The larger the problem to solve, the more rewards you will reap. We instinctively know this is true, even if we can’t articulate it. Just look at our spending habits.
Our favorite coffee shop solves our lack-of-energy-in-the-morning problem.
Music streaming soothes our rush hour stress with our favorite tunes.
A food delivery app removes the hassle of driving to a restaurant.
Your brands of choice provide you value by solving your problems. The more they fix, the more you love them!
So, imitate your favorites. Explore the problem you’ve identified until you’re an expert. Next, develop a solution that crushes the problem.
Training your sights on providing value won’t magically make you successful. But it can serve as a guiding light when you feel directionless and unsure of your next steps.
Can’t find your target market? Brainstorm which companies or agents would gain the most from implementing your solution. Be as specific as possible in explaining the benefits.
Struggling to discover a niche in a saturated market? Look for issues that competitors and industries have ignored or missed. It might be something they’ve accepted as cost of business.
Trying to scale up? Diligently research the obstacles your new clients face and tailor your solutions to their specific needs.
Let me know if you’re hungry to start a business. We can talk about the problems facing some of the largest industries in the world and how you can provide much needed solutions.
Operating at your full potential consistently sounds too good to be true. We all want to accomplish more at our jobs and around the house. But a million little distractions always seem to throw us off course. Sure, we all have flashes of inspiration, but many of us settle for a fraction of our true capabilities.
But there’s a better way.
Researchers have discovered that high productivity doesn’t have to be limited to short bursts. There’s actually a very specific state of mind that results in stunning levels of output that’s triggered by certain psychological factors. It’s called flow, and understanding how it works may change your life.
What is flow?
Technically speaking, “Flow is a cognitive state where one is completely immersed in an activity… It involves intense focus, creative engagement, and the loss of awareness of the self.”¹ Think of it like this: what’s your favorite quarterback thinking about when he’s making a game winning play? Almost nothing else besides what he’s doing in the moment. That state of total concentration on the task at hand is what defines flow. Other sensations follow. Decisions seem to make themselves. You lose awareness of what’s going on around you. Time either seems to fly by or you see things in slow motion. And, most importantly, you feel awesome. You’re “in the zone.”
You’ve almost certainly achieved this flow state at least once in your life. But it probably doesn’t seem replicable. You were just on during that highschool football championship game or playing that local show with your buddies or giving that presentation. Fortunately, research hasn’t just described flow; it’s discovered a few factors that contribute to achieving peak performance.
The first flow key is to establish goals. Your brain loves objectives. It loves feeling like it’s accomplishing things. Having a clear outcome in mind will help you tune out the distractions that don’t matter and hone in on what does. Identify your desired goal, outline in detail how you’ll accomplish it, and then proceed to the second flow key.
The second flow key is the balance between challenge and boredom. Very often, facing a difficult task doesn’t naturally induce deep focus. It actually can make us feel anxious, scared, and avoidant. However, a mundane and simple activity, like washing dishes, doesn’t require the brainpower to trigger intense concentration. Flow lives in the happy medium between those extremes of crushing anxiety and mind-melting boredom. You have to have the confidence that you can actually crush the challenge at hand, but also not find it too easy or boring. Dial in your ideal difficulty level before you start a project. Expect more from your mundane responsibilities and get help for the daunting ones. Raise the stakes for your performance but make sure you don’t drown in the process!
The third flow key is immediate feedback. Let’s say you’ve hired a coach to help you master a skill. Would you prefer them to write up an annual review on your progress or give you tips, critiques, and advice as often as possible? Think about all the bad habits and practices you would develop without their regular oversight. You might discover you’ve been doing things wrong for a whole year if you’re only getting an annual checkup! Instant feedback allows you to constantly refine your process and execution while also setting up micro goals for you to accomplish. It’s a simple way to add a dash of challenge to your daily routine that locks you in and helps you achieve peak performance. Seek out frequent feedback. Ask your boss or co-workers or coach to give you critiques as often as possible. That constant stream of input will either make you feel good about what you’ve accomplished or give you new obstacles to overcome!
Achieving this state of peak performance isn’t always easy. There’s a cycle to entering flow that includes a difficult first phase. It’s hard work for our brain to enter into total focus and concentration. This first barrier is where most of us quit because intense concentration doesn’t feel great at first. But overcoming that initial resistance can open up a whole new world of productivity and performance. Use the three flow keys, push past the opening waves of discomfort and get into your zone!
¹ “Flow,” Psychology Today, accessed Sept. 24, 2020, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/flow
They feature a wide range of people in neat home offices and coffee shops bent over laptops in deep focus. And that reflects how most of us think about them; freelancer and entrepreneur are two different words for people who work outside the traditional employee/employer world.
But there’s more to the picture than stock photos let on. Here’s a look at the difference between freelancers and entrepreneurs.
Freelancers trade time and skill for money
The word freelance comes from the early 19th-century when English authors attempted to describe medieval mercenaries. Most knights in the middle ages pledged their loyalty to a lord. They swore that they would use their skills and resources to support their sovereign in times of war. But there were many knights who worked as mercenaries. They would fight for whoever had the most coin. Sir Walter Scott referred to these soldiers for hire as “free lances” in his novel Ivanhoe, and the name stuck.¹ Soon it was used to describe working without long-term commitments to a single employer.
Freelancers are essentially modern day mercenaries. They have a skillset that’s in demand and they sell it off to the highest bidder, typically for a short period of time or a specific project. They trade their skills and time for money, and then move on. A freelance graphic designer, for instance, might get hired by a small business in need of a new logo. They pay the designer a set fee, the designer delivers the logo, and the two parties part ways. The freelancer doesn’t have any more responsibilities towards the small business beyond completing a specific task, and the small business pays the freelancer a fee.
