1) Giving is Living
Malachi 3:10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.
Now giving is not typically where financial planners start conversations, but my clients and target clients are primarily Bible believing Christians. In my own life, I’ve seen firsthand the above verse come to life! And, because I’ve experienced the truth of this verse, I want all of my clients and potential clients to experience this truth. As a church goer and someone who tries to stay adept to financial trends in churches, the article below shows that 25% of church goers give regularly and a much smaller number actually tithe (give 10%). In my own practice, I can corroborate this story as I see client’s budgets and tax returns. I’m often asked “What account should I invest more money in right now?” My answer to some clients is “your eternal account”. I believe so strongly in the promise above that I want every person possible to experience the blessings that come from it. In addition to working with Christian clients, I have the opportunity to work with clients who don’t have a particular faith belief. Would you believe I see some of these clients, without faith, adhering to a tithing principle through organizations like the Red Cross or Salvation Army? When I ask them why they do it, their answers are “because it makes me feel good”, “I don’t need all this money”, “I’d rather help those who need it, than be a Scrooge”. Now, that’s amazing. We could all take a cue from some of our secular friends in this regard! I’ve never regretted my decisions to up my giving and you won’t either.
2) Pay Off Debt
Proverbs 22:7 The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.
The second item on your financial agenda for 2018 should be to devise a plan to eliminate your debt. Yes, I know you can leverage your debt and utilize debt in such a way as to capitalize on potential investment opportunities. Yes, I know that major corporations borrow money, so they can create future opportunities. However, there are dangers to implementing this financial strategy as part of your regular financial planning. Number one is that you aren’t a major financial corporation like Coca Cola or Microsoft. Companies like this who borrow money to finance opportunities generally have ample sums of cash to cover their debt positions should something go awry. A business might measure their debt exposure by comparing their cash flow to debt ratio or their debt to asset ratio. What are your ratios? Do you have too much debt exposure? In a time of a potentially maturing market expansion, a Fed ready to steady the increase of interest rates, & a historic extended period of low interest rates, how much more do you think your debt is going to cost you in this next market cycle? Something else to consider… What are the trends of these financial corporations? Do you see smart companies taking on more debt right now or creating a better balance sheet?
3) Update Your Risk Assessment & Reallocate Your Portfolio Accordingly
Ecclesiastes 5:13-14 13 I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners, 14 or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when they have children there is nothing left for them to inherit.
The part of this verse I want to focus on is misfortune. What misfortunes could lie ahead for you if you don’t know what kind of risk you’re assuming in your portfolio? One of the greatest misfortunes I witnessed was during the market crash of 2000-2002. I only caught the tail end of this crash as a financial advisor, but I will never forget the people I met who lost their entire life savings because they invested all of their money in Ford or GM. At the time, I was an advisor in the Motor City. The hurt and devastation these folks experienced was unforgettable and unnecessary. If only they had someone who could have advised them before the crash…. I saw the same for clients who were heavily invested in technologies and the same for clients who only had Large Cap stocks. What is your allocation? How much risk exposure do you have right now?
Below is a quick link to determine how much risk you are assuming. I’d be glad to talk it over with you.
4) Create A Plan
Proverbs 21:5 The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
The verse above speaks for itself. You have to have a plan! Everyone’s plan looks a bit different. Maybe you need a tax plan or an estate plan. Whether it’s a financial plan or an investment plan, creating a document that gives you a roadmap to your destination will help ensure you arrive utilizing the most efficient route possible. I won’t beat this point to death. I have a free goal plan you can test out by clicking here https://connect.emaplan.com/ai.
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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a variation of the phrases “I’m trying, but he isn’t”, “I’m sticking to my budget but she’s not”, and “I’m ready to retire, but he’s not”. There are many things my spouse and I don’t agree on. As an example, I am a risk-taker and my wife is not. My wife doesn’t like to look at the budget but I do. She is perfectly fine shopping cheap and I’m not. The list can go on and on. But, one thing we do as we navigate through some of life’s most difficult challenges, is talk and come up with a plan. Marital unity is absolutely critical when making important financial decisions and also dealing with the day to day minutiae of budgeting, shopping & other daily spending decisions.
