Financial Guidance for Recent Widows: What Women Should Know After the Death of a Spouse Presented by Michael L. Stone

In a 2019 UBS Investor Watch Survey, nearly 68 percent of married women from around the world reported they believe they’ll outlive their spouse. And it’s a belief that’s grounded in reality—according to U.S. Census data, women are expected to live longer than men by roughly four years by 2060. What are the implications of this when it comes to money matters? It means that many women will find themselves responsible for making financial decisions on their own—and potentially for several years—if their spouse passes before them.

Headline Risk Vs. Real Risk

We are now entering the phase of the market cycle where worries start to proliferate. We’ve already talked about Evergrandesupply chain issues, rising interest rates, and so on—and the risks for all of these things are real. As the situations evolve, though, each of these categories and others will present themselves in different ways. For example, looking at China, we have Evergrande, the demographic rollover there, trade and competition issues with the U.S., and many more. Even as one issue (Evergrande) starts to recede from investor consciousness, others will rise again.

Unsure When to Claim Social Security? Timing Has Its Benefits

Does Your Credit Need Repairing?

Many people had their financial plans derailed in 2020. You or a spouse may have lost a job or been hit with unexpected expenses for medical care, assisting family members, or other reasons. Financial stress may have forced you to make tough choices, such as deciding which bills to pay, scaling back on your savings, or borrowing from a 401(k) account. As a result, you may need to get back on track financially. One of the first areas to tackle should be your credit score.

Even if your finances didn’t take a hit during the pandemic, it’s wise to keep track of your credit score. A strong credit score forms the basis of a solid financial foundation. It affects your ability to get a job; your access to loans for a car, house, or education; and your ability to qualify for various types of insurance. Can you repair or upgrade your credit score? Yes, but the first step is to understand what your credit score and credit report are based on, as well as how to monitor your credit.

Women and the Pandemic: Planning for a Healthy Financial Future

Women and the Pandemic: Planning for a Healthy Financial Future

Presented by Michael L Stone


Over the past year, we’ve all felt the effects of the coronavirus pandemic in one way or another. But, as the job losses and unemployment numbers tell us, it’s staggeringly clear that women—particularly women of color—have been disproportionately affected. Women have lost or scaled back their careers, with their labor force participation now at a 30-year low. At the same time, their responsibilities in terms of child care and home schooling have risen by more than six hours per day. For many, it’s reached a crisis point.

If you’re one of the many women whose lives and finances have been turned upside down by the pandemic, you might be struggling with what to do next. Fortunately, there are strategies to address your immediate concerns and help you plan for a healthy financial future.

A Starter Guide to Selling Your House

From the moment you decide to sell to the day you hand over the keys, selling a home is often unpredictable and time consuming. By being as prepared as possible, you can keep the process moving and achieve the optimal price in the current market.

Does the Presidential Election Spell Risk for the Markets?

As the U.S. presidential election draws closer, there are growing questions (from both sides) on whether the outcome will negatively affect the markets. Of course, this is not unusual. As you may remember from the last election cycle, many predicted doom if Trump were to win. In the election before that, we saw similar worries concerning Obama. In both cases, despite the fears, the markets ended up doing quite well. Given this, what risks—if any—does the upcoming election pose for the markets? Let’s take a closer look.

Scam Alert! Protecting Yourself and Your Finances

Scam Alert! Protecting Yourself and Your Finances

Presented by Michael L. Stone



Are You Suffering From Compassion Fatigue?


Are You Suffering from Compassion Fatigue?

Posted by Angela Sarver

December 4, 2019 at 1:30 PM

compassion fatigueWhen you take care of others as part of your job, you frequently hear about ongoing suffering, which can take its toll in the form of burnout and secondary traumatic stress. For advisors, burnout may result from your external environment, including a fast-paced schedule, long hours, and not enough time in the day to spend with every client. This burnout may then lead to secondary traumatic stress, which is internal and occurs when you reach the point where you just can’t take it anymore. Sound familiar? If so, you may be suffering from compassion fatigue.

Subscribe to the Commonwealth Independent Advisor to learn more about helping your clients navigate through difficult times.

Here, we’ll identify the signs of compassion fatigue, discuss strategies for managing it, plus take an insightful look at how one advisor learned to help his clients navigate through difficult times while maintaining his own mental health.

