How to Benefit From Financial Routines

This blog is courtesy of Russ Thornton of Wealthcare for Women.

Steve Jobs. Mark Zuckerberg. Albert Einstein.

They each wear (or wore) essentially the same outfit every single day.

Before his death, Steve Jobs was best remembered in his signature black mock turtleneck, jeans, and sneakers.

The founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, typically wears a gray t-shirt with a black hoody and jeans.

And Einstein reportedly purchased several variations of the same gray suit so he wouldn’t have to waste time deciding what to wear each morning.

And there are others.

Johnny Cash is often remembered as the “man in black” while the author Tom Wolfe has been wearing his white suits since the early 60s.

This article credits these same-outfit-wearing folks as having simplified their lives by helping to reduce their decision fatigue.

While I don’t wear the same thing every day (I’m not sure my wife Elizabeth would go for that), I think there’s something to this idea of reducing or eliminating the choices we’re all faced with every day.

I’ve written before about the value of constraints in financial planning, but that article was primarily about applying constraints to your investment decisions.

But there are other areas where I believe you can benefit financially from routines that reduce your responsibility to make decisions.

“Automating your finances” is a great place to begin.

As many of my clients will attest, I’m a big fan of automating things as much as possible when it comes to your finances. Here are some guidelines on how you might go about automating your own finances courtesy of Ramit Sethi.

But automation can extend beyond how you divvy up your paycheck to savings, bill payment, etc.

What if you’re nearing retirement and are unsure of how best to transition from accumulating wealth through savings to utilizing your wealth through prudent spending? One way is to simply create a “retirement paycheck.”

Through proper planning and a disciplined portfolio management process, you can have supplemental income deposited into your checking account on the 1st and 15th of every month, or whatever interval works best for you.

Or if you want to begin paying down your mortgage ahead of schedule, simply setup and increase your automatic monthly payment with some of the extra applied directly toward principal.

Sure, automated routines can help make your life easier and help you avoid missed bills, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Researchers estimate that an average adult makes 35,000 daily choices of varying degrees of significance.

No amount of financial routine building is going to put a meaningful dent in that figure, but I think it’s as much about quality as it is quantity.

Let’s say you get your latest paycheck deposited into your checking account.

Do you make the minimum credit card payment? Do you save some into your IRA? Do you just let it sit in your checking account earning 00.001% interest or whatever measly interest rate your bank checking account pays you?

And even if you’re disciplined and have a financial plan in place, some decisions can hit you at the worst possible time. Like when you’ve had a rough day (or week or month) at work and just want to go out and blow off some steam.

Or when you’re dealing with an unexpected auto or home expense.

Or when your high schooler neglected to mention the latest of what feels like a never ending stream of fees and expenses that need to be paid. And she’s in public school!

As you might imagine, even the best of intentions can easily be waylaid by circumstances that are often outside your locus of control.

Even when you know the best advice is “don’t just do something, stand there,” it’s much easier said than done when you’re faced with 35,000 choices a day.

To combat this situation, I encourage you to build routines and put things on auto-pilot as much as you can.

Whether that’s your wardrobe, your finances or something else, having some of these areas already addressed will hopefully free up some precious time for you to spend on more important things in your life.


©2017 All Rights Reserved |This information is deemed to be accurate. Reader / User is required to perform their own due diligence with the appropriate professionals. DIVORCE 911 is not a law firm, financial institution or advisor, registered mental health resource, does not practice law, and does not offer legal, financial, or therapeutic advice.

Discovering Your Values

This blog is courtesy of Russ Thornton of Wealthcare for Women.

Your values – the ideas and concepts that are most important to you – are tightly woven into the fabric of who you are. But discovering your values can prove to be a challenge.

In financial planning, your values are important, because even if you achieve success in financial terms, it will feel hollow if you’ve compromised your values along the way.

Headlines about current events are constantly changing. In addition to changing headlines, we have economic indicators and information, investment markets, political environments and legislation, just to name a few.

But your values are typically constant in your life.

When I first embarked on the financial planning process with a woman or couple, the first discovery question I always ask is “why is money important to you?”

Most people confess they’ve never been asked this question before, so they’re often a bit puzzled as they think about it.

This isn’t a leading question. I’m not looking for a specific answer. And there is no right or wrong answer. But I believe that your values are perhaps the most important ingredient in the development of your financial plan that it’s where I always begin.

Most people start with expected answers. Things like “to provide for myself and my family” or “to keep a roof over my head.”

