May 28

Preventing a Family Feud: Advice for Navigating Inheritance Disputes

Preventing a Family Feud: Advice for Navigating Inheritance Disputes

By Paul Jarvis, CFP®

Areavoices Financial Planning Blog


Many emotions surround the death of a loved one – sadness, regret, loneliness, stress. Inheritance disputes only increase the stress of losing a loved one, creating tensions and rifts between families and often resulting in costly and time-consuming lawsuits.

Here are several paths that a “would-be or should-be” beneficiary can take if he or she feels short-changed in an inheritance.

  • Go to court. To pursue legal remedy, the aggrieved party must have legal standing as a beneficiary of the decedent, as a creditor, or as a legal claimant against property in the estate. This would include anyone who is actually named as a beneficiary in the estate documents as well as anyone who would have a right to the estate if a will did not exist or was deemed invalid.

  • Legal mediation outside of court. This involves using a trained mediator, often an attorney, who seeks to forge a contractual agreement among the affected parties. Mediation is frequently a good solution for smaller disputes or in cases where confidentiality is paramount.

  • Have a preventive plan. The best way to deal with inheritance disputes is to do everything possible to make sure they never happen. This means rethinking how good estate planning works. Rather than being a “once and done” exercise that you undertake when you get older, estate planning needs to be ongoing, and frequently reviewed and revised to keep pace with changing circumstances and family dynamics.

Thoughtful and intentional estate planning during life can dramatically reduce family inheritance disputes.  Very few people wish to simply pass on their estate; they are passing on family values and memories that were the sum of their lives.

It’s crucial to keep in mind potential inheritance disputes when creating an estate plan, and to include language and provisions that anticipate and limit the possibility of legal challenges among your beneficiaries. Consult with a CFP® professional who can help you and your family to develop a plan that will clearly outline your hopes and wishes for their future.

Read more by visiting:

Paul Jarvis is a CFP Board Ambassador and leads United Capital’s office in Fargo. Read more of Paul’s blog by visiting or by calling 701-293-2076.


Apr 20

Stress Test: Americans, Especially Women and Younger People, Stressed by Finances


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Stress Test: Americans, Especially Women and Younger People, Stressed by Finances

CFP Board Survey finds financial planning most helpful in reducing stress

By Paul Jarvis, CFP®

Areavoices Financial Planning Blog


Americans, particularly women and younger people, overwhelmingly experience tress when it comes to thinking about and managing their finances, according to a survey released by Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board). Nearly nine in 10 of those surveyed (86%) feel stress when it comes to their finances, with women (89%) and younger respondents between the ages of 18-44 (91%) more likely to feel any stress about their finances. Older Americans are the least likely age group to report financial stress, with only 78 percent of respondents age 65 or older reporting financial stress.


The survey, conducted on behalf of CFP Board by ORC International, found that Americans clearly recognize ways for successfully managing their financial stress, with financial planning the top solution. More than a quarter of respondents report that having a financial plan will help most in reducing their stress (27%), with younger respondents (ages 18-44) particularly confident in the value of having a plan (35%). Othes preferred solutions for decreasing the level of financial stress include having more knowledge in certain finance areas (22%), more knowledge about their own finances (14%) and more time to focus on their finances (12%).


Stress is often times a result of a perceived lack of control.  By taking control, creating a plan and working with a CFP® professional, stress can be dramatically reduced.


While the majority of Americans experience some level of financial stress, the reasons and occasions for their stress vary, as well as the ways in which they manage it:


  • Debt (23%) and everyday expenses (21%) are the leading causes of financial stress, followed by health expenses (14%) and retirement (13%).
    • Respondents age 65 or older are more likely to stress about health expenses (22%), whereas younger respondents (ages 18-24) stress about high education costs (23%).


  • More than half of Americans (53%) experience stress about their finances at certain times, including at the end of the month when bills are due (24%), around the holiday season (15%), and during tax preparation season (11%). A quarter (25%) feel stressed about finances all of the time.


