Lasting Impressions

Kevin Slater | CEO

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2019 has been full of big projects at work and at home; from software conversions to role restructuring, a kitchen remodel, and a never-ending deck project. I have learned that great project management includes all of the usual steps: define your outcome, carefully analyze, schedule, budget, manage priorities, et cetera. And it includes trying to manage the stress put on those affected by the project.

Change creates stress: new work, more work, uncertainty, living without something we depend on, unanticipated impacts, being forced to change habits, and the list goes on. It doesn’t matter if a project leads to fabulous improvements; the process of getting there is usually stressful. In fact, it can be easy to lose the joy of what you accomplish in the strain of the journey. And strong feelings created during the process can last long after the project is done.

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I am discovering how much influence I have on other people’s stress during times of change—for better or for worse. I have given up on the idea of trying to create stress-free changes—that is unrealistic. However, there are things I can do (or not do) to make it less stressful.

I can help prepare people by acknowledging the certain ups and downs that lie ahead. I can actively encourage people along the way. I can celebrate key accomplishments. I can remind them of how important their role is in the outcome. I can join them in learning from mistakes. And we can choose to have fun in the midst of the mayhem.

Our family has a new tradition with home projects. We pause during the project to create something in a place or manner that we might not otherwise experience. For example, writing notes on the wall joists before the sheetrock goes on; or etching in the wet concrete of new deck footings. Everyone has fun despite the stress we are enduring.

Creating fun applies at work too. As we have prepared our database for conversion, we granted key team members “Data Hygienist” designations. Before we launched our fall projects, we took the entire staff out for an abstract painting party.

Have I made anyone’s stress disappear? No. But I hope we have helped reduce their misery and created some positive lasting memories. Maybe they will be able to enjoy both the fruit of their work and the process in getting there.

Debbie Wyman Returns to SoundView with Tales from the Irish Countryside

Support Advisor | Seattle

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Deb is back! And full of new stories and adventures. I sat down with her to chat about her sabbatical—both their time in the PNW and in Ireland where she traveled with her husband, daughter and son-in-law, and 10 year-old grandson. Though their party of five had never traveled internationally it sounds like they thoroughly enjoyed themselves and even survived the left-side, narrow road, sheep-in-your-path driving that is Ireland. Read on to hear more about what they saw, the food they ate, and the people they met.

You had a few weeks here before you left?

Yes. The first week we were just around the house, decompressing and enjoying slow mornings. Then week 2 we took our Fifth wheel down to Astoria with our daughter, Jessica, and two grandsons. It was really fun!

Then Ireland! Tell me some of your general impressions of the trip?

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For most of the trip we stayed in a country cottage in Galway county. We encountered some international quirks such as, in order to get the hot water to work in the house, we had to turn on the heat, even though it wasn’t cold outside. So that was an interesting balancing act. But there was a window enclosed atrium on the second floor that looked out over the land. We loved spending our mornings there!

The one downside to our house was that it was an hour from anything we would want to see. So we ended up finding an apartment in Dublin two days before we left so we could be closer. My husband and I would get up in the morning and hop on the tram to go see things. MUCH easier to get around that way!

In general, the people in Ireland are phenomenal. Everyone was friendly and always open to chat. We really enjoyed the laid-back pace of life.

What were a few things you in particular loved?

Trinity College in Dublin was phenomenal. The Long Room there is an old library which has just stacks and stacks of books. The Book of Kells is also there. There are ceramic busts of historical Irish persons lining the walkways of the Long Room. You could almost feel the history.

The Cliffs of Moher – This was one of the main draws for going to Ireland in the first place. One thing they don’t tell you, however, is that it is right next to farmers’ cow fields so you can imagine the scent and flies. There were also so many people. It is an 8 mile trail from the visitors center to the farthest edge. We went about 5 miles and decided we didn’t need to go further.

Who did the driving?

My son-in-law, Kevin, did most of the driving. The driving was really uncomfortable for all of us. Narrow winding roads, plus left side of the car, plus left side of the road, then sheep in your way and roundabouts! And they drive FAST over there. I was glad that Kevin was willing to take on the driving and he did great.

What were some of the big things you saw?

We saw the Cliffs of Moher, we went to Clifton, Connemara, we toured an old silver mine, and Kylemore Abbey.

What did everyone else enjoy seeing?

My grandson, Conway, is predominantly Irish on his dad’s side. So he just loved to see Ireland, to meet people and to find out where his lineage comes from. He also loved the mine—we put on helmets and walked below the earth so that was really fun for him. He did really really well. He was just happy and happy for us all to be together.

Jessica liked the shopping in Galway and Clifton—we found a neat little jewelry store there that we went to a few times. And she and Kevin toured the Guinness storehouse and really enjoyed that.

Ralph loved the castles, particularly Clifton Castle and Kylemore Abbey.

What kind of food did you eat?

The food was pretty amazing most of the time. We had chicken kiev, bacon and cabbage. But their bacon isn’t like our bacon. It’s more like ham or Canadian bacon. And lots of Irish stew and soda bread. Breakfast would be things like eggs, bacon, toast. And Kevin tried Blood pudding!

How do Galway and Dublin compare to each other?