My response would be something along the lines of, “why is it important to provide for yourself and your family?” Or “why is it important to keep a roof over your head?”

My goal here is to get people to dig below the surface and think more deeply about why money is important to them.

I’ve had this conversation with some folks last 5-10 minutes. With others, we’ve spent an hour digging into and discovering their values.

Many people often land on concepts like freedom, independence, choice or flexibility.

But wait, there’s more.

After we thoroughly explore the why is money important to you question, I then jump into the “3 George Kinder Life Planning questions.”

As I’ve written about these questions before, they’re designed to help you continue to think about your values and your life in the context of not simply attempting to accumulate more and more money but instead defining what you want to use money for in your life.

This is just another way of exploring and discovering your values.

Much of financial planning is quantitative and number-based. And it’s important to have the numbers all buttoned up.

But don’t discount the importance of the qualitative aspects of your life as it relates to your financial plan and ongoing planning decisions.

Not only do I believe in the importance of your values in building your financial plan, I also find it a fascinating topic of discussion and an often untapped opportunity to help you achieve a better understanding of yourself and where you’re trying to go.

So I’m excited to introduce another recently acquired tool to help with discovering your values.

It’s a deck of cards from a company called think2perform.

And their “values card deck” is something I’m eager to introduce to my discovery process.

While I think there is certainly room to experiment with a tool like this, here’s how it’s designed to be used.

If I’m sitting down with you in a discovery meeting, I would hand you the deck of cards and ask you to sort them into two piles. One pile contains values that fit you well and the other pile are values that don’t fit you well.

There are 50 cards and each card has a value on it. Here are just a few of the cards:

  • adventure
  • community
  • creativity
  • education
  • excitement
  • fame
  • family
  • freedom
  • helping others
  • independence
  • meaningful work
  • money
  • play
  • privacy
  • security
  • and so on

After you’ve gone through all the cards and created a pile with the values that best fit you, you go through the pile again and select the 15 values cards that are ideally important to you.

Next, reduce the stack to your 10 most important values cards.

And finally, reduce the stack to the 5 values cards that ideally are most important and best reflect who you are at your core.

Does this mean you only have 5 values?

Of course not. But we’re trying to prioritize your most important or ideal values among many.

Then, as you’re faced with current and future financial decisions, we can use your 5 most important values as a litmus test to make sure your decisions are in alignment with who you are and the life you want to lead.

They become a critical part of your financial plan and a good check point when you’re faced with a decision or considering a change.

For some of you, this exercise probably sounds a little like new age airy-fairy stuff. That’s OK.

But if like me, you’re interested in discovering your values and using them as a guide in your financial decision making, you may find this new tool helpful.



©2016 All Rights Reserved |This information is deemed to be accurate. Reader / User is required to perform their own due diligence with the appropriate professionals. DIVORCE 911 is not a law firm, financial institution or advisor, registered mental health resource, does not practice law, and does not offer legal, financial, or therapeutic advice.

How Resilient is Your Financial Plan?

This blog is courtesy of Russ Thornton of Wealthcare for Women.


The Dickens classic A Tale of Two Cities begins, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . . ”

Though originally written in 1859, Dickens could just as easily have been talking about current times.

I don’t have to highlight some of the present day “worst of times” we’ve experienced in recent days, weeks and months.

But I believe it’s also important not to lose sight of the “best of times” that we not only enjoy but often take for granted.

Since I don’t own a crystal ball, nor do I work at a carnival, I’m not in the prediction business in any shape or form. But the market and overall economy has been on a generally positive trend as of late.

That might continue. It might not.

But as the market (and your investments) goes up in value, it’s easier and easier to forget how quickly the market (and your investments) can go down in value.

I’m reminded of this great Warren Buffett quote,

The line separating investment and speculation, which is never bright and clear, becomes blurred still further when most market participants have recently enjoyed triumphs. Nothing sedates rationality like large doses of effortless money. After a heady experience of that kind, normally sensible people drift into behavior akin to that of Cinderella at the ball. They know that overstaying the festivities – that is, continuing to speculate in companies that have gigantic valuations relative to the cash they are likely to generate in the future – will eventually bring on pumpkins and mice. But they nevertheless hate to miss a single minute of what is one helluva party. Therefore, the giddy participants all plan to leave just seconds before midnight. There’s a problem, though: They are dancing in a room in which the clocks have no hands.

But this is about much more than your investments relative to the market.

It’s about your financial plan, and your life.

What happens to your financial plan, not if, but when, the market goes down by 10%, 20% or more in the future?

