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Avoiding Overdraft

Avoiding Overdraft

“It’ll be fine,” you think as you swipe your card and enter your pin.

You haven’t spent that much money this month. There should be plenty left over to cover this, right?

Wrong.

Before long, the bank has sent you the alert—your account is in the red. You’ve overdrafted. Now you’ll almost certainly face two consequences…

1. Overdraft fees. The bank’s favorite way to slap you on the wrist for overspending. These are, on average, $33.58 per overdraft as of 2021.¹

2. Interest. The only reason you can keep purchasing once you’re in the negative is because the bank loans you money. And with every loan comes interest.

It may not seem significant, but these add up. In 2020, Americans spent 12.4 billion in fees alone.²

Here are some strategies to help your bank account stay above water…

Don’t activate overdraft coverage.

This way, purchases that push your bank account past zero will be denied. Overdrafting becomes impossible. There are, however, two serious drawbacks…

You may feel silly if you try to make a purchase and it doesn’t go through. You may need to make a legitimate emergency purchase that exceeds the amount in your account.

Fortunately, there are other strategies at your disposal.

Link a savings account.

If you have an emergency fund, you can link it directly to your spending account. That way, if you overdraft, your emergency fund will automatically make up the difference.

This works well for covering emergency expenses. But if your regular spending overdrafts your account, you may squander your emergency fund on non-emergencies.

Budget better.

Consistent overdrafting may mean that you have a spending problem. If that’s the case, the time has come to cut back. Set up a budget that keeps your spending above water each month. That way, you won’t come close to the dangers of overdraft.

It all comes down to why you’re overdrafting. If you overdraft on occasion because of emergencies, simply link your emergency fund to cover the difference. But if it’s the symptom of a deeper issue, it may be time to seek help.


¹ “Overdraft fees hit another record high this year—here’s how to avoid them,” Alicia Adamczyk, CNBC, Oct 20, 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/10/20/overdraft-fees-hit-another-record-highheres-how-to-avoid-them.html

² “Banks Charged Low-Income Americans Billions In Overdraft Fees In 2020,” Kelly Anne Smith, Forbes, Apr 21, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/personal-finance/how-to-prevent-overdraft-fees/


Benjamin Does NOT Need Life Insurance

Benjamin Does NOT Need Life Insurance

Benjamin does NOT need life insurance.

Benjamin is a 73 year old author. He lives in a small apartment in a mid-sized city that he leases for free from an old business connection.

Benjamin wakes up every day at 6am, stretches, makes instant coffee on his stove, and then starts typing. At this point, he’s not interested in writing the next great American novel—he wrote four of those in his early 50s. He splits the sizable royalties, which continue rolling in each month, between his spartan lifestyle and funding his top ten favorite charities.

His daughter is financially successful, so he has no dependents. He hasn’t received bills in the mail since 2010. His greatest expense is splurging on the senior special at the diner up the street, which is owned by one of his biggest fans. And all that means is that his meal is usually on the house.

His life consists of his morning stretching routine, instant coffee, feeding the pigeons on the fire escape, and writing short stories for his two grandkids. And he goes to bed every night with a big smile on his face.

Benjamin is unusual—he doesn’t need life insurance.

But if you’re in a period of life in which you carry significant financial responsibilities for the people you love, you’re not like Benjamin. You most likely DO need life insurance. And even if you already have a policy in place, there’s a good chance you don’t have enough coverage. LIMRA reported in 2021 that there are over 102 million people in America who are uninsured or underinsured—that’s almost one in three people!1

And with skyrocketing costs of living and an ever-changing economy, you likely need a review ASAP.

So if your responsibilities involve more than sharpening pencils and making sure your plants are watered, schedule a checkup with your licensed and qualified financial professional. It’s Life Insurance Awareness Month, so now is the perfect time to fine-tune your financial protection.


¹ LIMRA, Sep 2021, “Facts About Life 2021, Facts from Life Insurance Awareness Month, Help Protect Our Families”


The Power of Paying with Cash

The Power of Paying with Cash

Debit card usage spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic, a trend that seems unlikely to reverse soon.¹

In an era of less social contact, debit cards are convenient. Just swipe and go. Even more so for their mobile phone equivalents: Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay. We like fast, we like easy, and we like a good sale.

But are we actually spending more by not using cash like we did in the good old days?

Studies say yes.

We spend more when using plastic – and that’s true of both credit card spending and debit card spending.² Money is more easily spent with cards because you don’t “feel” it immediately. An extra $2 here, another $10 there… It adds up.

The phenomenon of reduced spending when paying with cash is a psychological “pain of payment.” Opening up your wallet at the register for a $20.00 purchase but only seeing a $10 bill in there – ouch! Maybe you’ll put back a couple of those $5 DVDs you just had to have 5 minutes ago.

