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In a 2022 Financial Wellness Survey conducted by Ellevest, 62% of women indicated they’re concerned about climate change. In fact, “more women ranked it as a top financial concern above retirement planning (51%), credit card debt (46%), stock market (38%), and childcare costs (30%).”

This makes sense given what we’re starting to see across the globe with increasingly intense wildfires, flooding, and storms – but for women, the impact goes deeper than that.

The ripple effect created by these catastrophic events is more acutely felt by the world’s most vulnerable populations: women and girls.

That makes this not only a global problem, but specifically a female problem.

You might be wondering why I’m writing about climate change on a financial planning blog, and we’ll get to that. You’ll see how you can make a difference through your investments so that you don’t have to make a choice between helping the environment and saving for retirement; you can do both.

But first, let’s talk about what’s at stake.

Living in the United States it can be easy to look at the climate issue as something that basically affects our weather. Yes, many people in this country have found themselves in dangerous situations as they evacuate fires and lose homes to massive flooding - but compared to other areas around the world, we have it pretty good.

Here's why.

Women and Property

women are more likely to live in poverty than men, have less access to basic human rights like the ability to freely move and acquire land…. In fact, women are denied property rights in half of the countries around the world. They are often barred from borrowing money for fertilizer and tools, which prevents them from successfully guiding their crops to harvest. They also can have trouble accessing markets to sell their harvest. 

As soil quality worsens and water becomes more scarce, women will be less able to find the credit and financing they need to be resilient to the changing conditions. And without any possibility of buying new property, many female farmers will be stuck with ever-declining yields on their existing land.

"The majority of women lack deeds or titles to the lands that they farm, so their avenues for compensation or redress are limited when climate change adversely affects their agricultural output," Alam said. "Generally speaking, it’s not as if smallholder farmers have insurance, either, so they have to look for alternative income-generating activities, which can leave them desperate and vulnerable to exploitation." (Source)

Women and Violence

Climate change is rarely discussed in relation to violence against women. It has become a global common concern due to its role as a contributing factor in exacerbating (sexual and gender-based violence) SGBV. Though entire populations are affected by climate change, women and girls face double victimization as human beings as well as because of their gender.

During emergencies, especially conflicts and disasters, women are at high risk of SGBV because of crisis in the family and society as well as due to sudden breakdown of family and community structures arising from forced displacement. As a result, women and girls become more vulnerable and face physical, sexual, psychological harm as well as denial of resources or necessary services. (Source)

Women and Poverty

Gendered roles in much of the world also make women more susceptible to the negative impacts of climate change. Women are the primary gatherers of water, food, and fuel, and they dominate subsistence farming, caregiving, and cleaning. These duties are more prone to feel the effects of environmental degradation and rising global temperatures as they rely heavily upon natural resources. In the future, this can drive a negative feedback loop of increasing poverty. (Source)

If you’re looking at these statistics and wondering what you can do about this insurmountable problem, take a deep breath; as women have always known, we’re stronger together. Now, it’s time for us to take that togetherness to a global level.

In the next piece, we’ll talk about how investing in your own future can be a big step toward helping others. Through ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) investing you’ll be able to invest in companies that can not only help your investment accounts, they’re also helping combat this crisis through their own initiatives.

Wonder where you’re most aligned with ESG investing? Take the quiz!

You’ll receive a personal report that helps you understand where you can adjust your portfolio. CLICK HERE for the quiz!

Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)/Environmental Social Governance (ESG) Investing has certain risks based on the fact that the criteria excludes securities of certain issuers for non-financial reasons and, therefore, investors may forgo some market opportunities and the universe of investments available will be smaller.

If you’ve turned on the news any time during the last few months, it’s likely you’ve heard the dreaded word “recession.”

Investopedia defines recession as “a period of declining economic performance across an entire economy that lasts for several months.” The last major recession we experienced in the United States began in 2007 and ended in 2009 after the bursting bubble of the US housing market. 

