How To Maximize Savings With A Limited Income

January 19, 2022

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Denise and Chris Arand

Denise and Chris Arand

Executive Vice Presidents/Financial Strategists

2173 Salk Ave
#250
Carlsbad, CA 92008

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January 19, 2022

How To Maximize Savings With A Limited Income

How To Maximize Savings With A Limited Income

It can be tough to save money when your income is tight.

But it’s not impossible. In fact, there are a lot of things you can do to make the most of your money and stretch your dollars further. Here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Track your spending. The best way to save money is to know exactly how much you’re spending and where you’re spending it.

Create a budget and track all of your expenses for a month or two so that you can see what areas are costing you the most money. Then, work on those categories first.

If there are some areas that you’re having trouble cutting back, try using a website like Mint.com to see if there’s a way to reduce spending in those categories. Maybe it makes sense for you to switch your cell phone plan or cancel the cable package. The key is to be aware of where your money is going.

2. Make your own meals. Eating out every day is a quick way to blow through your paycheck. Creating your own meals is almost always cheaper than buying prepared food.

Plus, by making more of your own food, you’ll have more control over what ingredients are going into it—which means you can make healthier food choices.

3. Use coupons and rebates to save money. If you redeem the right coupons, you can get a lot of free or discounted products and services.

Keep an eye out for coupons in your mailbox, in newspapers and magazines, and through online coupon sites like Coupons.com. You can also take advantage of rebates, which give you a discount on your purchase price after the product has been purchased.

4. Ask for discounts. If you’re buying something from a business, be sure to ask if they offer any kind of discount. Many times retail stores and restaurants will offer discounted items or free upgrades to customers who ask.

5. Get creative with your transportation costs. No, that doesn’t mean getting rid of your car. But there are things you can do to make transportation cheaper. For example…

Take public transportation when possible (it’s usually less expensive than buying gas and parking).

Carpool with other people who live in your area or work in your area.

Maintain your car to help avoid expensive repairs down the road.

Getting from point A to point B will always cost time and resources. But with these tips, it doesn’t have to make or break your budget.

6. Buy used items. Not only is it possible to find good used items at discount prices, but buying “recycled” gives an item a second life and keeps it from being thrown into a landfill. You can buy used items locally or on sites like Craigslist and eBay, and you can also try searching a local thrift store. You might be surprised by what other people consider junk!

7. Find the best prices online. Retailers know that shoppers love searching for the lowest price. Many of them will actually reduce their prices if you show them that someone else is selling an identical item for less.

Use a price comparison website like PriceGrabber to look up the items you want to buy, and then compare the prices of those products across multiple retailers.

Saving money on a tight budget is possible if you’re willing to get creative and look for ways to reduce your spending. By taking advantage of discounts, coupons, and rebates, by making your own meals instead of eating out, and by looking for the best online prices, you can stretch your dollars further.

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January 17, 2022

How To Prepare For Emergencies

How To Prepare For Emergencies

Saving for a rainy day is something that everyone should do. But it’s not always easy.

It can be tough to put money away when you’re struggling to make ends meet. However, an emergency fund can mean the difference between weathering a financial storm or being exposed to financial harm.

Fortunately, creating an emergency fund is simple. In fact, if you play your cards right, it can be up and running in moments!

You can leverage several different types of accounts to save for those unexpected road bumps. A good option is opening a savings account or money market account with your bank.

Why? Because they are easy accounts to use when emergencies arise. They grant quick access to your money, usually without the threat of tax or bank penalties for withdrawals.*

Plus, they’re often a breeze to create. Just apply online with your current bank or speak with a representative. You might be surprised how quickly you can get an account up and running.

Next, set up a recurring deposit of whatever amount you can spare into your emergency fund. That way, it won’t be too hard to maintain throughout the year. Every time you get paid or get money from somewhere else, just throw some in there! It’s that simple.

Your goal? Save up to 3-6 months of living expenses. Why 3-6 months? Because that’s often enough cushion to cover many unexpected expenses that can so easily derail you.

At the very least, it gives you breathing room if your income were to dry up for 3-6 months.

At the most, it can cover an unexpected broken foot and subsequent surgery without incurring medical debt.

Regardless of how you use it, saving for a rainy day is just good financial sense. If you’re able, start your emergency fund now to safeguard yourself in the future!

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*Be aware of any fees your particular bank may incur for either of these types of accounts.

January 12, 2022

Financial Steps in the Right Direction

Financial Steps in the Right Direction

It’s not just about money. It’s about what you do with it… and how you feel about it.

It doesn’t matter if your balance is $0 or $1 million dollars, because that dollar figure is meaningless without context and perspective. What matters most is how you feel about your finances and the choices you make with them every day, week, month—all year long.

But there are some very practical things we can all do to keep our financial ship on course even in challenging times:

1. Pay off high-interest debt

2. Save 10% of your income

3. Buy life insurance now

4. Start a side gig

Pay off high-interest debt before saving for retirement. This is a very important step that should not be overlooked or minimized. Paying off credit card debt with high interest rates can save you huge amounts of money and make other savings goals easier to reach.

Save 10% of your income. It’s always wise to consistently save as much as you can. Yet, the rule of thumb that says we should save 10% of our income is still a solid one. Remember – saving is just for you – it’s not an investment per se, but rather a protection from any nasty surprises down the road and a way to ensure you have more money to save, invest and live on.

Buy life insurance now. Life insurance is often misunderstood and misused. As such, many people fail to see its value in terms of providing for their loved ones or even protecting their own future. However, life insurance provides a way to protect your family and business in the event of an unforeseen tragedy.

Start a side gig. It will not only provide you with a second stream of income, but will offer an additional sense of security and freedom.