When using plastic, the reality of the expense doesn’t sink in until the statement arrives. And even then it may not carry the same weight. After all, you only need to make the minimum payment, right? With cash, we’re more cautious – and that’s not a bad thing.

Try an experiment for a week: pay only with cash.

When you pay with cash, the expense feels real – even when it might be relatively small. Hopefully, you’ll get a sense that you’re parting with something of value in exchange for something else. You might start to ask yourself things like “Do I need this new comforter set that’s on sale – a really good sale – or, do I just want this new comforter set because it’s really cute (and it’s on sale)?” You might find yourself paying more attention to how much things cost when making purchases, and weighing that against your budget.

If you find that you have money left over at the end of the week (and you probably will because who likes to see nothing when they open their wallet), put the cash aside in an envelope and give it a label. You can call it anything you want, like “Movie Night,” for example.

As the weeks go on, you’re likely to amass a respectable amount of cash in your “rewards” fund. You might even be dreaming about what to do with that money now. You can buy something special. You can save it. The choice is yours. Well done on saving your hard-earned cash.


¹ “Debit Spending Is On The Rise, But Is It Here To Stay?” Visa Navigate, Apr 2021, https://navigate.visa.com/na/spending-insights/why-debit-spending-is-on-the-rise/

² “MIT study: Paying with credit cards activates your brain to create ‘purchase cravings’ for more spending,” Cory Stieg, CNBC, Mar 13, 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/13/credit-cards-activate-brain-reward-network-create-cravings.html


How to Build Credit When You’re Young

How to Build Credit When You’re Young

Your credit score can affect a lot more than just your interest rates or credit limits.

Your credit history can have an impact on your eligibility for rental leases, raise (or lower) your auto insurance rates, or even affect your eligibility for certain jobs (although in many cases the authorized credit reports available to third parties don’t contain your credit score if you aren’t requesting credit). Because credit history affects so many aspects of financial life, it’s important to begin building a solid credit history as early as possible.

So, where do you start?

1. Apply for a store credit card.

Store credit cards are a common starting point for teens and young adults, as it often can be easier to get approved for a store card than for a major credit card. As a caveat though, store card interest rates are often higher than for a standard credit card. Credit limits are also typically low – but that might not be a bad thing when you’re just getting started building your credit. A lower limit helps ensure you’ll be able to keep up with payments. Because you’re trying to build a positive history and because interest rates are often higher with a store card, it’s important to pay on time – or ideally, to pay the entire balance when you receive the statement.

Become an authorized user on a parent’s credit card.

Another common way to begin building credit is to become an authorized user on a parent’s credit card. Ultimately, the credit card account isn’t yours, so your parents would be responsible for paying the balance. (Because of this, your credit score won’t benefit as much as if you are approved for a credit card in your own name.) Another thing to keep in mind is that some credit card providers don’t report authorized users’ activity to credit bureaus.* Additionally, even if you’re only an authorized user, any missed or late payments on the card can affect your credit history negatively.

Are secured cards useful to build credit?

A secured credit card is another way to begin building credit. To secure the card, you make an initial deposit. The amount of that deposit is your credit line. If you miss a payment, the bank uses your collateral – the deposit – to pay the balance. Don’t let that make you too comfortable though. Your goal is to build a positive credit history, so if you miss payments – even though you have a prepaid deposit to fall back on – you’re still going to get a ding on your credit history. Instead, it’s best to use a small amount of your available credit each month and to pay in full when you get the statement. This will help you look like a credit superstar due to your consistently timely payments and low credit utilization.

As you build your credit history, you’ll be able to apply for credit in larger amounts, and you may even start receiving pre-approved offers. But beware. Having credit available is useful for certain emergencies and for demonstrating responsible use of credit – but you don’t need to apply for every offer you receive.


Source:
“Will Authorized User Status Help You Build Credit?” NerdWallet, Sep 24, 2021, https://discvr.co/2lAzSgt.


Going the Distance

Going the Distance

Without careful planning, your money will never go the distance for your retirement.

Well, unless you win the powerball or stumble upon buried treasure.

The simple fact is that retirement can last a long, long time and often be expensive. According to the Federal Reserve, the average American can expect a retirement of almost 20 years, requiring $1.2 million.¹

How long would it take you to save $1.2 million? Even if you could stash away your entire paycheck, it would likely take over a decade. Factor in the daily costs of living, and decades may become centuries.

Unless, of course, you leverage two simple strategies…

Strategy One: Maximize the power of compound interest.

Strategy Two: Start saving today.

These are time-proven strategies that anyone can leverage. And they can mean the difference between your savings running out of steam or lasting as long as you do.

Let’s start with strategy one: Maximize the power of compound interest…

Compound interest can supercharge your savings. Instead of taking centuries, you have the potential to reach your retirement goals just in time!

