and other sugary drinks, water is usually free. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the number of clothes you have to buy. All of these healthy habits can help you cut on daily expenses that detract from your savings goals and retirement plans.
In addition to daily savings, being healthy can have long-term financial benefits for your entire family. The combination of increased earning potential and increased savings on daily expenses will enable you to contribute more to the household budget. Secondly, healthy habits set a positive lifestyle example for your children, which will encourage them to be healthier throughout their lifetime. Finally, a wellness-focused lifestyle will reduce the need for expensive and time-intensive health care procedures later in life.
Here are some resources that will help you to jumpstart your healthy lifestyle!
• Discover tips for staying healthy and wellness-related guidance at Blue Zones of Southwest Florida
• Check out the upcoming SpelLIFE Women’s Wellness Summit in Naples on April 1 at www.AEuphoricLivingFoundation.org
A Strong Mind Manages Finances Better
One of the most critical aspects of healthy living is ensuring that your mind stays sharp well into your golden years. As your mental capabilities decline, managing your personal finances becomes more difficult. Between the calculations required for your monthly budget to determining the best investment strategies, you need your mind to be functioning at peak efficiency; otherwise, you could end up making very costly errors. The best way to promote mental wellness and alertness is to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle.
A Healthy Lifestyle Reduces Healthcare Costs
Finally, and most importantly, the biggest benefit to living a healthy lifestyle is reduced healthcare costs. Medical care in the United States is the most expensive in the world. The average American spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on healthcare during their lifetime.
Your life insurance and health insurance premiums are based on your current state of health. If you are in poor health, or engage in habits that deteriorate your health over time, you will pay more for monthly insurance coverage. Insurance premiums grow quickly over time, and could ultimately become one of your biggest expenses.
Being healthy also correlates to lower insurance premiums, fewer doctor’s visits and a major decrease of spending on pharmaceuticals. In addition, healthy people are more apt to seek out preventative care, which is less costly than the high fees associated with chronic illness. Simply put, the healthier you are, the less money you have to spend on medical care.
Our health is our greatest asset. Taking care of your health can save you a lot of money – from small saving on daily expenses to larger savings on insurance rates and healthcare spending. By making a continual commitment to healthy living, you lay the groundwork for a successful financial future.
FSC Securities Corporation and Ciccarelli Advisory Services, Inc., are not affiliated, endorsed nor employed by the companies listed here which includes but is not limited to at Blue Zones of Southwest Florida and A Euphoric Living Foundation.
Jill Ciccarelli Rapps | Life in Naples Magazine | February 2017
My father always said that your “golden years” are between ages 50-80. This is when you are in good health, have gained wisdom and hopefully have gathered enough assets to support your lifestyle. It is an exciting time in your life. If you plan well, you will finally have the time to do everything you’ve always wanted: exploring the world through travel, spending time with your family, or discovering a new favorite hobby.
In order to bring your retirement dreams to fruition, you need to create a financial strategy that will support your desired lifestyle. By preparing and executing a strategy that reflects your wishes, you will likely find the golden years of your retirement to be a liberating and enjoyable experience.
Determine Your Goals
In order to understand your income needs during retirement, it’s imperative to spend some time determining how you want your golden years to look. We take our clients through a special process of defining and clarifying what is most important to them by allowing them to brainstorm ideas on a blank canvas.
As an example, you may want to relocate another climate, or move closer to your family. Do you envision yourself travelling and exploring exotic places around the world? Or would you rather just relax – maybe rebuild a classic car or learn how to paint? Your retirement goals serve as the framework for your savings plan, and will be instrumental in helping you to go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
The key to living to the fullest in your golden years is to start planning early. Understanding where you are today and where you want to be in your golden years; making necessary adjustments today can make all the difference tomorrow. When you are 3-5 years away from retirement, you should begin thinking about creative ways to create the income you will need and consider how best to reduce taxable income. As with everything that is worthwhile, this takes time. The more time you have to plan, the better!
Think Long Term
When you imagine your retirement, you likely think about the early years – when you are in good health and medical complications don’t impede on your livelihood. Though our health tends to decline as we age, you shouldn’t hesitate to make plans well into your later years. In fact, the number one area that retirees tend to underprepare for is health care costs. Setting retirement goals that extend well into your 80s and 90s can inspire you to continue leading an active, purpose-driven lifestyle – which, in turn, often leads to increased longevity and life satisfaction.
