How to Handle an Inheritance

December 7, 2022

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Katherine Zacharias

Katherine Zacharias

Financial Professional



Encinitas, CA 92024

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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 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 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 17, 2022

Consumer Debt: How It Helps And How It Hurts

Consumer Debt: How It Helps And How It Hurts

What exactly is consumer debt? It’s “We the People” debt, as opposed to government or business debt.

Consumer debt is our debt. And we, the people, have a lot of it – it’s record-breaking in fact. In May of 2018, U.S. consumer debt was projected to exceed $16.5 trillion in 2022.¹

That’s a lot of zeros. So, in case you’re wondering, what makes up consumer debt?

Consumer debt consists of credit card debt and non-revolving loans – like automobile financing or a student loan. (Mortgages aren’t considered consumer debt – they’re classified under real estate investments.)

So, how did we get buried under all this debt?

There are a few reasons consumer debt is so high – some of them not entirely in our control.

The rise of student loan debt: Much consumer debt consists of school loans. During the recession, many Americans returned to school to re-train or to pursue graduate degrees to increase their competitiveness in a tough job market.

Auto loan rates: The number of auto loans has skyrocketed due to attractive interest rates. After the recession, the federal government lowered interest rates to spur spending and help lift the country out of the recession. Americans responded by financing more automobiles, which added to the consumer debt total.

Is all this consumer debt a bad thing?

Not all consumer debt is bad debt. And there are ways that it helps the economy – both personal and shared. A student loan for example – particularly a government-backed student loan – can offer a borrower a low-interest rate, deferred repayment, and of course, the benefit of gaining a higher education which may bring a higher salary. A college graduate earns 56 percent more than a high school graduate over their lifetime, according to the Economic Policy Institute. So, getting a student loan may make good economic sense.

Credit card debt that won’t go away

Credit card debt is a different story. According one survey, 55% of people have revolving credit card debt.² Nearly two in five carry debt from month-to-month.

Still, the amount of credit card debt Americans carry has been on the decline, with the average carried per adult a little more than $3,000.

Credit card debt won’t hurt you with interest charges if you pay off the balance monthly. Some households prefer to conduct their spending this way to take advantage of cashback purchases or airline points. As always, make sure spending with credit works within your budget.

If you’re carrying a balance from month to month on your credit cards, however, there is going to be a negative impact in the form of interest payments. Avoid doing this whenever possible.

Stay on the good side of consumer debt

Consumer debt is a mixed bag. Staying on the good side of consumer debt may pay off for you in the long run if you’re conscientious about borrowing money, plan your budget carefully, and always seek to live within your means.

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¹ “Average American Household Debt in 2022: Facts and Figures,” Jack Caporal and Dann Albright, The Ascent, Sep 20, 2022, https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/research/average-american-household-debt/#:~:text=Data%20source%3A%20Federal%20Reserve%20Bank,the%20second%20quarter%20of%202022.

² “Jaw-Dropping Stats About the State of Debt in America,” Gabrielle Olya, Yahoo, Oct 11, 2022, https://www.yahoo.com/video/jaw-dropping-stats-state-credit-130022967.html#:~:text=A%20separate%20survey%20conducted%20by,balance%20from%20month%20to%20month.

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 14, 2022

Has Your Debt Outpaced Your Income?

Has Your Debt Outpaced Your Income?

Are your finances feeling tight? It may be because your debt has outpaced your income.

Your debt-to-income ratio is a key factor in determining your financial health. This ratio is simply your monthly debt payments divided by your monthly income, multiplied by 100 to make it a percentage.

Banks and other lenders will look at your debt-to-income ratio when considering whether to give you a loan. They want to see that you have enough income to cover your monthly debt obligations. A high debt-to-income ratio can make it difficult to qualify for new loans or lines of credit since it can signal that you’re struggling to keep up with your debt payments.

Fortunately, your ratio is easy to calculate…

First, add up all of your monthly debt payments. This includes your mortgage or rent, car payment, student loans, credit card payments, and any other debts you may have.

Next, calculate your monthly income. This is typically your take-home pay after taxes and other deductions. If you’re self-employed, it may be your net income after business expenses.

Finally, divide your monthly debt payments by your monthly income. Multiply this number by 100 to get your debt-to-income ratio.

For example, let’s say you have a monthly mortgage payment of $1,000 and a monthly car payment of $300. You also have $200 in student loan payments and $150 in credit card payments. Your monthly income is $3,000.

Your debt-to-income ratio would be (1,000 + 300 + 200 + 150) / 3,000 = .55 or 55%.

