Shopping Throughout the Year: What you can save on each month

shopping, Denver financial planner

Now, I’m not in the business of encouraging shopping for shopping’s sake.  However, there will be times you really need that new mattress, microwave, or Mini-Cooper.  There is an art to timing these purchases, as this article from NerdWallet illustrates.

Here is a quick summary:


Linens (remember the White Sales of long ago?  They are still out there.), fitness equipment, and electronics (Super Bowl, anyone?).



TVs (still – why would anyone pay full price?), winter clothing and sports goods, home goods (think President’s Day mattress sales).



Golf clubs, grills, and St. Patrick’s Day essentials.  I did not make this last one up.  What would those be?  Trash cans and lamp shades?



Vacuums (for all your spring cleaning needs) and jewelry (avoid buying close to a major holiday).



Spring cleaning stuff (yuck) and furniture (those endless Memorial Day commercials come to mind.).



Negotiate a good deal on a gym membership.  They are slower in the summer when people want to be outside.  Man stuff to take advantage of Father’s Day sales.


Anything you like in the red-white-and-blue color scheme will be on sale for Independence Day.  Electronics also go on sale as retailers have started this Black Friday in July thing to boost revenue mid-year.



Laptops are now considered a back-to-school necessity, so there can be deals in August. Lawn mowers and swim suits are on sale to make room for show shovels and ski jackets.



Mattresses – they love those 3-day weekends!  The iPhone that gets supplanted by Apple’s newest product, generally released in September, will drop in price.  If you are remodeling your kitchen, Labor Day sales will be great for your appliance purchases.



Outdoor furniture, jeans, and Halloween Candy.



Black Friday is there to lure you in with hot deals on laptops, tablets, appliances, and gaming systems.  Enjoy that 4am line at Best Buy!



Toys, Christmas decorations/wrapping (if you have the storage to keep them for a year), and cars.  Those dealers are looking to meet quotas and get inventory off the lots for tax purposes, so negotiate hard!


Happy saving in 2018!

Divorce Over 50? Welcome to the World of Gray Divorce

gray divorce

It’s a new year and maybe one of your resolutions is to get rid of your tired old spouse.  If so, you wouldn’t be alone.

What is gray divorce?


One of the biggest retirement stories over the last couple of years has been the spike in divorce for people aged 50 and over.  According to a Pew Research report in March of 2017, the number of divorces for couples over age 50 is twice that in the 1990’s.


There are a variety of reasons for this trend, but a big one is longevity.  If you are 60, retired, the kids are gone, and in good health, you could live another 30 years.  Maybe the idea of spending 24/7 with someone you don’t like so much isn’t something you can put up with.  If that’s the case, be aware of some pitfalls:


It’s more expensive to live separately than together.

Expect your lifestyle to adjust downward.  And for goodness sakes (ladies, especially) don’t fight for the marital house!  You will both need something smaller and less expensive that you can sustain on your new smaller asset pool.


Your social life could suffer, and your grown kids may react in ways you don’t expect.

Be ready to make new friends and let go of old relationships that may grow awkward.  Be patient as your kids adjust to the new situation. Remember, now they may have in-laws to juggle holidays with and visiting two sets of natural parents will be inconvenient.  Try not to be resentful of the split time with your kids.


Women tend to suffer financially after divorce, and men tend to suffer more socially.

If you have been married for longer than 10 years AND REMAIN UNMARRIED, you can qualify for a spousal Social Security benefit of about half of your ex-spouse’s benefit.  This will not affect his/her payment from Social Security.  If you had your own work income, it’s possible your own Social Security will offer the higher payout, but check first before you decide which benefit to take.


As you age or your health changes, care-giving expenses will go up because you may have to hire out help that your spouse could have provided.

If college is not finished for your kids, you will need to decide how to handle that cost going forward.  Most importantly, you must communicate any changes to your student, so he/she can prepare for any variations your divorce will bring to their education plans.  Remember, promises you made pre-divorce may not be able to be kept post-divorce.


At a very minimum, consult a Certified Divorce Financial Advisor ™ when figuring out how to split assets, divide pensions, and calculate maintenance.  A CDFA could save you tons in tax mistakes and help come to a more equitable financial agreement without costly court proceedings.


