Travel Insurance: The Complete Guide

November 22, 2021

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Sarah Belalia

Sarah Belalia

VP of Sales - Life Insurance and Retirement Strategies



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November 22, 2021

Travel Insurance: The Complete Guide

Travel Insurance: The Complete Guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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November 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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November 8, 2021

Playing the Lottery is Still a Bad Idea

Playing the Lottery is Still a Bad Idea

A full third of Americans believe that winning the lottery is the only way they can retire.¹

What? Playing a game of chance is the only way they can retire? Do you ever wonder if winning a game – where your odds are 1 in 175,000,000 – is the only way you’ll get to make Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops your everyday uniform?

Do you feel like you might be gambling with your retirement?

If you do, that’s not a good sign. But believing you may need to win the lottery to retire is somewhat understandable when the financial struggle facing a majority of North Americans is considered: 77% of millennials are living paycheck-to-paycheck, as are nearly 40% of Americans earning over $100,000.²

When you’re in a financial hole, saving for your future may feel like a gamble in the present. But believing that “it’s impossible to save for retirement” is just one of many bad money ideas floating around. Following are a few other common ones. Do any of these feel true to you?

Bad Idea #1: I shouldn’t save for retirement until I’m debt free.
False! Even as you’re working to get out from under debt, it’s important to continue saving for your retirement. Time is going to be one of the most important factors when it comes to your money and your retirement, which leads right into the next Bad Idea…

Bad Idea #2: It’s fine to wait until you’re older to save.
The truth is, the earlier you start saving, the better. Even 10 years can make a huge difference. In this hypothetical scenario, let’s see what happens with two 55-year-old friends, Baxter and Will.

  • Baxter started saving when he was 25. Over the next 10 years, Baxter put away $3,000 a year for a total of $30,000 in an account with an 8% rate of return. He stopped contributing but let it keep growing for the next 20 years.
  • Will started saving 10 years later at age 35. Will also put away $3,000 a year into an account with an 8% rate of return, but he contributed for 20 years (for a total of $60,000).

Even though Will put away twice as much as Baxter, he wasn’t able to enjoy the same account growth:

  • Baxter would achieve account growth to $218,769.
  • Will’s account growth would only be to $148,269 at the same rate of return.

Is that a little mind-bending? Do we need to check our math? (We always do.) Here’s why Baxter ended up with more in the long run: Even though he set aside less than Will did, Baxter’s money had more time to compound than Will’s, which, as you can see, really added up over the additional time. So what did Will get out of this? Unfortunately, he discovered the high cost of waiting.

Keep in mind: All figures are for illustrative purposes only and do not reflect an actual investment in any product. Additionally, they do not reflect the performance risks, taxes, expenses, or charges associated with any actual investment, which would lower performance. This illustration is not an indication or guarantee of future performance. Contributions are made at the end of the period. Total accumulation figures are rounded to the nearest dollar.

Bad Idea #3: I don’t need life insurance.
Negative! Financing a well-tailored life insurance policy is an important part of your financial strategy. Insurance benefits can cover final expenses and loss of income for your loved ones.

Bad Idea #4: I don’t need an emergency fund.
Yes, you do! An emergency fund is necessary now and after you retire. Unexpected costs have the potential to cut into retirement funds and derail savings strategies in a big way, and after you’ve given your last two-weeks-notice ever, the cost of new tires or patching a hole in the roof might become harder to cover without a little financial cushion.

Are you taking a gamble on your retirement with any of these bad ideas?

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¹ “What Are the Odds of Winning the Lottery?” Kimberly Amadeo, The Balance, Oct 24, 2021, https://www.thebalance.com/what-are-the-odds-of-winning-the-lottery-3306232

² “Nearly 40 Percent of Americans with Annual Incomes over $100,000 Live Paycheck-to-Paycheck,” PR Newswire, Jun 15, 2021 https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/nearly-40-percent-of-americans-with-annual-incomes-over-100-000-live-paycheck-to-paycheck-301312281.html

November 3, 2021

Should You Buy a Budget Car?

Should You Buy a Budget Car?

Buying a car can be pricey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 1, 2021

Now's The Time for Future Financial Planning

Now's The Time for Future Financial Planning

What happened to the days of the $10 lawn mowing job or the $7-an-hour babysitting gig every Saturday night?

Not a penny withheld. No taxes to file. No stress about saving a million dollars for retirement. As a kid, doing household chores or helping out friends and neighbors for a little spending money is extremely different from the adult reality of giving money to both the state and federal government and/or retiring. Years ago, did those concepts feel so far away that they might as well have been camped out on Easter Island?

