How To Maximize Savings With A Limited Income

January 19, 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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January 12, 2022

Financial Steps in the Right Direction

Financial Steps in the Right Direction

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

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

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

1. Pay off high-interest debt

2. Save 10% of your income

3. Buy life insurance now

4. Start a side gig

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

December 20, 2021

The Surprising Financial Benefit of Marriage

The Surprising Financial Benefit of Marriage

No, it’s NOT the tax break, although that’s helpful.

It’s not the extra income, though that can help you reach your financial goals.

It’s not even the health insurance perks, which may save you a massive chunk of cash.

It’s actually love. And that’s not hyperbole. It’s a fact.

A Harvard study spanning decades discovered that men who described their close relationships as warm earned vastly more than their peers.¹

Why? What’s the connection between healthy relationships and income?

Maybe it’s simply a correlation, not a causation. Perhaps there’s a hidden factor that leads to both high incomes and great marriages.

It’s certainly not intelligence. Past a certain point, warm relationships were better predictors of income than IQ.

Health might play a role. Happy marriages tend to boost longevity and increase physical well-being, the study found.

But it doesn’t take much thought to see potential connections between relationships and income.

For instance, the stress of an unhealthy relationship might make it harder to focus on work, impacting performance.

Or maybe the power of healthy teamwork exponentially increases a couple’s ability to excel in their fields.

Or maybe encouragement and acceptance empower people to take more calculated risks with big potential payoffs.

Or maybe, just maybe, healthy relationships give people something worth fighting for.

You be the judge. Regardless of the cause, it’s clear that your relationships are among the wisest investments you can make.

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¹ “What makes a good life? 3 Lessons on Life, Love, and Decision Making from the Harvard Grant Study,” Michael Miller, Six Seconds, https://www.6seconds.org/2021/04/19/harvard-grant-study/

November 29, 2021

3 Reasons to be the Financial Early Bird

3 Reasons to be the Financial Early Bird

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

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

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

1. Less to put away each month

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

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

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

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

2. Power of compounding

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

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

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

72 ÷ 4 = 18

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

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

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

3. Lower life insurance premiums

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 22, 2021

Travel Insurance: The Complete Guide

Travel Insurance: The Complete Guide

Postcard-worthy sunsets. Fascinating cultures and customs. Exotic people and maybe even a new language to learn – at least enough to order food, pay for souvenirs, and find the nearest bathroom.

Travel can leave us with some amazing memories and lead us to grow simply by being exposed to different ways of seeing the world. It’s also fraught with peril, as many have learned over the last year and half of lockdowns, COVID tests, and closed borders. Travel insurance has the potential to provide protection if the daydream turns into a nightmare in a number of ways.

An auto or life insurance policy is designed to provide a limited set of coverages, making the policies fairly easy to understand. Travel insurance, by comparison, can cover a wide range of unrelated risks, making the coverage and its exclusions a bit more difficult to follow. Depending on your travel insurance provider, your travel insurance may cover just a few risks or a wide gamut of potential mishaps.

So how do you know what kind of travel insurance you should purchase? Read on…

Trip Cancellation Insurance
One of the most basic and most commonly available coverage options, trip cancellation insurance provides coverage to reimburse you if you are unable to take your trip due to a number of possible reasons, including sickness or a death in the family. Cancellations for reasons such as a cruise line going bust or your tour operator going out of business are also typically covered.

Additionally, if you or a member of your party becomes ill during the trip, trip cancellation insurance may reimburse you for the unused portion of the trip. Some trips you book will allow cancellation with full reimbursement (within a certain timeframe) for any reason, whereas some trips only allow reimbursement for medical or other specific reasons – make sure you check the travel policy for any limitations before you purchase it.

Baggage Insurance
Your travel daydreams probably don’t include lost baggage or theft of personal items while abroad – but it happens to travelers every day. Baggage insurance is another common coverage found bundled with travel insurance that provides protection for your belongings while traveling.

If you already have a homeowners insurance or renters insurance policy, it’s likely that you already have this coverage in place. As a caveat, homeowners insurance and renters insurance policies typically limit the coverage for certain types of items, like jewelry, and may only pay a reduced amount for other types of items. Home insurance policies also have a deductible – typically $1,000 or more – that should be considered when deciding if you should purchase baggage insurance with your travel insurance.

