Set and Forget

The 60/40 401k Portfolio is Dead! 😯

Are you one of the many who set up a 60/40 stock-bond split in your retirement portfolio, thinking it was the golden ticket to a worry-free retirement? Well, think again. Recent market events have signaled a paradigm shift, leaving the classic 60/40 401k portfolio gasping for breath.

The Rise and Fall of the Classic Portfolio

According to the Wall Street Journal (paywall), the classic 60/40 stock-bond split, comprising the S&P 500 index and 10-year Treasury notes, earned a respectable 15.3% in 2020. For decades, this strategy rode on 40 years of tailwinds from falling bond prices, offering investors a relatively smooth journey toward their retirement goals.

However, the landscape drastically changed in 2022. For the first time in over 50 years, both stocks and bonds experienced a downturn. The culprit? Inflation! It turns out that the real killer isn’t market crashes; it’s the relentless rise in inflation that’s wreaking havoc on traditional portfolios.

Inflation has emerged as the silent enemy, eroding the purchasing power of your hard-earned savings. The 60/40 portfolio, once considered a stalwart, is now facing a wide range of outcomes. What worked for the past four decades may not necessarily be the silver bullet for the future.

How can you learn from the past and protect your future?

  1. Don’t rely on market timing metrics: The attempt to time the market using metrics like CAPE10 or any other value-based indicator has proven futile. Studies show that trying to tilt your portfolio based on specific market values above or below a certain line is no more effective than blind luck.
  2. Rebalance: In times of uncertainty, it’s essential to be adaptive. Instead of sticking rigidly to a pre-determined allocation, consider rebalancing your portfolio based on market conditions. Take what the market gives you and adjust your holdings accordingly.
  3. Build a War Chest: In the face of economic uncertainty, it’s wise to hold a financial “war chest.” This means having seven to ten years of spending set aside. This cushion can provide peace of mind, ensuring you have the financial flexibility to weather storms without compromising your long-term goals.
  4. Explore alternative investments: The Wall Street Journal suggests looking beyond the traditional. Small-capitalization, emerging-market, and value stocks offer the benefit of diversification at seemingly more affordable prices. This diversification can act as a safeguard against the challenges posed by a volatile market.

The classic 60/40 401k portfolio may be on life support, but all is not lost. By adopting a flexible approach, avoiding market timing traps, and exploring alternative investments, you can navigate the turbulent waters of today’s economic landscape. The key is to be proactive, stay informed, and be willing to adapt your strategy to ensure a secure and prosperous retirement. Remember, the only constant in the financial world is change, and it pays to be prepared.

Cut the Cords

Cut the Cord on Cable and Streaming Services 

In the fast-paced world of entertainment, where streaming services have become the norm, the decision to cut the cord and bid farewell to traditional cable TV has become a common topic of discussion. But what about all those streaming services? The three-month free trial ends and suddenly you are paying $70/month to watch curling matches in some obscure Canadian village. You have a service for watching Marvel movies, one for sports, another for Ted Lasso…before you know it you are spending $3,600 a year on television!

The escalating costs of streaming services has happened with inattentional blindness. With popular platforms like Disney+, Netflix, HBO, and Prime Video continuously raising their subscription fees, you may find yourself questioning the value of your entertainment expenses (or what those expenses amount to over the course of a month or a year). 

Subscription Streaming Services Overload

Let’s start with a simple question: How many services do you subscribe to? Not sure? You’re not alone! Many people experience difficulty keeping track of multiple subscriptions. As the number of available services grows, managing various accounts and remembering which shows or channels each one offers becomes increasingly overwhelming. 

To begin, go through your monthly account statements (credit cards, debit, etc.) and get a running list of all services you subscribe to and the cost of these services. If you use a budgeting platform such as Mint, check your “Entertainment” budget to see a list of your subscriptions. 

Once you have a handle on all your subscriptions, cancel them. You read that correctly. Go on a digital detox, live without streaming services for a while…a few days, a week, a month. Gradually reintroduce only the essential ones back into your life. There is no time like the present to reassess your entertainment needs and prioritize quality content over quantity.

