Category: Blog

A Gift by Denise Levertov

Published in: Blog |

Just when you seem to yourself

nothing but a flimsy web

of questions, you are given

the questions of others to hold

in the emptiness of your hands,

songbird eggs that can still hatch

if you keep them warm,

butterflies opening and closing themselves

in your cupped palms, trusting you not to injure

their scintillant fur, their dust.

You are given the questions of others

as if they were answers

to all you ask. Yes, perhaps

this gift is your answer.

 

#headorheart

Cybersecurity Step-by-step #8: Avoid Spear-phishing Scams

Published in: Blog, Cybersecurity Step-by-Step, Get Smart |

Your financial well-being is our highest priority, and one of our goals for 2018 is to walk you through the necessary steps to protect your online data. To make it more manageable, we are sending you one new action item every month. If you missed the previous steps, we have listed them below with a link to the detail so that you can easily catch up.

Step Eight:  Avoid Spear-Phishing Scams

What is Spear-Phishing?  You may have heard of the term “phishing” which refers to online scams to obtain your personal information (Click here for examples). “Spear-phishing” involves a more targeted approach (spearing one fish at a time) by using information already obtained to impersonate the people and businesses you trust to lure you into providing more sensitive information, or access to your computer or financial assets. The following are spear-phishing examples:1

  • An email from an online store about a recent purchase. It might include a link to a login page where the scammer simply harvests your credentials.
  • An automated phone call or text message from your bank stating that your account may have been breached. It tells you to call a number or follow a link and provide information to confirm that you are the real account holder.
  • An email stating that your account has been deactivated or is about to expire and you need to click a link and provide credentials. Cases involving Appleand Netflix were recent sophisticated examples of this type of scam.
  • An email that requests donations to a religious group or charity associated with something in your personal life.

How to avoid Spear-Phishing:

  1. Be suspicious. If an email requests sensitive information or asks you to click on a link, be suspicious, even if it is from someone you know. Be even MORE suspicious when the communication includes upsetting or exciting statements that may be a ruse to distract you from clues you might otherwise notice.
  1. The best defense is to call and verify that the sender was the true author of the email. Instead of clicking on links, go to the website by typing the URL address directly into your browser.
  1. Never transfer or wire assets without verbal verification. Never. One favorite strategy of spear-phishers is to intercept fund transfers and substitute account numbers. Whenever you are transferring funds, double-check verbally that you are transferring the funds to the correct account.
  1. Follow our Cybersecurity Step-by-Step recommendations: If you take these steps to improve your cybersecurity, you will become a very difficult target to spear! To review the previous steps, visit our blog.

Read more about Spear-Phishing

 

List of Previous Steps:

Step One: Place a freeze on your credit history at the top three credit agencies.

Step Two: Update the operating software on your computers, tablets and smartphones, and continue to update as new patches become available.

Step Three: File your tax returns as early as possible.

Step Four: Use unique passwords on every site (and try a password manager).

Step Five: Never (ever) email sensitive information and always insist on encryption.

Step Six: Avoid using public WiFi networks.

Step Seven: Monitor your financial activity.

1 “What spear phishing is (with examples) and how can you avoid it” Aimee O’Driscoll, Comparitech, May 29, 2018. https://www.comparitech.com/blog/information-security/spear-phishing/#gref

What’s in Your Resilience Toolkit: Insights and Outcomes

Published in: Blog, Conversation Circle |

Last week, we opened our conversation circle by making one thing very clear:  women are good at resilience. We assemble our resilience toolkits and make sure our tools are sharpened in preparation for life’s tough times. We endure, persevere and support each other along the way. And we right ourselves, adapt, and find our way back to equilibrium. So, we thought a conversation circle would provide the perfect forum to explore the various aspects of resilience, to take a clear-eyed and compassionate look at our strengths and vulnerabilities, and to share our best strategies and tools. We were right – we had a lively, honest and energizing conversation!

For inspiration, we looked to Desiree Linden, this year’s female champion of the Boston Marathon. On a day that was cold, wet and windy, she persevered and gave us a master class in the meaning of resilience. When it comes to intense physical challenges like running a marathon, compared to men, women often do a better job pacing themselves, quickly adjust their behavior and expectations to accommodate changes in the course, and are more likely to offer and seek support with one another to reach the finish line. Which is exactly what Desiree did. We talked about utilizing these same strengths when handling emotional, financial and other obstacles.