That’s because compounding unleashes a virtuous cycle. The money you save grows on its own over time.

But here’s where the magic happens—the more money you have compounding, the greater its growth potential becomes. Even a fraction of your paycheck can eventually compound into the wealth you may need for retirement.

Think of it like changing gears on a bike. Savings alone is first gear—good enough for going down hills or casual jaunts through the neighborhood.

But for reaching greater goals, you need more power. Compound interest is those extra gears—it’s an advantage that can radically improve your performance.

That leads straight into the next strategy: Start saving today.

The longer your money compounds, the greater potential it has for growth. To prove this, let’s crunch the numbers…

Let’s say you can save $500 per month. You find an account that compounds 10% annually.

After 20 years, you’ll have saved $120,000 and grown an additional $223,650 for a grand total of $343,650. Not bad!

But what if you wait another 11 years? Your money will more than triple—you’ll have $1,091,660!

The takeaway? A few years could be the difference between reaching your retirement goals and coming up short. The sooner you start, the greater potential you have to get where you want to go.

No more sporadic saving when you feel the panic. No more burying your head in the sand because you don’t know what the future holds. No more fear that your finances won’t cross the finish line.

These simple strategies can help you go the distance and retire with confidence. Contact me if you want to learn more about building wealth!


¹ “Retirement costs: Estimating what it costs to retire comfortably in every state,” Samuel Stebbins, USA Today, Feb 11, 2021, https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2021/02/11/retirement-costs-comfortable-in-every-state-life-expectancy/115432956/


Financial Relapses

Financial Relapses

Oops. You did it again.

Maybe you used the credit card to buy something you didn’t really need, even though you’ve sworn it off time and time again.

Maybe you found yourself clicking checkout, even though you promised to stop online shopping.

Or maybe you just found yourself discouraged by the number in your bank account… again.

Either way, you’ve had a financial relapse—you did something to set back progress with your goals, even though you knew better.

It sucks. It’s enough to make you throw up your hands and quit.

But here’s the truth—it’s part of the process.

Research suggests that there are six steps to changing behavior…

Pre-contemplation Contemplation Preparation Action Maintenance Relapse

Why is relapse the final step? Because it’s an opportunity. It reveals the limitations in your strategy, unnoticed behavior triggers, and above all, new areas for growth.

This is good to acknowledge, but it’s a far cry from how relapses make you feel. They feel like proof positive that you’ll never change, that you didn’t change. You fell back into your old behaviors.

But nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that relapses merely point you to deeper truths about yourself… and what you’re capable of.

So next time you feel down about a hard-to-break financial habit, give yourself some grace. Examine what happened, and integrate what you learn into your strategy.

Consider meeting with a financial professional to chat things through. They can help you process what happened, refocus on your goals, and create a strategy to prevent future relapses.

And if you feel like you’re stuck in harmful financial habits that you can’t break, book a meeting with a licensed and qualified mental health professional. They can help you identify patterns, understand their origins, and develop steps for change.


¹ “Prochaska and DiClemente’s Stages of Change Model for Social Workers,” Yeshiva University, May 11, 2021, https://online.yu.edu/wurzweiler/blog/prochaska-and-diclementes-stages-of-change-model-for-social-workers


What's Up With Online Banks?

What's Up With Online Banks?

Online banking is pretty normal these days.

Most major banks have apps or websites that allow you to transfer funds and manage your account without ever going into a branch. But what about the new generation of online-only banks that seem to be popping up? Can you be a reliable bank without brick and mortar locations? Let’s explore the world of online banks and some pros and cons.

How do online banks work?

Online banks and physical banks have a lot in common. They’re both places that store and protect your money. They both loan out your money for a profit. So what’s the big difference?

For one thing, banks with brick and mortar locations have high overhead. They may pay rent on properties, maintain buildings, hire managers to operate locations, and pay tellers to serve customers. Online banks typically have drastically lower upkeep costs. Sure, you need to pay developers to keep the system running smoothly and securely, but it’s generally much lower compared to the costs of maintaining physical locations.

Pros

So what do those differences mean for you, the consumer? Banks with physical locations will pass on their location upkeep expenses to you, the customer. That means they’re more likely to charge you for opening an account, give you as little interest as possible, and crank up rates on loans for houses and cars.

Online banks aren’t weighed down by those physical locations. They have fewer expenses and don’t have to charge you as much to make ends meet.¹ That means you might get significantly higher interest rates on your savings accounts. They also tend to lean less on fees than traditional banks.²

Cons

But there are some drawbacks to using an online bank. You might find withdrawing cash without paying ATM fees more difficult than before.³ Depositing cash might also take some more leg work and research.⁴ Customer service can’t be handled in person so problems must be solved via phone or online chat. Plus, safety deposit boxes are harder to come by with an online bank. In short, many of the old school conveniences just aren’t provided by the new generation of online banks.

