Take Your Dream Vacation Without Causing a Retirement Nightmare

September 28, 2022

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Katherine Zacharias

Katherine Zacharias

Financial Professional



Encinitas, CA 92024

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September 28, 2022

Take Your Dream Vacation Without Causing a Retirement Nightmare

Take Your Dream Vacation Without Causing a Retirement Nightmare

Now that the kids are out of the house, maybe you and your spouse want to take that once-in-a-lifetime island-hopping cruise.

Or maybe your friends are planning a super-exciting cross-country road trip to see all the sites you learned about in school. It can be tempting to skim a little off the top of your retirement savings to fund that dream vacation and make it happen. But whatever your vacation dream is, you shouldn’t sacrifice your retirement savings to live it.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t take that trip. Vacation is important to health and wellbeing. If anything, studies show that Americans aren’t taking enough vacation during the year.

But, for those that do take a break, many are going into debt to do it, sadly enough. A survey by the financial planning platform LearnVest asked 1,000 adults how they finance their vacations. The answer? They go into debt.

The study found: • 21% of Americans have gone into debt for vacation. • Most of those who used debt to fund their vacation incurred $500-$2,999 in new debt.¹

So, what to do if you’re hungry for travel and need a getaway? Here are some simple strategies to help you save for that vacation, all while protecting your funds for retirement.

1) Follow the $5 a day rule: The $5 a day rule simply means you put a fiver away each day toward your vacation. Most of us could probably scrape together $5 a day just by making coffee at home and bringing a sandwich or two to work each week. If you muster up the discipline to stick to it for a year, you’ll end up with $1,825 – a pretty decent vacation fund.

2) Use a rebate app: Rebates can put cash in your pocket. Try an app like Ibotta. Just sign up and select the rebates for items you purchase at the stores you frequent. Shop and scan your receipt. The app will put the rebate into an account. You can withdraw the cash through Paypal or Venmo.

3) Cancel the gym: Working out is critical to staying healthy! But ask yourself if you really need that gym membership. Gym memberships can cost anywhere from $35 to more than $100 a month. Consider saving that money for a vacation and start working out at home.

4) Cut down on your food budget: Of course, you gotta eat. But we could all probably tighten up our food budget a bit. Try meal planning and batch cooking. Plan your meals around what’s on sale and in season.

5) Find free entertainment: Can’t live without getting some weekly entertainment? You don’t have to – just look for the free events going on in your community. Consult your local newspaper or town’s website for info on community festivals, outdoor concerts, and art shows.

Keep Calm and Save On Saving for anything has its challenges. But with a little effort and perseverance, you can have your dream vacation and your retirement, too!

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¹ “Inflation Anxieties and Personal Debt Are Not Stopping One-Third of Americans From Planning Travel in 2022 and 2023,” Yahoo, Sep 20, 2022, https://www.yahoo.com/now/inflation-anxieties-personal-debt-not-130000277.html

September 21, 2022

The Pros and Cons of Budget Cars

The Pros and Cons of Budget Cars

Buying a car can be pricey.

The average used car costs over $33,000,¹ while the average for a new one is around $48,080.² When it comes to transportation (or anything else for that matter), it only makes sense that you’d want to save as much money as possible. But are there times when buying a used or budget car is a better investment than buying a new one? Here are some questions to ask yourself before you make that purchase.

How much mileage can you get out of this car?

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

How much will maintenance and repairs cost you?

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

How does the interest rate compare for a new car vs. used?

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

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

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¹ “Consumers are shelling out an average $10,000 more for used cars than if prices were ‘normal,’ research shows,” Sarah O’Brien, CNBC, Jul 21 2022, https://www.cnbc.com/2022/07/21/consumers-paying-average-10000-above-normal-prices-for-used-cars.html

² “The Average Price of a New Car Is Creeping Toward $50,000,” Brad Tuttle, Money, Sep 14, 2022, https://money.com/new-car-prices-average-50000/

³ “Why Do Used Cars Have Higher Interest Rates?” Doug Demuro, Autotrader, Oct 13, 2013, https://www.autotrader.com/car-shopping/why-do-used-cars-have-higher-interest-rates-215730

August 31, 2022

How Inflation Impacts Your Savings

How Inflation Impacts Your Savings

It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee!

The reality is that your retirement savings might be losing value every day. It’s because of something called inflation, and it may result in your finding yourself retiring with less than you anticipated. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how inflation affects your savings and what you can do about it.

First, what is inflation?

Inflation is a measurement of how much prices are rising over time. And it’s not just that the price of gas is skyrocketing or some other commodity—inflation affects everything.

