Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lifestyle Lifters

Those of you who follow this blog know that my post on Saturday is dedicated to sharing some of the many lifestyle topics that are of interest to Women of Wealth.

To keep it simple (I know you are all anxious to get started on your weekend!), I've put these into a few categories, and provided a brief comment and a few links for follow-up/further info.

Technology - Many of you are Women of Wealth who are also executives, elite professionals, business owners, and may also have parenting responsibilities or caring for an elderly parent. One of the traditional sanctuaries for you has been the enjoyment of a good book, traditionally obtained in hard or soft copy at your local book store, or local library. We have a great book store in our town that has some unique offerings, including one by Philanthropist Daisy Soros that I have posted in the Recommended Reading section of this blog. For those of you unable to take time to source quality reading material in this traditional way, I suggest you take a close look at e-readers that are becoming increasingly popular and more affordable. These devices allow you to download a growing number of book titles, and magazines, and many now offer text-to-speech conversion allowing an audio book to be part of the package. Of course, content is key, and one of the most innovative companies I have found for delivering this is Zinio. In addition to offering mainstream mags like Business Week, Vogue, W, etc, in digital format, they also have launched their own Lifestyle mag, Vivmag, that has some unique features not found in other "analogue-to-digital" print publications.

Next Saturday, we will explore another lifestyle topic of interest. Until next post, continue to believe, achieve, recieve. SDG - JBHIV

Friday, February 27, 2009

TGIF - but don't give up!

Expect another round of lower economic indicators today. If there is anything we have to hope for, it is Hope itself. In any crisis, personal or otherwise, Hope is usually the last thing to go. How easy it is for us to look forward to the end of the week by saying "Thank God it's Friday". But Friday turns to Saturday, then Sunday, etc. and our beat goes on. Please join me in pledging to make this day, and every day, a new beginning - and never give up!:

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As everyone of us quickly learns,
And many a Failure turns about,
When you might have won had you stuck it out.

Don't give up though the pace seems slow - you may succeed with another blow!

Until next post, continue to believe, achieve, receive. SDG - JBHIV

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What ifs: a crucial step in the financial healing process

A few days ago, I posted a list of ten things that Women of Wealth can do today to gain more control, and better assess the impact the current financial crisis may have on their social biography and underlying financial goals.
One of the biggest hurdles to the success of any economic recovery plan is the fear of "what ifs" - what if I or my spouse loses their income, what if the trust fund I rely on is now not able cover my needs, etc.
Losing wealth may be difficult to deal with for those who did not see the financial storm brewing a year ago, or who relied on others to manage their wealth but never kept a close eye on their statements.
Here are few suggestions from Dr Theodore Soutzos, a consultant psychiatrist in London, on how the process of "financial healing" can begin*:

"Treating the fear around the loss of money is a three-step process. First is cause, Dr Soutzos says: “You have lost money. Can you do something to keep it?” Next comes perception: “Often people will exaggerate the extent of the damage.”

Finally comes response: “When you’re actively doing something about it, you feel less stressed,” he says. “If people say ‘I will end up on the street’, I challenge them.” In some instances, losing wealth can offer an escape route. It can allow you to pursue another career, move home or shed a partner. Dr Wolman says: “Getting off the treadmill can bring enormous relief. You’re always losing something. There’s always someone out there with a bigger house and a bigger boat.”

After financial pain comes financial healing, though this cannot happen without the willingness to accept the situation (blame and denial are two forms of escapism).

A realistic breakdown of all assets left is the first priority after which it comes down to support structures. “Anxieties go down as soon as you process them,” says Dr Wolman. And this means talking about them.

Until next post, continue to believe, achieve, receive. SDG - JBHIV

*This first appeared in the February print edition of Wealth Bulletin as part of Wall Street Journal Europe.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Our New Direction

Last night our President outlined his vision for the future of our nation as we struggle to rebuild our economic infrastructure.

