Quick ways to cut your monthly expenses

January 25, 2023

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Katherine Zacharias

Katherine Zacharias

Financial Professional



Encinitas, CA 92024

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January 23, 2023

Emergency Fund Basics

Emergency Fund Basics

Unexpected expenses are a part of life.

They can crop up at any time and often occur when you least expect them. An emergency expense is usually not a welcome one – it can include anything from car repairs to veterinary care to that field trip fee your 12 year old informed you about the day of. So, what’s the best way to deal with those financial curve balls that life inevitably throws at you? Enter one of the most important personal financial tools you can have – an emergency fund.

What is an emergency fund?

An emergency fund is essential, but it’s also simple. It’s merely a stash of cash reserved solely for a financial emergency. It’s best to keep it in a place where you can access it easily, such as a savings account or a money market fund. (It also might not hurt to keep some actual cash on hand in a safe place in your house.) When disaster strikes – e.g., your water heater dies right before your in-laws arrive for a long weekend – you can pull funds from your emergency stash to make the repairs and then feel free to enjoy a pleasant time with your family.

Some experts recommend building an emergency fund equal to about 6-12 months of your monthly expenses. Don’t let that scare you. This may seem like an enormous amount if you’ve never committed to establishing an emergency fund before. But having any amount of money in an emergency fund is a valuable financial resource which may make the difference between getting past an unexpected bump in the road, and having long term financial hindrances hanging over you, such as credit card debt.

Start where you are

It’s okay to start small when building your emergency fund. Set manageable savings goals. Aim to save $100 by the end of the month, for example. Or shoot for $1,000 if that’s doable for you. Once you get that first big chunk put away, you might be amazed at how good it feels and how much momentum you have to keep going.

Take advantage of automatic savings tools

When starting your emergency fund, it’s a good idea to set up a regular savings strategy. Take a cold, hard look at your budget. Be as objective as possible. This is a new day! Now isn’t the time to beat yourself up over bad money habits you might have had in the past, or how you rationalized about purchases you thought you needed. After going through your budget, decide how much you can realistically put away each month and take that money directly off the top of your income. This is called “paying yourself first”, and it’s a solid habit to form that can serve you the rest of your life.

Once you know the amount you can save each month, see if you can set up an automatic direct deposit for it. (Oftentimes your paycheck can be set to go into two different accounts.) This way the money can be directly deposited into a savings account each time you get paid, and you might not even miss it. But you’ll probably be glad it’s there when you need it!

Don’t touch your emergency fund for anything other than emergencies

This is rule #1. The commitment to use your emergency fund for emergencies only is key to making this powerful financial tool work. If you’re dipping into this fund every time you come across a great seasonal sale or a popular new mail-order subscription box, the funds for emergencies might be gone when a true emergency comes up.

So keep in mind: A girls’ three day weekend, buying new designer boots – no matter how big the mark-down is – and enjoying the occasional spa day are probably NOT really emergencies (although these things may be important). Set up a separate “treat yourself fund” for them. Reserve your emergency fund for those persnickety car breakdowns, unexpected medical bills, or urgent home repairs.

The underpinning of financial security

An emergency fund is about staying prepared financially and having the resources to handle life if (and when) things go sideways. If you don’t have an emergency fund, begin building one today. Start small, save consistently, and you’ll be better prepared to catch those life-sized curve balls.

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January 9, 2023

Back to the Basics

Back to the Basics

It seems many of us can over-complicate how to achieve good financial health and can make the entire subject much harder than it needs to be.

Despite what you might read in books, hear on television, or see on blogs and websites, good financial health can be simple and sustainable.

Some of the following basic principles may require a paradigm shift depending on how you’ve thought about finances and money in the past, or if you have current not-so-great habits you want to change. Hang in there!

Let’s start with frugality.

Retail therapy may not always be good therapy

One of the biggest financial pitfalls we may get into is believing that money will make us happy. To some degree, this may be true. Stress over finances can rob us of peace of mind, and not having enough money to make ends meet is a challenging – sometimes even difficult – way to live. Still, thinking that more money will alleviate the stress and bring us more happiness is a common enough trap, but it doesn’t seem to usually pan out that way.