They feel the same, Dublin just a little bit busier. They both felt a lot like Portland. And there is a good public transportation system in Dublin, which Ralph and I really enjoyed figuring out.

Would you change anything about the trip?

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I would probably do some bus tours out to some of the different things instead of driving everywhere—to relieve stress! We didn’t do any guided tours. I like to be on my own schedule and have that independence but alleviating that stress would be nice.

Was it hard to think about coming back?

We were ready to come home from Ireland. We all felt that 10 days was plenty of time. But the hardest thing to give up has been our easy mornings. The easy mornings were probably my favorite piece of the sabbatical. But being back here among the people of SoundView didn’t daunt me at all.

Are there any people you met or conversations you had that stand out to you?

The owners of our Air BnB in Galway county—James and Jessica. They lived right next door so we had a lot of interaction with them. They are a middle-aged couple with three kids. They were easy to talk to, very helpful, and ready to give us directions.

Has this given you a bit of the travel bug?

A little bit! Ralph would really like to go to Costa Rica next. And I’d love to make it to Italy at some point.

We’re happy you had such a wonderful Sabbatical, Deb! Welcome back!

Employee Spotlight: Cole Spence

Support Advisor | Seattle

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Allow us to introduce you to our newest team member, Cole Spence! Cole joins our Seattle office all the way from Virginia, excitedly venturing into the Pacific Northwest. In 2018, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Financial Planning, and he has worked in the financial advising industry for over a year. We are thrilled to have him on the team. Read on to learn a little bit more!

What is a skill you’d like to learn?

I would love to learn how to dance really well. Whether you are at a wedding or a get together, you never know when this kind of entertainment could come in handy.

What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

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Two weeks before I started at SoundView, I packed up everything I owned and traveled across the US for two weeks. It was +6,500 miles, about 20 states, and +100 hours of driving; it was quite an adventure. Needless to say, I’m fine not driving for quite some time.

Favorite Movie/Quote?

Braveheart “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.”

What is the most important thing in your life?

The friends that I have in my life are invaluable to me. I am convinced that it does not matter where you are in life, as long as you have good friends, you’re in the right place.

What is your dream vacation?

It would have to be traveling back to Tokyo, Japan. I went earlier this year and absolutely loved it. I would love to travel there again with friends.

Name one item on your bucket list!

Honestly, making it to Hawaii one day is definitely something that I’d like to experience.

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If I were an animal I would be…

My friends and I have a joke that my spirit animal is a Macaw, but I think being a beautiful animal that can fly would be pretty sweet.

Choose your last meal?

So far, the best meal I’ve ever had was authentic Ramen outside of Tokyo, Japan. I would need to have this again.

What is your favorite part about working at SVA?

So far, I think what has been most impactful is how much everyone really cares. I know that I’m in a special place because each person at SoundView really does care about me as a person, beyond work.

Once More Unto the Breach, Dear Friends

Ben Jennings | Lead Advisor

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Well, once again, last month we learned about another breach of security that resulted in the loss of personal data for you and 100 million of your friends.

This time, there was a local connection as a Seattle woman was arrested for the crime against Capital One. Now, I know the title above is not really about credit breaches—rather, Shakespeare has King Henry encourage his army with these words, urging them to try again as they fight. I’m going to use the phrase in that sense, and urge you to again fight to secure your personal information.

I think at this point the only prudent perspective is to assume that all our personal data is readily available to the nefarious characters lurking about the Dark Web’s shady neighborhoods. The question for us is, what will we do to make it hard for them to use our data? Here are three steps:

  1. Freeze your credit reports! This is probably the single best step you can take to prevent fraudulent accounts being opened in your name using the aforementioned hacked data which you should assume everyone knows. See our previous discussion of this here.

  2. Use strong (long, complex) and unique (used only once) passwords for your online credentials. The only practical way to do this is to use a password manager. A free one which our operations team would be happy to help you learn to use is LastPass. Call Julie Gibson in our office at (206) 682-7713 to schedule assistance with this.

    … The last is a step you may find counterintuitive:

  3. Be sure you have online accounts set up for important vendors and financial institutions. You may think your information isn’t available online until you do this—but unless you are doing business only with the guy down at the village square recording transactions on clay tablets, you are just fooling yourself. Friends, get rid of your psychological tin-foil hat—your information is already online, and if you don’t already have a secure account established, you’re only making it easier for a hacker to set one up in your name.

Finally, here’s an update on a previous breach: the Equifax credit bureau hack in 2017. Equifax has reached a settlement to offer the 147 million victims up to $125 or free credit monitoring services. Unfortunately, the “up to” is because there is a capped pool of available funds which will be allocated pro rata among those seeking cash, and the Federal Trade Commission says an “overwhelming response” means folks taking the money will receive “nowhere near” the $125 they might have received if there hadn’t been such an enormous number of claims filed. There are also still several months to file a claim, so we won’t know the actual payout till early 2020. At this point, however, we can already tell that free credit monitoring services will be far more valuable than the cash. File a claim using this link.

Proactive Aging

Ben Jennings | Lead Advisor and Director of planning research

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Have you seen those apps that will take a current picture of yourself and show you an “aged” version?