For many of us, we weren’t modeled how to manage money well as children. Worse yet, we weren’t modeled how to talk about money with our significant others. Some of us may even have searing images implanted in our brains of our parents screaming and fighting in the kitchen over money. So, it’s no surprise that many of us don’t know how to talk with our spouses about money. For that matter, some of us don’t really know how to talk to our spouses at all. If this is true, how do we begin to have dialogue with our husbands and wives that will be beneficial for the whole family.
It’s no secret to some of you reading this article that I’m going to quote the Bible. And, for some of you who don’t know that I do that…YES!!! The Bible!. 🙂 I think the first thing I will share is that if your spouse “doesn’t want to listen to you”, you should probably consider what you’ve been saying and how you’ve been saying it. Sometimes your spouse just feels too much pressure from you when it comes to accomplishing the goals you’ve set forth. Maybe you come across as a dictator. Maybe you’re an Ephesians 22-24 guy and you love these verses:
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything”.
But, if you’re forgetting Ephesians 5:25 that goes along with these verses, then maybe you should consider re-reading this passage.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
Last time I checked, Christ’s love is the most absolutely sacrificial kind of love ever demonstrated to mankind. Are you showing your wife this kind of love when “she’s not submitting” to what you say? Just a thought…
Now, maybe your the wife saying “My husband just won’t lead. He should be taking charge of this.” I find no scripture verse that says your husband has to be perfect at everything and take the lead on every single matter that comes up in your house. As a partner in your marriage you are capable to take the lead in many areas and help manage the finances. I say finances as that is what I’m writing about today. What’s the point of all this? Using the title of a new tv drama…., THIS IS US. This is how we sometimes relate to each other. This is how we sometimes speak to each other. When it comes to goal planning, I’m quite certain God’s intention wasn’t for one person to handle everything and the other person to be completely in the dark or complacent about matters.
So, what can you do? What can you say? The answer is I have absolutely no idea! I don’t know you. I don’t know your financial situation and I don’t know exactly why “you’re trying, but your spouse isn’t”. But, I could recommend a few ideas that you might find helpful. First, we must speak kindly to each other and not blame one another when things don’t go right. When it comes to making good money decisions and being on the same page as your spouse, it’s important to have clear and peace filled dialogue. Ask your spouse questions like “what’s important to you right now about our finances?”, “where do you see us in 5 years and how do we get there together?”, “how does this purchase help us with our goal of funding education for our children?” “what do you think about talking to a financial planner?”. I had to throw that one in….;-) Kidding aside, you must find a way to communicate with your spouse about money in a way he or she understands. A couple of resources I could recommend… Find a “Financial Peace University” class in your area. Find a good counselor who can help you process some of the issues you need to address with marriage and finances. I’m partial to good Christian counseling and I can recommend a few good counselors if you’d like. Go have a talk with your Pastor. Read Randy Alcorn’s book “Money, Possessions, and Eternity”. There is so much you can do.
Most importantly, you aren’t alone. I’m writing about this topic today because it’s been a recurring theme in my practice lately. I’ve sat with couples as tears have overflowed because one spouse has plan A while the other spouse is focused on plan B. I’ve sat and heard stories of marriages on the brink of divorce because the two couldn’t agree on a financial direction. It doesn’t have to be that way. There are things you can do to make your marriage and your financial situation better! If you need help, please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask. Please share with us a story of how your marriage and finances have improved! We’d love to hear it.
When you think about successful money management, what comes to mind? Where do you receive good information? How do you know what books to read to help guide you down the right path? Most people don’t just obtain wealth out of the blue sky. If you were to ask most successful people how they obtained their money, they would tell you they worked hard, had some luck/blessing, and they read voraciously. When I first entered the financial planning business, my mentors assigned me a list of books to read to help me understand more about money and how it works. Since that time 15 years ago, I’ve come across many great financial books and I’d like to share ten books to help you make smart choices with your money. I’m sure 15 years from now, I’ll have a different list of books that every successful investor should read, but for now, please enjoy.