Get yourself out of the trap by reminding yourself that if you don’t have a money problem, then don’t use money to solve it. The next time you’re tempted to do some indiscriminate “retail” therapy, think about why you’re doing what you’re doing. Do you truly need three new shopping bags of clothes and accessories or are you trying to fill some other void? Give yourself some space to slow down and think it over.

Build a love for do-it-yourself projects

Any time you can do something yourself instead of paying someone to do it for you should be a win. A foundation of frugality is to keep as much of your income in your pocket as possible. Learning to perform certain tasks yourself instead of paying someone to do them for you may save more money.

Do-it-yourself tasks can include changing the oil in your car, mowing your grass, even doing your taxes. The next time you’re about to shell out $50 (or more) to trim the lawn, consider doing it yourself and saving the money.

Curb your impulse buying habit

An impulse buying habit can rob us of good financial health. The problem is that impulse purchases seem to be mostly extraneous, and they can add up over time because we probably don’t give them much thought. A foundational principle is to try to refrain from any impulse buying. Get in the habit of putting a little pause between yourself and the item. Ask yourself if this is something you actually need or just want. Another great strategy to combat impulse buying is to practice the routine of making a shopping list and sticking to it.

It may take some time and effort to retrain yourself not to impulse buy, but as a frugal foundational principle, it’s worth it.

Build your financial health with simple principles

Achieving an excellent financial life doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy. Mastering a few foundational principles will help ensure your financial health is built on a good, solid foundation. Remember that money isn’t always the solution, aim to keep as much of your income as possible and stay away from impulse buying. Simple habits will get you on the road to financial health.

A fresh perspective, a little commitment, and some discipline can go a long way toward building a solid financial foundation.

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December 26, 2022

When should you see a financial professional?

When should you see a financial professional?

Just about anyone may benefit from seeing a financial professional, but how do you know when it’s time to get some professional guidance?

Many people work through much of their financial life without needing to talk to a financial professional, but then something may change. Maybe you are approaching retirement and want to make sure you have your bases covered. Perhaps you just received an inheritance and aren’t quite sure what to do with it, or maybe you received a big promotion with a substantial raise and want a little help with your existing financial strategy.

Whatever the case may be, here are a few signposts that indicate it may be time to see a financial professional.

You are unsure about your financial future

If when thinking about your financial future, and you keep coming up with a blank slate, a financial professional may help you formulate a solid savings strategy. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by differing financial responsibilities, a conversation with a financial professional may help you sort it all out and develop a roadmap.

If you’re juggling a lot of financial balls, such as student loan debt, retirement savings, credit card debt, building an emergency fund, trying to buy a house, etc., you may benefit from some professional financial input.

You have inherited a large sum of money

Coming in to an inheritance is a key signal to seek out a financial professional. A financial professional may be able to help you determine the options you have to manage the money that you may not be aware of. The important thing with an inheritance is to take your time when making decisions and consider any long term implications for your family.

You want a professional opinion

Say you like managing your own money, and you’ve been doing a pretty good job of it. You read the financial news and keep up with the latest from Wall Street. You may feel you’re doing just fine without the help of a financial professional, and that’s great. But, getting a second opinion on your finances from a qualified financial professional may go a long way.

Sometimes with our finances we may have a blind spot – a risk we may not see, or an opportunity to do something better that we haven’t noticed. A financial professional may help you find those opportunities and help eliminate those risks. Even if your finance game is on a roll, a little professional guidance may help make it even better.

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December 7, 2022

How to Handle an Inheritance

How to Handle an Inheritance

If you’ve just come into an inheritance or another windfall like a settlement, it may be tempting to spend a little (or a lot) on some indulgences.

Even if – especially if – you’re already prudent with your budget and spending habits. You might be thinking, “I’m on top of my finances. What’s the harm of blowing a little cash on a few treats?” But read on. An inheritance or other monetary bonus – if handled wisely – has the potential to make a lifelong financial difference.

Start with these tips to help you make some lasting decisions about your newfound money.

