The Road Ahead: Build Your Plan Around Your Goals

By Liz Behlke

When my daughter was in elementary school, I got her a Moon jar – a foldable bank with three compartments labeled “Share, Spend, Save.” Moon jars were created to help kids learn about money and goal setting. I encouraged my daughter to sort her money – allowance, earnings from chores, and gifts – into three categories and make a plan for how to use it. The Spend slot is for short-term wants, Save is for longer-term goals, and the money put into Share is for helping others. It’s a simplistic form of a financial plan. A way for young kids to connect goals with the means to make them a reality.

I started giving my daughter a small allowance when she was old enough to do simple arithmetic. When we went to the toy store, she had to make decisions whether she wanted to spend her money right away or save it for something bigger. She learned early on that money isn’t everything, but it could help her get the things she wanted.

Of course, as we get older, money gets a lot more complex. We have to balance earnings, savings, and investments with expenses, needs, wishes, and yes, taxes. We must plan for today and the future. But these are all very personal decisions. And that’s where goal setting comes in.

A better way to achieve your goals

As adults we have goals that are both practical and aspirational. Some people talk about their goals or write them down. Others keep them to themselves. Personal goals can range from improving health and happiness to retiring early or switching careers. Not every goal has a financial component, but for those that do, the money part needs to be addressed.

Setting and working toward goals can also be a great way for couples and families to communicate. Shared goals help prioritize how families will spend their precious resources – whether that’s money or time. Goal setting takes hopes and dreams and turns them into a plan.

It turns out that setting specific goals makes it more likely they’ll be achieved. Whether you’re setting goals as an individual or a family, the more tangible your plan, the more likely you are to see your goals become reality.

SMART goal setting

A useful framework for creating goals is to follow the SMART model. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Aggressive, Realistic, and Time-bound. A specific goal has details. For example, rather than saying you’d like to go on more family vacations, you could set a goal to budget enough for out-of-state travel once a year. The only way to know if you’ve achieved your goal is to make it measurable. If it’s a financial goal, you should be able to define how much you plan to share, spend, or save.

The third letter in the SMART acronym is aggressive. Aggressive doesn’t mean un-achievable. But there’s really no sense in goal-setting if it’s something that would happen anyway. Goals also need to be realistic. Your financial goal might take some discipline and perseverance, but it shouldn’t rely on winning the lottery.

And finally, your goals should be time-bound. Deciding when you want to achieve each of your goals gives structure to your plan. By defining goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound, you’ve got a roadmap for where you want to go and how you’ll know when you get there.

Don’t be afraid of change

Goal setting isn’t just about planning for big things like a house, college, or retirement. It should take into account more immediate things too, like supporting a hobby or family interest. In fact, your big-picture plan includes all these things, so you know where to focus your energy and resources.

My daughter is now a college student, and I haven’t stopped giving her advice. Lately everyone is asking what she wants to do when she graduates. She has aspirations but I’ve suggested she should also be open to changing her plans. After all, sometimes a new opportunity comes along, or there may be an unanticipated twist in the road.

Having a personal financial plan helps you focus on your goals so they’re more likely to become reality. And having a relationship with your financial planner means you can keep evaluating your plan to make sure you’re on track to meeting your goals.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Is there anything standing in the way of your goal setting?
  • Are your goals SMART? Are they specific, measurable, aggressive, realistic, and time-bound?
  • Do you discuss goals with your spouse, partner, or family and listen to their goals?

Action Steps:

  • If you’re going to set goals as a family, consider first writing down a list of family values. You might even create a family mission statement.
  • Even if your goals aren’t fully articulated, be sure to discuss them with your financial planner so they can guide your personal financial plan.
  • Give yourself permission to change your goals. And when you do, set a meeting to update your financial plan.

The foregoing content reflects the opinions of Liz Behlke and is subject to change at any time without notice. Content provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be used or construed as investment advice or a recommendation regarding the purchase or sale of any security. There is no guarantee that the statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Indices are not available for direct investment. Any investor who attempts to mimic the performance of an index would incur fees and expenses which would reduce returns Securities investing involves risk, including the potential for loss of principal. There is no assurance that any investment plan or strategy will be successful.

By |2023-02-02T18:29:19+00:00February 2nd, 2023|Categories: News|0 Comments

The Road Ahead: Giving that Gives You Joy

By Liz Behlke

It seems that every Sunday when I visit my Mom for dinner, she shows me a pile of envelopes from charities asking for money. She regularly sends modest checks to several groups, but they always seem to want more. I remind Mom that giving tends to trigger more asks, and she often complains about the waste of paper and postage from the solicitations she throws away. Mom’s giving tends to be reactive – responding to those who ask – we’ve talked about ways it could be more proactive and fulfilling.

