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Episode 18: Define Your Family's Wealth

Listen to Episode 18 of Sheepdog Financial HERE!

Intro:                    Welcome to Sheepdog Financial, you will get answers to your financial questions. Learn to plan for your financial future and half the type of life that people dream of. Brought to you by traditionally financial advising, a fiduciary financial advisor practice focused on military members and their finances. Your host of Sheepdog Financial is Scott Vance.

Scott:                   On today's episode of Sheepdog Financial podcast, we have Deb Meyer. Deb is the author of the recently released book Redefining Family Wealth. Listen in during the interview as Deb speaks about how to align your finances and wealth with your values. Also listen as she speaks about the value of having a financial planner to help you achieve your financial goals. Deb, thanks for coming on the show.

Deb:                      Thanks so much for having me, Scott, and I really appreciate it.

Scott:                   Good. So you recently released the book Redefining Family Wealth. Why did you write the book and how did you find the process to writing the book itself?

Deb:                      It's a great question. I first got the idea to write the book. It was in fall of 2017 and I had been working on my own in an advisory firm capacity for about a year before that. So I had started my, uh, registered investment advisory firm where the nest in late 2016 and as I started working more and more with clients, I realized that a lot of the issues my clients were facing were very similar. And even though they all have very different occupations and interests, we mostly share a common set of values. And that's in our particular case, Christian values. And I was working with parents who had this yearning to do something different, but they didn't quite have a clear path for how to do that. So the book came about because I wanted to be able to reach people on a broader level. And I felt like even though I'm continuing to work with new families every month, I don't want to be limiting the knowledge base that I've accumulated. And, um, some of the great things I've learned from my client relationships. I don't want to limit that to 50 client relationships. I want to be able to make this message bigger. So I wrote the book really out of that. It wasn't a marketing tool, it was really just to help other people, no matter what stage of life you're in, but trying to reconcile that tension between living true to your values and also living in the society that we're told to be consumeristic and selfish and look out for ourselves. And I think those values are pretty contradictory. So giving people a clear pathway for that.

Scott:                   Writing a book is really a journey. Did you find any of your habits or actions that helped you complete the book? So many people start and never finish.

Deb:                      Yeah, I, for me it was just being really methodical about when was going to write and then making sure I had the right people behind me to support me in achieving that goal. So even though I had the idea in fall of 2017 I didn't actually start writing the outline for the book until, I guess was April of 2018 so almost six months later. Part of that was because my family and I took a bit of a journey overseas and had some fun in Spain for a couple of months and I just wanted to be able to enjoy that with my family and not really focus on the writing. But once I came back that gave me very clear direction. I was like, this is something, I'm going to finish the first draft of this book by the end of the year hopefully before then. And um, and I did, I, I set a writing schedule and just chunked it into my calendar and was able to, I think it was about six months from start to finish that it took for the outline and the actual writing, the first draft. And then of course there's many more stages after that of editing and cover design or design. And I ended up hiring a team, uh, to support me through those measures. So I self published, but it was through a more professional company that has experts in each of those areas.

Scott:                   I'm interested...Why did you go to Spain?

Deb:                      Well, uh, I studied abroad there in college and I really loved it. And it was just one of those things, like when I left and I guess this fall of 2001, I said, I really want to do this again. I want to return again. I not sure when I'll be returning, but I gotta make it happen sometime, you know, with the next 20 years or so. Well, I, uh, like I said left in 20 or 2001 and I got back in 2018. So I have that 20 year Mark and my family, I have three young boys and my husband was working full time in a role that he didn't really love or care for and he wanted to kind of think about other career paths, but didn't really have the time and space to do that. Just working in his full time day job. So I proposed the idea of like, why don't we go do this adventure for a couple of months, I'll run my business this from Spain. You quit your job and you, uh, be the parent to more primary parents for our kids. And they agreed.

Scott:                   That's awesome.

Deb:                      So yeah, so he was really taken care of then. And homeschooling it to the extent he could. And then I was of course able to join them for outings here and there, but I was still getting some work done while I was over there. And it just, it worked out to satisfy that hunger inside of me that also give him some time to contemplate a new career.

Scott:                   Good! Your book is named redefining family wealth. I imagined that trip to Spain can fit into that very well. How do you define family wealth?

