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 16, 2023

Quick Guide: Life Insurance for Stay-at-Home Parents

Quick Guide: Life Insurance for Stay-at-Home Parents

Life insurance is vitally important for any young family just starting out.

Milestones like buying a home, having a baby, and saving for the future can bring brand new challenges. A solid life insurance strategy can help with accommodating the needs of a growing family in a new phase of life.

A life insurance policy’s benefits can

  • Replace income
  • Pay off debt
  • Cover funeral costs
  • Finance long-term care
  • And even more, depending on the type of policy you have.

And replacing family income doesn’t only mean covering the lost income of one earning parent.

Replacing the loss of income provided by a stay-at-home parent is just as important.

According to Salary.com, if a stay-at-home mom were to be compensated monetarily for performing her duties as a mother, she should receive $184,820 annually. That number factors in important services like childcare, keeping up the household, and providing transportation. Sudden loss of those services can be devastating to the way a family functions as well as expensive to replace.

Stay-at-home parents need life insurance coverage, too.

Contact me today to learn more about getting the life insurance coverage you need for your family and building a financial plan that will provide for your loved ones in case a traumatic life event occurs.

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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 21, 2022

How to Know When You Need Life Insurance

How to Know When You Need Life Insurance

You might expect someone in the insurance business to tell you that anyone and everyone needs life insurance.

But certain life events underscore the reasons to secure a policy or to review the coverage you already have in place, to help ensure that it’s structured properly for your needs going forward.

Following are some of them…

You got married.

Congrats! If you have a life insurance policy through your employer, it probably won’t provide enough coverage to replace your income for more than a year or so if you pass unexpectedly. (You might want to find out the specifics for your policy.) It’s time to get a quote and learn your coverage options now that you have a spouse.

You started a family.

Having children is a responsibility that lasts for decades – and costs a lot. The average cost of raising a child until age 18 is estimated at $310,605.¹ That figure doesn’t include college tuition, fees, room and board, etc. It’s time to consider a coverage strategy.

You bought a house.

We don’t always live in the same house for the length of a mortgage, but a mortgage is a long-term commitment and one that needs to be paid to help ensure your family has a roof over their heads. In many cases, two incomes are needed to cover the mortgage as well as life’s other expenses. Buying a home is among the top reasons families buy life insurance.

You started a business.

Congrats, again! Starting your own business may be a terrific way to build your income, but it isn’t without risk. Business loans are often secured by personal guarantees which may affect your family if something were to happen to you. Also consider the consequences if you aren’t around to run the business. How much time and money would be needed to find a replacement or to close the business down? All things to consider when looking for coverage.

You took on debt.

Any sizeable debt can be a reason to consider purchasing life insurance. When we die, our debt doesn’t die with us. Instead, it’s settled out of our estate and paying that debt may require liquidating savings, selling assets, or both. In some cases, family members may be on the hook for the debt, particularly if the only remaining asset is the home they still live in. Life insurance can help put a buffer between creditors and your family, helping prevent a difficult financial situation.

Your birthday is coming.

Seriously. Life insurance rates may be more affordable now than they’ve been in the past – but every year you wait may cost you money in the form of higher premiums. Life insurance rates go up with age.

It never hurts to take some time and review the coverage that you have in place. To be sure, life insurance can be an essential part of a financial strategy and help provide a safety net for your family if something were to happen to you.

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¹ “What does it cost to raise a child?”, Abha Bhattarai, Dan Keating, Stephanie Hays, The Washington Post, Oct 13, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/interactive/2022/cost-raising-child-calculator/

December 12, 2022

Starting a business? Here's what you need to know.

Starting a business? Here's what you need to know.

Starting your business requires making a myriad of decisions.

You’ll have to consider everything from a marketing budget to the theme of your website to how you’re going to arrange your office. But if you give careful consideration to the financial decisions concerning your business, you’ll start off on the right foot.

What is your business structure going to be?

