Severance Explained

July 6, 2022

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Bree Hudson

Bree Hudson

Independent Consultant

5830 Granite Parkway
Suite 100
Plano, Texas 75024

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May 25, 2022

How to Build Credit When You’re Young

How to Build Credit When You’re Young

Your credit score can affect a lot more than just your interest rates or credit limits.

Your credit history can have an impact on your eligibility for rental leases, raise (or lower) your auto insurance rates, or even affect your eligibility for certain jobs (although in many cases the authorized credit reports available to third parties don’t contain your credit score if you aren’t requesting credit). Because credit history affects so many aspects of financial life, it’s important to begin building a solid credit history as early as possible.

So, where do you start?

  1. Apply for a store credit card.
    Store credit cards are a common starting point for teens and young adults, as it often can be easier to get approved for a store card than for a major credit card. As a caveat though, store card interest rates are often higher than for a standard credit card. Credit limits are also typically low – but that might not be a bad thing when you’re just getting started building your credit. A lower limit helps ensure you’ll be able to keep up with payments. Because you’re trying to build a positive history and because interest rates are often higher with a store card, it’s important to pay on time – or ideally, to pay the entire balance when you receive the statement.

  2. Become an authorized user on a parent’s credit card.
    Another common way to begin building credit is to become an authorized user on a parent’s credit card. Ultimately, the credit card account isn’t yours, so your parents would be responsible for paying the balance. (Because of this, your credit score won’t benefit as much as if you are approved for a credit card in your own name.) Another thing to keep in mind is that some credit card providers don’t report authorized users’ activity to credit bureaus.¹ Additionally, even if you’re only an authorized user, any missed or late payments on the card can affect your credit history negatively.

Are secured cards useful to build credit?
A secured credit card is another way to begin building credit. To secure the card, you make an initial deposit. The amount of that deposit is your credit line. If you miss a payment, the bank uses your collateral – the deposit – to pay the balance. Don’t let that make you too comfortable though. Your goal is to build a positive credit history, so if you miss payments – even though you have a prepaid deposit to fall back on – you’re still going to get a ding on your credit history. Instead, it’s best to use a small amount of your available credit each month and to pay in full when you get the statement. This will help you look like a credit superstar due to your consistently timely payments and low credit utilization.

As you build your credit history, you’ll be able to apply for credit in larger amounts, and you may even start receiving pre-approved offers. But beware. Having credit available is useful for certain emergencies and for demonstrating responsible use of credit – but you don’t need to apply for every offer you receive.

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¹ “Does Being an Authorized User Impact Your Credit Score?” Discover, Jan 13, 2022 https://www.discover.com/credit-cards/resources/authorized-user-and-credit-scores

May 23, 2022

What's a Recession?

What's a Recession?

Most of us would probably be apprehensive about another recession.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 6, 2022

Understanding the Inverted Yield Curve

Understanding the Inverted Yield Curve

Inverted Yield Curve. It’s a phrase you may have heard before. More financial gibberish, right?

Wrong.

Paying attention to the yield curve is critical because it may indicate there’s a recession on the horizon. And as of March 29, 2022, it inverted for the first time since 2019.¹

What Is the Yield Curve?

The yield curve is simply a graph that shows the interest rates of different types of bonds. With a normal yield curve, bonds with lower lifespans (i.e., maturity) have lower interest rates. That’s because they’ll face less inflation and need less growth to keep up. By that logic, bonds with longer maturities have higher interest rates.

Put simply, if the yield curve is normal, a bond with a two year maturity will have a lower interest rate than a bond with a thirty year maturity.

So what happens when that gets inverted? Bonds with short maturities have higher interest rates, and bonds with long maturities have lower interest rates.

Why is that a big deal? Because it’s consistently correlated with economic recession. There have been 28 inverted yield curves since 1900, and 22 have correlated with recessions.²

And the average lead time from when the yield curve inverted to when the recession began was around 22 months.