New Year, New Financial You? New ways to save money!

new year

Think outside the box


At the end of 2016, ran an article by Peter Economy featuring the Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions from a survey of 2,000 respondents.  Here is the list along with my comments on how keeping any of these can help your personal finances:


Diet or eat healthier (71%)

This is helpful to your finances because the only way to do it right is eat out at restaurants less.  Beneficial to your food budget and leads to lower medical bills, too!

Exercise more (65%)

A worthy goal as long as it doesn’t lead to belonging to 3 gyms you don’t visit. Try investing in some low cost, small (dumbbells, exercise balls) fitness equipment that you can park in front of your TV.  Cheap and no excuses for not working out.

Lose Weight (54%)

Combo of the two above. Ditto for my comments.

Save more and spend less (32%)

Start with the first by setting automatic deductions to your 401(k) and investment accounts. Do NOT breach those accounts.  The save less will naturally follow.

Learn a new skill or hobby (26%)

Great! Maybe something like cooking at home or an active pursuit that will help you achieve Resolutions 1-3.

Quit smoking (17%)

So good for the budget, health care costs now and later, and the happiness of those around you who are sick of smelling your fumes.

Read more (17%)

I am a huge reader and libraries are free!

Find another job (15%)

Negotiate your best salary up front. Don’t take the first offer (that means you, ladies!).

Drink less alcohol (15%)

Admirable and will help you achieve Resolutions 1, 3, and 4.

Spend more time with family and friends (13%)

Spend time, not money. Any financial planner can get behind that!


Cheers and Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Here are some quotes to start the year off right!

new year

Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve. Middle age is when you’re forced to.

– Bill Vaughan


It wouldn’t be New Year’s if I didn’t have regrets.

– William Thomas


On New Year’s, just remember: if your cup runneth over, you’ve probably reached your limit.

– Melanie White


I love when they drop the ball in Times Square. It’s a nice reminder of what I did all year.

– Bridger Winegar @bridger_w


Women get a little more excited about New Year’s Eve than men do. It’s like an excuse: you drink too much, you make a lot of promises you’re not going to keep; the next morning as soon as you wake up you start breaking them. For men, we just call that a date.

– Jay Leno

Visiting your parents over the holidays? You need to read this.


With the holidays approaching, many of us are making plans to visit family members we might not see often. And when we don’t see loved ones every day, we sometimes notice that things have changed since the last get together.


I recently met a woman who owns a home health care firm.  She told me her busiest times of year are right after Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Labor Day.  Why?  That’s when people go visit their elderly relatives after months of not seeing them and notice things are a little off.


What are some common symptoms that indicate a loved one could use some help in the home?


Seclusion and Loss of Interest.

Ask you loved one if they have been seeing their friends lately.  How is the golf game?  If you sense a lack of response, it could be a pre-cursor of Alzheimer’s or maybe depression.


Weight Loss.

Attaining proper nutrition is harder for the elderly, especially if they are having trouble getting to the grocery store.  Poor eyesight can lead to fear of using the stove.  Look in the refrigerator and pantry for spoiled food.  Your loved one could be making himself sick by eating rotten food.


Declining personal hygiene.

Wearing stained clothes or not bathing regularly are also signs of dementia.  Your loved one may think he just did laundry or took a shower this morning when it’s actually been a few days.


Difficulty moving around.

My mother always says that the worst four-letter word for an older person is “f-a-l-l.”  And she is right, falls are the leading cause of ER visits for people aged 65 and older.  Poor eyesight, arthritis, hearing loss leading to balance problems can all put your loved one at a risk for a fall.

Inattention to finances or falling prey to scams.

If you notice big checks being written to unknown parties or overdue notices for bills in the mail, it’s time to step in and protect your relative from themselves and others.


On that happy note, enjoy your trip to visit your folks for the holidays!

Blog Source

Naughty or Nice Part Two: More Investment Ideas

investment ideas

Last week, we looked at investment ideas that focused on the Sin Category of stocks (liquor, tobacco, gambling, fast food, you get the idea).  Here are some ideas that may be of interest to you if you are looking to change the world in a more positive way.