These days, according to The Street, a possible recession could be because of a number of factors:

1. The Federal Reserve and higher interest rates

2. There was massive fiscal stimulus during the pandemic, financed by the Fed buying bonds

3. Rising input and wage costs

4. High oil prices

5. China Is decelerating sharply

But as with anything when it comes to finances, the big question is…what does a recession mean for YOU?

Here’s the Good News

If you have a solid financial plan in place, you’ve likely already “recession-proofed” your finances. However, there are a few other things you could do to better prepare:

  1. Bulk up emergency savings to cover a possible job loss (just don’t keep too much in savings – CLICK HERE for my blog post about hoarding cash).
  2. Pay down high interest debt
  3. Streamline your budget. Now is a good time to trim the fat on budgets because you are probably more clear-headed and not under pressure from a possible decline in income. Review subscription services, cable and cell phone plans, etc.
  4. Polish up your resume and consider getting additional skills. You’ll be ahead of the game if you do find yourself looking for a job.

One thing I DON’T Recommend

Try to avoid cutting down on retirement plan contributions unless absolutely necessary. Missing even a small number of contributions can have a major impact on account growth. Also, down markets can actually be good for savers (hard to believe, but true!) because of dollar cost averaging.

Remember that there are always going to be periods of economic slowdown; this is inevitable in a modern economy. But taking some action, like the tips above, might minimize the impact on you personally while you wait for the economy to begin “growing” again.

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Dollar cost averaging involves continuous investment in securities regardless of fluctuation in price levels of such securities. An investor should consider their ability to continue purchasing through fluctuating price levels . Such a plan does not assure a profit and does not protect against loss in declining markets.

Investing includes risks, including fluctuating prices and loss of principal.

With everything going on in the news these days, it can be hard to keep up. But one thing that has been on everyone’s mind is how these world issues could affect their personal finances.

So, let’s take a quick look at each one and discuss what you should consider when it comes to your money.

The War in Ukraine

As we watch the news unfold, it puts things into perspective for all of us. We’re seeing firsthand how families are struggling with basic needs and human rights issues. Our thoughts continue to be with those who are being displaced and going through this life-changing crisis.

When it comes to the financial world, uncertainty breeds market volatility, and right now the geopolitical situation is very unclear. Historically, conflicts of this nature have only a short-term impact on the stock market, but it is impossible to predict how this will play out. It is important to remember that this situation is impacting the markets, but it does not change your long-term goals. Making short-term decisions regarding long-term goals is never a winning strategy.

MY RECOMMENDATION: Stay the course. If you have questions about your accounts, contact your trusted advisor. That’s what they’re for!

Inflation

This is a doozy. Inflation is higher than it has been in nearly 40 years. (Many current investors were not even alive the last time we had high inflation!) Last year, it seemed that inflation was only due to short-term supply issues related to Covid. Now there is a spike in energy costs due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and inflation is proving persistent.

It may seem counter-intuitive to invest more money right now but keeping too much money in a savings account is particularly harmful in periods of high inflation. (CLICK HERE for my blog about real rate of return.)

MY RECOMMENDATION: Talk to your financial advisor about investments that are designed to keep up with inflation, like Treasury-Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS).

Interest Rates

The Fed has planned aggressive interest rate increases in 2022, and the first of those is scheduled to take place this month. Whether or not the geopolitical situation changes this plan remains to be seen.

It can be frustrating when something out of your control like fluctuating interest rates impacts your finances and can make planning difficult. But there are a couple of moves you can make that will help you.

MY RECOMMENDATION:

I realize that watching the news might make you feel a little out of control. Remember that it’s okay to tune out every once in a while and it’s REALLY okay to ask for help and guidance. I love hearing from my clients and working on solutions that let them sleep a little better at night.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss. There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk.

When the market is volatile it can be tempting to hide your cash under a mattress until it passes. But hang on before you decide to cash out.