Disclosure: While I find these books helpful, I don’t agree with every concept illustrated in every book. On your quest for knowledge, you need to determine what works for you and your family. These book recommendations are not considered to be a solicitation of advice.
If you need help making smart choices with your money, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit our website at www.wisdominvestments.com
10) Rich Dad Poor Dad By Robert Kiyosaki:
This was the first book I read when I entered the financial planning industry. Robert Kiyosaki describes how he had two dads. He takes the time to describe each father’s financial and life philosophies and how each dad is deemed with the names Rich Dad and Poor Dad. The book does a great job of detailing financial ideas and concepts that allow Rich Dad to be rich and Poor Dad to be poor. The book would be great for the person who is paying their bills first and feels like there is nothing left to save at the end of the paycheck.
9) The 7 habits of highly effective people By Stephen Covey:
While this book isn’t necessarily about money, I believe this book gives a great blueprint of how to achieve success in your life. The 7 habits help you to obtain structure to achieve the goals you are looking to achieve in life. I have found that while the 7 habits aren’t necessarily financial principles, they can be used in almost any financial situation.
8) The Millionaire Next Door By Thomas Payne
The Millionaire Next Door is one of the best books I’ve read that smacks American Consumerism right in the face. This book details for you what a normal Millionaire looks like, what she might drive, and how he might live. With today’s images of what it looks like to be a millionaire, this book is a breath of fresh air describing how most millionaires are made and live.
7) The Investment Answer By Daniel Goldie & Gordon Murray
The Investment Answer helps give every investor an idea of what they should be looking for when they invest money. The book addresses concerns such as how to understand the markets, how to pick a financial advisor, & how to make great financial choices. We love to give this book to potential clients. Even if a client doesn’t choose to work with us, this book will help them make the best decision possible about whom they should hire.
6) How to Think Like Benjamin Graham and Invest Like Warren Buffet By Lawrence Cunningham
This again is one of my personal favorites. This book showcases some of the great ideas of Benjamin Graham and Warren Buffet. If you don’t have time to sit down and read the 725 page book Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham, then this book is for you. This book challenges some of the stereotypical types of investing methods and dives into value investing. We again like this book because it compliments some of our own investment management philosophies.
“Wisdom Investments has been helping individuals and businesses make smart choices with their money since 1999”.
5) Values-Based Financial Planning By Bill Bachrach
This book describes the need for financial planning according to your unique values. Investing according to your unique values allows you to determine what is really most important to you when planning for your future. We all have values that are important to us. Why would you not consider those values when you are planning for your most important goals in life?
4) Total Money Makeover By Dave Ramsey
Dave’s advice focuses on living a life free of debt and investing money for the long-term. Many people focus on utilizing debt to achieve the things they want in life. Dave’s radical concepts of approaching all situations without debt can help the individual who has become too reliant on credit cards and bank loans.
3) The Financial Wisdom of Ebenezer Scrooge By Ted Klontz, Rick Kahler, & Brad Klontz
“The Five principles to transform your relationship with money” will help you understand the love affair you’ve had with money and how to change it. Some people tend to focus on attaining more of this and more of that. This book suggests that if we are constantly seeking for more when it comes to money, we may need to start doing some things differently.
2) The Treasure Principle By Randy Alcorn
Where is your treasure? What kind of riches are you seeking? We’ve all heard it is better to give than to receive. The Treasure Principle seeks to show you how to experience joy through the giving of your money. Maybe many of us haven’t thought about giving as being a gift, but some people have an inborn desire to give of their resources. How much better could your life be if you decided to “Discover The Secret of Joyful Giving”.
1) Master Your Money By Ron Blue
Ron’s book shows individuals how to manage their money with a Biblical perspective in mind. Many of us who believe in the teachings of Christ already know the Bible has a great blueprint for money management. Master Your Money looks to describe those concepts in detail while giving real world applications and scenarios to help you understand how you can Master Your Money.
