10 Questions Sales Executives and Top Performers Should Ask Themselves When It Comes To Their Finances

As a former sales executive/top performer, I understand how difficult it can be to manage both your sales goals and personal finances. It’s a daunting task to be fiscally responsible when you are in the thick of closing deals, prospecting, managing cross-functional teams, traveling, fine-tuning your sales skills, and corporate meetings. 

When I was in sales myself, I seldomly thought about my financial plan. I was so exhausted from the sales cycle, that I didn’t have the bandwidth to learn or even think about investments, deferred compensation, tax planning, cash-flow management, college funding, etc. I figured I’d keep making a lot of cash and as long as I didn’t overspend, I would be alright. I’m not sure how long this (non)plan would have lasted, but luckily, I was soon introduced to the idea of financial planning and hiring a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®). 

Looking back, it wasn’t a lack of time, but my ego that didn’t allow me to ask for help in this area. I was closing multi-million dollar deals, was at the top of my game and certainly didn’t feel the need to hire anyone. I read books and was relatively informed when it came to finance, but I was struggling. I think many sales people struggle with delegation of any sort, because they are so used to controlling the sales cycle, and with their paycheck on the line it’s understandable.

One of my past employers, LearnVest, provided their employees with financial plans by a fiduciary fee-only financial advisor, which forced me to sit down with a CFP® and, well, get my shit together. It wasn’t until I met with my financial planner that I realized there were some tough questions I needed to ask myself in order to get started. This was life changing! 

Here are some examples of the questions and considerations that came up as we started to strategize. 

  1. What if I had a down year, could I sustain my current lifestyle? 
  2. Am I overspending? 
  3. Could I be saving more, if so how much?
  4. What if I didn’t hit my quota, did I have enough saved for emergencies?
  5. What if I hit quota, but didn’t earn the accelerators, could I afford my car and house? 
  6. What should I do with extra cash and commissions? 
  7. Should I buy real estate, fund college (for parents), contribute more to retirement, pay off debt?
  8. What can I do to protect and grow my new found wealth?
  9. What if I lose my job or my compensation plan changes, how will this impact our situation?
  10. What if something happens to me, will my family be taken care of?

Ask yourself these questions and be honest with yourself. Are you in a good place, or could you use some help? If any of this resonates with you or you’re interested in learning more about how to get your plan together, please feel free to reach out to me. 

Eric Rodriguez, CFP®

eric@wealthbllc.com

 

What is a CFP®?

CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioners are trained to be experts in all areas of personal finance. This can include cash-flow, insurance, tax, investments, retirement, estate, college funding, and much more. CFP®’s study for 6+ years, have 4,000+ hours of experience, and pass a rigorous 6+ hour exam to be approved. 

Estate Planning 101

As the saying goes, only two things are guaranteed in life – death and taxes. It’s a hard truth, and can be difficult subjects to approach. Although you better get those taxes done folks, because as the other saying goes – you don’t mess with the IRS! But let’s save taxes for another day. Today we’ve got you covered with the basics of an Estate Plan, a key component to any financial plan.

WealthBuilders is happy to help solidify your financial plan, including guidance with estate planning. Feel free to contact us for a free initial conversation!

What is an Estate Plan?

An Estate Plan is preparing for the transfer of one’s wealth and assets after death. Assets, life insurance, pensions, real estate, cars, personal belongings, and debts are all included in an Estate Plan. The objective of estate planning is to:

  • Fulfill your property transfer wishes
  • Minimize Taxes
  • Minimize Costs
  • Provide Needed Liquidity

Who needs an Estate Plan?

Anyone who wants a plan in place to help manage health care decisions, guardianship, distribute assets and to generally keep peace amongst loved ones during tough times.

Key Estate Planning Documents:

Wills – the simplest estate planning tools. They are flexible and appoint executors, guardians, tax savings trusts, and trusts for children. If you use a will only in your estate plan, your estate will go through probate before it can be distributed to heirs. Probate is a judicial process where a judge supervises the settling of an estate and can last four months to a year or longer. This means heirs will not receive anything until the court makes a decision. Brutal, but better than not having anything written!

