Musings

Like A Gardener and Her Tools

Posted by on November 1, 2009 in Musings | 0 comments

An online network to which I belong has recently been discussing how to define financial health. In thinking about how I’d define financial health, I considered that it’s a measure of our relationship with money, and I wondered what metaphor I’d use to describe my relationship with money.

It occurred to me that I’d like my relationship with money to be like that of a gardener and her tools.

I like this metaphor, because the tools are helpful, but they aren’t necessary. Actually, the gardener isn’t even necessary. There are beautiful natural fields, forest, and gardens all around the world that no human helped create. Seeds are spread by wind, animals, and water. The earth is watered by rain and snow. The sun rises and sets, even with no humans around. And the beauty is amazing.

Yet, still, I have the option to participate. To gather or purchase seeds or seedlings. To plant them, tend them, and watch them grow. Sometimes I use a spade, but in its absence I could get by with my hands. I supplement the rains with a sprinkler or watering can, but I could let them fend for themselves; let only the drought tolerant survive. I snip off dead flower heads, but I could leave the dried heads for the birds to dine on or to fall to the ground and become compost.

I like how a gardener’s tools compliment her work, but they aren’t necessary for it. They can make a project quicker or less of a chore, but they themselves aren’t a thing of beauty. They can accentuate and promote the wonder that’s inherently there and provide inspiration and enjoyment for others and myself, but they can’t make the seed sprout forth new growth. They can’t make a sunflower rise from an acorn. They can’t stop a maple from dropping its leaves in the fall. They can, however, help me to engage and celebrate the life that surrounds me. They let me co-create with the Creator.

How about you? What metaphor would you like to be descriptive of your relationship with money?

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What’s In A Name?

Posted by on October 26, 2009 in Family Wealth, Musings | 0 comments

I recently heard on the radio a segment about the names of animal groups. A journey of giraffes. A leap of leopards. A charm of hummingbirds. I wondered how people came up with these names and who got to name them. How cool would that be to get to name a group of animals?!?!

So why is it that the names of trusts tend to be chosen by the attorney – without any input from the client  – and based on the applicable tax acronym or technique?

Why is it that the purposes, hopes, and dreams, which likely led to the trust’s creation, are mentioned nowhere in the legal document – even though the “Four Corners Rule” limits the interpretation of trust provisions to the information included in the trust document and to the exclusion of external factors? What a missed opportunity (to say the least).

I am grateful to John A. Warnick, an estate attorney, for his pioneering effort to help other estate attorneys move beyond boiler-plate legal documents and their inherent limitations – and to create a Purposeful TrustTM.

One small but significant part of a Purposeful TrustTM is the use of a meaningful name. John A. estimates the average beneficiary of a dynasty trust will receive close to 300 quarterly trust statements during his or her adult life. Each of these statements will reference the trust by name, which creates 300 opportunities to remind the beneficiary of the (non-financial) purpose of the trust.

Simple? Yes. Powerful? Yes!

Below are two examples of purposefully named trusts – and the explanation, which would be included at the beginning of the trust document. The first is an example provided at the Master’s Level Intensive and copyrighted by John A. The second is one that I wrote, during the Intensive, for a trust for which my husband and I have provided.

Read these and consider the power of a name…

Smith + Jones Legacy Trust

We have chosen the surnames of both my wife and myself and the word “Legacy” to frame the name of this trust. Each surname should remind the beneficiaries of the powerful heritage they have received from both sides of our family. The “+” between the two surnames emphasizes the synergy we feel our family generates because these two family lines came together with our marriage. The word “Legacy” with a capital “L” signifies something deeper than the legal definition of legacy. A legacy in the eyes of the law is money or property bequeathed to another. To us Legacy not only signifies the wealth transmission side of this trust instrument but it also represents the values that have come to us from previous generations. We hope the name of this trust will cause the beneficiaries to not only appreciate the value passing on to them but that they will always regard the values which were in large part responsible for our family’s financial success as a “Legacy” which they should build on for those who follow them.

Sweet Babes Trust

We have chosen Sweet Babes to frame the name of this trust. It symbolizes that our “pets” were always considered our kids and an integral part of our family. Like many other families, our kids were a part of our greatest pride and joy, and sharing their lives was one of the greatest blessings granted us by God. Accordingly, we wish to provide for all their wants and needs for the rest of their precious lives.

What message would you want to live on through a trust you create?