Deb:                      Well, I think most people think of wealth just in monetary terms. And I want to put the misconception to lay that out there that it's not just about the money, money's just one measure. And when you think about your unique talents, what you have to offer the world, there's a lot of other things beyond your financial resources that you can offer. So for anyone in the military, you guys are already doing an amazing service by serving our country. And for any of you military spouses, your being there as a support uprooting your life potentially many times going to all these new places, but just figuring out how to actually bring your special gifts to the world and do that in a way that impacts your local community, but also the broader world in a positive manner. I think that's what the true measure of wealth is.

Scott:                   Yeah, I think it's a lot of matching up your money with your values.

Deb:                      Exactly. And you know, for parents especially, it's everything's just so intertwined because when I'm making a decision to put a value of family above work, for example, I'm more intent on, you know, being at the soccer game, being at whatever performance, whatever, whatever the case may be. I'm intentionally putting that above a work priority that might have to happen over the course of a week, but I'm renegotiating how my schedule works. If I value adaptability over just maintaining the status quo, that means I'm going to be more in a risk-taking mode where I have to, you know, kind of roll with the punches and see what comes along. Whereas someone who's just always about maintaining that status quo, they're never thier opportunities for growth are going to be more limited because they're just always in that segment place. So it's really about figuring out what your particular values are and how you can match those values with some of your longer term goals and vision for the family.

Scott:                   Well, yeah, that's the essential base of planning is, you know, putting those, what you're doing today into an action step that gets you where you want to be in the future and Alliance with your goals.

Deb:                      Yeah, I mean, in the financial planning process, you know, the very first step is all about gathering the data to figure out, okay, what are your goals? What are the accomplishments that you're hoping to make? What age do you want to retire? All these tangible things, but it has to start with that broader vision. Like if you don't have your why, if you don't have a clear idea of where you want to go, it's really hard to define what those little smaller goals look like. Um, same kind of thing with retirement. Like I, in the military, you have earlier retirement dates than most people in corporate America. That's either optional or a certain point becomes mandatory retirement. So for you, you have the opportunity to move beyond what your military services and then parlay that into some other role if you want to continue working for pay. And I think that's a wonderful use of your, if you can find that next career that seems like a really good fit. I've actually worked with it a handful of military families where, you know, might be someone in the air force and then they're taking that and becoming a commercial pilot one example. So just figuring out some of these more qualitative measures when you're just doing that big picture dreaming and then coming up with more of the concrete action plan after that.

Scott:                   Yeah, and I think we probably, especially in military pride does that innately, you know, we're always taught to plan and train. We strategic plans of fighting a war or translate down to what a guy does on a daily basis. Clean his weapon, go here, go there. So it's kind of the same parallel thing, just in a different zone, I guess. Yeah. So we talked a little about kids. Do you do anything specific to foster that in your kids or do you just kind of let them follow along? You know, see the, see the example that you set.

Deb:                      I like to create a little bit more intentionality around it. So, um, anytime, well we actually have like once a week our family has family meetings and our oldest is ten, our youngest is four so and then our middle son six. So to put that into context, our family meeting might only last five minutes and then they're moving on to something else. But at least we've, we've started it with the, here's what our calendar looks like for the coming week. Like this is what's the priority and if we have conflicts, scheduling conflicts. So it's figuring out, okay, what's the higher priority here? How do we figure out if we're going to this son's soccer game or going to this event at school or whatever the case may be. So it's just a matter of coming together and having a little bit more structure around those discussions. But then also anytime you are out and about making a purchasing decision, just trying to model that behavior for your kids. And if they're asking for, Hey, I want this toy, I see the Pokemon cards, I want to bias them. Figuring out how can I make this a teachable moment and how can I bring the values that I have as a parent into that discussion with my kids. So rather than just say, no, we don't have enough money for it, which isn't a good standard response, a lot of people it's really saying, no, I think our monies that are spent on these other things because you know, and, and just figuring out, okay, are you making it clear in their terms? Because I think the other thing to consider is what is the age of the child? I can explain a concept to my 10 year old that my six year old that would pass over his head. So just figuring out, okay, what is his real readiness to have this conversation or not?