Business structures have different tax and liability implications, so although there are only a few to choose from, make your selection carefully. You may consider:

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the simplest of business structures. It means there is no legal or tax difference between your personal finances and your business finances. This means you’re personally responsible for business debts and taxes.

Limited Liability Company

Under an LLC, profits and taxes are filed with the owners’ tax returns, but there is some liability protection in place.

Corporation

A corporation has its own tax entity separate from the owners. It requires special paperwork and filings to set up, and there are fees involved.

Do you need employees

This may be a difficult decision to make at first. It will most likely depend on the performance of your business. If you are selling goods or a service and have only a few orders a day, it might not make sense to spend resources on employees yet.

However, if you’re planning a major launch, you may be flooded with orders immediately. In this case, you must be prepared with the proper staff.

If you’re starting small, consider hiring a part-time employee. As you grow you may wish to access freelance help through referrals or even an online service.

What are your startup costs?

Even the smallest of businesses have startup costs. You may need computer equipment, special materials, or legal advice. You may have to pay a security deposit on a rental space, secure utilities, and purchase equipment. Where you access the funds to start your business is a major financial decision.

Personal funds

You may have your own personal savings to start your business. Maybe you continue to work at your “day job” while you get your business off the ground. (Just be mindful of potential conflicts of interest.)

Grants or government loans

There are small business grants and loans available. You can access federal programs through the Small Business Administration. You may even consider a business loan from a friend or family member. Just make sure to protect the personal relationship! People first, money second.

Bank loans

Securing a traditional bank loan is also an option to cover your startup costs. Expect to go through an application process. You’ll also likely need to have some collateral.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a relatively new option for gathering startup funds for your business. You may want to launch an online campaign that gathers donations.

What’s your backup plan

A good entrepreneur prepares for as many scenarios as possible – every business should have a backup plan. A backup plan may be something you go ahead and hammer out when you first create your business plan, or you might wait until you’ve gotten some momentum. Either way, it represents a financial decision, so it should be thought out carefully.

Develop a backup plan for every moving part of your business. What will you do if your sales projections aren’t near what you budgeted? What if you have a malfunction with your software? How will you continue operations if an employee quits without notice?

How much and what kind of insurance do you need?

Insurance may be one of the last things to come to mind when you’re launching your business, but going without it may be extremely risky.

Proper insurance can make the difference between staying in business when something goes wrong or shutting your doors if a problem arises.

At the very minimum, consider a Commercial General Liability Policy. It’s the most basic of commercial policies and can protect you from claims of property damage or injury.

Make your financial decisions carefully

Business owners have a lot to think about and many decisions to make – especially at the beginning. Make your financial decisions carefully, plan for the unexpected, insure yourself properly, and you’ll be off to a great start!

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This article is for informational purposes only. For tax or legal advice consult a qualified expert. Consider all of your options carefully.

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 23, 2022

You're Not Too Young for Life Insurance

You're Not Too Young for Life Insurance

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

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

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

So, read on for a little illumination about why you are not too young for life insurance.

If you have dependents, life insurance is a must.

Take a moment and think about who depends on you and your income for their well-being. You may be surprised. Most of us think immediately of children, but dependents can include your parents, siblings, a relative with a disability, or even a significant other. A solid life insurance policy can protect the people that count on you.

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

The older you get, the more life insurance costs.

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

Your employer-provided life insurance may be problematic.

Getting life insurance through your employer is a great benefit (you should take advantage of it if it’s free).

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

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

You’re never too young to think about your legacy.

It’s not too soon to think about this. Did you know a life insurance policy can provide a lump sum to an organization you select, not just to a family member or other beneficiary? A life insurance policy can allow you to leave a meaningful legacy for the people or causes you care about. When it comes to buying life insurance, generally the younger you are when you start your policy, the better off you’re going to be.

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November 21, 2022

Understanding life insurance living benefits

Understanding life insurance living benefits

Most of us think of life insurance as something that only pays off once you die.

Once upon a time, that’s all life insurance did – the basics. However, today’s life insurance policies can be simple (if that’s what you’re looking for), or feature-packed and customized to your needs. Life insurance policies now can even pay living benefits. Yes, that means what you think it means: A policy can pay benefits even if you are still alive.

