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 4, 2023

Tackling long term financial goals

Tackling long term financial goals

Many of us have probably had some trouble meeting a long-term goal from time to time.

Health, career, and personal enrichment goals are often abandoned or relegated to some other time after the initial excitement wears away. So how can you keep yourself committed to important long term goals – especially financial ones? Let’s look at a few strategies to help you stay committed and hang in there for the long haul.

Start small when building the big financial picture

Most financial goals require sustained commitment over time. Whether you’re working on paying off credit card debt, knocking out your student loans, or saving for retirement, financial heavyweight goals can make even the most determined among us feel like Sisyphus – doomed for eternity to push a rock up a mountain only to have it roll back down.

The good news is that there is a strategy to put down the rock and reach those big financial goals. To achieve a big financial goal, it must be broken down into small pieces. For example, let’s say you want to get your student loan debt paid off once and for all, but when you look at the balance you think, “This is never going to happen. Where do I even start?” Cue despair.

But let’s say you took a different approach and focused on what you can do – something small. You’ve scoured your budget and decided you can cut back on some incidentals. This gives you an extra $75 a month to add to your regular student loan payment. So now each month you can make a principal-only payment of $75. This feels great. You’re starting to get somewhere. You took the huge financial objective – paying off your student loan – and broke it down into a manageable, sustainable goal – making an extra payment every month. That’s what it takes.

Use the power of automation

It seems there has been a lot of talk lately in pop psychology circles about the force of habit. The theory is if you create a practice of something, you are more likely to do it consistently.

The power of habit can work wonders for financial health, and with most financial goals, we can use automation tools to help build our habits. For example, let’s say you want to save for retirement – a great financial goal – but it may seem abstract, far away, and overwhelming.

Instead of quitting before you even begin, or succumbing to confusion about how to start, harness the power of automation. Start with your 401(k) plan – an automated savings tool by nature. Money comes out of your paycheck directly into the account. But did you know you can set your plan to increase every year by a certain percentage? So if this year you’re putting in three percent, next year you might try five percent, and so on. In this way, you’re steadily increasing your retirement savings every year – automatically without even having to think about it.

Find support when working on financial goals

Long term goals are more comfortable to meet with the proper support – it’s also a lot more fun. Help yourself get to your goals by making sure you have friends and allies to help you along the way. Don’t be afraid to talk about your financial goals and challenges.

Finding support for financial goals has never been easier – there are social media groups as well as many other blogs and websites devoted to personal financial health. Join in and begin sharing. Another benefit of having a support network is that it seems like when we announce our goals to the world (or even just our corner of it), we’re more likely to stick to them.

Reaching large financial goals

Big, dreamy financial goals are great – we should have those – but to help make them attainable, we must recast them into smaller manageable actions. Focus on small goals, find support, and harness the power of habit and automation.

Remember, it’s a marathon – you finish the race by running one mile at a time.

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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 7, 2022

Are you stressed about saving for retirement?

Are you stressed about saving for retirement?

Most of us might feel at least a little anxiety when the subject of preparing for retirement comes up.

Many Americans feel like they haven’t saved enough. In the face of inflation, 40% of American workers plan on working longer to make up for what they haven’t saved.¹

But anticipating staying in the workforce may not be the best strategy when it comes to funding your golden years. Why? Because there are many unforeseen events that can affect your ability (or desire) to work – health problems, caretaking, loss of opportunity in your field… or just wanting to spend time with your grandkids or travel with your partner.

With so much uncertainty, it’s no wonder many Americans feel stressed, burdened, and unprepared when it comes to saving for retirement.

But don’t let retirement worries steal your joy. When it comes to saving for retirement there are a lot of choices you can make to help you prepare. Read on for some principles and tips that may help lessen your stress about the future.

Small changes add up

Retirement saving may seem like an insurmountable task when faced with the high cost of daily life. It’s easy to think we can’t afford to save for retirement and get stuck in a pattern of defeat. But small changes over time can add up to big results.

Shake off despair by implementing small strategies. Consistent saving adds up over time, and it can help build your finance muscle. Read on for some more easy tips.

