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How to Talk to Your Kids About Your End of Life Wishes

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Decisions about your end of life wishes are deeply personal and can be a challenging conversation for many families. It’s impossible to foresee every type of circumstance or illness, so it’s important that you have these critical discussions before it’s too late. Although it may be an uncomfortable conversation to bring up, you and your kids will feel more prepared and confident for decisions related to your end of life wishes.

Step One: Choose the Right Time

There’s no good time for a heavy conversation. Letting your kids prepare for it ahead of time, however, is a good way to ease into the discussion instead of making them feel blindsided. Ideally, you would like to have this conversation when you’re in great health and there’s nothing to worry about. Often, however, health concerns trigger the need to have a discussion about your end of life wishes. Whenever you choose to have the discussion, make sure that you and your kids are comfortable. Sitting around the living room of your home may be better than tackling the conversation in a restaurant. Leave plenty of time to have an honest, in-depth conversation without anyone feeling rushed.

Step Two: Bring Out the Paperwork

There’s plenty of paperwork that comes along with preparing for the last days of your life and ensuring that your needs are met according to your wishes. This includes:

  • Your will
  • Your advance healthcare directive
  • Power of attorney

Explain what’s included in that paperwork and what you’d like to have happen in various situations. This may include discussing why you designated a specific child as the executor of your will or gave them medical power of attorney in the event that you’re unable to make decisions for yourself.

Step Three: Discuss Other Legal Requirements

In addition to your will and power of attorney, there are some other important details you’ll need to cover. You may want, for example, to designate one or more of your children as authorized users on your banking and investment accounts. This will allow them to make financial decisions for you if you are no longer able to take care of them yourself, including paying your bills, removing funds from your investment account for your personal use, and depositing funds into your accounts if necessary.

You’ll also want to make sure that your children are aware of your long-term insurance, health insurance, and life insurance policies. Keep the paperwork for your insurance in a place where they’ll be able to find it or provide them with copies of your plans. That way, if you do need access to those policies, you’ll know where to look.

Step Four: Cover Your Wishes

In some families, it’s normal to discuss end of life plans. Others, however, may require a specific discussion that allows you to make your wishes known. Make sure you cover:

  • Any information about the type of funeral you want to have, including whether you’d like to be cremated or buried
  • At what point you would prefer measures to extend your life be ended
  • Anyone who should be notified in the event of your death
  • What your thoughts and concerns are on nursing home care, especially if you happen to have Alzheimer’s or dementia and are unable to participate in choosing a senior living community

Covering all the details of your life wishes can be difficult but by sharing openly with your family, you can make this important discussion impactful. As a result, you’ll feel confident that you and your children are more prepared for the inevitable and that your end of care wishes will be taken care of.

Inside the Economy: Hurricane Harvey

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On this week’s Inside the Economy, we discuss the effects that natural disasters such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have on the U.S. economy. Greater Houston is the metropolitan area that contributes the most to United States Real GDP growth. Will Hurricane Harvey’s devastation of one of the nation’s most productive economic centers signal a slowdown for the U.S. economy as a whole? Tune in to find out!

Navigating Caregiving for Elderly Parents

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As the Baby Boomer population ages, the nature and requirement of caregiving for elderly parents or relatives is continuously evolving.  In an article released by the MIT AgeLab, it is estimated that “today, 34.2 million Americans (14.3% of the population) provide care for someone age 50 or older.”  While the demands of caregiving may start out slowly, they can quickly progress from both a time and cost perspective.  Recent data from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP indicates “the average time dedicated to caregiving for someone age 50 or older is 24.1 hours per week…[and] caregivers spend on average $5,531 out-of-pocket annually on caregiving related expenses, such as household goods, food and meals, travel and transportation costs, and medical expenses.”  This is typically done while the caregivers are juggling a career and family of their own, making it increasingly important to build a network of local resources that can help relieve some of the caregiving demands.

Caregivers can find assistance navigating some of the emotional and time demands through local Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), which is a network of organizations across the nation serving populations ages 60 and older.  Most AAAs offer varying levels of service in the following areas:

  • Nutrition – counseling, home delivered and congregate meals
  • Caregiver Support – respite care and caregiver training
  • Information & Referral – information about assistance programs and referrals to administrators
  • Long Term Care Ombudsmen – information about long term care facilities and investigation of complaints
  • Insurance Counseling – helping seniors understand and maximize the benefits of their insurance (especially Medicare)
  • Transportation – assistance understanding and coordinating shared, non-medical transportation services

A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ can help you create a long-term care plan for your future, as well as preparing to help family members.  An advisor can offer insight on the pros and cons of purchasing a long-term care policy and the types of policies that may fit your specific situation, as well as self-funding a long-term care plan.

