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Thinking about a second home? Read this before you commit.

second home

In my chosen career of “killer of hopes and dreams,” I’ve had many conversations about the pitfalls of owning a second home.  Here are some thoughts from a 2015 blog.

Consider this before you buy a second home.


People must be feeling good about the economy because second home ownership is on the rise again.  Vacation home sales increased over 10% in 2012 and 11% of home purchases were second home in that year. (Source.)


Some folks find their second home is all they hoped for and more.  More time with family in a peaceful setting, less expensive than a hotel room, and more comfortable with your own things surrounding you.

However, it’s not always wine and roses.

Myth #1:

My adult kids and grandkids will gather here regularly for picture perfect holidays and getaways.

Reality:  Your adult kids probably have other parents to visit (in-laws) and as the grandkids get older, their time is dominated by sports tournaments, friends, and other interests.  You may be paying for the upkeep on a home that is not visited as often as you thought.


Myth #2:

Real estate in (name the city of your choice) is always a good investment.

Reality:  Real estate in vacation home locations is often more volatile than work-a-day cities.  When recessions happen, the inability to keep the second home can lead to sharp drops in price. It can also increase inventory and property could be difficult to sell for a prolonged period.

Also, a house is not an asset that you can use to pay for medical costs or groceries.  Yes, it looks good on the balance sheet, but it’s not helping you pay the retirement bills.  In fact, between maintenance, HOA dues, utilities, cable, and property management fees, you may be paying much more per year than the increase in value of the property.


Myth #3:

I’ll never get tired of (name the city of your choice).

Reality:  You may find yourself longing for some variety in your travel, but feel tied down to one place due to the carrying costs of your second home.


Keep in mind when you are thinking of purchasing a second home the real, total costs (not just the mortgage) of the property.  A summer rental, while not building equity in a home, will probably cost much less.


Is most of your net worth tied up in your home?

net worth

For clients who have most of their net worth tied up in their homes, finding a way to use that equity to pay bills is a must.

If you are feeling your retirement income is too tight and you meet the eligibility requirements, using your home equity through a home equity conversion mortgage may be worth investigating.

Net worth and your mortgage.


Here are some reverse mortgage basics:

  • Reverse mortgages are also known as home equity conversion mortgages (HECM) and are administered by the FHA.
  • You enter an arrangement with the lender to take money out of your home based on the amount of equity you have and your age.
  • You don’t have to have earned income to qualify.
  • You keep the ownership of your house until the last occupant dies or moves out.
  • You can receive the income from home equity in a variety of ways: For a specific time period, as a credit line to use as needed, or for your lifetime or the time that you or your spouse occupy the home.
  • When you pass away or move from the home, whatever equity is left after the debt and fees are paid will pass back to you (if living) or to your estate. (For related reading, see: How Does a Reverse Mortgage Work?)

Step Away from the Tax Refund and Nobody Gets Hurt.


What you really need to do with your tax refund.


Money Magazine recently asked me the best way someone should spend their tax refund. I immediately told them that they should go out and buy a new TV.

Oh, come on! You know me better than that.

Here’s what I really said.


Whether your refund is in the thousands or hundreds, the urge to spend the funds might instantly become overwhelming. Maybe you already had an idea of what you want to spend the money on and you’re all set to hand over your refund for it. Or, maybe the money means you finally have enough to make a large purchase you’d otherwise need to save for.

“People often look at their tax refund as found money like lottery winnings or inheritance. The temptation to spend surprise money on something fun or frivolous is strong,” says Denver, Colo.-based Certified Financial Planner Kristi Sullivan.


Click here for more….

Some Financial Advice Stands the Test of Time

financial advice


Time has gotten away from me and my blog content is due to Catherine, my amazing social media whiz (  So, I’m taking a page from Dear Abby and re-running some old blogs this month in hopes that you forgot them and they seem new to you again!


Sound Advice.


In the May, 2015 print edition of Money Magazine, there was an article called 101 Ways to Build Wealth.  These list-type of articles come around often and say many of the same things, but I did find a few of these interesting:


Timing is everything.

“Tip #15:  Don’t Tend to Your 401(k) After a Rough Day at Work.  You save more when you feel powerful, even if it’s for a quirky reason.  A recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that people who had just answered questions while sitting in a tall chair were more likely to save money than those on a low ottoman.  Consider reserving your major financial chores for ‘up’ days when you are feeling in command says study co-author Anne Kathrin Klesse.”


Location, location, location.

If you are looking to buy a house, pay attention to Tip #47:  Look for a nearby Starbucks.  “Homes within a quarter-mile of Starbucks doubled in value, whereas the average home in the US appreciated 65% from 1997 – 2013,” according to Stan Humphries, chief economist at Zillow.


