SH&J Blog

How to Keep Track of Your Passwords

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With the help of the address book in our cell phones, we no longer have to worry about remembering phone numbers when we want to call a friend or family member.  Now, instead of trying to remember phone numbers, we not only have to keep track of various passwords but also what website or member login they are paired with.  Security experts say to make passwords unique using both letters and characters, and recommend not using the same password for everything.  But, in today’s world of multiple online bank accounts, retail accounts, email, and social media, how are we supposed to track and remember them all?

1. Password Manager Services

If you don’t mind paying a fee for the service, consider using a password manager to help organize and store your passwords online.  You’ll have to create a strong master password, but at least you will only have to remember one.  Be cautious when choosing a manager and review their security measures since you will be storing everything in one place and relying on their protection.  

2. Log-in through Social Media or Google

Some sites now allow you to log in using your Facebook, Twitter, or Google account information.  You likely won’t have the option to do this for bank accounts, but perhaps you can get away from creating yet another password when you visit your favorite retail or food delivery website.  Similar to using a password manager service, if you are using the same social media password to log in multiple places, make sure it is a strong one.

3. Store them in an encrypted document

If you don’t want to pay for a password manager service, but still want a place to list and store all of your passwords, consider saving them in a password protected and encrypted document on your computer.  Go one step further in protecting the document and refrain from storing it in the cloud.

4. Write them down

When all else fails, write your passwords down on paper.  Store and treat the list as you would any other important document and don’t keep it next to your computer or in your wallet.  Do your best to list the passwords with as little additional member login information as possible.

Tracking and protecting your online security is a significant part of protecting your overall financial foundation. Contact Sharkey, Howes & Javer at 303-639-5100 to meet with a Certified Financial Planner® to learn about additional ways to protect what you have worked hard to build.

The History of the American Stock Market (Part II)

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In Part I we looked at the beginnings of debt markets, and the early days of company stock ownership and trades. The 20th Century saw huge changes in the world’s economies, political systems, and population growth. The History of the American Stock Market both reflects these changes and used them to develop into what we see today. Next we will explore the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, and S&P 500.

The New York Stock Exchange

As we saw in Part I, what was called the New York Curb Market moved indoors into a new building on Greenwich Street in Lower Manhattan. By now, it had established codes of conduct and listing requirements. By 1930, despite the Great Crash of 1929, The Curb Exchange was the world’s leading stock market, and listed more foreign issues than all of the other U.S. securities markets combined.

Radio was developing, and in the 1950s, Radio Amex began to broadcast stock prices and market changes so investors and traders could have up-to-the-minute information. Between 1950 and 1960, the share value traded on the American Stock Exchange had more than doubled to $23 billion.

In 1971, the NYSE and Amex brought many of its informational and other services together to form the National Securities Industry Automation Corporation, or SIAC. One result of such a development was educational services on, for example, options trading. Trading stocks had become a much more complex process, so the intention was to help investors learn more about markets and make more informed decisions.

Trading options and futures are two such examples. Options give buyers and sellers the right, should they choose, to trade an asset at a given price at some point during the life of that contract. Futures trading is similar, but buyers and sellers must trade at that price. Making profitable decisions now about what someone may or must do in the future demanded reliable information.

In 1993, Amex introduced derivative trading. A derivative is a security whose price is based on and depends on or is derived from, the value of underlying assets. These underlying assets include stocks and bonds, commodities, currencies, interest rates, and overall market indices.

In 2008, Amex was bought by and merged with NYSE Euronext. Euronext was a European stock exchange that traded in cash and the derivatives markets. It also produced market data for traders to use. The world, indeed, became more accessible when these major exchanges and market analysts merged across the two continents.


“NASDAQ” stands for the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations System. Beginning in 1971, it was the first electronic exchange, where investors could buy and sell online, without having to meet on a trading floor. NASDAQ is, today, a world-wide provider of financial technology information and trading services. It operates in 26 countries around the world. NASDAQ’s online services have enabled the world’s stock markets to evolve dramatically. Because it is an all-electronic service, it attracted companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Dell.

Today, NASDAQ services many thousands of clients and publishes approximately 41,000 global indexes covering all kinds of industries and market sectors. This data enables trading professionals to analyze markets in detail and to advise their clients accordingly.

NASDAQ major business segments all use its technology and software to generate and publish the data. The technology then enables approximately 3,100 companies, representing approximately $10.1 trillion in market valuation, to list with NASDAQ. The listings bring buyers and sellers together so they can trade in the many different asset classes offered. As a result, the NASDAQ Stock Market is the largest single pool for trading in US equities.