For many people, their financial lives become clouded with stress and anxiety because they don’t have a way to earn extra money. The solution is often as simple as taking some of the time they’d normally spend watching TV and learning a new skill, or getting a part-time job on weekends.

However you choose to start making more money, focus on what is going to make you happier in life. Because if you’re financially free, secure and happy – that’s true wealth.

The most important thing to remember is that it’s not about how much money you make or have, but what you do with your money—how you feel about it. Make smart financial choices and things will happen for the better.

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December 28, 2021

The Right Way to Spend

The Right Way to Spend

There’s endless advice about how not to spend money. And it’s often delivered with an undertone of shame.

“You’re spending WHAT on your one bedroom apartment? Why don’t you find roommates?”

“I’ll bet those lattes add up! That money could be going towards your retirement.”

“You still buy food? Dumpster diving is so much more thrifty!”

You get the picture.

But make no mistake—pruning back your budget is great IF overspending is stopping you from reaching your goals.

But what if you’re financially on target? What if your debt is gone, your family’s protected, your retirement accounts are compounding, your emergency fund is stocked, and you still have money to spare?

Good news—you don’t have to live like a broke college student. That’s not you anymore. Instead, you can spend money on the things you really care about, like…

• People you love

• Causes that inspire you

• Local businesses

• House cleaning services

• Travelling

• Building your dream house

• New skills and hobbies

This isn’t a call to wildly spend on everything that catches your momentary fancy. That might be symptomatic of underlying wounds that you’re trying to heal with money. It won’t work.

Instead, it’s a call to identify a few things that you’re truly passionate about. Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You to Be Rich fame calls these Money Dials.¹ They’re things like convenience, travel, and self-improvement that excite you.

Just imagine you have limitless money. What would be the first thing you spend it on? That’s your money dial.

And, so long as you’re financially stable, there’s no shame in spending money on those things. This is why you’ve worked so hard and saved so much—to provide yourself and your loved ones with a better quality of life. Give yourself permission to enjoy that!

So what are you waiting for? Start planning that backpacking adventure through Scandinavia, or drafting blueprints for your dream house, or decking out the spare room as a recording studio. You’ve earned it!

Not positioned to spend on your passions yet? That’s okay! For now, let your goals inspire you to take the first steps towards creating financial independence and the lifestyle that can follow.

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¹ “Money Dials: The Reason You Spend the Way You Do According to Ramit Sethi,” Ramit Sethi, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, Oct 22, 2021 https://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/money-dials/

December 8, 2021

Transform Your Mess Into Money

Transform Your Mess Into Money

Have you ever opened up your garage and thought “YIKES!!!”?

As the door creaks open, it slowly reveals a maze of tools, trinkets, pictures, memorabilia, and, if we’re honest, straight up junk.

It’s a disaster. A catastrophe. Stressful. And it could make you a whole lot of money.

Here’s how…

Step 1: Take inventory of your stuff. From ball bearings to Beanie Babies to unused tools to picture frames, create a list of everything that’s cluttering your home.

Be ruthless. If you haven’t used something for years or it’s stressing you out, put it on the list. Be as specific as possible about features, condition, and age.

Then, search for similar items on Craigslist and eBay. Tally the prices next to the items on your inventory. Add the numbers together. That total is how much you stand to make (minus expenses) if you play your cards right. You might be surprised by how high the number actually is!

Step 2: Sell it all. You have a few avenues available for monetizing everything…

Garage sale. This is the simplest way to sell your stuff FAST. Put up a sign, organize everything as best as possible, and get ready for a hectic morning!

While a garage sale can liquidate your clutter in record time, you’ll almost certainly sell your goods for much less than what they may be worth. Garage sales attract every spendthrift and penny pincher for miles around. They’ll expect bargains, and it’s best to give them what they want!

Online marketplaces. This is your best option for truly competitive prices. That’s because it broadens your potential customer base across the country. And in that expanded customer base are some… how to say this…. devoted collectors.

Those books from the thrift store you bought for $3 on a whim? They’re part of an obscure sci-fi trilogy with a fanatical—and well-paying—fanbase.

That bedside table your great uncle left you? It’s exactly what a local mom with an eye for antiques needs to complete the guest bedroom.

And yes, the ridiculous toy collection from your grandparents that you never opened is now worth a fortune.

Just be warned that every online marketplace is different. Some will charge for creating a listing, others will want a slice of the profits. Social media platforms and groups are excellent places to reach local customers. Decide which platform works best for you, see how items are priced, and start selling!

Step 3: Reap the rewards wisely. Remember, getting rid of your stuff isn’t going to be free. By this time, you’ve committed a chunk of your energy and time to monetizing your mess. The money you earn isn’t a random windfall—it’s the result of your hard work.

Whatever you earn, commit it towards your existing financial goals, like…

- Eliminating debt

- Saving for retirement

- Buying a new home

And just like that, you’ve turned your mess into money and your stress into confidence. It’s a feeling that’s worth more than anything sitting in your garage.

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November 29, 2021

3 Reasons to be the Financial Early Bird

3 Reasons to be the Financial Early Bird

Extra-large-blonde-roast-with-a-double-shot-of-espresso, anyone?

As the old saying goes, “The early bird catches the worm.” But not everyone is an early riser, and getting up earlier than usual can throw off a night owl’s whole day.

When it comes to building retirement wealth, however, it’s best to imitate the early worm. So grab a cup of joe—here are 3 big advantages to starting your retirement savings early:

1. Less to put away each month

Let’s say you’re 40 years old with little to no savings for retirement, but you’d like to have $1,000,000 when you retire at age 65. Twenty-five years may seem like plenty of time to achieve this goal, so how much would you need to put away each month to make that happen?

