How to Have Your Dream Wedding Without Nightmare Spending

November 30, 2022

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Rich & Kristina Messenger

Rich & Kristina Messenger

Senior Vice President



McKinney, TX

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November 23, 2022

You're Not Too Young for Life Insurance

You're Not Too Young for Life Insurance

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

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

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

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

If you have dependents, life insurance is a must.

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

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

The older you get, the more life insurance costs.

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

Your employer-provided life insurance may be problematic.

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

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

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

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

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

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November 16, 2022

Should You Listen To Music While You Work?

Should You Listen To Music While You Work?

There are some workplace distractions that we all know torpedo our productivity.

We don’t need an article to tell us that social media and break room chatter hinder us from getting things done. But what about music? Afterall, that’s what we use to block out distractions and get in the zone. Do our favorite tunes actually make us productive or do they slow us down? It turns out that the answer to that question depends on why you listen, how easily you get bored, and what you’re playing.

The goal: avoid multitasking

The golden rule of music and productivity is that you must avoid multitasking at all costs. There’s no better way to hamstring your productivity, torpedo your IQ, and potentially damage your brain than by trying to divide your focus between two tasks.¹ So if you’re listening to music to drown out your talkative co-workers or that weird noise the AC makes, you’re on the right track. If you’re jamming out to tracks that make you think about highschool crushes and epic concerts, you might be doing yourself more harm than good.

Complexity and distraction

But it gets more complicated. Some people respond better to working while listening to music than others. A study discovered that boredom-prone individuals performed both simple and complex tasks better in silence, while the opposite was true for the less boredom-prone.² The researchers hypothesized that the jobs at hand were engaging enough to keep the easily bored occupied. The music was unnecessary external stimulation that dragged their attention away.

This means that there isn’t a one size fits all solution for using music for productivity. If you’re easily bored and distracted, you might want to avoid music while you work altogether. Noise cancelling headphones might come in handy, but be sure not to pump music through them. By contrast, more naturally focused individuals might find soft background music helps them zone out the noise and laser in on what they need to do.

What makes good focus music?

So let’s say you’re not distraction prone and you like working to some tunes. What music should you listen to? Despite what your uncle in the orchestra would have you believe, there isn’t a single best genre of music to stimulate your brain (sorry, Mozart). What you’re looking for is music with certain qualities.

First, find music that’s the right tempo. You’re shooting for around 60 beats per minute to minimize stress and promote focus. No dance music or break-neck metal! Second, avoid words. You’re probably listening to music in an attempt to cancel out conversation, not distract you with lyrics chock full of hidden meaning and symbolism that may catch your curiosity. Choose instrumental music over your favorite lyrical genius next time you need to work. A third option is to find something to listen to that’s not even music: nature sounds. Weirdly enough, trickling streams and the soft fall of rain are all random enough sounds that your brain doesn’t even bother with attempting pattern recognition. It’s a great way to mask office noise if music just isn’t working for you.

Ultimately, you’re looking for music (or nature sounds or white noise) that reduces diversions without becoming a diversion itself. Make this an opportunity to explore new kinds of music and try listening to them next time you need to focus on a project. And let me know if you find any hidden gems of slow classical music being performed in front of a gurgling mountain stream!

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¹ “Multitasking Damages Your Brain And Career, New Studies Suggest,” Travis Bradberry, Forbes, Oct 8, 2014, https://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2014/10/08/multitasking-damages-your-brain-and-career-new-studies-suggest/#22ceaf9956ee

² “Does Classical Music Help Our Productivity?,” Adi Gaskell, Forbes, Mar 11, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/adigaskell/2019/03/11/does-classical-music-help-our-productivity/#89f9fc411bba

November 2, 2022

Budget Like a Rock Star with Your First Job

Budget Like a Rock Star with Your First Job

Congratulations! Landing your first full-time job is exciting, especially if you’ve been dreaming of that moment throughout college.

Now you can loosen your belt a little and not spend so much brain power on creative ways to make ramen noodles. But before you go and start spending on the things you’ve had to skimp on in school, it’ll be worth it to take a breath, do some self-examination, and create a budget first.

This is probably the absolute best time in your life to start a habit of budgeting that will last you a lifetime – before life gets more complicated with a family, mortgage, etc. If you become a whiz at your personal financial strategy, tackling all the things that life will bring your way may (hopefully) go a lot smoother.