It’s important to weigh the pros and cons before pulling the trigger and opening an account with an online bank. Trying to make more with your savings account? You may want to investigate banking online. But if you’re on a strict cash diet to avoid excessive spending, a traditional bank might have some classic services that will come in handy. Talk with a licensed financial professional before you make the decision.

¹ “What Is Online Banking? Definition, Pros and Cons,” Amber Murakami-Fester, Nerdwallet, Mar 25, 2021, https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/banking/pros-cons-online-only-banking

² “What Is Online Banking? Definition, Pros and Cons,” Murakami-Fester, Nerdwallet.

³ “What Is Online Banking? Definition, Pros and Cons,” Murakami-Fester, Nerdwallet.

⁴ “What Is Online Banking? Definition, Pros and Cons,” Murakami-Fester, Nerdwallet.


Credit Score vs. Credit Report

Credit Score vs. Credit Report

Your credit score is a big deal. At the least, a low score can saddle you with high interest rates, or at the worst, prevent you from getting important loans.¹ It can even be a roadblock to renting a house or getting a job!²

But what exactly is a credit score? And how is it different from a credit report? It turns out the two have a close relationship. Let’s explore what they are and how they relate to each other.

Credit Report. Your credit report is simply a record of your credit history. Let’s break that down.

Many of us carry some form of debt. It might be a mortgage, student loans, or credit card debt (or all three!). Some people are really disciplined about paying down debt. Others fall on hard times or use debt to fuel frivolous spending and then aren’t able to return the borrowed money. As a result, lenders typically want to know how reliable, or credit worthy, someone is before giving out a loan.

But predicting if someone will be able to pay off a loan is tricky business. Lenders can’t look into the future, so they have to look at a potential borrower’s past regarding debt. They’re interested in late payments, defaulted loans, bankruptcies, and more, to determine if they can trust someone to pay them back. All of this information is compiled into a document that we know as a credit report.

Credit Score. All of the information from someone’s credit report gets plugged into an algorithm. It’s goal? Rate how likely they are to pay back their creditors. The number that the algorithm spits out after crunching the numbers on the credit report is the credit score. Lenders can check your score to get an idea of whether (or not) you’ll be able to pay them back.

Think of a credit report like a test and the credit score as your grade. The test contains the actual details of how you’ve performed. It’s the record of right and wrong answers that you’ve written down. The grade is just a shorthand way to evaluate your performance.

So are credit reports and credit scores the same thing? No. Are they closely related? Yes! A bulletproof credit report will lead to a higher credit score, while a report plagued by late payments will torpedo your final grade. And that number can make all the difference in your financial well-being!


¹ “The Side Effects of Bad Credit,” Latoya Irby, The Balance, Mar 4, 2021, https://www.thebalance.com/side-effects-of-bad-credit-960383

² “The Side Effects of Bad Credit,” Latoya Irby.


Why Used Cars Are So Expensive

Why Used Cars Are So Expensive

What you’ve heard is true—used cars really are getting more expensive.

And it’s not just a minor price hike. Used cars saw a 66%-110% price increase from December 2019 to December 2021.¹ For comparison, overall prices have increased “only” 12% from 2019 to 2022.²

Why? Like almost everything over the last two years, it all comes back to the pandemic.

Here’s the story…

New cars need microchips. That’s where all the computerized magic happens that consumers have come to expect when they drive out of the dealership.

But chip manufacturers were hit right between the eyes by the pandemic. They faced extensive lockdowns, followed by surging demand once the economy began to recover. Factories were simply unable to produce new cars quickly enough. Consumers needed alternatives. So they started buying used cars, en masse.

Demand shot up. Supply went down. And as a result, prices for used cars have soared.

Fortunately, there may be relief on the horizon. If chip manufacturers reopen and new cars hit the market, used car prices should start to trend downward. J.D. Power estimates the market will stabilize in late 2022 or early 2023.³ Morningstar puts the date in 2023.⁴

But whether those predictions become reality remains to be seen. For now, if you’re in the market for a used car, expect to pay more than you would have just a few years ago.


¹ “When Will Used-Car Prices Drop? 3 Things Car Shoppers Should Know,” Jane Ulitskaya, Cars.com, Feb 3, 2022, https://www.cars.com/articles/when-will-used-car-prices-drop-3-things-car-shoppers-should-know-446525/

² “$1 in 2019 is worth $1.12 today,” in2013dollars.com, https://www.in2013dollars.com/us/inflation/2019?amount=1#:~:text=Core%20inflation%20averaged%203.02%25%20per,2022%2C%20a%20difference%20of%20%240.09

³ “When Will Used-Car Prices Drop? 3 Things Car Shoppers Should Know,” Jane Ulitskaya, Cars.com, Feb 3, 2022, https://www.cars.com/articles/when-will-used-car-prices-drop-3-things-car-shoppers-should-know-446525/

⁴ “Used car prices continue to surge. Here’s why — and when they could come back down,” Mike Stunson, Miami Herald, https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article257060717.html#storylink=cpy


Should You Buy an Electric Car?