S&P (Standard and Poor’s)

The company began as the Standard Statistical Company in 1923, when its indicator included only 233 publicly traded companies. It merged with Poor’s Publishing in 1941, resulting in the index showing 416 companies.  It was on January 1, 1957 that it hit the famous 500 mark.

It is, now, an index that tracks the value of 500 large companies, currently representing approximately $7.8 trillion of corporate valuation, that are listed on the NYSE and on NASDAQ, hence “S&P 500.”

S&P now does more than publish corporate indices. It also publishes indices on small, mid, and large cap companies and groupings including the S&P Composite 1500, and the S&P 900. It also publishes financial market intelligence across the world, and calculates credit ratings for companies, cities, states and provinces, and entire nations.

Final Comment

The history of the American stock market is rich in fact and action. It enables individuals, institutions, and corporations to invest, raise capital, spread risk, and to speculate on individually listed corporations as well as on company groups and entire market sectors.

Standard and Poor’s
First Sub head includes info from the links in Part I:

The History of the American Stock Market (Part 1)

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The first stock markets got their start as kings, merchants, and adventurers traveled to new, unexplored lands in search of new riches. But it was the development of new technology that helped transform early markets into the exchanges we all know and recognize today.

A Brief Introduction to the Markets

The first exchanges were for debts, rather than assets. Medieval kings and crusading lords had to borrow money to fund their expeditions and wars. They borrowed the money from wealthy merchants by selling part of the debt to other merchants in exchange for a share in the profit when the debts were repaid with interest. Today, we call this trading of debt “bond markets”.

In order for the great shipping nations of Europe to explore and discover new lands and resources such as gold, spices, raw materials, and other luxuries, the fleets of ships being used had to be funded. In some cases, the monarch funded the exploration. Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain funded Columbus’s voyage of 1492, for example. In other cases, the funding came from merchants. Rather than merely lend the money and trade the bonds to reduce the risk, merchants began to join together to form a company that funded their own venture. They were, literally, the first venture capitalists.

Initially, a new company would be formed for each voyage and be disbanded when the fleet returned. As the process evolved, the same company with the same jointly held stock (hence joint-stock company) owned by the same merchant adventurers would fund new trading ventures. Many companies grew wealthy, and their stock became a valuable, highly sought after asset in its own right.

Instead of buying stock shares for cash, they could simply be traded. Because not every ship would return to port, laden with goods for sale, merchants would spread their risk by exchanging stocks in one business venture for stocks in another.

The regular trading of stock certificates in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries grew into an official, formal, and controlled element of modern-day finance. The world had become a larger place with international trade.

Now let us jump ahead and look at the more recent history of the stock market.

The First Stock Exchanges

Great Britain was the center of one of the greatest empires as well as the center of trade, commerce, and industrial output in the late 18th century. London saw the world’s first official stock exchange open in 1773. The London Stock Exchange (LSE) could not actually trade stocks at the time: unscrupulous business owners had caused so much financial damage that the speculative trading of stocks was illegal until 1825. Outside financing was needed for new ventures, so investors bought stock in these new companies (they just could not trade existing stock certificates among themselves).

In 1792, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) opened its doors. New York was the center of America’s domestic and international trade, banking, and manufacturing. The NYSE was America’s second stock exchange, the first one being the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, which began in 1790. Both markets were able to speculatively trade in stocks. The NYSE quickly outgrew its Philadelphia competitor and is, today, the largest stock market on the planet.

NYSE’s Early Days

Stock traders used to meet on the open street, and were known as “curbstone brokers”. As they formalized their role and location, 24 of America’s leading brokers met under a buttonwood tree to sign “The Buttonwood Agreement” which created the NYSE, and they moved their location to Wall Street.

The brokers established rules and set fees for trading. They copied many European practices, and the NYSE became a wealthy organization. The most important regulations the NYSE established were “listing requirements.” For a company to be quoted and traded on the NYSE, it must meet certain standards.

Listing requirements cover, for example, a company’s size (its annual income or its market value) and its liquidity. Liquidity essentially means how quickly its stock can be traded at a given value. Any stock can trade quickly at a bargain price, but overall stability is needed for owners who buy and sell the stocks. Today, if a company wants to be traded on the NYSE, it must have issued at least 1.1 million shares for public-trading, and they must be worth at least $100 million.