Term life insurance living benefits

Usually, a term life policy is among the most basic of policies, providing a fixed death benefit. It can provide coverage for a limited time at a guaranteed rate. But many companies are now offering a rider (that is, an add-on feature) that can provide living benefits with your term policy.

Living benefits can allow you to access the value of your policy under certain conditions:

  • Critical illness
  • Chronic illness
  • Terminal illness

Terminal illness is a commonly offered living benefit as an accelerated death benefit. Any amount withdrawn from the policy would be deducted from the policy’s face value. For example, if your term policy provides coverage for $250,000 but $100,000 is paid as an accelerated death benefit, your policy would still provide $150,000 as a death benefit to your beneficiaries.

Living benefits may also provide access to money from your policy in the case of chronic illness or critical illness.

Chronic illness can be a little confusing. Insurers usually look at the six activities of daily living (ADL): eating, bathing, transferring (walking), dressing, toileting, and continence. If your chronic illness prevents you from performing these activities, you may be eligible to receive a portion of your death benefit in advance.

Critical illness such as a heart attack, stroke, cancer, and some other illnesses may also make you eligible for an advance payment of your death benefit.

Not all term policies offer living benefits for chronic illness or critical illness, but an increasing number are offering this option as a rider, and a handful are offering this expanded coverage as a built-in benefit of the policy.

As always, speak with me or your financial professional about what living benefit policy options may be right for you and your family.

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November 14, 2022

How much home can you afford?

How much home can you afford?

For most households, buying a home means getting a mortgage, which means lenders play a big role in declaring how much house you can “afford”.

Many people take that calculation as a guide in choosing which house they want to buy, but after you’ve signed the papers and moved in, the lender might not be much help in working out the details of your family budget or making ends meet.

Let’s take a look behind the curtain. What is it that lenders look at when determining how large of a mortgage payment you can feasibly make?

The 28-36 Rule

Lenders look closely at income and debt when qualifying you for a certain mortgage amount. One of the rules of thumb at play is that housing expenses shouldn’t run more than 28% of your total gross income.¹ You also may hear this referred to as the “housing ratio” or the “front-end ratio”. The 28% rule is a good guideline – even for renters – and has been a common way to budget for household expenses over many generations. Using this rule of thumb, if your monthly income is $4,000, the average person would probably be able to afford up to $1,120 for a mortgage payment.

Lenders also check your total debt, which they call debt-to-income (DTI). Ideally, this should be below 36% of your income. You can calculate this on your own by dividing your monthly debt payments by your monthly income. For example, if your car loans, credit cards, and other debt payments add up to $2,000 per month and your gross income is $4,000 per month, it’s unlikely that you’ll qualify for a loan. Most likely you would need to get your monthly debt payments down to $1,440 (36% of $4,000) or under, or find a way to make more money to try to qualify.

Buying less home than you can afford

While the 28% and 36% rules are there to help provide safeguards for lenders – and for you, by extension – buying a home at the top end of your budget can still be risky business. If you purchase a home with a payment equal to the maximum amount your lender has determined, you may not be leaving much room for error, such as an unexpected job loss or other financial emergency. If something expensive breaks – like your furnace or the central air unit – that one event could be enough to bring down the whole house of cards. Consider buying a home with a mortgage payment below your maximum budget and think about upsizing later or if your income grows.

A home as an investment?

A lot of people will always think of their home as an investment in an asset – and in many cases it is – but it’s also an investment in your family’s comfort, safety, and well-being. In reality, homes usually don’t appreciate much more than the rate of inflation and – as the past decade has shown – they can even go down in value. Your home, as a financial tool, isn’t likely to make you rich. In fact, it may do the opposite, if your mortgage payment takes up so great a percentage of your monthly budget that there’s nothing left over to invest, pay down debt, save for a rainy day, or enjoy.

