Show Notes for this Episode
The Coronavirus pandemic has possibly changed the way we work forever. Working from home (or remotely) will become the new norm for many professionals.
Over the past decade I’ve worked out of a home office part time in addition to having a regular office outside of the home. At first, I really enjoyed working from home. But over time, I felt bombarded by distractions and interruptions. I also found it difficult to separate being at work, and being at home.
In this episode, I share 9 tips that can help you become more productive at home while also setting healthy boundaries and keeping your life in balance.
In this episode of the Midlife Money Gal Podcast, you will learn:
- Why your morning routine is everything
- Ways to be proactive with your day vs. reacting all day
- How to limit distractions that can derail you
- How to create your own workspace and set boundaries
- Why taking breaks and having a hard stopping point are critical to success
- How you can help your kids (if they are out of school and at home) stay on track and not distract
Plus, an additional bonus tip at the end to help you keep your sanity!
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(00:04): Welcome to the midlife money gal podcast. I'm Stephanie Sammons, an experienced certified financial planner helping women professionals navigate midlife and money. Hey everybody. Welcome back to the midlife money gal podcast. I'm Stephanie Sammons, certified financial planner
(00:31): In today's episode we're going to be talking about working from home and I have a number of tips to share with you from my own working from home experience, which I've worked from home quite a bit over the last decade. So I've definitely experienced the benefits and the downsides to working from home. So I want to talk about that. I also hope that you are doing well and you are running this race with endurance that we are going through with the coronavirus pandemic. I've been talking about the pandemic and the impact on our financial lives and the impact on our careers and the economy. And I do believe that this is kind of like a season that we are passing through and it's a very difficult season and on many levels it's heartbreaking to see all of the sickness and the people who have lost their lives and the impact on their families.
(01:50): It's just devastating in so many ways and it can, if we're not careful, really get you down and depressed and in the dumps if, if you are tuning into that too much. Now that's not to say that we shouldn't be thinking about those who are suffering and who are going through a difficult time and maybe you've even had a friend or a family member who has been diagnosed with coven 19 with the virus, or maybe you know someone who has passed away because of the illness. It's just scary when we don't have a cure and we don't yet have a treatment. But I would encourage you not to lose hope because I do think that as fast as this came upon us and started impacting our lives, something could come out of nowhere and completely turn this thing around, whether it's a vaccine, whether it's a cure or some kind of therapeutic treatment that can help to alleviate the symptoms of this disease, this virus and keep people from actually dying from it.
(03:24): So I am hopeful about this. We are innovative people and I know many health professionals and scientists are working very hard on this day in and day out to solve the problem and figure this out. In the meantime, it also sounds like we are going to have here in the United States sort of a structured reopening process that is slow and it's going to take a little time to unfold and roll out, but that will be happening and I think that we will emerge from this living life a little bit differently, at least for a while. And that may include continuing to work from home for longer than we may have anticipated. I'm also looking at this pandemic as a season, like the winter season and I am starting to see spring really emerge. It has arrived where I live in Dallas, Texas. The flowers are blooming, the trees and the grass or green and my Texas allergies are certainly feeling all of the pollen being released into the air.
(04:47): The weather is beautiful. We only get a few weeks, maybe four lucky a month or two of really nice weather like this in Texas and then it just becomes a very, very hot. It just excruciating the summers. July and August are really tough in Dallas because of how hot and humid it gets, but right now in the spring it's really nice and just seeing how spring has sort of emerged from the colder weather reminds me that we too will emerge out of this winter season that we are living in. So it's, it's not going to be something super quick that we bounce back from and go back to normal right away. It's going to take time and I think you need to look at it as like a season that we're going to have to go through before we emerge from the winter into the spring and start getting back to life as we know it.
