6 Viable Passive Income Sources

July 26, 2021

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Luis Puente

Luis Puente

Financial Education

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Farmers Branch, TX 75234

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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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May 12, 2021

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 <br> 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 <br> 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 <br> 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 <br> 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 <br> 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

April 12, 2021

Home Buying for Couples: A Starter Guide

Home Buying for Couples: A Starter Guide

Buying your first home is an exciting, yet daunting process.

You and your significant other already have a lot on your plate in planning this huge purchase—from deciding how much house you need to fitting it all into a budget. Read on for some tips that will help ease the process of buying a house as well as help you save money in the long run!

Evaluate your financial situation before you start house hunting. It’s important to know what kind of mortgage payment is feasible for the income in a household. You’ll also have to contend with hidden housing costs like property taxes, renovations, and repairs. Calculate your total income, and then subtract your current expenses. That’s how much you have at your disposal to handle the costs of homeownership.

Improve your credit score. If you’re a first-time homebuyer, your credit score is important—it can profoundly affect your ability to get approved for loans and mortgages! The higher that number goes up, the easier it may become to get approval from lenders. You can help yourself out by paying off any outstanding debt balances such as student loan payments, medical bills, and credit card debt before going house hunting.

Start saving for a downpayment. As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to put down at least 20% of the home’s purchase price. This can take years, especially if your budget is tight! However, it’s well worth it—you may avoid the hassle of paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), which can substantially add to your monthly housing payments. A sizeable downpayment can also lower your interest rate and reduce the size of your loan.¹

Decide how much house you need. This is a tough question to answer, but it’s crucial that both partners are united on this front. Otherwise, one partner might feel like a house doesn’t meet their needs. Sit down with your partner and discuss what exactly you desire out of your home. How many bedrooms will you need? Do you want a big yard or a small one? How close to work do you want to live? Hammer out the important details of what you want in a home before the shopping begins!

Decide on your budget. Knowing how much you can afford before shopping for a home will help narrow down the options. Typically, housing costs should account for no more than 30% of your budget. That includes your mortgage payment, repairs, HOA fees, and renovations. Spending more than 30% can endanger your financial wellness if your income ever decreases.

Buying a home can be an exciting time for couples. But it’s important to take the necessary steps before you start house hunting. Remember, you want your new home to be a source of joy, not financial stress! Do your homework, talk with your partner, and start saving!

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“Do you need to put 20 percent down on a house?,” Michele Lerner, HSH, Sep 2, 2018, https://www.hsh.com/first-time-homebuyer/down-payment-size.html

March 31, 2021

Leadership: 4 Ways to Inspire and Engage

Leadership: 4 Ways to Inspire and Engage

Leaders are often the ones who both create and maintain a positive work environment.

But that’s far easier said than done. It can feel like the success of your entire team falls squarely on your shoulders. That can create stress. Lots of it. And that can make it difficult to create a positive atmosphere in your workspace.

But there are some simple practices that can help foster a healthy and happy work environment. Here are a few!

Be an active listener. Don’t just hear what someone says. Focus, engage, and show interest in what is being said while asking questions. Showing that you’re listening will make others feel better about themselves and force you to take more seriously what they’re saying. It helps you get to know people on a deeper level—you’ll know exactly how best to talk with someone during your next interaction!

Ask your team for input. Your team is made up of people with many backgrounds and ideas. That’s why you need to make it a practice to ask your teammates or friends for input when coming up with a new idea. You won’t just discover possibilities that you had never thought of—workers will feel like they’re truly integrated into the team when you get their perspectives.

Give credit where it’s due. When you see an employee doing a great job, speak up! Recognize their work and let them know they’re appreciated. It will inspire the team and motivate your employees to keep striving for excellence.

Be mindful of your mood. Mindfulness is a difficult skill to master—but it can yield big results! Being aware of how you are feeling and being present in the moment is always beneficial. This one may not be easy, but with practice, mindfulness can help you respond wisely to difficult situations when they arise. Instead of getting lost in emotion-driven reactions, try monitoring your mental state and notice when you’re feeling tense—this will empower you to take productive action instead of giving way to more stress. It’s a critical ability that all leaders should invest in!

These tips aren’t just for CEOs or managers. Anyone can develop these skills and start to make their work environment a more positive place. They might be the edge you need to make difference in your company and stand out from the crowd.

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March 24, 2021

Tips For Saving Money At The Grocery Store

Tips For Saving Money At The Grocery Store

Every penny counts, especially when you’re trying to balance your monthly budget.

But unless you plan ahead and only buy things you need, it’s easy to overspend at the grocery store. If you keep these tips in mind when you’re shopping, you can save money without sacrificing quality.

Bring a list of what you need to buy. Why? Because a list keeps you on task. You’ll be far less likely to wander the store, spying things you don’t need and snapping them up, if you go with a clear plan of what you need to buy. Make a list, check it twice, and shop with a purpose!

Buy in bulk when it makes sense for your family size and lifestyle. If you have a big family, buying in bulk can save you big money, especially if items are on sale! But don’t just buy anything that seems like a good deal—only buy what your family will consume, and be sure to store it properly. That means non-perishable food items, hygiene and cleaning products, and home supplies.

Compare the unit price. A low sticker price doesn’t always indicate it’s the best buy. Always check the unit price to maximize your savings. The cheaper it is per ounce, pound, or unit, the better bargain it probably will be!

