How to Know Your Stage of Money Maturity

If you’re like most of us, you’ve made financial choices—based on your money maturity—that you later regretted. Overspending, shoot-for-the-moon investments and disempowering beliefs about money are all symptoms that a little more money wisdom might do you some good.

But how do you know where you are on your path to financial enlightenment?Money IQ

George Kinder, known globally as a thought leader in financial planning and the founder of the Life Planning movement, has much to teach us about money maturity. His book, The Seven Stages of Money Maturity: Understanding the Spirit and Value of Money in Your Life, was first published in 1999.

The book, which uses the framework of a well-known Buddhist teaching, spawned a movement of folks eagerly seeking financial peace of mind (and, after all, what could be better?). While it’s more than a decade old, Seven Stages’ insightful message is timeless.

Here are the Seven Stages of Money Maturity, see which one best describes you:

The Two Stages of Childhood

**The childhood and adult stages of life in the Buddhist text referred to by Kinder are metaphors for the stages we pass through on our way to money maturity. Thus it is entirely reasonable—common, even—for a 50 year old to find him or herself in “Innocence”.

1.       Innocence
In the Innocence stage of money maturity, we find ourselves clinging irrationally to childhood beliefs about money that we gleaned from our parents or other elders.  Little objective analysis, such as budgeting, strategizing, or collaborating, is possible. Planning does not take place.

We aren’t thinking about aging, planning for children’s education, or retirement because our thoughts about money are dictated by simplistic beliefs such as “Your husband will take care of you,” or “Swing for the fences! You’ll be a millionaire someday,” or “There will never be enough money,” or “Live for today. Who knows what tomorrow may bring.”

Very little financial awareness is possible in this stage.

2.       Pain
Clinging to innocent but faulty beliefs (and almost all of them are faulty) about money will eventually lead to pain. Pain can come in the form of a sudden realization that one’s life has been spent living hand to mouth, and now very little time remains to plan for a company-forced retirement. Pain can also come when we realize the social implications of the fact that no matter how much we have, we have more than someone and less than someone else.

According to Kinder, Pain can either lead us back to Innocence—imagine a 60 year old couple who realizes their $25,000 savings bond won’t pay for retirement (Pain) who cashes that savings bond in to buy lottery tickets (back to Innocence, likely followed by more Pain)—in a destructive cycle, or we can use Pain to wake ourselves up.

Kinder explains, “Pain can serve as the warning signal to the deep self that moves us toward Money Maturity.”

The Three Stages of Adulthood

3.       Knowledge
This is the first stage that focuses on day-to-day financial virtue, integrity and behavior management. The stage of Knowledge is the first time when budgeting, prudent tax management and investing are possible. Kinder says, “The practical part of Knowledge is the financial planning process. It begins at the point where we translate our desire for freedom into concrete goals and commit ourselves to achieving them.

4.       Understanding
If Knowledge is the stage where first begin to consciously manage our plans and behavior, Understanding is when we gain the skills and wisdom to keep our plans in place no matter what curve balls life throws. We learn to achieve peace despite the suffering that arises from money issues.

For many, gaining Understanding involves acknowledging and moving past our very complex and sometimes negative feelings about money. Resolving underlying jealousy, anger, greed, shame, and humiliation, says Kinder, “..is the benefit of Understanding, makes it possible for us to act effectively in ways that earlier appeared incomprehensible.”

5.       Vigor
Once we have attained financial Knowledge and moved through unhelpful negativity into Understanding, it becomes possible for us to generate “energy, enthusiasm and Vigor” to pursue our goals for financial freedom.

Being in a state of Vigor includes an experience of self-sufficiency, excitement, clarity, and moving expeditiously toward achieving one’s goals.

Vigor exists in a state of having discovered one’s life purpose and aligning one’s energy around accomplishing that purpose. Vigor gives us the power to author our own lives.

The Two Stages of Awakening

6.       Vision
I often say that we can only help others as long as our own cups are full. If you have achieved sustainability in your own life through Vigor, you will likely progress to Vision. Once your focus no longer needs to be on fulfilling your own needs, what will come into view for you is the perspective of the whole. Vision does not exclude personal gain, and it doesn’t need to be grand or global in scale.

Kinder describes, “We have produced as much as we personally need. We discover within us a capacity to reach out farther than we have ever imagined toward meeting the needs of our families and communities. We find no obstacle between what we want to accomplish and what we do.”