Partner with a Financial Expert
The best way to enhance your retirement experience is through a partnership with a financial expert. Given all the complex variables that exist in today’s retirement landscape – inflation, rising insurance and health care costs, changing tax laws, potential fluctuations in your future income, and family dynamics – the need for expert financial advice is greater than ever before.
Start with a Clean Slate
Retirement is the ideal time to re-evaluate your overall attitude towards money. Consider how your money can serve as a tool for achieving your highest values in life. By retirement age, you have probably collected all the physical possessions you need, and you likely have plenty of free time to pursue new endeavors in your life. Based on that, you may find it to be advantageous to start thinking about money in terms of the experiences you can afford.
Whether you are saving for a grandchild’s college tuition or supporting a charitable cause that is close to your heart, a fundamental shift in how you view money can empower you to achieve these aspirations.
Through careful planning and consistent motivation, you will have a better opportunity to position yourself to meet all of your retirement goals. In the end, a solid financial plan and a winning team of financial professionals will serve as your GPS – guiding you towards happiness and personal fulfillment throughout your golden years.
Jill Ciccarelli Rapps | éBella Magazine | December 2016
Sooner than later, you may find yourself in a position where you need to take care of your spouse, parents, grandparents, or another family member. Becoming a caregiver for your ailing family member is a major commitment that can be emotionally and mentally draining.
You can ease the stress of being a caregiver through preparation and balance. By practicing the four keys to effective caregiving, you empower yourself to handle your caregiver responsibilities in a way that meets both of your needs.
Understand Your Financial Resources
Financial preparedness is a vital aspect of caregiving. The cost of health care is astronomical and continues to rise at a steady rate. By failing to account for health care expenses, you may find yourself in a predicament where you and your loved ones can no longer maintain the lifestyle you all currently enjoy.
When you become the primary caregiver for your loved one, you need to develop a nuanced understanding of your family’s financial resources. Creating a detailed budget is the most effective way to fully evaluate your situation. Review your important financial documents – tax returns, estate planning documents, bank statements, and insurance policies – and record monthly expenses.
You should discuss your budget with a financial advisor. Your advisor can help you consolidate and simplify financial information, recommend updates to your health care strategy and estate plan, and conduct a conversation about how your loved one would like to address health care decisions. By examining the “big picture” with your advisor, you position yourself to make financially prudent health care decisions.
As a caregiver, you will have to juggle a plethora of responsibilities – caring for your loved one’s basic needs, managing their medication and therapy schedules, and handling household chores. Getting organized is the key to proactively addressing your obligations and minimizing stress.
There are two simple ways to combat stress through organization. First, consider what you do best. Focus on these tasks and “give away the rest”. By hiring people to assist you, you can capitalize on your strengths and let the professionals handle tasks that you find to be difficult.
Secondly, create a system for tracking and documenting your loved one’s health-related information. Your organizational system should account for their day-to-day needs (medication, diet and exercise requirements, etc.), appointments, and health care expenses. As a result of keeping orderly records, you can facilitate open communication with medical professionals and your family.
Spend Quality Time Together
The caregiver-patient dynamic can strain your relationship with your family member – especially if your interactions are exclusively related to caregiving. To prevent this friction, make sure to schedule quality time together.
Each day, dedicate a few hours to enjoying each other’s company – watching TV, playing cards, or engaging in a lighthearted conversation. Spending quality time together will foster healthy communication and affection, and will help you to maintain and develop your relationship.
Take Care of Yourself
When you dedicate your time and energy to ensuring that your loved one’s needs are met, you may find it difficult to focus on your personal wellness. Many caregivers feel guilty when they think about themselves instead of paying attention to their ill family member. However, you should not allow guilt or other emotions to prevent you from satisfying your needs.
Your ability to effectively serve as a caregiver is compromised when you don’t take care of yourself. Make sure that you are eating right, exercising, and meeting your wellness needs. Take care of your own financial security and avoid making sacrifices that could negatively impact your future. Feel free to take a break occasionally.
If you feel overwhelmed, do not hesitate to ask for help. Capitalize on the resources that exist in our community – other family members, friends, community health care services or home care professionals. A little assistance can provide you with the stamina you need to continue providing exceptional care.
A financial planner can serve as a valuable asset for caregivers. Your advisor can guide you in developing an organized financial plan, empowering you to become an effective caregiver and achieve balance in your life.
