Financial Upheaval- Sudden Loss

September 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

2013-08-17 12.10.43

Things happen because life is full of surprises. And some of them are hard. No one can protect you from sudden loss, but here are some ideas to provide some guidance.

Gather documents– It’s so hard to even think in a time of sudden loss. But do what you can find the paper that will help. What is your budget, or statements from checking account. The insurance documents, investments, etc., the financial paper of the loved one’s life. Have a friend or relative help gather this information . Don’t worry about the mess. Don’t worry about it not including every little thing. Don’t worry about not understanding it all because that was what he managed. Just gather the paper.

Get help- Even if this were your area of expertise, during a time of turmoil you will at least find yourself at times confused and distracted. Your heart has just broken. Be kind to yourself and understand that you will get through this, that it is normal to feel this way and that you are not alone. There are financial experts who share your grief but are also distant enough to focus on YOU and your needs. Speak to a financial advisor and let her help you with this portion of your life. We can’t fix your broken heart. But we can lift this burden and help you have a plan for the future, my friend.

Extended timeline – Every decision will be managed on an extended time frame. Our first job is to support and encourage and be your financial coach through this time. Get the budget settled. Help get things squared away. All of this, at your pace. Moving things forward but at the rate that feels comfortable for you at this time.

Other people have gotten through this kind of tragic loss and you will, too. One day it will be brighter, the pain will be less piercing and you will smile and laugh. Your life of grace will be an example to others. (CR9442)

A Surprising Key to Happiness

August 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

Father and son on a pier relaxing together

Looking for happiness? Recently a client shared this study that links happiness with a trait that may surprise you.

Most people’s natural inclination, ask any teenager, is to believe that doing nothing or following as easy a route in life as possible, whether lounging around all day or eating without hunger or spending money as the whim overtakes you, THOSE actions must be the route to true and lasting happiness.

This study, and others before it, found that the more self-control study participants reported having, the happier they were. This happiness was reported both in the short-term, long-term and for overall ‘life satisfaction.’

So how do these happy people mange their natural cravings? Are they just scolding themselves all day and in every situation?

It turns out that self-controlled, happy people carefully think through situations so as not to put themselves in conditions that would leave them LESS able to control their impulses.

For instance, this is a finance column so what if shopping is a weakness in which you find yourself tempted to blow the budget? Don’t make shopping a hobby. Find other things to do with friends or by yourself. Walk, hike, bike with friends or solo. Get involved with a local charity for a few hours or for a weekend. Hang out with friends at the lake or even help paint a friend’s apartment. Get busy doing other activities that don’t require spending money. Read, cook for an infirm neighbor.

Make savings automatic. Freeze the credit cards in a block of ice. Hang out with friends who value frugality and like to go to yard sales.

What other steps might you take? Whatever you do you need to make the behavior fit your life. Carefully consider your areas of weakness. Then tweak the situation to make self-control simpler. You’ll be happier. (CR9386)

To read the study yourself

Keep the focus

July 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

credit cards

Who’s got time for more work? Not many of us. But keeping smart about living smart and saving money without spending too much time requires a few time-saving tips.

Tip #1 – Sign up for online credit sites – We’ve talked before about sites that will give you an idea, within a range, of your credit score, though they are not official credit reporting sites. CreditKarma and others can help provide a good idea of how you’re doing on your road to financial victory by providing a snapshot of how creditors see you. Fit in a few minutes to get copies of your actual credit reports annually. They are free. And you can get them all at Credit reporting agencies will not provide consumers with their credit number, but you can make corrections and keep your credit report accurate.

Tip #2 – Organize your money-saving sites – Many of us save money by using web sites that allow us to find great deals. You may have many sites that you use from buying airline tickets to books and music, clothes. You may have several coupon sites that you frequent. Take a few minutes and organize these online sites. You might also want to include consumer review sites like the BBB, so you can check complaints. Another idea may be to use a separate email for the daily posts from some of these sites, to keep you focused at work and to limit the junk mail. Anything to help with clutter.