A True Understanding of Inflation

Inflation is the increase in prices over time, or a decrease in purchasing power. If inflation is 3% a year, an item that cost you $1.00 today, will cost $1.03 in a year.

It might be hard to believe because the news makes it seem so dire all the time, but inflation in general isn’t a bad thing and is considered healthy for an economy. It’s when inflation is too high that it is cause for concern.

That still doesn’t mean you should hold on to a bunch of cash.

Anyone who is a client of mine or reads my blog will know that I think everyone should have an emergency fund in a savings account. However, too much cash, especially in times of high inflation can have a detrimental effect on your long-term financial health.

Cash that is parked in a savings account (please don’t tell me you have huge amounts of cash in your house!) right now is earning a half percent at best, and the purchasing power of that money is rapidly decreasing. Earning a rate of return higher than inflation is the only way to maintain the purchasing power of your money.

Here's What’s Really Happening with Your Money

What we’re talking about here is what is known as “real rate of return.” According to Investopedia, “Real rate of return is the annual percentage of profit earned on an investment, adjusted for inflation. Therefore, the real rate of return accurately indicates the actual purchasing power of a given amount of money over time.”

The math on real returns is quite simple: The return on your investment minus the rate of inflation is your real return. If your investments grew by 7% in a year and inflation was 4% that year, your real return is 3%.

It Might be Time to Tune Out

Seeing or hearing everywhere that inflation is out of control or that we are doomed to “70s level inflation” can be nerve-wracking or downright scary.

It’s important to keep in mind that news outlets want to scare you so that you’ll click or tune into their channel. But there are strategies you can implement to help you feel in more control during times of high inflation.

  1. Keep emergency cash in high interest savings accounts. You still won’t earn enough to keep ahead of inflation, but every little bit helps. Many online banks offer a higher interest rate than the bank with multiple corner branches. Credit unions are also a good place to check.
  2. Don’t have more money in emergency savings than necessary. Figuring out exactly how much to keep in an emergency fund can be tricky – and that’s something an advisor can help you with - but too much isn’t really keeping you “safer.”

Something to keep in mind as you work on planning for the future: an advisor isn’t just there to help you put money in the right place. We’re also available to answer your questions when you feel unsure about what’s happening in the market. Dealing with money can be emotional and it’s important to have a resource you can turn to when things feel uncertain.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

If you’re a younger investor looking at the current market volatility, you might be alarmed but you’re probably not panicking.

It might be a different story if you’re someone nearing retirement.

For most investors, the advice financial planners give is along the lines of “stay the course” or “keep your long-term horizon in mind.” This is all true and good advice - but what if your time horizon isn’t long, or you just want to take advantage of next-level techniques for using market swings to your advantage?

Here are three questions I’ve been answering for people over the last few months:

If I’m living off of my investments because I’m retired or just really wealthy (good for you!), do I need to review my cash position?

Having too much cash on hand can be counter-productive, especially in times of high inflation. However, if you can strategically hold enough cash to sustain you while the market is down, that can make the low return worth it.

When it comes to your investments, it’s best to try and “stay the course” and not move to cash. Remember that selling stocks while they are down guarantees that you won’t have an opportunity to recoup those losses.

What if I have a traditional (aka, pre-tax) 401(k) or IRA?

When valuations are low, it can be a good time to consider a Roth conversion of some or all of those assets. On that same note, if you are unemployed this year, a Roth conversion may make sense while you are in a lower tax bracket. This can be complicated, so be sure to check with a financial advisor.

What if I have some non-retirement assets with a tax loss?

If that’s the case, consider harvesting the loss, which could reduce your tax liability. “Tax Loss harvesting” is essentially selling off some of your holdings that have decreased in value and using that loss to offset investments that have increased in value. This can alter your asset allocation, so this is also a good time to check in with your advisor.

While these are common questions, I know that your financial situation is unique. Market volatility like we’ve experienced these last few months is a good reason why it’s important to talk to a trusted advisor. Getting your specific questions answered could make the difference between panicking and knowing you’re on the right track.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success of protects against loss. There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk.