By Steven Merkel, CFP®, ChFC® | Investopedia.com
While many of us like to think that we’re immortal, the old joke is that only two things in life are certain: death and taxes.
Not only is it essential for you to have a plan in place in the unlikely event of your death, but you must also implement your plan and make sure your loved ones understand your wishes. As Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote goes, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
If you’ve procrastinated on your estate plan, this article will help you move in the right direction.
- Do a Physical Items Inventory
To start things out, go through the inside and outside of your home and make a list of all items worth $100 or more. Examples include the home itself, television sets, jewelry, collectibles, vehicles, guns, computers/laptops, lawn mower, power tools and so on.
- Follow with a Non-Physical Items Inventory
Next, start adding up your non-physical assets. These include things you own on paper or other entitlements that are predicated on your death. Items listed here would include: brokerage accounts, 401k plans, IRA assets, bank accounts, life insurance policies, and ALL other existing insurance policies such as long-term care, homeowners, auto, disability, health and so on.
- Assemble a Credit Cards & Debts List
Here you’ll make a separate list for open credit cards and other debts. This should include everything such as auto loans, existing mortgages, home equity lines of credit, open credit cards with and without balances, and any other debts you might owe. A good practice is to run a free credit report at least once a year. It will identify any credit cards you may have forgotten you have.
- Make an Organization & Charitable Memberships List
If you belong to certain organizations such as the AARP, The American Legion, Veteran’s associations, AAA Auto Club, College Alumni, etc., you should make a list of these. Include any other charitable organizations that you proudly support or make donations to. In some cases, several of these organizations have accidental life insurance benefits (at no cost) on their members and your beneficiaries may be eligible. It’s also a good idea to let your beneficiaries know which charitable organizations are close to your heart.
- Send a Copy of Your Assets List to Your Estate Administrator
When your lists are completed, you should date and sign them and make at least three copies. The original should be given to your estate administrator (we’ll talk about him or her later in the article). The second copy should be given to your spouse (if you’re married) and placed in a safe deposit box. Keep the last copy for yourself in a safe place.
- Review IRA, 401(k) and Other Retirement Accounts
Accounts and policies in which you list beneficiary designations pass via “contract” to that person or entity listed at your death. No matter how you list these accounts/policies in your will or trust, it doesn’t matter because the beneficiary listing will take precedence. Review each of these accounts to make sure the beneficiaries are listed exactly as you like.
- Update Your Life Insurance & Annuities
Life insurance and annuities will pass by contract as well, so it’s equally important that you ensure that your beneficiaries are listed correctly on each of these accounts.
- Assign TOD Designations
TOD stands for transfer on death. Many accounts such as bank savings, CD accounts and individual brokerage accounts are unnecessarily probated every day. Probate is an avoidable court process through which assets are distributed per court instruction, which can be costly. Many of the accounts listed above can be set up with a transfer-on-death feature to avoid the probate process.
- Select a Responsible Estate Administrator
Your estate administrator will be responsible for following the rules of your will in the event of your death. It is important that you select an individual who is responsible and in a good mental state to make decisions. Don’t immediately assume that your spouse is the best choice. Think about all qualified individuals and how emotions related to your death will affect this person’s decision-making ability.
- Create a Will
Everyone over the age of 18 should have a will. It is the rulebook for distribution of your assets and it could prevent havoc among your heirs. Wills are fairly inexpensive estate planning documents to draft. Most attorneys can help you with this for less than $1,000. If that’s outside your budget, there are several good will-making software packages available online for home computer use. Make sure that you always sign and date your will, have two witnesses sign it and obtain a notarization on the final draft.
- Review & Update Your Documents
Review your will for updates at least once every two years and after any major life-changing events (marriage, divorce, birth of child, and so on). Life is constantly changing and your inventory list is likely to change from year to year too.
- Send Copies of Your Will to Your Estate Administrator
Once your will is finalized, signed, witnessed and notarized, you’ll want to make sure that your estate administrator gets a copy. You should also keep a copy in a safe-deposit box and in a safe place at home.
- Visit a Financial Planner or an Estate Attorney
While you may think that you’ve covered all avenues, it’s always a good idea to have a full investment and insurance plan done at least once every five years.
