LONGEVITY

Blessing or Curse? A few months ago, I was mildly surprised to hear a report that the average life expectancy of both men and women in the United States, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, declined slightly for the first time since 1993.  One would think there are limits to what science and medical advances can do to lengthen our lives, but it strikes me that perhaps this is only a plateau on the way to even higher averages.  In fact, a study by the World Health Organization released in March 2017 suggested exactly that.  It makes me pause to consider if this boost of average longevity is really a blessing or a curse.  In part, the answer depends upon how well one has financially prepared for the prospect of adding another 15-20 years to their life.  Are you? I remember fondly as a child watching The Walton’s.  The stories of life in “the Blue Ridge of Virginia” resonated with me because my father grew up in that era and near the oft-mentioned town of Charlottesville.  Perhaps that tight-knit family network existed then even outside of “TV land”, as some of my fathers’ childhood remembrances attest.  But as the series began to age, the story-line demonstrated the reality of a changing society and the dispersal of that family.  Today, the common geographic dispersion of adult children, high rates of divorce, later in life marriage and child-rearing and the near absence of homemaking and one-wage earner families, among other causes, has limited the ability of families to care for one another as age related difficulty emerges.  We are not living in...

DIS-SPELL

Election Year Voodoo? By John R Burch, CFP®, CKA® Many conversations have been had over the last couple of months about witches and warlocks, and I’m not speaking of the time honored tradition of candy gathering that happens in a week or so.  The national political scene is my point of reference and I certainly do not mean anything personal in the allusion.  Rather, some of the conversations I have had with clients and colleagues tend nearly to the point of formulaic spell-binding about how the financial markets, and thus their personal financial condition will be impacted (not might mind you) with a change of administration and power.  Oh, by all means, political winds blow and can impact markets, economies and financial decisions.   But, a wise steward must ask, does this necessarily impact the way I manage the resources with which I am entrusted?    My answer is… not really.   There are certainly ample studies that would support “thus-and-such” results to an investment portfolio when an administration changes, and “thus-and-such” results if the parties in power are split, and “thus-and-such” may happen if power is consolidated by a single party.  If you really need to know, explore the myriad of combinations on a web search.  While you might consider these historical patterns, along with other market factors that influence the value of both financial wealth, real property and incomes, the wise steward would better default to timeless principles that govern one’s perspective on wealth through all periods of time both stable and un-stable, calm or contentious.   For example, the principles of spend less than you earn or...

Harvest

Autumn has always been one of my favorite times and not just for the colorful palette in nature.  To me, it’s always been the return of many exciting “seasons”.  It’s football season, festival season, for some hunting season, and for all the approach of the holiday season.  For a time, I worked in agriculture and welcomed the celebrated harvest season, when risks finally bore out the rewards of reaping what was sown and tended.  On a recent trip through south Alabama, I passed many fields, some recently harvested, some nearing maturity, and I reflected on how a prudent investment strategy resembles the annual cycle of planting, nurturing and harvesting.   How can we align the lessons of agriculture to your investment strategy?   Being a good steward over investments is a lot like an orchard keeper faithfully tending the orchard.  Once planted, and tended well through good and bad times, the regular harvest sustains and prospers the orchard keeper for many years.  If properly planned, many generations will benefit while creating a blessing for others besides.   This very simple philosophy of creating regular harvest opportunities in a portfolio, called cash flow investing, has been somewhat hijacked in the last few decades by the concept of “growth” investing.  Interestingly some investors are willing to trade off steady cash flows for the allure of bigger, yet more uncertain, “gains” over the long run. The concept of stewarding surpluses should cause us to take pause at the idea of this trade-off.  A steward may weigh prudent risks/return tradeoffs but should certainly seek to eliminate as many unknowns as possible.  An increase...

Connect

CONNECT By John R Burch, CFP®, CKA® How Connected Are You? Many people would agree, for better or worse, that we live in a device driven world.  Indeed, much satisfaction, or alternately stress, in life depends on our ability to stay connected? Recently I decided to outwit my kids, (big mistake), and installed a parental control app on their “I” devices.  Wow did I cause an uproar in my house because it limited their ability to connect.  More on this later.  So, what about you?  Are you aggravated when a cell signal drops, or your Wi-Fi has a hiccup. One can’t even enjoy a good summer thundershower anymore without the satellite connection breaking up at the most inappropriate time. What about this idea of connection and your financial plan? Just as connectivity drives emotional satisfaction through those digital outlets we crave, financial satisfaction occurs when there is connection between money and what it is helping you to achieve.  Money is itself only a tool.  Money stewarded toward a purpose becomes a powerful means of satisfaction in life.  In planning, I call this purpose your desired outcomes.  Pre-defined outcomes, give your work, your giving, saving and spending great meaning.  Sadly, many people never attach purpose to their financial life and thus don’t engage an effective stewardship strategy to connect the purpose to that outcome.  Or if they do, sometimes the vision of both the outcome and the strategy can simply get lost if neglected over time. If you feel your finances are a little dis-connected from your life purposes, maybe it’s time we bring your outcomes back into focus and...

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