Is your financial plan resilient enough to withstand this almost certain future scenario?

How resilient is your financial plan?

For those without a financial plan that ties their financial resources to their lifestyle, it’s tempting to make a decision that feels safe but can be very costly in the context of the rest of your life. These are people who will “get out of the market” until things calm down.

I recently spoke to a woman who got out of the market after it had gone down in 2008 and is still waiting for things to settle down before she reinvests.

The better approach, I think, is to have a balanced portfolio that works hand-in-hand with your personal financial plan.

You don’t need – nor do you want – a portfolio that tries to beat the market and in doing so just beats you up instead.

No, you want a portfolio that will allow you to stay invested through good markets and bad. You’ll likely miss some of the upside, but more importantly, you’re likely not to experience all of the downside.

This is particularly timely as I’ve been having more and more conversations with folks about why we have as much fixed income (bonds) in their portfolio as we do.

“Shouldn’t we move more to stocks since stocks are going up right now?” they say.

If we were simply chasing returns and focused solely on their money, then perhaps that is the right strategy. I’m not sure, because I’m not in that business.

Instead, I’m trying to help people get the highest return on life with the money they have or expect to have (through savings) in the future.

In this context, I want to take as little risk as possible while still supporting a sustainable lifetime financial plan. And when pressed to really explore why they’re coming to me for help, that’s what my clients tell me too.

But it’s easy to forget this when the the market’s going up and you feel like you’re missing out.

Unfortunately, despite some of the slick advertising and marketing by Wall Street, you can’t have it both ways.

You can’t consistently time when to get in and when to get out of the market. Remember the Buffett quote above about the “clocks have no hands”? It’s true.

And if you can’t time when to get in and when to get out, but you insist on chasing returns as they’re going higher and higher, it increases your chances of capturing more and more of the downside when (not if) markets eventually go lower. Perhaps a lot lower.

But again, let me remind you that this isn’t simply about your portfolio and the value of your brokerage account, IRA or 401k.

It’s about your life as reflected in your financial plan.

It’s much easier to think about retirement planning, funding your child’s or grandchild’s education, making charitable gifts, traveling like you’ve always wanted or whatever is important to you in a “best of times” environment.

But what about facing some of these same decisions when the market is falling?

What adjustments and trade-offs are you willing to make to keep your plan on track and still pursue your goals and aspirations?

Just like you go through the lifeboat drill when your cruise ship is still safe in port, you need to think about and quantify what you’re willing to do (or not do) before your financial plan comes into contact with your life and all the dynamics and changes it ultimately brings.

So whether you consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist. Whether you think of today as the “best of times” or the “worst of times.” Whether you have a portfolio that is based on a personal financial plan or not.

Just consider the resiliency of your financial plan and how well it (and you) can withstand the inevitable challenges ahead. Even if those challenges are hard to imagine today.

If this is something you’d like to discuss or you’d like to stress test how resilient your financial plan is, please get in touch. It’s important and something I’d love to help you with.



©2017 All Rights Reserved |This information is deemed to be accurate. Reader / User is required to perform their own due diligence with the appropriate professionals. DIVORCE 911 is not a law firm, financial institution or advisor, registered mental health resource, does not practice law, and does not offer legal, financial, or therapeutic advice.

Everybody is a Virgin


Everybody is a virgin when going into their (hopefully first…) divorce. It’s true. In the state of Georgia, there are 80,000 divorces each year.  Over 2/3 of those are first time marriages. So that’s a lot of virgins going through the divorce process.

What we know about virgins:

  • They don’t know what they’re doing
  • They do it badly
  • They have a really unsatisfying experience

The only way to get at that problem is to get experience. How you get experience in the divorce process is through education. This is just one of the reasons why DIVORCE 911 is so effective. The biggest key is getting informed. You have to take the time so that you don’t make those rookie mistakes. The stress will go down when the uncertainty goes down. This of course takes time. Taking in new information in a stressful situation is difficult. Taking a giant book and trying to decipher it is really tough to do.  Taking a class where you’re talking to people and it’s informal, like DIVORCE 911, that’s the way to go. It comes down to: “you don’t know what you don’t know” and we are ready to correct that-

—-Words of wisdom from Jennifer Keaton of 2 Step Divorces. We also have a video covering this topic.


This information is deemed to be accurate. Reader / User is required t perform their own due diligence with the appropriate professionals. DIVORCE 911 is not a law firm, financial institution or advisor, registered mental health resource, does not practice law, and does not offer legal, financial, or therapeutic advice.