Don’t make quick decisions

If you’ve received an inheritance from the death of a family member, you may want to take some time to grieve and start to develop a “new normal” before you make any big financial decisions.

Consider parking the money in a money market account or a high-interest rate savings account and letting it sit until you’re ready. A good rule of thumb when making a major financial decision is to give it at least 30 days. Shelve it for 30 days and then see how you feel. If you’re still not sure, put it back on the shelf for another 30 days.

Don’t feel rushed into making decisions about how to handle the money. It’s more important to take your time and make a careful decision than rushing into purchasing big-ticket items or making investments that may not be right for you.

Don’t shout it from the rooftops

Be cautious with whom you talk to about the inheritance. It’s best to discuss it with only a few trusted friends or family members. The more people you tell, the more “advice” you’re going to get about what you should do with the money. Some might even ask you to invest in one of their interests. (Which may be OK – that’s up to you!)

If you do come in to some money, one of your first calls should be to a qualified financial professional. Remember, it’s probably best to keep input minimal at this point, so tell as few people as possible.

Create a financial strategy

When you’re ready, it’s time to create a financial strategy. A financial professional can help you clarify your financial goals and offer a roadmap to get you there. No matter how much you inherited, developing a financial strategy is a must. Here are a few considerations to start:

Debt: If you have debt that is costing you money in the form of interest, this may be a good time to pay it off.

Emergency fund: If you don’t have a proper emergency fund, consider using some of the inheritance to fund one. An emergency fund should be 6-12 months of expenses put away in an easily accessible account for emergencies. An emergency is something like home or car repairs or unexpected medical bills (not a spur of the moment vacation or purchase).

Pay down your mortgage: If you have a mortgage, you may want to pay down as much as possible with some of the inheritance. The smaller your mortgage the better, because you’ll end up spending less in interest.

Saving for retirement: Saving some of your inheritance is probably never going to be a bad choice. Work with a financial professional to see what your options are.

Charitable donations: A charitable gift is always a good idea.

Have some fun

Coming into some unexpected money is exciting! You may be tempted to rush out and start spending. Make sure you do your financial decision-making first and then be sure to have some fun. Maybe give yourself 10 percent of the money to just enjoy. Maybe you want to take a cruise or buy a new high-end kayak. The point is to treat yourself to something, but only after you have a solid financial strategy in place.

An inheritance is a gift

Keep in mind that an inheritance is a gift. Somewhere along the line, someone worked for every one of those dollars. Something to keep in mind is that you can honor that person’s hard work by being a responsible steward of their gift.

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November 9, 2022

How to expect the unexpected

How to expect the unexpected

Unexpected expenses can put a damper on your financial life.

You never know what may come up – vet bills, car repairs, unplanned travel expenses. Life is nothing if not full of surprises.

So, how do you pay for unexpected expenses when they arise? Borrow? Use your credit card? Take out a payday loan?

There is a better way. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some cash stored away to help you out when those emergencies pop up? Well, you can! It’s called an emergency fund. That’s what it’s for!

What is an emergency fund?

An emergency fund is a designated amount of cash – easily accessible – to prevent you from going into debt in case of a financial emergency. But how much should you put aside? Most experts agree a suitable amount for an emergency fund is 6 months’ worth of expenses.¹

Sound like a lot of money? It is, but don’t let that stop you. An emergency fund can help make the difference between getting through a single emergency with merely a hiccup or spiraling down the financial rabbit hole of debt. Or it may help you ride through a few months if you lose your source of income.

It’s okay to start small

The thought of saving six months’ worth of income might make most of us throw up our hands in defeat before we even start.

Don’t let that get you down, though. The point is to start, even if it’s small. Just don’t give up. Begin with a goal of saving $500. Once you’ve achieved that, celebrate it! And then work on the next $500.

Slowly, over time, your emergency fund will increase and hopefully, so will your peace of mind.

Take advantage of “found money”

Found money is extra money that comes your way, that isn’t part of your normal income. It can include things like bonuses, inheritances, gifts, or cash from selling personal items.

When you find yourself with some found money, keep the 50/50 rule in mind. Put half the money toward your emergency fund, and put half toward whatever you like – your retirement, making this holiday season a little extra special, or add it to the college fund.