If you were stuffing money into your mattress (i.e., saving with no interest rate or rate of return), you would need to cram at least $3,333.33 in between the layers of memory foam every month. How about if you waited until you were 50 to start? Then you’d need to tuck no less than $5,555.55 around the coils. Every. Single. Month.

A savings plan that’s aggressive is simply not feasible for a majority of North Americans. Over half of Americans are just getting by, living paycheck-to-paycheck.¹ So it makes sense that the earlier you start saving for retirement, the less you’ll need to put away each month. And the less you need to put away each month, the less stress will be put on your monthly budget – and the higher your potential to have a well-funded retirement when the time comes.

But what if you could start saving earlier and apply an interest rate? This is where the second advantage comes in…

2. Power of compounding

The earlier you start saving for retirement, the longer amount of time your money has to grow and build on itself. A useful shortcut to figuring out how long it would take your money to double is the Rule of 72.

Never heard of it? Here’s how it works: Take the number 72 and divide it by your annual interest rate. The answer is approximately how many years it will take for money in an account to double.

For example, applying the Rule of 72 to $10,000 in an account at a 4% interest rate would look like this:

72 ÷ 4 = 18

That means it would take approximately 18 years for $10,000 to grow to $20,000 ($20,258 to be exact).

Using this formula reveals that the higher the interest rate, the less time it’s going to take your money to double, so be on the lookout for the highest interest rate you can find!

Getting a higher interest rate and combining it with the third advantage below? You’d be on a roll…

3. Lower life insurance premiums

A well-tailored life insurance policy may help protect retirement savings. This is particularly important if you’re outlived by your spouse as he or she approaches their retirement years.

End-of-life costs can deal a serious blow to retirement savings. If you don’t have a strategy in place to help cover funeral expenses and the loss of income, the money your spouse might need may have to come out of your retirement savings.

One reason many people don’t consider life insurance as a method of protecting their retirement is that they think a policy would cost too much.

How much do you think a $500,000 term life insurance policy would cost for a healthy 30-year-old?

$33 per month.² That’s a cost that would easily fit into most budgets!

You may still need a little caffeine for the extra kick to get an early start on powering up your brain (or your retirement savings), but sacrificing a few brand-name cups of coffee per month could finance a well-tailored life insurance policy that has the potential to protect your retirement savings.

Contact me today, and together we can work on your financial strategy for retirement, including what kind of life insurance policy would best fit you and your needs. As for your journey to the brain-boosting benefits of being bilingual – just like with retirement, it’s never too late to start. And I’ll be here to cheer you on every step of the way!

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¹ “Nearly 40 Percent of Americans with Annual Incomes over $100,000 Live Paycheck-to-Paycheck,” PR Newswire, Jun 15, 2021, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/nearly-40-percent-of-americans-with-annual-incomes-over-100-000-live-paycheck-to-paycheck-301312281.html

² “Average Cost of Life Insurance (2021): Rates by Age, Term and Policy Size,” Sterling Price, ValuePenguin, Nov 19, 2021, https://www.valuepenguin.com/average-cost-life-insurance

November 8, 2021

Playing the Lottery is Still a Bad Idea

Playing the Lottery is Still a Bad Idea

A full third of Americans believe that winning the lottery is the only way they can retire.¹

What? Playing a game of chance is the only way they can retire? Do you ever wonder if winning a game – where your odds are 1 in 175,000,000 – is the only way you’ll get to make Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops your everyday uniform?

Do you feel like you might be gambling with your retirement?

If you do, that’s not a good sign. But believing you may need to win the lottery to retire is somewhat understandable when the financial struggle facing a majority of North Americans is considered: 77% of millennials are living paycheck-to-paycheck, as are nearly 40% of Americans earning over $100,000.²

When you’re in a financial hole, saving for your future may feel like a gamble in the present. But believing that “it’s impossible to save for retirement” is just one of many bad money ideas floating around. Following are a few other common ones. Do any of these feel true to you?

Bad Idea #1: I shouldn’t save for retirement until I’m debt free.
False! Even as you’re working to get out from under debt, it’s important to continue saving for your retirement. Time is going to be one of the most important factors when it comes to your money and your retirement, which leads right into the next Bad Idea…

Bad Idea #2: It’s fine to wait until you’re older to save.
The truth is, the earlier you start saving, the better. Even 10 years can make a huge difference. In this hypothetical scenario, let’s see what happens with two 55-year-old friends, Baxter and Will.

  • Baxter started saving when he was 25. Over the next 10 years, Baxter put away $3,000 a year for a total of $30,000 in an account with an 8% rate of return. He stopped contributing but let it keep growing for the next 20 years.
  • Will started saving 10 years later at age 35. Will also put away $3,000 a year into an account with an 8% rate of return, but he contributed for 20 years (for a total of $60,000).

Even though Will put away twice as much as Baxter, he wasn’t able to enjoy the same account growth:

  • Baxter would achieve account growth to $218,769.
  • Will’s account growth would only be to $148,269 at the same rate of return.

Is that a little mind-bending? Do we need to check our math? (We always do.) Here’s why Baxter ended up with more in the long run: Even though he set aside less than Will did, Baxter’s money had more time to compound than Will’s, which, as you can see, really added up over the additional time. So what did Will get out of this? Unfortunately, he discovered the high cost of waiting.

Keep in mind: All figures are for illustrative purposes only and do not reflect an actual investment in any product. Additionally, they do not reflect the performance risks, taxes, expenses, or charges associated with any actual investment, which would lower performance. This illustration is not an indication or guarantee of future performance. Contributions are made at the end of the period. Total accumulation figures are rounded to the nearest dollar.

Bad Idea #3: I don’t need life insurance.
Negative! Financing a well-tailored life insurance policy is an important part of your financial strategy. Insurance benefits can cover final expenses and loss of income for your loved ones.