  • While the majority of respondents say they get stressed about their finances, very few (13%) believe their stress definitely hinders their ability to make decisions about their money, while roughly a quarter (28%) say that it sometimes does.
    • Younger respondents (ages 18-44) are more likely to say that their stress either definitely hinders their ability to make decisions about their money (20%), or it sometimes does (38%).


  • About half (48%) indicated that they tighten spending as a result of financial stress, while a third (34%) admit to monitoring their accounts more frequently.
    • Younger respondents (ages 18-44) are more likely to do doing anything to take their minds off of the stress (21%), including go shopping or watching TV to distract themselves.


The survey findings are particularly interesting in light of previous national research conducted by CFP Board and the Consumer Federation of America. According to the 2012 Household Financial Planning Survey, having a financial plan leads to greater confidence and lower debt. Those who have prepared a personal financial plan are more likely to feel on pace to meet all of their financial goals, such as saving for retirement or for emergencies.


Consumers can learn more about creating a financial plan and finding and working with a Certified Financial Planner™ professional at


Paul Jarvis is a CFP Board Ambassador and leads United Capital’s office in Fargo. See more at


About the Survey Methodology

ORC International administered the online survey to a representative sample of 1,008 adults 18 years of age and older, from March 30 – April 1, 2015. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in online surveys and polls. The data have been weighted to reflect the demographic composition of the 18+ population.  Because the sample is based on those who initially self-selected for participation, no estimates of sampling error can be calculated. A complete report of survey findings can be found at




Mar 20

A Retirement Guide for Her

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A Retirement Guide for Her

By Paul Jarvis, CFP®

Areavoices Financial Planning Blog



As we commemorate the countless women who beat the odds, shattered glass ceilings, and shaped history and society during Women’s History Month, the fact remains that many women still face an uphill battle, including in preparing for a financially secure retirement. Women must overcome obstacles to reaching their retirement goals that don’t exist for men, including longer life expectancy, shorter careers, lower pay, and a higher likelihood of living single during retirement.


Many women approaching retirement are finding they are sandwiched between financial priorities for children and parents.  Being financially prepared means taking an active role in self-assessment to ensure balance between a willingness to help and one’s own financial well-being.


There are several key steps every woman should take to ensure that she is prepared for retirement.


  • Prioritize her financial needs – Even ahead of children and elderly parents, a woman must ensure she is prepared financially for the future, making sure that her resources are not overextended or depleted. She should consider investing in a retirement plan before funding a college savings plan or tap parents’ own assets for their care rather than paying out of her own pocket.


  • Build her own retirement assets – When a woman is not working, she should still set aside funds for her future and in her name, separate from her spouse or partner. This can be done through spousal IRAs, or even in after-tax savings accounts.


  • Invest in her skills – Having relevant and marketable skills affords valuable career opportunities and can ease reentry into the workforce for women who have been away for a time. Employment means participation in a retirement plan, building up more Social Security credits, and getting disability and long-term care insurance coverage.


  • Pay attention to Social Security – There are two numbers she needs to be concerned about – 35 and 10. Her Social Security benefits are calculated on the highest 35 years of earnings and she is eligible for a spousal benefit as long as she has been married for at least 10 years.


  • Consider Increasing investment risk – It’s important that she consider taking advantage of equity growth more than relying on the safety of fixed income, particularly in the early years of investing.


Women shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. No one – man or woman – should go about planning their retirement alone. A CFP® professional can be a trusted partner in growing and managing wealth and retirement savings, including investment advice and risk mitigation, helping dreams become reality.