Know the Signs

You may not think of yourself as a caregiver, but you are. You work with your clients to help them secure a sound financial future, which requires understanding their needs, helping them make the right investment decisions, and keeping them on course. This last task isn’t easy, particularly when markets are volatile and fear and other negative emotions creep into your clients’ decision-making process. Of course, if you had only a single client’s concerns to address, these responsibilities would be manageable. But when one becomes several? Beware of compassion fatigue.

The signs of compassion fatigue include difficulty concentrating, insomnia, physical and mental fatigue, burying your emotions, feelings of hopelessness, frequent complaining about your work or your life, excessive use of drugs or alcohol, overeating, poor self-care, and denial. According to the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project, “denial is one of the most detrimental symptoms.” It prohibits those experiencing compassion fatigue to accurately evaluate how stressed they actually are, which can be a roadblock to getting the help they need.

A personal assessment. If these signs sound all too familiar, you may want to rate yourself on the Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL) Scale. The ProQOL measure is a free tool designed for those who help others as part of their daily lives. It measures both the negative aspects of helping others (compassion fatigue) and the positive aspects of those responsibilities (compassion satisfaction).

To take the assessment, you simply rate each statement on a scale from 1 to 5 (1 = never and 5 = very often) based on how you’ve felt about your work in the past 30 days. Some of the statements include: “My work makes me feel satisfied,” “I feel worn out because of my work as a [helper],” and “I feel as though I am experiencing the trauma of someone I have [helped].” After rating each statement, you will receive a personal score; based on that score, you will fall into one of three categories: compassion satisfaction, burnout, or secondary traumatic stress. (You can learn more about these categories by visiting

Once you know the signs, how do you manage it? Fortunately, there are resources and strategies to help.

Fight the Fatigue

There are proven techniques that can help you work through the symptoms of compassion fatigue. Many focus on finding the time in your day for you and being kind to yourself.

  • Diet and exercise. Eat well and exercise, even if it’s just a walk to begin or end your workday.
  • Hobbies and leisure activities. Find something you enjoy—and spend time doing it.
  • Accountability partner. Ask someone you trust to partner with you on self-care commitments. In turn, be that individual’s accountability partner and provide the ongoing support he or she needs.
  • Take the opportunity to reflect on things you’re thankful for. For some, this practice can be as simple as writing down three things they are grateful for each day.
  • Success stories. Identify one success story every day and celebrate it!
  • Verbal expression. By letting others know what you need verbally, it will be easier for them to deliver on your expectations.
  • Personal boundaries. Share with others what works for you and what doesn’t.

This last point deserves a bit more discussion. Setting boundaries will help you conserve your resources and energy, as well as protect yourself from feelings of resentment, anger, and fatigue. The best way to determine your personal boundaries is to assess your needs. For example, how much alone time do you require daily to renew yourself? How much support do you need to care for clients? Once you have a clear view of your boundaries, create a plan that allows you to care for others with gentleness and patience.

One Advisor’s Experience

Now, let’s look at how compassion fatigue has played out in real life. David Young, founder and president of Clarion Wealth Management Partners, shared his experience. His story helps shine a light on how difficulties in your clients’ lives may start negatively affecting your own life if not properly managed.

Young had been working with a couple for many years when he found out that the husband had been diagnosed with cancer. After learning the specifics of the situation, he promised his personal and professional support as their medical team worked on a treatment plan. Young reflected:

“I felt the familiar weight of responsibility that settled somewhere between my heartfelt concern for their spiritual and physical well-being and their financial well-being given that, should he pass away, their financial position was not yet at the place where their financial security was assured.”

Over the course of a year, Young worked with his clients to review their financial situation while preparing for the what-ifs. But it became evident during a meeting the following year that the husband had declined significantly. After reviewing their documentation, Young could not let them leave without asking a difficult question: “What are your plans if/when you pass away?”

Despite their circumstances, the couple hadn’t yet considered the funeral or burial. Young guided them through the various arrangements, including the do-not-resuscitate order and other pertinent end-of-life decisions. Sadly, his client passed away shortly thereafter.

In the next year, Young and his team helped the widowed client with her estate. This included numerous meetings to educate, reeducate, and navigate financial decisions on topics from budgeting and bill paying to whether she was going to stay in her home.

