Michelle's Blog

A resource for the thoughts and writings of Michelle Brennan Hall

Michelle Brennan Hall is a veteran wealth advisor with more than 25 years of experience advising clients to anticipate risk while accumulating financial capital for all stages of life. Beginning her career in retirement planning in Dallas, she is now responsible for guiding the financial future of hundreds of families. She is credited with creating the Financial Life Map Strategy™ to address varying financial objectives in a seamless, comprehensive plan.


Experienced in retirement and legacy planning, Michelle’s strategies are designed to connect family objectives to a plan that is intended for multiple generations. With a mission to inspire investor confidence, she and her dedicated team of professionals help clients map out the road ahead to financial well-being.


Michelle has a BBA in Finance from the University of North Texas and holds securities registrations 6, 7, 24, 53, 63, 65 and the Life & Health insurance registration through FSC Securities Corporation. Michelle also earned a Certified Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP) degree that allows her to apply her financial knowledge to assist high net worth investors with legacy and philanthropic planning efforts.


Giving to others through local community involvement is another of Michelle’s passions. Serving alongside her sons at local charities and supporting many national causes with her husband is an annual family commitment. She is also involved in multiple professional organizations including the Financial Planning Association, Financial Services Institute and the Dallas chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO).


As a noted financial advisor in Dallas, Michelle frequently shares her expertise in the media. She has contributed to local ABC affiliate WFAA-TV, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, New York Newsday, The Dallas Morning News, Dallas Business Journal, Huffingtonpost.com, Next Avenue and Forbes.com.

Don't Retire

I am often asked, “When should I retire?” Without fail my answer is the same, “Not for a long time.” Retirement has drastically changed over the 26 years I’ve been a wealth advisor. As longevity trends and industry norms change, so too must retirees’ expectations of the golden years. While the jury is still out on whether early retirement can be correlated to a short life, I recommend a long working life for a variety of reasons. Not only can working longer be good for your money, it can also be good for your health, long-term outlook and family relationships. Here are my top three recommendations for retirees: 1)    Wait as long as you can to retire. Remember it is time IN the market that is a cornerstone of accumulating wealth and higher pension and social security payments. 2)    When planning for retirement income, consider preparing for 100% of your working income....
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Smart Women Avoid These Financial Blunders

Today’s female is in charge of, well, EVERYTHING. Earning a living, navigating corporate promotions, raising a family, being charitable, staying healthy and financially fit are all a priority. Below is a list of mistakes that if you can avoid, should put you on a course of owning and improving your net worth. Top 10 financial mistakes: 10: No investments in your name. 9: Allowing your husband to make all financial decisions. 8: Blindly signing your tax return without knowing your taxes. 7: Not knowing how much it costs for you to live. 6: Waiting for a raise instead of asking for one. 5: You have money at the bank but no retirement funds. 4: Not investing until you get married, your kids to go to school or you get a promotion. 3: You don’t believe in your ability to make financial decisions. 2: You selected your job because it’s your passion; not for salary, benefits or what...
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Be the Boss: Avoid these Executive Retirement Hazards

Running a company and being an excellent operator does not always translate to being smart about personal wealth. Here are the most costly retirement hazards of executives and business owners and smart ways to combat them. Under-funding retirement is most dangerous to your long-term goals. Executives are usually capped at lower contribution amounts for retirement plans due to “highly compensated” IRS rules. Business owners tend to focus on building the business and neglect investing personally. Smart Idea: Commit to investing personally 20% of your gross income annually for retirement. In a combination of retirement plans at work and non-retirement investments personally; committing to build wealth outside of business strengthens your financial stability. Over concentration in company stock or business interest is another risk to building retirement wealth. I see this often when executives have stock option plans, stock purchase plans and/or employer matching in company stock. The question is how...
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Michelle's Money Manifesto for Women

Today's female has a bright future and given life expectancy projections, it is a future that females must begin financially preparing for earlier and earlier in life. As a gender, women still lack traction in wealth accumulation, financial independence and money confidence. Read my Money Manifesto for Women and see how many boxes you can check and which one will be your new idea to advance your financial independence. Michelle's Money Manifesto for Women: Stop waiting. There is no better time than now. Waiting to be married, for kids to go to school, for a promotion, for things to settle down, for the divorce to be final before you start investing just puts off investing. It also puts off your chances of becoming financially independent. If you wait until tomorrow, today will just be another day gone by without a plan for your money. Start young. Time IN the market...
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Don’t Be A Lemming: When the Street gets it wrong

