Technology Levels the Financial Playing Field

Technology Levels the Financial Playing Field

When I was a kid, I thought everyone had access to the same opportunities and suffered the same strife. I assumed all families struggled financially and that all parents worked as hard as my mom. She raised me on her own, an immigrant who juggled jobs and kids while putting herself through school. Somehow, she managed to keep a roof over our heads and put food on the table. 

This notion of a level playing field – where families had access to the same tools and resources -- disintegrated shortly after I started my first job at a multifamily law office. Our clients were all well off (most of them had had money for generations), and I got my first glimpse of the access and resources that wealth produced. Our clients didn’t hunt for resources including financial advisors as most families have to; advisors came to them with very powerful resources. They had teams of people, including me, willing to serve them and options that the non-wealthy didn’t even know existed. 

Growing up in a modest household, I saw one way of life. And my nascent career had just exposed me to another. I began to develop a perspective not unlike that of Robert Kiyosaki, the author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I saw the stark difference between the wealth of opportunities for people with money and the few options available to those without. I didn’t know it then, but a seed was planted, one that influenced my career path, my purpose and the work I deemed important.

Technology has changed the game

Twenty-five years later, the prevalence and impact of technology is undeniable. Most have immediate access to an abundance of information; it’s become much easier to obtain the education and resources necessary to create a financial plan and make educated financial decisions. There’s also a much larger number of tools and solutions with more sophisticated technological capabilities available on the market. One can view account balances, build a financial plan, engage an advisor and create a legacy from a handheld device. The door to access and tools, a door known exclusively to the wealthy when I was growing up, has cracked open to families of all socioeconomic statuses. Technology has served to more evenly distribute access and resources. 

But we, as financial professionals, have a duty to do more. Access and resources aren’t much without the understanding of how to use them. We need to make it easier for people to comprehend the principles that create a sound financial foundation: the difference between an asset and a liability, how to manage risk and create a budget, making sure more money is coming in than going out. It’s incumbent upon us to share and ingrain this fundamental knowledge with everyone and provide the tools necessary to put it into practice. 

That seed I mentioned earlier has now fully taken root, and I’ve dedicated my career to helping families (all families) protect themselves from financial hardship. It’s the help my mom so desperately needed and my clients so readily had access to. I think about how much an advisor could’ve helped her to develop financial acumen and thereby create a plan for the future. In the absence of such education and resources, she was forced to work that much harder. And she did…for my benefit.

I want to take a moment to recognize her – to acknowledge how much she accomplished with so few resources. Mom, thank you for prioritizing my well-being and for teaching me the value of education. Thank you for all you scarified so that I could get where I am. It’s because of you and your persistence that I’m able to help others.

Don’t Let Your Day-to-Day Derail Your Future

Don’t Let Your Day-to-Day Derail Your Future

I don’t know about you, but sometimes, I feel like my life has become a marathon of sprints. While my cellphone is great at keeping me on task for appointments, meetings and my kids’ activities, it feels like a tether I can’t sever. I’m constantly being pinged, texted, emailed with hardly a moment’s peace.

As a result of the accelerated pace of life, time has become a valuable commodity. The time we invest in just earning a living has grown substantially over the years. Consider how the employment paradigm has shifted: job security is a thing of the past; the growth of the gig economy has meant fewer employees and more temporary contractors/freelancers. Both scenarios equate to more time spent acquiring work and less time for everything else in life.

As a working parent, I’m forever balancing my personal and business obligations. I want to be there for important moments in my children’s lives, but I also have responsibilities that I can’t neglect. With everything we’re juggling, some of the balls are bound to drop.

I’m here to help you pick them back up―at least those related to your financial future. Life changes with unprecedented speed, and, with it, so do your plans for the future. Here are five questions to ask yourself that will help you determine what actions you might need to take. Think of this as a situational checklist to help keep your plans on track.