One place to start is with the question: Why give? Not everyone has the same answer. My Mom might say she gives because someone asked, and because they seem to do good work. She also gives where she has a connection, like her university and the public radio station. (I don’t think she’s influenced by the endless supply of stickers and address labels that charities send, but she does have an impressive collection of note pads).

Giving strategies

Reasons for charitable giving range from practical to personal. Tax deductions can be a motivator, but so can an experience like a family member with a chronic illness. And of course many people give where they go – to the arts, kids programs, and their house of worship. There’s no ‘right’ way to give; you should do what feels right for you.

Giving should make you feel good; you shouldn’t be doing it out of guilt or competitiveness. When choosing a charity, does it lift you up knowing what they could do with your dollars? Similarly, the amount you give should be based on what feels right – and gives you joy.

Until recently, a lot of my own charitable giving has been related to my daughter’s school and activities – theatre, robotics, and music. Now that my daughter is out of school, I’m starting to re-think my own giving plans. And I’ve learned a few things:

Focus on your values

If you give a little to a long list of charities, you may notice that, like my Mom, you’re always being asked for more. You can make a bigger impact if you just focus on a few charities and make more meaningful gifts. There are many organizations out there doing lots of good work, so it can be difficult to decide. Let your values and passions guide you. One person may choose to help animals or the local food bank, while someone else puts money behind disease research or education. Choosing your focus helps you make an impact – and gives you permission to toss a lot of solicitations into the recycle bin.

Do some research

Recently I was thinking about the need in our community for services to help unhoused people. I decided to do some research to figure out where a donation would make a difference and align with my values. I read how tiny house villages can provide secure shelter and a transition to permanent housing. I knew I wanted to give locally, so I did some online reading focusing on organizations that work in my community. Once I found a charity that fit, I found articles about them in the local paper and reviewed their website. After making my donation, they put me on their email list so I could keep up with their activities.

Legitimate charities will be transparent about their activities and expenditures. They have to follow rules that require them to make financial disclosures. You can get information directly from the charity, and on independent sites like Candid, Charity Watch, or Charity Navigator.

Magnify your giving

In my corporate job there was a little-known policy that allowed management employees to direct a certain amount of giving each year to a favorite charity. It was basically free money that would allow me to support any non-profit of my choosing. Many companies have programs like this. It helps them connect with the community in a way that’s meaningful to their employees. And it saves them the hassle of choosing among deserving local organizations. You can usually find information about matching or directed grants on your company’s benefits page.

Know before you give

Just because an organization is asking for your money doesn’t mean your donation is tax deductible. Many well-known groups engage in lobbying or political activity which means you wouldn’t be able to deduct your donation. Terminology can be confusing. A ‘tax-exempt’ organization doesn’t have to pay taxes, but may not be a 501(c)3. Only a ‘tax-deductible’ designation provides you with a potential benefit on your income tax return. If you’re unsure, ask to see the charity’s 501(c)3 letter from the IRS.

Give yourself some flexibility

You can greatly simplify your annual giving by doing it once a year. Define your goals, decide your budget, research organizations, then make your donations. But you might also want to set aside part of your giving budget for needs that pop up unexpectedly. This gives you the ability to respond to natural disasters or causes you just learned about. Just make sure you’re cautious about fraudulent requests for money that pop up around big world events. If you get an urgent ask from a charity you’ve never heard of, be sure to do your research – otherwise, stick with an established organization that may already have people on the ground in an impacted region.

Talk to your financial planner

Generous giving can make you feel great about sharing with others and supporting the community. It can also provide tax benefits and a lasting legacy. And you don’t just have to give cash. Your financial planner can show you strategies like donating stocks, setting up a donor-advised fund, or planned giving. They can also help you establish a budget that balances your objectives with your financial situation.

As for me, I’m still trying to encourage my Mom to shred most of the mail she gets from charities so she can focus on more significant contributions to groups that align with her values. I’m also trying to practice what I preach, allocating more substantial funds to a few charities so I can really support their good work.

As the year end approaches, your friends at Arrivity thank you for being a client and wish you and your family a safe, joy-filled holiday season.

If we can be of assistance with your financial planning needs, please contact us at 206.217.2583 or

Liz is a Late Boomer in the sandwich generation who started an independent writing and brand consulting practice after years as a senior marketing executive. She lives in Seattle, Washington. Her mother lives nearby and her daughter comes home during college breaks.