So here are a few tips on setting up your budget with your first job:

1. Think about why you want a budget

It may sound silly, but knowing why you’re putting yourself on a budget will help you stick to it when temptations to overspend flare up. Beginning a budget early in life when you start your first job will help lay the foundation for responsible financial management.

Think about your goals here. Having a budget will help you (when the time is right) to acquire things like a home, new car, or a family vacation to the islands. Budgeting can also help you enjoy more immediate wants, like a designer handbag or new flat screen TV.

2. Get familiar with your spending

You can’t create a budget without knowing your expenses. Take a good, hard look at not just your income but also your “outgo”. Include all your major expenses of course – rent, insurance, retirement savings, emergency funds. But don’t forget about miscellaneous expenses – even the small ones. That coffee on the way to work – it counts. So does the $3.99 booster pack in your favorite phone game.

Track your expenses over the course of a couple of weeks to a month. This will give you insight into your spending, so your budget is accurate.

3. Count your riches

Now that you have your first job, add up your income. This means the money you take home in your paycheck – not your salary before taxes. Income can also include earnings from side jobs, regular bonuses, or income investment. Whatever money you have coming in counts as income.

4. Set your budget goals

Give yourself permission to dream big here and own it! Set some financial goals for yourself – and make them specific and personal. For example, don’t make “save up for a house” your goal because it’s not specific or personal. Think about the details. What type of house do you want, and where? When do you see yourself purchasing it?

For example, your budget goal may look something like this: “Save $20,000 by the time I’m 27 for a down payment on an industrial loft downtown.“ A good budget goal includes an amount, a deadline, and a specific and detailed outcome.

5. Use a tracker

A budget tracker is simply a tool to create your budget and help you maintain it. It can be as simple as a pen and paper. A budget tracker can also be an elaborate spreadsheet, or you can use an online tool or application.

The best budget tracker is the one you’ll stick to, so don’t be afraid to try a few different methods. It may take some trial and error to find the one that’s right for you.

6. Put it to the test

Test your budget and tracking system to see if it’s working for you. Try to recognize where your pitfalls are and adjust to overcome them, but don’t give up! It’s something your future self will thank you for.

7. Stick to it

Creating a budget that works is a process. Take your time and think it through. You’re probably going to need to tweak it along the way. It’s ok!

The best way to think about a budget is as an ongoing part of your life. Make it your own so that it works for your needs. And as you change – like when you get that promotion – your budget can change with you.

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October 19, 2022

Retirement planning tips you can use right now

Retirement planning tips you can use right now

The sooner you start planning for retirement, the better off you’re going to be.

That’s hard to argue with. But no matter where you are on your retirement planning journey, there are always great financial planning steps you can take to help you get and stay on the road to a happy retirement.

Time is money

When it comes to retirement savings, the old expression, “Time is Money” means more than ever. It makes sense that the sooner you start saving, the more you’ll have when your retirement comes. But there’s a phenomenon you can take advantage of that can help your money grow while you’re saving.

It’s called compound interest. This is basically earning interest on the interest. This is how it works: Your principal investment earns interest. The following year, your principal plus last year’s interest earns interest. You could stuff the same amount of cash under your mattress – and you might be able to store away a hefty sum over the years that way – but with compound interest, your money can “grow”. Taking advantage of compound interest can be one of the best ways to build your retirement savings.

Starting to save in your 20s and 30s: Set yourself up

If you’re in your 20s or 30s and you’re already thinking about retirement – give yourself a pat on the back. This is the best time to begin planning for your golden years. At this age, a retirement strategy is probably going to be the most flexible, and it’s more likely that your retirement dream can become a reality.

One of the best tools to take advantage of during this time is an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan. Make sure you’re taking full advantage of it. There are two major benefits:

  1. Time: Remember compound interest? The more you invest now in a retirement savings plan, the more you’ll have come retirement time.
  2. Company match: This is the money your employer puts in your 401(k) plan for you. Most employers will match your contributions up to a certain percentage. It’s like free money. Be sure you don’t leave it on the table.

