Now's The Time for Future Financial Planning

August 3, 2022

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Bir Grewall

Bir Grewall

Sikh American, India born; Bir is a "Top Recommended" Financial Strategist, Advisor & Author



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August 1, 2022

3 Critical Questions for Newlyweds

3 Critical Questions for Newlyweds

Congratulations, newlyweds!

“To have and to hold, from this day forward…”

At a time like this, there are 3 more “I dos” for you to consider:

1. Do you have life insurance?

Any discussion about life insurance is going to start with this question, so let’s get it out of the way! As invigorated as people feel after finding the love of their life…let’s face it – they’re not invincible. The benefits of life insurance include protecting against loss of income, covering funeral expenses, gaining tax advantages, and having early access to money. Many of these benefits can depend on what kind of life insurance you have. Bottom line: having life insurance is a great way to show your love for years to come – for better OR worse.

2. Do you have the right type and amount of life insurance?

Life insurance policies are not “one size fits all.” There are different types of policies with different kinds of coverage, benefits, and uses. Having the right policy with adequate coverage is the key to protecting your new spouse in the event of a traumatic event – not just loss of life. Adequate life insurance coverage can help keep you and your spouse afloat in the case of an unexpected disabling injury, or if you’re in need of long term care. Your life with your spouse isn’t going to be one size fits all, and your life insurance policy won’t be either – for richer or poorer.

3. Do you have the right beneficiaries listed on your policy?

This question is particularly important if you had an existing policy before marriage. Most newlyweds opt for listing each other as their primary beneficiary, and with good reason: listing the correct beneficiary will ensure that any insurance payout will get delivered to them – in sickness and in health.

If you couldn’t say “I do” to any or all of these questions, contact me. It would be my pleasure to assist you newlyweds – or not-so-newlyweds – with a whole NEW way to care for each other: effective life insurance coverage – ’til death do you part!

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July 27, 2022

Two Rules That Could Save Your Financial Life

Two Rules That Could Save Your Financial Life

Almost 70% of Americans have less than $1,000 saved.¹

That means most Americans couldn’t cover unplanned car repairs, home maintenance, or medical bills without selling something or going into debt. They’re constantly living on the edge of financial ruin.

That’s where your emergency fund comes in. It’s a stash of cash that you can easily access in a pinch. You’ll be able to pay for that blown transmission without visiting a payday lender or selling your grandma’s silverware!

But here’s the catch: Your emergency savings account won’t help you much if it’s under-funded.

Follow these two rules to ensure that your rainy day savings can withstand the storms of life.

Rule #1: Only use your emergency fund for real emergencies.

I get it. Your emergency fund is an easily accessible chunk of money. Of course it’s going to be tempting to tap into it when you’re buying a new car or planning a dream vacation.

But your rainy day savings shouldn’t fund your lifestyle. They should protect it.

Think of it like this. Your vacation fund pays for your annual beach trip. Your emergency fund covers the bill when your car breaks down on the drive home. Only touch your emergency fund for unexpected expenses and enjoy the peace that comes from being prepared.

Rule #2: Always refill your emergency fund when it’s low

Ideally, your emergency fund should be stocked with 3 to 6 months of your income at all times. That should be enough to cover the gambit from small unexpected costs to a month or two of unemployment.

Don’t be afraid to tap into your emergency savings when you face unforeseen financial hiccups. Just remember to refresh your fund when the emergency has passed. The last thing you need is to be caught in the crosshairs of another crisis without a buffer.

Don’t let a financial storm blow you off course. Prepare for your future, and start building an emergency fund now. If you follow these rules, it can help financially protect you from the challenges life will inevitably send your way.

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July 6, 2022

Severance Explained

Severance Explained

Getting paid to leave your job? It might sound impossible, but that’s exactly how severance works.

Though it’s not required by law, employers often offer benefits to laid off employees on their way out.

Why? Sometimes it’s an expression of gratitude to loyal employees. Other times, it’s to attract top talent.

Either way, severance can ease the loss of a job. It can give you a financial cushion when you’re seeking a new position.

Severance comes in several forms…

Income

It’s exactly what it sounds like—your paycheck continues after you leave. Sometimes, this is based on the number of years you worked for the company.