Emergency Medical Coverage
Most people don’t know if their health insurance will cover them internationally – it could be that your policy does not protect you outside of the country. Accidents, illness, and other conditions that require medical assistance are border-blind and can happen anywhere, leaving you wondering how to arrange and pay for the medical attention that could be needed by you or your family. Travel health insurance can cover you in these instances and is often available as a stand-alone policy or bundled as part of a travel insurance package.

Accidental Death Coverage
Often bundled as a tag-along coverage with travel health insurance, accidental death coverage provides a limited benefit for accidental death while traveling. If you already have a life insurance policy, accidental death coverage may not be needed – and chances are good that your life insurance policy has fewer limitations and provides a higher death benefit for your named beneficiaries or loved ones.

Other Travel Coverages
A number of other options are often offered as part of travel insurance packages, including missed connection coverage, travel delay coverage, and traveler assistance. Another coverage option to consider is collision and comprehensive coverage for rented cars. Car accidents are among the leading types of mishaps when traveling. Typically, a personal car insurance policy will not cover you for vehicle damage, liability, or medical expenses when traveling abroad.

When you’re ready to cross “See the Seven Wonders of the Modern World” off your bucket list, consider travel insurance. It may provide some relief so you can concentrate on the important things, like making sure you bring the right foreign plug adapter for your hair dryer.

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November 15, 2021

Now Is The Time to Consider Life Insurance

Now Is The Time to Consider Life Insurance

If you’re young, you may not be thinking you need life insurance yet. But life insurance isn’t something only for your parents or grandparents.

Even if you have a free life insurance policy through your employer, you may not have as much coverage as you need.

There are many great reasons to buy life insurance – and a lot of those great reasons are even better reasons for young people.

So, read on for a little illumination about why you are not too young for life insurance. If you have dependents, life insurance is a must.

Take a moment and think about who depends on you and your income for their well-being. You may be surprised.

Most of us think immediately of children, but dependents can include your parents, siblings, a relative with a disability, or even a significant other. A solid life insurance policy can protect the people that count on you.

What would they do without your financial help? A life insurance policy can ensure they are protected if something were to happen to you.

The older you get, the more life insurance costs. From a simple, cost/benefit perspective, the best time to buy life insurance is when you are young. That’s when it’s the most affordable. As you age (i.e., become more likely to suffer from accident or illness), the cost of the policy will most likely go up. So buying a life insurance policy while you’re young may save you money over the long term.

Your employer-provided life insurance may be problematic. Getting life insurance through your employer is a great benefit (you should take advantage of it if it’s free).

But it may present some problems. One of the drawbacks is that this type of life insurance policy doesn’t go with you when you leave the company. That may be a challenge for young people who are moving from company to company as they climb the career ladder.

Second, employer-sponsored life insurance may simply not be enough. Even dual-income couples with no dependents should consider purchasing individual policies. Keep in mind that if one of you passed away, would the other afford to maintain your current lifestyle on a single income? Those “what if?” scenarios may be uncomfortable, but they are the best way to determine how much life insurance you need.

You’re never too young to think about your legacy. It’s not too soon to think about this. Did you know a life insurance policy can provide a lump sum to an organization you select, not just to a family member or other beneficiary? A life insurance policy can allow you to leave a meaningful legacy for the people or causes you care about. When it comes to buying life insurance, generally the younger you are when you start your policy, the better off you’re going to be.

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November 8, 2021

Playing the Lottery is Still a Bad Idea

Playing the Lottery is Still a Bad Idea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 25, 2021

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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October 20, 2021

Key Financial Ingredients for the Sandwich Generation

Key Financial Ingredients for the Sandwich Generation

Ever heard of the “Sandwich Generation”?

Unfortunately, it’s not a group of financially secure, middle-aged foodies whose most important mission is hanging out in the kitchens of their paid-off homes, brainstorming ideas about how to make the perfect sandwich. The Sandwich Generation refers to adults who find themselves in the position of financially supporting their grown children and their own parents, all while trying to save for their futures. They’re “sandwiched” between caring for both the older generation and the younger generation.

Can you relate to this? Do you feel like a PB&J that was forgotten at the bottom of a 2nd grader’s backpack?

