What’s New


Thanksgiving Family Money Letter 2017

Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s my annual newsletter filled with tips to talk about with your family over the Thanksgiving table, because money is probably the least stressful topic, right? There are four sections to the newsletter – feel free to skip around between General updates, Tax Tips, Tea T.I.M.E. (Investing news), and Financial Planning Tips. #1: Updates!Tea & Taxes continues to wind down as I make room for more people and more services in ProsperiTea Planning. What […]


Socially Responsible Investing – as seen from a fiduciarily responsible investment advisor

I’ve been taught that investing is something that is best done passively: buy a diversified portfolio that tries to maximize expected return (by asset class) while minimizing overall risk of the portfolio (by having non-correlated assets.) I’ve read books like “The Incredible Shrinking Alpha” and scholarly papers. Both explain that we aren’t going to come up with some bright idea that beats the market through our particular genius, other than by sheer chance. I’ve been […]


What is a Custodian?

What’s a custodian? That’s the Fort Knox for your money. They safeguard it, they do reports (including tax reporting), and they’re who you write the checks out to. They provide some sort of software for you to access your account, too. For individual investors who are doing things themselves, the lines get blurred a lot of the time. I commonly see people confused because they know Vanguard funds are good, and think you have to […]


What is a HECM?

Anyone who plans to stay in their house into old age should consider getting a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage. If you already know you are going to need to tap the equity of your house to make ends meet, read more about the new Reverse Mortgages (renamed HECMs) here: https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/mortgages/reverse-… http://www.bankrate.com/finance/retirement/basics-… Conversely, even if your house is paid off, anyone who is implicitly considering their home equity as a source of funds in case of […]


What is my Investment Policy Statement?

All ProsperiTea Planning and Tea T.I.M.E. clients get an Investment Policy Statement (“IPS”) . It establishes what asset allocation we agree is appropriate for the client’s risk tolerance and risk capacity. We create individualized target portfolios that considers what you have already and where you have it, as well as how to get the highest return for the lowest risk. Or, to put it another way, how to have the least risk for the highest […]


How long should you keep paperwork around?

“How long should I keep paperwork before shredding?” I get this question a lot, but it’s not a quick answer. Here’s an article I wrote to help clarify it. Regarding income tax returns: The IRS has 3 years from the time you file to audit a return or the due date, whichever is later, so absolutely keep all the backup materials to your tax return for at least three years. They get 7 years to […]


What is Long-Term Care Insurance?

What is long-term care insurance and does it make sense for you? Long-term care insurance (LTCI) typically picks up the tab for very expensive illnesses that leave you unable to take care of your own “activities of daily living”. You generally need to be unable to care for yourself for quite a while before they’ll step in – a typical elimination period is 90 days. It helps with caregiving for dementia patients, or people who […]


A great tip about Roth conversions

At the AICPA conference, and then later in a Journal of Financial Planning article, I read a really cool idea. I’m not sure it’ll still be possible after Congress gets done hashing out changes to the tax code, but I’ll note it here and we can circle back in January. Here’s the trick: let’s say you’re thinking of converting between $10,000 and $20,000 of IRA money this year. You don’t know for sure how much […]


Tax Alpha

No investment advisor can honestly tell you that they can use their expertise to make you an additional 10% return on your investments. However, I can honestly say that I can, in many instances, save you 10% of your investments through good tax planning to get taxes paid on qualified money at the lowest possible bracket. You don’t want to leave a tip to the IRS! How, you ask? I’ve got a lot of strategies. […]


Are you ready for ProsperiTea?

Who should hire me? Meet four people, all amalgams, of people who are happy they did. Awesome Elder Alex is retired and wants to be off living a fun life. Alex wants a trustworthy person to do the money stuff, including designing a cash flow strategy, and keeping funds invested prudently. Wendy works as a retirement concierge, being the financial person on their team. Financially Free (or Retired Now) Fran doesn’t want financial planning, Fran […]


Book Review: “The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed”

A friend mentioned that I ought to read something by Bogle so I trotted down to the library to fetch one the other day.   Our library didn’t have any in stock so I ordered it through inter-library loan, but in the meantime I picked up a few books from the same section of the library shelves. So I just finished reading “The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed: the only personal finance system for people […]