What happened to the carefree attitude surrounding our finances? It’s simple: we got older. As the years go by, finances can get more complicated. Knowing where your money is going and whether or not it’s working for you when it gets there is a question that’s better asked sooner rather than later.

When author of Financially Fearless Alexa von Tobel was asked what she wishes she’d known about money in her 20s, her answer was pretty interesting:

Not having a financial plan is a plan — just a really bad one! Given what I see as a general lack of personal-finance education, it can be all too easy to wing it with your money… I was lucky enough to learn this lesson while still in my 20s, so I had time to put a financial plan into place for myself.

A strategy for your money is essential, starting early is better, and talking to a financial professional is a solid way to get going. No message in a bottle sent from a more-prepared version of yourself is going to drift your way from Easter Island, chock-full of all the answers about your money. But sitting down with me is a great place to start. Contact me anytime.

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October 27, 2021

Mental Health And Money

Mental Health And Money

There is a deep yet often unconsidered connection between mental health and money.

The data is clear as day. The Money and Mental Health Institute discovered that…

  • 46% of people__ with debt have a diagnosed mental health condition
  • 86% of people with__ mental health issues and debt say that debt exacerbates their mental health issues
  • People with depression and debt are 4x more likely to still have debt after 18 months compared to their counterparts
  • Those with debt are 3x more likely to contemplate suicide due to that debt¹

What these statistics don’t reveal, however, is what comes first. Do mental health issues spark financial woes? Or do financial woes spark mental health issues?

The answer, of course, is yes.

The connection between mental health and money can’t be reduced to simple causation. Instead, it’s a spiral where both factors can feed off of each other.

Consider the following pattern…

  • A financial crisis ramps up stress levels.
  • Ramped up stress levels activate negative self-talk.
  • Negative self-talk sparks unhealthy coping mechanisms.
  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms wreak havoc on the financial situation. And repeat.

This is an example of a financial crisis sparking mental health issues. But notice that a financial crisis isn’t the only situation that can cause the cycle. For instance…

  • An unhealthy relationship ramps up stress levels.
  • Ramped up stress levels activate negative self-talk.
  • Negative self-talk sparks unhealthy coping mechanisms.
  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms wreak havoc on the financial situation. And repeat.

In short, there’s a two-way relationship between mental health and money. If you’re seeking to start building wealth and changing your life, you must address both. Practically speaking, that means steps like…

  • Reducing financial stress by building an emergency fund
  • Increasing financial flexibility by reducing debt
  • Unlearning toxic self-talk habits that spark anxiety and depression
  • Developing healthy coping skills to alleviate stress

These can be daunting steps if you’re going it alone. That’s why it’s always best to seek the help of both mental health and financial professionals. They’ll have the insights and strategies you need to blaze a different path for your future.

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¹ “Data Shows Strong Link Between Financial Wellness and Mental Health,” Enrich, Mar 24, 2021, https://www.enrich.org/blog/data-shows-strong-link-between-financial-wellness-and-mental-health

October 25, 2021

3 Critical Questions for Newlyweds

3 Critical Questions for Newlyweds

Congratulations, newlyweds!

“To have and to hold, from this day forward…”

At a time like this, there are 3 more “I dos” for you to consider:

1. Do you have life insurance?

Any discussion about life insurance is going to start with this question, so let’s get it out of the way! As invigorated as people feel after finding the love of their life…let’s face it – they’re not invincible. The benefits of life insurance include protecting against loss of income, covering funeral expenses, gaining tax advantages, and having early access to money. Many of these benefits can depend on what kind of life insurance you have. Bottom line: having life insurance is a great way to show your love for years to come – for better OR worse.

2. Do you have the right type and amount of life insurance?

Life insurance policies are not “one size fits all.” There are different types of policies with different kinds of coverage, benefits, and uses. Having the right policy with adequate coverage is the key to protecting your new spouse in the event of a traumatic event – not just loss of life. Adequate life insurance coverage can help keep you and your spouse afloat in the case of an unexpected disabling injury, or if you’re in need of long term care. Your life with your spouse isn’t going to be one size fits all, and your life insurance policy won’t be either – for richer or poorer.

3. Do you have the right beneficiaries listed on your policy?

This question is particularly important if you had an existing policy before marriage. Most newlyweds opt for listing each other as their primary beneficiary, and with good reason: listing the correct beneficiary will ensure that any insurance payout will get delivered to them – in sickness and in health.

