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 email@example.com.
Source: pwc, Employee Financial Wellness Survey, 4.16
The holiday season is officially in full swing – Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations have been tucked into their boxes and shoved to the back of the attic until next year; meanwhile, icicle lights seem to have sprouted overnight, attaching themselves to just about everything in sight. The smell of gingerbread permeates the air. Bell ringers shout greetings, and reindeer antlers are worn by both children and adults with equal delight. If that doesn’t put you in the mood to watch White Christmas, Elf, or Home Alone, I just don’t know what will.
This time of year, though, can be not-so-merry for many individuals and their budgets. The days following Thanksgiving are particularly fraught with perils: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Soon-to-be-Hanukkah Sunday, Cyber Monday, Not-Quite-Christmas Tuesday. (Sadly, most of these are real.) Radio ads blare their three-year, interest-free payment plans to buy things you can’t afford now, like diamonds or laptops or golf clubs. Everywhere you look, there’s a sense of urgency to spend money: Buy now! Sale ends soon! One day only!
I’m here to give you permission to pause. Halt the holiday madness and take a step back. Pull out of the moment and decide: is this worth it? Is it worth the money you’ll spend or the stress you’ll bear?
I know it’s an unpopular sentiment, but this may be the one thing that keeps you sane. Repeat after me: you don’t have to do it all, buy it all, or be it all.
If you’re already stressed about money, buying into the notion you must spend more to make others happy will only worsen the situation. So try something new this season: buy less and do more things that truly feel worth it to you. You’ll enjoy the carols, snowflakes, and memories more now; as a bonus, you won’t start the new year with a fistful of receipts and a maxed-out credit card.
I’m not endorsing becoming a scrooge – simply be selective about where you invest your time, energy, and money. You’ll be surprised at how implementing this small practice gives the same permission to others. Suddenly, all our hearts are growing three sizes, and it really might just be a wonderful life after all.
Wishing you a merry, bright, and peaceful holiday season!
We work in an industry focused on finances and future planning – two areas that can cause great stress. Our team strives to minimize worry, provide resources, and help each client feel equipped to achieve success, but that can sometimes mean working in a state of hustle and bustle. As we enter November and turn our eyes toward Thanksgiving, we’d like to slow down and highlight a few of our many blessings here at Shepherd Financial.
We are thankful for one another. Knowing how much we need each person’s skills and gifts, we feel so fortunate to work together. Each team member cares deeply about our clients, each other, and producing consistent, high-quality work. In the three years that Shepherd Financial has existed, we have experienced tremendous growth, and it couldn’t happen without the whole team giving their all every single day. We continue to challenge and encourage one another as we take on new roles and responsibilities.
We are thankful for our growing pains. As our partners moved from solo practices into a true team practice, we experienced our share of struggles and setbacks. Each problem, though, has allowed us to learn more about one another, strengthen our team bond, and produce creative solutions – such as customized videos, extensive fiduciary training, and e-newsletters designed specifically for either plan sponsors, participants, or individual clients. Moving into our fourth year, we are seeing incredible fruit from our hard work together. Because we have been through these storms, our successes seem that much sweeter.
We are thankful for our role in the industry. Our work has been noticed and lauded by several elite industry magazines and organizations in the past few years, a testament to the many ways Shepherd Financial seeks to innovate, implement best practices, and lead the charge for retirement readiness and financial wellness. Our team depth has really allowed us to see particular needs and move quickly to meet them. We are also thankful for both our partners and competitors in the industry – we are seeing positive momentum in bringing awareness and resources to underserved participants.
And, of course, we are thankful for our clients. We simply would not exist without you. Because we have the opportunity to work with corporations and individuals across the nation, representing a wide variety of industries and demographics, we gain new knowledge every day to better serve each of you. Our team has adapted how we communicate with specific groups of participants, figured out how to navigate different challenges, and interacted with many amazing people. We are truly blessed to partner with you!
Here’s to a season and spirit of gratitude.