Seeking Seasonal Tax Assistant

Are you interested in working for ProsperiTea Planning (formerly Tea & Taxes) during a tax season? Every year we hire at least one, and sometimes two seasonal tax assistants. Duties include: Secretarial work: Answering phones, taking messages Fielding emails Scanning and filing Data entry into tax software Updating project workflows as things change Office supply upkeep Scheduling & Re-scheduling Client reception Process mail Handing out returns to clients Accepting payment from clients Software includes: The firm’s […]


Book Review: “Simple Wealth, Inevitable Wealth” by Nick Murray

One of the members of my financial planning study group mentioned that he gives all his prospect clients a copy of “Simple Wealth, Inevitable Wealth” by Nick Murray. I was intrigued: I like to give the prospects something that pertains to them. It’s a tangible benefit I prefer over marketing things like pens or mugs with my company name on them. I have a bit of a library in my office of books I’ve bought […]


Why use my Custodian?

There is an enormous difference between working on individual retail accounts and working with the tools a professional custodian gives me. Benefits to you include: Better access to institutional-class funds. Because of my fiduciary business model and professional credentials, I’m authorized to use DFA funds (Dimensional Fund Advisors). I can only access them through my professional custodian, though. These are generally acknowledged to be as good as (or better) than Vanguard funds. No-load access to otherwise-loaded mutual […]


What’s new in the cutting edge world of Identity Theft

Over the week-end I’ve been reading up on how to handle the credit agency breach. Identity theft overall is becoming more and more of a problem, so I don’t mean to diminish this breach as an issue, but I think this is a bit over-hyped. My experience with fraudulently filed tax returns – a form of identity theft – suggests that quite a lot of us – if not all of us – have already […]


Financial Literacy for Young Adults

A client asked me if I had any financial literacy suggestions for teenagers. It kicked off a reading festival! Here are my notes. Years ago I read Suze Orman’s Young Fabulous and Broke and I was underwhelmed. She seems to think that everyone is as clueless as she was and needs to have a come-to-Jesus moment and she’ll tell you how. Most people I know just want to know some facts and they’ll integrate them into their […]


Book Review: “The Age of Deleveraging”, a tome by A. Gary Shilling

I heard Gary Shilling speak at a conference last month and his discussion of demographics was interesting and insightful so I sought out his most recent book: “The Age of Deleveraging: Investment Strategies for a Decade of Slow Growth and Deflation”. This book was 500 pages long. Five hundred. I told B. I felt like I was taking a graduate level course in economic forecasting. I’m not even sure how to integrate this book into […]


How long do you need to keep that document?

“How long should I keep paperwork around for?” I get this question a lot, but it’s not a quick answer. Here’s an article I wrote to help clarify it. Regarding income tax returns: The IRS has 3 years from the time you file to audit a return or the due date, whichever is later, so absolutely keep all the backup materials to your tax return for at least three years. They get 7 years to […]


March 12, 2017 (updated Sept. 26, 2017)

I’m on the road a lot when it’s not tax season for two reasons: continuing education and family vacations.  In 2017 I’m scheduled to go to:

  • AICPA Engage Conference in Las Vegas June 10-14
  • Alliance of Comprehensive Planners Annual Conference in San Antonio November 8-11
  • Western New England University Tax Institute – Wednesday November 11
  • At least 40 hours of tax updates on various days to be scheduled in the Fall, dates TBD

We also have family vacations:

  • Each April I take two week’s of vacation (one week-day for each week I worked without a day off in tax season) the moment tax season ends and am back by May 1st.
  • In late June I’ll go camping in Michigan with my dad – no cell service whatsoever there! This is a re-occurring trip: this year it’s scheduled for June 14-June 20th, so, yes, I’m flying straight from Las Vegas to a rural campsite. Packing will be challenging for this trip.
  • At some point each summer I’ll spend a week at Peaks Island – that time I’ll have my laptop and answer emails each day.  This year I’m tentatively scheduled to be there July 7-15.
  • Sammy will be heading off to college this year. I’ll probably take some time during the week around August 23st-August 30th to get him set up and delivered to college. I’ll be around all September, though, contemplating what the words “empty nest” means, and finishing extensions due October 15th.
  • Because I usually host Thanksgiving, I don’t work the Wednesday or Friday then, but I do work the week between Christmas and New Year for urgent last minute planning purposes.
  • There’s a trip planned from December 4th  to 12th to London. Helping my clients reach their goals has inspired me with some of the YOLO spirit, too!