(05:56): But I believe and I do have hope that we will get there. So I want to talk about working from home and see if I can give you some tips that might help because chances are you are also working from home right now, so I'm going to give you nine tips to help you stay sane while working from home because it's really easy if you haven't noticed already to get distracted and to get off track, especially if you have kids at home and you've got to keep them structured and on track. Um, it's, it's just a lot to juggle. Also, if you have animals like I do, we have two dogs and I call them my lazy employees because they sit up here in my home office on the couch all day and they snore and they sleep. And you probably have heard them in the past making noises on this podcast because I do record the podcast from home and the dogs love to sit up here and stare at me while I have my headphones on while I'm talking. It looks like I'm talking to myself even though I'm talking to you. And then they go back to sleep and they snore and they're very loud and sometimes they see people walking by. I'm upstairs and so they can look out downstairs and see people walking across the street and these sorts of things and then they go ballistic with barking. So that can be a huge challenge if you have pets at home
(07:47): now I've been working remotely on and off for probably a decade. I currently have an office that I go to at least a few days a week and there are other days where I work from home, like when I'm recording my podcast, when I'm shooting video, sometimes I just feel like working from home, but I am not as accustomed to working from home day in and day out like we are having to do now. But since I've done it for so long, I've learned a thing or two about working from home that might be able to help you stay focused and be more productive and not fall into the bad habits of working from your pajamas all day or snacking on potato chips and other things that aren't good for you while you are working from home. And so I want to talk about and share some of these tips with also, I think that you're going to find that these are all good practices anyway, regardless if you're working from home or you're working at your office just to keep your sanity and create some life balance for yourself.
(09:15): I think you'll appreciate these tips just no matter where you are working from. All right, so let's get into it. Nine tips to stay sane while working from home. Number one, set and stick to your morning routine if you haven't already created a morning routine for yourself, I highly recommend doing this because how you start your morning will predict the rest of your day. If you wake up and you are immediately reactive to what is going on in your household around you versus being proactive where you know exactly and in what order you are going to do for your morning, then it's going to knock you out for the rest of your day. It never fails. If you start reacting to things from the moment you wake up, it can derail you for the rest of the day. So for example, have a routine where you get up.
(10:30): I'll tell you my routine. I get up, I go get my coffee and I grab a book. I have a stack of four or five books that are my GoTo books where I read something positive. As soon as I wake up and start to get my eyes open, which requires coffee, I must have coffee before I can really get my brain going and start absorbing any information. Now before I read something positive, I will typically feed my dogs, give them water if they need it. I have two dogs and then I will take them outside to go use the bathroom. I have to do that because otherwise the dogs will drive me crazy and distract me. So I get my coffee, take care of the dogs very quickly, and then I go and read something positive. I don't look at the news, I don't look at my text messages.
(11:34): I don't open my email inbox and I don't look at social media when I wake up. Why? Because these are the things that will derail the rest of your day. They will hijack your time and if you're looking at the news right now, first thing when you wake up, it's going to have an impact on your attitude, possibly, and your mood for the day. So don't dig into the news, especially when we're going through a stressful time. It will only add to your stress for the rest of the day. No. After I read something positive, I go get cleaned up and I get dressed. I get out of my PJ's. Now if I have a day where I am doing a workout, then it's possible that I do put my workout clothes on first. It depends on what time I'm working out. So if I'm working out before lunchtime, which I do most of the time, if I'm working out at nine or 10 in the morning, I'll put on my workout clothes to start with.
(12:42): So the point is get cleaned up, wash your face, brush your teeth, do whatever you need to do or completely shower, do your hair and everything else. If, if you are planning on getting fully dressed for the day, if you have a workout or something you're planning to do before noon or around lunchtime, then I say it's fine to put out, put on your workout clothes, but get out of your PJ's. Okay, what's a get dressed and cleaned up. Then I go through important reading or research that I really need to have my brain engaged on so that I'm paying attention and I'm absorbing what I'm reading. This is also a time where I will look at the news and I mostly look at economic and financial news versus other things going on in the world. So I pretty much limit it to that during this morning time because I need to see and I need to know what's going on from a financial and economic perspective, uh, because that's my business. That's what I do for a living, right? As a financial advisor. So I tune in to that news and I tune into the sources that I trust and get what I need to for that particular day.
(14:12): Once I do that, I start to knock out my most important tasks and activities that I need to tackle for the day. For me, I'm much more productive in the morning than I am if I save it until late afternoon. I don't have as much energy and enthusiasm in the late afternoon to knock out things that are tough or that require a lot of brain power. I want to do that when my brain is very awake and aware and alert in the morning. So I will at least choose one task and work on knocking that out. After that I will open up my emails so I won't look at email until it's probably 11 o'clock in the morning, sometimes 10 o'clock in the morning. That's the first time I ever look at email to see what's in there because whatever came in between when I looked late yesterday afternoon and the next morning it's, it'll still be there and it doesn't require me to immediately respond.
