Real Personal Finance

Scott Frank and James Conole

Your personal finance questions answered by CFP® professionals

  • 28 minutes 26 seconds
    Is Giving to a Donor-Advised Fund Worth It?

    Rethink  your charitable giving and maximize your tax benefits with Donor-Advised Funds. Discover how this streamlined and tax-efficient alternative to traditional donation methods might just be a game-changer to your financial strategy. Scott and Meg contrast DAFs with conventional giving methods like checks and credit cards, to paint a clearer picture of their advantages. They also address common myths surrounding DAFs, especially the idea that they're only a tool for tax avoidance. Learn from real-life examples about when a DAF is the best choice and why genuine charitable intent is crucial to take advantage of its full potential.

    DAFs allow you to separate the tax event from the actual act of giving. This can be particularly beneficial during high-income years, letting you maximize your tax benefits while taking the time to thoughtfully select the right charities. Scott and Meg also tackle the concept of "bunching" donations for optimal itemized deductions and discuss how DAFs can facilitate family involvement in your philanthropy, turning giving into a shared family mission. Tune in to discover how integrating DAFs into your financial planning can lead to both personal fulfillment and community support.

    Ready to learn more? 

    Money can be confusing—but it doesn’t have to be. When you’re able to understand the complexities, you can make better decisions to improve your daily life. Are you ready to align your money with your ideal life? Connect with us at Stone Steps Financial

    6 June 2024, 3:00 pm
  • 27 minutes 16 seconds
    Should I Invest in My Health Savings Account?

    Are you using your Health Savings Account to its full potential? HSAs are great for covering immediate healthcare costs, but with careful planning, they can also become a strategic part of your long-term wealth plan. This week, Scott Frank, founder of Stone Steps Financial, and Meg Bartelt, founder of Flow Financial Planning, LLC, take on HSAs, sharing the ins and outs of eligibility, their triple tax benefits, and how it can become a vital nest egg for end-of-life care later on.  

    HSAs were created to help offset the cost of healthcare, so start letting your account do the work! Scott and Meg’s insights help clear the confusion around HSAs, giving listeners actionable advice to help them decide on future plans. Let’s face it—the world won’t get any cheaper. Investing in an HSA is an opportunity to protect your financial future. 

    Ready to learn more? 

    Money can be confusing—but it doesn’t have to be. When you’re able to understand the complexities, you can make better decisions to improve your daily life. Are you ready to align your money with your ideal life? Connect with us at Stone Steps Financial

    23 May 2024, 2:00 pm
  • 25 minutes 35 seconds
    What Should You Do With Your Stock Portfolio?

    Deciding what to do with your stocks can prove to be a problem, challenge, and opportunity all at once. With a huge portfolio in front of you, what can you do to slim it down? This week, Scott Frank, founder of Stone Steps Financial, and Meg Bartelt, founder of Flow Financial Planning, LLC, provide insights on how to cut down on your stocks to achieve the life you’ve dreamed of. 

    We have emotional ties to our investments—but that shouldn’t stop you from pursuing a more financially sound future. Scott and Meg swap tales of market highs and lows, illustrating why, sometimes, letting go of stock can safeguard your portfolio and your future security. This episode is more than just a discussion—it’s a blueprint for aligning your stocks with your broader financial aspirations.

    Ready to learn more? 

    Money can be confusing—but it doesn’t have to be. When you’re able to understand the complexities, you can make better decisions to improve your daily life. Are you ready to align your money with your ideal life? Connect with us at Stone Steps Financial.

    14 May 2024, 3:00 pm
  • 23 minutes 9 seconds
    What Should You Do With Your Pile of Cash?

    Is your cash currently sitting under your mattress, withering away with inflation? While stashing your cash seems like a safe bet, it limits your access to investment opportunities. With inflation rising, the value of your cash may not have the longevity you hoped for. If you currently have a pile of cash and are asking yourself, “Well…what now?” this week’s episode of “Real Personal Finance” guides you through aligning your resources with the life you want to lead. Scott Frank, founder of Stone Steps Financial, and Meg Bartelt, founder of Flow Financial Planning, LLC, share strategies that steer you clear of the hoarding trap and onto the road to smart investment.

