Elections Matter But Life Transitions Are More Important


Many folks are feeling as much anxiety about the end of this contentious presidential election as they were feeling during the long months of campaigning. It’s impossible to predict with 100% accuracy what a new president and a new Congress are going to do. That feeling of uncertainty can send out ripples through our financial and political systems until we get a clearer picture of the agenda for the next four years.

As important as elections are, we believe that a solid financial plan gives you the tools to keep improving your Return on Life no matter what’s happening with our nation’s politics. Instead of fretting about what may or may not happen starting in January, try to focus on these three areas of your life that will help you control major transitions.

  1. You can’t control the economy … but you can control your career.

Elections sometimes spark short-term volatility in the financial markets. But the economy is bigger than any one president, especially while Covid-19 continues to change everyday life and  global business.

As companies continue to adapt to the pandemic landscape, job opportunities are becoming less centralized and more diverse. You might be able to take your dream job on the other side of the country without leaving the home your family loves. Or you might spot an emerging market in the middle of all this displacement where you can open your own company.

  1. You can’t control taxes … but you can control your saving and spending.

Presidential candidates talk a lot about their tax plans on the campaign trail. The need for Congress’ cooperation to put that plan into action usually isn’t discussed quite as much.

Whether your preferred candidate won or lost, there’s no guarantee that your taxes are going up or down. But you can anticipate when your kids will be going to college, if you’ll need to replace the family car soon, or if you want to move to a beachfront condo when you retire.

Your tax rates will play a role in handling these transitions. But your levels of saving and spending have a bigger impact on your financial plan than any other factor. If you’ve never kept a monthly budget before, make 2021 the year that you start. Sit down with your spouse and weed out all those recurring subscriptions and memberships you’re not using. Make a weekly meal plan so you’re not eating out so often. The couple hundred dollars you economize every month could grow into a comfortable padding for your nest egg over time.

  1. You can’t control who’s president … but you can take control of your financial plan.

Per the clamor on social media, was this really “the most important election of our lifetimes?” It could be decades before we have enough perspective to judge. But as far as your financial planning goes, here’s another way to think about presidents:

A 67-year-old baby boomer eyeing retirement might have taken her first part-time job when Lyndon Johnson was president. As of 2020, that senior has lived and worked through ten different presidents.

It’s very doubtful that you’re going to love every single president who serves during your career. Yes, certain things that each one does might move the needle on your retirement accounts in the short term. But it’s folks who stick to their plans and continue to save and invest regardless of what’s happening in the outside world who build long-term wealth.

No matter how you feel about the election, you can take action today to keep your financial plan on track. Get in touch and we’ll schedule an appointment to start planning for 2021 and beyond.

Election Resources

7 Obstacles That Prevent People From Starting Businesses (And How To Overcome Them)

Millions of people dream of becoming entrepreneurs, but they never take that all-important first step. Too many things get in the way of their pursuit of business ownership, or they keep convincing themselves that their dream isn’t realistic. 

If you ever want to move past this phase and found your own business, you need to acknowledge the specific obstacles that are holding you back and work to resolve them. Here are seven of the most common challenges that may be standing between you and your entrepreneurial dreams—and ways you can kick them to the curb. 

1. Financial limitations

Launching a business takes money, and most people don’t have ample cash to throw at a startup. There are several options here. First off, you could begin saving now for the funds to establish your business. If you shop for a better mortgage and reduce your house payments by refinancing, you can sock the savings away in your startup fund. You can trim costs in other areas to put away a few hundred dollars each month or save even more by picking up a side gig.

Barring that, you can secure funding in a variety of ways, such as borrowing from friends and family, crowdfunding, seeking loans and grants or even working with angel investors and venture capitalists. There’s always a way forward. 

2. Inexperience

Becoming a successful entrepreneur typically demands experience; you need to understand your industry and business management in general if you want to earn a living from your venture. When you have limited experience, you may be reluctant to move forward, and understandably so.