This is not to say that you should start buying land in West Virginia or emergency rations. These are unprecedented times, and there may be other factors at play. But it’s at least a check engine light for your finances. Are you prepared for job instability? Is your emergency fund fully stocked? The time to start preparing for these possibilities is now. Meet with your financial pro today to make sure you’re prepared for whatever the future holds.

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¹⁺² “Explainer: U.S. yield curve inversion - What is it telling us?” David Randall, Davide Barbuscia and Saqib Iqbal Ahmed, Reuters, Mar 29, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/business/finance/us-yield-curve-inversion-what-is-it-telling-us-2022-03-29/

April 4, 2022

Rising Interest Rates and You

Rising Interest Rates and You

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

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

Now here’s the big question…

So what? Who cares?

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

The answer? YOU should.

Here’s why…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 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/

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

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 3, 2021

Should You Buy a Budget Car?

Should You Buy a Budget Car?

Buying a car can be pricey.

The average used car costs about $25,410, while the average for a new one is around $45,031.¹ ² When it comes to transportation (or anything else for that matter), it only makes sense that you’d want to save as much money as possible. But are there times when buying a used or budget car is a better investment than buying a new one? Here are some questions to ask yourself before you make that purchase.

How much mileage can you get out of this car? One of the big things to consider when researching a budget car is how many miles of prior travel you’re paying for. Buying a cheap (although unreliable) car that breaks down on the regular due to wear and tear may give you fewer miles for your money than paying more for a car that might last 10 years. If you’re committed to buying used, you’ll probably want a mechanic to inspect the car for issues that might affect your car’s lifespan.

How much will maintenance and repairs cost you? You might be one of the few who know someone with the auto know-how to keep an ancient car running for years. However, the average person will need to have car problems repaired at a professional shop, which can become expensive if it constantly needs work. This can be especially costly if you sink thousands into maintenance only for your vehicle to die for good earlier than expected. It’s worth considering that buying new might save you a huge hassle and potentially give you more miles for your money.

How does the interest rate compare for a new car vs. used? The uncertainty involved with buying a used or budget car can increase the cost of financing. Lenders will often charge you higher interest for purchasing a used car than they would a new one.³ Having a high credit score will improve your rates, but that extra cost can still add up over time.

What you’re trying to avoid is buying a used piece of junk that requires constant maintenance at a shop, has a higher interest rate, and gives out too soon. There are definitely used and budget cars out there that have great value. Just be sure to do your research before you make such a significant investment!

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¹ “The high prices of used cars may finally be dropping: Sonic Automotive president,” Ian Thomas, CNBC, Aug 1 2021 https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/01/used-car-high-prices-may-finally-be-dropping.html

² “The average new car costs $45,000: What the heck is going on?” Sean Szymkowski, CNET, Oct 13, 2021, https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/average-new-car-costs-price-increase/

³ “Why Are Interest Rates Higher on a Loan for a Used Car?” Bethany Hickey, CarsDirect, Jul 29, 2020, https://www.carsdirect.com/auto-loans/why-are-interest-rates-higher-on-a-loan-for-a-used-car

August 11, 2021

Saving Money With Credit Cards: The Ultimate Guide

Saving Money With Credit Cards: The Ultimate Guide

Credit cards are one of the most useful tools for saving money.

That may seem counter-intuitive. In fact, if you’re struggling with credit card debt, it might seem like an all out fantasy!

But if you have your credit cards under control, they can offer significant opportunities to save money.

Here’s your strategy guide for saving money with credit cards.

Eliminate your credit card debt. The simple truth is that credit card debt can derail your financial strategy. No matter how advantageous credit card rewards seem, they won’t offset the high interest rates that most cards feature.

So before you start leveraging the benefits a card can offer, take steps to eliminate your credit card debt completely.

The two most common strategies are the “debt snowball” and the “debt avalanche.”

Debt Snowball: Make only minimum payments on your other cards, and focus all of your financial firepower on your smallest balance. Once that’s gone, move on to the next smallest. Repeat until your debt is gone.

