Your Work From Home Network Checklist

Your Work From Home Network Checklist

With many of us making our home offices a full-time endeavor and with a future that looks like working from home will be an increasing part of our lives, giving clients and associates a good experience is key. No one wants to go through the hiccups and dropouts of your Zoom meeting, especially when you are discussing important topics! Here we offer some suggestions on how to assure that your home internet is stable and able to handle the load for today’s work environment. 

Internet Speed

Do this little exercise – find a way to see how many devices are actually on your network. Here’s one way to do this, or if you have something like the Google Wifi points, you may use their app. You’ll probably be surprised at the number of devices that are using up bandwidth (check also that all the devices are approved by you!). It’s likely that you have underestimated your needed bandwidth rather than overestimated it. Keep in mind also that streaming and Zoom meetings require a significant amount of bandwidth. I would recommend a minimum of 100 Mbps service, with a preference of 300 Mbps+. This will help alleviate the dreaded buffering or pixelation that dooms business calls to failure. 

Use Ethernet Where Possible

You’ve probably heard that WiFi networks aren’t super secure. This is correct, though there are certainly things that you can do to protect yourself. No matter how good your WiFi is, you also may have dead spots or interference that could impact your signal. Using a wired ethernet connection is a good way to make yourself more secure and stable. Most modern homes now have cabling, though you will want to assure that you don’t have Cat5 wiring since that could potentially be slower than your WiFi in some cases.

Cable Modem and Router

When was the last time you checked on your cable modem to assure you have that equipment up to date? It’s worth a look and/or a phone call to your internet service provider (ISP). Cable modems can be a number of years old and don’t offer the same efficiency that newer models achieve. 

Good performing WiFi is key and provided in a couple of ways. Sometimes the cable modem also has a router in it, though if it is older technology you will probably want to use your own router. Aren’t sure the difference between a modem and router? Here’s a helpful post.

Eliminate WiFi Dead Spots

If you have a larger home or want to assure that your WiFi signal can reach certain areas of the house (workbench, screened in porch, your WiFi enabled birdbath), you will probably want to consider a mesh network. Basically a mesh network is one network created out of a number of devices sending WiFi signals. The one I use is from Google. The nice part about using this type of network is it’s fairly portable, allowing you to move the “pucks” around if you are seeing a decrease in the quality of the signal in any particular spot. Furthermore, you may plug in an ethernet cable in many cases to make the connection wired.

Protect Your Network

There are a number of things you can do to protect your network from cyber attacks. Using strong, unique passwords will help wall off your exposure when (not if!) you are compromised. A password keeper such as 1Password will help you keep track of your passwords instead of that yellow sheet of paper you keep next to your laptop. Running regular virus and malware checks using software is also a good idea to assure you haven’t picked up something while you browse around. Avast offers a free virus protection program that’s easy to use. Finally, using a VPN creates a “tunnel” that shields your web browsing from your internet service provider and other prying eyes. This is also important when you go out to places that may have unsecured wireless networks as well.

Putting It All Together

If all of this seems like a lot, consider the role of each of the items discussed above. The pipeline into the home is provided by a cable. If you’re lucky, it’s a fiber optic one since they offer incredible bandwidth capabilities. The modem receives the signal from the cable, and the router helps move around the signal to different places, including the wireless network in many cases. Some will choose to set up a mesh network as an alternative, sending wireless signals from different points stationed around the house. 

Regardless of how simple or complex your needs are, it is important from a business perspective to have a stable, secure network. Take the time to educate yourself and make the best use of your home office!

Clint Walkner

  

 

Don’t Skip Your Vacation

Don’t Skip Your Vacation

“I need a vacation!” 