The main appeal of freelancing is flexibility. You get to decide for whom you work, the hours you work, and from where you work. Yes, you’ll have deadlines, but you get to decide how you’ll get everything done. Freelancing is also a great choice if you’re currently an employee and want to start exploring your options. Striking a balance with your side-gig and your main income stream can help bring in extra money to cover debt, save for retirement, or just have nicer vacations.
But freelancing has drawbacks. You’re still completing tasks for other people, you have to manage projects by yourself, and work can sometimes dry up. If you can’t maintain a healthy time balance with your main job, that work could suffer.
Entrepreneurs trade their team for money
Defining entrepreneurship is tricky. Freelancers and entrepreneurs have many things in common. But they end up working on different levels of risk and solving problems in very different ways. Remember how we said freelancers were like mercenaries, fighting wars for other people in exchange for money? Entrepreneurs are like the lords mercenaries fight for. They make decisions, assume responsibility for outcomes, and build things that last even when they are long gone. A more modern example would be your favorite local restaurant. The owner of the business doesn’t take your order, pour your drinks, and prepare your food. They have a team that does all of that for them. But they had the vision of owning a restaurant, may have reached out to investors, and then took on the financial uncertainty of starting the restaurant. They make the top-level decisions but rely on a team to ensure that the day-to-day operations work smoothly.
Starting a business is risky. Only 25% make it past their 15th birthday.² But the advantage of successfully starting a business is that it will eventually reach a point where it runs on its own. Apple didn’t need Steve Jobs to operate. Amazon doesn’t need Jeff Bezos. Neither does your favorite local restaurant. They’re all built on a system and have teams that empower them to grow and accomplish more than they could independently. A freelancer’s income, however, is tied directly to the time they invest. If they get sick, they can’t earn. Losing just a single client could be a significant loss of business.
Interested in freelancing or starting up your own venture? Let’s talk! There are perfect opportunities out there for you to start exploring your potential.
¹ “The Surprising History of ‘Freelance’,” Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/freelance-origin-meaning
² Michael T. Deane, “Top 6 Reasons New Businesses Fail,” Investopedia, Feb 28, 2020, https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/1010/top-6-reasons-new-businesses-fail.aspx#:~:text=Data%20from%20the%20BLS%20shows,to%2015%20years%20or%20more.
It’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer. Teaching your kids how to handle money is important. But how you go about giving them cash can set precedents that last a lifetime. Here are a few different takes on giving your kids money.
Not giving your kids money
There’s a lot to not love about this system at a glance, especially if you’re the kid. It seems like a way to simultaneously prevent your children from having fun and learn nothing about handling money. But it has some silver linings. Not paying your kids to do chores can be a way to teach them about the value of work without tying it to a monetary reward. That’s an important life lesson that can be applied to volunteer work and responsibilities with their future family. You also may be on a tight budget and handing out an allowance is just not part of your financial strategy right now.
Giving your kids an allowance (no work required)
This is a system where you give your kids a set amount of money each week or month. This is a straightforward way to get your kids some cash that they can spend, save, and use to learn about money.
But just giving your kids an allowance without requiring something in return, like doing chores, has some potential drawbacks. Most people will eventually have to get a job so they can earn money. Giving cash to your kids without tying it in some way to work may create a sense of entitlement that simply isn’t realistic.
Paying your kids commission
In this system, you pay your kids as they complete tasks. You would set up a job posting with different payments for different chores. Pay your kids when they’ve completed the work. If they get the job done quickly with a good attitude and some extra flourish? Give them a raise! It’s a great way of rewarding excellence and teaching children the monetary value of their time and hard work.
But this system also has flaws. Some of the most rewarding work we do can be for family or friends, or to serve our communities—with no reward other than appreciation and pride in a job well done. Giving the impression that one should only put in hard work or help out with the family for cash isn’t something every parent is comfortable with.
Fortunately, there are many ways to combine each of these systems. You could have non-paying chores that are duties simply because the kids are members of the family and then extra paid jobs. Or maybe offer a base allowance to teach your kids about saving, giving, and spending, and then paid chores added on. These systems can evolve over time as your kids grow. Let the needs of your family and what you want to instill in your children guide you.
We didn’t think how fragile chatting around the water cooler at work, having a meal in your favorite restaurant whenever you wanted, or going to the movies on the weekend really were. But months of shutdowns, social distancing, and required mask-wearing have made us feel it. Life is definitely different from what it was in February 2020.
And that’s where your opportunity lies.
Despite the negative ramifications, COVID-19 has created the chance you’ve been waiting for to live life on your own terms. Here’s how you bounce back from the pandemic stronger than ever and poised to pursue your dreams.
Decide Where You Want To Live
You’ve seen the headlines; people are fleeing cities like New York and Los Angeles for suburbs or even totally new states¹⁺². Those trends aren’t necessarily new, but there’s no doubt that COVID-19 has accelerated the process. And it makes sense when you think about it. Cities are convenient. People are willing to live there and often pay absurd rent because it places them near job opportunities. But months of lockdowns and surging unemployment have either shattered traditional career dreams or shown workers they can function anywhere with an internet connection. Why live somewhere expensive that you don’t like with no jobs?
But the mass urban exodus is also the opportunity of a lifetime. First, remember that you can work anywhere in the world that has an internet connection. You’re no longer tied to the eastern seaboard or California if you want a high paying job. Second, those ex-city dwellers have gotten used to services and amenities. Meeting those demands in a smaller city where property can be cheaper and taxes can be lower has huge upside potential. All you have to do is identify where you want to live and determine the opportunity level. Love mountains and fast internet? Check out Chattanooga, the “Gig City” of the south! Durham, North Carolina has a low population density paired with a huge demand for college degrees.³ And Iowa, once thought to be a cornfield disguised as a state, has a booming economy and awesome culture.⁴ The point isn’t that you should move to a remote part of the midwest and flee civilization (though that’s always an option). It’s that opportunity is more accessible than ever from anywhere in the country and is only limited by your imagination and courage. So why not investigate that small town or mid-sized city you may have never considered before? Now is the time to explore your options!