If cutting the cord completely is anxiety producing, use the following tips to pare down your subscription expenses:

  1. Evaluate your viewing habits: Identify the top shows or channels you regularly watch and find cost-effective ways to access them.
  2. Leverage family and friends: Explore sharing subscriptions with family and friends to optimize costs without compromising access to desired content.
  3. Stay vigilant with promotions: Be cautious about promotional deals and set reminders to cancel or renegotiate subscriptions before prices increase.
  4. Consider streaming platforms with bundled services: Explore platforms like YouTube TV, which offer bundled services, providing access to various channels at a more affordable rate.

Check out NerdWallet and Consumer Reports for more tips on ways to save on streaming.

In the ever-expanding universe of streaming services, the decision to cut the cord is a personal one, dependent on individual viewing habits, budget constraints, and preferences. Be mindful of subscription costs, staying vigilant with expenses, and explore creative solutions to strike a balance between entertainment indulgence and financial prudence.

Ongoing Costs

Ongoing Pain in the Costs

You’ve done the math, compared the options, and finally settled into your dream home. Or perhaps you’ve acquired that sleek, new car you always wanted. You know the one-time fee, but do you truly understand the ongoing cost? It’s easy to overlook the continuous financial and time investments required for the maintenance of your possessions. Join Matt Robison and I this week as we delve into planning for the ‘not-so-one-off’ costs of upkeep.

The dream of owning a home is often painted with idyllic scenes of family gatherings and cozy evenings by the fireplace. Yet, behind this picturesque facade lies the reality of constant maintenance. On average, home maintenance and upkeep can account for 1-2% of your home’s value annually. Think about it – for every $100,000 your home is worth, you might spend $1,000 to $2,000 every year just to maintain its current condition.

But it’s not just about money. It’s about time, too. The larger your home – in terms of lot size, square footage, and price – the more time it takes to manage it. Ignore it, and you might soon see your investment plummet in value.

Consider the various components of your home that demand constant attention. From heating and cooling systems (furnace, dehumidifier, ducts, vents, AC unit, portable heaters) to electrical appliances (lights, outlets, generator, fridge, stove, microwave, dishwasher), plumbing (well pump, water filtration, sinks, faucets, toilets, copper plumbing), and the structural elements (roof, radon systems, vents, shingles, gutters), the list seems endless. if these items generally last around 25 years, you’re looking at potentially one significant replacement every year. It’s a cycle that doesn’t end, and you need to plan accordingly.

How to manage this pain in the wallet

Understanding that every possession you acquire comes with an ongoing cost is the first step. Don’t let these expenses catch you off guard. Here are a few practical steps you can take:

  1. Budget Wisely: When you make a large purchase, factor in the ongoing costs of maintenance and repairs. Create a budget that accounts for these expenses.
  2. Educate Yourself: Learn the basics of home and car maintenance. Small repairs that you can handle yourself can save you both time and money.
  3. Regular Inspections: Conduct regular inspections of your home and car to catch potential issues early. Preventive maintenance often costs less than emergency repairs.
  4. Emergency Fund: Have an emergency fund set aside specifically for unexpected repairs and maintenance.
  5. Get Professional Help: Don’t hesitate to call in professionals when needed. While it might seem costly upfront, it can save you from more extensive and expensive repairs down the line.

It is essential to recognize the ongoing responsibilities and costs that come with one-time purchases. By understanding and preparing for the continuous costs – both in terms of money and time – you can enjoy your investments without the constant stress of unexpected expenses. Expect maintenance, be proactive, budget wisely, prepare, and remember – it’s not just the price tag; it’s the ongoing commitment that truly defines ownership.

Beneficiaries

 “For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.” – Anonymous

You’re organized, right? You made an estate plan…set-up guardians for your kids, named beneficiaries in your will. Everything will go as smooth as butter should you meet your ultimate demise, yes?

Maybe, but maybe not. The best way to ensure everything goes according to your plans is to get organized. Creating an assets and liabilities spreadsheet, while tedious, will help you and your loved ones navigate your financial wishes in the event of your incapacitation or death.

