229 Things You Shouldn’t Do Without First Talking to Your Financial Planner

24 min read
February 07, 2023

Stacks of clipped paper


The financial advisor community is filled with stories of clients who make costly mistakes because they didn't have a financial planner or because they didn't talk to their financial planner about an action before doing it.

Unfortunately, personal finance can be complicated, and it is often difficult for individuals and families to understand the consequences of an important financial action or life decision.

And I’m sad to report that many of the things on this list are based on mistakes that I have seen my friends and family make.

So here it is…a comprehensive list of things you may think about doing but sometimes involve unforeseen risks or create undesirable knock-on effects.

A few items in this list are things that no one should ever do. They are just bad, costly ideas.

However, many other items in this list are fairly normal life events or financial events, which may nonetheless require careful evaluation. You should definitely consult your financial advisor before doing them.

Finally, there are actions that are correct, but there may be BETTER ways to accomplish a life goal than what you’re thinking of doing. A typical example of this is finding the money to make a down payment for the house. Sure, you could simply take out a larger loan and pay PMI…but you might also be able to borrow from your 401(k) or (maybe) borrow from your parents. Which one makes sense? It depends on your situation. A financial planner can help you think about all the options and figure out which one is best for you.

So here it is…the list of 228 things you should not do without talking to your financial planner first.

Life Events

  1. Go back to graduate school (especially if you won’t be working during graduate school).

  2. Get married or form a domestic partnership.

  3. Start living with a romantic partner or partners in a committed relationship without considering formal financial arrangements. This is especially true if you have assets or jointly own assets.

  4. Sign a prenuptial agreement, post-nuptual agreement or any other spousal agreement.

  5. Plan to start fertility treatments.

  6. Have children or adopt a child.

  7. Put a child in daycare or pay someone (even a relative) to take care of a child.

  8. Move.

  9. Change the state of your residency. This includes the instance where you own houses in two different states, and you change your residency from one house to the other house.

  10. Deal with a death of anyone in your immediate family. No need to have a discussion with your advisor in the immediate aftermath of the family member's passing, but please inform your advisor with a quick email.

  11. Hire a housekeeper, dog walker, home child care provider, au pair, landscaper or other domestic worker. Three issues that always require consideration: (1) payroll taxes; (2) worker’s compensation insurance and (3) conducting a background check if the worker is around children or regularly unsupervised in the house.

  12. Start saving or pay for your child's college education costs if your retirement savings is underfunded. Tough advice: retirement savings is almost always a higher financial planning priority than helping your kids get through college.

  13. Take a short-term work leave greater than one month (e.g., for birth of child).

  14. Take a longer-term break in your career (at least three months).

  15. Make plans for receipt of a windfall payment - if you expect to receive a meaningful gift, inheritance or lottery winnings, definitely call your financial advisor and your tax advisor.

  16. Planning to get divorced…please don't keep your advisor in the dark about an upcoming divorce.

  17. Sign a divorce agreement.

  18. Get into a serious auto accident, receive a DUI citation or receive multiple speeding tickets.

  19. Deal with the ramifications of being charged with a serious misdemeanor or any felony crime.

  20. File a lawsuit, become a party to a lawsuit or engage an attorney related to a litigation matter.

  21. A serious injury takes place at your house involving someone who is not an immediate family member. This includes dog bites, serious falls and swimming pool accidents. It is especially important to notify your advisor of any accidents involving domestic workers.

  22. Join a for-profit or not-for-profit board of directors. Joining a board may expose you to personal liability claims.

  23. Get a membership to a country club or any other organization with significant recurring dues or initiation costs.

  24. Provide ongoing financial support to your parents or adult children.

  25. Start or stop smoking. This has a significant effect on life insurance planning.

  26. You or a family member are addressing or dealing with alcohol or narcotics dependency issues. This is a very sensitive topic, but if even if your issues are well under control, you should consider letting your financial advisor know about your health history.

  27. Make plans for when either you or a family member has a serious disability and may be unable to work or attend school either now or in the future.

  28. Make plans for dealing with a serious, chronic or degenerative medical condition that you or a member of your family is facing.

  29. Claim residency in a state without income taxes.

  30. Intend to live a digital nomad life with no permanent residency.

  31. Your dependent child intends to get a summer job or other employment (this can provide an excellent planning opportunity).