–The Shepherd Financial Team
For nearly two years, our team has conducted a monthly financial wellness webinar for participants in the retirement plans we advise. These webinars focus on different topics meant to engage participants with their overall financial wellness. Some of our most popular presentations have been our Quarterly Market Reviews, The Basics of Investing, and Dealing with Financial Stress. We have one particular webinar so relevant, though, it’s been requested multiple times and in a variety of formats: Women and Investing.
But why? What’s the big deal?
The truth is, women face a totally different financial environment than men. With an ongoing gender disparity in compensation, years worked, risk tolerance for investing, healthcare costs, and overall lifespan, it’s no wonder there is an undercurrent of fear and confusion surrounding finances. Studies have revealed women do not feel confident – or even comfortable – discussing money or investing with friends, partners, or financial professionals.
Nearly 90% of women will end up managing their finances alone at some point in their lives1, whether due to not getting married, divorcing, or having their spouse pass away. This means learning to navigate expenses and medical/long-term care decisions on one income and without a partner with whom to plan.
So the big deal is this: women are falling far behind men when it comes to saving and retiring on their terms.
Our team simply refuses to settle for this reality. We want to empower women to ask – and answer – questions like these:
How should I initiate financial conversations with my spouse?
What’s a good plan for divorced ladies?
How soon is too soon to begin estate planning?
As a single woman, how do I get started when I feel so overwhelmed?
The process is simple, though it may not be easy.
Start by making a plan. Make it a priority to understand where you are (track expenses and create a budget) and where you want to be (create short-, medium-, and long-term goals). Identify areas where you need help (perhaps learning to invest, paying off debt, or determining your retirement income needs). Once you’ve done that, educate yourself – it’s good to engage in your own financial wellness! Make sure you figure out who’s on your team. It’s unreasonable to think you can or should do everything yourself. We have accessible, knowledgeable team members to make it easy on you. Take advantage of our resources and tools available. Finally, keep making the next right decision. Monitor your portfolio, stick to your plan, and look ahead.
Don’t let fear keep you on the sidelines of your own life.
1 National Center for Women and Retirement
To our friends, family, and clients in Houston, know we are thinking of you.
Ten years ago, our country was on the cusp of a terrible recession. The housing market crashed, unemployment spiked, and American households lost trillions of dollars in net worth. Considering we are currently approaching 100 months of economic expansion, are we about to see another downturn? It’s the question market analysts keep asking.
However, retirement planning takes a backseat when faced with immediate issues like finding safe housing and bottled water. It’s completely understandable to feel frustrated, confused, and scared by the world these days. In fact, those reactions are a good sign of your humanity. But there are times when these emotions can immobilize us. We don’t know what to do, how to help, or where to turn.
Doing nothing, though, produces nothing – so how do we move forward? Start by choosing to believe small actions can create avalanches – history has proven this over and over. When you are feeling overwhelmed, consider these seemingly small actions:
Fear does its best work in the dark. So take an honest look at the problems in your life and name them. Understanding what you’re facing is important; turning a blind eye tends to increase the chaos rather than help defeat it.
Equip yourself. Gather resources, knowledge, and the people you need by your side. Be humble enough to ask questions, make connections, and invest time into understanding the roots of the issue. It’s much easier to fight a battle when you are adequately prepared.
Find your lane. You can’t solve every problem – that’s like using a sprinkler to stop a forest fire. But you can figure out where your strengths lie; investing deeply into one thing can then produce a powerful fire hose effect. And remember that each person is unique, so it’s ok your purpose and passion happen to be different than someone else’s.
And finally, persist. I know that sounds unfathomable when you’re trying to take down a mountain with a tiny chisel. But enough little chips over time matter. Your small actions will create an avalanche.
Whether you’re knee deep in water and not sure how to remove it or knee deep in debt and don’t know how to budget, remember there are people who are trained to help. Make the phone call. Accept advice. Take one small action.
A financial health check? Uh oh. Even the words can evoke feelings of dread. But here we are, midway through 2017. So…how are you doing?
I can practically see the wheels turning in your head:
That’s right. I was going to make changes. Make a budget, pay off debt, save more, dance my way into financial freedom…So what happened?!