7.       Aloha
Aloha is divine generosity and wisdom. Those familiar with Hawaiian culture will recognize the term “Aloha” as not only a salutation meaning both hello and good-bye, but as a term with much deeper meaning. “Practice Aloha” is a common saying amongst Hawaiians, and it conveys an experience of community, joy, kindness, generosity and at-one-ness.

Kinder goes on to say, “When you encounter (Aloha), you know exactly what it is… Aloha does not arise from clinging to childhood messages about generosity. Rather, it is the natural consequence of facing the world as it is and connecting wholly, deeply, and truthfully with its reality.”

So, I’m eager to hear from you about this. What stage of money maturity do you find yourself in now and where would you like to be?

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The Best Way to Invest for Retirement

If it seems like the media can make any kind of economic environment into a scary one—you’re right. If it seems like taking investment advice from pundits would land you in the poor house—you’re right.

So, what’s a responsible saver to do? What’s the best way to save for retirement?

Best Way to Invest for Retirement

Best Way to Invest for Retirement

But rather than tell you what to do, I’m going to give you a framework from which to think.

Because the truth is that you don’t need today’s hot investment advice.

You need an investment philosophy. The best way to invest for retirement is to develop an investment philosophy that will carry you through bull and bear markets alike. Does such a thing exist?

Absolutely!

The first thing you should do is distinguish what your philosophy is now. Chances are, you probably already subscribe to one or the other.

Buy-and-Hold
Do you buy a low-cost fund you like and hold on no matter what’s happening in the market? Many women tend to invest this way out of fear, but the really interesting thing is that the data tells us they outperform their counterparts who invest other ways.

Market Timer
Do you buy when the media says buy and sell when they say sell?

Do you spend time researching companies and stocks, trying to figure out which might be undervalued?

Do you have a guy (I hear this a lot: “We have a guy we like at Merrill…” etc.) who tells you what sector or company or industry is going to take a dive next quarter or what IPO you need to get in on the ground floor of, as if there is anybody who can consistently predict the future?

Rely on Science
There are a lot of people who will try to convince you they know what they’re doing. It’s hard to know if you’re hearing good science, or just somebody with a really big megaphone.

So, you don’t want to follow the wrong philosophy. But you don’t need to throw in the towel or going it alone, out of confusion.

The truth of the matter is that some of the brightest minds on the planet have been hard at work on the investing question for several decades now. I mean, think about it, the potential profits in the stock market are, in fact, unlimited.

I promise, some ridiculously bright people have done their best to crack that nut!

We now have decades of data and research available to us, and despite what much of the media would have you believe, at this point, investing is far more science than art.

Personally, I like to tell people I am an economist who is also an optimist.

I have a deep faith in the stock market, because I know how to interact with it.

And it’s not blind faith. That isn’t the sort of faith that is required for investing.

What I am talking about is having an unyielding faith in the future based on almost a century of solid evidence.

I have a philosophy backed by decades of research and I have a team of very smart folks who update that research and confirm the best ways to implement it.

Ultimately, investing should be a deliberate and thoughtful process—that’s the best way to invest for retirement. But it is not easy to stay focused on the long-term when the short-term consumes our thoughts and emotions.

If you’d like to find out more about what it’s like to have a steadfast investment philosophy backed by decades of research, I’d love to talk with you.  Fill out the Contact form and we’ll schedule a no obligation phone call.

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What Every Investor Needs to Know About 2014 Market Predictions

Happy New Year!

And if you were invested properly in 2013, a prosperous New Year to you!

2014 Market Predictions

2014 Market Predictions

2013 was the best year for the S&P 500 since 1997, with total returns in excess of 32%.

Wow. Just wow. We needed that.

I truly hope you were able to capture some of those remarkable returns. It’s all too tempting to look back over a good year or a bad year in the market and say to yourself, “Of course. All the signs were there. It was obvious that was going to happen.”

But the truth is that nobody has ever accurately predicted market movements consistently over time, and hindsight really is 20/20.

But considering how many 2014 market predictions I’ve seen published over the past few weeks, it might be tempting to think that there are experts who DO know what’s coming. Market predictions are the ante for many Wall Street pundits, fund managers and the like, and if we knew whose 2014 market predictions were going to be accurate we could have leveraged our bets and really made some money.

And so, in my quest to bring reason and science to your investing life, I will now showcase some of my favorite 2013 market predictions.