Direct deposit

Set up a portion of your direct deposit to go straight into a savings account. This is a “set it and forget it” savings strategy, and you’ll be amazed how quickly it can build.

Save found money

Found money is extra cash that comes your way outside of your normal income. It can be from bonuses, gifts, or even a side gig. You weren’t planning on receiving that money anyway, so throw it right into your savings.

Practice frugality

Instead of becoming stressed out and hyper-focused on saving every possible penny, practice frugality. Frugal living can put your energy into something positive – creating a new habit and lifestyle. Also, frugal habits may help prepare you for living on a fixed income during retirement. Try these tips for starters:

Consider downsizing your home

Cut back or eliminate “extras” such as dining out, movies, and concerts When making a purchase, use any available coupons or discount codes Seek sources of free entertainment such as community festivals or neighborhood gatherings

Hire a financial professional

If no matter what you do you still can’t help feeling unprepared and stressed about your retirement, consider hiring a financial professional.

A financial professional may be able to help you change your perspective on preparing for retirement and help empower you with strategies custom made for you.

Remember, financial professionals work with people of all income levels, so don’t hesitate if you need help to get a handle on your retirement. They may assist with:

  • Creating a budget
  • Setting up savings accounts
  • Clarifying your retirement goals
  • Strategies for eliminating debt

Change your perspective on preparing for retirement

If you’re anxious about having enough money for your retirement, try changing your perspective. Focus on small goals and lifestyle habits. Frugality, consistent savings, and solid financial strategies may help take the stress out of retirement planning.

Consistency over time is the name of the game with retirement savings. So implement a few strategies that you can live with now.

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¹ “What Happens When 40% of Workers Postpone Retirement? We’re About to Find Out,” Mary Ellen Cagnassola, Money, Oct 3, 2022, https://money.com/40-percent-older-americans-delay-retirement-inflation-effect-on-younger-workers/#:~:text=Forty%20percent%20of%20American%20workers,Institute%2C%20a%20retirement%20insights%20group.

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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August 10, 2022

Four Types of Self-Made Millionaires

Four Types of Self-Made Millionaires

A 5 year study of hundreds of self-millionaires has revealed their paths to achieving wealth. The findings reveal key insights that anyone can adopt and apply.

Starting in 2004, Tom Corley interviewed 225 self-made millionaires. His goal was simple—discover strategies, habits, and qualities that unite the self-made wealthy.

Along the way, he discovered four distinct types of self-made millionaires.

These are more than abstract archetypes—they represent actionable strategies and attainable goals that you can imitate, starting today.

Here are the four types of self-made millionaires…

Saver-Investors

These wealth builders come from all walks of life. What they have in common is that they save, save, and save. Add a dash—or heaping spoonful—of compound interest, and their savings grow over the course of their career into lasting wealth.

Company Climbers

It’s simple—score a job at a large company, and climb the ladder until you reach a lucrative position. Then use your significant income, benefits, and bonuses to create wealth.

Virtuosos

Got a knack for an in-demand skill? Then you may have serious wealth building potential. That’s because businesses will gladly pay top dollar for specific talents. Just remember—the virtuoso path to wealth requires both extreme discipline and extensive training.

Dreamers

From starting a business to becoming a successful artist, these are the people who go all-out on their passions. It’s an extremely high-risk solution—often, it can lead to failure. But those who succeed can reap substantial rewards.

The types may seem intimidating—after all, not everyone is positioned to drop everything and become a successful entrepreneur. But anyone can apply the basic strategies of the self-made wealthy to their finances…

Income is of the essence

The more you earn, the more you can save. Whether it’s by developing your skills or starting a side business, every bit of extra income can make a crucial difference on your ability to build wealth.

Save, no matter what

Unless you’re set on starting a business, you must save. Corely’s research suggested that saving 20% of your income is the benchmark for the self-made wealthy. Do your homework, meet with a financial professional, and start putting away as much as you can each month.

Invest in your skills Your skills dictate what you can earn. Take a note from the virtuosos—get really good at something that businesses need, and reap the benefits.

What type of self-millionaire could you become?