Homes are one of those areas where many discover that less can be more. Whether it’s your first home or you’re trading in the old house for a new one, you might be better served by looking at how big of a mortgage payment you can afford within your current budget, rather than setting your sights on the house your lender says you can afford.

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¹ “How Much House Can I Afford?” David McMillin, Bankrate, https://www.bankrate.com/real-estate/new-house-calculator/

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 10, 2022

A Surprising Help After Buying a House

A Surprising Help After Buying a House

When I say “buying a house,” what kind of insurance do you think of?

Homeowners insurance. Obvious, right? But there’s another type of insurance you should consider with a few amazing-yet-unexpected benefits for new homeowners. Give up? It’s… life insurance.

Why? Because mortgage payments and the cost of upkeep won’t stop with an untimely passing.

Life insurance is a significant tool for homeowners because it’s a great way to help protect your loved ones from a sudden and unexpected financial burden.

Your family wouldn’t have to lose their home because of missed payments, and if you co-signed a mortgage with someone outside your nuclear family, the benefits of life insurance have the potential to cover your contribution for a time, not leaving that friend or business partner in a financial bind.

As for the upkeep of your home, a general rule of thumb is to set aside 1% annually of the purchase price of the house for routine repairs and/or maintenance.

For instance, if you paid $400,000 for your home, set aside $4,000 each year.

So if you’ve already had to convince yourself that the hole in the roof is almost, sorta, kind of the same as that skylight you always wanted to put in, just imagine what your family might experience if the income you or your spouse provides was no longer available.

Not sure if you have the right policy to help out with your new home in the event of a sudden death? Be sure to talk with a financial professional to make sure you’re financing the future you want – and that you’re doing everything in your power to help your family stay in the house that you’re all working to make a home!

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September 7, 2022

A Matter of Life and Debt

A Matter of Life and Debt

You might never have thought about this before, but how are debt and life insurance connected?

Well, the answer is very simple. Debt is one of the largest financial struggles in society today—total consumer debt has grown to a staggering $14.9 trillion as of 2020.¹ That represents a staggering financial burden on Americans throughout the country.

But what happens if someone in debt passes away? The debt doesn’t just vanish. The estate of the deceased is often responsible for repaying creditors.² That means a family, already down an income, has to cope with the stress of managing debt.

That’s where life insurance can help.

Life insurance pays out a lump sum in the event of death. The money can help family members repay debt, care for children or other dependents, and provide financial security to those left behind.

So how much life insurance do you need?

That’s something only you can answer for your own household. Typically, experts recommend 10X your annual income to provide a sufficient financial cushion for your family. But, depending on your level of debt or the particular needs of your spouse and children, you may require more coverage!

Life insurance could be critical for the financial well-being of your family if you’re carrying debt. It might provide the cash they need to pay your creditors and start building a new future.

If you’re looking for life insurance, contact me. We can estimate the amount of protection that’s right for your family!

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August 17, 2022

Why Families Buy Term Life Insurance

Why Families Buy Term Life Insurance

Why does term life insurance seem to be so common among your friends and family?

For many, it’s simply the most affordable strategy for securing life insurance. And that means it can provide critical financial protection for many different situations. Here are a few of the most common reasons families choose term life insurance.

The power of term life insurance is that it’s typical affordable. It provides a death benefit for a limited term, typically 20-30 years, which means you can often purchase more protection at a lower price than other types of policies. As long as your protection lasts while you have financial dependents, you’re covered.

But there are more pragmatic reasons why families buy term life insurance. For many, it serves as a source of income replacement. When a breadwinner passes away, the income they provide is gone. That means a family might find themselves with a serious cash flow deficiency in addition to the tragic loss. The death benefit can replace the lost income.

A family might also need to purchase life insurance when they have dependents, such as college-aged kids with high educational expenses. If a family has dependents and no life insurance, the burden of funding higher education falls on the family, who are down an income. With term coverage in place, they have the financial power to help cover those bills with confidence.