How will a spreadsheet make the process easier? Let’s use a real client example to highlight the use case:

I have a client, we’ll call her Amanda, that I’ve been working with for years. Amanda’s mother passed away two years ago, not unexpectedly. She had two children, Amanda and her brother and had remarried and acquired three step-children. She worked her entire life, leaving behind some assets in trust and a will to assign her retirement accounts and two businesses to her beneficiaries.

While it may seem as though Amanda’s mother had her plan carefully arranged, it turns out that asset allocations were a lot trickier than anticipated. The plan was to give her retirement account, valued at $1 million to Amanda and her brother to split. The two businesses were valued at $500k each. $100k was set to be given to each step-child from that while the other $700k was to go to her widowed husband. Unfortunately, the businesses were not worth $500k each, making the distribution of funds a nightmare for her survivors. Had the assets been accounted for prior to her death, the plan could have been reevaluated without the tremendous effort and headache left for Amanda to deal with upon her passing.

What can you learn from Amanda’s story? First, take the time to create an asset and liability spreadsheet to include all of your accounts and where they are held.  

👉  Here’s a handy template to get you started!

Next, use that spreadsheet to review all your beneficiary forms for each account. Why is this important? The Wall Street Journal recently published an article explaining how different states have different rules for beneficiaries. For instance, if you name your eldest child the beneficiary of your 401(k), but then get married, the beneficiary automatically changes to your spouse, even if you later divorce that person. How do you keep it all straight? Via an asset and liability spreadsheet review completed yearly. 

It may take you thirty minutes to prepare an itemized list of all your accounts and beneficiaries but it will save you and your loved ones hours of trying to organize everything in the event of an emergency or death.

Three Account Types and Why You Need to Know About Them

Unlock the secrets to optimizing your finances by understanding the fundamental account types – taxable, tax deferred, and tax free. Learn how taxable accounts, like checking and savings, can drain your resources through annual taxes, while tax deferred accounts delay taxation until withdrawal, and tax free accounts, such as Roth 401(k)s and HSAs, enable tax-free growth, empowering you to make informed financial decisions and potentially save thousands in taxes each year.

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Traditional 401k vs. Roth 401k – Which is truly better?

Traditional vs. Roth 401k – Which is truly better?

 

This week Matt Robison and I put the Traditional 401k and the Roth 401k in a head-to-head battle of the retirement accounts. If you’ve been following this podcast for a while, you are well aware of what a 401k account is a tax-advantaged way to help fund your retirement. Just in case you need a refresher, a 401k, or 401(k), is a retirement savings plan offered by many employers in the United States. It’s a valuable tool that allows you to save for your retirement while enjoying potential tax benefits. There are two types of these accounts, a Traditional and a Roth. Which is right for you? Follow the fight to find out.

 

🥊 Round One:Traditional vs. Roth – The Taxes

First up in the ring, the two accounts swap jabs with regard to taxes. One of the primary distinctions between these two types of 401(k) accounts is the timing of tax payments.

  • Traditional: Contributions are made with pre-tax dollars, which means you don’t pay taxes on the money you invest until you withdraw it in retirement.
  • Roth: Contributions are made with after-tax dollars, so you pay taxes upfront, but your withdrawals in retirement are tax-free.

So what’s the score? At first glance, it might seem like a wash when it comes to Traditional vs. Roth 401(k) accounts. The math appears to work out the same if your tax rate remains constant throughout your life. If you pay 24% on your contributions now or in 20 years, there is no difference. Math nerd alert – it’s the commutative property: tax x $dollars x compounding = $dollars x compounding x tax.

However, there’s an important factor to consider: tax drag.

 

🥊 Round Two: The Sucker Punch – Tax Drag

Unfortunately the simple math above doesn’t work in the real world. Why? Tax Drag! Let’s see how. Warning: The following section might explode your brain. 🤯

Let’s say that you contribute $22,500 to a Traditional 401(k) in 2023. On top of that, you save an additional $10k from your paycheck. Awesome!

