Category: Get Smart

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Reframing Stressful Conversations

Published in: Blog, Get Smart |

Conversations about money can be some of the most stressful ones we have in our lives, so it’s important to establish healthy patterns when it comes to discussing financial matters with a significant other. If you tend to delay or avoid challenging conversations about budgets and other money-related issues, or if your financial conversations are unsatisfying – because they occur under pressure or in a hurried “heat of the moment” – consider taking a few steps toward better outcomes. Humphreys Financial Group advisors suggest:

Be proactive.

Let your significant other know that a conversation about your finances is important to you and why. Share what you’d like to plan a time and place to talk about financial matters in a calm and straightforward way.

Start small(er).

Rest assured, money-related conversations between partners are ongoing – there will always be something to talk about if you share your lives and your financial responsibilities! As you work to establish constructive ways to talk together about finances, start by addressing less stressful topics and work toward bigger issues.

Establish conversation parameters.

Schedule begins- and end-times for your talk. Be mindful that a lengthy conversation may make your partner uncomfortable. Additionally one (or both) of you may stop listening to the other, or risk getting emotional the longer a conversation drags on.

Determine together the specific topic you’d like to address in your conversation. Moneytalk has no room for “the element of surprise.” Bringing up unexpected topics may put one (or both) of you on the defensive. Instead, you are more likely to make progress on addressing your money issues if you both know the focus of your conversation. Examples of what that might sound like: “The way we are handling our credit cards feels like it is creating tension between us and I would really like us to work together to find some common ground so we can deal with this as a team.” or “This time I have an idea for a new approach. It could be a good experience.”

Pick a neutral spot to talk. Location, location, location, as they say. Place matters, so work to ensure that where your conversation takes place won’t trigger emotions or be distracting to either of you. Some clients have even said that taking the conversation outside for a “walk and talk” helps them stay focused and calm about the topic of their discussions.

Stick to your parameters. It’s more likely you will establish successful patterns for addressing difficult financial issues if the structures you put in place continue to work for both of you.

Prepare and practice before your conversation begins.

As part of your individual preparation, write down what you want to say about the issue you’ll be discussing. Practice your part of the conversation – by yourself in front of a mirror or with a trusted friend. It helps to ensure you are clearly expressing yourself and know how you sound when you do it. That way you help move the conversation forward.

It takes courage and commitment to initiate conversations about money. But preparing ahead of time and scheduling focused discussions about your financial matters can help remove potential emotional and reactive responses from you, your partner or both of you. In the long run, you can improve how you address money issues together – a big benefit for both of you and your relationship.

 

Prepping for Conversations About Finances

Published in: Blog, Get Inspired, Get Smart |

Financial discussions with our partners and other family members – about spending habits and budgets, long-term retirement plans or other money-related concerns – are necessary but often difficult conversations. We all have been faced at one time or another with thorny issues surrounding our financial well-being, and we often put off talking about such issues until we reach a crucial point or crisis. How can you diffuse the tensions surrounding your current finances so you can talk frankly, openly and honestly as you plan for your financial future? The Humphreys Group advisors recommend stepping back to look at the big picture before you get to specific money talk:

To prepare for a conversation about finances, first examine your financial backstory by asking yourself a few questions:

What do I specifically want to achieve with this conversation? Let’s face it: you won’t be able to address all of your financial issues and concerns in a single discussion. The more focused you can be about the financial topic you’d like to discuss, and the more concrete you can be about the possible ways to resolve your issue will help you establish a foundation that enables you to address other issues on a case-by-case basis over time.

What causes me to see financial conversations as a challenge? Perhaps you assume how a finance-related conversation with your partner or other family members is going to go before it even starts. Those assumptions may cause you to begin conversations already on the defense. Resolve to handle each conversation as its own event and work to stay in the “now.” By focusing on specific goals for a specific talk you’re less likely to be influenced by your pre-conceived notions about how it will play out.

What about my finances makes me emotional? What causes me the most worry and how do my concerns affect my conversation – my tone, my words, and even my body language? If you’re aware that your stress about finances is revealed in physical and vocal ways, practice having a calm and centered approach even before you engage with another person so that you wind up being less confrontational and more communicative about your concerns.

When you begin your conversation, keep in mind a few other things:

Be curious and inquisitive of your conversation-mate(s).  Start talking by expressing your point of view and let them know you want to hear theirs before you begin tackling your shared financial issues and concerns. “I’d like to talk about” or “I need your help with something” are good ways to begin.