It turns out they didn’t fare so well…

One prominent economic forecaster who earned a name for himself by predicting the financial crisis in 2008 suggested that the conflagration of four economic factors—slow US growth, the EU debt crisis, military conflict in the Middle East and a slump in emerging markets—could combine and lead to what he termed a “superstorm.”

Time Magazine, for one, ran a market outlook article in November of 2012 titled “Why Stocks are Dead” (in bold, large point font). Barron’s ran a cover story that same month warning investors to “get ready for the recession of 2013.”

A famous financial analyst whose articles appear regularly in Forbes, The New York times, and The Wall Street Journal enumerated a host of surefire growth killers including persistent housing foreclosures, weak consumer spending, government deficits, high unemployment and “unsustainable” corporate profit margins. He predicted that in 2013 the S&P would drop to 800, a 42% decline!

And, if negative economic world events led inevitably to negative market returns, pessimism wasn’t entirely unjustified. Recall that in 2013, North Korea continued to conduct nuclear tests, the Pope resigned (for goodness sake), the EU agreed to bail out Cypress, crazed maniacs bombed the Boston Marathon, Edward Snowden fled the country and the entire U.S. federal government shut down for 16 days.

Yet the market climbed steadily skyward.

So, did those Wall Street characters change their tune and get on board?

Of course not! That would be admitting defeat. And relief doesn’t sell newspapers.

On March 5, 2013, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average finally surpassed its previous high of 14,164.53, from October of 2007, the Financial Times reported that the mood among long-in-the-tooth New York Stock Exchange traders was “more anxious than joyful.”

In fact, here is an interesting list of headlines from some of our best known news sources:

  • “Rebirth of Equities Ain’t Necessarily So,” Financial Times, January 12
  • “Scant Pickup in Economic Growth Seen for 2013,” Wall Street Journal, February 8
  • “Stock Markets Defy Economic Woes,” Financial Times, March 7
  • “As Investors Rush in, Stocks Are Sending Warning Signals,” Wall Street Journal, July 7
  • “Lofty Profit Margins Hint at Pain to Come for U.S. Shares,” Wall Street Journal, August 24
  • “Profits Boost Needed for Wall Street’s Equities Run,” Financial Times, September 18
  • “Get Ready For a Drop in Stock Prices,” Wall Street Journal, October 7
  • “Is This a Bubble?” Wall Street Journal, November 16

Unfortunately, if you heeded the advice of some of these so-called experts, you ran for the hills in 2013 and missed some pretty serious gains.

And now that we’ve finished a killer year like 2013, everybody’s favorite 2014 market prediction is, “But it won’t happen again this year!” Because of course, 2014’s returns couldn’t possibly rival those of 2013. Right?

Who knows?

Not me.

And certainly not them.

Best to just stay the course.

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How to Automate Your Finances

How to Automate Your Finances

Simply put: the easiest way to ensure your financial success is to know how to automate your finances. It takes some time to set up, and a little bit of maintenance, but is almost completely hassle-free.

Automating your finances gives you clarity and power over your finances, and, it scales infinitely so you’ll never grow out of it.

You’ll need several different accounts to accomplish this task: I have 2 checking accounts and 3 savings accounts.

This doesn’t include my investment accounts, which I also have 3 of (Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, and taxable investment account).

Step 1: Set Up Automatic Deposit

The first step: set up automatic deposit for your paycheck. Your income should be deposited directly into a specific savings account–any savings account is fine. The purpose of this account is to delegate funds to specific accounts.

Step 2: Set Up Automatic Bill Payment

Your pre-negotiated bills, like rent, electricity, gym memberships, insurance and subscriptions, are important expenses.

Paying all of your bills on time every month is a prerequisite for financial health.

Set up automatic transfers into a checking account called Yesterday’s Promises (because you’ve already agreed to pay these bills). Automatically pay your monthly bill from this account.

For bills like electricity and gas, which vary, I recommend you set up a minimum auto-payment that is approximately equal to your highest monthly bill from this vendor. You can edit the amount each month if you remember to, but in case you forget, the worst case scenario is that you’ll build up a credit balance with the vendor.

The amount you transfer into this account is the amount you owe on the sum of your pre-negotiated bills.

Step 3: Set up Auto-Transfers to Other Accounts

After you’ve set up Yesterdays’ Promises, calculate how much money is left from your paycheck. Then you need to decide how much of that number will go to short and long-term savings.