That may not necessarily be a problem for you, so long as your wages are increasing with the rate of inflation. Commodities might get more expensive, but your rising paycheck means you can still afford what you need. But if income isn’t keeping up with inflation, an upper-class income today may only afford you a middle-class income tomorrow!

But there’s another danger that inflation poses.

Let’s say you have $1 million dollars in the bank that you’ve put away for retirement. Good for you! You’ve probably already dreamed of how you’ll use that cash once you retire. A new home, a new car, worldwide travel, you name it!

But here’s the rub. Over time, the cost of those items (most likely) will steadily increase. So will the basic cost of living. By the time you retire, your $1 million has far less purchasing power than it did when you first started saving. You haven’t lost money, exactly. Your money has just lost value.

So how can you combat the slow decay caused by inflation?

Start by moving your money away from low, or no, growth places. Your Grandma may not like to hear this, but hiding money in your mattress is an easy way to torpedo its value over the long haul!

Find investments that actually grow over time and help beat inflation. Over the last 100 years or so, the average inflation rate has been 3.1%. That’s the bare minimum rate at which your investment should grow, if you’re using it for long-term wealth creation.

A licensed and qualified financial professional can help you with both of these steps. The sooner you start the process of protecting your wealth from inflation, the more you insulate yourself from the danger of waking up with less money than you’d thought!

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March 28, 2022

Does Work-Life Balance Make Any Sense?

Does Work-Life Balance Make Any Sense?

It’s a well-known fact that work can be tough on your health and wellbeing.

But is it possible to have a healthy work-life balance? And if not, should everyone just resign themselves to the idea that they must choose between their careers or their families?

The term “work-life balance” is often used to describe the ideal of maintaining equal priorities between your work and personal life. But is this balance really possible? And if not, does that mean we should just accept that work will always come first?

There’s no denying that work can be demanding and time consuming. But many people feel that they can’t just leave their work at the office—it often follows them home in the form of stress, worries, or even arguments with loved ones.

On the other hand, it can be tough trying to fit in all the things you want to do with your personal time, and you may even feel like you’re sacrificing your career in order to have fulfilling experiences with your family.

So what’s the answer? Is work-life balance really possible, or is it just an unattainable fantasy?

The answer to this question is tricky, as it depends on individual circumstances. For some people, having a good work-life balance is definitely possible—they may have a job they love that doesn’t consume all their time, and they may be able to fit in personal commitments.

But for others, it’s a challenge. CEOs, lawyers, engineers, business owners, doctors, and high achievers often wake up to find they’ve spent their lives prioritizing their careers over their families, friends, and making memories. It’s one of the worst realizations a person can have.

Here’s a different take on the problem—what if the question isn’t about how to balance work and life, but about what you actually want?

Do you want a career full of travel and boardroom dealings?

Do you want a happy home surrounded by white picket fences?

Do you want peace, quiet, and a few acres with grass, trees, and streams?

Do you want limitless time to exercise your creativity?

These are tough questions with no easy answers. You may find yourself nodding to all of the above!

But here’s the truth—only one can be your top priority.

Decide what matters most for you. Then, integrate the rest into your vision of your life.

Prioritize your career above all else? Create a 5-year plan that will get you to your ideal job and then make it happen.

Value your personal relationships and family time above your career? Then build a business or take on freelance work that allows you the time and freedom to do the things you love outside of work.

The key is to find what works for you. And that means being honest with yourself about what you really want.

So ask yourself—what do you want? And how can you make it a reality?

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March 24, 2022

The Complete Guide to Buying Happiness

The Complete Guide to Buying Happiness

You’ve probably heard that money can’t buy happiness. But what if it could?

What if you were able to find a way of spending your money that made you happy, and the more you spent on it, the happier you became? Doesn’t sound possible, does it? But it IS entirely possible.

At least, that’s the premise of a paper written by scholars from Harvard, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Virginia. The title? “If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren’t Spending It Right.”

The thesis? If you spend money right, it makes you happy. If you spend money wrong, it makes you feel… well, meh.

Here’s what they found…

Buy experiences, not things. The researchers found that people tend to be happier when they spend money on experiences rather than things. That’s because experiences provide us with opportunities to create memories, which can be recalled and enjoyed long after the experience is over. And as you get older, those memories become constant sources of joy, satisfaction, and happiness.

So if you’re looking to spend your money in a way that will make you happy, focus on things like travel, getaways, skydiving, sunsets, long walks, and conversations. Those will remain with you for the rest of your life.

Help others first. It’s a fact—social relations are critical for happiness. The better your relationships, the greater your happiness.

So it follows that one of the best ways to spend your money in a way that will make you happy is to help others. This could mean donating money to charity, or simply spending time with friends and family.