The genesis of this goes back to 2011 research which shows that study participants who saw their older selves were less likely to engage in unethical behavior and more likely to save for retirement, etc. (This may explain why at least one big brokerage firm is featuring the technology on their web site!) I don’t know if you’ve tried the app, but unless my results are going to be like Robert Redford’s, I’m not too excited to try—even if it will make me a better person.

I think I’m pretty typical in that I don’t want to spend time thinking about what life may be like when I’m older. At the same time, I recognize that as I age I will face several transitions that confront each of us blessed with the gift of growing older. These include:

- Moving to a safer, more supportive living environment

- Negotiating a serious health crisis

- Limiting or eliminating my driving

- Getting help with my financial decision-making

You may not be close to experiencing one of these transitions, but you still may find thinking about them advantageous. As a matter of fact, we think preparing for these transitions is even more beneficial when you are not on the cusp of such a transition. Why? Making a plan when the need is not immediate, and then regularly reviewing the plan, builds connections in our brain that help those intended plans become default actions when the need eventually arises. The result is a better, smoother, more comfortable transition that allows you the best opportunity to stay in control of your future.

Each of these common aging transitions can have significant personal and financial implications. As a result, SoundView has recently been doing some “beta-testing” of a planning approach with clients which we refer to as “proactive aging.” We think you will find this planning beneficial and look forward to having a conversation with you about it!

Raining Frogs…

Nate Porter | Chief Operating Officer

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…and the Importance of Data Security


SoundView Advisors is a Wealth Management firm, but then again, you probably know that by this point. That term, ‘wealth management’ can mean a lot of things, depending on who you ask. Ultimately, it means that we don’t just focus on one thing, we take everything we can into account when it comes to getting a clear picture of how best to advise you.

Peace of mind. That’s what we bring, or try to, at least. We strive to ensure that when all is said and done, you and your family are going to be okay. We strive to ensure that you will be financially secure.

These days, a huge aspect of financial security is inextricably linked to the security of your financial data and personal information. To that end, last month I wrote an article detailing the great care we take in hiring new employees. This month, I want to shed light on some other ways that we not only keep information secure, but how we are able to keep working for you, even if, God forbid, disaster strikes.

For good or bad, all our work these days is done on good ol’ fashioned computers. At SoundView, we work on laptops, not desktops. This was a very intentional choice. For starters, this means we’re not tied to a physical location; we can work from anywhere. If, for example, a natural disaster (frogs raining from the sky? I don’t know.) befalls Olympia, or Seattle, or both(!), we can work from home, or California, or the space shuttle.

Bad idea! Laptops are easier to steal, Nate.

Good point, loyal reader, but every piece of computer equipment in the firm left on premises is securely stored and locked away every evening before an employee leaves work. Yes. Every night.

What if an employee takes the computer home with them, and THEN it gets stolen from them?

I’m glad you asked! Our laptops are impregnable. First off, each is encoded with industry-standard hard-disk encryption—it would take over 33,000 years for even the fastest computer to break into the system with a brute-force attack. Beyond that, we update our Windows passwords every 90 days in a constant rotation. Even if someone got through the encryption, they wouldn’t be able to log into the Operating System.

Ok, I got it. You’ve got a few security features, but…

I’m not through. Even if they could get into Windows, nothing lives on our hard drives. We do a systematic sweep of all documents every two weeks—just in case. To top it off, and most importantly, our firm’s applications and data are all accessed through an encrypted remotely-hosted secure cloud-based SEC compliant platform.

Oh, and yes, we update our passwords for that platform every 90 days as well. Lastly, all our systems can be remotely deactivated by our IT services provider. One call, the computer is locked down. It’s as simple as that.

Well, if everything you do is accessed through ONE portal … what if THAT goes down? What then, Mr. Smarty Pants?

Well, Know-It-All, that’s the best part—there’s not just one version of our infrastructure, there’s two! So even if the unthinkable happened, and an entire data-center in San Francisco fell into the Pacific, within minutes our systems would switch over to the mirrored version of our applications and data that live in St. Louis.

All kidding aside, when it comes to data security and the protection of your personal information, it’s people that make the difference. In truth, a firm’s systems are rarely “hacked.” Much more often, employees (typically management) are duped into giving away their passwords to scammers. To mitigate this scenario, we conduct cyber-security training for our staff and regularly send out examples of the latest phishing scams that we come across.

When an employee leaves our firm, their access and credentials to all applications are immediately pulled. Any potential areas where client or firm data might be found, they can no longer access. This process is simple, streamlined, and straightforward.

Peace of mind is valuable—no kidding, right? Which is why it doesn’t come cheap.

Your loyal COO,

Nate

Yes, BUT!

 

Vicki Simpson | Trading analyst

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Second Quarter Performance Update


My family recently returned from a (hot!) European vacation. We had the opportunity to travel to both Paris and Rome during our trip, two very large cities frequented by people from all around the world. No matter the nationality, you begin hearing the same common travel phrases over and over. How much? Where? Please. Thank you. Excuse me. Water, no bubbles.