Build A Business
You’ve always wanted to build a business. And the COVID-19 pandemic has created the perfect opportunity to become an entrepreneur. Before you think it, let me just say—I know it sounds crazy. Starting a business is risky in the best of times, much less after economic shutdowns and a massive market decline. Plus, the pandemic has shot our collective anxiety levels through the roof!⁵ It can feel like there are uncountable roadblocks between you and pursuing your dream of being a business owner.
That’s why you have to be strategic about what type of business you start. Remember, the key to making money is problem solving. The larger the problem you solve, the more money you can potentially make. You probably won’t have to think too long and hard to come up with a list of ways you can help people for a dollar. Real estate agents, for instance, are helping families relocate outside the big city. Food delivery services are helping people stranded at home satisfy their pizza cravings. Do some research into a problem you’re passionate about solving and try some brainstorming for solutions. And because of the economic climate, you might be one of the few people taking action to fix things instead of living in fear!
In short, there’s opportunity hidden in this pandemic. You can bounce back from this season of COVID-19 in a place you love with a business you’re passionate about. If you’re interested in starting a business, let me know! We can talk about some big problems that are facing Americans and how you can help solve them.
¹ Matthew Haag, “New Yorkers Are Fleeing to the Suburbs: ‘The Demand Is Insane,’” The New York Times, Aug 30, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/30/nyregion/nyc-suburbs-housing-demand.html
² Sally Lockwood, “‘The city has become unbearable’: Why are so many people leaving Los Angeles?,” Sky News, Sept 14, 2020, https://news.sky.com/story/the-city-has-become-unbearable-why-are-so-many-people-leaving-los-angeles-12070183
³ Madison Hoff, “20 US cities with great jobs and smaller crowds that could bounce back quickly after the coronavirus pandemic,” Business Insider, May 16, 2020, https://www.businessinsider.com/cities-that-could-bounce-back-from-coronavirus-2020-5
⁴ Winona Dimeo-Ediger, “Why is everyone moving back to Iowa?,” MarketWatch, March 19, 2019, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-is-everyone-moving-back-to-iowa-2019-03-18
⁵ Alexa Lardieri, “Coronavirus Pandemic Causing Anxiety, Depression in Americans, CDC Finds,” U.S. News & World Report, Aug 13, 2020, https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2020-08-13/coronavirus-pandemic-causing-anxiety-depression-in-americans-cdc-finds
Accountants, hedge fund managers, and even some attorneys fall under the umbrella of “financial professional”. But you don’t have to be a mega-corporation or global bank to use the services of a money expert. For any family, a financial professional can serve as an educator who assesses your financial health, a planner who can help you prepare for the future, and a trusted advisor who offers high-quality counsel as you navigate life.
Financial professionals as educators
Money management can be difficult. It’s full of confusing terminology, big numbers, and the constant fear that someone’s trying to take advantage of you. Financial professionals specialize in many different fields, but at the end of the day they’re all educators. An investment advisor has to teach you about different strategies and products so that you can make informed decisions about your future. A financial professional can show you how to make a budget and attack debt.
Don’t settle for a professional who just wants to manage your money. Look for someone with the patience and expertise to educate you about how money works.
Financial professionals as planners
There’s a significant debate in the financial service industry about the difference between a financial advisor and a financial planner. But the simple fact of the matter is that you should seek out a financial professional who will help you prepare for the future, regardless of their title. You want a professional who will help you map out a long term investment strategy. Someone who considers insurance, long term care, and estate planning. The best professionals, regardless of their speciality, help you gain some perspective and give you the tools to map out your retirement. Talk with your professional about your wealth and goals so you can draw up a financial blueprint for your retirement and beyond.
Financial professionals as advisors
The financial services industry used the term “advisor” in a specific way, but a high-quality financial professional has wisdom to offer you in any situation. Challenges like credit card debt and student loans can seem overwhelming, especially when unexpected expenses pop up. It’s easy to lose focus and have your debt strategy get derailed. But an advisor can give you the wisdom and insight you need to prepare for a crisis and stay the course of financial independence. They can encourage you to build an emergency fund that will protect your financial strategy from unexpected expenses. When the economy takes a dip, they can give you the perspective you need to not make hasty or emotional moves that could seriously impact your retirement timeline. The financial professional you want by your side is the one with the wisdom and expertise to advise you through all of life’s storms.
When your car breaks down, you turn to a car mechanic. When you’re planning an event, you turn to an event planner. The same should be true of your money. When you set out on the path of financial independence, be sure to look for a financial professional with the know-how to educate you, to help you prepare, and to advise you through the obstacles of life.
But do you really need it? And how can you know? Let’s take a look at who does and doesn’t need the family and legacy protecting power of life insurance and some specific examples of both.
Protecting your dependants
Is there anyone in your life who would suffer financially if your income were to vanish? If so, then you have dependents. And anyone with financial dependents should buy life insurance. Those are the people you’re aiming to protect with a life insurance policy.
On the other hand, if you live alone, aren’t helping anyone pay bills, and no one relies on you financially to pursue their dreams, then you still might need coverage. Let’s look at some specific examples below.
Let’s say you’ve just graduated from college, you’ve started your first job, and you’re living in a new city. Your parents don’t need you to help support them, and you’re on your own financially. Should you get life insurance? If you have serious amounts of student or credit card debt that would get moved to your parents in the event of your passing, then it’s a consideration. You also might think about if you have saved enough in emergency funds to cover potential funeral expenses. Now would also potentially be a better time to buy a policy early while rates are low, especially if you’re considering starting a family in the near future.
Married without children
What if your family is just you and your spouse? Do either of you need life insurance? Remember, your goal is to protect the people who depend on your income. You and your spouse have built a life together that’s probably supported by both of your incomes. A life insurance policy could protect your loved one’s lifestyle if something were to happen to you. It would also help them meet lingering financial obligations like car payments, credit card debt, and a mortgage, even if they still have their income.