You can make up for this, however, by actively seeking the experience you lack. Take an online course to gain a grasp of business management basics. Strive for a leadership position with your current employer so you’ll acquire strategic planning and people management skills. Work with a mentor or shadow an entrepreneur you admire. 

3. No standout idea

You can’t build a business if you don’t have a promising idea for a product or service you can sell. Without a solid business plan, you won’t be able to convince investors or partners to join you—and you won’t even know where to begin. Unfortunately, this is one of the least “fudgeable” obstacles on this list. Without a good idea, you can’t start a business, period.

Luckily, there are ways to stimulate better idea generation, such as talking to a broad range of people, reading entrepreneurial content and taking a more robust approach to brainstorming. Techniques like mind mapping and word banking can get your creative juices flowing. 

4. Current responsibilities

Some people avoid starting a business because of existing responsibilities or constraints on their time. Their current full-time job, their status as a parent or other personal responsibilities hold them back from their entrepreneurial ambitions.

Here the best approach is to determine how much of an impact these responsibilities have and consider ways to delegate or remove them. Could you realistically quit your day job, for example, or hire someone to help with household duties or childcare?  

5. Fear of failure

Lack of confidence is an entrepreneurship killer. It’s true that the failure rate for new businesses is relatively high, with half of new companies failing within five years. To buck those odds, you’ll need a healthy dose of confidence in yourself and your idea. 

The only solution to a fear of failure is to change your mindset. You have to see failure as an opportunity for learning and growth and stop seeing it as the end of the road, an indictment of your abilities or a stain on your character. Reading accounts by successful entrepreneurs will inspire you to see the possibilities rather than focusing only on the risks.  

6. Aversion to stress or hard work

Starting and running a business demands a lot of effort. You’ll likely be putting in long hours and dealing with stressful issues. On top of that, your first few years are apt to be highly inconsistent, with your business only making a profit some of the time. This can wreak havoc on your finances and peace of mind. If you’re not feeling up to this kind of pressure, or if you’re loath to work more than 40 hours a week, entrepreneurship may not be for you.

Again, the only way around this obstacle is to change your attitude. Remember that all this hard work will be in service to yourself, not an employer. While the risks are on you, so are the rewards.

7. Poor timing

One of the most common excuses you’ll hear (or hear yourself saying) is that it’s “just not the right time” to start a business. The truth is, there’s never a truly “right” time—you can always find some reason that today, or this month or this year isn’t ideal for launching your venture. 

But like beginning a diet on a Wednesday or joining a gym in February, the trick is to make your own right time. Microsoft was born during the oil crisis of the 1970s, while Airbnb and Uber were founded in the depths of the Great Recession. Remind yourself that the success of your business will depend not on “the times” but on you.

The Realities of Entrepreneurship

It’s true that anyone can become an entrepreneur with enough grit and persistence. Most entrepreneurs with solid ideas have a good chance of becoming successful if they remain adaptable. But it’s also important to realize that not everyone is cut out for entrepreneurship

If you’re intimidated by the stress, inconsistency and long hours associated with startup life, or if you truly love your day job and you’re afraid to leave, maybe business ownership isn’t right for you. That said, if you feel the pull of entrepreneurship but keep making excuses to avoid getting started, you owe it to yourself to challenge those excuses and try to move past them.

This article was written by Serenity Gibbons and published on Forbes.com.

How To Test Drive Retirement

Want to Retire? Take It for a Test Drive

There are many reasons why people who could retire are hesitant to do so. Some people think they need to wait until they’re 65 or older. Some are worried about running out of money. Many parents want to keep supporting their children through some major life transition, like college, marriage, or buying a first home. 

Maybe the most common reason we see for a retirement delay is folks who just can’t imagine their lives without work. That’s understandable. A routine that’s sustained you and your family for 30 or 40 years can be a hard routine to shake. 

