Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wellbeing Part I

A few months ago I was given a copy of the book Wellbeing – The Five Essential Elements by Tom Rath and Jim Harter[1]. In this book Rath and Harter look at the five essential elements that shape our lives: Career Wellbeing, Financial Wellbeing, Physical Wellbeing, Social Wellbeing and Community Wellbeing.


Wellbeing is defined as a good or satisfactory condition of existence; a state characterized by health, happiness and prosperity.[2] I would imagine there are few people in the world who would not want to strive to be in a state of health, happiness and prosperity. This book intrigued me because while “being in a state of health, happiness and prosperity” can seem somewhat ambiguous, this book uses research and common sense in helping us define exactly what wellbeing is and how to achieve it. Granted, no two people will define what health, happiness and prosperity are the same way, but the authors, using research from across 150 countries; give the reader a great starting point to defining and finding their own wellbeing.


In the introduction to the book the authors say “Wellbeing is about the combination of our love for what we do each day, the quality of our relationships, the security of our finances, the vibrancy of our physical health, and the pride we take in what we have contributed to our communities.”


In today’s newsletter we will explore the areas of career, physical, social and community wellbeing then dig deeper next Friday into the area of Financial Wellbeing. Most of this next section will come directly from the book.


Career Wellbeing – liking what you do every day


“People with high Career Wellbeing wake up every morning with something to look forward to doing that day. They also have the opportunity to do things that fit their strengths and interests. They have a deep purpose in life and a plan to attain their goals. In most cases, they have a leader who motivates them and friends who share their passion.”


Social Wellbeing – having strong relationships and love in your life


“People with high Social Wellbeing have several close relationships that help them achieve, enjoy life, and be healthy. They are surrounded by people who encourage their development and growth, accept them for who they are, and treat them with respect. They deliberately spend time investing in the networks that surround them.”


Physical Wellbeing – having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis


“People with high Physical Wellbeing manage their health well. They exercise regularly, and as a result, they feel better. They make good dietary choices, which keeps their energy high throughout the day and sharpens their thinking. They get enough sleep to process what they have learned the day before and to get a good start on the next day.”


Community Wellbeing – the sense of engagement you have with the area where you live


“People with high Community Wellbeing feel safe and secure where they live. They take pride in their community and feel that it’s headed in the right direction. This often results in their wanting to give back and make a lasting contribution to society. These people have identified the areas where they can contribute based on their own strengths and passions, and they tell others about those interests to connect with the right groups and causes.”


As you start to think about the process of wellbeing in your own life it helps to sit down and think about what the best possible future is for you, and what your ideal would look like in each of these five areas. The authors found that 66% of people are doing well in at least one area, but just 7% are thriving in all five. How about your own life? How would you assess how you are doing in each area?


[1] Published by Gallup Press, 2010 ISBN: 978-1-59562-040-8



Ryan H. Law, M.S., AFC

Department of Personal Financial Planning

Office for Financial Success Director

University of Missouri Center on Economic Education Director


239E Stanley Hall

University of Missouri

Columbia, MO 65211


573.882.9211 (office)

573.884.8389 (fax)


[1] Published by Gallup Press, 2010 ISBN: 978-1-59562-040-8

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Symposium III is in the books...

Wednesday was our Personal Finance Symposium III: In Debt We Trust, Living in a Leveraged World.  It exceeded my expectations and I’ve had several calls and emails this morning from both speakers and participants indicating their agreement.   Many of you were not able to come, so I thought I’d pass along some quick kernels of information that I remember from each speaker. 


Michael Dorigan, Ph.D. is the Senior Quantitative Analyst at PNC Capital Advisors in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He spoke on “Interest Rate Risk Measurement & Management”.  This could have been a very dry topic but his sense of humor turned the talk into a very engaging presentation.  While some of the concepts were out of the reach of the lay audience, his didactic style led us to an understanding of how bond managers reduce the risk of your bond portfolio.  Besides telling us not to worry about large-scale municipal bond defaults, he opened our eyes to developments in the management of bond investments.  In particular, he covered how modifications in risk analysis by bond managers can help produce products that best suit investors’ tolerance for risk.  Yet, he concluded that understanding one’s risk tolerance is key and you know that understanding yourself is up to you.  Hence, we had the next speaker.


Ted Klontz, Ph.D., is an author and the Principal of Klontz Consulting Group, based in Nashville, Tennessee.  His talk was entitledWhen Logic Leaves the Room: Understanding How Difficult Financial Decisions Are Made” and it grabbed everyone’s attention.  His research focuses on how each of us has “animal” brains that interact with our “Einstein” brain to make decisions.  Our animal brains make many more decisions than our Einstein brain and the animal in us worries about pain and pleasure and wanting to be a part of the tribe, as opposed to what is analytically the best course of action for our futures.  For example, we see the stock market go up, up, up.  We get excited.  We see our friends (our tribe) investing and we don’t want to be left behind, so we invest….at precisely the wrong time.  The same thing can happen when the market goes down, we panic and run (sell) when we need to be thoughtful and analytical.  Of course, the media feeds our animal brain as they know what makes us tick – fear and pleasure.  The bottom line, many people need to work with an advisor that understands how fears and pleasures interfere with our decisions and who can help clients use this understanding to make a plan for the future that works – and stick with it!