Insurance coverage

COBRA continuation allows you to keep your health insurance for a limited time after leaving your job. If your severance agreement includes this, your employer may pick up the tab for the first few months. But eventually, you’ll be responsible for the entire premium.

Outplacement services

These can help you find a new job. Services can include résumé writing, interview coaching, and job search assistance.

Vacation or sick pay. If you have vacation or sick days left over, your employer might pay you for them as part of your severance package.

Retirement benefits

If you’re vested in a retirement plan, you may be able to keep your benefits or cash them out.

Severance pay is often negotiable. If you have a good relationship with your employer, they may be willing to give you more than the minimum. And if losing your job will cause economic hardship, you might be able to bend the ear of your employer to get additional benefits.

It’s worth noting that severance pay only kicks in if you get laid off. Getting fired or simply quitting won’t trigger your benefits. Sometimes, you can negotiate a layoff with your employer in exchange for training a new employee.

Whether you’re just looking for a few more benefits or you want to get paid if you leave your job, understanding severance can help you get what you’re after. Know your needs, and negotiate accordingly.

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June 8, 2022

Tax Now or Tax Later?

Tax Now or Tax Later?

If someone asked if you’d rather pay taxes now or later, what would you say?

Paying later is tempting. After all, who likes paying taxes at all? As with most inconveniences, it’s easy to delay, delay, delay.

But here’s an important question. When do you think taxes will be greater—today, or years from now?

It’s impossible to answer.

Looking to history doesn’t really help—income taxes are actually far lower now than they were in the 1930s, 40s, or 50s.¹ So if you pay now, you may miss out if taxes sink even further.

But no one can predict the future. If you opt to pay later, unforeseen circumstances may create a higher tax environment down the road.

So if you’re comparing tax now vs. tax later, it may feel like you might as well toss a coin to determine your strategy. Not a good place to be!

But fortunately, there’s an alternative. Tax never.

And no, that doesn’t mean buying shady nail salons, opening businesses in the Cayman Islands, or committing a felony. It simply means working with a licensed and qualified financial professional to identify time-proven—and 100% legal—financial vehicles.

These include…

Roth IRAs/Roth 401(k)s Health Savings Accounts Indexed Universal Life (IUL) Insurance 529 College Savings Plans Municipal Bonds

Each vehicle has specific rules, limitations, strengths, and weaknesses. It’s absolutely critical that you consult with a financial professional before you start leveraging these tools. Remember, you don’t need to flip a coin to make financial decisions!

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¹ “History of Federal Income Tax Rates: 1913 – 2021,” Bradford Tax Institute, https://bradfordtaxinstitute.com/Free_Resources/Federal-Income-Tax-Rates.aspx

June 6, 2022

Retiring in a Bear Market

Retiring in a Bear Market

Is a slowing market challenging your peace of mind about retirement?

It’s no wonder why—losing wealth on the cusp of retirement can suddenly lower the quality of your post-career lifestyle.

And worst of all, it can seem unavoidable. If you turn 67 during a bear market, what are your options for avoiding a retirement disaster?

The first, most obvious solution is to keep working. Take the loss on the chin, push through, let the recovery buoy your savings, and retire at the top.

The drawbacks? It could delay your retirement by 3 to 5 years.

Even worse, you’ll then likely face the temptation to retire at the TOP of the next bull market. And if you don’t plan accordingly, your retirement savings and income could get hammered during the almost inevitable bear market that would follow.

The second, far more powerful strategy? Taper your risk as you approach retirement.

Why? Because it can make you far less vulnerable to market fluctuations. Whether you retire at the top or bottom of the market becomes less important for your retirement outcome.

That’s why it’s absolutely essential to meet with a licensed and qualified financial professional ASAP. They can review your goals and situation to determine what level of risk works best for you. They can also help you taper your risk exposure as you get closer to retirement.

And if you’re ready to retire but skittish about the market, they can help you weigh the pros and cons of taking the plunge or waiting it out.

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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

May 16, 2022

Why Retirees Are Going Bankrupt

Why Retirees Are Going Bankrupt

“Bankruptcy” and “retirement” are words that shouldn’t belong in the same sentence.

