Severance Explained

July 6, 2022

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Denise and Chris Arand

Denise and Chris Arand

Executive Vice Presidents/Financial Strategists

6790 Embarcadero Ln
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Carlsbad, CA 92011

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June 29, 2022

Sinking Funds 101

Sinking Funds 101

You can put down the life jacket—a sinking fund is actually a good thing!

Why? Because a sinking fund can help you avoid high interest debt when making big purchases. Here’s how…

Put simply, a sinking fund is a savings account that’s dedicated to a specific purchase.

For instance, you could create a sinking fund for buying a new car. Every paycheck, you would automate a deposit into the fund until you had enough money to buy your new ride.

And that can make it a powerful tool. Instead of putting big ticket items on a credit card or using financing, you can instead use cash. It can work wonders for your cash flow and your ability to build wealth over the long haul.

Here are a few tips for making the most of your sinking fund…

Plan in advance

Sinking funds work best when they’ve had time to accumulate—you probably can’t save for two weeks and then expect to buy a car!

First, write a list of all major upcoming expenses on the horizon. List how much you expect them to cost, and when you plan to purchase them.

Then, divide the cost by the number of pay periods between now and then. That’s how much you need to save each paycheck to buy the item in cash. Even if you can’t spare the cash flow to save the full amount, you can at least save enough to lower the amount of debt you’ll be taking on.

Prioritize access

What good is saving for a purchase if you can’t access the money? Not much.

That’s why it’s best if your sinking fund is highly liquid. No penalties for withdrawal. No delay between selling assets and accessing cash. Otherwise, you may find yourself unnecessarily twiddling your thumbs instead of actually making the purchase!

Prioritize safety

Remember—this is for a specific purchase on a relatively short timetable, so you might not want to put these funds in a more aggressive account. The last thing anyone wants is for their car savings to get halved by a bear market. There are other accounts specifically designed for building wealth. This doesn’t need to be one.

So before you make your next big purchase, call up your licensed and qualified financial professional. Give them the details about what you plan to buy and when. Then, collaborate to see what saving for the purchase could look like. It could be the alternative to credit card spending and financing that your wallet needs!

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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. Market performance is based on many factors and cannot be predicted. 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.

June 22, 2022

Are Gym Memberships Worth It?

Are Gym Memberships Worth It?

Let’s face it—we’ve all botched a New Year’s fitness resolution.

Sure, we started the year with great intentions and a few gym visits, but it didn’t take long for our resolve to waver and we never returned. However, many of us have kept that membership around. After all, we paid so much to sign up that we might as well hold on to it just in case our motivation comes back, right?

Wrong.

It turns out that gym membership might have been a bad value right from the start. But how can you tell? Here are a few things to consider if you’re thinking about finally moving on from your overly ambitious New Year’s resolution.

How gym memberships work

Gym memberships seem pretty simple on the surface; you pay once a month for access to gym equipment during operating hours. But annual fees and initiation fees can add up pretty quickly, meaning that you can potentially sink hundreds of dollars into a gym. National gym chains may range in price from $164 to $1,334 per year, but the national average comes out to $696 annually. Plus, some gyms make you sign a contract locking you into a year-long membership. You have to pay for the membership regardless if you work out!

The big question: Are you paying for something you won’t use?

Gym memberships are more cost effective the more you take advantage of them. Going to the gym seven times a week at an average priced gym? Let’s do the math. You’ll pay $1.90 per visit. Go four times per week? $3.36.¹

But let’s say you visit the gym about four times per month for an hour-long sweat session. You’ll wind up spending $14.50 per hour! To put that in perspective, we spend an average of $0.28 on Netflix per hour. Sitting around watching TV is far more cost effective than working out.

Alternatives to gym memberships

So what can you do if you want to get fit but don’t want the potential financial black hole of a gym membership? It’s often cheaper in the long run to build your own gym at home rather than getting a membership. You also might want to see if your apartment or office has a serviceable gym. If all else fails, you can always do body weight exercises. You might be surprised by how grueling and intense push-ups and squats can be!

The bottom line is that the keys to making your gym membership worth it are motivation and discipline. The cost of buying a membership isn’t enough incentive.² You have to find a deeper drive to get you in the gym week in and week out. Check out the costs of your local gym, weigh the alternatives, and ask yourself why you want to start working out before you sign that contract!