I have savings accounts called Curve Ball, All Things Auto and Vacations & Gifts.

The Curve Ball account is for when life throws you curve balls–some people refer to it as an Emergency Savings account, but I don’t have financial “emergencies” anymore since I have planned for unexpected scenarios. The Curve Ball account should have 3-6 months of expenses in it. Once you reach that balance, you don’t need to transfer money into that account anymore.

Now set up your auto-transfers into the various savings accounts.

NOTE: I have assumed that your retirement savings accounts are either 1) Your employer-sponsored 401(k), or 2) at a different institution than your retail bank.

Set up your maximum retirement account savings first. It’s the most critical.

Your other savings accounts are for expenses like a new car, auto repair and maintenance, or a vacation–hence their names!

Your final auto-transfer to set up is into a checking account called Today’s Fun. This is for your discretionary spending on things like groceries, meals out, food, gas and incidentals. Don’t decide how much goes to discretionary spending first, that puts spending before savings, which is bad.

You might be thinking, “Wait! Groceries are a necessity!”

Yes, but we often make choices to go out for a meal instead of eating the groceries in the fridge, and Americans are known to let a full 25% of their groceries rot!

The important thing to remember with this account is when it gets down to a balance of $0.00, you are not allowed to spend anything else.  The funds you have allocated to go into your savings accounts must stay there, regardless of whether you’d prefer an extra night out.

If you’re following along with the process I’ve outlined in your mind, you’re starting to get the picture that another prerequisite for financial health is having the lowest monthly obligation you possibly can.

Keep that Yesterday’s Promises number low, and everything else can breathe.

This is where you should make your sacrifices: rent well below your ability, pay cash for cars instead of taking a loan, don’t sign up for things that obligate you on a monthly basis because it removes your ability to make the choice between that expense and another each month.

If you want to read more on how I keep myself from overspending, check out this blog post.

I’d love to hear from you about financial systems that work! Give us your tips in the comments below.

Want a copy of my FREE eBook 10 Steps to Ensure You Won’t Outlive Your Money which teaches you the secrets of wealthy investors? Sign up here to get your complimentary copy!

Pioneer of Modern Finance, Professor Fama, Wins Nobel

Professor Fama’s work has shaped the investment philosophy that we, Family Wealth Consulting Group (the financial advisors behind the Healthy Wealthy Families blog), have been using with clients for more than 20 years. Since the early 1990’s, we are proud to have adopted an Efficient Markets approach to portfolio construction. Our clients’ results over the years have strongly confirmed the soundness and practical wisdom of Fama’s research.

Fama_Gene_Sr

Today we’re pleased to announce that University of Chicago Professor Eugene F. Fama, has been awarded a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences.

Fama is widely recognized as one of the “fathers of modern finance”, and he shares this Nobel with Lars Peter Hansen, who is also at University of Chicago, and Robert Shiller of Yale University.

The prize was awarded for research that has transformed our understanding of markets, stock prices and investing and has had an enormous, practical impact on countless investors.

Fama’s research showed that financial markets are efficient, meaning that the prices on traded assets—like stocks—quickly reflect all known information.

What this means for investors is that it is impossible to consistently outperform the market, except through luck. In other words, active management strategies are unable to either consistently pick stocks that will outperform or guess the best time to be invested in a certain market or stock.

Ultimately, investors are likely better off accepting the market’s rate of return and not taking the unnecessary risks involved with trying to outguess it.

As economist Burton G. Malkiel noted, the Efficient Markets Hypotheses means that “a blindfolded monkey throwing darts at a newspaper’s financial pages could select a portfolio that would do just as well as one carefully selected by experts.”

In combination, the Nobel committee recognizes that this research has guided the investments industry into building index and asset class funds as well as reshaped the science of portfolio management. In fact, Morningstar data shows that more than 26% of all assets in the US are now invested in market-based index or asset class investments, including 41% of estimated net flows in 2012.

Professor Fama also collaborated with Kenneth French on research that showed that some stock pricing anomalies can be explained by what is known as the Fama-French three-factor model. This research showed that, in general, stocks produce higher returns than bonds, small stocks produce higher returns than large stocks, and value stocks produce higher returns than growth stocks (after you diversify away as many risks as possible).

Fama is a prolific author and researcher, having written two books and more than 100 articles. He is also one of America’s most cited academics and has taught generations of noted economists, professors and investment professionals—his list of former students reads like a Who’s Who of finance.