Term life insurance can also be invaluable for families with high debt obligations. Because it’s often so affordable, term life insurance may provide significant coverage without diverting financial resources away from getting out of debt. And, if the policyholder passes away before the debt is eliminated, the death benefit can also go towards finishing off loans.

Finally, term life insurance can be used to cover the costs of funeral expenses. Families who don’t have any other form of coverage for these out-of-pocket bills often need extra cash to cover the costs of burial. Term life insurance is a simple way to pay for the funeral the family needs.

In conclusion, term life insurance can be a great way to cover the costs of many big ticket items and expenses at a reasonable cost. Would that be a good fit for your family? Contact me, and we can explore what it would look like for you!

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August 15, 2022

5 Challenges for Entrepreneurs

5 Challenges for Entrepreneurs

Starting a business can be an exhilarating experience.

It may seem like the next logical step for someone who’s looking to grow and develop their career. But before you take that leap, it’s smart to consider the pros and cons involved with entrepreneurship. In this article we’ll explore five things that budding entrepreneurs should think about before starting a new business venture!

The first thing to consider? Startup cost.

Depending on your idea, take some time to research what equipment or things will be necessary for getting started. Every penny counts. For example, if you’re opening an ice cream shop— which may seem simple enough—you’ll need freezers, scoopers, a storefront, and, of course, ice cream. That’s a lot of upfront investment for a little ice cream shop!

The second thing to consider is competition.

It’s wise to research what types of businesses already exist in your space before jumping into entrepreneurship. For example, what if there are five dog parks within a couple of miles from where you live and you want to open up a sixth? This may be fine if there’s a large population of dog owners in your area. But unless you’ve got a unique idea or innovation that will blow your competition out of the water, you may want to consider another type of business or a different location to get started.

The third thing to consider is customer acquisition.

How will you reach your customers? Do you know your exact market, their needs, desires, and insecurities? What’s the strategy for getting them in and keeping their business over time, even if there are competitors nearby with similar products/services?

At first, you might be able to rely on your friends and family as your first customers. But eventually, you’ll need to develop a marketing and brand strategy to acquire and keep new customers.

The fourth consideration should be building product inventory.

If you’re producing goods, do your finances allow for significant inventory investment? What if it’s a service-based business—will customers need to wait weeks or months before they receive the first round of services from their purchase with no cash flow in between?

When you first open, stock your business with every service or product you can possibly offer. Then, track which ones seem most popular and how much they sell. Then, start building inventory accordingly. You may need to scrap the services or products that aren’t making you money.

Finally, think about compliance with legal standards.

Some industries are regulated in ways that you may not anticipate. Food and beverage businesses need to follow health codes. Construction contractors must be bonded for their work on public projects like schools. And the financial industry is heavily regulated to protect clients. Whatever your industry, make sure you understand the legal requirements you’ll be asked to meet as a business owner.

There’s more to starting a business than excitement and glamour. It’s hard work that requires careful research and diligent preparation. Tackle these considerations before you start so you can lay the foundation for your business’s future success.

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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 11, 2022

The Real Reason You Aren't Saving

The Real Reason You Aren't Saving

“I’ll start saving when I turn 30.”

“I’m too old to save.”

“I’m in too much debt to save.”

“Why do I need to save? I don’t have any debt!”

You may have heard your friends and loved ones say things like this before. You may have even said them yourself!

It doesn’t take much sleuthing to recognize these statements for what they are—excuses. And excuses always suck.

But the fact that people feel compelled to make excuses reveals the truth…

People are afraid of saving.

In one sense, it’s easy to see why. Everyone knows saving is critical. But no one knows the “right way” to go about it. And that ignorance makes building wealth seem mysterious, or even dangerous.

An excuse serves as a justification for avoiding that great unknown. It makes not saving feel like the safer option… for now.

But never saving can have disastrous consequences like…

  • Running out of money in retirement
  • Struggling to cover medical emergencies
  • Constant stress about affording the basics

The choice is simple…

Risk a financial disaster.

OR

Face your fears and start saving.

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to face that fear alone.

Having mentors and companions to aid you on your journey can mean the difference between success and financial shipwreck.