Debt Avalanche: Make only minimum payments on your other cards, and focus all of your financial firepower on the balance with the highest interest rate. Once that’s gone, move on to the next highest. Repeat until your debt is gone.

Another strategy is opening a new card with a 0% introductory APR. Then, use your new card to pay off your old card with no interest. This is called a balance transfer, and there are specialized cards with benefits tailored for this strategy. Check out this Nerdwallet article for a few options! (Note: Make sure you understand any fees that may be charged for a transfer.)

Build your credit score. It’s no joke—the higher your credit score, the greater the rewards you may earn. To help maximize your savings with a card, start building your credit score ASAP.

A simple step towards increasing your score is automating all of your loan payments. You can do this with your credit card, mortgages, and car loans. Once your credit crosses a certain threshold, look for cards with greater benefits. You might be surprised by the difference your score makes!

Choose benefits that align with your lifestyle. DO NOT get a travel card and then plan four international vacations to “maximize your benefits.”

Instead, choose a card that rewards you for your current habits, behaviors, and the way you live your life. It’s a chance to get something back for going about your daily routine!

Travel frequently for work or lifestyle? Consider a card that rewards you for flying or that waives foreign transaction fees.

Loyal to certain brands and stores? Look for cards that offer points for shopping with your favorites.

Above all, remember that credit cards ARE NOT FREE MONEY. The more disciplined you are with your credit card usage, the more you stand to benefit from the rewards.

Ask a financial professional about how you can leverage credit cards for your advantage. They can help you understand your financial position and develop a strategy to maximize your benefits.

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July 14, 2021

Is Refinancing Worth It?

Is Refinancing Worth It?

What do you think of when you hear the word “refinancing?”

If you’re like most people, your first thought might be that it has something to do with a mortgage. And you’re not wrong! However, refinancing can apply to many different types and forms of loans. In this article we will explore what refinancing is, how it works, and when it can work to your advantage.

What is refinancing?

Refinancing is the process of transferring all or part of an existing loan from one loan to another. This is done in order to achieve a…

  • Lower interest rate
  • Lower monthly payments
  • More favorable repayment period
  • Or all of the above

Let’s consider an example. Say you have a $10,000 loan with a 5% interest rate and a 10-year term. You’ll pay $106 every month to service the debt, and over $12,000 in total once interest is included.

But you think you can do better! You find someone else who’s willing to loan you $10,000 at a 2.5% interest rate over a 10-year term. You’d save more than $1,000 in interest and pay less every month. That’s a far better deal.

So, you would borrow money from your new creditor and use that sum to eliminate your existing loan. You’ve used another loan to decrease your interest burden and increase your cash flow. That’s the power of refinancing in a nutshell. It’s often worth the effort if you can decrease your interest rate without increasing your term.

But it may not be a silver bullet for your debt.

Refinancing only works if you can score a new loan with a more favorable contract. There may be times when interest rates are high and finding lower rates simply isn’t possible. Even then, a lower interest rate may not offset the costs of a longer loan term.

That’s why it’s always best to work with a financial professional before you refinance any loan. Their expertise can help you determine whether refinancing will help or hinder your progress towards your financial goals.

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

July 12, 2021

What’s Happening In The Housing Market

What’s Happening In The Housing Market

By now, you’ve heard the housing market horror stories.

Chances are you know someone who thought they’d found the perfect home at the perfect price, only to be wildly outbid at the last minute. Maybe you’ve been that someone.

So what’s going on? How did the housing market go from a pandemic-fueled lockdown to a frenzy?

It’s simple—the tight housing market has a lot to do with supply and demand.

It started in 2020 during the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic. To combat the economic crisis sparked by shutdowns, interest rates plummeted to an all-time low. At the same time, workers in cities started flocking to states with more reasonable costs of living. After all, their work situation was almost entirely remote—why shell out $2,000 per month for a broom closet in Manhattan when you could pay the same for a 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom house in Iowa?

