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.

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.

Dubai Set To Open Heart Of Europe With 6 Outrageous Themed Islands

Floating Seahorse Villas and skyline

Based on six islands that bring the best of Europe to Dubai, The Heart of Europe is located 2 miles from the coast of Dubai and will offer up a variety of European cultural, dining, and hospitality experiences across resorts, cafés, bars, boutiques, and entertainment. Kleindienst Group developed the $5 billion master-planned tourism island destination that came a long way since its original concept was launched in 2008.

The Covid-19 outbreak may have stopped business on the mainland, but the Heart of Europe islands continued work at an aggressive pace with a goal to open Phase 1 by the end of 2020.

The development will offer “world’s first” attractions such as; the First Underwater Hotel with Gym and Spa, the First Dedicated Wedding Hotel, the World’s First Artificial Rainy Street, the First Floating and Underwater Living Experience and the World’s First Outdoor Snow Plaza.

Phase One opening of The Heart of Europe consists of, Sweden Beach Palaces, Germany Villas, Honeymoon Island, Portofino Hotel, and Côte d’Azur Resort.

Floating Seahorse underwater bathroom
The Floating Seahorse HEART OF EUROPE

THE FLOATING SEAHORSE VILLAS

(3 level villas with underwater living, glass-bottom Jacuzzi, and private man-made coral reefs teeming with marine life)

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Connected to Honeymoon Island by jetties, the Floating Seahorse Villas were designed for investors and second home end users. Consisting of over 4,000 square feet with three levels, each will feature state-of-the-art technology and outdoor climate-controlled areas. The ultimate attraction will be the underwater level with exclusive views to the coral reefs.

Germany Island
Germany Island HEART OF EUROPE

GERMANY ISLAND

(15 beachfront villas, 17 lagoon villas, offering four or five bedrooms in Bauhaus inspired style)

The horseshoe-shaped Germany Island will face onto an azure-blue lagoon with its own bar, lush gardens, white sandy beaches and bent palm trees. 

There will be traditional German carnivals, Christmas markets, festivals, and the famous Oktoberfest. Famed international chefs will offer up the finest German-style menus as well as the largest selection of German beers and wines.

Viking style villa on Sweden Island
Viking style villa on Sweden Island HEART OF EUROPE

SWEDEN ISLAND

(10 four-story palaces, 7 bedroom waterfront homes, each ground floor has a gym, sauna and snow room, while on the rooftop there will be a glass-roofed party room)

Sweden Island was inspired by Swedish Viking Vessels and will offer up palaces furnished by Bentley Homes with glass roofs and private snow rooms. The $27 million beach palace was among the first properties to sell out on the island. Restaurants will incorporate Sweden’s famed cuisine, featuring items like sour herring, meatballs, Raggmunkar, toast Skagen, smörgåsbord, Snaps, and Glὃgg.

Honeymoon Island surrounded by Floating Seahorse Villas
Honeymoon Island surrounded by Floating Seahorse Villas HEART OF EUROPE

HONEYMOON ISLAND

The unique heart-shaped Maldivian inspired island will be a couples retreat surrounded by Seahorse Floating Villas that will sell up to $5 million each. Next to the island, there is the islands Empress Elizabeth Hotel, the first dedicated seven-star wedding hotel, where couples can celebrate their union overlooking white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters.

Floating Venice Resort
The Floating Venice HEART OF EUROPE

FLOATING VENICE

(411 cabins, 180 underwater cabins, underwater lobby, gondola transportation, yacht club)

Inspired by the floating city, this will be the world’s first underwater resort with dining and accommodations located below the surface. Restaurants, bars, and shops will all be underwater with views of coral reefs and passing gondolas above. Entertainment will be offered from masked carnivals to opera performances.

The resort will have 12 restaurants and bars (three of which are underwater) and an underwater spa.

Switzerland Island Ice Cave
Switzerland Island HEART OF EUROPE

SWITZERLAND ISLAND

(Beachfront and lagoon villas, featuring master bedrooms, swimming pools and viewing decks)

Switzerland Island offers villas with water views and access to beaches, a seawater lagoon, and private swimming pools. The villa chalets utilize timber, stone, and glass design. A large blue water lagoon in the center of the island will be reminiscent of the large lakes in Switzerland.

The Côte D’Azur Resort
Monaco Côte D’Azur Resort HEART OF EUROPE

MAIN EUROPE ISLAND / COTE D’AZUR RESORT

The Côte D’Azur Resort comprises of 4 boutique hotels all named after the famous and picturesque cities of Monaco, Nice, Cannes and St. Tropez which are located in the South of France. The 4 boutique hotels will have Suites and penthouses with large balconies offering panoramic sea views.