If you couldn’t say “I do” to any or all of these questions, contact me. It would be my pleasure to assist you newlyweds – or not-so-newlyweds – with a whole NEW way to care for each other: effective life insurance coverage – ’til death do you part!

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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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October 18, 2021

A Pocket Guide to Homeowners Insurance

A Pocket Guide to Homeowners Insurance

Homeowners insurance should bring peace of mind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 13, 2021

Leaders: “Emotional Intelligence” Is Not Enough

Leaders: “Emotional Intelligence” Is Not Enough

Have you read an article about emotional intelligence and leadership recently? There’s a strong chance it’s misleading you.

That’s because there’s been serious confusion about how emotional intelligence works, especially among business leaders.

Often, there’s an unstated assumption that emotional intelligence measures the grasp you have on how others feel.

It’s become common to see emotional speeches, sincere apologies, and leadership styles all bathed with the label “Emotionally Intelligent” since they all employ basic human emotions to be effective.

But there’s one problem—having high emotional intelligence is a far more nuanced state of awareness than merely understanding how emotions work.

Daniel Goleman, the guy who literally wrote the book on emotional intelligence, gives emotional intelligence four dimensions:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-management
  3. Social awareness
  4. Relationship management

But, as Goleman explains here, those qualities require empathy to cohere. In fact, sans empathy, they can become toxic.

It’s easy to see why, when you think about it.

How do you categorize a leader who’s aware of how others feel, but exploits those emotions to their own ends?

At best, they’re skilled at what the ancient Greeks called Rhetoric, the art of persuasion.

At worst, they’re garden variety psychopaths…

Here are two takeaways for you:

  1. Beware headlines that peddle examples of emotional intelligence. Plenty of publications will try to get your click with articles about emotional intelligence in action. Maybe they’re worthwhile. But maybe they’re using a buzzword to grab your attention.

  2. Develop your empathy along with your charisma. Without empathy, you’ll find yourself manipulating others with little concern for their wellbeing. Not only is it wrong, but it can have disastrous outcomes over the long haul.

And here’s a bonus takeaway, just because I care (see the rhetoric at work?)…

Just because someone speaks to your emotions doesn’t mean they care about you.

In fact, those emotional appeals can be indicators that a bad actor is exploiting you.

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October 11, 2021

The Real Reason You Aren't Saving

The Real Reason You Aren't Saving

“I’ll start saving when I turn 30.”

“I’m too old to save.”

“I’m in too much debt to save.”

“Why do I need to save? I don’t have any debt!”

You may have heard your friends and loved ones say things like this before. You may have even said them yourself!

It doesn’t take much sleuthing to recognize these statements for what they are—excuses. And excuses always suck.

But the fact that people feel compelled to make excuses reveals the truth…

People are afraid of saving.

In one sense, it’s easy to see why. Everyone knows saving is critical. But no one knows the “right way” to go about it. And that ignorance makes building wealth seem mysterious, or even dangerous.

An excuse serves as a justification for avoiding that great unknown. It makes not saving feel like the safer option… for now.

But never saving can have disastrous consequences like…

  • Running out of money in retirement
  • Struggling to cover medical emergencies
  • Constant stress about affording the basics

The choice is simple…

Risk a financial disaster.

OR

Face your fears and start saving.

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to face that fear alone.

Having mentors and companions to aid you on your journey can mean the difference between success and financial shipwreck.

In fact, that’s what I’m here for—to offer insight, tips, and support as you start building wealth and financial security for your family.

So if you’re ready to face your fears and to start saving, let’s chat! We can review your situation, and what it would look like to overcome your financial obstacles.

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October 6, 2021

Lessons From the Super Frugal

Lessons From the Super Frugal

The world of the super frugal can be an overwhelming place.

In a sense, it’s inspiring. The creativity and grit of the super frugal are sure to put a grin on your face. You may even find a few fun money saving projects that are worth your time. Saving money with french toast? Sign me up!

However, there’s a fine line between inspiring and weird, and the super frugal sometimes cross that line. Could reusing a plastic lid as a paint palette save you money? Sure! The same is true for bartering with store clerks. Will you get funny looks? Almost certainly.

It’s not that funny looks are bad. There’s wisdom to defying the crowd and marching to the beat of your own drum. But sometimes there’s a good reason to raise an eyebrow at super frugality…

That’s because it can miss the point.

Your financial top priority must always be providing for those you love. In this day and age, that means building wealth.