Millennials were especially driven by the favorable market conditions. They were eager to buy houses and establish roots.

That’s the demand side. What about the supply?

Even before 2020, there was a drastic housing shortage in the United States to the tune of 2.5 million units.¹ Toss in shutdowns of construction companies and lumber mills, and you had a recipe for an even worse shortage. That equates to a sellers market—those selling can often expect massive payouts while buyers may have to face bidding wars and skyrocketing prices.

So what should you do?

The answer depends on the individual. Those looking to buy should be prepared for a lengthy (and expensive) process, and buying might not make sense unless you’re planning on staying in your new home for at least five years or more.

There’s no telling how long the market will continue its hot streak. Just make sure you have your finances in order and a clear strategy before you commit to making a massive purchase like a home in this climate.

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¹ “The U.S. Faces A Housing Shortage. Will 2021 Be A Turning Point?” Natalie Campisi, Forbes, Jan 4, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/mortgages/new-home-construction-forecast/

May 26, 2021

The Better Choice: Federal or Private Loans for College

The Better Choice: Federal or Private Loans for College

Education can be one of the best investments you can make in your future.

Those with a bachelor’s degree earn, on average, almost $1 million more over their lifetime than those with just a high school diploma. And a person who gets a master’s degree can earn more money than someone with a bachelor’s degree!¹

But how should you pay for higher education? You may not have enough cash on hand to afford school. That means you’ll need student loans. That begs another question—should you get a federal or a private loan? There are many factors that go into answering this question. Let’s break down some pros and cons for both federal and private loans so you can decide which route is right for you.

Federal loans come straight from Uncle Sam. It all begins with filling out a FAFSA form. This form determines your eligibility for loans, grants, and work-study programs.

Federal student loan rates are typically lower than for private lenders. Federal loans also offer more flexible repayment options—you can make payments as a percentage of income or defer them until after school ends. You may also qualify for relief if you default on your loans. In general, a federal loan can be a good choice for many students, whether they’re pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

But remember, there are potential limitations to how much the federal government will lend you. Private loans may be needed to fill in the gaps. They typically charge higher interest rates and have stricter payment options. But they can sometimes be refinanced for better terms.

So if you need loans to afford your education, opt for federal loans first. Then, use private loans to cover the rest, refinancing as needed.

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¹ “The College Payoff: Education, Occupations, Lifetime Earnings,” Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 2011 https://cew.georgetown.edu/cew-reports/the-college-payoff/

² “Federal Versus Private Loans,” Federal Student Aid, https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/types/loans/federal-vs-private

May 5, 2021

Why You Should Care About Insurable Interest

Why You Should Care About Insurable Interest

First of all, what is insurable interest?

It’s simply the stake you have in something that is being insured – and that the amount of insurance coverage for whatever is being insured is not more than your potential loss.

To say things could become a bit awkward might be an understatement if your insurable interest isn’t considered before you’re deep into the planning phase of a project or before you’ve signed some papers, like a title or a loan.

It’s better for your sanity to understand insurable interest beforehand. Where the issue of insurable interest often arises is in auto insurance. Let’s look at an example.

Let’s say you have a car that’s worth $5,000. $5,000 is the maximum amount of money you would lose if the car is stolen or damaged – and $5,000 would be the most you could insure the car for. $5,000 is your insurable interest.

In the above example, you own the car, so you have an insurable interest in it. By the same token, you can’t insure your neighbor’s car. If your neighbor’s car was stolen or damaged, you wouldn’t suffer any financial loss because it wasn’t your car.

Here’s where it might get a little tricky and why it’s important to understand insurable interest. Let’s say you have a young driver in the house, a teenager, and it’s time for him to go mobile. He’s been saving up his lawn-mowing money for two years and finally bought the (used) car of his dreams.

You might have considered adding your son’s car to your auto policy to save money – you’ve heard how much it can cost for a teen driver to buy their own policy. Sounds like a good plan, right? The problem with this strategy is that you don’t have an insurable interest in your son’s car. He bought it, and it’s registered to him.