Acknowledge points of view that are not your own. Listen to what the other parties in your conversation have to say and don’t minimize the other party’s stance. Give them space and time to articulate their perspectives and acknowledge when something matters to them by noting “This sounds important to you.” You’ve done the homework on your own conversation style, now pay attention to their tone, word choices and body language for clues about how they’re feeling as you tackle the tough issues together.

Find places in the conversation to empathize and agree. Perhaps your key money concerns are somewhat different. Perhaps you are both focused on the same issues but are affected by them differently. Acknowledge that recognizing your shared financial concerns doesn’t mean your priorities line up about which ones to tackle first. By outlining the issues that exist and learning how each person feels about them, you can work together to prioritize which ones to address.

Breaks are allowed. If the conversation becomes too heated, agree to step away momentarily so you can center yourselves and begin again with a greater sense of calm and focus.

As with any art, conversations improve with practice. And progress often comes step-by-step. Individuals who are engaged and committed to the challenge of having difficult conversations about their finances are taking a first step to be proud of. Keep taking the steps to understand your own “financial issues backstory” and listen to what your conversation mate is saying about their money concerns so that over time you can brainstorm solutions and problem-solve together through conversations that are a little less difficult – and that ensure a mutually healthy financial future.

 

A Perspective on Family History & Financial Health

Published in: Blog, Get Smart |

Our earliest relationships with money can spark questions about how we plan for our lives and our futures. They often influence our long-term financial behaviors across a wide spectrum. For instance, based on our first few real-life experiences with budgets and financial planning, we may view money as a private and taboo subject not open to discussion. Conversely, we may feel that money is meant to be spent freely without paying much attention to a long-term “bigger picture.”

Reflecting on the kinds of conversations you currently have with yourself, your partner and your family about money can help reveal clues about how your money and financial planning patterns developed. Do you remember the first time you learned how much your parents earned? How they spent their money? Their savings patterns? How did the adults in your life talk with you about money? How have your own earning, spending and saving patterns evolved through the years?

The answers to such questions will help you discover the financial behaviors you embrace – and realize there may be some patterns you don’t wish to follow. Regardless, whatever lessons you’ve learned so far about money can be expanded upon or adjusted. For instance, if you’ve felt the stress that overspending and under-planning can cause an individual or couple, we can advise you on the steps you can take to shore up your financial health. Maybe you grew up in a household where financial discussions did not include the children; if you have children and want them to learn a sound approach toward money but are uncertain how to do this, we’ll help you find ways to open avenues of age-appropriate conversation with them that increases their financial understanding, helps them limit unforeseen spending and guides them toward establishing healthy spending patterns.

Above all remember this: your past financial experience may impact your current state but it doesn’t have to dictate your future. At The Humphreys Group, our advisors work to help you assess your financial goals and better understand the hows and whys of your money decisions. Together we explore ways you can develop the best approach for you and your family – one that makes the most sense for your unique lives and one that puts you on a healthy path toward a longer-term plan and fiscal legacy.

 

Money Conversations

Published in: Blog, Get Inspired, Get Smart |

Think of a conversation about money that could have gone better.  How do you remember that experience?  Did you go into that conversation with a purpose or intention?  What would have been your ideal outcome?  Now, see the conversation from the other person’s perspective.  Did you consider their needs or fears?  Look to the other person to help reframe the conversation and shape solutions.

Cybersecurity Step-by-Step #10: Protect your Digital Legacy

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 Ten:  Protect your Digital Legacy – Name a Digital Fiduciary in your Estate Plan

Why? Most of us have accumulated a significant amount of digital property online, including personal and financial data, email, photos, and social profiles, that will need to be managed after we die. In an effort to protect your data and your privacy, most online service providers have very strict terms of service that restrict access to your digital assets. So, when it comes to passing on your digital legacy, handing over your password list is not enough to provide a trusted confidant with the legal authority to carry out your wishes after your death.

Fortunately, a new law known as the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) has been adopted in most states (including California). This law allows you to give legal authority to a named digital fiduciary to manage your digital legacy. (Learn more about RUFADAA.)

Consult with your estate attorney to learn how you can incorporate this new development into your estate plan. You can also consider excluding specific information or online accounts that may not be appropriate.

Once you have named a digital fiduciary, some advance preparation will make the task more manageable.

Prepare a list of your online accounts and passwords. We strongly recommend using an online password manager (See Cybersecurity Step #4) because this can be time-consuming and difficult to keep current. Don’t forget to include the passcodes to your devices!

Prepare instructions. Be sure that your wishes are clear and in a safe place where they can be found. Keep in mind that your Will becomes a public document after your death, so be sure to keep your instructions and your passwords in a separate location.

 

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.

Step Eight:  Avoid Spear-Phishing Scams.

Step Nine: Open your online “my Social Security” account now.