Starting in middle age: Maximize your retirement savings

If you’re in your middle years, you still have some advantages when it comes to a retirement strategy. First, retirement should feel a little less like a fantasy and more like reality at this age – it’s not too far beyond the horizon! Use this reality check as motivation to start some serious planning and saving.

Second, your earnings may be higher on the career curve than they were when you were just starting out. If so, this is a great time to go all out with your savings plan. Try these tips for starters:

  1. Consider an IRA: An IRA can function as a savings tool when you’ve maxed out your 401(k). The savings are pre-tax as well.
  2. Professional financial planning: If you’re having a hard time getting your head around retirement planning, seek financial planning expertise. A financial professional can help make sense of your particular retirement picture. This way you can better identify needs and create strategies to fill them.

Your 50s and 60s: Getting real about retirement income

This is the age when retirement planning gets real. You’re thinking may now shift from savings to distributions. The question that arises is how you’ll replace that paycheck you’ve been earning with another source of income, if you’re not willing or able to work beyond a certain age.

  1. Social security benefits: You become eligible to tap into your social security benefits at 60. You can collect full benefits at around 65, but if you wait until you’re 70, you’ll get the largest possible payout from social security.
  2. Distributions: When you’re 59 ½ you can take distributions from your retirement accounts without a penalty. But keep in mind those distributions may count as taxable income.

A good retirement favors the prepared

No matter where you are on the road to retirement, wise financial planning is the key to a happy and healthy retirement. Start today!

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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. Market performance is based on many factors and cannot be predicted. Before investing or enacting a retirement strategy, seek the advice of a financial professional, accountant, and/or tax expert to discuss your options.

August 24, 2022

The Power of Reading

The Power of Reading

Reading regularly is one of the most important disciplines you can have in life.

Practically, it’s almost impossible to function in the modern world without being able to read. But there’s a far deeper benefit to regular reading. Just ask Bill Gates—he reads 50 books per year! Why? Because “You don’t really start getting old until you stop learning… Reading fuels a sense of curiosity about the world, which I think helped drive me forward in my career.”¹

That’s high praise! Let’s explore the benefits of consistent, disciplined reading.

First, reading is quite literally good for your brain.

Studies have demonstrated that even reading fiction strengthens brain connections, reduces your risk for mental ailments like depression, and brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.² So if you want your brain to thrive, grab a book, even if it’s a light-hearted novel, and start reading!

Second, reading can improve your quality of life.

As mentioned earlier, reading can combat mental health issues like depression. But studies seem to suggest that reading fiction can also improve qualities like empathy.³ After all, novels can offer explorations of the human experience. Reading about how others feel and live, even if they’re invented, can broaden your emotional horizons and encourage you to reflect on your own feelings. It also exposes you to new information and new ideas that can enrich your perspective. It’s an introduction to a virtually limitless world of knowledge and experiences.

The takeaway?

Make a habit out of reading! There’s no shame in what you read, whether it’s a fantasy series, a Jane Austen novel, or philosophy essay! Start a book club with some friends and discuss what you read. You may be surprised by the benefits you experience.

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¹ “Bill Gates Discusses His Lifelong Love for Books and Reading,” Claire Howorth and Samuel P. Jacobs, Time, May 22, 2017, https://time.com/4786837/bill-gates-books-reading/

² “Benefits of Reading Books: How It Can Positively Affect Your Life,” Rebecca Joy Stanborough, MFA, Healthline, Oct. 15, 2019, https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-reading-books

³ “How Reading Fiction Increases Empathy And Encourages Understanding,” Megan Schmidt, Discover Magazine, Aug 28, 2020, https://www.discovermagazine.com/mind/how-reading-fiction-increases-empathy-and-encourages-understanding

August 15, 2022

5 Challenges for Entrepreneurs

5 Challenges for Entrepreneurs

Starting a business can be an exhilarating experience.

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

The first thing to consider? Startup cost.

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

The second thing to consider is competition.

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

The third thing to consider is customer acquisition.

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

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

The fourth consideration should be building product inventory.

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

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

Finally, think about compliance with legal standards.

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

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

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August 10, 2022

Four Types of Self-Made Millionaires

Four Types of Self-Made Millionaires

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

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

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

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

Here are the four types of self-made millionaires…

Saver-Investors

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

Company Climbers

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

Virtuosos

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

Dreamers

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

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

Income is of the essence

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

Save, no matter what

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

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

What type of self-millionaire could you become?

