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Beyond the Clock: Embracing the True Value of Time in Our Lives

As the new year unfolds, there's endless chatter about financial goals and money management for 2024, but there's a glaring omission in these discussions: time, our most irreplaceable asset. Reflecting on my beloved dogs – one nearing 14 years and the other just five months old – it hits me how swiftly time passes, a sentiment echoed by many. It's a tricky thing, perspective; often, we don't grasp the full value of time until it's gone. Unlike money or other resources, time is something we can never replenish.

Lilly & Bailey
Today Bailey on the left and Lilly on the right. 

This year, I challenge you to ponder not just where your money goes, but more importantly, how you spend your time. Ask yourself: What's the most valuable way I've used my time? If you're brimming with joy about how you've spent it, great! If not, it's time to recalibrate for 2024, aligning your actions with your core values. Sure, we all make year-end lists, but how often do we list what truly matters to us? In the whirlwind of conversations about living our 'best life' and the eight dimensions of well-being, it's crucial to pause and reflect: What are my values? What's important to me? Let these questions guide your choices this year. Any action not aligned with your values is not just a waste of money, but also a waste of time. Focus on what truly matters to you. No matter your financial status, I promise, staying true to your values will bring you unparalleled happiness as the new year begins.

Puppy Bailey
Bailey in September of 2010 at just 8 weeks old. 

In our work, we often encounter individuals who have wisely recognized what works best for them. They've chosen to delegate their financial management to us, understanding it's not just a matter of skill but also of value alignment. It's a significant responsibility, acknowledging that financial expertise isn't their core strength, nor is it where they want to devote their precious time. We see it frequently: even those who claim they can manage their finances alone often seek our guidance or spend countless hours in research.

For instance, a conversation I had recently with someone who manages all their own investments. He spends three hours daily watching CNBC and another couple of hours poring over financial research. That's a staggering four to five hours each day dedicated to managing his portfolio. But what's the outcome? According to him, a 35-40% loss in 2022 and a slight improvement this year. When you compare this with the long-term performance of a professional manager, it raises the question: Is the investment of time truly paying off? Keep in mind, almost 90% of professional money managers underperform passive indices over the long term.

Imagine telling this individual, or anyone for that matter, that they could reclaim three days each month – amounting to an extra month every year. What's the value of that time? How much is an additional month per year worth to you? Our aim is to not only manage your wealth efficiently but also to gift you something far more precious – time, allowing you to focus on what truly matters in your life

Reflecting on my own journey, I recall a time when I, too, was hands-on with investments. But it's not just about finance. Take, for instance, when my wife and I first bought our house. A simple task like changing a bathroom faucet and drain pipe turned into a 12-hour YouTube tutorial marathon. Despite my best efforts, I still botched the job and ended up calling a plumber. For $150, he fixed it in an hour – a stark reminder of how much time and frustration I could have saved.

Fast forward to life with kids. I used to mow our lawn, relishing the sense of pride and accomplishment it brought. But then it dawned on me: every hour spent on lawn care was an hour lost with my children. Hiring a lawn service, costing me about $180 to $200 a month, seemed like a luxury at first. But when I did the math, the reality struck me. Over the 10-month period they work, that's roughly 80 hours saved – equivalent to an extra three days per year. That's three days more with my family for an annual expense of about $2,000. When I frame it this way, the question becomes: Would you invest $2,000 for an additional three days to spend with your loved ones each year? For me, the answer was clear.

Many clients initially measure our value based on investment returns and benchmarks. While performance is important, it's only one facet of our service. What we truly offer is peace of mind and time – the assurance that your finances are in capable hands. Our unique approach, deeply rooted in behavioral finance, is actually one of the simpler parts of our job, thanks to our extensive experience and training.

Think about the broader scope of our advice. We've encountered numerous clients who lack essential elements like trusts, wills, or coherent estate plans. Consider married couples with separate accounts scattered across various institutions. In the unfortunate event of a partner's passing, accessing these assets could become a legal labyrinth without proper planning. These nuances of wealth and financial planning, often overlooked, are second nature to us.

So, I urge you to reflect: When was the last time you reviewed your estate plan? Does it align with your current life situation? Remember, estate planning is more than just a will for the afterlife. It encompasses healthcare proxies, powers of attorney, and plans for potential incapacity. These elements are crucial for safeguarding not just your wealth, but your well-being and that of your loved ones.

Let's shift focus to your investments. Ask yourself: Are they allocated appropriately? If your allocation hasn't changed in the last six months or even three years, chances are, it's not optimized for current conditions. Markets evolve, and so should your investment strategy. But it's not just about allocation. Have you defined your values and goals clearly? Can you put a monetary figure on these goals? Understanding what each goal is worth helps in creating a targeted savings plan, aligning your investments with each unique objective.

Beyond investments, when did you last review your property and casualty insurance, or life insurance? It's crucial to periodically compare your coverage with what's available in the market. While we don't sell insurance, our deep integration into the financial sector keeps us informed about the latest products and trends. Continuous education is a requirement for our professional designations, ensuring we remain at the forefront of industry developments. This knowledge is invaluable when advising clients about their insurance needs and options.

Are you fully aware of the key financial milestones that come with each age? Understanding how to prepare for Medicare, knowing when you can start making catch-up contributions to your IRA, and being aware of when you must start taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) are crucial. Each of these stages requires precise planning, as missteps can lead to severe penalties.

These topics are just the tip of the iceberg. If you're not well-versed in these areas or lack detailed documentation—which our clients either have in progress or completed—you'll find yourself spending countless hours researching and seeking the right answers. And even then, are you confident that the information you find is accurate and applicable to your unique situation?

Consider the intricacies of strategies like backdoor Roth conversions. Are you aware of the potential complications if you have other IRAs with pre-tax contributions? It's not as straightforward as it might seem; a simple Google search will reveal a myriad of rules and pitfalls.

Consider this: a 45-minute consultation with professionals like us, at no cost, could provide immense clarity. By choosing to work with us, you delegate this intricate task, freeing up your time for what matters most to you. Sure, you could do it yourself, but think about the time investment required to research, understand, and then execute these plans correctly. Is that the best use of your time?

So, how should you evaluate our services? Perhaps by the amount of time you reclaim, the peace of mind you gain knowing your finances are in expert hands, and the assurance that everything aligns with your life's objectives. This year, I encourage you to deeply explore and understand your values. Align your activities and financial resources with these values. If there's a misalignment, particularly with how you spend your time, it's a clear indicator of waste.

I invite you to engage with us. Our approach goes beyond mere dollars and cents. We leverage sophisticated platforms and the latest technology to help our clients not just understand their finances, but also discover and align with what truly matters to them—often in ways they never realized before. It's not just about investment returns, which we diligently manage, but about the time and joy we restore to your life. That's where our true value lies.

- Todd Stankiewicz

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