But that’s not typical of the majority of America.
No, most Americans have regret about past financial decisions, are embarrassed about their current financial situation, and worry about their financial future. You certainly wouldn’t know it to look at them. Social media perpetuates the myth that all is well, but consider these scenarios:
What you see: A couple strolling through a perfectly-filtered Italian vista.
Reality: A non-budgeted Italian vacation adding to a mountain of credit card debt.
What you see: A sweet fall montage of the family, including a blooper picture where the dog pokes his head out of a pile of leaves.
Reality: A stressed-out couple that doesn’t know how to pay for their kids’ college educations, fund their own retirements, or care for their parents in the coming years.
What you see: A series of self-affirmations suggesting the world is an oyster and positivity is the greatest force of nature.
Reality: A 24-year-old who has no ability to pay off their student loans or get off their parents’ insurance in the foreseeable future.
Reality rarely matches the highlight reel we see online. As we head toward Halloween, I’d urge you to consider taking off the mask and removing your own financial filters. Have you admitted the struggle is real? Is the cost of transparency greater than the actual cost of your financial burden? It’s difficult to get support if people aren’t aware of your real circumstances.
We are currently faced with a financial epidemic: many employees are on unstable footing due to debt challenges and a lack of emergency savings; others abruptly find themselves responsible for both their aging parents and dependent children. There’s no doubt about it – many employees are financially stressed.
These financial burdens can have negative effects at home and in the workplace, impacting health, relationships, and productivity. As an employer, this should concern you – aside from the possible adverse bearing on your company’s bottom line, it’s also discouraging to know financial stress can have the power to derail top employees.
In fact, 45% of employees say financial matters cause them the most stress in their lives. We believe it’s essential to closely and honestly examine the financial wellness programs currently in place within your company – are they adequately addressing your employees’ needs? Are they producing the behavioral changes necessary to improve employee well-being? If they’re not, consider the following:
Problem: More than a quarter of employees are using credit cards to pay for monthly necessities because they can’t afford them otherwise – and it’s an issue across all income levels.
Suggested courses of action: Host a budgeting and debt management course to help employees understand where their money is coming from, as well as where it’s going. Teach employees how to monitor their credit scores, emphasizing the power of compound interest and how it can either work for or against them.
Problem: Among employees with student loans, a large percentage indicate these are having a moderate to significant impact on their ability to meet other financial goals.
Suggested courses of action: Provide resources to educate employees about student loans and possible payment plans. Offer opportunities to learn about college savings plans to help ease future student loan burdens. Implement a student loan repayment benefit as part of your overall benefits package.
Problem: 47% of employees have less than $50,000 saved for retirement.
Suggested courses of action: Participants must understand the importance of starting early, how to take advantage of the company match, and what kind of gap they face between what’s saved and their retirement-ready futures. Make sure you’re providing sufficient education about your company’s retirement plan, how to enroll, your recordkeeper and their website, and where they can go with any kind of financial questions.
The Shepherd Financial team specializes in customized financial wellness programming, so we’d love to have a conversation about how we can improve your employees’ well-being. Connect with us today at 844.975.4015 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: pwc, Employee Financial Wellness Survey, 4.16
Valentine’s Day reminds us now is the perfect time for ‘the talk’ with that special someone in your life. And since this is a financial blog, I obviously mean the money talk. True, communication can be challenging, and the topic of money is a sore spot for many people. But the more you can speak honestly about money, the less fear and anxiety will be wrapped around it. The dialogue may look different based on your relationship status and life stage; regardless, it’s important to have the conversation now, as well as make room for future conversations.
You may benefit from making individual financial balance sheets, including all your debt and savings, before you begin talking. This way, you’ll have a better idea of your net worth. You may also compile a list of money questions or concerns you’d like to cover. It’s worthwhile to discuss your current financial situation, share values and long-term goals, and talk through spending and saving habits. Not being willing to talk about money can lead to big issues, both now and down the road. Open communication, though, gives the opportunity to create shared vision for the future, tackle problems as a team, and have accountability for your financial decisions.
Determine your own money values. This is where you’ll examine if you value saving or spending, as well as think about the various lifestyle standards you have. If you’re single and value the ability to travel, you’ll likely take that value into a relationship. Potential partners may discover conflicting values. Married couples may disagree about saving for college for their kids versus boosting their own retirement savings. It’s ok to disagree, but finding common ground is key. And keep the big picture in mind: creating safe space for ongoing dialogue about a positive financial future.
It’s also critical to come clean about your financial baggage. If you have student loan debt or a spending habit you’re having trouble kicking, hiding the issue will only compound it. (Literally – interest either hurts debtors or helps savers, but it doesn’t sit still.) Once you’ve talked about where you’ve been and where you are, look ahead. Are there any financial obstacles ahead? What are you hoping to do with your money in the future? Highlighting these can help you better see how to actually plan for the future.