To set the stage we started by unabashedly revealing our superpowers –  what a powerful group we were! Patience, curiosity, endurance, X-ray vision, intuition, optimism, synthesizing information, bringing out the potential in others, and being a connector were just a few of the superpowers we heard about.

We spent most of the evening with a fun “Wheel of Resilience” exercise that asked us to reflect on aspects of resilience, and how they shape our lives. We considered financial, emotional, spiritual, vocational, community and social, and physical aspects of resilience. We talked about the tools and strategies we use for each – and those we want to develop and hone – to foster resilience. What are the tools to sharpen during calmer times, to prepare for adversity? What are our “go to” tools when we’re in the middle of the fire? And finally, what strategies are most useful when the dust has settled, when we’ve righted ourselves and are learning to adapt to a new situation? In true circle spirit, we shared our best ideas and listened to struggles and fears. We summoned our courage and spoke about our truth.

Before too long, we all acknowledged how much we have in common. In spite of our diversity – in age, phase of life, geography, resource level, personal circumstances – there was so much we recognized, and honored, in each other.

  • We all yearn for community and true connection – but we define what that means in many different ways. For many of us, fostering deep relationships must be balanced with the time we need solo, to recharge and restore. For all of us, it was clear that nurturing connection is an essential tool for our resilience toolkits.
  • We observed that our willingness to acknowledge vulnerability in one area (for example, noting that we’re not as physically resilient as we’d like to be) creates an opportunity to sharpen our tools in that area (like hiring a personal trainer). This also has dovetail impact on other aspects of resilience and makes us stronger overall.
  • Many of us identified a desire to reclaim a state of grace. We loved the idea of measuring resilience by measuring how easily we can go back to grace after a challenging time.

As we came to a close, we shared our “go to” strategies for getting through a rough patch.  A sampling:

  • Break things down. Ask yourself: what is the next step?
  • Be willing to commit. Be all in. Walk through the fire.
  • Create a checklist, a “user’s manual” to rely on when action seems impossible.
  • Get out of the house!
  • Use your phone to set alerts and reminders to call friends on important days and/or to make plans.
  • If you’re feeling untethered, sit quietly. Feel the support of the chair below you. Now feel the support of the floor, now the building foundation and the granite below. Feel the earth below, always supporting you.
  • Find a subject matter “expert” to help you scale whatever learning curve you face and to serve as a sounding board. She could be a personal trainer, a financial advisor, a career coach, a therapist or a spiritual advisor.

It was a rich conversation and we came away with a host of new tools to try and a true sense of community. We learned so much from each other – again demonstrating the power of the circle to allow our inner wisdom to bubble up, all the more perfect to be shared.

If you’d like to save the date, our next conversation circle is scheduled for Thursday, October 4, 2018.  We look forward to seeing you there!

We close our circles with a poem, and this time we offered one from one of our favorite poets, Tara Mohr.


Reinvention

There is always the possibility
of reinvention

sometimes born of longing
sometimes offered faintly,
like birdsong in your ear

sometimes—
born of pain.

Life is long for a reason.
So that every chapter swells
with a new chapter of us,

so there is time to change
the meaning of your name
to everyone around you,
and especially
to you.

When the name that once meant
tired girl comes to mean
she who rose again,

–then
art begins.

I met a woman
whose house burned down
and in the ashes
she found the blaze of her self.

Now it roars
still angry, sometimes uncontrolled,
always a blinding light.

If you see her on the street,
bow to her courage.
Stare back into her flickering animal eyes,
and know, she is fighting a fight.

 

Cybersecurity Step-by-step #7: Monitor Your Financial Activity

Published in: Blog, Cybersecurity Step-by-Step, Get Smart |

Your financial well-being is our highest priority, and one of our goals for 2018 is to walk you through the necessary steps to protect your online data. To make it more manageable, we are sending you one new action item every month. If you missed the previous steps, we have listed them below with a link to the detail so that you can easily catch up.

Step Seven:  Be Vigilant – Monitor Your Financial Activity

Why?  Scammers rely on the probability that you are not paying close attention. The sooner you spot a problem, the more likely you can minimize the cost and the hassle of repairing your record.

