What's the best financial advice you've ever received? Here are a few answers

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 13 2013 6:35 p.m. MDT

Kathy Voorhees, left, financial adviser for Investment Manaagement Consultants, and Natalie Gochnour, associate dean of business at the University of Utah and Salt Lake Chamber chief economist, offer financial advice Friday, Aug. 9, 2013.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Merrit H. Egan says his parents raised him to be great.

From his youth on a dairy farm, his parents saw his potential. He ultimately became triple-certified in pediatrics, child psychiatry and adult psychiatry. On average, 22 applicants nationally are admitted into this program each year.

Egan passed this legacy on to his 11 children, whom he and his wife raised to pursue education and "honorable employment," according to daughter Kathy Voorhees, who says she still follows this charge.

There is little surprise, then, that daughter Natalie Gochnour said the best financial advice she received from her parents was to "place a substantial premium on the future."

"While that doesn't seem profound, we get so caught up in the here and now and in the latest want or need we have or in the latest either gimmick or philosophy about investing or whatever it is," said Gochnour, associate dean of business at the University of Utah and chief economist for the Salt Lake Chamber Of Commerce.

Often, she said, we do not value the future enough.

With the national and state economy lurching from the recession, the reported financial behavior of most Americans shows a need for this financial advice.

Less than a quarter of Americans have enough saved up to last for six months, 50 percent have funds for less than three months and 27 percent do not have emergency savings, according to research released in June by Bankrate.com.

Not only are most Americans living paycheck to paycheck, but most are not confident they will be able to retire comfortably.

Thirteen percent of 1,254 surveyed respondents ages 25 and older were "very confident" that they had enough money to retire comfortably, according to the 2013 Retirement Confidence Survey done by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

While 38 percent are "somewhat confident," 21 percent are "not too confident" and 28 percent are "not at all confident" in their retirement savings.

The Deseret News reached out to Utahns who have learned financial lessons to find out the best financial advice they ever received. The question is, who will heed it?

Kathy Voorhees, financial adviser

Financial prudence comes naturally to Voorhees, who for the past two decades has made a living out of dispensing financial advice.

Voorhees tells her clients that they have five options. The first four are: Start saving early, spend less money, invest more aggressively or work longer after retirement age. The fifth, she jokes, is not most people's preference: die sooner.

A financial adviser for Investment Management Consultants, she said the best investment is in one's self.

"That means get as much education as you can. That way you enhance yourself while at the same time enhancing your potential earning power,” Voorhees said.

Her parents encouraged her and her 10 siblings to be educated.

She internalized this legacy of learning throughout her career, working as a schoolteacher and eventually transitioning into her current position.

She and her husband have a combined family of nine children, all of whom have bachelor's degrees. Three have post-graduate medical degrees, two have MBAs, one is a registered nurse, two are professional teachers and one teaches at Utah Valley University.

Ken Marthia, retired

Ken Marthia, 70, retired seven years ago from a self-employed landscaping business. He and his wife bought a house in Lake Havasu, Ariz., earlier this year. She still works in Utah and handles the finances for a country club. She and Marthia will move to Lake Havasu permanently when she retires in about a year.

He said the most valuable financial advice he ever received came in stages. The first bit was from his dad.

Like many returning soldiers after World War II, his father struggled to find work. The elder Marthia worked odd jobs, saved and worked extra hours to make ends meet and "never, ever had any kind of financial trouble."

The advice?

Marthia learned the value of "slow, steady progress. Without going deep into hock. Buy what you can afford and don't ever miss a payment."

The second significant financial lesson came when he was a newlywed in his first marriage. The couple needed a new home and to "float some expenses" while they waited for their original home to sell.

A banker he knew taught Marthia about credit and how to use it without going into too much debt.

"I learned how to use it to acquire things," he said.

His final set of lessons came from his wife, Rita, whom he describes as "frugal."

They take advantage of her 401(k) plan and save for retirement by using tax-deferred IRAs. They also prioritize their purchases and avoid spending money on things they do not need, putting the money aside to pay for luxuries.