I hope you make time to read some of these great books about money.
“My people are dying because of lack of knowledge”.
If you need help making smart choices with your money, please give us a call.
Three ways to lower your taxable estate:
The financial planning cycle is an all-encompassing process that includes Investment planning, Insurance Planning, Tax Planning and Estate Planning among other areas. In one form or another your investment planning affects your estate planning which affects your tax planning which affects your insurance planning. Clients tend to think about these areas separately. Clients tend to think in terms of going to their Lawyer for their estate planning, their financial planner for their investment planning, their CPA for their tax planning and their insurance person for their insurance. A good financial planner will be able to direct clients to the professional who makes the most sense for their situation, but a financial planner can be viewed as the Quarterback for this process. Financial advisors who provide comprehensive financial planning services need to identify areas of a client’s financial picture that require more attention and in-depth analysis. Such is the case for clients looking to lower their taxable estate. These clients will certainly need the help of the financial planner, the insurance sales-woman, the CPA and the Attorney at all once. Knowing which professional to employ could have a significant affect on your assets. Without further ado, here are three ways you can lower your taxable estate:
Gifting Money to your Children and Grandchildren:
Current tax laws allow you to give away $14,000 per year to anyone you would like. However, most people aren’t interested in giving their money away to just anyone. A majority of clients will leverage the tax code to gift money to their children and grandchildren. Whether through cash or investment vehicles such as 529 plans, a parent can gift money to as many people as they would like for as many years as they would like. If your adult child is married, you can double the $14,000 and give $14,000 per year tax free to your children. If both Mom and Dad are giving money away, you can double that number again to $56,000 if giving to both the Adult child and the spouse. $56,000 might not be a large enough amount of money on it’s own to make a difference, but over a ten year period of time, that is $560,000. If you have another married child, over a ten year period of time you and your spouse can give away over $1,000,000.
Upfront gifting to a 529 plan:
529 plans offer a special feature that allow you to gift 5 years of assets all at once. Using the numbers from above for planning for one child’s education, you can upfront gift up to $140,000 for a married couple. For a single individual, again the gift amount is $14,000 per year multiplied by five and you get a $70,000 upfront gift to your child’s 529 account. Assuming you and your spouse have three grandchildren you’d like to help pay for college, that’s $420,000 you can eliminate from your estate in one year. Now we are talking significant assets being eliminated from your taxable estate. The cherry on top for this option is you are able to deduct the contributions to the 529 plan from your state taxes. With a tax rate of 5% in Illinois, contributions to a 529 plan could be a considerable deduction to consider. There are some caveats if you pass away before the 5 year period is over. We recommend you work with us and your CPA to understand the full ramifications of this option.
Establishing an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust:
Establishing an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT) will require the help of an Estate Planning Attorney. An ILIT can be used to purchase a life insurance policy or transfer the ownership of an existing policy to the ILIT. The first word of this product/strategy is Irrevocable. That’s an important word. When you transfer assets into an ILIT, you lose control of managing those assets and making changes to the assets. By assigning the assets to the ILIT, you are saying “This money no longer belongs to me”. ILIT’s allow you to pass a significant sum of money to the next generation and avoid estate taxes. After the life insurance is purchased or transferred, the trust becomes the beneficiary of the policy. Upon your death, the life insurance proceeds are paid out and held in trust for the trustees of the trust. For more information, we recommend you talk with us an estate planning attorney.
There are many other ways financial professionals work to lower your estate tax liability. These are just three ideas to help you on your journey. For more ways to lower your estate tax liability, please call us at 847-290-0753. You may email me at email@example.com.
This question is power packed with many different potential answers. At it’s core, this question is about risk. This question is “me” focused. The safest place for me to invest might not be the safest place for you to invest. What does the word safe mean? Does it mean I don’t want to lose any money today? Or, does it mean “I want my future to be safe”. At the root of most investor questions is some type of psychological unknown the client wants light shed upon. Since this question can cover both product and asset allocation, I will cover product for the moment.