Should You Buy an Electric Car?

Electric cars are becoming more and more popular, as people look for ways to save money on fuel costs.

But is it really worth the investment? This article looks at the cost of electric cars and whether they’re a good purchase in the long run.

The main way that an electric car can save you money is with its lower fuel costs, especially when gas prices are high. One study found that an EC is 60% cheaper to fuel compared to cars with combustible engines.¹

That’s not all—because they have fewer parts, they can require up to 31% less maintenance. No more oil changes!

Finally, some states incentivize purchasing electric cars with tax credits. These credits can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, making the switch to electric even more enticing. Incentives vary from state to state, so do your research before making your final decision!

But there are serious drawbacks to consider. Many places have yet to build the infrastructure needed for electric cars. An electric car may not be feasible if you live beyond the cities and suburbs.

You should also consider the sticker price of an electric car, which is often higher than gas vehicles. The cost of the car can be offset over time with the lower fuel and maintenance costs, but it’s important to do your due diligence to make sure that the numbers add up for you.

Plus, the consensus seems to be that electric car prices will only drop in the future. Perhaps you should purchase an electric car at some point, just not now.

It’s important to do enough research to know the different benefits of an electric car before you make a purchase. An EC may save you money in fuel costs but they are often more expensive than traditional cars, so it might be hard to justify that investment. It’s worth doing your homework to determine if buying an EC will actually help you save money over the long term.


¹ “Here’s whether it’s actually cheaper to switch to an electric vehicle or not—and how the costs break down,” Mike Winters, CNBC, Dec 29 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/12/29/electric-vehicles-are-becoming-more-affordable-amid-spiking-gas-prices.html#:~:text=Electric%20vehicles%20tend%20to%20have,to%20internal%20combustion%20engine%20vehicles


Why People Aren't Going Back to Work

Why People Aren't Going Back to Work

It’s official—Americans aren’t going back to work.

Even though there were 10 million job openings in June of 2021.¹

If you’ve been out and about, you’ve seen firsthand that jobs aren’t getting filled.

You may have noticed the signs at your local grocery store. Or the longer wait at your favorite restaurant. Or slower service from businesses you depend on.

They all stem from the same source. Americans aren’t rushing back to work.

But why? The COVID-19 pandemic caused mass unemployment and havoc for millions of American families. Wouldn’t they want to start earning money again, ASAP?

It’s not the unemployment benefits holding them back. Those dried up months ago, and the numbers still haven’t budged.

And again, it’s not that there aren’t jobs. There are millions of opportunities out there!

Here’s an idea—many people have woken up to the fact that most jobs suck.

Most jobs leave you completely at the mercy of your boss. If they mismanage the business, your job’s in danger. If you want a bigger bonus, your job’s in danger. If another pandemic breaks out, your job’s in danger.

They give you no control over your hours, your income, your location, or your future.

Who would want to go back to that?

Instead, Americans are looking for a better opportunity. They want control of their future, their wealth, and their hours. They want to replace the insecurity of a 9 to 5 with more reliable sources of income.

If they see an opportunity that checks those boxes, they’ll be willing to re-enter the workforce.

Americans are looking for a better path. The million dollar question is, who will provide it for them?


¹ “Many Americans aren’t going back to work, but it’s not for the reason you might expect,” Paul Brandus, MarketWatch Aug 14, 2021, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/many-americans-arent-going-back-to-work-but-its-not-for-the-reason-you-might-expect-11628772985

² “What states are ending federal unemployment benefits early? See who has cut the extra $300 a week,” Charisse Jones, USA Today, Jul 1, 2021, https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2021/07/01/unemployment-benefits-covid-federal-aid-ending-early-many-states/7815341002/


Getting Out Of Debt Doesn't Make You "Free"

Getting Out Of Debt Doesn't Make You "Free"

Debt is an unfortunate reality for most people in America.

The average household owes $6,000 in credit card debt alone, and the total amount of outstanding consumer debt in the US totals over $15.24 trillion.¹ It’s a burden, both financially—and emotionally. Debt can be linked to fatigue, anxiety, and depression.²

So it’s completely understandable that people want to get rid of their debt, no matter the cost.

But the story doesn’t end when you pay off your last credit card. In fact, it’s only the beginning.

Sure, it feels great to be debt-free. You no longer have to worry about making minimum payments or being late on a payment. You can finally start saving for your future and taking care of yourself. But being debt-free doesn’t mean you’re “free” to do whatever you want and get back into debt again. It means you’re ready to start building wealth, and chasing true financial independence.

