Yearly Archives:2015

Know What You Know…And What You Don’t Know

MGM smaller file By: Mary Grace Musuneggi

Many years ago when I moved into my first home, it had a metallic black, silver and orange wallpapered bathroom. I had to replace that wallpaper.

Being a “type-A” personality, I cannot wait for anything. In fact, I am so bad that I don’t play board games or go golfing…I never like having to wait my turn.

So I had to replace that wallpaper immediately.

Money was tight back then, and I knew I could only afford the project if I did it myself. I rationalized that I was an intelligent, well-educated person, so I should be able to do anything. It’s a good thing I didn’t apply that same kind of logic when I needed to have my gall bladder removed or when I had to have a root canal. As it turned out, hanging the wallpaper was just as painful.

After three days of stripping, measuring, cutting and hanging, it was blatantly apparent that I had no talent for wallpapering. So in the end I did what I should have done in the first place: I called a professional who charged me twice the price she normally would have because she needed to undo the damage I had done before she could do it right.

That experience taught me the cheapest way is never the best way. Talent, expertise, and knowledge are invaluable tools that are worth paying for.

Being intelligent actually means being smart enough to know what you don’t know. So, I don’t hang wallpaper, I don’t perform surgery, and I don’t do root canals. My interior decorator, my surgeon, and my dentist all appreciate that. And in return, they do not do their own financial planning.

I also know that with certain things I can do, there are still people who can do them more efficiently. Filing, typing, housecleaning, yard work, changing the oil in my car…I certainly can do all of these, but they are not always worth the investment of my time.

I learned to delegate to people I know I can trust to do an excellent job. Being the best you can be means letting others be the best they can be at what they do. This leaves me more time to dedicate to my business without neglecting the other things in my life that are important.

In his Financial Literacy article, Hank Coleman explains eight tasks that are never worth anyone’s investment of time because the professionals can probably do them cheaper and faster. Plus, their expertise could guarantee a better outcome. Can you guess what made the list? Here it is:

  1. Mowing the lawn
  2. Cleaning the house
  3. Fixing anything that has to do with your car
  4. Cutting your hair
  5. Doing your taxes
  6. Financial Planning
  7. Building your own website
  8. Cleaning your swimming pool

And I have added some others to my list:

  1. Grooming the dog
  2. Washing and waxing the car
  3. Cleaning the outside of house windows
  4. Catering the big holiday party
  5. Researching anything

How many others can you add?

Take stock of your capabilities. Get a good understanding of what you can do…and then you will know what you can’t do. Do what you can do and delegate what you can’t.

A Mother’s Wisdom

MGM smaller fileBy Mary Grace Musuneggi

Although my mother passed away over 15 years ago, I still think about her every day. And with Mother’s Day approaching I think about all the special things she used to do. After she retired, she began to write in a Grandmother’s Keepsake Journal that she eventually gave to my son. It was filled with stories she wanted to share. There was a page for her likes and dislikes, everything from colors to foods. There were pages about her friends as a child and as an adult; her school years; her various jobs; her travels. And what I found most revealing were her thoughts on politics and religion.

A few years before she died, she purchased a Mother’s Keepsake Journal for me. I must confess that I have not been very diligent about completing mine, and I actually misplaced it for some time. But recently I discovered it in my storage room with a number of books I had boxed up many years ago when I moved into my current house. It holds lots of blank pages, but one completed page shares a story from my year in Kindergarten. This page asked me to describe my first memorable accomplishment.

I had not yet turned five when I started Kindergarten at Boggs Avenue Elementary School in Mt. Washington. Kindergarten in those days was more about socialization and constructive play than educational courses. So every day we sang, played, and did art projects. I really liked to play; I liked to sing; but my talents waned when it came to art projects.

