New SEC Guidance for Financial Advisors

handshakeJust recently the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) granted money managers and advisors the right to feature third-party reviews on their marketing materials. Meaning: Your advisor can now use your dazzling Facebook review (of him) to boost his business. I asked WalletHub CEO Odysseas Papadimitriou for the run down – why you should care and what this means for the advisory industry? Here’s what he had to say:

JC: What finally sparked the SEC to allow this?

OP: Not sure, but we hope that sites like Yelp & WalletHub that have allowed reviews on financial advisors irrespective of financial gain had something to do with this. 

JC: What does this mean for consumers/investors?

OP: This represents a major breakthrough for consumers and investors. In a world where everyone relies heavily on the internet for fast-paced information, this will allow investors to react faster. Additionally, consumers/investors are now free to compare the professionals who manage our money with the same level of discernment and transparency that has long been available in other segments of the market – from hotels to restaurants and consumer electronics. In other words, the SEC is making ground breaking strides to level the playing field.

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Wednesday Welcome: Boomer Housing

We’re pleased to welcome back Joy Loverde, author of The Complete Eldercare Planner. If you recall, she joined us last year for a post sharing her favorite resources for active aging, and this time, she’s back to talk about boomer housing options. They’re not what they used to be!

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 9.05.35 AMJust as the 76 million Baby Boomers have redefined every other stage of life from college to careers, we are now redefining and remaking the concept of living arrangements.  Developers take note.  No cookie-cutter “senior” housing approach for us.

While many Boomers will simply downsize, others will go straight to some flavor of housing that appeals to their lifestyle. This shift in how we think about living spaces has everything to do with the mindset that we have places to go and things to do no matter what physical shape our bodies are in.

We have proven over a lifetime that we are a generation that expects to stay involved in living. With that in mind, here are a few housing and lifestyle options to consider:

Age-in-Place

The ever-popular concept of staying put may require remodeling the home. Ground-level laundry rooms and walk-in showers, for example, help keep aging residents mobile and safe. National Association of Home Builders offers access to Certified Aging-in Place Specialists. When in-home caregiving services are needed contact The Eldercare Locator.

Shared Housing

Some people love living alone. If you’re not one of them, consider a home-mate. Sharing space with others solves a multitude of problems financially and otherwise, and may make it easier to go through difficult life stages together. Check out Sharing Housing and the National Shared Housing Resource Center.

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Money Sense on Fortune and Survey Results

Senior adults with their adult children.Last week, I asked my newsletter subscribers and some of my Twitter and Facebook fans to take a survey about how they feel when discussing money — if they talk about money at all, that is. In this week’s FORTUNE column, I go over my survey findings and discuss how couples can break down the barriers that prevent us from having regular talks about our money.

You can head over to Fortune.com to view the column, but below are some additional results from Talking Money in Your Social Circle: A Do, or a Taboo?

Want in on the fun next time? Subscribe to my newsletter here.

 

Q: Please rank the following conversation topics (sex, money, politics, religion and health) on the level of discomfort you experience, lowest to highest (1-5), when discussing them in your social circles.

A: Out of the above, you’re more likely to break a sweat when the conversation turns to what happens behind the bedroom doors. Over the weekend, politics replaced money for second place.

Q: Now, tell us how you feel discussing money with each of the following groups.

A: When discussing money in specific social circles, you’re more uncomfortable having the conversation with your colleagues and siblings than you are with your friends, parents and partners.

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Q: In general, how often do you avoid having conversations about money?

A: Roughly 38% of you answered “sometimes,” while 33% answered “rarely.”

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Q: Why are you less likely to talk about money in your social groups? Check all that apply.

A: With colleagues, it’s privacy and competition. With family, you said it either turns into a conflict — or conversely, it’s not a problem at all. And with friends, it’s both privacy and jealousy.

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Q: Which of the following money-related topics do you avoid discussing at all costs? Check all that apply.

A: Total assets and income top the list.

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Today’s Money: Helping Aging Parents Manage Their Finances

When it comes to aging parents and money management, 70% families find it difficult to handle. How do you know when your parents need help with their money? It’s a tough question, and an even tougher conversation to have. This morning on Today, I offered my tips on how to get the ball rolling, while keeping emotions at bay. To see what I had to say, check out the clip below:

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Money Sense on Fortune

vacationIn this week’s FORTUNE column, I make a case for frequent-flier miles. You’ll never guess who steered me in the right direction.

FORTUNE — Like many of you, I’ve been reading the doomsday headlines about frequent-flier mile programs. “The Sad Decay of Frequent Flyer Programs,” Wired intoned. “Now May Be A Good Time To Bail Out of Frequent-Flier Mile Programs,” grimaced the New York Times.

Sorry, but I’m not ready to do that yet. I know that compared to many of you, I am not all that frequent a flier, but particularly in the spring and the fall when my speaking business heats up, I’m on the road almost weekly. I can point you to the best salad at O’Hare (the Taqueria with smoky shrimp at Tortas Frontera) and explain why you shouldn’t bother with the cramped food court at Jet Blue’s (JBLU) Terminal 5 at JFK (Balthazar scones down the hall). And I’ve gotten used to the fact my husband and I can take a nice vacation about every 18 months courtesy of our miles, which for years we’ve embellished by putting just about every purchase on Citibank’s American Advantage card.

