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The Best Investments I Ever Made

By
Mike Loo, MBA
August 10, 2018
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As someone who works directly with clients on helping them with their financial plans and investment decisions, it wouldn’t be too far off to think that I might not do too bad on my own personal investments. Well, truth be told, I have indeed made some high-return investments over the years. The funny thing about that is when I think about “the best investments I ever made”, they are not stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, venture funds, or the like. The best investments that I have ever made came from investing in myself and/or my practice. The returns may be harder to quantify, but I would venture to guess that it has been exponential. Below are my top three “best investments I ever made”:

Going Back To School For An MBA

I’ve always been someone who wants to constantly improve, both as a person and as a professional. In an article that I had previously written, I discuss how an MBA prepared me for my career as a financial advisor. This was a both a huge gamble and a big-time winning investment for me, especially since I initially entered business school without a clear roadmap of where the advanced degree would take me. After going through the MBA program at USC’s Marshall School of Business, the greatest value I gained came from improving my qualitative skills, such as working with people, networking, effective communication, work ethic, and time management. While I already had these skills at a basic level, it wasn’t until after obtaining my MBA that I realized a deeper level of utilizing those qualitative skills in my career.

Hiring A Personal Trainer

Without our health, we will not be able to enjoy all of the great opportunities at our disposal today or in the future. Because of this fact, I strongly believe that hiring a personal trainer was one of my best investments. In this article, I draw several parallels between personal trainers and financial advisors, ultimately discussing the value that both can bring, respectively, to your health and finances.

Investing in my health by hiring a personal trainer is one of my best investments for several reasons:

Education

For most, it may not make sense to have a personal trainer for their entire life. However, the knowledge and education around the body, nutrition, exercises, etc. that you will gain from hiring a personal trainer will reap returns for the rest of your life. By being more aware and knowledgeable than you were before, you may miss out on potential future injuries or poor food choices that can lead to debilitating diseases.

Consistency

We are more likely to stick to certain regimens when we are simply told what to do. By being on a plan and schedule with my personal trainer, I did not have to worry about anything except for showing up and working hard. We were on a consistent regimen, and I saw results; in fact, I lost more than 15 pounds over the course of several months when I compared my heaviest to my lightest weight!

Decreased Future Medical Costs

By being consistently active and doing exercises that I would not normally do on my own, my personal trainer made sure that my comprehensive training program would benefit me in the realm of longevity. Because of that, I decrease my chances of needing to undergo major surgeries that someone who lives a sedentary life may have to undergo. This means less money spent on future medical needs and long-term care.

Spending Time To Imagine And Dream About The Future

Sometimes work, family, and social events take up all of our time. However, if we never stop and take time to plan, strategize, and dream, we will never accomplish our goals, let alone have something to work towards. While it may not seem like an investment, “spending time to imagine and dream about the future” may be the lowest-cost, highest-yielding investment there is.

In this article, I talk about planning ahead and setting financial goals. It is important to be proactive in planning for the future that you want. The key here is to write your goals down, break them into smaller goals, and find someone (or a community) that will hold you accountable. Your success lies heavily in setting “meaningful” goals. When you set goals that are meaningful, you will be much more likely to reach them.

For me personally, I’ve found that in those times that I dedicate to imagining and dreaming about the future, I’m able to create a reinvigorated excitement for what’s ahead. The return from spending time planning for your future should not be discounted. The yield is immeasurable, and all it costs is your time, creativity, and dedication.

The investments discussed above are not what you’d typically discuss with your financial advisor. However, I hope you were able to see how much of a return each of those items have provided me. With that said, if you are contemplating post-secondary education, different ways to invest in your health, how to map out your future goals, or anything else, please do not hesitate to get in touch. You can always call my office at (949) 221-8105 x 2128, or email me at michael.loo@lpl.com.

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By
Zach Swaffer, CFP®
February 19, 2019

We all know we should save more. We all want to save more. Yet, month after month we face the same Groundhog Day scenario: paying all of the bills only to realize that – yet again – there is simply nothing left to save. Sound familiar?

Think about it for a minute. In our Groundhog Day scenario, you are dutifully paying every creditor in your life except for the most important: yourself! It’s time to change the narrative: moving forward, think of saving money as paying yourself. You spend all month working hard. You deserve to keep some of the compensation for that hard work. You on board? Great! To keep you honest, we’re going to set up automatic contributions.