If you feel like a sandwich, here are 3 tips to help put a wrap on that:

1. Have a plan. In an airplane, the flight attendants instruct us to put on our own oxygen mask before helping someone else put on theirs – this means before anyone, even your children or your elderly parents. Put your own mask on first. This practice is designed to help keep you and everyone else safe. Imagine if half the plane passed out from lack of oxygen because everyone neglected themselves while trying to help other people. When it comes to potentially having to support your kids and your parents, a solid financial plan that includes life insurance and contributing to a retirement fund will help you get your own affairs in order first, so that you can help care for your loved ones next.

2. Increase your income. For that sandwich, does it feel like there’s never enough mayonnaise? You’re always trying to scrape that last little bit from the jar. Increasing your income would help stock your pantry (figuratively, and also literally) with an extra jar or two. Options for a 2nd career are everywhere, and many entrepreneurial opportunities let you set your own hours and pace. Working part-time as your own boss while helping get out of the proverbial panini press? Go for it!

3. Start dreaming again. You may have been in survival mode for so long that you’ve forgotten you once had dreams. What would you love to do for yourself or your family when you have the time and money? Take that vacation to Europe? Build that addition on the house? Own that luxury car you’ve always wanted? Maybe you’d like to have enough leftover to help others achieve their own dreams.

It’s never too late to get the ball rolling on any of these steps. When you’re ready, feel free to give me a call. We can work together to quickly prioritize how you can start feeling less like baloney and more like a Monte Cristo.

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October 4, 2021

Wealth Is Security, Not Paycheck Size

Wealth Is Security, Not Paycheck Size

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

Consider two examples that illustrate this truth…

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

He earns a handsome salary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s consider another example…

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

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

The kids rushed cleaning the dishes… again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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September 29, 2021

Are You Ready?

Are You Ready?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 20, 2021

The Breakdown: Term vs. Perm

The Breakdown: Term vs. Perm

Navigating the world of life insurance can be a daunting task.

Even more daunting can be figuring out what policy is best for you. Let’s break down the differences between a couple of the more common life insurance policies, so you can focus on an even more daunting task – what your family’s going to have for dinner tonight!

Term Life Insurance. A Term life insurance policy covers an individual for a specific period of time – the most common term lengths being 10, 20, or 30 years. The main advantage of this type of policy is that it generally can cost the consumer less than a permanent insurance plan, because it might be shorter than a permanent policy.

The goal of a term policy is to pay the lowest premiums possible, because by the time the term expires, your family will no longer need the insurance. The primary thing to keep in mind is to choose a term length that covers the years you plan to work prior to retirement. This way, your family members (or beneficiaries) would be taken care of financially if something were to happen to you.

Permanent Life Insurance. Unlike term life insurance, permanent life insurance provides lifelong coverage, as long as you pay your premiums. This insurance policy – which also can be known as “universal” or “whole” – provides coverage for ongoing needs such as caring for family members, a spouse that needs coverage after retirement, or paying off any debts of the deceased.

Another great benefit a perm policy offers is cash accumulation. As premiums are paid over time, the money is allocated to an investment account from which the individual can borrow or withdraw the funds for emergencies, illness, retirement, or other unexpected needs. Because this policy provides lifelong coverage and access to cash in emergencies, most permanent policies are more expensive than term policies.

How Much Does the Average Consumer Need? Unless you have millions of dollars in assets and make over $250,000 a year, most of your insurance coverage needs may be met through a simple term policy. However, if you have a child that needs ongoing care due to illness or disability, if you need coverage for your retirement, or if you anticipate needing to cover emergency expenses, it may be in your best interest to purchase a permanent life insurance policy.

No matter where you are in life, you should consider purchasing some life insurance coverage. Many employers will actually offer this policy as part of their benefits package. If you are lucky enough to work for an employer who does this, take advantage of it, but be sure to examine the policy closely to make sure you’re getting the right amount of coverage. If you don’t work for a company that offers life insurance, don’t worry, you still may be able to get great coverage at a relatively inexpensive rate. Just make sure to do your research, consider your options, and make an informed decision for you and your family.

Now, what’s it going to be? Order a pizza or make breakfast for dinner? Choices, choices…

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September 13, 2021

The Cost of Goodbye

The Cost of Goodbye

The emotional cost of losing a loved one can’t be quantified, and knowing how to say goodbye can’t be taught so much as learned. It can be a long and difficult road for many.

