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Retirement: The ONE THING you shouldn’t do with your spouse.


Don’t do it….


Okay, I didn’t meant that title the way it sounded (although I do know a few couples who probably wish they weren’t retired together). By saying you shouldn’t “retire together” I mean you probably shouldn’t retire at the same time.

At least that was my advice when Investopedia asked me about staggered retirement.

From the article:

Many working couples dream of the day when they can retire and sail off into the sunset together. The investment and insurance industries have done much to convince the public that this ideal is possible only with the help of certain products and services, and the financial media has endorsed that idea.

However, working couples should take a moment to consider whether retiring at the same time is a wise course of action. This article will compare the financial ramifications of joint retirement versus one spouse working longer than the other, and why the latter option may be more advantageous in the long run. It’s a good idea to start thinking about these issues earlier than you may realize – say, at mid-career, when there is still time for each partner to map out a trajectory of how and when they’d like to leave the workforce and how those plans mesh together.

“A staggered retirement date is a great idea for financial and marital health reasons,” says certified financial planner Kristi Sullivan, Sullivan Financial Planning, LLC, Denver, Colo.


Looking to Lighten Up this summer? Thoughts about Downsizing

Is it time to lighten up?


This week, I interview Kristin Harris, Broker Associate for LIV Sotheby’s International Realty specializing in the Cherry Creek area about the ups and downs of downsizing into a smaller home.


Q:  Downsizing doesn’t always translate to down pricing.  What percentage of the bigger house sale price do people usually spend on the new smaller home?


A:  Indeed, downsizing doesn’t translate to down pricing.  In fact, I see that many home owners who downsize from a bigger home to a smaller home, move up in terms of location and fit and finish selection (there is a flight to quality). As a result, they end up moving into a smaller, but more expensive home.


Q:  Can professional staging help set the tone for getting rid of belongings prior to the move?  Or do people tend to just hang on to the extra furniture in storage?


A:  Yes, professional staging absolutely sets the tone for getting rid of belongings. Many times when I stage a home, clients get rid of furniture and then mention how much they love living with less.


Q: What are some services you have used to help older people who may be in poor health with their downsizing move?


A:  So far, my clients have had family members help when an individual is in poor health.  However, when someone is in poor health in the future, I’d bring in a professional.  For example, Rick Bloweman with  Colorado Senior Care Advisors. (720-839-2864)

Q: In the Cherry Creek area, what is considered a “small” home?


A:  A “small” town home in Cherry Creek North is about 3,200 sq. ft.  Condos range from 1,200 – 2,000 sq. ft.  However, I find that most people want a minimum of 1,800 sq. ft. when moving to a smaller home.

Q:  How can adult children be more helpful to aging parents as they downsize?


A:  The adult children should offer to get all their old Junk (keepsakes, medals, books, pictures, bikes and scrap books) out of their parents’ house. The parents have probably been storing it for 20 years.


Q:  What are the hot areas of town that people are downsizing to?


A:  Cherry Creek North is wildly popular for downsizing individuals; the low maintenance yards and walkability are highly attractive for people moving from Parker, Greenwood Village, Cherry Hills Village, Littleton, Centennial. Wash Park, Bonnie Brae and Downtown are other popular areas for downsizing.

Q:  What are some surprise costs to downsizing (i.e. HOA dues, more expensive area of town, moving costs, selling excess furniture)?


A:  I think the most surprising cost is preparing the house they’ve been in for 20 years for the market.  In many cases, homes have been well loved, but not updated, freshly painted or landscaped, and new carpet hasn’t been installed for years. These costs add up, but are necessary, even in a Seller’s market.


Kristin Harris


Kristin Harris of Dwell Cherry Creek is a LIV Sotheby’s Realtor who specializes in the Cherry Creek North area of Denver, CO. Kristin is happy to address any other real estate concerns you have!

Just for Fun: Fourth of July Quotes from Funny Americans!

fourth july

This year, let’s toast our fellow Americans!

To celebrate the Fourth of July, I’d like to share some Facebook status updates that will make you smile this Independence Day!


  • Being an American is awesome. The end.
  • I am not understanding why Americans celebrate a movie. Sure it was a good one but geez!
  • Happy New Mattress Day!!
  • It’s 4th of July. You know what that means… Ten million status updates saying the exact same thing. Get ready.
  • 7,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for injuries sustained from fireworks. Don’t be a statistic, let your friend light the fuse. Happy 4th of July!!
  • Thank you to our Veterans on this 4th of July.
  • 4th of July is coming up and you know what that means! Time to use Sparklers as wands and shoot spells at people again!
  • Food, Family, Fourth of July, and Fireworks. The four best F words ever!
  • Let’s enjoy one of the last Independence Days before our complete dependence on China.
  • This July 4th, I’m certainly not above a Jim Beam-fueled “U-S-A” chant.


Maybe Freedom of Speech isn’t such a great thing after all.

Just kidding.

Happy Independence Day!

Investment News: How do you handle getting fired by a client?

getting fired

In the hot seat.


In this article by Investment News, I was asked how I handle getting fired by a client.


As is often the case in service industries like financial planning, client relationships can be fragile and sometimes advisers don’t recognize the breakdowns until the client is gone.


But in some cases, blaming the client might be the easiest way of coping with what is essentially a relationship gone bad.

My thoughts about getting fired.