The following are our top four recommended strategies to monitor your financial activity:

  1. Open ALL your mail. Look for unexpected bills and confirmations of activity you didn’t initiate. If you aren’t receiving mail, that could be a problem too.
  1. Look at your bank and credit card statements regularly. Seems basic, but now that we get those statements online it’s easy to forget. If you frequently forget, consider going back to paper. Be sure to also look for “subscription creep”.  Free trials and discount subscriptions often convert to full price and can add up to significant costs.
  1. Use an expense-tracking app. These apps can consolidate all your spending activity so you’ll only need to look in one place to review everything. Many apps have built-in alerts to let you know if there is unusual spending activity. (Learn more)
  1. Review your credit report annually (at least). Even though you have already placed a freeze on your credit history (see Step One), you will still need to make sure that your current lenders report accurate information. You can receive a free annual copy of your credit report from each bureau by visiting annualcreditreport.com.

List of Previous Steps:

Step One: Place a freeze on your credit history at the top three credit agencies.

Step Two: Update the operating software on your computers, tablets and smartphones, and continue to update as new patches become available.

Step Three: File your tax returns as early as possible.

Step Four: Use unique passwords on every site (and try a password manager)

Step Five: Never (ever) email sensitive information and always insist on encryption

Step Six: Avoid using public WiFi networks

Please visit our blog to review these steps in detail.

Myth #4: Women Lack Confidence When it Comes to Money

Published in: Blog, Conversation Circle, Get Smart |

Over the last few years, much ink has been spilled over women and their lack of confidence. Female executives have written books with several chapters dedicated to the topic. In 2014, one of The Atlantic’s most popular cover stories popularized the term “the confidence gap” and examined the empirical research on the issue. Even beauty magazines now have subtitles like “Eight Qualities of Highly Confident Women” and “Your Guide to Killer Confidence,” framing confidence as a supposedly easy character trait to adopt while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store.

Despite being hackneyed, there is good reason for the discourse around this topic. An overwhelming amount of evidence has shown that the “confidence gap” has been a problem historically. In the world of finance, this concept has manifested itself by depicting women as timid, indecisive investors, insecure about their financial knowledge and decision making. But there are signs that the tides are changing – so much so, in fact, that we would argue that women lacking financial confidence is a myth.

One reason women are perceived as being unsure of themselves is that they often make decisions differently than men do. We live in a culture that applauds people who speak and act authoritatively, don’t hesitate or mince words, and make decisions quickly (for better or worse). While there are certainly women who embody these characteristics, there are many more who tend to think things through before they contribute to a conversation, or prefer to gather more information before making a decision. This can easily be misinterpreted as indecisiveness and insecurity when in fact, that woman is simply taking time to reach to a well-informed decision.

In fact, research has shown that when complex situations present themselves, women are more likely to evaluate the nuances in the details, while men tend to focus on fewer pieces of data.[1] As you can imagine, this often decreases the quality of the man’s decision making, and boosts the quality of the woman’s.

Making decisions about money is complex and nuanced, something women are good at. So where is the disconnect? Women simply want to know more before making an important financial decision. Merrill Lynch recently pointed out that even among men and women with similar levels of financial knowledge, women are more likely to say they don’t know enough.[2] Many of our clients have walked into our office believing they were not adept at handling their finances when, in actuality, they just needed to have their questions answered in a straightforward and transparent way.

The good news is that there are early indications that societal changes are improving women’s “confidence” around money, particularly in the younger generation, because they are gaining more access to information. Women age 25-34 are more likely than their elders to report they learned about finances from one or both parents (62%, compared to 45% of older women)[3], and over half (51%) say they are very confident in their investing skills. This is in stark contrast to their elders: only 36% of women age 35-49, 14% of women age 50-69, and 11% of women age 70-84 said the same.[4]

So, how can we ride this new wave of financial confidence?

In Our Experience:

  • Women discount their financial savviness without considering areas of their lives in which they are already smart about money – family budgeting, volunteer work that involves financial management, managing medical issues, advocating for family members and loved ones.
  • Women are adept at picking up financial concepts if they are explained without unnecessary jargon or obscure concepts.
  • If women are clear on their goals and values, making decisions can be simple and straightforward. Once our clients have defined what matters most, decisions fall into place more easily. Aligning our financial resources with our highest priorities and values can provide relief and a sense of certainty.