Growing up, these are the words I used to hear from my parents when the inevitable stresses and pressure of work, kids, and life would get to them. As a child, I loved to go on vacation, whether it was up to northern Wisconsin or down the East coast to a beach. Some of my greatest memories are from those vacations. Going to the beach, enjoying a campfire, and running around Disney World with my siblings are experiences that I will never forget. Now that I’m older (much older!), I have the ability to go on vacations that I hope will have the same impact on my children. So, why, when they have the means to do it and there are so many benefits to them, is it so difficult for some people to actually take that big vacation? I find myself having this conversation with clients routinely, and there are several reasons that I have found.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first appearance of the word “workaholic” occurred in the Toronto Star in 1947. Many Americans have a hard time actually taking the time off due to an inability to “shut out” their work. They find their identity in what they do, and it becomes an addictive, singular focus. I routinely work with people who have a tremendous amount of unused, “banked” vacation time that they plan on taking as a lump-sum when they retire, instead of using it to take paid rest and relaxation or a trip to a place they’ve always wanted to go. They lament not taking vacations in the prior years, but when it comes to the future, it’s one of the first things they want to incorporate into their financial plan in retirement.  Often, they carry the same habits into retirement and find a myriad of excuses as to why they can’t or shouldn’t go on vacation. They fear the cost, their lives are too busy, and sometimes, I hear those dreaded words, “We are going to go NEXT year.” At that point, I like to remind my clients that this is something that’s going to be a good thing for them, something that we have planned for, and that it’s important to execute on that dream we discussed as we laid out their plan. I’ve even gone so far as to retain a travel agent to help facilitate a “planned-for” vacation when I sensed the clients hesitation. Upon returning, they let me know that it was one of the best, most memorable experiences of their lives.  

According to Project Time Off, a survey from the United States Travel Association (USTA), there are 768 million unused vacation days in America. As financial planners, we work with clients who are currently working, planning to work longer in their careers, and retirees. The topic of vacation is generally one we put into the “goals and dreams” category, but there are several studies indicating that people who regularly take vacations, or even staycations, lead more productive and happier lives. It’s no accident that vacationing creates memories, whether you go on a sabbatical by yourself or take a vacation with your family and friends. When you have a daily routine, the brain tends to go on autopilot, collecting fewer memories. It’s the unusual instances, the aberrations we remember and store for life. Planning for and executing on taking a vacation can be difficult, but we find it to be worth the work.

If you have worked with us, we have more than likely had the conversation about planning for your goals and dreams. Since vacations can have a high financial cost and commitment, let us help you to incorporate them into your plan as well as prioritize those goals. We have resources that can project what the future costs will be, what taking the big vacation now will do to your long-term goals, as well as trusted resources in the Madison community to help you plan your trip. If you feel like you “need a vacation”, or want to plan for the ones you’ll be taking in the future, we can discuss it when we meet. All we ask in return is that you share some of the great stories, happy photos, videos, and memories that will last a lifetime.

Jonathon Jordan

The Opportunity of Disruption

The Opportunity of Disruption

Times Like These…

The last couple of weeks have brought upon each and every one of us a tremendous amount of disruption. The emotions that have caused it have been varied, swift and powerful. There is a great deal of fear and sadness for how COVID-19 is causing chaos in our everyday lives. We know these emotions because we too are human and the constant deluge of information coming at us is overwhelming. But what we are not feeling right now is panic. After all, history has shown us that it is times like these where people have a chance to take a step back, take a deep breath and realize the why behind everything that we are trying to accomplish in our lives.  

Turn Lemons into Lemonade

Right now there are things happening that make some of us very disappointed, like the cancelling of March Madness, the NBA, NHL and The Masters. For others there is chaos trying to line up a way to either work from home, find a babysitter or a place for the kids to go that is safe while schools have been cancelled. It is not a fun time, but it can be a GREAT experience if we make it that way. This gives us a chance to slow down and spend some time with those that mean the most to us. To turn off the TV during the times that the games would have been on and read that book that has been collecting dust next to the bed. To reach out to a friend or family member that has grown distant because of the constant hamster wheel of life that many have been on for a long time.  It seems that the pause button has been hit, but it is not permanent. It is only temporary. Things will return back to normal and what we do during this time matters.  It is not a time to panic.