I also generally post what I’m up to on Facebook, too.


The Alliance of Comprehensive Planners – a short video from Seattle in November 2016

Knowledge workers need to gather together to share information on a regular basis. Fee-only fiduciary planners are a collaborative bunch and naturally want to help each other. The Alliance of Comprehensive Planners is the specific group I belong to. This video about us was shot in November, 2016. – Posted 12/20/2016  


The Human Finance Project

A funny thing happened at the NAPFA conference in Phoenix this year. TD Ameritrade is doing a series of short films to promote the Registered Investment Advisor model (as opposed to the sales rep model) for investment advising. They asked if I’d come be interviewed. As is the norm with these things, fifteen minutes got edited down to a minute or two. I can’t say I am thrilled with the way I come across – […]


Get on our mailing list

We only do one mailing a year if you aren’t already a client, so this is a pretty low-traffic list to be on! The “Thanksgiving Family Money Letter” comes out on Thanksgiving, filled with tips to share with the family. First Name: Last Name: Email: Phone: City: State/Province: Notes about the inquiry Referral Spouse Updated 11.18.2017


Tips about Savings

Have some emergency money in the house, enough to pay for necessary groceries and medication if the banking system went down and you had to pay cash. You can also think of it as “refugee money.” If you needed to evacuate NOW, how much cash would you want for travel costs to far away family? Gas, hotels, meals on the road? Have that much in small bills and rolled coins.  (We like rolls of dollar […]


Some tips on data security, specifically touching on LastPass and ShareFile.

As you get your finances organized you’re going to wish you had a secure place to keep all your online passwords to websites. There are several on the market, but I personally use a Chrome Extension on my web-browser to an app called “LastPass”. It’s free if you just use it on desktops, and a small subscription cost if you want to use it across mobile devices. https://lastpass.com/ Once you have a strong master password […]


What to Look For in a Financial Professional

Financial services is a young profession and there’s a lot of squabbling going on with regard to what designations are best. There are 100x as many salesmen out there as financial professionals, though, and a bunch of the designations were designed to give them credibility. Quite a lot of the credentials people have can be obtained with a week-end cram course. For tax prep the professionals are CPAs or lawyers, but you have to confirm […]


Uses and Abuses, Tips and Tricks About Debt

Last April, I watched as my eldest son drove out of my driveway in his loaded-down Subaru with a brand-new Thule box on it, headed for Utah with all his possessions loaded in his modern-day Conestoga wagon. As many of you know, a month later he fell off a cliff and received a terrible spinal cord injury. (Happy update: it was a terrible adventure, but thanks to a whole host of blessings, he is nearly […]


Charity

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving this year is designated locally as “Giving Tuesday.” A company called Razoo has figured out how to gamify giving. I don’t want to stop anyone from playing if they’re so inclined. Far be it from me to tell you social media has no redeeming qualities. But there are a lot of different ways to think about charitable giving. First, it’s good for you. There’s a fairly new field of study called […]


My thoughts on 529 College Savings Plans

I’m not in love with 529 plans. I think they are really fabulous in a few settings, but most of the time they’d be my third or fourth choice for ways to save for college. First: when SHOULD you use a 529 plan? When you’re trying to create a trust fund on the cheap. If a grandparent or aunt or family friend wants to give money towards a child’s education but doesn’t want it to […]


Retirement Income Generators

I’ve been reading a bunch of books on income in retirement. See the last two entries for more in depth discussions of annuities. I enjoyed and would recommend “Money for Life: Turn Your IRA and 401(k) Into a Lifetime Retirement Paycheck” by Steve Vernon, FSA. I don’t actually know what the initials FSA stand for, but he mentions in the book that his background is as an actuary, so that gives me a guess as […]


How to NOT Get Ripped Off When Buying an Annuity

As I wrote yesterday, there is precious little good to say about variable annuities. If you want to leave a legacy for your heirs there are better ways to do it. If you want to have income in retirement there are less expensive ways to do it. However, the urge to hold on to your wad of retirement cash, preferably leaving it to your heirs, is super intense in humans. Many people simply want what […]


Why Annuities are So Terrible (and why you might need a specific kind anyway.)

