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Successful Women

SUMMER 2015

Dining ‘al desko’

Taking a real lunch break can fuel productivity and resilience

If your typical work lunch consists of wolfing down a sandwich in between meetings and emails, you’re not alone. In a 2014 OfficeTeam study, 29% of workers surveyed said they work through lunch, and 48% said their typical lunch break lasts fewer than 30 minutes.

Some busy office workers skip lunch by choice to compress their workday and get home to their families, but others simply feel working through lunch is the only way to keep up with the workload. However, both camps should note that taking a break midday has been shown to increase productivity and, depending on how you use the time, give your mood a boost. The main idea is avoiding burnout by getting away from your desk to recharge, according to research from Chris Cunningham, professor of occupational health psychology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

It’s time to start dining al fresco instead of al desko. Here are five ways to spend your lunch that have a solid return on investment.

Face-to-face time

Your lunch break is an opportunity to socialize and make or maintain friendships at work. There’s plenty of evidence that having friends at work makes you more content. A 2012 Gallup report shows that strong connections at work can fuel passion for your work and even make you more productive and less likely to quit.

Walk it off

Getting exercise during the workday has health benefits that go beyond clearing your head. A study published in January in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports showed that a lunchtime walk left participants feeling enthusiastic and more able to cope with work
challenges. Plus, it also increased fitness levels.

Give yourself the present

Allowing yourself to be in the moment, whether it’s enjoying your food or interacting with nature, can be an exercise in replenishment. Resist the urge to multitask and let yourself be present. The human brain is not wired to multitask, and doing so comes at a cognitive cost, according to research from MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller.

Make it personal

If you really are constantly pressed for time, maybe it’s time to switch from work tasks to personal ones for a sense of accomplishment and a change of pace. Try doing things that must be done during business hours, such as a trip to the bank.

Power down

Sometimes, there’s just not enough coffee in the world to regain focus. In these cases, take a 10-minute nap (perhaps in your car) to increase your alertness. A 2006 study in the journal Sleep reported that’s the ideal amount of time to rest without getting groggy.

Of course, there will always be days when working through lunch is the only way to meet your deadline.
For those days, it’s still important to take a few moments for yourself when you can. The rest of the time, make it
a priority to recharge your batteries midday to avoid running out of juice. 

Were you meant to mentor?

You have much to gain from sharing insights with a protégé

You have a new colleague who’s smart, driven and maybe reminds you a bit of yourself when you were new to the company. She’s made it clear that she admires you and asks you to be her mentor – should you say yes?

Studies show it’s a good career move. People who step up to mentor a colleague are more satisfied with their jobs and experience a greater sense of purpose, according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior. It can also lead to a raise: Sun Microsystems’ five-year study of its mentorship program found that 28% of mentors and 25% of protégés saw their salaries increase, compared with 5% of workers who didn’t participate in the program. Promotions also were a perk – mentors were six times more likely to move up the ladder, and mentees were five times more likely to move up than those without mentors.

Reaping the benefits

If you’re uncertain if you can make the time to help someone grow and progress in their career, consider the rewards it can bring. You’re bound to get more than the satisfaction of helping someone find success, such as:

  • Building your skills. The best mentorships are a two-way street, with both parties learning from the experience. Mentoring typically builds your leadership and management skills. You also could learn new things from co-workers just out of college.
  • Keeping talent in-house. Everyone wants to work with intelligent, motivated people. Build future leaders, maybe even a successor, by helping them meet their goals. For the next generation of women seeking advancement, this is key.
  • Expanding your professional network. A protégé can help open new doors for you in the same way you do for them.
  • Paying it forward. Chances are someone helped you get where you are. This is your chance to give back and continue that tradition.
  • Gaining a sense of empowerment. Having someone ask for and listen to your advice can boost your confidence – you know more than you think you know.

Mastering mentorship

Being a mentor doesn’t have to be a huge drain on your time and energy. Even 15 minutes of your time each week can make a difference. The key is to make your expectations for the relationship clear from the start – how much time you can spend, the confidentiality you need, and the method of communication you prefer.

You can help your protégé in a number of ways. Invite them to sit in on meetings you’re conducting and explain why you took a particular direction. Talk to them about their goals, share anecdotes about your career, connect them with people relevant to their job path, and share tips and tricks for navigating the workplace.

The power of support

Mentorship can be extremely beneficial, especially for women striving for equal pay (women who work full time earn only 78 cents for every dollar men earn, according to the U.S. Census Bureau). However, many miss out. Nearly 63% of women said they’ve never had a mentor in a study published by Development Dimensions International in 2014.

There’s one surefire way to change this situation – volunteer to be a mentor, formally through a company mentoring program or informally. If you know of a potential protégé, offer to take them under your wing and be involved in shaping the next generation of leaders. 

The realities of remarriage

A new union can and should change your financial future

For a variety of reasons, second (or third) marriages are becoming the norm. And even as they bring emotional richness to your life, blended families – with ex-spouses, step kids and half siblings – add complexity to financial and retirement planning. To help your marriage withstand some of the common pitfalls that trip up a relationship, it’s important to make time to talk about your new financial realities. Here are four questions to keep in mind.

What are your priorities?

Any marriage requires establishing joint financial priorities and setting the wheels in motion to try to achieve them. Start by taking inventory of your collective assets and liabilities, property, insurance coverage, banking, retirement and brokerage accounts – pretty much anything that has to do with money.

You’ll also need to discuss how much debt you each have, your credit histories, and what exactly you owe to other parties. What if alimony isn’t enough for an ex who constantly demands more? Or you use debt to buy lavish gifts for your children out of guilt after the divorce? Your spouse should know about those payments so you can work together on a plan to take care of your family without jeopardizing your financial future together.

It’s also a good idea to think about how much each of you should contribute if there are disparities in income and to what accounts (his, hers and ours, perhaps?), as well as how you’ll pay for your children’s needs and bills you incur as a family.

Who gets what, when?

Getting married is one of those life events that should automatically trigger a review of your estate planning documents. It’s an opportunity for each of you to review your will, trust documents and beneficiaries on everything from your financial and retirement accounts to insurance and annuities. You’ll also need to determine how your property will be titled.

What about the kids?

With second marriages often come blended families or the creation of a new one. Ideally, everyone will get along, and you and your ex will easily come to a fair agreement as to which family will pay for certain expenses. But it doesn’t always work that way. The court will mandate certain responsibilities, but invariably nonobligatory expenses will crop up. Decide now whether one of the biological parents will be responsible for this support, whether it’ll be a joint expense between the parents or whether you and your new spouse will pay and where the money will come from.

What about retirement?

And as you consider your financial realities, don’t forget to take your future wants and needs into account. When it comes to retirement planning, there are a number of factors to consider. And some depend on the divorce decree from the earlier marriage. Did the ex-spouse claim half of the retirement assets in the divorce? If so, that means you may have less to retire on as a couple, and you’ll need to plan for that.

Social Security benefits also come into play, particularly if you’re considering marriage later in life. Social Security rules allow exes and widows/widowers to collect benefits on their previous spouses’ records under certain circumstances. But remarriage generally means those spousal benefits will go away unless the later marriage also ends (see ssa.gov for more information).  

Material prepared by Raymond James for use by its advisors.