But retirement doesn’t have to be all or nothing right away. If just thinking about retiring makes you jittery, use these tips to ease into retirement a little at a time. 

1. Talk to your family.

Clear, open communication is an essential first step to approaching retirement. Be as honest as possible about what you’re feeling. What worries you about retirement? Does the idea excite you? What do you envision your days being like? Where do you want to live? What does your spouse want retirement life to be like? 

2. Talk to your employer.

Many companies have established programs to help longtime employees transition into retirement. You might be able to trim back your hours gradually to get an idea of what days without working will be like. You’re also going to want to double-check how any retirement benefits you may have are going to work. Discuss any large outstanding projects with your supervisor. Make a plan to finish what’s important to you so that you can leave your job feeling accomplished. 

Self-employed? Give your favorite employee (you) less hours and fewer clients! Update your succession plan and start giving the soon-to-be CEO more of your responsibilities. Make sure you have the absolute best people working for you in key leadership positions so that your company can keep prospering without your daily involvement. 

3. Make a “rough draft” of your retirement schedule. 

What are you passionate about? What are some hobbies you’d like to develop into a skilled craft? Do you want to get serious about working the kinks out of your golf swing? Are there household projects, repairs, or upgrades you want to tend to? A crazy idea you kicked around at work you’d like to build into a new company? A part-time job or volunteer position you’d like to take at an organization that’s important to you? New things you want to try? New places you want to visit? Grandkids you want to see more often?

Try filling out a calendar with some of your answers to these questions. As you start to scale back your work hours, take a few lessons or volunteer shifts. Sign up for a class. Leave town for a long weekend. See what appeals to you and what doesn’t. 

Remember, you don’t have to get your schedule right the first time! A successful retirement will involve some trial and error. Learn from things you don’t like and make a point to spend more time doing the things you do like. 

4. Review your finances. 

This is where we come in! 

Once you and your spouse have settled on a shared vision for retirement, we can help you create a financial plan to help ensure you are financially fit for (semi)-retirement. We’ll go through all of your sources of income, retirement accounts, pensions, savings, and other investments to lay out a projection of where your money is coming from and where it’s going.

We can coordinate all aspects of your situation and collaborate with you on the best course of action. You don’t have to face retirement alone and make big decisions without expert guidance. 

Coming in and talking to us about your retirement is a great “Step 1” option as well. So if you are dreaming of those days when work is optional, give us a call and we can help you through this phase of life.

For more retirement resources check out some of our other blog posts.

For more help with retirement, the AARP website can be a great resource as well.

Navigating Life’s Transitions


Navigating Life’s Transitions By Rewriting Your Story

Your plans for the future are really a story that you tell yourself. Some of the chapters are easy to imagine and plan, like buying your first home, sending your kids to college, or picking out dream retirement destinations with your spouse. But life has a way of throwing unexpected plot twists at you, such as, say, a global pandemic that upends how you live and work. If you feel like your story has lost some of its most important plot threads, use this three-step method to find a new happy ending and navigate life’s transitions.

  1. Accept

An unexpected job loss. The death of a loved one. Losing your home in a fire. A major illness.

Life is never the same after you experience these kinds of unexpected transitions. Your lifestyle might change. Perhaps your relationships might change. Your daily routine might change. And your long-term personal, professional, and financial goals might have to change as well.

Letting in feelings like sadness, embarrassment, and fear can be very challenging. If you’re having trouble expressing yourself to your spouse or another confidant, try journaling. Getting your thoughts and emotions down on paper can help open you up for the conversations you’re going to need to have as you navigate through this new transition.

  1. Edit

Now that you’ve accepted this change in your life, you need to figure out how you’re going to adapt to it. Big transitions often feel so overwhelming that they can be paralyzing. Where do you start?

Start with today.

Break the new transition down into smaller parts. What is one thing on your list that you can accomplish today and that you can build on tomorrow? If your doctor says you have to start eating better, make a new shopping list. Need to exercise more? Buy a pair of running shoes. Brush up your resume so you can start a job hunt. Register for an online class that will help you make a career change. If it’s time to tighten the family belt, cancel that streaming subscription you never use.