Did you recently change jobs?
  1. Did your income increase?
  2. Do you need more life insurance?
  3. Was your insurance portable?
  4. Did you roll over your retirement benefits?
Is your budget current?
  1. Is your spending still aligned with your income?
  2. Have your obligations increased/decreased?
  3. Do you have an emergency fund?
  4. Are there any big expenses coming up in the near future?
Is your retirement still on track?
  1. When do you plan to retire?
  2. Are you contributing enough to your retirement accounts/investments to meet that date?
  3. Do you have a financial advisor that reviews your investments on an annual or semi-annual basis?
Have you recently married or havechildren?
  1. Have you updated your will?
  2. Have you checked your beneficiary designations?
  3. Should you consider setting up a trust?
Do you intend to pay for or supplement your children’s education?
  1. Is college part of the plan?
  2. Do you know the cost of the particular institution?
  3. Have you considered trade school or community college?

It’s easy to lose sight of these big-picture items in the face of tasks that need immediate attention. But if you refer to this checklist when some aspect of your life changes, I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.

Everyone Deserves Access to Estate Planning

Everyone Deserves Access to Estate Planning

By Michael Babikian

We’re granted certain unalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of financial progress. I might have taken some liberties with the third item on the list, but one could argue that finances have a direct impact on level of happiness. That’s not because people need money to be happy. It’s because the financial world can be nebulous and overwhelming, and trying to put all of the pieces together into a coherent plan is often anxiety-provoking.

In fact, a recent study found that 55% of those surveyed “feel lost when it comes to a long-term and stable financial plan.”1 I believe that’s because financial literacy is not a core competency in our educational programs. We aren’t taught to create a budget or how to invest. Our vocabulary tests don’t include the terms 401(k) or annuity. And we certainly aren’t encouraged to think about what happens to all of those financial instruments when we die.

I can’t augment our school curriculum, but I can help curate and broadcast financial education, particularly in the realm of legacy planning. I can also provide the tools and resources people need to develop a plan. The good news is I’m not alone in my desire to arm people with information that promotes financial progress. The other day, I discovered a highly reputable company that’s based on the same objective. Credit Karma says in its mission statement that “everyone deserves to feel confident about finances.” This company helps people achieve that confidence by offering free access to credit scores, reports and monitoring. They also make it easy (and free) to search for unclaimed money in case their subscribers are owed money they don’t know about. More on this in a minute.

I wholeheartedly agree with their approach, and my LegacyShield co-founder and I are doing the same thing for estate planning. We believe that everyone should have access to what they need to create an estate plan. Just as Credit Karma believes you have a right to know if there’s an error on your credit report, we believe you have a right to protect and pass on your legacy.

Why an estate plan is important

Like balancing a budget or investing in mutual funds, we aren’t taught how to create a plan for our personal and financial belongings. But there are two primary reasons why it’s important.

You don’t want your assets to get lost. It was hard enough in the analog age when families spent hours looking in shoeboxes and combing through filing cabinets after a loved one passed. But in the digital age, where the average person has at least 90 online accounts2, it’s near impossible for your family to track down your belongings.

That’s why more than $59 billion3 of unclaimed assets are sitting in state accounts. That’s millions of dollars spread across old bank accounts, forgotten 401(k)s and tax refunds, often because the rightful owners haven’t an inkling they exist. In most areas of life, people are fully immersed in the digital age – they pay their credit card balances and deposit checks from their phones. Yet, when it comes to estate planning, many are stuck in the analog era, keeping paper proof of their life insurance policies and a hard copy 401(k) statement. Because those items are so easy to lose, we recommend creating a digital repository for all of your financial records and mementos like photos and stories. By organizing everything you have into one comprehensive list – accounts with usernames and passwords as well as family recipes – you can share an easy-to-follow roadmap with your family when the time is right. This way, your heirs know about your life insurance policy or the unpaid tax refund and can follow up with the institution directly. They know about the recipe for Grandma’s famous lemon frost cake. You’ve worked all of your life to amass the assets you have. You have a lifetime of stories to tell and recipes to share. We believe you deserve to have a plan for passing down money, stories and memorabilia to the next generation.

There is another reason beyond leaving a legacy and making sure your family is taken care of. That reason is making sure you are taken care of and your wishes are respected should you become incapacitated. You can do that with the help of three documents: a last will and testament, a health care proxy and a power of attorney. A will tells your heirs what you want to happen to everything you own and value. Who do you want to have your beloved coin collection? Your health proxy designates the person who ensures those wishes are carried out. This person has access to your medical records and makes decisions on your behalf, guided by your living will. A power of attorney does the same thing for the financial side of your life. Many people don’t think of these situations as part of an estate plan, but they become essential if you’re alive but unable to think and act on your own behalf.