The foregoing content reflects the opinions of Liz Behlke and is subject to change at any time without notice. Content provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be used or construed as investment advice or a recommendation regarding the purchase or sale of any security. There is no guarantee that the statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Indices are not available for direct investment. Any investor who attempts to mimic the performance of an index would incur fees and expenses which would reduce returns Securities investing involves risk, including the potential for loss of principal. There is no assurance that any investment plan or strategy will be successful.

By |2022-12-09T20:45:51+00:00December 9th, 2022|Categories: News|0 Comments

The Road Ahead: Let Your Retirement Plans Know Who’s Boss

By Liz Behlke

When I went through a major layoff as a twenty-something, my Dad didn’t hide his concern about my career choice. Advertising, I told him, was simply not going to be as secure as his life as a tenured professor. When I went on to secure a job at the regional phone company, he was delighted. You can work there until you retire, he said, and earn a good pension. Instead, after a few more career changes I’ve collected an assortment of pension plans and 401(k)s. Now I’m my own boss, but I can still be boss of my retirement accounts.

While the dream of many in the Greatest Generation was a lifetime career at a single company, younger generations think differently. Millennials and Xers see job change as a way to stay fresh and keep their career on a positive trajectory. Baby Boomers like me, out of desire or circumstance, proudly list multiple jobs on our resumes. All this mobility makes the one-page resume as old-school as the vellum it’s printed on.

After a career of job-hopping, it’s easy to have retirement accounts and pension plans strewn across multiple companies. And it’s tempting to just leave them there. But you may have more choices than you think when it comes to making decisions about your retirement funds. Of course, choices are fun when it comes to donuts, but they can be too much when you’re busy managing a career.

What to do while you’re still working

You’re already doing the right thing if you’ve signed up for your company’s retirement plan and are taking advantage of the company match. If you’re lucky enough to participate in a pension plan, it’s a good idea to know how the benefit works and how many years of service you have or need. It’s also important that you educate yourself about the plan(s) and stay informed of any changes. If the company offers investment options, you don’t have to feel stuck with your initial choice. Several years after leaving my job at the phone company, and after it had changed hands twice, I realized my portfolio was heavily weighted with a single stock. Some diversification was in order.

If you’ve already accumulated several retirement accounts, you’ll want to look at them from a big-picture perspective. It’s important to see how they work as an overall portfolio, not just as separate accounts or funds. In some cases it may be beneficial to consolidate accounts so they’re easier to manage both now in the distant future. It’s not uncommon for people to accumulate just a few thousand dollars at a company before moving on to the next big opportunity. That money can often be rolled over and combined into another account.

But this all seems so very complicated, and it might just convince you that doing nothing is fine for now. In fact, there really is no right answer for what to do with your accounts. What you decide to do while you’re still working depends on your current circumstances and your plans for the future. That’s why working with a financial planner makes sense. They will take it all under consideration as they customize your investment strategies.

What to do as you approach retirement

Whatever retirement looks like for you, whether it’s pursuing personal interests or launching another career, you’ll want to get proactive about your retirement accounts well in advance. There are often decisions to be made as you reach a certain age or longevity at your company. Even before you decide on a retirement date, you can learn about what your plan (or plans) offer and what restrictions they may have. Plan administrators should be available to walk you through your options and the paperwork.

Again, what you choose to do with your retirement plans depends on a long list of factors that are personal to you. Your financial planner will help you consider your overall financial picture, your family situation, and your risk tolerance. Most important, they will take time to understand your goals for the future to help make sure your plan is aligned with your dreams.

After working at several companies, supporting a family, going through a divorce, and choosing to work for myself, my financial picture is definitely complicated. But with good advice and proactive planning I’m happy to be my own boss – and the boss of my retirement.

Questions to ask yourself:

• If you’re still working, are you taking full advantage of your company’s retirement plan?

• Do you know the rules and restrictions of your retirement plans?

• Do you have a clear picture of when you want to retire and what that will look like?

Action Steps:

• Involve your family in your retirement plans to make sure you all share the same vision and expectations.

• Be sure you have access to information about all your retirement accounts. If you’ve “left behind” an account at a previous employer, contact their plan administrator.

• Set goals that are realistic to where you are today. You can always change them as you continue working with your financial planner over the years.

As we near the end of 2022 with the markets continuing to adjust to painfully high inflation, rate increases by the Fed, and worries of an impending recession, we remind our clients that staying the course is critical in achieving long-term goals. While market downturns can be disconcerting, they eventually reverse course and can also provide rebalancing opportunities, an important and ongoing part of the financial planning process.