(15:23): I think one of the worst habits you can get into is opening up your email inbox. First thing when you open your eyes in the morning, it's one of the downsides of having a, an iPhone that sits right there on your bedside table and it's very tempting to look at email and see, Oh, what, what's come into my inbox today? Don't do it. Try to keep yourself away from your email and away from your text messages if you can until you have gotten through these other important parts of your morning routine. After I scan my emails and I respond what I can respond to during that time. That's typically when I go start on my workout. So a couple of days a week I work out with a trainer and she has actually been training me at home through FaceTime. And so every Tuesday, Thursday around 11 o'clock I work out with my trainer for an hour and then I will eat lunch after that.
(16:34): And then I have my afternoon. So on the other days I might work out earlier than 11 and those are the days when I throw on my workout clothes first thing in the morning, do a nine o'clock run or bike or something like that, or yoga class, and then get showered and get cleaned up. So it really depends on where you want to fit in your exercise schedule as to how that affects what you wear and when you get fully dressed for the day. All right, so the point is stick to your set a morning schedule and stick to it. That's tip number one. Really, really life changing. If you start doing this, if you're not doing it already.
(17:28): All right. Number two, structure your day and week. Plan your day and your week and plan in advance. If you look at your entire week, Monday through Friday, are there certain times of day when you or you would like to schedule calls? For example, most of us have calls and meetings and things that we have to do that that need to get done for the day and maybe there is a time of day that works better for you. In terms of being productive. For me, I prefer doing calls and webinars and online meetings and these sorts of things in the afternoons, so I schedule almost all of my calls after noon time and that is part of how I structure my week, so I know if I look at my calendar on a Sunday night, any calls and webinars and things that I have on the calendar are going to be in the afternoons that allows me to stick to my morning routine better.
(18:49): That's why I do it that way. Are there any activities in your work that you can batch together on certain days? And I, I like to think of this as kind of my theme days. For example, I might reserve Mondays for client work that needs to be done at my desk, kind of that intensive work where I need to have my head down and be working on tasks that require attention and that are very similar activities. So what can you batch together? Another example for me is if I'm recording a podcast, I like to batch the recordings and batch the production process. It allows me to be more efficient and more effective with my time. I have found that to be really helpful and if you're planning ahead for your, your days and your week, then you're going to be more productive. It's tougher to do this at home, it's tougher to stick to that structure or that schedule.
(20:09): But by having a plan, you give yourself a much better chance of doing so. So number two is plan your day and your week. Number three, schedule email, windows. I alluded to this earlier in tip number one. Have a couple of times each day that you get into your email inbox and you respond to emails. So maybe it's 10 in the morning and four in the afternoon. That's typically what I do. I do 10 or 11 in the morning and four or 5:00 PM in the afternoon. That way you're not getting distracted by email all day long. You also might want to turn off email notifications if notifications hit your computer or your laptop or they hit your phone. It's too easy to click on the notification and go down that rabbit hole. So schedule email windows for yourself and stick to them and remember, do not do email first thing in the morning cause it will suck your time and it will derail the rest of your day. Number three, schedule email windows.
(21:32): Number four, create a comfortable and desirable work space. Where are you working in your home currently? Do you have a dedicated workspace where you can have some peace and quiet? You can have some privacy. This is really important and I encourage you to carve out that space wherever you can and make it your own. One of the things I try to do with my space, and I'm really fortunate because I actually have a room and the room serves as an office for me. It's also kind of a makeshift studio for my music. Since I'm a singer songwriter, I have guitars in here. I have microphones, I do my podcast recording in here. I do video in here. Then I have my desk with all of my paperwork and my computer. I have a little sofa. That's where the dogs sleep. I've got a TV and here I've got a bookshelf.
(22:43): The problem with my room is it's really crowded and cramped, so I have to work hard to keep it cleaned and to keep it decluttered. So you want to try and keep your dedicated workspace clean. That is one thing that makes it more desirable to go spend time in that area. If it's junky and messy all the time, you're not going to want to go in there and spend time in there because it's gonna it. It makes your brain kind of scattered. I have found, so keep your workspace clean and find a workspace that you can kind of carve out and call it your own. I even know people who are doing this in their master bedroom because they don't have another place to go in the house. They're just carving out a little corner in the master bedroom. One thing I used to do was I would set up shop anywhere and everywhere, all over the and that was a really bad idea and a bad habit to get into and maybe this is you maybe work from the kitchen table one day, maybe you work from the dining room chair another day, maybe you work from your master bedroom another day.