PAX Balanced Fund (PAXWS)

Strategy:  The fund follows a sustainable investing approach, combining rigorous financial analysis with equally rigorous environmental, social and governance (ESG) analysis to identify investments. The adviser normally expects to invest approximately 60-75% of its assets in equity securities and approximately 25-40% of its assets in debt securities, though this allocation may vary somewhat depending on market conditions.

10-year average annual return:  4.05% vs. 5.07% for similar allocation funds (50% – 70% stocks)

Fees:  No sales load, .93% expense ratio – average for the category

PAX Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund (PXWEX)

Strategy: Generally in the component securities of the Women’s Index and in both in the US and internationally.  Top holdings include Microsoft,, Johnson & Johnson, and Texas Instruments.

10-year average annual return:  3.51% vs. 3.98% for comparable World Large Stock funds

Fees:  No load, .9% annual expense ratio – average for the category


Fidelity Select Environmental and Alternative Energy Portfolio (FSLEX)

Strategy:  Investing primarily in companies engaged in business activities related to alternative and renewable energy, energy efficiency, pollution control, water infrastructure, waste and recycling technologies, or other environmental support services. Investing in domestic and foreign issuers.  Top holdings include 3M, OwensCorning, Danaher Corp, and Honeywell.

10-year average annual return:  5.61% compared to 2.68% category average

Fees:  No sales load, .94% annual expense ratio – below average for the category


So, there you have it.  Ways to direct your money toward the lowest or highest instincts of human behavior.  Good luck choosing which one will be more successful over time!



Naughty or Nice: Investment Ideas for Both Categories

investment ideas

No matter which of Santa’s lists you are on, there is an investment out there for you.  These are NOT investment recommendations (you need to talk to your financial adviser for those), but just some amusing ideas for those of you on the Naughty List.


VICE fund (symbol VICEX)

Strategy:  Generally, invests in stock of companies that derive a significant portion of their revenues from a group of vice industries that includes the alcoholic beverages, tobacco, gaming and defense/aerospace industries.

10-year average annual return:  5.93% vs. 7.44% for the S&P 500

Fees:  No load fund, 1.49% annual expense ratio – higher than average


Spirited Funds ETFMG Whiskey and Spirits ETF (Symbol WSKY)

Strategy:  The investment seeks to provide investment results that are similar to the Spirited Funds/ETFMG Whiskey & Spirits Index.  Top holdings include Diageo (brands such as Guinness, Ketel, Crown Royal, Johnnie Walker) and Pernod Ricard (Absolut, Jameson, Chivas, Beefeater).

52-week return (this is a newer ETF, so no long term results available):  26% vs. 23% for the S&P 500.

Fees:  Whatever your broker charges to trade ETFs plus .6% annual expense ratio


Rydex Leisure Fund (RYLIX)

Strategy:  Generally substantially all (at least 80%) of its net assets in stocks of Leisure Companies that are traded in the United States. It may invest to a significant extent in the securities of Leisure Companies that have small to mid-sized capitalizations. It is non-diversified.  Top holdings include Comcast, Disney, Philip Morris, McDonalds, and Stabucks.

10-year average annual return:  7.26% vs. 7.44% for the S&P 500

Fees: No sales load to buy, 1.38% annual expense ratio (higher than average)


Tune in next week for investment ideas that appeal to the angel on your shoulder.


Source for above data:

Gearing up for Year-End: What you need to do NOW.

year end

Just because it’s the holidays, that doesn’t mean you can completely take a break from paying attention to your finances.  Here are a few items that need to be done by year-end.  By that, I mean DONE, not started.  It takes a while for financial institutions to transfer money or act on letters of instruction, so start the process now and avoid December 31st stress.


Tax loss harvesting.

If you have investment losses that you can use to set off investment gains, make those trades before year-end for use on 2017 taxes.  This only applies on your non-retirement accounts such as joint or individual brokerage accounts.  IRAs, 401(k)s, Roth IRAs and small business retirement plans do not track gains or losses.


Take your Required Minimum Distribution if you are over age 70 ½.

All tax-deferred retirement accounts required an IRS mandated amount to be taken out every year.  Your financial institution can help you figure out the amount, but don’t wait until December 30th to start this process.  See my blog from earlier in November for more info on donating to charity with your RMD.


Open a small business retirement account.