In a recent paper, Fama wrote: “I love my work. I have no intention of stopping as long as I’m breathing—and I may even do it after that.” Now, in his seventies, he continues to be a financial pioneer and thought leader.

Thanks to Fama, many investors no longer spend precious time and money trying to outperform markets. Instead, they focus on taking reasonable, compensated risks, and put their faith (backed by data) in the long-term potential of free markets and capitalism to create long-lasting wealth.

Congratulations, Professor Fama, and thank you.

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Why Some People Will Never Make Money in the Stock Market

If you read the financial press, you might believe that everyone makes money in the stock market when values are climbing and everyone loses money when values fall.Make money in the stock market

It makes sense, of course, because all an investor has to do to earn the returns of, say, the S&P 500 is buy a low cost index fund that tracks the S&P. But the average investor’s actual returns are actually much different than the values reported by Yahoo! Finance.

In fact, even your returns are almost guaranteed to be different from whatever the markets and the funds you’ve invested in have gotten.

How is this possible?

Start with timing of investments.

We are told that the S&P 500 has delivered a compound return of about 7.8% from 1992 through 2011, which sounds pretty positive until you realize that this return would only be available to somebody who invested all his or her money at the beginning of 1992 and didn’t move that money around at all for the next twenty years.

If you invested each month or quarter, as most of us do, then you would have earned more like a 3.2% compounded return.

Why?

A lot of your money would have been exposed to the 2008 downturn, and not much of it would have enjoyed the dramatic runup in stocks from 1992 to 2000.

In addition, there is the difference–only now getting attention from analysts–between investor returns and investment returns.

Emotions drive investors to sell their stocks after their portfolio has been hammered–which is usually the worst possible time to sell.

Emotions also drive people to buy more and more stocks toward the peak of bull markets when they think everybody else is getting rich. That means we fail to buy stocks when they are on sale, and instead are eager to buy them at premium prices.

This would be bad enough, but people also switch their mutual fund and stock holdings.

When a great fund hits a rough patch, there’s a tendency to sell that dog and buy a fund that whose recent returns have been hot. And as it turns out, many times the underperforming fund will reverse course, while the hot fund will cool off.

The Morningstar organization now calculates, for every fund it follows, the difference between the returns of the mutual fund and the average returns of the investors in fund, and the differences can be astonishing. Overall, according to Morningstar statistics and an annual report compiled by the Dalbar organization, investor returns have historically been about half of what the markets and funds are reporting.

You might want to read that again.

And then there’s the tax bite.  Some mutual funds invest more tax-efficiently than others, and generate less taxable income to investors. Beyond that, if a fund is sitting on significant losses when you invest, you get to ride out its gains without paying for tax impact on April 15. If the fund is sitting on large gains when you buy in, you could find yourself paying taxes on gains even if the fund loses money.

In sum, all the research points us to the conclusion that if you invest without a scientific and disciplined approach, the way most individual investors do, you probably just won’t make money in the stock market.

Want a copy of my FREE eBook 10 Steps to Ensure You Won’t Outlive Your Money which teaches you the secrets of wealthy investors? Sign up here to get your complimentary copy!

Is it Better to Buy or Rent? Why More Wealthy Americans Are Choosing to Rent

Better to Buy or Rent?If you’ve been wondering if it’s better to buy or rent, you’re certainly not alone. We have long been encultured to the idea that homeownership is an uncontested good, but the housing market took a serious hit during the Great Recession. Now that home values are making their recovery, will the American Dream of homeownership regain its luster?

 

Renters Tilt the Scales

The facts of the recent past are clear: Americans have flocked to renting. A March Federal Reserve report shows that 16 million Americans became homeowners between 2000 and 2006, while 700,000 became renters. However, in the following five years, 1.2 million stopped being homeowners and an incredible 4.2 million became renters.

Certainly, some of that homeownership exodus is a result of the national financial crisis a few years ago.

Millions of Americans found themselves under water in their homes, and lost them to short sales or foreclosures. But many of those mortgages were non-recourse loans, which meant that the lender couldn’t go after the defaulting borrower’s other assets. So, many who lost their homes were fortunate enough to be able to keep all of their other assets.

So, now that the economy and the housing market seem to have reset, what’s next for affluent Americans who are renting but can afford to buy?