(24:00): And for me, I got too scattered doing that because I would leave, pay a paper trail, you know, I would leave things everywhere and then not be able to find them and that just doesn't work. I like having one space, one room where I can keep everything together and organized. You also want to Makerspace as private as possible so that when you're ready to start your work day, you can go into your space. And you can get going on your work without too many distractions and when you're ready to stop your work day, you can leave that space and leave all your things there, your work things, and not have to come back to it. So I think that's another good reason why you don't want to set up shop all over the house. It's too hard to draw that line when your work day is over, it's time to be with your family.
(25:02): Just carve out a space that you spend time in consistently for your work. All right, number five, take breaks and have a firm stopping point. Really important to take some productive breaks throughout your work day at home so that you're just not pounding through all day long and not even looking up or walking around or leaving your area. It's just not healthy to do that, you want to get up and leave your workspace and take a break. Whether it's to go for a little walk or get some fresh air, go take a snack break and be careful about snack breaks, breaks. So this is another bad habit I got into. It was way too easy to wander into the refrigerator or the pantry and grab something that was not as healthy, you know, like potato chips or something like that. So instead I keep a bunch of bottled water downstairs and nuts, like almonds, pistachios, and just grab a handful of nuts.
(26:22): Sometimes I'll get a string cheese as well and that is my stack. Or sometimes I'll have a protein shake. Just try to go for something healthy when you take a snack break, but physically leave your workspace and get up and walk around and give yourself a few minutes to just take a nice little break and do that multiple times throughout the day. Now once your day is over, if you decide to work day is over at five or your Workday is over at six or four o'clock or whatever it is, be finished with your day, put everything down, have a stopping point that will keep you from having burnout with your work, especially being confined to such a small space or a certain room all day long. So make sure you're taking breaks and that you have affirm stopping point number six, limit distractions. You have to try and be really disciplined about these sorts of things.
(27:36): And I've talked about most of them already, but uh, animals, pets, dogs can be a distraction. Social media, if you get, if you spend a lot of time on social media, be careful of getting sucked in to social media, scrolling and consumption on your phone or any other device where you're just scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, seeing what everybody else is up to. Before you know it, it's been 30 45 minutes of your day gone. And you would be amazed at how much time you can spend consuming social media and really get nothing out of it. So be very disciplined about what you do when you engage on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or some of these platforms that you really have a purpose that you're looking to check up on specific people to see how things were going for them. Or that you stick to your sources where you like to get information that is trustworthy and reliable, but have some rules around your social media usage so that it doesn't steal your time away.
(28:57): And actually I iPhones have a timer where they, not really a timer, but a tracking mechanism where you can see how much time you're spending on various applications on your phone and or your iPad. And you can go in and see how much time you're spending from week to week and kind of gauge how much time are you giving away and essentially wasting that could be used for other productive activities or self care or family time. Uh, you might be surprised if you start tracking it, how much time you're actually spending there. All right, so number six tip was limit distractions. There are all kinds of distractions in the interest of time. I'm just naming a few that you may be dealing with. Number seven, communicate with family members.
(29:56): You need to set some boundaries in order to be there for your family and give them the time that they deserve, but also set boundaries where you can minimize interruptions. Now I know this is really challenging when you have kids at home and if you have kids, they are probably at home with you and they are either doing online school at home or if they're not in school, then they're still at home and they can't really go anywhere. And if there are anything like our kids you hear, I'm bored more often than not, right? So
(30:45): the best thing you can do for yourself is to communicate your boundaries to your family members and even your kids. I'm going to talk a little bit more about kids in a moment because I do think that comes into play here since we're, we're all at home, the parents and the children are all working from home in some way, shape or form. But if you set your boundaries and you explain, okay, I'm going to be up in my office between this time in this time, I will come down at 10 o'clock and at noon we can have lunch together and then I'll come down again at three if you have questions or we need to talk about anything or you, you want to ask me about your homework, that would be in the case of, of one of your kids. Then these are the times where I'm available for you and that's kind of what I do.