Tip #3 – Use comparison sites to find better interest rates – Web sites such as compare cell phone costs, satellite or cable providers, even gas stations to give you some idea of where you may save money. (They are now TruAxis, but you can find Billshrink at

Tip #4 – Consider increase your saving today – Have you refinanced your house? How’s the interest rate? It only takes a few minutes to make a call and get an inquiry started. What about your 401(k) or IRA? You always say that when you get a raise you’d increase how much you were saving. Have you done that yet? Call HR and get the paperwork sent to you to up your savings rate today. Are you satisfied with what you are saving in your emergency fund? Get online with your financial institution and up the amount you save per pay period.

There! You took a few minutes and better organized your money. Great job, you. (CR9360)

A focus on kids

July 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

Kids at the shore
I saw a comic book on money for kids and these were some of the topics covered in a simple coloring book. Kids want to be adults. They want ‘in’ on the world of grown-ups. Give them some yummy finance instruction in the practical everyday world that you understand. Let them in with these simple questions. Walk through these questions with your kids, or the kids you influence, and you can make it be as simple or as complex as the maturity of the child allows. But start the discussion.

What is money? – Money doesn’t ‘grow on trees.’ But is used for trade. It’s printed at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, DC. Coins are produced by the US Mint. Other things to talk about could be before there were dollar bills and coins what used to be used for trade? What the advantages of using money?

How do we receive it? – Where does money come from? In their life or yours, how do you get money? Gifts, allowance even a job are all ways we get money. Sometimes we find it in the couch. If you want more money what might you do? What do grownups do when they want more money?

How do we spend it?- We spend money on needs and wants, on goods and services. But every time you spend it on one thing, your forgo money’s use on another thing. This is called opportunity cost. An example might be you bought a nice house so now the family eats out less. For your child an example might be if you buy that toy for yourself you won’t have the money for Nana’s present. You can see that even in simple terms, this could open up quite a discussion.

Money options- One can spend, save or invest. What do all those things mean? When you save money at a financial institution they then lend money to folks starting businesses in the community, or folks buying houses or cars. When you save money at a financial institution how can you get it back out? There are checks and debit cards. You can see your account online. How does someone apply for a loan? Depending on the child’s age and maturity level you could teach a lot of great info just following these questions.

Making a budget – Can I have all the things that I want to do with a limited amount of money. How do I do figure that out? What are the options inside of my budget? An example: You can wait and save. You could be frugal and get more for less. You could make more money.

So many things to talk about! And all from one kids coloring book. You can make this as easy to grasp, or as detailed and nuanced, as your imagination takes you. You can have field trips, ask friends who work in different fields chat with the kids. Just make sure you talk about it so your kids learn about money. (CR9359)

Your Financial Personality

July 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

There you sit, all clever and adorable. And you think occasionally about your future retirement. Maybe you plan. Maybe you think about planning. What are other folks doing about their retirement?

Here’s a very interesting survey on what’s going on in the financial lives your neighbors.

Friends together

10%- say there is no point in saving for retirement because it’s too far away. And besides, they can’t figure out how much they will need anyway. (2/3 these folks are over 45 years old.)

9%- encounter regular financial setbacks that sabotages their savings plans.

20%- hope to retire early, though they haven’t started saving yet. Those who have started saving have less than $10,000. 40% are over age 45 or older.

21% – Many ages 35-44 have started saving and feel they are doing a good job, though only about half are confident they will be able to afford retirement.

23% – Believe that if you make provision you can have a good retirement. These folks are risk tolerant and some expect to be able to retire at 60.

17%- Have saved and continue to save. Only about half of them are confident in their abilities to do a good job with their money. They prefer simple saving to investing.

You can see that folks are all over the map on their planning and saving. Where are you? Where would you LIKE to be? Whatever is going on in your financial life please remember that it’s never too late to do something to change your future. (CR9358)

Biz Owners- Tackle Your Future!