Focus on little pleasures. Another way to spend your money in a way that will make you happy is to focus on little pleasures. This one seems counterintuitive—shouldn’t you save a whole bunch of money and spend it on something fancy?

However, the paper cites research that frequency is more powerful than intensity. Is eating a 12oz cookie better than eating a 6oz cookie? Absolutely. But is it two times better? Probably not. It’s a concept called diminishing marginal utility—the more you indulge in something, the less enjoyable it becomes.

What does that mean? Frequent day trips beat rare but epic vacations. Fun, quiet date nights once per week beat going all out twice a year.

Pay now, consume later. Again, this seems counterintuitive. But it makes sense when you think about it.

Consider the all-too-common alternative—buy now, pay later. First off, this model encourages rampant spending. Without facing immediate consequences, it’s just too tempting to rack up debt and buy stuff you don’t need.

But more than that, it entirely removes antici…

.. pation from the equation. And that’s half the fun!

So instead of whipping out the credit card, save up. Pay cash. Delay gratification. You’ll enjoy your purchase more, and you’ll be happier overall.

So there you have it! The complete guide to spending your money in a way that will make you happy. Just remember—experiences over things, helping others first, little pleasures, and pay now, consume later. Follow these tips, and you may find that your money’s doing its actual job—making you happy.

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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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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 13, 2021

Digital Nomadism: What You Need to Know

Digital Nomadism: What You Need to Know

Ever wish you could travel the world AND earn a living at the same darn time?

Of course! Building a digital income source under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, in a cozy cabin in the Alps, or among majestic Sequoia trees sounds like a dream.

But it’s becoming a reality for many. Think about the travel influencers you follow, or your college friends sitting on a beach with their laptops enjoying a beer. They’re all digital nomads.

You’re not imagining things—digital nomadism has exploded since the COVID-19 pandemic first began, growing 49% from 2019 to 2020.¹

If you’re considering ditching the cubicle for the open road, here are a few key facts and figures you should know!

83% of digital nomads are self-employed.² The majority of self-employed nomads are entrepreneurs (66%), while the remainder are freelancers (34%). It’s not impossible to work and travel while keeping your day job. But there’s a clear connection between the independence of the road and owning your own business.

49% of digital nomads earn the same income or more as their office job.³ In addition, digital nomads often enjoy a lower cost of living. With the wonders of Wifi, they can host meetings with clients in the US and Europe while enjoying lower cost locations like South America or South East Asia.

80% of digital nomads prefer to stay in one place for 3 to 9 months.⁴ It’s no wonder—setting up shop in one location can help nomads establish routines and boost their productivity. Plus, it’s the best way to truly soak in a new culture and experience.

The #1 reason digital nomads return home is loneliness.⁵ Distance from family and old friends can become hard to cope with. And finding community among an ever-shifting sea of locations and new acquaintances can be even harder. It’s the reason why nomads have established co-working spaces around the world. They serve as hubs for nomads to socialize and build friendships.

Time will tell if digital nomadism is a pandemic fad or a seismic shift in how we work. But if you’ve longed for a work/travel lifestyle, there’s never been a better time to make it happen.

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¹ “15 Digital Nomad Statistics and Exciting Trends 2021 Update,” Project Untethered, 2021, https://www.projectuntethered.com/digital-nomad-statistics/

² “63 Surprising Digital Nomad Statistics in 2021,” A Brother Abroad, Nov 23, 2021, https://abrotherabroad.com/digital-nomad-statistics/

³ “15 Digital Nomad Statistics and Exciting Trends 2021 Update,” Project Untethered, 2021, https://www.projectuntethered.com/digital-nomad-statistics/

⁴ “63 Surprising Digital Nomad Statistics in 2021,” A Brother Abroad, Nov 23, 2021, https://abrotherabroad.com/digital-nomad-statistics/

⁵ “63 Surprising Digital Nomad Statistics in 2021,” A Brother Abroad, Nov 23, 2021, https://abrotherabroad.com/digital-nomad-statistics/

November 22, 2021

Travel Insurance: The Complete Guide

Travel Insurance: The Complete Guide

Postcard-worthy sunsets. Fascinating cultures and customs. Exotic people and maybe even a new language to learn – at least enough to order food, pay for souvenirs, and find the nearest bathroom.

Travel can leave us with some amazing memories and lead us to grow simply by being exposed to different ways of seeing the world. It’s also fraught with peril, as many have learned over the last year and half of lockdowns, COVID tests, and closed borders. Travel insurance has the potential to provide protection if the daydream turns into a nightmare in a number of ways.

An auto or life insurance policy is designed to provide a limited set of coverages, making the policies fairly easy to understand. Travel insurance, by comparison, can cover a wide range of unrelated risks, making the coverage and its exclusions a bit more difficult to follow. Depending on your travel insurance provider, your travel insurance may cover just a few risks or a wide gamut of potential mishaps.