Use coupons and sales flyers when available. It’s simple—just download your favorite store’s app and look for the savings or coupon page. All you have to do is tap the items that you want to save on. Then, just scan your phone when you check out and watch the savings!

Rack up loyalty points when possible. Afterall, why shouldn’t you be rewarded for your usual shopping? Just scan your card every time you shop, and eventually you can earn free or discounted items. However, be careful that you don’t increase your spending to maximize your rewards!

Why not try one of these tips for just a month and see how much you save? It’s a worthwhile experiment that may result in a substantial boost in your cash flow. Let me know how it goes!

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March 10, 2021

How to Reduce Debt

How to Reduce Debt

Paying off debt can be a great feeling.

The burden is lifted and you have more control over your financial situation. If you’re like many, however, paying down debt hasn’t been an easy task due to high interest rates and the sheer size of what you owe. Many people find themselves in situations where they feel helpless. But following some tips from this article can show you a path towards financial health!

Start by making a budget. Write down your income on a piece of paper or spreadsheet. Then, calculate how much you spend, on average, every month. If you can, categorize all of your expenses in order of amount spent. Be sure to also rank your debts from highest to lowest interest rate!

Then, subtract your expenses from your income. The result is how much cash flow you have available to attack your debt.

But before you start chipping away at what you owe, devote your cash flow to building an emergency fund. Why? Because it will provide a cash reserve to pay for unexpected expenses that you might otherwise cover with more debt!

Then, focus all your financial resources on your highest interest loan. Make minimum payments on all your debts until that top priority debt is eliminated. Next, move on to the next debt. Rinse and repeat until you’re debt free.

Track your spending and cut back where possible. When you budget, you might find that you have almost no cash flow. If that’s the case, you’ll need to reduce your spending. Start by cutting back on categories like clothes shopping and dining out.

Above all, be consistent! Reducing debt is no easy task but it’s doable. Cutting back on your spending and consistently budgeting may not be easy in the short-term, but the sense of relief that comes with being debt free is well worth the effort.

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March 3, 2021

Tips to Combat Burnout

Tips to Combat Burnout

Does work have you down? Do you feel so constantly overwhelmed by deadlines or conflict that you’ve started to emotionally withdraw?

Then you might be facing burnout. It’s a condition that results in uncertainty and stress in a work environment or position. All of that pressure can result in excessive cynicism, poor performance, and a lack of energy.

If any of those sound like you or a loved one, read on for some simple tips and strategies that can help combat burnout.

Seek support and help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by workplace stress, let someone know! Talking to someone about your feelings is always a wise move. Your friends and colleagues may be more likely to respond with trust and support than you anticipate. Consider also meeting with a qualified mental health professional to better understand your burnout and learn healthy coping mechanisms.

Exercise. If you’re physically able, schedule a daily or weekly workout into your regular routine. Why? Because there’s no simpler way to combat burnout than regular exercise. It’s been proven to combat anxiety, alleviate depression, and increase positive emotions.¹

Don’t be too hard on yourself at first—it may be challenging to motivate yourself if you’re combatting intense burnout. But try an exercise routine for a few weeks and then see how you feel. You may be surprised by the difference it makes!

Make a change. What’s something that causes you consistent stress that you can handle differently? If you’re burned out, it’s a serious indication that something must change. Simply “trying harder” or “toughening up” may lead to more frustration and emotional withdrawal.

Be honest with yourself. Are there changes you need to make in your mindset or do you need to seek a new job? What can you do differently when faced with chaos or urgent deadlines? Don’t settle for making the same mistake over and over. Identify a cause of stress, and tackle it from a new angle!

As said earlier, don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you’re facing serious burnout symptoms. These tips may help you combat burnout. But if they aren’t enough, working with a mental health expert may be what you need to recover and find peace of mind.

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¹ “Exercise for Mental Health,” Ashish Sharma, M.D., Vishal Madaan, M.D., and Frederick D. Petty, M.D., Ph.D., Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2006, 3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/#:~:text=Exercise%20improves%20mental%20health%20by,self%2Desteem%20and%20cognitive%20function.&text=Exercise%20has%20also%20been%20found,self%2Desteem%20and%20social%20withdrawal.

February 8, 2021

3 Steps to Reduce Debt with Limited Income

3 Steps to Reduce Debt with Limited Income

Is your income holding you back from paying down debt?

It may feel like necessities such as housing, groceries, and transportation are consuming your cash flow. So how can you pay down debt if you feel like you’re struggling to put food on the table?

Reducing debt with a limited income is certainly a challenge. But if you know the right strategies, it’s an obstacle that you can work to overcome. Read on for tips that can help you pay down debt, regardless of how much you earn.

Budget debt payments first. The next time you sit down to budget, start by allocating money for reducing your debt. It should be your number one priority. Then, budget for essential living expenses like housing, utilities, and groceries. If you need more cash flow, cut down on non-essential spending like dining out and purchasing new clothes.

Start a side gig. If cutting expenses alone doesn’t free up enough cash, explore ways to make more money. That doesn’t always mean starting a second job—after all, this is the golden age of side gigs! Here are just a few hustle ideas for your consideration…

■ Resell books, clothes, and shoes you might pick up from the thrift store on eBay ■ Rideshare or deliver groceries and food ■ House sit, baby sit, or pet sit for friends and neighbors

Ultimately, your ability to earn income is only limited by your creativity in solving problems. What other opportunities are there for you to help others and earn extra income?