Call Sharkey, Howes & Javer at 303-639-5100 to speak with a CFP® and identify caregiving resources for your loved ones, or to discuss your priorities and plans for your own future.

7 Day Money Cleanse

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If your finances have been controlling you, rather than you controlling them, it may be time for a money cleanse. Time to take charge of your finances, create a spending plan that you can live with, and learn to live within your means. By undertaking this money cleanse, you can substantially change the way you interact with money, feel better about your financial situation, and potentially meet your financial goals.

Day One: Define Your Financial Goals

Financial goals are often among the hardest to meet. Whether you’re hoping to create a great retirement account or saving for an incredible vacation, it can be easy to “cheat” a little on your long-term financial goals in order to experience short-term happiness. On day one of your financial cleanse, take the time to define your financial goals. This could include everything from building a $10,000 emergency fund over the next six months to building a nest egg of $2 million for retirement in 30 years.

Day Two: Track Your Spending

Take the time to sit down with the last twelve months of debit and credit card statements and track where your money is really going. If you prefer to use cash on a regular basis, it may be more helpful to write down your purchases over the course of the week, then do an end-of-week review. Make sure you account for every dollar spent. If you buy coffee on your way to work each day, make sure it appears on your list. Although you may not remember exactly what was purchased at Target or Costco, be sure to account for the spending in a Miscellaneous category. Be honest with yourself about where your money is actually being spent.

Day Three: Erase Unnecessary Recurring Expenses

After you have defined your financial goals and analyzed your spending, you can then eliminate any unnecessary expenses. Have you purchased a subscription box that comes in the mail every month with products that you don’t actually use? Do you have a gym membership, but only make it to the gym once or twice a year? What about your television viewing: are you paying every month for several overlapping services? Spend some time canceling programs that you never or rarely use. Chances are, you won’t even miss them!

Day Four: Define Your Money Treats

Whether you decide to spend extra money on a nice dinner or concert tickets, it’s okay to treat yourself once in a while. Even the strictest spending plan should incorporate some fun. Whatever it is that helps you stay on track with your everyday finances, make sure you define the ways you want to “treat” yourself. Does a manicure, massage or sporting event make you feel rejuvenated?  Is international travel a top priority at this stage in life? Once you have defined how you want to treat yourself, you may find that it’s easier to skip less important money splurges and save for ones that really matter to you.

Day Five: Examine Your Income

Be honest with yourself about what you’re really making. Many Americans today find themselves living in debt because their lifestyle exceeds their means. If your income isn’t in line with the lifestyle you’d like to lead and you find yourself constantly reaching for your credit card or relying on your emergency savings to get by, it’s time for a change! It is easy to forget to account for the surprise expenses, such as car repairs, home maintenance, or out of pocket medical expenses. If you build these items into your budget, they are less likely to take you by surprise. If your income doesn’t meet your goals, you need to either boost your income or reduce your lifestyle.

Day Six: Check Your Necessary Expenses

Some expenses are simply necessary. You need a roof over your head (either rent or your mortgage), food to eat (groceries), and electricity and water. Write down all of the necessary expenses, but be sure you don’t blur the line between “want” and “need!” Look for ways to reduce spending in so-called necessary areas. For example, you might find that you can reduce your grocery bill by meal planning and eliminating food waste, or you might be able to reduce your car payment by trading in your car for a less-expensive model.

Day Seven: Write Your New Spending Plan

You know what you’re making and what you have no choice but to spend. You have a better idea of what your financial pitfalls are and where you’re making unwise financial decisions. Now, it’s time to write a solid spending plan. Your spending plan should:

  • Start with your income
  • Include savings for both long-term financial goals and short-term ones
  • Have a plan for paying down debt, ideally at a pace that is appropriate for your goals
  • Leave some room for “treats” and spending money that can be spent according to your discretion
  • Reflect all of your necessary spending, from food to gas
  • Account for the one-time or intermittent expenses

If you need a financial reset, this seven-day money cleanse is a great way to get your spending back on track. You need a spending plan that will work for you, not one that will trap you.

Inside the Economy: The Dollar, S&P 500, Spain and More!

By | Economic Discussion, Economy, Larry Howes, SH&J Blog | No Comments

On this week’s Inside the Economy, we examine how America’s personal savings have changed since the Great Recession. We also discuss how the Federal Reserve will begin to unwind its balance sheet of Treasuries and Mortgage Backed Securities over the next 5 years. Outside of the U.S., economic activity in Spain is looking brighter. What kind of impact will this positive outlook have on the referendum on Catalan independence on October 1st? Tune in to find out!