So how do you know what kind of travel insurance you should purchase? Read on…

Trip Cancellation Insurance
One of the most basic and most commonly available coverage options, trip cancellation insurance provides coverage to reimburse you if you are unable to take your trip due to a number of possible reasons, including sickness or a death in the family. Cancellations for reasons such as a cruise line going bust or your tour operator going out of business are also typically covered.

Additionally, if you or a member of your party becomes ill during the trip, trip cancellation insurance may reimburse you for the unused portion of the trip. Some trips you book will allow cancellation with full reimbursement (within a certain timeframe) for any reason, whereas some trips only allow reimbursement for medical or other specific reasons – make sure you check the travel policy for any limitations before you purchase it.

Baggage Insurance
Your travel daydreams probably don’t include lost baggage or theft of personal items while abroad – but it happens to travelers every day. Baggage insurance is another common coverage found bundled with travel insurance that provides protection for your belongings while traveling.

If you already have a homeowners insurance or renters insurance policy, it’s likely that you already have this coverage in place. As a caveat, homeowners insurance and renters insurance policies typically limit the coverage for certain types of items, like jewelry, and may only pay a reduced amount for other types of items. Home insurance policies also have a deductible – typically $1,000 or more – that should be considered when deciding if you should purchase baggage insurance with your travel insurance.

Emergency Medical Coverage
Most people don’t know if their health insurance will cover them internationally – it could be that your policy does not protect you outside of the country. Accidents, illness, and other conditions that require medical assistance are border-blind and can happen anywhere, leaving you wondering how to arrange and pay for the medical attention that could be needed by you or your family. Travel health insurance can cover you in these instances and is often available as a stand-alone policy or bundled as part of a travel insurance package.

Accidental Death Coverage
Often bundled as a tag-along coverage with travel health insurance, accidental death coverage provides a limited benefit for accidental death while traveling. If you already have a life insurance policy, accidental death coverage may not be needed – and chances are good that your life insurance policy has fewer limitations and provides a higher death benefit for your named beneficiaries or loved ones.

Other Travel Coverages
A number of other options are often offered as part of travel insurance packages, including missed connection coverage, travel delay coverage, and traveler assistance. Another coverage option to consider is collision and comprehensive coverage for rented cars. Car accidents are among the leading types of mishaps when traveling. Typically, a personal car insurance policy will not cover you for vehicle damage, liability, or medical expenses when traveling abroad.

When you’re ready to cross “See the Seven Wonders of the Modern World” off your bucket list, consider travel insurance. It may provide some relief so you can concentrate on the important things, like making sure you bring the right foreign plug adapter for your hair dryer.

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November 3, 2021

Should You Buy a Budget Car?

Should You Buy a Budget Car?

Buying a car can be pricey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 11, 2021

Saving Money With Credit Cards: The Ultimate Guide

Saving Money With Credit Cards: The Ultimate Guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July 19, 2021

Top 6 Tips for Cheaper Travel

Top 6 Tips for Cheaper Travel

It seems like there is light at the end of the tunnel for travelers who are itching to see the world.

And with travel restrictions seeming to be on the edge of lifting, they may have the opportunity to explore again.

But before you start planning your international adventures, here are 6 tips for cheaper travel.

1. Avoid expensive tourist spots. Paris is lovely this time of year. So are London, Dubai, and Tokyo. They’re also outrageously expensive to stay, eat, and play in. Fortunately, there are many other locations that are just as loaded with culture and fun things to do at a fraction of the cost. Central and South America, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe all feature affordable cities, lovely landscapes, and interesting attractions that go toe-to-toe with classic destinations.

2. Book flights well in advance. Usually the further out you can book, the better. Though some flight sites offer deals on last-minute fares, they’re not always that great of a bargain. It’s typically cheaper to buy tickets a few months in advance. The same logic works for lodging. Speaking of which…

3. Consider staying in a hostel. They’re a great opportunity to meet fellow travelers in a foreign land. They’re often cheaper than an Airbnb or a hotel, and sometimes offer tours. Just do your research in advance—not all hostels are equal as far as cleanliness and safety.

4. Cut transportation costs. Need to travel from city to city? Try taking the bus. It’s not glamorous, but it might be a more cost effective way to get around. While you’re in town, try walking as much as possible and getting public transit when needed. Save your money and spend it on something else like souvenirs or trying a meal you’ve never had before.

5. Explore opportunities to work and travel. You may be surprised by how many programs pay you to visit exciting new places. Whether you’re teaching English in Asia and South America or working as a tour guide in Sweden, opportunities abound. You may earn enough to offset some of your traveling expenses.