In the (somewhat mythical) “Good Old Days” you would retire from your corporate or union job with a pension. Combined with a check from social security and some of your own savings, you’d be comfortable in retirement. The biggest problem was that you might have a fixed income that didn’t keep up with inflation. But you didn’t worry about running out of money: pensions are for life. Remember the inflation of the Carter Years? I […]


In case of death…

Ever wonder what happens to you, as a client, when your financial advisor dies? Even though I am barely 50 as I write this, I actually have given this a lot of thought. Here are the things I’ve done to make sure my clients are taken care of in case I am suddenly unable to. (I used to say “hit by a bus”, but a bus driver once vented to me about how much he […]


Upcoming conferences I’ll be at in 2016

Do you have any financial planning or investment advising questions bugging you? I’ve got two different conferences coming up and want to make sure I use that time wisely by paying attention to what my clients want me to learn. Related to this, heads up that I’m going to be out of town. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors conference is in Phoenix May 17th through May 20th. NAPFA is the association of fee-only […]


Scheduling Notes for 2016

August 3, 2016   I’m on the road a lot when it’s not tax season for two reasons: continuing education and family vacations.  In 2016 I’m scheduled to go to: National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) Conference in Phoenix May 17th to 20th (completed) Alliance of Comprehensive Planners training in Denver June 6th to 9th (completed) Dimensional Fund Advisors training in Charlotte Sept 27 and 28 Alliance of Comprehensive Planners Annual Conference in Seattle […]


Did you know that I am more than just a CPA doing a tax prep service?

April 25, 2016 As a Certified Financial Planner™professional, and as someone registered in Massachusetts as an Investment Advisor, I work as a fiduciary comprehensive financial planner for a group of clients who have me on an annual flat-fee retainer as their “financial concierge”. This service includes: retirement planning, estate planning, strategizing for financial aid, investment advising and management, setting up (or rebalancing) your overall asset allocation for your investments, tax planning and preparation, and advising […]


Legal disclosures

Important Consumer Information All written content on this site is for informational purposes, only. Opinions expressed herein are solely those of Wendy Marsden, CPA, CFP®, either acting as Firm Principal for Tea & Taxes Company or doing business as ProsperiTea Planning. Material presented is believed to be from reliable sources and no representation is made as to its accuracy or completeness. All information and ideas should be discussed in detail with your individual advisor prior to implementation. Fee-only […]


Bond ladders for a prudent pantry

I’ve talked in the past about the benefits of off-loading risk to an insurance company to create a pension in retirement.  When certain cash flow becomes a higher priority than investment growth, I’ve considered single premium immediate annuities (SPIAs) to do the job. Another idea is a bond ladder.  It’s a very unsexy solution, but may very well do a better job.  I’m putting this article here while I develop this idea more. A Pseudo-Life […]


Thanksgiving Family Money Letter – 2015

  Happy Thanksgiving! The biggest payoff comes from being good at things that are absolutely under our control. That’s the lesson I’ve learned studying economics, finance, and investment theory. That includes saving for goals, being a judicious consumer, and maintaining your relationships, your health, and your emotional wellness. One of my new gurus, Bert Whitehead, wrote a book called Why Smart People Do Stupid Things with Money: Overcoming Financial Dysfunction. He says not to put too […]


The retainer-based financial planning model

A fee-only fiduciary certified financial planner is someone who is a financial professional. “Fiduciary” means “putting your interests ahead of my own. Not equal to, but ahead. I have to act as a trustworthy agent for you. It’s the professional standard that you should insist on, but most people never even realize there’s that option. There are over 600,000 broker/dealers in the United States and about 2,500 members of the National Association of Personal Financial Planners (the […]


Alliance of Comprehensive Planners

It’s been hard to find my path as a fiduciary, fee-only financial professional.  There are so many sales agents out there that people automatically think I’m just another one.  How can they tell, when financial credentials are so thick on the ground?  I’ve heard some really ridiculous ones.  But a fee-only financial planner who belongs to NAPFA is like the difference between a doctor and a pharmacist.  A doctor has a broad range of training […]


Needed to finish your return?