  32. Store things in a safe deposit box. It's ok to store things in a safe-deposit box, but tell your financial advisor what is in there. Also tell your estate attorney.

  33. Install a safe in your house. And don’t be like Prince, tell your attorney the combination to open the safe.

  34. Keep a significant amount of cash hidden in the house or buried in the yard. Usually not a good idea. Insurance will not pay for cash lost in a fire or stolen from the home.

  35. Retire or put in a notice to retire.

  36. Make a decision about moving into a retirement home.

  37. Pursue a “Medicaid planning” strategy to preserve assets for the spouse and / or heirs. Don’t even think about trying to do this on your own. Specialized advice is required to execute this strategy.


  1. Change jobs.

  2. Take actions after you get fired or resign from a job.

  3. Switch your job status from employee to independent contractor, or vice versa. 

  4. Switch your job status from part-time to full-time status, or vice versa.

  5. Make “partner” in your firm or are offered to buy in to partnership.

  6. Take a job with a large commission compensation component or an unusually complex bonus structure.

  7. Work in a state or country different from where you live, even if it's just for a few days per year. This includes business travel to other offices. 

  8. Take a job in the United States employed by a foreign company, but you work from home and the company has no physical presence or registered entity in the US. 

  9. Become a government employee or elected official or join a government oversight board or commission. Many senior government employees and appointed / elected officials must report trades in investment accounts in some fashion or require pre-clearance of trades. It is important for your financial advisor to know what rules you are subject to.

  10. Take a job in the financial industry. Again, many employees working in finance are subject to additional rules around reporting of trades.

  11. Take any other job that requires the reporting of trades in investment accounts.

  12. Intend to file a 10b5-1 plan. This absolutely needs to be done in conjunction with your financial advisor.

  13. Consider investment, employment and life options because the employer is being acquired by another company.

  14. Start a new side gig that earns money.

Employee Benefits

  1. Make benefit elections when you or your spouse go to a new job.

  2. Make a decision on which type of retirement plan to contribute to. Some employers (especially large non-profit, state and local government employers) offer a range of plans for you to consider.

  3. Make a decision on or change how much to contribute to your retirement account and which investments to select within your retirement account.

  4. Elect not to contribute to a company retirement plan. No matter what your income, this is almost always incorrect, especially if there is a matching contribution from the employer. One of the few times this makes sense is if you have large amounts of credit card debt. 

  5. Elect the health insurance option with the lowest premium. Not always the best choice. 

  6. Contribute to a flexible spending plan. 

  7. Contribute to a health savings account managed by a custodian affiliated with the insurance plan. If you have an HSA-eligible health plan and want to contribute to an HSA, you aren't limited to the HSA provider affiliated with the insurance company, and third-party HSA custodians almost always provide better, less expensive options than the insurance company-affiliated custodian.

  8. Sign an executive compensation or deferred compensation agreement. 

  9. Roll over a company retirement plan to an IRA account.

  10. Take a lump sum payment of a pension or roll over a pension.

Employer Stock

  1. Make a decision on an offer of employment where the compensation includes employer stock or stock options.

  2. Make an 83(b) election. Sometimes, this is the best thing to do, but other times, this can be quite risky. Talk to your tax advisor to understand the tradeoffs…your financial advisor can also offer some considerations.

  3. Receive carried interests or profit interests as part of your job.

  4. Make a decision about how much to participate in an employee stock purchase plan, an employee stock ownership plan, or a stock option purchase plan.

  5. Exercise an employee stock option or sell any stock received from the exercise of an option. It is especially important to consult your financial advisor and tax advisor if you receive incentive stock options (“ISOs”).

  6. Make life plans because the company you work for is about to go IPO or become publicly traded by other means.

  7. Make life plans because your privately-held venture-backed employer is about to have a “down round” or “recap.”

  8. Sell any other employer stock.

  9. Retain any employer stock that has vested. (Note: many people tend to irrationally fall in love with the employer stock and therefore are too financially invested in their employer’s success.)