Over the past few years, however, redemption has gotten harder. Flying to the places we want to fly (Italy and Hawaii, most recently), when we want to fly there (summer and Christmas break, respectively), and sitting where we want to sit (up front, it’s a long flight) has meant forking over double the miles it used to take. Most recently, even having the miles to spend, it was excruciating to get seats.

For more, and to see who helped me with the article (and my future travel), head here.

Financial Resources for Caregivers

stressStepping in to help your parents with their finances is no easy undertaking. Here’s a list of resources that you may find helpful – as many people before you have:

Benefitscheckup.org. Do your parents qualify for special programs to help pay for medications, healthcare, food, utilities and more? This site, run by the National Council on Aging, can help you find out – and guide you through the process.

Eldercare.gov. This site, run by the U.S. Administration on Aging, can help you search out resources in your community for a wide variety of needs including Alzheimer’s, financial assistance, fraud prevention, housing options, legal assistance, long term care, and many more. If you’re more comfortable speaking with a person, lines are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. M-F ET at 800-677-1116.

AARP’s Planning Guide For Families. A downloadable guide to walk you and the rest of your family through the ins-and-outs of stepping up to provide care, financial and otherwise.

SHIP or the State Health Insurance Assistance Program. The program provides one-on-one counseling about Medicare to Medicare recipients and their families. If you’re confused about your parents’ options, SHIP counselors can work with you face-to-face or on the phone.

Alzheimer’s Association. If you’re concerned about the warning signs of Alzheimer’s or have a diagnosis and need to explore options for care, financial planning or find other local resources, the caregiver center on the Alzheimer’s Association website is a good place to begin.

My Weekly Meal Plan

healthyFor those of you who recently attended my Mom Corps webinar — or for anyone looking to save a little extra money on groceries — I share with you my Weekly Meal Plan worksheet. As always, making a plan, and sticking to it, will help you save. Enjoy!

Download here!

Wheeling Down the Wedding Aisle

iStock_babyAs parents we know there is no greater gift (and expense) than having a child. Don’t get me wrong, parenthood is worth every penny, but as we age, does it become easier financially or more difficult? I ask, because a recent Bloomberg article on how older parents are rewriting their financial plans after having children caught my eye. For example, when 37-year-old Barrow Barre (who by the way is fairly young by the standards you’ll read about in the next paragraph) quit her job to tend to her newborn twins, she asked her husband to increase his retirement contributions. Barre’s husband joked that retirement was irrelevant – he’ll be working until he’s dead. He has a point. If you’re having children in your late thirties, early forties, does retirement get pushed to the backburner? What about life insurance, estate planning, and oh yeah, saving for college?

You can attribute this to modern medicine, actively going against the grain, and probably a number of other factors, but the birth rate for women between ages 40-44 has risen 2% annually since 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re among them, there are a few guidelines to follow.

“First, you need your safety net in place,” said Stuart Ritter, a senior financial planner at T. Rowe Price. “All the things that you as a parent want to make available for the rest of your family wouldn’t be able to happen if something happened to you – so you have to get life insurance.”

Chances are you probably need more than you think, but it probably costs a lot less than you feared, Ritter added. Ahem, how much are you spending on cable? This is where prioritization comes in.

Ritter is quick to suggest term insurance over more permanent options like whole life and universal, but as for how much you’ll need – that requires you to do the math…and thankfully calculators do exist. Unlike younger parents (i.e. twenties, earlier thirties), whose families would be missing out on more years of income (if the breadwinner were to die), older parents have fewer years to account for. The logic: Retirement savings should come into play for income replacement. That is, if you’ve been saving adequately for retirement.

Your second priority: retirement savings. And, yes, it trumps college. On an airplane, you’re instructed to put your oxygen mask on first, then your child’s – the same goes for retirement versus college savings. If you don’t have enough to save yourself during retirement, your kids will likely have to bail you out just as they are saving for college for their own children. Yes, it goes against every natural instinct we have as parents to tend to our children first, but as Ritter puts it: “Sacrificing your retirement may feel right in the short term, but it will have a high probability of causing problems in the long term.”

Once you’ve filled your retirement buckets, moving onto college savings makes sense. In this arena, 529 plans are the ultimate allies for both younger and older parents according to Mark Kantrowitz, senior vice president at Edvisors Network and author of “Filing the FAFSA.”

On the topic of FAFSA, don’t fail to fill out the form. CNNMoney recently reported on Kantrowitz’s analysis of government data that shows millions of students missing out on financial aid for college education. To see more from Kantrowitz, head over to the article.

Try-It-Out Tuesday: Making Financial Resolutions

iStock_000029882460SmallToday’s the day to enjoy your chocolate cake, your one (or three) glasses of Merlot and any other vices you need to get out of your system. Tonight marks the start of the New Year. And, tomorrow is the day you embrace those New Year’s Resolutions.