Monaco will feature French fine-dining with an upscale contemporary décor, high-end fashion boutiques, and a large white sandy beach. There will also be lagoon swimming pools and a replica of the famed Monaco Marina.

Portofino Hotel on Italian Riviera island
Portofino Hotel on Main Europe Island HEART OF EUROPE
Aerial of Portofino Island
Aerial of Portofino Hotel HEART OF EUROPE

PORTOFINO HOTEL

(489 Princess and Queen Suites, Rooftop penthouses, Marina and Lobby with 514 aquariums, 6 Italian restaurants & bars, Women’s only social lounge and spa, Olympic size pool with underwater performances and Kids Club)

Designed to look and feel like the Italian city of Portofino, with colorful terracotta buildings, the Portofino Hotel on the Main Europe Island is a family hotel that will feature Italian-style suites with kids rooms, a kids club operated by a leading kids club operator, restaurants and cafes serving Italian cuisine and organic food. The facade will host an extraordinary hanging garden with 31,000 plants.

There are five swimming pools at the resort and even a snow-play area where children can build snowmen. Add synchronized swimming shows for entertainment.

The island will have its own fully-serviced private Paraggi Bay marina where all guests will arrive by boat. The front of hotel employees will speak Italian and the hotel will even accept Euros as currency.

Floating Seahorse Villas and skyline
Floating Seahorse Villas and skyline HEART OF EUROPE

SUSTAINABILITY

The Heart of Europe will oversee the development of more than 100,000 coral reefs and will also feature centenary Spanish olive trees that were sourced from Andalusia, Spain. The islands will also offer up the world’s first climate-controlled rainy street and snow plaza. 

The development will also use sustainable landscaping that will be pesticide-free and fungicide-free, and all green areas will use recycled water. The island will be totally car-free, use clean energy, and will offer sustainable water transportation to the guests. Designed with a zero-discharge policy and zero micro-plastics policy, the developers hope to ensure the protection of the Arabian Gulf and species of marine life that reside around the six islands.

This article was written by Jim Dobson for Forbes.com

How To Avoid Knee Jerk Reactions to Financial Events

As part of our Life-Centered Planning process, we’ve talked about how market volatility is a normal part of investing. We’ve also discussed how we’ve structured your investments to “weather the storm” and maintain a comfortable level of income for you and your family during turbulent times so you can avoid knee jerk reactions.

But we also understand that even folks who are armed with this knowledge can get nervous during a market dip. What’s important is that you know how to prevent that initial wave of negativity from leading you to rash decisions that could damage your nest egg much worse than a market correction.

Dr. Martin Seay is a specialist in positive psychology, which focuses on strategies that people can use to improve their sense of well-being. Dr. Seay’s ABCDE method can help you work through your reactions to distressing financial news and arrive at a positive outcome.

Let’s walk through an example of how to use this method to avoid making a bad, emotion-based financial decision.

A. Activating Event


Sometimes stress and anxiety can feel all-encompassing. Dr. Seay believes it’s important that we pinpoint the event that triggered our negative feelings.

So, while you might feel general anxiety about your finances, drill down a little deeper. Is your job secure? OK. Are you saving and investing according to your financial plan? Good.

Did you just read on social media that today’s market correction was “THE BIGGEST ONE-DAY DROP IN HISTORY!”

Ahh, there it is. Let’s move on to the next step.

B. Belief

Market volatility can rouse some of our worst instincts about investing. We might fall back on long-buried Beliefs like, “This game is rigged!” We might feel like we’ve entrusted our financial future to powers beyond our control.

As you work through this step, it’s important to ask yourself where your Beliefs come from. Have you been unsettled by widespread media coverage of major financial problems, like the 2008-2009 housing crisis? Have you had negative interactions with the finance industry in the past? Perhaps one of your parents distrusted the markets or made a poor investment that had a negative impact on your family.

Figuring out why you believe what you believe about the markets can help alert you before you fall back into bad financial habits.

C. Consequences

Panicked investors who can’t shake negative Beliefs about the markets often make poor decisions during downturns. They think they need to “get out fast” to avoid more negative Consequences, like further losses.

Ironically, cashing out your investments during a market correction usually leads to far more serious Consequences in the long run.

So how can you stay focused on the big picture?

D. Disputation

Start by using what you know to push back a little against what you Believe.

For example, we’ve discussed in our meetings that the historical, long-term trajectory of the financial markets has been to rise over time. And now, market averages such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average are near all-time highs. Therefore, when the market does have a temporary drop, we might say, “The Dow was down x hundreds of points today.” It sounds like a big number, but as a percentage, it may just be normal volatility.

