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Financial Elements' Insights

Latest news, updates and helpful advice

Check here regularly for Brenda's thoughts and insights on a variety of topics related to personal finance and investments.
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Our Mixed Up, Messed Up Relationship with Investment Risk

The headlines are fast and furious – tariffs and trade wars, immigration debates, oil prices, rising interest rates, company scandals – it seems that there is no end to the risk we face as stock market investors, and this summer, the news cycle has certainly not taken a holiday. Is investing riskier than usual these days? In our experience, probably not. If there is such a thing as “normal” in this world of ours, risk is certainly built into the definition. Besides, investors often love and hate risk in a mixed up, messed up relationship. How so? Let us count the ways.

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Half of a Whole: When You Lose a Spouse

Whether it’s sudden and unexpected or after an already lengthy ordeal, there’s nothing that can prepare you for losing your spouse. Grief and mourning affect each of us uniquely, but all widows and widowers share a painful dilemma: On the one hand, the world seems to demand rapid response to a barrage of critical questions – financial and otherwise. On the other hand, it’s usually a terrible time to be making big decisions, especially if they really can wait. Here are some helpful handholds to hang onto if you have been recently widowed (or you know someone who has), plus preemptive steps to take if you’re reading this in happier times.

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Insights from the NAPFA Conference

I attended the NAPFA (National Association of Personal Financial Advisors) national conference in Phoenix last week. Read on for a recap of some of the more memorable sessions.

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Rebalancing Your Portfolio

Have your reviewed your portfolio? The tremendous market returns of 2017 may have left you out of balance, and the volatility earlier in the year may have scared you and stopped you from reviewing and reallocating your investments. Read on to review why we rebalance, how it works, and why it's not as easy as it sounds sometimes.

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You, Your Financial Well-Being and the Federal Reserve

Today the Federal Reserve held short term interest rates steady and communicated that they plan to continue their gradual rate increases in the coming months, most likely raising rates again in June. Inflation has boosted consumer prices by 2% from March of 2017. For several years, inflation was minimal but with the economic growth that we’ve seen recently, it’s not too surprising that the Fed is continuing to plan for modest rate increases.

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How to Be Good at Doing Good

Doing good doesn’t happen overnight—writing a check to charity once a year is no longer enough for a successful charitable and financial strategy. Creating a strategy for charitable giving requires some thought, but by considering these tips, you can put your charitable giving plan on the path to success.

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Did You Fasten Your Seatbelt?

Are you worried about market volatility? The ups and downs of the market can seem like a roller coaster, but if you have a plan, you can feel more in control.

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Why do I get so excited about HSA's?

You may see me get just a little giddy about the saving opportunity that HSA's present. (yes, this kind of thing excites me... that's why I do this for a living) Health Savings accounts are like the best of a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA combined. You get a tax break when you deposit the funds, tax free growth, and tax free withdrawals when you use the funds for qualified health care expenses down the road.

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The “Paying for College” Conversation

Do you have a junior or senior in high school? Especially if you have a senior, your student is probably finalizing his or her plans for next year. You are likely waiting anxiously for financial award letters from colleges and combing through your finances to figure out how to pay those tuition bills.

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Let's talk about saving on vacations

Spring break is almost here and the summer travel season is right around the corner. I love to plan and take trips. Read on for some of my tips to save (and splurge) on your next adventure.

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Teaching Children About Money

Do you give your children an allowance? Do they have chores to do to earn it or is it just so they can have their own money to budget and spend? Just as with any parenting issue, there are so many ideas surrounding this. I have two children; almost grown at this point and they have earned an allowance from a very young age. I have also been careful to model thoughtful financial behavior. When they were young, I was very cognizant of going to the ATM. Would they think that money just came out of that magic machine?

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Assisting parents with their finances

Are you struggling with how to help an aging parent? Sometimes the changes are subtle. A forgotten conversation, less attention to detail, struggling with an everyday task – who hasn’t walked into a room and forgotten why they came? It can be difficult to recognize and know when to truly worry and step in with our aging parents. With the holidays still fresh in your minds, you may have seen some warning signs that it’s time to assist a family member.

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Lessons for the Next Crisis

Capital markets have rewarded investors over the long term, and having an investment approach you can stick with—especially during tough times—may better prepare you for the next crisis and its aftermath.

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Affordable Care Act Premium Tax Credits

Did you participate in the healthcare marketplace but did not sign up for premium credits? Perhaps you were unsure of your income and preferred to receive a refund at tax time rather than an unpleasant bill.

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Finding Your “Comfort-level” Spending Zone

I often hear client stories that go something like this… I got my first job when I was 12. I had a paper route and rode my bike in the wee hours of the morning to deliver the papers to the neighborhood. My parents were very frugal and insisted that I start saving some of my small wages. And so from that day forward, I have been a saver. I’ve had my ups and downs…

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