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It’s International Women’s Day, and I have been thinking about how financial advisors interact with women, especially when those women are one half of a couple, and how I wished both advisors and women would behave differently.

I’ve been to several conferences in recent years, where I find myself in hotel ballroom, listening to a speaker (usually female) patiently explaining to hundreds of (mostly male) financial advisors that they ­should pay attention to their “clients’ wives.” (Let that sink in for a minute . . . . as though the female half of a couple isn’t a client. But I digress.)

Advisors should pay attention to women for several reasons, the conference attendees are told: women outlive men; women are frequently the ultimate decision-makers; women have their own income and own assets; women think differently than men do; not paying attention to women is bad for business. I see the male advisors shifting uncomfortably in their chairs, knowing that courting “the wives” is probably a good idea for a variety of reasons, but stumped about how to actually do it.

Inevitably, during Q&A some brave soul goes to up to the microphone: “Hi, I know I should get to know my client’s wife, but it’s been 12 years and I’ve only met her once. How do I do that?” Once, I couldn’t stand it anymore, and I sprang up to the mic after him and said, “Um . . . . you should call her.” Uncomfortable silence all around. I ventured further, “Call her, and say, ‘Hi, Jane, it’s Bob. I know we haven’t really ever spoken, but I’d like to connect with you – can I take you out for coffee sometime?’” I look at the presenter. She’s nodding and beaming; we are having a mind meld. There are noises around us – a sort of rumbling, whispering among the masses, as though I’ve suggested something radical.

I’m fortunate to have been part of advisory firms which embrace the idea of working with the whole family, rather than with just the spouse that takes the lead on investments and other related matters. We set an expectation that we build a relationship with both spouses, by meeting with them both. (Eventually, when children grow to be teenagers or young adults, we meet with them as well.)

Unsurprisingly, there is typically one spouse who is more engaged, or knowledgeable, or interested in everything related to household financial matters than the other. Despite an increasingly egalitarian approach to marriage and work in recent decades, this spouse is most often the husband.

Often, the less-engaged, less-knowledgeable, less-interested spouse (usually the wife) will say, “I’m so lucky – Kevin is really so attentive to all of this, and I don’t pay that much attention because I don’t have to.” Indeed, husbands like Kevin are often fantastic, responsible stewards of their family’s wealth. Ironically, this exacerbates the dynamic: the list of things to do to manage a household these days is long, and in an attempt to divide and conquer, this item simply falls to only one spouse, over and over and over again. It’s not seen as a shared responsibility. Over the years, women fall farther and farther behind in knowledge and familiarity with all things financial.

When it comes to other household tasks, dividing and conquering works: it probably doesn’t much matter, over the course of years, who gets the oil changed in the cars, or who picks up the prescriptions from the drugstore, or who takes the dog to the vet. But I posit that your family’s wealth, and the stewardship of it, and the use and distribution of it, is vitally important to both of you, and to your heirs. This doesn’t fall into the category of “it doesn’t matter, as long as it gets done.” It matters: each spouse’s long-term, cumulative knowledge on this subject matters.

I’m speaking to you, 50-something woman with the awesome husband who manages the family’s finances single-handedly, allowing you to focus on your own stuff. I’ve seen your 75-year-old future self, in my conference room, after your husband’s death or your divorce. You don’t really know what resources you have, or how much, or in whose name. You don’t know how much you can spend, or what the rest of retirement will look like for you. Perhaps you wish that you knew that your recently-deceased husband left funds to his children from his first marriage, or that you hadn’t been named trustee of your own trust. You have a lot of catching up to do – a lot of learning, in a short amount of time – and surprises in your estate plan or the handling of your investments are the last thing that make the process more pleasant. We both wish you had known more, and had a plan, and a voice, much, much sooner.

Fortunately, this problem can be addressed, with only a few adjustments. Quite simply, just resolve to be 10% more involved. Being engaged just a little bit more, even by only 10%, will be very helpful for you, your husband, and your advisor over the long term.

Here are some things that you can do differently, now, to avoid having to play catch-up later in life. Pick your favorite(s) – anything will help.