Offsetting the financial aspect of that struggle can be done.¹ Not through gimmicks or escapism, but through a real, tangible solution: Final expense plans.

A traditional funeral can cost up to $10,000. If that number seems a bit outrageous, look at how quickly some of the basic items and services can add up:

  • Cost of the grave site: $1,000
  • Cost to dig the grave: $600
  • Cost of a casket: $2,300
  • Cost of a grave liner/outer burial container: $1,000
  • Cost of a headstone: $1,500

That’s already $6,400… and says nothing of payment of mortician’s services, use of the funeral home, the fee for the funeral director, the cost of flowers, and more details that one never thinks about until they’re in a position where they need to think about it. These costs will vary by geographic location, but one thing you can count on is that the emotional cost you or your loved ones experience later could be compounded with financial cost that could be avoided with a bit of careful preparation now.

In the face of losing someone you love, finances might be the last thing on your mind. With a solid final expense plan, you can keep it that way.

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¹ “Funeral Costs: How Much Does an Average Funeral Cost?” Parting, Sep 13, 2020, https://www.parting.com/blog/funeral-costs-how-much-does-an-average-funeral-cost/

September 1, 2021

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

August 30, 2021

What You May Not Know About Life Insurance

What You May Not Know About Life Insurance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 25, 2021

3 Saving Strategies For College

3 Saving Strategies For College

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, typically, these vehicles have two critical weaknesses…

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

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

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

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

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

  • Tax advantages
  • Potential for compounding growth
  • Unlimited contributions

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

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

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

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


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

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

August 23, 2021

Financial Essentials for Retiring Baby Boomers

Financial Essentials for Retiring Baby Boomers

Are Baby Boomers out of time for retirement planning?

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

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

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

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

That means two things…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s where a financial professional can help.

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

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

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

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

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

July 7, 2021

Keeping the House

Keeping the House

Life insurance can save your house.

Picture this…

A couple owns a beautiful home out in the suburbs. It’s where they’ve raised their children and made memories that will last a lifetime.

Until one of them passes away too soon. Suddenly, the whole picture shifts. See, they are a two income household. They relied on both income streams to buy groceries, cover children’s education… and pay the mortgage.

Now, the surviving partner isn’t simply coping with grief. They’re facing the potential loss of their house, with all of its memories and meaning, as well.

It’s not a far-fetched scenario. Death is one of the Five D’s of foreclosure—the others are divorce, disease, drugs, and denial.

Life insurance can help. It’s the safety net to have in place to protect your family from financial uncertainty and provide for their future.

That’s because the death benefit that’s paid out to your loved ones can cover the cost of mortgage payments, or possibly even pay off your mortgage entirely.

What does that look like in the scenario from earlier?

First, it prevents a personal tragedy from becoming a financial crisis. The last thing a grieving person needs is to have to cope with financial stress.

Second, it means that the grieving partner could keep the house if they so desire. After some time has passed, they can make plans on what the future of their life should look like, without undue financial restrictions.

If that’s a peace you would like to help provide to your family, contact me. We can review what life insurance would look like for you and your budget.

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June 7, 2021

How to Make the Most of Your Life Insurance Policy

How to Make the Most of Your Life Insurance Policy

Your life insurance policy is one of the most important things you’ll buy in your lifetime.

Knowing how to make the most of it will help you sleep better at night and more easily plan for the future. We’re going to cover the aspects of life insurance with a focus on making those numbers work for YOU!

Choose a policy with enough coverage. As a rule of thumb, a life insurance policy should provide a death benefit that’s at least 10X your annual income. Why? Because the benefit can serve as an income replacement for your family if you pass away. A payout above 10X your annual income can provide your family with a generous financial buffer to recover and make a plan for their future. Buying enough coverage helps ensure your policy fulfills its function—to financially protect your family when you pass away.

Choose the right type of insurance. There’s no one-size-fits-all life insurance policy. They each have different strengths and shine in different circumstances.

Term life insurance, for instance, is typically better for families who need protection on a thin budget. That’s because term is often an affordable option for securing a large death benefit.

Permanent life insurance might be better if you’re looking for an investment that grows over time. It’s also a good choice if you need lifelong protection for your spouse and children, but don’t want to be burdened by higher premiums as they age. That makes it particularly attractive to families with permanent dependents or who are interested in wealth-building vehicles.