Although Young experienced the symptoms of compassion fatigue when serving many clients through the years, it was especially evident to him in this situation. He recognized that something was amiss when he became short with his staff or his family prior to or immediately after meeting with this client. Sometimes, he was even impatient with the client—and Young realized he had to increase and fortify his boundaries.

Young emphasized the importance of keeping things in perspective. He periodically reminds himself of why he does this work, and he keeps the end goal in mind: an educated, peaceful relationship that is mutually beneficial. He also practices deep breathing and plans and shares his meeting agenda ahead of time. By doing so, he and his clients can be on the same page, accomplish their goals together, and mentally prepare for any potential obstacles that may arise.

Care for Others While Caring for Yourself

There is honor in helping others, but there are limits to how much you can give. It may not be possible to embrace every technique discussed here. If you can commit to doing just one and adding others over time, you can continue to deliver on your commitment to caring for your clients while also caring for yourself.

Have you experienced compassion fatigue? What strategies do you use to manage it? Please share your thoughts with us below.


Musings on Monaco

Musings on Monaco

Posted by Brad McMillan, CFA, CAIA, MAI

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This entry was posted on May 17, 2019 2:23:20 PM

and tagged Commentary

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I just returned from spending the past week in Monaco on a Commonwealth conference trip. It was a stellar experience, per usual—our conference planners are the best of the best. Also per usual, getting out of my comfortable home environment has prompted a new level of reflection in me. In this case, I’ve been musing over affluence, income distribution, and what it means to be wealthy.

You see, at the moment, I feel extremely poor. I’m not—I’ve been blessed with a successful career and my family is quite comfortable—but when in Monaco, even people who make a good living are bound to feel out of their league. The other day, my wife and I spent an afternoon walking past hundred-million-dollar yachts. The cars driving past me on the road every few minutes cost more than my house. Looking at the properties advertised in the windows of local real estate offices, the cheapest I saw was just under 3 million euros—for 750 square feet. The surrounding areas are also affluent, although perhaps not quite as much as Monaco itself. Local residents, on at least a part-time basis, include Bono, Elton John, and Mark Zuckerberg.

Toto, we’re not in Boston anymore

In many respects, however, Monaco is not that different in terms of wealth and real estate from places closer to home: parts of Manhattan, for example, or San Francisco. Unlike Manhattan or San Francisco, however, there do not seem to be as many—or, really, any—underprivileged people. That’s a big difference.

Tellingly, for the first time in my memory, we did not hold a giving-back event at this conference. Normally, Commonwealth staff and advisors volunteer to help clean and refurbish a homeless shelter or boys and girls club, work with Habitat for Humanity to build a new home, or make meals for the hungry (Commonwealth also makes a substantial financial donation), so we can leave our destination just a bit better than we found it. In fact, that is always the first activity to fill up. Here in Monaco, though, despite our efforts, we were not able to identify a suitable project for conference attendees. I missed it.

I’m not sure what to think about all of this. I was glad to visit, and I had a wonderful time, but I’ve never really been to a place like this, where mere affluence fades to something resembling poverty, and poverty seems to have disappeared in the face of extreme wealth. I certainly don’t think I could live here, for more than just financial reasons. There is nothing wrong with wealth, but the normalization of extreme wealth in Monaco is something that could distort how I see the world—and even more, how my son grows up to see the world.

Reductio ad absurdum

One way to understand something is to take it to extremes and see what happens. In some sense, Monaco is just that with respect to wealth levels. A term for this from the logic field is reductio ad absurdum, where you take an argument to a logical extreme to demonstrate it is ridiculous and so disprove it. We certainly do not have that here, as Monaco is a beautiful and functioning society and has been for centuries.

I do wonder, however, how much the sustainability of this society depends on the availability of cheaper housing and labor in the nearby countries of France and Italy. I also wonder how much it depends on the political stability of those countries—and how at risk it could be if that stability fades. In other words, to what degree is Monaco a hothouse flower?

Considering the discussions about inequality blooming around the world, including in the U.S., my visit to Monaco was an eye-opening experience that has changed my perspective somewhat already. Now I need to spend some more time learning about the principality and thinking about what it might mean for us here at home.

Thanks to Commonwealth for another great trip—and to another great set of ideas to muse over.