In the financial world, there are many types of products you can purchase or invest in to achieve your goals. All of those products can be put into 5 buckets; stocks, bonds, cash, real estate & commodities.
The first product you can buy is an individual stock. Stocks represent ownership in a company and the return you receive is dependent upon the profit of the company you purchased. If you buy stock in Microsoft, then you are an owner of Microsoft. If Microsoft goes out of business, you lose all of the money you invested in Microsoft. Out of the five buckets, of course a stock would fall into the Stock bucket.
Next you can buy a bond. With bonds you are simply loaning your money to the government or to a corporation and they pay you interest in return. With bonds, if the company goes out of business, you are at least higher on the priority list to get money back over other investors. However, when investing in an individual bond, you still run the risk of losing money. The individual bond goes into the bond bucket.
Savings Accounts: Savings accounts are a cash bucket product and are offered by banks, credit unions and savings & loan institutions. Savings accounts offer a high amount of liquidity. If you need your money withdrawn from a savings account, you are able to walk into the bank or go online and withdraw your money. Due to the high liquidity factor, savings accounts won’t pay you much interest. To see a few available rates for savings accounts, click here.
Money market mutual funds are similar to savings accounts, but the value of money market mutual funds can fluctuate. The price of the money market is targeted for $1, but moves slightly throughout the trading day. Money markets are pools of money brought together by fund companies for the benefit of the account holders to try and achieve a return slightly higher than that of a savings account. A money market account offers liquidity, however you may have to wait a couple of days for money to transfer from your brokerage account to your bank account. Typically for our clients, the transfer is next day. The money market account goes into the cash bucket.
CD’s might be a bit trickier for most people. To many a cd is considered cash. However, if you look back at the definition of a bond, you will see the cd is similar. With a cd, you are loaning your money to the bank, the bank pays you interest, and when your cd expires you get your funds back. The only real difference between the bond and the cd is the cd is guaranteed. In most cases, the cd is FDIC insured. Wisdom Investments would categorize the cd to go into the bond bucket.
Next we have mutual funds. Mutual funds can be a bit tricky as there are many different types of mutual funds. For simplicity sake I will categorize the bond funds into four types: stock funds, bond funds, specialty funds & asset allocation funds. Stock funds would go into the stock bucket, bond funds would go into the bond bucket and allocation funds would hit all of the buckets. The specialty bonds would be focused on the commodities and Real Estate buckets. With most mutual fund portfolios you will have different types of funds that allow you to broadly diversify your money across the multiple markets available to you. With a mutual fund portfolio, you purchase multiple different types of funds and these funds have underlying securities that make up the value of the mutual fund. For example, if you have a large cap blend fund in your portfolio, you are investing in many different large companies like Microsoft, Coca Cola, & Google. When you invest in a bond fund, you are buying a portfolio of bonds that might include treasury bonds, municipal bonds, & corporate bonds. Within the mutual fund space you can also buy REITS which allows you to invest in real estate and you can buy commodity funds that allow you to invest in the commodities market. Exchange traded funds are similar to mutual funds but offer a lower cost since they are not professionally managed.
Fixed annuities are put together by insurance companies utilizing a portfolio of bonds. The insurance company buys bonds using your money and pays you a fixed return far below what they expect to yield on the bond portfolio. The trick is the insurance company guarantees your return while they bear the risk of the bond portfolio. In today’s market fixed annuities do not typically pay a high enough interest rate to warrant the length of time you will commit to the product. Fixed annuities are also a great way to achieve tax deferral and can be helpful in estate planning. Fixed annuities are part of the bond bucket.
Variable annuities are annuities that have an underlying portfolio typically consisting of mutual funds. The variable annuity company charges the clients for death benefits and guarantees while the client has some peace of mind with their investment. In my view, most variable annuities are too expensive and unnecessary for most clients. If a variable annuity is needed, it’s typically to help transfer a client out of an overpriced annuity that was purchased in the past. These products do offer a death benefit which guarantees a beneficiary would not receive less than a specified amount, but you pay for this feature. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’ve seen clients paying almost 4% per year for one of these products! In the investment industry, there is a debate going on as to whether or not a portfolio can be sustained while distributing 4% of the portfolio every year. Imagine trying to withdraw 4% and pay 4% per year…..