Choose a policy that fits your budget. Life insurance shouldn’t consume your income. Rather, it should protect your income in case of disaster. Get as much life insurance as your family needs, but don’t add all the bells and whistles if you can’t afford it!

You want a life insurance policy that protects your family, aligns with your goals, and doesn’t break your budget. If you’re not sure what that looks like, meet with a licensed and qualified financial professional. They can help you hammer out goals and find policies that help you meet those goals!

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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.

June 2, 2021

Don't Panic: What You Need To Know For Your Life Insurance Medical Exam

Don't Panic: What You Need To Know For Your Life Insurance Medical Exam

I don’t know about you, but most people don’t like exams – either taking one or having one done to them.

But there’s no need to panic over your life insurance medical exam (yes, you’re probably going to have one). I’ve got some steps you can take before the “big day” to help prevent readings which may skew your test results or create unnecessary confusion.

One important thing to keep in mind is that the exam’s purpose isn’t to pass or fail you based on your health. Your insurer just needs to understand the big picture so they can assign an accurate rating. Oftentimes, the news can be better than expected, and generally good health is rewarded with a lower rate. Alternatively, the exam might uncover something that needs attention, like high cholesterol. That might be something good to know so you can make necessary lifestyle changes.

Think of your exam as a big-picture view. Your insurer will measure several key aspects of your health. These areas help determine your life insurance class, which is simply a group of people with similar overall health characteristics.

Your insurer will most likely look at:

  • Height and weight
  • Pulse/blood pressure tests
  • Blood test
  • Urine test

Tests can indicate glucose levels, blood pressure levels, and the presence of nicotine or other substances. Body Mass Index (BMI) – a measurement of overall fitness in regard to weight – may also be measured as part of your life insurance exam.

So let’s find out what you can do to prepare for your exam!

The most obvious cause that could affect your results is medications you’ve taken recently. These will probably show up in your blood tests. Bring a list of any prescription medications you’re taking so your insurer can match those to the blood analysis.

Over the counter meds can interfere with test results and create inaccurate readings too, so it might be best to avoid them for 24 hours prior to your medical exam if possible. Caffeine can cause spikes in blood pressure.¹ Limit your caffeine intake or avoid it altogether, if possible, for 48 hours prior to your exam. Smoking can elevate blood pressure as well.²

Alcohol has a similar effect on blood pressure. Try to avoid alcohol for 48 hours prior to taking your life insurance medical exam.³ Some types of exercise can also spike blood pressure readings temporarily.⁴ If you can, avoid strenuous exercise for 24 hours before your medical exam.

Some types of foods can create false readings or temporarily raise cholesterol levels.⁵ It’s best to avoid eating for 12 hours prior to your exam, giving your body time to clear temporary effects. Scheduling your exam for the morning makes this easier.

Stress can affect blood pressure readings.⁶ (Surprise, surprise.) Try to schedule your life insurance medical exam for a time when you’ll be less stressed. After work might not be the best time, but maybe after a good night’s rest would be better.

Have any further questions on how you can prepare for your exam? I’m here to help!

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¹ “Caffeine: How does it affect blood pressure?,” Sheldon G. Sheps, M.D., Mayo Clinic, Jan, 26, 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/blood-pressure/faq-20058543

² “Smoking, High Blood Pressure and Your Health,” American Heart Association, Oct 31, 2016, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/smoking-high-blood-pressure-and-your-health#.Wrz8uNPwZTZ

³ “Short-term Negative Effects Of Alcohol Consumption,” BACtrack, https://www.bactrack.com/blogs/expert-center/35042501-short-term-negative-effects-of-alcohol-consumption

⁴ “Does Exercise Raise Blood Pressure?,” Barrett Barlowe, SportsRec, Nov 28, 2018, https://www.sportsrec.com/6277164/does-exercise-raise-blood-pressure

⁵ “How to Prep for a Cholesterol Test,” Vanessa Caceres, Livestrong.com, Apr 29, 2020 https://www.livestrong.com/article/326114-what-not-to-eat-before-cholesterol-check/

⁶ “Managing Stress to Control High Blood Pressure,” American Heart Association, Oct 31, 2016, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/managing-stress-to-control-high-blood-pressure#.Wr0OsdPwZTY

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