If you are considering using a Self Employed 401(k) for the 2017 tax year, the plan has to be established by December 31st of this year.  You don’t have to fund it until April 15th of the following year, but the account must be open.


Make your charitable contributions.

In order for your donations to be used as a write of in 2017, you need to make them by December 31st.  The stock market has been going gangbusters this year, so chances are that you have appreciated stocks/mutual funds in your investment accounts.  If so, you may consider gifting shares instead of cash to your favorite charity.  This has great tax advantages (see your CPA for more details), but takes more time than just writing a check, so get started now.


Got all that done?  Nice work!  Now go sit by the fire with some eggnog.

How about a Holiday Laugh? Here are some Fun Thanksgiving Quotes!

Thanksgiving Quotes

To give you and me a break from personal finance, I offer my traditional holiday menu of funny Thanksgiving quotes.  Happy Thanksgiving!  I am grateful to everyone who reads my musings.

“Thanksgiving, man.  Not a good day to be my pants”

– Kevin James

“It took me weeks to stuff my Thanksgiving turkey.  I stuffed it through the beak”

– Phyllis Diller


“I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.”

—Erma Bombeck

“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.”

—Jim Davis


“Last Thanksgiving I shot my own turkey. It was fun. That shotgun going, Blam! Everybody at the supermarket just staring. Why track them when I know where they are?”

—Kenny Rogerson

“You can tell you ate too much for Thanksgiving when you have to let your bathrobe out.”

—Jay Leno




Don’t Fall for These Stinkers: The 4 Turkeys of Personal Finance

personal finance

One year at Thanksgiving my mom had the flu, so my grandmother and I went out to buy ingredients for Thanksgiving.  This was about 5 days before the big event and we really didn’t know what we were doing (I think I was about 13).  So, Thanksgiving Day rolls around and we opened our turkey and the most horrible smell filled the kitchen.  Turns out we had bought a fresh turkey too early and it had spoiled in the refrigerator.


Note to self – buy frozen and thaw yourself.


Anyway, these four financial instruments often smell to me the way that spoiled turkey did all those years ago.


Whole Life Insurance


Okay, this can be useful if you need life insurance for the rest of your life to help offset estate taxes or support beneficiaries, but most people don’t.  Generally, the need for life insurance diminishes as your wealth grows and your kids grow up.  Whole life insurance can cost 5-10 times more in premiums than term life insurance with the same benefit.  Sales people will tout the tax deferred cash value build up, but the returns have historically been horrendous on the cash value and the products are loaded with fees and commissions.  You can invest tax-deferred elsewhere for less cost and better potential growth.


Equity Indexed Annuities


These insurance products promise to give you stock-market growth with a minimum floor of ever-increasing returns.  Sound too good to be true?  It is!  The growth is not really based on stock market returns, but on options purchased by the insurance company betting on stock market performance.  That results in growth that is really not that close to actual market returns.  Plus, in up years, you only get a percentage of those increases because the insurance company needs to save those earnings for years when stocks or down, but they promised you a minimum return no matter what.  Very high sales commissions and annual fees are a common feature of these products.  Sales people do not have to be securities licensed or act as a fiduciary in their clients’ best interest.

Investment Advisers Who are Not Fiduciaries


Speaking of fiduciaries, you want one!  A financial adviser who is a fiduciary is required to put clients’ interest first when giving investment or financial advice.  Seems obvious, right?  Well, many in the industry only must meet what’s called the Suitability Standard.  This is a much lower standard of advice that says if the investment sold was “suitable” it can benefit the adviser as much or more than the client.  Not sure which standard your adviser uses?  Just ask!  “Are you a fiduciary?”  If the answer is a simple yes, great!  Anything else, consider shopping for someone new.

Investment Managers Who Don’t Offer Holistic Financial Plans


If a financial adviser immediately presents you his best mutual fund/limited partnership/REIT/insurance product that is a red flag.  Without finding more about your situation and modeling your savings and retirement outcomes, how does the adviser know what product is best for you?  Having a financial plan done first (even if you pay for it out of pocket) is a way for you and the adviser to know how much risk to take with your investments and how to invest for the income you will need in retirement.


Well, that’s it for my soapbox today.  I hope I’ve given you some warnings and help when evaluating the investment advice and products that are presented to you!

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