If instead, you contribute $22,500 to a Roth 401(k) in 2023, you owe more in taxes (this year). Recall that you pay tax in 2023 on that $22,500 of income to enjoy tax-free withdrawals in retirement. This tax, taken out of your paycheck, is 24% x $22,500 = $5,400. Since your paycheck is lower, you can only save $4,600 ($10k – $5,400)

So now let’s compare those two examples:

  • Traditional: Contribute $22,500 and have $10k of savings in your brokerage account
  • Roth: Contribute $22,500 and have $4,600 of savings in your brokerage account
  • All the money grows at 8% (6% increase + 2% dividends) each year.
    • In the Traditional and Roth accounts, it grows tax-free!
    • In your brokerage account, the 2% dividends are taxed each year plus the gain is taxed (capital gains tax) when you sell.
  • After 20 years, you withdraw all the money from the Roth (tax free) or Traditional (pay taxes on the account balance at 24% tax rate)

 

ROTH 401k Traditional 401k
Year Brokerage Roth 401k Brokerage Traditional 401k
0 $4,600 $22,500 $10,000 $22,500
1 $4,946 $24,300 $10,752 $24,300
2 $5,318 $26,244 $11,561 $26,244
3 $5,718 $28,344 $12,430 $28,344
4 $6,148 $30,611 $13,365 $30,611
5 $6,610 $33,060 $14,370 $33,060
6 $7,107 $35,705 $15,450 $35,705
7 $7,642 $38,561 $16,612 $38,561
8 $8,216 $41,646 $17,861 $41,646
9 $8,834 $44,978 $19,205 $44,978
10 $9,498 $48,576 $20,649 $48,576
11 $10,213 $52,462 $22,201 $52,462
12 $10,981 $56,659 $23,871 $56,659
13 $11,806 $61,192 $25,666 $61,192
14 $12,694 $66,087 $27,596 $66,087
15 $13,649 $71,374 $29,671 $71,374
16 $14,675 $77,084 $31,903 $77,084
17 $15,779 $83,250 $34,302 $83,250
18 $16,965 $89,910 $36,881 $89,910
19 $18,241 $97,103 $39,655 $97,103
20 $19,613 $104,872 $42,637 $104,872
SUBTOTAL $21,088 $104,872 $42,637 $104,872
Pay Taxes when you sell -$2,252 $0 -$4,896 -$25,169
After Taxes $18,836 $104,872 $37,741 $79,702
TOTAL $123,707 $117,444

 

As you can see, you’ll end up with $6,263 more in a Roth 401(k) after 20 years, even at the same tax rate (24%). This is because the “extra” savings in your brokerage account has a tax drag. Note: This is why it’s generally preferable to save in either the Roth or Traditional accounts versus a taxable brokerage account.

The point? Even with the exact same tax bracket (start and end), the Roth 401(k) wins.

 

🥊 Round Three: Down for the Count – Roth Wins…Or Does It?

While the Roth 401k might seem like the clear winner, it gets more complicated when you ask the crucial question: Will your tax rate be higher or lower in the future?

Many people assume their tax rate will be lower in retirement because they won’t be earning a salary. However, you’ll still need income in retirement to cover living expenses. Distributions and Social Security are still included as income. Moreover, we’re currently in historically low tax rates, which may not continue.

One other factor to take into consideration is inheritance. If you leave behind a Roth 401k for your heirs, they can enjoy tax-free withdrawals, even if they’re in higher tax brackets due to their own income.

🥊 The Final Punch Count

Feeling confused about which account to choose? Ask yourself the following:

  • Are you young and expect higher income in the future? A Roth 401k may be your best bet. You have more to save now, you’re in a lower tax bracket, and tax-free withdrawals in the future can be a significant advantage.
  • Are you in your high-income, peak-earning years? A Traditional 401k might make sense to lower your current tax burden.
  • Are you in a lower tax bracket (e.g., 10%-24%)? Roth could be a wise choice. Paying 24 cents on the dollar now to never pay taxes again is a good deal. If you are in a higher bracket (e.g., 32% tax rate), you might hope to be in a lower bracket during retirement making the Traditional 401k a better option for right now.
  • Do you already have most of your savings in amTraditional 401k? Boost your Roth savings to diversify your tax options.

This decision involves making assumptions about your future financial situation. Consider working with a financial advisor who can use sophisticated software to handle multiple variables and create a tailored plan that aligns with your specific goals and circumstances.