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¹ “Are gym memberships worth the money?” Zachary Crockett, Jan 5, 2019, https://thehustle.co/gym-membership-cost

² “Annual Gym Memberships Can Be a Trap. Do This Instead.” Whitney Akers, Healthline, Sep 24, 2018, https://www.healthline.com/health-news/gym-memberships-can-be-a-trap#2

May 23, 2022

What's a Recession?

What's a Recession?

Most of us would probably be apprehensive about another recession.

The Great Recession caused financial devastation for millions of people across the globe. But what exactly is a recession? How do we know if we’re in one? How could it affect you and your family? Here’s a quick rundown.

So what exactly is a recession? The quick answer is that a recession is a negative GDP growth rate for two back-to-back quarters or longer (1). But reality can be a bit more complicated than that. There’s actually an organization that decides when the country is in a recession. The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) is composed of commissioners who dig through monthly data and officially declare when a downturn begins.

There’s also a difference between a recession and a depression. A recession typically lasts between 6 to 16 months (the Great Recession was an exception and pushed 18 months). The Great Depression, by contrast, lasted a solid decade and witnessed unemployment rates above 25% (2). Fortunately, depressions are rare: there’s only been one since 1854, while there have been 33 recessions during the same time (3).

What happens during a recession <br> The NBER monitors five recession indicators. The first and most important is inflation-adjusted GDP. A consistent quarterly decline in GDP growth is a good sign that a recession has started or is on the horizon. Then this gets supplemented by other numbers. A falling monthly GDP, declining real income, increasing unemployment, weak manufacturing and retail sales all point to a recession.

How could a recession affect you? The bottom line is that a weak economy affects everyone. Business slows down and layoffs can occur. People who keep their jobs may get spooked by seeing coworkers and friends lose their jobs, and then they may start cutting back on spending. This can start a vicious cycle which can lead to lower profits for businesses and possibly more layoffs. The government may increase spending and lower interest rates in order to help stop the cycle and stabilize the economy.

In the short term, that means it might be harder to find a job if you’re unemployed or just out of school and that your cost of living skyrockets. But it can also affect your major investments; the value of your home or your retirement savings could all face major setbacks.

Recessions can be distressing. They’re hard to see coming and they can potentially impact your financial future. That’s why it’s so important to start preparing for any downturns today. Schedule a call with a financial professional to discuss strategies to help protect your future!

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¹ “What Is a Recession?” Kimberly Amadeo, The Balance, Apr 6, 2022, https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-a-recession-3306019

² “What Is a Recession?” Amadeo, The Balance, 2022

³ “Recession vs. Depression: How To Tell the Difference” Kimberly Amadeo, The Balance, May 4, 2022, https://www.thebalance.com/recession-vs-depression-definition-causes-and-stats-3306048

April 25, 2022

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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April 4, 2022

Rising Interest Rates and You

Rising Interest Rates and You

In mid-March, the Federal Reserve increased interest rates for the first time since 2018.¹

The Fed’s benchmark rate rose from .25% to .50%.

Now here’s the big question…

So what? Who cares?

You’re facing your share of financial challenges. Rent keeps climbing. The job market is in chaos. Gas prices are punishing. And almost everything in the grocery store just keeps getting more and more expensive. Who cares if the suits in Washington are changing made-up numbers on their spreadsheets?

The answer? YOU should.

Here’s why…

The Fed uses interest rates to combat inflation. The lower the interest rate, the higher inflation can rise. High interest rates tend to squash inflation.

That’s because interest rates impact demand. Think about it—are you more likely to borrow money when interest rates are low, or when they’re high? Everyone in their right mind will say low. So when the Fed lowers rates, a spending frenzy ensues. People borrow money to invest, start businesses, buy cars, buy homes, take vacations, get that game console they’ve been wanting, and to finally have that checkup they’ve been putting off. In other words, demand for everything skyrockets.

So what did the Fed do when a global pandemic shut down economies, closed businesses, and locked people indoors? They slashed interest rates from already historic lows.

