News & Insights

7 Financial Tips for Newly Married Couples

by Jim Freeman, CFP® on 2/13/2019

Marriage is a union in many ways. You may have the emotional aspects covered, but what about making the dollars and cents work? Financial tension is a big reason that many marriages fail. Read our seven financial tips for newly married couples to hear some tips for starting off on the right foot.

#1 Have the hard conversations

Why is it so hard to talk about money? Because of the feelings and assumptions that go along with it.

For example, you may have been raised to believe that high earning people are more successful than those who don’t make as much. You don’t want to confront anyone about this, or even worse, be confronted about your own level of earnings. Or, maybe you are harboring a feeling of shame because you spent more money than you should have on something.

The list goes on and on…

Read more

posted in BlogGeneralPersonal Finance

Private Trust Deed Investments – Finding the Diamond in the Rough

by Jim Freeman, CFP® on 2/5/2019

Finding the diamond in the rough

A private trust deed is simply a loan made against a real estate investor’s property. In other words, it is a private mortgage. Trust deeds and mortgages have slight differences, but for this discussion it’s fine to think of them as very similar.

Over 10 years ago, we sat with a prospective client reviewing his portfolio and discussing his financial planning goals and objectives. When we got to one of holdings he said he really liked this investment and wanted us to take a closer look at it. He saw no reason why he shouldn’t put all of his money into it. The investment was a private trust deed fund.

We told him, on the contrary, that most likely we’d be advising him to take all of his money out of it.

Read more

posted in BlogInvestments

How Accountants Should Find a Financial Advisor to Work With

by Financial Alternatives on 1/15/2019

How can accountants find a great financial advisor to partner with?

Finding the right financial advisor to partner with from a practical standpoint has been, well, a source of much frustration for many CPAs we know. So we’re putting together a sketch of how accountants who want to expand their margins, offer a higher level of service to their clients, and grow their practices through partnering with a financial advisor should go about finding the right one.

#1 How is the advisor compensated?

It matters.

The way an advisor is compensated can create conflicts of interest that influence how their clients – and your clients – will be treated.

Advisors can get paid in many ways, each bringing varying levels of objectivity. Some advisors are paid on commissions – either fully or partially. This may mean that the advisor is held to a suitability standard and must make sure that the recommendations he or she makes are proper given the client’s profile. However there is nothing to say that they are the most proper solutions available given the opportunity set, or that the client’s best interests are truly placed before the person advising him or her.

It would be a wise decision for accountants to consider fee-only Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) firms who work in the sole best interest of the client. These advisors are fiduciaries in the true sense of the word. They are obligated to put the client’s best interest before their own.

Read more

posted in BlogGeneralPersonal Finance

The Surprising Truth about Women and Stock Options

by Financial Alternatives on 12/10/2018

The surprising truth about women and stock options.

A recent article in Bloomberg revealed some shocking data about women being underpaid relative to men – in the progressive technology sector, of all places. As per a study by Carta, “women hold 47 cents for every dollar of equity men do” (Greenfield, 2018). These results should not be taken lightly; here’s why this imbalance may matter for female executives and what they can do to change it.

What the Imbalance Looks Like in Reality

It’s surprising to think that in an industry known for innovation and transparency such a striking disparity would prevail. But nonetheless, let’s suppose that it’s true; what if women do in fact hold less equity in technology start up firms than men.

So what?

Let’s see how this translates in reality. Think about a man and woman who are equivalently skilled and qualified, performing the same job responsibilities for which both earn a salary. For the sake of discussion, we’ll call them John and Sally.

Throughout the year, John and Sally chug along merrily taking home their paychecks each week. It’s a known fact that women tend to be underpaid relative to men when it comes to salary. But a salary is a set amount and it’s not likely she earns less than 20-30% of what he does even given the “gender discount.”

What does it mean when a woman holds less of a stake in a highly profitable tech firm that, say for example, goes through a $50MM IPO?

Let’s apply the 47 cent ratio mentioned above. Let’s say this applies universally across the company. There is $50MM of equity to be divided up; women get $16MM while men get $34MM. According to these numbers, Sally takes home $1.6MM while John takes home $3.4MM.

It’s massive.

Read more

posted in BlogGeneralPersonal Finance

The Trouble with Trusting Your Stock Options

by Chris Jaccard, CFP®, CFA on 11/27/2018

Here's the trouble with trusting your stock options.

Stock options are great for established companies who want to reduce their tax bill, startups who don’t have a revenue stream, and many others in between. But do they always make sense for the employee? Here are some scenarios when you should push back on a stock option offer, and the questions to ask to avoid locking yourself into an unfavorable one.


posted in BlogInvestmentsPersonal Finance

How Smart a Charitable Giver Are You? Take this Quiz!

by Ellen Li, MSBA, CFP® on 11/27/2018

What kind of a charitable giver are you? Take this quiz.