Some people may need extreme measures to do that. Let’s say you have deep credit card debt or a spending problem. Coupon clipping, saving on utilities, and thrifting may help you knock that debt out faster and free up the cash flow you need to start building wealth.

But don’t mistake the means for the end. Obsessing over coupons, stressing over recycling, and cutting too many corners can reach unhealthy and even pathological extremes. That doesn’t create wealth and prosperity—it can just cause more suffering.

So take lessons from the super frugal. Find a few money savings projects that you enjoy. Maybe do a spending cleanse. But keep your eye on the ultimate prize—building wealth for you and your family.

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October 4, 2021

Wealth Is Security, Not Paycheck Size

Wealth Is Security, Not Paycheck Size

Wealth isn’t about how much you earn. It’s about how secure you feel.

Consider two examples that illustrate this truth…

Mark works for an up-and-coming software company in middling America.

He earns a handsome salary.

He wakes up at 5 a.m., works out, and meditates for 30 minutes. His chakras stay open. His creative juices stay flowing.

He shows his coworkers pictures of his Tesla between ping pong matches.

He’s never had any of them over to his rented downtown apartment. They mostly just eat sushi at that new place, hit the town, then go their separate ways.

His flat screen TV and triple monitor setup display more pixels than his eye can perceive.

In short, Mark is rich… but he isn’t wealthy.

He’s not wealthy because he has no security. If he gets laid off, he loses his Tesla, his community, his apartment, everything.

Let’s consider another example…

Sarah earns average money running a small creative studio in Nowhereville, U.S.A.

She‘s late to her weekly lunch dates with her long-time friends. Projects don’t finish themselves!

The kids rushed cleaning the dishes… again.

When her mom died, her friends worked around the clock to keep her family fed with homemade meals.

When the dust of her day settles, she sits down in her bed, does some light reading, journals things she’s grateful for, and then hits the hay.

What’s left after business and living business expenses goes to her Roth IRA that’s been steadily growing for two decades.

Sarah may not be rich… but she’s wealthy beyond belief.

If anything happens, she has assets—a family, a community, a business, and savings—to support her. She rests easy the moment her head hits the pillow.

The takeaway? Invest in your security. That could be a savings account, a healthy relationship, a community, life insurance, or a stable business. Over time, those investments can help bring you the peace of mind you’re searching for.

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September 29, 2021

Are You Ready?

Are You Ready?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 27, 2021

Can You Create a Will Without An Attorney?

Can You Create a Will Without An Attorney?

The short answer is YES. You can create a will without an attorney.

There are dozens of templates you can download and use to draw up your estate plan. It’s fast, easy, and convenient.

But the real question isn’t IF you can create your own will. It’s if you SHOULD.

Your will is fundamental to your financial legacy. It’s a legal document that must meet specific qualifications and standards because it’s going to control how your loved ones will receive the wealth and assets you’ve worked so hard to amass.

Any oversight with your will could result in the mishandling of your estate. Your assets could end up in the hands of the wrong people. At the very least, it could cause a legal headache for your family.

If your estate is simple, you might be able to navigate those challenges alone.

But you’ll most likely need an attorney if you…

  • Own a family-run business you want to pass to your children.
  • Plan to pass your wealth to a step-child or step-children.
  • Want to disinherit someone in your existing will.

In other words, you should hire a lawyer if your will is anything more than boilerplate. Otherwise, the risk and consequences of errors become too high.

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September 22, 2021

Discover Your Retirement Number

Discover Your Retirement Number

How much money will you need to retire?

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few retirement calculators you can try…

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

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

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

Now, divide that by 4%…

$48,000 ÷ 0.04 = $1,200,000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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September 20, 2021

The Breakdown: Term vs. Perm

The Breakdown: Term vs. Perm

Navigating the world of life insurance can be a daunting task.

Even more daunting can be figuring out what policy is best for you. Let’s break down the differences between a couple of the more common life insurance policies, so you can focus on an even more daunting task – what your family’s going to have for dinner tonight!

Term Life Insurance. A Term life insurance policy covers an individual for a specific period of time – the most common term lengths being 10, 20, or 30 years. The main advantage of this type of policy is that it generally can cost the consumer less than a permanent insurance plan, because it might be shorter than a permanent policy.

The goal of a term policy is to pay the lowest premiums possible, because by the time the term expires, your family will no longer need the insurance. The primary thing to keep in mind is to choose a term length that covers the years you plan to work prior to retirement. This way, your family members (or beneficiaries) would be taken care of financially if something were to happen to you.

