Solving for Happiness: Life Lesson 5 of 50

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

Solving for Happiness

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

solving for happiness

The pursuit of happiness can be a slippery slope. For many, I suspect we’ve never really thought about truly solving for happiness. Personally, I’ve been guilty of focusing on the day-to-day or thinking that new tech toy would be bring much joy and fulfillment.

As it turns out, for me and others, achieving true happiness requires seeking and expecting more.

For many, the belief that money is the key to happiness is deeply ingrained. I wish it was that easy.

The reality is that money and material possessions can introduce stress and problems along our journey of life. And maybe it’s about our expectations and views of what money and things can bring. Yet, the love of money is where I believe it’s easiest for us to get derailed.

“Solving for Happiness” starts with knowing ourselves. That sounds easy, but it actually takes time and soul-searching to figure out what will truly bring us happiness. Most of us have postponed joy and happiness for the pursuit of money. It’s only natural based on today’s society and world.

Life is too short to not truly examine how we can achieve happiness today and into the future.

It’s so easy for us to only see obstacles in the way of our achievement of happiness. Not just placing our financial house in order, but about what’s meaningful to us and how can we be impactful within our families, communities, or world. It’s thinking without boundaries we’ve placed on ourselves. Coloring outside the lines when we’ve gotten so used to coloring inside them.

Life planning takes shape when your finances align with your sense of purpose. This connection tends to be profoundly meaningful, often surpassing any previous connections. It starts with just a few basic, impactful questions that you’ve probably not thought about in a new light or with a new perspective.

Drop me a note if you’d like to schedule time to have a meaningful conversation about how to solve for happiness.

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Ask yourself- can my portfolio support my lifestyle in my retirement? 

7 + 10 =

We Got Retirement All Wrong: Life Lesson 4 of 50

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

We Got Retirement All Wrong

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

retirement all wrong

We got retirement all wrong, but we don’t want to admit it. It’s not surprising. It’s something I hear on a regular basis. Just change the dollar amount for how much your household makes. I bet most of us can relate especially when you have a couple of kids, mortgage, car payment, are saving for retirement, etc.

Even if you believe you have a solid grasp of your financial situation, the reality is that you may have misjudged retirement. Drawing from my extensive experience in the financial services realm, having conversations with hundreds, if not over a thousand people, it’s often not the mortgage or car payment that poses the greatest challenge — it’s the day-to-day expenses that accumulate.

Those seemingly inconspicuous amounts, like $5 here, $50 there, or $250 here, collectively add up to significant money each month—a phenomenon commonly referred to as financial leakage. While everyone experiences it, some individuals are more adept at controlling it than others.

Consider this quote from another article I’ve penned on the subject:

Chances are you’ll hit the retirement lottery one day and it may well be your biggest payday ever. For most it comes in one of two forms – the sale proceeds of your business or that 401(k) you’ve been saving in for the last thirty years. Either way you are going from working for a paycheck to “mailbox money.” And I have to tell you nothing beats mailbox money because it just shows up for your retirement enjoyment.

From my years of working with clients, I’ve observed that within three to six weeks, and certainly within six months of retirement, individuals often develop a different philosophy towards money. This shift is typically towards a more conservative approach, prioritizing spending less to preserve their financial assets.

During this time, I would recommend you do not to commit to any major purchases that you may regret.

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Ask yourself- can my portfolio support my lifestyle in my retirement? 

7 + 5 =

Fulfilling Dreams at Different Life Stages

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

Fulfilling Dreams at Different Life Stages

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

I don’t remember where it started, but when I was a kid, I used to dream of owning a gas station. If that dream were to come true today, I’d like to own KwikTrip—the entire company, not just one store! They are always very clean, they offer lots of grab-and-go food options, and their team members are truly committed to customer service.
Mind you, back then, my idea of a gas station was somewhere that fixed your car, filled your tank, and cleaned your windshield. I never envisioned a place with the in-and-out convenience of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and any snacks you could possibly want! My gas station dreams have certainly evolved. What about your dreams?

How Do Dreams Change Over Time?

Consider life’s many stages: childhood, our teenage years, adulthood, and retirement. How many times have your dreams, hopes, and goals changed?