But it’s become an increasingly common phenomenon—12.2% of bankruptcies in 2018 were filed by people over 65, up from 2.1% in 1991.¹

What’s driving this unexpected trend? The collapse of pensions and the lack of savings by people nearing retirement age are the two primary culprits.

The pension problem is relatively straightforward. In the past, pensions were pretty much a given—a common benefit that companies provided to their employees as part of their compensation package. Employees would work a set number of years, and then receive a monthly check from their employers upon retirement.

But in recent years, pensions have all but disappeared. Today, only 15% of workers have access to a pension plan.²

That alone isn’t enough to fuel the increase in bankruptcies among retirees. After all, workers now have access to 401(k)s and 403(b)s, which can help replace pensions to some extent.

The problem is that most people nearing retirement age don’t have enough saved up in these accounts to support themselves. In fact, the median retirement account balance for baby boomers (age 57-75) is just $202,000.3 Using the 4% rule, that’s a retirement income of about $8,000 per year, well below the poverty line.

Is it any wonder then that retirees are going bankrupt? They go from having a stable income to having almost no income at all, and they don’t have enough saved up to cover the basics. What are they supposed to do when the medical bills start piling up or the car needs repairs?

If you’re approaching retirement age, don’t become a statistic. Meet with a licensed and qualified financial professional ASAP to discuss your retirement options and see what steps you might need to take now to support yourself.

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¹ “Retirees and Bankruptcy,” Bill Fay, Debt.org, Sep 30, 2021, https://www.debt.org/retirement/bankruptcy/

² “The Demise of the Defined-Benefit Plan,” James McWhinney, Investopedia, Dec 18, 2021, investopedia.com/articles/retirement/06/demiseofdbplan.asp

³ “Average Retirement Savings for Baby Boomers,” Lee Huffman, Yahoo, Apr 10, 2022, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/average-retirement-savings-baby-boomers-125500443.html#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20Transamerica%20Center,income%20of%20%248%2C000%20per%20year

May 11, 2022

An Introduction to Crowdfunded Real Estate

An Introduction to Crowdfunded Real Estate

Home tours and late night toilet repairs.

That’s what most people think of when they hear the words “real estate.” You’re either an agent or a landlord. You’re either selling homes, or fixing up diamonds in the rough and renting them out.

But you probably don’t think of the word “app.” At least, not yet.

That’s because there’s a new way of owning real estate—crowdfunding.

Here’s how it works…

You’ve probably noticed that real estate is wildly expensive. Even before the housing insanity of 2021, few had the cash to buy land, homes, or commercial lots outright. The traditional method to get around this was to take out a loan. It was a barrier that limited real estate to either financial institutions, the wealthy, or scrappy home flippers.

But what if you could team up with dozens of other people to buy a property? Say you and twenty people pitched in on a home in a promising neighborhood with good schools. You split the rental income, and when the home gets sold, you cash your share of the profits.

Suddenly, real estate is far less intimidating—you can pool your resources with others to buy a stake in a property, without shouldering all the risk or responsibility yourself.

But that’s not all. If enough people pitch in, you could hypothetically start buying apartment complexes, supermarkets, even a skyscraper!

That’s the power of crowdfunding.

And recently, it’s taken off. The past few years have seen a surge in online real estate crowdfunding platforms.

The model is simple. You give the platform money, either as a lump sum or monthly deposit. They use your money to buy promising properties. You get dividends and appreciation. They get a fee for managing your money.

And for many platforms, you can simply download an app and make decisions about how much you want to contribute and see how your properties are performing from your phone.

Let’s be clear—this is NOT a recommendation to start crowdfunding real estate purchases. Far from it. It’s still a new industry which is relatively untested. As with all financial decisions, it’s best to consult with a licensed and qualified financial professional first.

But it’s worth knowing about this new way of owning property. Only time will tell if it becomes a staple of wealth-building strategies, or if it fizzles out.

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May 4, 2022

How Insurance Companies Stay In Business

How Insurance Companies Stay In Business

Here’s a mystery—how in the world do insurance companies stay in business?

