Posts Tagged ‘financial planners’

THE BLISSFUL FEELING OF HAVING ENOUGH

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

For some years now, I’ve been delving into women’s mixed emotions about money and power, including anxiety, pride, envy, anger and guilt.

I’ve been reporting on and investigating sex-based elements of leadership and entrepreneurship, looking at women’s social and political accomplishments and setbacks.

And during that time, whether among women with inherited wealth, women who have earned their wealth or women who live paycheck to paycheck, I’ve repeatedly seen that only after arriving at a clear understanding of your emotions about money can you attain the freedom to pursue power.

Coming to terms with money fears and feelings, owning and accepting and, yes, sometimes changing, your money personality, will lead to more authentic and effective choices, especially when it comes to giving and philanthropy. It will free you from denial, from running away, from giving over to a pro or a relative, from decisions by default.

By looking into what drives your financial habits and choices, and tracing these back to family experiences as a child, you’ll be able to take charge and express your true values and beliefs. You will experience your power.

I often financial services pros and experts organize what now are rather trendy conferences and courses designed to teach women about money matters. Invariably, the focus of these convocations is on transactions, not on transcendence. On spreadsheets, not spreading your wings.

Little of such approaches typically hits women’s screens and that’s because of both nature and nurture. Until and unless women explore and accept their emotional engagement with money, they tend to avoid money management and the transactional side of finances.

What’s missing from all the convocations and conferences about financial empowerment are how to address these complicated feelings about money, and that goes for men as well as women.

What after all is money for? Why don’t the seminars ever speak to the values we bring to money management?

Let’s think about building a bridge from the constant striving to get more to the blissful freedom of feeling like you have enough.

TIME TO GO FOR THE GOLD

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

There’s a triple whammy of sex, money and power coming together, just waiting for women to harness in order to achieve worldwide change and leadership.

First, women are sitting on Fort Knox. High-net worth individuals in this country are increasingly female.

Next, more women are shunning the Prince Charming syndrome to manage their own finances and steward their own investments and wealth. Reading a balance sheet is hardly a male preserve anymore.

Third, and most notably, as the global population ages and women take control of the purse, they are gaining philanthropic profile and forcefully making a difference on their own terms. Women now influence nonprofit endowments and make decisions on the boards. Fundraisers from organizations large and small now are eyeing the growing cohort of wealthy women. Many nonprofits are rejiggering marketing campaigns to become more women-friendly while training staff to redefine “the ask,” because women donors typically rebuff the direct approach.

Women’s deepening engagement in philanthropy is having an impact on social policy, the choice of grant awards, program development, nonprofit management, fundraising and even grantor-grantee relationships.
next steps:
- leveraging resources and skills in smart collaborations so as to avoid wasting efforts and momentum

- learning how to be strategic so as to define impact that can be met and measured

- making noise in the meeting rooms, so as to influence decisions that shift the levers of power

THE REAL STORY OF PRINCESS CHARMING

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Let me tell you the real story of the woman who married Prince Charming.

During their forty years together, he enjoyed a lucrative and secure career. She never asked about their assets or how much they spent or saved. They had kids and lived well.

You can see where this is headed.

The prince died. A huge chunk of his money went to pay various taxes, most of which could have been avoided if he had only managed some basic financial planning. The kids got nothing. The wife had to sell the house. The fairy tale ended.

This isn’t an old wives’ tale, either. Women need to have money in their own name.

While younger working women are moving, inch by inch, toward a tripod model—his money, our money, my money—thousands of women are still leaving their checkbooks at the altar, even when they bring home big salaries.

One nationwide survey found that when couples argue about money, men see it as an issue of “trust.” By contrast, women cite issues of “power and control.” Presumably, lots of women would rather not press that marital hot button. Yet when they do assert their financial independence, women are often surprised by the positive changes in their sense of self and the marriage’s dynamics.

If everything you own and all family bank accounts are jointly held (or worse, in his name alone), consider these commonplace scenarios. Then think about getting your own accounts.

• You ought to be able to buy a gift without it being obvious how much you spent.

• You may need access to cash fast for many reasons, including the tragic ones, when joint accounts can be frozen for a good, long while. Typically, you should have three months’ worth of household and living expenses in an emergency bank account of your own.

• When loans and credit cards are all in your spouse’s name, credit agencies will likely score his record while yours turns inactive. Even if you established a good credit history in your own name before marriage, that rating can lapse in less than a year. That means you’ll have difficulty getting credit in your name because there’s no current track record. In addition, if he has a habit of late payments or defaults entirely, it’s your credit rating that will also suffer.

• It can take several years for bad credit info to disappear from the records.