In the world of retirement planning, the choice between a Traditional and Roth 401k isn’t always straightforward. It depends on your unique financial situation, goals, and assumptions about the future. By understanding the key differences and seeking professional guidance when needed, you can take charge of your retirement savings and make choices that set you on the path to financial security in your golden years. Remember, the decisions you make today can shape your future for decades to come.

529 Masterclass: Three strategies to maximize the benefits of education savings plans

Three Advanced Strategies for the 529 Education Account

Want to supercharge your savings? Look no further than 529 Education Savings Plans!

If you’re intrigued by the idea of making the most of your 529 accounts, I have just the podcast for you. This week Matt Robison and I discuss three advanced strategies that can help you get the most out of these versatile financial tools.

 

Use a 529 to fund education expenses for a future (unborn) child

  1. No Kid, No Problem – Have you ever considered opening a 529 account for a child who hasn’t arrived yet? It might sound unconventional, but it’s a smart move for forward-thinking parents and grandparents. By starting a 529 for an unborn child, you can get your money growing tax-free today. You become both the owner and beneficiary of the account initially, allowing you to make contributions early on when you have fewer financial responsibilities. This can be a game-changer down the road in two ways:
    1. Pass it On: When your child is born or a grandchild comes along, you can simply change the beneficiary of the 529 account to the new addition. The compounding works in their favor to fund their education
    2. Fund Your Roth IRA: Fast forward 15 years when you might have more expenses and a higher income. The money in the 529 account can serve as a source to “contribute” to your Roth IRA. This is a creative way to maximize your retirement savings within the annual Roth IRA contribution limit while enjoying the tax benefits.

 

Dynasty Trust: Use a 529 for future generations

  1. Dynasty (The Trust, not the Soap Opera) – A Dynasty Trust can be an excellent option for families with substantial wealth looking to create a lasting financial legacy. While it’s a powerful strategy, it comes with some complexities, including potential gift tax and Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax (GSTT) implications, maximum contribution limits, and state-specific rules. For an in-depth look at this financial tool, check out this Kitces Article.
    1. Long-Term Wealth Preservation: Dynasty Trusts are designed to ensure that wealth remains within a family for multiple generations. You can establish a 529 account within a Dynasty Trust to fund educational expenses for your descendants.
    2. Tax Implications: It’s crucial to work closely with a financial advisor or estate planning expert to navigate the potential tax implications of a Dynasty Trust. This strategy is best suited for high-net-worth individuals.
    3. Not without Risk: Keep in mind that while Dynasty Trusts offer incredible benefits, they come with some risks. Future changes in 529 plan transfer rules, shifts in government policies, or unforeseen events may impact the effectiveness of this strategy.

 

How to use a 529 to fund your Roth IRA

  1. The Escape Hatch: As mentioned above, 529 accounts can now serve as a source of funds to contribute to your Roth IRA. This strategy is particularly beneficial when you’re younger, have fewer expenses, and can generate “extra” savings. Here’s how it works:
    1. Me, Myself and I: Open a 529 account in your name, with yourself as both the owner and beneficiary. Fill it up with your extra cash while you have it (i.e. before kids).
    2. No money, no problem: Down the road, when you have more financial responsibilities (mortgage, cars, children [and the separate 529 accounts to go along with them], aging parents, etc.), you can use the funds in your529 account to “contribute” to your Roth IRA. This allows you to maximize your retirement savings while staying within the annual Roth IRA contribution limit.
    3. No Income Limits: Unlike traditional Roth IRA contributions, this strategy has no income limits, making it accessible to a wider range of individuals. Check out this article from the AARP on Traditional and Roth IRA contribution limits.

 

529 accounts have evolved into powerful financial tools that extend beyond education savings. By exploring these advanced strategies, you can make the most of your 529 accounts, secure your family’s financial future, and even boost your retirement savings. However, it’s essential to consult with a financial advisor or tax expert to ensure these strategies align with your specific financial goals and circumstances. With careful planning, you can unlock the full potential of your 529 accounts and achieve your long-term financial objectives.

The 411 on 529’s

When it comes to saving for education, 529 accounts have long been a go-to option for many families. These tax-advantaged accounts allow you to set aside funds for educational expenses, and any earnings within the account grow tax-free. While they have been traditionally associated with saving for college, Congress has recently expanded the horizons of 529 accounts, making them an even more versatile tool for financial planning.