Make more than minimum payments. Your debt will linger if you make only minimum payments. That’s because minimum payments are nearly erased by interest. You make a payment, but the interest may put you almost right back where you started.

Instead, choose one debt to eliminate at a time. You should start with the one with the smallest total balance or the highest interest rate. Keep making the minimum payments on your other debts, and target that one debt with the rest of your available financial resources. Once it’s gone, choose the next smallest balance. Rinse and repeat until your debts are gone.

The biggest takeaway is that if you’re working with a limited income, paying off debt has to become your number one financial goal. Devote as much of your budget towards it as possible and increase your earnings if you have to. But it’s well worth the effort—once your debt is gone, you’ll have significantly more income for building real wealth!

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December 28, 2020

More financial tips for the new year

More financial tips for the new year

There’s nothing like the start of a brand new year to put you in a resolution-making, goal-setting, slate-cleaning kind of mood.

Along with your commitment to eat less sugar and exercise a little more, carve out some time to set a few financial aspirations for the new year. Here are some quick tips that may add up to significant benefits for you and your family.

Check your credit report
Start the new year with a copy of your credit report. Every consumer is entitled to one free credit report per year. Make it a point to get yours. Your credit report determines your credit score, so an improved score may help you get a better interest rate on an auto loan or a better plan for utilities or your phone.

Check your credit report carefully for accuracy. If you find anything that shouldn’t be there, you can file a dispute to have it removed. There are several sites where you can get your free credit report – just don’t get duped into paying for it.

Up your 401(k) contributions
The start of a new year is a great time to review your retirement strategy and up your 401(k) contributions. If saving for retirement is on your radar right now – as it should be – see if it works in your budget to increase your 401(k) contribution a few percentage points.

Review your health insurance policy
The open enrollment period for your health insurance may occur later in the year, so make a note on your calendar now to explore your health insurance options beforehand. If you have employer-sponsored health insurance, they should give you information about your plan choices as the renewal approaches. If you provide your own health insurance, you may need to talk to your representative or the health insurance company directly to assess your coverage and check how you might be able to save with a different plan.

Make sure your coverage is serving you well. If you have a high deductible plan, see if you can set up a health savings account. An HSA will allow you to put aside pretax earnings for covered health care costs throughout the year.

No spend days
Consider implementing “no spend days” into your year. Select one day per month (or two if you’re brave) and make it a no spend day. This only works well if you make it non-negotiable! A no spend day means no spur of the moment happy hours, going out to lunch, or engaging in so-called retail therapy.

A no spend day may help you save a little money, but the real gift is what you may learn about your spending habits.

Do some financial goal setting
Whether we really stick to them or not, many of us might be pretty good at setting career goals, family goals, and health and fitness goals. But when it comes to formulating financial goals, some of us might not be so great at that. Still, financial goal setting is essential, because just like anything else, you can’t get there if you’re not sure where you’re going.

Start your financial goal setting by knowing where you want to go. Have some debt you want to pay off? Looking to own a home? Want to retire in the next ten years? Those are great financial goals, but you’ll need a solid strategy to get there.

If you’re having trouble creating a financial strategy, consider working with a qualified financial professional. They can help you draw your financial roadmap.

Clean out your financial closet
Financial tools like budgets, savings strategies, and household expenses need to be revisited. Think of your finances like a closet that should be cleaned out at least once a year. Open it up and take everything out, get rid of what’s no longer serving you, and organize what’s left.

Review your household budget
Take a good look at your household budget. Remember, a budget should be updated as your life changes, so the beginning of a new year is an excellent time to review it. Don’t have a budget? An excellent goal would be to create one! A budget is one of the most useful financial tools available. It’s like an x-ray that reveals your income and spending habits so you can see and track changes over time.

Make this year your financial year
A new year is a great time to do a little financial soul searching. Freshen up your finances, revisit your financial strategies, and greet the new year on solid financial footing.

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This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to promote any certain products, plans, or strategies for saving and/or investing that may be available to you. Before investing or enacting a savings or retirement strategy, seek the advice of a financial professional, accountant, health insurance representative, and/or tax expert to discuss your options.

December 16, 2020

Save Money This Holiday Season

Save Money This Holiday Season

Have you ever looked at your wish list and thought you heard a muffled scream coming from your wallet?

Inevitably, someone you love will wish for a $1,000 t-shirt or a chocolate fountain. And because you love them, you might go with it. But when December 26th rolls around and the ripped up wrapping paper settles, your wallet might feel a little battered and bruised!

The holidays don’t have to derail your financial future. Here are some straightforward tips that will help keep you on track during your annual shopping spree.

Establish a holiday budget <br> Entering a department store without a cap on how much you’re willing to spend is like walking into a bakery when you’re on a diet. Could you resist picking up a dozen donuts “for the family” or a couple of fresh baked loaves of bread “to make sandwiches later”?

A gift list and realistic budget can cut through the feverish fog of free-for-all shopping and impulse buys. They help you focus as you navigate aisle upon aisle of half-off sales and shiny things you don’t really need but feel like you do.

A budget can also help curtail extravagant gift requests. Telling someone that you want to buy them a gift that’s under $50 can hedge against extravagant designer clothes or the latest technological gadget.