  10. Retain any employer stock after you have ceased employment the company.

 Home / Mortgage / Real Estate

  1. Buy any real estate.

  2. Sell any real estate.

  3. Re-title any real estate.

  4. Buy a home in a flood-prone or fire-prone area, especially second homes. It’s 2023, and fire and flood risk should be top of mind for any real estate purchase. There is no guarantee that you will be able to purchase flood and fire insurance coverage in high-risk areas in the future, as insurance companies may simply stop underwriting such policies and government-run programs may cease to offer subsidies. This creates the risk of (i) a substantial loss in property value because of the inability to get affordable insurance or (ii) a total loss in the event of a disaster. Note: more areas are fire-prone than you think.

  5. Buy a property in the homeowner's association or cooperative without learning more about the finances and rules of the association. Each state has different laws about disclosure requirements. Consult your real estate agent.

  6. Buy a timeshare.

  7. Make plans to install a swimming pool or other large structure on any owned real property.

  8. Spend more than $50,000 to refurbish a property in any other way.

  9. Become a landlord, rent a property or become an AirBnB host. This includes buying any property which is intended to provide rental income.

  10. Buy an interest in a rental property through an LLC or partnership.

  11. Refinance any mortgage or take out a HELOC or home equity loan.

  12. Pay off or pay down your mortgage. Paying down an existing low-interest fixed-rate mortgage is usually not the right choice, and especially in 2022 it almost definitely is not the right choice.

  13. Consider a 1031 exchange.

  14. Pay the property tax bill without confirming that the assessed value seems reasonable. You probably have to pay the bill, but you should ask for a new assessment. This is especially important to review if there has recently been a decline in home values.

Cash Flow / Budget

  1. Create or change your household budget, or create a mechanism to manage how much you spend (like segmented bank accounts).

  2. Ignore doing a periodic review of how much you are spending. 

  3. Consistently run up credit card debt because you are spending more than you're earning.

  4. Buy any item or any service for greater than $25,000 (other than a car).

  5. Buy a car for more than $75,000.

  6. Sell anything for greater than $25,000.

  7. Take money from your retirement accounts before you're actually retired.

  8. Buy anything or get involved in a hobby that involves a large ongoing upkeep expense (e.g., some boats, antique or specialty cars, horses, livestock, etc.).

  9. Spend hours or days of your time to save a couple hundred dollars - there are particularly egregious examples of this around home improvement tasks. This is a life-planning no-no. Your time is valuable: don't waste time doing tasks that you don't enjoy and don’t know how to do well to avoid incurring relatively small costs.

Debt Management

  1. Open a new credit card account or take out any new loan or line of credit.

  2. Fail to open credit card accounts when you are in university. This point is especially important for children of financial planning clients. There are many instances of university students who primarily use a debit card to pay for things at school and fail to open a credit card account while in school. This is usually a mistake, as it can be much tougher to get a credit card after graduation. All financially-responsible university students should get one or two credit cards and lightly use such cards throughout school so they can start building a credit history.

  3. Consolidate credit card debt.

  4. Consistently have an outstanding credit card balance. It can be ok to maintain a credit card balance, but it is something to talk to your financial planner about.

  5. Have ongoing significant credit card debt when you have lots of unused home equity. Refinancing into a HELOC or home equity loan is very often the better choice.

  6. Employ strategies to chase 0% credit card rates. Good tactics, but bad strategy. You need to work with a financial planner to solve the underlying debt problem.

  7. Refinance or consolidate a student loan. This is a very challenging and complex process that is fraught with dangers. Don’t try to do this alone, especially if you have a large outstanding balance. Retain a third-party student loan advisor for this process.

  8. Make an initial decision on a student loan repayment plan or move to a different repayment plan. Again, it is strongly recommended to consult a student-loan advisor before you take such actions.

  9. Pursue a strategy to aim for student loan forgiveness.

  10. Take a job that is not eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) if you have hundreds of thousands of dollars of student debt after graduate school. It can be financially-attractive to work for a PSLF-eligible employer if you have lots of debt, even if you would earn less money. This decision is especially relevant for new doctors, lawyers and other professionals who have the option to work in the public sector. It’s important to have a student loan advisor or financial planner run the numbers for you so you can understand the tradeoff between a higher-paying job and loan forgiveness.

  11. Try to manage a debt crisis on your own without help. Very, very bad choice. People struggling with debt usually wait way too long before getting a credit counselor involved.