As America’s economy and its place in the world grew, so did the power and authority of its stock markets. New stock exchanges opened in other major economic areas. For example, Chicago in the Midwest and Los Angeles on the west coast.

Existing industries grew and new industries began. Rules and regulations developed to cope with both business complexity and the expanding world of international trade brought on by the rise of technology. Traders and owners (including pension companies) and other institutional investors needed new clear and trusted methods of stock valuation and comparison. New trading floors opened their doors to address the needs of the new marketplaces.

In Part II of this blog, which will be posted in a few days, we will look at how the stock market has changed to meet the demands of both growth and these new industries.

NYSE Timeline and General History
Buttonwood Agreement
Listing Requirements

Weddings: Who is Picking Up the Tab?

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After the champagne has been popped and a new engagement celebrated, reality slowly creeps in as all parties begin to wonder: “who is responsible for paying for this wedding?” Traditionally, the bride’s family has picked up the full tab. However, that is not always the case in modern society. A budget meeting between families is the first step, and one of the main goals is to avoid awkward conversation. Often you will find that opinions vary between families and it can be helpful for parents of the groom and bride to have an idea of how other families approach this delicate topic.

One way to divide and conquer is by splitting up the responsibilities. The bride’s family pays for the flowers, the groom’s family pays for the rehearsal dinner, and so on. There are plenty of articles you can read from websites such as The Knot or The Bridal Guide that will happily provide an opinion on who should pay for what. However, these etiquette guides can become confusing rather quickly and are subject to vast interpretation and opinion.

Another approach is to let each party (bride’s family, groom’s family, and the engaged couple) determine the amount each can responsibly contribute to the costs. Depending on a myriad of factors, the average cost of a wedding in Colorado is $31,435. In reality, you can truly spend any amount you would like on a wedding, from under $10,000 to easily over $100,000. Anyone who has planned a wedding can tell you how quickly the dollars add up.

According to an article by Family Education, “some modern options for paying for a wedding include:

  • The bride and groom pay for the entire wedding
  • Expenses are divided evenly between the couple, the bride’s family, and the groom’s family
  • Each family covers the cost for the number of guests it invites
  • The bride’s family and groom’s family split the expenses evenly”

So what is really happening? A 2014 study indicates that on average, the bride’s parents contribute 43% to the cost, the engaged couple contributes 43%, and the groom’s parents contribute 12% (others account for the remaining 2%). Only 12% of couples pay for the wedding entirely by themselves.

The Huffington Post offers one last critical piece of advice for parents: “If the couple seeks your opinion on certain aspects of the day, consider yourself blessed. But don’t regard your contribution as a way to buy influence over what happens at the wedding—the day is truly about celebrating the couple, and it should be the one day that is theirs.”

If you would like help in making responsible decisions on contributing to celebration costs without hindering your own successful financial future, please call Sharkey, Howes & Javer at 303-639-5100 for a complimentary consultation.

How Financial Planning Can Make a Difference When a Loved One Passes Away

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Earlier this year, Julie Fletcher, CFP®, received a call from a client informing her that his spouse had unexpectedly passed away. When reflecting on the call, Julie said, “It was an incredibly difficult phone call. I had enjoyed getting to know them so much over the previous years. No matter how difficult it was for me, I couldn’t imagine what he was going through. I told him we would do everything we could from our standpoint to take the stress of the financial issues off of his back.”

In the time leading up to the call, Julie and the team at SH&J had been working to help the couple set up investment management and make sure their beneficiaries were aligned with their estate planning documents in order.

Julie commented, “Regardless of your stage of life, it’s important to be prepared for the unexpected. When we work with our clients we always make these 3 recommendations.”

  1. Stay Current
    Regularly check your estate planning documents to make sure they are up to date with fresh signatures and in line with state laws.
  2. Confirm Beneficiaries
    Make sure your beneficiaries are in line with your estate planning documents. Your beneficiary designations supersede your estate planning documents.
  3. Communicate Your Wishes
    Have open and honest conversations about your wishes with your close family members. Julie says, “Talking about the inevitable is the hardest part, but it is so important for them to know what you would want.”

Unfortunately, the call came and the difficult conversation ensued including a review of the details and costs regarding the funeral service. Julie was able to attend the service and later talked with her client about his decision to spend additional funds on the service to make it extra special.  “When I talked to him some time after the service, he said he was so happy he spent the money to honor his loved one. The service was beautiful and moving and truly celebrated his spouse’s life.”