A debt-to-income ratio of less than 36% is typically considered ideal by lenders—anything more can signal financial stress.¹

If your debt-to-income ratio is high, don’t despair. There are steps you can take to improve it.

First, try to increase your income. That can mean working extra hours, scoring a raise, finding a new job, or even starting a side business.

Second, you can lower your debt. You can do this by making extra payments on your debts each month or by consolidating your debts into a single loan with a lower interest rate.

Making these changes can be difficult, but they can make a big difference in your debt-to-income ratio—and your financial health.

If you’re not sure where to start, contact me! I can help you develop a plan to get your debt under control and to start building wealth.

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August 31, 2022

A Beginners Guide to Saving and Shredding Documents

A Beginners Guide to Saving and Shredding Documents

It’s time to manage all those papers that are taking up space in your filing cabinets!

But how? Which documents should you preserve? Which ones should you shred? Here are 11 helpful tips on what to do with tax documents, legal documents, and property records.

Documents to keep.

At the top of this list? Estate planning documents. Your will, your living trust, and any final instructions should be carefully labeled, stored, and protected. Your life insurance policy should be safeguarded as well.

Records of your loans should be preserved. That includes for your mortgage, car and student loans. Technically, you can shred these once they’re paid off, but it’s wise to keep them around permanently. Someday you may have to prove you’ve actually paid off these debts.

Tax returns.

Here’s a trick—keep tax returns for at least 7 years. Why? Because there’s a 6 year window for the IRS to challenge your return if they suspect you’ve underreported your income.¹ Keep your records around to prove that you’ve been performing your civic duty by properly reporting your income.

(Check your state’s government website to determine exactly how long you’re supposed to keep state tax returns.)

Property records.

Keep all of your records pertaining to…

  • Your ownership of your house
  • The legal documents for buying your house
  • Commissions to your real estate agent
  • Major home improvements

Save these documents for a minimum of 6 years after you move out of your home. If you’re a renter, keep all of your records until you’ve moved out. Then, fire up your shredder and get to work!

Speaking of your shredder…

Annual documents to destroy.

Every year, you can shred paycheck stubs and bank records. Just be sure of two things…

First, make sure that you’re not shredding anything that might belong in your tax records.

Second, be sure that you’ve reviewed your finances with a professional who will know which documents may need preserving.

Once you’ve done that, it’s fine to feed your shredder at your discretion!

Credit card receipts, statements and bills.

Once you’ve checked your monthly statement against your bank records and receipts, you’re free to shred them. You may want to hold on to receipts for large purchases until the item breaks or you get rid of it.

When in doubt, do some research! It’s better than tossing out something important. And schedule an annual review with a licensed and qualified financial professional. They can help you discern which documents you need and which ones can be destroyed.

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¹ “Save or Shred: How Long You Should Keep Financial Documents,” FINRA, Jan 27, 2017, https://www.finra.org/investors/insights/save-or-shred-how-long-you-should-keep-financial-documents

July 18, 2022

A Pocket Guide to Homeowners Insurance

A Pocket Guide to Homeowners Insurance

Homeowners insurance should bring peace of mind.

The right policy is there to help protect you if something happens to your home. Since a home may be the most significant investment many of us make in our lives, the proper homeowners insurance should be a major consideration.

Getting the right homeowners insurance is essential, but doesn’t have to be difficult. Still, how do you know if you’re selecting the right type of insurance policy for your house? Read on for answers to some common questions you might have.

What is the purpose of a homeowners insurance policy

A homeowners insurance policy is a contract by which an insurance company agrees to pay for repairs or to replace your home or property if it is involved in a covered loss, such as a fire. A home insurance policy may also offer you liability protection in case someone is injured on your property and files a lawsuit.

Do I have to have homeowners insurance?

Your mortgage company will probably require a homeowners insurance policy. A lender wants to make sure their investment is protected should a catastrophe strike. The mortgage company would need you to insure your home for the cost to replace it if it were to be destroyed in a covered accident.

How do I know how much insurance to buy for my home?

The limit – or amount of insurance you place on your home – is determined by several factors. The construction of your home is typically going to be the largest determinant of the cost to replace it. So consider what your home is made of. Construction types include concrete block, masonry, and wood frame. Also, consider the size of your home.

Personal property is another consideration when determining how much insurance to purchase for your home. A typical homeowners insurance policy usually offers a personal property limit equal to half the replacement cost of your home. So if your home is insured for $100,000, your policy may automatically assign a personal property limit of $50,000.

What is the best deductible for a homeowners insurance policy?