And it worked, perhaps too well. Consider the housing market. In the dark early days of the pandemic, no one left their homes. Mortgage rates plummeted. And people noticed. More and more people took advantage of the situation to buy new homes. The demand for housing soared. So did home prices.² Cue the bidding wars and escalation clauses, and now we’re paying a king’s ransom for a 1 bed, 1 bath hovel.

And that’s been repeated in industry after industry as climbing demand meets clogged supply chains.

Now, the Fed is boosting interest rates, presumably to soften demand and discourage spending. Given the inflation of 2021 and early 2022, it’s an understandable move!

It’s critical to note that the Fed’s interest rate hike isn’t a guarantee—inflation could plummet, or it could soar. But it’s worth noting. It may even merit a call to a financial pro. They’ll be equipped to see if your financial strategy will be impacted by higher interest rates.

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¹ “Federal Reserve approves first interest rate hike in more than three years, sees six more ahead,” Jeff Cox, CNBC, Mar 16 2022 https://www.cnbc.com/2022/03/16/federal-reserve-meeting.html

² The housing market faces its biggest test yet, Lance Lambert, Fortune, March 28, 2022, https://fortune.com/2022/03/28/mortgage-rate-hike-could-slow-the-housing-market/#:~:text=When%20the%20pandemic%20struck%20two,to%20jump%20into%20the%20market.

March 24, 2022

The Complete Guide to Buying Happiness

The Complete Guide to Buying Happiness

You’ve probably heard that money can’t buy happiness. But what if it could?

What if you were able to find a way of spending your money that made you happy, and the more you spent on it, the happier you became? Doesn’t sound possible, does it? But it IS entirely possible.

At least, that’s the premise of a paper written by scholars from Harvard, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Virginia. The title? “If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren’t Spending It Right.”

The thesis? If you spend money right, it makes you happy. If you spend money wrong, it makes you feel… well, meh.

Here’s what they found…

Buy experiences, not things. The researchers found that people tend to be happier when they spend money on experiences rather than things. That’s because experiences provide us with opportunities to create memories, which can be recalled and enjoyed long after the experience is over. And as you get older, those memories become constant sources of joy, satisfaction, and happiness.

So if you’re looking to spend your money in a way that will make you happy, focus on things like travel, getaways, skydiving, sunsets, long walks, and conversations. Those will remain with you for the rest of your life.

Help others first. It’s a fact—social relations are critical for happiness. The better your relationships, the greater your happiness.

So it follows that one of the best ways to spend your money in a way that will make you happy is to help others. This could mean donating money to charity, or simply spending time with friends and family.

Focus on little pleasures. Another way to spend your money in a way that will make you happy is to focus on little pleasures. This one seems counterintuitive—shouldn’t you save a whole bunch of money and spend it on something fancy?

However, the paper cites research that frequency is more powerful than intensity. Is eating a 12oz cookie better than eating a 6oz cookie? Absolutely. But is it two times better? Probably not. It’s a concept called diminishing marginal utility—the more you indulge in something, the less enjoyable it becomes.

What does that mean? Frequent day trips beat rare but epic vacations. Fun, quiet date nights once per week beat going all out twice a year.

Pay now, consume later. Again, this seems counterintuitive. But it makes sense when you think about it.

Consider the all-too-common alternative—buy now, pay later. First off, this model encourages rampant spending. Without facing immediate consequences, it’s just too tempting to rack up debt and buy stuff you don’t need.

But more than that, it entirely removes antici…

.. pation from the equation. And that’s half the fun!

So instead of whipping out the credit card, save up. Pay cash. Delay gratification. You’ll enjoy your purchase more, and you’ll be happier overall.

So there you have it! The complete guide to spending your money in a way that will make you happy. Just remember—experiences over things, helping others first, little pleasures, and pay now, consume later. Follow these tips, and you may find that your money’s doing its actual job—making you happy.

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March 2, 2022

Playing With F.I.R.E.

Playing With F.I.R.E.

Financial Independence. Retire Early. Sounds too good to be true, right?

But for many, it’s the dream. And for some, it’s even become a reality.

What is the Financial Independence Retire Early, or “F.I.R.E.” movement? It might be obvious, but it’s a movement of people who are striving to achieve financial independence so that they can retire early. How early? That’s up to each individual, but typically people in the F.I.R.E. movement are looking to retire between their 30s and 50s.