  12. Opt not to make a required payment on a debt. See a credit counselor.

  13. Ignore phone calls from creditors. See a credit counselor.

  14. Consider filing for bankruptcy. See a credit counselor.

Account Management

  1. Change the ownership of any accounts that you own or designate a Payable on Death. Don’t do this without talking to your financial advisor and estate attorney.

  2. Open an account that is in the name of anyone but you or your spouse / domestic partner (e.g., a child-owned custodial account).

  3. Become a joint owner of an existing account that is currently owned by anyone but you or your spouse.

Bank Accounts

  1. Have more than $30,000 sitting in checking or savings accounts. A lot of people have kept a lot of cash the past few years because interests rates were so low and the cost of keeping cash in accounts with no yields was insignificant. Now that interest rates are rising, it’s important to move excess cash to accounts or investments vehicles with better yields.

  2. Hold CDs through your local bank. If you’re going to hold CDs, you should shop around for the best rates. Your local bank is unlikely to have anywhere near the best rates.

  3. Fail to close old bank accounts that no longer serve any purpose . A surprising number of new clients that I see have old bank accounts still sitting around not being used. If you aren’t using a bank account, close it and simplify your life.


  1. Buy any fund in your brokerage account, retirement account or other investment account with an expense ratio greater than 0.75%. Talk to your financial planner first. 

  2. Buy or have been recommended to buy any mutual fund or other fund that has front-end loads, back-end loads, other commissions or 12b-1 fees. If you don’t know what these are, consult a fee-only financial planner.

  3. Buy an individual stock, individual bond or actively managed fund, unless your financial planner has provided you a "play money" account where you can do whatever you want. This includes buying stocks based on tips from friends, online financial websites or financial newsletters.

  4. Panic sell in response to a market sell-off. Don't go rogue and make panicked investment decisions without first talking with your financial planner.

  5. Sell any holding in a taxable brokerage account. If you need to sell stock to raise cash, don't do it yourself. Consult with your financial planner to determine which stock to sell.

  6. Buy a levered fund/ETF or an inverse fund/ETF. Almost always, these are bad ideas - talk to your financial planner first.

  7. Transfer money to a robo-advisor account or a separately managed account. It can make sense as part of a financial plan, but talk to your advisor first.

  8. Buy a structured note. Almost always a sub-optimal investment choice and usually inconsistent with the overall investment strategy. To the extent that you want an investment option with downside protection, there are better options in the marketplace. But it needs to make sense as part of the larger investment strategy. Consult your financial advisor.

  9. Invest in anything that advertises itself to have special tax benefits (like opportunity zone funds).

  10. Buy any investment that promises a yield greater than 8%. It's probably too good to be true.

  11. Elect to receive or hold paper bonds or stock certificates. Generally speaking, this is not recommended. If you have these, tell your financial advisor and your attorney about them.

  12. Use margin in a brokerage account. Margin can significantly alter the overall risk characteristics of your overall investment portfolio. Don't do this without consulting your financial advisor.

  13. Buy or sell options or employ any other option strategies. Much like margin, option holdings alter the risk characteristics of the overall investment portfolio.

  14. Open a commodities account, invest in a commodities fund or in a company or industry that has pure exposure to commodities (e.g., oil & gas companies and gold-mining companies).

  15. Buy cryptocurrency, a stablecoin, or a derivative of these vehicles as an investment. Because all of these things are commodities or commodity derivatives - see above.

  16. Invest in a privately-held company, oil-and-gas venture, private fund or private real estate venture. These can be risky investments that have limited liquidity.

  17. Invest in a friend's business or lend money to friends to help their businesses.

  18. Buy physical precious metals (eg, gold bars). Generally not a good idea once insurance costs are factored in.

  19. Make investments or hold investments in entities based outside the United States (this is unusual for most US residents).

  20. Buy or sell any security when you have inside information on the issuer of the security. This includes stock options related to the security. This is illegal, and if you do it, there is a good chance that you will get caught. DO NOT TELL YOUR FINANCIAL ADVISOR ANY OF THE DETAILS OF YOUR INSIDE INFORMATION; please consult an attorney if you believe that you may have received material non-public information related to a publicly-traded company.