Racking up smaller daily wins will make this new transition feel a little more manageable every single day. You might also create some new habits that will make you healthier, happier, and more productive.

  1. Rewrite

In the moment, unexpected transitions can feel like an end. But as you gain personal momentum from your new routine, you’ll start to see that there are opportunities ahead of you as well. And when you finally close this chapter, you can start writing a new one.

Some of the details in this revised chapter might be a little different than you imagined before. But not all change is bad. Maybe, instead of retiring to that beachfront condo, you remodel the family home and have your grandkids over more often. If you have to hang up your tennis racket, taking long walks with your spouse could be a new way to exercise, unwind, and spend time together. Now that one phase of your career is over, it might be time to promote yourself to CEO of your own company.

If you’re really struggling to see a way through an unexpected transition, here’s an easy daily win to get you started: get in touch with us. We can review your $Lifeline in-person or over a video chat to figure out if any of your anticipated transitions need to be edited. We can also coordinate with other professionals like your attorney or accountant to iron out any other major adjustments you might need to make.

No matter how your life story continues to change, we’re here to help you make the next chapter the best one yet.

You can also find some great resources for transition on the AARP website.

Apple Becomes First U.S. Company Worth More Than $2 Trillion

Apple hit a new milestone on Wednesday, becoming the first publicly traded U.S. company to reach a market capitalization of over $2 trillion and doubling in valuation over the last two years.

KEY FACTS

The iPhone maker’s stock is up almost 55% so far in 2020, and shares have rallied more than 106% since the market hit a low point amid the coronavirus recession on March 23 (compared to the benchmark S&P 500’s gain of 51% over that period).

Now trading at nearly $470 per share, Apple’s stock is at an all-time high, and Wall Street analysts are still quite bullish that it can continue to rally: 61% give it a “buy” rating and 27% a “hold” rating, according to Bloomberg data.

Apple’s market cap now eclipses that of other U.S. tech giants, including Microsoft ($1.7 trillion), Amazon ($1.6 trillion), Google parent Alphabet ($1.1 trillion) and Facebook ($761 billion).

Apple was also the first U.S. company to reach a $1 trillion market cap, which it did just over two years ago, on August 2, 2018.

On July 31, 2020, after reporting strong third-quarter earnings, Apple surpassed Saudi state oil giant Aramco to become the world’s most valuable publicly traded company.

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While Saudi Aramco surpassed a $2 trillion valuation in December 2019, plunging oil prices amid the coronavirus pandemic have since hurt its stock.

SURPRISING FACT

At $2 trillion, Apple’s market value is now higher than the GDP of numerous developed countries, including Italy, Brazil, Canada, Russia and South Korea, to name a few.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Apple shares are about to get more affordable for investors, too. The company will finalize its four-for-one stock split at the end of August, which means a single share will be worth around $117. While the value of the company will remain the same, there will now be more shares available trading at lower prices.

KEY BACKGROUND

Apple has thrived during the pandemic, as many people were forced to stay at home. The company has benefited from work-from-home trends and strong online sales; It posted record third-quarter earnings in late July, with nearly $60 billion in revenue, not to mention double-digit growth in its products and services segments.

This article was written by Sergei Klebnikov for Forbes.com

How To Use A Legacy Letter

Of course, as part of our Life-Centered Planning process, we will help you coordinate with attorneys and tax experts to create an estate plan that will provide for your heirs in accordance with your last wishes.

But hopefully, after years of planning for a better Return on Life, you’ve come to appreciate what your money can and cannot buy. That’s why we recommend that our clients write a Legacy Letter to help their heirs think about their own relationships to money in more meaningful ways.

What is a Legacy Letter?

A Legacy Letter is a way for you to share your values, life lessons, cherished memories, hopes for your family’s future. It also covers anything else that is really important to you.