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

August 8, 2022

Moves to Make Before Maxing Your 401(k)

Moves to Make Before Maxing Your 401(k)

Maxing out your 401(k) is boilerplate financial advice.

That’s because so few Americans are on track to retire with wealth—as of 2017, workers age 55-64 had saved only $107,000 for retirement.¹

With such bleak numbers, it’s no wonder financial professionals encourage 401(k) maxing. When possible, it’s a simple strategy that can help you reach your retirement goals and avoid a post-career catastrophe.

But consider this—the 401(k) contribution maximum as of 2022 is $20,500. For a single professional making over $100,000, that’s no big deal.

But what if you earn $60,000? Or have a family? Or have medical bills?

Suddenly, $20,500 seems like a much larger pill to swallow!

The simple fact is that saving shouldn’t be your first financial priority.

Before you save, you should create an emergency fund with 3-6 months worth of expenses.

Before you save, you should secure financial protection for your income in the form of life insurance.

Before you save, you should eliminate your debt to maximize your saving power.

Even then, you may not have the financial firepower to max out your 401(k) and make ends meet. It may take a side hustle to supplement your incomes to increase your contribution ability.

A helpful rule of thumb is to at least match your employer’s contribution. It’s a simple way to get the most out of your 401(k) without overextending your finances.

And above all, consult with a financial professional. They can help evaluate your retirement goals, your cash flow, and steps you can take to make the most of your 401(k).

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¹ “Jaw-Dropping Stats About the State of Retirement in America,” Jordan Rosenfeld, GOBankingRates, May 13, 2022, https://www.gobankingrates.com/retirement/planning/jaw-dropping-stats-state-retirement-america/#:~:text=According%20to%20a%20TransAmerica%20Center,saving%20 for%20 retirement%20is%2027.

June 6, 2022

Retiring in a Bear Market

Retiring in a Bear Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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January 26, 2022

Lessons You'll Learn on the Journey to Financial Freedom

Lessons You'll Learn on the Journey to Financial Freedom

Financial freedom is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Instead, think of it as a journey with things to experience and lessons to learn along the way.

If you’ve embarked on the adventure of building wealth, here are 8 lessons about yourself and the world you can learn.

1. Money isn’t everything, but it makes things easier.

The first lesson you’ll learn on your journey to financial freedom? There’s more to life than money. There are people you care about. Hobbies that inspire you. Conversations that restore and heal you. Causes that matter. Without those, life is empty.

But you’ll also learn that money can make life easier.

It allows you to enjoy those things, to take care of yourself and your family, and to do something that has a bigger impact than what you might otherwise be able to do.

2. No one ever regrets saving for retirement.

“I should have saved less for retirement and spent more on clothes.” —No one

3. You can’t spend your way to happiness.

You’ll learn that there’s no amount of spending that can solve your problems. Instead of shopping sprees and new toys, you’ll come to prize experiences and memories above all else.

4. If there’s anything you want in life, you’ll need to work for it.

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If you want to build wealth and live a life you can be proud of, it’s up to you. There is no magic secret, no get-rich-quick scheme. And with that comes self-satisfaction and humility. If you have something, you’ve earned it. If it was given to you, it came from someone else who earned it.

5. Debt free doesn’t mean rich—just debt free!

Debt freedom is a critical step. But it’s not the destination.

Once you’ve eliminated debt, celebrate it. But this is no time to pause. It’s time to devote your resources to building wealth.

6. A job or career should never define you.

You are not your job. At minimum, your job is a tool to support your family. At best, your career is an avenue to express your talents and passions. But either way, your job should be aligned to, and subordinate to, your ultimate values.

7. Excuses and denials will destroy your dreams and freedom.

You’re going to be tempted. Whether it’s an expensive new toy, a nicer car you can’t really afford, or just another latte at Starbucks, the siren song of “I deserve this” can be loud. So can the “safety” of not being yourself or doing things just to impress others.

But no matter what, when you hear these things in your head, it’s time to pause. Is this really what I want? What am I trying to accomplish? What are my values? Those are your guides to financial freedom and happiness.