For example, when you first beat debt, are you instantly prepared to cover emergencies? Most likely not. And that means you’re still vulnerable to more debt in the future—without cash to cover expenses, you run the risk of needing credit.

The same is likely true for retirement. Simply eliminating debt doesn’t mean you’ll retire wealthy. When you become debt-free, you can put those debt payments towards saving, leveraging the power of compound interest and more to help make your dreams a reality.

But now that you’ve conquered debt, that’s exactly what you can do! You have the cash flow needed to start saving for your future. You can finally take control of your money and make it work for you, instead of the other way around.

So don’t think of being debt-free as the finish line. It’s not. It’s simply the starting point on your journey to financial independence. From here, the sky’s the limit.


¹ “2021 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” Erin El Issa, Nerdwallet, Jan 11, 2022, https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/average-credit-card-debt-household/

² “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


Top Financial Literacy Stories of 2021

Top Financial Literacy Stories of 2021

2021 was another wild ride.

It was no 2020, thank goodness. But there were enough ups, downs, and head scratchers to warrant a retrospective.

These are the top financial literacy stories of 2021.

Memes rocked the financial industry. You read that correctly—memes.

It began with struggling companies like Gamestop and AMC soaring in value. The cause? Rabid speculation fueled primarily by Reddit. There was little rhyme and even less reason to the frenzy, with devastating results—the boom became a bust that wiped out $167 billion of wealth.¹

And notice, that’s not even counting the rollercoaster year that cryptocurrency enthusiasts have “enjoyed.”

Memes also literally became hot commodities in the form of NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens).

What’s an NFT? In short, it’s an image that’s modified with blockchain. The blockchain makes the image a one-of-a-kind collector’s item since it’s possible to verify the image’s identity. Think of it as a mix of cryptocurrency and trading cards.

That means almost any digital image has the potential to become incredibly valuable. For instance, one NFT sold in 2021 for $69.3 million.²

And it makes sense why people have turned en masse to memes to build wealth. They don’t know how money works. They’ve never been taught how to build a financial legacy. And deep down, they know it. So when something, anything, comes along that looks like an opportunity to stick it to the man, they take it. The results are predictable… and often tragic.

The housing market caught on fire. Speaking of extravagant pricing, the housing market boomed in 2021. The numbers speak for themselves. Rent increased 16.4% from January to October.³ More dramatically, home prices surged almost 20% between August 2020 and August 2021.⁴

The housing market serves as a window into other forces impacting consumers. Inflation raised the cost of almost everything in the last half of 2021. And with the supply chain in chaos, it seems possible that prices will continue to rise in 2022.

That makes financial literacy more critical than ever. Families have less and less margin for error, and common milestones seem harder to reach. Without the right knowledge and strategies, building wealth may be increasingly difficult.

Financial illiteracy cost Americans billions. An annual survey by the National Financial Educators Council revealed that financial illiteracy cost the average American $1,634 in 2021.⁵ That’s a total of $415 billion.

Worst of all, that’s likely an underestimate. Think of what $1,634 could do if it were put to work building wealth in a business or retirement account. That’s the true cost of financial illiteracy—both in the short-term AND building wealth long-term.

What are your top financial literacy stories from 2021? Do you foresee any exciting changes in 2022?


¹ “Meme Stocks Lose $167 Billion as Reddit Crowd Preaches Defiance,” Sarah Ponczek, Katharine Gemmell, and Charlie Wells, Bloomberg Wealth, Feb 2, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-02/moonshot-stocks-lose-167-billion-as-crowd-preaches-defiance

² “Top 5 Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) of 2021,” Rakesh Sharma, Investopedia, Dec 15, 2021, https://www.investopedia.com/most-expensive-nfts-2021-5211768

³ “Biden’s next inflation threat: The rent is too damn high,” Katy O’Donnell and Victoria Guida, Politico, Nov 10, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/11/10/rent-inflation-biden-520642#:~:text=The%20Apartment%20List%20annual%20National,expected%20to%20continue%20for%20years

⁴ “Home price growth is finally decelerating—and it’s just the start,” Lance Lambert, Fortune, Dec 6, 2021, https://fortune.com/2021/12/06/housing-market-slowing-heading-into-2022/


Peer-to-Peer Lending Explained

Peer-to-Peer Lending Explained

Sick and tired of borrowing money from financial institutions? Well, no longer! You can now borrow money directly from your peers.

That’s right—with the magic of the internet, you can be in debt to faceless strangers instead of faceless institutions.

One moment while I get my tongue out of my cheek…

But seriously, peer-to-peer lending—or P2P—is exploding. It’s grown from a $3.5 billion market in 2013 to a $67.93 billion market in 2019.¹

Why? Because P2P lending seems like a decentralized alternative to traditional banks and credit unions.