We encourage you to contact your planner if you are due for a portfolio review or have questions regarding the markets or your financial plan. Please contact us at 206.217.2583 or

Liz is a Late Boomer in the sandwich generation who started an independent writing and brand consulting practice after years as a senior marketing executive. She lives in Seattle, Washington. Her mother lives nearby and her daughter comes home during college breaks.

The foregoing content reflects the opinions of Liz Behlke and is subject to change at any time without notice. Content provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be used or construed as investment advice or a recommendation regarding the purchase or sale of any security. There is no guarantee that the statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Indices are not available for direct investment. Any investor who attempts to mimic the performance of an index would incur fees and expenses which would reduce returns Securities investing involves risk, including the potential for loss of principal. There is no assurance that any investment plan or strategy will be successful.

By |2022-11-04T23:16:43+00:00November 4th, 2022|Categories: News|0 Comments

The Road Ahead: Investing in your Child’s Future Dreams

By Liz Behlke

It seems that part of parenting is imagining what your kid is going to do when they grow up. A child who enjoys tinkering may be destined to be an engineer. One who loves to put on a show might become a director one day. We’re always on the lookout for the spark that will determine where a child will go in life. But we also know that some form of education beyond high school will often be the way they’re going to get there.

When my daughter started elementary school, I noticed that parents had a whole variety of ideas about how they were going to afford higher education. Some parents would reflect on their own experience and assume their child will pay their own way by juggling a job and schoolwork. Others wanted their kid to attend two years at a community college to save money. Many people figure student loans are inevitable and hope their financial situation will change by the time high school graduation is on the horizon. But a lot of these plans simply amount to putting off saving and hoping for the best.

Other parents I’ve encountered thought they could position their child for generous scholarships. Perhaps their offspring would take up an activity, like robotics or the bassoon, or a sport, like lacrosse or fencing, that will get the attention of college admissions officers. There’s also the traditional method of parents demanding high grades and stellar SAT scores in the hopes of earning more merit aid. The fact is most college-bound kids are not getting lavished with hefty scholarships. And some kids decide to take a different route, like learning a specialized trade.

More money means more options

One way or another, the families we know were able to send their children to college if that’s where their path was leading them. But some had to make hard choices about whethethey could realistically afford their child’s favorite school. When you’ve got the funds to support your child’s dream, they have more options. Maybe the in-state school is a lot cheaper, but your child has found a program a few states away that really feeds their passion. You don’t want to crush their dreams for lack of money.

Saving for college means giving your child more options when the time comes to choose a school. More options to study what they want, where they want, without missing out on an enriching campus experience. By starting early, you can build a healthy fund that can minimize—or even eliminate—the burden of student debt. Here’s how it works:

Start young. When your child is born, you’ve got 18 years to save for their post-secondary education, whether that’s college or a trade school. When they enter high school, you’ve got four. Money builds on itself the longer you have it invested, so the earlier you start, the more money you can accumulate.

Save tax free. 529 savings plans allow you to invest tax free, and if your child decides not to furthetheir education, you can transfer the money to a sibling or grandchild. You can even use it to further your own education. Every state offers a 529 plan, but you don’t have to use the one in your state. 529 plans can cover tuition, books and supplies, and even housing expenses.

Prioritize. Start with a plan to put away regular amounts of money in a designated higher education savings account. Then take a look at your spending choices to see if there are other sources of money that can help you build that fund. For example, an inheritance or work bonus can be put away to boost your savings. The point is, don’t wait.

When my daughter started kindergarten, her grandfather opened 529 plans for each of his grandchildren. By the time she was ready for college, there was enough saved so she didn’t have to worry about the cost when she was looking at schools. So now for my last piece of advice: If grandparents are contributing to a college fund, be sure your child thanks them often for giving them such a generous opportunity.

Wherever your kids—or grandkids—are on their journey through life, make a plan to talk to your financial planner about investing for higher education so they have options when the time comes.

Please contact us at 206.217.2583 or info@arrivity.com if we can assist you or someone you know with financial planning.

Liz is a Late Boomer in the sandwich generation who started an independent writing and brand consulting practice after years as a senior marketing executive. She lives in Seattle, Washington. Her mother lives nearby and her daughter comes home during college breaks.

The foregoing content reflects the opinions of Liz Behlke and is subject to change at any time without notice. Content provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be used or construed as investment advice or a recommendation regarding the purchase or sale of any security. There is no guarantee that the statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Indices are not available for direct investment. Any investor who attempts to mimic the performance of an index would incur fees and expenses which would reduce returns Securities investing involves risk, including the potential for loss of principal. There is no assurance that any investment plan or strategy will be successful.

By |2022-11-04T23:19:09+00:00November 4th, 2022|Categories: News|0 Comments