    The conversation covers the “Have-To’s,” “What-To’s,” and “Need-To’s” of personal finance, giving listeners insights on how to make your cash work for you. The journey doesn't stop there; Scott and Meg address the pressing need for retirement savings, even if you're coming late to the party, and how to employ tax location strategies to invest more in your future. Don’t let your cash waste away; use it to make your ideal life possible. 

    Ready to learn more? 

    Money can be confusing—but it doesn’t have to be. When you’re able to understand the complexities, you can make better decisions to improve your daily life. Are you ready to align your money with your ideal life? Connect with us at Stone Steps Financial

    13 May 2024, 3:00 pm
  • 25 minutes 34 seconds
    Is It Possible To Actually Reach FIRE?

    What does being financially independent mean to you? Those chasing FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) are choosing to live frugally now to achieve early retirement. FIRE is a means to unlock a life where work is optional and the freedom of choice reigns supreme. Scott Frank, founder of Stone Steps Financial, and Meg Bartelt, founder of Flow Financial Planning, LLC, discuss the movement's evolution and how people are applying FIRE principles to their daily lives. 

    With the concept of Coast FIRE, early retirement is more attainable than it seems—even for those starting later in life. The conversation explores the spectrum of financial independence, sharing how different stages of life can strive towards obtainable goals. As you grow, your level of autonomy should move with you. Achieving your version of FIRE requires more than just an understanding of numbers and compound interest; it requires understanding the life you want to live. 

    Ready to learn more? 

    Money can be confusing—but it doesn’t have to be. When you’re able to understand the complexities, you can make better decisions to improve your daily life. Are you ready to align your money with your ideal life? Connect with us at Stone Steps Financial

    10 May 2024, 1:00 pm
  • 26 minutes 7 seconds
    How Can You Avoid Surprises Next Tax Season?

    Does your anxiety spike every time tax season rolls around? The possibility of receiving an unexpected tax bill can bring a sense of dread to the entire month of April. We all have to pay taxes, but we don’t have to stress about them. Scott Frank, founder of Stone Steps Financial, is joined by Meg Bartelt, founder of Flow Financial Planning, LLC, to simplify conversations around money and tax planning. 

    Conquer your tax season anxiety and avoid the shock of unexpected tax bills through Scott and Meg’s insight and tips. Accurate reporting, strategic planning, and increasing your withholding rates are all steps to place you in a proactive financial mindset. The conversation explores optimizing your retirement contributions and the ins and outs of estimated tax payments, particularly after life-changing financial events. 

    Don’t worry—you don’t have to take on next tax season alone. Scott and Meg share the importance of adding a tax professional to your team. Join the conversation as we turn the stress of taxes into a streamlined process. 

    Ready to learn more? 

    Money can be confusing—but it doesn’t have to be. When you’re able to understand the complexities, you can make better decisions to improve your daily life. Are you ready to align your money with your ideal life? Connect with us at Stone Steps Financial

    9 May 2024, 7:00 pm
  • 6 minutes 5 seconds
    Final Episode - How To Stay In Touch With Us!

    Scott and James thank all of the fans for years of support for listening to the podcast and review where you can find them if you're looking for customized advice when it comes to maximizing your finances. 

    LET'S CONNECT!

    James

    YouTube | Website | Podcast

    Scott

    Facebook | Twitter | Website

    1 March 2023, 11:00 am
  • 15 minutes 9 seconds
    How to Balance a Home Purchase with Saving for Retirement?

    Scott and James discuss how to balance a home purchase with saving for retirement.