After all, their business model seems… odd. Their main product is cold, hard cash. In some cases, those payouts are substantial—for life insurance, it’s recommended that people buy 10X their annual income. That can mean payouts of well over $500,000. That’s a huge chunk of cash! The premiums you pay over your lifetime likely don’t even scratch the surface of that amount.

So what’s the secret? The answer is minimizing risk. Here’s how it works…

Let’s say you run a mom-and-pop life insurance company. You find 20 clients, and charge them each a $100 monthly premium for $500,000 of protection.

Your business earns $24,000 per year, and for the first five years it’s smooth sailing.

But what would happen if just one of your clients died? Suddenly, you would have to pay out $500,000. And unless you had some other income, that would mean the end of your business.

Here’s an even scarier proposition—what if you decided to exclusively market towards the elderly? And what if two of them died in quick succession? Suddenly, you’re on the hook for a million dollars, and your business is toast.

This is why insurance companies are so risk-averse. They have to be, or they’ll go bankrupt.

Their solution? They evaluate every person they insure. Actuaries plug the amount of coverage, age, history, health, and even the zip code of prospective customers into complex algorithms to determine their risk level. It’s why life insurance is often vastly more expensive for smokers than non-smokers—their risk of death is simply higher.

Then, the actuaries hand the results to underwriters who determine the premium amount.

Let’s consider your hypothetical business again—this time with proper risk protection.

You still have 20 customers, each with $500,000 of protection. But now, you’ve evaluated each customer for risk, and adjusted their premiums.

You charge 5 clients $100 per month, 5 clients $250 per month, and 10 clients $400 per month. Plus, you’ve had to decline serving the highest risk customers. Now, you’re earning $69,000 annually. And because of your new qualification process, you don’t have to make your first payout for 10 years. Now, you can easily cover the cost, with some to spare!

And as you expand your client base, you’ll have a larger and larger pool of low-risk customers to help offset the cost of payouts for the high-risk ones.

This is the secret to how insurance companies stay in business. By carefully evaluating and managing risk, they can keep their costs low, and ensure they have the cash on hand to make payouts when needed.

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April 11, 2022

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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March 21, 2022

Homemakers Need Life Insurance, Too

Homemakers Need Life Insurance, Too

Are you a stay-at-home parent? Even if you’re not contributing monetarily to your family’s income, you still need life insurance.

That’s because you offer support to your family that’s as valuable as the main breadwinner.

Let’s break it down…

The goal of life insurance is to replace income. If the main income earner dies, the death benefit can replace their salary. It offers financial headroom for grieving families to help put their lives back together.

However, a stay-at-home parent provides services for their family that are just as important and can be expensive to replace.

For instance, what if you provide childcare for your family? Replacing your services could cost $8,355 yearly per child.¹

Then factor in other potential costs like…

  • Education
  • House cleaning
  • Driving kids to events
  • Running errands
  • Managing home repairs and yard maintenance
  • Planning meals, shopping, and cooking

And so much more! These costs are simply a snapshot of how much life insurance a homemaker could need. It should be enough to cover expenses to replace all the work you do around the house and on your family’s behalf.

If you’re not sure what that number is, contact me. We can sit down, review your family’s situation, and draw up a strategy to help provide for your loved ones, no matter what.

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“Parents spend an average of $8,355 per child to secure year-round child care,” Megan Leonhardt, CNBC, May 19 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/19/what-parents-spend-annually-on-child-care-costs-in-2021.html

March 16, 2022

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.

March 14, 2022

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

March 14, 2022

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/

March 7, 2022

Questions to Ask Before Buying a Home

Questions to Ask Before Buying a Home

Buying a home is one of the largest investments many people will ever make.

It’s also among the most complicated and time-consuming transactions. So before you sign on the dotted line, it’s best to ask yourself these key questions:

What are my needs for space?

How much can I afford to spend each month on my mortgage, utilities, and repairs?

Are there pre-existing problems with this property?

How is the neighborhood? Is it safe? Are the schools good? What kind of amenities are nearby (i.e., grocery stores, restaurants, sports)?

How much will I need for closing costs and my down payment?

What’s my strategy for a bidding war?