Let’s say you earned a bonus of $500 at your job. You worked hard and want to reward yourself. Go for it! Use half the bonus to buy the new shoes or the basketball game tickets, but put the other half in your emergency fund. It’ll be a win-win for you.

Take advantage of direct deposit

One of the best ways to help build your emergency fund is to make your deposits automatic. Siphon off a percentage of your paycheck into your emergency fund. Again, it’s key to start small here.

Know what an emergency is and what it is not

One of the fundamentals of building and maintaining an emergency fund is knowing what an emergency is and what it’s not. Unexpected expenses that require a dip into your emergency fund will happen – that’s what it’s for. But tapping in to your emergency fund on a regular basis shouldn’t be the norm. (If it is, you might need to take a look at your overall budget.)

Unexpected expenses your emergency fund may help cover:

  • Car repairs
  • Unexpected medical bills
  • Emergency home repairs
  • Unplanned travel for a death in the family

Some expenses that are not really emergencies:

  • A great sale on a cute winter coat
  • A spur of the moment weekend getaway
  • A spa day – no matter how much you need it!

Keep financial safety in mind

So the next time you see a gorgeous pair of shoes that you just “have to have” – ask yourself if they’ll be worth it if your 10-year-old dishwasher fails and your next dishwasher has to be you!

Don’t forget – start small. An emergency fund is about helping put a financial safety net in place. Don’t find yourself potentially compounding the difficulty of a true emergency by not having the funds to deal with it.

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¹ “Emergency Fund: What It Is and Why It Matters,” Margarette Burnette, Nerdwallet, Dec 21, 2021, https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/banking/banking-basics/life-build-emergency-fund/

November 2, 2022

Budget Like a Rock Star with Your First Job

Budget Like a Rock Star with Your First Job

Congratulations! Landing your first full-time job is exciting, especially if you’ve been dreaming of that moment throughout college.

Now you can loosen your belt a little and not spend so much brain power on creative ways to make ramen noodles. But before you go and start spending on the things you’ve had to skimp on in school, it’ll be worth it to take a breath, do some self-examination, and create a budget first.

This is probably the absolute best time in your life to start a habit of budgeting that will last you a lifetime – before life gets more complicated with a family, mortgage, etc. If you become a whiz at your personal financial strategy, tackling all the things that life will bring your way may (hopefully) go a lot smoother.

So here are a few tips on setting up your budget with your first job:

1. Think about why you want a budget

It may sound silly, but knowing why you’re putting yourself on a budget will help you stick to it when temptations to overspend flare up. Beginning a budget early in life when you start your first job will help lay the foundation for responsible financial management.

Think about your goals here. Having a budget will help you (when the time is right) to acquire things like a home, new car, or a family vacation to the islands. Budgeting can also help you enjoy more immediate wants, like a designer handbag or new flat screen TV.

2. Get familiar with your spending

You can’t create a budget without knowing your expenses. Take a good, hard look at not just your income but also your “outgo”. Include all your major expenses of course – rent, insurance, retirement savings, emergency funds. But don’t forget about miscellaneous expenses – even the small ones. That coffee on the way to work – it counts. So does the $3.99 booster pack in your favorite phone game.

Track your expenses over the course of a couple of weeks to a month. This will give you insight into your spending, so your budget is accurate.

3. Count your riches

Now that you have your first job, add up your income. This means the money you take home in your paycheck – not your salary before taxes. Income can also include earnings from side jobs, regular bonuses, or income investment. Whatever money you have coming in counts as income.

4. Set your budget goals

Give yourself permission to dream big here and own it! Set some financial goals for yourself – and make them specific and personal. For example, don’t make “save up for a house” your goal because it’s not specific or personal. Think about the details. What type of house do you want, and where? When do you see yourself purchasing it?

For example, your budget goal may look something like this: “Save $20,000 by the time I’m 27 for a down payment on an industrial loft downtown.“ A good budget goal includes an amount, a deadline, and a specific and detailed outcome.

5. Use a tracker

A budget tracker is simply a tool to create your budget and help you maintain it. It can be as simple as a pen and paper. A budget tracker can also be an elaborate spreadsheet, or you can use an online tool or application.