At Wisdom Investments, we take a managed mutual fund approach utilizing a balance of conventional and academic based investment strategies. We believe having a diversified, low-cost, & changeable portfolio is in most investors best interests. The safest place for you to invest is the product with the risk tolerance that helps you strive towards accomplishing your goals. If you’d like to learn more about how we help you “Make Smart Decisions With Your Money”, please call us at 847-290-0753 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director of Financial Planning
The worst part about New Year’s resolutions is I continuously lie to myself. I’ve found that over the years most of my New Year’s resolutions end up being a three to seven day fad that disappear more elusively than the time I spent conjuring the resolution in the first place. So, why should I have a New Year’s resolution? The answer is I probably shouldn’t. But, resolutions are easy. “I want to lose weight this year”. “I want to manage money better this year“. “I want to be a better person”. None of these “resolutions” has any real substance to them. So, it’s easy for me to flippantly say I want to do them. But, it doesn’t work. Choosing to forego resolutions, in recent years I’ve decided to set goals instead.
None of us wants to talk about goal-setting. Talking about a resolution is so much easier. The reason why is because no one is holding you accountable for your resolution, not even yourself. With a goal you are holding yourself accountable. You are saying and putting in writing, I’m going to lose 15 lbs by March 31st. You are declaring, I will pay off $7,000 in debt by June 30th. That’s the difficult and great part about setting goals. The greatness is you are now setting your goal in stone (or on your hard drive) so you can work towards the goal. The difficulty is when we write a goal down, we tend to feel like a failure when we don’t accomplish it. Or, we feel there is no point to set a goal as goals are really unattainable wishes that strangle our opportunity to seek anything outside of our goal. And, if we fail to reach our goal then why did we set it in the first place? Tell me, how do you feel when you don’t reach a goal? Post below.
As “The Christian Financial Planner”, I’d like to offer a couple of things I believe are God’s take on goal setting. Proverbs 21:5 says “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty”. So, if I want “abundance” in my life, I need to plan for it? And, if I don’t make plans, then that leads to being without? Interesting thought. The next one, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?” I really think this one hits home for why some people won’t even attempt to set a goal. The idea that we will be scoffed at and people around us would say, “Well, it looks like Jose couldn’t hack it” “He set a goal and didn’t make it” “It looks like we can’t trust him for anything” is paralyzing for some of us. That’s the dialogue we tell ourselves, but it’s just simply not true. Alfred Tennyson wrote “Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” Just replace the words loved with “set goals” and you have a powerful statement to combat almost any excuse we have for not setting a goal. One last Bible verse…”The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps”. This verse could quite easily be manipulated to say “what’s the point?”, “even if I set a goal, God’s going to do what He wants”. But, I don’t think this verse says that at all. I think this verse says “You need to have a vision, a thought, a goal, a desire. And, once you do, God will help you”. The Lord will establish your steps! Think about that for a moment.
This New Year you can make a resolution because it’s easy and there is no real commitment to that resolution. Or, you can take some time over the next couple of days and think about what you’d really like to accomplish over the next twelve months. You can choose to have a goal and start to make your first steps towards that goal and I believe God will help you accomplish it. And, once you do, celebrate. I remember some friends shared with my wife and I that they paid off all of their debt and they were taking a weekend trip downtown to celebrate the win. Celebrate. Jump for joy at the fact that you accomplished something you set out to do. What is a goal you’ve recently attained that you’d like to share with the world? Post it below.
Let’s have a better year striving towards things that matter in 2017. Let’s set some goals that are going to help us become better people, to manage our money better and to be healthy. But, let’s have some substance to those goals. Let’s have a target. I’ll share one goal with you that I have for 2017. I will sit for the CFP examination by Nov 14th, 2017. What is one goal you are willing to write down and accomplish for 2017? Share below.
P.S. If one of your goals revolves around money management, give me a call at 847-290-0753.