Level up Your Finances: How to Prioritize Saving, Investing, & Paying Off Student Loans

Level up Your Finances: How to Prioritize Saving, Investing, & Paying Off Student Loans

Young professionals juggle ramping up their careers, paying off debt, starting retirement nest eggs, buying homes and potentially building families. There is no shortage of goals for funneling your hard-earned dollars, and we can’t forget to have some fun along the way. It’s time to figure out how to take finances to the next level by supercharging savings and intelligently managing debt, so what do we tackle first?

What is a CDFA®?

What is a CDFA®?

Anyone familiar with divorce knows how emotionally challenging it can be. On top of the emotional challenges, all the financial factors that need to be considered and evaluated add a lot of stress. After witnessing a few close friends go through this process, I decided to become a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®). With this credential and my financial planning background, I can better help alleviate some of the financial stress and uncertainty that comes with divorce.

So, what exactly is a CDFA®? It’s a professional who is trained to provide financial information and assistance to people going through a divorce by helping evaluate the following:

  • Tax implications
  • Property division
  • Short- and long-term financial impact of various settlement options for dividing marital assets
  • Settlement options for dividing pensions and qualified retirement plans
  • Settlement options for any jointly owned businesses
  • Child and spousal support payments

The CDFA® provides their client’s lawyer with data to help strengthen their case or works as the financial expert on a team in a collaborative divorce. My role as a CDFA® is to help people avoid common financial pitfalls of divorce, by offering valuable insight into the pros and cons of different settlement options.

My clients often ask why they’d need a CDFA® if they already have an attorney. It’s always beneficial to have an attorney involved in the divorce process to give legal guidance and advice, but why would you need a CDFA®? Attorneys specialize in law, not finance. While attorneys know what needs to be done from the legal perspective, they don’t necessarily have the background and training to understand tax implications and how to model the differences in the short- and long-term outcomes of various settlement options. Other experts, like CPAs, can provide some financial perspective, but CPAs tend to focus on short-term tax implications, neglecting longer-term outcomes. A CDFA® will make sure your interests are covered for both the short- and long-term.

How do you know if you need a CDFA®? There’s not a cut and dry answer to this question, but we recommend considering a CDFA® when the marital estate is over $2 million or when there are complex financial matters like a joint business or multiple properties. If you or someone you know could benefit from working with a CDFA®, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Financial Blind Spots Quiz

Financial Blind Spots Quiz

Many years ago, as a sophomore in high school, I was preparing for my first AP exam. My friends and I looked over our notes, read through old tests and took note of the topics we weren’t as confident about. But we soon realized that there were topics not found in our notes or on past tests that we might be expected to address on the real exam. Those topics were where our biggest test-day vulnerabilities were hidden. Luckily, we had a teacher to help us identify and fill the gaps in our knowledge.

This type of blind spot exists in many areas of life, with varying consequences. Your financial situation probably includes at least a few holes you’re not aware of. Many of us end up on autopilot, thinking that because we set up our homeowner’s insurance when we bought our homes, or regularly save money, that we’re on top of things. But do we have the right amount of coverage for our home? Are we saving enough to meet our long-term goals, like retirement, and our shorter-term goals, like a special vacation or a new car?

Imagine your home is underinsured and a strong storm causes significant damage. You might be responsible for a sizeable portion of the repair bill if your coverage isn’t high enough. Similarly, many people who own investment rental properties don’t realize they’re underinsured for the potential liability they’re taking on.

Choosing a health insurance plan that isn’t optimal for you and your family can also lead to larger expenses in the long run. Do you have small children who go to the doctor often? Are you a healthy young adult who rarely needs care? Are you retiring early and not yet eligible for Medicare? The right health insurance policy is crucial to getting the care you need at the right price.

Those are just a few of the blind spots you might have and failing to address them might lead to a drastic change to your future plans. Your blind spots are unique to you, and they’re called blind spots for a reason; they’re hard to see! Just like all those topics on my AP exam that I needed my teacher to help me find and address, the best way to find the blind spots in your financial life is to get professional help. Here at Merriman, we’re skilled at finding your blind spots and, with the help of expert professionals like estate planning attorneys, CPAs, and insurance specialists, helping you fix them for good.

This year, we want to help you find and fix your blind spots. Start by taking our short quiz that can help you see the gaps. Then contact us and we’ll get to work helping you shore up your financial situation.




Talking to your Parents about Health and Finances

Talking to your Parents about Health and Finances

With the arrival of our first child fast approaching, my wife and I in all of our excitement have been working through a to-do list to prepare for this lifechanging event. While we know we have many surprises ahead, taking the time to learn, ask questions and plan for what’s coming can only help us.

My focus has been planning for the next generation of our family, but this experience caused us to start asking our parents questions we hadn’t before. (more…)