  21. Hire another financial advisor to manage a portion of your investable assets without your main financial planner knowing about it. For most households, this is an incorrect tactic. It's particularly wrong-headed when the goal of such an action is to get financial advisors to compete against each other for better investment returns.


  1. Buy an annuity. In the current tax environment, deferred annuities are almost always a bad idea for people still working. They're also generally a bad idea for most retirees, especially for assets that are for legacy planning. In some circumstances, income annuities can make sense, but only as part of an overall financial plan. Talk to your financial advisor (who isn't the insurance agent) before purchasing any annuity product.

  2. Consolidate multiple annuities into one large annuity or do any other 1035 exchange. If you currently have multiple annuities, an agent will often encourage you to consolidate all those annuities into one annuity to simplify things. This can be a bad idea (especially for non-qualified annuities), and can create significant problems down the line from a financial planning standpoint.

  3. Surrender your annuity. Often a good idea, but requires analysis.

  4. Take a large withdrawal from an annuity without understanding the surrender charges and the tax consequences.

  5. Annuitize a deferred annuity…this is an extremely consequential financial action and requires careful analysis.

Life, Disability, Long-Term Care, and Health Insurance

  1. Buy life, disability or long-term care insurance. Do not sign any contract without talking to an advisor who isn't the agent first. 

  2. Lie or hide facts as part of a life, disability or long-term care insurance application. The insurance may not pay out if you aren't truthful in the application.

  3. Make a decision on renewing an existing life insurance or disability policy.

  4. Stop paying for life, disability or long-term care insurance. This can make sense, but it depends on the specific circumstances and requires significant analysis.

  5. Engage in dangerous activities that are not covered by traditional life insurance. If you do daredevil activities (flying, parachuting, racing cars, etc.), standard life insurance won't pay out if you die while doing any of those activities. Pay for an endorsement to get covered for these activities. 

  6. Doing without a health insurance plan. Generally not a good idea, even though it can be hard for many middle-class families to pay for insurance.

  7. Buy any self-paid health insurance (for instance, through an state or federal health insurance marketplace).

  8. Buy into an unregulated health care sharing plans or healthcare ministry. While these plans have lower premiums, these are not regulated health insurance plans they lack real rules and governmental oversight. Understand the risks of relying on these plans before buying in.

  9. Fail to make a claim on a long-term care plan. In most circumstances, it is unwise to “save long-term care insurance for a rainy day.” If you are eligible to make a claim under your long-term policy you should almost always do so (especially if the policy is guaranteed renewable)…you paid for the insurance (often for many years), so if you have a claim, use the insurance.

Property & Casualty Insurance

  1. Make a small claim on your property or liability policy. In most cases, making a small claim is a costly decision, because insurers will raise your rates such that the increase in your future premiums exceed the amount of the claim. This is especially true for any liability claims - in fact, liability claims will often result in the cancellation of your policy. Talk to your agent or financial advisor to understand the implications of making a claim before doing so.

  2. Elect not to hold umbrella insurance. Even if you have some modest wealth, you probably need some umbrella insurance.

  3. Buy a new homeowner's policy.

  4. Elect not to have a homeowner's policy with full perils. Don't buy the cheapest homeowner's policy.

  5. Elect a homeowner's policy that doesn't at least cover replacement cost value.

  6. Buy a homeowner’s policy without earthquake insurance. It doesn’t always make sense to buy earthquake insurance, but the decision not to purchase such insurance requires some thoughtful analysis of tradeoffs.

  7. Ignore taking care of things on your property that are a threat to your house. If you have a dead tree or large branches on your property and the tree falls on your house, you probably won’t be able to make a valid claim.

  8. Fail to update your homeowner’s insurance after an building an extension or new structures on the property. If you put up a she-shed in the backyard, your existing policy may not cover damage to it.

  9. Elect not to buy flood insurance. Federally-backed flood insurance is subsidized and is generally a good insurance bet if you are in a flood zone. Flood insurance is mandatory if you are in a flood zone and you still have a mortgage.

  10. Hold valuables in your house that are not covered by your homeowner's policy. If you have lots of valuables in your house, you cannot rely on a standard homeowner's policy to provide full coverage.