Our Advice to You:

  • Women generally prefer to learn in group settings which are much more supportive and collaborative. We learn from each other as we share our hard-won wisdom. Such a setting – whether the subject is personal finance or meditation – may be just the ticket.
  • We believe that self-reflection leads to self-knowledge – and is a natural precursor to building confidence. Spend some time, structured or otherwise, getting clear on what you care about most. If you’re feeling stuck, we can provide some helpful exercises.
  • When your questions are answered with spin, insist on clarity, transparency and an absence of condescension.
  • We regularly host conversation circlesfor women who are interested in straightforward and authentic discussions focusing on the non-numerical aspects of personal finance. We talk with one another about what matters, discover ways to apply our unique strengths to our finances, and share our stories, experiences, and collective wisdom about money. Everyone is welcome – let us know if you’d like to be included in our next circle!

Ready for a deeper dive? Give us a call if you have questions or would like to talk – we’re here to help.

What’s next?  Stay tuned for Myth #5:  Women are less interested in investing.

At The Humphreys Group, it’s no secret that we revere the many ways women today are breaking through gender stereotypes. Lately, we’ve been especially fascinated by stereotypes that permeate discussions about women and money. These phrases probably sound familiar: “Women aren’t interested in investing. They lack confidence about their financial decisions. When women do invest, they’re too risk averse.” By and large, these – as well as many other commonly accepted notions in finance – are all myths.

That’s why we’re writing this series of articles busting myths about women and money, and shining a light on the data that disproves them. We’re also sharing what we’ve learned from our work with clients, and offering some thoughts on what we can all do to re-direct the conversation from myth to truth.

 

[1] “Are Women Better Than Men at Multi-Tasking?,” BMC Psychology, October 2013

[2]“Women and Investing: A Behavioral Finance Perspective,” Michael Liersch, Fall 2015

[3] “Ameriprise Study Reveals More Women are Taking Command of Their Finances,” Ameriprise, June 2014

[4] “Assessing the Landscape, Female Investors and Financial Advisors,” State Street Global Advisors, 2015

Cybersecurity Step-by-step #6: Avoid Using Public WiFi Networks

Published in: Blog, Cybersecurity Step-by-Step, Get Smart |

Your financial well-being is our highest priority, and one of our goals for 2018 is to walk you through the necessary steps to protect your online data. To make it more manageable, we are sending you one new action item every month. If you missed the previous steps, we have listed them below with a link to the detail so that you can easily catch up.

Step Six: Avoid using public WiFi networks

Why?  Hackers can position themselves between you and the access point and they can capture the data you are sending out. Also, hackers are very good at imitating public WiFi connections and may trick you into logging directly into their networks (watch this video).

What if you are only browsing Pinterest or watching sports? Effective phishers can find ways to use this information. For example, a phisher might send you an email with a link for discount tickets to see your favorite team. You might be tempted to click on the link and accidentally download something harmful, like a virus or malware.

A password requirement for public WiFi is a good indicator that the information you send over the network will be encrypted using one of two security protocols: WPA or WEP (click here to learn more). Unfortunately, vulnerabilities have been discovered in these protocols. To protect yourself from these vulnerabilities, see Step #2 of Cybersecurity Step-by-step (listed below)

Fortunately, there are simple solutions:

  • When using your mobile phone in public, turn off your WiFi access. Use your cellular data connection.
  • When using your computer in public, you can turn your mobile phone into a secure personal WiFi hotspot (Watch these video tutorials: for iOS; for android)
  • Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) Learn more

List of Previous Steps:

Step One: Place a freeze on your credit history at the top three credit agencies.

Step Two: Update the operating software on your computers, tablets and smartphones, and continue to update as new patches become available.

Step Three: File your tax returns as early as possible.

Step Four: Use unique passwords on every site (and try a password manager)

Step Five: Never (ever) email sensitive information and always insist on encryption

 

Myth #3: Women Are More Risk Averse Than Men

Published in: Blog, Financial Myth Busting Series, Get Smart |

At The Humphreys Group, it’s no secret that we revere the many ways women today are breaking through gender stereotypes. Lately, we’ve been especially fascinated by stereotypes that permeate discussions about women and money. These phrases probably sound familiar: “Women aren’t interested in investing. They lack confidence about their financial decisions. When women do invest, they’re too risk averse.” By and large, these – as well as many other commonly accepted notions in finance, by the way – are all myths.