Scott:                   Yeah, I was, uh, my son is 12 and um, I was pretty surprised. We talked about money and I just figured he was, he never really paid much attention to me and it was bouncing off them. And then recently we were looking at electives for middle school and I'll never forget, he looked at me and he doesn't like taking Spanish, doesn't like language, but one of the choices for an elective was Spanish, which she, he marked down and wanted to take that. And I said, why do you want to take Spanish? You don't like it? And he said, well, if I take it now a score good enough, I won't have to take it in college and pay money for it. And I was like, "Oh. So he is listening to me."

Deb:                      Wow. That's super mature. And I love that he had that idea. That's awesome.

Scott:                   Yeah. Yeah. All those talks that I thought were just bouncing off of him, I was like, man, I know he's been paying attention.

Deb:                      Yeah. They really, they absorbed so much. And I mean, that can be good and bad, right? If, if you, your spouse for example, or, or having money arguments lot, or just arguments in general, that's gonna reflect on your kids, they're going to be more argumentative with others. So it's figuring out, okay, how can we come together as a family unit and really bring together, cause you know, especially in married couples, you have two very different backgrounds blending together and figuring out how that meshes can be a complex dynamics. So make sure that you have a strong marriage if you are married and, and really communicate well with your spouse so that you and your spouse can communicate that with your kids?

Scott:                   So talking a little bit more too, you talked a little bit about it that with military folks we generally have retirement that's pretty good earlier on in our life. And then so how do you help people once they've done that, looking at retirement and retirement in general for everybody else too. Do you generally suggest looking at something to, you know, a second job or some people pick up hobbies or passions or there's other people that just seem to stop doing anything. What have you seen work best and what do you recommend?

Deb:                      Yeah, I think for a lot of people, mainstream, and I'm not speaking specifically to military members, but people in general think age 65 is why one retires for, right? I mean that's, that's the general consensus and I've seen a lot of people that don't retire at 65 if they retire, they might be semiretired for 10 years before age 65 or they might be working well into their seventies simply because they enjoy what they're doing. They want to keep doing more of it. They don't want to be sitting around trying to figure out some other hobby or passion projects because work has become such an ingrained part of their lives that when the work goes away, then some of their passion for life goes away. So or some are working into their seventies because of financial necessity. So I mean there's really a whole gamut. I would hope that people could figure out what their real passion, what their driver is and look at it from a financial independence standpoint to say, okay, if I'm able to retire from the military at this age, am I going to be financially independent then? If the answer's yes, great, you could volunteer your time, maybe the answers, no. Okay, what do I need to be earning in these other bridge years before Medicare kicks in, before some of these other benefits from my military service kick in and then figure out where that gap is. So if it's earning 20,000 a year, so be it, I'm sure you can find a 20,000 a year position if it's, you know, being very reliant on, "Hey, I haven't done a great job of saving. I had a lot of debt," whatever the case may be saying, you cannot keep working longer in this role and adjust accordingly. So there's no one perfect solution for a family to say, Hey, both people should be retired at this age or when a married couple and there is no magic number of what to have saved because every person's situation is so different. Anyone listening to this podcast today is probably going to have a different benefit from the military depending upon where they started, where their bank is, all of that. So it's hard to really say, okay, yes, you need $1 million in taxable savings and then your pension and you'll be good to go. The rest of your life is just too many.

Scott:                   Well, yeah, and I, you know, I did, my dad is surprises me is 80 and he and the people in it, some of the older gentlemen in his neighborhood, they've taken to driving school buses here in Raleigh, North Carolina is, has a shortage of school bus drivers and they'll team up. So it'd be like two or three of them take a run and they'll rotate amongst each cell. So they get to go to their lunches and dinners with their, what they love, like these kids on the bus. And so they all, they kind of like, okay, I'll take the run. You know, this morning you take care of the afternoon. And it's like they to look at it as almost like their own kids on top of them, you know, the money that they get and you know, the school is happy to have them because they're so short bus drivers. And it was, it's been really, he's enjoyed it more than the money that he gets paid to do it. So

Deb:                      that's awesome. I love that example because a, it's funny, my, one of my inlaws, I was at a birthday party a few weeks ago and she just retired from like 30 years of bus. She was a school bus driver and she was like, I couldn't be done your eighties and then you'll appreciate it, I guess doing it for pay for so long.