Use cash! <br> Part of the power of cash is that it works in tandem with your budget. Walking into a store with no cards and just $50 limits your spending and forces you to buy only what you intended.

Cash also reduces your reliance on credit. Unleashing your cards to cover Christmas shopping is an easy way to enter the New Year with extra debt. Plus, the interest payments can add up and make your holiday shopping even more expensive in the long run. Stick with cash and save yourself the headache!

Play Secret Santa <br> Secret Santa has long been a staple of huge families that don’t have the time or money to get gifts for two parents, nine siblings, the in-laws, and all the cousins, nieces, and nephews. Everyone still gets a gift or two, but it helps the whole family out on their holiday budgets. Here’s how it works!

Have everyone write their names on scraps of paper. Include some highly specific gift ideas with the names. Then, put all the paper into a hat and shake it up. Have the secret Santas choose names from the hat one at a time. You get to buy gifts for ONLY the person you select!

What’s great about Secret Santa is that the mystery of the game offsets the expectation of getting tons of presents. It’s a fun way to save some extra cash!

So let chance decide who’s been naughty and nice, make a budget and list and check them twice, remember that some cash will suffice, and do some holiday shopping that won’t make you think twice (about derailing your financial dreams)!

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November 30, 2020

4 Insights Into Paying Off Debt

4 Insights Into Paying Off Debt

On paper, paying off debt seems simple. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.

In fact, it can get downright discouraging if you don’t see any progress on your balances, especially if you feel like your finances are already stretched.

Fortunately, there are ways to take your debt escape plan to the next level. Here are a few insightful tips for anyone who feels like their wheels are spinning.

You must create a plan <br> Planning is one of the most important steps towards eliminating debt. Studies show that creating detailed plans increases our follow-through.¹ It also frees up our mental resources to focus on other pressing issues.²

Those are essential components of overcoming debt. A plan helps you stick to your guns when you’re tempted to make an impulse buy on your credit card or consider taking that last-minute weekend trip. And tackling problems that have nothing to do with debt can be a breath of fresh air for your mental health.

You have to stop borrowing <br> Seems obvious, right? But it might be easier said than done. Credit cards can seem like a convenient way to cover emergency expenses if you’re strapped for cash. Plus, spending money can feel therapeutic. Kicking the habit of borrowing to buy can be hard!

That’s why it’s so important to fortify your financial house with an emergency fund before you start eliminating debt. Save up enough money to cover 3 months of expenses. Then quit borrowing cold turkey. You should always have enough cash in reserve to cover car repairs and doctor visits without using your credit card.

Your lifestyle has to change <br> But, as mentioned before, debt can embed itself into lifestyles. You can’t get rid of debt without cutting back on spending, and you can’t cut back on spending without transforming your lifestyle.

When you’re making your escape plan, identify your highest spending categories. How important are they to your quality of life? Some of them might be essential. But you may realize that others exist just out of habit. Be willing to sacrifice some of your favorite activities, at least until you’re debt free.

You can still do the things you want <br> This does NOT mean that you have to be miserable. You can still enjoy a vacation, buy an awesome gadget, or treat your partner to a romantic dinner. You just have to prepare for those events differently.

Create a “fun fund” that you contribute money to every month. Budget a specific amount to put in it and dedicate it to a specific item. This allows you to have some fun every now and then without derailing your journey to financial freedom.

Debt doesn’t have to be overwhelming. These insights can help you stay the course as you eliminate debt from your financial house and start pursuing your dreams. Let me know if you’re interested in learning more about debt-destroying strategies!

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¹ “Making the Best Laid Plans Better: How Plan-Making Prompts Increase Follow-Through,” Todd Rogers, Katherine L. Milkman, Leslie K. John and Michael I. Norton, Behavioral Science and Policy, 2016, https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/todd_rogers/files/making_0.pdf

² “The Power of a Plan,” Timothy A Pychyl Ph.D., Psychology Today, Nov 17, 2011, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/dont-delay/201111/the-power-plan

October 12, 2020

Who Can Be My Life Insurance Beneficiary?

Who Can Be My Life Insurance Beneficiary?

Do you have a recipient in mind for the proceeds of your life insurance policy?

Many people have someone in mind before they purchase their policy. This person or entity can be named as your beneficiary. Naming your life insurance beneficiary helps to ensure that the party you choose gets the proceeds of your life insurance policy, even if your will leaves your estate to someone else. If you’ve decided that you want to provide for a special person or organization through your life insurance policy, it’s important that the beneficiary section will do what you expect.

Here are some simple tips that can help point you in the right direction:

Choosing Your Life Insurance Beneficiary
Who you name as your beneficiary is a deeply personal decision, and there’s no right or wrong answer. Here are some areas to consider:

  • Family: Spouses, children, siblings, and parents are all very common choices as life insurance beneficiaries. However, children under the age of 18 are a special case. Life insurance companies won’t pay a death benefit to a minor, so you may want to choose a responsible adult whom you trust with the welfare of your child.
  • Legal guardian: If your life insurance policy does name a minor as your beneficiary, your insurer may require that you designate a legal guardian.
  • Business / Key Person Life Insurance: In business partnerships, other partners can be a named beneficiary. Businesses also sometimes insure the life of a key employee with the business as the beneficiary.
  • Friends, etc: You can also name a friend as a beneficiary – assuming your friend isn’t a minor.