• Sometimes you just want to make your own decisions. You should be able to spend money on what you want without asking for permission or forgiveness.

• And one more critical byte of advice: Make sure you always know current computer passwords for joint investment and bank accounts.

CREATIVE WAYS TO GIVE (BEYOND CASH OR VOLUNTEERING)

Friday, June 10th, 2011

There are lots of options for giving besides writing a check or giving time. Here’s a roundup of suggestions. Before taking action, of course, check with your tax and financial advisers.

Give your house. Gifts of real estate cover a house, apartment building, farm, vacation home, commercial buildings and land. If you cede a fully paid mortgage to, say, your local community foundation, you can continue to live in the home for the rest of your life. Upon your death, the house passes to any charity you select. The nonprofit can then sell it and use the proceeds. Such gifts raise complex tax and legal issues, but planned giving experts at public foundations or charities would be delighted to help you work through the process.

Give by the dozen.
The vast majority of people who give to charity wait until December to make donations, partly because of the holiday spirit and to qualify for that year’s tax deduction. But you rate the same tax break by giving in January or June. And with monthly donations, you create a habit and ease the cash flow.

Give the rewards of intellectual property. If you’ve written a book or screenplay, own a patent, license a service or the like, set up a plan to donate a percentage of incoming royalties or fees.

Give collaboratively. Set up a giving circle with friends, family or colleagues to learn about philanthropy and leverage your dollars and impact. These easygoing groups forge their own rules and grant choices, often with back-office help from a community or public foundation. To learn more, check out advice from the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers. If your pals live across town or around the world, consider a virtual circle using electronic tools (like Skype) to electronically collaborate in real-time.

Give art, antiques or collectibles. Like bequeathing a home, these gifts can be donated to a qualified charity and still remain in your possession during your lifetime. The gift goes to the nonprofit after you die. Check with financial pros beforehand. Congress changed the rules on such gifts in 2006 and now it’s less of tax break than it used to be.

Give with a legacy. By setting up a charitable remainder trust, with cash assets or, better yet, stock that keeps appreciating, you live on the trust’s income during your lifetime while the principal passes to a qualified charity after you die. CRTs are irrevocable, so you can’t change one after it’s established.

Give technology. More and more groups, online and off, are offering recycling outlets to donate used mobile phones, computers, peripherals, software (when you upgrade) and more. Check with your company’s human resources department, local community foundation, public schools, small-business training centers for opportunities. Or check out Secure the Call Foundation . These can be converted into 911 emergency-use mobiles and given free to, say, battered women and kids at risk.

Give mutual fund shares or appreciated securities. Besides netting a tax savings and an immediate charitable deduction for the market value of the donated assets, giving mutual fund shares that transfer to a qualified charity after you die will exempt you from any capital gains tax on the appreciation. Once again, check with advisers before proceeding.

Give part of your business. If you own limited partnership interests (rather than stock in a private family business), you can contribute them to a qualifying charity.

Give to a social venture investment fund. Dozens of nonprofit investment companies around the country work for change by lending money at very low interest rates. When you invest money, you get a return, which will vary by project and firm. For example, Boston Community Capital , a social venture capital fund, has built charter schools, health clinics, affordable housing, childcare facilities and more.

Give your life insurance policy. When you no longer need the life insurance you purchased years ago, consider assigning the policy to a charity (while still covering the annual premiums) and make the charity the beneficiary. If the policy is paid up, you receive an immediate tax deduction equal to the policy’s cash value at the time.

Everyone has something to give.

DEATH OF THE ‘BAG LADY SYNDROME’

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Women don’t need special handbooks to learn how to make a difference in lives around us because giving is what women always do. We nurture kids and relatives. We drop everything for friends in need. We form neighborhood associations, join walkathons, sit on school boards and give to clothing drives. Often as not, we also write charitable checks. So what’s this about?

A significant shift in power and money –- that is, something of a revolution. Increasingly, women are contributing time, skills and assets at levels that far beyond family and community.

If you think of society as a three-legged stool supported by business, government and nonprofit sectors, then women have already gone that long way in redefining their roles in the first two. It’s now the turn of the so-called “third sector.” Many more women are coming into the arena to ask, “What can I do?”

In the process, women are changing the face of philanthropy. They’re infusing new excitement, accountability and serious money into charitable goals and plans. They’re learning how to collaborate and leverage efforts in order to have greater impact. Women now demand greater impact and participation than they used to expect from volunteer work or social opportunities. Plus, women now read budget and P&L sheets while working to make the world a better place.