8. You’re far more powerful than you think.

As you progress in your journey to financial freedom, the hope is that you’ll wake up one day and notice that things are better. You’re less stressed. Your house feels more in order. You’re actually getting somewhere. And you’ll realize that you did that. Your good decisions and discipline is what got you here.

You can do things you never thought possible. You’re far more powerful than you think.

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November 15, 2021

Now Is The Time to Consider Life Insurance

Now Is The Time to Consider Life Insurance

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

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

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

So, read on for a little illumination about why you are not too young for life insurance. If you have dependents, life insurance is a must.

Take a moment and think about who depends on you and your income for their well-being. You may be surprised.

Most of us think immediately of children, but dependents can include your parents, siblings, a relative with a disability, or even a significant other. A solid life insurance policy can protect the people that count on you.

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

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

Your employer-provided life insurance may be problematic. Getting life insurance through your employer is a great benefit (you should take advantage of it if it’s free).

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

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

You’re never too young to think about your legacy. It’s not too soon to think about this. Did you know a life insurance policy can provide a lump sum to an organization you select, not just to a family member or other beneficiary? A life insurance policy can allow you to leave a meaningful legacy for the people or causes you care about. When it comes to buying life insurance, generally the younger you are when you start your policy, the better off you’re going to be.

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October 20, 2021

Key Financial Ingredients for the Sandwich Generation

Key Financial Ingredients for the Sandwich Generation

Ever heard of the “Sandwich Generation”?

Unfortunately, it’s not a group of financially secure, middle-aged foodies whose most important mission is hanging out in the kitchens of their paid-off homes, brainstorming ideas about how to make the perfect sandwich. The Sandwich Generation refers to adults who find themselves in the position of financially supporting their grown children and their own parents, all while trying to save for their futures. They’re “sandwiched” between caring for both the older generation and the younger generation.

Can you relate to this? Do you feel like a PB&J that was forgotten at the bottom of a 2nd grader’s backpack?

If you feel like a sandwich, here are 3 tips to help put a wrap on that:

1. Have a plan. In an airplane, the flight attendants instruct us to put on our own oxygen mask before helping someone else put on theirs – this means before anyone, even your children or your elderly parents. Put your own mask on first. This practice is designed to help keep you and everyone else safe. Imagine if half the plane passed out from lack of oxygen because everyone neglected themselves while trying to help other people. When it comes to potentially having to support your kids and your parents, a solid financial plan that includes life insurance and contributing to a retirement fund will help you get your own affairs in order first, so that you can help care for your loved ones next.

2. Increase your income. For that sandwich, does it feel like there’s never enough mayonnaise? You’re always trying to scrape that last little bit from the jar. Increasing your income would help stock your pantry (figuratively, and also literally) with an extra jar or two. Options for a 2nd career are everywhere, and many entrepreneurial opportunities let you set your own hours and pace. Working part-time as your own boss while helping get out of the proverbial panini press? Go for it!

3. Start dreaming again. You may have been in survival mode for so long that you’ve forgotten you once had dreams. What would you love to do for yourself or your family when you have the time and money? Take that vacation to Europe? Build that addition on the house? Own that luxury car you’ve always wanted? Maybe you’d like to have enough leftover to help others achieve their own dreams.

It’s never too late to get the ball rolling on any of these steps. When you’re ready, feel free to give me a call. We can work together to quickly prioritize how you can start feeling less like baloney and more like a Monte Cristo.

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August 18, 2021

The Non-Financial Investment That Can Dictate Your Success

The Non-Financial Investment That Can Dictate Your Success

Some factors that influence your success are out of your control.

You can’t change your height or birthday or birth order or a dozen tiny variables which can all impact your success.¹

But there’s one factor that radically impacts your financial and personal success that you can control. And it impacts everyone, regardless of their background or income…

That’s right. Relationships are critical predictors of your life success in every category.

A Harvard study followed hundreds of students and inner-city boys from the 1930s to the present. The emotional, financial, and physical well-being of the subjects were regularly examined for almost 80 years.

The results were stunning…

Loneliness was as deadly as smoking and drinking Stable relationships protect from memory loss² Men with warm relationships earned $150,000 annually on average than men without³

The takeaway is clear. The healthier your relationships, the greater your potential for achieving success.