    Listener Question:

    We want to stay in manhattan and want to be home owners but can’t make the math work. Our current rental 2 bed 2 bath just went up to $4400/mo. A comparable condo would sell around $1.3-$1.5m. That would put the mortgage at around $7,000 with another $2,000-$3,000 in maintainable and taxes a month. Rent does keep increasing and I don’t want to keep getting squeezed but does buying in Manhattan just not make sense? 

    Planning Points Discussed

    • Utilizing Time Efficiently
    • Capital Appreciation
    • Purchasing Power
    • Other issues (IRAs, Inflation, Financial Goals, etc.)

    Timestamps:

    2:30 - Priorities

    5:25 - Various Goals 

    8:12 - Life & Math Don't Always Match

    11:15 - Investment Concerns

    12:30 - How Much Home Can You Afford?

    16:05 - Aligning Your Financial Goals

    LET'S CONNECT!

    James

    YouTube LinkedIn Website

    Scott

    Facebook Twitter Website

    22 February 2023, 11:00 am
  • 12 minutes 57 seconds
    What Should You Do If You Make Too Much To Contribute To a Roth IRA?

    Scott and James discuss what to do if you make too much to contribute to a Roth IRA.

    Listener Question:

    I am currently 33 years old, single, and am nearing a $129,000 annual salary. I have been investing in a Roth IRA and realize the phaseout limits for single taxpayers are from $129k - $144k. My question is, how do I lower my income, besides contributing to my traditional 401k, so I can keep contributing the max $6000/year into my Roth IRA as my income rises over the years?

    Planning Points Discussed:

    • Utilizing Time Efficiently
    • Capital Appreciation
    • Purchasing Power
    • Other issues (IRAs, Inflation, Financial Goals, etc.)

    Timestamps:

    2:30 - Introduction

    6:17 - Phaseouts

    8:13 - Roth IRAs

    11:05 - Aligning Your Financial Goals

    LET'S CONNECT!

    James

    YouTube LinkedIn Website

    Scott

    Facebook Twitter Website

    15 February 2023, 11:00 am
  • 14 minutes 41 seconds
    The Truth About an MBA - Is It Worth It?

    Scott and James discuss whether or not an MBA is worth it.

    Planning Points Discussed

    • Utilizing Time Efficiently
    • Capital Appreciation
    • Purchasing Power
    • Other issues (IRAs, Inflation, Financial Goals, etc.)

    Timestamps:

    2:30 - Listener Quesiton

    5:30 - Why MBA?

    7:46 - Pros/Cons of MBAs

    8:30 - Debt v. Investing

    16:05 - Aligning Your Financial Goals

    LET'S CONNECT!

    James

    YouTube LinkedIn Website

    Scott

    Facebook Twitter Website

    8 February 2023, 11:00 am
  • 17 minutes 5 seconds
    How Are Different Types of Investment Withdrawals Taxed?

    Scott and James discuss the tax implications of withdrawing income from various accounts in retirement.

    Listener Question:

    Can you talk about how some of the main retirement accounts are taxed upon withdrawal? 

    Example topic: Are withdrawals just subject to Federal taxes, or FICA taxes as well? And how / if withdrawing from retirement accounts affects eligibility / taxes you have to pay on social security? 

    Can you talk about how after tax brokerage accounts are taxed both while investing and when you start to withdraw? And what withdrawals from that look like when you are retired (whether or not you are at ‘retirement age’ or not).

    Planning Points Discussed

    • Utilizing Time Efficiently
    • Capital Appreciation
    • Purchasing Power
    • Other issues (IRAs, Inflation, Financial Goals, etc.)

    Timestamps:

    2:30 - Introduction

    6:17 - Accounts Aren't Equal

    11:15 - Tax Overview

    14:46 - Maximizing Your Finances

    16:05 - Aligning Your Financial Goals

    LET'S CONNECT!

    James

    YouTube LinkedIn Website

    Scott

    Facebook Twitter Website

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    1 February 2023, 11:00 am
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