How did we get here? First, across the country, the extraordinary growth in women’s wealth, professional skills, confidence and financial decision-making has been rewriting rules about money and power. In the U.S., women now represent half of all investors in the stock market. Since we tend to outlive men, women control nearly half (48%) of estates worth more than $5 million. In addition, women are ever more comfortable in leadership roles, whether in business or in philanthropy, and in their rights of ownership.

With deepening experience and resources, women today want a larger, more-strategic stage. We want our money to be working for change. We’re defining focus and figuring how to give in ways that won’t deplete longer-term growth or potential assets. This is the death knell of the bag lady syndrome

THE POWER OF ONE IS TAKING CHARGE

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Charitable gifts have seen “historic declines” in 2009, for the second year in a row – that’s the academic version of “OMG, it’s scary out there.” Giving USA rates the decline at 3.2% (down to $303 billion in total gifts for 2009). “Chronicle of Philanthropy” reported an 11% drop for the biggest 400 charities in the US. The Foundation Center listed a 8.4% drop among the country’s grant-making foundations.

And yet. And yet: A new study, the 2010 Donor Advised Fund Report, released by the National Philanthropic Trust, finds that Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) just keep on keeping on.

Like other charitable vehicles, DAF assets, contributions & grants were down.

HOWEVER: the number of DAFs jumped by 3%, and total DAF accounts now are over 150,000.

PLUS: Grant dollars from DAFs to charities hit $6 billion, actually more than the $5.9 billion contributed to DAFs last year.

It would seem that not only are grassroots, individual and middle-class philanthropists overtaking established foundations and multigenerational and multifamily office wealth, but increasingly, people who give are choosing greater transparency and immediate impact for their gifts.

DAFs can avoid lots of the folderol, RFPs, paperwork and tax headaches cause the administering organization, like a community foundation or the NPT itself, does the back-office work for you.

All you need to do is decide where your money will do the most good.

That is the power of one.

KICKING ASS AND GIRL-ING OUT

Monday, August 16th, 2010

In the “We’ve Come a Long Way” department, Prudential has recently released its latest women and money research, a 10th anniversary edition.

Results? It would seem, dear ones, that we the American women are simultaneously kicking ass and girl-ing out.

Take a cruise of the findings from the “Financial Experience & Behaviors among Women, 2010−2011 Prudential Research Study”:

- More than 9 out of every 10 women (95%) in households with annual incomes of $50,000 or more say they’re part of the financial decisionmaking. A quarter are even the primary decisionmakers.

- Nearly seven in 10 of those surveyed are employed, and nearly three-fourths have college degrees.

Swell.

And on the flip side:

- Fewer than two in 10 women feel “very prepared” to make wise financial decisions. Half say they “need some help,” while a third need “a lot of help.”

- Only a third of women have a comprehensive financial plan. Among younger women, ages 25-34, that drops to only one in 10.

The “long way” looks be winding, indeed.

WHY FOR-PROFIT COMPANIES WILL DO THE RIGHT THING

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Several years ago, Socially Responsible Investing maven Peter D. Kinder, then president at KLD Research & Analytics (KLD) in Boston, and currently Strategic Advisor to ESG Analytics, wrote a white paper called “Values and Money.”

His stated goal was to trace the history of SRI and to provide some real definitions, context and metrics about investing with a socially or environmentally conscious agenda. He wrote:

SRI emerged in the 1960s from two intertwined, but distinct motivations.

First, it sprang from a desire to change the way corporations interacted with and affected society. This impulse found expression largely through shareholder activism in support of political efforts. The first shareholder action (1967) focused on Eastman Kodak’s minority hiring practices.

Second, it arose from a desire among investors to have their investments be consistent with their ethics. The Pax World Fund (1969) allowed investors to avoid military stocks at the time of Viet Nam.

I think we’re now seeing a third factor surfaciing: Consumers, investors, shareholders are more and more willing to vote with their dollars and to hold corporate boards accountable, just as donors are holding nonprofits accountable. Google and Bill Gates and all the social venture capital partners out there now are backing for-profit companies that seek to do good by doing well because they believe it’s a smarter model for social transformation. And while there are pros and cons to such widespread adoption of for-profit social giving, it certainly does do away with the constant need to fundraise and therefore keeps the focus on the mission. (I’ll look at some of the cons in another blog.)

As a result, boards and CEOs at big, global and established corporations will find themselves hard-pressed to ignore the profile, the purpose and, best of all, the sustainable profits that flow from such socially conscious enterprises. In order to continue to build their companies and attract shareholders and preserve both the planet and their future, they will ultimately be bound to follow the SRI model. They will need to match their operations to socially conscious values. And we, the shareholders and consumers, will win.

