November 2019 | Posted By Nell Schiffer

If you had the choice between a premium chocolate truffle for 15 cents or a Hershey’s Kiss for a penny, which would you choose?

If you’re like most people (75%), you’ll gladly splurge on the truffle. 

Now, consider a different scenario. The prices have been discounted by a penny each: You can buy the premium chocolate truffle for 14 cents, or get a Hershey’s Kiss for free.

Astonishingly, 69% of people will opt for the Hershey’s Kiss simply because it’s free. How could something as insignificant as a penny determine whether people enjoy a rare delicacy versus a chunk of foil-covered sugar you can find in any checkout aisle?

These are the questions Dan Ariely explores in Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.

Most of us fancy ourselves as savvy decision-makers, capable of seeing through finely crafted sales pitches, advertising slogans, and faulty advice. But as Ariely reminds us, the human brain is a flawed instrument that drives us to behave in ways contradicting our self-interest—often without us knowing about it.

From planning meals to planning vacations, buying candy bars to houses, we consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate – and we can’t help it. Horrifying! 

But there’s good news: Our misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless. As Ariely notes, they’re systematic and predictable—they make us “predictably irrational.”

At the risk of sounding too Zen-like, admitting you don’t have total control of your thoughts and behaviors gives you more control than the person who’s convinced they never make mistakes. Keeping that in mind, here are three key takeaways from Predictably Irrational that can untangle the wires in your brain:  

Put important decisions and habits on autopilot: This is like a cheat code for beating procrastination. For example, we help clients set up automatic savings plans to avoid the “I’ll do that someday” trap.

Remember to be suspicious of “free”: The prospect of getting something for nothing is powerful. Truthfully though, everything comes with a price tag. A free lunch might be used as leverage for a favor down the road. You got “free” shipping because a pop-up told you to stuff your cart with items you don’t want or need. Our encouragement? Try getting curious about how you are paying for any “free” item offered to you. It might help you make more informed choices.  

Strategically reduce your choices: Sounds counterintuitive, but when people have too many options, they freeze up and make suboptimal decisions. But the antidote isn’t learning to make better decisions—it’s eliminating the ones that don’t matter. At Hill Investment Group, we boil down decades of research to give clients only the relevant information.

We’ve come across plenty of books about behavioral economics that are mind-numbingly complex and laden with jargon. This isn’t one of them. Ariely’s writing is as informative as an academic lecture and isn’t boring.

Once you dive into this book, you’ll never make decisions the same way again.

November 2019 | Posted By Jennifer Brendgord

My daughter attended Incarnate Word Academy, a private high school with an exceptional leadership program, led by an inspiring teacher – Charles Kafoglis. The Young Leaders Program has an innovative curriculum and is one just a few high schools to offer students a concentration in leadership studies. I’ve witnessed the positive impact Charles and his program had on my daughter. I told the HIG team about the courses offered at the school and the personal finance module caught the attention of our fearless leader – Matt Hall. An introduction to Charles was inevitable and followed with an invitation for Matt to speak at the school’s “Leadership Live!” speaker series.

The students, Charles and Matt worked together to come up with a fun, student-led Q & A with the goal of energizing and inspiring these young women to change the way they think and feel about money. Matt took the stage in early November and engaged a packed auditorium with thought-provoking concepts around money, leadership, and entrepreneurship.

Matt encouraged the 9th through 12th graders to take control of their financial futures by saving early, understanding the value of compounding and using money wisely. When the 3:25 PM dismissal bell rang, signaling the end of Matt’s interview and the end of the school day, many students didn’t run out the door, but instead swarmed Matt to ask questions and receive copies of Matt’s book, Odds On. If Matt had hoped to reach only a few students that day, I’d say he more than accomplished the goal.

November 2019 | Posted By Katie Ackerman

Please join us in welcoming Scott Krajacic as Associate Advisor and Matt Luzecky as Client Service Associate.

A client once told us that finding people is like finding art. Only acquire art if you would knock down a wall to get it in the house. Said differently, look only for great art. We’re happy to report that Scott and Matt meet this high standard, as they are kind, hard-working, curious, and dedicated to our mission at Hill Investment Group.

Scott Krajacic

Scott supports the firm using his technical expertise in the areas of investment management and financial planning. Through his experience with both high-net-worth investors and institutional clients, Scott brings the ability to uncover clients’ unique goals and design customized plans to meet those needs. Read about two memorable trips he has taken and learn more about Scott here.

 

Matt Luzecky

Matt comes to us after working at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. He uses his client service and operations experience to create a smooth service journey for clients, allowing them to filter out the everyday noise and focus on high-value activities. Learn more about Matt here.

October 2019 | Posted By PJ McDaniel

Buddy and Jeana Reisinger’s Daughter, Lily, at her graduation from Princeton.

Helping you save for your child’s education is one of our core planning services. It’s encouraging when parents come to us and want to start their first 529 plan, but confusion often arises if a second or third child comes into the picture. 

Should we continue making contributions to our current 529 plan and divide the savings among all the kids? Or should we have a unique 529 for each kid and make separate contributions?

This is one of the most common questions I receive—and for good reason. The simplicity of maintaining a single 529 sounds like a decent option, but take a closer look and you’ll see having a separate 529 plan for each of your children is almost always more beneficial in the long run.

Let’s explore why.

Customized Investment Options

With one 529 plan, you’re confined to a single investment strategy for multiple kids. However, opening a 529 plan for each child enables you to fine-tune your asset mix to fit their individual needs.