Living Trusts – legal entities that hold property during a person’s life and provide for a distribution plan after death. ALL assets in the living trust avoid probate. Living trusts are more complex than a will, but they avoid probate in CA which is usually a determining factor in choosing a will or trust.

Durable Powers of Attorney for Finance – allow someone to make decisions and to manage your financial affairs for assets outside of a living trust if you become incompetent or incapacitated.

Advanced Health Care Directives – allow you to name a person to make health care decisions for you and state your wishes for end of life care.

Retirement Plans and Life Insurance Policies – distributed to named beneficiaries and pass outside of your will or trust. It’s important to have your beneficiaries updated (especially if you are divorced or in the process). Also, one of the major benefits of life insurance is 100% of the proceeds are passed to your beneficiaries tax free.

Restricted Stock Unit (RSUs) & Your Financial Plan

If you are with a company where you’ve received or will be receiving RSUs, first and foremost — congratulations! With a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work, you’ve landed yourself in an exciting position to improve your financial well being. Below are quick tips to help you avoid potential mistakes that could cost you millions.

Let’s quickly walk through how Restricted Stock Units (RSUs) work at a high level:

  • Grant Date: The date you were awarded RSUs
  • Vesting Schedule: The rate and timing that your RSUs will be vested
  • Vested: When shares vest, you become the owner of the equivalent of units that vested.
  • How Taxes Work: You are taxed at the time your RSUs are vested at ordinary income tax rates, please see new 2018 rates here.  If you hold onto the shares, future growth or loss will be treated as Capital Gains/Losses
  • Termination: At termination, you lose unvested RSUs unless your vesting schedule is accelerated at termination

Five Steps to Help You Grow Your Nest Egg:

Get a Comprehensive Financial Plan

Academic research by The National Endowment for Financial Education shows that up to 70% of people who come into sudden wealth deplete those funds within a couple years. Before you take any action with your RSUs, consider working with a fiduciary financial advisor to help you put together a financial plan. With a plan in place, you can make clear decisions that align with your overall goals, and as a result, protect and grow your wealth.

Don’t Play Yourself

Once you receive your shares, it’s important to diversify your money. You may be tempted to keep your shares in tact in hopes that they increase like the Amazon, Google, and Apple unicorns of the world. However, it is possible marquee companies can become insolvent (e.g. Enron, Radio Shack, and Lehman Brothers). It’s always risky to bet your entire nest egg on one company’s stock.

New Shares vs. Old Shares

Sell new shares that vest as soon as possible. Your shares are taxed at vesting, so if you are able to sell them before any major price movements, the tax consequences will be much less significant.

The markets have been pretty up, down and across the board this year in particular, so it’s likely that your accumulated employer stock has gone up in value and would cause gains to be taxable at capital gains rates. With your old shares, depending on your threshold for paying taxes, you may be able to sell all or you may want to devise a systematic plan to gradually reduce your exposure to your employer’s stock.

Diversify Your Holdings with Evidence Based Strategies

So you’ve sold your  shares, now what? Try not to get caught up in “get rich quick” investments (cryptocurrencies, options trading, commercial real estate, commodities, etc.). Keep it simple. Look to diversify with an evidence based investing strategy that utilizes low cost Exchange Traded Funds (ETF’s) or Indexed Mutual Funds. This approach is backed by Nobel Prize winning research and takes the guesswork out of investing. Globally diversified portfolios have been academically proven to lower costs and risk.

Hire A Team Of Professionals

Don’t go at it alone. There is tremendous value in outsourcing the day-to-day investment and tax management of your assets. At minimum, look to hire a fiduciary financial advisor and a CPA as soon as possible. These individuals will work in your best interest and provide actionable steps to help you grow and protect your wealth.

How to Financially Plan Through a Divorce

Divorce is not something most people plan for as they say “I do,” but nevertheless, it’s something 50% of married people go through. Naturally, it can come with heartache, anxiety, and fear, and the financial damage can also be devastating.