Of course, not every money conversation needs to be so in-depth, but it helps to check in at least once a month to ensure you and your partner are on the same page, spot any problem areas quickly, and maintain momentum toward your goals. Your first financial talk together may be a little awkward, but with time, you’ll become fluent in a shared money language.
It’s easy to see why January is considered the start of new things – there’s a fresh calendar year and a plethora of resolutions get shouted from the rooftops. This feels like a chance to hit the reset button in many areas of life. At this point, you can see the race has a clearly-defined finish line – and it’s 12 months away. Of course, for some people, January is really right in the middle of the action. Maybe you’re gearing up for your second semester and looking at a somewhat shorter distance to the finish line.
No matter the length of your particular race, though, it’s helpful to have a good idea of what you’re getting into. As runners will tell you, there is a vast difference between sprinting 100 meters and grinding out a marathon. From race preparation and strategy to gauging your pace along the way, you will benefit from having a plan in place before your feet ever leave the starting line. At Shepherd Financial, we believe financial wellness is one important piece of whole-life wellness. So while we hope financial goals are part of your plan (and want to help you set and achieve those goals), don’t stop there. Pause and think for a moment about how financial well-being could positively impact the rest of your life. Do you want to pay off debt? Save more for retirement? Increase your charitable giving? Send your kids to college? Travel more? We can help you create a plan and work toward those goals.
It’s also important to realize not all runners are built the same. If you’re a sprinter, don’t force yourself into strapping on a hydration belt to run 26.2 miles. Set yourself up for success by running your race. You may find it useful to set smaller goals with shorter timelines. We believe each of our clients has a unique lens with which they see the world. Getting to know you, as well as your strengths and weaknesses, is part of our process – if we craft a financial plan that doesn’t fit your specific needs, it doesn’t make sense to pursue it.
Don’t forget your running buddies! When you head out to pound the pavement for a few hours, it’s nice to know you have a support system by your side. Think through what you want to accomplish, then find the teammates who will encourage you to get there. Because our focus is creating retirement-ready individuals, our team is constantly producing new tools and educational resources. We love finding customized solutions for retirement plan sponsors, participants, and individuals.
As the onslaught of end-of-school activities, exams, and graduation parties begins to fade, parents may heave a sigh of relief. Summer at last! The relief is short-lived, however, if you gaze slightly down the road. Whether your child is five or fifteen, college may very well be in their future. Have you begun thinking about how to pay for those expenses?
There’s simply no better time to begin planning than today. From harnessing the power of compound interest to hopefully avoiding drawing from your own retirement savings, there are a number of benefits to starting early.
One of the most flexible and affordable resources available to help fund a child’s future education is a 529 savings account. You can utilize tax-advantaged investing (earnings grow tax-deferred and are free from federal income tax when used for qualified higher education expenses), low fees and expenses, professional investment management, and potential state tax deductions or credits.* Here in Indiana, contributions to a CollegeChoice 529 account are eligible for a state income tax credit of 20%, up to a $1,000 credit per year.
In most plans, your choice of school is not affected by the state in which your 529 savings plan was established. Additionally, the funds in the 529 plan can pay for any eligible 2- or 4-year college, graduate school (including law and medical), or vocational/technical school. Tuition is not the only expense covered by 529 funds – other qualified expenses include textbooks, computers, and certain room and board costs. Even if your child is already in high school or uncertain if they want to go to college, you may still benefit from opening a 529 account. Aside from tax-deferred earnings, any unused assets may be rolled to another eligible family member’s account. Many 529 plans feature gifting programs that give family and friends a unique code to contribute to the account.
There are other funding options for higher education, including Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, federal and state grants, scholarships, and a variety of loans. If you have questions, our team at Shepherd Financial is always ready to help clear confusion and create solutions for your family.
Participation in a 529 College Savings Plan (529 Plan) does not guarantee that contributions and investment return on contributions, if any, will be adequate to cover future tuition and other higher education expenses or that a beneficiary will be admitted to or permitted to continue to attend an institution of higher education. Contributors to the program assume all investment risk, including potential loss of principal and liability for penalties such as those levied for non-educational withdrawals. Depending upon the laws of the home state of the customer or designated beneficiary, favorable state tax treatment or other benefits offered by such home state for investing in 529 Plans may be available only if the customer invests in the home state’s 529 Plan. Consult with your financial, tax, or other adviser to learn more about how state-based benefits (including any limitations) would apply to your specific circumstances. You may also wish to contact your home state or any other 529 Plan to learn more about the features, benefits, and limitations or that state’s 529 Plan. For more complete information, including a description of fees, expenses, and risks, see the offering statement or program description.
*To find out if your state offers tax deductions or credits for contributions, visit savingforcollege.com.