We’ve also discussed that “market timing” strategies usually just don’t work. That’s why your portfolio is diversified, balanced, and strategically rebalanced as necessary. Decades of market history have shown that sticking to this type of investment strategy may be more effective – and stable – than trying to jump in and out of the market based on what’s happening in the news right now.

Today’s losses are really just a kind of “tax” that you’re paying on the wealth we’re helping you build for tomorrow.

E. Energized

It’s amazing how just reminding ourselves of what we know to be true can make us feel better about a negative situation. Hopefully at the end of this process, you feel a renewed sense of positivity about this present moment and your financial future.

But we understand that market volatility can be complicated. And as you’re nearing retirement, a downturn can be downright nerve-wracking.

So if you need help walking through your ABCDEs the next time the market corrects, make an appointment to meet with us. We’ll run through the important facts you need to know and decide what moves, if any, we need to make to keep you on track with your financial plan and avoid those costly knee jerk reactions.

Putting the economy back together again: What the future holds for Americans

A stylist wearing a protective mask cuts a customer’s hair at a barbershop in Atlanta, Georgia, on Monday, April 27, 2020.
Dustin Chambers | Bloomberg via Getty Images

When the coronavirus crisis, or at least the worst of it, passes, the U.S. economy will still be big — the biggest in the world, with any threat to be overtaken likely put at bay for many years.

But in other ways, things will feel smaller, much smaller in fact. 

Growth rates will be lower. Big crowds will be few. Profit margins will be tighter.

Life will continue in many regards, but nothing will be the same, not for a long time. Much of what will become routine daily life will go against instinct. Society will reach for ways to continue churning forward. But that will come with a mind not to repeat the trauma wrought by seven weeks of social distancing that has separated this connected world in ways that few ever thought possible.

“There will be lower densities of people everywhere,” said Nick Colas, a Wall Street veteran and co-founder of DataTrek Research. “That affects restaurants and bars and sports and everything.”

The size of the world and the magnitude of the task will be important as policymakers try to piece together a broken economy. Layoffs have soared as thriving businesses have been shuttered indefinitely. Manufacturing is in a steep recession, retail and restaurants could take years to get back to normal, and governments will be hamstrung in trying to provide basic services.

As the world indeed is apt to feel smaller, it will require big ideas to get the U.S. moving again.

‘We’re social animals’

While formulating investment strategies and market analysis, Colas spends a lot of time studying sociological trends — how behavioral patterns impact what we do with our money and how we view our lives. One day he might be writing about thought exercises using game theory, the next examining, as he did in a recent daily note, how long specifically it takes people to develop new habits — 66 days, it seems, a number useful when considering the current lockdown.

Looking at the present social distancing situation, Colas figures on some key trends developing. 

He expects a faster return to domestic travel than might be apparent. Restaurants and retail will grapple with a host of challenges, like how to arrange seating and what happens in clothing stores when customers want to try on something. Sports will continue, but with fans mostly watching from home.

All of it will come against a backdrop that will force people to keep a safe space from each other, something profoundly counterintuitive to a culture ingrained with hugs, handshakes and kisses.

“It’s very hard, because it goes against the most fundamental human need of social contact. We’re social animals,” Colas said. “This current phase already has been hard on people, particularly in areas like New York where a lot of single people live alone. They’re going to want to have contact. That’s human nature, that’s the human spirit. It’s going to be hard to tamp that down without mental health disruptions.”

Baby steps

Regions of the country are taking the first steps, albeit gingerly, back to normalization.

New York is reopening parts of the state, while Mississippi also has loosened restrictions. Idaho is transitioning into the first phase of relaxing its stay-at-home order. Arizona and Nevada have extended their directives to May 15 but relaxed some rules. You can now play golf in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but most of the Keystone State remains closed. Some resorts around the country are taking reservations for June.

Reopened areas will serve as fishbowls for others looking to relax restrictions. More than that, they will provide a window into how quickly the $21.5 trillion U.S. economy can get back on its feet.

Gross domestic product contracted 4.8% in the first quarter of 2020, the worst decline since the Great Recession, and more than 30 million people have filed unemployment claims, making the progress toward normalization all the more important — and urgent.

“The issue’s going to be, can you get people feeling like the new normal feels like the old normal?” Colas said. “It should end up feeling a whole lot better, because some of your normal life is back. You can at least hang out with your friends in the backyard while maintaining social distance. But at least people are coming over again.”

How that translates into economic activity, though, remains uncertain.

The shape of the future

Economists have been pondering the shape of the recovery: Will it be a U? V? W? Check mark? Square root? Nike swoosh?