Bad Idea #4: I don’t need an emergency fund.
Yes, you do! An emergency fund is necessary now and after you retire. Unexpected costs have the potential to cut into retirement funds and derail savings strategies in a big way, and after you’ve given your last two-weeks-notice ever, the cost of new tires or patching a hole in the roof might become harder to cover without a little financial cushion.

Are you taking a gamble on your retirement with any of these bad ideas?

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¹ “What Are the Odds of Winning the Lottery?” Kimberly Amadeo, The Balance, Oct 24, 2021, https://www.thebalance.com/what-are-the-odds-of-winning-the-lottery-3306232

² “Nearly 40 Percent of Americans with Annual Incomes over $100,000 Live Paycheck-to-Paycheck,” PR Newswire, Jun 15, 2021 https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/nearly-40-percent-of-americans-with-annual-incomes-over-100-000-live-paycheck-to-paycheck-301312281.html

November 1, 2021

Now's The Time for Future Financial Planning

Now's The Time for Future Financial Planning

What happened to the days of the $10 lawn mowing job or the $7-an-hour babysitting gig every Saturday night?

Not a penny withheld. No taxes to file. No stress about saving a million dollars for retirement. As a kid, doing household chores or helping out friends and neighbors for a little spending money is extremely different from the adult reality of giving money to both the state and federal government and/or retiring. Years ago, did those concepts feel so far away that they might as well have been camped out on Easter Island?

What happened to the carefree attitude surrounding our finances? It’s simple: we got older. As the years go by, finances can get more complicated. Knowing where your money is going and whether or not it’s working for you when it gets there is a question that’s better asked sooner rather than later.

When author of Financially Fearless Alexa von Tobel was asked what she wishes she’d known about money in her 20s, her answer was pretty interesting:

Not having a financial plan is a plan — just a really bad one! Given what I see as a general lack of personal-finance education, it can be all too easy to wing it with your money… I was lucky enough to learn this lesson while still in my 20s, so I had time to put a financial plan into place for myself.

A strategy for your money is essential, starting early is better, and talking to a financial professional is a solid way to get going. No message in a bottle sent from a more-prepared version of yourself is going to drift your way from Easter Island, chock-full of all the answers about your money. But sitting down with me is a great place to start. Contact me anytime.

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October 18, 2021

A Pocket Guide to Homeowners Insurance

A Pocket Guide to Homeowners Insurance

Homeowners insurance should bring peace of mind.

The right policy is there to help protect you if something happens to your home. Since a home may be the most significant investment many of us make in our lives, the proper homeowners insurance should be a major consideration.

Getting the right homeowners insurance is essential, but doesn’t have to be difficult. Still, how do you know if you’re selecting the right type of insurance policy for your house? Read on for answers to some common questions you might have.

What is the purpose of a homeowners insurance policy? A homeowners insurance policy is a contract by which an insurance company agrees to pay for repairs or to replace your home or property if it is involved in a covered loss, such as a fire. A home insurance policy may also offer you liability protection in case someone is injured on your property and files a lawsuit.

Do I have to have homeowners insurance? Your mortgage company will probably require a homeowners insurance policy. A lender wants to make sure their investment is protected should a catastrophe strike. The mortgage company would need you to insure your home for the cost to replace it if it were to be destroyed in a covered accident.

How do I know how much insurance to buy for my home? The limit – or amount of insurance you place on your home – is determined by several factors. The construction of your home is typically going to be the largest determinant of the cost to replace it. So consider what your home is made of. Construction types include concrete block, masonry, and wood frame. Also, consider the size of your home.

Personal property is another consideration when determining how much insurance to purchase for your home. A typical homeowners insurance policy usually offers a personal property limit equal to half the replacement cost of your home. So if your home is insured for $100,000, your policy may automatically assign a personal property limit of $50,000.

What is the best deductible for a homeowners insurance policy? When it comes to deductibles, consider selecting one that you can easily and quickly come up with out of pocket, just in case. Homeowners insurance policy deductibles may range from $500 to $10,000. Some policies offer percentage deductibles for certain damages, such as windstorm damage. For example, a coastal resident may have a windstorm deductible of two percent of the dwelling limit and a $1,000 deductible for all other perils.

There may be some cost savings features when you select a higher deductible on your homeowners insurance. Talk with a licensed insurance professional about your deductible options and premium savings.

Know the policy exclusions All homeowners insurance policies typically contain exclusions for accidents and damages they don’t cover. For example, your policy likely does not cover damage to your home caused by an ongoing maintenance problem. Also, most homeowners insurance policies don’t automatically cover losses resulting from a flood.

Exclusions are important because they drive coverage. Talk to your insurance professional about your policy’s exclusions.

Know the basics and talk to a professional As far as homeowners insurance policies are concerned, it’s crucial for homeowners to know the basics – limits, coverages, deductibles, and special exclusions. If you have specific concerns about your homeowners insurance, seek guidance from a licensed insurance professional.

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This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to promote any certain products, plans, or strategies that may be available to you. Before taking out any loan or enacting a funding strategy, seek the advice of a licensed financial professional, realtor, accountant, and/or tax expert to discuss your options.

October 11, 2021

The Real Reason You Aren't Saving

The Real Reason You Aren't Saving

“I’ll start saving when I turn 30.”

“I’m too old to save.”

“I’m in too much debt to save.”

“Why do I need to save? I don’t have any debt!”

You may have heard your friends and loved ones say things like this before. You may have even said them yourself!

It doesn’t take much sleuthing to recognize these statements for what they are—excuses. And excuses always suck.

But the fact that people feel compelled to make excuses reveals the truth…

People are afraid of saving.

