What Do I Do Next?

New relationships require new strategies

 When you’re just starting a relationship, it’s easy to think that money will never come between you. But, money is one of the top three things couples fight about. So, it’s critical to start out on the right foot. But how do you do that? It might be easier than you think.

 

Things to do right away

 Identify your financial personalities

The first thing you should do is discuss your attitudes toward money. It’s worth identifying your financial personality—saver or spender—and knowing if you’re on the same page or not. Discuss what you each think is important to spend money on and what isn’t, what you’re willing to do without and what you must have now.

 Communicate honestly

It’s important for each of you to understand your existing financial responsibilities. You may have debt you’re paying off, obligations to family or from previous relationships, or any number of things that you each have to pay. Be open and honest about your commitments and try to make sure your partner is as well.

 Put your accounts in order

You may each have a number of bills that you prefer to keep separate, but it is important to have both names on things like utilities. Without that, only one of you can make changes, if they are needed.

 Chances are you will undoubtedly have some joint expenses. So, it’s important to think about how you want to set up your banking.

  • Some couples choose to completely integrate bank accounts and elect one partner to be in charge of the finances.
  • Others may opt to maintain separate checking or cash management accounts—dividing up the expenses and assigning each partner specific financial responsibilities.
  • Some couples choose to start with three accounts: yours, mine and ours. In this scenario, each of you keeps an account to pay your own obligations and you have a joint account from which you pay the bills you share.

 

 Things that can wait

Regardless of how you choose to handle day to day expenses, you need to create savings goals and budgets together and set aside time to review them regularly.

 Updating beneficiaries

When you get married, you need to review the beneficiary designations on any life insurance or retirement accounts. According to federal law, your spouse is automatically the beneficiary on your 401(k), so if, for any reason, you do not wish for your spouse to become your beneficiary, they will need to sign a waiver and have it notarized.

 Set long-term goals

When you’re a team, you probably have new priorities. Whether those goals include children and college, a new house, travel or support for the causes you care about, you need to develop a plan to help you reach these objectives. The right investment strategies will depend on how you view risk and your time frame. For example, how you might save and invest for a vacation will be quite different from how you save for your child to go to medical school.

 Stay realistic

Couples often have preexisting notions about when they need to buy a home, have children, retire and more. But things may not always happen on schedule. The key is to:

 Set and plan for your goals

  • Be realistic about timing (taking a little longer may be better than stressing yourselves too much)
  • Check your progress at regular intervals

And remember that life happens. Your priorities and financial situation can change quickly, but that’s okay. You can still work toward these or new goals using the same tools.

How Do You Take the Stress Out of Financial Decisions?

Here’s how to create focus and use the 10-10-10 rule.

 Have you ever spent hours, days, or even weeks thinking about a decision, researching the options and maybe weighing the potential outcomes? Have you spent so much time doing research and then end up not making a decision? Whether due to perfectionism (which is really anxiety under cover), fear of missing out (FOMO is real) or any number of other concerns, you are definitely not alone.

 Consider that it is easy to get overwhelmed when making decisions about money, jobs, relationships—or really anything that you deem a “big” decision. And it can be just as easy to get overwhelmed even when making a small decision. In fact, the general tendency for many of us is to overthink any decision—especially when it’s a decision that involves your finances or investments or one that costs money.

 

Focus

Here are a few tips that might help:

1.    Think about what your time is worth. How much time (money) is this decision really worth? Saving $50 on a flight, for example, isn’t worth 10 hours of research because your time is worth more than $5 per hour.

2.    Consider that there truly is no perfect decision—how much better will one flight truly be than another? Probably not much.

3.    Focus on your goals—is the flight truly your goal, or is it the trip?

4.    Just make the decision—the truth is that simply having made the decision will often allay more stress than continuing to search for the “perfect flight.”

5.    Remember that almost any decision can be undone.

The 10, 10, 10 rule

Another idea is to make decisions from the perspective of the future using the 10, 10, 10 rule—which simply has you consider how you might feel about a decision in 10 weeks, 10 months and 10 years. Consider that in 10 days you may still be wondering if you made the right decision, or may still be pinched by the financial repercussions, but what about further down the line? Looking at each time frame, ask yourself:

·         What difference will this decision have made in your life?

·         Will the money matter anymore (if that’s part of the issue)?

·         Would you even remember this decision?

·         If you don’t do it, would you wish you had?

·         If you do it, will you be wondering why you were ever stressed about it?

 Using these tips can help put any decision into context and may be the key to helping you live without regret.

Tuning Out the Noise

For investors, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the relentless stream of news about markets. Being
bombarded with data and headlines presented as impactful to your financial well-being can evoke strong
emotional responses from even the most experienced investors. Headlines from the "lost decade"1 can help
illustrate several periods that may have led market participants to question their approach.
  • May 1999: Dow Jones Industrial Average Closes Above 11,000 for the First Time
  • March 2000: Nasdaq Stock Exchange Index Reaches an All-Time High of 5,048
  • April 2000: In Less Than a Month, Nearly a Trillion Dollars of Stock Value Evaporates
  • October 2002: Nasdaq Hits a Bear-Market Low of 1,114
  • September 2005: Home Prices Post Record Gains
  • September 2008: Lehman Files for Bankruptcy, Merrill Is Sold

While these events are now a decade or more behind us, they can still serve as an important reminder for investors today. For many, feelings of elation or despair can accompany headlines like these. We should remember that markets can be volatile and recognize that, in the moment, doing nothing may feel paralyzing. Throughout these ups and downs, however, if one had hypothetically invested $10,000 in US stocks in May 1999 and stayed invested, that investment would be worth approximately $28,000 today.2

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E+R=O, a Formula for Success

Combining an enduring investment philosophy with a simple formula that helps maintain investment discipline can increase the odds of having a positive financial experience.

"The important thing about an investment philosophy
is that you have one you can stick with."

David Booth
Founder and Executive Chairman
Dimensional Fund Advisors

AN ENDURING INVESTMENT PHILOSOPHY

Investing is a long-term endeavor. Indeed, people will spend decades pursuing their financial goals. But being an investor can be complicated, challenging, frustrating, and sometimes frightening. This is exactly why, as David Booth says, it is important to have an investment philosophy you can stick with, one that can help you stay the course.

This simple idea highlights an important question: How can investors, maintain discipline through bull markets, bear markets, political strife, economic instability, or whatever crisis du jour threatens progress towards their investment goals?

Over their lifetimes, investors face many decisions, prompted by events that are both within and outside their control. Without an enduring philosophy to inform their choices, they can potentially suffer unnecessary anxiety, leading
to poor decisions and outcomes that are damaging to their long-term financial well-being.

When they don't get the results they want, many investors blame things outside their control. They might point the finger at the government, central banks, markets, or the economy. Unfortunately, the majority will not do the things that might be more beneficial—evaluating and reflecting on their own responses to events and taking responsibility for their decisions.

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