Part of this vision requires a re-liquifying of the banking system as we know it today. This is expected to cost the US taxpayers trillions of dollars, and may result in the partial or total "nationalization" of many of our largest financial institutions. Many of the experts see this as a secondary priority. The real issue, they say, is the continued decline in asset prices - houses, commercial real estate, etc. Many of these assets are backed by "financially engineered" products that have no intrinsic value (tied to "hard" assets like gold, silver). As part of the modern day Fractional Reserve monetary system, bankers have been able to create assets out of nothing. Opponents of this system call it "Pluck From Air (PFA)" banking. While this post is not meant to go into detail on how it is done, I do want to point out that this system has been made more impactful and dangerous with the introduction of "shadow banks" (Hedge Funds, Private Equity Funds, etc.). The rise of these alternate sources of capital are now themselves falling victim to rapidly declining asset values, creating a snowball effect and putting further pressure on the Feds to bail them out, as well.

Why have I spent so much time in this blog on the subject of modern day banking? Because the root cause of this latest financial crisis has been around for a long time (back to the Federal Reserve Act of 1913). But deeper than that, the current banking crisis can be traced back to biblical times when "honest scales and honest weights" were used to conduct trade.

Somehow, we have managed to stray from this "righteous trade" system of commerce. It has taken centuries, and various forms of dishonesty to get us to this point.

Let us be the first generation, to commit to acting responsibly, and restore honesty and integrity to our banking system. As President Obama said last night "The time to take charge of our future is here."

Until next post, continue to believe, achieve, receive. SDG- JBHIV

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Your financial "stress test"

Twenty of the largest banks in the US will undergo a financial "stress test" over the next few weeks to determine their overall health and long-term viability.

Now is a good time for Women of Wealth to ask their Financial Advisors, or accountants, or spouses to perform a personal financial stress test on your portfolio of assets. This will help determine what changes, if any, need to be made in order to maintain your financial independence, and a secure retirement. At the bottom of this blog you will find ten things you can begin to do TODAY to carry out your OWN plan to weather the financial storms that lie ahead. Do this in parallel to what your Financial Advisor, spouse, significant other, or parent is doing - and keep in mind the phrase "trust but verify", as you do.

My research has shown that the top priority for Women of Wealth is that they have a secure future, and that the needs of their children and grandchildren will be met. I was also amazed to find that many of these women, despite accounting for greater that 48% of the wealth in this country, have left this in the hands of a spouse, parent, or child. If this is you, then the recent downturn in economic conditions is a wake-up call to gain control, or at least, become better informed, of your personal financial condition.

I can't tell you how many stories I have heard over the last few months of women receiving quarterly statements that show their 401K's or investment portfolios declining in value, but yet had never received a call from their financial advisor offering an explanation or support as to what happened or what to do next.

Most of these blindsided Women had put their trust in a male-dominated, women-oppressing, good-ole-boy system of "they'll never understand this, anyway" thinking that has give us the Madoff, Stanford, and who knows who else, scandals. I'm not saying that trust is breached by men alone, but Women have a much stronger Moral Compass. This has served Women well, and when combined with a strong intuition, faith in themselves, and a desire to be financially independent, can lead to a social biography that brings meaningful change, and builds a better world.

An Action Plan (courtesy of Circle Financial Group)

1. Have an emergency plan in place for your family - have some cash easily accessible and make sure you are in well supported financial institutions.

2. Analyze your spending patterns - do a cash flow statement and be surprised how much you can cut if you choose to. Choose to.

3. Create a balance sheet - understand your assets and liabilities and work to reduce your debt.

4. Review your insurance - make sure you have what you need with sound providers.

5. Review and gather essential documents - wills, medical power of attorney, financial power of attorney.

6. Develop a financial policy statement for your family- identify, prioritize, and quantify goals.

7. Talk with your children as well as your parents - this is an opportunity to have conversations about money that you may have never had.