As you get older, life throws new curveballs at you, such as figuring out whether you need long-term care insurance and protecting your estate from a large tax bill or lengthy court processes. Tips like having an emergency medical contact card in your purse or wallet are little things many people never think of that an expert can help you learn.
- Initiate Important Estate-Plan Documents
Procrastination is the biggest enemy to estate planning. While none of us likes to think about dying, the fact of the matter is that improper or no planning can lead to family disputes, assets going into the wrong hands, long court litigations and huge amounts of dollars in federal tax.
At minimum, you should create a will, power of attorney, healthcare surrogate, and living will – and assign guardianship for your kids and pets. If you’re married, each spouse should create a separate will, with plans for the surviving spouse. Also make sure that all the concerned individuals have copies of these documents.
- Simplify Your Finances
If you’ve changed jobs over the years, it’s quite likely that you have several different 401(k)-type retirement plans still open with past employers or maybe even several different IRA accounts. While this normally won’t create a big problem while you’re alive (except lots of additional paperwork and account management), you may want to consider consolidating these accounts into one individual IRA account to take advantage of better investment choices, lower costs, a larger selection of investments, more control and less paperwork/easier management when assets are consolidated.
- Take Advantage of College Funding Accounts
The 529 plan is a unique tax-advantaged investment account for college savings. In addition, most universities do not consider 529 plans in the financial aid/scholarship calculation if a grandparent is listed as the custodian. The really nice feature is that growth and withdrawals from the account (if used for “qualified” education expenses) are tax-free. If you have grandchildren and the assets to do it, consider opening a plan for each grandchild.
The Bottom Line
Now you have the knowledge you need to get a good jump-start on reviewing your overall financial and estate picture; the rest is up to you. While you’re sitting around the house watching your favorite sports team or television show, pull out a tablet or laptop and start making your lists.
You’ll be surprised how much stuff you’ve accumulated over the years. You’ll also find that your inventory and debts lists will come in handy for other tasks such as homeowners insurance and getting a firm grip on your expenses.
Content was created by the author for a third-party website. Acknowledgement to Investopedia.com for the use of their article.
Jill Ciccarelli Rapps | Life in Naples Magazine | January 2017
Estate planning can be a difficult subject to discuss. Many people prefer to avoid broaching this topic, as it can be uncomfortable to think about your own mortality.
That being said, having an in-depth conversation about estate planning is the key to protecting your assets and providing a bright future for your family. By partnering with a financial advisor to plan your legacy, you can prevent common estate planning pitfalls and promote the financial well-being of your spouse, children and future generations.
The following tips will help you establish a plan that reflects your desires and vision for the future.
Create an Inventory of Assets
The first step in estate planning is creating a comprehensive inventory of your assets – including property, business holdings, savings, and annuities. In your inventory, be sure to include all of your account numbers, dated statements and an explanation of how each asset is owned. By doing so, you will find it much easy to keep your records up-to-date when your estate plan is executed.
With this foundation in place, you can develop a succession strategy in accordance with your wishes. To make this vision a reality, it is crucial to understand how the estate laws and taxes will impact your assets. A financial expert can help you navigate the red tape and capitalize on opportunities for tax relief.
Evaluate Life Insurance Coverage
Life insurance can be a critical component of your estate plan, especially if your family members rely on you for financial support. Life insurance provides you with the liquidity you need to protect your business holdings and make sure that your heirs are not forced to sell assets. Life insurance also serves as a great method for passing tax-free inheritance to your loved ones.
To take full advantage of life insurance benefits, you need to understand the types of coverage that are available. You should evaluate the differences between life insurance plans (i.e. term versus whole life coverage) and determine which policy will best fulfill your needs.
To effectively safeguard your assets, you should review all of your existing policies with your financial advisor every 2-3 years, or whenever you experience a major transition in your life. It is also crucial to make sure that your beneficiary designations are up-to-date.
Consider a Living Trust
A living trust can also play a key role in preserving your assets. Living trusts can help you to bypass probate, and reduce the costs and hassle associated with passing your inheritance to your family. Living trusts are especially advantageous if you have minor children, property in multiple states, or a large estate that will be subject to estate tax burdens (i.e. estates with assets totaling $5.45 million or more).
Draft a Will
Once you have a clear picture of your assets and a strategy for managing your inheritance, you will need to create a will. In your will, you designate the placement of your assets, name beneficiaries, and establish the executor of your estate. Your will serves as the cornerstone of your estate plan; in fact, your loved ones may receive little to no inheritance if you fail to draft a will.
