Financial Planning

Financial Planning

Financial Steps To Take Now To Set Yourself Up For A Productive 2019

By Amy Ng, Associate Wealth Manager

A personal financial review may not be near the top of anyone’s favorite fall activities, but putting effort into one right now can help you understand exactly where you stand financially, and set you up for a prosperous and less stressful New Year. Here are five simple things you should work on before the ball drops in Times Square:

  1. Set your holiday gift budget limit

    The holidays can be a stressful time for many of us who feel obligated to buy gifts for loved ones.  A great way to avoid this stressor is to set your budget for gifts early on and start saving as soon as possible. Saving early in the fall can help you avoid the stress of putting all your gifts on credit and starting the New Year with a large credit card bill.  If you’re finding yourself faced with a tight budget, you may need to review your current spending habits and pinpoint areas to cut back on in order to free up funds for gifts. 

    At Echo Wealth Management, we always advise our clients to factor “Gifts and Charitable Donations” into their annual expenses to reduce the occurrence of stress during gift giving seasons. 
     
  2. Do a credit check

Avoid Lifestyle Inflation

By Amy Ng, Associate Wealth Manager

As you age and realize your earning potential, it’s only natural that you will add to and enhance your quality of life. Economic theories assume that humans are rational beings, yet the irrational action of spending beyond ones’ means is a very common reality. Many people see every income boost as a means of buying more stuff. Each raise at work results in a new addition to an increasingly cushy lifestyle filled with unnecessary purchases. The result is people putting off retirement. Even with plentiful salaries, the ever increasing investment in stuff leads them to constantly feeling like they don’t have enough money. Most of us have, or know others who have, experienced the allure of lifestyle inflation. Today’s post covers five things to consider when experiencing this enigma:

  1. Identify Your Goals
    Upon receiving a raise or bonus, one of the first best things you can do is sit down with your loved ones and discuss your personal and financial goals. Talk about where you want to be in two, five, or even ten years. Whether you want to travel more, save for your children’s educations, pay off debt, or buy a home, you’re more likely to avoid lifestyle inflation if you understand how those funds can bring you closer to achieving those goals.
     
  2. Get The Money Out Of Your Hands

What Should You Expect from Your Financial Advisor?

By Echo Huang, CPA, CFP®, CFA

You may be working with a financial advisor and wonder what you should expect from your financial advisor. You may be someone who is thinking of hiring a financial advisor as your financial picture becomes more complex and you really want to have an expert in your corner to help you better plan for your financial future. I’ve put together a list of expectations that I believe are important to consider when choosing or evaluating a financial advisor.

Echo Huang, CPA, CFP®, CFA Awarded the Five Star Wealth Manager Award for 2017!

Echo Huang has been a six-year recipient (2012 - 2017) of this award.

The Five Star Wealth Manager award program is the largest and most widely published award program in the financial services industry.  Five Star Professional conducts this research to help consumers with the decision of selecting a service professional in their area.  They have partnered with Twin Cities Business magazine and Mpls. St. Paul Magazine to recognize these professionals and highlight their achievements. 

Engaged! Now Comes the Planning Part

By Steve Drost, Associate Wealth Manager

The day of my engagement (just last month) was the best day of my life.  After a day of anxiety awaiting the proper moment, the time finally arrived. I got down on one knee and she said “Yes.”  The 48 hours following my proposal and her acceptance were a whirlwind of awesomeness – countless phone calls, texts, Facebook messages, Snapchats, Instagram posts, Twitter mentions, and even a couple handwritten “Congratulations” cards in the mail (by far the most memorable, by the way).  By the time a week had passed, I was finally getting used to seeing the ring on her left hand, and we decided it was time to really start planning our wedding.

All gender bias aside, there are two types of people in this world: those who have been looking forward to planning their wedding since they were a child and those who have not. My fiancée is the former, and myself, the latter.  I am very analytical – things either fit or do not fit in the puzzle.  So naturally the first thing I did was open up Microsoft Excel and start making the first draft of the budget and guest list.  She, more artistic and visually creative, picked up the latest edition of Bridal Guide Magazine.  I was researching how much photographers cost and she is asking me if I like coral and ash grey for wedding colors.  Not that it’s a bad thing, but there was a difference on where we each wanted to start.  I cared more about the lists and data gathering, she more how the day will look and feel. This difference in personalities isn’t a compatibility disconnect or even negative, it’s a good thing! We are just naturally drawn to different bits and details (I’d probably pick blue, grill food, and everyone would be wearing shorts, so thankfully for everyone involved I’m not planning a wedding alone).

What Are Your Portfolio Performance Expectations?

In the story of Alice in Wonderland, Alice arrives at a fork in the road and wonders aloud which road to take. A smiling Cheshire Cat appears and asks her what her destination is, to which she replies, “I don’t know.” The toothy cat then proffers the only possible response, “Well, then it doesn’t matter.”

While it’s not the type of exchange that might actually occur in our lives, it should, especially as we consider our financial future. For many people, who have yet to clearly define their financial destination, it probably doesn’t matter to them which path they choose, if they choose a path at all. That may be one way to explain why many Americans are not on track to meeting their retirement goals, or worse, why most couldn’t tell you where they stand today in relation to their goals.

Where are Your Alternatives?

It's been a little while since we visited the topic of alternative investments.  In the last piece, published in January, we tried to wrap our arms around what the term 'alternative' really means.  Today we're going to look at how alternatives are actually used.  While the focus is on the asset side of the equation (as opposed to the strategy side), this snapshot can give you an idea of how real world investors position alternatives in their portfolios.

One thing I wanted to point out is that there are some alternatives that can not or should not be used in certain parts of your portfolio.  For example, collectibles are generally an outright no-no in your IRA. Also, while limited partnerships are allowed, they are fraught with peril in IRAs due to a tax term called Unrelated Business Taxable Income (UBTI), which could subject the IRA to current taxation.

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