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Triple-I Blog | IRC: Homeowners Insurance Affordability Worsens Nationally, Varies Widely by State

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By Max Dorfman, Research Writer, Triple-I

Average U.S. homeowners insurance premiums have increased at a rate that has outpaced household income from 2001 to 2021, according to a new report by the Insurance Research Council (IRC). In 2021 – the latest year for which data is available – homeowners spent an average of 1.99 percent of their income on homeowners insurance, up from 1.54 percent in 2001.

Affordability varies widely from state to state, and affordability rankings have fluctuated over time. In 2021, Utah was the most affordable state and Florida was the least affordable. Kansas, New York, and Washington, D.C., have demonstrated improvements from 2015 to 2021, and California, Montana, and Wyoming saw the greatest deterioration during the same period. Florida and Louisiana have consistently been the least-affordable states in the nation.

The analysis by IRC – like Triple-I, an affiliate of The Institutes – looks at homeowners insurance affordability at national and state levels and examines underlying cost drivers by state. It does not address affordability for specific demographic or geographic risk profiles. The report found that frequency and severity of natural disasters, economic conditions, rising construction costs, and litigation all significantly contributed to rising homeowners insurance costs.

“An understanding of what drives the cost of insurance is essential for consumers navigating the current insurance market,” said Dale Porfilio, FCAS, MAAA, IRC president and chief insurance officer for Triple-I. “Efforts to promote homeowner awareness and adoption of protective measures, strengthen state and local building codes, and encourage community resilience programs can all improve insurance affordability.”

Learn More:

Louisiana Still Least Affordable State for Personal Auto, Homeowners Insurance

Homeowners Claims Costs Rose Faster Than Inflation for 2 Decades

As Building Costs Grow, Consider Your Homeowners Coverage



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TD Bank Sues Raymond James, Ex-Employees for Stealing Clients

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TD Bank accused several former advisors who bolted for Raymond James of breaking non-solicitation vows and attracting clients with about $22 million in assets to leave with them. The bank asked federal courts to approve a restraining order against the former employees.

TD Bank and TD Private Client Wealth filed their complaint and temporary restraining order request in Connecticut federal court this week. They named the advisors Brett Bartkiewicz and Greg Desmarais, Raymond James and Crescent Point Private Wealth, the affiliated firm the duo joined, in the suit. 

Bartkiewicz’s career in the industry dates back to 1994. According to SEC records, he worked at Merrill Lynch, Wachovia, Fisher Investments and Mercer (among others) before joining TD Private Client Wealth in 2016. Desmarais joined the firm in 2011, according to the complaint.

TD Private Client Wealth argued in the complaint that as a condition of their employment, Bartkiewicz and Desmarais signed agreements to maintain the bank’s confidentiality and trade secrets and that for 12 months following the end of their employment at TD Private Client Wealth, the advisors wouldn’t “contact, call upon or solicit” any client to lure their business from the bank.

However, according to the complaint, on April 25, both advisors “abruptly” resigned from TD Bank. Soon after, the duo joined Raymond James Financial Services with Crescent Point Private Wealth as “family wealth advisors.” 

Crescent Point, based in Glastonbury, Conn., is an independent firm affiliated with Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, the company’s existing corporate RIA.

But since they resigned, TD Private Client Wealth “received information” that led them to believe the two advisors were contacting TD Private Client Wealth customers directly and offering “significant fee discounts or product deals” to entice them to move their business to Raymond James.

“In their positions as Private Client Investment Advisor and Relationship Manager, both men were intimately familiar with TD Bank’s fee structure, including the fees that were charged to specific customers,” the complaint read.

In one week after the advisors left, TD Bank lost at least 10 accounts totaling more than $22 million in value. The bank hypothesized the duo solicited at least 12 TD Private Client Wealth clients after they resigned and offered some of them significantly reduced rates to attract them to Raymond James (in one case, offering a 15% reduction in fees, according to the complaint).

Representatives from Raymond James did not respond to a request for comment prior to publication.

In February, J.P. Morgan also sued a former employee for jumping to Raymond James and soliciting clients in violation of their alleged restrictive covenants. According to that suit, Matthew D. Sitarski worked as a bank branch advisor in Ann Arbor, Mich., but attracted nearly $4 million in business after leaving for Raymond James (the parties are currently in FINRA arbitration).



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What’s BlackRock Without Larry Fink? Shareholders Fret About Future.

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Laurence D. Fink built BlackRock into the world’s largest asset manager with a steely grip, a thick skin and a cleareyed vision of what the company could become.

Today, it’s a caretaker of $10.5 trillion of investor money and a provider of sophisticated trading technology, and Mr. Fink has been an informal financial adviser to many governments, including the United States. Along the way, he has withstood criticism from lawmakers on both sides — and even the independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — about BlackRock’s policies and politics.

He has also earned the adulation of its shareholders.

But Mr. Fink’s age — he is 71 — and BlackRock’s enormous size, which makes it ever harder to find new assets to manage, are clouds on the horizon. They were on investors’ minds this week at BlackRock’s annual shareholder meeting, as they listened to Mr. Fink talk about the company’s performance and voted on ballot issues.