Our Service

The idea behind making financial education and planning tools accessible to everyone is that, when people have access to the right tools, they’re better able to plan for their futures. By giving advisors a way to offer an estate planning service to all of their clients, we’re giving everyone the ability to leave a legacy. When you work with us, you’ll have access to an integrated platform – where you can store and share both personal and financial information – with enterprise-grade security.

We’re not the only legacy-planning solution on the scene, but what sets us apart is our belief that people need and want the help of their advisors, accountants and life coaches. We believe financial planning takes a village. It’s the reason we offer our service through advisors – to make sure you have that guidance during every step of the process. 

After all, everyone deserves to feel confident about their estate plan.

1 GuideVine study via the New York Post

2 Dashlane

3 Quora

Toys “R” Us: A Lesson in the Importance of Innovation

Toys “R” Us: A Lesson in the Importance of Innovation

Innovation. Wired has termed it the most important and overused word in America. They’re right on both counts; you can’t read an article about business growth without seeing at least one mention. But there’s a reason it’s ubiquitous.

Like most buzzwords, “innovation” has become such a trendy term that, at times, its meaning is a little fuzzy. Allow me to break it down to one elemental concept: To be innovative is to be more effective than your competitors. The how is where it gets hard, mostly because it means something different for every company. Regardless of the ambiguity or uncertainty innovation represents, it is essential that you understand what it means for your business. You’ve heard of the phrase “adapt or die” in the context of evolution – in business, it’s innovate or die.

Case in point: After more than 65 years of business – and after rising to the top of its vertical – Toys “R” Us is filing for bankruptcy with $5 billion in debt. According to an article on Money, the toy giant announced its plans to close all 735 of its U.S. stores (and 1,758 locations worldwide, according to Wikipedia).

CEO of Bratz Dolls Isaac Larian and other investors have pledged $200 million in a crowdfunding campaign as a desperate last-ditch effort to keep half of the U.S. stores open, and #SaveToysRUs is trending on social media. But, despite this movement, it’s unlikely the campaign will reach its $1 billion goal. Even if it does, it seems a lot like delaying the inevitable.

But why? What went wrong? Quite a few things, most of which fall under the category of lack of innovation. While Toys “R” Us certainly faced disruption from online retailers, saying Amazon put them out of business is at best a gross oversimplification of the story. The idea that online is phasing out retail is simply not true. In fact, even Amazon made a big move toward a physical presence with its recent multibillion-dollar Whole Foods purchase. Consumers are telling business leaders that they want brick-and-mortar stores for the experience and interaction, and Amazon listened.

If Toys “R” Us had created a store experience that captivated children and connected that to a consumer-centric online platform that let parents and kids decide how and when to engage, the toy giant certainly could have remained successful. Another idea might have been leveraging or partnering with YouTube. In recent years, it’s become popular for kids to post videos of themselves playing with their toys, and Toys “R” Us could have used the platform to spot trends and inform their marketing strategy. But they refused to change, to innovate. They relied too heavily on their past success and failed to realize the world around them was evolving.

Innovation is difficult and uncomfortable, but we’re seeing traditional retailers evolve with help from smaller, nimbler partners. It’s much like the story of David and Goliath. David was small but inventive while Goliath, though much stronger, relied too heavily on his size. The traditional retailers who are successful are realizing what they can accomplish by partnering with disruptors rather than competing with or ignoring them. They’re combining their strength of reputation with new ideas and ingenuity for overall effectiveness.

The key is to choose that partner wisely. You need an ally who understands your industry and can offer innovation that allows your business to thrive. LegacyShield understands your needs and the industry, and we have the capability to bring the innovation the market is demanding. The world is changing. We at LegacyShield want to help you be a part of that change.

LegacyShield is a state-of-the-art platform on which you can offer your solutions, interact with customers and provide a place for them to organize their financial lives.

Delivering an Exceptional Customer Experience

Delivering an Exceptional Customer Experience

Whether you’re an independent advisor or part of a larger firm, you know how important the customer experience is to your success in attracting and retaining clients. What does an exceptional customer experience look like? More …