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¹ “I spent 5 years interviewing 225 millionaires. Here are the 4 types of rich people and their top habits,” Tom Corley, CNBC Make It, Aug 1 2022, https://www.cnbc.com/2022/07/31/i-spent-5-years-interviewing-225-millionaires-3-money-habits-that-helped-them-get-rich.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.

June 6, 2022

Retiring in a Bear Market

Retiring in a Bear Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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May 2, 2022

A Simple Trick to Turbocharge Your Productivity

A Simple Trick to Turbocharge Your Productivity

Today’s productivity lesson is brought to you by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

As the commander of the Allied forces in WWII and president of the United States during the Cold War, his time was at a premium. And among his greatest challenges was discerning between the urgent and the important. When reflecting on his years of leadership, he said,

“… Whenever our affairs seem to be in crisis, we are almost compelled to give our first attention to the urgent present rather than to the important future.”¹

Lots of little fires can distract from the overarching goal. Sound familiar?

That’s where the concept of the Eisenhower Productivity Matrix comes from. It’s a simple tool to help you prioritize your focus on what really matters—your goals.

Here’s how it works…

Write four headers on a piece of paper:

Important and urgent

Unimportant and urgent

Important and not urgent

Unimportant and not urgent

Typically, this is done on a square like this…

But it also works if you leave it in list form.

Now, add tasks to each category.

Delivering that time-sensitive and critical document to your client? That’s important and urgent.

Positioning yourself to ask for a raise next year? Important, but not urgent—there’s no impending deadline for getting it done.

Restocking the office goodie bowl with treats for an unexpected client visit? Urgent, but not important—there’s a hard deadline, but there are likely more significant tasks on your to-do list.

Color coding your sticky-note drawer? Unimportant and not urgent (and you know it)!

Once you’ve got all your tasks written down, it’s time to start working.

Start with the tasks in the important and urgent category. These are your top priorities.

Then move on to the tasks in the important and not urgent category. These can be scheduled for later, but they’re still crucial to your success.

Here’s your secret sauce: The tasks that are unimportant but urgent can be delegated. This is what interns, newbies, assistants, and third-party contractors are for!

A big stress reliever can be to just delete unimportant and not urgent tasks. These are distractions from knocking out items in the other categories unless you have nothing else on your plate.

The Eisenhower Productivity Matrix is a powerful tool because it can help you see the big picture. It allows you to focus your attention on what’s truly necessary to accomplish, and it gives you permission to let go of the rest without feeling like you’re dropping the ball.

So the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list, try using the Eisenhower Productivity Matrix to regain a sense of clarity. It may be what you need to refocus on making your vision become a reality.

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¹ “Is Eisenhower a Productivity Myth?” Brian Dordevic, Alpha Efficiency, https://alphaefficiency.com/eisenhower-productivity-myth

April 11, 2022

Discover Your Retirement Number

Discover Your Retirement Number

How much money will you need to retire?

It’s a question that has no single answer. Everyone has different financial needs that arise from their specific situation.

But there are methods and tools you can use to discover your personal retirement number. In this article we show three ways to estimate how much you need to save for a comfortable retirement.

Use an online retirement calculator. The beauty of retirement calculators is that they’re simple. Input some data about your savings, and you’ll get an estimate of how much you’ll have in retirement. They’ll let you know if you’re on target for your retirement goals.

Always take retirement calculators with a grain of salt. They’re each built on different algorithms and assumptions, so expect a range of results.

They also don’t know you personally, or your situation. You may have specific needs and plans that they can’t take into account.

Here are a few retirement calculators you can try…

The 4% Rule. This is the tried and true strategy for discovering your retirement number. It takes a little math, so grab your calculator!

First, let’s assume your income is $60,000 per year.

Next, let’s say that your annual retirement income must be 80% of your current annual income. So that’s $48,000.

Now, divide that by 4%…

$48,000 ÷ 0.04 = $1,200,000

Using the 4% Rule, you would need to have saved $1,200,000 to retire on 80% of your current income ($1,200,000 ÷ $48,000 = 25 years).