“Because of the nature of my business, which includes hourly consultations, I don’t get so much fired as people just don’t come in as often or at all, which I think in the dating world is called ‘ghosting,'” said Kristi Sullivan, owner of Sullivan Financial Planning.


“It may be because they feel they’ve gotten what they need from me and are ready to be independent, or maybe they didn’t like me, but don’t want to tell me,” she added. “I figure if they don’t feel they need me anymore, then they don’t.”


Click here for more….

Fighting Summer Boredom: Colorado destinations for your family

Colorado destinations

That’s right! You are two weeks into June and the kids are bored.  What are some offbeat things to do that won’t break the bank?  These are Colorado destinations, so if you are out of town, I apologize.  You will have to come for a visit!


Morrison Natural History Museum

See rocks and fossils and even baby dinosaur footprints.  Awww, sweet!  Then, Mom can take in the cute shops in the area.  Top off your field trip with a drive up to Red Rocks or a hike on one of the close by trails.


Union Station

Let the kids run around in the fountain and grab a scoop of Little Man ice cream from Milk Box Ice Cream.  Maybe even play some shuffleboard in the main terminal and grab a book from the Tattered Cover to read before naptime.

Denver Story Trek

Discover historic local neighborhoods by bike, car, or foot.  You can create your own urban adventure using this resource.

Take a day trip

Tour the Argo Mine in Idaho Springs, climb around the rocks at Garden of the Gods, dip in the healing (and toasty!) waters of Hot Sulphur Springs, or visit one of our many ski resorts and check out their summer activities.

Chatfield State Park

From biking to boating, fishing to flying in a hot-air balloon, there is a lot to do just a little south west of town.


Castlewood Canyon trail (south of Parker)

Nothing beats this hike for views and a cool dip.  Wear your bathing suit under your hiking clothes and enjoy a natural “cool tub” in the stream after your hike.


Elvis is In the Building!

Looking for some air-conditioning on a hot day? What could be better than a not-so-new release the Elvis Cinema?  For a fraction of the cost of the regular theater, you can treat your kids AND their friends to a flick and some popcorn.  And, if you are like me, maybe a small nap during the movie!


I’d love to hear your summer ideas!  Email me at!

Don’t be a Quick IRA Draw: Avoiding a tax penalty

tax penalty

In this piece, Investopedia takes a look at how much you will pay in taxes on an IRA and the different scenarios that apply.


Several financial planners chime in on tax-free withdrawals and ways to avoid penalties. Here was my advice:

Ways to Avoid the Early-Withdrawal Tax Penalty


There are some hardship exceptions to being charged a penalty for withdrawing money before you reach 59½ from a traditional IRA or the investment portion of a Roth IRA. Some common exceptions (for you or your estate) include:

  • After the death of the IRA owner
  • Total and permanent disability of the IRA owner
  • Required distribution as part of a domestic relations order (divorce)
  • Qualified education expenses
  • Qualified first-time home purchase
  • An IRA’s levy on the plan
  • Unreimbursed medical expenses
  • A call to duty of a military reservist


One other way to escape the tax penalty: If you make an IRA deposit and change your mind by the extended due date of that year’s tax return, you can withdraw it without owing the penalty. (Of course, that cash will be added to the year’s taxable income.)


The other time you risk a tax penalty for early withdrawal is when you are rolling over the money from one IRA into another qualified IRA. The safest way to accomplish this goal is to work with your IRA trustee to arrange a trustee-to-trustee rollover. If you make a mistake trying to roll over the money without the help of a trustee, you could end up owing taxes. “Most plans allow you to put the name, address and your account number of the receiving institution on their rollover forms. That way, you never have to touch the money or run the risk of paying taxes on an accidental early distribution,” says Kristi Sullivan, CFP®, Sullivan Financial Planning, LLC, Denver, Colo.


Click here for more….



The Cost of Retirement: Who says a tiny house is bad?

tiny house

Up until now…I did.


Would you ever consider moving into a tiny house when you retire? Up until now, I thought that the tiny house movement was going to lead to an even higher divorce rate!


Well, it turns out I’m not always right.  Shocker!  For those of you who read my rant about Tiny Houses in the blog about ways that I will not personally save money, there is a powerful rebuttal in this article from Time magazine.


The article talks about how over-55 trailer parks are gaining popularity in Florida.  Of course, Florida is a prime retirement destination, but many people haven’t saved enough to afford both the house AND the green fees.  The solution?  Cozy retirement trailers in parks with like-minded seniors.

Does this really work?


The cheery interviewees cite a very low cost of housing combined with lots of community activities (billiards, swimming pool, bunko!).  All with the security of having neighbors looking out for each other since everyone is in the same boat – aging.


Just goes to show you that keeping an open mind as we transition from one life stage to the next is probably the best thing we can do for our physical and financial health.

Retirement Risks: Investopedia asks Kristi Sullivan for Advice


In the article Common Risks That Can Ruin Your Retirement, Investopedia asks Kristi Sullivan about the “unforeseen needs of family members.”

Kristi’s Advice


“Bailing your adult kids out of their repeated financial mistakes can derail your retirement. For some people it’s like taking an unexpected cruise every year with all of the expense and none of the fun. It’s important to set boundaries on excessive gifts or emergency checks when you leave your steady paycheck behind. Or, if you think this may be an issue, tell your financial advisor about it so you can work those expenses into your retirement income plan,” says Kristi Sullivan, CFP®, Sullivan Financial Planning, LLC, Denver, Colo.

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?)
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