One of the greatest concerns is succession. Mr. Fink, BlackRock’s chief executive and chairman, exerts an unusual level of control for someone leading a firm of its size, with nearly 20,000 employees. From writing LinkedIn posts defending BlackRock’s policies to personally finding key deals, he has put his stamp all over the company, which he co-founded in 1988.

Because of Mr. Fink’s all-in approach, the question of who will take over from him has become important, despite a deep bench of talent and several potential successors. It has become even more pertinent because some shareholders are unsure about how much growth BlackRock has ahead of it.

“It’s really hard for anyone to argue that Larry hasn’t done a great job with the company,” said Craig Siegenthaler, an analyst at Bank of America who covers BlackRock. “They’ve outperformed the industry and grown a lot over every single time period.” But Mr. Siegenthaler added that the “Larry Fink question” was a key one.

Asked about the concerns, BlackRock pointed to past public statements on the matter. At last year’s shareholder meeting, for example, Mr. Fink said, “BlackRock’s board and I have no higher priority than developing the next generational leaders.”

Since the beginning of 2023, BlackRock has added $365 billion in new assets and the market value of its assets has increased by more than $1 trillion. Although its results have been buoyed by a bull market — the S&P 500 stock index has risen about 38 percent over the same term — investors have handsomely rewarded the company’s performance. Shares of BlackRock, which has a market capitalization of about $120 billion, have risen roughly 14 percent.

BlackRock has kept growing even as several state pension funds, largely in states with Republican-controlled legislatures, have said they would pull money from it because of Mr. Fink’s comments and writings urging corporations to consider environmental, social and governance, or E.S.G., goals in their work. In March, the Texas Permanent School Fund said it would withdraw $8.5 billion.

Mr. Fink has stepped away from such statements in the past year; at a conference in 2023, he said he had stopped using the term E.S.G. because politicians had “weaponized” it.

BlackRock has gotten more “tactical in their messaging,” said Christopher Allen, an analyst at Citigroup. “It’s been more subdued.”

Still, in a Republican presidential primary debate in December, Vivek Ramaswamy called Mr. Fink “the king of the woke industrial complex, the E.S.G. movement.”

BlackRock’s core business is managing money for clients — both big institutions and individuals. It is the world’s largest provider of low-cost index funds through its iShares platform, after its 2009 purchase of Barclays Global Investors for $13.5 billion.

Additionally, BlackRock’s technology platform, Aladdin, provides trading and risk-measurement services for financial portfolios, not only to BlackRock clients but also to rivals like Vanguard and State Street and other major companies.

“Being big is hard on some level,” Mr. Siegenthaler said. All asset managers see clients withdraw money, but because BlackRock is so large, not only does it need to replenish assets, but it must do so far in excess of what was withdrawn, he said.

BlackRock has consistently said its assets represent only a small fraction — or about 4 percent — of the roughly $230 trillion in the world’s investable assets. The company has also said it can keep expanding because of its business mix. Vanguard and State Street, its two closest competitors, manage roughly $9 trillion and $4 trillion.

In January, BlackRock announced plans to buy Global Infrastructure Partners for about $12.5 billion, which would be its largest acquisition since the Barclays deal. The deal would allow BlackRock to expand into what it sees as a big area of growth — infrastructure investing. The target company is one of the largest global financiers of building or rebuilding airports, bridges, tunnels and even green energy projects.

The Global Infrastructure Partners deal is also an example of how closely Mr. Fink drives BlackRock’s business, using his deep network from a decades-long Wall Street career and even scouting for merger targets and negotiating transactions personally, according to two people with knowledge of the deal who were not authorized to speak publicly. They pointed to the fact that Mr. Fink had worked with the chief executive and chairman of Global Infrastructure Partners, Bayo Ogunlesi, at the investment bank First Boston before founding BlackRock.

Mr. Fink is the main — and in some cases only — point of contact for top world leaders and finance chiefs, including on occasion the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome Powell, according to three people familiar with Mr. Fink’s discussions and public records. Current and former associates said he was regularly on the phone or in face-to-face meetings with key political and economic figures, sharing insights and information on world events.

Mr. Fink is also heavily involved in many aspects of BlackRock’s messaging to the outside world, whether it’s writing his annual letter to chief executives or choosing to respond directly on LinkedIn to Republican criticisms of BlackRock during the December debate.

“BlackRock is a one-man show,” said Giuseppe Bivona, a co-founder and co-chief investment officer of Bluebell Capital, a small London-based activist investor. Mr. Bivona’s firm has agitated for change at BlackRock, questioning both the large size of its 17-member governing board and Mr. Fink’s close ties to the firm’s directors. At the annual meeting, BlackRock shareholders voted down a Bluebell proposal that called for Mr. Fink to step away from the chairman role.

To assuage shareholders, BlackRock has regularly highlighted the rest of its senior executives. Mr. Fink, who said he would step down as chief executive and chairman in a few years, has said that there’s no clear successor but that several executives could step into his seats. BlackRock’s president, Rob Kapito, a co-founder who runs the firm with Mr. Fink, is 67.

The speculation is so rampant that current and former BlackRock employees have betting pools with wagers on Mr. Fink’s potential replacements. Two senior executives — Rob Goldstein and Mark Wiedman — are considered the most likely successors.

Mr. Goldstein, the chief operating officer, oversaw the growth of Aladdin. Mr. Wiedman, the head of the global client business, was known for building out the company’s iShares business. Both command wide leads in those pools.