In the weeks to follow, Julie and the team followed SH&J’s streamlined process designed to keep things uncomplicated for both the survivor and the beneficiaries.  She coordinated with the estate planning Attorney to execute on the estate planning that was appropriately in place and also worked with all of the beneficiaries to set up accounts to receive money in their names. Julie met all of them when they were in town for the service and has formed ongoing relationships with them even though they are scattered around the country. “I’m honored to have been a part of this process and to serve the beneficiaries who continue this legacy.”

“After we completed the process, I remember our client saying he felt like it should have been more complicated. As if he had missed a piece of the puzzle. I assured him this is how the process should go when you are prepared.”

When a loved one passes away, you want to focus on what really matters. If you are looking for a financial planning team to help make sure your financial plan is ready for the unexpected, reach out today. We would love to be able to help you.

Inside the Economy with SH&J: Healthcare, Taxes and Trading Partners

By | Economic Discussion, Economy, Larry Howes, SH&J Blog, Videos | One Comment

Tune in to our first video edition of Inside the Economy w/ SH&J!

The Fed has now raised rates another 0.25% with the possibility of reaching 1.0% by the end of 2017. Ultimately, the goal of increasing rates is to keep CPI inflation around the 2% target – today we review why achieving this goal may prove difficult. In addition, we discuss the American Health Care Act (AHCA) as a possible alternative to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the impact this has on Medicaid costs. Stay tuned to learn more about the underlying economics as we end the first quarter of 2017.

Medical Expense Deduction

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Medical Expense Deduction

It’s that time of year again, tax season!  As you prepare your 2016 tax return, recall that changes were made to the itemized deduction for medical expenses back in January 2013. The IRS allows taxpayers to deduct medical expenses that exceed 10% of their adjusted gross income, which is an increase from the previous threshold of 7.5%.  There is a temporary exemption on the increase for taxpayers 65 and older, and 2016 is the last year taxpayers 65 and older are able to file under the old 7.5% threshold. Beginning in January of 2017, all taxpayers will be subject to the higher 10% threshold.

Whether you have a CPA prepare your return or you do it yourself, you may find yourself wondering what counts as a qualified medical expense.  The IRS website states, “medical care expenses include payments for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or payment for treatments affecting any structure or function of the body.” Unreimbursed medical and dental expenses paid within the tax year for you, your spouse and your dependents all count towards meeting the deduction threshold.     

Below is a short list of expenses taxpayers often forget are eligible medical expenses for deduction purposes. For a more complete list, IRS Publication 502 outlines what medical expenses are includible and how much of the expenses you can deduct.Sharkey, Howes & Javer Denver, CO | Medical Expenses Blog

  • Capital Expenses – amounts paid for improvements or equipment installed in a home or car for medical purposes, including operation and upkeep
  • Acupuncture and Chiropractor
  • Hearing Aids, Artificial Teeth, Contact Lenses, and Eyeglasses
  • Medical Conferences – includes admission and transportation if the conference concerns a chronic illness of yourself, your spouse or a dependent
  • Transportation to and from medical treatments – includes car, bus, taxi, train, plane fares or ambulance service
  • Weight-loss Program – if the program or treatment is for a specific disease diagnosed by a physician

Throughout the year, keep adequate records of your medical expenses showing the name and address of each medical care provider you paid and the amount and date of each payment. Consider keeping a file of receipts, cancelled checks, or bills, along with a description of the care received to support your expenses.   

7 Lessons to Teach Your Kids (or Grandkids) About Money

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7 Lessons to Teach Your Kids (or Grandkids) About Money

“A penny saved is a penny earned.” Benjamin Franklin had the basics down, but as you’ve likely learned, you don’t make money by simply putting money away. As you raise your kids, it’s important to teach them the value of money and how to use it well. From saving, to investing to spending, you’ve learned a lot and it could be time to pass these lessons along to your kids.

Sharkey, Howes & Javer Denver, CO | 7 Lessons to Teach Your Kids about Money Blog

Here are 7 important lessons to teach your kids about money:

Delayed Gratification

This can be one of the hardest lessons to teach your kids. Talk to your kids about what they want and why they may have to wait to buy something. If your 5-year-old asks for a big toy, talk to him or her about how much it costs and come up with a plan to save for it. Model delayed gratification by setting boundaries at stores. Before you go shopping, explain what you are shopping for. When your child finds something they would like, tell them it’s not why you’re at the store. This practice is something you can start at a very young age and use as a foundation for smart financial discussions later.