6. Eat local, prep at home. Eating out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a tourist destination is a surefire way to quickly deplete your travel budget. Instead, explore local markets to purchase ingredients that you can store or prepare where you’re staying, like protein bars or sandwiches. Those should cover your first two meals of the day. Then splurge on evening fare with local cuisine at an interesting restaurant!

Seeing the world doesn’t have to break the bank. Use these tips to plan your adventure, send me a postcard, and let me know if they make a difference for your budget!

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December 23, 2020

Ways to Curb Holiday Spending

Ways to Curb Holiday Spending

More than 174 million Americans spent an average of $335.47 between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday this year. And the holidays are just getting started!

You and your wallet don’t have to suffer if you follow these simple ways to curb holiday spending. Well, ways to curb the rest of your holiday spending.

1. Decide beforehand how much you’re going to spend on gifts. Yes: Budget. This is one of the most spoken of tricks to curb spending, but do you actually follow through? Before you ever start your holiday spending, have a firm plan about what you’re willing to spend, and do not go a penny over. If you’re one of the millions mentioned above that already spend a good chunk of cash, be sure to take that into account when you set your new amount. A budget can help get the creative gift-giving juices flowing, too. Remember White Elephant parties where no one could bring a gift that cost over $15? There had to be a little extra thought involved: What would be an unforgettable gift that would fit right into your budget?

2. Dine in. When you’ve budgeted for picking up the tab on a big family meal outing, it can be no sweat! But when you haven’t, the cost can really sneak up on you. Say you venture out with a party of 15 family members. At $10 an entree plus appetizers, desserts, cups of cocoa for the kids, eggnog or something harder for grown ups, and any other extras… Whew, that’s going to be a credit card statement to remember! But what if you instead planned a night in with the whole family? A potluck or pizza night. The warmth and comfort of home. Baking cookies. Still with cups of cocoa and eggnog, but at a fraction of the cost. And with much more comfortable chairs.

3. Stay with relatives when you travel home for the holidays. This practice is standard for some, but if this suggestion makes your face flush and your blood run cold, this may help you change your mind: the average hotel stay costs $127.69 per night. That’s not including taxes and fees. Let’s say you head to the town where you grew up for 4 days and 3 nights. The 3 nights at a hotel are going to cost you…

$127.69 x 3 = $383.07

Add in tax and hotel fees as well as the daily cost of gas to and from the hotel, and the thought of a few nights spent in your childhood bedroom that now has the surprise treadmill-as-a-clothing-rack addition might not be so terrible.

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November 18, 2020

The Most Important Retirement Rule

The Most Important Retirement Rule

The best way to determine your retirement target savings is to use your income.

Here’s why.

Almost nobody wants to work 40 hours a week in retirement. Not you, not me. To avoid that, you must have money at your disposal to cover expenses like food, travel, and medical bills.

But how much do you need?

There’s a 38% chance that if you retire at 65 you will live to 85, and a 5% chance that you’ll make it to 95.¹ That means you’ll need enough cash to cover at least 20 years of life with no income.

This is where your paycheck comes into play.

Aiming to save 20 to 30 times your income helps prepare you to maintain your current lifestyle into retirement. You might even have extra spending money if you’re debt free!

Plus, it forces you to scale your savings as your income grows.

Setting a goal based solely on how much you want to spend in retirement can result in lowering your savings goal. You might splurge more now, telling yourself that you’ll just live on less later. But you’re cheating your future self!

Using your income as a retirement benchmark forces you to increase your savings amount as your paycheck grows. Let’s say you make $80,000 annually and you start saving. Your goal is to stash away 20 times your income, or about $1.6 million.

After a while, you’re able to save 5 years worth of earnings, or about $400,000.

But then you get a raise! Suddenly you’re making $100,000 per year. Your retirement target shifts up accordingly to $2 million. That $400,000 you have in the bank is a hefty slice of cash, but it’s now only worth 4 years of income instead of 5.

In other words, basing your saving around your income actually encourages you to save more as your income increases.

The best thing about this method is that it focuses on the most important part of retiring—to sustain the lifestyle that you envision. Meet with a licensed financial professional to map out what that would look like for you and how much you must save to make that vision a reality.

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¹ “How Long Will Your Retirement Really Last?,” Simon Moore, Forbes, Apr 24, 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/simonmoore/2018/04/24/how-long-will-your-retirement-last/?sh=31a59fb37472

November 9, 2020

3 Awesome Ways To Fall In Love With Autumn

3 Awesome Ways To Fall In Love With Autumn

If there’s one thing you’ve earned this year, it’s autumn.