In one sense, it’s easy to see why. Everyone knows saving is critical. But no one knows the “right way” to go about it. And that ignorance makes building wealth seem mysterious, or even dangerous.

An excuse serves as a justification for avoiding that great unknown. It makes not saving feel like the safer option… for now.

But never saving can have disastrous consequences like…

  • Running out of money in retirement
  • Struggling to cover medical emergencies
  • Constant stress about affording the basics

The choice is simple…

Risk a financial disaster.

OR

Face your fears and start saving.

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to face that fear alone.

Having mentors and companions to aid you on your journey can mean the difference between success and financial shipwreck.

In fact, that’s what I’m here for—to offer insight, tips, and support as you start building wealth and financial security for your family.

So if you’re ready to face your fears and to start saving, let’s chat! We can review your situation, and what it would look like to overcome your financial obstacles.

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October 6, 2021

Lessons From the Super Frugal

Lessons From the Super Frugal

The world of the super frugal can be an overwhelming place.

In a sense, it’s inspiring. The creativity and grit of the super frugal are sure to put a grin on your face. You may even find a few fun money saving projects that are worth your time. Saving money with french toast? Sign me up!

However, there’s a fine line between inspiring and weird, and the super frugal sometimes cross that line. Could reusing a plastic lid as a paint palette save you money? Sure! The same is true for bartering with store clerks. Will you get funny looks? Almost certainly.

It’s not that funny looks are bad. There’s wisdom to defying the crowd and marching to the beat of your own drum. But sometimes there’s a good reason to raise an eyebrow at super frugality…

That’s because it can miss the point.

Your financial top priority must always be providing for those you love. In this day and age, that means building wealth.

Some people may need extreme measures to do that. Let’s say you have deep credit card debt or a spending problem. Coupon clipping, saving on utilities, and thrifting may help you knock that debt out faster and free up the cash flow you need to start building wealth.

But don’t mistake the means for the end. Obsessing over coupons, stressing over recycling, and cutting too many corners can reach unhealthy and even pathological extremes. That doesn’t create wealth and prosperity—it can just cause more suffering.

So take lessons from the super frugal. Find a few money savings projects that you enjoy. Maybe do a spending cleanse. But keep your eye on the ultimate prize—building wealth for you and your family.

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October 4, 2021

Wealth Is Security, Not Paycheck Size

Wealth Is Security, Not Paycheck Size

Wealth isn’t about how much you earn. It’s about how secure you feel.

Consider two examples that illustrate this truth…

Mark works for an up-and-coming software company in middling America.

He earns a handsome salary.

He wakes up at 5 a.m., works out, and meditates for 30 minutes. His chakras stay open. His creative juices stay flowing.

He shows his coworkers pictures of his Tesla between ping pong matches.

He’s never had any of them over to his rented downtown apartment. They mostly just eat sushi at that new place, hit the town, then go their separate ways.

His flat screen TV and triple monitor setup display more pixels than his eye can perceive.

In short, Mark is rich… but he isn’t wealthy.

He’s not wealthy because he has no security. If he gets laid off, he loses his Tesla, his community, his apartment, everything.

Let’s consider another example…

Sarah earns average money running a small creative studio in Nowhereville, U.S.A.

She‘s late to her weekly lunch dates with her long-time friends. Projects don’t finish themselves!

The kids rushed cleaning the dishes… again.

When her mom died, her friends worked around the clock to keep her family fed with homemade meals.

When the dust of her day settles, she sits down in her bed, does some light reading, journals things she’s grateful for, and then hits the hay.

What’s left after business and living business expenses goes to her Roth IRA that’s been steadily growing for two decades.

Sarah may not be rich… but she’s wealthy beyond belief.

If anything happens, she has assets—a family, a community, a business, and savings—to support her. She rests easy the moment her head hits the pillow.

The takeaway? Invest in your security. That could be a savings account, a healthy relationship, a community, life insurance, or a stable business. Over time, those investments can help bring you the peace of mind you’re searching for.

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September 29, 2021

Are You Ready?

Are You Ready?

It’s not a question if buying is better than renting. It’s a question of when you’ll be ready to buy.

That’s because rent money is lost to your landlord forever.

A homeowner, though, has the chance for the value of their house to increase. It may not be an earth-shattering return, but there’s a far higher chance that you’ll at least break even from owning than renting.

Even with its advantages, owning a home isn’t for everyone… at least, not yet. Here are a few criteria to consider before becoming a homeowner.

You’re ready to put down roots. If you’re not yet prepared to live in one place for at least five years, home ownership may not be for you.

Why? Because buying and selling a home comes with costs. As a rule of thumb, waiting five years can allow your home to appreciate enough value to offset those expenses.

So before you buy a home, be sure that you’ve done your homework. Will your job require you to change locations in the next five years? Will local schools stay up to par as your family grows? If you’re confident that you’ll stay put for the next five years or more, go ahead and start planning.

You can cover the upfront costs of home ownership. The upfront costs of buying a home, as mentioned above, are no laughing matter. They may prove a barrier to entry if you haven’t been saving up.

The greatest upfront costs you’ll face are the down payment and closing costs. A down payment is usually a percentage of the total purchase price of your home—for instance, a home priced at $200,000 might require a 20% down payment, or $40,000.

Closing costs vary from state to state, with averages ranging from $1,909 in Indianna to $25,800 in the District of Columbia.¹ These include fees to the lender and property transfer taxes.

The takeaway? Start saving to cover the upfront costs of purchasing a home well in advance. Your bank account will thank you!

You can handle the maintenance costs of home ownership. Say what you will about landlords, but at least they don’t charge you for home repairs and maintenance!

That all changes when you become a homeowner. Every little ding, scratch, and flooded basement are your responsibility to cover. It all adds up to over $2,000 per year, though that figure will vary depending on the size and age of your home.² If you haven’t factored in those expenses, your cash flow—as well as your airflow—might be in for trouble!