Looking back is easy to do. It’s looking ahead that is difficult. Yogi Berra said it best, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”  This year capital markets started with a jolt of news to digest in January, which sent the stock market into a tailspin and traders predicting Armageddon. Analysts brought down earnings expectations for the 1st quarter as talks of recession loomed.  Interestingly, the people closest to news and markets (traders and analysts) missed the elephant in the room….strong economic fundamentals. In their unfounded panic, they missed critical data points like jobs growth, wage growth, strength in housing and auto sales, corporate buybacks increasing and job openings on the rise.  With so much positive data and forward looking statistics for 2016, why did traders get the jitters in January and sell? Plain and simple, they just got it wrong and the herd effect took over.  Looking forward,...
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The Chapters of Retirement

The five phases of life after 50 & the considerations that accompany them. The journey to and through retirement occurs gradually, like successive chapters in a book. Each chapter has its own things to consider.  Chapter 1 (the fifties). At this stage of life, retirement becomes less like a far-off dream and more like a forthcoming reality. You begin to think about when you can retire, and about taking the right steps to retire comfortably.    By one measure, men have their peak earning years in their mid-fifties. Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows the median male worker earning 127% of his initial salary at that time. The peak earning years for women are harder to statistically gauge, as some women leave the paid workforce for years-long intervals. In inflation-adjusted terms, earnings actually peak earlier in life. PayScale estimates that on average, pay growth for women flattens...
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How Women Can Narrow the Retirement Saving Gender Gap

Steps toward saving more & revitalizing your retirement strategy.   When it comes to retirement saving, many women lag behind many men. Historically, that has been the case. The 2015 edition of Financial Finesse’s annual survey, The Gender Gap in Financial Literacy, offers more evidence of the problem – along with a few encouraging signs that women may be catching up. (Financial Finesse is a financial education provider for more than 600 large U.S. companies sponsoring retirement plans.)1    Deep in the report, some disturbing statistics emerge. They concern the pace of retirement saving in mid-career. Using data from Vanguard and the Employee Benefit Research Institute, Financial Finesse found that the median IRA and workplace retirement plan savings balance for a 45-year-old woman was $43,446. For a 45-year-old man, it was $63,875.1   Obviously, you cannot retire on that. So Financial Finesse then gauged the additional amount of savings that...
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2016 Retirement Plan Contribution Limits

Tame yearly inflation means very little change.   Over the past 12 months, consumer prices have increased very little. The latest Consumer Price Index (September) shows 0.0% yearly inflation and only 1.9% core yearly inflation. That means no cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security, and very few IRS adjustments to retirement plan contribution limits.1    Roth IRA & traditional IRA contribution limits stay the same for 2016. Those 49 and younger in 2016 can contribute up to $5,500 to their IRAs, while those 50 and older will be able to contribute $6,500.2  401(k), 403(b), 457 & TSP annual contribution limits are also unchanged. Savers will be able to defer up to $18,000 into these plans in 2016 with an additional catch-up contribution of up to $6,000 permitted for those 50 or older.3      SIMPLE IRAs? No COLA for those accounts either. The base contribution limit for a SIMPLE IRA stays at...
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Reining in Your Debt

Americans are spending freely again. That has a downside. As the Great Recession faded, American household debt gradually decreased. In fact, it declined by $1 trillion between mid-2008 and mid-2014, according to the Federal Reserve.1  Now household debt is increasing once more. The Fed found it climbing by $78 billion (0.7%) during Q3 2014.1  On the macroeconomic level, that can be interpreted as a positive: it hints at greater consumer spending, easier credit, and more lending taking place to accommodate consumer borrowers. On a microeconomic level, it is more troublesome. It may mean a change in perception, with debt not seeming as onerous as it once did.  If households really are looking at debt through rosier-colored glasses, they might do well to remember an inescapable fact. When they use a credit card or take out a consumer loan, they are borrowing money they do not have for things they do...
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When a Minor is a Beneficiary

Some factors for parents & grandparents to consider. Naming a minor as a beneficiary brings up a major concern. If parents or grandparents make a child a primary or contingent beneficiary of an insurance policy, IRA or investment account, they should be aware that most policies and investments will not directly transfer to a minor. They need to be received by a court-approved property guardian, a trustee of a children’s trust, or a revocable living trust beforehand.1  State laws prevent children from receiving large lump sums. They commonly prohibit minors from owning real property worth more than $2,500-5,000 (the limit varies per state) or receiving cash inheritances greater than that. It is incredibly rare for insurers to distribute life insurance proceeds to minors.1,3  As for POD checking and savings accounts and CDs, banks will usually allow the child or the child's parent(s) to receive sums less than the aforementioned limits....
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