Mr. Fink and BlackRock’s board members have also discussed two other executives — Martin Small, the chief financial officer, and Rachel Lord, head of international — as possible successors, a person close to BlackRock said. In the past two years, the company announced expanded roles for both Mr. Small and Ms. Lord.

At least one potential successor to Mr. Fink recently left. Salim Ramji, who was global head of iShares and index investments, was appointed this week as the next chief executive of Vanguard.



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Should I avoid CPP premiums by paying myself dividends

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Passing on the premiums might save money today but cost you retirement income in the future

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By Julie Cazzin with Andrew Dobson

Q: I’m starting my own company and would like your thoughts on taking a salary versus dividends. I’m thinking of going the dividend route simply to avoid Canada Pension Plan (CPP) premiums. What are the pros and cons of this? — Jason in Alberta

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FP Answers: The first thing I would consider, Jason, is whether to incorporate in the first place. You can be self-employed, earn income as a sole proprietor and report it on your personal tax return. If you incorporate, this comes with legal fees, accounting fees and additional bookkeeping.

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Common reasons to incorporate are liability protection, involving shareholders, and if you expect to earn more income than is needed for your lifestyle expenses. The last point can result in serious tax savings if you can retain some of your profit corporately rather than withdrawing it personally. Tax deferral can be more than 40 per cent when comparing corporate tax rates to the top personal tax rates in some provinces.

The decision to take a salary or dividends involves an understanding of corporate and personal tax integration. If an owner-manager pays out all their corporate income as salary, it would be similar to if they earned it all personally in the first place. The corporation would claim a tax deduction for the income paid out, so the corporation would have no taxable income, and the employee would pay tax on the income instead.

Dividends are a bit different. A dividend is a payment of after-tax profit to a shareholder. A small-business corporation typically pays between eight per cent and 16 per cent tax on its income. It can then pay a dividend to a shareholder that is taxed at a lower rate than salary, generally about the same eight per cent to 16 per cent lower, but the rate differential can be less or more depending on a taxpayer’s income, deductions and credits.

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The lower tax rate on dividends is meant to account for the corporate tax already paid. Corporate-personal tax integration is not perfect, but pretty close. The point being that an owner-manager should be nearly indifferent between salary and dividends from an all-in tax perspective.

It is possible for a new business to not pay out income to employees and/or shareholders in its early days, especially when starting up or before becoming profitable. Since paying salary involves registering a payroll account with the Canada Revenue Agency and remitting CPP contributions and income tax to the CRA, it can be more complex for new business owners.

Dividends can be simpler since the corporation can pay them out without having to worry about withholding tax and government remittances. The drawback is you could end up spending money that has not had sufficient (or any) tax withheld and being surprised by your tax bill at year-end.

If you want to avoid CPP premiums, paying out dividends would accomplish this. That said, avoiding CPP will not necessarily put you ahead. CPP may be considered a payroll tax, but it is not exactly a tax. It is a contribution to a pension plan that will pay you an income in the future.

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The implied rate of return when a business owner has to pay the employer and employee CPP contributions may not be high, but it is still effectively a benefit. It is also a form of forced savings that someone might not otherwise replicate on their own.

The benefits of choosing a salary go beyond more predictable tax payments and CPP benefits. Salary also counts as earned income and creates registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) contribution room, whereas dividends do not. Salary also has the potential for easier income verification when applying for credit, can qualify for certain tax credits such as the Canadian Employment Credit, and allows for certain deductions like child-care expenses.

Depending on the rationale behind your decision, Jason, it may not make sense to contribute to CPP. This may be the case if you are a disciplined and aggressive self-directed investor with low investment fees. A shortened life expectancy may be another reason. You may have already maximized CPP based on your past contributions or have other defined-benefit pension income that is sufficient to meet your income needs.

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Regardless, I believe that it will be prudent to review the benefits of CPP ahead of tax savings because avoiding CPP can provide short-term savings at the expense of a long-term reduction in retirement income.

Andrew Dobson is a fee-only, advice-only certified financial planner (CFP) and chartered investment manager (CIM) at Objective Financial Partners Inc. in London, Ont. He does not sell any financial products whatsoever. He can be reached at adobson@objectivecfp.com.

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How I’ve Scaled Back My Makeup Bag – The Anna Edit

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It’s all in the edit…

This post contains ad affiliate links (denoted by a ‘*’) & gifted items (denoted by ‘ad – gifted). You can read my full disclaimer here.