When it comes to deductibles, consider selecting one that you can easily and quickly come up with out of pocket, just in case. Homeowners insurance policy deductibles may range from $500 to $10,000. Some policies offer percentage deductibles for certain damages, such as windstorm damage. For example, a coastal resident may have a windstorm deductible of two percent of the dwelling limit and a $1,000 deductible for all other perils.

There may be some cost savings features when you select a higher deductible on your homeowners insurance. Talk with a licensed insurance professional about your deductible options and premium savings.

Know the policy exclusions

All homeowners insurance policies typically contain exclusions for accidents and damages they don’t cover. For example, your policy likely does not cover damage to your home caused by an ongoing maintenance problem. Also, most homeowners insurance policies don’t automatically cover losses resulting from a flood.

Exclusions are important because they drive coverage. Talk to your insurance professional about your policy’s exclusions.

Know the basics and talk to a professional

As far as homeowners insurance policies are concerned, it’s crucial for homeowners to know the basics – limits, coverages, deductibles, and special exclusions. If you have specific concerns about your homeowners insurance, seek guidance from a licensed insurance professional.

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

April 20, 2022

Are You Ready?

Are You Ready?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 4, 2022

Rising Interest Rates and You

Rising Interest Rates and You

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

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

Now here’s the big question…

So what? Who cares?

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

The answer? YOU should.

Here’s why…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 16, 2022

What You May Not Know About Life Insurance

What You May Not Know About Life Insurance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 7, 2022

Questions to Ask Before Buying a Home

Questions to Ask Before Buying a Home

Buying a home is one of the largest investments many people will ever make.

It’s also among the most complicated and time-consuming transactions. So before you sign on the dotted line, it’s best to ask yourself these key questions:

What are my needs for space?

How much can I afford to spend each month on my mortgage, utilities, and repairs?

Are there pre-existing problems with this property?

How is the neighborhood? Is it safe? Are the schools good? What kind of amenities are nearby (i.e., grocery stores, restaurants, sports)?

How much will I need for closing costs and my down payment?

What’s my strategy for a bidding war?

What are my needs for space? When you’re buying a home, it’s important to take stock of your needs for space. Do you need a lot of bedrooms for a growing family? A large backyard for barbecues and birthday parties? Or would you be happy with a more modest property that will save on monthly mortgage payments?

Planning ahead will help you stay within your budget and find the right property for your needs. Take time to sort through the options and be vigilant to rule out homes that may seem appealing at first glance, but might not truly serve your family.

If you’re unsure about what you need in a home, consult with a real estate agent who can help figure out the amenities that are best suited for you.

How much can I afford to spend each month? It’s important to be realistic about how much you can afford to spend each month on your mortgage. A good rule of thumb is that your mortgage payment should not be more than 30% of your monthly income. And remember—just because you’re pre-approved for a certain amount, that doesn’t mean it’s what you can actually afford to spend.

It’s also a good idea to have a budget for other costs associated with homeownership, such as property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, utilities, maintenance, and repairs. It’s impossible to fully estimate these costs in advance. But by planning ahead, you can get an idea of your potential monthly expenses and weigh them against your income.

Are there pre-existing problems with this property? It’s critical to be aware of any potential problems. This includes checking for any major repairs that may need to be done, as well as researching the surrounding neighborhood. Is this house in a flood plain? How is the foundation? When was the last time the roof was replaced?

It’s a good idea to have a home inspection done before making an offer on a property. This will help you get a better idea of the condition of the property and what repairs need to be made.

If you’re not comfortable with the condition of the property—no matter how beautiful or spacious the house is—it’s best to walk away and find a property that’s a better fit overall.

How is the neighborhood? Is it safe? Are the schools good? What kind of amenities are nearby? When you’re buying a home, it’s important to take into account the surrounding neighborhood. This includes researching crime rates, checking out traffic patterns, inquiring about the schools, and seeing how close you are to stores or activities that are important to you.

If you have children, it’s critical to research the schools in the area. You’ll want to make sure that there is a high-quality education available. You’ll also want to be aware of any negative reviews about the schools in the area.

How much will I need for closing costs and my down payment? There are a number of costs that you’ll need to budget for. This includes the down payment, closing costs, and moving expenses.

The downpayment is the amount of money that you pay upfront when you buy a home. It’s usually between 5% and 20% of the purchase price. So if you’re buying a $400,000 home, you’ll need to pay between $20,000 and $80,000 upfront.

Closing costs are the fees that are charged by the bank and the government when you buy a home. These costs can range from 2% to 5% of the purchase price. So in the example above, you would be paying between $8,000 and $20,000 in closing costs.

