Debra's Blog

A resource for the thoughts and writings of Debra Brennan Tagg

Debra Brennan Tagg is the Managing Partner of Brennan Financial Services and a nationally recognized speaker and author in the financial industry.  Debra developed and utilizes the DBT360 system, a comprehensive program that curates holistic and tailored solutions to meet the retirement, investment management, and estate planning goals of executive families and small business owners.  Debra lives in Dallas with her husband and two children, and outside of the office enjoys yoga, travel, writing, photography, music, and skiing.

Be Careful Who Your Joneses Are

I asked my client why he and his wife recently went on a safari, when they knew without question that they couldn’t afford it.   “Well, my neighbor decided to go and asked us to go along. What else was I going to say?”   I exercised a moment of patience, but couldn’t help myself. “How about - no?”   “Oh, come on. I knew you would say that. But really, would you have said no?”   Of course I would have said no. Then if I really, really wanted to go, I would have saved until I could go, and then I would have said yes. But I’m a financial planner.   I would love to act like my client is a one-off. He’s not. A recent Wall Street Journal article highlighted a study released by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia that documented that the neighbors of lottery winners...
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A Guide to Loving Your Millennial Employee

A Guide to Loving Your Millennial Employee   1.  Remember why you hired them. 2.  They’re innovative. Let them be that way. In fact, celebrate it. 3.  Be fascinated by what you and your millennial can teach each other. 4.  Mentor them. 5.  Admire their love for life - they want to make a difference and have fun while doing it. 6.  Give them structure.   Everywhere I go these days it seems like GenXers and Baby Boomers are talking about their millennials. They're not talking about Susanne - the new attorney, or Joe - the new hire. No, they're talking about their millennials. Just like women are not a marketing niche, millennials are not a generation of indistinguishable rubes that just want to go on vacation. I find it interesting that repeatedly one generation of people raises the next in a particular manner, but then lacks the awareness to recognize...
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Don't Miss the Next Market Webinar: Feb. 1 at 3:30

Fourth Quarter 2016 Market Report   2016 started off as the worst year in US stock market history, and ended with a surprising post-election gain in the US stock market.  During this webcast we’ll tell you what happened in between, as well as how the other financial markets are reacting.  We’ll look at the factors that were turning points for us, and whether we see them influencing 2017. If you have questions about the market or economy that you would like addressed on the call, please direct them to Lindsay at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .   Click here to reserve your spot   Date: February 1, 2017 Time: 3:30 PM CST   After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
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Long Term Care: You May Not Need a Policy, but You Need a Plan

When people imagine retirement, they tend to conjure images of themselves as being healthy, happy, and fully capable of doing what they want to do. However, as people live longer and longer, we know that sometimes our bodies start to fail before our minds do, or that our minds start to fail before our bodies do. None of that is pleasant to talk about, but it is even less pleasant to confront this scenario without a plan in place.   A long-term care plan is just that: a plan. A long-term care plan is not necessarily an insurance policy. A properly designed plan is a combination of emotional, physical, and financial decisions that you have thoughtfully made with your family and other caregivers. You don’t want to make the plan one surprise at a time, especially if you will one day say, “We have no choice but to…” As a financial planner, my...
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How Much Can I Contribute to My 401(k)? Better Question: How Much Should I Contribute to My 401(k)?

My clients are like an extension of my family, and I focus my energy on helping them get to a place where they are confident in their plan. So when I see study after study that says that Americans aren’t saving enough to reach their goals, it makes me think they can do better than that with just a basic education on what it would mean to invest more. According to a year-end report by NerdWallet, only 29% of respondents were confident that they saved enough for retirement in 2016. And of those actually saving, only 32% plan to increase their contributions in 2017. To put salt in the wound, a January 3 article in the Wall Street Journal titled “The Champions of the 401(k) Lament the Revolution They Started” outlines what a failure the 401(k) has been as a tool for Americans to plan for retirement. At all income levels,...
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Qualified Charitable Distributions Help IRA Owners to Avoid Taxes

As we begin to wind down the year, many Americans are looking for ways to donate to charities, and their tax and financial advisors are looking for ways to lower their tax burden. IRA owners over the age of 70 ½ need to fulfill a Required Minimum Distribution by December 31. A Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) is an opportunity for taxpayers over the age of 70½ to make required distributions from their IRAs payable directly to a charity and to skip the taxation of the distribution all together.   Here are some key details about how it works:   -The donor/taxpayer must be over 70½ years old.   -The full distribution must go directly to the charity, not the IRA owner. The IRS will not recognize “reimbursements” for previous withdrawals as a QCD.   -No more than $100,000 can be contributed as a QCD.   -The recipient must be a public...
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Protect Your Data and Yourself Around the Holidays

With the holidays on the horizon, you might be considering shopping online and traveling. We all know that hackers are on the prowl day and night these days, especially as more and more of our information is uploaded to the cloud and streamed across the internet.   Here are some tips for you to consider to protect yourself and your data:   If you are not expecting a package or have not ordered anything recently, do not open e-mails about deliveries. Hackers design messages like these to entice you to open the e-mail, which is actually a source of attack - allowing the hacker to corrupt your system, steal account information, or steal your identity.   Do not open any attachments or click on links in e-mails from anyone you don’t know, or e-mails you aren’t expecting. Instead, go directly to the company’s website (i.e. your bank, UPS, FedEx, the retailer)...
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Feeling Hopeless? Put in an application

Feeling hopeless about our country? Dallas Police Chief David Brown says, “Put in an application.”   I am lucky to live in Dallas, a city that doesn’t sit idly by for very long when it sees an opportunity to really get something done. Dallas is vibrant and bold, a direct reflection of its people. Our city reluctantly hit the world stage July 7 when five of our police officer citizens were brutally gunned down, and I became one of millions that hung on Dallas Police Chief David Brown’s words every time he opened his mouth in the weeks following the event. His forthright and heartfelt responses to media Q&A provided a sense of calm as he tried to make sense of the events and how we can heal. When asked what we can do as a city to support the police, he simply responded, “Put in an application.” I am proud...
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Third Quarter (2016) Market Report

Does anyone remember how this year started in the financial markets? We began 2016 with a sharp downturn in oil and stocks – indeed it was the worst start to a calendar year that the S&P 500 has ever had. Not only have we recovered from those lows (the S&P 500 closed at 1,829 on February 11, and at 2,168 on September 30), but we have seen many sectors on both the stock and bond side post positive returns through the end of the third quarter. The summer had relatively low volatility, which kept the domestic stock market range-bound. Volatility picked up in September, but not to the level that some media pundits predicted. While it is possible that volatility increases again as we approach the election, getting beyond the election should be good for the market.  As we all know, financial markets dislike uncertainty more than anything, so knowing the...
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Gifting Made Better: Donor Advised Funds

Americans have always been very charitable, but in this Information Age, donors are demanding more accountability, transparency, and individual choice, so that their philanthropic dollars are truly being used well. This is evidenced by the $37M raised last week by individuals through North Texas Giving Day, a “day of giving” event hosted by Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT).   I work with high net worth investors, families, and small business owners, so I have frequent discussions about charitable giving.  What I often find is that the donor makes a heartfelt decision to donate in order to achieve a greater good, but each decision is made “one-off” and not as part of a greater strategy tailored to what the donor wants to achieve. So how do donors make their charitable choices more specific to them, and possibly more meaningful over the long-term?  Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) offer one excellent solution, and have...
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