During lunch, the Honorable Robin Carnahan, Secretary of State of Missouri, addressed the group about the work of her office.  As you should be aware, her office is in charge of all the securities regulation in the state of Missouri, as well as investigating all complaints and incidences of potential fraud.  She was not only delightful to listen to but a comfort to hear speak about her passion for the citizens of our great state.


After lunch, “The Quest for Alpha” was presented by Larry Swedroe, Principal and Director of Research, Buckingham Asset Management, St. Louis, Missouri.  This was a show stopper.  His report on the mass of research supporting equity index investing, as opposed to active portfolio management by mutual fund managers, was eye opening.  It was also unsettling to some of the financial service professionals in the audience who provide actively managed mutual funds to their clients.  He did concede that the most important thing for people is, often, to have some help in dealing with the emotions of investing – taming their “animal” brains – which an advisor can provide.  Yet, if a person can stay on track, there are many ways a person can index; from ETFs to index mutual funds.  If you are interested, I would recommend you read his recently released book of the same title.  As I told the audience, next to Twain, Steinbeck, and Dickens; Swedroe is my next most read author – if you count books instead of pages!


Finally, “When Death Do Us Part:  Estate Planning Under the New Tax Law” was presented by Scott Blakesley; a partner with Spencer Fane Britt & Browne LLP in  Kansas City, Missouri.  Imagine for a moment what a challenge it would be to talk about taxes and dying at 3:00 in the afternoon.  Yet, Scott made it interesting and, while currently estate tax laws are in limbo, his presentation impressed upon the audience the importance of understanding the issues of estate transfer and helping your clients (or yourself) in making these decisions.   I agree.  To top it off, not only did the audience stay awake and attentive during his talk, he concluded by singing a song about estate planning that he had written.  I darn near cried, as it topped off a great day of interaction between students, faculty, financial professionals, and the public.  Each of us were left with much to contemplate - with respect to our own personal quest for financial success, our understanding of ourselves, what we don’t know, and what is inevitably our fate.


Please, join us for Personal Finance Symposium IV on April 25, 2012.    Mark your calendar, today.  In the meantime, don’t let the “animal” brains win!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Time Running Out to Claim 2007 Tax Credits

People are rushing to file their tax returns before the April 18 deadline.  Unfortunately, many are unaware that they are – or were – eligible for hundreds or even thousands of dollars worth of tax refunds, credits and exemptions they didn’t claim. The IRS has more than $1.1 billion in unclaimed tax credits and refunds from 2007, but time is running out.  Those who were eligible in 2007 can still claim this money if they file by April 18.

Many people don’t realize that they can retroactively file returns or amend previously filed tax returns and receive refunds for up to three prior tax years. People who learn they were eligible for a certain exemption or tax credit from 2007, for example, can still file a return for that year and receive that money – but only until April 18. The IRS owes hundreds or even thousands of dollars to people who didn’t know they were eligible for that money. It is critical right now for families to not leave any money lying on the table; and many people are leaving hundreds of dollars untouched simply because they don’t know it is there.

One tax credit that can be confusing is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). A common misconception exists that a person must also claim a child as a dependent on their tax return in order to receive the EITC.  This is not true.  A person can claim this credit if the child in question lives with them for more than 50 percent of the year and otherwise qualifies them for the EITC. 

A “qualifying child” (the child who qualifies the household for the credit) can be a son, daughter, adopted child, stepchild, foster child or descendent of any of them, such as a grandchild.  A brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, or a descendant of any of them, such as a niece or nephew, also will qualify the household to receive the credit.  The person who has a qualifying child living with them for more than 6 months out of the year may be eligible for several hundred dollars.  People must meet income guidelines and have earned income to receive the credit.  The size of the credit varies depending on the amount of adjusted gross income.

2010 Tax Year EITC Income Limits

Earned income and adjusted gross income (AGI) must each be less than:

·         $43,352 ($48,362 married filing jointly) with three or more qualifying children

·         $40,363 ($45,373 married filing jointly) with two qualifying children

·         $35,535 ($40,545 married filing jointly) with one qualifying child

·         $13,460 ($18,470 married filing jointly) with no qualifying children


2010 Tax Year maximum credit

·         $5,666 with three or more qualifying children

·         $5,036 with two qualifying children

·         $3,050 with one qualifying child

·         $457 with no qualifying children


*The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provides a temporary increase in EITC and expands the credit for workers with three or more qualifying children. These changes are temporary and apply to 2009 and 2010 tax years.