July 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

man with glasses from my web site

You are a knowledgeable business owner and an expert in your field. But what about your retirement future? We are so busy making sales and ensuring great service, managing people and staying abreast of the changing technologies that we often neglect our retirement planning. What will you tap for the income streams that all together comprise your nest egg?

Big picture– I own a business. So I understand the day-to-day intensity of being so involved with the details that it can be easy to lose the vision of the big picture. What is your goal with the business? Where are you based on your 5 year plan? How close are you to selling or are you expanding, adding workers or additional locations? And what about your personal goals? Have they gotten sidelined as you advance the business or are you staying focused?

Biz and personal – Take a step back and get more detailed in your personal and business planning. Take a day or a weekend and go away and really relax and think about the things you hope to achieve. As a small business owner I know that the Syversens and Norumbega Financial are hard to separate. But pull the two entities apart and examine where you are and where you want to be. And set up your goals and plans to achieve them.

Investment plan – Besides a savings cushion what are you investing in for your future? Work with an advisor who can guide you in finding the right investments with the amount of diversification that is right for you and your risk and goals. Consider investing in a personalized mix of stocks, bonds, and alternatives to avoid the all eggs in one basket scenario..

Taxes– Involve your tax expert in pre-tax benefits like SIMPLE IRAs for the firm or other tax-advantaged options for you as an individual. And work with advisors who keep you current on changes in regulations.

Succession– What happens with the business when you want to retire or you can’t work? Do you have a written succession plan? Do you have insurance products to fund the transition if necessary? Have you updated this information regularly? Does it need updating? Your sudden loss could rip their lives of your loved ones apart. And though in retirement you may have more time to transition, having a clear and well-considered plan is the best policy.

I know it’s hard to find time for all the planning you need to do. But it’s important that you make time to get your personal and business financial planning under control. You will be as well prepared as possible when situations arise. (CR9357)

Tying the Knot – Without Getting Tangled

June 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

Love and money

Getting married? What do you need to know about tying the financial knot- without getting tangled, which is also the title of my upcoming book (trademark symbol)?

Planning is half the battle – Hopefully, you have talked at least a bit about money and your general goals as individuals with the love of your life. If you haven’t had detailed conversations, may I suggest that you talk a bit more now, as a couple. I know how plans may change. My husband and I have been married for almost – well, for a very long time – and what we talked about before we got married is different from the chat we would have if we just met today understanding more about life and its ups and downs.

Things to discuss?  What do you both think about debt and savings? How do you feel about career and family? What are your priorities for life? I need you to recognize, in case you think differently about this, that you shouldn’t believe you will change him. Have a firm handle on how your honey thinks and their life goals.

Though life has brought us many surprises, and not all of them delightful, our priorities have remained very close to what they were when we met when I was 19 years-old. So know each other’s priorities is an important talk to have with one another.

Communicate – So now you are together. How do you manage your finances once you are a couple? There are folks who lie about their spending. In fact the number of those who hide or outright lie about their finances to the person they love might surprise you. Studies show that there are significant numbers of folks who are not forthcoming with their spouse about their spending habits. Really, kids? That’s not a formula for success. You know in your heart that open communication is best. Revisit that talk about goals, and be open about spending. Keep talking about plans and dreams and get them realigned as circumstances change. Not all of your plans may materialize as life can be full of curve balls. But understanding what’s important to the person you love is vital.

Various approaches – As to putting your finances together there are several approaches you might take. For some expenses and savings are split as a percentage of total income. For other couples each person chooses what bill to pay. For others it’s all-for-one-and-one-for-all with money completely combined. Remember that you are a team now. You are no longer single and your finances should reflect that union. But there are many options available for you as you link your finances.

What’s right for you – Ultimately, I can’t tell you what might be the very best way for you. My advice? Use objective information as you think this through, talk to family and friends and then see what works best for you both.

One of the biggest reasons for divorce is folks fighting about money. This is a very worthwhile conversation to have and commitments to keep. You both love each other too much to ignore this topic. (CR9308)


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