The Income Scale. This strategy, recommended by Fidelity, is more of a rule of thumb.¹

It aims for you to save 10x your annual income by age 67. It provides benchmarks along the way…

-1x by 30 -3x by 40 -6x by 50 -8x by 60

The only issue with this strategy is that 10x your income may not be enough for a comfortable retirement. For instance, a family earning $60,000 per year would only have $600,000 saved!

Each of these tools will help you estimate your retirement number. But the best way to discover your true number is to meet with a licensed and qualified financial professional. They can help you consider all the variables that may impact your retirement, and how to prepare.

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March 14, 2022

3 Saving Strategies For College

3 Saving Strategies For College

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, typically, these vehicles have two critical weaknesses…

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

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

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

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

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

  • Tax advantages
  • Potential for compounding growth
  • Unlimited contributions

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

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

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

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


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

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

March 14, 2022

Financial Essentials for Retiring Baby Boomers

Financial Essentials for Retiring Baby Boomers

Are Baby Boomers out of time for retirement planning?

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

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

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

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

That means two things…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s where a financial professional can help.

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

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

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

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

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

March 2, 2022

Playing With F.I.R.E.

Playing With F.I.R.E.

Financial Independence. Retire Early. Sounds too good to be true, right?

But for many, it’s the dream. And for some, it’s even become a reality.

What is the Financial Independence Retire Early, or “F.I.R.E.” movement? It might be obvious, but it’s a movement of people who are striving to achieve financial independence so that they can retire early. How early? That’s up to each individual, but typically people in the F.I.R.E. movement are looking to retire between their 30s and 50s.

How are they doing it? By saving as much money as possible and living a frugal lifestyle. That might mean driving a used car, living in a modest house, and cooking at home instead of eating out. They scrimp and save wherever they can to save.

So why is the F.I.R.E. movement gaining in popularity? There are a few reasons…

Some people want freedom. They want the freedom to travel, to spend time with their family, and to do whatever they want without having to worry about money.

Others are tired of the rat race. They’re tired of working jobs they don’t love just so they can make money to pay for things they don’t really want. They’d rather be doing something they enjoy and have more control over their own lives.

And finally, people want security. They want the wealth they need to live comfortably and fear-free, and they want it now. They don’t want to wait until they’re 65 or 70 to start enjoying their retirement.

It’s a challenging path. Achieving financial independence and retiring early takes hard work, sacrifice, and planning. You’ll have to face financial challenges like covering health insurance, for one.

So if you’re thinking about joining the F.I.R.E. movement, what are some of the first steps?

1. Assess your finances. Figure out how much money you need to live on each month and how much you need to save to achieve financial independence.

2. Set financial goals. Determine where you want to be financially and create a plan to get there.

3. Make a budget and stick to it. Track your spending and make adjustments as needed so you can save more money.

4. Invest in yourself. Education is key, so invest in books, courses, and other resources that will help you build your wealth.

5. Stay motivated. Follow other F.I.R.E. enthusiasts online, read blogs and articles, and attend meetups to keep yourself inspired on your journey to financial independence.

So are you ready to play with F.I.R.E.?

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February 16, 2022

Manage Your Finances Like a Pro

Manage Your Finances Like a Pro

Do you ever feel like your money is going out the door as fast as it’s coming in?

Maybe you’ve tried budgeting, only to slip back into a pattern of unconscious spending.

Or maybe you’ve tried saving, but found that you simply don’t have enough cash at the end of each month.

If you’ve tried to get your finances in order but still struggle to stay afloat, this may be the article for you. Here are three dead simple things you can do right now to help you manage your money like a pro.

1. Download a budgeting app.

If you’re not a spreadsheet whiz, don’t worry. There are many free budgeting apps available that can help you keep your finances in order without breaking a sweat. Most of these apps make it easy to add transactions and set goals based on your income and expenses.

Best of all, some even sync with your bank account, so you don’t have to tally up your spending each month—the app does it for you!

Here are a few budgeting apps to consider…

Mint—Good overall budgeting app that syncs with your bank accounts

YNAB (You Need a Budget)—In-depth budgeting tool that’s more hands-on than other options

Mvelopes—Cash envelope budgeting system that syncs with your bank accounts

EveryDollar—Simple budget that requires manual input of expenses

Honeydue—Budgeting app designed specifically for couples

Each of these apps is free to use, but offer additional features for a monthly or annual fee.