Career Shifters and Your Resume in 2018

By | Client Stories, SH&J Blog, Tips | No Comments

This summer, our client Mary decided that the time is ripe to finally take the big leap from her past career in nursing to pursue her dream as a Human Resources (H.R.) professional. She has been reading articles about the expansive employment opportunities in Colorado, and she recently finished an H.R. Certificate program. During a conversation about structuring her finances during this transition, she shared her fears about resume writing because she hasn’t written one since 1980. Starting from scratch can be a daunting task, considering how resumes have evolved over the years. How will Mary know how to communicate her current marketability, without sounding too outdated?

We suggested that she begin by referring to the sought-after job description to create an Objective or Summary section at the top of the page. Because a hiring manager will likely spend less than a minute scanning her resume, Mary will want to be sure that the first thing he/she reads is applicable to the job description. She will want to “brand” herself as an H.R. professional, rather than a nurse. Forbes describes bluntly in a recent article about branding: “Most of us feel most comfortable talking about areas in which we are already credible….the key to branding yourself for a career change is to describe yourself as a person who is already in the field you wish to enter.”

The next step is to be aware of ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems). Rather than reading through hundreds of resume submissions, hiring managers will often utilize ATS to help choose the most applicable resumes for the available job. We suggested that Mary spend some time researching ATS to understand this new “language” to ensure her resume isn’t accidentally overlooked.

Which key words should Mary use in her resume to give her the best chances of making it through an ATS? The direct job description is the best place to start. In addition, Business Insider explains “Every field has its own acronyms and terminology. It’s your job to figure out how to translate your experience and past successes into terms that resonate with your new target audience. Subscribe to industry-specific publications, conduct informational interviews, and start attending events that are relevant to your target field to gain this insight, and update your resume accordingly.”

One last suggestion for Mary is to pay attention to the small details, such as her email address provider. Using a Yahoo, Hotmail, or AOL email address may indicate to hiring managers that she is living in the past. In addition, be sure to only include relevant education and work history.

If you are looking to align your financial planning with an upcoming career shift, please call Sharkey, Howes, and Javer at 303-639-5100 to schedule a complimentary meeting.   

Take Financial News with a Grain of Salt

By | Food for thought, SH&J Blog, Tips | No Comments

Listening to the news is enough to cause many people a great deal of stress and anxiety, especially when it comes to your finances. The media is filled with people who claim they have the fix-all solution to your financial woes or those who purport that they can predict the future. In reality, you should pay less attention to financial news media and more attention to the people who have taken the time to listen to and understand your specific financial situation.   

Why Not Trust the Media?

There are plenty of financial experts out there to choose from if you want to turn to popular media outlets for financial solutions. These individuals, however, might not have your best interests at heart. In fact, fake financial news is already relevant and it has the potential to cause serious problems for a number of Americans.  

  • Impulsive reactions based on headlines can cause big regrets down the road, especially if headlines turn out to be untrue or misleading.
  • Social media, in particular, is a prime location for untrue “financial news”: companies may post false disclosures or other information that is designed to cause big reactions, but without the numbers to back up their claims.
  • Media-based financial “experts” may have more interest in lining their own pockets than they do in ensuring that you get the best possible investment advice. This can include everything from recommending a specific company primarily because they get kickbacks from them to outright lies about financial results in an effort to boost their personal sales.

Due to the prevalence of erroneous financial news, many Americans find themselves struggling to make critical financial decisions. With so many fake sources out there, it’s difficult to determine who to trust. Fortunately, there are better solutions to help guide financial decisions than turning to media.

Who Do You Trust Instead?

If you can’t trust the media, who can you trust to help you make those vital financial decisions? For most people who are hoping to invest their wealth, prepare for retirement, or take care of other critical financial concerns, working with a fee-only CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM can be one of the best ways to proceed. Fee-only CFP®’s offer a number of advantages.  

  • A fee-only CFP® should take a holistic approach to your financials. They’ll look at the whole picture: your family and career situations, your personal and financial goals, your income and assets, the protections (various insurances like homeowners, auto, life and disability) you have or need, and your comfort level with risk, among other factors. Then, they’ll help create a comprehensive financial plan for achieving your goals, rather than giving you just a few pieces of the puzzle.
  • A fee-only CFP® is compensated only by the client through the fees he or she charges, and not through commissions earned from the sale of financial products. This offers these professionals the freedom to provide advice that is truly in your best interest without having a significant portion of their income tied to selling you financial products.
  • A fee-only CFP® can help you discern whether or not you’re currently on track with your savings. Do you have enough money to cover an emergency? That amount may differ drastically depending on your family size, your income, and your financial responsibilities.  Are you on track to reach your other financial goals?  
  • A fee-only CFP® will work with you to help you learn how investment options can fit into your overall financial plan. How does your investment strategy fit into your retirement plan or college plan?