Note: Contrary to popular belief, you can’t name a pet as your beneficiary — but you can name someone you’d trust to care for your pet. (Sorry, Fluffy.)

Multiple Beneficiaries and Contingent Beneficiaries
You can name multiple beneficiaries for your life insurance policy, but when doing this, it’s better to use percentages rather than fixed dollar amounts. For permanent life insurance policies, like whole life insurance and universal life insurance, the death benefit payout amount can change over time, making percentages a better strategy for multiple beneficiaries.

You can also name contingent beneficiaries. Think of a contingent beneficiary as a back-up beneficiary. In the event that your primary beneficiary passes before you do (or at the same time), the proceeds of your policy would then go to the contingent beneficiary.

Final Thoughts
Avoid using general designations, such as “spouse” or “children” as your beneficiary. Spouses can change, as divorce statistics remind us, and you never know which long-lost “children” might appear if there’s a chance of a payday from your life insurance policy. In the very best case, general designations will cause delays in payment to your intended beneficiaries.

Choosing a life insurance beneficiary isn’t necessarily complicated, but there’s some room for error in certain situations. While the decision is always yours to make, it’s best to discuss your options with your financial professional to help make sure the settlement goes smoothly and your wishes are honored.

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October 7, 2020

How To Talk To Your Spouse About Money

How To Talk To Your Spouse About Money

Family finances isn’t always a fun topic.

But getting in the habit of discussing money early on in your relationship may help pave the way for a smoother future. Whether or not you see eye to eye, learning each other’s spending habits and budgeting styles can help avoid any financial obstacles in the future. Below are some tips on getting started!

Talk about money regularly <br> One of the best ways to approach a conversation about money is to decide in advance when you’re going to have it, rather than springing it on your spouse out of the blue. Family budgeting means making the time to talk upfront and staying transparent about it on a consistent basis. If you and your spouse choose to set a monthly or annual budget, commit to sitting down and reviewing family expenses at the end of each month to see what worked and what didn’t.

Start a budget <br> It’s easy to feel overwhelmed if you don’t have a family budget and don’t know where to start. However, with the development of mobile applications and online banking, you can now more easily track your spending habits to find ways to cut unnecessary expenses. For example, if you see that you’re going out to dinner most nights, you can try replacing one or two of those evenings out with a home cooked meal. Small changes to your routine can make saving easier than you might have thought!

Remember your budgeting goals <br> Budgeting comes down to a simple question—how will these money decisions affect the happiness of my family? For example, you might need to ask yourself if taking an awesome vacation to your favorite theme park will give your family more happiness than fixing your minivan from 2005. Can’t do both? You aren’t necessarily forgoing the vacation to fix your car; instead, you might need to invest in your car now rather than potentially letting a problem worsen. You might then decide to rework your budget to set aside more money every month to take the trip next year.

The key is that talking to your spouse about money may actually become more about talking to them about your goals and family. When you put it that way, it may be a much more productive and rewarding conversation!

Even if you haven’t discussed these things before you walked down the aisle, it’s never too late to sit down with your spouse. This topic will continue over time, so talking about your financials with your partner as you approach new milestones and experience different life events as a family can help you financially prepare for the future.

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August 17, 2020

Dig yourself out of debt

Dig yourself out of debt

I hate to break it to you, but no matter what generation you are – Baby Boomer, Generation X, or Millennial – you’re probably in debt.

If you’re not – good on you! Keep doing what you’re doing.

But if you are in debt, you’re not alone. A study[i] by the financial organization, Comet, found:

  • 80.9 percent of Baby Boomers are in debt
  • 79.9 percent of Generation X is in debt
  • 81.5 percent of Millennials are in debt

There are some folks whose goal is to eliminate all debt – and if that’s yours, great! But one thing to keep in mind while you’re working towards that finish line is that not all debt is created equal. Carrying a mortgage, for example, may be considered a “healthy” debt. Student loan debt may feel like an encumbrance, but hopefully, your education has given you more earning power in the workforce. A car loan may even be considered a healthy debt. So, there are some types of debt that may offer you advantages.

Any credit card debt you have, however, should be dealt with asap. Credit card debt can cost money every month in the form of interest, and it gives you nothing in return – no equity, no education, no increase in earning potential. It’s like throwing money down the drain.

So, let’s get to work and look at some of the best tips for paying down credit card debt.

1. Get to know your debt
Make a commitment to be honest with yourself. If you’re in denial, it’s going to be hard to make positive changes. So take a good, hard look at your debt. Examine your credit card statements and note balances, interest rates, minimum monthly payment amounts, and due dates. Once you have this information down in black and white you can start to create a repayment strategy.

2. Get motivated
Taking on your debt isn’t easy. Most of us would rather not confront it. We may make half-hearted attempts to pay it off but never truly get anywhere. Need a little motivation? Getting rid of your credit card debt may make you happier. The Comet study asked respondents to rate their happiness on a scale of one to seven.[ii] It turns out that those who selected the lowest rating also carried the highest amounts of credit card debt. Want to be happier? It seems like paying off your credit card debt may help!

3. Develop your strategy
There are many strategies for paying off your credit card debt. Once you understand all your debt and have found your motivation, it’s time to pick a strategy. There are two main strategies for debt repayment. One focuses on knocking out the highest interest debt first, and the other method begins with tackling the smallest principal balances first. Here’s how they work:

  • Start with the highest interest rate: One of the items you should have noted when you did your debt overview is the interest rate for each account. With this method, you’ll throw the largest payment you can at your highest interest rate debt every month, while paying the minimum payments on your other debts. Utilizing this method may help you pay less interest over time.