2. Dial back subscriptions.

Do you have a gym membership, magazine subscriptions, or streaming services?

Better question—are you using your gym membership, magazine subscriptions, or streaming services?

If you’re like many, you’re shelling out money each month for subscriptions you don’t even use. You may have even forgotten that you’re still signed up for some of them!

But little by little, those subscriptions add up, depleting your cash flow each month.

So take some time to look at your transaction history to discover recurring charges. Then, cancel the ones you’re not using.

Pro-tip: You can also use apps like Truebill and Hiatus to help identify and cancel unwanted subscriptions.

3. Automate your savings.

Do you struggle to save money because of your spending habits? If so, it may be difficult to set aside cash while still having immediate access to it.

The good news is that you can set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to a savings account each month.

In fact, with this method, you don’t even have to think about it! It’s like paying a monthly subscription to a future of potential wealth and financial independence.

And it’s not difficult. Simply log in to your savings or retirement account and look for a transactions or transfers tab. Then, schedule a recurring deposit right after you get each paycheck. Just like that, you’ll automate a wealth building process that requires zero effort on your part.

If you want to manage your money like a pro, simply follow these three easy steps. With these simple moves in place, you’ll be watching your savings grow possibly faster than ever before!

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January 31, 2022

How to Get Financial Security Through Starting a Business

How to Get Financial Security Through Starting a Business

The idea of starting a business is often intimidating for people.

They might be afraid they don’t have the money to launch one, or they’re not sure if their ideas are good enough to turn into reality and make a profit. It sounds like the exact opposite of financial security!

But that doesn’t have to be you. There are strategies to get financial security through business ownership. You just need to know where to start. Here are some options.

1. Start part-time. It might seem contradictory to start as a part-time entrepreneur. But if you’re new to business ownership, it’s a great strategy. Why? Because it helps limit risk—you’re not relying on this business’s success to put food on the table. If it fails, it’s not going to hit so hard. And that risk limitation can make starting a business far less intimidating.

2. Stick with what you know. It’s normal to feel inspired to create the next Amazon, Google, or Apple. But one of the biggest mistakes new entrepreneurs make is biting off more than they can chew. Big ideas can be counterproductive if you don’t have experience in very competitive markets.

Instead, start small by choosing a field that you know. Are you secretly a guitar shredding maniac? Offer music lessons to your neighbors. Marketer by day? Become a marketing consultant by night.

There’s data to back up this strategy. Entrepreneurs with 3 years of experience in their industry are 85% more likely to succeed than entrepreneurs with no experience.¹

So follow the data, and stick with what you know.

3. Solve a problem. All successful businesses solve problems. They eliminate barriers and ease headaches. They make shopping easier, networking easier, working out easier. Think about your skills. How can you apply them to a problem?

Worthwhile problems for your business to solve can be widespread, highly niche, or underserved.

But the “best” problems are all of the above—they impact a vast market, they demand highly specific solutions, and are currently unsolved. The solutions to those problems can create vast fortunes for those who discover them.

It’s possible to get financial security through business ownership. Part-time entrepreneurship, sticking with what you know, and solving a problem are just three strategies that can boost your cash flow and help you reach your financial goals.

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¹ “Research: The Average Age of a Successful Startup Founder Is 45,” Pierre Azoulay, Benjamin F. Jones, J. Daniel Kim, and Javier Miranda, Harvard Business Review, July 11, 2018, https://hbr.org/2018/07/research-the-average-age-of-a-successful-startup-founder-is-45

January 12, 2022

Financial Steps in the Right Direction

Financial Steps in the Right Direction

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

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

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

1. Pay off high-interest debt

2. Save 10% of your income

3. Buy life insurance now

4. Start a side gig

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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January 3, 2022

Addictive Budgeting

Addictive Budgeting

There’s no better way to feel like a mature adult than budgeting.

The planning, the structure, and the routine of proper budgeting create a sense that you’ve got this. You’re in control. You’re a proper grownup.

But there’s another feeling that budgeting can conjure—the dreaded “bleh”!