Money is Finite

From the eyes of a child it would be easy to believe money is infinite. They don’t understand where it comes from and the hard work it takes to earn money to put food on the table. As your kids get older, remind them money is not infinite. Help them fill up their piggy banks or coin jars and let them decide how to use the money. Letting them spend it on new toys or frivolous items will allow you to start a conversation about where their money went and how it isn’t coming back unless they work for it. A few bad purchases as a child can help build a stronger financial future.

Compound Interest

Save this lesson for older children who have learned more advanced math. Explain to them how compound interest works, both in their favor and against them. Help them see how putting money away in a savings account can grow their money. Don’t be afraid to teach your kids how having an outstanding balance on credit cards is the opposite of having a savings account. It’s important to understand both sides of the interest equation.

Give Wisely

In life, your child will run into a lot of people who ask for donations. Many middle and high schools have “giving weeks” where the school comes together to support a cause. Teach your child how to donate wisely by researching the organization or cause. Kids are often more generous than adults and will want to give to anyone who asks. It’s important to teach them best practices so they aren’t taken advantage of down the road.

How to Create a Spending Plan

Proper budgeting escapes many adults. A proper spending plan can prevent your child from common financial struggles, including large amounts of debt. While they don’t have bills to manage, sit down with your kids and discuss how they would like to spend their money. Help them create a plan for savings, new toys and needs. Allow them to be responsible for one item they need, such as shoes, so they can understand the negative impacts of not following the plan.


Investing is one of the best financial lessons you can teach your child. Talk to your financial planner about bringing your older children along to a meeting so they can see how investments work in the real world. For younger kids, set up a game within the family. Have each person pick out a stock and watch its performance for a set amount of time. This will open the conversation about the value and risk of investing. Spend time explaining different types of investment accounts to your child so they understand the stock market isn’t the only option.

Needs vs. Wants

At the end of the day, the most basic money lesson you can teach a child is the difference between needs and wants. In today’s culture there are a lot of mixed messages about what we actually need. Have your child write down two lists, one for wants and one for needs. Talk through each list with them and help them understand how some things may feel like needs but aren’t, such as a cell phone or a new pair of shoes when their current pair is still in good shape.

Spending time teaching your children or grandchildren about finances is one of the best gifts you can give them. As a young adult they will be more comfortable handling money and have the tools and habits needed to build a strong financial foundation. We’re happy to help you plan out a future for your child, schedule a consultation today!

Inside the Economy with SH&J: March 13, 2017

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This week on Inside the Economy with SH&J, we focus on baby boomers and municipal bonds. Listen in to find out how prepared boomers are for retirement as well as how the lack of growth in sales taxes is impacting municipal bonds. We also discuss the rise in average hourly earnings since 2014 and the trend in consumer and government borrowing. Will we see another Fed Funds rate increase in March?

What Does “Middle Class” Mean in Colorado?

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

Sharkey, Howes & Javer | Middle Class BlogWe often hear the term “middle class” thrown around in a variety of conversations. Have you ever stopped to wonder exactly what that means? According to the U.S. Census, the “real median household income” in the state of Colorado in 2015 was $63,909. The lower bracket (or 66% of this figure) was $42,606 and the upper bracket (or 200% of this figure) was $127,818. The “real median household income” in the local Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metropolitan area in 2015 was $70,283, with a lower bracket of $46,855 and an upper bracket of $140,566.

Although these definitions give us specific dollar figures to reference, the mentality is vastly different. According to the CNBC Millionaire Survey, only 9% of millionaires described themselves as wealthy, rich or upper class. The remaining 91% described themselves as middle or upper middle class.

Why might this be the case? CNBC shares, “Studies show that more than three-quarters of today’s millionaires made their money themselves and started out in the middle class or lower.” Another observation from George Walper, president of Spectrem Group, is that “today’s wealthy also want to avoid being labeled as wealthy because of the cultural hostility toward the rich…. it’s a very small percentage of people who want to be out front in the media.” This may help us understand why we hear the term “middle class” so often in political speeches.

Why does this matter to us? First, when you hear the term “middle class” in the nightly news, you now understand what exactly they are referencing. Second, and more importantly, you now understand that the term “class” is simply a mentality rather than a dollar figure. No matter how your finances are structured, you have the freedom to associate yourself with whichever “class” you choose.

If you would like help with future financial choices for yourself, please call 303-639-5100 to schedule a complimentary consultation.