You might find an insurance sales rep who will write the policy. But there’s a risk the policy won’t make it through underwriting and – more importantly – if there’s a claim with that car, the claim might not be covered because you didn’t have an insurable interest in it. If you want to put that car on your auto insurance policy, the car needs to be registered to the named insured on the policy – you.

Insurable Interest And Lenders If you have a mortgage or an auto loan, your lender is probably listed on your policy. Both you and the lender have an insurable interest in the house or the car. Over time, as the loan is paid down, you’ll have a greater insurable interest and the lender’s insurable interest will become smaller. (Hint: When your loan is paid off, ask your agent to remove the lender from the policy to avoid any confusion or delays if you have a claim someday.)

Does Ownership Create Insurable Interest? Excellent question! It might seem like ownership and insurable interest are equivalent – they often occur simultaneously. But there are times when you can have an insurable interest in something without being an owner.

Life insurance is a great example of having an insurable interest without ownership. You can’t own a person – but if a person dies, you may experience a financial loss. However, just as you can’t insure your neighbor’s car, you can’t purchase a life insurance policy on your neighbor, either. You’d have to be able to demonstrate your potential loss if your neighbor passed away. And no, it doesn’t count if they never returned those hedge clippers they borrowed from you last spring!

Now you know all about insurable interest. While insurable interest requirements may seem inconvenient at times, the rules are there to protect you and to help keep rates lower for everyone. Without insurable interest requirements, the door is open to fraud, speculation, or even malicious behavior. A little inconvenience seems like a much better option!

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May 3, 2021

The Rule of 72

The Rule of 72

So you’ve got a chunk of change and the know-how to put your money into an account that earns compoundING interest.

How long does it take for your money to double in that account? Well to find this out you need two things: your balance and your interest rate. Now, like most things there’s an easy way to find your answer and a hard way. The hard way involves taking the logarithm base 10 of 2. Two as in, two times our balance over the logarithm base 10 of 1 plus our interest rate. (Apologies for causing any unnecessary math class flashbacks.) Since most of us don’t have bionic brains, we can’t really crunch numbers like these in our heads.

The simple way to make an educated guess about how long it takes for your money to double in a compound interest account? The Rule of 72. The way it works is surprisingly easy (and won’t require a graphing calculator). All you do is take the number 72 and divide it by your interest rate. That’s it! It really is that straightforward. The number you get equals the number of years it’s going to take to double your money.

Let’s try it out: Say you have $5,000 in your account earning 4% interest. Now take that magical number 72, take your interest rate of 4%, pull out your phone and text your 2nd grade cousin and ask him how many times 4 goes into 72. He’s a bright kid, so he’ll tell you the answer is 18, and you’ll tell him that he just helped you learn that it will take 18 years for your initial $5,000 to double into $10,000.

Using the Rule of 72, it’s easier to see how small changes in interest rates can make a huge difference in earning potential. A 29-year-old earning 4% compounding interest can expect his account to double twice by the time he’s 65. At 8%, it doubles 4 times. At 12%, it doubles 8 times. So by doubling your interest rate from 4% to 8% you actually quadruple your money. And by tripling your rate from 4% to 12% you sixteentuple your money. That’ll work.

Interest rates matter. The Rule of 72 shows just how much they matter. So how many doubling periods does your nest-egg have before you retire? Now you know the easy way to find out.

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April 19, 2021

How Do Checking Accounts Work?

How Do Checking Accounts Work?

You probably use your checking account every day, but do you really know how it works?

This article will explore exactly what a checking account is and how it works!

A checking account is a simple way to store your money. You can make deposits and withdrawals whenever you need to. They’re easy to access with checks, the ATM, your debit card, and online payments.