What are my needs for space? When you’re buying a home, it’s important to take stock of your needs for space. Do you need a lot of bedrooms for a growing family? A large backyard for barbecues and birthday parties? Or would you be happy with a more modest property that will save on monthly mortgage payments?

Planning ahead will help you stay within your budget and find the right property for your needs. Take time to sort through the options and be vigilant to rule out homes that may seem appealing at first glance, but might not truly serve your family.

If you’re unsure about what you need in a home, consult with a real estate agent who can help figure out the amenities that are best suited for you.

How much can I afford to spend each month? It’s important to be realistic about how much you can afford to spend each month on your mortgage. A good rule of thumb is that your mortgage payment should not be more than 30% of your monthly income. And remember—just because you’re pre-approved for a certain amount, that doesn’t mean it’s what you can actually afford to spend.

It’s also a good idea to have a budget for other costs associated with homeownership, such as property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, utilities, maintenance, and repairs. It’s impossible to fully estimate these costs in advance. But by planning ahead, you can get an idea of your potential monthly expenses and weigh them against your income.

Are there pre-existing problems with this property? It’s critical to be aware of any potential problems. This includes checking for any major repairs that may need to be done, as well as researching the surrounding neighborhood. Is this house in a flood plain? How is the foundation? When was the last time the roof was replaced?

It’s a good idea to have a home inspection done before making an offer on a property. This will help you get a better idea of the condition of the property and what repairs need to be made.

If you’re not comfortable with the condition of the property—no matter how beautiful or spacious the house is—it’s best to walk away and find a property that’s a better fit overall.

How is the neighborhood? Is it safe? Are the schools good? What kind of amenities are nearby? When you’re buying a home, it’s important to take into account the surrounding neighborhood. This includes researching crime rates, checking out traffic patterns, inquiring about the schools, and seeing how close you are to stores or activities that are important to you.

If you have children, it’s critical to research the schools in the area. You’ll want to make sure that there is a high-quality education available. You’ll also want to be aware of any negative reviews about the schools in the area.

How much will I need for closing costs and my down payment? There are a number of costs that you’ll need to budget for. This includes the down payment, closing costs, and moving expenses.

The downpayment is the amount of money that you pay upfront when you buy a home. It’s usually between 5% and 20% of the purchase price. So if you’re buying a $400,000 home, you’ll need to pay between $20,000 and $80,000 upfront.

Closing costs are the fees that are charged by the bank and the government when you buy a home. These costs can range from 2% to 5% of the purchase price. So in the example above, you would be paying between $8,000 and $20,000 in closing costs.

Moving expenses can range from $500 to $5,000, depending on how much stuff you have and how far you’re moving.

It’s important to budget for these costs ahead of time so that you’re not surprised when you sign the paperwork and are handed the keys.

What’s my strategy for a bidding war? It’s a problem that’s caught many off guard in the current housing market. That’s why it’s important to have a strategy in place. This includes knowing how much you’re willing to spend and being prepared to make a higher offer than the other buyers.

It’s also important to have your finances in order. This means that you should be pre-approved for a mortgage and have enough money saved up for your down payment.

If you’re not comfortable with the idea of a bidding war, it’s best to walk away and find a property that’s a lower price.

Buying a home is never an easy decision. That’s why these questions should all be considered ahead of time—preferably with your realtor—so they don’t catch you by surprise when buying a house! What other factors can you think of? Let us know what future homeowners might want to consider when purchasing a new home.

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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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February 9, 2022

Why The Lottery Is So Addictive

Why The Lottery Is So Addictive

If you’ve ever played the lottery, then you know there is practically no chance of winning. You’re more likely to get struck by lightning than hit the jackpot.¹

But you also probably know that gambling is highly addictive. For some, there can be an undeniable draw to buying yet another ticket. Or pulling the lever on that slot machine again. Or buying into just one more hand of blackjack. Or making just one more ill-advised day trade.

Why? Because maybe, just maybe, this time will be different. This time, lady luck might save the day and solve your money problems.

There’s a quote from late comedian and lifelong gambler Norm MacDonald that captures this spirit perfectly…

“As long as the red dice are in the air, the gambler has hope. And hope is a wonderful thing to be addicted to.”