Paul Jarvis is a CFP Board ambassador and leads United Capital’s office in Fargo. See more at

Mar 11

Goodbye Wealth Management, Hello FinLife

Goodbye Wealth Management, Hello FinLife

By Joe Duran


Remember when the financial world was really simple? It wasn’t that long ago that there were brokerage firms, banks, insurance companies and independent financial planners with clearly defined roles and descriptions. How the world has changed. Last year when I received our valuation from Lazard, I spent a little extra time looking at the different segments of financial firms that they had used to form an opinion on our valuation. As most institutional teams do, they had categorized firms in the industry into one of three sectors:

  1. The platform companies: Technology-enabled firms like Envestnet, Financial Engines, Advent –all of which have the loftiest valuations, as high as seven times revenue (many lose money so you can’t calculate a PE).
  2. The asset managers: Firms like AMG, AllianceBernstein and SEI fell into this section. These firms have recurring revenue and scalable investment distribution and valuations between three and five times revenue.
  3. The wealth management firms: In this group were LPL, Ameriprise, Morgan Stanley et al. These are the distribution and large brokerage firms with commission and fee-based revenues. They show valuations of one to three times revenue.

By name, the independent adviser who is a fiduciary and helps people with their entire financial life is the same as the broker at a wire-house. You can imagine how confusing it is to the average consumer who is trying to understand the difference.

The co-opting of wealth management

In the early 90s, the retail investment world was made up of mostly commission-based brokers and some pioneering independent advisers who began laying the groundwork for an independent fiduciary, fee-managed solution. Soon the big firms rolled out their own fee-based solutions. In the beginning, most fee relationships were investment focused, but independent advisers soon began differentiating by building a broader and more extensive relationship with clients. Not coincidentally, as the market has changed, so have the naming conventions. Being a broker has become a “dirty” word and now most firms have become “wealth managers,” an opaque term that covers anyone who touches money. And the people who work at a wealth management firm? Why, they are all “financial advisers!” The big firms have successfully co-opted the term wealth management for both institutions and retail clients. So how do you let people know that you are a different kind of wealth manager than the investment-focused broker at a brokerage firm, or the insurance agent representing an insurance company (who both call themselves wealth managers)? We have struggled with this question for years — it’s time to do something about it.

What’s in a name? Here’s the research

We just completed a months’ long research project with a team of social researchers that confirms most people cannot tell the difference between the various “wealth managers.” To most clients, whether it’s the broker who sells securities, the solicitor who sells investment products for a fee, the investment firm, the insurance agent or a planner who is a fiduciary dealing with a client’s entire financial life, we are all financial advisers who help them with their money. Wealth management has become the umbrella term for anyone touching money or investing for people. In our research, most people could simply not tell the difference. That means if you are an adviser who provides guidance to clients’ entire financial lives beyond investments and helps them to make tough choices as a fiduciary, wealth management is not a clearly enough defined category for your clients anymore.

A better name for what we do

We believe that for those of us who work with clients’ life choices, as well as their investment choices, it’s time to create a different category. We tested and contemplated many different combinations and words to capture the essence of the Venn diagram below. The one that resonated for most people was Financial Life Management (or FinLife in short form). We discussed the difference between our specific niche and the typical investment-focused adviser in an article about the client’s bill of rights. The market can’t tell the difference between us because we are all called the same thing, so we have to create a new category.

A fork in the road

When you have market adoption and dilution of a concept, you can either bang your head against the popular position, explaining to clients that you are a “different” or “unique” version of a wealth adviser (and try to outspend the big guys), or take a different road and create a new category. Our research suggests that the latter path makes more sense.

When asking hundreds of people what the difference was between “wealth management” and “financial life management” (a term we coined, which no client had used before, but fortunately all of them seemed to assume they knew what it was), the general response was that the first was more about money and investing and the second was bigger and more about how your whole life works with money. I know those are two very different job descriptions — it’s time we weren’t all called the same thing. We believe deeply that this clearly articulated service, and the appropriate naming shift, is the next “big thing” for our industry.


Life Finances


How committed are we to this concept? We showed the research and our findings to all of our partner advisers in person earlier this year (we will be sharing some of the more interesting findings with you in the coming months), and there was unanimous agreement by all to change the definition of what we do.