  11. Rent a portion of your house without updating your homeowner’s policy

  12. Fail to review your homeowner's insurance at least every three years to see if it's up to date. If you haven’t thought about your homeowner’s policy in five years, trust me, you’re not alone. But call your agent and get the policy reviewed and updated.

  13. Ignore notifying your insurer about a change of address. Make sure to tell your insurer about the move BEFORE IT HAPPENS.

  14. Pay for comprehensive and collision insurance for an older car, especially if you have wealth. It can make sense, but in general it's a bad insurance bet. 

  15. Use your personal car for livery services, including Uber and Lyft. You won’t be covered if you’re ferrying passengers and you get into an accident. You need a policy rider to do this, and the rider usually isn’t that expensive.

  16. Use your personal car as part of your personal business or as part of your salaried work. Your standard personal auto insurance does not cover you when you are using your car in conjunction with your work. This is especially true if you are ferrying people or goods as part of business activities. Before doing anything with your car involving work, you should make sure that you are covered. Especially if you work for a small business and are using your car for business activities, you should demand to see the insurance policy to make sure the business has these activities covered.


  1. Make a significant gift to family or friends, especially any gift more than $17,000 in a year to a specific individual. Any gifts over $17,000 likely require a tax filing.

  2. Pay for something of significant value that benefits someone other than your spouse or dependent children. Here is a tricky example: school tuition for grandchildren is a gift, put paying directly for grandchildren’s college is not a gift. For this reason, it’s important that your financial planner and tax advsior, so they can best advise you on how to make such gifts.

  3. Make a significant charitable gift.

  4. Open or donate to a 529 plan. Contributions to 529 plans are gifts.

  5. Fail to coordinate with your adult children on funding your grandchildren’s college expenses. I have seen a couple of circumstances with the grandparents and parents saved significant amounts in 529 plans, resulting in an overfunding scenario. If you want to fund your grandchildren’s education,

  6. Open a Donor Advised Fund. Consult your financial planner and tax advisor before doing this. Sometimes this makes sense, but DAFs have fees. Quite often, there are better ways of accomplishing your charitable goals.

Estate Planning

  1. Put yourself in a situation where you could die or become disabled without an up-to-date estate plan and living will. Everybody needs an estate plan.

  2. Change your estate plans. Talk to your financial advisor in conjunction with engaging with your estate attorney.

  3. Put a "Paid on Death" beneficiary on one of your accounts. I noted this point above, but I’m just emphasizing this again. Talk to your financial advisor and estate attorney before doing this…I’ve seen too many instances where such a designation started a family feud after someone’s passing.

  4. Change the beneficiaries on your retirement or any other investment accounts. Talk to your financial advisor and estate attorney first.

  5. Create any kind of trust. Talk to your financial advisor about whether a trust could make sense before engaging with an estate attorney.

  6. Sign a trust agreement without contingent trustees.

  7. Sign a trust agreement without talking to the trustee and allowing the trustee to review agreement and ask questions.

  8. Sign a trust agreement without having your financial advisor review it first.

  9. Live without a health directive in place. Everyone needs one.

  10. Live without a power of attorney in place. Most everyone needs one.

  11. Do estate planning on your own without the assistance of an attorney. If you’re single, have few assets and no dependents, you can probably get away with an online service. Everyone else should receive personalized service from an attorney.

  12. Keep your estate plans a secret from your heirs (especially from your spouse or partner!). Too many people keep their family and friends in the dark about their estate plans, and this almost always creates lots of strife after the deceased’s passing…which is usually not the outcome that the deceased wanted. Unless there is a really good reason not to disclose your estate plans to your loved ones, please tell your heirs what to expect. Even if such disclosure results in some griping from your heirs, it will also ensure that everyone knows that your estate plans do in fact reflect your wishes.

  13. Keep charities named in your estate plans in the dark about planned giving.

  14. Fail to leave a list of passwords for your computer and web applications as part of your estate plans. Access to your passwords vastly simplifies the ability of your loved ones and attorneys to execute your estate plans. And regularly update your password list every few months (which is easy to do if you use a password manager).


  1. File your taxes without your financial advisor reviewing your return.

  2. Not pay estimated taxes in conjunction with a large investment gain or any other unusual, large taxable income amount for which withholdings have not been made.

  3. Do a Roth conversion (either in a company retirement account or in an IRA). Consult your financial advisor and tax advisor before executing a Roth conversion.