(31:43): But my kids are older, one is a junior in high school and one is a sophomore in college. So it's way easier with kids that age versus if you've got younger kids or kids in junior high that need more guidance maybe in and structure and support from you. So I totally get it. I've been there, but it's important to set your boundaries or you will never get anything done. And I think you'll find that your spouse or your partner and your kids will respect your boundaries as they learn your routine and you start to really get more strict and more structured about what you're doing. Uh, one thing that I mentioned earlier, I work out with a trainer and she has been FaceTiming me to do my workouts with me. Well I do that upstairs where we have all of our weights and our bike and a yoga mat and just the different things that I need for the workout.
(32:44): Well my spouse, Kay, her office is also upstairs and so you know, she hears me out there pumping iron or doing jumping jacks or jump rope or a breathing it heavy, whatever. And just the communication between me and my trainer and it drives her absolutely crazy. So I have had to say, Kay, I'm working out with my trainer upstairs at 11 o'clock on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And what she has decided to do is if she has a call or something going on during that time where it would be distracting to her, then she goes downstairs or she will even go outside if it's a nice day and do her calls out there and it's worked out great because we're communicating and that's really the point I'm trying to drive home here is communicate with your spouse and other family members so that they understand what your schedule is and what your availability is. That's tip number seven. Tip number eight. We're getting close here. I have nine total and then I have a bonus. Okay. Number eight, make time for self care. You know, this is a time when
(34:03): our health is so important and I think it's a big reminder that we need to be as healthy as we possibly can and we need to be taking care of ourselves. It's easy to procrastinate. It's easy to put that off when you're busy and you're running all the time and you're trying to balance and manage your work life and your family life and your hobbies and your exercise and eating healthy along the way and travel and all these things. Well, some of these have been taken out of the mix right now. Hopefully you have a little more time that you could devote to self care, so work in some exercise, some walking. If nothing else, go for walks. It's such a great thing for you to do both mentally, mentally and physically. Take time for quiet time and being alone, being by yourself, maybe doing some meditation where you get your brain super still.
(35:18): These are all things that can help you keep your sanity mentally and get in better shape and a better health physically. Self care also includes trying to eat more healthy, maybe drinking alcohol, these sorts of things. Putting good things into your body can help you stay healthy. So I'm a huge fan of self care. I talk about it a lot on this show and now more than ever, it's critical to pay attention to your health and start developing some healthier habits. So number eight tip is make time for self care. Number nine tip, and this is for those of you who have kids at home, you know most of us who are in midlife, which is 45 and up, let's call it your kids are probably a little bit older. Maybe they're high school age, maybe their college. It's possible that they're grown and they're not living at home anymore. Or it's also possible that you have younger kids or maybe you have to look after nieces, nephews, grandkids, something like that. Well, what can you do to manage your kids while everybody's at home, but also accomplish what you need to get done for the day with your work and even with your, your chores and things you need to take care of at home. Now, even though my stepsons are older,
(37:08): junior in high school, sophomore in college, they still need stuff and their presence is very much felt when they are at home with us. And it's a wonderful thing because I love to come out of my office and see their smiling faces at the same time.
(37:31): We both, Kay and I both still have to create boundaries and explain that, you know, just because we're here at home doesn't mean we're constantly available and so you have to kind of teach your kids about what your boundaries are, help your kids stay on a schedule, get and stay on a schedule, especially if they're doing online learning and you know, they have to be online at a certain time. Getting them up and getting them ready for that. Teaching them to get themselves out of bed and ready for that and teaching them how to take breaks. Helping them create a structure will help you stay on your structured schedule. What we do is we try to make ourselves available to help them with homework questions and things like that throughout the day at certain times. So when I take my breaks and I come out of my office and I go downstairs, then I interact and engage with the boys if they're here and see how things were going.
(38:41): And inevitably a question will come up or they might need help with something, which is great. I love to help and be there for them. Um, K, my spouse is really good at fixing lunch or helping them figure out what they're going to eat and making sure that they know, okay boys, here's what's available for breakfast when you get up, get you whatever it is that she has ready for them or make yourself an egg. They both know how to do that and she also makes sure that they know what's available for lunch so that they're not scrounging around trying to find something to eat or skipping meals altogether because they don't think there's anything to eat. And it's crazy how we can have a full refrigerator, but if she doesn't really lay out, okay, here's what's available for lunch. Then they wander up here and they're like, well, what can we eat?
