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Big Adventures in Africa

A visit to Africa is a big adventure, the size of the continent, varied countries, wildlife and cultures all combine to make this trip one you will never forget.

We opted for a photo safari which was a long -time dream of mine. I researched and purchased a wonderful new camera and began to learn how to use it as part of my trip planning.  We chose to concentrate in Tanzania and planned our trip around the weather at the time of year best to see the biggest variety of animals and to be the most comfortable.  You are outside for long hours each day.  Our safari was 2 and ½ weeks followed by a week in Zanzibar to relax at the beach.

We used an outfitter, Adventures Within Reach who have helped us with other trips (Galapagos, Patagonia and Machu Picchu). We were a group of six so we had our own on the ground guide, and truck driver for the entire trip.

The adventure begins right away, the trip is long and once you arrive in Dar es Salaam we boarded an in country flight to Arusha. Flying over Africa and viewing the vast plains below reminded me of books I had read about the beauty of Africa.    

Our trip began in Arusha where we picked up our guide and driver. The safari truck had view windows on all sides but was well protected which is a good thing when elephants are running after you.   Lake Manyara National Park was our first stop.  This region is known for the flamingos at the lake, and is home to 400 species of birds.  Leopards, West African lions, cheetahs, elephants, blue monkeys, dik-dik, gazelles, hippopotami, Masai giraffe, impala and zebras are some of the animals we saw. We stopped at a hippo park where we could disembark the truck (not allowed elsewhere) where we were told we could observe form a safe distance.  After stopping I wonder about this, it is dangerous.  But it was fun to be so close.

Massia Mara National Reserve

From there we went to Norongro crater which was a natural wonder. Our tented camp in Manyara was a former hunting camp, now a preserve, our huts at the rim of the crater overlooked a beautiful forest full of leopards, and birds.  It was stunning.

We visited Olduvai Gorge in the Great Rift Valley to experience one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. Then on to The Serengeti to stay on the vast plains.  We arranged for a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti at dawn, which was breathtaking, followed by a brunch in the bush.  A singular experience.

We were fortunate to see all of the big game, lions, hunting at night and during the day, leopard, rhinoceros, and elephants (my favorite) African buffalo, along with the hippos, various snakes (black mamba and pythons) and countless birds. The love birds flew in flocks of hundreds and were magnificent.

The people were wonderful and interesting, we visited an orphanage and walked through villages, stopped at a Maasi village, and talked to the women there, attended a prince’s funeral, participated in an annual Massai mating celebration, and were taken to a nomadic camp of Bushman where they showed us how to use their bows and arrows to kill scarce game.

Relaxing in Zanzibar was wonderful, the beaches are beautiful, accommodations perfection and the history of the spice trade very interesting. The Red Colobus monkey is beautiful, filled with personality and is only found in the forests of Zanzibar.

This is a trip I would highly recommend to everyone, it can be dangerous, tiring, sad, and thrilling, but is truly a singular experience.  I would love to go back to see the gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda-my next African stop!

 

 

 

Hikes We Like

By Justin Laue, Harbor Intern

Our first adventure of many in the summer of 2018 began with the classic outdoor activities of camping and hiking. We set off from Boulder headed towards the sparsely populated town of Gypsum, Colorado. We began to lose light as we approached the campsite and couldn’t quite appreciate the spot we had chosen until the next morning.

After a long weekend of campfires, tubing trips down the Colorado River, and lots of laughs we packed up and started our journey home. Along the way we saw a sign for “Hanging Lake Trail” and since everyone heard about this supposedly gorgeous natural landmark we decided to test our luck and drove up to the parking lot.

As we pulled up we were told that the lot was full and to ensure entrance most visitors arrive very early in the morning. However, luck was on our side as someone pulled out of a spot right as we were about to leave. The park ranger ushered us in and we couldn’t have been happier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hike took about an hour and had a total distance a little over a mile. The tough part of the hike was the steep path and treacherous terrain. In the end, the energy spent to get up to “Hanging Lake” and “Spouting Rock” is more than worth it. This is one of the prettiest natural landmarks I have ever seen. The water is clearer than crystal with amazing views for 360 degrees. I would highly recommend this hike to others!

 

 

Saving for College: what are my options?

By Justin Laue, Harbor Intern

Education is something most parents want for their children, but saving for it can be difficult especially with the rising cost of college tuition nationwide. The burden of debt associated with student loans can be overwhelming for young adults. Setting up a savings plan to pay for your child’s education can relieve them of this headache and push them a little further up the ladder towards financial stability. The problem is that there are numerous savings vehicles to choose from when deciding where to put away money for college. A few of these options are explained:

529 College Savings Plan

One of the most attractive college savings options is the 529 college savings plan. Money is contributed, after-tax, into these state sponsored accounts and then withdrawn tax-free for qualified expenses related to an accredited higher education institution. Fund restrictions vary from state to state, but may be used for things such as room and board in most cases. Some states also provide a state tax deduction for contributions from parents and possibly grandparents. Parents own the asset directly and retain the ability to change beneficiaries as they see fit. If one child decides not to attend college or excess funds in the account exist after a child completes college, then the funds can be transferred to a new beneficiary.