Is it just me, or does it feel like we’re in our ‘editing’ era? A time for scaling back, decluttering and truly holding onto those everyday pieces and nothing more? Of course it SINGS to me and is something I’ve been working on wardrobe-wise over the past few months, so over the weekend when I had a spare moment I took the time to have my biggest beauty declutter to date. What remains are those things that I wouldn’t hesitate to repurchase once I’d used them up. Everything’s in date (I hope!) and there’s no ‘just in case’ products in there because SPOILER – I never end up using them anyway!!! Of course there are still more items than I could use on a daily basis because I like a few dewy base options, lip choices and eyeshadows to pick from, so I pack an everyday makeup bag* just to make getting ready in the morning quick and easy. I like to rotate it every few weeks as my tastes, the seasons and my skin shifts. Here’s what’s in it now…

BASE

I’m big into tinted moisturisers these days. Even though my skin isn’t GREAT right now, I love that sheerness and barely there feel on my skin, even on days when I’m doing more of a ‘proper’ makeup. So at the moment it’s the MAC Face + Body Foundation in C2* that I’m reaching for daily. For concealer I’m currently using two – the Glossier Stretch in Light 2* for under my eyes – it’s really the only concealer I like for under there as my eyes get so dehydrated – and the ILIA True Serum Concealer in 1.75* which has a bit more coverage to it, but is still really smooth and spreadable so I find it good for my psoriasis patches and blemishes. For cheeks I’m not really into blush or highlighter at the moment, I just go in with the Makeup By Mario SoftSculpt Transforming Skin Enhancer in Light Medium* which does a bit of everything in one. Like seriously, what did I do before this product!? It adds warmth and softness with a bit of contouring too. If I’m feeling fancy or filming I might add in the Victoria Beckham Contour Stylus in Travertine* which is ridiculously easy to use and blends like a dream. Such a foolproof contour product.

EYES

I set my brows in place with the Patrick Ta Brow Gel* AS ALWAYS (although I’ve got the new Anastasia one* in the post right now as I thought I’d give it a go!). Then usually I’ll use one of my liquid or cream eyeshadows, but I thought I’d pull out this powder eyeshadow palette that includes such classic as (from top left clockwise) – MAC Tete-a-Tint*, Soba*, Anastasia Beverly Hills Eyeshadow in Caramel* and MAC Uninterrupted*. Can you remember those!? Very similar tones as my cream eyeshadows, but just thought I’d get them into the everyday rotation as it had been a while. For mascara I’m currently loving the Lancome Monsieur Big Waterproof Mascara* – another blast from the past. I tend to apply and then take a clean spoolie through the ends to get rid of any bulk.

LIPS

Most days I just stick the Summer Friday Lip Butter in Pink Sugar* on and call it a day, but seeing ass it feels like it’s been ages since I used any other lip product I thought I’d add the Hermes Rosy Lip Enhancer in Rose Tan* to my bag. A very similar tone to the lip butter to be honest, but with a slightly more satin-like finish.

TOOLS

I keep my tools SIMPLE. Mostly because I hate washing my brushes, so on a daily basis I only use three. The Westman Atelier Blender Brush* – so expensive, but I’ve used it every day since it launched in 2019 and it still looks brand new, you get what you pay for with this one. The Beauty Pie Pro Angled Cheek Brush* – just the best for the Makeup By Mario Bronzer – it sort of hugs the cheekbones so you can get a really precise, but easily blended application. Then finally the Makeup By Mario EF2 Brush* which is what I use to apply all my eyeshadow products, no matter the formula. Oh and the Suratt Eyelash Curlers* which again I’ve used for years – nothing else comes close.


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Rethinking Productivity: Less Hustle, More Harmony, More Energy


“The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.” ~Lao Tzu

I can hear the voices now:

“You should be disappointed in yourself” (for not taking the SATs in seventh grade).

“Don’t be lazy like [fill in a not-so-studious sibling/cousin]!”

“You need to work harder or else you’ll fall behind.”

“Always be analyzing, analyzing, analyzing!”

“We need to improve our operational efficiency or ELSE.” Or else what?

My mind became a boiling stew of negative self-talk, heavy thoughts, and beliefs that didn’t serve me. Throughout my entire life, from an immigrant Asian family to corporate leaders fixated on metrics, the voices have been consistent:

You’re not doing enough.

From a young age, I’ve been indoctrinated (without consent) into the school of thought that “you better work hard or you’ll get left behind.” I got sucked into the hustle and grind culture and became fixated on productivity.

But it never felt enough. The promotions, the raises, the accolades, the praise—they never satisfied the part of me that felt like I was never enough. There was the constant, compulsive need to do MORE.

As the productivity gurus say, you need to master time management. But while striving to manage time, I realized this:

Time was really managing me.

Any time I freed up from being more efficient, I’d fill up with more busyness. I constantly spent my energy on the past or the future. Never in the present moment.

Eventually, I burned out. Life became miserable. It sucked the joy out of life.

During my lowest point, one evening, I sat at a local park and stared into the abyss. Questioning the meaning of existence and why I wasn’t enjoying life anymore.

In a miraculous moment, a two-year-old toddler waddled toward me with boundless joy and hugged me. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.

The toddler’s mother apologized to me. With a softened heart, I reassured her, “Please don’t apologize. I needed that.”

The greatest teacher I could have had at that moment was a two-year-old who barely knew his right hand from his left. The lesson? My achievements don’t define my self-worth. Self-acceptance isn’t determined by how much I’ve accomplished. Love is unconditional.

And that began the journey of rethinking my life. And rethinking productivity.

It wasn’t until I began examining my inner world more consciously that I was able to rewire my programming and shift the paradigm completely.

Through individual therapy work, meditation, and letting go of old beliefs, I learned the very thing so innate to each and every one of us:

Nothing more to do. Nothing more to be. Just enough. Always enough.

The next truth I gained along the journey was that I could still be “productive” and enjoy my life.

In the rough landscape of hustle culture, we often find ourselves racing against the clock, trying to squeeze an extra drop of efficiency out of every second. As a result, it sucks the soul out of our lives.