Why I am a Renter

My fiancé and I live in a nice house in San Jose, CA. We are both business owners and have offices in our home.

His hedge fund used to have corporate offices around the corner, but when the financial markets tumbled he downsized out of the office space to prepare for lean times. Now his employee works in an in-law unit on our property and the hedge fund uses our home address as its corporate address.

The business pays for a decent portion of the rent, which is a tax deduction, and protects us from having to budget much for housing out of our personal cash flow.

**Here is the key to this scenario, though, because if you simply save yourself money but spend the savings, you’ve squandered its value: Because we’ve consciously directed the financial benefit into savings, we’ve captured what could have been the equity growth benefit from homeownership, and maximized the value of the situation to ourselves.

Good Reasons to Rent

  • For older Americans, renting can truly give you freedom. It can alleviate the burden of home maintenance, and set your heirs free from the often emotional job of deciding whether to sell the family home.
  • Renting preserves mobility if you move or change jobs often.
  • If you’re raising children and the size of your brood keeps increasing, you may need more bedrooms soon.
  • Buying and selling houses is expensive (as in almost 10% of your home’s value!), so if you know you need to save more of a down payment to purchase the right home for you, it’s probably better to wait.
  • If you’re an entrepreneur or work from home, there are opportunities for tax savings.

Good Reasons to Buy

  • You can earn a profit over time.
  • Tax savings from the mortgage interest deduction.
  • No landlord means…
    • Consistency—you can plan for things like being in the right school district and buy that Labrador whenever you’d like.
    • Security—no surprise visits from anybody but your mother-in-law.

Want a copy of my FREE eBook 10 Steps to Ensure You Won’t Outlive Your Money which teaches you the secrets of wealthy investors? Sign up here to get your complimentary copy!

Hilary Martin on NBC 11 – How to Avoid Gray Charges on Your Credit Card

Wondering how to avoid gray charges? Last month, BillGuard, a personal finance protection company, released a report that found that American cardholders paid $14.3 billion in so-called gray charges in 2012. The report estimates these gray charges cost US card holders $562 million.

What are Gray Charges?

Gray charges are the unwanted charges that show up on your credit card, but that you may never protest or may never effectively have reversed. Those small charges add up over time, though. Gray charges are legal, but they’re sneaky and expensive.

The most common type of gray charge is “free-to-paid.” Let’s say you receive a good or service for a free trial period, but then if you don’t cancel by a certain date, you are automatically enrolled in a monthly paid membership.

NBC Bay Area interviewed our own Hilary Martin, MBA, CFP® to find out how consumers can avoid gray charges, which are costly in terms of both time and money.

Click the link below to watch the segment, which aired on the nightly news the day the report was released.

 

Want a copy of my FREE eBook 10 Steps to Ensure You Won’t Outlive Your Money which teaches you the secrets of wealthy investors? Sign up here to get your complimentary copy!

The Guide to Choosing Assisted Living: For Caregivers and Loved Ones

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This post was written by Peggy Martin, MSFS, ChFC, CASL. Peggy is a financial advisor with The Family Wealth Consulting Group and a contributing author to this blog.

Guide to Choosing Assisted Living for Your Loved Ones

The PBS Frontline program “Life and Death in Assisted Living” (hyperlink: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/life-and-death-in-assisted-living/), which aired for the first time last week and is now available for viewing online, was a dramatic wake-up call for many people. The program primarily focused on one provider of care, whom the patients’ loved ones chose as assisted living, and how multiple acts of negligence put several patients’ lives at risk and led ultimately to their deaths. The full impact of the program on the assisted living facility industry is not yet known.

As a family caregiver, I have had the opportunity to be an advocate for the parents in my family, placing their needs first when working with medical providers. As a financial planner, I have worked closely with many clients to navigate the complexities of managing care for their aging loved ones or for themselves.

I have interviewed owners, managers, and the staff of assisted living facilities and I have given clients guidance to do the same. I have found that being proactive, present, and asking the right questions contributes to a positive experience for your love one and allows peace of mind for you.

The Guide to Choosing Assisted Living below should help you make informed choices about assisted living facilities. If you have further questions or would like to know if we might provide customized assistance, please Contact Us:

1. Has the facility recently been taken over by a larger company? New ownership can mean that both the quality of care and resident costs may soon change.

2. How long have the current owners/managers operated the facility? In large corporations, managers can change frequently and not understand the needs of the residents.