As the holidays is when many people make charitable donations, it’s a good opportunity to brush up on your giving IQ. Are you making the right moves to maximize value for both you and the charity? How smart a charitable giver are you?

Take this 5 question quiz to find out!

True or False: You can donate and still reap tax savings additional to the write off.


Many people are surprised to hear that you can donate and still get the benefit of additional tax savings in excess of the tax write-off you earned.

For example, one of our clients was donating $10k a year to charity in cash. After we discussed the benefits of other strategies, she decided to use a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) to give appreciated assets she held in her portfolio. These investments bore a low cost basis, and if she sold them she would likely have incurred substantial capital gains and a big tax bill.

Read more

posted in BlogPersonal Finance

Don’t Forget Your End of Year Tax Planning!

by Chris Jaccard, CFP®, CFA on 11/16/2018

Don't forget your end of year tax planning!

As open enrollment season and the calendar year comes to a close, late-stage tax planning often comes into focus.  Just sticking with your current employment elections may be mistake – there are several end of year tax planning options to consider. Here are a few items on the list for you to check as the year winds down.

Health Insurance

It would be wise to keep in mind what the final parts of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed December 2017, will eventually mean for your healthcare planning.  Although a few of the provisions of the act don’t apply until 2019, they are still important to consider.

The two most significant would include:

  • Medical expenses must exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income to be deductible starting in 2019. Previously only expenses over 7.5% were generally deductible.
  • Penalty payments will no longer be assessed for not purchasing health insurance meeting ACA guidelines.

Given this, it’s quite likely that health insurance costs will see a significant increase next year – particularly for those with individual rather than group policies.

What actions should you consider taking?

Brady Bunch It Up

Consider bringing some medical expenses into 2018 to exceed the lower threshold; afterwards, you can try grouping your medical expenses into one calendar year again in the future — but at the higher hurdle rate.  This late in the year, consider any discretionary medical expenses that you have been putting off such as dental or vision work.

Read more

posted in BlogPersonal Finance

The #1 Thing That Most Executives Aren’t Doing With Their Stock Options and Executive Compensation Plans – and What It May Be Costing You

by Jim Freeman, CFP® on 10/23/2018

Executives are constantly overlooking the automation of their stock options - here's how to do just that.Executives who are time-constrained yet serious about reaching their financial and investing goals commonly overlook one important factor: automation. Set up your plan so that it will be automatically executed without you having to remember what decisions were made. Automate, automate, automate! Here’s why.

A Typical Executive’s Financial Snapshot

Let’s say that you are an executive for a successful company that offers the following executive compensation:

  • Salary & Bonus $350,000
  • Restricted Stock Units (RSUs) of $150,000 annually
  • Stock option grants annually
  • A deferred compensation plan
  • An employee stock purchase plan (ESPP)
  • A matching 401k plan

We also assume your portfolio is overweighted to your company’s stock and you’d like to gradually reduce this overweight. In addition, let’s suppose you are in a high tax bracket and you’d like to reduce your taxes if possible during your peak earning years. You also want to begin saving money for your kid’s college costs, have your mortgage paid off in 10 years, keep your spending to $200,000 per year and aggressively reduce your stock option holdings if your company stock hits certain price targets.

If you’re doing this all manually, as most executives are, you may not realize how much time you are spending on tasks that could easily be achieved in a fraction of the time. In addition, automation reduces the risk of error.

The Automation Advantage

So how could an executive go about reducing the amount of manual work that is done in their financial and investment planning? Here is how this might look.

Read more

posted in BlogInvestmentsPersonal Finance

Market Review – Q3 2018

by Financial Alternatives on 10/16/2018

  • Looking at broad market indices, the US outperformed non-US developed and emerging markets during the quarter.
  • Small caps underperformed large caps in the US, non-US developed, and emerging markets. The value effect was positive in emerging markets but negative in the US and non-US developed markets.
  • REIT indices underperformed equity market indices in both the US and non-US developed markets.
  • Quarterly Topic: Total Cost of Fund Ownership. The article starting on page 16 illustrates to importance of mutual fund operating costs and that investors should consider going beyond expense ratios when evaluating options.

posted in InvestingNewsletters

Planning Newsletter – Oct 2018

by Financial Alternatives on 10/16/2018

Year-End Tax Planning

If you have not already completed your year-end tax planning, now is the perfect time to do so. Don’t wait until December when the holiday rush kicks in and you and your advisors have less time to devote to this very important task.

  • Year-end tax planning could save you thousands of dollars in taxes.
  • Automating the execution of your financial planning and investment decisions will assure their implementation.
  • Every business and family needs up to date and accurate books and records.
  • Use technology to automate tracking of your assets, liabilities, income and expenses.

posted in NewslettersPlanning

Featured Literature

Blog Topics

Recent Blog Posts



Receive updates by email.


Posts are general in nature and do not constitute the rendering of legal, investment, accounting or other professional advice.