I know how you feel. It’s very easy to get sidetracked from our well-intentioned goals. Life just seems to get in the way at times, doesn’t it? If you’ve fallen off the financial wellness wagon – or are barely hanging on by a thread – here are a few ideas to help you get back on board.
1. Take a deep breath (seriously – it’ll reduce your anxiety) and work your way through the list, one step at a time.
2. Think about the past six months. Have you experienced any important life changes? These may impact the goals you originally set. Be willing to reframe your goals based on your current circumstances or set entirely new ones, if necessary. Some examples:
· You made a job transition and need to determine what to do with your current retirement plan account balance
· You had a child and need to update your will
· Your spouse wants to be a stay-at-home parent, so your income stream is going to be lower
3. Pull out that budget sheet you crafted so carefully in January. Open up your checkbook or bank statements and start doing the math. Do you see any problem areas? Are you spending more than you earn? The second you start attuning to the issues, the more likely you are to actually deal with them.
4. Start looking at the other goals you set. How’s the debt repayment plan coming? Has it been derailed by a bad spending habit that’s popped up? Brainstorm ways you might be able to curb it.
5. Ask for help. Find a friend to be your financial accountability partner or make an appointment with a financial planner. There is power in a community of people encouraging you to take positive steps forward.
Sir Francis Bacon is often attributed with saying, “Knowledge is power.” While agreeing with the general sentiment, we have learned firsthand that knowledge is often not enough when it comes to personal finances. April is National Financial Literacy Month, and our team believes this is a critical and timely subject. Financial literacy is more than just a general knowledge of money: it is both the education and understanding of how money is made, spent, and saved, as well as acquiring the ability to manage one’s financial resources effectively.
In our industry, it is clear to see how a lack of financial literacy impacts both individuals and the companies for whom they work. It has been well-documented that financial stress increases absenteeism, decreases productivity, and negatively affects retirement and health care costs. So while the issue is personal, it seems naïve to believe employers should have no say in the matter. Considering its impact on physical health, financial wellness needs to have a natural place in the overall benefits package.
When it comes to retirement plan design, adding features like auto-enrollment and auto-escalation are important steps to help employees save (and save more). But plan sponsors should also consider how loans and withdrawals may cause plan leakage – when faced with financial difficulties, if employees can easily pull money back out of the plan, they probably will. However, simply focusing on increasing savings in the company retirement plan as the only financial goal could also be part of a two-fold problem – first, employees may have a variety of more pressing financial needs; second, improving financial well-being must begin with driving actual behavioral change. This involves communication, education, guidance, and resources that are customized for your employees.
Using plan and participant data (ages, current deferral rates, loan balances, etc.) can help dictate relevant strategies for your company. These targeted strategies can have a significant impact on long-term financial security. But keep in mind that creating financial literacy is not a one-time event. Instead, it must be developed over time – for example, learning how to set and achieve personal goals can positively change attitudes toward saving and spending, which can in turn help build a better budget that will actually be followed. It’s also important to engage with employees in ways that matter to them, perhaps by utilizing technology, gamifying financial behaviors, offering rewards, and incorporating overall wellness into the company culture at large.
There are many similarities between portfolio-building and your annual March Madness bracket-building. For example, if you’re a fan of reading the small print in financial documents, you’ve likely seen something along these lines: “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” (And you probably agree with that statement wholeheartedly if you’re prone to picking Cinderella teams like the Fort Wayne Mastodons or the Akron Zips.) But for both portfolios and bracketology, there can be a method to the madness. Consider these three steps:
Assess your risk tolerance
It’s important to remember all of your decisions regarding investing involve some degree of risk. You will need to evaluate these risks and determine if you want to take a more conservative or aggressive approach. An aggressive investor – having a high tolerance for market risk – understands the uncertain nature of markets and is willing to tolerate short-term losses in value to try and achieve better long-term results. Aggressive investors should understand the risk of loss with their approach. A conservative investor – having a lower tolerance for market risk – may favor investments that are more geared toward the stability and preservation of the original investment. Conservative investors should understand they face different kinds of risk with their approach, such as lower returns or not keeping up with inflation.