Sometimes it’s best to turn off the television, stop scrolling through social media, and ignore the way popular media tells you to manage your money. Instead, turn to a fee-only CFP® to help you determine a strategy that will work for you, taking a holistic approach to your financial situation and helping you determine how you can best manage your goals and investments. From the earliest steps of building your savings account to planning for retirement, hiring a CFP® can be a good way to get the advice you need for financial success.

Inside the Economy with SH&J: Disposable Income & Consumption, Colorado Crude Oil, and Federal Revenues

By | Economic Discussion, Economy, Larry Howes, SH&J Blog | No Comments

On today’s Inside the Economy, we look at the U.S. consumer and review disposable income and personal consumption. We also discuss the Fed’s QT (Quantitative Tightening) Policy of increasing interest rates and the changes to the Fed’s balance sheet as they begin to roll off the assets they acquired during the 2008-2009 timeframe. How will this affect our economy? Tune in to find out!

5 Money Lessons Before Your Kids Leave for College

By | Food for thought, SH&J Blog, Tips | No Comments

You’ve done your best to teach your child financial responsibility when they were young. However, before they leave for college, there are a few last-minute lessons you can teach them. College is a tough adjustment for many young people, financially speaking, and these key lessons may be enough to help keep them from digging themselves into a financial hole that could take years to dig out.  

Lesson #1: How to Manage Money

Whether your child’s college expenses are fully funded by scholarships and savings or he/she is planning to work his/her way through, college may be the first time your child will need to deal with money on a regular basis. There are books to buy, meals and groceries to buy, and plenty of opportunities for overspending along the way. Make sure your child gets a basic course in managing money before heading out the door. Teach teens how to create a budget, how to prepare for major expenses, and, of course, how not to rely on Mom and Dad for money.

Lesson #2: How to Handle Credit

Many children are eligible to take out loans or apply for credit cards around the time they start college. While building credit is important for future financial transactions, college may not be the best time to try to juggle it. If your child is responsibly ready to begin building credit, use one credit card for one purpose, such as filling up the car with gas. Teach them to be sure there is enough money in their checking account at the end of the billing period to cover the expenses placed on the credit card.  And, teach them how to set up automatic payments so that their credit is not damaged by late/missed payments.  This will keep the credit card manageable while building credit in his/her name. However, if your child has not yet demonstrated financial responsibility, encourage him/her to avoid using credit cards as much as possible–or even to put off having one until after college. Overuse of credit now could lead to paying off extreme credit card debt for years in the future–a costly mistake.

Lesson #3: The Impact of Student Loans

Many millennials are quickly discovering that student loans can hinder their financial future if they aren’t planned for responsibly.  These days, there’s no guarantee that graduating from college with a shiny degree will result in an equally impressive job to go along with it–and unfortunately, student loans start coming due just a short time after graduation. Make sure your child fully understands the impact that student loans will have on future finances, including how long it could take to pay off those loans. Encourage your child to research starting salaries for their desired future career path and subtract the future student loan payments to get a realistic view of potential income after college. It could even be worth having a serious conversation with your child about whether or not that high-dollar first choice school is worth the extra expense or if a year or two at a community college could help prepare them for future financial success.

Lesson #4: How to Search for Scholarships

Too many kids have absolutely no idea where to find scholarship help–and it is out there! Whether your child is ready for freshman year or halfway through, there are scholarships available that will help offset the cost of college, books, and even living expenses. Do some serious research into how to find scholarships, then help your child set a schedule for applying for them. Remind your child that small scholarships–which many people overlook, which could mean less competition for them–can add up fast. That $250 may not seem like much against the cost of tuition, but it can make a big difference in the cost of books and other supplies.  

Lesson #5: How to Reduce Debt by Working

Unless your family has the means to support your child through his/her college years, working during college is a great way for your child to reduce the debt burden after graduation. Even if scholarships or student loans are paying the costs, working now can help offset living expenses and reduce the amounts of student loans so that your child will have greater financial freedom later in life.  

The college years can have a huge impact on children’s financial future, especially if they end up heavily in debt early in their education. By teaching these five critical money lessons before your children head to college, you can give them a step up after graduation instead of constantly worrying about paying off those loans.

Inside the Economy with SH&J: July 31, 2017

By | Economic Discussion, Economy, Larry Howes, SH&J Blog | No Comments

This week on Inside the Economy with SH&J, we review positive news with the release of the first estimate for second quarter GDP and the GDP outlook for the remainder of 2017. Listen in as we discuss the contribution of mining to earnings in the energy sector along with an update on the U.S. shale oil industry. In addition, can you guess which U.S. cities are seeing an influx of financial jobs?