8. Work with your financial advisor - seek expert thinking by people you trust.

9. Position yourself in the market - make sure your portfolio is positioned for the future and not the past.

10. Create an investment plan to support your goals - money is a resource that enables you to achieve your life goals. Try to align them.

Until next post, continue to believe, receive, achieve. SDG -JBHIV

Monday, February 23, 2009

Invitation to All

I've added an informal (and anonymous) "poll" at the bottom of this blog site. Part of my research over the last twelve months into the needs and desires of Women of Wealth as they chart their social biography came up with some interesting results. The reality of 401K and retirement plans down between 30 - 50 % due to current market conditions coupled with the fact that many spouses share these assets, has put many Women's personal financial goals at risk.

If their goal is to retire (married, divorced, or otherwise single) with X amount as Net Worth, then they need to immediately review their current position as co-owners of these assets, in order to get a clear picture of what resources, or capacity, they have to achieve their dreams and maintain the direction set by their "Moral Compass". Unfortunately, many Women have relied on their spouse to make the right choices in this regard.

Once I close out the poll on March 1, I will share with my readers both the results of this current snapshot, and the results I have obtained through primary research.

Until next post, continue to believe, achieve, receive. SDG - JBHIV

Sunday, February 22, 2009

P.O.T.S or P.A.N.S ?

Today marks the last day that our local House of Worship will participate in a Food Drive in support of a Homeless Organization in the NYC area. Over the last two weeks, I have made an effort to take advantage of the recent dip in the price of Peanut Butter due to the salmonella scare, buying as much of the "Manager's Specials" that are available, and taking these to the bins that are used to collect our donations.

At first, the donations trickled in. The goal charts that the teen group sponsoring the drive have posted, looked more like the latest corporate earnings of GM - far short, and looking more and more unattainable as the weeks wore on.

But then, almost overnight, the peanut butter category, and others, blasted past the top of the charts, and it appears that by the end of the drive today, there will be plenty of food to bring to others in need.

I have learned a valuable lesson. I have received a huge blessing by participating. In some small way, I was able to help overachieve their goal by putting into play some of the talents I have picked up over my decades of financial experience - by taking advantage of "arbitrage" in the PB market, and the "price deflation" of a commodity that is a staple to many households, including our own - to benefit those who are in desperate need of food, shelter, and Hope.

Yes, my hope is that the donations we collected make their way into the belly's of children whose lives have been shattered by the loss of a job, the foreclosure of a home, or the closing of a business. These are the innocent victims of "Finance Gone Wild". Their lives will be changed forever by the greed and evilness of men and mammon.

Don't get the wrong impression - I remain committed to using the Wealth of the World for the good of society. That is why the creation of a "social biography" is so essential with the privilege that wealth brings. I will continue to use my talents to help Women of Wealth, carry out their mission of Hope

But more importantly, I hope those that see a need will not choose to merely Pontificate And Not Serve, but choose instead, as I have, to be Part Of The Solution!

Until next post, continue to believe, achieve, receive. SDG - JBHIV

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Women Rising

Help is on the way. Hope is on the way. Women of Wealth are rising up. No longer to be eclipsed or overshadowed, or diminished. Our current state of economic affairs is complex, as most problems have gone beyond the point of "simple solutions". But thankfully, the solutions are there. And some brilliant Female minds will figure them out.

Over the last twelve months, I have been doing some research on the market for Alternative Asset, and other investment products among women. In order to understand the size and propensity, I needed to look at how Women view investing, and their approach to money in general. What I discovered may surprise you.

men have traditionally viewed women as "consumers", hell bent on spending every one of their hard-earned dollars on clothes, shoes, etc., not savers. This myopic view is not only insulting, it is factually incorrect. In fact, when it comes time to formulate a wealth plan, as Mary Rudie Barneby of UBS so aptly puts it, "'men invest to grow their principal, and Women invest to protect it''

We all know where the current indices are for the major Capital Markets these days. So much for "growing principal"!! A very insightful look at how this "increase my treasure at all cost" attitude by men has gotten us to a very dark place see Jacki Zehner's recent post.