Now that I am back in the States and basically trying to re-acclimate to English, I hear all different types of investors using the same two words: Yes, but…

Yes, this good thing is happening, but this bad thing is just around the corner. We succumb to this mentality in many areas of life, but for those with ears tuned to the financial world, we are hearing it constantly. Yes, the economy is still growing, but at a much slower pace. Yes, jobs were added, but earnings may not be so great. Yes, the market is positive for the quarter, but it will likely take a turn, maybe even tomorrow!

Trade wars. Rate cuts. Inflation. Global growth. US growth. Jobs. Earnings.

Let’s focus on the “Yes” for the second quarter performance. Across the board, all areas were positive! Year to date, all markets have rebounded from the dismal fourth quarter of last year. Our team is keeping its ears open to the chatter in the markets, “buts” included. One of our goals is for our clients to be able to focus on the positive, while we manage the potential risks. If you have any questions, please reach out to our team here at SoundView.

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Employee Spotlight: Debbie Wyman

Support Advisor | Olympia

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Debbie Wyman has worked as a Support Advisor with SoundView since its inception (and with “Stoltenberg & Associates since 1999)—making her our longest standing employee with years of knowledge and hard work under her belt. Needless to say, her month-long Sabbatical this August is well-deserved! Read on to hear all about it!

How will you be spending your sabbatical?

Camping, gardening, hopefully completing a garden renovation project, and a 10-day trip to Ireland with my husband, daughter, son-in-law and their 10 year old son. This is our first international travel short of Mexico and Canada and we are all very excited. I am interested to learn about some of the history and see the land and castles and meet some incredible people! Sharing this with my kids is icing on the cake!

What are some of your favorite summer activities?

Camping, gardening, playing with the dogs and spending time with family and friends.

What is your favorite quote?

“To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, that is to have succeeded”. Ralph Waldo Emerson

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What is the most important thing in your life?

Family, both blood and chosen.

What skill would you like to learn?

I would love to master not over thinking everything, including the answer to this question!

What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

I would say parasailing over Lake Tahoe. I have a fear of heights and this was a major break through. It was amazing and terrifying all at once.

What is your favorite movie?

Murphy’s Romance with James Garner and Sally Field.

What is on your bucket list?

After Ireland, I would love to see Italy.

I would also like to build and grow a garden and donate the harvest to a local food bank.

What would be your last meal?

Hmmm … because my diet is rather limited due to some allergy issues many meals come to mind, but I would say a nice fettucine alfredo with chicken, mushrooms and broccoli.

What is your favorite part about working at SoundView?

The relationships I have developed over the years, with clients, and current and past staff. I have made some great memories with great people and I have learned so much over the last twenty years.

Hire Education

Nate porter | Chief operating officer

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SoundView has hired a few new people over the last couple years—quite a few actually. Heck, although it feels like I’ve been here forever, I myself am just now coming up on my three-year anniversary at SoundView.

(Yes, thank you all, but hold your applause, please!)

Some of you have been wondering: “When someone new gets hired, how do I know they’re trustworthy? How do I know my information is safe?” Obviously, these are good questions. As a wealth management firm, we’ve got visibility on your entire financial world. Seriously. We know more about you than your Grandma … and Grandma knows everything!


Our hiring process.

First, we hire good people…

Before any aptitude testing or background checks, we first determine if the potential employee shares our core values. At SoundView, we treat everyone with respect and kindness, we work for the benefit of others, we’re humble (in case anyone asks, I’m the humblest employee), we pursue excellence, we’re highly teachable, we own our mistakes. If someone isn’t that sort of person, we don’t care if they’re the sharpest tool in the shed, they won’t make it to the second interview.

Our vetting process is rigorous. We check every reference. We’ve called old college professors. We run criminal background checks. We run credit checks. The possible hire signs non-disclosure and non-solicitation agreements. We have the candidate run mock meetings, give presentations, take improvised phone calls from clients and prospects, write apology letters, and create financial reports. We’re not only looking for whether this person has ever gotten in trouble; we’re finding out if they can think.

Lastly, every person we hire has made it through multiple interviews; not only with the management, but more importantly, with the current staff. One of the new hire’s final interviews is with the staff member they’ll be replacing. We do this because our relationship and trust with you is paramount. We know our current staff member cares for you, your information, your data security, and most importantly your family. If the employee that knows you isn’t convinced of the merits of this potential hire, neither is the SoundView Leadership Team.

A final note regarding outgoing employees: In my time at SoundView, I’m proud to say that no one has ever left under a cloud. No one has stormed out of the building or been led away by security. Since I’ve been here, we’ve never had anyone even put in their two-week notice! We have not seen hurt feelings, bitterness, or anger from “disgruntled employees”. We’re a close team here at SoundView. We respect each other, know each other, and care for each other – just like we care for our clients. That deep level of trust extends even when someone is ready to move on. I’ve gotten six MONTH notices before! In my time, every outgoing employee has left on good terms, and for good reasons. Even at the end of their time here, SoundView folks conduct themselves with excellence, humility, and in a spirit of collaboration.

Next month, I’ll be writing an article about how SoundView keeps your data safe from potential threats from both inside and outside the firm. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it!

You can applaud now!