  • Start with the smallest balance: As opposed to comparing interest rates, this method requires you to look at your balances. With this strategy, you’ll begin paying the smallest balance off first. Continue to make the minimum payments on your other accounts and put as much money as you can towards the smallest balance. Once you have that one paid off, combine the amount you were paying on that balance with the minimum you were paying on your next smallest balance, and so on. This strategy can help keep you motivated and encouraged since you should start to see some results right away.

Either strategy can work well. Pick the one that seems best for you, execute, and most importantly – don’t give up!

4. Live by a budget
As you begin chipping away at your credit card debt, it’s important to watch your spending. If you continue to charge purchases, you won’t see the progress you’re making, so watch your spending closely. If you don’t have a budget already, now would be a good time to create one.

5. Think extra payments
Once you are committed to paying off your debt and have developed your strategy, keep it top of mind. Make it your number one financial priority. So when you come across “found” money – like work bonuses or gifts – see it as an opportunity to make an extra credit card payment. The more of those little extra payments you make, the better. Make them while the cash is in hand, so you aren’t tempted to spend it on something else.

6. Celebrate your victories
Living on a budget and paying off debt can feel tedious. Paying off debt takes time. Don’t forget to take pride in what you’re trying to accomplish. Celebrate your milestones. Do something special when you get that first small balance paid off, but try to make the occasion free or at least cheap! The point is to reward yourself for your hard financial work. (Hint: Try putting up a chart or calendar in your kitchen and marking off your progress as you go!)

Reward yourself with a debt-free life Getting out of debt is a great reward in and of itself. It takes discipline, persistence, and patience, but it can be done. Come to terms with your debt, formulate a strategy, and stick to it. Your financial future will thank you!

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July 29, 2020

Tips For Working At Home

Tips For Working At Home

You’ve most likely become a work-at-home pro over the last few months.

At this point you’re probably perfectly comfortable with your routine and feel like you’re highly productive!

But you also might need a refresher on some working at home basics. Even at the office—where you’re more likely to be held accountable—it’s easy to slide into bad habits. Here’s a quick rundown of some tips to help you get back in your groove!

Start strong <br> Sleeping in is almost always a temptation. Crawling out of bed, hitting the snooze button until it breaks, and rushing out the door just feel like a routine to many of us! Working from home can compound this. Suddenly, you have the luxury of peacefully sleeping until 8:55am, making some tasteless instant coffee, and booting up your laptop in your PJs right before your 9 o’clock video call. Sounds like the life, right?

But this ritual of jumping right from your mattress to your dining room table/temporary desk can have serious drawbacks. Staring at a computer screen while barely keeping your eyelids open is an incredibly uninspiring way to start a day. It’s much better to do things that help you wake up and get your mind focused. Make breakfast! Go for a walk! Meditate! Use that time you would normally spend looking at brake lights for something productive.

Make a workspace <br> Homes are (hopefully) relaxing. They’re where we go at the end of a long, stressful day to binge watch shows, eat delicious food, and spend time with our families and friends. Those associations can make working from home tricky. You might notice that the temptations to watch TV, talk to a roommate, or reorganize your kitchen for the 100th time are interfering with your job performance.

The solution to this problem is to create a workspace in your home that is dedicated to being productive. Remind your family that you love them, but that you’ll need some space when you’re in your home office. Move TVs and other distractions out and create a place where you can focus. And it’s probably wise to avoid setting yourself up in your bedroom unless absolutely necessary!

Always communicate <br> One of the biggest downsides of working at home is that it can strain communication with your coworkers. On one hand, that’s probably not awful. Less chatter with your office buddies about the latest reality TV show might be a welcome productivity booster! But collaborating with your team, getting approvals from bosses, and receiving feedback are essential parts of getting projects done and growing your skillset.

So don’t go off the grid. Stay in touch with your colleagues. Ask your boss for feedback. Get advice from your mentors. Staying vocal keeps work moving forward, it keeps you socialized and feeling accomplished, and it reminds the higher-ups that you still exist!

Whether you’ve finally decided to upgrade your work-at-home game or you just needed a reminder, try out these tips and let me know how it goes!

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June 24, 2020

Read this before you walk down the aisle

Read this before you walk down the aisle

Don’t let financial trouble ruin your future wedded bliss.

Most newlyweds have a lot to get used to. You may be living together for the first time, spending a lot of time with your new in-laws, and dealing with dual finances. Financial troubles can plague even the most compatible pairs, so read on for some tips on how to get your newlywed finances off to the best possible start.

Talk it out If you haven’t done this already, the time is ripe for a heart to heart talk about what your financial picture is going to look like. This is the time to lay it all out. Not only should you and your fiancé discuss your upcoming combined financial situation, but it can be beneficial to take a deep dive into your past too. Our financial histories and backgrounds can influence current spending and saving habits. Take some time to get to know one another’s history and perspective when it comes to how they think about money, debt, budgeting, etc.

Newlyweds need a budget Everyone needs a budget, but a budget can be particularly helpful for newlyweds. A reasonable, working household budget can go a long way in helping ease financial stress and overcoming challenges. Money differences can be a big cause of marital strife, but a solid, mutually-agreed-upon budget can help avoid potential arguments. A budget will help you manage student loans or new household expenses that must be dealt with. Come up with a budget together and make sure it’s something you both can stick with.