Moving expenses can range from $500 to $5,000, depending on how much stuff you have and how far you’re moving.

It’s important to budget for these costs ahead of time so that you’re not surprised when you sign the paperwork and are handed the keys.

What’s my strategy for a bidding war? It’s a problem that’s caught many off guard in the current housing market. That’s why it’s important to have a strategy in place. This includes knowing how much you’re willing to spend and being prepared to make a higher offer than the other buyers.

It’s also important to have your finances in order. This means that you should be pre-approved for a mortgage and have enough money saved up for your down payment.

If you’re not comfortable with the idea of a bidding war, it’s best to walk away and find a property that’s a lower price.

Buying a home is never an easy decision. That’s why these questions should all be considered ahead of time—preferably with your realtor—so they don’t catch you by surprise when buying a house! What other factors can you think of? Let us know what future homeowners might want to consider when purchasing a new home.

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February 7, 2022

Why Debt Is A Big Deal

Why Debt Is A Big Deal

Debt is a word that strikes fear in the hearts of many. It ruins fortunes, causes untold stress, and topples governments.

Just ask a millennial about their financial struggles—student loan debt will certainly top their list.

But why? Why is debt so bad, anyway? After all, isn’t credit just money you can use now then pay back later? What’s the big deal?

Well, actually debt is a very big deal. In fact, it can make or break your personal finances.

This article isn’t for hardened debt fighters. You already know the damage debt can do.

But if you’re just starting your financial journey, take note before it’s too late. At best, debt is a tool. It certainly isn’t your friend. Here’s why…

It begins by lowering your cash flow. All those monthly payments bite into your paycheck, effectively lowering your income.

And that has consequences.

It can make it a struggle to afford a home. You simply lack the cash flow to afford mortgage payments.

It makes it a struggle to build wealth. Every spare penny goes towards making ends meet.

It makes it a struggle to maintain your lifestyle. You may find yourself choosing between the pleasures—and even the basics—of life and appeasing your creditors.

And that brings the risk of bankruptcy. It’s a last-ditch effort to erase an unpayable debt. It comes with a heavy price—creditors can take your home and possessions to make up for what you owe. And even if bankruptcy erases the debt, it will have a lasting impact on your credit score and financial future.¹

It can change your life forever, throwing your life into chaos.

Think about it—when was the last time someone smiled and fondly recalled that time they went bankrupt? Never. It’s a traumatic experience. This is something you want to avoid at all costs.

This isn’t to scare you into a debt free life or guilt you for using a credit card. Rather, it’s to educate you on the stakes. Debt isn’t something to be taken on lightly. It can have lasting consequences on your life, family, finances, and even mental health. Act accordingly.

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¹ “Bankruptcy: How it Works, Types & Consequences,” Experian, accessed Jan 7, 2022, https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/credit-education/bankruptcy-how-it-works-types-and-consequences/

September 15, 2021

Big Financial Rocks First

Big Financial Rocks First

A teacher walked into her classroom with a clear jar, a bag of rocks, a bucket of sand, and a glass of water. She placed all the large rocks carefully into the jar.

“Who thinks this jar is full?” she asked. Almost half of her students raised their hands. Next, she began to pour sand from the bucket into the jar full of large rocks emptying the entire bucket into the jar.

“Who thinks this jar is full now?” she asked again. Almost all of her students now had their hands up. To her student’s surprise, she emptied the glass of water into the seemingly full jar of rocks and sand.

“What do you think I’m trying to show you?” She inquired.

One eager student answered: “That things may appear full, but there is always room left to put more stuff in.”

The teacher smiled and shook her head.

“Good try, but the point of this illustration is that if I didn’t put in the large rocks first, I would not be able to fit them in afterwards.”

This concept can be applied to the idea of a constant struggle between priorities that are urgent versus those that are important. When you have limited resources, priorities must be in place since there isn’t enough to go around. Take your money, for example. Unless you have an unlimited amount of funds (we’re still trying to find that source), you can’t have an unlimited amount of important financial goals.

Back to the teacher’s illustration. Let’s say the big rocks are your important goals. Things like buying a home, helping your children pay for college, retirement at 60, etc. They’re all important –but not urgent. These things may happen 10, 20, or 30 years from now.

Urgent things are the sand and water. A monthly payment like your mortgage payment or your monthly utility and internet bills. The urgent things must be paid and paid on time. If you don’t pay your mortgage on time… Well, you might end up retiring homeless.