It’s been a rollercoaster of a year. We could all benefit from stepping off the wild ride of 2020 and just enjoying what’s around us! That’s why I put together some fun ways to enjoy the most beautiful season of the year before the holiday craziness sets in.

See The Leaves <br> I don’t just mean glancing out your window at some leaves you’ll have to rake up in a few months. Fall is one of the most beautiful seasons of the year, so now is the time to take in some stunning scenery before it’s too late! If you’re the adventurous type, why not plan a getaway to the mountains to see some breathtaking fall foliage? If you don’t have the luxury of travel, just go on an afternoon drive! There’s also nothing more heartwarming than walking around your local park or taking a stroll in a cute neighborhood that’s bathed in orange and gold leaves. Check out this handy map to find peak-leaf season near you!

Get Lost In The Corn <br> But what if you live in an area with a scarcity of trees? Have no fear, there’s a classic fall activity you can still enjoy: The Corn Maze! Wrangle your family together, hop in the car, and get lost in a field for a few hours. It’s a great excuse to enjoy the fresh fall air with your loved ones for an hour or two!

Make Your Own Fall Beverages <br> If my Instagram feed is correct, the best part of Autumn is the drinks. But here’s the secret; you don’t have to pay a king’s ransom at a “local” coffee shop for some delicious fall beverages. For instance, just throw some milk on the stove and add some chocolate chips to create incredible hot chocolate. Need more of a boost with your caffeine? Toss some cinnamon sticks, maple syrup, and whip cream into your morning cup of Joe for a cozy kick-off to your day. And who could forget about the joys of warmed milk? Just heat some milk on the stove, add cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla to taste, and top it all off with whip cream to create the perfect drink for a chilly fall evening!

So what are you waiting for? Throw on your sweater, pull that beanie snuggly over your head, and make the most of the season while it lasts!

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August 19, 2020

Travel Insurance: What to know before you go

Travel Insurance: What to know before you go

Postcard-worthy sunsets. Fascinating cultures and customs. Exotic people and maybe even a new language to learn – at least enough to order food, pay for souvenirs, and find the nearest bathroom.

Travel can leave us with some amazing memories and lead us to grow simply by being exposed to different ways of seeing the world. It’s also fraught with peril – much of which we don’t consider when daydreaming about our trip. Travel insurance has the potential to provide protection if the daydream turns into a nightmare in a number of ways.[i]

An auto or life insurance policy is designed to provide a limited set of coverages, making the policies fairly easy to understand. Travel insurance, by comparison, can cover a wide range of unrelated risks, making the coverage and its exclusions a bit more difficult to follow. Depending on your travel insurance provider, your travel insurance may cover just a few risks or a wide gamut of potential mishaps.

So how do you know what kind of travel insurance you should purchase? Read on…

Trip Cancellation Insurance
One of the most basic and most commonly available coverage options, trip cancellation insurance provides coverage to reimburse you if you are unable to take your trip due to a number of possible reasons, including sickness or a death in the family. Cancellations for reasons such as a cruise line going bust or your tour operator going out of business are also typically covered. Additionally, if you or a member of your party becomes ill during the trip, trip cancellation insurance may reimburse you for the unused portion of the trip. Some trips you book will allow cancellation with full reimbursement (within a certain timeframe) for any reason, whereas some trips only allow reimbursement for medical or other specific reasons – make sure you check the travel policy for any limitations before you purchase it.

Baggage Insurance
Your travel daydreams probably don’t include lost baggage or theft of personal items while abroad – but it happens to travelers every day. Baggage insurance is another common coverage found bundled with travel insurance that provides protection for your belongings while traveling. If you already have a homeowners insurance or renters insurance policy, it’s likely that you already have this coverage in place. As a caveat, homeowners insurance and renters insurance policies typically limit the coverage for certain types of items, like jewelry, and may only pay a reduced amount for other types of items. Home insurance policies also have a deductible – typically $1,000 or more – that should be considered when deciding if you should purchase baggage insurance with your travel insurance.

Emergency Medical Coverage
Most people don’t know if their health insurance will cover them internationally – it could be that your policy does not protect you outside of the country. Accidents, illness, and other conditions that require medical assistance are border-blind and can happen anywhere, leaving you wondering how to arrange and pay for the medical attention that could be needed by you or your family. Travel health insurance can cover you in these instances and is often available as a stand-alone policy or bundled as part of a travel insurance package.

Accidental Death Coverage
Often bundled as a tag-along coverage with travel health insurance, accidental death coverage provides a limited benefit for accidental death while traveling. If you already have a life insurance policy, accidental death coverage may not be needed – and chances are good that your life insurance policy has fewer limitations and provides a higher death benefit for your named beneficiaries or loved ones.