Do you have residual debt to deal with? The great danger of debt is that it destabilizes your finances. It dries up precious cash flow needed to cover emergency expenses and build wealth.

That’s why throwing a mortgage on top of a high student loan or credit card debt burden can be a blunder. You might be able to cover costs on paper, but you risk stretching your cash flow to take care of any unplanned emergencies.

In conclusion, owning a home is an admirable goal. But it may not be for you and your family yet! Take a long look at your finances and life-stage before making a purchase that could become a source of stress instead of stability.

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¹ “Average Closing Costs in 2020: What Will You Pay?” Amy Fontinelle, The Ascent, Sept 28, 2020, https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/research/average-closing-costs/

² “How Much Should You Budget for Home Maintenance?” American Family Insurance, https://www.amfam.com/resources/articles/at-home/average-home-maintenance-costs

September 22, 2021

Discover Your Retirement Number

Discover Your Retirement Number

How much money will you need to retire?

It’s a question that has no single answer. Everyone has different financial needs that arise from their specific situation.

But there are methods and tools you can use to discover your personal retirement number. In this article we show three ways to estimate how much you need to save for a comfortable retirement.

Use an online retirement calculator. The beauty of retirement calculators is that they’re simple. Input some data about your savings, and you’ll get an estimate of how much you’ll have in retirement. They’ll let you know if you’re on target for your retirement goals.

Always take retirement calculators with a grain of salt. They’re each built on different algorithms and assumptions, so expect a range of results.

They also don’t know you personally, or your situation. You may have specific needs and plans that they can’t take into account.

Here are a few retirement calculators you can try…

The 4% Rule. This is the tried and true strategy for discovering your retirement number. It takes a little math, so grab your calculator!

First, let’s assume your income is $60,000 per year.

Next, let’s say that your annual retirement income must be 80% of your current annual income. So that’s $48,000.

Now, divide that by 4%…

$48,000 ÷ 0.04 = $1,200,000

Using the 4% Rule, you would need to have saved $1,200,000 to retire on 80% of your current income ($1,200,000 ÷ $48,000 = 25 years).

The Income Scale. This strategy, recommended by Fidelity, is more of a rule of thumb.¹

It aims for you to save 10x your annual income by age 67. It provides benchmarks along the way…

-1x by 30 -3x by 40 -6x by 50 -8x by 60

The only issue with this strategy is that 10x your income may not be enough for a comfortable retirement. For instance, a family earning $60,000 per year would only have $600,000 saved!

Each of these tools will help you estimate your retirement number. But the best way to discover your true number is to meet with a licensed and qualified financial professional. They can help you consider all the variables that may impact your retirement, and how to prepare.

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September 15, 2021

Big Financial Rocks First

Big Financial Rocks First

A teacher walked into her classroom with a clear jar, a bag of rocks, a bucket of sand, and a glass of water. She placed all the large rocks carefully into the jar.

“Who thinks this jar is full?” she asked. Almost half of her students raised their hands. Next, she began to pour sand from the bucket into the jar full of large rocks emptying the entire bucket into the jar.

“Who thinks this jar is full now?” she asked again. Almost all of her students now had their hands up. To her student’s surprise, she emptied the glass of water into the seemingly full jar of rocks and sand.

“What do you think I’m trying to show you?” She inquired.

One eager student answered: “That things may appear full, but there is always room left to put more stuff in.”

The teacher smiled and shook her head.

“Good try, but the point of this illustration is that if I didn’t put in the large rocks first, I would not be able to fit them in afterwards.”

This concept can be applied to the idea of a constant struggle between priorities that are urgent versus those that are important. When you have limited resources, priorities must be in place since there isn’t enough to go around. Take your money, for example. Unless you have an unlimited amount of funds (we’re still trying to find that source), you can’t have an unlimited amount of important financial goals.

Back to the teacher’s illustration. Let’s say the big rocks are your important goals. Things like buying a home, helping your children pay for college, retirement at 60, etc. They’re all important –but not urgent. These things may happen 10, 20, or 30 years from now.

Urgent things are the sand and water. A monthly payment like your mortgage payment or your monthly utility and internet bills. The urgent things must be paid and paid on time. If you don’t pay your mortgage on time… Well, you might end up retiring homeless.

Even though these monthly obligations might be in mind more often than your retirement or your toddler’s freshman year in college, if all you focus on are urgent things, then the important goals fall by the wayside. And in some cases, they stay there long after they can realistically be rescued. Saving up for a down payment for a home, funding a college education, or having enough to retire on is nearly impossible to come up with overnight (still looking for that source of unlimited funds!). In most cases, it takes time and discipline to save up and plan well to achieve these important goals.

What are the big rocks in your life? If you’ve never considered them, spend some time thinking about it. When you have a few in mind, place them in the priority queue of your life. Otherwise, if those important goals are ignored for too long, they might become one of the urgent goals - and perhaps ultimately unrealized if they weren’t put in your plan early on.

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September 8, 2021

About To Splurge? Sleep On It

About To Splurge? Sleep On It

Splurging is awesome. At least, it feels awesome.

Shopping unleashes dopamine, the brain chemical that fuels our biological reward system. Dopamine is the reason you crave food, sugar, affection… and splurging.¹

Think about the last time you splurged. Remember the feeling of anticipation when you walked into the store or pulled up the website? That’s the dopamine pushing you towards buying.

It’s also responsible for the rush when you open the box when you get home or try on that knockout dress for the first time.

There’s nothing wrong with indulging those feelings from time to time. But what can you do if you’re craving a shopping spree that your budget can’t handle?

Simple. Sleep on it!