Prepaid College Tuition Plans

Prepaid plans are similar to 529 plans in their tax implications, ownership, and potential to change beneficiaries. However, major differences are present. Prepaid plans will not fluctuate in value with changes to the market as they are used to directly purchase tuition credits at a set price. You are effectively locking in today’s tuition price for use at a later date. If your child is considering an out of state school this program may not be for you as it was created specifically for in state colleges. That does not mean it can’t be used if a child changes his or her mind, but penalties will apply and some value can be lost.

UGMA/UTMA

An UGMA/UTMA account may be preferable if a child does not plan to attend a qualifying university under the 529 plan, or if he or she will need money for expenses unrelated to education. UGMA/UTMA are custodial accounts that transfer to the minor once he or she reaches the age of termination, specific to each state. These funds are then under direct control of the minor and can be spent how they choose. Tax implications differ for this savings vehicle as well. The first $1,050 invested are free of tax, while the next $1,050 is taxed at a very low (kiddie tax) rate. Unearned income (dividends, interest) in excess of $2,100 are then taxed at Trust tax levels. These plans can be preferential if your child is leaning towards trade school or has a big expense in their near future such as the purchase of a car or a wedding.

Any of these investments could be right for you and your child depending on your particular situation. The first and most important step is deciding to save. After that having a conversation with your child or trying to gauge their future aspirations is a good idea when evaluating your available savings vehicles.

Click here for additional resources.

 

 

Announcing ESG Portfolios!

Harbor Financial Group is excited to announce that we now offer two ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) portfolios as part of our investment models. One contains 100% ETF’s investments to keep investment minimums low.  We also are excited to offer a second portfolio which is a combination of actively managed Mutual funds and passive indexes which we believe as closely as possible mirrors investors ESG preferences.

ESG refers to 3 central factors in measuring the sustainability and ethical impact of an investment – environmental, social and governance. ESG funds are designed to help investors align their investments with their personal values. Our portfolio is comprised of carefully screened holdings designed to invest in clean technology and firms with socially responsible business models, especially those promoting fair employment practices and female leadership. Funds are also screened to omit investments that promote firearms/weapons, tobacco and fossil fuels.

True diversification is still difficult to achieve in this arena as many of the holdings are smaller corporations located in the United States.

Please contact us if you would like more information about these models or how you can incorporate these investments into your current portfolio.

 

 

Hikes We Like

Earlier this month we decided to do a last minute trip to Crested Butte over July 4th holiday.  Luck was on our side as we were able to find lodging that would accommodate our dog, Edna. We drove from Boulder and arrived late evening (next time, we will get an early start so we don’t miss the beautiful drive).

Our first hike was Judd Falls Trail. This was a fairly quick 2.5 mile out and back trail not far from Crested Butte. We did see some wildflowers, but were told the wildflowers are scarce this year due to lack of rain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day we decided to drive over Kebler Pass and hike Three Lakes Trail. The drive was beautiful with many large Aspen tree groves.  I can only image how spectacular it would be in the Fall.

The hike was nice –  very shady, fairly flat and about 1.5 miles out and back.  Perfect for Edna since she is not much of a hiker. We only saw a two groups of other hikers and had great weather, cloud coverage and some sprinkles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crested Butte is such a beautiful area and we hope to visit again soon!

Personal Financial Planning Program

By Justin Laue, Harbor Intern

The Personal Financial Planning, PFP program is a new track offered through Leeds School of Business at CU Boulder that helps students majoring in finance to focus their studies on the personal planning sector. Coursework is geared towards providing students with the skills necessary to assist clients by creating a financial plan. Students will gain an understanding on a broad range of financial topics paired with instruction on how to build healthy client relationships. The program gives students a clear career path as it helps prepare them for the CFP® examination and has been approved by the Certified Financial PlannerTM Board of Standards.

Photo by Joey Kyber on Unsplash

This new and exciting program caught my attention immediately after Tom Nelson  introduced it during one of my finance courses sophomore year. A light bulb had lit up above my head, it fit all the criteria that I had set for my career search. Business environment working with numbers and analysis, check. Exposure to a wide array of subject matters with the possibility to learn about new companies on the investment side, check. Finally, the ability to make a difference in people’s lives by helping them plan for and achieve their financial goals, check.

After an insanely hectic, busy junior year I took some time to reflect on my choice to enter the PFP program. I weighed the pros and cons and ultimately decided I was still extremely excited about my decision. It had not been an easy two semesters, but they were definitely gratifying. The road ahead wouldn’t be easy, but the challenge would fuel and propel me forward.

Numerous professionals that I’ve had the pleasure to talk with about financial planning all seem to touch on how rewarding the line of work truly is. In the coming years I can’t wait to put in the hard work necessary for a bright career in the industry. The opportunities I have been presented with thus far have helped me learn and grow into an aspiring young planner.