  • Decide that both of you attending meetings with your advisor is the way it has to be. Find dates on the calendar that work for both of you, even if that means scheduling far in advance, or not as frequently as you’d like.
  • Tell your advisor that both of you should be copied on all e-mails. We send e-mails to both spouses as a matter of course, with very few exceptions. (Caveat: commit to actually reading the e-mails that your advisor sends!)
  • Open your account statements or performance reports when they come in the mail, or when the link to the electronic version comes via e-mail. Actually read those documents. Make sure you understand what they say. Ask, if you don’t.
  • Read your tax return before submitting it. Remember what your mother always told you? To never sign something that you didn’t understand? All those numbers on the first two pages came from somewhere. It’s usually not that complicated. Ask, if you don’t know. You deserve to know. Perhaps you didn’t earn all the money, but everything on that tax return affects you.
  • Review your estate plan, and by this I mean actually read your estate planning documents (or at the very least, the summary). Understand how much flows from where to where, when, and why. I’m acutely aware that estate documents are not fun to read. Read yours anyway. They affect your life, especially your life after your spouse dies, and sometimes significantly so.
  • Seek out an advisor who supports helping families, as a core philosophy. Listen to the answer, when you ask an advisor who their typical client is. The response should include the word “families” or “couples.”
  • Knowledge is power. In a meeting, ask questions, if you don’t understand. I welcome questions, before, during, and after meetings, especially, and perhaps most critically, from the quieter spouse. Quiet Spouse: I want you to know, and understand, and learn. It takes work, but learning should be satisfying and rewarding for both you and your advisor. An advisor who doesn’t support your learning or growth is not the advisor for you.
  • Avoid advisors who make you feel like things are so complicated that you have to keep working with him (ok, I concede, or her) forever, because that person has led you to believe that he/she is the only one who understands everything. You can understand this. It’s not rocket science. Refer back to the previous point about feeling welcome to ask questions and learn more.
  • Pay attention to how the advisor communicates in meetings. If the advisor always directs the conversation to your husband, and doesn’t engage with you, look at you, or address you, you’re being treated as an accessory, not as an integral part of your family’s finances. Think twice about working with this person long-term.

Here are the things that I believe:

  • Knowledge is power. It’s also cumulative.
  • All adults in a family should have basic knowledge and understanding about their financial situation, including day-to-day finances, investments, estate plans, and taxes.
  • All advisors need to support, address, and engage with both members of a couple, rather than just husbands.

There are advisors out there who believe these things, who support you in all you want, and need, and should, know. Resolve to be 10% more engaged – it will make a big difference in the long run.

Go get ‘em, ladies. Happy International Women’s Day.

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Leadership Lessons learned from Bill Belichick

/// Posted by Aviva Sapers


The Superbowl excitement is behind us and we all celebrated the success of the New England Patriots during the famous Duckboat Parade.

The continuous success of this team is possible with a great leader at its helm: Bill Belichick. The way he leads and assembles a first class team year after year provides valuable lessons for me as a business leader and for many other executives who are faced with difficult decisions and the demand to lead effective and efficient.

Let’s look at 3 aspects of Belichick’s leadership style:

For him it is all about assembling the right team and putting the tools in place to enable success.  In a service business it is important to be organized so that your team can service clients efficiently and that they are trained to be persistent to get correct answers in a timely fashion. For the team to sustain success, there needs to be continued growth and learning.  Leaders need to find people with a quest for constant growth and knowledge. 

Team members need to respect one another and be willing to learn from each other.  Teams with big ego’s end up throwing off the concept of team as they are more focused on themselves and not working as a team.  Working as a team is paramount and when you fill it with hard working smart players you are more likely to have success. 

The final point is probably the hardest thing for companies to do as we don’t have recordings of all other companies in action.  However you can learn about the completion from asking new clients why they hired you and what was different from their previous provider.  You can review their service offerings from their websites or ask others who work with them. 

We have always strived to hire smart people who share our core values and who get excited by helping other that has helped us succeed for 3 generations.

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Gifts in Perpetuity

/// Posted by Bill Sapers


Wooing, educating, maintaining annual gifts for Charitable Institutions is “tough business” for the thousands of fund raisers working desperately to meet ever increasing costs. Most annual gifts are the product of endless meetings, dinners, phone calls, tours and creative discussions.

Once a donor has bought into the needs of the institution, there is an annual romancing necessary to maintain or increase the gift. If successful the donor tends to increase the annual gift over years as his ability to give increases and as his support for the charity deepens.

But what happens when the donor dies? Years of building collapses unless “Gifts in Perpetuity” becomes an integral part the Fund Raising Plan.

Annual donors whose gifts are sizable and have been contributed for many years should be encouraged to endow their gifts. The $50,000 annual giver should be asked to set up or leave $1,000,000 to perpetuate his annual gift. It can be accomplished through a life insurance policy that creates the endowment at the donor’s demise.

To encourage a giver who may not want to contribute an additional $44,981, the charity informs the person “your gift is so important that our endowment committee will annually pay ½ the premium to set up Gifts in Perpetuity” in your name, thus the cost after tax to the illustrated donor will be less than $14,000.

But the Endowment Committee has to agree ….