Single or married parents
Anyone with children must consider life insurance. No one relies on your income quite like your kids. It’s what clothes them and feeds them. Later on, it can empower them to pursue their educational dreams. Life insurance can help give you peace of mind that all of those needs will be protected. Even a stay-at-home parent should consider a policy. They often provide for needs like childcare and education that would be costly to replace. Life insurance is an essential line of defense for your family’s dreams and lifestyle.
No one wants to think about what would happen to their business without them. But entrepreneurs and small business owners can use life insurance to protect their hard work. A policy can help protect your family if you took out loans to start your business and are still paying down debt. More importantly, it can help offset the losses if your family can’t operate the business without you and has to sell in poor market conditions.
Not everyone needs life insurance right now. But it’s a vital line of defense for the people you care about most and should be on everyone’s radar. The need might not be as urgent for a young, debt-free single person, but it’s still worth it to start making plans to protect your future family. Contact a financial professional today to begin the process of preparing!
You may not have thought much about that type of insurance before, or even knew it existed. But joint policies, especially survivorship policies, are important to consider because they can provide for heirs, settle estates, and pay for final expenses after both spouses have passed.
Most joint life insurance policies are what’s known as “first to die” policies. As the unambiguous nickname suggests, a first to die policy is designed to provide for the remaining spouse after the first passes.
A joint life insurance policy is a time-tested way of providing for a remaining spouse. But without careful planning, a typical joint life policy might leave a burden for surviving children or other family members.
A survivorship life insurance policy works differently than a first to die policy. Also called a “last to die” policy, a survivorship policy provides a death benefit only when both insured spouses have passed. A survivorship policy doesn’t pay a death benefit to either spouse but rather to a separate named beneficiary.
You’ll find survivorship life insurance referred to as:
Survivorship life insurance policies are sometimes referred to by different names, but the structure is the same in that the policy only pays a benefit after both people insured by the policy have died.
Reasons to Buy Survivorship Life Insurance
We all have our reasons for buying a life insurance policy, and often have someone in mind who we want to protect and provide for. Those reasons often dictate the best type of policy – or the best combination of policies – that can meet our goals.
A survivorship policy is well-suited to any of the following considerations, perhaps in combination with other policies:
It’s also most common for a survivorship life insurance policy to be a permanent life insurance policy. This is because the reasons for using a survivorship policy, including transfer of wealth, are usually better served by a permanent life policy than by a term insurance policy. (A term life insurance policy is only in force for a limited time and doesn’t build any cash value.)
Benefits of Survivorship Life Insurance
The good news is that life insurance rates are more affordable now than in the past. That’s great! But keep in mind, your life insurance policy – of any type – will probably cost less now than if you wait for another birthday to pass for either spouse insured by the policy.
World Financial Group, Inc., its affiliated companies and its independent associates do not offer tax and legal advice. Please consult with your personal tax and/or legal professional for further guidance.
Today we’ll be fleshing out some concepts you might encounter as you look at your options for protecting your family. Let’s start with the different kinds of life insurance.
Different types of life insurance
Life insurance will almost always have a few basic parts—the death benefit (the amount paid to your loved ones upon your passing), the policy itself (the actual insurance contract), and the premium (how much you pay for the life insurance policy).
There’s a wide range of life insurance policies, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
- Term Life Insurance is the most straightforward form. It lasts for a set amount of time (the term), during which you pay a premium. You and your beneficiaries won’t receive any benefits if you don’t pass away during the term. This type of policy typically doesn’t feature other benefits on its own (you may be able to add other benefits with what is called a rider). - Whole Life Insurance is exactly what it sounds like. It never expires and is guaranteed to pay a benefit whenever you pass away. But it often comes with other benefits. For instance, it can include a saving component called a cash value. It usually builds with interest and you can take money from it any time. - Indexed Universal Life Insurance is similar to whole life insurance, but the cash value is tied to the market. The market is up? Your cash value goes up. The market goes down? Your cash value is actually shielded from loss.
Each of these types of life insurance have different strengths and weaknesses. A term policy might be right for you while a whole life policy might be better for your neighbor. Talk with a financial professional to see which one fits your needs and budget!
The right amount of life insurance
But can you have too little life insurance? How about too much? The answer to both of those questions is yes. In general, the purpose of life insurance is to replace your income in case of your passing for your loved ones and family. That should be your guidestone when deciding how substantial a policy to purchase. Typically, you’re looking at about 10 times your annual income. That’s enough to replace your yearly earnings, pay-off potential debts, and guard against inflation. That means someone earning $35,000 would want to shop around for about $350,000 worth of coverage.
Employer life insurance
This means that most employer-provided life insurance isn’t enough to fully protect you and your family. There’s no doubt that a free policy from your workplace is great. But they typically only cover about a year of wages. That’s not nearly what you need to provide peace of mind to your beneficiaries! Don’t necessarily refuse your employer-provided life insurance, but make sure that it supplements a more substantial policy.
Still have questions? Reach out to a licensed financial professional and ask for guidance! And stay tuned for next week’s article where we’ll debunk some common life insurance myths!
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 enacting a life insurance policy, seek the advice of a licensed financial professional to discuss your options.
It makes up nearly a quarter of the global economy and has a GDP of roughly $21.44 trillion.¹ But that statistic doesn’t tell the whole story. The truth is that only a few Americans have truly mastered how money works and the rest are lagging behind. Despite having the largest economy, the U.S. ranks 13th in GDP per capita.²
And it all begins with the state of financial literacy.
Knowing how money works has never been more important. But it’s becoming an increasingly rare skill among Americans. Here’s a quick look at the significance of financial literacy in the modern world and how ignorance is hampering our ability to build wealth.
The importance of financial literacy is increasing.