This isn’t a will, so you won’t be assigning any of your assets. And this isn’t a family history, although you might include things you learned from your own parents and grandparents that you want your heirs to be mindful of in their own lives. This is you, reflecting on a life well-lived, passing on everything you’ve accumulated that can’t be bought or sold.

One of the great things about this exercise is that your Legacy Letter can be whatever you want it to be. It could be a typed or hand-written letter. It could be an audio or video recording. It could even be a mix, such as a printed list of your most cherished values accompanied by an mp3 you dictate into your phone. Use whatever media makes it easiest for you to speak to your family in your own voice.

What will my heirs want to know?

Some folks look at their kids and grandkids, immersed in their cell phones, and think, “My family won’t appreciate a letter like that, they just want the money.”

But eventually, your heirs are going to confront many of the same life and money challenges you have. They will face the scary prospect of leaving an unfulfilling career. They likely will also wonder how much support to their children is too much. They’ll be tempted to make a big-ticket purchase just to keep up with the Joneses.

Explaining how you did or didn’t stick to your values at these memorable moments will show your heirs that you can’t just throw money at life’s problems. Your Legacy Letter will be a road map leading your family to better decisions and more fulfilling uses of their time and assets. And if your estate plan includes charitable giving, explaining why particular causes were important to you could inspire a tradition of giving in your family that does good for generations.

When should I write my Legacy Letter?

The golden rule of all estate planning is: don’t wait. If something unexpected happens to you or your spouse, it’s so important that you have a plan in place that protects your assets and distributes them as you see fit.

That applies to your Legacy Letter as well. Your values are arguably your most important asset. In years to come, this letter will be a source of comfort and inspiration to your family.

And while this might seem like an activity for a retiree, many of our younger clients have told us that they found writing a Legacy Letter very beneficial. You can write a legacy letter at any stage of life. For example, if you’re getting married, you and your spouse could write a joint letter that describes your hopes and dreams for the future. If your children are launching into their careers, you could share your lessons about succeeding in life. The possibilities are endless. Many clients tell us they’re looking forward to updating their Legacy Letters with more life experiences down the road.

Give it some thought…

If you’re having trouble getting started with your own Legacy Letter, we’d be happy to help you jump-start the process. Make an appointment to come in and revisit or complete some of the Return on Life exercises we have available for you. Your stories and your values are every bit as important to us as your money. Let’s do a thorough review of your legacy planning to make sure you’ve secured the things that are most important to you for the people you love the most.

Uber is reportedly in talks to buy food delivery firm Postmates for $2.6 billion

Uber is changing tack after acquisition talks with Grubhub fell through by switching its attention to food delivery startup Postmates, the New York Times reports.

Three sources familiar with the matter told the Times that Uber and Postmates were holding ongoing acquisition talks. One of the sources said Uber is offering to buy Postmates for roughly $2.6 billion.

Uber was reportedly in acquisition talks with food delivery startup Grubhub earlier this year, but Grubhub announced on June 11 it was instead merging with European takeaway service Just Eat. Sources told CNBC Uber walked away from the deal over concerns it would attract antitrust scrutiny.

As a much smaller player in the food delivery business, Postmates could be a safer option.

According to analytics firm Second Measure, Postmates makes up a significantly smaller chunk of the US market than Grubhub. Grubhub captured 32% of food delivery sales in 2019, while Postmates made up 10%. Uber Eats meanwhile accounted for 20% of the market.

Antitrust fears are not the only possible reason why Uber may have walked away from Grubhub, various reports emerged that the two firms struggled to agree on a price for the acquisition. Just Eat paid roughly $7.3 billion to acquire the startup.

Uber’s desire to bolster its food delivery service has reportedly been spurred on by the coronavirus pandemic, as demand for taxi services has plummeted while food delivery has skyrocketed.

Two sources told the Times Postmates has also held sale talks with Grubhub and DoorDash over the past year.