In bracket-building, understanding your risk tolerance can help you decide if it’s in your best interest to choose teams based on rank, school history, mascot name, or uniform color. The number of brackets you’re building may also affect your risk tolerance – perhaps you can afford to be very aggressive in one bracket while making more conservative selections in another.
Consider your asset allocation
In a portfolio, this is a strategy that helps you balance risk and reward depending on your chosen percentage of stocks, bonds, and cash. If you’re not sure where to start, there are many helpful investor questionnaires and online calculators to lead you through the risk tolerance and asset allocation determination process.
For your bracket, you might decide to allocate 60% of your picks on top-ranked schools, 20% on red uniforms, and 20% on teams with at least four syllables in their names. (Hey, no judgment here. It’s your allocation.)
Choose the right investments and rebalance periodically
Once you have assessed your risk tolerance and asset allocation, it’s time to select the investments to fit the strategy. Remembering not all bonds and stocks are the same, consider both the quality and investment objective of the funds you choose. Ensure the stocks satisfy your desired level of risk by looking at their category, objective, and where they invest geographically. When looking at bond funds, pay attention to maturity, yield, bond type and credit rating, and the general interest-rate environment. If you don’t feel confident in your ability to analyze these funds, ask for help. Diligent financial advisors should have carefully researched and developed models to recommend based on your particular risk tolerance and asset allocation – that’s why we’re here.
And when it comes to your bracket picks, stick to your selection strategy. While it’s thrilling to root for upsets, remember: a number 16 seed has not yet beaten a number 1 seed in the men’s tournament. Additionally, you may have to rebalance your asset allocation over time, because you certainly face the possibility of running out of four-syllable teams.
Following a thoughtful process can take some of the stress out of building your portfolio and March Madness bracket. Due to buzzer beaters, though, you’ll probably always have a little stress during the tournament. Let’s hope you picked the winner!
Asset allocation and diversification do not ensure a profit or guarantee against a loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
In the financial world, we tend to think in quarters rather than seasons, use spreadsheets more than pencil and paper, and punctuate our speech with ticker symbols instead of adjectives. But Shepherd Financial is not your average retirement consulting firm.
Yes, our goal is to create retirement-ready individuals – whether that’s through our 401(k) plan participant engagement meetings or individual wealth management process. Our team is always focused on providing amazing, intentional service. What really differentiates us, though, is our desire to prioritize people, as well as their stories, lives, and goals.
We know that while not much actually changes between December 31st and January 1st, most people view the turning of the calendar page as their chance for a fresh start. The new year lies ahead, open and unblemished. If you are ready to charge into the new year with guns blazing, we applaud you. Take the world by storm!
But for others, the new year creates anxiety. And if you are one of the many people who experienced a tumultuous 2016, you may be looking back, weary and unsettled. Perhaps unexpected medical bills have financially swamped you. Maybe you are now responsible for the care of an elderly parent. You might feel uncertain about our country’s economic future. How you feel about these experiences truly matters.
And we know it can be quite common to let those feelings create a state of paralysis. Worry and fear twist in your stomach. You stop moving, and life simply happens to you. We get it. But know this: we see you, and your story matters to us. You are not alone.
If you’re hesitantly peering over the edge of the new year, our challenge for you is this: be the leading character in your own story. This will require turning hopeful eyes toward your circumstances, taking ownership of your situation, and making active decisions about what comes next.
You are not stuck unless you do nothing – so do something!
For some, that will include swallowing your pride and asking for help. Make the phone call you’ve been avoiding and set an appointment with a financial planner/counselor/personal trainer/doctor. Yes, it’s hard, but it is necessary to move forward.
Other people will need to take a long look at spending habits and commit to doing something different with finances this year. Maybe it means cutting up your credit cards, or perhaps it involves creating a budget and carefully tracking expenses in order to get out from under a weighty mountain of debt. Financial freedom won’t happen unless you deliberately work toward it.
Let 2017 be a year of positive change in your life. And if you need us to partner with you for either the first step or the long haul, our team is only a phone call away.