Financial wellness


Why, Where & How of Roth IRAs

Someone contact me recently about how to set up a Roth IRA. It’s a common enough question that it feels like a good time to revisit this topic. In this article I’m going to tell you exactly why, where and how to set up a Roth IRA and even make three investment suggestions for three generic situations. Your specific situation could differ, of course. But first, what? A Roth IRA is a little bit like […]


Strange Change, Rainy Days and Big Emergencies

You know you need emergency money, right? But what does that actually mean? Here are the three kinds of “emergency” money I counsel my clients to have. One is what I call “strange change”. You should have some cash in the house that you can use if you need to Get Out Of Dodge right this minute: no standing in line at the (probably empty) ATM, just get in your car and drive. For this, […]


A Halloween Story about Gift Tax

Gifts are not taxable income. However, they can come back to haunt you! There are three ways gifts can cause issues. The first is if you are applying for a mortgage and the bank is trying to determine where you’re getting the money for your down-payment. They want to make sure you’re not taking out a side loan (and are hence a worse risk to them because of your greater debt burden.) If you are […]


Why check your credit rating?

I’m having rebellious thoughts about credit rating agencies. Always one to play earnestly by the rules, I have always checked my credit report once in a while to see if any bad data had crept in. Perhaps someone was claiming to be me and running up debt someplace, right? Gotta keep on that. But over the past few years I’ve watched Identity Theft blossom from a one-off done by drug-addicted grandkids to something that is as common […]


How to Make Your Money Last: The Indispensable Retirement Guide by Jane Bryant Quinn

This is a book you can write after a lifetime of forming connections, reading deeply, and gaining the wisdom to integrate it all. I cannot think of a single thing I’d change in this book if I were writing it. It combines clear writing with up-to-date accurate information. I’ve read entire books on subjects she covered in a chapter and feel like she nailed it concisely. Annuities? Life Insurance? Becoming a landlord? When to start […]


Productivity Book Reviews: Brian Tracy’s Master Your Time Master Your Life

Somewhere in the distant past I must have read “Gettting Things Done” by David Allen. I know this because I recently re-read it and discovered that I’ve been doing this for years. It’s a great book, by the way, and everyone should read it at some point. Some of it is useful across the board: break big projects down into the next action. Have a place you capture all the tasks so that they don’t […]


Preparing for the Great Trumpression

Back in 2006 a client walked into my office with an impossible mortgage. Countrywide Bank gave a 70 year old a 30 year mortgage for more than 100% the value of her house. She was underwater the day she closed, with no possible way to ever sell that house. I was aghast, and wondered what was going on that Countrywide was willing to take on risk like that. I didn’t quite understand the whole securitization […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 – […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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: “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 […]


The case against buying gold and silver

Several of my clients have asked me questions where the answer is “buy gold” and I’ve been wary about putting that advice together. I’m going to explore this issue a bit, first by getting a handle on all the reasons it is BAD advice. 1. Neither gold nor silver are productive assets.  They won't earn interest or dividends, losing you the opportunity costs of what you could have been doing with that money in the […]


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 […]


Spotlight on budgeting

Clients are calling up to ask for help. “We’re making a lot of money but can’t make ends meet. Help!” I tell them to grab as many statements as they can from every bill they’ve got and every account they’ve got and bring the whole pile to me. Here’s what I know about people’s expenses: the overwhelming majority have expenses that nearly exactly match their income, except, perhaps, they spend about $50/month more than they […]


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 […]