The best budget tracker is the one you’ll stick to, so don’t be afraid to try a few different methods. It may take some trial and error to find the one that’s right for you.

6. Put it to the test

Test your budget and tracking system to see if it’s working for you. Try to recognize where your pitfalls are and adjust to overcome them, but don’t give up! It’s something your future self will thank you for.

7. Stick to it

Creating a budget that works is a process. Take your time and think it through. You’re probably going to need to tweak it along the way. It’s ok!

The best way to think about a budget is as an ongoing part of your life. Make it your own so that it works for your needs. And as you change – like when you get that promotion – your budget can change with you.

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October 24, 2022

The Birds Have Flown the Coop!

The Birds Have Flown the Coop!

The kids (finally) moved out!

Now you can plan those vacations for just the two of you, delve into new hobbies you’ve always wanted to explore… and decide whether or not you should keep your life insurance as empty nesters.

The answer is YES!

Why? Even though you and your spouse are empty nesters now, life insurance still has real benefits for both of you. One of the biggest benefits is your life insurance policy’s death benefit. Should either you or your spouse pass away, the death benefit can pay for final expenses and replace the loss of income, both of which can keep you or your spouse on track for retirement in the case of an unexpected tragedy.

What’s another reason to keep your life insurance policy? The cash value of your policy. Now that the kids have moved out and are financially stable on their own, the cash value of your life insurance policy can be used for retirement or an emergency fund. If your retirement savings took a hit while you helped your children finance their college educations, your life insurance policy might have you covered. Utilizing the cash value has multiple factors you should be aware of before making any decision.

Contact me today, and together we’ll check up on your policy to make sure you have coverage where you want it - and review all the benefits that you can use as empty nesters.

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October 5, 2022

Getting the Most Bang for Your Savings Buck

Getting the Most Bang for Your Savings Buck

Savvy savers know that if they look after their pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.

So, if you’re looking for places to gain a few extra pennies, why not start by maximizing your savings account?

Granted, a savings account might not be a flashy investment opportunity with a high return. But most of us use one as a place to park our emergency fund or the dream car fund. So, if you’re going to put your money somewhere other than under your mattress, why not put it in the place that gets the best return? Here are some tips for getting the most out of your savings account.

Try an Online-only Account

Your corner bank branch isn’t the only option for a savings account. Why not try an online account? As of May 2022, some banks are offering online checking accounts with rates of 1.25% (some even higher).¹

With the help of technology, you can link one of these high-interest savings accounts directly to your checking account, making moving money a breeze. Say goodbye to the brick and mortar bank, and hello to some extra cash in your pocket!

Check Out Your Local Credit Union

A credit union offers savers some unique benefits. They differ from a traditional bank as they are usually not for profit. They function more like a cooperative – even paying dividends back to members periodically.

A credit union can also be beneficial as they typically offer a higher interest rate than your everyday bank. Membership in a credit union may also have other perks, such as low-interest rates on personal loans as well as exceptional customer service.

Money Market Accounts

A money market account is like a savings account except it’s tied to bonds and other low-risk investments. A money market can deliver the goods by giving you more for your savings, but there are often account minimums and fees. Before putting your savings into a money market account, check the fees and account minimums to make sure they’ll coincide with your needs.

Don’t Use a Parking Place When You Need a Garage

A savings account is a like a good parking place for cash. Its usefulness is in its ease of access and flexibility.

This makes it a great place to keep savings that you may need to access in the short term – say, within the next 12 months.

For long-term saving (like for retirement), it’s generally not a good idea to rely on a savings account alone. Retirement savings doesn’t belong in a parking place. For that, you need a garage. Talk to your financial professional today about a savings strategy for retirement, and the options that are available for you.

Shopping for a Savings Account

Just because a savings account doesn’t offer high yields, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider it carefully. To get the most bang for your savings buck, search out the highest interest possible (which might be online), be aware of fees and penalties, and remember – any saving is better than not saving at all!