Postmates confidentially filed plans for an IPO with the SEC in February 2019, but has yet to go public. Sources told Reuters on Monday that the company is considering reviving its IPO plans due to the boom in food delivery brought on by the pandemic.

Uber and Postmates were not immediately available to comment when contacted by Business Insider.

This article was written on BusinessInsider.com by Isobel Asher Hamilton

6 Easy Ways to Ruin Your Retirement

6 Easy Steps to Ruin Your Retirement

Many people I know have concluded that retirement was worth waiting for and worth planning for. Those who planned well (and who are lucky enough to have good health) are generally finding this to be a very satisfying time in their lives. But those who didn’t plan well or who couldn’t save enough are finding that retirement can be difficult.

My commitment is to help people, but this week I’m switching roles so I can give you some dynamite tips for having an unhappy retirement. (Of course, what I’m really advocating is that you do not do these things.)

Don’t save enough money.

Spend (and borrow) whatever it takes to keep yourself and your family happy. You can always catch up later when you get into your peak earning years, when the kids are gone, or when you’re finally finished paying for whatever else is more important right now.

The likely result: You could find yourself in “panic mode” in your 50s and 60s. You could have to work longer than you want. Another popular choice, you could have to reduce your living standards after your work life is through. You could fall prey to persuasive salespeople (see my final tip below) who do not have your best interests at heart. Or maybe even all of the above.

Be careless about how you plan and budget for retirement expenses.

When I was an advisor, I was amazed how many investors neglected to include taxes as a cost of living in retirement. If you’re living off of distributions from a non-Roth IRA or 401(k), the full amount of those distributions is likely to be taxable. For extra credit: Don’t spend any money on a financial advisor to help you plan.

The likely result: You may go into “panic mode” when your accountant hands you an unexpected tax bill.

Lock in your expectations about your life in retirement and make rigid financial decisions.

There are plenty of ways to do this. You could sell your house and move somewhere cheaper even though you don’t know anybody there. Another option, you could buy a fixed annuity to have an income that’s certain. You could fail to establish an emergency fund. (After all, what could go wrong?) You could get sick or need surgery that isn’t covered by Medicare or other insurance.

The likely result: Things will happen that you don’t expect, probably sending you once again into “panic mode” and making you vulnerable to the pitches from all manner of enthusiastic salespeople.

Ignore inflation, since it doesn’t seem like a current problem.

Assume that $1,000 will buy roughly the same “basket of goods and services” in 2026 and 2036 that it will today. Be confident that you know what the future holds. After all, the years of high inflation that are often cited happened a long time ago. Things are different now.

The likely result: You probably won’t be thrust into “panic mode” since inflation is usually gradual. But one day you will realize with a start that things are costing a lot more than they “should,” and your income can’t keep up.

Keep all your money where it’s “safe,” in fixed income.

You’ll have lots of company among current retirees whose “golden” years are being tarnished because they have to rely on today’s historically low interest rates. Don’t just blindly invest in equities, because, as we all know, you can lose money in the stock market.

The likely result: You may start retirement with sufficient income to meet your needs, but those needs will probably increase, especially for health care, in your later retirement years. Your fixed income may be safe, but it won’t expand to meet increased needs.

Attend investment seminars and trust the presenters, then make important decisions without getting a second professional opinion.

You could follow the unfortunate example of a couple I know who, in their 50s, attended a retirement seminar and got some bad advice. They met privately with the presenter/saleswoman, then rolled their entire retirement accounts into a variable annuity. They thought they were giving themselves good returns, future flexibility and saving a lot of money in taxes.

In reality, they gave themselves huge headaches and nearly lost half their life savings. I helped them fight the unpleasant (and ultimately successful) battle to get out of their contract and recover their money.

This couple could teach us all some lessons, but the terms of their settlement makes that unlikely. If they disclose that they got their money back, or if they disclose how they were deceived and cheated, they will have to give the money back to the insurance company.