We’ve done a number of episodes on 529’s. In episode 55, we talk about how to pay for education expenses. Then we do a deeper dive into education savings in episode 83 and round it all out with an All About 529’s breakdown in episode 84. Check those out if you haven’t already, because today we will be talking about 529’s as a potential savings vehicle for retirement. 

First things first, 529s in brief: A 529 account is a tax-advantaged savings plan designed to encourage saving for future education costs. These accounts are sponsored by states, state agencies, or educational institutions and come in two primary types: prepaid tuition plans and education savings plans.

529 Use Cases

Initially, 529 accounts were created to cover qualified higher education expenses such as tuition, fees, books, and computers. However, their utility has expanded significantly over the years.

  1. Qualified education expenses (for more, see the US News Article from 2021):
  2. Traditional 4-year college costs, 2-year colleges, graduate schools, and trade schools
  3. Books and computers 
  4. Here’s a significant development: off-campus housing and rentals are now qualified up to the cost of room and board on campus, along with food expenses
  5. K-12 Education: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA, 2018) expanded the use of 529 plans to include covering up to $10,000 per student in tuition for public, private, or religious elementary or secondary schools.
  6. Paying Off Student Loan Debt: The Secure Act 2.0 (2022) introduced a provision allowing individuals to use 529 funds to pay off up to $10,000 in student loan debt.
  7. Funding Roth IRAs: Yes, you read that correctly! Perhaps the most exciting development is the ability to transfer $35,000 (total) from a 529 account to a Roth IRA belonging to the 529’s beneficiary. This can serve as an “escape hatch” option to fund a Roth IRA thanks to an update to the Secure Act 2.0 which will go into effect in 2024.
  8. To execute this transfer, the 529 account must have been open for at least 15 years.
  9. Only funds that have been in the 529 for at least 5 years are eligible for the transfer.
  10. The transfer must be a direct conversion from one institution to another.
  11. The annual Roth IRA contribution limit and eligible earnings will apply, but there are no income limits.

Maximizing the 529

  1. A “poor man’s Dynasty Trust”:
  2. For those with the means, opening a 529 account today with a $15,000 contribution can potentially grow to $35,000 in fifteen years, assuming a growth rate of 7%. This can be a smart strategy for wealthy families to fund Roth IRAs for their children or grandchildren
  3.  Personal Roth IRA:
  4. Consider opening a 529 account for yourself when you’re younger and have fewer expenses. You can be both the owner and beneficiary.
  5. In 15 years, when you might have more expenses and a higher income, you can use the funds in the 529 account to “contribute” to your Roth IRA.

Leftover 529s

If you find yourself with leftover funds in your 529 account, you have options. You can use the money for yourself, pass it on to another beneficiary, or withdraw the money. If you choose to withdraw funds, you’ll typically pay taxes on the earnings, plus a 10% penalty on those earnings.

529 accounts have evolved into a versatile financial planning tool that goes beyond college savings. They now offer flexibility for covering various educational expenses, paying off student loan debt, and even funding Roth IRAs. Understanding these expanded uses can help you make the most of your 529 account and secure a brighter financial future for yourself and your loved ones.

Attention

In today’s fast-paced world, many of us find ourselves living life on autopilot, following a checklist of societal expectations without truly examining what brings us fulfillment and joy. The recent trend of prioritizing external achievements over internal well-being is leaving many feeling drained and disconnected from their true desires. In this week’s episode, I chat with Registered Life Planner Andrea Miller to explore the importance of paying attention to what energizes you and how it can lead to a more fulfilling life.

Checking the Block

It’s easy to fall into the trap of the “checklist mentality.” We set goals for ourselves: get the job, earn the salary, buy the house, find the perfect partner, have kids, and acquire material possessions like cars, houses, vacations, etc. While these goals are not inherently wrong, they often prioritize external achievements over internal happiness and well-being.

This check-the-block approach can leave us feeling unfulfilled and disconnected from our true selves. It’s essential to recognize that life is more than a series of boxes to tick off; it’s about finding meaning, purpose, and joy in each moment.