That’s why we’re going to spend the coming weeks busting myths about women and money and shining a light on the data that disproves them. We’ll also share what we’ve learned from our work with clients, and offer some thoughts on what we can all do to re-direct the conversation from myth to truth.

It probably comes as no surprise to learn that women are less likely than men to take physical risks. We participate in fewer extreme sports like sky diving and rock climbing. We engage in illicit drug use less often. And when we’re behind the wheel of a car, we’re less likely to speed, tailgate, drive drunk, and we’re more inclined to wear a seat belt. So, it’s easy to assume that we take fewer financial risks as well. The financial services industry has long labeled women as more “risk averse,” and some commentators even have the audacity to attribute this to our hormonal or biological compositions!

Consider this myth busted.  Truth is, women are not as risk averse as you may think.

In 2015, Merrill Lynch asked 5,000 women about their investing beliefs and behavior. When asked if they believe risk is worth it, the answer was a resounding yes: 85% said they agree that risk taking is beneficial, and 81% said they can adapt to changing markets and investment outcomes. The firm also found that men and women who share the same level of financial knowledge exhibit the same risk behavior.[1] Even more interesting is a 2012 meta-analysis of over 25 economic studies regarding risk tolerance differences between men and women. The researchers found that the difference between genders was negligible, and even concluded that this perception of women as cautious investors “appears to perhaps be rooted more in confirmation bias than in reality.”[2]  In other words, our expectation that women are risk averse may be skewing our perception of what is really going on.

All this would seem to imply that women have a healthy appetite for investment risk, and a lot of the time, that’s true. But unlike men, women are more mindful about what the dangers are before diving in. We take the time to evaluate whether the reward justifies the risk.

Sallie Krawcheck, former Wall Street executive and founder of Ellevest, explains this by differentiating between risk aversion and risk awareness. It’s true that women are often more aware of risk. We are more likely to be invested in an age-based allocation that diversifies across asset classes, for example, and less likely to be fully invested in equities than men.[3] Fortunately, this clearly puts us at an advantage: we’re prioritizing diversification over trendy or unsustainable investments – a successful long-term strategy. And as you know from the first myth we busted (check our blog if you missed it https://humphreysgroup.com/financial-myth-busting-series/) our skills as investors pay off in the long term!

But there’s a bigger story happening here. As our incomes increase, so does our tolerance for risk. 54% of women who earn more than $200,000 are willing to take “a significant investment risk” to earn higher returns, compared to 32% of the broader population of investors. High earning women are also more likely than lower earning women to own more volatile investments, like commodities, hedge funds and venture capital.[4] This makes sense, considering those with higher incomes have more resources – and the higher margin of error that comes with it.

Unfortunately, most women do not earn six figure incomes, and further still, most of us are undercompensated relative to our male peers. Therein lies the best explanation for our risk averse reputation: when we start off with less, we won’t allow ourselves to jeopardize what we’ve already saved – we have less risk capacity. The issue is not that women are wary of taking on risk; it’s that they don’t have as much to risk in the first place. Men, on the other hand, have reported taking on financial risk because they — quite correctly — feel they could easily make up for investment losses with their earnings.[5] This is not a luxury that most women have.

In Our Experience:

  • Education is always a good place to start, and women are already good at doing their homework and the research needed to get smart. What’s most important is to take risk that’s appropriate to your situation.
  • Be risk smart: think about your risk capacity (how much risk you are able to take on, given your resources, expertise, and plan) versus your risk tolerance (how emotionally comfortable you are with taking investment risk).
  • Diversification is your friend: you can reduce risk by diversifying across types of investments, by investing consistently over time and by maintaining a long-term investment horizon.

Our Advice to You:

  • The tradeoff between risk and reward is the holy grail of investing. Spend some time getting smart about how diversification works, how investments react differently to economic, market and geopolitical news.  No need to read The Economist cover to cover, but you may want to start with a classic, Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel.
  • Consider that risk and reward go hand in hand. Work with an advisor to get a clear sense of the level of investment risk needed to accomplish your goals.  If the risk level is too high for your risk tolerance, you may need to refine your goals or make other changes.
  • Don’t apologize if you have a low tolerance for risk. We all have different prerequisites for sleeping well at night.  Taking too much risk can backfire if you make a rash investment decision in a moment of panic or stress.