South of France Vacation

The South of France is a popular vacation destination for many reasons – sunny weather, great food & wine, beautiful scenery, just to name a few.   It is also home for my husband, so we are very fortunate to enjoy all of those things and get to spend time with our family!   Our family lives in the area of the beautiful Pic Saint-Loup in the Languedoc wine region, a great setting for a relaxing vacation.

The weather was perfect for long morning walks around the countryside in the charming village of Saint-Mathieu-de-Tréviers.   Surrounded by the aroma of the wild thyme and rosemary in the garrigue and the beautiful views, it was such a peaceful way to work off those morning croissants. It seems no matter which direction you walk, you can find amazing views of the Pic Saint-Loup and the surrounding vineyards.

As both my husband and I were celebrating our birthdays during this trip, we did a few special things. We had a delicious seafood lunch at Chez Francois in the port city of Sète.    A lunch of the local fish would not be complete without a bottle of the local white wine, Picpoul-de-Pinet.   Sète is a bustling city with an active fishing harbor, a network of canals to stroll along, and beautiful views from the hilltop of Mont St Clair. While the traffic in and out of Sète is quite heavy, it is well worth the trip and was a great way to spend my birthday!

We also spent an afternoon on a small group wine tour with our family. We visited local vineyards and tasted so many wines, while learning about their techniques and history from our tour guide, Bertrand from Instant Terroir. The wine tour ended with a delicious dinner prepared by Marie, Bertrand’s mother, in their historic family home. The Languedoc region produces excellent wines! Some of our favorites are from Mas Bruguiere, Château La Roque, and Domaine Pech-Tort.

Our vacation ended with a lovely birthday party for us with our family and friends – we shared the biggest bottle of champagne that I have ever seen!

While we are clearly biased as it is a ‘home away from home’ for us, the Languedoc region and nearby areas are some of the most beautiful places in France – bordering the Mediterranean and the infamous region of Provence!   We already can’t wait for our next trip.  À Bientôt!

 

Welcome interns!

We are happy to announce the recent hiring of two new interns at Harbor!

Reed Crowson has joined Harbor’s team as a Wealth Management Intern with an investment focus.  He is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and Accounting at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado with an expected graduation date of May 2020.

Reed Crowson

Justin Laue has joined Harbor’s team as a Wealth Management Intern with a financial planning focus. He is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Finance with the Personal Financial Planning option from the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado with an anticipated graduation date of May 2019.

Justin Laue

 

Due Diligence Needed in Socially Responsible Investing

Environmental, social and governance exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are heavily marketed right now, and the idea that you could avoid profiting from corporate practices you consider unethical is appealing. The problem is many of these managed funds and ETFs marketed with socially-conscious monikers contain investments that might surprise you, while others include companies that have not been socially responsible in the past. An additional issue is creating enough diversification in your portfolio with such a limited number of options.

Screening Environmental, Social and Governance ETFs

Screening for stocks you don’t want to buy is called negative, or avoidance, screening. Common negative screens include tobacco, weapons production and firearms.

While negative screening indicates companies and industries you should avoid, positive or affirmative screening results in a portfolio that is more in line with your beliefs. You can select companies that are leaders in new product creation and design, engage in fair employment practices, have a diverse board of directors, are supportive of the environment and champion human rights.

Positive screens require more analysis into the issues of employment practices, corporate governance, polluters and diversity. Given the time necessary to properly analyze each holding, it is practical to combine a well-invested environmental, social and governance (ESG) fund with several individual, positive-screened companies.

Diversifying With ESGs Can Be Challenging

True diversification is difficult with this strategy because many ESG companies are smaller corporations, which limits your ability to diversify based on company size. If you decide to add larger companies, you run into the issue that large companies are more complex. Many have long histories that may include negative qualities, which you will need to decide if you want to take into consideration or ignore. Perhaps a company in the past was a big polluter but they have changed their corporate attitude towards a cleaner more sustainable future. Is it enough that they are moving towards a more positive future, or do you want all of your investment to be in companies that never polluted?

Take an Active Role

If you want to be a socially conscious investor, you have to take an active role in determining your investment portfolio. you should monitor corporate filings to make sure the companies’ policies are acceptable, and notify them if not. Screening has come a long way; the ability for an investor to develop a diversified portfolio of socially responsible investments has been aided by more sophisticated analysis and an awareness of what the socially conscious investor is looking for. Ask what investments are in the funds you own, have discussions around your screens and look for progress towards your goals for company ownership. Then engage in regular monitoring to ensure the investments you own are in line with your beliefs.

 

Jennifer Baham Earns CFP® Certification

We have another CFP® here at Harbor!

Jennifer Baham recently passed the CFP board exam and holds the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation.  She joined Harbor in 2015 and is a Client Service Manager.

The CFP® marks identify those individuals who have met the rigorous experience and ethical requirements of the CFP Board, have successfully completed financial planning coursework and have passed the CFP® Certification Examination covering the following areas:  the financial planning process, risk management, investments, tax planning and management, retirement and employee benefits, and estate planning.  CFP® professionals also agree to meet ongoing continuing education requirements and to uphold CFP Board’s Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility, Rules of Conduct and Financial Planning Practice Standards.

Congrats Jen!