While 2021 wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea (okay, it wasn’t ANYONE’S cup of tea), there were some good things that came out of it.

And then there were some not-so-great things that came out of it.

How was 2021 for you?

As we start a new year, it’s helpful to look back on the one we just experienced (or endured, depending on your perspective) to see what was beneficial and what we’d like to change. To help us get a handle on the previous year, Lightly Roasted Thoughts offered up these seven questions:

  1. If I had to sum up this last year in one sentence, what would that be?
  2. What results/experiences would I like to repeat next year? And what would I like to not repeat?
  3. What were my top three lessons learned?
  4. Who made me feel happy and confident and who did not?
  5. What worries me most about the future?
  6. What have I done to be kind to myself this year?
  7. In an ideal world, how would I like to describe my life at the end of this upcoming year in one sentence?

As a financial advisor, I can’t just let this go with personal questions about the year; we should also take a look at what we achieved and what we need to work on financially in the upcoming year as well.

Answering these questions, both personal and financial, will help you get some perspective on what’s changed and what needs to change. Keeping a record of these answers from year-to-year might also give you an idea of where you’ve been and how far you’ve come in your personal and financial life.

Now, come on 2022. Improve my golf game!

We’re all feeling that holiday buzz that has nothing to do with wine consumption (or maybe it does) and are counting the days until we can check out for the holiday season.

But before you do, I have three simple tasks for you to do so you can really relax and enjoy your time with friends and family…without feeling like you have something hanging over your head.

Tax loss harvesting – time to talk to your advisor!

If you have an investment account (outside of retirement accounts) that has positions that have lost money in 2021, you may be able to offset short-term capital gains in other positions. This is a strategy in which it’s a good idea to consult with your financial advisor. Make that appointment!

Use Flex Spending Account dollars and/or vacation time that won’t roll over.

Take a minute to check your employer benefits for dollars that won’t roll over. Remember that money you have deferred out of your paycheck into a Flex Spending Account (FSA) does not roll over into the new year and must be used by the end of 2021 – don’t leave that money on the table!

Also, check your company policy on vacation days or general Paid Time Off. Many have policies regarding how much can be carried into the new year. Again, your vacation time is part of your compensation, so you don’t want to leave that money back in 2021.

Check allocations in investment accounts and rebalance.

You set an asset allocation and then immediately the performance of your investments move out of whack. Different investments perform in unequal ways, e.g. your large cap fund has gained more than your emerging markets fund. Rebalancing moves those investments back to an allocation you desire. This is important in both retirement and nonretirement accounts. Another one that your advisor can help with!

These dates are arbitrary, and you can certainly create your own deadlines (the sooner you call your advisor, the better). Completing these simple tasks will help you breathe a little easier over the holiday season and get you started on the right foot for the new year.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss. There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor.

We all have moments in life where we find ourselves at a crossroads.

We know what we should do, but it’s often at odds with what feels good in the moment.

Life would be so much easier if we naturally chose the better option, wouldn’t it? If we just automatically picked up that apple without even thinking about it or found it just as satisfying to save the money as we do buying the new shoes.

But that’s not usually how life works.

Creating Better (and Easy) Financial Habits

In James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, he discusses the concept of habit stacking – something we often do every day without realizing it (and something that could be utilized to make better decisions).

Habit stacking is when you train yourself to do a series of tasks on a consistent basis. For example, when I get up in the morning, I do this series of tasks without even really thinking about it:

  1. I make coffee.
  2. I water my garden.
  3. I notice my husband has made the bed as usual.

When I’m getting ready, I do the following:

  1. I wash my face.
  2. I put lotion on.
  3. I put on my sunscreen.

These are things I don’t even think about anymore – I just do them.

Any of us can look at the habits we already “stack” and find ways to build on them to create the outcomes we’re looking for.

…the reason habit stacking works so well is that your current habits are already built into your brain. You have patterns and behaviors that have been strengthened over years. By linking your new habits to a cycle that is already built into your brain, you make it more likely that you'll stick to the new behavior.