To review the previous steps, visit our blog.

 

Want to Have More Effective Money Conversations? Consider These Four Tips

Published in: Blog, Get Inspired, Get Smart, Uncategorized |

Want to Have More Effective Money Conversations? Consider These Four Tips

By: Diane Bourdo, President – The Humphreys Group

 

In today’s digitally driven world, many aspects of our daily lives are easier than ever. We get answers to questions in minutes — sometimes even seconds — with the click of a button. Friends and family can stay up to date on important news (or something as simple as your morning latte order) by quickly scrolling through Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

 

And yet, with all of these advancements and countless channels at our fingertips, many of us still struggle to communicate with each other. We’re talking about real, personal communication — not text messages or emails sent through your smartphone.

 

Communication can be made even more difficult when the topic at hand is anxiety-inducing or uncomfortable. Take money, for example. In its 2017 Money Matters report, which surveyed 3,000 Americans ages 18–44, investing app Acorns revealed that 72% of respondents would rather talk about their weight than how much they had in savings.[1]

 

But the truth is, talking about money doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, when broached appropriately, money conversations can actually bring positive, life-changing results — an enjoyable retirement and a secure future for your children, to name a few. Whether it’s with your spouse, parents or children, here are four tips to help ensure your money conversations are healthy and productive:

  1. Think ahead. Proactivity is great, but it’s important to take some time to plan your approach to starting the conversation, especially if the topic is sensitive to your audience (for instance, discussing long-term care with an aging parent). Pause for a moment, be calm and think about the effects of what you’ll be presenting to the other party, including potential assumptions or perceptions. Being thoughtful about the preparation process will allow you to have more meaningful, productive dialogue.

      2. Don’t blindside the other party. Once you’ve thought through your approach and prepared appropriately, set a date and location for your conversation. Choose a time when you both will be more relaxed and comfortable. For instance, choosing to discuss finances with your spouse after a long day of work may fuel existing stress or exhaustion, which will likely derail your discussion. It also may be helpful to agree on the length of your conversation — some people are exhausted by long conversations, while others prefer to walk while talking about tough topics.

      3. Be honest about your intentions. When starting your money conversation, you should avoid catching the other person off-guard — but you also don’t want them to become defensive. State your intentions and explain why the conversation is important to you. Consider structuring your introduction like this:

 

“I feel like the way we’re handling our credit cards is creating tension between us. I would like for us to work together to find some agreement so we can deal with this issue as a team. I have an idea for a new approach that could help, and I’d like for us to really listen to each other.”

 

     4. Prepare and practice. If there are multiple money issues you need to discuss with your audience, don’t panic. Start small by broaching easier topics first, and then work up to bigger issues over time. It may help you to write down what you want to say and practice the conversation aloud to yourself or with a friend.

 

Put simply, communication, on any topic and in any form, can be hard — even when it’s with the people you trust and care about most. But if you prepare and approach the conversation in a respectful way, you can surmount money challenges and come out the other side with renewed perspective and confidence.

 

You can also enlist the help of experienced, trusted professionals, so you don’t have to start the process on your own. At The Humphreys Group, we’ve helped countless clients navigate tough money conversations and reach positive resolutions. Contact our team to learn more.

[1] 2017 Money Matters™ Report, Acorns, https://sqy7rm.media.zestyio.com/Acorns2017_MoneyMattersReport.pdf, accessed September 2018.

Cybersecurity Step-by-step #9: Open Your “my SOCIAL SECURITY” Account

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 Nine:  Open your online “my Social Security” account now (Yes, we mean ASAP!)

Why Now?  A cybercriminal with your social security number and address may be able to create a “my Social Security account” in your name and potentially claim your benefits before you do.

What is a “my Social Security account”?  The Social Security Administration has shifted to an online platform. An online mySSA allows you to view your social security information, as well as apply for and manage your benefits. Now that the online platform is in place, the Social Security Administration has stopped mailing estimated benefits statements to anyone currently under age 61. So, if you are under age 61 and working, you should visit this site annually to make sure that your earnings are reported correctly.

What are the steps to set up my account?

  1. Unfreeze your credit history at Equifax: In order to verify your identity, the Social Security Administration will ask you for personal information and compare it to information retained by Equifax. You will need to temporarily lift your credit freeze at Equifax to allow the Social Security Administration to make this comparison. Simply call (800) 685-1111 and follow the prompts. (Note: you will need your PIN)
  2. Open a my Social Security Account: Visit https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/ and follow the prompts.

Visit this link to learn more about why you should set up an online Social Security Account.

 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.

Step Eight:  Avoid Spear-Phishing Scams

 

 

 

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

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