While there are many online resources to help you draft a will, these templates may not cover all of your estate planning needs. The best approach for creating your will is to collaborate with an attorney and a financial advisor. A team of professionals can assist you in alleviating any complications you may experience when your will is executed.
Gather Official Documents
Once you have planned your estate, you will need to gather your official documents, including:
- Your will
- Powers of attorney and advanced medical directives
- Life insurance policies
- Inventory of assets (including bank statements, property titles and deeds, safety deposit boxes, stocks and savings bonds)
- Beneficiary forms for life insurance and retirement accounts
- Living trusts
- A list of important contacts (your attorney, financial planner, trustees and executor)
Once you complied your official documents, find a secure location to store your paperwork that is easily accessible to your family.
In order to preserve your legacy for future generations, you need a detailed estate plan that reflects your wishes. Whether you have $1 million in assets or an estate of $10 million or more, establishing a partnership with a financial advisor is the best decision you can make. Now is the time to organize your estate plan, facilitate a winning strategy and provide for your family’s future!
Jill Ciccarelli Rapps | Life in Naples Magazine | December 2016
Managing your money can be a headache, especially if you make financial decisions on the fly. A haphazard approach to overseeing your finances can damage your financial wellness, leading to unnecessary costs and wasteful spending.
As we transition into 2017, many of us are pursuing New Year’s resolutions. As you consider ways to improve your quality of life during the new year, we encourage you to follow these five easy steps for simplifying and organizing your financial life.
By doing so, you put yourself in a position where you can proactively control your money – empowering you to achieve financial success.
Set financial goals
Articulating your goals will help you to prioritize your spending. Identify the biggest financial undertaking you face – for instance, paying off your mortgage, purchasing a second home, saving for your dream vacation, putting your grandchildren through college or preparing for retirement – and write them down where you can visit them often.
Draw up a spending budget
Review all of your income and earnings statements, and understand how much revenue you will have for the month. Then, go through your expenditures and prioritize your future spending. Refer to your budget at least once per month to ensure that you adjust for unexpected income or expenses.
Once you develop a clear picture of your cash flow, you can create a budget that accurately reflects your lifestyle and empowers you to realize your goals.
Create a filing system
Maintaining files of your important documents is instrumental to organizing your life. The key to organization is finding a system that works for you. By doing so, you will find it much less cumbersome to keep up on your financial files.
For instance, many people prefer working with physical files and paper documents. If this is your preference, I recommend keeping a large basket on your desk for dropping receipts, statements and tax information. Twice a year, you should dedicate time to sorting through these documents. Often times, you will find that the paperwork you thought was important at the time can actually be shredded. After your biannual sorting session, you should retain all of your crucial information in categorized manila files.
Finally, dedicate a folder to housing your official documents – including your estate planning files, social security card, savings bonds and insurance policies. All of your files should be saved in a secure location, such as a safe at home, deposit box at the bank, or an online vault. These files should be easily accessible for you, your trustee and your family.
Consider using financial software
For those of you who are more technologically inclined, financial software can serve as a valuable resource for managing your money.
Many of these programs feature built-in templates to help you devise your monthly budgets. Some financial software will also provide you with detailed analytics about your spending habits, enhancing your ability to monitor and control expenses. There are even applications that will scan your receipts and important documents, creating digital archives for your financial information. If you choose to work with financial software, make sure to protect your information from unauthorized access by using encrypted software and creating strong passwords.
Your financial advisor can help you input and consolidate all your financial information in the program, further simplifying the process of managing your money.
Set up direct deposits and withdrawals
Arranging automatic deposits and withdrawals saves you time and effort while ensuring that your bills are paid on time. All regular income should be directly deposited into your bank account; most banks will allow you to split your deposits between different accounts, so you may allocate your deposits to various goals you have identified.
You should also set up any regular monthly expenses – rent, car payments and utilities – to be automatically withdrawn. Although you may prefer paper bills, setting up automatic payments will be helpful in the event that someone else needs to pay your bills (for instance, if you were to become incapacitated).
While these tips will guide you towards a simplified and organized financial life, you should also consider meeting with a financial planner. Financial planners may help you achieve your financial goals by designing your monthly budget, consolidating your key documents, and generating creative solutions to maximize your money.