We do a really good job of leaving ourselves notes in our practice.  If you don’t remember what it is we were waiting for to finish your return during tax season you can call the office at (413) 829-4832 and ask the seasonal tax assistant to go read to you what’s on the routing sheet: it’s where we leave open issues. But we also usually, almost always, write up the open issues and send them in an […]


What to bring to your first appointment with Wendy Marsden, CPA, CFP®

You’ve just signed up for a consultation with a financial professional.  What do you need to bring? It depends a bit on what you’re hoping to get out of the meeting.  Let’s break it into three cases and you can skip to the section you think fits your situation: Financial planning Tax planning Investment advising Financial planning (which may include investment advising, but see that below) The first thing you need to bring is your problem. What is […]


Insurance for workers

When I was in my early twenties a grad student at my University drowned. He left behind a widow and a small child and no life insurance. They had been living in University housing and his new widow was left homeless. When we had children I made sure my husband and I each had life insurance. These sorts of tragedies are really visible and really dreadful and so life insurance occurs to people like this […]


Thanksgiving Family Money Letter – 2014

Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you for your business this year!  You’ve been a big part in helping a Main Street business succeed. We’ve been working with the Franklin County Community Development Corp to add more services – and more jobs – to Tea & Taxes Company. We appreciate your continued support – and your feedback! Please enjoy this newsletter and the sections below, and pass them along if you wish. Think of the Financial Wellness Checklist as […]


“Save Your Retirement”: a book review

The hook for this book by Frank Armstrong III and Paul Brown is in the subtitle.  Notice it’s not “Save FOR your retirement”.  It’s “Save Your Retirement: What do Do if You haven’t Save Enough or If Your Investments Were Devastated” is a book of distilled wisdom compiled by a CFP and professional financial journalist. It’s really mostly the gloss they put on it as an excuse to write yet another book on a tired […]


Thanksgiving Family Money Letter – 2013

2013 Year-End Tax Planning and Financial Wellness 2013 Thanksgiving Family Money letter   November 27, 2013   Welcome to my annual Thanksgiving Family Money letter! I’m attaching the nicely formatted PDF of the letter to an email, but also including the actual text inline here, in case you don’t like to open attachments or spam filters got the email.  (It’s just more readable as a PDF, I think.) I’ve recently completed several continuing education courses, […]


Double Duty Retirement Strategies

When I was doing coursework to become a Certified Financial Planner, the capstone project required that we upload a video presentation as part of a financial plan for a fictional young couple with children. Since the couple are fictional, I figured it was okay to share this advice with anyone who want to see it. Originally published December 27, 2012, on a day when I had a particularly large amount of hair!


Book Review: “Debt-Proof Your Marriage” by Mary Hunt

The subtitle of “Debt-Proof Your Marriage” is “How to achieve financial harmony: become effective money partners; create a get-out-of-debt plan that works, be prepared for unexpected expenses; slash mortgage payback time in half; deal effectively with roller coaster income.” Quite a mouthful, but I’d say it pretty much delivers. Apparently she wrote a book called “Debt Proof Living” and this is the revamped and remarketed version that throws in marital advice. I think it’s great. […]


Book Review: Julie Jason’s AARP Retirement Survival Guide

ulie Jason’s book is entitled: “The AARP Retirement Survival Guide: How to Make Smart Financial Decisions in Good Times and Bad”. It’s a title done by committee. Really it’s a guide to avoiding the sharks swirling around you in retirement. It’s filled with hints of things to watch out for, with sections called “Julie’s Don’t-Be-Fooled Rules”. I liked her clear explanations and approved of her hints and warnings. I think it did good coverage of […]


Book Review: “All Your Worth” by Elizabeth Warren

I’ve heard wonderful things about Elizabeth Warren and I was intrigued by the concept of this personal financial husbandry book. The title of the first books I read, “All Your Worth”, made me cringe as it makes me think of a misspelled contraction. But it’s not a pronouncement or a discussion of what you are worth. Instead, it is a suggestion that you might be better off if you built some net worth. The basic […]