Americans are faced with a complex world. We have access to unlimited information on everything under the sun, endless opinions on every issue, and infinite options for entertainment. Money is no exception. The two tried and true safety nets of the past—social security and pension plans—can fall short, so we need to figure out how to provide for our own futures. The options for how to save and grow our money are myriad. Now it’s on us to figure out how to build wealth, save for retirement, and leave money behind for our kids.
Understanding how money works isn’t just helpful for achieving those goals. It’s absolutely mandatory. Saving, budgeting, and the power of compound interest are just a few of the concepts that you’ll need to master before you can start building your financial future.
Financial literacy is decreasing.
Americans are less able to plan and provide for their futures than ever. Financial literacy slid from 42% to 34% between 2009 and 2018.³ And that number is significantly lower for Millennials than for the rest of the population, with only 17% able to answer 4 out of 5 basic questions about finances.⁴ That ignorance shows in our decision making and our inability to build wealth. A stunning 33% of Americans have nothing set aside for retirement.⁵ 44% don’t have enough saved to cover a $1,000 emergency.⁶ We’re surrounded by money and opportunity but don’t have the knowledge to convert them into personal wealth.
There are several reasons why financial literacy could be decreasing. Financial education is not widely taught in public schools, with less than half of states requiring a personal finance course for a highschool diploma.⁷ Perhaps we’ve just been slow to keep up with the rapid changes in the global economy. Or maybe some people benefit from having a large chunk of the population stay in financial ignorance. The lack of financial literacy is most likely a combination of all these reasons! The real question is, do you know how money works? And if not, where will you learn?
¹ Caleb Silver, “The Top 20 Economies in the World,” Investopdia, Updated Mar. 18, 2020,https://www.investopedia.com/insights/worlds-top-economies/
² “GDP per Capita,” Worldometers,https://www.worldometers.info/gdp/gdp-per-capita/
³ Andrew Keshner, “Financial literacy skills have taken a nose dive since the Great Recession,” MarketWatch, June 27, 2019,https://www.marketwatch.com/story/americans-financial-literacy-skills-have-plummeted-since-the-great-recession-2019-06-26
⁴ Keshner, “Financial literacy skills have taken a nose dive,” MarketWatch.
⁵ Dani Pascarella, “4 Stats That Reveal How Badly America Is Failing At Financial Literacy,” Forbes, Apr. 3, 2018,https://www.forbes.com/sites/danipascarella/2018/04/03/4-stats-that-reveal-how-badly-america-is-failing-at-financial-literacy/#69cecb072bb7
⁶ Pascarella, “4 Stats That Reveal How Badly America Is Failing At Financial Literacy,” Forbes.
⁷ Ann Carrns, “More States Require Students to Learn About Money Matters,” The New York Times, Feb. 8, 2020,https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/07/your-money/states-financial-education.html
A recent study found that 65% believed life insurance was too expensive for them, and another 52% didn’t know how much or what kind they needed. 42% of respondents didn’t have life insurance because they didn’t like thinking about passing away! ¹
But life insurance doesn’t have to be mentally or emotionally overwhelming.
That’s why we’ve created this beginner’s guide to life insurance. We’ll give you a simple explanation of life insurance, define the purpose of life insurance, and see who needs it most!
What is life insurance?
Life insurance is typically a contract between you and an insurer where the insurer promises to pay an agreed upon amount to your beneficiary(s) when you pass away. The contract itself is called a policy, making you the policy holder. The money your beneficiary receives (depending on the type of policy you have) is called a death benefit. The monthly or yearly payment you give to the insurer in exchange for the insurance is called a premium. In short, you pay an insurer a little bit each month in exchange for a payout to your loved ones in the case of your passing (or because of other circumstances stipulated in the policy).
What is it for?
Life insurance can’t replace your presence for your family and loved ones. But it can replace your income. There might be people who depend on your income to make ends meet or to achieve their dreams, like a spouse or college-aged child. Life insurance can offer them the financial resources to maintain their lifestyles. It also provides them some time to grieve and plan their future.
Who needs it?
As a rule of thumb, it is recommended that people with dependents have some form of life insurance. Typically that means people with families that rely on their income to pay bills or with aging parents that need financial support. But there are some surprising ways that loved ones in your life might depend on you. Keep an eye out for a blog post with more details on who needs life insurance later this month!
Life insurance, at its core, can be straightforward and simple. It’s one of the most important layers of financial protection you can provide for your family to help replace your income and give your loved ones some peace of mind. Next week we’ll take a closer look at the different types of life insurance and how much coverage is enough for you!
¹ “Is Life Insurance Tomorrow’s Problem? Findings from the 2020 Insurance Barometer Study,” LIMRA, June 16, 2020, https://www.limra.com/en/newsroom/industry-trends/2020/is-life-insurance-tomorrows-problem-findings-from-the-2020-insurance-barometer-study/
Here’s the breakdown:
Nearly every type of debt can interfere with your financial goals, making you feel like a hamster on a wheel – constantly running but never actually getting anywhere. If you’ve been trying to dig yourself out of a debt hole, it’s time to take a break and look at the bigger picture.
Did you know there are often advantages to paying off certain types of debt before other types? What the simple list above doesn’t include is the average interest rates or any tax benefits to a given type of debt, which can change your priorities. Let’s check them out!
Credit card interest rates now average over 17%, and interest rates are on the rise.³ For most households, credit card debt is the place to start – stop spending on credit and start making extra payments whenever possible. Think of it as an investment in your future!
Interest rates for auto loans are usually much lower than credit card debt, often under 5% on newer loans. Interest rates aren’t the only consideration for auto loans though. New cars depreciate nearly 20% in the first year. In years 2 and 3, you can expect the value to drop another 15% each year. The moral of the story is that cars are a terrible investment but offer great utility. There’s also no tax benefit for auto loan interest. Eliminating debt as fast as possible on a rapidly depreciating asset is a sound decision.