Permanent Life Insurance. Unlike term life insurance, permanent life insurance provides lifelong coverage, as long as you pay your premiums. This insurance policy – which also can be known as “universal” or “whole” – provides coverage for ongoing needs such as caring for family members, a spouse that needs coverage after retirement, or paying off any debts of the deceased.

Another great benefit a perm policy offers is cash accumulation. As premiums are paid over time, the money is allocated to an investment account from which the individual can borrow or withdraw the funds for emergencies, illness, retirement, or other unexpected needs. Because this policy provides lifelong coverage and access to cash in emergencies, most permanent policies are more expensive than term policies.

How Much Does the Average Consumer Need? Unless you have millions of dollars in assets and make over $250,000 a year, most of your insurance coverage needs may be met through a simple term policy. However, if you have a child that needs ongoing care due to illness or disability, if you need coverage for your retirement, or if you anticipate needing to cover emergency expenses, it may be in your best interest to purchase a permanent life insurance policy.

No matter where you are in life, you should consider purchasing some life insurance coverage. Many employers will actually offer this policy as part of their benefits package. If you are lucky enough to work for an employer who does this, take advantage of it, but be sure to examine the policy closely to make sure you’re getting the right amount of coverage. If you don’t work for a company that offers life insurance, don’t worry, you still may be able to get great coverage at a relatively inexpensive rate. Just make sure to do your research, consider your options, and make an informed decision for you and your family.

Now, what’s it going to be? Order a pizza or make breakfast for dinner? Choices, choices…

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September 15, 2021

Big Financial Rocks First

Big Financial Rocks First

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

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

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

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

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

The teacher smiled and shook her head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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September 13, 2021

The Cost of Goodbye

The Cost of Goodbye

The emotional cost of losing a loved one can’t be quantified, and knowing how to say goodbye can’t be taught so much as learned. It can be a long and difficult road for many.

Offsetting the financial aspect of that struggle can be done.¹ Not through gimmicks or escapism, but through a real, tangible solution: Final expense plans.

A traditional funeral can cost up to $10,000. If that number seems a bit outrageous, look at how quickly some of the basic items and services can add up:

  • Cost of the grave site: $1,000
  • Cost to dig the grave: $600
  • Cost of a casket: $2,300
  • Cost of a grave liner/outer burial container: $1,000
  • Cost of a headstone: $1,500

That’s already $6,400… and says nothing of payment of mortician’s services, use of the funeral home, the fee for the funeral director, the cost of flowers, and more details that one never thinks about until they’re in a position where they need to think about it. These costs will vary by geographic location, but one thing you can count on is that the emotional cost you or your loved ones experience later could be compounded with financial cost that could be avoided with a bit of careful preparation now.

In the face of losing someone you love, finances might be the last thing on your mind. With a solid final expense plan, you can keep it that way.

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¹ “Funeral Costs: How Much Does an Average Funeral Cost?” Parting, Sep 13, 2020, https://www.parting.com/blog/funeral-costs-how-much-does-an-average-funeral-cost/

September 8, 2021

About To Splurge? Sleep On It

About To Splurge? Sleep On It

Splurging is awesome. At least, it feels awesome.

Shopping unleashes dopamine, the brain chemical that fuels our biological reward system. Dopamine is the reason you crave food, sugar, affection… and splurging.¹

Think about the last time you splurged. Remember the feeling of anticipation when you walked into the store or pulled up the website? That’s the dopamine pushing you towards buying.

It’s also responsible for the rush when you open the box when you get home or try on that knockout dress for the first time.

There’s nothing wrong with indulging those feelings from time to time. But what can you do if you’re craving a shopping spree that your budget can’t handle?

Simple. Sleep on it!

Waiting 24 hours between feeling the urge to spend and going to the store gives you space to think. Do you really need that new gadget? Will that fancy dress make you happy?

After thinking it over, you may still want to splurge. That’s fine (as long as it’s within your financial strategy)! The key is that when you give yourself time to think things over, you won’t be as likely to make an impulse buy. Instead, you’re more likely to make a calculated, well-reasoned decision. And delaying your gratification will make it all the more rewarding when you walk out of the store.

Keep a close eye on your splurging habits. If you feel like your spending is out of control, you may need to seek a mental health or financial professional. There might be more to your shopping habits than meets the eye!

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¹ “Why Retail “Therapy” Makes You Feel Happier,” Cleveland Clinic Jan 21, 2021, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/retail-therapy-shopping-compulsion/

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