How are they doing it? By saving as much money as possible and living a frugal lifestyle. That might mean driving a used car, living in a modest house, and cooking at home instead of eating out. They scrimp and save wherever they can to save.

So why is the F.I.R.E. movement gaining in popularity? There are a few reasons…

Some people want freedom. They want the freedom to travel, to spend time with their family, and to do whatever they want without having to worry about money.

Others are tired of the rat race. They’re tired of working jobs they don’t love just so they can make money to pay for things they don’t really want. They’d rather be doing something they enjoy and have more control over their own lives.

And finally, people want security. They want the wealth they need to live comfortably and fear-free, and they want it now. They don’t want to wait until they’re 65 or 70 to start enjoying their retirement.

It’s a challenging path. Achieving financial independence and retiring early takes hard work, sacrifice, and planning. You’ll have to face financial challenges like covering health insurance, for one.

So if you’re thinking about joining the F.I.R.E. movement, what are some of the first steps?

1. Assess your finances. Figure out how much money you need to live on each month and how much you need to save to achieve financial independence.

2. Set financial goals. Determine where you want to be financially and create a plan to get there.

3. Make a budget and stick to it. Track your spending and make adjustments as needed so you can save more money.

4. Invest in yourself. Education is key, so invest in books, courses, and other resources that will help you build your wealth.

5. Stay motivated. Follow other F.I.R.E. enthusiasts online, read blogs and articles, and attend meetups to keep yourself inspired on your journey to financial independence.

So are you ready to play with F.I.R.E.?

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February 23, 2022

Is Saving Money on Utilities Worth the Effort?

Is Saving Money on Utilities Worth the Effort?

Penny pinchers and smart savers have developed dozens, perhaps hundreds, of ways to save money on their utility bills.

Have you heard of any of these…?

Putting rocks in the toilet tank to save money on water. Cranking down the thermostat in winter and cranking it up in the summer to save on power. Manically unplugging every appliance that’s not in use.

Maybe you knew a family growing up that used all these strategies to make ends meet. Or maybe it was your family!

But is it really a good idea to cut back on utilities?

If you’re backed into a financial corner or new to saving, it’s not a bad place to start. But if you’re working toward financial independence, you likely have greater obstacles to overcome.

Here’s a breakdown of the average American’s annual consumer spending…

Housing: $21,409

Transportation: $9,826

Food: $7,316

Personal insurance and pensions: $7,246

Healthcare: $5,177

Entertainment: $2,912

Cash Contributions: $2,283

Apparel and Services: $1,434

That’s a lot of money flying out the door each year!

Where do utilities fit into the picture? According to Nationwide, families spend an average of $2,060 on utilities each year.

That puts it towards the bottom of the average American’s budget.

Cutting your spending on housing, transportation, or food by one-third would free up more cash flow than reducing your utilities by half.

So before you invest in some space heaters or start lugging rocks into your bathroom, evaluate your overall spending. Are there problem areas where cutting back would create greater results?

If you answer yes, focus your time and attention first on those categories. Find a cheaper apartment or recruit roommates. Carpool with friends. Dine out less.

But if you’ve already budgeted and you still need more cash flow, turning off some lights and using an extra blanket or two at night won’t hurt.

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¹ “How much is the average household utility bill?” Nationwide, https://www.nationwide.com/lc/resources/personal-finance/articles/average-cost-of-utilities

² “Average annual expenditures of all consumer units in the United States in 2020, by type,” Statistia, Dec 9, 2021 https://www.statista.com/statistics/247407/average-annual-consumer-spending-in-the-us-by-type/#:~:text=This%20statistic%20shows%20the%20average,amounted%20to%2061%2C334%20U.S.%20dollars.

February 21, 2022

Debt is a Big Deal. Here's How to Use It Wisely

Debt is a Big Deal. Here's How to Use It Wisely

Debt must be respected. If you don’t take it seriously, it could derail your finances for good.

But while debt is no joke, it’s not necessarily bad. If handled wisely, debt can help you reach financial milestones and provide for your family.

It all starts with understanding the difference between good debt and bad debt.

Good debt is debt that you can afford and that can help you build wealth.

Think of it like this—often, you need to spend money to make money. But what if you don’t have mountains of cash to throw at every opportunity that comes your way?

