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

 

 

Writing the Unthinkable: What I Learned in Seven Hours with Lynda Barry

Writing the Unthinkable: What I Learned in Seven Hours with Lynda Barry

Since this is Back-to-School week here at Walkner Condon and perhaps in your household as well, I thought I’d talk a bit about the unique learning opportunity I had last Saturday. You may be familiar with UW Professor and beloved cartoonist, Lynda Barry, from her weekly comic strip, Ernie Pook’s Comeek, her many novels, or her sold-out discussions with her friend and contemporary, Matt Groenig. (He made a little show called The Simpsons a while back.) 

In her “Writing the Unthinkable” workshops, she teaches drawing without the aim of creating anything that could be judged on its artistic merit (luckily for me). Instead, she teaches people of all professions and backgrounds how to harness the visual part of their brains to get out of creative ruts, solve problems, and circumvent that pesky internal editor we all have in order to write and think freely and solve problems we might not immediately think of as “creative” problems. 

In an effort to steal Keith’s title as “Biggest Office Nerd” (Editor’s note: impossible) I spent seven hours last Saturday at an old courthouse in Evansville with 49 other students, drawing and writing based on Barry’s prompts. I may have developed carpal tunnel as a result, but I do have a composition notebook full of writing ideas to show for my efforts, plus a couple of Lynda Barry-isms to share with y’all.

On Getting Unstuck and Seeing A Problem From a New Perspective

One exercise we did involve creating a four-frame comic from a monster drawn collaboratively by several other classmates. In the first frame, you drew the monster. For the second frame, you had three minutes to imagine and draw its parents. The results were hilarious and involved many wonky little legs, but I loved Barry’s insight on how that thought process can help with all kinds of problem solving. Everything comes from something, and every problem has parents. If you’re stuck on the problem itself, try thinking about what its parents might be. What parts is your problem the sum of?  

On First Drafts and Editing

If you’re struggling with a first draft of something, take a tip from Lynda Barry and try writing it the old fashioned way: with pen and paper. (Advice just from me and not at all from Lynda Barry: If you really want to get those creative juices flowing, maybe throw in an old fashioned old fashioned, as well! Brandy. Sweet. Editor’s note from Keith: sour)

Pen and paper can really help you generate more material: The delete button on your keyboard is just too much of a temptation. Can you imagine if you had a delete button in your life? You’d only have 35 minutes of life lived! Editing is such a natural human activity. Think about how many times you’ve relived moments you wish you could go back to, the satisfaction of making edits on what happened and what you might have said instead. Think about walking down the street, and thinking, “Yikes! I wouldn’t have worn that.” You can’t turn off the editor within, but you can take steps to mitigate it. Try writing your next first draft by hand and with a set time limit in mind.  Moreover, by writing by hand you will have more remnants of phrases, sentences, and ideas that you can rework and rewrite going forward. The outfit ultimately wasn’t that terrible, it just needed different accessories.

-Hannah Baker