Waiting 24 hours between feeling the urge to spend and going to the store gives you space to think. Do you really need that new gadget? Will that fancy dress make you happy?

After thinking it over, you may still want to splurge. That’s fine (as long as it’s within your financial strategy)! The key is that when you give yourself time to think things over, you won’t be as likely to make an impulse buy. Instead, you’re more likely to make a calculated, well-reasoned decision. And delaying your gratification will make it all the more rewarding when you walk out of the store.

Keep a close eye on your splurging habits. If you feel like your spending is out of control, you may need to seek a mental health or financial professional. There might be more to your shopping habits than meets the eye!

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¹ “Why Retail “Therapy” Makes You Feel Happier,” Cleveland Clinic Jan 21, 2021, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/retail-therapy-shopping-compulsion/

August 30, 2021

What You May Not Know About Life Insurance

What You May Not Know About Life Insurance

Life insurance has one main job—helping to protect your family’s financial security in the event of your death.

And it does that by providing your loved ones with a one-time payout that replaces your income.

Your family depends on you to provide. It’s how they afford necessities like food and shelter. It’s also how you support them with their lifestyle.

But if you pass away, your income dries up. Your family would have to face their financial responsibilities with fewer resources.

That’s where life insurance helps. If you pass away, your family receives a benefit that can help ease the financial pressure.

Instead of a yearly salary, your loved ones now receive a once-in-a-lifetime salary.

That’s why it’s common to base the size of your life insurance policy on your income. Rule of thumb, you want a policy that’s 10X your annual income.

So if you currently earn $60,000, you probably would need a $600,000 policy.

There are factors besides income to consider. For instance, your family may need more protection if you’re paying off a mortgage.

In conclusion, if anyone you love depends on your income, you need life insurance. It’s a way to provide for your family, even if you’ve passed away.

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This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to promote any certain products, plans, or policies that may be available to you. Any examples used in this article are hypothetical. Before enacting a savings or retirement strategy, or purchasing a life insurance policy, seek the advice of a licensed and qualified financial professional, accountant, and/or tax expert to discuss your options.

August 25, 2021

3 Saving Strategies For College

3 Saving Strategies For College

In this day and age, it seems like college tuition is skyrocketing.

Students and parents are increasingly reliant on loans to cover the cost of higher education, often with devastating long-term results.¹

In this article we’ll cover three saving strategies to help you cover the cost of college without resorting to burdensome debt.

Strategy #1: Use “High-Yield” savings accounts. This strategy is simple—stash a portion of your income each month into a savings account. Then, when the time comes, use what you’ve saved to cover the costs of tuition.

Unfortunately, this strategy is riddled with shortcomings. The interest rates on “high yield” savings accounts are astonishingly low—you’d be hard pressed to find one at 1%.²

Even if you did, it wouldn’t be nearly enough. For example, if you had $3,000 saved for college in a savings account earning 1% interest per year, it would only grow to about $3,100 after four years—not enough to cover a whole semester’s tuition!

Even worse, inflation might increase the cost of tuition at a pace your savings couldn’t keep up with. Your money would actually lose value instead of gain it!

Fortunately, high-yield interest accounts are far from your only option…

Strategy #2: Consider traditional wealth building vehicles. That means mutual funds, Roth IRAs, savings bonds, indexed universal life insurance, and more.

The growth rates on these products are typically significantly higher than what you’d find in a high-yield savings account. You might even find products which allow for tax-free growth (the Roth IRA and IUL, for example).

But, typically, these vehicles have two critical weaknesses…

  1. They’re often designed for retirement. That means you’ll face fees and taxes if you tap into them before a certain age.

  2. They’re often subject to losses. A market upheaval could seriously impact your college savings.

Note that none of these vehicles are identical. They all have strengths and weaknesses. Consult with a licensed and qualified financial professional before you begin saving for college with any of these tools.

Strategy #3: Use education-specific saving vehicles. The classic example of these is the 529 plan.

The 529 is specifically designed for the purpose of saving and paying for education. That’s why it offers…

  • Tax advantages
  • Potential for compounding growth
  • Unlimited contributions

It’s a powerful tool for growing the wealth needed to help cover the rising costs of college.

The caveat with the 529 is that it’s subject to losses. It’s also very narrow in its usefulness—if your child decides not to pursue higher education, you’ll face a penalty to use the funds for something non-education related.

So which strategy should you choose? That’s something you and your financial professional will need to discuss. They can help you evaluate your current situation, your goals, and which strategy will help you close the gap between the two!

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Market performance is based on many factors and cannot be predicted. This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to promote any certain products, plans, or strategies for saving and/or investing that may be available to you. Any examples used in this article are hypothetical. Before investing or enacting a savings or retirement strategy, seek the advice of a licensed and qualified financial professional, accountant, and/or tax expert to discuss your options.


¹ “Student Loan Debt: 2020 Statistics and Outlook,” Daniel Kurt, Investopedia, Jul 27, 2021, https://www.investopedia.com/student-loan-debt-2019-statistics-and-outlook-4772007

² “Best high-yield savings accounts in August 2021,” Matthew Goldberg, Bankrate, Aug 25, 2021, https://www.bankrate.com/banking/savings/best-high-yield-interests-savings-accounts/

August 23, 2021

Financial Essentials for Retiring Baby Boomers

Financial Essentials for Retiring Baby Boomers

Are Baby Boomers out of time for retirement planning?

At first glance, it might seem like they are. They’re currently aged 57-75, meaning a good portion have already retired!¹

And those who are still working have only a few precious years to create their retirement nest eggs and get their finances in order.

Perhaps you’re in that boat—or at least know someone who is. If so, this article is for you. It’s about some essential strategies retiring Baby Boomers can leverage to help create the futures they desire.