Practically, that has implications…

1. Prioritize your family over your career. Don’t think that you’re doing your family and finances a favor by working long and stressful hours. Invest in the ones you love, and you might be surprised by the long-term career benefits.

2. Examine roadblocks to creating healthy relationships. High-quality friendships and marriages don’t fall into your lap. If you have a track record of complicated and dramatic relationships, seek to understand the cause. You may need to enlist the help of a mental health professional. It’s well worth the investment!

3. Seek mentors. They’re a source of perspective, encouragement, and can help to overcome your weaknesses. And unlike friends (who might be less objective), mentors can be completely devoted to helping you meet your goals.

Relationships aren’t always easy. Like your career, they require mindfulness, intention, and effort to succeed. But they’re well worth the time, attention, and sacrifice.

If you haven’t recently, take stock of your life satisfaction and relationship quality. Then, talk with a loved one or friend about steps you can take to make improvements going forward. It might just change your life.

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¹ “26 surprising things that can make you successful,” Shana Lebowitz and Rachel Gillett, Business Insider, Jul 20, 2018, https://www.businessinsider.com/surprising-things-that-affect-success-2017-1

² “Good genes are nice, but joy is better,” Liz Mineo, The Harvard Gazzette, Apr 11, 2017, https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life/

³ “Love and Money: The Surprising Wealth Predictor,” Partners 4 Prosperity, Nov 17, 2017, https://partners4prosperity.com/love-and-money/

April 14, 2021

The Time Value of Money and College

The Time Value of Money and College

College is one of the most expensive things that you can spend your money on, but it might not always be a good investment.

College graduates make much more than high school graduates over their lifetimes.¹ Some people think this means going to college is worth the cost because they’ll be able to pay off the loans with their higher salaries after graduation. But as you’ll see in this article, there’s another critical factor you should consider before going off to school.

Which career path will empower you to start saving sooner? The longer your money can accrue compound interest, the more it can grow. Working an extra four years instead of attending school could result in retiring with more. Let’s consider two hypotheticals that illustrate this point…

Let’s say you land a job straight out of high school at age 18 earning $35,000 total annual salary. You’re able to save 15% of your income in an account where the interest is compounded monthly at 9%. Assuming you work until 67, or 49 years, and consistently save the same amount each month over that time period at the same interest rate, you would retire with almost $4 million!

What if instead you attend college and graduate after 4 years? You land a job that pays $60,000 annually and are able to save 15% of your income. If you also retire at 67 after 45 years of work, saving 15% every month, you’ll retire with $4.7 million. That’s almost $700,000 more than the non-graduate!

But what if student loans prevent you from saving for 5 years after graduation? You’d retire with $3 million. In this hypothetical scenario, losing 9 years of saving results in a college graduate actually retiring with less than someone who diligently works and saves right out of high school.

The takeaway isn’t that you shouldn’t attend college. It’s that you should carefully weigh the costs of higher education. Is there a career path you could take right out of high school that would have you saving right away? Will your degree land you deep in debt and behind the 8-ball for building wealth? Or do the benefits of the degree substantially outweigh the costs? Don’t attend a college just because it’s what your peers are doing. Consider your passions, weigh the benefits, and calculate the costs before you make your decision!

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. Market performance is based on many factors and cannot be predicted. Any examples used in this article are hypothetical. Before investing, enacting a savings or retirement strategy, or taking on any loans or debt, seek the advice of a licensed and qualified financial professional, accountant, and/or tax expert to discuss your options.

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“The College Payoff,” Georgetown University, https://cew.georgetown.edu/cew-reports/the-college-payoff/

January 13, 2021

Is the RV Life Right For You?

Is the RV Life Right For You?

2020 was the year of the RV.

You might have noticed as you scrolled through social media that more of your friends, family, and maybe even your in-laws are moving out of their homes and living on the open road. Don’t believe it? Search #vanlife on Instagram and see what comes up!

It’s not hard to see why. The RV lifestyle pairs material minimalism with adventure. The possessions and mortgage payments that can weigh you down are replaced by bare essentials and the open road.

People crave freedom. A bigger house and lots of toys can’t promise happiness. If you’re a born adventurer, exploring the country in an RV might be the opportunity for escape that you’ve been waiting for.