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¹ “10 Best Online Checking Accounts of 2022,” Chanelle Bessette, Nerdwallet, May 26, 2022, https://www.nerdwallet.com/best/banking/online-checking-accounts

September 26, 2022

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

August 8, 2022

Moves to Make Before Maxing Your 401(k)

Moves to Make Before Maxing Your 401(k)

Maxing out your 401(k) is boilerplate financial advice.

That’s because so few Americans are on track to retire with wealth—as of 2017, workers age 55-64 had saved only $107,000 for retirement.¹

With such bleak numbers, it’s no wonder financial professionals encourage 401(k) maxing. When possible, it’s a simple strategy that can help you reach your retirement goals and avoid a post-career catastrophe.

But consider this—the 401(k) contribution maximum as of 2022 is $20,500. For a single professional making over $100,000, that’s no big deal.

But what if you earn $60,000? Or have a family? Or have medical bills?

Suddenly, $20,500 seems like a much larger pill to swallow!

The simple fact is that saving shouldn’t be your first financial priority.

Before you save, you should create an emergency fund with 3-6 months worth of expenses.

Before you save, you should secure financial protection for your income in the form of life insurance.

Before you save, you should eliminate your debt to maximize your saving power.

Even then, you may not have the financial firepower to max out your 401(k) and make ends meet. It may take a side hustle to supplement your incomes to increase your contribution ability.

A helpful rule of thumb is to at least match your employer’s contribution. It’s a simple way to get the most out of your 401(k) without overextending your finances.

And above all, consult with a financial professional. They can help evaluate your retirement goals, your cash flow, and steps you can take to make the most of your 401(k).

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¹ “Jaw-Dropping Stats About the State of Retirement in America,” Jordan Rosenfeld, GOBankingRates, May 13, 2022, https://www.gobankingrates.com/retirement/planning/jaw-dropping-stats-state-retirement-america/#:~:text=According%20to%20a%20TransAmerica%20Center,saving%20 for%20 retirement%20is%2027.

July 27, 2022

Two Rules That Could Save Your Financial Life

Two Rules That Could Save Your Financial Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July 21, 2022

Mental Health And Money

Mental Health And Money

There is a deep yet often unconsidered connection between mental health and money.

The data is clear as day. The Money and Mental Health Institute discovered that…

  • 46% of people__ with debt have a diagnosed mental health condition
  • 86% of people with__ mental health issues and debt say that debt exacerbates their mental health issues
  • People with depression and debt are 4x more likely to still have debt after 18 months compared to their counterparts
  • Those with debt are 3x more likely to contemplate suicide due to that debt¹

What these statistics don’t reveal, however, is what comes first. Do mental health issues spark financial woes? Or do financial woes spark mental health issues?

The answer, of course, is yes.

The connection between mental health and money can’t be reduced to simple causation. Instead, it’s a spiral where both factors can feed off of each other.

Consider the following pattern…

  • A financial crisis ramps up stress levels.
  • Ramped up stress levels activate negative self-talk.
  • Negative self-talk sparks unhealthy coping mechanisms.
  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms wreak havoc on the financial situation. And repeat.

This is an example of a financial crisis sparking mental health issues. But notice that a financial crisis isn’t the only situation that can cause the cycle. For instance…

  • An unhealthy relationship ramps up stress levels.
  • Ramped up stress levels activate negative self-talk.
  • Negative self-talk sparks unhealthy coping mechanisms.
  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms wreak havoc on the financial situation. And repeat.

In short, there’s a two-way relationship between mental health and money. If you’re seeking to start building wealth and changing your life, you must address both. Practically speaking, that means steps like…

  • Reducing financial stress by building an emergency fund
  • Increasing financial flexibility by reducing debt
  • Unlearning toxic self-talk habits that spark anxiety and depression
  • Developing healthy coping skills to alleviate stress

These can be daunting steps if you’re going it alone. That’s why it’s always best to seek the help of both mental health and financial professionals. They’ll have the insights and strategies you need to blaze a different path for your future.

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¹ “Data Shows Strong Link Between Financial Wellness and Mental Health,” Enrich, Mar 24, 2021, https://www.enrich.org/blog/data-shows-strong-link-between-financial-wellness-and-mental-health

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/

January 24, 2022

Ways To Financially Protect Your Family

Ways To Financially Protect Your Family

What’s more worthy of protection than your family?