D-Day, Data Quality, and Portfolio Reporting

kevin slater | CEO

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Not all data is good data…and it matters

We recently marked the 75th Anniversary of Operation Overlord better known as D-Day. The courageous acts made by thousands of soldiers on the beaches were enabled by thousands of others managing data quality.

Lest you think I am being dramatic, here are two examples:

Alan Turing, Bill Tutte and British Intelligence developed systems to accurately and quickly decrypt the most sophisticated wireless coded messages sent among the German High Command. Beginning in June 1943, what had been useless bad data became meaningful good data.

The very real General George Patton commanded the fictional 1st US Army Group with fake plans to invade a real location in France. Using a mix of good and bad data, Operation Bodyguard misled the Germans on when and where the actual invasion would take place.


With good data, SoundView can simplify your lives and provide excellent advice, based on high quality analysis. With bad data, we may apply an inappropriate strategy or provide poor counsel; either of which may result in unnecessary financial cost to you.

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Maximizing the amount and quality of data we have available is critical. With that goal in mind, we are replacing select software systems beginning with the portfolio data management program used to generate your portfolio reports. The increase and sophistication of investment data sources, investment vehicles, and analytics require a change.

Unfortunately these changes are not as simple as we would hope. In this case, any replacement program will limit the amount of historical data we can confidently use. Even though our operations team is diligently working with an outside firm to prepare a massive amount of data, we doubt we will be able to accurately report performance on portfolios prior to a yet-to-be-determined historical date. We will keep you updated as we move forward in this process.

We need your help. If you notice any errors in our data or reports—no matter how seemingly minor, please point them out. Excellent data is required to provide you outstanding service, advice, financial benefits from investments, tax savings, and all other areas we address.

SoundView's Charitable Focus - Homelessness

kevin rigg | director of financial life planning

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“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”

- John Holmes

Several years ago our leadership team sat down to discuss how we could be more focused and effective in our charitable giving efforts. As you can imagine, this was not an easy task as there are no shortage of great people and organizations doing amazing work to meet needs in our respective communities.

Inspired by past volunteer experience, a notable increase in our communities, and the inherent complexity of addressing it; we decided to direct our corporate giving toward addressing homelessness. As former King County Executive Ron Sims noted, “no matter what your political viewpoint, we can all agree every person deserves a safe place to sleep.”

For the past few years we have supported the following organizations, both of whom are doing amazing work to help the homeless in our region –

Operation Nightwatch reduces the impact of poverty and homelessness, in keeping with Jesus’ teaching to love our neighbors.

City Gates – City Gates strives to help those who need a hand up to get on their feet again. Thanks to volunteers and generous donors, they help those in need with food, furniture, clothing, guidance, and more.

We look forward to continuing to support these organizations and are exploring ways to deepen our involvement in the work they do through the giving of our time and resources.

Are there charitable organizations in our area that you are involved with? If so, we would love to hear about them at info@soundviewadvisors.com.

Charitable Giving: Advanced Strategies

kevin rigg | director of financial life planning

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Donating appreciated securities is a very valuable giving strategy as it can produce double tax savings.

  • For example, assume you held a mutual fund worth $10,000 with a cost basis of $5,000. If you sell the fund and donate the $10,000 proceeds to a charity, you would need to report the $5,000 gain on your tax return, effectively reducing the tax benefit of the contribution.

  • Alternatively, you could give the mutual fund shares directly to the charity, take the $10,000 charitable tax deduction and avoid paying tax on the gain (the gain will be avoided altogether as a qualified charitable organization does not have to pay income tax).

  • Keep in mind that these types of donations are subject to a 30% AGI limitation (not the normal 60%).

“Bunching” charitable deductions is a strategy being used more frequently thanks to the new, higher standard deduction limits. This is especially attractive for those taxpayers that have total itemized deductions just below the new limits.

  • For example, assume a married couple has $24,000 of itemized deductions (just below the $24,400 standard deduction) and $10,000 of those itemized deductions are charitable contributions.

  • The couple could choose to pull forward next year’s giving of $10,000 into the current year and “bunch” the deductions (total of $20,000) to get over the standard deduction. They could continue to do this in alternating years in order to maximize their tax deductions over time.

  • If you would prefer not to give to charities in such an uneven fashion, or need more time to decide who to make the contributions to, then consider a Donor Advised Fund (DAF). A DAF is a very flexible account that allows for an immediate tax deduction for a contribution while disbursements to charities can be made at a future date of your choosing.

A Qualified Charitable Deduction (QCD) allows individuals who are 70 1/2 years old to donate up to $100,000 to charitable organizations directly from their IRA without the donation amount being counted as taxable income when it is withdrawn.

  • QCDs can be counted toward satisfying the required minimum distributions (RMDs) for the year.

  • QCDs don't require that you itemize, which due to the recent tax law changes, means you may decide to take advantage of the higher standard deduction, but still use a QCD for charitable giving.

Potential Tax Benefits of Charitable Giving

kevin rigg | director of financial life planning

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We believe the primary motivation to donate to charity should be altruism, but it is important you are also aware that there many tax benefits available. Below, I discuss several important rules and planning strategies you should know about related to the tax deduction for charitable giving.