For example: When saving for college, a 16-year-old might typically have a more conservative allocation than his three-year-old brother as funds are to be used sooner.

More Paperwork Down the Road

When you open a 529 account, you can only name one beneficiary. So what happens when you have two kids?

Let’s say your kids are two years apart. Typically, you’d tap into your 529 account when your eldest child heads off to college. But once the younger child starts college two years later, you’d have to change the name of the beneficiary…and back again if you want to allocate funds to your older child.

Bottom line: This name-changing can turn into a logistical nightmare. Separate 529 plans alleviate the headache and the extra paperwork.

Tax Advantages

Contributions to a 529 account that exceed $15,000 per year (or $30,000 for couples “sharing” gifts) won’t count against your lifetime exclusion and must be reported on a gift tax return. However, you can double your potential annual limit by opening a 529 account for each individual child.

Another advantage, depending on your state of legal residence, is that some plans offer state tax deductions for 529 contributions. Accordingly, multiple 529 plans may compound these tax advantages. We recommend that you consult a tax professional in order to maximize the benefit.

Final Thoughts

I get it: doing a cost-benefit analysis of 529 plans isn’t the most exciting way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Optimizing 529 plan structure is crucial for maximizing the value of your contributions—and setting your children up for success. 

If you have any questions about 529 plans or other planning ideas, just drop me a line.

Jennifer Brendgord’s Daughter, Ava, graduating high school and ready to tap into her 529 at Penn State.

October 2019 | Posted By John Reagan


You’re busy.

Not a minute goes by without a notification, a phone call, or a person asking for “ a quick second” vying for your attention. At times, life can feel like a treadmill that moves faster and faster— sometimes making you wonder how much of that movement equates to real forward motion.

It should come as no surprise that the distracted, divided life can put a strain on our relationships. Not just at the office, but with our loved ones. When we feel compelled to micro-manage the details, it’s impossible to devote sustained attention to any one important task or person.

What can possibly be done?

The answer may lie in The Power of Full Engagement, a book written nearly two decades ago by a performance psychologist and a renowned business consultant. If you give it a read, you’ll realize how seamlessly the lessons apply to cultivating healthy relationships, as well as a healthy work life. 

Here are our top three takeaways from the book:

 

  1. Energy is often more valuable than time.

Time management is certainly important for any sustainable relationship or career. But as authors Loehr and Schwartz note, understanding how to effectively channel the energy you have during your waking hours, as well as your time, can transform every aspect of your life.

“The number of hours in a day is fixed, but the quantity and quality of energy available to us is not,” say the authors. “It is our most precious resource. The more we take responsibility for the energy we bring to the world, the more empowered and productive we become.”

 

  1. It’s OK to disengage

Most of us would like to live our lives fully engaged from dawn to dusk and put forth 100% effort at every waking moment. But truthfully, that’s not sustainable. We need to practice disengaging: from work, from the glow of the screen, and yes, even from loved ones. 

Taking a true break might feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s the key to restoring balance in all aspects of life. Take a walk. Read a book. Watch the sunset. We predict the important people in your world will be able to tell the difference.

 

  1. Treat rest with the same respect as action

The average human has a “high performance mode” of about 90 minutes. In this window, we can remain alert, creative, and resilient. And then there’s a wall. Motivational speakers might tell you to push through the fatigue, but science begs to differ.

After 90 minutes of intense activity (this can range from holding a conversation to hiking a mountain) the brain and body need a rest period of about 20 minutes. This quick recovery maintains your ultradian rhythm (the ebb and flow of energy).

At Hill Investment Group, we call this “Tea Time,” which one of our other favorite authors Laura Vanderkam referenced in her podcast a few months ago.

One of the main points in the book is gaining energy from regularly identifying and revisiting your core values. We have found this to be a powerful energy source.

We hope you find The Power of Full Engagement as valuable as our team has. Got a favorite book of your own? Shoot us a note – we are always looking for recommendations!  

Now, close your browser and open a book.

October 2019 | Posted By Nell Schiffer

We are thrilled to officially welcome Jennifer Brengord to our team. Jennifer’s role as Executive Assistant has her wear many hats. It’s no surprise that Jennifer excels at this role, as she comes from an impressively diverse professional background that elevates “take the long view” to new heights. Jennifer spent many years as a private aviation flight attendant, traveling the world six miles above the earth serving global leaders and their families – including royal families. She exhibits both discretion and a can-do attitude.

Jennifer is an essential member of the client service team and works with Katie to leverage the team’s time, so we can spend it with you. She has impressed us with her ability to learn quickly and take on a wide range of projects that help us serve our clients. When she started, she claimed she was “not so great with technology,” but she has proven that false at every corner.

Jennifer serves our clients coast to coast and is based in Houston alongside Henry Bragg.  She and her husband of 22 years, Steve, have two teenage children Ava and Jack. She is an avid Astros fan and grew up playing baseball herself, having been the first girl on her hometown’s little league baseball team!

Next time you stop by our Houston office, or speak with Jennifer on the phone, ask her about Amos, her beloved black lab. Read her full bio here for more fun facts about her. Welcome Jennifer!

October 2019 | Posted By Buddy Reisinger

In Episode 10 of Take the Long View, Matt Hall speaks with husband and wife dynamic duo Sid and Ann Mashburn. They are doing big things with their signature styles. In this episode you’ll learn about their journey working with legends like Ralph Lauren and the leaders of Vogue, how they chose Atlanta as their home base, the powerful pillow talk that comes when working with your spouse, and how they define future success!

Listen to the episode now