Go Back to Your Plan

The same goes with your financial goals and the decisions that we make regarding investments.  When the markets get volatile like this, in the past it has presented an opportunity to those who have goals and are investing towards them. That is why we have our GAPP process here at Walkner Condon Financial Advisors. We identify the Goals our clients have, Analyze their situation, Plan for the future and how to best accomplish them and then Personalize the advice based on all of that information.  We see this time as a great opportunity for our clients that entrust us to be patient, resolute and focus on the long term. There will be more disruptions in our lives like this. The media will scream how terrible things are. We will have a chance to tell someone about how during COVID-19 it was an opportunity to focus on what matters and what an impact it had on our lives. It is times like these… let’s not let this opportunity pass us by.

Take Action

Wash your hands. Be aware of those around you that could use a helping hand, a meal, or just some company through a phone call or a visit. Fred Rodgers once said, “when I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ’look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.‘ ” Thank your friends in the medical field and law enforcement. Go be a helper. This too shall pass.

Jonathon Jordan

A New Look at New Year’s Resolutions

A New Look at New Year’s Resolutions

As the calendar flips to 2020, we will all look back and wonder where 2019 went and how it went by so fast. We all did the same thing when the calendar flipped from 2018 to 2019. And we will all do the same thing again when it flips from 2020 to 2021. However, I think we are asking ourselves the wrong question – not how did the year go by so fast, but more so, are we better now versus a year ago? What changes did we make to improve our lives? Did we actually do something different or alter our behavior in some way? Or did we simply do the same things as the years past and expect different results?

I promise that this blog post isn’t intended to make you feel bad about a failed New Year’s resolution. It is more so calling out that if we focus on the process and not the outcome, we will achieve meaningful change. Our firm started to work with a business coach last year who helped us to understand business planning in a different way. He wholeheartedly agrees that annual goals are a must for any business. However, he suggests a different approach to reach those goals. His recommendation to achieve annual goals is to break them down into 12 monthly goals. This, in his opinion, is the best way to actually achieve success. Said a different way, don’t focus on the large annual goal, but 12 smaller, less intimidating monthly goals. Whether it be losing weight, starting a gym routine, or saving money, New Year’s resolutions always begin with a genuine desire to change our behaviors for the better. But by mid-February, most have died off because the desired result became overwhelming. For example, if your goal is to lose 18 pounds by the end of the year, then think about it as losing a pound and a half every month. If your goal is to save $15,000 this year, then put $1250 away every month. Mountains are climbed one step at a time! =

My challenge to you is to set a 2020 goal and map out the monthly results. This gives us a better scoreboard to check progress. It also keeps us accountable starting right away in January, in addition to providing more on-ramps throughout the year for getting back on track if we miss a month or two. Achievement doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing endeavor or some grand plan that’s ruined by the first inevitable pitfall. Please share your 2020 resolutions with us. We love to hear what our clients are striving for each year and how we may be able to help get there or simply lend a word of encouragement. We will do the same in our strategy meetings in 2020. Let’s all set ourselves up for a different view at the end of 2020. Not how did the year go by so fast, but how I set a resolution and finally kept it!    

 

Nate Condon

3 Holiday Dane County Gift Ideas

3 Holiday Dane County Gift Ideas

After starting to prepare our basement for construction in the upcoming weeks, it quickly becomes apparent to me that as Americans we are excellent at accumulating stuff. What was once seen as an indispensable item now languishes in a box, taking up space past its useful life (I’m looking at you, handheld clothes steamer!)

For the past few years, our family has increasingly focused on giving experiences rather than gifts for Christmas. Here are a few experiences around the Dane County area that are good choices for holiday gifts:

DelecTable:

Located in the VomFASS store in University Avenue, DelecTable offers cooking classes as well as a culinary dinner theatre. We have run a few of the dinner theaters for events, and the experience has been wonderful. Chefs prepare a number of courses in a live setting while explaining the techniques they use, and wine pairings are available to enhance the experience. For those that are gifting outside the Dane County area, consider a culinary class at Sur La Table (which also has a Madison location and does a great job).