That’s where good debt can help. It can give you the cash you need to seize opportunities like…

- Starting a business

- Buying a home

- Getting an education

Those can help you boost your income, purchase an appreciating asset, or increase your earning potential. And as long as you’ve done your homework and can afford your payments, good debt can help you leverage those opportunities with no regrets.

Bad debt is the exact opposite—it’s borrowing money to buy assets that lose value. That includes…

- Cars

- Video games

- Clothes

Debt can simply make these items more expensive than they already are. And what do you get in return? Nothing. Just more bills.

So if you find yourself borrowing money to buy things, stop and ask yourself: Am I making an investment? Do I think the value of this purchase will increase? Or am I simply spending because it feels good?

Here’s the takeaway—debt is a powerful tool that can be good or bad. Handle it wisely, and it can help you build businesses, buy homes, and increase your earning potential. Handle it carelessly, and you can cause serious harm to your financial stability. So do your homework, evaluate your opportunities, and meet with a licensed and qualified financial professional to see what good debt would look like for you.

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February 16, 2022

Manage Your Finances Like a Pro

Manage Your Finances Like a Pro

Do you ever feel like your money is going out the door as fast as it’s coming in?

Maybe you’ve tried budgeting, only to slip back into a pattern of unconscious spending.

Or maybe you’ve tried saving, but found that you simply don’t have enough cash at the end of each month.

If you’ve tried to get your finances in order but still struggle to stay afloat, this may be the article for you. Here are three dead simple things you can do right now to help you manage your money like a pro.

1. Download a budgeting app.

If you’re not a spreadsheet whiz, don’t worry. There are many free budgeting apps available that can help you keep your finances in order without breaking a sweat. Most of these apps make it easy to add transactions and set goals based on your income and expenses.

Best of all, some even sync with your bank account, so you don’t have to tally up your spending each month—the app does it for you!

Here are a few budgeting apps to consider…

Mint—Good overall budgeting app that syncs with your bank accounts

YNAB (You Need a Budget)—In-depth budgeting tool that’s more hands-on than other options

Mvelopes—Cash envelope budgeting system that syncs with your bank accounts

EveryDollar—Simple budget that requires manual input of expenses

Honeydue—Budgeting app designed specifically for couples

Each of these apps is free to use, but offer additional features for a monthly or annual fee.

2. Dial back subscriptions.

Do you have a gym membership, magazine subscriptions, or streaming services?

Better question—are you using your gym membership, magazine subscriptions, or streaming services?

If you’re like many, you’re shelling out money each month for subscriptions you don’t even use. You may have even forgotten that you’re still signed up for some of them!

But little by little, those subscriptions add up, depleting your cash flow each month.

So take some time to look at your transaction history to discover recurring charges. Then, cancel the ones you’re not using.

Pro-tip: You can also use apps like Truebill and Hiatus to help identify and cancel unwanted subscriptions.

3. Automate your savings.

Do you struggle to save money because of your spending habits? If so, it may be difficult to set aside cash while still having immediate access to it.

The good news is that you can set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to a savings account each month.

In fact, with this method, you don’t even have to think about it! It’s like paying a monthly subscription to a future of potential wealth and financial independence.

And it’s not difficult. Simply log in to your savings or retirement account and look for a transactions or transfers tab. Then, schedule a recurring deposit right after you get each paycheck. Just like that, you’ll automate a wealth building process that requires zero effort on your part.

If you want to manage your money like a pro, simply follow these three easy steps. With these simple moves in place, you’ll be watching your savings grow possibly faster than ever before!

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January 26, 2022

Lessons You'll Learn on the Journey to Financial Freedom

Lessons You'll Learn on the Journey to Financial Freedom

Financial freedom is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Instead, think of it as a journey with things to experience and lessons to learn along the way.

If you’ve embarked on the adventure of building wealth, here are 8 lessons about yourself and the world you can learn.

1. Money isn’t everything, but it makes things easier.

The first lesson you’ll learn on your journey to financial freedom? There’s more to life than money. There are people you care about. Hobbies that inspire you. Conversations that restore and heal you. Causes that matter. Without those, life is empty.

But you’ll also learn that money can make life easier.