That’s because budgeting seems like a ton of work. You have to set goals, track your income, record every time you spend money, create a spreadsheet, download an app, be consistent—doesn’t sound like much fun.

And there’s that nagging question—what if I blow it? What if I overspend? What if an emergency pops up and I can’t cover it? What does that say about me and my character?

It’s understandable—intentionally starting a healthy habit requires focus and work, but it also opens the possibility of failure.

Fortunately, there’s a two-step hack to get you addicted to budgeting in the New Year…

Step 1: Track spending

Step 2: Relentlessly reward good behavior

Why does this method work? Because it leverages two things that your brain loves—progress and rewards.

Step 1: Next time you go shopping, make note of how much you spend. Use a budgeting app on your phone. (It helps remove mental barriers from the tracking process.)

Then, challenge yourself to spend slightly less next time. Track the results.

Before long, you’ll begin compulsively tracking—and reducing—your spending. Why? Because you’re seeing progress. You feel like you’re moving in the right direction. And that feels incredible.

Step 2: But you can further intensify your budgeting habit. Don’t just track your progress—celebrate it!

When you make a dent in your spending, reward yourself. Indulge in something you love. Grab dinner with a close friend. Or simply pick up a candy bar on your next shopping trip. Whatever it is, give yourself a high-five!

At first, this will feel like a rush. You’re allowing yourself to celebrate a victory, and that recognition is elating.

But over time, it will become routine. You’ll automatically start doing the right thing because your brain expects a reward. You’re proactively reinforcing healthy behavior, creating a powerful habit.

So to recap, this is how you should budget in the new year…

Track spending

Relentlessly reward good behavior

Try it out for a week and see how you feel. If you feel good about it, keep it up! If you don’t stick with it, that’s okay. Failure is part of the process. The key is to keep retooling your approach until the habit sticks.

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December 30, 2021

Stocks vs. Bonds: What's The Difference?

Stocks vs. Bonds: What's The Difference?

You’ve probably heard of both stocks and bonds. You also might know that they’re tools that many use to build wealth.

And if you have your ear to the ground, you know that stocks and bonds aren’t created equal—stocks are usually riskier, bonds are usually safer.

But…why? What’s the difference between these wealth building vehicles?

Glad you asked! Let’s explore how stocks and bonds work.

Before we begin, bear in mind that this article is for educational purposes only. It’s not recommending one vehicle over the other or a particular strategy. It’s just illuminating the differences between two common investments.

In a nutshell, a bond is a loan, while a stock is a share.

Let’s start with bonds. Governments need money to function. Historically, they’ve kept the lights on through conquest and taxation. Conquest has fallen out of fashion in the last 100 years, and sometimes taxes just won’t cut it.

So instead of demanding more money in taxes or—yikes—printing more, governments can issue bonds.

A bond is a loan. You voluntarily loan the government money, and they pay it back with interest. You get a fixed income stream, they get to build roads and schools.

Other entities can issue bonds, like states, cities, and corporations. But when people talk about bonds, they usually mean Federal Bonds. Why? Because they’re generally perceived as safe. The U.S. government has a consistent track record of paying back bond-holders.

A stock is ownership. When you buy a stock, you’re essentially buying a tiny slice of a corporation.

Why would corporations sell ownership to the masses? Because it’s a simple way to raise money. They then can use this money to expand the business, increasing the value of their stock. Eventually, you may choose to cash out your stocks for (hopefully) a handsome profit.

Some stocks also pay a portion of their earnings to stockholders. This is called paying a dividend. Normally, it’s calculated as a percentage of your stock. For instance, a $10 stock with a 2% dividend would pay $.20 each quarter.

But there’s a major catch to buying stocks—they are far less stable than federal bonds. That’s because corporations can experience bad years and even bankruptcy.

And when that happens, stockholders lose money. So while there’s potential reward for buying stocks, there’s also more risk.

That’s why it’s absolutely critical to work with a financial professional if you want to start investing in either stocks or bonds. They have the knowledge and experience to guide you in wealth building decisions based on your goals.

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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/

December 20, 2021

The Surprising Financial Benefit of Marriage

The Surprising Financial Benefit of Marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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