The likely results: You will be disappointed in the decisions you make. You will have many reasons to never trust an investment sales pitch again. You will have less money in retirement than if you had never heard of that particular seminar.

So now you have it: Six easy steps to ruin your retirement. I hope, of course, that you do just the opposite of each one of these. Unfortunately, I think there’s a high likelihood that somebody you know has fallen into one or more of these traps.

My advice: Learn from their mistakes.

Get Away In Your Own Backyard


Summer travel plans are up in the air right now as federal and local governments sort through the best strategies for keeping COVID-19 under control. Although it’s disappointing to put off a vacation or big family party you’ve been planning forever, there are still recreational options right in your backyard that will get your family outside safely. If you’re starting to reschedule your summer, keep these ideas in mind to make the most out of the months ahead.

Stay safe

No matter where you go or what you decide to do, social distancing is still Rule 1.

The CDC recommends that you and members of your household stay at least six feet away from other people, even in open air. If you visit a public park, avoid group activities or team sports like basketball, soccer, or football that put you in close contact with other people and shared equipment. Avoid public facilities like bathrooms and playgrounds. Hiking trails and taking bike rides are good alternatives.

Also, make sure you bring along a cloth face covering and some hand sanitizer, avoid touching your face, and wash up when you get home.

Find a nearby National Park

According to the National Park Foundation, there are 62 sites in the U.S. that include “National Park” in their name, including such famous destinations as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.

But before you load up the camper, keep in mind that the CDC recommends staying close to home. Long-distance travel will require stops to refuel, eat, and use public restrooms, which could expose you and your family to germs – as well as spread your own.

Also, even though parks are technically “open,” many of their public facilities aren’t. That means no restrooms or cafeterias. Maintaining a safe social distance could also be challenging at more popular parks, especially as the weather turns warmer.

If the big parks are outside your radius, our wider National Park System spans 419 sites, including historical battlefields, monuments, nature trails, rivers, and preserves. Take a look at the National Park Foundation’s database. There’s probably an interesting, beautiful spot near you that you’ve never noticed before.

Explore local options

Many state and country parks are open as well, with many of the same restrictions in place. You can take a long walk or bike ride with members of your family, as long as you can maintain safe distance from other folks. But depending on your local health guidelines, playgrounds and public restrooms might still be off limits. Check state and county websites for more information about what facilities are available and plan ahead, especially if you’re bringing children along.

Kids are one reason that your local neighborhood park is still a great option for a day out; emergency bathroom breaks and snack time are a lot easier to manage when your house is just down the block. Neighborhood parks can also be less of a crowding hazard, making it easier for your family to maintain safe social distance.

Of course, that empty playground is more tempting in a small park too. Before you head outside, have an age-appropriate chat with your kids about why they need to stay off public equipment.

REALLY local options

If your home has private yard space, wake up your inner child, especially if you have children of your own. Kids who see their parents really throwing themselves into family time are going to feel a little less anxious and sad about things they can’t do right now.

When you’re not working or teaching, leave your phone inside and make this family time special. Plan a treasure hunt. Lead a backyard yoga session. Organize a family soccer game. Plant flowers together. As the weather improves, move inside activities outside, like meals, story time, and board games.

Finally, use the space available to you to embrace some of the simplicity that this situation has created. Hang up a hammock or set up some extra reading chairs around the fire pit. One of the reasons we struggle to fill time during quarantine is that rushing through our normal lives makes us feel like we should always be doing something. Older children and adults should take advantage of extra downtime to think, reflect, and be creative.

We know summer travel is just one of many ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted your life. As our country and our local communities start to reopen, please be safe, and please be in touch if we can help in any way.

Cadillac’s New Brand Positioning Is Perilous Marketing

Will Cadillac’s new brand positioning be successful? Will this new positioning help in redefining Cadillac as a great, luxury brand again?