One day, however, the teacher gave us a mound of clay to mold and ask us to try to make an animal. I tried and tried and nothing seemed to happen. My clay continued to look like a mound to me. Then suddenly the teacher came over, picked it up, turned to the class and said, “Look! Isn’t this wonderful. Mary Grace made a cow.” Really? It didn’t look much like a cow to me. That certainly was not my plan. But young as I was I knew not to contradict my elders, especially when they were saying good things…and especially when it was all about me. So I painted my cow and let it dry and in a few days I took it home.

I gave it to my mother, and I related the story of how the cow came to be. With a smile on her face she said to me, “That’s life. Sometime successes come by accident. The important thing is to just be; show up; and keep trying. And you will find that sometimes you are in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing.” My mother was so wise.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the wise and wonderful moms we know.

Home Equity Loans for Sending Your Kids to…the Prom?

IMG_6354 (167x250)By Rosalind M. Frazier

As the mother of three young women, I know the cost of raising children. As a financial advisor, I know the importance of planning for the significant events in their lives, like their education and weddings. As a parent, I know I am responsible for providing them with food, shelter and clothing. But all of this responsible planning changes when it comes time to clothe them for…The Prom.

Having attended proms in my high school years, I thought I would be prepared when my eldest announced she was going to her Junior Prom. I remembered that in my prom days, for the girls, it all came down to the dress. It had to be just right…the right style, the right color. But in my day, it didn’t have to be a designer name and a designer price tag.

A 2014 Visa survey showed the average cost of prom as more than $1,000, and much of this is for the dress. With famous actresses and musicians for their models, many girls’ prom fantasy now includes dressing like a Kardashian or Taylor Swift. And that comes at a price.

The thought of spending that much money on a wedding dress brings anxiety and stress, let alone having to spend it on a one-occasion prom gown. And then, what are parents to do if their darling daughter goes to multiple proms? She certainly can’t be seen in the same dress twice (just ask her).

And it doesn’t end there, as the right dress requires the right shoes, the right purse, the right jewelry, the perfect updo…and let’s not forget the manicures and pedicures.

When I was a teenager, my family had limited funds for “extras.” We had three girls in the family who were all teenagers at the same time. Things that were not necessities were put on the backburner. And our friends’ families’ financial situations were pretty much the same. If we were all to be properly dressed for the prom, we needed to be creative. So one year, when a number of us were going to more than one prom, we all bought new dresses for the first one and switched with each other for the next.

Today, creative methods still exist. You can budget, borrow, bargain, rent, or ebay.

To keep some control over the cost, parents can begin by setting a budget. Limiting what your daughter can spend will limit the scope of where she looks, or it will encourage her to be creative about how she spends the budgeted amount.

Borrowing dresses is still an option. Many parents would be thrilled to think their daughter’s last year’s prom dress will be worn by someone this year. Having it used more than once may make them feel the cost is somehow reduced. If your daughter has a friend who is going to a different school’s prom on a different night and wears the same size as her, agree to share the cost and share the dress.

Bargains can also be found if you take the time to visit department and bridal stores at the end of one season and before the start of another. And upscale resale shops in fashionable neighborhoods are the source of great values on slightly used or  even never worn dresses.

Don’t forget to take advantage of the Internet. A lot of companies offer Internet-only specials, and sites like eBay and online dress rental shops are a viable option.

For most young girls, the prom may seem like it’s all about the dress, but in the end it is only one night. And ten or twenty years from now the memories they cherish will be about the good time they shared with their friends rather than what they wore. Breaking the budget to buy the dress today is unlikely to mean all that much later. So, Mom and Dad, set the budget and work with your daughter to find that special dress without having to take out a home equity loan.

Save that route for college education.


Rosalind M. Frazier is the Vice President of Operations for The Musuneggi Financial Group, headquartered in Scott Township, PA.
Bidwell, A. (2014). The prom bubble has burst, but it still costs parents. US News & World Report. Retrieved from Securities & Investment Advisory Services Offered Through H. Beck, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC. H. Beck, Inc. and The Musuneggi Financial Group, LLC are not affiliated.