Scott:                   Yeah. There's a difference when you could just say, I'm not coming in tomorrow and they gotta deal with it. They're coming in or not getting paid. So yeah, that's, that's nice.

Deb:                      I love the idea of just figuring out something to keep you connected, because if it's kids, if it's whatever other bear is value, no matter what your age, and you just have to figure out how be of service in that way.

Scott:                   Well, yeah, there's benefit on, on my dad's side, but the school gets a benefit from it as well. I mean, I can't find, they can't find reliable, dependable school bus drivers, they've got these elderly citizens that maybe they can't drive every day, but if they're a little bit flexible they could, you know, pick up a lot of the, of the work. So and then, so some of the other things too, I've seen a lot in the news talking about, have you seen people taking these mini retirements kind of similar to your trip to Spain?

Deb:                      Yeah, the sabbatical, that kind of thing. Yeah. I have a, I haven't seen it. It's common with my particular clients, but a few of them, if they have a clear like, Hey, I'm retiring, or they age 55 from this position, they'll say, Hey, I just want to take a year or so to reacclimate and get adjusted before I get into some new role. That's a pretty common occurrence. But yeah, I think a lot of people assume, well, in my prime working years I have to be working all the time. And that's just not the case. I mean it's my husband that he took off for that time period with the intention that he was going to get back into the workforce. He just didn't know exactly what roles, so many sabbaticals sorts and it worked out well in his particular case to to have that extra time and space away.

Scott:                   I guess tech call it probably the sabbaticals a better term, but looking at the people take these sabbaticals, you know, cause when you're older maybe you don't want to go out and do all the crazy mountain climbing type stuff where maybe when you're younger you take a year and you can go climb Mount Rainier or something like that. Been interesting to see that come out in recent times as more popular.

Deb:                      Yeah. It is interesting because you know, we have um, much greater longevity but it's also, there are still plenty of medical issues that can go wrong even in your sixties and seventies so it's, it's hard to really like fathom. Okay. What, what will my mobility be like in the years that I, you know, traditionally retire and if you can figure out ways to still do that while you're young, I think it is really important to take those breaks in. It might not have to be a complete break. Like you might not have to up and uproot your family or just abandoned them completely for six months. You can go hiking, but it might be a, Hey, let's do this, um, you know, start this online business on the side that maybe we can get to a point where that's providing some stable income so we can do this six months adventure. So something along those lines.

Scott:                   Yeah, no, I, I just had another interview with another for another podcast and that's one of the things we were talking about is tech has enabled a lot of people to align their values with, you know, their ways of making, like you said, you value hiking in the mountains, then maybe you start that online business that you only have to work once or twice a week at and then she could spend the rest of your time hiking. That's really been told, changing work structure with the way things are.

Deb:                      The technological innovations definitely brought so much opportunity.

Scott:                   Yeah. And then so since this whole technological world is shifting, that's probably going to affect some of our thoughts on money. So can you speak a little bit to the mindset that people have on money and how that comes through and affects their daily spending habits and debt and income?

Deb:                      Yeah, I think a lot of people, at least what I'm seeing, I see a lot more people that are averse to debt, which is good. You know, if you can pay your bills on time and not have to worry about making minimum payments or paying down large chunks of debt, it's really so free when you don't have that hanging over your head. I think the other month kind of money mindset shift that's happening is, is more experiential based. So there's a lot of studies talking about and when you're over a certain income threshold, I think it's 75,000 a year of household income. Any money you spend on experiences versus doing like a tangible item are bringing you more incremental happiness than if you were to buy that tangible item. So that I think has just been a mindset shift and it might not. I see it definitely happening happening among millennials and maybe some gen X or is, I don't see it as much with the baby boomer generation, but that baby boomer generation, they're also grounded in some of these old money mindsets that they grew up with. You know? So it's, it's a little bit different context, but I would say I love the direction that we're moving with that. I do think sometimes though the, and I say this tongue in cheek because I'm technically a millennial, but I am a very old millennial, like I'm right on that cusp. Gen X, and I would say a lot of my younger millennial cohorts or gen Z, which are maybe in college right now, I have this idea that every role they have should have this higher level purpose and value and it, and that there's much more of a push to be doing your own thing and entrepreneurship and all of that. And I think that can become a challenge for, for some of us that have lived in this world where it's like, okay, yes, we want to find meaning and value through our roles, but we also want to make sure we have the stability to be making these decisions in the first place. Like if my husband and I hadn't saved diligently, we wouldn't have made the same thing a reality. Yes, it was a little bit crazy adventure, but it w it was a well thought out. Crazy.