A charitable gift may entitle you to a charitable contribution deduction against your income if you itemize deductions. You only itemize if total deductions are greater than the standard deduction (which is now more difficult now that the 2017 tax law nearly doubled the standard deduction to $12,200 for singles and $24,400 for couples).

A contribution is deductible in the year in which it is paid. Putting the check in the mail to the charity constitutes payment. A contribution made on a credit card is deductible in the year it is charged to your credit card, even if payment to the credit card company is made in a later year.

Contributions can only be deducted if they are made to or for the use of a qualified charitable organization. If you are not sure the charity you are donating to is qualified, use this search tool on the IRS web site to find out - https://bit.ly/2wo0M3u.

There are limits to how much you can deduct, but they're very high. Under the new tax law, a deduction for most donations to a public charity is limited to 60% of your adjusted gross income.

Maintain proper documentation of your contributions. If you want to claim a charitable deduction for a cash gift, then you must be prepared to verify your claim. If you are audited, the IRS will only accept one of the following to substantiate a monetary gift: a canceled check, credit card statement, bank statement or a written acknowledgment from the charity.

Rules exist for non-cash donations. In most cases, you simply need a receipt from the receiving organization with the date and item(s) given, although the IRS requires a qualified appraisal if you donate any single item worth more than $500. Also, be sure to follow the IRS rules when valuing a donated vehicle, as they continue to take a close look at such deductions.

Employee Spotlight

Julie Gibson | Operations Assistant

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Here at SoundView Advisors, each and every one of our employees plays a vital role.

Julie Gibson, our new Operations Assistant is no different. Since Julie recently joined the team, this is what we have learned about her so far:

NAME: Julie Gibson

ROLE: Operations Assistant

What skill would you like to learn? How to hem my own pants. My grandmother was a professional seamstress and made me beautiful dresses when I was young. Being petite, I often have to get my pants hemmed, and it would be great to learn to do this for myself.

What's the craziest thing you've ever done?
Bungee jumping! It doesn’t seem so crazy now that I’ve done it.

What’s your favorite movie?
My favorite movie is The Holiday. I don’t like re-watching movies, but for some reason I can re-watch this every year.

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What’s your favorite quote? “Everything is an adventure”
- My Mother-In-Law

I learned to not take every “wrong turn” as a negative or battle. It’s all an adventure no matter good or bad. We learn from our adventures.

What is the most important thing in your life?

As long as I have my loving husband and a good support network, that’s all I need. Oh, and our Cairn Terrier, Izzie.

What is your dream vacation?

I love to travel! I’ve been to some amazing places. Every time I return home, I can’t wait to make plans for our next great adventure. My husband and I are starting to realize what kind of travelers we are and it’s a wonderful feeling. It looks like our next big trip might be skiing in the Alps.

What is on your “bucket list”?
Heliskiing, sky diving, hang gliding, more travel…can you see a pattern here?

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If you could be any animal, what would you be?
I would be a Cairn Terrier. They are feisty, ornery but loving and protective.

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What would be your “last meal?”
Loads of Cicchetti, a savory snack typically served in a bars or informal restaurants throughout Venice, Italy.

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What is your favorite part about working at SoundView (so far)?
My favorite part about SoundView Advisors is how warm and welcoming everyone has been. I truly feel this company listens to everyone’s needs and realizes the impact on each of the roles within SVA.

The Hottest Day in Winter

The Hottest Day in Winter

By: Vicki Simpson

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Seattle posted its hottest winter day on record at a pleasant 79 degrees on Tuesday, March 19th. After a tumultuous end to 2018, we have seen the S&P 500 gain over 13% in the first quarter of this year! There are a couple of great lessons on perspectives to be gleaned from these two scenarios.

 
 
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First, it was still a cold winter in Seattle overall. (Snow for days! Does anyone remember that?) If we go back to Q3, prior to the correction, then we see the S&P 500 is up only 3%. International and emerging markets are solid for the quarter, but still negative for the last 12 months. A cool winter with some hot days in the markets.

 

Secondly, when we think of March, most of us think of springtime! I did not end that record-breaking day thinking, “Gosh! What a crazy winter day… 79 degrees!” The fact that March is “winter” is a scientific measure of the season, but we perceive it to be a season of transition. We are not surprised by fluctuating weather this time of year; a warm day can easily be followed by a storm.

We also saw the Fed put a halt to interest rate increases, perhaps tucking the umbrella under its arm. The yield curve is blowing in the wind, moving in and out of inversion. What does this all mean? By the standard measures, we are late in the market cycle. A recession is imminent, but it is difficult to predict exactly when it will arrive. It feels like March in the markets, we are experiencing some good and bad, while generally anticipating the next season.

As we all know in Seattle, you keep your sandals (plus socks) and your wellies next to the front door in the spring. We enjoy the unexpected warm days, but we know we are just as likely to need to shelter against the showers. We continue to monitor the markets and forecasts to prepare our clients and their portfolios for the changing seasons. Here’s to hoping we do not record the coldest day of spring this year!