The checking account advantage? It’s liquid. You have instant access to those funds at all times without penalty if needed. That makes it ideal for daily expenses like buying groceries, paying for a babysitter, or making an emergency car repair. That’s why they’re so common—there are a total of 600 million checking accounts in the United States!¹

The disadvantage? Low (or no) interest rates! Because many checking accounts come with various fees and minimums to maintain them (usually elevated monthly account balances), the average interest rate is only about 0.04% APY on these types of accounts,² which may not be worth it in some cases if you’re saving up money without investing funds elsewhere as well.

Another downside? Overdraft fees. You might be liable for an overdraft penalty if the money in your checking account doesn’t match what you’ve spent! This could lead to some hefty fees. Thankfully many banks have overdraft protection policies which will prevent these charges, but not all do so check before signing up for a new checking account.

You should probably have a checking account if you don’t already, simply for the ease of living life. They’re not the most exciting thing in the world, but they can be hugely helpful for daily transactions. Just be sure you’re not relying on one to build wealth!

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¹ “Checking Accounts Shrink by Nearly 100 Million Accounts Since 2011,” Tina Orem, Credit Union Times, May 8, 2018, https://www.cutimes.com/2018/05/08/checking-accounts-shrink-by-nearly-100-million-acc/

² “Average Checking Account Interest Rates 2021,” Chris Moon, ValuePenguin, https://www.valuepenguin.com/banking/average-checking-account-interest-rates

March 10, 2021

How to Reduce Debt

How to Reduce Debt

Paying off debt can be a great feeling.

The burden is lifted and you have more control over your financial situation. If you’re like many, however, paying down debt hasn’t been an easy task due to high interest rates and the sheer size of what you owe. Many people find themselves in situations where they feel helpless. But following some tips from this article can show you a path towards financial health!

Start by making a budget. Write down your income on a piece of paper or spreadsheet. Then, calculate how much you spend, on average, every month. If you can, categorize all of your expenses in order of amount spent. Be sure to also rank your debts from highest to lowest interest rate!

Then, subtract your expenses from your income. The result is how much cash flow you have available to attack your debt.

But before you start chipping away at what you owe, devote your cash flow to building an emergency fund. Why? Because it will provide a cash reserve to pay for unexpected expenses that you might otherwise cover with more debt!

Then, focus all your financial resources on your highest interest loan. Make minimum payments on all your debts until that top priority debt is eliminated. Next, move on to the next debt. Rinse and repeat until you’re debt free.

Track your spending and cut back where possible. When you budget, you might find that you have almost no cash flow. If that’s the case, you’ll need to reduce your spending. Start by cutting back on categories like clothes shopping and dining out.

Above all, be consistent! Reducing debt is no easy task but it’s doable. Cutting back on your spending and consistently budgeting may not be easy in the short-term, but the sense of relief that comes with being debt free is well worth the effort.

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February 10, 2021

How to Save for Large Purchases

How to Save for Large Purchases

So you’re saving for retirement. Good for you!

You’re further in the game than a lot of people. But retirement’s probably not your only financial priority that requires saving for. Buying a house, raising children, buying cars for your children, and paying for college for your children are just a few expenses you can expect along the way. Preparing for those purchases now can protect your finances from getting blindsided when the time comes. Here are a few steps you can take to start preparing for substantial purchases today.

Write down upcoming expenses and purchases. Make a timeline of all your major, non-regular expenses. Determine how much they could cost, and then rank them in terms of urgency and importance. If it’s urgent and important–like saving for the delivery of a newborn–address it as soon as possible. If it’s important, but less urgent–like toddler-proofing your home–schedule it for later.

Budget out how much you’ll need and start saving. Once you have your priorities straightened out, figure out how much you’ll need to have saved and how much time you have available. Then, set up automatic deposits that put aside money for your savings goals.

Seek higher interest rates. Saving for your purchases in accounts with higher interest rates can give your money the extra juice you need to crush your goals. That may mean opening a high interest savings account with an online bank. But for some items, you might be able to find accounts specifically designed to help you. Meet with a licensed and qualified financial professional and see what options you have available!

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January 27, 2021

A Penny for Your Thoughts?

A Penny for Your Thoughts?