Like auto loans, student loans are usually in the range of 5% to 10% interest. While interest rates are similar to car loans, student loan interest is often tax deductible, which can lower your effective rate. Auto loans can usually be paid off faster than student loan debt, allowing more cash flow to apply to student debt, emergency funds, or other needs.
In many cases, mortgage debt is the last type of debt to pay down. Mortgage rates are usually lower than the interest rates for credit card debt, auto loans, or student loans, and the interest is usually tax deductible. If mortgage debt keeps you awake at night, paying off other types of debt first will give you greater cash flow each month so you can begin paying down your mortgage.
When you’ve paid off your other debt and are ready to start tackling your mortgage, try paying bi-monthly (every two weeks). This simple strategy has the effect of adding one extra mortgage payment each year, reducing a 30-year loan term by several years. Because the payments are spread out instead of making one (large) 13th payment, it’s likely you won’t even notice the extra expense.
Words and ideas seem designed to confuse and trick you. But you might be surprised by how simple the concepts and terms actually are once they’re explained.
Consider this article your personal life insurance phrasebook to help you cut through the lingo and better understand the products you’re exploring. Let’s start with the basics!
- Policy and Policy Holder
A life insurance policy is a contract between you and an insurer stating that they will pay out a certain amount of money upon your passing (or another event specified in the policy). The policyholder is the person who owns and controls the policy.
- Death Benefit
The money that gets paid out from the policy when you die.
You, as the policyholder, get to decide where the death benefit will go. The people who receive the money are called beneficiaries. That could be a spouse, child, or anyone who depends on your income.
The payment you give the insurer in exchange for the life insurance policy is called the premium. You might have to pay these monthly or annually.
- Term Life Insurance
Some life insurance covers you for a specific amount of time. Your beneficiaries only receive the death benefit if you pass away during that time frame. This is referred to as Term Life Insurance. It’s typically considered the most straightforward form of life insurance available.
- Permanent Life Insurance
Another type of life insurance lasts for your entire life. This is called Permanent Life Insurance. There are multiple subcategories of permanent life insurance.
- Cash Value
Some permanent life insurance options come with a savings component. This is called a Cash Value. You can usually borrow against the cash value and spend the money on whatever you please!
This isn’t an exhaustive list of life insurance words and phrases, but it should be the minimum to get you started. Consider reaching out to a financial advisor to act as your translator as you dive deeper into the language of life insurance!
Every year, Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association (LIMRA) collects data on why people aren’t buying life insurance. Here are the three most popular objections to owning life insurance and a few points to consider if they’re stopping you from protecting your family.
“Life insurance isn’t that important”
This is the #1 reason Americans don’t buy life insurance. 67% say they have other financial priorities. ¹ And there’s an extent to which that’s understandable! Your mortgage, car payments, and college tuition are incredibly important for the wellbeing of your family. They’re the building blocks of your lifestyle and empower your loved ones to pursue their dreams.
But life insurance helps ensure that your family can meet those financial obligations and maintain their lifestyle, no matter what. It replaces the income they would lose if something were to happen to you unexpectedly. Life insurance is important because you have other financial priorities!
“Life insurance is not affordable”
65% of Americans think they can’t afford life insurance. ² But it’s incredibly common to overestimate the cost. LIMRA found in 2018 that 44% of Millennials thought life insurance was 5 times more expensive than it actually was. ³ To put things into perspective, a healthy, smoke-free 25 year old can expect to pay about $25 per month on life insurance. ⁴ That’s roughly the same as subscribing to several streaming services combined. ⁵ A young person can protect their financial future for the same monthly cost as binging their favorite shows and movies.
“Do I really need life insurance?”
The third most common reason Americans don’t have life insurance is because they don’t think they need it. There are many reasons for this. Maybe you’re thinking some of these yourself. “I’m young and healthy, I don’t have a family,” and the list goes on. A 23 year old without financial dependents like a spouse, aging parent, or child might legitimately have bigger financial fish to fry. But anyone with people in their lives that depend on their income to make ends meet and to pursue their dreams should have life insurance coverage. It’s not about how healthy you feel or how much you’ve saved up. It’s about protecting your family regardless of what life throws your way. Would you skip out on car insurance because you’re a good driver? Or ignore homeowners insurance because you have a fire extinguisher?
So the question now becomes, why don’t you have life insurance? Did any of these objections ring a bell? I would love to talk sometime about your concerns around securing the right protection for your family!
¹ “Is Life Insurance Tomorrow’s Problem? Findings from the 2020 Insurance Barometer Study,” LIMRA, [https://www.limra.com/en/newsroom/industry-trends/2020/is-life-insurance-tomorrows-problem-findings-from-the-2020-insurance-barometer-study/](https://www.limra.com/en/newsroom/industry-trends/2020/is-life-insurance-tomorrows-problem-findings-from-the-2020-insurance-barometer-study/)*
² “Is Life Insurance Tomorrow’s Problem? Findings from the 2020 Insurance Barometer Study,” LIMRA, [https://www.limra.com/en/newsroom/industry-trends/2020/is-life-insurance-tomorrows-problem-findings-from-the-2020-insurance-barometer-study/](https://www.limra.com/en/newsroom/industry-trends/2020/is-life-insurance-tomorrows-problem-findings-from-the-2020-insurance-barometer-study/)*
³ “9 common life insurance myths debunked,” Policygenius, https://www.policygenius.com/life-insurance/common-life-insurance-myths-debunked/
⁴ “Average Cost of Life Insurance (2020): Rates by Age, Term and Policy Size,” ValuePenguin, https://www.valuepenguin.com/average-cost-life-insurance
⁵ “Americans already subscribe to three streaming services on average. Is there room for more?,” allconnect, https://www.allconnect.com/blog/average-american-spend-on-streaming#:~:text=One%20poll%20from%20The%20Hollywood,at%20just%20over%20%2414%2Fmo.
