Life Insurance is for Those Left Behind

Do you have enough life insurance? It breaks my heart to work with families who have lost a loved one and their financial lives are turned upside down. Life insurance isn’t for you – it’s for those left behind.

Many people are underinsured and underprotected. Contact me today for a free life insurance review and let’s make sure your loved ones will be okay if you are not around.

Back by Popular Demand!

Mitigate risk umbrella adWhat mood will the market be in for the remainder of 2017? What impact will rising interest rates have on your investments? Why are your investments not performing with the stock market? I would like to invite you to join me for another Wisdom & Cents Ladies’ Event on July 13 at the Holiday Inn and Suites in Alabaster where we will discuss these questions and what else you can expect from the stock market and economy for the remainder of 2017. This free event is for investors of all levels and is a great opportunity to get educated on a topic that can help you take charge of your investments and financial future.

For more details and to register, click here. Space is limited and registration will fill up fast, so register soon! I hope to see you there!

Do You Have a College Savings Strategy?

Monday, May 29 is 529 College Savings Day. It’s a great time to get started saving if you haven’t already. Did you know that college tuition continues to increase each year, but over 60% of families don’t have a college savings strategy? I can help make sure you are prepared. Reach out to me and let’s talk about a plan that’s right for your family.

4 Helpful Ways to Know You Have Enough Money for Your New Home

Home owner pictureMy husband and I are in the process of buying a new home and, wow, what a process it is!  While it’s been a lot of fun, I feel like every time we turn around someone is trying to convince us we need the latest and greatest, most popular bells and whistles for our new house. “Sure,” they imply, “you can keep up with the Jones’, too!”

Thanks to my 12 years of experience in the financial services industry, Rob and I agreed on some rules of thumb before we started looking at homes. But this got me to thinking, how does the average home buyer who hasn’t held their clients’ hands through this process a gazillion times get started?  Luckily, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

Here are 4 helpful tips you should consider to set yourself up for home ownership bliss:

  1.  Compare your bills to your income. Your minimum required debt payments should total no more than 36% of your monthly gross income (that’s your paycheck before taxes are taken out). This includes your new mortgage payment, credit card balances, automobile loans and leases, and debt related to other lifestyle purchases. If all of these add up to over 36% of your income, avoid taking on additional debt.
  2. Don’t forget about other housing expenses. As a general rule, your monthly housing costs, including your mortgage, home insurance, real estate taxes, association fees, and other monthly home expenses, shouldn’t be more than 31% of your monthly gross income.
  3. You need a backup plan. What would happen if you suddenly lost your job or had a major health issue?  Until you save enough money in cash to cover your total expenses for 3-6 months, including those costs associated with your new home, you should wait. Cash is the first step to making sure a financial setback won’t cause you to crash and burn.
  4. A variable-rate mortgage may not be worth the risk. Because the monthly payments are typically lower with variable-rate mortgages, they are generally the easiest to qualify for—and may enable you to purchase a more expensive home. But, keep in mind that it’s typically not wise to take on a variable-rate mortgage simply because you qualify for one. Although these mortgages offer the lowest interest rate, they’re also the riskiest, as the monthly payment can increase to an amount that may prove difficult to meet down the road.

My name is Valerie Leonard and I am a financial advisor who works with folks just like you every day to help them live comfortably for now and in the future. If you need an expert opinion on your situation, contact me and we can pursue your new home purchase together.

How to Join this Surprising Money Movement Now

Hand writing Time to Save on BlackboardMomentum is building. I’ve noticed a recent trend – people are asking me how they can save money. It’s like saving is popular again! It’s as if investing is back in favor. And rightly so. Consumer confidence is at a 13 year high. There seems to be more positive economic data here in the U.S. than we’ve seen in a long time. But most importantly, people are making more money and there are more jobs available than workers willing to roll up their sleeves and do the work.

So what does all this mean? This means you’ve survived the last decade of turmoil and you have an opportunity to get your priorities straight before your spending habits get out of whack. Imagine if you took every raise or bonus you got this year and put it to work toward your financial future. What would your bank account balance look like a decade from now? Would you be in a better position to live out your dreams or survive another downturn in the economy? Yes, you likely would!

Join the movement. Contact me if you’re interested in making the most of your most valuable asset – your hard earned income. I’d love to help you live a life on the north side of average!

How to Use Your Business to Reduce Your Tax Pain


Have you ever wondered what other creative business owners are doing differently to defer taxes and save for retirement? No, I’m not talking about a 401(k), SIMPLE IRA, or a SEP. I’m talking about a plan that affords you the opportunity to take advantage of large tax and retirement limits that aren’t typically available in traditional retirement plans.

If you haven’t heard already, you need to know about the cash balance plan, a defined benefit retirement plan designed for accelerated tax-deferred savings. For instance, in 2016, a 40-year-old employee could defer as much as $80,736 into a cash balance plan on top of their $18,000 deferral to a 401(k) plan. In essence, it allows this employee to pack away $98,736 in 2016 when a traditional defined contribution plan would have only allowed for a $53,000 contribution. The older the employee, the higher the maximum contribution. At age 50, an employee could contribute as much as $155,908 to a cash balance and 401(k) plan combined compared to the $59,000 traditional defined contribution limit. Wow!

So how do you know if it’s right for you and your company? Here are 4 basic things to consider:

  1. Your owners or key executives want to defer more than $53,000 a year into their retirement accounts,
  2. Your business has demonstrated steady profits,
  3. You are willing to contribute three to four percent to employees, and
  4. Your owners are age 40 or older.

There is also a solo cash balance version for small, closely-held businesses.

My name is Valerie Leonard and I’m your not-so-typical financial advisor who works with people just like you every day to help find creative business solutions that others often miss. If you want to learn more about whether the cash balance plan could help reduce your tax pain and save for retirement, let’s chat. You’ll want to know all the facts before going down this road, but I’d love to show you how powerful this strategy can be when designed and optimized correctly.