Stop, Drop, and Hold

Stop, Drop, and Hold

By: Kevin Slater

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Goodbye 2018, hello 2019! So far the markets are keeping their New Year’s resolutions and delivering positive returns across the board. That said, for the same reason we practice fire and earthquake drills, it is better to have a clear response plan in place before something bad happens. This a good time to think about how long we wait out the warning signs, and when do we actually pack up the car and join the masses driving the wrong way on the freeway to get out of town? The markets have shown signs of wavering in their resolve, so when might we sell?

If you are expecting some sort of algorithm to answer that question, I am going to disappoint you with some far easier-to-understand charts. Assuming our definition of something bad happening is a drop in the market, here is the impact of selling stock and waiting to buy after the 20 worst market drops over the past 10 years:

For those more skittish and/or “more sophisticated” investors who sold after a medium sized drop (2%)—the numbers are even worse over the past 25 years. Keep in mind this included two major bear markets:

Bottom line: history suggests that when the market is falling, you are usually better off remaining calm, sticking with your response plan and staying invested.

Of course, none of us knows how bad things might get or for how long. For this reason, it important that we understand each client’s short-term cash needs. Like an emergency kit, we can keep sufficient cash on hand to address immediate needs while we evaluate whether we need to adjust our long-term plans. While we can’t control the timing or extent of bad markets, having a clear plan of action will help get through them.

Fix Your Passwords or Start Planting Rutabagas

Fix Your Passwords
or Start Planting Rutabagas

By: Nate Porter

If you use the internet at all (which I suppose you must since you are reading this right now), then you probably also have a few passwords to remember. One for the bank, one for Amazon, a couple for your email accounts—and only a few … hundred others.

With so many passwords to remember, many people (not you or I, but other people) use the same password for multiple websites. Their one password has also got to be fairly easy to remember, and why shouldn't it be? If it's not easy to remember, then it's easy to forget, right?

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Here's the problem with passwords: passwords that are easy to remember are usually also easy for the bad guys to guess. Additionally, if we are hacked (or more likely, tricked / scammed / phished), and our one password is exposed, now the crooks don't have access to one of our accounts, they have access to all of them! You may retort, "That won't be me, I've never fallen for online trickery!" That's fine. I believe you. Me neither. Not once.

Regrettably, however, even if we keep our one password completely safe, we can’t count on every website to be as impervious to subterfuge as folks like us are. It's the hard truth, but passwords are stolen, or leaked, or mishandled all the time. So, really, seriously(!)—every site you use must have a unique password, and your passwords must be strong (resulting from some combination of randomness, length, and/or complexity).

So, what's the answer? I only see two options:

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  1. Go off the grid, live off the land, and start planting hearty winter root vegetables to sustain you through those hard Pacific Northwest winters. If you choose this option, I recommend cultivating rutabagas —a personal favorite. Or, maybe…

  2. Utilize a Password Manager

Password managers will retain all of your passwords for you. Also, they will enter your login information for the website for you. This means that you don't have to commit any of your new, unique, complex passwords to memory. This means that you'll only need to remember two passwords ever again: one to log into your computer, and your "Master Password" to unlock your password manager. Installing a password manager seems to be the logical choice here — and so that's what I've done for me and my family. In case you were wondering, that's also what SoundView has done firm-wide.

There are numerous password management applications out there, and no, they are not all created equal. At SoundView Advisors (SVA), we recommend our clients install LastPass. It's simple to use, it's incredibly secure, it will work across every device you own, and—here's the kicker—it's free.

If you'd like to know more about password management software, and how best to utilize it, let us know. You have an entire team of operations professionals at SVA who would love nothing more than to nerd out with you on this topic. We're here to serve you, and we savor every opportunity we have to do so. You’re not going to be bothering us. Typically, we only get to talk to our computer screens; human interaction is a big win.

In summary: install a password manager, learn it, and use it—and then plant some rutabagas anyway. They're delicious AND nutritious.

Employee Spotlight

Sophea Vasquez-Solis

Support Advisor

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Here at SoundView Advisors, each and every one of our employees plays a vital role.

Sophea Vasquez-Solis is no different. Here are some things we have learned about Sophea in the past three years :

NAME: Sophea Vasquez-Solis

ROLE: Support Advisor

What skill would you like to learn?

I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but I don’t know how to cartwheel. I would love to learn how to cartwheel! My daughter reminds me of this every day because she loves to do cartwheels. She definitely did not get this from me!

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What's the craziest thing you've ever done? The craziest thing I have ever done was when I took a big bite off of a peach and then noticed that I ate half of a big worm, and not realizing until afterward. It was horrifying and disgusting, but I reminded myself that it just fruit with protein and that it’s not going to kill me.

What’s your favorite movie/quote?

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“I think our love can do anything we want it to do.”

-The Notebook … I’m a romantic.

What is the most important thing in your life?

My family!

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What is your dream vacation?

Bali, Indonesia is one of the places I would love to visit. It has beautiful nature and the beaches are stunning!

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What is on your “bucket list”? Christmas in New York with my family just like the movie Home Alone 2, of course without the crazy, funny burglars. I love the idea of staying at the Plaza Hotel. Another item on my bucket list is skydiving (not sure I can check this one off the list).

If you could be any animal, what would you be?