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Consider This

Posted by on October 20, 2009 in Musings, Readings | 0 comments

As difficult as it is to believe, the busiest shopping day of the year is just over one month away, and Christmas is barely two months off. So, even though my closet is still filled with Capri’s and sleeveless blouses, my thoughts have begun to turn toward the Christmas season.

Apparently, I’m not the only one, because just today the National Retail Federation released the results of their 2009 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey.

Consider this … According to the 2009 ARF Survey, the average American plans to spend $682.74 on holiday-related shopping this year. If the recent past is any indication, the majority will put these purchases on credit cards, and almost half will take up to six months to pay them off.

Consider this … Instead of the glitz and glam of shopping and gifting, what if this year was more about connecting in new ways with those we love?

Consider this …

If you could not simply buy a present, how else could you show you care?

How might you show love and thoughtfulness without giving a typical gift?

What new tradition might you start – instead of a gift exchange?

In what way might you volunteer together – to give back and support your community?

How might you honor those you love through a gift to those less fortunate – locally and / or globally? [One of my favorites is Heifer International.]

Consider this … How might this year be the year you begin to make more of a difference – for yourself, your loved ones, and your community?

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An Attitude of Gratitude

Posted by on September 14, 2009 in Family Wealth, Musings | 0 comments

By the time this posts, I’ll be in Colorado for Purposeful PlanningTM’s Masters Level Intensive Training Program. The recommendation to attend came out of a phone conversation with Courtney Pullen, a well-known and well-respected family wealth counselor. I had contacted Courtney to see how he came to develop this specialty, and to see how I, too, might continue the process of utilizing the skills and experiences of my first career, in wealth management, in my second career as a licensed professional counselor. Courtney recommended the Intensive as the best next step in this process.

His description of the program deeply resonated with my passions for philanthropy, legacy, and authentic living. But since I launched my private practice earlier this year, its training budget is not yet in line with the cost of traveling to and attending such a program.

A firm believer in “it never hurts to ask,” I inquired of Courtney if scholarships were available. He was not sure but knew Barb Culver could answer this question for me.

In a matter of days, I got the glorious news that the four faculty members had come together and offered to sponsor my attendance, so that the majority of my tuition would be covered.

I cannot express how humbling the experience was. To have 4 individuals, who have never met me – and only one which has ever spoken to me – offer such a generous gift so that I could take advantage of such a wonderful and timely opportunity, is amazing. I am filled with gratitude. That is why, in the most public way I know how, I want to offer my most sincere thanks to the Purposeful PlanningTM Faculty:

Barbara A. Culver, CFP, CLU, ChFC, AEP

Terry Hunt, EdD

Courtney Pullen, MA, LPC

John A. Warnick, Esq.

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A Lifestyle of Retirement

Posted by on August 31, 2009 in Financial Planning, Musings | 0 comments

What if retirement were closer than you think? How might such a realization change your day-to-day mood, choices, or priorities?

According to financial advisor Kent Thune’s definition of retirement, he is already retired. And according to my own definition, I am much closer than I ever thought. (See Born at Starbucks) This realization got me thinking…

What if retirement were a lifestyle instead of a season or point in time? Instead of pie in the sky just before you die, it’s steak on your plate while you wait?

What if more of us sought to incorporate into today or the near future those characteristics of life that we thought we had to wait another 10, 20, 30, or more years to enjoy?

If you realized today that you are or could soon be “retired” (according to your own personal definition), what difference would that make?

In what ways would that free you?

And – what changes might you realistically be able to make – today or in the near future – to make this more of a reality?

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Born at Starbucks

Posted by on August 10, 2009 in Financial Planning, Musings | 1 comment

Starbucks Coffee Chat

The inspiration for this forum was born out a of discussion at Starbucks. It was the first time I’d met financial planner Kent Thune, and we were discussing our thoughts on the “softer side” or “interior” of financial planning.

Specifically, we were discussing the need to have clients clarify what they mean by “retirement.” What does that look like? What type of lifestyle do you want to lead? How active will you be? Where will you be living? What will you be doing?

Kent shared his definition of retirement and then followed up with – “So according to my definition of retirement, I am already retired.”

Wow. “Already retired.” What a concept.

For at least a month, I tried to come up with my own definition of retirement. But what I kept coming back to was Kent’s – “Doing whatever I want, whenever I want – within reason.” I’ve not been able to find one that fits my view of my retirement any better than that, as my idea of retirement is a season of meaningful, directed activity. Granted, to be practical, that idea would need to be clarified from time to time – to move it from the abstract to the concrete. But as a starting point, it works for me.

So how about you — What is your definition of retirement?

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