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Many people in your life – from your fourth-grade teacher, to your parents, to your employer – have likely touted the benefits of setting goals for your future. You may have written down you would go to medical school and be a doctor, or get married and have children or buy your first home by 25. We create life plans and vision boards that project where we would like to be at some point in our future. And then often, they collect dust. They get pushed to the bottom of a stack of junk mail on your counter and you lose motivation.

As wealth advisors, we start with your personal goals. During our discovery meetings with clients, we spend time learning what’s important to them around money. Helping clients live fully requires understanding the values behind the goals, and without that, the numbers can feel meaningless.

Whenever my husband, Greg, and I meet with our advisor, we start by restating what we want to do: Short-term goals like taking a family vacation without incurring debt, medium-term goals like sending our kids to college, and long-term goals like that elusive early retirement. These things compete for our energy, and more importantly, our dollars. You see, regardless of how much money we have or make, the number of dollars we have is finite. Our goals, followed by the values we hold dear, dictate where those dollars go, and in what order.

I know you’re probably thinking, “Aimee, how does this help me? I know I don’t have infinite dollars.” My answer: Prioritization.

As an advisor, I know that a proper cash reserve, debt reduction and risk management plan are necessary for financial success. Beyond that, goal prioritization gets more personal. Greg and I hold family time, personal accountability, education and financial freedom among our top values. These dictate our savings plan. We plan for family vacations because it’s important for us to make memories and for our kids to spend time with our far-flung relatives. We balance some college savings with our retirement goals because we want them to take responsibility for their education, but want to provide what our parents did for us. My parents sacrificed to help me with an education at a private college, but I also paid with scholarships, loans and part time work.

So how do you take this information and apply it to your specific needs?

  1. Clarify your values. What are the things that encourage you to work towards a goal? Family? Education? Adventure? Philanthropy? Something else?
  2. Get clear on your goals. Write them down. Make sure they’re specific, measurable and have a time frame.
  3. Work with a financial professional. They can help determine if your goals are reasonable and put an action plan in place.
  4. Lastly, work with an accountability partner. Stay on track with the help of a spouse, significant other, professional, etc.
  5. Readdress your values and goals. Do this at regular intervals, or when things change.

As a wealth advisor, I follow this process with my clients, and Greg and I have been using it with our advisor for years. What I’ve found is that combining our values with prioritized goals has allowed us to achieve each one along the way and feel confident in our decision making around money. Let us know if we can help you the same way!

Fall Items to Check Off Your List

With fall fast approaching, it’s time to take care of a few things before year end that can also set you up for the start of next year.

    • Retirement contributions and withdrawals – Just as it’s important to make the necessary contributions to your retirement plan based on your financial plan, you must also take your required minimum distribution (RMD) by December 31 to avoid any penalties if above age 70 ½ or own an inherited IRA. The Merriman Client Services team is hard at work making sure these are all completed for clients. Contributions: The deadline for 2018 Roth IRA and Traditional IRA contributions is April 15, 2019.

Lessons on Living Fully: Anthony Bourdain

Earlier this summer, Anthony Bourdain passed away. His passing was marked by a remarkable outpouring of grief, not just from people who knew him, but from his fans as well. This grief felt more widespread than when we’ve lost other public figures. Perhaps his cause of death was part of this, but I have a feeling it wasn’t just Bourdain’s death itself, but something more that made this loss so deep. Bourdain was an example to many of us of what it means to live a full life. He was an inspiration or, perhaps, an aspiration, to all kinds of people across the world. read more…

Merriman’s Take | The Role of Bonds

Stocks and bonds are the basic building blocks of our portfolio. Think of stocks as the offense and bonds as the defense. Bonds are basically loans to a government entity or company that are paid back over time. Depending on how creditworthy the borrower is and how long the borrower will take to repay the loan, bonds can be relatively safe investments, or carry more risk. The two big factors that help investors classify bonds are referred to as quality and maturity. read more…

Using Investment Losses to Reduce Your Tax Bill

Tax-loss harvesting is a strategy used to produce tax savings where an investment that has declined in value is sold at a loss, and a similar investment is purchased simultaneously to maintain the portfolio’s investment mix – risk and expected return. To use the loss for tax purposes, i.e., avoid a wash sale, there is a waiting period of at least 30 days before the original investment can be repurchased. Since buys and sells in retirement accounts are not taxable, tax-loss harvesting is implemented in non-retirement accounts.

The losses realized through tax-loss harvesting can be used to reduce an investor’s taxes in the following scenarios: read more…

How Your Health Leads to Your Wealth

I started playing sports as soon as I could walk. The companionship, competitiveness and fun all lit a fire in me. That fire sports gave me has now turned into a passion for truly understanding exercise, health, and the relationship between them. I’ve been a lifelong student of learning how working out and eating right can affect performance, motivation and productivity. Not just in sports, but in my life in general. Another blessing was the fact that I had parents who attended every single game I played in. I got to witness firsthand the joy that putting family first can bring. However, I also witnessed how difficult it is to balance family, careers, goals and money without proper guidance. This is what led me to becoming a financial advisor – to help people achieve that balance and enable them to focus on what’s important to them, like family. read more…

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