For many of you, that means a money makeover. In Fidelity Investments’ fifth annual New Year Financial Resolutions Study, over half (54%) of Americans are looking to spruce up their money habits in 2014.

Topping the list of financial resolutions: saving more, paying off debt and spending less.

What’s changed since years past? In 2014 more people (up 10%) plan to prioritize their savings for short-term goals, like emergency funds, opposed to long-term goals, like retirement. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. According to Ken Hevert, vice president of retirement products at Fidelity, this shift in focus suggests Americans are becoming more balanced with their savings plans. And even with the drop, saving for retirement still remains the top savings goal.

For those of you who have committed to saving more in 2014, especially for retirement, here are a few tried and true (yes, you’ve heard them before but they work!) ways to accomplish your money resolutions in 2014:

Get on board an employer-sponsored plan: “If you have access to an employer-sponsored plan – a 401(k) or 403(b) – and you’ve got the opportunity to get an employer match, you want to absolutely participate in that program at a minimum, up to the point you get that maximum,” Hevert said. Self-employed? No problem. IRAs, or solo 401(k)s, are cost-effective and easy-to-use ways for saving as much as possible for retirement.

Go on autopilot: “Individuals who are on an automatic savings plan are much more likely to stick with their savings as either: A) They’re faced with personal financial challenges, or B) The market becomes volatile,” Hevert said. “We’ve seen, year after year, people who are on an auto contribution plan – either to a 401(k) or IRA – those are the ones who continue to stick to it.” The same suggestion can apply for your regular savings accounts, too.

Assess your assets: One suggestion that doesn’t require you to write a check or set-up an automatic contribution plan is simply reviewing your assets. “A lot of people kind of underestimate the importance of this step, which is to really take a look at how your overall long-term retirement savings are allocated,” he said. “By simply revisiting your asset allocation and making sure you’ve got the right mix of equities, bonds and cash, it can make a meaningful difference over time.”

Save together: In the current survey, 44% of respondents said they generally make their financial resolutions alone, whereas 29% said they make them with their spouses or significant others. If you have a partner, the latter might be the better approach. In earlier research, Fidelity found that the biggest piece of advice long-time couples had for other couples was to make all financial plans together. When you share financial responsibilities (and goals) you keep each other on track. That makes achieving your goals all the more likely. “We’ve seen when people plan as a household and plan as couples the likelihood of achieving their objectives is much more favorable,” Hevert said. Living the single life? Sharing goals with your family and friends works, too.

Happy New Year!

Frugal Friday: Holiday Entertaining on the Cheap

875_R_17ea0581According to new research from PulteGroup, a homebuilder, Americans will spend an average of nearly $350 hosting dinners, parties and other holiday gatherings between now and the New Year. Millennials in particular are planning to pull out their wallets, spending an average of $418, with 57 percent reporting that they’d rather host their own gathering than attend someone else’s.

We’d like to help you take that number down a notch, because in a season of spending, saving where you can goes a long way. So below, a few tips for cutting your holiday entertaining budget:

Set a budget. Yep, before you can cut your budget, you have to set one. It’s important to know what you’re working with. Your budget will help you determine what kind of party you can throw, from the food to the bar to the guest list (if your pot is small, the easiest way to cut costs is to cut the guest list, as anyone who has planned a wedding well knows). Once you have your number, reduce it by 10 percent. That will give you some wiggle room when unplanned expenses pop up.

Lower the bar. You’re not a restaurant or swanky lounge — your friends don’t expect you to stock every liquor. Instead, use one of the oldest tricks in the book: Create a festive signature cocktail. Southern Living has a few suggestions here (that pear-basil sipper has my name on it) or you can experiment on your own. The result is the same: instead of offering a wide selection, you can stock one or two liquors, along with some beer and wine, and cut your budget significantly. Finally, do your wine buying at a discount shop like Trader Joe’s or Costco, where prices tend to be cheaper. If you’re worried about the stigma that comes from serving up bottles of Two Buck Chuck, you can print up some personalized labels on your computer and slap them over the existing labels. Many a friend has whispered this little trick in my ear after a wedding, and I promise, no one was the wiser.

Make it a potluck. Or, at the very least, take your friends up on their offers to bring something, even if it’s a bottle of wine. Every little bit helps and reduces the amount of money you’re pulling out of your pocket. There’s no shame in allowing guests to bring food, though — a dessert or side dish is easy enough, and that way you’re still contributing the bulk of the meal.

Take inventory. Before you plan your menu, take a look at what you have. Not just food — maybe you can finally put that five-pound bag of flour to use in some pies — but also tools. Don’t put miniature cupcakes on your menu if you don’t have a miniature cupcake pan. The same goes with a bundt cake, fondue, and any other dish that requires special tools. Instead, plan around items you own or can easily borrow from a friend or neighbor. Bonus: You won’t be fiddling with a torch to make your first creme brulee as guests arrive.

Roll it into next year. As you buy decorations and party supplies, think about things that you can use year after year — so pick up the fake garland, not real. Then pack everything up at the end of the season, and carefully mark it so you know exactly where to find what you need. It won’t save you much money this year — in fact, it may cost you a bit more — but you’ll reap the benefit down the line.

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