In the next year, you will see the shift in our branding and logo from “Private Wealth Management” to “Financial Life Management” (we invite you to watch our video about FinLife). We have already spent millions to create a truly unique client experience, and we will spend millions more to continue building the dominant FinLife platform in the country. We believe Financial Life Management is superior to wealth management, when describing what we do: Improve lives by bringing truth, understanding and discipline to people’s choices over their entire financial life. That’s probably true for most of you advisers reading this, too. We believe our clients will quickly and more easily understand the difference, even if the industry takes a while to catch on.

Joe Duran is chief executive of United Capital and author of “The Money Code: Improve Your Entire Financial Life Right Now.” Follow him @DuranMoney.

Feb 26

Location, Location, Location: Making the Decision to Stay or Go in Retirement


Location, Location, Location:

Making the Decision to Stay or Go in Retirement


Fargo, ND, February 26, 2015 – With approximately 10,000 baby boomers – America’s largest generational group – transitioning to retirement each day, the pressures to plan for where they will spend their retirement years are significant. Soon-to-be retirees must ask themselves where they will be the most comfortable: remaining in their home, also known as “aging in place,” or moving to a dedicated retirement community.


The frigid arctic of the Midwest has many local soon-to-be retirees contemplating a warmer climate, but cost of living changes have many carefully evaluating the move.


Here are some important factors to consider when deciding whether to “age in place.”


  • Living arrangements: Married retirees or singles living at home with other family members are generally good prospects for aging in place. The primary issue here is safety. As we age, we lose physical acuity, including our vision, hearing and balance.


  • Suitability/adaptability of the home to physical needs: Open floor plans and one-level living are obvious wants and eventual needs for most retirees. As hale and hearty as you may be in your early retirement, you need to be realistic about your physical needs in the future.


  • Services in community: How retiree-friendly is the community? Is it easy to get around by means other than driving? Are good medical providers and facilities easily accessible? Some communities with a high concentration of retirement-aged residents are designated as “NORCs” – or Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities – with special services for the aging-in-place retiree population.


The Certified Financial Planner Board ( also advises that when making the decision to “age in place,” financial costs must be carefully evaluated. Retirees determined to stay in their homes need to plan for how they will pay for needed services such as in-home caretaking. Some of the major options to ensure retirees can afford these expenses include:


  • Long-term care (LTC) insurance: Most long-term care policies today provide coverage for in-home caretaking services. Unfortunately, a 2014 Genworth Financial study found that very few Americans have LTC insurance despite the high likelihood they will eventually need care.


  • Reverse mortgage: Rent or mortgage payments, property taxes and depreciation may make staying in the home while receiving LTC services more expensive than the annual costs of a nursing home or continuing care facility. Reverse mortgages have, fortunately, become a more mainstream financing option and less expensive. However, retirees should still be mindful of the pitfalls involved, such as possible loss of the home if the stipulations of the mortgage agreement are not met.


  • Medicaid: A last-resort option that few retirees like to think about is Medicaid. Unlike Medicare or private health insurance, Medicaid does provide for caretaking services in the home, but only for those aging-in-placers who have exhausted most of their net worth.


Choosing to age in place or move to a retirement home requires taking a realistic and non-sentimental view of the potential costs that may be incurred in retirement, and comparing them to the costs of other less familiar and comfortable options



The mission of Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. is to benefit the public by granting the CFP® certification and upholding it as the recognized standard of excellence for competent and ethical personal financial planning. The Board of Directors, in furthering CFP Board’s mission, acts on behalf of the public, CFP® professionals and other stakeholders. CFP Board owns the certification marks CFP®, Certified Financial Planner™, CFP® (with plaque design) and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.  CFP Board currently authorizes more than 71,000 individuals to use these marks in the U.S.



CONTACT: Jessica Lewis, Communications Specialist P: 202-379-2256 E: Twitter: @cfpboardmedia



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