Eliminate your debt. The first step is getting rid of your debt. After all, it’s not optional in retirement—you’ll need every penny to fund the lifestyle you want.

That means two things…

  1. Don’t take on any new debt. No new houses, boats, cars, or credit card funded toys.
  2. Use a debt snowball (or avalanche) to eliminate existing debts.

That means focusing all of your financial resources on a single debt at a time, knocking out either the smallest balance or highest interest debt.

Eliminating, or at least reducing, your debt can help create financial headroom for you in retirement. It frees up more cash flow for you to spend on your lifestyle and on preparing for potential emergencies.

Maximize social security benefits. Delay Social Security as long as possible (or until age 70). Delaying Social Security increases your monthly payments, so it’s a simple way to maximize your benefit.

For example, if you started collecting Social Security at age 66, you would be entitled to 100% of your social security benefit. At 67, it increases to 108%, and by 70 it increases 132%. That can make a huge difference towards living your dream retirement lifestyle.

Check out the Social Security Administration’s website to learn more.

Protect your wealth and health with long-term care (LTC) coverage. The next step is to protect your assets from the burden of LTC. It’s a challenge 7 out of 10 retirees will have to overcome, and it can be costly—without insurance, it can cost anywhere between $20,000 and $100,000. That’s a significant chunk of your retirement wealth!²

The standard strategy for covering the cost of LTC is LTC insurance. It pays for expenses like nursing homes, caretakers, and adult daycares.

But it can be pricey, especially as you grow older—a couple, age 55, can expect to pay $2,080 annually combined, while a 65 year old couple will pay closer to $3,750.³

The takeaway? If you don’t have LTC coverage, get it ASAP. The longer you wait, the more cost—and risk—you potentially expose yourself to.

Pro-tip: If you have a permanent life insurance policy, you may be able to add a LTC rider to your coverage. Meet with a licensed and qualified financial professional to see if this option is available for you!

Review your income potential with a financial professional. The final step on your path to retirement is reviewing your income options. You want to strike a balance between maximizing your sources of cash flow and keeping control over your retirement plan.

Many retirees lean heavily on two primary income opportunities: Social security and withdrawals from their retirement savings accounts.

And that’s where a financial professional can help.

They can help you review your current retirement lifestyle goals, savings, and potential income. If there’s a gap, they can help come up with strategies to close it.

You’ve worked hard and made sacrifices—now it’s time to reap the rewards of all that elbow grease. Which of the essentials in this article do you need to tackle first?

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¹ “Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z, and Gen A Explained,” Kasasa, Jul 6, 2021, https://www.kasasa.com/articles/generations/gen-x-gen-y-gen-z

²”Long-term care insurance cost: Everything you need to know,” MarketWatch, Feb 19, 2021, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/long-term-care-insurance-cost-everything-you-need-to-know-01613767329

³ “Long-Term Care Insurance Facts - Data - Statistics - 2021 Reports,” American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, https://www.aaltci.org/long-term-care-insurance/learning-center/ltcfacts-2021.php

August 16, 2021

Financial Moves to Improve Your Mental Health

Financial Moves to Improve Your Mental Health

Can wise money moves help improve your mental health, decrease your stress, and boost your peace of mind? Absolutely.

It’s easy to see why. A lot of stress comes from worrying about the future, as well as problems that might seem small but are stressful in practice (such as getting stuck with a $400 car repair bill because your brakes went out).

How much better would it feel if you could stop stressing about money? How much less anxiety would you experience if your retirement savings were on track? And how much more secure would you feel, knowing that should an emergency arise, you have the resources to handle it?

With that end in mind, here are simple financial moves you can make to help improve your mental health!

Create a financial vision statement. Whether you use a financial professional or do it on your own, creating a financial vision statement is the first step to improving your quality of life with personal finance.

What’s a “vision statement?” It’s a one or two sentence description of where you want your money to take you in the future.

Why does it help your mental health? For starters, it gives you a goal to strive towards, and goals tend to increase mental resilience.¹

It also may help reduce uncertainty and ambiguity about the future. When your financial vision statement is clear and complete, your next actions may become clear and obvious.

But while it may seem simple on paper, it can feel overwhelming in practice. Try this process to help take the stress out of creating your vision statement…

Create a list of things you value. That could be family, adventure, stability, comfort, and more.

Write out what a future full of your values would look like. This gives you a more concrete—and inspiring—vision of your goals.

Describe how money can make your vision a reality. This final piece is your financial vision statement. It’s how much money you’ll need to enjoy the lifestyle you want in the future.

Save up an emergency fund. Juggling a paycheck, credit card bills, student loans and other debt repayment, rent, and groceries is stressful.

Unexpected—and expensive—emergencies can make things even harder.

But being prepared helps! Having an emergency fund means that when something goes wrong, you’ll have cash on hand to help cover it.

In general, aim to save 3-6 months’ worth of income and keep it easily accessible. Then, when an emergency strikes, simply reach into your emergency fund to help cover the costs.

Will it totally eliminate the stress of emergencies? Probably not. But it can mitigate the financial anxiety that can loom over you if you’re not prepared.

Meet with a financial professional. Nothing reduces your stress levels quite like knowing your finances are in good hands. That’s where a licensed and qualified financial professional can help.

They can help you develop strategies for reaching your goals, identify obstacles early on, and refine your financial vision statement.

Plus, having someone you can talk to about money can make your finances far less intimidating and stressful. Find a professional who you’re comfortable with and who’s knowledgeable, and start cultivating your relationship. It may be one of the best investments you make!

If you’re feeling stressed about money, know that you’re not alone. And the good news is that you can do something about it. Try these simple steps, and see how you feel!

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¹ “Goal setting,” healthdirect, https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/goal-setting

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