Yes, Women do often balance their use of wealth between current consumption and a secure retirement. But they would never take the kinds of risks that men have by creating "financially engineered" products (CDS) that have no intrinsic value, then collateralizing them over and over again. Or reselling a mortgage by splitting it up into "tranches timed by maturity", only to find the maturity date is moot if the original homeowner is in foreclosure.

Is it coincidence that recent headlines are filled with the names of men - Madoff, Stanford, etc - that have victimized Women and men alike? How many high profile Women do you know that have been tied to the recent scandals plaguing Wall Street, Washington, and Main Street? I can't recall seeing any.

Yes, Women are rising. And they are angry, justifiably so.

Until next post, continue to believe, achieve, receive. SDG - JBHIV

Friday, February 20, 2009

Privacy Policy and Affiliations

I want to clearly define my policy on access to this blog and privacy. You will never see a list of my blog followers - I have disabled this. While I encourage you to post comments, I remind you that by doing so your identity may be visible to others.

While this may be trivial to some, I have learned that Women of Wealth, and women in general, are fiercely protective of their privacy - as they should be.

You will also never see any comments from me that reference any personal conversations or correspondence between myself and any of you that I am fortunate to know.

At present, I am not affiliated with any financial institution or wealth advisory service. The opinions and recommendations I make are general in nature, and any specific investment advice is best left to your current Financial Advisor. The Recommended Resources section of this blog are people I know personally, and trust implicitly - however I cannot be responsible for their opinions or recommendations.

I take very seriously my role as Guide. I hope to gain your trust through postings that bring value to your journey as Women of Wealth, each with a unique and powerful social biography.

Until next post, continue to believe, achieve, and receive. SDG -JBHIV

A Morning Resolve

I would like to share with you a meditation that may be useful as you begin the process of building your social biography through discernment:

I will try this day to live a simple, sincere, and serene life, repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking.

I will instead cultivate cheerfulness, magnanimity, charity, and the habit of silence. I will exercise economy in expenditure, generosity in giving, carefulness in conversation, diligence in my work, fidelity to that which has been placed in my trust, and a unshakable faith in my intuition, spirit, and soul.

Until next post, continue to believe, achieve, receive. SDG - JBHIV

Your First Step Forward

As you begin to build your social biography, I suggest you take time to meditate on what is truly important to you, a Woman of Wealth. For many, the answer is clear. For others, your importance has been overshadowed by the control of others - a spouse, parent or child. Perhaps your circumstances have recently changed. The wealth that was previously under the control of others has suddenly been placed in your care.

With this new capacity comes an opportunity to match it with your Moral Compass - an array of purposes, aspirations, and long-term goals to which you devote this capacity. As a wealth holder you have the capacity, the power, to shape the lives of others. Your wealth makes you a "world-builder". And with that comes tremendous responsibility, because that capacity has the potential to have a very positive effect, or a profoundly negative one. The greater the capacity, the more attention needs to be placed on how to use these resources wisely.

As a first step, you must clarify what in terms of financial, intellectual, and spiritual resources you have to put into play. This process of discernment, from a financial perspective, is all about figuring out how financially secure you are. So, at the most basic level, you are figuring out your resource stream both now and in the future, as well as the income stream you desire for yourself and your children. It sounds intuitive, but many women don't have a clear, realistic picture of that - and until they do, they feel stagnant, insecure, and even fearful about what they could use their money for because they have never really clarified just how much they have and their intention for its future.

If what I have laid out for you in this post resonates with you, please let me know. In future posts I will build upon this foundation. Ultimately, this is a process that first brings a consciousness, an awareness, a clarity to what you have, and then, secondly, a consciousness as to what you want to do with it.

Until then, continue to believe, achieve, and receive. SDG - JBHIV