When you think of the people you love most, your family probably comes to mind.

When you think of your fondest memories, you probably picture your family.

When you think of who you’d give anything for, your family is at the top of the list.

So have you thought of how to financially protect your family if something were to happen to you? It’s no wonder if you haven’t. You likely weren’t taught how to keep your family’s finances safe.

Fortunately, it’s simpler than you may think! Here are a few ways to financially protect your family. Think of these as layers of fortification around the happiness, health, and safety of your home.

1. Create an emergency fund.

This is your first layer of defense. The goal? To catch and pay off any unexpected emergencies before they damage your finances. Otherwise, you may resort to costly debt to pay the balance.

There are two benchmarks for a good emergency fund…

First, it covers 3 to 6 months of expenses. That way you can weather even a significant stretch of unemployment or a considerable expense.

Second, the funds must be easily accessible. Remember, you’re not trying to grow this money into wealth. Instant access is far more valuable than rate of return.

2. Open sources of passive income.

Why? Because there may be times when working for money isn’t an option. If that happens, passive income can make all the difference.

Passive income does require an initial investment of time, money, and/or energy. But once it’s created, it can provide a constant stream of cash flow into your bank account.

Books, real estate, dividend yielding stocks, and even blogging can create passive income. Try your hand at a few with the help of a licensed and qualified financial advisor. If your finances grow tight, passive income may be the boost you need to make ends meet. It’s like giving your finances a second wind when the going gets tough.

3. Secure a life insurance policy.

Life insurance can replace your income in the event of a tragedy.

Think about it like this. If you passed away, your family wouldn’t just lose you. They’d also lose the income you provide. In addition to emotional grief, they may face a financial catastrophe.

Life insurance, when structured properly, can act as a safe house for your family. It can give them financial space to lay low, grieve, and make a new strategy for the future.

That’s why it’s common to buy life insurance that’s 10x your annual income. It gives your family the breathing room they will desperately need in the face of tragedy.

Which of these three ways to financially protect your family is most feasible for you to start right now? For many, it’s the emergency fund. If you don’t have one, let’s chat! We can review what it would look like for you to build one.

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January 17, 2022

How To Prepare For Emergencies

How To Prepare For Emergencies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 28, 2021

The Right Way to Spend

The Right Way to Spend

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

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

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

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

You get the picture.

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

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

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

• People you love

• Causes that inspire you

• Local businesses

• House cleaning services

• Travelling

• Building your dream house

• New skills and hobbies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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August 16, 2021

Financial Moves to Improve Your Mental Health

Financial Moves to Improve Your Mental Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 9, 2021

Why Optimism Pays Off

Why Optimism Pays Off

Optimism is the fuel that keeps us going.

It’s what makes life worth living and pushes us to reach for our goals, no matter how difficult they may be. And it turns out optimism has a financial upside as well, according to an article from Harvard Business Review.

In fact, people who are optimistic make more money than those who are pessimistic or neutral about their future prospects, and they are more likely to get promoted. They also tend to have healthier money habits—they’re more likely to save for large purchases and have emergency funds than pessimists.¹

Why? Because optimists are better equipped to handle and adapt to challenges. They’re more likely to ask for, accept, and use help. As the article points out, it’s because they expect good things to happen. Even better, they believe in the power of their actions.

That belief is what propels them to take charge of their lives and seek out opportunities. It’s the same belief that enables a major league baseball player to want to win the game when he’s down two strikes in the bottom of the ninth, or an author to hold his book in his hands after countless rejections from publishers.

So if you’re interested in making an investment in yourself and your future, cultivate a mindset of optimism. It will help you reach your goals. And it’s especially important when it comes to your money, where optimism can help you break free of mindset barriers that prevent you from building a more secure financial future.

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¹ “The Financial Upside of Being an Optimist,” Michelle Gielan, Harvard Business Review, Mar 12, 2019, https://hbr.org/2019/03/the-financial-upside-of-being-an-optimist

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

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