Book Review: “Your Money & Your Brain”

This book explains just how stupid you really are. I’ve heard this mentioned a couple of times and so, when I saw it on the shelves at the local library (what, you don’t cruise the 332 section of the library just on spec?) I picked up Jason Zweig’s “Your Money & Your Brain: How the New Science of Neuroeconomics Can Help Make You Rich.”   I liked it. I dislike the subtitle, though.  I bet there […]


Book Review: “Show Me the Money” by Ron Groenke

I’d subtitle this one, “First, buy a stock right before it goes up… One of my clients passed along a book for me to read: “Show Me The Money: Covered Calls and Naked Puts for a Monthly Cash Income” by Ron Groenke. It was all about the uses of covered calls and naked puts and how much money a few good stocks you have in your portfolio could make for you by selling these options […]


Three book reviews on investing

I’m reading up on retirement planning both because I’m trying to rationalize why I bought a vacation property (it’s part of my retirement portfolio! Really!) and because I’m supposed to be making a living counseling people on financial matters. (Perhaps I should be quiet about the cottage.) I’ve recently read three books that say the same thing in vastly different ways. The first is “The New Coffee House Investor: How to Build Wealth, Ignore Wall […]


Book Review: “Parlay Your IRA into a Family Fortune” by Ed Slott

I’ve been having a mid-life crisis of sorts regarding the value of tax-deferred savings. I decided to go back and reread the “conventional” wisdom before I disrespect it in front of my clients. Ed Slott is one of the foremost experts on IRAs in the country. He knows every single nuance of how to milk an IRA to the absolute tip top tax advantage possible. He speaks from the same perspective as I do as […]


Book Review: “The Road to Serfdoom”

Lord Keynes is said to have quipped a response to Hayek’s analysis of what happens in the long run: “In the long run, we’re all dead.”  Guess what?  You and I, Dear Reader, are not dead.  It turns out Hayek was right and Keynes was too short-sighted. This book was written 70 years ago and is so devastatingly right in its predictions and analysis that it’s stunning that it hasn’t been more widely taught and […]


Book Review: “Wealth, War & Wisdom”

Financial Wellness Lessons Learned from WWII Confucius said, “Study the past if you would divine the future”.  With that in mind, I’ve always been a fan of history.  I recall reading Greek comedies in high school and realizing that they were the same plot as Shakespearian comedies as 70’s sitcoms.  People are people are people.  Study what people did in the past under various pressures and you can get a pretty good clue about what […]


Book Review: Pay It Down

Jean Chatzky’s take on debt.   This was a quick read from the library: Pay It Down: From Debt to Wealth on $10/day by Jean Chatzky.   The  book is abbreviated and condensed into this series of articles on Money.cnn. First off, this book is nearly entirely about budgeting.  Figure out what you’re already spending, and then take a look.  The topic was just as dreary as it could be in this relentless little book.  It would not let you […]


Books about Changing

Change sucks. These books can help. I just finished reading “Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes: Strategies for coping with the difficult, painful, and confusing times in your life” by William Bridges (copyright 1980). It was really helpful, one of those books that everyone needs on their shelf for when life gobsmacks you.  This is just a stub for this entry, but I would consider it a good companion book for most life changes, along […]


Book Review: “Oil on the Brain”.

This is everything you never knew about oil but really ought to find out. I’ve just finished an amazing book.  It’s taken me three months to read this, partly because the information was so astonishing and new that I kept having to put it down and go assimilate what I’ve learned. The title of this book is “Oil On The Brain: Adventures from the Pump to the Pipeline.”  It’s an investigative journalist’s take on what’s involved […]


Five characteristics of financial wellness

I work closely with the finances of hundreds (and over the years, thousands) of people.  I learned early on that income doesn’t correlate to happiness once you get past starvation level.  But in recent years I’ve really been noticing that feeling rich is almost entirely unrelated to income levels.    For the past year or so I’ve been trying to nail down what being “wealthy” actually means. I think a better term for “wealthy” is […]