Other Travel Coverages
A number of other options are often offered as part of travel insurance packages, including missed connection coverage, travel delay coverage, and traveler assistance. Another coverage option to consider is collision and comprehensive coverage for rented cars. Car accidents are among the leading types of mishaps when traveling. Typically, a personal car insurance policy will not cover you for vehicle damage, liability, or medical expenses when traveling abroad.

When you’re ready to cross “See the Seven Wonders of the Modern World” off your bucket list, consider travel insurance. It may provide some relief so you can concentrate on the important things, like making sure you bring the right foreign plug adapter for your hair dryer.

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[i] “Should you buy travel insurance?” Insurance Information Institute, 2018, https://bit.ly/2Lv9BPc.

July 15, 2020

The Stock Market Crash of 1929

The Stock Market Crash of 1929

What comes to mind when you think of The Great Depression?

Maybe images of long unemployment lines and dusty farmers.

But it all started with a massive stock market crash. Here’s a quick history of the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

The Roaring Twenties <br> The decade leading up to the Great Depression is referred to as the Roaring Twenties. The First World War had just ended and Europe was in shambles. But the United States was poised to become an economic powerhouse. The U.S. economy was exploding in the years before the war and, unlike Europe, had escaped the conflict relatively unscathed. It didn’t take long for the U.S. economy and culture to kick into overdrive.

During the 1920s was the birth of consumer and mass culture. Women now had access to white collar jobs. That meant more money for the family and more freedom to live and dress how they wanted. Affordable cars, courtesy of Henry Ford, meant families could travel and vacation in places that were never before possible. Radios and phonographs meant that popular music (a.k.a., jazz) could reach a wider audience and make big money for artists.

The Big Bubble <br> But people weren’t content to just spend their money on Model-Ts and the latest Louis Armstrong record. They were buying stocks. And when they ran out of money to invest, they borrowed more. Banks were eager to lend out money to a new generation of investors with stable incomes. One of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time.

By the end of the decade, the American economy was booming. But underneath the surface was a tangle of high debt and wild speculation that the economy would keep on expanding. In reality, the only direction things could go was down.

The Stock Market Crash of 1929 <br> The stock market set a record high in August 1929. Then it began to moderately decline in September. But by the middle of October, a modest slump became a total free fall. Spooked by the cooling market, investors started selling their shares in the millions. The technology of the time was overwhelmed trying to calculate how much was being sold. The massive bubble that had expanded during the roaring twenties was collapsing.

But the catastrophe didn’t end in the stock market. The public panicked. Droves of people started withdrawing money from banks as quickly as they could. But those banks had used that capital to invest in the market. Huge amounts of wealth were wiped out.

Aftermath <br> This upheaval caused the U.S. economy to take a nosedive. By 1932, stocks were worth only 20% of their 1929 peak.(1) Half of America’s banks were belly up, and nearly 30% of the population was unemployed.(2) Economies around the world were deeply shaken by the collapse of the U.S. market, making the Great Depression a global phenomenon. It would take the massive economic mobilization of World War II to resurrect the U.S. economy.

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April 13, 2020

What Are Foreign Transaction Fees?

What Are Foreign Transaction Fees?

Travelling abroad can be expensive.

Tours, hotels, gourmet food (unless you’re in England), and plane tickets can add up quickly. But a three percent charge for buying something in a foreign country? That can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It’s called a foreign transaction fee, and it’s an easy way for credit card companies to make an extra dime off your out-of-country adventures.

What’s a foreign transaction fee? <br> A foreign transaction fee is a charge that your credit card issuer tacks on when a transaction goes through a foreign bank or involves a currency that needs to be converted. Charges vary between providers, but normally the fee is around 3% of the transaction total.

It doesn’t seem like much. A burger in Germany might go from $3.50 to $3.60 if your provider charges a 3% foreign transaction fee. But it can start to add up over extended vacations or study abroad programs, especially if you’re on a college student’s budget!

Can you avoid foreign transaction fees? <br> Fortunately, it’s getting easier to dodge foreign transaction fees. Some companies have totally eliminated the fees from their cards. Others have cut back on the number of cards that carry the fees. But the trend definitely seems to be that foreign transaction fees are on the way out.

Overall, a 3% charge while you’re abroad isn’t the end of the world. But if you’re planning a budget backpacking trip or trying to make ends meet as an exchange student, it’s probably worth looking into a card that won’t charge you extra!

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November 25, 2019

What to Do First If You Receive an Inheritance

What to Do First If You Receive an Inheritance

In many households, nearly every penny is already accounted for even before it’s earned.

The typical household budget that covers the cost of raising a family, making loan payments, and saving for retirement usually doesn’t leave much room for extra spending on daydream items. However, occasionally families may come into an inheritance, you might receive a big bonus at work, or benefit from some other sort of windfall.