Scott:                   I totally agree that I'm in the same boat. I look at these kids, these younger people, and I think sometimes you've got to work a job just to pay the bills, not just because it fits what you want.

Deb:                      Right. And I've seen that a couple of, you know, examples for my clients in their 50s their son or daughter graduated from college, but they, you know, are having a hard time finding enough just entry level job or they're still living at home. And that's, it's just concerning because I mean, it's just, I see so much potential in the world right now as it stands. But I don't see everyone kind of living true to their values. They might still have that crutch of mom and dad and, and not be as not seeking independence as much.

Scott:                   I think we're on the same wavelength there. Shake my head. Sometimes you get all get all old and start saying these kids,

Deb:                      I know, I'm like, I'm really talking. It's not like it that much.

Scott:                   Oh, so yeah. And so one of the things probably along this line is talking with your values is charitable giving. So how do you suggest people maximize charitable giving? I know that with this new tax law, some of the benefits have gone away. What's your opinion on all that?

Deb:                      There are about a couple of different ways you can maximize my charitable giving. Most people think of just, okay I'm going to write a check to this charity. And that's, you know, a nice financial gift. And of course there's a couple of different ways you can support charity. You can do it through your finances. You can also do it through volunteering. So whether it's serving directly like with people in that charity or just being on a board of a particular organization. That's another way of having an active role in that charitable organization. The financial piece I want to dig into a little bit and say checks are great. Cash is great. Even non-cash donations, so maybe taking used furniture to a Goodwill or whatever it is. Those are all wonderful ways of of supporting charities, but there's also some ways if you've built up accumulated assets in your investment accounts, like a taxable brokerage account. If you have, you know, something you bought 20 years ago and it's now worth five times as much as you paid for it, rather than selling that position and doing any kind of taxable gain, paying any taxes on it, you could donate that position to a charity, right? If you're cheating on that strategy, I typically recommend for people that are doing like at least a thousand dollars or more to a particular charitable organization just because administrative could be burned some. If you're trying to do it any less than that, typically you did execute that kind of strategy. You're usually working through an advisor who can facilitate that on your behalf. But there's also donor advised funds that are becoming very popular and you can even set something like that up yourself if you want to. You don't have to have an advisor associated with it. And there's ways that, you know, if you have a particular high income year and you want to be giving appreciated assets all at one time, take the tax break, but you don't know exactly when you'll be distributing it out to the various charities. You put it into the donor advise fund and get a tax break in the year, you make that contribution. So that's another way of exchanging some of those appreciated assets. You could also put cash into that account that again, it's, there's nuances and you can find more of those online. So there are a couple of different ways of doing it and structuring it from a financial standpoint. But I do want people to think about charitable giving now under current tax law in that stacking ideas. So if you know you're going to be itemizing deductions this year, putting as much of your charitable contributions into this tax year, and then it's just like next year for example, you're going to be taking the standard deduction, lowering what you would normally give to charity. I know that's hard in practicality, it'd be like, Hey, I'm going to give you twice as much. But that's where if you do have a donor advice fund set up, you can actually still have regular, you know, payments going, but if you don't, it's really just being proactive, communicating to that charity and advance and saying, Hey, I'm going to double up on my contribution right now, but know that I am not planning on making another one until two years from now or credit. So you have doing that stacking.

Scott:                   Yeah, I, I've had clients also that run into the RMDs that donate those funds directly to, um,

Deb:                      That's another great tactic. Yes. And again, with any of these and you know, if it's something that you don't feel comfortable researching on your own, working with an advisor who knows those strategies is important because you don't want to accidentally do the wrong thing.

Scott:                   Right.

Deb:                      Have the IRS come later and say, no, that didn't qualify.

Scott:                   Yeah, no, I've had clients that mess around with self directed IRAs that have paid the price because they didn't follow all the rules because they didn't want to pay an advisor that was familiar with that, but they ended up getting taxed a lot. So, but yeah. So we talked a little bit about it. So why do you think it's so essential to have an advisor and use an advisor?