If this were a cooking show, we’d be moving around the kitchen at a frantic pace strictly following the ultimate recipe: “success.

Yet somehow, through all our hustling and bustling, we lose sight of the most important ingredient: energy.

It’s how we show up in the world. How we show up for each other. How a two-year-old toddler joyfully embraces a stranger. 

Without our vital energy, we can’t be our best selves and do our best work. We can’t create that culinary masterpiece that evokes joy in the world.

While it’s something kids have naturally, we adults need to relearn what this feels like.

As reality has it, the relentless push toward productivity often leads us to a paradoxical outcome: burnout; a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion; and working from a depleted place (no energy) that creates work that feels… lifeless. 

Following the cooking metaphor, let’s consider a more harmonious approach to getting things done.

Sprinkling Life Energy into the Productivity Stew

If you had more energy in your mind, body, and spirit, how could that change the dynamic of your work? Whether that be launching a new side hustle, finally writing that book swimming in your head, or striving toward that next promotion at work, how could more energy serve you?

Like savoring each sip of an aged pinot noir, we can fully experience the gift of the present moment. And through this embodied place, we create from a place of inspiration filled to the brim with energy.

Here’s how we can sprinkle this goodness into our day-to-day.

Pause for a Breath

Before diving into the deep end, take a moment to just breathe. A deep breath can be like a mini vacation for your brain, and it’s much cheaper than a flight to the Bahamas.

Focus on the Entrée and Prepare Fewer Side Dishes

By zeroing in on what truly matters, we can devote our full attention to fewer, more meaningful tasks. Consciously doing less can create more impact. Surprise!

Balance, The Secret Ingredient

In the recipe for success, “doing nothing” (aka rest)  is the unsung hero, rejuvenating our minds and preventing us from becoming crispy around the edges.

Self-Compassion, The Essential Seasoning

It’s okay if we don’t create our best work at first. It’s okay to not meet our own personal expectations when we’re trying something new. Sprinkle a little self-compassion and patience into the mix and remember that every chef has burnt a dish or two.

Find Joy in the Cooking Process

Life can be messy. We’re human after all. Embracing the mess in the kitchen leads to creativity and, sometimes, the most delightful surprises. Did you know chocolate chip cookies were created by mistake?!

We need to understand that our life journey is not linear. When we make mistakes, it might feel like we’ve failed or gotten off track. We might feel incredibly confused. But it’s the experience of moving through this confusion that leads us to clarity.

So be open to making mistakes. Be open to making a mess, and try to have fun while doing it. This might lead you closer to your goals than you’d expect—or open up new possibilities you didn’t even know to imagine.

Stirring in Small Changes

Remember, it takes time to develop new habits. Adapting this new recipe of productivity doesn’t mean a menu overhaul overnight. Start with small, incremental steps—perhaps a morning ritual that includes a moment of gratitude, a new activity that allows you to disconnect and recharge, or a three-minute dance party with yourself. Anything that brings you back to presence.

Change simmers slowly but once established, it can create sustainable results: a sense of peace, fulfillment, and harmony—and it’s well worth the effort.

The Balanced Plate of Productivity and Well-Being 

By incorporating moments of mindfulness, rest, and self-care, we create a more sustainable approach to work and life. And as a byproduct, we’re gifted with longevity.

By letting go of the fixation of time management and producing results, we paradoxically earn more quality time in our lives to do the things we love and truly care about. Because we have more energy for them.

After over twelve years of working in the corporate world, I’ve decided to step away from the nine-to-five job and enter the world of entrepreneurship. As you might know, starting your own business is like walking into uncharted territory. It can be both exciting and scary, simultaneously. And unlike a corporate job, which defines the parameters of how productive you are, as an entrepreneur, you create your own.

This paradigm shift has led me to embrace the tips I’ve mentioned here in this article. Not only has rethinking productivity saved my sanity, I’m actually enjoying the work I do for the first time in a long time. I feel more alive. Fueled with more energy. And I’m having more fun. Now that’s a recipe worth keeping.

If you’re ever finding yourself lost and confused in this world so fixated on productivity, do what a two-year-old toddler does and see the wondrous world with curiosity, wonder, and awe. And remember you are worthy regardless of what you achieve.





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Things to Do on St. Patrick’s Day: Ready in 5 Minutes!

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In this post I share our favorite way that we make St. Patrick’s Day fun for our kids. This is perfect for parents who want to make magic, but are just plain too tired to do much.

SHHH! Don’t show this post to the kids.

What can you do on St. Patrick’s Day with very little effort for tired or busy parents? Here are our four favorite things to do on St. Patrick’s Day with kids!

March is always busy, but I love finding ways to celebrate simple holidays! This post doesn’t in include typical St. Patrick’s Day festivities like parades, shamrocks, cabbage soup, or even corned beef! Our celebration is simple and filled with plenty of fun without the stress.

Materials needed for St. Patrick’s Day

  • Gold colored candy (Reese’s, Rolos, twix, Werthers)
  • Plastic gold coins
  • Lucky Charms cereal (optional)

The Plan

How it starts:

The sneaky “Leprechaun” (aka me or my husband) comes to visit our house each year for St. Patrick’s Day! He usually comes in the afternoon after nap time or school to ensure that the kids will be surprised!