Jill Ciccarelli Rapps | éBella Magazine | November 2016
Finding balance in your life is a challenging yet rewarding undertaking. When you achieve true balance – meaning that all elements of your life are in a healthy equilibrium – you position yourself to live life to the fullest.
While certain skills will come naturally to you, other facets of your life will require more attention in order to find balance. For instance, multitasking, nurturing others, and staying organized are often innate skills for women. In contrast, many women struggle to take control of their finances.
The Financial Balancing Act
Gaining a fresh perspective on your finances – and feeling empowered by your financial plan – are the keys to finding balance in your life.
Connect your finances with the big picture. Establish a link between your finances and other important aspects of your life. Start with the big picture: What is most important to you? How should your money align with your priorities? For example, if community involvement is an essential part of your life, consider donating to charities and causes that inspire you. The amount of money you allocate to charity should reflect your current financial situation and life goals.
In order to achieve life balance, you need to properly oversee your finances on an ongoing basis. Control your financial life in the same way you would manage your family or operate a business.
Treat your finances like a travel itinerary. When you plan a trip, you usually have a written itinerary to guide you through your journey. Envision your personal finances in the same light: document your goals in a way that is easy for you to understand, and plan to revisit your itinerary often.
Creating a financial flow chart is a useful exercise for visualizing the big picture. With this foundation in place, you will likely find it easier to dive into more detail. By moving from general to specific, you simplify the decision-making process – enabling yourself to carefully plan a spending budget. Following this process also helps you to measure growth and success over time, and allows you to make adjustments along the way.
Prioritize your spending. Many women feel uneasy when they spend money because they don’t know if they are in a position to spend. Setting up a budget allows you to plan out exactly what you should spend and helps to alleviate any concerns about spending. Ideally, you should spend money on the most significant aspects of your life and limit spending on less important areas.
A well-thought-out budget will help you visualize your financial situation – enabling you to make quicker decisions, feel good about your spending, and move towards financial stability.
Take time to identify and review your most important values. On occasion, you may feel that you have lost your financial balance. Often times, this feeling indicates that your spending habits are not aligned with your values.
Your values should be an integral part of your financial plan. When you regularly reflect on your highest values – the areas of your life that are most important and vital to you – making financial decisions becomes less overwhelming. If you need some help identifying your top values, there are many quick, easy exercises available online.
Meet the Challenge
Your financial wellness has a tremendous impact on your life. For this reason, it’s important to meet the challenge of mastering your finances head-on. Many women enjoy the challenge and thrill of achieving this goal, as mastering your finances can be a major source of pride.
If you aren’t currently taking control of your finances, an advisor can help you document your finances and gain clarity – guiding you towards a healthier life balance.
Jill Ciccarelli Rapps | Life in Naples Magazine | November 2016
It’s hard to believe that the holiday season is nearly upon us! As we celebrate the festivities with our families and loved ones, many of us are searching for the perfect holiday gift for our children and grandchildren.
While we may feel compelled to buy the latest tech gadget or a flashy new toy, you may want to consider the gift that lasts a lifetime: financial knowledge.
An Unforgettable Lesson
Growing up in western New York, I remember going on “road trips” with my parents and siblings. We would visit a company and take a tour of their facilities, or spend time exploring a farm. Our experiences on the road with Mom and Dad served a valuable purpose: educating my siblings and me about saving and investing.
At an early age, we learned which goods were produced in the factories and farms we visited, and that the demand for those goods would go up and down over time. We learned that we could invest our money in the companies we visited – as demand for their products increased, we could earn money without actually working as a farmer or a laborer.
Above all, our parents taught us the importance of starting to save early in life, and to save a little bit of every dollar that comes your way. These simple but powerful lessons have had an enduring impact on our lives, leading us down the road towards financial success.
Give Your Grandchildren a Jump Start
Engaging your grandchildren in a financial conversation can pay dividends for years to come. Everyone can benefit from having this valuable discussion, regardless of their age or level of interest.
Imagine you are having lunch with your 8-year-old grandchild. You recently set up a mutual fund for her. How do you discuss this topic with him or her? The best approach is to keep it simple and build on their knowledge over time.
Start by explaining that there are many companies in the fund and that he or she owns part of these companies – which means they will make money when the companies make money. While your grandchild probably won’t remember everything you say, you will plant the seeds for further education throughout her life.