Even though these monthly obligations might be in mind more often than your retirement or your toddler’s freshman year in college, if all you focus on are urgent things, then the important goals fall by the wayside. And in some cases, they stay there long after they can realistically be rescued. Saving up for a down payment for a home, funding a college education, or having enough to retire on is nearly impossible to come up with overnight (still looking for that source of unlimited funds!). In most cases, it takes time and discipline to save up and plan well to achieve these important goals.

What are the big rocks in your life? If you’ve never considered them, spend some time thinking about it. When you have a few in mind, place them in the priority queue of your life. Otherwise, if those important goals are ignored for too long, they might become one of the urgent goals - and perhaps ultimately unrealized if they weren’t put in your plan early on.

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August 11, 2021

Saving Money With Credit Cards: The Ultimate Guide

Saving Money With Credit Cards: The Ultimate Guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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August 4, 2021

Should You Pay Off Your Mortgage Early?

Should You Pay Off Your Mortgage Early?

On the surface, paying off your mortgage seems like a no-brainer.

It’s become a staple of personal finance advice that everyone should eliminate their mortgage ASAP.

But here’s the truth—there are some drawbacks to eliminating your mortgage quickly. Read on for the pros and cons of paying off your mortgage early.

The pros of paying off your mortgage early. Your mortgage can be a serious drain on your financial resources. Those monthly payments can hamper your ability to save, build wealth, and enjoy the lifestyle you desire. It makes sense that the sooner you eliminate those payments, the sooner you’ll have the cash flow to make your dreams a reality.

You might also save a significant amount of money in interest by paying off your mortgage early. The less time your mortgage accrues interest, the less you’ll pay overall.

Perhaps most importantly, eliminating your mortgage creates peace of mind. So long as you’re paying off a mortgage, you’ll always run the risk of defaulting and losing your home. Owning your house outright can greatly reduce this danger and the stress that comes with it.

The cons of paying off your mortgage early. But eliminating your mortgage is not necessarily an unalloyed good. There are a few downsides to consider, too.

What if, instead of devoting your financial resources towards your mortgage, you saved them at a high interest rate?

There’s a chance you would actually walk away with more wealth. That’s because the sooner your money starts compounding interest, the greater potential it has to grow.

When you should and shouldn’t pay off your mortgage early. Paying off your mortgage early might be viable if your mortgage makes up a small fraction of your monthly expenses. So long as it doesn’t interfere with your other savings goals.

However, always consult with a financial advisor before you make this decision. They can determine if eliminating your mortgage quickly will derail your wealth building strategy!

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July 28, 2021

The Difference 15 Years Can Make

The Difference 15 Years Can Make

Choosing between a 15-year and 30-year mortgage is one of the most important financial decisions you’ll make.

The answer which is better for you depends on your personal situation, but there are definite pros and cons to each. In this article we’ll take a look at both types of mortgages and see what they offer along with their drawbacks so that you can make a more informed decision about which mortgage works best for you.

The 15-Year Mortgage. As the name suggests, a 15-year mortgage has payments spread over 15 years, as opposed to 30 years for the standard loan. That has two practical implications…

  • Your monthly payments will probably be higher
  • The total cost of the home will likely be lower

Those might seem contradictory. But the math is simple.

Let’s say your monthly payment for a 15-year mortgage is $1,000, while for a 30-year mortgage your payment is $750.

For the 15-year mortgage, you’ll pay $180,000 over the lifetime of your loan. For the 30-year loan, that number is $270,000, a $90,000 difference! So if you can afford the higher monthly payments, a 15-year mortgage might save you a substantial amount of cash over the long-term.

The 30-Year Mortgage. But make no mistake—the 30-year mortgage has distinct advantages of its own. How? It often offers lower monthly payments, which frees up your cash flow. That extra money can go towards saving, financial protection, and building wealth.

Not every family will have the financial resources to afford potentially higher monthly payments with a 15-year mortgage. Depending on your financial situation, a 30-year mortgage may be a better option.

The bottom line? The mortgage you choose can impact your financial security now and in the future. That’s why it’s best to consult with a financial professional before buying a home. They’ll have the knowledge you need to make an informed decision that aligns with your long-term goals.

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

July 14, 2021

Is Refinancing Worth It?

Is Refinancing Worth It?

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

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

What is refinancing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 12, 2021

What’s Happening In The Housing Market

What’s Happening In The Housing Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what should you do?

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

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

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

July 7, 2021

Keeping the House

Keeping the House

Life insurance can save your house.

Picture this…

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does that look like in the scenario from earlier?

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

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

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

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