I know that every situation has its unique challenges, but I’ve also learned from friends, family and clients about ways to reduce stress through the process. Below are some key learnings and a few ideas that can help financially prepare someone for divorce, and ultimately this new chapter in life.

1. Get organized

Make copies of all of the financial account statements (checking, savings, brokerage, retirement, mortgage, credit cards, etc.). Keep these copies in a safe place such as a safe deposit box that only you can access.

2. Budget for the break-up

If you are planning to get divorced, you’ll need to budget for attorney expenses like you would groceries, education, retirement, etc. If budgeting is not your strength, look to a financial advisor to crunch the numbers for you. I’ve heard from people who said they’ve stayed in bad marriages because they feel they don’t have the financial resources to break away, but having a plan, support and patience can and will get you there.

3. Prepare to divide the assets and debt 50/50

“We lost $250k fighting the good fight and lost our shirts” — Family friend

California is a community property state. This means everything you two have acquired since you were first married is subject to 50/50 division. Unfortunately, this also includes any debt incurred by your spouse. Consider skipping the courthouse to save both yourself and your spouse money. I know for some this is easier said than done, as you’ll need to come to an agreement on going this route.

4. Review your debts, credit and notify all parties

Once the divorce is final make sure all debtors that are in both your names are notified. In some cases, you can and should relinquish mutual responsibility of debt. For example, one of my clients had her wages garnished by the DMV, because her ex didn’t pay the registration for a car that is still in both of their names. While they are both still liable for the payments, she could have signed a DMV release of liability form to exempt her from the registration responsibility.

Another best practice is to run your credit report semi-annually and look for anything out of the ordinary.

5. Open new accounts

It’s a good idea to open a new checking, savings, and credit card under your name only. Your attorney may instruct you to withdrawal half of your joint funds and deposit them in new accounts. As a single person, you need to also start building your own credit. A credit card in your name can help. Beware, some banks will make it difficult to qualify for a credit card without income if this is your situation. Speak to your advisor about different options available.

6. Open a post office box or mailbox at UPS

It makes sense to have your mail delivered to a secure box that only you can access. This new address should be used to receive correspondence from your lawyer, new accounts, etc.

7. Update your estate documents and beneficiaries

It’s very important to update your medical directive and living will. You can prevent your future ex-partner from making any medical decisions on your behalf or inheriting your assets should you pass away before the settlement is official. If you have any life insurance policies, retirement accounts, brokerage accounts, etc, update your beneficiaries ASAP.

8. Get help, plan for what you can and enjoy peace of mind

If possible, hire professionals (attorney, financial advisor, cpa) and start making plans for your finances and settlement. A financial advisor in particular can forecast the long-term effects of the settlement to see how you might fare financially in the short term and long term. Knowing that your finances are in order and having a clearer vision of your future will also help alleviate stress and bring you peace of mind.

5 Essential Financial Planning To Do’s In December

We are halfway into December which means your list of holiday to-dos and celebrations are probably in full swing. It may be the last thing on your mind, but it’s important to remain mindful of your financial plan as we close out the year, and to also look ahead to 2020. Here are a few tips to keep you on track through the rest of the holidays, while still allowing yourself room for some festive fun.

1. Max Out Your Benefits At Work

You still have time to adjust your 401k contribution and put in enough to take advantage of a company match. Use your PTO and take time off. Most PTO days can’t roll over into next year or be paid out. If you have a Flexible Spending Account use it before you lose it, 12/31. 

2. Save Your Year End Bonus

If you are expecting a year end bonus or commission check, stick to the 90/10 rule. Put 90% of your check towards your financial goals (payoff debt, retirement, college fund, etc.). While it’s tempting to purchase that new car or go on shopping spree, consider your financial priorities before making any major decisions. Splurge selectively and enjoy 10% for yourself.