Don’t panic.

This last tip I picked because it backs up something I’ve said in previous blogs.  Tip #71 says to “Keep Calm and Carry On” with your bond investments in the face of rising interest rates.  “Even if this happens, it’s no reason to flee fixed income.    Much of the drop in bond prices will be made up by the higher yields your funds will earn on newer bonds.”

Your Retirement Account: What’s the magic number?

retirement account

How much is enough?


According to some financial planning experts, you will need to save enough [in your retirement account] so that your retirement income is in the range of 70% to 80% of your pre-retirement income. You will need a higher percentage if you plan to improve your standard of living. If you have more expenses in retirement than before retirement, your retirement income may have to be more than your pre-retirement income.


My thoughts on your retirement account.

“There are two reasons it is important to have after-tax investments as part of your retirement plan. First, if you do such a great job saving that you can retire before age 59½, you need money you can access without a 10% early withdrawal penalty. Second, it’s nice to have some diversification of your tax bill in retirement so that every account withdrawal doesn’t get taxed at regular income tax rates,” says Kristi Sullivan,CFP®, Sullivan Financial Planning, LLC, Denver, Colo.


Kids vs. Clients: The Working/Non-Working Mom Dilemma

kids vs. clients

Darned if we do, darned if we don’t.


I had a hilarious conversation with a client who recently relocated to Arizona to be closer to her kids and grandchildren.  She is still working at a job she loves, but thinking of retiring soon.  She said to me, “I feel guilty when I’m playing with my grandkids and not serving my clients.  Then I feel guilty when I’m working and not with the grandkids.”


Do you ever feel this way?


My client described exactly how I feel over summer vacation (fast approaching!), when there are not enough hours to have fun with the kids and feel responsive to client needs.  So, a general pervasive feeling of guilt hangs over summers for me.


Well, darn it!  Here I thought that particular working mom dilemma would go away when my kids are grown.  Only to find out that I may have a reprieve from those feelings for about 12 years after the kids are launched…and then be right back in it when I become a grandmother.


The cycle begins again.


Kids vs. Clients. Oh, to be Wonder Woman….


And we wonder why there is a gender pay gap?  I guess trying to be Wonder Woman does not translate into Wonder Income.  Sheryl Sandberg, help!


Anyway, not much advice in this blog.  Just some random musing.  Next week, look for something more number-y.

One America News Network: My quote about YOUR emergency cash

emergency cash

Do you have emergency cash?


Building up emergency cash can be an uphill battle. So why not use that tax refund?


That was my advice when asked by OAN (One America News Network) about replenishing funds that you might have used for something else during the year.


“Now is actually an ideal time of year to do that because of tax refunds, says Denver adviser Kristi Sullivan. The average IRS refund last year was over $2,800, an excellent stepping stone to a fully-stocked emergency fund.”


Click here for more….

Your Social Security Number: How social do we need to be?

Social Security Number

So, I was cleaning my broiler pan….


Don’t ask me why, but this subject popped into my head while I was cleaning the broiler pan from making ribs in the oven.  It’s a really big mess to clean up, so there’s lots of time to think.


So, as I was scrubbing, I wondered, how many times to people ask for our Social Security numbers when they shouldn’t really need that information?  When is it acceptable to say “no?”


First, here is a list of people you can’t say “no” to:


  • Credit applications
  • Cash transactions over $10,000
  • Applications for certain federal benefits, including Medicare and Medicaid
  • Military paperwork
  • Interactions with the Department of Motor Vehicles


So, why does everyone else ask?


I’m thinking the doctor’s office, schools, landlords, employers, the trash collector, the veterinarian, the movie theater.  Maybe those last few are exaggerating, but still, it seems like it comes up a lot.


Mostly, people are looking for a way to track you down if you don’t pay your bills.  So, even if it’s not mandatory to disclose your SSN, a business could refuse to do business with you if you don’t fill in that box.

Just say no.


How do you get around providing your Social Security number if it’s not necessary?  Here are a few suggestions I picked up:

  • Just don’t fill out the box on the form. Sometimes, the business will just let it go.
  • If pressed by the business for your SSN, ask the following (P.S. Be nice about it – that will help):
    • Why do you need it?
    • Who will you share it with?
    • What law requires that I provide my SSN to you?
    • What will you do if I refuse?
    • What other forms of ID will you accept?


Just be prepared – anyone who is considering extending you credit or entering a financial arrangement with you will probably insist on getting your SSN.  However, your annual membership to the Zoo or the Art Museum shouldn’t require that information.