Board & Brush Creative Studio (Sun Prairie and Middleton locations):

If you are a frequent viewer of the DIY Network (guilty!), undoubtedly you have seen simple wood creations that can have a big impact on a room. At Board & Brush, you can take a class and create a custom wood sign to take home. A variety of signs are offered, including more modern ones as well as rustic options that are on trend right now. If you are buying for someone out of town, there are studios throughout the country.

The Sylvee:

If you haven’t been to The Sylvee, you are missing out. We are very fortunate to have a premier music venue in Madison, with exceptional sound and a very comfortable atmosphere for patrons (clean bathrooms and a wide beer selection that doesn’t take 30 minutes in line to get it!) The recent acts have been really good, such as Lana Del Rey, The Avett Brothers, and Dan + Shay. There is ample room for general admission (standing), and there are also reserved seats for those that prefer to sit above the stage. There are gift certificates available on their website if you don’t want to select a show for someone.

Hopefully this helps in your holiday shopping, and feel free to comment if you have a suggestion for an experiential gift idea!

Clint Walkner

 

Attitude of Gratitude

Attitude of Gratitude

Almost 2 years ago to the day, I remember sitting at my desk and thinking that I was about to step to the edge, stare out into the unknown, and make the leap. I had decided to leave Merrill Lynch to partner up with two other independent financial advisors and take the final step in my career as we became a fee-only fiduciary firm with the desire to impact our clients with sound financial advice and wealth management. Looking back on that day, I don’t know whether I felt more fear or more excitement. My guess is probably fear! It seems like a long time ago, yet I remember it like it was yesterday. As I sit here today at our office, there is one feeling that is far and above all of the others that I have experienced since that November afternoon in 2017. It is the feeling of GRATITUDE. 

I am grateful for the opportunity to come to work everyday with two business partners that are committed to excellence. I am grateful that I have the chance to impact the lives of the clients who entrust me with important financial guidance and decisions. Our firm has been able to grow in those two years and we have added two excellent financial advisors in Mitch and Keith, as well as our newest addition to the team, a client service specialist, with Hannah. There is not a day that goes by that I do not enjoy coming into the office to work alongside our team. I am grateful for the fact that I am blessed to raise my family in Madison, WI. The diversity of the community and the people who I have been able to meet in our 15 years here have made this my home. There is so much gratitude to go around!  

There was recently an article that I read about gratitude and how it can lead to a longer life,  better sleep, stronger relationships, even a healthier lifestyle. I couldn’t agree more. It is easy in the world that we live in to get caught up in the day-to-day things of life, to constantly feel like we need to be doing more, achieving more, and accomplishing things…but it only gives us a temporary sense of satisfaction. I’ve heard it said that it’s not having what you want, but wanting what you have, and I believe that when you are grateful, you find enjoyment in the uniqueness and blessings that all of us have as individuals. Some of why I am grateful is because of decisions that I have made or things that I have chosen to do. Much of it comes from the fact that the people in my life help to make it what it is… a tremendous blessing to live. 

I have spent far less time on social media. I have read far fewer articles about politics and other divisive things. I took up running this year and completed a half-marathon several months ago.  I have been reading more about things that I enjoy. All of these have been lifestyle changes that I chose to do this year. None of them have stopped my hair from thinning and my beard from greying though! But I believe that each one of them has helped me to appreciate the blessings that I have and to be grateful for the opportunities presented to me and the people I get to “do life” with.  I am excited about the future of this growing firm. I am excited to continue to help people in a career that I am passionate about. And most of all I am grateful that can wake up each day and find a way, personally or professionally to make a positive difference in someone else’s life. I hope anyone reading this can find something today to be grateful for!   

Jonathon Jordan