Employee Spotlight | Rodney Gonzales

Employee Spotlight | Rodney Gonzales

Cheryl: What is your “Merriman Story”? 

Rodney: My first exposure to Merriman was back in 2005, when the firm was located on Lake Union in the AGC building. I worked for a company called Black Tusk, and we serviced the computers and software that Merriman used. When that company dissolved, I heard about an opening at Merriman, and I’ve been here ever since. That was 8 years ago.

I enjoy working with Merriman as the people are open and fun to work with, and it’s not a daily grind to come into work each day. Plus, we have a pancake breakfast once a month!


Cheryl: Do you have any other roles at Merriman besides being our IT expert?

Rodney: I work closely with Compliance, making sure we are following all the rules and guidelines for our industry. In addition, I am one of three Floor Wardens for our office, which means I am making sure everyone is off the floor in case of an emergency.

Lastly, I am on the Disaster Recovery Team, which is probably the most important. This team is charged with assuring business continuity during a work stoppage event, like an earthquake, fire or snowmageddon. In addition to making sure our employees are safe during an event, we are also responsible for making sure our company continues to be here for our clients and conduct our daily business. Our Disaster Recovery Team makes sure that we’ve accounted for every reasonable scenario that could affect our ability to do business, and we’ve developed plans for keeping our employees safe, productive and to be available for our clients.


Cheryl: Tell us about your family.

Rodney: I have three very busy and active kids. My oldest is Griffen. He is 18 and heading off to college in the fall. It will be a big adjustment for all of us in just a couple of months. As of this interview, he hasn’t made a final decision on his school, but it looks like he will be headed somewhere with a few more days of sunshine per year than Seattle.

My second born is Spencer, who is 16, and will head into his Junior year of High School. He is very involved in theater, which keeps him busy.

My youngest is my daughter, Finley.  She is 12 and will be headed into 6th grade in the fall. She is a very avid basketball player and has won several awards for her writing.


Cheryl: How do you like to spend a typical weekend?

Rodney: When I’m not busy driving the kids around and attending their functions, I enjoy being active in my time away from work. Hiking in the North Cascades is a highlight. I also enjoy spending time with buddies from high school as well as friends from my Microsoft days. Working in my yard and doing some gardening round out the list.


Cheryl: Do you have any pets?

Rodney: Yes, along with 3 kids, we have a bit of a zoo at our house.  We have ten fish and three dachshunds, Ripley, Hadley and Bowie. They are spoiled rotten and spend most of their time sleeping.


Cheryl: What’s a “fun” fact about you?

Rodney: I am a prankster.  (Cheryl: I can attest to this myself! I returned from a two-week vacation a few years ago and my office was filled with packages, boxes, and boxes of stuff. It took me a while to dig out and find the legitimate packages that were for Christmas presents.)


Cheryl: What else do you like to do for fun?

Rodney: I love live sports as well as concerts, and I have tickets to see Elton John this summer. I also like to attend movie premiers on opening night, especially Sci-Fi films.

Umbrella insurance

When you hear the term “umbrella insurance,” your first thought might be, “What do umbrellas have to do with insurance? Is this just another product the insurance industry is trying to sell me?” Actually, umbrella insurance has nothing to do with conventional umbrellas.

Umbrella insurance is “extra insurance,” like an umbrella is extra protection against the rain, even though you have a raincoat on. Think of your regular car and homeowners insurance as the raincoat, and the umbrella insurance as the “umbrella” you carry for torrential downpours. (more…)

I’m finally making some money…now what?

I’m finally making some money…now what?

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with a client’s daughter. She’s in her twenties, just finished up her nursing degree six months ago and is working the night shift at a local hospital. She is living with a couple of roommates and is finally in a position to save some money after being a very broke college student. She now faces the question posed by many young people who are starting their first “real” jobs. (more…)

Give your valentine the most thoughtful gift ever

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Instead of giving your sweetie another trinket they will forget about within a week, why not give them the most thoughtful and caring gift you can give your spouse: A conversation about your finances. I realize this is not the most romantic gift, your spouse will thank you some day.

If you are like most married couples, you have divided up the household chores. This makes sense; it’s both efficient and keeps the peace. Unfortunately this often means that one member of the relationship takes over the banking, investment and retirement plan duties and the other pays little to no attention to that part of the household duties, as they have plenty on their plate as well. This may work out just fine for you as a couple, but what happens when one of you is not around anymore or incapacitated? As we all know, this can happen overnight with no warning, no matter what your ages.

I have worked with several clients who have lost their spouses to heart attacks, strokes and even accidents in the blink of an eye. The surviving spouse often times has no idea where all the investment and bank accounts are held, what the online passwords are or even how to log on to their home computer accounts.

They are in the midst of grieving and may have no idea how to free up cash for a funeral, where the copies of the wills are and who the current beneficiaries are on their retirement accounts.

Unfortunately this is not just limited to losing a spouse or partner. My brother and I went through this process following my father’s death. We had no idea if he had a will and if so, where it was kept. We found odd-looking keys at his home and wondered if they were for a safety deposit box or some other lock (we never did find out). It was a very challenging process both mentally and physically to grieve and try to sort out an estate with little to no information to go on. (To read more on this, please see my new eBook: The Transparent Legacy)

So this Valentine’s Day (or at least this month), be extra caring and give your loved one the gift of peace of mind and knowledge about your wishes, your finances and your passwords. But just to be sure you aren’t spending the month sleeping in the garage; you might want to also pick up those chocolates and that card.

Are you saving enough in your 401(k) to retire comfortably?

I am asked this question often, which is good because if someone is not saving enough we can make adjustments and get them on the right track. The people I worry about are the ones who don’t ask this question, either of me or of themselves. Maybe they are afraid of what the answer might be or they figure their employer or the custodian of the plan is looking out for them. Well, typically they aren’t.

In 2006, the Pension Protection Act went in to place. This was a nice step towards increased retirement savings, even for the most complacent of employees. This Act allows employers to automatically enroll their employees in the company 401(k) plan. Everyone has the ability to opt out, but they have to request it. Due to human nature, we tend to follow the path of least resistance, so the results were a huge increase in 401(k) plan participation. According to a recent study done by Aon Hewitt Associates, the participation rate in company 401(k) plans is now at 85% compared with 67% for companies who do not have an automatic enrollment program.

So if you are automatically enrolled in to your company’s 401(k) plan, will you have enough money to retire? The answer is: Not likely. You will need to dig a bit deeper in to your personal situation.

The Pension Protection Act I mentioned also allows companies to set an initial default contribution amount. So a company could automatically enroll an employee in their 401(k) plan, designating for example, 3% of that person’s salary for deposit in to the 401(k) plan. This has turned out to be good and bad. The good news is that the complacent employee is participating in the 401(k) plan and automatically contributing 3% of their salary, unless they make the effort to opt out. The bad news is that 3% savings per year of your salary is not likely going to get you through retirement, unless you are expecting to really reduce your standard of living.

Let’s assume our complacent employee is named Larry. Larry makes $50,000 a year and is 35 years old. He plans to retire at age 65. If Larry adds 3% per year to his 401(k) plan (because he just can’t be bothered to opt out or add more), he will have added $45,000 over 30 years (this is before any investment gain).

If Larry made no investment selections for his 401(k) plan (which we know he probably wouldn’t, as he is Lazy Larry), then he would have automatically been invested in the money market. This would amount to about $45,000 in today’s dollars of spending money when he turns 65. Even with some Social Security, that isn’t going to last Larry long. (more…)