Deb:                      I think advisers, you know, just like any of you guys that serving in the military, you have your specific skill set that you're great at doing. And advisors, we have our own unique skillset. We live, eat and breathe, finances to be, to be honest. So it's just coming to this realization that yes, you can probably figure some stuff out on your own just via Google. But at the end of the day there might be a need that goes beyond what you can Google, where you need more customized advise, where you need to really see, okay, what does my longterm retirement plan look like if I changed this about it or do this is the calculators you find on the internet are only gonna go so far. They can't take every little nuance into account and the advisors can be there to really walk with you, you and illustrate some of those variables. They are there to be your sounding board when you have emotional reactions to things, whether it's, you know, the markets are going crazy and you need someone who can help kind of calm the storm, keep you focused on those longterm objectives. Or it might be something like, Hey, I just inherited this money. My father passed away. I don't know if I should put it towards paying off my mortgage or saving it for the longer term and having someone that you can talk through what that looks like. There's always a financial piece to the equation, but there's that emotional piece and that's where I think a lot of advisors add value.

Scott:                   Yeah. You know, I tell people it's like oil changes. I used to be able to do oil changes on my car by myself, but nowadays I pay somebody because it takes them 20 minutes. And if I did it, it'd be a whole weekend with multiple trips to get tools and equipment from the auto parts place. Probably a lot of busted knuckles and [inaudible] and ultimately I ended up, we'd probably end up paying a whole lot more because I did something wrong. So that's just, I mean it's, it's just, you know, the whole idea of having somebody that knows what they're doing and what to look for definitely pays for itself on the backside.

Deb:                      It does. And I think the other piece to recommend to just, you know, most people when I start working with a new client, it's because something is coming up or some major change has already happened in their lives that they have that need. There's not much, you know, most people aren't like, Oh, I need a financial advisor today. It's okay, I want to retire five years from now. What does that really look like? Or I want to send my kid to college in two years. What does that look like? Whatever these life events are. So just, you know, kind of be included into what are the upcoming life events happening for you and where does an advisor fit into that role? There's very few advisors that I know of. I mean there's some, but it's hard to maintain that relationship if you're only, you know, doing like, Hey, let's do an hourly plan here and there. That might be sufficient for just a one time decision. But if you want someone to partner with you over the longterm, I think that's also going to be really beneficial to your point with the oil change, once you start using someone else for the oil change, it's really hard to go back to, yeah, I'm gonna do that myself. I do encourage you to, you know, think from a longterm perspective when you're entering into that relationship as well.

Scott:                   Yeah, yeah. So, and then as we started to get ready to close here, what final piece of advice would you give listeners to handle their wealth?

Deb:                      I think just again, highlighting some of the important points from this discussion. It would be really focused on what your unique values are and how you want to be parlaying that into the discussions with your family, with your kids. Also knowing that you do have a lot for military people specifically, you have a lot of advantages from a financial perspective that not a lot of other people necessarily have. So there are very strong pensions and a lot of those things don't exist anymore for people in traditional corporate America. So just take assurance in the fact that you are typically on really solid financial ground to begin with. And it's really helpful to have that as a base and then also know that you still have the, the opportunity more than most to make that mid career change and really shifted to something that you find more meaningful that can also meet some financial needs as well. So final piece of advice is just stick with it and um, celebrate those successes as you journey through this. As you find more purposeful living as you live out your calling, recognize the times that you're, you're actually making progress.

Scott:                   Good. And if people want to find out more about you or get ahold of you how they do.

Deb:                      So my website, Redefining Family Wealth would be a good resource. That's where I have the book and you can even sign up for my email list. It's a chapter one of the book is it's free when you sign up for the email list and then Worthy Nest is my investment advisory practice if you're interested in finding out more there.

Scott:                   Okay. And I'll make sure to link to those in the show notes. Thanks for coming on the show.

Deb:                      All right. Thank you so much for having me again Scott.

Scott:                   Have a good day.

Scott:                   Thanks for the listening as I had this interview with Deb, I hope you like listening for this interview. You can find more information about Deb in the show notes, and if you liked this episode, please give us a like a, wherever you download your podcasts from.

Outro:                  Thank you for listening to sheep dog financial. Visit us online trisulifinancialadvising.com for more military centered financial resources.