  4. File as "Married Filing Separately." In the current tax system, this is usually sub-optimal (couples with high student loan balances can be an exception to this rule).

  5. Prepare your taxes manually without the help of tax preparation software. Almost always this is penny wise, pound foolish.

  6. Prepare your taxes without the assistance of a tax preparer if your situation is complicated.

  7. Spend more than 10 days in a year working in another single state (even if it's business trips). Talk to your tax advisor about this before filing your taxes about whether you may owe taxes in that state.


  1. Claim social security.

  2. Turn 65 years old (Medicare).

  3. Make a decision on when to start receiving a pension.

  4. Take an unusually large amount of money from your retirement account.

  5. Do a reverse mortgage.

  6. Take money from a Roth IRA less than five years since a Roth Conversion. Don’t do it unless you absolutely have to - even if you are over 59 1/2, there will be penalty if you do this.

International Issues

  1. Move abroad or buy any property abroad

  2. Travel to countries with a significant kidnapping risk.

  3. Travel to countries or areas of countries with limited medical resources (especially if you are older or you are engaging in potentially dangerous activities). Not just for foreign countries…Example: if you are taking a long-distance hiking trek or hunting trip to rural Alaska, talk about it with your financial advisor. It's not a dangerous country, but it is potentially dangerous countryside where you may need an airlift evac.

  4. Work abroad.

  5. Have a child while abroad.

  6. Regularly send money abroad. 

  7. Relinquish US citizenship.

  8. Become a US citizen or have any other change in your US immigration status.

  9. If you are a foreign national, take a job in the US with a temporary work permit or with the intention of eventually returning back to your home country.

Active Business Ownership

  1. Start a business venture.

  2. Fail to keep your financial advisor updated on the performance of the business. All business owners should meet with their financial advisor on at least a quarterly basis.

  3. Acquire a business.

  4. Change the business structure or tax status of your business (never start this process without talking to your adviser). 

  5. Hire employees in your business. 

  6. Start a benefit plan in your business. 

  7. Start or change your retirement plan as part of your business. 

  8. Bring in partners to your business or sell a stake in your business. 

  9. Your business borrows money or you take out loans or use credit cards to fund business needs.

  10. Fail to perform a thorough review your business insurance coverages on an annual basis. All business owners need to meet with their insurance agent at least once per year.

  11. Sell your business.


  1. Receive inheritance. 

  2. Sell or transfer inherited assets.

  3. Disclaiming inheritance or retirement accounts for which you are a beneficiary (in certain cases, disclaiming inheritance can be a good thing if the money goes to your heirs). 

  4. Co-mingle inherited assets with other assets. In general, couples should open separate, individually-owned accounts to hold inherited assets and proceeds from the sale of inherited assets (e.g., sale of an inherited house). 

  5. Make life plans based on inheritance expected to be received in the future. Can be a good thing to do…but discuss with your financial advisor.

IT Security / Avoiding Scams

  1. Respond to any emails, texts or phone calls requesting money or assistance (except phone calls from people you know). Emails and texts should never be trusted and always need to be verified. If a business reaches out to you asking to be paid, offer to call them back through their publicly-available business phone number.

  2. Pay any money in response to blackmail, ransom requests or other threats. Call an attorney immediately.

  3. Respond to phone calls or emails from the IRS or Social Security. The IRS and Social Security will not contact you by phone or email. If you have questions about an inquiry, look up the telephone number to call the IRS or Social Security directly. Do not call any phone numbers provided in any email, text or voicemail.

  4. Install little-known applications on your computer or phone, especially applications that promise to "clean or improve the performance of your device". Only install applications from well-known vendors. 

  5. Use the same password on multiple websites. If you do this, it is almost inevitable that you will eventually get hacked. Use a password manager.

  6. Fail to use two-factor authentication for critical accounts, especially email accounts, financial accounts, social-media accounts and other “mission-critical” services.

Lindsey Young

About the Author

Lindsey Young is the founder of Quiet Wealth, a financial planning and investment management firm that works with clients nationally. Lindsey focuses her practice on late-career, pre-retirement professionals and LGBTQ households. Lindsey received her MBA from Harvard Business School and her BA from Williams College.


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