Why would an Endowment Committee Buy into Gifts in Perpetuity?

  • Encourage gifts that grow the endowment.
  • For every dollar invested by the Endowment Committee from their “Fixed Dollar Account” they will be accruing a greater return than could be earned if the dollar were left in the Fixed Dollar Investment Account because donor is adding to the Endowment Account. At the end of the first year, the $22,491 invested by the Endowment Committee is worth $39,267.
  • Ten year Treasuries have averaged about 2.5% over the past 52 weeks. Assuming the fixed account earned 4.5% (the assumption of interest earned by an insurance company) for $22,491 contributed each year to equal $1,000,000 would take 25 years.

Based on a 4.5% earnings by an insurance company, the value of the policy, that gives a death benefit of $1,000,000 on day one, projects a death benefit of $1,667,643  in the 25th year (and a projected cash in value of $1,588,232 – a 7.3% return).

Each year the Endowment will grow faster with Gifts in Perpetuity than its fixed account. Whenever death occurs, the gain will provide an even greater gain. 

  • Donor is healthy
  • Donor’s age is 66


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Red is the color of choice for the Sapers & Wallack team these days. This is not the newest fashion trend around Newton, but a cause close to the heart for all of our team members: women’s health.

We are proud to participate in the national Go RED for Women Day on February 3rd to help raise awareness about the women’s heart disease epidemic while promoting education and essential lifestyle choices to reduce risk factors.

Our team has already gone red with their favorite red sweaters, scarfs and jackets to relay an important message. You can see this message by clicking on the picture to the left. 

While we are kicking off Heart Month by joining in the national Go Red campaign, we will continue to wear red in our office during the month of February to promote resources and simple lifestyle changes that promote heart health that everyone can learn from.

Join us on February 3rd to show your support – and send us your pictures and stories if you’d like to be included in our newsletter to help promote this important cause. You can reach our Wellness Coordinator Mary Ellen Lynes at

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It’s January: Start the year off by making your annual IRA contribution

/// Posted by Karen Van Voorhis


Happy new year! 

Now that the holidays are over and all those new year’s resolutions have almost been broken (come on, admit it), here’s something you can do to help your long-term financial situation: make your IRA contribution now. 

I’m not referring to prior year’s contributions (which you can make until April 15th of the current year); I’m talking about your 2017 contribution.  It’s 2017 already – why wouldn’t you make 2017’s contribution as early as possible in 2017?

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Oxfam Case Study – Finding the best solution to retain talent

/// Posted by Aviva Sapers


Oxfam America is known worldwide to “create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and social justice.” The non-profit is not only leading the efforts to find new ways to fight hunger, but also re-defines internal organizational structures. To attract and retain its highly skilled leadership, Oxfam America started a customized executive benefit restoration initiative and chose Sapers & Wallack as partner for the implementation.

Read our newest case study to learn about our customized approach to provide the choices executives needed in different stages of their careers combined with continuous education to make the program successful.






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Welcome our new hires

/// Posted by Aviva Sapers


This year brought additional growth to our Sapers & Wallack family with industry-experts that joined us over the last couple of weeks.

We want to take a moment to introduce them and take you on a tiny tour behind the scenes, sharing something from their personal life:

Mark Alaimo mark-small-colorhas come aboard to lead our Wealth Management practice as Managing Director. He brings a passion for tying together all the loose ends of a client’s financial portfolio into a cohesive plan, and he utilizes his extensive background in tax and estate planning to best serve every need.


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New Video: Long Term Disability Insurance

/// Posted by S&W


The year comes to an end and we enjoy the time with family and friends during the holiday season. But many also ask themselves important questions: what happens if this idyllic gathering won’t be possible in the future? What if a family member becomes disabled or ill?

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Intelligent Charitable Giving

/// Posted by Aviva Sapers


Charitable Giving is an important topic for us at Sapers & Wallack year round, but especially during the holiday season when the needs of so many come under heightened focus. My family and I remain active supporters of many charities in the Boston area. We give as much as we can to those in need, knowing that so many are not as fortunate as we are.

At Sapers & Wallack, Inc. each year we strive to volunteer as a team, donate to the important work of many local non-profits, and act as a sponsor of events that bring the community together. Fortunately, many of you are already as deeply committed to giving to various organizations as we are.

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With the end of the year approaching, now is the time for high income earners to assess whether a defined benefit plan makes sense.

A defined benefit plan allows the highest deductible contributions of any retirement plan.  This plan allows you to save for retirement on a tax-deductible basis.  Investments made within the plan grow without any current income taxes.  The pension plan allows flexibility as to when you withdraw your money, with small minimum distributions commencing upon reaching the age of 70 ½.

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