Dreaming was so much easier back when we were kids. We didn’t know any better. The sky was the limit. As kids, our imaginations could and did run wild.

But adulthood brings its own set of complexities—financial obligations, relationships, and responsibilities, all acting as potential roadblocks to our dreams.

The Lifelong Journey of Dream Fulfillment

Can we still create new dreams or fulfill those of days gone by, even as we progress through the different stages of our lives? Absolutely!

Over the course of our lives, we’ll achieve some dreams and let others fade away. But that’s the beauty of dreaming. We can change them. We can make new ones.

I want to share with you something I heard over 20 years ago and have had in the back of my mind ever since: Dreams don’t have to die with the dream maker.

That’s the cool thing about my profession: I get to help our clients fulfill their dreams.

Mrs. Anderson and I talk often about what we’d like to accomplish in our lifetime. Adopting grandkids is very high on her list, as is experiencing the world through travel and finding new ways to impact others through volunteerism.

Once, while we were discussing our dreams, I told her I would be disappointed if I died before I could accomplish my dream list. Without missing a beat, she told me that would be OK, because she’d still be alive and could fulfill them for me. I sleep with one eye open these days. ☺

But the truth is that while I want us to fulfill our dreams together, in the event that one of us is gone, I still want the other to make and fulfill new dreams. This is when life insurance becomes pivotal.

While the life insurance proceeds will serve as a financial safety net, they can also be dream-enablers. The payout isn’t just about covering daily expenses or sustaining the lifestyle we enjoyed. It’s also a heartfelt promise you make, ensuring that your loved one can still pursue their dreams and find joy, even if you can’t be there to share in those moments.

Let’s Talk About Your Dreams

Throughout my career, I’ve seen my clients experience personal and professional transitions at many different points in their lives. Maybe you’ve created your own dream board or bucket list. Many of those items will get fulfilled, and some might always be outstanding. But that’s the cool thing about dreams: there’s always room for us to work toward fulfilling our goals.

Even as we get older, it’s OK to dream and enjoy the dreams we’ve always dreamed about. We can continue to fulfill our dreams as our lives change. If you would like to have a conversation about how to fulfill your dreams, let’s discuss how I can help. Contact me today.

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Ask yourself- can my portfolio support my lifestyle in my retirement? 

6 + 8 =

Achieving Financial Security

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

Achieving Financial Security

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

I’ve tried saying no, but it does occasionally offer some benefits…
These days, I limit the time I spend on social media. I check to see what’s happening with family, friends, and clients, and I log off quickly. I don’t even have the Facebook app on my phone. One useful group I did find on Facebook was a retirement group where people pose retirement/investment questions to strangers to solicit advice. In many respects, I find this scary (you have no idea who these people are or what their background or qualifications are for giving financial advice), but at the same time, it’s helpful to see what different people are thinking about as they approach or experience their retirement years.

One common theme among those I interact with is that most are seeking financial security. And why would anyone not? But “financial security” looks and means something different to each of us based on our background, our upbringing, and our lifestyle, as well as what we strive for down the road.

Many times, what “security” looks like is not just a mathematical calculation but an emotional one. One recent Facebook post broke down the three levels of financial security one can achieve: financial security, financial independence, and financial freedom.

Financial security is defined as having enough income to cover your basic living expenses. It’s a foundational level that takes decades of hard work and saving to achieve, where you’ve worked for thirty or forty years and can finally put in your two-week notice and not look back. (I often hear people say you need a million dollars saved up before you can retire. The truth is, you don’t.)

Financial independence is what I think most people seek when they use the term “financial security,” but it’s hard to differentiate between financial security and financial independence. Financial independence just means having more passive income to cover your lifestyle, which includes more than the basic necessities of financial security. That might include extra income to travel once or twice a year, eat out a few times a week, and have extra spending money each month.

The third level is financial freedom. Very few people will ever truly achieve this level of freedom. This is when you have multiple passive income streams in place to create the life you’ve always dreamed of, which enables you to do the things you love while also giving back. You still live within a budget, but this level of freedom allows you additional choices on how you live.