If you ever inherit a chunk of money (or large asset) or receive a large payout, it may be tempting to splurge on that red convertible you’ve been drooling over or book that dream trip to Hawaii you’ve always wanted to take. Unfortunately for many, though, newly-found money has the potential to disappear quickly with nothing to show for it, if you don’t have a strategy in place to handle it.

If you do receive some sort of large bonus – congratulations! But take a deep breath and consider these situations first – before you call your travel agent.

Taxes or Other Expenses
If you get a large sum of money unexpectedly, the first thing you might want to do is pull out your bucket list and see what you can check off first. But before you start spending, the reality is you’ll need to put aside some money for taxes. You may want to check with an expert – an accountant or financial advisor may have some ideas on how to reduce your liability as well.

If you suddenly own a new house or car as part of an inheritance, one thing that you may not have considered is how much it will cost to hang on to them. If you want to keep them, you’ll need to cover maintenance, insurance, and you may even need to fulfill loan payments if they aren’t paid off yet.

Pay Down Debt
If you have any debt, you’d have a hard time finding a better place to put your money once you’ve set aside some for taxes or other expenses that might be involved. It may be helpful to target debt in this order:

  1. Credit card debt: These are often the highest interest rate debt and usually don’t have any tax benefit. Pay these off first.
  2. Personal loans: Pay these off next. You and your friend/family member will be glad you knocked these out!
  3. Auto loans: Interest rates on auto loans are lower than credit cards, but cars depreciate rapidly – very rapidly. If you can avoid it, you don’t want to pay interest on a rapidly depreciating asset. Pay off the car as quickly as possible.
  4. College loans: College loans often have tax-deductible interest but there is no physical asset you can convert to cash – there’s just the loan.
  5. Home loans: Most home loans are also tax-deductible. Since your home value is likely appreciating over time, you may be better off putting your money elsewhere rather than paying off the home loan early.

Fund Your Emergency Account
Before you buy that red convertible, put aside some money for a rainy day. This could be liquid funds – like a separate savings account.

Save for Retirement
Once the taxes are covered, you’ve paid down your debt, and funded your emergency account, now is the time to put some money away towards retirement. Work with your financial professional to help create the best strategy for you and your family.

Fund That College Fund
If you have kids and haven’t had a chance to save all you’d like towards their education, setting aside some money for this comes next. Again, your financial professional can recommend the best strategy for this scenario.

Treat Yourself
NOW you’re ready to go bury your toes in the sand and enjoy some new experiences! Maybe you and the family have always wanted to visit a themed resort park or vacation on a tropical island. If you’ve taken care of business responsibly with the items above and still have some cash left over – go ahead! Treat yourself!

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November 13, 2019

You Can’t Take It With You

You Can’t Take It With You

A LinkedIn study found that Millennials are likely to change jobs 4 times in their first 10 years out of college. That equates to landing a new job roughly every 2.5 years by age 32!

So if you’re feeling the itch to leave your current job and head out for a new adventure in the workforce, the experience you’ve gained along the way will go with you. You may have made some great business connections too, and gotten some fabulous on-the-job-training. All of these things will “travel well” to a new job.

But there’s one thing you can’t take with you: An employer-supplied life insurance policy. While the price is right at “free” for many of these policies, there are several drawbacks that may deter you from relying on them solely for coverage.

1. An employer-provided policy turns in its two weeks notice when you do. Since your employer owns the policy – not you – your coverage will end when you leave that job. And unless you’re walking right into another employment opportunity where you’re offered the same type and amount of coverage, you might experience gaps or a total loss of coverage in an area where you had it before. When you’re not depending on an employer to provide your only life insurance coverage, you can change jobs as often as you please without the worry of the rug being pulled out from under you.

2. The employer policy is touted as ‘one size fits most.’ But it’s not likely that a group policy offered through an employer will be tailored to you and your unique needs. There may be no room for you to chime in and request certain features or a rider you’re interested in. However, when you build your own policy around your individual needs, you can get the right coverage that suits who you are and where you’d like to go on your financial journey.

3. An employer policy may not offer enough to cover your family. What amount of coverage is your employer offering? When you’re first starting out in your career, a $50,000 or even a $25,000 employer-provided policy might sound like a lot. But how far would that benefit really go to protect your family, cover funeral costs, or help with daily expenses if something were to happen to you?

Whether or not your 5-year plan includes 5 different jobs (or 5 entirely unrelated career paths), with a well-tailored policy that you own independent of your employment situation – you have the potential for a little more freedom and security in your financial strategy. And you won’t be starting from square one just because you’re starting a new opportunity.

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