Create financial goals Financial goal setting can actually be fun. True, some goals may not seem all that exciting – like paying off credit cards or student loans. But formulating financial goals is important.

Financial goal setting should start with a conversation with your new fiancé. This is the time to think about your future as a married couple and work out a financial strategy to help make your financial dreams a reality. For example, if you want to buy a house, you’ll need to prepare for that. A good start is to minimize debt and start saving for a down payment.

Maybe you two want to start a business. In that case, your financial goals may include raising capital, establishing business credit, or qualifying for a small business loan.

Face your debt head on It’s not unusual for individuals to start married life facing new debt that came along with their partner – possibly student loans or personal credit card debt. You may also have combined debt if you’re planning on financing your wedding. Maybe you’re going to take your dream honeymoon and put it on a credit card.

Create a strategy to pay off your debt and stick to it. There are two common ways to tackle it – begin with the highest interest rate debt, or begin with the smallest balance. There are many good strategies – the key is to develop one and put it into action.

Invest for the future Part of your financial strategy should include preparing for retirement, even though it might seem light years away now. Make sure you work a retirement strategy into your other financial goals. Take advantage of employer-sponsored retirement accounts and earmark savings for retirement.

Purchase life insurance Life insurance is essential to help ensure your new spouse will be taken care of should you die prematurely. Even though many married couples today are dual earners, there is still a need for life insurance. Ask yourself if your new spouse could afford to pay their living expenses if something happened to you. Consider purchasing a life insurance policy to help cover things like funeral costs, medical expenses, or replacement income for your spouse.

Newlywed finances can be fun Newlywed life is fun and exciting, and finances can be too. Talk deeply and often about finances with your fiancé. Share your dreams and goals so you can create financial habits together that will help you realize them. Here’s to you and many years of wedded bliss!

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April 29, 2020

Budget Date Ideas

Budget Date Ideas

Budgeting might seem like the death knell for your dating life.

No more extravagant dinners? No more fun times at the movies? No more nights out on the town? How else can you keep that spark alive? But sometimes adding constrictions to your dating life can be a fun change of pace and actually spice things up. Here are some great budget-friendly date ideas.

Cook dinner together <br> An expensive dinner in a nice part of town is always a killer date idea. But it can start to add up if you’re not careful. That’s why cooking a special dinner at home as a couple is a great alternative. You save money on ingredients, you get real portion sizes that will last you for days, and it’s a fun activity that takes teamwork. Not a chef by nature? YouTube will be your best friend. There are tons of great recipe walkthroughs that will help you two knock this one out of the park!

Go on a hike <br> You should never tell your partner to take a hike. But you should definitely ask your partner to go on a hike! There’s nothing much better than some physical exertion in the great outdoors with someone you care about. Just remember that this one can add up if you’re not careful. Here are some pointers to make your hike a thrifty winner:

-Drive your most fuel efficient car

-Avoid cutesy stops full of expensive trinkets

-Research and see if the trail you’re hiking charges for parking

-Pack as much food as possible

Follow these tips and you might be surprised how inexpensive a trek can be!

Watch a sunset <br> Sunsets are incredible. There’s no reason that you and your significant other shouldn’t be sitting outside to take in the everyday beauty of the sun slipping behind the horizon. Any sunset is good, but here are a few steps you can take to find the absolute best sunset for your dollar!

-Choose the right day. The best sunsets typically occur a few hours after rain while there’s still a bit of cloud coverage. Too many clouds hide the sun, but just a few will catch the final light of the day. Check your forecast ahead of time!

-Choose the right location. You don’t have to go far to find the perfect sunset viewing spot. Watching the last beams of the sun shine through skyscrapers? Amazing. Hitting up a small, local airport to watch planes at twilight? Gorgeous. Bathing in the light of golden hour on your front porch with your gal (or guy) beside you? One for the books.

-Pack a picnic. Wherever you decide to watch the sunset with your partner, just remember to pack some food. It’s a great alternative to an atmospheric (and expensive) restaurant!

Creativity is key. The more inventive your budget date ideas are, the more memorable they’ll be. You might find yourself looking back on your budget dating years as some of the best and most exciting of your relationship!

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March 25, 2020

Morning Routines Of Winners

Morning Routines Of Winners

Mornings are rough.

Waking up from sweet sleep to a blaring alarm is never fun, especially if you’re dreading the day ahead. But there’s a better way to approach those opening hours. Here are some tips for getting a step ahead in the morning and building momentum to carry you through the day.

Wake up early <br> Waking up early is easier said than done. The snooze button is all too enticing when we’ve stayed up the night before and want “just ten more minutes” of peaceful sleep. But it’s also the enemy of having productive mornings. Resetting your sleep schedule and waking up (and actually getting out of bed) earlier means that you have more time for yourself every day. You start off in total control of how you spend your time instead of scurrying around trying to get ready for work. It’s not easy, but an investment in your morning is one of the best decisions you can make!

Eat breakfast <br> Starting off your morning with a healthy breakfast gives you the energy you need to rev up. It fuels your body and brain to make the most of those early hours. Who wants to wake up at the crack of dawn and try to get stuff done only to be starving the whole time?

