Happy high school graduation, sweet friend

 I can blink and remember so clearly the sweet, red-headed little boy who spread his Lego sets all over my living room floor, and scored Brewer games with the diligence of a professional statistician.  I look up (way up) at him now, but still see the little guy who wrote me a poem more than a dozen years ago, “I have a best friend and she is my Grandma.” The poem hangs on my kitchen wall and I’m never taking it down. I’ve built my business by preparing people for transitional times like these. We plan, invest, analyze, save and plan some more to make each season of life as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. In this way, I know Caleb and his family are ready for the next step. His parents, teachers and coaches also have prepared him well for college and I know he’ll make the most of his time there. So, I’m not worried about him, I’m just a little sad for the rest of us. Caleb is heading off into an exciting new world where innovations I can’t even imagine will become part of his everyday life. These are exiting times for high school graduates, and I’m thrilled by their possibilities. But, I’m also going to miss my friend. Congratulations to Caleb and the Class of 2017! May God bless you tonight and always.

Growing up on Gelston Avenue

Growing up on Brooklyn’s Gelston Avenue, we learned a thing or two about values, like loyalty and responsibility. Under the watchful eyes of our immigrant grandmas, we enjoyed the kind of come-home-when-the-streetlights-come-on freedom that led to all-day street stickball games and adventures in the park. When we made friends, we kept them. That’s what I love about my brother Ronnie and my friendship with the Sahadi brothers. Bobby and Charlie Sahadi developed the same work hard/play hard ethic their great uncle Abrahim Sahadi, and their father Wade Sahadi had when they first opened the now-famous Sahadi’s, a specialty foods store. We all learned from our grandparents, most of whom came from another country and made it through some really hard times. They stressed that success was always possible with a lot of work, and that education was essential. Charlie and Bobby grew up and took over Sahadi’s, and built it into a major on-line and brick and mortar business. But, they never forgot their friends and, when Ronnie needed a job, Charlie hired him. Later, Ronnie became a Lutheran pastor and established a thriving ministry in Seattle, but he never lost touch with his Brooklyn friends. I’m happy to say my friendship with the Sahadi family continues today. Even though I’ve built my own business here in Wisconsin, where I’ve lived for most of my adult life, I can taste a hummus, or an imported olive from Sahadis and it takes me right back to Brooklyn. I think of another native New Yorker, Paul Simon, and his beautiful song “Old Friends” when I think about my childhood growing up in Brooklyn. Time it was And what a time it was It was . . . A time of innocence A time of confidences This year, I plan to include a few treats from Sahadi’s in my Easter celebration. As we celebrate the new life we enjoy through Jesus’ resurrection, I… | Read More »

A toast to women in an industry that could use a few more

As we celebrated International Women’s Day this week, I took some time to reflect on my own experiences as a female in the workplace. In some ways, not much has changed since I first earned my license back in 1981. The wealth management industry is still heavily male-dominated and it’s a little puzzling to me why this trend continues. I have always been a working woman, since my early days in New York when I earned college money by working as a teller at J.P. Morgan Trust Company. I believe women are well suited for careers in finance, especially in the financial planning industry. Most of the situations I counsel clients through, I’ve already experienced myself. I’ve been a working mother and a proud member of the sandwich generation. I’ve taken care of my mother, tended my marriage, and willed myself through devastating loss, when my husband died ten years ago. I’ve seen my employees, many of whom are females, juggling full lives outside the office even as they dedicate themselves to the task at hand. I admire the way they’re raising their children and dealing with issues of marriage, health and family. It’s not easy, but these challenges make us stronger both as advisors and as human beings. The key to this industry isn’t spreadsheets or software. It’s empathy and I’m so proud to say I see that every day in my office. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the women in my life – my Russian grandmother, my feisty mother, my daughter Tanya, my lifelong friends, and the dozen wonderful women who join me in working for Winch Financial. It’s nice to have a day to celebrate international women, but it’s even nicer to recognize their value all year long.

Crowned with compassion and love

Seasons change (especially here in Wisconsin); technology rapidly becomes obsolete; the markets go up and down. But, one thing has remained constant in my life since I first launched this business 36 years ago: the relationships I enjoy. My clients become my dearest friends and I take this dual association to heart.  We cover finances and goals in our meetings, but we also talk about faith, family, politics and pop culture. Recently, one of my clients brought me a psalm to read that had been very inspirational to her. It touched me then, just as it did when I first read it as a 12-year old first exploring her faith. Psalm 103 reminds us that we are not alone in this world, that we are loved by a God who crowns us with love and compassion. I’m sharing it with you today because I hope, no matter what your faith, you might find it inspiring as well. As many of you know, I designed a course called “the Bible as Literature” for at-risk high school students many years ago. The class proved to be life changing for both the students and their teacher.  We learned from each other that the world need not be as scary or lonely as we may have thought. Psalm 103 also inspired me to accept an invitation to help found an organization now called Kingdom Advisors. That first year, we had 50 members, all certified financial planners seeking a Biblically-based organization that also was focused on providing excellent financial advice and guidance. Today, Kingdom Advisors has become a global organization. In fact, as I do every year, I will be attending the Kingdom Advisors National Conference in February and I know I’ll return brimming with fresh enthusiasm. If you’d like more information about Kingdom Advisors, check out the scroller on our home page, or click on this link. I hope you’ll find Psalm 103 as… | Read More »

It’s important to understand the impact of qualified money on your retirement account

One of the most important distinctions in estate planning is whether one’s assets are “qualified” or “non-qualified.”  The distinction comes from their treatment by the IRS.  Qualified assets are those that qualify for special tax treatment.  Specifically, the IRS allows individuals to put money in an investment account and either deduct the amount from their taxes or, in the case of an employer sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k) or 403(b), transfer the money to the account before any taxes are paid.  Money set aside in these qualified accounts then grows free of any interest, dividend or capital gains taxes.  It is only when the money is withdrawn that taxes are paid.  In the case of a qualified account, the amount withdrawn is taxed as ordinary income.  For the most part, it is taxed the same as your wages or salary.   Since the United States uses a progressive tax code, the amount of tax you pay on qualified withdrawals depends on your overall income.  The higher your income, the higher the marginal tax rate you will pay.  Another feature of qualified accounts is that the government requires that you begin to withdraw money from a qualified account when you reach the age of 70½.  This requirement, called an RMD or Required Minimum Distribution insures that the government eventually will collect the taxes that have been deferred during the time of accumulation.  In addition to the 401(k), 403(b) and IRA, there are other qualified accounts such as a 457, SEP IRA, and Simple IRA. Non-qualified accounts are those that do not qualify for special tax treatment by the IRS.  They are registered either as a single brokerage account, individual brokerage, joint brokerage or trust. The money in a non-qualified account has already been taxed.  Because it’s after-tax money, no income tax has to be paid when it is withdrawn.  However, any interest, dividends or capital gains that the account generates are… | Read More »