But it’s not a decision to be made lightly. RVs cost anywhere between $60,000 and $600,000.¹ Beyond that, you’ll have to buy gas, food, and pay for vehicle maintenance. Unless you have a job that allows you to work remotely, you’ll need to save diligently in order to afford life on the road.

That fact has made the RV lifestyle an attractive retirement choice. It’s increasingly common for retirees to sell their homes and use the proceeds to buy a van or RV.

So if you are an adventurer, love freedom, and have the career or savings to afford it, life on the road might be the choice for you!

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¹ “Is an RV the Perfect Retirement Lifestyle for You?,” Margo Armstrong, The Balance, July 21, 2020, https://www.thebalance.com/retire-in-an-rv-2388787

January 6, 2021

Bridging the Retirement Gap

Bridging the Retirement Gap

If you’re already eyeing the perfect recliner for your retirement, hold that thought. And you might want to start rifling through the ol’ couch cushions for a little extra change…

Here’s a doozy: women age 65 and older are 80% more likely to be impoverished than men of the same age.¹

That number represents a staggering degree of human tragedy. But there’s a sad logic to it when you consider that women save 43% less for retirement than their male counterparts.¹

But that’s not all. According to the 2016 Financial Finesse Gender Gap in Financial Wellness Report, to retire at age 65 (without a career break):

  • Men need $1,559,480.
  • Women need $1,717,779.

Women have to come up with $158,299 more! This increase is due to the unique set of circumstances women face while preparing for retirement:

  • Women live longer
  • Women pay more for healthcare

To summarize, women all too often aren’t in a position to save as much as men, even though they need more to sustain their retirements. The tragic result is that many spend their retirements in poverty instead of living out their dreams.

But that doesn’t have to be your story. The savings gap may seem huge, but it can be bridged. And it all starts with a solid insurance strategy. Just think of it as pulling the footrest lever on your dream retirement recliner!

Your unique situation and goals all factor into how you want to kick back when you retire. I’m here to help. When you have a moment, give me a call or shoot me an email.

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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.

October 19, 2020

When Education Isn't Worth It

When Education Isn't Worth It

After room and board, a degree from a private university costs $46,950 per year.¹

A public university charges less than half that, with an annual price tag of $20,770.² That’s over double what it was in 1980 after adjusting for inflation.³ Why the sharp increase? Part of the answer is that demand has skyrocketed over the past 40 years. An information age requires knowledgeable, highly-skilled workers, and getting a degree is the traditional way of meeting those criteria. Rising demand has occurred alongside a steady decline in state funding for public education. One report found that 79% of tuition increases stemmed from such cuts.⁴

But there’s always been an assumption, despite the ballooning costs of higher education, that attending university would be worth it. Afterall, graduates almost always earn more than their peers.⁵ It’s an investment in a future income, right?

The diminishing returns of a degree <br> But that old model is simplistic at best. College simply doesn’t pay off for some graduates. Data demonstrates that the lowest earning college grads actually earn less than their highschool educated counterparts. ⁶ They actually lost income by going to university! It makes sense when you do the math. Going into crippling debt to get a speech and drama degree only earns you about $28,300 after graduation. ⁷ And the huge supply of highly-educated workers has put pressure on once prosperous careers. For example, more people graduate from expensive law schools in the United States than there are job openings for attorneys. ⁸ Sure, there’s 6-figure potential there if you can land a job, but you’re competing with dozens of other qualified prospects. It’s easy to see why people have become so cynical about higher education.

Simple solutions? <br> Overall, there are certainly times when a college degree is not worth the time and treasure. Spending 12 years at a private institution to get a doctorate in an obscure field with low pay and a brutal job market? There are probably more profitable ways to spend your time. But overall, there are numerous degrees that may still pay off; the average Bachelor’s degree is worth around $2.8 million over a lifetime. ⁹ But you must plan strategically. It all comes down to how you reduce the cost of your education and maximize your upside potential post-graduation.

Narrow your search to only include public schools in your state. Do as much research on scholarships and apply for as many as possible. Live with your parents to cut down on room and board costs. Take a gap year of work between your bachelors and masters degree. And do some research on job opportunities in the field before you get a diploma. You might decide that going into debt to become a petroleum engineer is a better investment than signing your life away to the humanities!