(39:38): And we're hungry. And so you've probably had a similar experience, I would guess, but just help them try to create their own structure. I understand if your kids are younger, you may have to really be hands on with their schoolwork and helping them get their assignments done. And that's a little tougher because that does eat into at least your morning, I would think. Uh, and so you just need to structure your day around it as best as you possibly can. The other thing we do with the kids is we try to give them our evening time. So we've, we'll have meals together at night. We've watched movies together, we've played games together. I've played more board games than I've played in my entire life over the past month. But it's been fun. And so we've, we've been doing that a lot as well. And when your kids say, I'm bored, there's nothing to do, then push back on that.
(40:48): I mean, they've, they've gotta be able to figure out how to entertain themselves and find something productive to do. And if you push back on it, they will, they will find something around the house to go and do. And we've encouraged the boys to start a project, start a hobby, engage in activities that interest them. Maybe it's art, maybe it's cooking, maybe it's working out, maybe it's shooting baskets outside in the driveway. Uh, but they've done a pretty good job of finding their own entertainment without, you know, getting in front of the TV for hours and, and binge watching Netflix or getting on the X box and playing video games there. They've done a really good job just doing things that are a little more active. So I'm really proud of them. All right, so that tip was helping your kids create structure for their day.
(41:53): My bonus tip, last but not least, and this has been a long episode, so I appreciate you sticking with me here. Find a network of peers that you can connect with professionally. This will help you keep your sanity. It will keep you from feeling isolated and I think you'll find that it's a nice change of pace to be able to get on the phone or get online on a zoom call or something like that. Even though many of us are zoomed out and talk with your peers. So I think I've talked about this before on this show where I have a mastermind group of three other women advisors who run small financial advisory firms just like I do boutique firms and they're across the country. One of them is in Oakland, California. One of them is an upstate New York and one of them is in bend, Oregon.
(43:00): And so we are in touch all the time through email and texting. But we have scheduled a couple of calls, zoom calls, where we've actually had like a glass of wine together at the end of the day and talked about what we're going through and ideas and our personal lives, whatever, whatever topic of conversation comes up. Um, we've really enjoyed engaging with each other and supporting each other through this challenging time. And in some ways it's even more challenging for us from a business perspective because we all run financial firms and our clients are being impacted financially by what's going on. And so we've got to stay ahead of what's happening with, with Congress and the stimulus package and the economy and the data coming out from that and the stock markets. And the bond markets and everything that's tied into managing wealth and managing nest eggs for people and helping them plan and get through this.
(44:17): So find some peers in your industry that you can reach out to and that you can just have a call without an agenda to just see how things are going and where you can talk to each other. And it's, it's tough to talk about work with your spouse. It just doesn't turn out well sometimes because, and that goes both ways. And that's especially like Kay has a very stressful career. She's a lawyer. I have a very stressful career as a financial advisor and we just don't like to talk to each other too much about our work stuff because it ends up becoming a stressful conversation. We like to talk about happier things and things that don't have anything to do with work. And that's how it should be with your spouse. And that's why you want to find work friends or work peers where you can talk shop with each other and it's, it allows you to leave your work where it is when you're working at home. And go spend that family time with your spouse and your kids and your animals where you're not having to think about work and you're not talking about work with all of them. They don't want to hear it. All right, so that's my bonus tip. Find a network of peers and do some zoom calls together and touch base. All right. I hope this has been helpful. Nine tips to stay sane while working from home. I hope it helps you keep your sanity. Nobody knows how much longer we will be
(45:58): working from home continuously, but I am hopeful that spring is coming, that we will not be in this winter season forever and that we will make it to the other side of this. So stay safe, stay healthy, and keep all the people who are suffering, who are sick, who have been affected either individually or family members or people who have lost loved ones. Keep them in your thoughts, keep them in your prayers and keep yourself healthy and safe. You've been listening to the midlife money gal podcast to learn more and to join our community. Visit midlife money, gal.com this show is for informational and educational purposes only. Please do not consider any of the content as personalized financial investment, tax, or legal advice.
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