It allows you to enjoy those things, to take care of yourself and your family, and to do something that has a bigger impact than what you might otherwise be able to do.

2. No one ever regrets saving for retirement.

“I should have saved less for retirement and spent more on clothes.” —No one

3. You can’t spend your way to happiness.

You’ll learn that there’s no amount of spending that can solve your problems. Instead of shopping sprees and new toys, you’ll come to prize experiences and memories above all else.

4. If there’s anything you want in life, you’ll need to work for it.

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If you want to build wealth and live a life you can be proud of, it’s up to you. There is no magic secret, no get-rich-quick scheme. And with that comes self-satisfaction and humility. If you have something, you’ve earned it. If it was given to you, it came from someone else who earned it.

5. Debt free doesn’t mean rich—just debt free!

Debt freedom is a critical step. But it’s not the destination.

Once you’ve eliminated debt, celebrate it. But this is no time to pause. It’s time to devote your resources to building wealth.

6. A job or career should never define you.

You are not your job. At minimum, your job is a tool to support your family. At best, your career is an avenue to express your talents and passions. But either way, your job should be aligned to, and subordinate to, your ultimate values.

7. Excuses and denials will destroy your dreams and freedom.

You’re going to be tempted. Whether it’s an expensive new toy, a nicer car you can’t really afford, or just another latte at Starbucks, the siren song of “I deserve this” can be loud. So can the “safety” of not being yourself or doing things just to impress others.

But no matter what, when you hear these things in your head, it’s time to pause. Is this really what I want? What am I trying to accomplish? What are my values? Those are your guides to financial freedom and happiness.

8. You’re far more powerful than you think.

As you progress in your journey to financial freedom, the hope is that you’ll wake up one day and notice that things are better. You’re less stressed. Your house feels more in order. You’re actually getting somewhere. And you’ll realize that you did that. Your good decisions and discipline is what got you here.

You can do things you never thought possible. You’re far more powerful than you think.

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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 10, 2022

Why Poverty Can Be Outrageously Expensive

Why Poverty Can Be Outrageously Expensive

Picture the most expensive lifestyle you can imagine. What do you see?

Palm trees and beach views? Italian shoes and Swiss watches? Flying yourself into space just because you can?

How about having to live in government housing, or working a minimum wage job, or not even being able to find a job?

It’s counterintuitive, but poverty can be outrageously expensive.

There are two main reasons…

  1. Poverty makes essential spending relatively pricey
  2. Poverty has hidden—and costly—side effects

Let’s break these down…

Poverty makes essential spending relatively pricey. Consider an example. Let’s say you’re single and earn $10,000 per year, $2,000 beneath the federal poverty line.¹

Let’s also say that you and some buddies snag a mediocre apartment in the city. Great location, right? But at $500 each per month, it’s $6,000 each per year. That’s over half your income on housing alone.

Your car? Between insurance, gas, and repairs, you’re looking at costs that could be north of $5,000.

That leaves you in the hole for $1,000. Then add groceries, your cell phone, and emergencies. Normal living expenses have not only consumed 100% of your budget, but they’ve left you in the red for other essentials.

For the wealthy, those items aren’t even a consideration. The essentials take up just a fraction of their income. What’s relatively cheap for them becomes crushingly expensive for you.

But the cost of poverty can get steeper…

Poverty has hidden—and costly—side effects. Suppose that, to save money, you downgrade your housing. You find a true hovel in a bad part of town that charges $150 each per month, or $1,800 each annually.

And it doesn’t take long for reality to set in.

You might find yourself in a so-called food desert since there aren’t proper grocery stores around you that sell healthy, affordable food. The quality of your diet plummets, but still increases in cost.

There’s consistent crime in your neighborhood. Possessions get stolen. Cars get broken into. Friends get hurt. You’re under constant stress.

To deal with the stress, you pick up some foolish habits that further hurt your finances and health.

You turn to payday lenders to make ends meet. It’s a critical mistake—they charge you aggressive interest rates that become a black hole of debt.

Finally, the consequences of a low-quality diet, stress, and unhealthy coping mechanisms emerge. You face one expensive health crisis after another. You have to quit your job as your condition worsens.

This isn’t to excuse bad or foolish or unhealthy behavior. Rather, it shows how situations make people vulnerable to otherwise avoidable pitfalls.