Once you have mastered this basic structure, you can begin to create larger stacks by chaining small habits together. This allows you to take advantage of the natural momentum that comes from one behavior leading into the next. (Source)

How Can We Tie This to Your Finances?

Let’s take a look at some things you might do daily, weekly, or monthly when it comes to managing your money:

Daily: One of the examples from James Clear is to wait 24-hours before making a purchase of $100 or more. Another task you could build on is to write down your expenses from the previous day before you turn on your computer in the morning.

Weekly: If you find yourself sitting down to have a cup of coffee every Sunday afternoon, use that time to create your weekly grocery list so you can plan your week. Want to take it a step further? Prep your meals ahead of time. This could save you time and money because you’re avoiding those last-minute meal purchases.

Choose one day a week as your “financial education” day. Find a habit that you already have (like checking your phone first thing in the morning) and before you log into social media, listen to a short financial podcast or read a financial education article (like my blog!).

Monthly: When you pay your mortgage, rent, or another monthly bill, set a financial goal for the next month: “I will stick to my food budget next month” or “I will work on one skill to increase my value to employers.”

Small Changes Lead to Big Outcomes

The whole premise of Atomic Habits is the concept of making small changes that will lead you where you want to go over time. Don’t look at your finances and feel paralyzed. Think of one small thing you can implement today and see where that leads.

Want to work on it together? Let’s talk about it! CLICK HERE to contact me.

There are a lot of complicated inflation scenarios being described in the Yahoo Finances and Forbes of the world, but to the everyday investor the worry is very simple: they’re concerned that they’ll no longer be able to afford the everyday items they’ve budgeted for.

This is true for the younger investor as well as those nearing retirement. For the younger crowd, they’re seeing price increases that they haven’t experienced in their lifetime. For the older group, they’re probably having flashbacks to the runaway inflation of the 1970s.

With all the speculation throughout various news sources, I’ve decided to get out my trusty Financial Advisor Crystal Ball which will communicate to me the questions you have on your mind.

Hang on, let me straighten my turban.

Is this the result of the pandemic, or more permanent?

Everything right now seems to point to the current high inflation being due to major demand for products coming out of the pandemic, combined with supply chain bottlenecks. Most experts expect these imbalances to even out pretty quickly.

Will this be crazy inflation like in the 70s?

Probably not, as the Fed seems to be taking a more active role in managing interest rates than in the past.

Should I expect a bigger raise to compensate?

Employers don’t seem to be quite ready to increase wages, thinking instead this is a temporary phase.

Are there any investments I should avoid right now?

Anything that will lock you into a low rate for a long time, such as CDs, annuities, and long-term bond purchases. If inflation remains high, the Federal Reserve may raise interest rates. This means that the value of the investment in which you are locked will be lower in value.

Are there any opportunities that can come from inflation?

If you have not refinanced your mortgage in the last few years, this may be a good time to do so while rates are still low. For those of you who are younger investors…money is not always this cheap. My first mortgage in 1998 was 7.75% and I remember being really excited that I got in under 8%. If inflation continues to rise and isn’t just the result of the pandemic, mortgage interest rates, that is the cost of borrowing money to buy a home, may increase and could be significant.

Okay, I’ve stashed away the crystal ball (to be brought out again during Oscar season) – but I have one last thought to leave you with. Long-term investors concerned about inflation don’t need to make any changes to their portfolios right now. If you’re positioned correctly (and have worked with an advisor – hint, hint), you should be diversified enough to weather this inflationary period.

The only way to ensure that you will LOSE money to inflation is to get out of the market or hoard your savings/cash.

That’s something even my crystal ball can’t fix.

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Securities offered through LPL Financial. Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through GPS Wealth Strategies Group LLC, a registered investment advisor. GPS Wealth Strategies Group LLC and Aspen Wealth Management are separate entities from LPL Financial.

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