Mid-Year Financial Check-Up: 4 things you should think about now

financial check-up

It’s July already????


Yikes, 2017 has gone by quickly!  Time to do a financial check-up on those New Year’s Resolutions to see how you are doing.  I don’t know what your resolutions were, so here are a few common ones that there is still time to tackle.  BEFORE you are making your resolutions for 2018, that is.




  1. Starting a 529 plan for your kids’ college. It doesn’t have to be much.  Just $50 to start and $25/month can get you going in a Colorado Direct Investment portfolio managed by Vanguard.



  1. Increasing your 401(k) contribution at least 1% from last year. Most plans let you go online and change your savings amount any time during the year.  Don’t delay!  Save more today!

Health Benefits


  1. Use your Flexible Benefits Account money. Did you set aside pre-tax money this year to finally get those glasses, map those moles, fix that tooth, or other medical procedures you’ve been putting off?  That money has to be spent by year-end, so get those appointments made!



  1. Use an app to see how much you are really spending on…clothes, liquor, lunches out, fishing gear, workout clothes, kids’ sports, whatever! Try mint.com, youneedabudget.com, mvelopes.com for free and easy ways to track spending.


Okay, that’s enough for now.  If you do even two of those four items before the Fourth of July fireworks, I’ll consider it a victory.

Debt-free would be nice. But SHOULD you pay off your mortgage?

pay off

The payoff?


Wondering if you should pay off your mortgage early or stick with those monthly payments? You’re not alone. In this article from dynamicnsurance.com, I’m asked whether getting rid of your mortgage is actually a good idea.

I advise….


“If a client thinks they’ll be in a house for 10 years after the mortgage payoff, I encourage them to do it,” said Kristi C. Sullivan, CFP and owner of Sullivan Financial Planning. “But if they want to move soon after they are able to pay off the mortgage, I don’t.”


Click here for more expert advice….


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 kristi@sullivanfinancialplanning.com!

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….



What are the Odds? A look at sports scholarships.


Are you game?


I admit it. Often when we go to my kids’ sports games I bring along a guy who yells at my kids from the sidelines.  He is their father, so I don’t have much choice.  Occasionally, I’ve been known to say a few loud-ish words myself.


Why do we put such importance on performance in sports?  For our family, we are mostly concerned with the effort the boys are showing.  If they just sit back and chew their nails during a game, we are irritated even if the team won.  If our boys display hard work and effort, we are happy even if the team loses.


Some parents are hoping their little Bo Jacksons will do them the favor of paying for college tuition with their athletic efforts.  If that’s the case, you may want to know which sports to concentrate on to have the best chance.


Odds are….


From a study done by Patrick O’Rourke and quoted in this article of Market Watch, here are the sports in which kids are statistically most likely to earn scholarships (talent and effort not included).


For men, the best ratios of college scholarships to high school athletes are

  • gymnastics (20:1)
  • fencing (22:1)

The worst odds are in

  • wrestling (176:1)
  • volleyball (177:1).


For women, the highest odds are

  • rowing (2:1)
  • equestrian (3:1)
  • rugby (9:1)

(Of those, only rugby probably wouldn’t cost you a fortune before college.)

The worst odds are

  • track and field (64:1)
  • bowling (94:1)


The biggest surprise here is that you could possibly get a bowling scholarship at all.


Whatever the reason, we parents should just chill out and stop yelling from the sidelines.  Concentrate on who is bringing the after-game snacks for the kids and the during-the-game beer for the parents.

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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