Common to all three of these definitions is the phrase “passive income.” Passive income comes in a host of different forms, from Social Security, an income stream from your investment/retirement accounts, a pension (though this is becoming less and less common for younger people), income from a business you own, rental real estate, and so on. For some, passive income is even viewed as part-time work in a low-stress position where they aren’t taking their job home at night.

When I think about financial security, I think about time. Time to take a relaxing vacation—so relaxed you don’t adhere to a rigid timeline. Time to cook those meals that take hours to prepare and eat, take naps you don’t have to set alarms for because you slept so well the night before, and finally start to conquer that mile-long to-do list. That time to invest in ourselves is what I want to help all my clients achieve.

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Ask yourself- can my portfolio support my lifestyle in my retirement? 

8 + 3 =

Being Impactful with Your Money

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

Being Impactful with Your Money

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

My grandparents owned a local grocery store in St. Paul. They lived through the Great Depression, and they passed along many core values from their experience, but most important among them was to always make sure your neighbor has food. They never let their neighbors go hungry, even when they didn’t have enough money to pay.
When I was growing up (and some of you might argue I haven’t yet), I worked at Baker’s Square during high school, college, and a couple of years after that. I know what hard work is and what it’s like to cook in a hot kitchen in the dog days of summer. But cooking wasn’t the hardest position there. Not even close. The most difficult (and yet most important) position in any restaurant is the dishwasher. It’s a gross, wet, and smelly job. Even thinking about this, I want to start bringing my own silverware when I eat out.  

One consistent and hardworking dishwasher at the Square was Brian. A grown man working to provide for his family, he’d gone back to school to study seminary, and at times I know he was hungry. Not just once, but on a number of occasions, I would see him eating food from the bus tubs full of dishes that had just been cleared away from where customers were eating.   

There I was, surrounded by food, and Brian was eating from strangers’ plates. Whenever anyone saw him eating food out of the bus tubs, I would make him a fresh meal of his own. I should have paid for it, but I didn’t. We did, after all, receive a 50 percent discount on our food, and even as a high school kid, I had the money. I simply told Brian the extra food was a mistake. But it wasn’t.

Looking back on this experience gives me pause, because I know I wouldn’t handle it the same way now. Sure, this time I would pay for the food—but I’d also make sure this proud, hardworking father had food for himself and his family. That’s one core value I try to pass down that I hope my kids will incorporate in their lives.  

Today, Mrs. Anderson and I are currently focused on helping those who are hungry. We invest a portion of our life energy and resources in helping others, and we’ve consolidated our giving so that we can be even more impactful in the areas we want to be impactful in. We used to give to a host of organizations throughout the year, but now we’ve selected only a few, so that we can be the most impactful.

Developing a gifting/impacting plan allows us to freely give away thousands per year, knowing we are impacting others with our wealth. Some of my favorite meetings throughout the year are those where I help clients give their money away. We’ve incorporated this into their overall planning, allocating a portion of their treasures each year for gifting in ways that align with their core values. 

For some, the thought of giving money away is stressful, while for others, giving brings them great joy. The truth is, giving money away isn’t always easy, even when we know we can afford to do it. This makes sense: our life experiences helped to shape our attitudes toward our finances. We may have enough money now, but that may not have always been the case, and somewhere in the back of our minds is that little worry: “What if I end up needing that?”

But being impactful with your money isn’t just about donating to a non-profit organization. It can also mean impacting your family, friends, or someone you don’t even know. Our world revolves around money, like it or not. I’d like to share a few ideas that I’ve seen implemented over the years for sharing our money with others.  

Your list might look a little different than mine, and that’s OK—we’re different people. Personally, we’ve focused our giving on organizations devoted to food, mental health, and four-legged friends, as well as our church.

Non-Profit

There isn’t a non-profit around that can’t use more money to meet its programming needs. The good news is that you don’t need to spend big dollars to be impactful. Rather, contribute a meaningful amount toward something you are passionate about.

Over the years, I’ve looked for ways to help our clients be as impactful as possible with their resources. So many of you have taken my advice and narrowed down the number of non-profits you give money to. More than a few of you have told me, “Brett, you’d be so proud of me. I’ve thrown away all but five of these year-end requests.” Excellent! Those five organizations will receive a greater amount of money than they would have otherwise, which will have a greater impact on each one.  