Things to Do on St. Patrick's DayThings to Do on St. Patrick's Day

The Plan:

Here’s what we do! It can all be done in 5 minutes or less but brings SO MUCH FUN to our day!

1. Leave your house a mess (#1 reason I love this holiday )

2. Throw gold candy and gold coins on the floor

We get anything gold- Reese’s, Rolos, Twix, Werthers, etc. We skip the expensive gold chocolate coins and also throw plastic coins we reuse year after year.

3. Put stuffed animals in crazy unique places

We hide them in silly places that will make kids laugh.

4. Turn over the chairs.

Put chairs on their sides on the ground or upside down. Place a chair on the table or in an odd place.

Things to Do on St. Patrick's DayThings to Do on St. Patrick's Day

OPTIONAL: Leave a box of Lucky Charms on the counter as a present from the Leprechaun.

Go see this in action HERE.

Things to Do on St. Patrick's DayThings to Do on St. Patrick's Day

I used to do these 4 simple things every year when I was a teacher after recess on March 17th. The kids would come back to class and find chairs all over the place (and gold candy and coins). It was one of the highlights EVERY year. The best part was that it took less than 5 minutes to set up!

Now I love doing it with my own kids!

Things to Do on St. Patrick's DayThings to Do on St. Patrick's Day

More easy ideas!

Try a St. Patrick’s Day Scavenger Hunt

Do a Rainbow Activity

Make Rainbow Oobleck

Try a St. Patrick’s Day Craft

Do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in any fun ways? Or do you say no to St. Patrick’s Day celebrating and skip this holiday? Tell me in the comments!

No judgement either way! We celebrate most years and skip some too!





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Orzo Pasta Salad with Roasted Veggies

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This Orzo Pasta Salad is THE ultimate pasta salad for the warm weather! Packed with Mediterranean flavors, this tender orzo pasta is tossed with fresh veggies, creamy white cheddar, and fresh herbs and drizzled in a bright, lemony dressing that is seriously TO DIE FOR.

A bowl of orzo salad with roasted broccoli, tomatoes, and pine nuts, sprinkled with cheese and herbs, on a textured white surface.

Good luck finding an easy pasta salad as delicious as this one! I recently made this orzo pasta salad for my family dinner (we get together weekly with the siblings), and everyone absolutely loved it. It is perfect for a summer BBQ, picnic, potluck, or a great side dish for any meal.

To make this delicious pasta salad, you just need to cook the orzo pasta, roast your veggies, make your hummus dressing, and combine. You and the fam are going to be obsessed after the first bite!

What You Need for this Orzo Pasta Salad

  • Orzo pasta: We love the unique shape and texture of orzo pasta! It’s like a combination of rice and pasta, which makes it perfect for salads.
  • Veggies: We roasted broccoli, red onion, and garlic for this fresh orzo salad. 
  • Olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil is a must for roasting the veggies and making the salad dressing.
  • Cherry tomatoes: Juicy tomatoes are also roasted, bringing out their natural sweetness.
  • Aged white cheddar cheese: Cheese is always a great addition to any fresh pasta salad!
  • Pine nuts: Add a nice crunch and nutty flavor to the salad.
  • Fresh parsley: Gives this simple salad a kick of fresh flavor that brightens everything up.
  • Lemon: We used fresh lemon juice and lemon zest for the lemon vinaigrette.
  • Hummus: This may seem like an unconventional ingredient, but trust us, it adds a creamy and flavorful element to the dressing.
Chopped broccoli and red onions spread on a baking sheet, ready for roasting.

Delicious Swaps & Mix-Ins

  • Veggies: Feel free to mix up what type of fresh vegetables you roasted for this salad. Bell peppers or artichoke hearts would be delicious additions.
  • Cheese: You could also swap out the aged white cheddar for tangy feta or goat cheese.
  • Herbs: Fresh basil, mint, or chopped chives are great substitutes for the parsley.
  • Nuts: And if you’re not a fan of pine nuts, try chopped almonds or sunflower seeds instead.

#1 Tip for this Orzo Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is best the next day. If preparing ahead of time, store the salad and dressing separately. Just before serving, mix in the dressing to prevent the pasta from becoming soggy.

How to Cool Orzo Quickly

To speed up the pasta’s cooling process, transfer the strained pasta to a large bowl and cover it with cold water. Add a few ice cubes and let the pasta sit. Strain and remove the ice cubes from the pasta before mixing the salad. 

Love Dressing?

If you want the pasta salad to be a bit more creamy, add a few extra tablespoons of hummus straight into the salad in step 7. You can also double the dressing recipe if that’s your jam!

A bowl of salad with orzo pasta, roasted broccoli, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and pine nuts on a white surface.A bowl of salad with orzo pasta, roasted broccoli, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and pine nuts on a white surface.

Storage Directions

Store any leftover orzo pasta salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Make sure to give it a good stir before serving, as the dressing may have settled at the bottom.

A vibrant orzo salad with broccoli, tomatoes, and pine nuts in a white bowl, garnished with herbs and cheese, on a textured white surface.A vibrant orzo salad with broccoli, tomatoes, and pine nuts in a white bowl, garnished with herbs and cheese, on a textured white surface.