Everything But The House: Cleaning out someone’s lifetime of stuff

cleaning out

Cleaning Out + Emotions = Feeling Overwhelmed


One of the blogs that I have gotten the most response from was where I implored people to start cleaning out stuff so their kids don’t have to.  Okay, let’s say that proactive wish didn’t come true and now YOU must clean out someone else’s lifetime full of stuff.


How will you do it?  You’re busy with work, kids, and your life.  Plus, there are lots of emotions, logistics, and confusion.  How do you know if you are about to throw away a priceless painting or hang onto a worthless piece of a 3rd grade art project?


Enter my favorite solution to sticky dilemmas:  outsourcing!  Following is an interview with Alessandra Banno of the estate sale firm Everything but the House.


Q:  What is the benefit of hiring an estate sale firm to clean out a house versus doing it yourself?


A:  Many people who have done it themselves before can attest that preparing and hosting an estate sale yourself is incredibly stressful, arduous and time consuming! Also, our team often discovers many pieces that might be overlooked otherwise, and, because of our incredible exposure, our clients are able to achieve 3 to 5 times higher revenues than traditional avenues of sale would bring.


Q:  What should people consider when deciding to keep or sell items?


A:  I encourage my clients to think about the last time they used the items. If they’ve been in boxes or out of sight for some time, then consider how you’re benefiting from these belongings: physically or emotionally. If it’s an emotional benefit, would taking and keeping pictures of the items suffice? If not, I always encourage you hang onto anything you’re emotionally attached to. I never want to persuade my clients to sell something they are not ready to let go of.


Q:  Are people realistic about the values of their possessions or do you find they attach a monetary value to memories?


A:  It certainly differs depending on the client. Most people understand the fair market value, but if they’re emotionally attached to the item, then we see them attaching a monetary value to the memories.


Q:  How does your process work to help people effectively dispose of their household items?


A:  At EBTH, we coordinate trash removals and donations for our clients, if necessary, and then we can photograph and catalog the sellable items for sale on our website.


Q:  What should people expect to pay for a service to help sell the family valuables?


A:  We charge either 40 or 48 percent commission depending on the distance and how labor intensive the project is for our team.


Alessandra Banno


Thanks to Alessandra for participating in my Spring Clean Out article!  For more information, check out the website:

Business Owners – Make More $$ in 2017!


If you are anything like me, you are still doing your 2017 business planning.  Yes, we were supposed to be good little soldiers and start this back in October of 2016, but that doesn’t make it too late to implement ideas to increase our top-line revenue this year.


To help us all out, I enlisted a guest for this week’s blog.  Robyn Frahm from The Social Crew offers these tips:


5 Things Your 2017 Marketing Must Have

Before you start panicking about the new year and your marketing plan, we’re here to help you stay organized and guide you through it. We’re The Social Crew, we help small local businesses navigate the stressful (and time consuming) waters of online digital marketing.

Here are 5 “must have” tips for marketing your business this year:

  1. Be mobile friendly: Although most businesses have already jumped on board to this essential digital requirement, there are still some websites out there that aren’t compatible to view on mobile devices such as phones and tablets. If you’ve still got your head in the sand, it’s time to move forward with the rest of the world – 80% of whom are actively searching and shopping online. If your website isn’t mobile friendly, you’ll miss out on business and may as well kiss good-Google-rankings good-bye.
  1. Make a plan: There’s no point saying 2017 is going to be a great year for business when you haven’t put any plans or campaigns together. Set some time aside and have a look at your hits and misses over 2016 and learn from it. Get a plan in place for campaigns and content to stick. You’ll find that you will feel much more in control and organized if you have a structured plan in place for the year. And remember, content DOES matter because search engines look for sites that have regular, and fresh content.
  1. Use Videos: Businesses are getting more used to the idea of video, which means the application will become only more frequent. Video can be used for much more than just content marketing, but also as the front-liner of the brand identity. Especially LIVE VIDEO; it’s an unfiltered, unedited look at the culture of your business and lets customers feel they have an immediate connection.
  1. Hashtags really do work: #Hashtags are an important way to promote your business across social platforms by connecting it to searches and discovery relevant to your target audience. Businesses use #hashtags to attract new customers and grow their online presence. Users searching a #hashtag can come across your account and become new followers or potential customers.
  1. SEO: Our favorite 3 letters, S E O. Search Engine Optimization is a big chunk of the pie when it comes to the success of your website reaching your targeted audience. There is a lot involved in understanding and implementing SEO but it is an essential element that must be used.

If you have questions, we’d love to hear from you at or call 720-310-5089.

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