Here’s how it works…

P2P lending platforms serve as a meeting point for borrowers and lenders.

Lenders give the platform cash that gets loaned out at interest.

Borrowers apply for loans to cover a variety of expenses.

Lenders earn money as borrowers pay back their debt.

No middleman. Just straightforward lending and borrowing.

Think of it as crowdfunding, but for debt.

And make no mistake—there’s a P2P lending platform for every loan type under the sun, including…

▪ Wedding loans ▪ Car loans ▪ Business loans ▪ Consolidation loans

But here’s the catch—debt is debt.

The IRS. A bookie. A banker. Your neighbor. It doesn’t matter who you owe (unless they’re criminals). What matters is how much of your cash flow is being consumed by debt.

Can P2P lending platforms offer competitive interest rates? Sure! But they can also offer ridiculous interest rates, just like everywhere else.

Can P2P lending platforms offer lenders opportunities to earn compound interest? Of course! But they also come with risks.

In other words, P2P lending is not a revolution in the financial system. In fact, two leading P2P platforms have actually become banks.²

Rather, they’re simply options for borrowing and lending to consider with your financial professional.


¹ “19 P2P Investing Statistics You Need to Know for 2021,” Swaper, Feb 22, 2021 https://swaper.com/blog/p2p-investing-statistics/

² “Peer-to-peer lending’s demise is cautionary tale,” Liam Proud, Reuters, Dec 13, 2021 https://www.reuters.com/markets/asia/peer-to-peer-lendings-demise-is-cautionary-tale-2021-12-13/


Rent Keeps Increasing. Will It Stop?

Rent Keeps Increasing. Will It Stop?

It’s official—rent keeps increasing.

From January to October 2021, rent skyrocketed 16.4.¹ And the market hasn’t cooled off—housing costs increased for renters 0.3% between September and October alone.²

It briefly looked like the housing market boom was temporary. There were plenty of rumors that the bubble was about to burst. Queue the comparisons to the 2007-2008 housing bubble!

But prices have kept on rising. In fact, Americans have come to expect it—on average, they anticipate a 10% increase in 2022.³ Financial institutions agree—the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas predicts the surge to continue until December 2023.⁴

Why? Because of a perfect storm of…

• Supply chain woes • Housing shortages • Historically low interest rates • First-time home buyers

In other words, houses are in high demand, but there aren’t enough available and they’re expensive to build.

And those problems aren’t likely to be resolved anytime soon.

But take all that with a grain of salt. If there’s anything that the last two years have proven, it’s that anything is possible.

For now, it’s best practice to prepare your budget for rising rents.


¹ “Biden’s next inflation threat: The rent is too damn high,” Katy O’Donnell and Victoria Guida, Politico, Nov 10, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/11/10/rent-inflation-biden-520642

² “Biden’s next inflation threat,” O’Donnell and Guida

³ “Biden’s next inflation threat,” O’Donnell and Guida

⁴ “Biden’s next inflation threat,” O’Donnell and Guida


Buy Life Insurance Before the Baby

Buy Life Insurance Before the Baby

Many people buy life insurance after they have had a big change in their life. They want to make sure that there will be money for their family if something happens to them. That includes changes like…

  • Getting married
  • Buying a house
  • Loss of a loved one
  • The birth of a baby

You can get life insurance for a baby after it is born or even while the baby is still in the uterus. But it’s best to get it before you have children.

Why? Because pregnancies can cause complications for the mother – for both her own health and the initial medical exam for a policy. Red flags for insurance providers include:

  • Preeclampsia (occurs in 1 in 25 of all pregnancies)¹

  • Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (affects 2-10% of women)²

  • High cholesterol (rises during pregnancy and breastfeeding)³

  • A C-section (accounts for 32% of all deliveries)⁴

Furthermore, the benefits of youth are a powerful incentive to get life insurance for both the mother and father.

The younger you are, the easier it is to get life insurance. This can financially protect your family if you or your spouse have an unexpected event in their life.

If you are a new parent or thinking about becoming one, contact me to open up insurance for your soon-to-be growing family. We can discuss what options would be best for you.


¹ “Everything you need to know about preeclampsia,” Medical News Today, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/252025#Summary

² “Gestational Diabetes,” CDC, Aug 10, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/gestational.html

³ “How to Manage Your Cholesterol Levels During Pregnancy,” Judith Marcin, M.D., Anna Schaefer, Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/manage-cholesterol-levels-during-pregnancy

⁴ “Births – Method of Delivery,” CDC, Oct 20, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/delivery.htm


Toxic Financial Habits

Toxic Financial Habits

As well-intentioned as we might be, we sometimes get in our own way when it comes to improving our financial health.