3. Your loved one will be spending the majority of their time in the facility. Things to look for or request:

a. Do you get the sense of a homelike environment?
b. Do you hear staff calling the residents by their name?
c. Is socializing between residents taking place?
d. Are you allowed to speak with residents about their experience?
e. Are social and recreational activities provided and residents encouraged to participate? Are guest speakers and special programs provided?
f . What about small pets?
g. Does the facility provide transportation to and from doctors’ appointments and for light shopping?
h. Is there a licensed nurse on staff?
i.  How is medicine dispersed and where is it stored?
j. Is staff available 24/7?
k. Find out how frequently staff is interacting with the residents.
l. Are there staff meetings with management where there is encouragement to speak freely about residents’ concerns.

4. For the residents of a facility, food is very important. Eating meals with other residents is social and friendships are often created around the dining room table.

a. When are meals provided?
b. Can special meals be prepared due to dietary restrictions? Is a nutritionist involved?
c. Can a resident eat meals in their room?
d. Do apartments have a kitchen or kitchenette?

5. Safety and cleanliness of the facility:

a. How clean do the building and grounds appear? Is the building free of odors?
b. Are there fire sprinklers? Can residents easily see exit signage?
c. What is the facility’s policy on smoking?
d. Do apartments have heaters and air conditioning that can be regulated by the resident?
e. Is the facility locked for dementia patients?
f. Are there hazardous chemicals on site? Where are they stored?

6. Be sure to contact your state’s community care licensing division to find listings of facilities in your area and what complaints, if any, have been registered. For California, www.ccld.ca.gov.

By staying in touch with your loved one and the community serving him or her, a lot of tragic outcomes can be avoided just by knowing what is happening.

What do you think about assisted living facilities? I’d love to hear from you.

 

This post was written by Peggy Martin, MSFS, ChFC, CASL. Peggy is a financial advisor with The Family Wealth Consulting Group and a contributing author to this blog.

 

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Part III, The Teen Years: How to Teach Your Teenager about Money

Welcome to the final installment in our kids and money series: How to teach your teenager about money! Today we’re going to talk about things your college-bound student needs to know about money. You’ve been working with your child since they were a tyke and through their ‘tween years to teach them the value of a dollar, and how to spend and save. Now is the time to teach your children about the reality of creating a healthy financial life.

teach your teenager about money

#1. Opening a Bank Account

Teaching your college-bound teenager about money is possible, and can be fun. Start by helping them open both a checking and a savings account.
Teach your teen how to use the computer or their mobile device to check balances and verify charges. Make sure they understand how to set up automatic transfers to savings and overdraft fees.

#2. What Debt Looks Like, and Avoiding Consumer Debt

One of the biggest issues a teen will face is debt. College loans, credit cards, car payments, and maybe even mortgages are just a few types of debt that teens might face in the next few years.

Understanding how a credit card works from an early age will really help your teen stay away from that type of borrowing. Teach them not to carry credit card balance and how hard it is to get out of debt if they do.

Point out on one of your actual statements the interest rate that is being charged by the credit card company. Break out the calculator and show your teen that if they make only the minimum payment on a debt, it is extremely difficult to pay off. This can tie in with saving and buying only what you need verses what you want.

#3. Teach about Compound Interest

Showing a teenager the benefits of investing early will benefit you and them. If you have the math courage, make a simple spreadsheet and just show them how earnings can add up over a 10 and 20 year period.

Put that time period in perspective and estimate where your teen will be in that amount of time. In 10 years they might be looking to pay for a wedding or a first child.

#4. Summer Job

You probably remember as a teen being very excited to start working. Whether your teen is working for you around the house or working at the local mall, either way, it’s important to note that work is an essential part of life. A good work ethic is a great lesson to teach your teen.

An important money lesson that is connected with employment is taxes. This can include what local and federal taxes are, as well as lesson on how to file your own taxes. Everyone has to pay taxes and there is no better way to learn about taxes than through experience.

#5 Stay in Touch

Financial health is a practice, not a destination, and your teen will need support and guidance along the way. Stay in touch after they leave for college, review bank statements together and ask about how they deal with credit card offers. Teaching them to always have positive cash flow will keep them out of financial emergencies and on the path to a wealthy future.

Want a copy of my FREE eBook 10 Steps to Ensure You Won’t Outlive Your Money which teaches you the secrets of wealthy investors? Sign up here to get your complimentary copy!

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