3. Control Holiday Shopping Sprees

Your hard earned money might be burning a hole in your pocket during this jolly time. According to a study performed by the American Research Group, Inc., the average American spends $882 on Christmas presents. Most of this is put on a credit card vs. cash. Be practical with your spending. If you don’t have your retirement plan funded, credit card debt under control or emergency account fully funded, think twice about overdoing it. And maybe your friends and family are in the same spot? It could be worth exploring putting limits on gifts, doing a white elephant exchange, giving back to the community or and/or just enjoying each other’s company instead of traditional gifting (which often leads to overspending!). Who knows, maybe you start a new tradition that is less costly, but just as much fun!

4. Charitable Giving

Tis the season to give to charity, so whether you’re a once per year kind of person or there’s a cause you give to consistently, get your donations in by the end of the year. If you hit the 12/31 deadline, you may be able to deduct those donations on your 2019 taxes.

5. Set Your 2020 Personal and Financial Goals

Set aside a some time and write out your goals. I do this annually and it’s done wonders for my personal and business life. Your goals should be SMART Goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and bound by a time limit. So instead of setting a vague goal to save more money, you should set specific goals that incorporate your financial plan to get there. Going through your finances at the end of the year gives you a good starting point to build those goals from. This will help you stay focused as you kick off a brand new year.

Love and Money

5 Tips To Help Couples Achieve Financial Success

For anyone in a relationship, money is a topic that you’ll need to cover with your partner in depth, and frequently, to create a solid foundation for the future. The thing is, dealing with finances solo is hard enough, and sharing your financial situation with another person? For many of us, that’s just scary as hell. According to a survey by Sun Trust, couples say finances are the number one cause of stress in their relationships. Financial arguments are also the top predictor of divorce, according to a study by the Huffington post. So how do you get in financial shape AND get your partner on board?

Achieving financial success with your partner might seem overwhelming at first. But, with patience, a plan, and commitment, your fiscal future can be promising. And the cherry on top? A recent Money Magazine survey revealed that couples who trust their partner with finances felt more secure, argued less, and had more fulfilling sex lives. Well then, let’s get to it!

Here are five tips on how to work with your partner to avoid potential financial landmines, and set yourselves up for success:

1. Be transparent about your financial situation

If you’re in a serious, committed relationship that you want to work, it’s important to share everything (yes, everything) about your personal finances with your partner. This can be scary because many of us have made mistakes or poor decisions when it comes to finances, but transparency is the first step to understanding the reality of your situation as a unit. This exercise will take patience and understanding from both of you, and will become an important building block for a foundation of trust. Remember, it’s important not to hold back any information, as you’ll need a clear picture of where you are before you can get started with your goals and eventually, progress.

2. Commit to specific savings goals

Establish short-term, mid-term, and long term financial goals. This could include an emergency fund savings, paying off credit cards, a new house fund, and/or retirement. A goal setting exercise is a great opportunity to learn more about each other’s vision for the future. And after what may have been a tough conversation about where you are, it’ll be fun to pivot and talk about the possibilities of the future.

3. Agree on a sustainable monthly budget

Create a weekly or monthly budget that includes a specific amount of money that is automatically saved each paycheck, and also allows each of you to have spending “freedom.” Once you’ve figured out your savings goal and your overhead, you’ll land on what that “freedom” number is. This tactic will dramatically increase your savings, help you reach the goals you’ve set, while also allowing for some fun. A budget will also help keep you both accountable, and undoubtedly force the financial conversations to occur more regularly – which leads me to tip #4.

4. Set a weekly money appt with your partner

This is a best practice that my wife and I practice religiously. At least once per week, we sit down to review our weekly budget, spending and savings progress. At this time, we also talk about any adjustments that need to be made based on how we did with our budget. For example, we generally try to have our meetings on Fridays because this day works well for us, and it also gives us a good check before we head into the weekend. If we review our budget and it looks like we are close to our weekly allocations and “freedom” number, we will go into the weekend more mindful about how we spend our money.

5. Hold each other accountable

To achieve your financial goals you need to support each other. You’re a team! You need to help each other be fiscally responsible. Sometimes you may need to course correct your partner when they veer from the financial plan. In my experience it’s perfectly normal to occasionally drift from the plan, no one is perfect. If you can recognize abnormal spending behavior or see that you are getting off track, just review your plan together, and reset.