But few have been caught in the crossfire of change quite like Generation X. Sandwiched between two larger generations, the folks born between 1965 and 1976 have seen an iron curtain fall, two major wars, a digital revolution, a global financial crisis, and now a world-shattering pandemic. Bridging the gap between so many stages of history has fashioned their perspective and financial health. Here’s a guide to understanding Generation X!
Generation X holds surprisingly little wealth. They account for only 16% of the nation’s wealth, while Baby Boomers hold 56%.(1) Debt is also rampant among Gen-Xers, with an average outstanding debt of $136,869.(2) That’s higher than any other generation—and has only increased over the past few years.(3) None of this seems to slow down their non-essential spending, which is also greater than their parents and children.(4) And they’re more reluctant than other generations to seek help from a financial advisor.(5)
Attitudes and anxieties
These pressures have shaped the attitudes and outlooks of Gen-Xers. They’re about as stressed as Millennials when it comes to debt, with a focus on credit cards instead of student loans.(6) But there’s more to it than just stress. Generation X is incredibly hard on itself. 41% would rate their financial health as not very good to not good at all. 43% think their finances are much worse off than their peers’, and half think they earn less.
Gen-X’s outlook on retirement doesn’t line up with previous generations. They’re not particularly prepared; pre-pandemic, they had saved about $35,000 for retirement. Many plan on cutting costs in order to save, but they’re estimated to be the first generation that’s less prepared for retirement than their parents.(7) No wonder most plan on working through their golden years!(8)
The Sandwich Effect
There are several reasons for the dire straits of many Gen-Xers. They endured the financial crisis of 2008, and before that the dot com bubble of 2000, and now they find themselves in the midst of a pandemic-fueled recession. But that’s not all. They’re currently a bridge generation. They have retiring parents to care for (Baby Boomers) and young adult children they’ve had to support (Millennials). Every generation has to contend with this sandwiching effect at some point, but it’s proven particularly difficult for the Gen-Xers.
There’s no doubt that Generation X faces particularly serious challenges. The real question is what’s next for the bridge generation? Where will they find the financial tools to achieve peace of mind for retirement?
Many came of age during the Great Recession, only to confront a pandemic-fueled economic downturn just a decade later. Here’s a quick look at the financial health of Millennials.
Few Millennials are financially healthy
A 2019 survey found that only 24% of Millennials are financially healthy. That means less than a quarter are “spending, saving, borrowing, and planning in a way that will allow them to be resilient and pursue opportunities over time.”(1) 54% are financially coping. They’re not sinking, but not necessarily thriving either. The final 22% of this generation are financially vulnerable. Bear in mind, these findings are from before the COVID-19 shutdowns which have left millions unemployed.
Employer practices and financial health
There are several contributing factors to the financial instability of Millennials. For instance, they typically hold fewer assets than the previous generation (Gen-X) but have roughly the same amount of debt.(2)
The evidence seems to suggest that employer practices like setting stable hours and offering benefits have tremendous impacts on financial health. Millennials with consistent schedules were 2.2 times more likely to be financially healthy.(3) Stable monthly income, employer-provided insurance, and paid sick leave also correlate to high financial health.
Millennials are skeptical of financial services
There’s a strong perception among Millennials that financial services should help them improve their financial lives.(3) And there’s an extent to which the industry is rising to meet those needs. Millennials are all over online and mobile banking; 65% to 72% have used those services in the last 12 months, respectively.(4)
But overwhelmingly, Millennials don’t feel like their financial institutions stand up for them. Only 14% agreed with the statement that “[My primary financial institution] helps me improve my financial health.”(5) That means that, even though they prioritize businesses that fight for them, Millennials feel abandoned by the financial industry.
So where does this leave this generation? It means that Millennials, by-and-large, feel financially unstable, neglected by their employers, and ignored by financial institutions. Who knows how COVID-19 has escalated those sentiments? The question is; who will meet the needs of Millennials?
It’s not Wal-Mart or Amazon or Apple; those are companies. The answer, while it might surprise you, actually makes perfect sense. It’s the industry that manages, stores and protects money for billionaires, conglomerates, companies—and you.
That’s right, the financial industry is the largest industry in the world!
Totalling $109 trillion, it dwarfs the competition.(1) For comparison, real estate is worth $33 trillion and retail amounts to $26 trillion. But what exactly is the financial industry? Here’s a quick look.
Technically, the financial industry is composed of companies that offer financial services. But what exactly is a financial service? The International Monetary Fund defines it as “how consumers and businesses acquire financial goods such as loans and insurance.”
— The most obvious example of financial services are the services a bank offers. It offers a place for you to safely store your money. You can also get a loan from a bank if you need to make a big purchase like a home or car. Banks make money by charging interest on loans and adding fees to their services, and they can range in size from local, small-town establishments to massive nationwide banks.
But there’s more to the financial industry than just holding and lending money. Investment is a huge part of this sector. Financial advisors and brokers help everyone from the middle class to the rich and powerful make and manage their investments. They can manage staggering amounts of money for huge businesses. Financial protection services, like insurance, is another major segment of the financial industry.
The foundation of the economy
Modern economies are fueled by the financial sector. They’re the gatekeepers to prosperity. Anyone trying to start a business, save for their future, or protect their family has to go through banks, advisors, and agents. Economies thrive when the financial sector is healthy and melt down when it’s not!
The financial industry might appear as conspicuous as other sectors. We don’t go to a financial advisor every week for groceries or fuel our car at the bank. But that doesn’t mean it’s not vital to every part of our lives.
1) Federal Reserve, February 2020
So why does it feel like you have so little control? How many people feel financially helpless? Like there is barely enough to make ends meet and never enough to prepare for the future?
78% of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck before the pandemic hit.(1) That means most of us weren’t in control of our finances. We were just riding the coattails of a fabulous economy.
So what does it take to achieve financial control?
