Things AI can not do

The use of artificial intelligence has exploded exponentially in recent years, and AI related companies including Microsoft (part owner of Open AI, the developer of ChatGPT)  and NVIDIA have driven the stock market to record highs. AI can achieve some miraculous things. It allows users to unlock their phone with their face, correct spelling mistakes they didn’t even realize they made, receive specific directions to new locations, keep homes and cottages at just the right temperature and detect fraud in financial accounts, among a million other things. And that’s just the simple stuff. AI will continue to transform our lives in ways we can’t even imagine. But, it can’t do everything. You can use an App to determine the amount of money in your account, the various rates it might accumulate based on the ways you invest it, and the optimum number of years you should spend working to build that account before you begin the withdraw from it. Those are just numbers, though, and retirement planning involves so much more. AI can’t solve the very human situations we all encounter as we cycle through life. For instance, AI would not talk you through your options when a diagnosis scuttles all those careful retirement plans you made as a young, healthy couple. You’d need a human financial advisor who will listen to your fears and guide you through the sometimes painful adjustment of your goals. An advisor can help you figure out a way to buy that RV you have your eye on so you and your spouse, who has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, can make the most of the time you have left together. You need an empathetic human to walk you through ways to protect heirs who have developed addictions that would make a windfall inheritance dangerous to them. And only a human advisor can help you evaluate your long-term care options from a personal, emotional… | Read More »

A tribute to education on World Teacher Day

Today on World Teacher Day we are honoring the educators who taught us the most (and some who are just beginning their teaching career). We also want to honor another important person, who not only has taught all of us important principles of finance and business, but who also has maintained an atmosphere of education throughout our firm. Our founder, Christina Winch, began her career as a high school teacher. Through the casual advice she offered to her fellow teachers, Christina recognized a need for more formal financial education and advice. She earned the required licenses and opened her firm in 1981. In the more than 40 years since, the business has grown exponentially, though the goal has remained steadfast. We don’t just handle our clients’ retirement accounts, we work very hard to explain what we do, why we do it and how each decision, by us and by our clients, matters. We teach in formal classes, during client meetings and on each phone call. We want our clients to understand their Required Minimum Distributions, the difference between qualified and non-qualified accounts, the taxable impact of withdrawals, how to determine their risk tolerance, how to plan for Long Term Care expenses, the importance of updating their beneficiary designations, among countless other things. We take care of these things for our clients, and we also make sure they understand why we do it. The desire to educate, born in a high school lunchroom more than 40 years ago, still fuels every conversation we have with clients and their families. That is the standard she set, and the legacy she’ll leave. Happy World Teacher Day to all of our favorite educators and to our founder, Christina Winch.  

Five ways to avoid being scammed

As long as there have been humans on this earth, working hard to make an honest living, there have been lurkers trying to scam them. So prevalent have these scams become, that local law enforcement offices have teamed up with credit union representatives to create a fraud squad. You can find all their tips and an updated scroll of frauds on their website, Technological advancements have ushered in a new wave of scams, but fraudsters have been around for well over two thousand years. The earliest recorded case of fraud happened in 300 BC when a Greek sea merchant, Hegestratos, took out an insurance policy, known as a bottomry, using his ship and cargo as collateral. Hegestratos got caught attempting to sink his own ship in an effort to keep the borrowed funds, and he drowned attempting to escape. Since the Greek merchant’s failed attempt to scam funds, shady humans have only intensified their efforts, capitalizing on increasingly sophisticated technology and consumers’ happy reliance on it. The scams may evolve along with the days’ headlines, but you can still protect yourself by taking basic safety measures. Be very leery of conversations you have not initiated. Scammers often have access to software that can spoof calls and emails to make them appear to be coming from legitimate sources, including government agencies, charities, banks, relatives and large companies. Never share personal information, including usernames, passwords, contact information, Social Security numbers, or one-time codes that people can use to access your accounts or steal your identity. No government agency will contact you by phone or email to request money from you. Enable multifactor authentication. Even if it takes you a little longer to log into your account, and means one more passcode to remember, this extra step is worth it to protect both your identity and your accounts. Research charities before you donate and do not allow yourself to be pressured into… | Read More »

Why you need a POA for Health

The day before her 18th birthday, my daughter broke her wrist and needed surgery to repair it. The timing of her injury provided a profound lesson for us both. As we had been her entire life up to that point, her father and I were her legal guardians at the initial doctor’s visit, with full access to the information we needed to make medical decisions for her care. HIPAA kicked in the next day, the moment she turned 18, and medical professionals were no longer able to tell me anything. She had to sign her own paperwork (with her broken wrist) and she had to fill out a release to allow me to attend her medical consultations and surgical appointments. Had she been knocked unconscious in the bike accident that caused her injuries and remained so the following day, her father and I might not have been able to help her make these important medical decisions. To avoid this type of medical limbo, it is very important to complete a Power of Attorney for Healthcare form. This form allows you to designate a health care agent to make decisions for you should you become incapacitated. These rules vary from state to state. For instance, Wisconsin is not a next-of-kin state. This means that if you are ever unable to make your own health care decisions, that ability does not automatically go to your spouse or parents. The HIPAA Privacy Rule does defer to a medical professional’s judgment in these cases, but it is much safer to complete the paperwork to ensure the people you trust have access to the information they need to advocate for your care. Fortunately, the paperwork you need to establish a legal Power of Attorney for Healthcare is readily available and it doesn’t cost anything to fill it out. You can download the Wisconsin form from this site. If you have any questions about your patient… | Read More »

How AI is driving investors toward tech stocks

Artificial intelligence has not only been influencing some of the daily news cycle lately, it also has played a key role in driving investors toward tech stocks. Some analysts estimate AI technology could boost the global economy by $15.7 trillion by 2030, and investors want to take advantage of that trend. AI stocks like Microsoft, which owns part of OpenAI, developer of the chat bot, ChatGPT, is up more than 36% YTD and has helped boost both the tech sector and an otherwise flat overall market in these past several weeks. While our investment team is not chasing these AI-related returns, they do note that their decision to remain invested in tech stocks despite some earlier headwinds, is paying off. In particular, the team has been pleased by the performance of the American Growth Fund of America (GFAFX), which is weighted toward stocks that are participating in the AI investment wave, and Invesco QQQ Trust, which is also heavily weighted toward AI-related stocks. As with any trending investment, it’s important to analyze an individual company’s ability to sustain its growth. This is especially true of investors who want to take advantage of AI technology but may not understand the full breadth of its function and impact on both the markets and the world at large. The key now and always is to build diversified portfolios with an eye on consistent performance and reasonable valuations based on fundamental metrics. It has been fascinating to watch the impact of AI technology on the global economy and we’re only in its infant stages. As we all make our way into this new frontier, we will continue to work hard to sort through both the opportunities and threats it generates and to proceed with analytical resolve.