Ready for a deeper dive? Give us a call if you have questions or would like to talk – we’re here to help.

What’s next?  Stay tuned for Myth #4:  Women lack confidence about money.

 

[1] “Women and Investing: A Behavioral Finance Perspective,” Michael Liersch, Fall 2015

[2] “Are Women Really More Risk-Averse than Men?” Julie Nelson, University of Massachusetts, Boston, September 2012

[3] “Who’s the Better Investor: Men or Women?” Fidelity, May 2017

[4] “High Income Women Investors,” Spectrem Group, January 2015

[5] Shortchanged: Why Women Have Less Wealth and What Can Be Done About It, Mariko Chang, 2010

Cybersecurity Step-by-Step #5: Always Insist on Encryption

Published in: Cybersecurity Step-by-Step, Get Smart |

 

Your financial well-being is our highest priority, and in 2018 we aim to walk you through the necessary steps to protect your online data. We can imagine that although you would rather do almost anything else, you are as concerned as we are about keeping your data safe. To make it more manageable, we are sending you one new action item every month. If you missed the previous steps, we have listed them below with a link to the detail so that you can easily catch up.

Step Five:  Never (ever) email sensitive information and always insist on encryption

Why?  Phishers are experts at impersonating service providers such as mortgage brokers and tax-preparers who need to gather sensitive information. They know that when so many documents are exchanged, it can be very tempting to cut corners and attach an unencrypted document.

Whenever you must give a service provider sensitive information online, insist that they provide you with a secure encrypted method to transmit your information. If unavailable, consider sending your sensitive information by fax (they still exist!) or a reliable delivery service.

To learn more about phishing and how to protect yourself, follow this link to the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

Visit this link to view a Kahn Academy video about how encryption works.

 

List of Previous Steps:

Step One: Place a freeze on your credit history at the top three credit agencies.

Step Two: Update the operating software on your computers, tablets and smartphones, and continue to update as new patches become available.

Step Three: File your tax returns as early as possible.

Step Four: Use unique passwords on every site (and try a password manager)

What is Financial Life Planning?

Published in: Blog, Conversation Circle, Get Smart |

Most financial advisors will tell you that emotions and investing are two things best kept in isolation. Emotions cloud your judgment, they say. Emotions provoke irrational behavior and have no place among the pie charts and annualized returns on your financial plan. Best to compartmentalize your feelings and save them for your therapy appointments.  We believe that the idea you’re your emotions should remain separate from money and investing is a myth.

As advisors, we believe that expertise and empathy both have a role to play in money matters. Anyone who focuses on one at the expense of the other is presenting a false choice.  Further, we have seen that self-reflection leads to self-knowledge, which leads to self-confidence, which in turn leads to better decisions and timely implementation.  It’s not just about feeling good. That’s important, of course, and we want as much of that for ourselves and our clients as possible. But we’ve also seen that embracing our emotional sides and having those pivotal conversations leads to better financial outcomes.

Financial life planning is a holistic process that puts your interests first and focuses on increasing your sense of financial well-being and life satisfaction.  Initially, this process will help you clarify your values, priorities, circumstances and aspirations; and then guide you in defining and designing your unique version of the “rich life.”  Not only that, financial life planning will increase your understanding of the habits and attitudes that will facilitate your financial and life goals and support successful life transitions.

Because of the unpredictability of life and the complexity of financial markets, it is important to work with a financial advisor who will help you to achieve your financial and life goals.  And, it is essential to select an advisor who will take the time to truly get to know you and to understand your concerns and your dreams.

We encourage you to consider working with a financial advisor who shares this philosophy and who is willing to tackle these issues with you.  There are a range of “discovery” methods and tools that advisors use to frame the process and the discussion.  We are big fans of Money Quotient, a non-profit that offers financial advisors tools and training to help and inspire clients to look inward to maximize resources and live purposeful lives.  You can find such an advisor here – check it out!

www.moneyquotient.org/advisor-search/