To make your dollars go even further, think outside the box. Non-profits love being able to generate new donors or increase current donors’ gift amounts by offering matching contributions. Many organizations receive dollars from larger organizations specifically allocated to help increase donor contributions. When making a contribution to an organization, call and ask if they are currently running a matching program or plan to run one soon. It’s great when you can double your contribution by being willing to match the donations of others.

(Mrs. Anderson believes we should just give regardless of a match, and we do—and let’s be real, I’m not always in charge—but I always try to make the call first. I’m happiest when I’m able to double my gifts, and so are the non-profits!)

Here’s another example. Recently, a client of mine was asked to fund a new critical staff position for a non-profit organization for one year. After brainstorming on how we could help the organization financially, we decided that instead of my client fully funding the position, they would offer to match a second donor for half. It took about a week for the organization to find another donor willing to match the contribution, but it happened. Shortly after, I sent the funds off at the client’s request. Isn’t that cool? 

(Maybe you’re thinking I’m all about being a do-gooder, but let’s not overlook the fact that I use my Marriott Rewards Visa card for our monthly tithe. Points with Marriott and God, all at the same time? I can’t be the only one!)

Family

Some of us wait until we are gone to give money to our loved ones, while some prefer to begin the process a little sooner. Whatever the case, I am not suggesting that you give all your money away today. How we each choose to impact our families can vary greatly. For example, family Christmas gifts might become things like the joy of travel for the entire family (and no longer involve the stresses of shopping for that sweater). You might even volunteer at your local non-profit together and leave a donation when you’re finished.

Another way to be impactful is to help fund your kids’ Roth IRA accounts when money is tight on their end. Many times, our kids need more help as younger adults than they will later in their lives. I have a hard time recalling the physical gifts my parents bought me over the years, but I do remember the times they’ve helped me and the events we shared.
 

When you have your financial house in order, it can feel so good to help others in your own meaningful way. You don’t have to worry about giving freely, and you are able to impact others with your treasures. If you’d like to discuss developing a gifting strategy, please drop me a note. 

Also, sign up for our eNewsletter blog that includes timely financial matters, news, and planning strategies that you can implement today.

Ask yourself- can my portfolio support my lifestyle in my retirement? 

7 + 13 =

5 Steps on how to travel for less

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

5 Steps on how to travel for less

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

I have a bucket list of travel; those go to places I want to get to before I die. We have a calendar outlining when we’d like to go to various places. When you are in your working years, you don’t always have time to get away and when you’re older you have the time but not always the ability. Travel when you can to explore and hopefully better understand our world. Here are 5 steps on how to travel for less.

Treat your vacation like your money.

  • Know the ins and out of where you are going. What tricks, money and time saving ideas you need to know BEFORE going. Invest in a good guidebook for $25. Skip the lines. Lines cost you time which is money. Especially in Europe, I don’t understand why people even stand in line hours waiting to purchase tickets.

Fly into one airport and out another.

  • We do this all the time to see explore areas we’d never see. Usually, the car rental companies will charge you an extra $50.00 to drop off at another location, but well worth it.

Find rooms on the fly and ask for deals.

  • There are so many cool travel apps that can help you accomplish this and you never know where you’ll end up.

Rediscover old friends, relatives and others in your network.

  • Why not stay with people you know, or even make new friends. I see this with working well throughout Europe. What a cool way to enhance your travel experience and get to know the culture even more.

Take or watch a travel class.

  • Rick Steves or Samatha Brown are two travelers that I follow. Rick’s advise is right on when it comes to traveling in Europe. He doesn’t like cruise ships but I found them enjoyable traveling from one destination to the next throughout Europe. Plus, they have great travel videos on their websites.

Bonus advice – Get a Global Entry Card.

  • This is so cool I don’t even want to tell others about. You get TSA pre-check and it allows for easy access when going through Customs for international travel. Some credit cards will even reimburse you $100.00 every four years if you have this card.

With Summer approaching fast, if you’d like a few travel destination ideas give me a shout. I can help with some great travel destinations.

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Ask yourself- can my portfolio support my lifestyle in my retirement? 

13 + 10 =