Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wedding Season is Upon Us, Do I Need a PreNup?

The weather's turned warmer, the Save the Date cards have gone out, the wedding planning is in high gear (if you need a good planner, I suggest Busy Bride Planning + Consulting) and you think you've got everything checked off your list to make this the best wedding.

But then you start reading the newspaper, checking your new feeds or watching the local news, all of whom suddenly have an interest in telling you that you need a prenuptial agreement before you get married. It's like all forms of media are conspiring to get this idea in front of you and into your head, whether you like it or not.

What's really happening is that the media knows that with all of the upcoming summer weddings, it's a great time to push all kinds of things in front of a nervous couple who can't wait to be married and are suffering from constant FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

But despite the media hysteria, preparing for your wedding is a good opportunity to get your affairs in order as you get ready to merge your life with someone else's. You've spent some time on your own, but now your life is shared with someone else (and possibly someone else's children, other relatives, a cat, maybe the upstairs neighbor who stops by on Fridays for some odd reason) and it's a good time to plan for that future.

This time of year brings many common issues to my office door. The two most prevalent being: 
  • Do I need a Prenup? I don't know, but it's worth sitting down with a financial advisor and an attorney to figure out if one would make sense for you and your family.
  • Do I need an Estate Plan? Probably. You're about to start a new life together with someone and it would be great to have an estate plan in place so you can start your life fresh with confidence that you have a plan in place.
Anything else to consider? You probably want to check your beneficiary designations on your accounts, making sure that Aunt Rosie isn't listed as the person who gets your money. You should also check any prior wills, legal agreements or other agreements that may impact your life with your new spouse.

It's an exciting time preparing for a wedding, but with that excitement, make sure to keep your future planning in line. It's designed to keep things from being exciting, which in the end, is what you're future spouse would prefer...

Monday, May 22, 2017

It's the End of the School Year, Time to Plan Ahead

No matter if you are just starting school, are in school, graduating, or haven't been in a classroom in decades, it always seems like the end of the school year impacts our lives in some way each year. 

For some of my clients, the end of the school year reminds them of the need to plan for the future, especially as their children are one year closer to starting (or graduating) college. So now is a good time to circle around with your financial advisor and see what plans you have put into place for savings for college (or other large upcoming expenditures like a wedding). It's also a good time to re-examine your estate plan and see that everything is up to date and see if you need to put some money aside in a trust or other mechanism if your children are still under the age of majority.

If you're running a small business, the end of the school year will often coincide with the end of a fiscal quarter, or even the fiscal year if you're working on a June 30th year. With the warmer days of summer approaching, it's also a good time to see how the first half of 2017 has gone and where you have opportunities for growth over the course of the summer and into the fall and winter.

While it may be the end of the school year, it's also a great opportunity to be the beginning of one of your best years yet! Don't let the opportunity bypass you to get some good planning under your belt before the warm summer weather becomes too distracting.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Upcoming Podcast Appearance?

My Wednesday morning started out a little different than normal. I was interviewed for an upcoming podcast about Brooklyn real estate (the podcast hasn't officially launched yet, so I don't have any links yet). It was interesting to talk to the host for a bit about Brooklyn and New York City and how some things have changed over the years. Our discussion brought me back to my earlier career as an attorney and even some memories of when I first moved to New York in the 1990's.

The changes in New York City over the past 20 years alone are astounding if you look back at old posts or articles about the New York of the 1990's. Throw in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, and the rise of smart phones and the apps that we all use to manage our day to day life, and life today would be almost unrecognizable to someone from 20 years ago.

I'm looking forward to listening to the final production and the feedback that comes from the listeners.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The I.R.S. Will Use Private Debt Collectors?

The New York Times has a story today about the I.R.S. beginning to use outside private debt collection companies to collect on overdue tax payments. This immediately raises significant concerns that the most vulnerable tax payers could be quickly targeted through this system.

For years I have worked with individuals who have been targeted by pay day loan companies and fake debt collectors who have purchased information from the pay day loan companies to use to try to scam individuals. Now, armed with the knowledge that private debt collectors are going to be used by the I.R.S., these scammers will have a whole new angle to prey upon people with their scams.

The optimists in Washington will hope that these private debt collectors will not violate any laws or rules and will be effective in collecting these debts, which the article estimates to be at $138 billion. It probably helps us all if the government is able to collect on money that it is properly owed, but this sort of system will create a whole new type of scam to prey upon people.

Going forward, it will be even more important for people to verify that the debt collector who is on the phone is really collecting an authentic debt...

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

All's Quiet on the Social Media Front?

It seems like things have been pretty quiet across the social media front for me recently, but that's more a result of all of the extra things that have been popping up with my new office that have been taking up a lot more of my time than I anticipated.

In the middle of all of this, I saw a great post from Seth Godin about Avoiding the good/great chasm. It's a short post, but it hits home about the importance of spending time on the things you really need to spend time on. His opening example about Twitter is a good example:

You can be good at Twitter in about five minutes a day. Spending ten minutes doesn't make you twice as good... in fact, there's probably little measurable improvement. To be great at Twitter might take five hours of daily effort.
All the time in between five minutes and five hours is wasted. You're in a chasm with no measurable benefits.

Often I find that my clients, and, admittedly, me as well, are spending a lot of extra time on things that don't really add a lot of value to what we are working on. To truly make that extra work pay off (i.e. getting to the "Great"), we would have to dedicate far more time than we have. So instead, we try to find ways to make things more productive and less time consuming. We don't always need to be the absolute best at everything, but can get much farther by being the best at our core businesses or products to really get ahead.
If you haven't signed up for Seth's email list, I suggest you go do it now. It's one of the emails I look forward to reading each morning.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Finally Settled Into my New Office

It seems like it has taken forever, but I'm finally situated in my new office. Three days of moving my files and things into the office have kept me busy, and I can now be found at:

6800 France Avenue South, Suite 190
Edina, Minnesota 55435

My phone number is still the same, (612) 294-6982, and of course my email is the same as it always has been.

Looking forward to seeing clients in my new office...

Friday, February 3, 2017

Saving a Family Business from Emotional Dysfunction

There are some pretty eye-opening stats, like

  • 2/3 of the businesses around the world are family-owned
  • It is estimated that 90% of U.S. businesses are family-owned
  • Only 3 out of 10 family businesses survive into a second generation and only 1 out of 10 survive into a third generation

As the article points out, one of the best ways to deal with these issues is to get the controlling family members to focus on the future and what the business will look like after that generation is gone from the business. 

The article also suggests the importance of "Fairness" in the dealings between family members, pointing to three possible practices to implement:

  • Give everyone voice, creating the perception that everybody in the family can make a difference
  • Provide clarity, offering timely and accurate information about family and business issues
  • Be consistent, applying the rules in the same manner to all members of the family

In addition to these practices, the article discusses the benefits of creating a "Constitution" for the company and the importance of having a strong Board of Directors.

The advice laid out is good food for thought, especially for many of the small businesses I have worked with over the years. A family-owned small business inherently has unique issues that need to be addressed so that it can thrive for generations, especially considering how many family-owned businesses there are in the world.