Or, as Ivan Seidenberg, chairman and CEO of Verizon, puts it in a just-released report about the coming society challenges from the Committee Encouraging Effective Philanthropy (which boasts Paul Newman as a founder): “Our belief is that corporate philanthropy expands the business. If you do the right thing over time, you expand the capabilities of your customer base, business, and society.”

LET’S TRY REAL CAPITALISM INSTEAD OF THE SOCIAL KIND

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

“We need to stop separating investment decisions from philanthropic giving,” writes Alexander Friedman, in an opinion piece in the “Financial Times.”

Huzzah! At last! Someone has actually named the bridge that should have been built long ago.

Friedman, who recently stepped down as CFO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and who also was an investment banker at Lazard, clearly is a serious radical — a lot more of a freethinker than many social activists I’ve met.

Can you imagine a greater giving game-changer than having major donors and foundations commit a percentage of their endowments and investment choices to organizations and businesses that support social change? Vote with your dollars, I say. Few foundations, large or small, are making that decision. But it’s definitely where we need to go.

“The world’s problems cannot be solved either by unfettered markets or by limited pools of philanthropic dollars,” advises Friedman. Clearly, these two adversarial factions need to figure out that they need each other. They must find absolutely new ways to align, combine and partner.

Bill Gates walked away from the idea of the so-called “ethical investing” movement by announcing last January that his foundation would focus on grant making, not on the social impact of its investments. Yet the Gates Foundation –under Friedman’s leadership? — earmarked 1% of its endowment for investment instruments like bond guarantees, securing donor aid and equity funds in developing countries. Maybe it just needs a bit more time.

Other philanthropic consultancies, foundations and for-profit businesses are trying similar experiments and efforts. Goldman Sachs — not the most popular company these days – nevertheless has launched the 10,000 Women and 10,000 Small Business Initiatives. Google Dot Org is trying something similar, by investing small venture capital amounts in for-profit startups trying to do social good. JPMorgan’s social sector finance group is bringing financial skills and funding to nonprofits.

We need more of these first-mover, change-the-model partnerships.

We’ll never get anywhere significant in building social change if we keep divorcing real moneymaking venues from philanthropy

THE UNMENTIONABLE AMONG NONPROFITS

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

No, it’s not the names of their biggest donors or how much they rely on outside consultants.

It’s what most of the world calls “marketing,” but what the third sector, in its mission-centric way, prefers to dub “advocacy.”

I attended a luncheon in midtown Manhattan this week, at which my colleague Margaret May Damen, author of the just-published Women, Wealth & Giving, delivered a smart, thoughtful address about the power of women’s philanthropy to a group of financial planners.

In chatting with Margaret’s editor at the luncheon table about other titles in Wiley’s pipeline for the nonprofit arena, I found virtually none that would define and advise nonprofits about the dire need for timely, contemporary, effective marketing for their causes.

There was one about to be released on Internet Marketing, which is swell and certainly trendy. But a basic call-to-action and a usable handbook about affordable principles for marketing — like the dozens you find on bookstore shelves that target entrepreneurs and small business owners — zilch. Nothing’s out there that’s current and speaks to up-to-date ways to market nonprofits’ organizations, cultures, their successes, their narratives, their business-plan goals — their BRAND.

It dawned on me that this is the deepest unmentionable in the sector. No one wants to take this on in any substantial way.

Why?

The reasons are multiple. Every cause is supposed to telegraph its own virtue. You shouldn’t have to “peddle” it. No one wants to look slick or greedy or too commercial. In addition, donors do not want their pay-for-play contributions to go for glossy brochures or pitch letters or email newsletters, to, in other words, “advocacy.” Rather, donors require that their hard-earned money be spent on programs and tangible, practical relief or research characteristic of the organization they choose to fund. And who can blame them? That, after all, is why people give.

The thing is, I do not see nonprofit development officers or EDs or communications folks even trying to lay out the compelling case for how $1 spent on marketing typically reels in $2 for the worthy programs. The for-profit world knows down to their bones that marketing works to boost the bottom line. But the third sector? Not so much

What’s to be done? When will nonprofits wake up? Yes, yes, I’m aware that Twitter’s all the rage among socially conscious mavens. And I know that every nonprofit that ever filed a 990 has a page on Facebook and Linked In.

But I’m talking about MARKETING, not posting some data or some tidbit or the attendee list at a recent conference.

We need game changers. We need to seriously spark fundraising and engagement and impact. Whether that translates into creating viral online videos or taking out old-timey newspaper ads, or developing dramatic story lines that galvanize would-be donors to pick up the phone –  in other words, marketing messages, not just placeholders — then we might be able to bolster the scarce resources.

We need smarter nonprofit branding. Who’s up for that?