Here are some basic ways to grab the reins of your personal finances!
You should know how much you make. But do you know how much you spend and on what? Discovering that your bank account is empty at the end of each month is one thing. But figuring out where your money is going—that’s something else entirely. This knowledge is what will help equip you to create a strategy and take control of your life.
Start by figuring out how much you spend in total and subtracting that number from how much you make. Then, break down your spending into categories like rent, gas, eating out, entertainment, streaming services, and anything else that takes a chunk out of your normal expenses. It might feel like homework, but hang in there.
Goals are the key to creating an effective financial strategy. You have to know what you’re building towards if you want to develop the best steps and strategies. It’s okay to think simple. Maybe you’re just trying to get out of debt. Perhaps you’re trying to save enough to start a business or buy a home. Or you might be a bit more ambitious and have an eye on a dream retirement that you want to start preparing for now.
Figure out what it is you want and how much it will cost. From there you can use your budget to start cutting back in categories where you spend too much. You might discover that you need to increase your income to accomplish your goals. Map out a few steps that will move you closer to making your dream a reality.
Once you’ve built a strategy based on your goals and budget-fueled insights, the only thing left is to follow through and take action. This isn’t a grandiose, one-time maneuver. This is about little decisions day in and day out that will help make your dreams a reality. That means making small moves like meal prepping at home instead of eating out, or avoiding clothing boutiques in favor of thrift shop finds. Those little acts of discipline are the building blocks of success. You might fall off the wagon every now and again, but that’s okay! Pick yourself up and keep pushing forward.
It’s important to have each of these three components operating together at once. Knowing your financial situation and not doing anything about it may not do anything but cause anxiety. Cutting your spending without an overall vision can lead to pointless frugality and meaningless deprivation. And a goal without insight or action? That’s called a fantasy. Let’s talk about how we can implement all three of these elements into a financial strategy today!
But as you head out for a night on the town with friends or maybe cuddle up next to your kids to watch their favorite movie, did you ever consider how you spent your after-work time during the week?
Whether you’re routine-driven, a free spirit, or somewhere in between, setting aside a few minutes every day to spend on your finances has the potential to make a huge difference in the long run. By adding these 3 financial habits to your daily routine, you have the potential to give yourself a little more power over your finances.
1. Check your inbox (or mailbox). Whether you pay your bills via credit card, automatic withdrawal, or a hand-written check that you mail in to the company, a daily look-see will help you stay on top of any alerts you get. Spend a few minutes every day glancing over incoming bills, payment receipts, and new online transactions. Being aware of the exodus (or pending exodus) of your money can help fend off late fees, overdrawing your accounts, or maxing out your credit card.
2. Review your spending. Every evening, take quick stock of any spending you did that day – whether in brick-and-mortar stores or online. This exercise can be eye-opening. For instance, are you in the habit of grabbing a piping hot cup of coffee from the drive-thru on your morning commute? Depending on your coffee preference, that can cost up to $5 a day! Maybe 5 bucks isn’t a huge deal, but consider this:
Just staying aware of those little daily expenditures may make a huge difference in your financial health; when you know how much you’re paying over time for something you could prepare at home (for far less money), you may decide to scale back on the barista-brewed coffee so you can help boost your financial future – and keep yourself on the path to financial independence.
3. Learn a little more. Knowing how money works is a vital part of achieving and maintaining financial independence. Taking a few moments every day to educate yourself a little more about money can make a huge difference in the long run. It can keep you aware of best practices for money management and all the ways your money can work for you. Try a blog post, YouTube video, or a best-seller on finances to keep yourself informed and up to date.
As you start putting these simple financial habits in place, contact me any time! Together we can assess how these small changes could help strengthen your financial strategy and get you closer to financial independence.
Hours of dedicated learning, training, and mentorship are required to move from amateur to expert. But who has the time for that? Most of us are still figuring out our careers or how to be a better parent or partner. With our busy lives, acquiring an additional skill—no matter how beneficial or fulfilling it may be—can seem like a fantasy.
But what if there were a way to quickly become competent at a skill?
It turns out that there are some simple steps you can take to jumpstart your learning process. Here are some tips for quick skill acquisition!
Skills are typically composed of smaller processes. For instance, playing a song on piano requires a few different abilities. You must be able to move each finger to the right keys at the right time, you should probably know how to read music, and possess a sense of when to play more loudly or softly. Trying to play a song without some command of those capabilities can feel overwhelming or impossible!
That’s why it’s useful to start with the end product and work backwards to discover the little skills you need to master. Once you see the micro-processes involved, you can start working forward. This might feel silly at first. Jumping between the same few notes over and over again until you’ve got them down isn’t the most glamorous endeavor! But it lays the foundation for a more complicated and satisfying skill that will pay off in the long run.
It’s easy to think making progress will be a straight line. We’re building up our little skills, getting better and better with each practice session. But pretty soon we hit a wall. There’s a problem that seems we can’t overcome. We might even start backsliding or feeling like we’re getting worse!
Don’t sweat a roadblock. It’s perfectly normal to hit a plateau when you’re trying to acquire a skill. Take a break from practice, go for a walk or take a nap, and get back to it with a fresh perspective. You might be surprised by how much learning occurs when you allow your brain to relax and process.
As nice as it sounds, multitasking simply does not work. There’s overwhelming evidence that it actually slows down your brain and wildly reduces efficiency.(1) Multitasking must be avoided at all costs when you’re trying to quickly learn a new skill. Try setting aside some undistracted time every morning or evening for a few weeks to work on your skill. That means leaving your phone in another room, turning off the TV, and telling your family that you’ll be busy for a while. Get in the zone and start practicing!
An hour every evening for a month won’t transform you into a Picasso. You’re not shooting to be a virtuoso. Instead, these tips and strategies may help you quickly acquire competence in just about anything you set your mind to. So draw up a list of some skills you want to develop and start learning!