Would you rather have a million dollars cash – or – a penny that doubles every day for 31 days?

If you’re eyeing that million dollar suitcase of cash, you’re not alone. Many go ahead and just take the million. Shoot, people don’t even stoop to pick up pennies in parking lots any more, right?

Well, hold on there, Daddy Warbucks. Before you flick that little copperhead in your change jar and run off on your shopping spree, check this out! The total of a penny doubling every day for 31 days equals (drumroll please) over $10.7 million!

Seem impossible? Here’s the play-by-play – or, rather, day-by-day:

Penny doubling corrected (resized 55%)

$10,737.418.22! Are you regretting not choosing the penny?

By day 31, one cent has become over ten times the value of the million dollar cash lump sum. That’s the power of exponential growth – the pure power of compounding.

So how can you apply the power of compounding in your personal financial strategy? It’s unlikely you’ll find someone willing to double your money (in fact, be wary of anyone claiming they can). But you can find effective strategies that leverage compounding through interest rates.

Contact me, and let’s talk about how to put the power of compounding to work for you.

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August 24, 2020

Renting vs. buying a home: Which is right for you?

Renting vs. buying a home: Which is right for you?

100 million Americans live in homes they or their families rent.

Which means about 250 million live in homes that are owned by themselves or their families.[i]

What about you? Are you a renter or an owner? If you’re thinking about making a change, take a look at these important factors when deciding to rent or own.

The Case for Ownership One very oft-cited benefit of owning over renting is building up equity. When one rents, the entire rent payment goes to the landlord, and the tenant does not own any part of the dwelling at all. With a mortgage, on the other hand, the payer receives some percentage of ownership after every payment (assuming the payment is going towards the principal rather than interest alone), eventually leading to full ownership of the property.

For those with enough capital to outright purchase a property, ownership is almost certainly the best decision financially: no money is paid to a landlord for a service that is consumed but non-saleable in the future. Even for those without sufficient capital, mortgages tend to offer low interest rates (compared to other loan products), and the buyer can usually justify the mortgage interest in return for eventual full ownership. Even if the owner decides to move before the mortgage is completely paid off, the equity that was built thus far can be recouped and used later.

Other reasons to own may include more privacy and greater ability to customize the property. There is also the feeling of stability that you won’t have to renew a contract or potentially pay higher rent during the next cycle when your lease renews.

One of the biggest drawbacks of ownership is the potential that the property value may decline, particularly when still under mortgage. If the value of the property goes down – possibly due to a natural disaster or a lot of foreclosures in your neighborhood [ii] – the equity that was built by the owner may decline, not the amount owed on the loan. Thus a substantial decrease in prices as happened in the late 2000s, could cause an owner to be in the same position financially as a renter – that is, with no equity to speak of.

The Case for Rentership For those who cannot meet ownership’s capital requirements, renting is not a choice – it’s a necessity. However, even those who would qualify for a mortgage may be better off renting, especially if they insist on flexibility. Selling a property is an involved, complex financial transaction that may take many months to complete. If you’re renting and you need to move, finding a subletter (if allowed) is a possibility, and even when not, a standard rental agreement usually only lasts one year, after which the renter may decline to renew. Thus flexibility is one of the most important factors for those who wish to rent.

And while there is usually much less customization allowable at rental properties, there may be significant benefits included in rent with utilities paid, maintenance performed, and communal facilities like gyms, pools, or laundry facilities available. For owners, maintenance, utilities, and tax bills are solely the responsibility of the owner, whereas for renters, these may be paid in part or in full by the landlord. Regarding the investment side, renters do not own the property, so they do not have to worry about losing equity if the property market decreases in value.

Some drawbacks of renting may be less privacy, not being able to build equity, and the uncertainty of future rental prices or even availability. Of course, if the rent increases too much, the renter has the flexibility to leave the property at the next cycle.

So whether you’re thinking of renting or buying, before you sign on the dotted line, examine your short and long term goals, the risks you’re willing to take, and your budget.

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