Pay Attention – Don’t Be Asleep at the Wheel

In a world where we’re bombarded with distractions and demands on our time, it’s crucial to pay attention to where we’re directing our energy and focus. Often, we give away our time and attention without realizing it, leaving us feeling like we’re “asleep at the wheel.”

Our brains are wired to protect us, and sometimes they create narratives and beliefs that push us to chase external accomplishments, thinking they will keep us safe. To break free from this pattern, we must become more aware of our thought patterns and redirect our attention to what truly matters.

Get into The Flow: Attention, Emotion, Behavior, Results

Understanding the flow of attention, emotion, behavior, and results can help us gain clarity and make positive changes in our lives. Work from the top, down:

  1. Pay Attention: What we focus on at the top of the triangle determines our entire life experience. Pay attention to your thoughts, beliefs, and where you direct your energy.
  2. Identify Emotion: Your attention influences your emotions. Are you feeling energized and joyful, or drained and frustrated? These emotions are often linked to where you’re placing your focus.
  3. Tune in to your behaviors: Are you asleep at the wheel? Emotions drive behavior. Are your actions aligned with your true desires and values, or are you simply reacting to external pressures and expectations?
  4. Check your results: Your behavior leads to outcomes. Are you achieving the results you desire in life, or do you feel stuck and unfulfilled?

To begin your journey towards a more fulfilling life, start by paying attention to what energizes you and what depletes you. How? It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3:

  1. Take out a sheet of paper and create two columns: “Energizes Me” and “Depletes Me.” Throughout your day, note down activities, people, and experiences that either bring you energy or drain it.
  2. Reflect on your list and see if any patterns emerge. What common themes or activities appear in the “Energizes Me” column?
  3. Begin incorporating more of what energizes you into your daily life and gradually reduce activities that deplete you.

By following your energy and making intentional choices to focus on what truly matters to you, you can shift your life towards greater fulfillment and happiness. In the words of younger but wiser country/pop icon Miley Cyrus: “Ain’t about how fast I get there, ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side, it’s the climb.”

Life is too short to live on autopilot, following a checklist that doesn’t align with your true desires. Embrace the power of attention and start prioritizing what energizes you today. Your path to a more fulfilling life begins with mindful awareness and intentional choices.

Should I Pay Down my Mortgage?

Have some extra cash? Wondering if you should put it toward your mortgage? Join Matt Robison and I this week as we delve into the answer to this FAQ. It’s not as simple as you might think. Why? Because why you shouldn’t is equally as compelling as why you should work to pay down that debt. 

By the Numbers

Let’s start with the basics. From a strictly mathematical perspective, it usually doesn’t make sense to put extra cash into your mortgage. Why? Well, start by comparing your mortgage interest rate to the potential return on investments. If your mortgage rate is low (e.g., 3-4%) and you can potentially earn a higher return by investing your money elsewhere (e.g., 5-10% in a high yield savings account or the stock market depending on your timeline), it makes sense to keep your mortgage and invest your extra cash.

Sleep at Night

So we should just stop there, right? If we were robots, sure. But we are human, and humans have emotions which play a significant role in our decision making. If having a mortgage creates anxiety or discomfort for you, paying it off may provide a sense of freedom and autonomy. Some people prefer the peace of mind that comes with owning their home outright, even if the math suggests otherwise.

Money Relationship

Maybe you aren’t anxious about your mortgage, which is great, but there is another factor to consider from the human side of decision making. Your financial decisions might be influenced by your upbringing, cultural norms, or peer groups. Sometimes people follow a particular financial path simply because “that’s what you’re supposed to do” or because they’ve seen others do it. If you have a strong belief system with regard to debt, it is a consideration worth noting.

Life Events

Finally, the decision to pay down your mortgage early could also be motivated by significant life events, like retirement or sending kids to college, which can blend rational and emotional considerations. If you only have 15 years until retirement but refinanced to take advantage of the super low interest rates of 2020/2021 with a 30 year mortgage, you may want to pay that off by the time you retire from the workforce. 

Ultimately, you need to consider both the mathematical and emotional aspects of paying down your mortgage and make a decision that aligns with your unique circumstances and goals.