The next step is to provide your grandchild with a memorable gift that relates to their investment. For instance, if the mutual fund holds Tesla, purchase him or her a model Tesla car and explain that they own part of the company that builds those cars.
As your grandchild continues to grow and mature, you can introduce more detailed concepts. You can talk about how stocks work and why the prices fluctuate, and give him or her an update on the performance of her investments. To add even more value to your financial lessons, you can supplement your conversation with interactive financial tools (many resources are available online) or enlist the expertise of a financial advisor.
With adult grandchildren, I recommend starting a conversation about 401(k) plans. Many young people don’t understand how a 401(k) plan works; as a result, they don’t participate in the plan and miss out on the benefits. Emphasize the value of making regular contributions. Explain that most employers will match your contributions, and illustrate how their money will gain compounding interest throughout their entire career. This is the perfect opportunity for you to impart valuable lessons that can guide your grandchild towards financial wellness.
To reinforce the wisdom you share with your grandchild, you can give them tangible gifts that promote financial success. A powerful way to encourage your grandchild to save is to match their savings. Another idea is gifting time with a financial advisor, who will guide them in identifying their current needs and their financial goals for the future.
Books can also provide a wealth of financial knowledge that will benefit your grandchild. I highly recommend these books, which are two of my favorite reads:
- The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason
- Five: Where will you be five years from today? by Dan Zadra
It’s never too early to share your financial experience with your family. This holiday season, capitalize on the opportunity to help your children and grandchildren prepare for a lifetime of financial success. Give the gift that lasts a lifetime!
Jill Ciccarelli Rapps | éBella Magazine | July 2016
Today’s women are strong, independent people who contribute a tremendous amount to society and to the lives of people with whom they come in contact.
However, we all face challenging times. One of the biggest challenges can come when you enter a period of major transition.
What is a Transitional Period?
Transitional periods for women can include a wide range of situations:
- Death of a loved one
- Diagnosis of illness or serious injury
- Caring for aging parents
- Lost job
- Other stressful life events
Obviously, positive transitional periods – such as a marriage or a promotion – can have a major impact on your life as well, but it’s not often that these periods are hard or stressful to navigate. However, in the situations listed above, the world can seem to be against you and transitioning through these stages of your life can be difficult.
Tips to Remember
Several strategies can help you work through transitional periods. If you keep these strategies in mind, you will likely find it easier to navigate difficult, overwhelming situations in the best possible way.
Start by setting goals for yourself to achieve by the end of the transitional period, and perhaps even goals to reach along the way. The goals can be small or major, but should always be realistic. Goals give you something to strive for and help you maintain a positive focus – instead of dwelling on the negatives in your situation.
Understand that your emotions are normal, and that you shouldn’t feel bad or blame yourself for feeling a certain way. No matter the situation, you could experience emotions like anger, sadness, regret, and more. It’s important to remember that these emotions are felt by many people who are going through similar circumstances.
Pay attention to your finances. This is incredibly important, as your finances are easy to overlook when the emotions of a situation are taking over your life. Taking steps to protect your finances is a must. Depending on your situation, talking to a financial expert could be necessary. Your advisor will guide you step-by-step to ensure that your finances do not seem overwhelming, and to help you capitalize on opportunities you may not have foreseen.
Stay busy. Consider taking up a new hobby or reconnecting with an old hobby. Adopting a new pet may be beneficial. Focus on activities with a loved one. The key is to stay busy and have a purpose, so you don’t become bogged down and distracted by situations that you cannot change.
Try to focus on the positive. Even the worst events in our lives may have some positive aspects. Here’s a good exercise to do regularly: every time you have a thought that makes you feel bad, counteract it with a thought that makes you feel good. Each day, consider what you are grateful for in your life, unrelated to the issue with which you are coping. Just like exercising on a regular basis, this brain exercise will help to create positive emotions over time.
Set up support. Whether it’s an advisor, a counselor, or a group of old friends, having someone you can talk to and confide in will positively impact your ability to move through the transitional period and into a better state of mind.
Consider making incremental changes. Learning something new, for example, is a great way to redirect your energy and attention after the death of a loved one. Helping others can help you find purpose again. Little changes to your life can make a big difference over time.
There’s no question that it can be overwhelming to move through challenging situations on your own. Fortunately, our Ciccarelli Advisory Services family is always here to support you through times of transition.