No one seems to know, though the immediate expectations are that after the first-quarter slip the second quarter will post a number worse than anything the U.S. has seen before. In fact, the GDP number may be so bad — something on the order of a 20% collapse or even worse — and the unemployment rate peak — anything from 15% to 30% seems perfectly likely — as to become meaningless. 

What will matter more is the path forward.

Most economists expect a considerable rebound after the second quarter. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said he sees “a fairly large increase given the size of the fall,” thought “it’s unlikely it would be bring us quickly back to pre-crisis level. ”

That’s all theory, though. As a practical matter, the country just has to get moving again.

“The point estimate of GDP right now is not really that valuable,” said Marin Gjaja, a partner with Boston Consulting Group, which is helping businesses come up with strategies for reopening and how to conduct business in an altered landscape.

“The variation by sector is enormous,” he added. “You’ve already seen what this has done to airlines, cruise ships, amusement parks, concert venues, amusement parks, any place where there are large amounts of people involved. They’re trying to figure out how they can come back, what they can do to change their business in order to survive.”

Gjaja also sees a landscape dominated by smaller social gatherings. 

At a business level, that means shopping and eating closer to home. That benefits small retailers and locally focused restaurants but still leaves into question community-based businesses like barber shops and movie theaters. 

“We’ve never seen a recession impact that looked like this with this degree of volatility in terms of impact by sector and geography,” Gjaja said. “The degree of variability is really unique. We’re going to have to figure out a way to navigate through that.”

Boston Consulting released a report called “COVID-19: Win the Fight, Win the Future” that outlines what businesses need to do. 

Gjaja stressed that different locales will have different needs. New York won’t be the same as Montana which won’t be the same as Michigan. Certain general rules, though, will apply.

Among the contingencies businesses need to take into account before opening are safety for employees and customers, preparation for additional shutdowns, and health monitoring for workers once they do return, he said.

Traveling forward

For the travel industry, such questions are paramount.

The World Travel and Tourism Council, which represents the industry perhaps most impacted by the coronavirus lockdown, is advocating for a global set of rules to follow in airports, hotels and on planes.

“These must provide the reassurance travelers and authorities need, using new technology, to offer hassle-free, pre-vaccine ‘new normal’ travel in the short term,” said Gloria Guevara, the council’s president and CEO.

Guevara sees the liftoff in travel starting with something approaching “staycations” with trips near home, but then being led by younger people who can take advantage of lower fares to move about the country. 

According to the WTTC, some of the changes travelers are likely to see at hotels will include digital check-ins, hand sanitizers in plentiful supply and contactless payments rather than cash. Cruise line workers will wear gloves and the ships themselves will be cleaned more frequently. At airports, flyers will be tested when boarding and exiting, and likely will have to wear masks while on board.

Companies that fail to follow safety guidelines may have to pay a steep price just in terms of business lost.

A survey from Vital Vio, a New York-based biotech company, found that 51% of people won’t do business with companies that don’t show a commitment to being sanitary, while 76% said they will “hold brands accountable” that don’t invest in cleaning up their spaces.

Respondents also said they are willing to pay more for cleaner and safer travel as well as activities like dining out and going to the gym.

All of the measures will combine to tell what kind of a recovery the U.S. has after what could well be the worst downturn in its history.

Who will be first?

Analyzing companies on how safe they are to reopen based on potential to spread the disease, Goldman Sachs said the first sectors will be manufacturing, professional services and agriculture. The riskiest industries, and thus the last ones likely to come back online, are health care, education, retail, arts and entertainment and the accommodation and food service industries.

The firm’s economists compared the U.S. open to what’s happening in Sweden, where social distancing practices were widely used through the country did not shut down at a level comparable to the U.S., and China, because it is well ahead of the U.S. on the recovery timeline. 

“We believe that the level of economic activity in the US will get better rather than worse over the remainder of the year for several reasons,” Goldman’s economists wrote. “Partial relaxation of shutdown orders will allow some businesses to reopen, people will learn to adapt in ways that minimize the economic costs of social distancing, wider antibody testing should allow those who are hopefully immune to resume normal activity, and improvements in treatment should reduce fear and raise willingness to be around others. In addition, fiscal stimulus should largely short-circuit the usual second-round effects of income losses.”

They found, however, that China’s pace is “too optimistic” for the U.S. while Sweden offers some hope though the country is still using fairly strict social distancing measures. In China, commerce has largely come back, but traffic studies show that consumers are driving to work during the week but not going out on the weekends, indicating that a significant level of fear remains.

How well the U.S. comes back ultimately will come down to a lot of factors, but feeling safe is likely to be paramount.