First, luxury is not the same as most expensive. Luxury has been described as one of those things where you know it when you experience it, however it does have specific attributes and benefits. Luxury has magnificence, grandeur, lavishness, splendor and sheer elegance. And yet, according to Coco Chanel, “Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.” Luxury is experiential but it is product-oriented. Luxury is a description of the product or service. A luxury apartment, a luxury vacation, a luxury hotel, a luxury car must first be of the highest perceived quality. 

Luxury and prestige is not the same thing. Luxury describes the product or service. Prestige describes the brand character (values and personality) of the product or service. Prestige confers personal status. Prestige is all about standing, stature, recognition, esteem, prominence, self-importance, fame, honor and renown. Prestigious brands allow a user to associate with brands that shout, “Look at me! I am someone now.” Prestige is The Age of Me on steroids.

Now, let’s look at the concept of American Luxury. What brands come to mind? Are these brands considered to be prestigious? It is a list dominated by fashion and beauty. Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, Tiffany, Harry Winston, Gulfstream, Hatteras Yachts, Wolf stoves, and in their heydays, The Waldorf Astoria and The Plaza. Cadillac was once considered a standard of quality and prestige. Cadillac was not only a luxurious product; it was a prestigious brand. Cadillac has lost this stature.

Product and service quality come first. A brand cannot be a luxury brand if it is not superior quality. Mercedes, BMW and Lexus built their luxury brands on quality: Mercedes – German engineering with traditional, classic design; BMW – singular driver focus, performance, control and technology; Lexus – perfectly constructed, standing the test of time, well built, perfectly luxurious arrangements, reliable. Infiniti was designed to be simplistic beauty and grace with dramatic, provocative

In the 2019 J.D Power Initial Quality Survey (IQS), Cadillac is woefully insufficient. The initial quality survey records just the first 90 days. In the IQS, the industry average is 136 problems per 100 vehicles (PPV). Cadillac is below the industry average at 100 PPV.

A look at the 2019 J.D Power Vehicle Dependability Survey (VDS) shows that Cadillac continues to fare poorly on quality over time. As a reminder, the VDS measures the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PPV) during the past 12 months by original owners of three-year-old model-year vehicles. The industry average is 136 problems per 100 vehicles. The leaders are Lexus (106), Porsche and Toyota (108 each) with the fewest problems per 100 vehicles. Cadillac is significantly below average. Cadillac comes in at 166 PPV!

The initial quality survey registers quality among new car owners and lessees after 90 days of ownership. The dependability survey tells you if the vehicle has quality over time; the pattern is consistent. Cadillac has quality problems at first and this experience is persistent over the first three years. If Cadillac is below average on product quality, it cannot claim to be a luxury. Advertising will not make the product a luxury product.

This brings us to the new Cadillac positioning. According to an article on the online news site, The Drum (www.thedrum.com), Cadillac’s new CMO is positioning Cadillac as a prestigious brand, Saying it is prestigious does not make it true. To be a successful prestigious brand, the product must first be a luxurious quality brand.

Instead of talking about product quality, the new strategy is to talk about the owner. Cadillac is now positioned for people who are proud of their Cadillac ownership, people who create their own success and whose self-perception is achievement that now allow them to own a Cadillac. The brand calls it “earnership.” How proud will the owner be when the Cadillac they purchased is of below average quality? Will this be prestigious? The owners who “earned” their status will be horribly disappointed.

Instead of focusing on claiming prestige for a high-priced, poor quality product… fix product quality first. Be best in class.

By skipping over quality and going directly to the individual’s desire for prestige, Cadillac runs the risk of disappointing owners. Instead of “earnership,” the potential for embarrassment exists. The new Cadillac positioning is a cover-up for the fact that the brand is not competitive in terms of quality. Trying to sell a high-priced, low quality vehicle by focusing on the potential owner will lead to customer disappointment. Claiming a feeling of prestige built on a low quality product is perilous marketing. 

*This article was written by Larry Light.

**This article was featured on Forbes.com