Automatic contributions to savings or investments are a crucial step in building a stable financial foundation. Establishing automatic transfers tied to your paycheck schedule ensures that you will pay yourself for all of your efforts at work and invest in your future. It codifies the “pay yourself first” mentality and aligns your monthly spending with your available discretionary income. For example: if I see extra money sitting in my account, I’m likely to splurge on a fancy meal, or buy a plane ticket to visit my sister. Then the end of the month rolls around, and there is no money left over for saving and investment. On the other hand: if I never see the money in my account, I don’t miss it!

By paying yourself first (saving as money comes in), you will see less money sitting in your account and, accordingly, you will spend less. Over time, you won’t even notice the money being set aside. Your spending habits will have auto-adjusted to your new, post-savings cash flow. (I promise!)

One of the best parts of a “pay yourself first” system is that you don’t have to feel guilty about spending the money in your checking account. Having automatically set aside your monthly savings, you’re free to spend the rest of your money as you wish! Regardless of your balance at the end of the month, you can rest easy knowing your financial foundation is secure.

As a financial advisor, I find a “pay yourself first” savings model to be far more successful than any strict budgeting system. Budgets require line item expense tracking and don’t adapt easily to unexpected expenses. Establishing automatic transfers to “pay yourself first” allows you to maintain a more flexible budgeting system – while still sleeping well at night knowing that your saving objectives have been met.

If you would like to talk about establishing an automatic savings plan or your personal situation please contact me at zach.swaffer@trilogyfs.com.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
May 29, 2018

We live in a dynamic and inspiring time. Advancements in healthcare are doing wonders for retirees. Many are living longer, in greater physical health, maintaining their mobility and independence. However, there has also been a growing impediment to that independence – dementia. This syndrome that characterizes the decline of cognitive functions and encompasses degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s is impacting more and more every year. While it can be very uncomfortable to consider yourself or a loved one suffering from such an illness, living in this age of dementia makes planning for its onset a necessary endeavor.

The statistics are sobering. Those who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease can typically live four to eight years after the initial diagnosis. However, there are also those who can live up to twenty years after their first diagnosis. As this is a disease that wrecks the mind, not the body, some can live up to 5 years in long-term care, rather than the typical two years of other illnesses. Needless to say, the costs of care can be staggering. With expenses ranging from various prescriptions, personal care supplies, limited or long-term care services, there is clearly a lot to plan for. Many rely on Medicare to cover the expenses. Yet, Medicare does not cover everything, oftentimes paying up to 80% of costs, only covering fees that are considered “medically necessary” and taking time to determine what falls under that qualification.1 When you or your loved one is struggling daily with the complications of dementia, hope can seem far off or entirely out of reach.

Due to the subtle ways symptoms can first appear, many can go years without a diagnosis. Unfortunately, that does not mean that the illness is not affecting their lives. While there are specific stages of decline with various forms of dementia, financial matters are generally impacted immediately. Memory suffers, with individuals forgetting to stay current with their bills or having issues understanding their bank and account statements. With subsequent stages, financial skills, along with others, decline further. It can be a rapid and steep decline. An individual’s independence, financial and otherwise, can be compromised very quickly.

This is why it is very important to discuss financial and legal matters once a loved one has been diagnosed, regardless of whether it may feel awkward or uncomfortable. The sooner these conversations take place, the better. There is a lot of information to cover and a lot of decisions on the possible future to make. Most importantly, the earlier the conversations are started, the more of a role the diagnosed person will have. At the end of the day, that is what we all want, for our loved one's wishes and desires to be upheld, even when they may no longer be able to vocalize them.

In addition to helping our loved ones afflicted with these diseases, we cannot forget the loved ones providing the assistance. The strain that can get placed on a familial caregiver can often get overlooked. If not adequately planned for, some will dip into their savings and sell their investments to cover the mounting costs to care for their loved ones. Additionally, the stress of the situation can detrimentally impact the physical and emotional health of the caregiver, which can put both individuals at risk.

Clearly, there is a lot to consider, and for many, it is easy to get overwhelmed, flounder in all the unfamiliar information and overlook that which we are not well-versed on. This is where your financial professional can assist you, both in the midst of this difficult time and also well before the actual diagnosis. They can help you make decisions and preparations, as well as educate you on the myriad of things you may not be aware of but need to know. Additionally, Trilogy Financial advisors are trained to not only identify when clients may be exhibiting symptoms of dementia but to continually monitor these behaviors as well. We truly do take our clients’ well-being seriously. Many individuals I have encountered have two distinct fears about growing older. The first is running out of money. The second is becoming a burden to their family. With dementia, those two fears can become a reality. However, with the proper preparation and planning, they don’t have to be.

Sources: 1. https://www.medicareresources.org/faqs/what-benefits-does-medicare-provide-for-alzheimers-patients/

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