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A Deeper Kind of Financial Planning

Suppose you suddenly found out that you only have 24 hours to live.

What are the things you'd regret not getting a chance to do? Which experiences, relationships or opportunities would you miss? Which dreams would you regret not having the chance to achieve?

These might seem like strange questions for a financial advisor to ask—after all, we're supposed to help our clients with money, right? It's true that at Northstar, we take financial planning and investing very seriously. But these sorts of profound "what if" questions can help open a window into our clients' deepest wishes, values and goals. And that can provide the basis for creating more-meaningful financial plans.

I learned this lesson in 2005, when I was trained as a Registered Life Planner by George Kinder, a pioneer who is helping to change the way we think about money and goals. The traditional approach to financial advice is mainly technical—it deals with maximizing investment returns, for example, or paying for specific goals such as retirement.

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Dimensional versus Vanguard ... Again

This past weekend, The New York Times published an article, "Challenging Management (but Not the Market)." In addition to comparing proxy voting records (a subject we won't address here), it revisits a familiar debate. Which should a passive investor prefer: Dimensional Fund Advisors evidence-based funds or Vanguard index-based funds?

The "Dimensional vs. Vanguard" Debate

In comparing the two fund managers, the author concludes that Vanguard’s low-cost funds are even lower-cost than Dimensional’s. He also states: “Investors in Vanguard stock mutual funds have had higher actual returns than investors in Dimensional funds. On an asset-weighted basis in the 10 years through Jan. 31, the return received by Vanguard investors was 6.614 percent, annualized, compared with 5.05 percent for Dimensional funds, Morningstar calculates.”

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The Big Retirement Question: What Now?

Retirement can be a strange thing. Many of us eagerly look forward to it, expecting that it will be a time of freedom and new possibilities. But many recently retired women find themselves yearning, on some level, for what they've left behind.

Now, they may not want all their old responsibilities back, mind you. But in stepping away from a career, many women find that they've lost more than a job.They've lost a community of colleagues. They've left the structure of the workday, work week, work year. More broadly, they've left behind an identity—the professional role that they had filled for years. And they typically have left behind an income, which cannot help but trigger conscious or unconscious financial anxiety.

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Women's Reinvention Workshop

Our Reinvention workshop proved to be lively with many stories and an exploration into our own true self – the attributes that make us who we are in this world.  We discussed the difference between who you want to be versus what you want to be in creating your new story.  We learned that the process of reinvention can be lengthy, especially if you have endured a sudden transition such as death or divorce, and it's important to give yourself compassion and time. Stabilizing your personal and financial currency and making sure that you are safe and secure is the first step in the reinvention process.  It is hard to imagine changing your life when your foundation is shaky.  Building a strong foundation includes nurturing yourself, finding your resilience, understanding your financial situation and creating a support system.  We provided worksheets for use in creating a plan at home that are available upon request.

SAVE THE DATE –– Wiser Women Workshop on Wednesday, April 3 from 6pm to 8pm

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Have You Heard About Our Second Opinion Service?

Greetings!

With 2013 now underway, many of us have made New Year's resolutions that we're unlikely to keep. Whether we intend to exercise more, eat healthier, or spend more time reading, chances are we'll have given up by the end of January.

According to one study, 88% of all resolutions end in failure. It seems that it's too hard for us to modify our behaviors quickly. We're better off changing our ways over time, as part of a defined process. That's where Northstar comes in.

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Recognizing and Managing Transition Fatigue

Occasionally, each of us has a day when we feel "off," when our capable, confident, focused and decisive selves seem to go AWOL.

Usually we can chalk these episodes up to something specific—a cold, a bad night of sleep or some other temporary issue. But what about when that off day turns into an off week? Or an off month? Or even an off year? We may start to wonder—with understandable anxiety—what ever happened to the person we used to be.

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Exit Strategies for Entrepreneurs

Do you have a strategy for exiting your business? If not, consider this.

If you are like many of your peers, the road into your business was more clearly laid out than your exit route from involvement. However, a well-drawn road map for the endgame can be the difference between achieving success and missing the target on important life goals. Preparing an effective exit plan should be a central part of your overall game plan.

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Summer Travel Risks

With summer fast approaching, we turn our attention to risk management.  The pleasures of travel are familiar but the increasing risks facing traveler's today may not be.  If you or your family are traveling this summer (or anytime), please take some time to review the attached Vacation Safety Checklist and Travel Whitepaper provided by Hub Insurance.  

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