“It’s not just what the numbers say. A lot is going to come down to how it feels, how much of people’s normal lives they can reclaim,” DataTrek’s Colas said. “As we restore some normalcy, it will feel a lot better.”

This article was written by Jeff Cox for CNBC.com.

Preparing for possible coronavirus recession — 5 ways to reduce your debt

Experts say a recession is in the cards. Here’s how to keep debts from bringing you down when it hits. (iStock)

The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked economic havoc in recent weeks, causing unprecedented levels of unemployment, extreme stock market volatility and falling consumer confidence and spending across the board. It even spurred major financial players like Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, to predict a “bad recession” on the horizon.

If he’s right and the economic downturn continues, Americans will need to act fast to recession-proof their finances — especially if there’s debt on the table.

Recession-proofing your debts

Credit cards, mortgages, and student loans can all complicate things when times get tough, and it’s important to take steps to get ahead if you want to keep your head above water when things get hard.

As Mike Desepoli, vice president at Heritage Financial Advisory Group, put it, “Navigating a recession can be difficult enough, but it’s increasingly more difficult when you’re saddled with debt. A job loss during a recession could set off a spiral of financial issues from missed mortgage payments, student loans and credit cards. In difficult times, it is important to control what you can and prepare yourself in advance.”

Here’s what experts say to do before it’s too late:

Reduce your higher-interest balances

Focus on paying down your high-interest debts — usually your credit cards and any personal loans you may have. These debts not only cost you the most in the long run, but paying them down first creates some financial cushion, making it easier to pay off other debts or just get by when purse strings are tight.MORTGAGE RATES NEAR RECORD LOW — HERE’S WHY IT’S A GOOD IDEA TO REFINANCE

“Start by focusing on your highest-interest balances,” Desepoli said. “These are the debts that are most damaging to your finances because they compound so quickly. This may cause you to redirect some of your monthly payments from lower-interest vehicles towards the higher ones. Your out-of-pocket will remain the same, but you will be having a more profound impact.”

Consider a balance transfer

Transferring your credit card balances to a new, zero-interest card can be a good option. This allows you to consolidate your other balances and pay no interest for a set period of time — usually at least six months or more.

While these promotional offers are generally widely available, according to Ted Rossman, industry analyst for CreditCards.com, they may be hard to come by in today’s economic climate.HOW TO AVOID HAVING YOUR CREDIT CARDS CLOSED

“You probably need a steady job and a credit score of 700-plus in order to qualify for the best balance transfer credit cards these days,” Rossman said. “If this describes you and you have credit card debt, I’d recommend signing up for one of these cards as soon as possible. You can save hundreds or thousands of dollars in interest, depending on how much you owe. And you can get a long runway — up to 21 months — with no interest being charged.”

Refinance student loans and mortgages

If you’ve got student loans, a mortgage, or a personal loan to your name, refinancing might be an option. The goal here would be to lower your interest rate, thus lowering your monthly payment as well as the long-term costs of your loan. You can then use those savings to pay down your debts faster or help offset any financial strain you’re dealing with.HOW TO RECERTIFY YOUR STUDENT LOAN INCOME-DRIVEN REPAYMENT PLAN?

A word of caution here: If this is a route you’re considering, you’ll need to act fast — especially if you expect your income or job may be effected in the impending recession. These changes could impact your ability to refinance (or the rates you’d qualify for when doing so).

If refinancing isn’t possible, a debt consolidation loan could be another option — as long as it would lower the total interest you’re paying, thus freeing up more cash.

Ask for help

Many financial institutions and credit card companies have options for consumers who are dealing with financial hardship. These can include loan modifications, repayment plans, deferment, forbearance and more. The recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act also offers a number of options if you’re unable to pay your rent, mortgage or student loan bills.

If high credit card balances are your biggest worry heading into a recession, Rossman recommended contacting your card issuer as soon as possible.HOW TO REBUILD YOUR CREDIT AFTER BANKRUPTCY

“Most banks are offering hardship programs that allow cardholders to skip payments — sometimes even without interest,” Rossman said. “Sometimes they will lower your interest rate upon request, waive other fees, and even raise your credit limit in some cases. As long as you have permission to pay late or to pay less for a time, this won’t hurt your credit score. Help is available, but you need to ask for it.”

Have a financial safety net

You should also figure out ways you can start cutting back expenses (could you reduce 401(k) contributions, for example), and start funneling those savings into an emergency fund.

In most situations, experts recommend having at least six months of household expenses saved up, but given the current economic uncertainty, it might be best to go beyond that — potentially up to a year of expenses — just to be safe.

This article was written for FoxBusiness.com by Aly Yale.