I would be a bird. I can fly anywhere and be free.

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What would be your “last meal?”

My mom’s hotpot dish called Ya-hon. It has this amazing broth that is slightly sour. Think tum yum soup. Yum… Makes my mouth water…

What is your favorite part about working at SoundView?

I truly look forward to work every day just knowing that I make a positive impact in someone’s life - whether it’s my co-workers or SoundView clients.

You Can’t Believe Everything You Hear

You Can’t Believe Everything You Hear (Phone Scams)

By: Ben Jennings

Life is getting better in many ways; fewer fraudulent phone solicitations is unfortunately not an example. According to the YouMail Robocall Index, there were 4.7 billion robocalls placed in the U.S. during December 2018 alone! What can you do?

Block calls:

  • The Do Not Call List

    • At DoNotCall.Gov, you can confirm your number is registered, or register it if it’s not. The same list works for cell numbers. And the original law was changed over a decade ago so that if you have ever registered, the registration won’t expire. Nice laws don’t hinder criminals, but DoNotCall registration is free and actually helps other services identify spammers.

  • Cell phone apps to block calls

    • There are a number of apps which have varying degrees of success in identifying or blocking these calls, such as NoMoRoBo, Hiya, and RoboKiller. (Google “cell phone robocall blocker” for more ideas.) These are typically low cost, so you have little to lose by trying them.

  • Carrier services to block calls

    • This past year, I found the app I was using simply wasn’t up to the deluge of calls I was receiving and I went to a carrier-based service (for me, AT&T Call Protect). They have a free version, but I gritted my teeth and got the premium, $3.99/month version. I will say this has mostly done the trick—I went from 20-30 robocalls a day even with a phone app to 2-3 rings a day from unknown numbers (who don’t leave voicemails).

  • If you’re still fed up

    • What we might call the “nuclear option” is to simply decline every call—unless it’s from someone in your phone’s contact list. Yes, you may miss some legitimate calls—but they will leave a voicemail and you can easily call them back. While I can’t convince my wife to fully snip the cord, I personally NEVER answer a call to our home landline (which I call “the spam line”), and I never give out the number to friends or people with whom I do business. I also decline every call to my cell phone unless it’s from a number I recognize. (iPhone users can do this automatically by setting “Do Not Disturb” to allow only calls from your contact list.)

If they still got through:

  • What to do

    • Immediately say, “No thank you, good-bye,” and HANG UP. Be cynical—If you think the call is legitimate, call the business back at the number you have for them (or that you look up and know is correct).

  • What NOT to do

    • Don’t “confirm” information. Don’t be polite (I hate to say that—I KNOW you’re polite). Don’t press to be taken off a list; this just lets them know the number is active and will likely lead to more calls.

  • Help out your friends

    • Talk about calls you’ve received, and how to avoid falling for a scam.

How to Use Your Holiday to Improve Your Financial Life

How to Use Your Holiday to Improve Your Financial Life

By: Ben Jennings

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Many of us are about to begin a three-day weekend as Monday is Washington’s Birthday. (Yes, that’s the official name of the federal holiday, though the federal law designating it as such ensures the holiday will never fall on February 22nd—Washington’s actual birthday. But I digress!). Consider using at least part of it as a gift of extra time to get to some of those financial tasks you just don’t get to in your routine pattern of life.

Here are some ideas:

In one hour:

  • Check on your credit

    • Check out your score

    • Check one or more of your free reports (www.annualcreditreport.com)

  • Evaluate your cash reserves

    • Is the amount too high (or too low)?

    • Are your reserves in the right kind of account?

    • Are you receiving competitive interest? (online banks are currently offering 2% or more with full FDIC insurance)

  • Look for leaks

    • Check your bank and credit card statements and make a list of bills recurring monthly or annually

    • Do you still want everything you’re signed up for?

    • Do you have services that are duplicates?

In a morning or afternoon:

  • Do some comparison shopping

    • Can you change cell phone plans with minimal impact but good savings?

    • Hit up your cable TV provider to convince you to keep their service rather than going to a competitor.

    • Are you at the right bank? Compare minimum balance requirements, costs for services you need (such as out-of-network ATM fees), costs for checks, branch locations, bill-payment services, user-friendliness of their online services, etc.

  • Do some risk management

    • If you’re over 50, ask your auto-insurer if they would offer a premium discount if you complete an approved “defensive driving” course. If they will, locate a convenient course and sign up.

    • Use your smartphone to do a video inventory of your personal property to document potential losses for your homeowner’s insurance. (Save someplace safe!)

    • Freeze your credit. In 2019, it’s now free!

  • Evaluate your priorities

    • Review your charitable giving for the last year: level, mix, etc.

    • If you have a spending plan (“budget”) try looking at it from a different perspective. How much are you spending on health? On learning? On relationships?

If you can devote the whole day:

  • Create or update a household bill list

    • Even if you don’t need to “budget,” a comprehensive view of where the money goes makes a great overview for someone else if they need to take things over due to an emergency.

    • Identify (and discuss if you’re married) your long-term financial goals. Can you identify a range (acceptable to ideal) for amounts, duration, timing, or other elements?

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” – Mark Twain