People who do not earn enough to be required to file an income tax return also are at risk for missing the EITC because filing a return is the only way to claim it. To understand who is at risk for failure to claim the EITC because they don’t have to file a return, see the rules about who must file at  People who owe no taxes can still get the EITC.  Finally, many workers who are at least 25 and under 65 may not know that they can qualify for an EITC benefit for low-income workers who do not have children living in their homes.

Unemployment or change of income mid-year can cause people to miss the EITC and certain other tax credits and refunds because those who made enough money to be ineligible for many credits last year, may not think to claim them this year if they suffered a loss or reduction of income. It is very important for families to understand and take advantage of all the credits that exist.

The rules can get tricky.  You can read more about the Earned Income Tax Credit, find eligibility screening tools, and find information about locating free help with taxes at,,id=96406,00.html?portlet=2.

There have been several other tax credits available during the last three years, including Residential Energy Credits, the Child and Dependent Care Credit, Child Tax Credit, Additional Child Tax Credit, Homeownership Credits, Missouri Property Tax Rebate and others. 

If you find out you were eligible for tax credits in the three prior tax years, you can amend your return by filing a 1040-X or, if you didn’t file at all, still file a past return now.  There will be no penalty if you didn’t owe any taxes or were due a refund.  While 2007 returns must be filed by April 18, returns for any year since then can still be filed for at least the next year. 

Call 1-800-TAX-1040 at the IRS for additional information about federal tax credits or 573-751-3505 at Missouri Department of Revenue for information about state tax credits or the Missouri Property Tax Rebate for elderly or disabled low-income renters or homeowners. 

Brenda Procter, M.S.
Associate State Extension Specialist & Instructor
Personal Financial Planning Department
MU College of Human Environmental Sciences

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

In Debt We Trust: Living in a Leveraged World

I want to encourage you to attend this year’s Personal Finance Symposium.  This year’s line-up of speakers is outstanding.  The focus of the Symposium is credit and debt but we have tried very hard for a broad appeal with a presentation on each of the following: bonds and interest rate risk, the relationships people have with their money, investment management, and an update on estate planning.  Hence, we have something for everyone!  Our goal is to have the public join our students and members of the finance professions for informal discussions and informative presentations.  This year, we are offering a sit down lunch and a luncheon speaker: the Honorable Robin Carnahan, Missouri Secretary of State.


Please, join us for the day.  I promise the benefits will exceed the costs.

Personal Finance Symposium III

“In Debt We Trust: Living in a Leveraged World”

April 20, 2011

9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Stotler Lounge, Memorial Union, University of Missouri

Columbia, Missouri


9:30 Welcome and Introduction:

Robert O. Weagley, Ph.D., CFP®, Chair Personal Financial Planning, University of Missouri

Welcome to MU

Chancellor Brady Deaton, University of Missouri

10:00 a.m. “Interest Rate Risk Measurement & Management

Michael Dorigan, Senior Quantitative Analyst, PNC Capital Advisors, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

11:00 a.m. “When Logic Leaves the Room: Understanding How Difficult Financial Decisions Are Made”

Ted Klontz, Ph.D., Author and Principal, Klontz Consulting Group, Nashville, Tennessee

12:00 noon Lunch – Mark Twain Ballroom, Memorial Union

Speaker:  The Honorable Robin Carnahan, Secretary of State.

  University of Missouri MoTax Student Volunteer Recognition

1:30 “The Quest for Alpha”

Larry Swedroe, Principal and Director of Research, Buckingham Asset Management, St. Louis, Missouri

2:30 “When Death Do Us Part:  Estate Planning Under the New Tax Law

Scott Blakesley, Partner, Spencer Fane Britt & Browne LLP, Kansas City, Missouri

 3:30 Adjourn


Registration: RSVP preferred

Program:             $30/person, includes lunch

$50/per person with four hours of continuing education credit

$10/student, includes lunch


For more information or to make your reservation, please contact Amy Sanders at

(573) 884-5958 or or mail a check (Payable to University of Missouri) to:


Amy Sanders, University of Missouri, 14 Gwynn Hall, Columbia, MO 65211


Event Sponsors:               Personal Financial Planning Department, University of Missouri

Financial Planning Students Association

Office for Financial Success

                                                College of Human Environmental Sciences

Missouri Council on Economic Education

Mid-Missouri Estate Planning Council, Columbia, MO

Society of Financial Service Professionals, Columbia, MO

National Association of Insurance and Financial  Advisors, Columbia,


Waddell & Reed

Bank of Missouri

Missouri Credit Union Association

Missouri Cooperative Extension

Steamboat Financial

American Century Investments

Smith Moore and Company

State Farm Insurance

Shelter Insurance


High School teachers: We encourage you to attend the symposium and, yes, we are charging a small fee to recoup some of our costs of providing travel and lodging to our speakers.  If, however, you have a class of students that would like to come and they don’t want to eat the $10 lunch, please contact Amy Sanders ( with a list of their names.  We’ll let them attend for free, as seats are available.  Frankly, we lose money on the Symposium but can one really claim to have financial success, if they can’t give things away?