Relative expenses and hidden expenses creating a vicious cycle help explain why it’s so hard to escape poverty. It also helps explain why poverty tends to be intergenerational. Poverty actually consumes the resources needed to build wealth.

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¹ “Poverty Guidelines,” Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evalutation, Jan 13, 2021, https://aspe.hhs.gov/topics/poverty-economic-mobility/poverty-guidelines

² “Average monthly apartment rent in the United States from January 2017 to February 2021, by apartment size,” Statistia, Mar 25, 2021, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1063502/average-monthly-apartment-rent-usa/

³ “Average Car Insurance Costs in 2021,” Kayda Norman, Nerdwallet, Aug 20, 2021, https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/insurance/how-much-is-car-insurance

January 3, 2022

Addictive Budgeting

Addictive Budgeting

There’s no better way to feel like a mature adult than budgeting.

The planning, the structure, and the routine of proper budgeting create a sense that you’ve got this. You’re in control. You’re a proper grownup.

But there’s another feeling that budgeting can conjure—the dreaded “bleh”!

That’s because budgeting seems like a ton of work. You have to set goals, track your income, record every time you spend money, create a spreadsheet, download an app, be consistent—doesn’t sound like much fun.

And there’s that nagging question—what if I blow it? What if I overspend? What if an emergency pops up and I can’t cover it? What does that say about me and my character?

It’s understandable—intentionally starting a healthy habit requires focus and work, but it also opens the possibility of failure.

Fortunately, there’s a two-step hack to get you addicted to budgeting in the New Year…

Step 1: Track spending

Step 2: Relentlessly reward good behavior

Why does this method work? Because it leverages two things that your brain loves—progress and rewards.

Step 1: Next time you go shopping, make note of how much you spend. Use a budgeting app on your phone. (It helps remove mental barriers from the tracking process.)

Then, challenge yourself to spend slightly less next time. Track the results.

Before long, you’ll begin compulsively tracking—and reducing—your spending. Why? Because you’re seeing progress. You feel like you’re moving in the right direction. And that feels incredible.

Step 2: But you can further intensify your budgeting habit. Don’t just track your progress—celebrate it!

When you make a dent in your spending, reward yourself. Indulge in something you love. Grab dinner with a close friend. Or simply pick up a candy bar on your next shopping trip. Whatever it is, give yourself a high-five!

At first, this will feel like a rush. You’re allowing yourself to celebrate a victory, and that recognition is elating.

But over time, it will become routine. You’ll automatically start doing the right thing because your brain expects a reward. You’re proactively reinforcing healthy behavior, creating a powerful habit.

So to recap, this is how you should budget in the new year…

Track spending

Relentlessly reward good behavior

Try it out for a week and see how you feel. If you feel good about it, keep it up! If you don’t stick with it, that’s okay. Failure is part of the process. The key is to keep retooling your approach until the habit sticks.

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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 6, 2021

Understanding the Supply Chain Meltdown

Understanding the Supply Chain Meltdown

Have you noticed that store shelves are looking a little… picked over?

Everything from food to toys to computer chips are in short supply and high demand. And it’s straining economies—and consumers—the world over.

The cause? The Pandemic (big surprise).

The results? Empty shelves and skyrocketing prices.

Here’s what happened. The COVID-19 pandemic and shutdowns torpedoed both supply AND demand. Factories couldn’t produce due to COVID restrictions, and consumers weren’t going out and shopping.

As lockdowns ended, people resumed their shopping, increasing demand. But manufacturers have struggled to regain their footing.

They face basic logistical problems like a lack of shipping containers.

Even more problematic, the entire supply chain is short-staffed. Docks don’t have enough workers to move goods off ships. But it wouldn’t make a difference if they did—there aren’t enough truckers to transport goods from docks to stores!

All of those issues result in empty shelves and higher prices as consumers scramble to snatch up what little is available.

So how can you minimize the impact of the supply chain meltdown on your wallet? Here are three strategies…

Start holiday shopping ASAP. Gift buying season is here. And with the supply chain in chaos, holiday shopping will only grow more expensive. Get gifts sooner rather than later.