"There is a good-sized boat in my immediate future," Ken Marthia said.

When he gets it, he will pay with cash. And his pocketbook won't feel the squeeze.

Lynne Ward, money manager

From as young as 5 years old, Lynne Ward knew two things: She was going to college and it was going to be at the University of Utah.

Each birthday and Christmas, her parents had her deposit all her birthday and Christmas money into a college savings account.

From this, she internalized the habits of saving, paying off her balance each month on credit purchases and preparing for the future.

"Because tomorrow comes. And it comes fast."

As a teen, an older girl in her Girl Scout troop told Ward to save half of what she made. So, she saved half of her 16-year-old grocery store checker earnings.

She saved so she could invest in herself by going to college, she said. She put herself through college and graduated without student debt. And she used her college education to invest in her future.

Ward is executive director of the Utah Educational Savings Plan. Under her leadership, the company has reached more than $6.1 billion in assets, up from $939 million eight years ago, and it has acquired more than 228,000 additional accounts.

She handled finances for two former Utah governors, first as Gov. Michael Leavitt's planning and budget office and then as deputy chief of staff for Gov. Olene Walker. She also worked for Utah's Division of Finance and Utah State Auditor's Office.

Craig Israelsen, UVU faculty

"If you want to take volatility out of your portfolio, check it less often."

Craig Israelsen cannot recall whether he heard or read this statement by Ron Muhlenkamp, founder, president and portfolio manager of Muhlenkamp & Company Inc. He does know that it spilled into all areas of his life.

"It's the most peaceful path, to not be saturating yourself with details of the moment that simply don't matter in the long run. Only focus in the moment on what matters in the moment," he said.

Stock portfolios are meant to be long term, he said. Someone who checks their portfolio's progress each day is creating worries that will work out in the long run. He compared this behavior to a mother strapping a camera to their Boy Scout's head and sending them off to camp. Or a person who becomes convinced that a tree they planted is not growing because they check its progress every 10 minutes.

"When we live the moment-to-moment noise in the world, we create this unrest and volatility," he said.

Israelsen is the executive in residence for Utah Valley University's Financial Planning Program and speaks and consults about personal finance. He is the author and coauthor of several books, including "7Twelve: A Diversified Investment Portfolio With a Plan" and "Go, Portfolio. Go!" an investment primer.

Don Milne, bank financial literacy manager

Even though Don Milne works for a bank and has a degree in finance, he says he has not always handled money well.

In 2003, after being married for more than 20 years, he and his wife had accumulated $26,000 in consumer debt.

Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University changed things for him.

"The best thing that I've learned is it's all about behavior. It's not about knowledge," Milne said.

So he and his wife began changing their behavior. They met monthly to create spending plans. They followed Ramsey's advice for food, clothing and entertainment expenses, keeping a set amount of cash in envelopes for each pay period.

They eliminated their debt, reduced their spending and improved their relationship.

"We have to find something else to argue about than money these days," he said.

He passed this knowledge on to his own children. One of his daughters saved up and bought a minivan for $17,000 in cash when she was newly wed at 27. She and her husband continue to pay for major expenses with cash.

Milne is the financial literacy manager for Zions Bank. He tours schools in Utah and Idaho giving financial success tips and helps manage the bank's partnership with Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University.

Melissa Eddy, occupational therapist

Growing up, Melissa Eddy knew that she did not want to have the level of debt that her parents had. She did not want to live paycheck to paycheck.

At 29, she is an occupational therapist, works part time and brings in $50,000 per year.

She is also debt-free.

After going into $30,000 of debt for a master's degree, she was able to pay off the balance within three years.

She was able to buy a car and have a flexible work schedule because she did not have loan payments.

Her secret? Never accrue debt that amounts to more than half of what you can make annually.

"It just feels good to not be in debt. You just don't have to worry about that extra payment you have to pay."

Email: wevans@deseretnews.com

Twitter: whitevs7

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