What to Serve with Orzo Pasta Salad

This vibrant and flavorful salad is a perfect side dish for any summer BBQ or potluck. It also makes a great lunch on its own or served alongside some grilled chicken or fish. Try pairing it with our Juicy Grilled Chicken or Grilled Salmon in Foil for extra protein.

We also recommend serving this salad with this Jalapeño Corn Pudding for a delicious and flavorful summer meal. And for dessert, try our Triple Berry Crumble Bars for a sweet and indulgent finish.

Orzo Pasta Salad Recipe

This orzo pasta salad is packed with delicious flavor and texture! It’s the perfect summer side dish packed with fresh vegetables, white cheddar cheese, and a zesty hummus dressing.

Prep Time15 minutes

Active Time40 minutes

Total Time55 minutes

Course: Main Course, Side Dish

Cuisine: American

Keyword: Orzo Pasta Salad

Yield: 6

Calories:

Materials

Salad Ingredients

  • 8 oz. orzo pasta
  • 12 oz. broccoli chopped into bite-size pieces
  • ½ red onion diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 10 oz. cherry tomatoes quartered
  • 4-5 oz aged white cheddar cheese roughly chopped or chunked
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons hummus
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until al dente, about 5-7 minutes. Strain and set the orzo aside to cool.

  • Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Spread the broccoli, onion, and garlic evenly on a baking sheet. Add olive oil and salt, and toss to coat. Roast the vegetables for 15 minutes.

  • After 15 minutes, add the tomatoes to the pan and roast for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the broccoli begins to brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

  • While the vegetables are roasting heat a small skillet over medium heat and toast the pinenuts until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes.

  • Prepare the dressing. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, hummus, salt, and pepper to a bowl and whisk to combine.

  • Add the orzo to a bowl with half of the dressing. Toss to coat.

  • Add the roasted vegetables, cheddar cheese, pine nuts, salt, and remaining dressing to the orzo. Toss to combine.*

  • Top with fresh parsley and serve immediately or transfer to the refrigerator to cool and become more flavorful.

Notes

  • To speed up the pasta’s cooling process, transfer the strained pasta to a large bowl and cover it with cold water. Add a few ice cubes and let the pasta sit. Strain and remove the ice cubes from the pasta before mixing the salad.
  • If you want the pasta salad to be a bit more creamy, add a few extra tablespoons of hummus straight into the salad in step 7.
  • Feel free to mix up what type of vegetables you roasted for this salad.
  • Basil, mint, or chopped chives would all be great herb additions to this salad.
  • This pasta salad is best the next day.



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Check your coverage – Houston storm victims should contact carrier, broker says

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Check your coverage – Houston storm victims should contact carrier, broker says | Insurance Business America















Severe storms in the area leave four people dead and nearly 1 million homes and businesses without power

Check your coverage – Houston storm victims should contact carrier, broker says

Catastrophe & Flood

By
Ryan Smith

Four people are dead and nearly 1 million homes and businesses were without power Friday after severe thunderstorms battered the Houston area and parts of Louisiana.

The storms, which hit the area Thursday, included hurricane-force winds that toppled trees and transmission towers and blew windows out of downtown buildings, according to a report by the Associated Press.

The storms have brought the city to a virtual standstill, with school canceled for more than 400,000 students and city crews scrambling to clear fallen trees and restore power. City officials urged Houston residents not to go to work Friday unless they’re considered essential workers. Residents have also been urged to stay off the roads, many of which are flooded, the AP reported.

Houston Mayor John Whitmire said during a Thursday night briefing that wind speeds had reached 100mph during the storm, and some tornadoes had been spotted. He said the high winds were reminiscent of Hurricane Ike, which hit the area in 2008.

Charlene Okenkpu, client services manager and licensed insurance agent at TGS Insurance Agency in Houston, told Insurance Business that the agency had been unusually busy since opening at 8am Friday as clients called for help with insurance issues.

Okenkpu advised clients to check their coverages before doing anything else.

“They should reach out to either their broker or carrier directly to inquire on the claim first before filing to make sure the damage exceeds their deductible,” she said.

Okenkpu said the TGS office had weathered the storm successfully.

“We’re fine. We were stuck in the building yesterday until the tornadoes passed,” she said. “A lot of us are still without power. Some of us weren’t able to get in today because of trees in the road.”

Whitmer said during the Thursday briefing that four people had died during the storm. At least two deaths were caused by falling trees, and another occurred when strong winds blew a crane over, the AP reported.

The storms weren’t over as of Friday. The AP reported that Gulf Coast states could continue to see scattered, severe thunderstorms with tornadoes, high winds and hail. Flood watches and warnings were still in effect for Houston and areas to the east as of Friday.

Have something to say about this story? Let us know in the comments below.

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The End of the Blog, But Not Our #Unfiltered Advice

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Dear Monument Wealth Management Community,

This is the final Off the Wall blog.

While we will keep the old blogs up to refer to, the blog portion of our website will be inactive after this last post.

Why? Here’s the story:

The genesis of Off the Wall was the expression of my frustration working at a large Wall Street firm and being unable to communicate effectively with clients who had entrusted me with their wealth management. I could pick up the phone and speak with each client individually, but I was not allowed to send out mass communications.

Dumb.