Now, if you fall into the black hole of gambling, you’ll find it’s a dead-end—gambling promises hope, but for many it delivers only disappointment and despair. How could it not? It dashes hopes time and time again, draining bank accounts and shattering relationships.

But here’s the thing—many leave the future to a wild bet without ever stepping foot in a casino or shady gas station.

They gamble that they’ll have enough for retirement, even though they do little to prepare.

They gamble that they won’t need long-term care, even though almost 70% will.²

They gamble that their incomes won’t dry up, even though employment isn’t guaranteed.

They gamble that they won’t pass away during their working years, even though the financial consequences could be devastating for their families.

And that’s all fine while the red dice are in the air. But when they land, your hopes could be dashed to pieces, triggering a financial crisis for you and the ones you love.

The takeaway is simple—hope is great, and hope is good. But hope alone isn’t enough. It’s far wiser—and it feels far better—to hope in well-laid plans than wild gambles.

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February 7, 2022

Why Debt Is A Big Deal

Why Debt Is A Big Deal

Debt is a word that strikes fear in the hearts of many. It ruins fortunes, causes untold stress, and topples governments.

Just ask a millennial about their financial struggles—student loan debt will certainly top their list.

But why? Why is debt so bad, anyway? After all, isn’t credit just money you can use now then pay back later? What’s the big deal?

Well, actually debt is a very big deal. In fact, it can make or break your personal finances.

This article isn’t for hardened debt fighters. You already know the damage debt can do.

But if you’re just starting your financial journey, take note before it’s too late. At best, debt is a tool. It certainly isn’t your friend. Here’s why…

It begins by lowering your cash flow. All those monthly payments bite into your paycheck, effectively lowering your income.

And that has consequences.

It can make it a struggle to afford a home. You simply lack the cash flow to afford mortgage payments.

It makes it a struggle to build wealth. Every spare penny goes towards making ends meet.

It makes it a struggle to maintain your lifestyle. You may find yourself choosing between the pleasures—and even the basics—of life and appeasing your creditors.

And that brings the risk of bankruptcy. It’s a last-ditch effort to erase an unpayable debt. It comes with a heavy price—creditors can take your home and possessions to make up for what you owe. And even if bankruptcy erases the debt, it will have a lasting impact on your credit score and financial future.¹

It can change your life forever, throwing your life into chaos.

Think about it—when was the last time someone smiled and fondly recalled that time they went bankrupt? Never. It’s a traumatic experience. This is something you want to avoid at all costs.

This isn’t to scare you into a debt free life or guilt you for using a credit card. Rather, it’s to educate you on the stakes. Debt isn’t something to be taken on lightly. It can have lasting consequences on your life, family, finances, and even mental health. Act accordingly.

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¹ “Bankruptcy: How it Works, Types & Consequences,” Experian, accessed Jan 7, 2022, https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/credit-education/bankruptcy-how-it-works-types-and-consequences/

February 2, 2022

Why It's Important to Protect Your Family With Life Insurance

Why It's Important to Protect Your Family With Life Insurance

If you have a family, you have many responsibilities.

You have a responsibility to help them celebrate promotions, birthdays, and holidays.

You have a responsibility to sit with them during their bad days, their break ups, their failures, their grief.

You have a responsibility to listen and understand, even if you have no clue what they’re trying to say.

You have a responsibility to own up when you mess up, and to forgive when they mess up.

And you wouldn’t trade those responsibilities for the world. In fact, they feel more like honors and privileges than burdens.

If you’re the breadwinner for your family, you have another responsibility and honor—to provide for them as best as you can.

It’s how you give them the big things, the little things, and everything in between.

But one tragic consequence of passing away is that you can no longer provide those things. You’re not there to help celebrate, to comfort, to listen, to forgive. In those ways, you’re truly irreplaceable.

That’s why many families choose life insurance. It’s an opportunity to provide for the ones they love.

The payout from life insurance, called a death benefit, gives their family cash that replaces the lost income. The family faces a long emotional journey of grief and healing. But they’re protected from a traumatic financial catastrophe.

In other words, life insurance gives you the power to fulfill one of your primary duties—provide for your family. And that’s one of the greatest gifts you can give.

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