If you’re a parent, start planning your child’s higher education today. That will involve choosing the right schools and encouraging them to work hard and love learning. But you must also provide them with a steady financial foundation to pursue their dreams. Helping them get a degree debt-free might empower them to study their passions instead of chasing paychecks to fight off loans. There are financial products on the market designed to help you save for your child’s future, no matter what level of education they decide to pursue. Let’s schedule a time to meet and we can discuss your options in detail!

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¹ Hillary Hoffower, “College is more expensive than it’s ever been, and the 5 reasons why suggest it’s only going to get worse,” Business Insider, JunE 26, 2019, https://www.businessinsider.com/why-is-college-so-expensive-2018-4

² Hoffower, “College is more expensive than it’s ever been,” Business Insider

³ Hoffower, “College is more expensive than it’s ever been,” Business Insider

⁴ Abigail Hess, “The cost of college increased by more than 25% in the last 10 years—here’s why,” CNBC, Dec 13 2019, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/13/cost-of-college-increased-by-more-than-25percent-in-the-last-10-years.html

⁵ Anthony P. Carnevale, Ban Cheah, Andrew R. Hanson, “The Economic Value Of College Majors: Executive Summary,” Georgetown University Center On Education And The Workforce, 2015, https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/Exec-Summary-web-B.pdf

⁶ Emma Kerr, “Is College Worth the Cost?,” U.S. News & World Report, June 17, 2019, https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/2019-06-17/is-college-worth-the-cost

⁷ Alison Doyle, “Average College Graduate Salaries: Expectations vs. Reality,” The Balance, June 6, 2020, https://www.thebalance.com/college-graduate-salaries-expectations-vs-reality-4142305

⁸ “Occupational Outlook Handbook, Lawyers” Bureau Of Labor Statistics, Sept 1, 2020 https://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/lawyers.htm#tab-6

⁹ Anthony P. Carnevale, Stephen J. Rose and Ban Cheah, “The College Payoff: Education, Occupations, Lifetime Earnings” Georgetown University Center On Education And The Workforce, 2011, https://cew.georgetown.edu/cew-reports/the-college-payoff/

March 30, 2020

A Quick Guide to Influencers

A Quick Guide to Influencers

We all know the word influencer.

It probably conjures images of attractive young people setting weird trends on the internet that, let’s face it, don’t make a lot of sense. But the world of influencers, especially in social media, is more than fun and games. Huge amounts of money can be involved and fortunes get made almost overnight. This is a quick guide to the wild world of internet influencers.

What’s an influencer? <br> An influencer is technically anyone with the power to affect purchasing decisions. It’s a really broad net that includes old-school movie stars and musicians. But lately it’s used in a more specific way to refer to social media stars.

Social media is relatively new. Platforms started off with content from normal viewers. For instance, the first YouTube video is from 2005, only 19 seconds long, and is about elephants at a zoo (1). Some content hit it big back then and went viral, but there still wasn’t a way of using those 15 minutes of online fame to start a real career.

That started to change. People started following specific content makers, and certain personalities built huge followings. Some YouTube channels started getting more weekly views than television shows!

With those huge followings came the potential to advertise. Soon, social media icons started getting paid to promote products. Brands could get attention from a huge audience in key demographics just from an Instagram post or shoutout during a YouTube video.

Why they matter so much <br> But there’s more to social media marketing than audience size. What makes social media influencers so powerful is that they feel like someone you know. They give their followers a window into their thoughts, routines, and lives. A suggestion from them feels like advice from a friend.

This isn’t to say that social media influencers accurately present their lives to the world. Plenty of publicity stunts and carefully manicured public images exist online. What matters is that the interactions between influencer and follower feel personal and genuine. And there’s potentially a gold mine to be found in that appearance of authenticity if companies look to you for a recommendation.

Audience size is less important than you might think <br> Interestingly, this means that having a small audience doesn’t necessarily hamper an influencer’s impact. Having a social media personality who focuses on a highly specific field promoting your product to a few hundred followers can make a big difference. It’s more likely for those potential customers to feel like they’ve had a personal recommendation than they would after viewing a TV ad or even an online ad, thus increasing brand loyalty.

Influencers have become a key building block in any modern marketing strategy. They’re a perfect combination of accessibility and credibility that can hold the attention of a key demographic or get your name on the radar for millions of followers.

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