Adjust your budget. That means shifting spending power away from experiences, restaurants, and new gadgets—and towards living expenses.

Increase your income. If shifting your budget isn’t enough, it may be time to boost your income. Seek out new opportunities like a new job or a side hustle to help give your cash flow a bump.

And remember—these supply problems may linger. The global supply chain is a complex beast, and it won’t resolve its issues overnight.

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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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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 2, 2021

5 Warning Signs That You Need a Financial Professional

5 Warning Signs That You Need a Financial Professional

With the cost of living on the rise, many people are struggling to make ends meet.

It’s important to know when you’re in over your head and need some help from a professional. Here are five warning signs that could indicate it’s time for some financial advice.

You’re not sure if you can afford to retire. The first warning sign that you may need financial advice is when you’re not sure if you can afford to retire when you want to. Retirement is the centerpiece of many financial strategies, so if you feel like you’re short here, it’s a serious red flag.

A financial professional can help you…

  • Determine how much wealth you’ll need to retire comfortably
  • Create a plan that can help you reach your goal

So if there’s any uncertainty about your financial future, schedule a meeting ASAP!

You have a lot of credit card debt and don’t know how to pay it off. When credit card balances start piling up, it can quickly become overwhelming. If left unchecked, your credit card debt can drain your cash flow and slow your progress towards financial goals. A financial professional can help you figure out a strategy to attack debt to help mitigate damage to your finances and avoid potentially lowering your credit score.

You struggle to afford necessities. Sometimes, life throws us curveballs and our budget gets stretched to the max. If you’re struggling to pay rent or put food on the table, it’s time to consider getting some help. Most people are at their best when they’re working towards goals. That’s exactly what a financial professional is here to offer—guidance so you can be the best version of yourself and accomplish your dreams.

You’ve been living paycheck-to-paycheck. If you have a lot of expenses but no savings, it’s likely that your financial strategy is lacking one or more key components. That’s because living paycheck-to-paycheck hampers your ability to build wealth—all of your cash is going straight from your wallet into someone else’s pocket. A financial professional can help you discover areas to dial back your spending and start saving.

You feel like your savings are shrinking, not growing. Have you started to rely on your retirement savings, today? If so, contact a financial professional immediately. They can help you discover the roots of your financial condition and put a financial strategy in place to help protect your nest egg for the future.

It’s important that you know when you need help. These five warning signs could indicate your financial situation is in dire straits and requires professional help. If any one of these apply to you or if you’re just not sure if they do, contact me today!

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June 23, 2021

Begin Your Budget With 5 Easy Steps

Begin Your Budget With 5 Easy Steps

A budget is a powerful tool.

No matter how big or small, it gives you the insight to track your money and plan your future. So here’s a beginner’s guide to kick-start your budget and help take control of your paycheck!

Establish simple objectives <br> Come up with at least one simple goal for your budget. It could be anything from saving for retirement to buying a car to paying down student debt. Establishing an objective gives you a goal to shoot for, and helps motivate you to stick to the plan.

Figure out how much you make <br> Now it’s time to figure out how much money you actually make. This might be as easy as looking at your past few paychecks. However, don’t forget to include things like your side hustle, rent from properties, or cash from your online store. Try averaging your total income from the past six months and use that as your starting point for your budget.

Figure out how much you spend <br> Start by splitting your spending into essential (non-discretionary) and unessential (discretionary) spending categories. The first category should cover things like rent, groceries, utilities, and debt payments. Unessential spending would be eating at restaurants, seeing a movie, hobbies, and sporting events.

How much is leftover? <br> Now subtract your total spending from your income. A positive number means you’re making more than you’re spending, giving you a foundation for saving and eventually building wealth. You still might need to cut back in a few areas to meet your goals, but it’s at least a good start.

If you come up negative, you’ll need to slash your spending. Start with your unessential spending and see where you can dial back. If things aren’t looking good, you may need to consider looking for a lower rent apartment, renegotiating loans, or picking up a side hustle.

Be consistent! <br> The worst thing you can do is start a budget and then abandon it. Make no mistake, seeing some out-of-whack numbers on a spreadsheet can be discouraging. But sticking to a budget is key to achieving your goals. Make a habit of reviewing your budget regularly and checking your progress. That alone might be enough motivation to keep it up!

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