Plan out your day <br> Mapping out your day has a few benefits. Structure is almost always a good thing. Being able to clearly see what needs to be done and when can help you prioritize and make sure things don’t slip through the cracks. But seeing a problem on paper sometimes takes the dread out of it and makes it more mentally manageable. That’s sometimes all you need to get out there and conquer a problem.

Just remember that it takes time to reset your sleep schedule. Make sure that you avoid screens before bedtime, hit the hay early, and avoid caffeine late in the day. Start moving your alarm earlier every week and be patient! Apply some of these tips and you’ll be going on the offensive every morning in no time.

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March 11, 2020

3 Tricks to Boost Your Confidence

3 Tricks to Boost Your Confidence

Confidence is an essential life skill.

It empowers you to put yourself out there, take necessary risks, and inspire others to meet their full potential. But many of us face hesitation about how much we can accomplish. Much of the time, our confidence gets outvoted by our doubt and we take the path of least resistance. Here are a few ways to start developing your self confidence and tip the scale in favor of boldness instead of apprehension.

Expand your horizons <br> Challenging yourself is the foundation of confidence. It’s not easy. Embracing uncomfortable situations and pushing yourself to the outer limits of your abilities can be intimidating. But it’s also essential for building your confidence. Proving to yourself that you can do difficult things and overcome challenges changes the way you perceive yourself. You stop seeing impossible odds and start realizing that you’re a lot tougher than you might have thought. Obstacles get replaced by opportunities.

Start with little challenges and work your way up. Achieving those little victories is the spark that will jumpstart your journey towards greater self-confidence!

Exercise <br> Working out is good for you, plain and simple. But exercise doesn’t just improve your physical health; it does wonders for your self-image and mental health. It can reduce stress and anxiety, unleash positive chemicals in your brain, and increase feelings of self-worth (1). Plus, seeing positive changes in your physical appearance can be one of the biggest confidence boosters around!

Your appearance <br> Along the same lines, changing up your wardrobe a little and trying something new is an easy way of boosting your confidence. Looking in the mirror and seeing shabby hair and a faded t-shirt covering a slouching body is hardly inspiring for you or anyone else. Upping your fashion game, trying out a new style, and improving your posture are simple ways to help boost your confidence. A compliment about how you’re dressed can do wonders for your mood. That’s not to say that you should obsess over your looks and spiral out if you spot a pimple, but switching up your look can sometimes give you the self-image surge you need to make big plays!

You can’t fake confidence. People can see through chest puffing and bravado. True confidence takes time to cultivate. But these simple tips are great starting points as you strive for self-assurance. Just remember that there’s nothing wrong with starting small and building towards bigger goals at your own pace, whether that’s at work or in the gym.

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March 9, 2020

Public Speaking Tips

Public Speaking Tips

Fear of public speaking is common and can be intense.

Some surveys have even suggested that we’re more scared of it than dying (1)! But giving a presentation or leading or speaking up at a meeting doesn’t have to be scary. Here are a few tips that will take your public speaking game to the next level.

Prepare and practice <br> Preparation is key for successful public speaking. That means doing thorough research beforehand on your presentation topic. Keep your speech simple and create a solid outline. That might mean you write everything down word for word or you keep a few bullet points handy. Just make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to say and at what point in your talk you’re going to say it. Once you’ve gotten the content of your speech sorted, start practicing it. Test run it on your spouse, your dog, or even in the mirror. This will give you an idea of which ideas or phrases are working, if your outline flows, and if you have any nervous ticks you need to address!

It’s also helpful to visit the venue before presenting if possible. Get to know the room you’ll be speaking in and what kind of setup you’ll need. It’s also a chance to rehearse in the actual place you’ll be speaking, which can be a big confidence booster!

But even a researched and practiced speech can fail if you don’t connect with your audience. Doing those things can help you feel more sure of yourself, but they’re not enough on their own to sway a crowd. How you talk and your body language are just as important as your prep work.

Speak slowly and build suspense <br> Fast talkers can be overwhelming in any situation. Blasting through your speech can sometimes indicate excitement, but more often it makes it hard to keep up with, which may create confusion and irritation. Plus, it could be a sign that you’re nervous and jittery, which can be distracting for audience members. Try slowing down when you’re speaking to a crowd. It gives listeners time to digest everything you’re saying and communicates confidence. You can bring your speed down even more for important points. It’s a way to help your audience focus on what you’re saying and hang on every word!

Eye contact <br> Let’s face it. Eye contact can be weird. Unflinching and unbroken eye contact is enough to make any of us uncomfortable. But eye contact in moderation can establish trust and show that we’re actually listening. As a speaker, it helps build a connection between you and your audience, helping them be more receptive to what you’re saying. Don’t go on stage and look at your shoes or just scan back and forth through the crowd. Choose one person at a time and establish eye contact with them for a few seconds while you speak and then move on. It’s an easy way of letting a listener know you’re talking to them specifically! Just don’t stare at one person in the crowd. The victim of your ocular assault will feel uncomfortable and the rest of your audience will feel ignored, weirded out, or, most likely, a combination of both.

There’s a reason public speaking is scary. We’re social animals, and the potential of humiliating ourselves in front of a crowd goes against everything we’re hardwired to do. But there’s no better way of overcoming fear than with preparation and then confronting it. Try these tips out the next time you’re nervous about giving a presentation or leading a meeting. You might be surprised how far they go in making your next speech one to remember—in a good way!

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