In fact, that’s what I’m here for—to offer insight, tips, and support as you start building wealth and financial security for your family.

So if you’re ready to face your fears and to start saving, let’s chat! We can review your situation, and what it would look like to overcome your financial obstacles.

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June 1, 2022

Cities vs. Suburbs

Cities vs. Suburbs

Deciding where to live is hard.

It’s a big decision especially in a historically unstable housing market. That’s why it’s important to know what to expect from the options you’re weighing. Here’s a quick guide to the pros and cons of living in a city or a suburb!

Cities: Pros and Cons

There’s a reason people flock to cities. First and foremost, jobs tend to be easier to find in the city than anywhere else. That means there’s a high incentive to move into town close to where you work. But that’s not the only reason to go urban. Cities are often more walkable than suburbs or the country and often feature extensive public transit. All the culture, nights out, museums, and coffee shops that your city has to offer are all easily accessible either on foot or with a quick subway ride.

But there’s a price to pay for the convenience of city living. Urban housing is typically higher than other areas, and normal things like a date night dinner will probably be pricier than elsewhere. Crime is also higher in the city than the suburbs or the country, so situational awareness is a key skill to develop if you’re living in-town.

Suburbs: Pros and Cons

The suburbs are designed to give you access to the benefits of the city while offsetting some of the costs. For starters, your dollar will probably go farther for housing in the suburbs than it will in the city. Suburbs tend to be safer and offer more space, making it appealing to people looking to start a family or couples with kids. Plus, if you’re lucky, you could be a similar distance from the countryside as the city, so you’re flexible between choosing a night in the city or a hike in the woods!

However, it isn’t all sunshine and roses for suburbanites. Housing might be cheaper per square foot, but houses also tend to be larger. That means you can actually end up paying more for housing in the suburbs even though you’re technically getting a better deal square footage-wise. The other big downside is that transportation in the suburbs can be brutal. The cost of driving a car in traffic every day can be high, so much so that suburban transportation can be shockingly expensive, especially when gas prices skyrocket. That’s not even factoring in the stress of dealing with traffic.

Deciding where to live comes down to what you prioritize and your stage of life. Are you a young professional with a new job downtown? It might make more sense to move closer to work and be near where everything is happening. The same might also hold for a recently retired couple looking for easy access to quality medical care and date spots. A young family looking for a safer space to raise kids, however, could potentially want to look further out for housing. Just take a few of the factors we discussed in this blog to heart before you make the big decision!

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May 23, 2022

What's a Recession?

What's a Recession?

Most of us would probably be apprehensive about another recession.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 25, 2022

Lessons From the Super Frugal

Lessons From the Super Frugal

The world of the super frugal can be an overwhelming place.

In a sense, it’s inspiring. The creativity and grit of the super frugal are sure to put a grin on your face. You may even find a few fun money saving projects that are worth your time. Saving money with french toast? Sign me up!

However, there’s a fine line between inspiring and weird, and the super frugal sometimes cross that line. Could reusing a plastic lid as a paint palette save you money? Sure! The same is true for bartering with store clerks. Will you get funny looks? Almost certainly.

It’s not that funny looks are bad. There’s wisdom to defying the crowd and marching to the beat of your own drum. But sometimes there’s a good reason to raise an eyebrow at super frugality…

That’s because it can miss the point.

Your financial top priority must always be providing for those you love. In this day and age, that means building wealth.

Some people may need extreme measures to do that. Let’s say you have deep credit card debt or a spending problem. Coupon clipping, saving on utilities, and thrifting may help you knock that debt out faster and free up the cash flow you need to start building wealth.

But don’t mistake the means for the end. Obsessing over coupons, stressing over recycling, and cutting too many corners can reach unhealthy and even pathological extremes. That doesn’t create wealth and prosperity—it can just cause more suffering.

So take lessons from the super frugal. Find a few money savings projects that you enjoy. Maybe do a spending cleanse. But keep your eye on the ultimate prize—building wealth for you and your family.

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