I felt like I had a duty to tell my clients what I was thinking when I was thinking it. They were paying me for my opinions and advice and expected to hear my thoughts. But when bureaucratic compliance rules made that endeavor next to impossible, and my forehead was bruised from all the facepalming, I knew I had to pursue a solution that would fix that.

In my imagination, Monument was born…and it wasn’t long after that when Dean and I made it real.

On Friday, May 23rd, 2008, at 5 p.m. Eastern time, Dean and I unlocked the door of Monument Wealth Management for the first time as a real company.

Our company.

We were on the hook for everything we did or failed to do.

But back to the blog.

Being able to write and communicate efficiently and effectively with clients and everyone else was thrilling and liberating. At first, it was just updating everybody on market information. As I matured and became, debatably, a better writer, I shifted away from talking about what I eventually determined to be irrelevant financial information. I started writing opinions and thoughts more honestly, with humor, and using raw language that I use in real life.

I eventually lost my fear of writing and embraced my unique voice. I simply started writing just as I speak to people in real life, aiming to write blogs that made people feel like they were sitting across from me having a beer (or more likely, an Old Fashion).

And if you are sitting with me chatting, I occasionally use some “grown-up words” just like everyone these days…terms like “bullshit” and sayings like “fuck that!” It’s just that they hit differently when you read them.

But that’s what I WANTED. I wanted my words to have an impact. So, I started occasionally using them in my blog when they were warranted. When I needed something to hit differently.

People loved it. “Authentic” was a word that most people used. But I knew that that level of authenticity could not have been adopted anywhere other than my own firm.

As I added up all the downloads, clicks, and forwards of the blog, it dawned on me that the words I have written have been consumed well over half a million times. If you have been with me for any period of time, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. I owe you a debt of gratitude.

Through this blog, we have championed the philosophy that time and discipline are the cornerstones of good financial decisions and long-term returns.

We’ve emphasized the importance of safeguarding cash reserves for 12 to 18 months of expenses, which ensures a buffer against the market’s uncertainties and selling securities when they are trading down.

We’ve focused on knowing the difference between possibilities and probabilities.

We’ve focused on the fact that while we can never tell which direction the next 20% move will be, we know which direction the next 100% move will be (because a future S&P 10,000 seems more plausible than an S&P 0).

But now it’s time for a new adventure in the digital medium.

The Transition to Monument #Unfiltered

We’re excited to announce that we’re transitioning the Off the Wall Blog to an e-mail newsletter format, which will allow us to deliver more targeted thoughts to the right audience.

By now, as a reader, you know that we find the status quo to be very, very boring. Repulsive even. We are sick of seeing the same old stuffy, vapid wealth advice repeated over and over again across cable news and standard-issue financial newsletters.

It’s all a bunch of blah, blah, blah and a big reason why nobody trusts financial advisors.

But we promise to keep delivering something DIFFERENT.

If you already get the blog delivered to your email box, fear not, you will be seamlessly migrated to the new email list.

If you are reading this final blog and considering signing up for Monument #Unfiltered you’re going to get wealth insights you won’t hear anywhere else. Raw, unfiltered opinions and straightforward advice, and plain talk about what’s important… and what’s bullshit. We aim to help you frame information in a meaningful way and make good decisions so you can be confident as a high-net-worth investor.

We pride ourselves on being authentic, but we know that we are not going to resonate with everybody, and that’s OK.

But – if this resonates with you and you’re sick and tired of the same old crappy canned advice, give us a try. You can unsubscribe anytime with the click of a button – and no hard feelings.

Why Are We Doing This

Someone asked me what I like most about our new podcast, and my response caught them off guard—it’s a tool people can use to determine if they think we are idiots without having to actually meet us.

It’s our free gift.

Here’s what I mean. If someone listens to the podcast and thinks, “Wow, that Armstrong is a total idiot,” that’s a huge win for me AND THEM. That person decided on their own that Monument’s opinions, advice, philosophy, style, whatever, are not something they value, want, like, or need.

That saves us ALL a lot of time.

Without the podcast, there could have been untold hours wasted by both sides to get to that determination. Not to mention the pain of dealing with bridge traffic, hot lane expenses, and parking.

And this part is REALLY important…like I said above, we are not trying to resonate with everyone.

Conversely, someone may listen to the podcast and say, “What they just said makes a lot of sense to me” and they keep listening.

That bridges a gap—it moves someone out of the pool of ‘Everyone’ and into the pool of ‘Fans.’

Sometimes fans just stay fans, but they also tell others about us.

But then sometimes, fans decide they want to learn even more about us. When that happens, they’ve already subscribed to our philosophy, and I don’t need to convince them of anything.

We want to do the same thing with Monument #Unfiltered.

We want to continue to bridge the gap between ‘Everyone’ and ‘Fans.’

The downside to the blog was that everyone could read it, but we had nothing more than anecdotal evidence that people liked it, or if they were fans, or just stealing our ideas (yes, that happens, I actually don’t care; it adds legitimacy to our efforts). Now we will know…because if you are subscribed, we believe you are a fan, and if you don’t subscribe or unsubscribe, we know that we didn’t live up to your expectations.

So… if you ARE a fan and want to be a part of the Monument #Unfiltered community, subscribe here or fill out the form at the very bottom of this page.

Keep looking forward,

 



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