Much like physical health, financial health can be affected by binging, carelessness, or simply not knowing what can cause harm. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel – as with physical health, it’s possible to reverse the downward trend if you can break your harmful habits.

Not budgeting A household without a budget is like a ship without a rudder, drifting aimlessly and – sooner or later – it might sink or run aground in shallow waters. Small expenses and indulgences can add up to big money over the course of a month or a year.

In nearly every household, it might be possible to find some extra money just by cutting back on non-essential spending. A budget is your way of telling yourself that you may be able to have nice things if you’re disciplined about your finances.

Frequent use of credit cards. Credit cards always seem to get picked on when discussing personal finances, and often, they deserve the flack they get. Not having a budget can be a common reason for using credit, contributing to an average credit card debt of $6,913 for balance-carrying households.¹ At an average interest rate of over 16%, credit card debt is usually the highest interest expense in a household, several times higher than auto loans, home loans, and student loans.²

The good news is that with a little discipline, you can start to pay down your credit card debt and help reduce your interest expense.

Mum’s the word. No matter how much income you have, money can be a stressful topic in families. This can lead to one of two potentially harmful habits.

First, talking about the family finances is often simply avoided. Conversations about kids and work and what movie you want to watch happen, but conversations about money can get swept under the rug.

Are you a “saver” and your partner a “spender”? Is it the opposite? Maybe you’re both spenders or both savers. Talking (and listening) about yourself and your significant other’s tendencies can be insightful and help avoid conflicts about your finances.

If you’re like most households, having an occasional chat about the budget may help keep your family on track with your goals – or help you identify new goals – or maybe set some goals if you don’t have any.

Second, financial matters can be confusing – which may cause stress – especially once you get past the basics. This may tempt you to ignore the subject or to think “I’ll get around to it one day”.

But getting a budget and a financial strategy in place sooner rather than later may actually help you reduce stress. Think of it as “That’s one thing off my mind now!”

Taking the time to understand your money situation and getting a budget in place is the first step to put your financial house in order. As you learn more and apply changes – even small ones – you might see your efforts start to make a difference!


¹ “2020 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” Erin El Issa, Nerdwallet, Jan 12, 2021 https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/average-credit-card-debt-household/

² “2020 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” Erin El Issa


Unwinding Yourself Into Stress

Unwinding Yourself Into Stress

Americans carry a stunning amount in credit card debt— $895 billion as of June 2021.¹

You read that right: $895 billion. And that’s after decreasing in 2020 due to the pandemic.

It seems like many have ended up being owned by a tiny piece of plastic rather than the other way around.

How much have you or a loved one contributed to that number? Whether it’s $10 or $10,000, there are a couple simple tricks to get and keep yourself out of credit card debt.

The first step is to be aware of how and when you’re using your credit card. It’s so easy – especially on a night out when you’re trying to unwind – to mindlessly hand over your card to pay the bill. And for most people, paying with credit has become their preferred, if not exclusive, payment option. Dinner, drinks, Ubers, a concert, a movie, a sporting event – it’s going to add up.

And when that credit card bill comes, you could end up feeling more wound up than you did before you tried to unwind.

Paying attention to when, what for, and how often you hand over your credit card is crucial to getting out from under credit card debt.

Here are 2 tips to keep yourself on track on a night out.

1. Consider your budget. You might cringe at the word “budget”, but it’s not an enemy who never wants you to have any fun. Considering your budget doesn’t mean you can never enjoy a night out with friends or coworkers. It simply means that an evening of great food, fun activities, and making memories must be considered in the context of your long-term goals. Start thinking of your budget as a tough-loving friend who’ll be there for you for the long haul.

Before you plan a night out:

  • Know exactly how much you can spend before you leave the house or your office, and keep track of your spending as your evening progresses.
  • Try using an app on your phone or even write your expenses on a napkin or the back of your hand – whatever it takes to keep your spending in check.
  • Once you have reached your limit for the evening – stop.

2. Cash, not plastic (wherever possible). Once you know what your budget for a night out is, get it in cash or use a debit card. When you pay your bill with cash, it’s a concrete transaction. You’re directly involved in the physical exchange of your money for goods and services. In the case that an establishment or service will only take credit, just keep track of it (app, napkin, back of your hand, etc.), and leave the cash equivalent in your wallet.

You can still enjoy a night on the town, get out from under credit card debt, and be better prepared for the future with a carefully planned financial strategy. Contact me today, and together we’ll assess where you are on your financial journey and what steps you can take to get where you want to go – hopefully by happy hour!

¹ “2020 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” Erin El Issa, Nerdwallet, Jan 12, 2021, https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/average-credit-card-debt-household/


The Closest Without Going Over Wins

The Closest Without Going Over Wins

“How many jellybeans are in the jar?” This is one of life’s serious questions.

You know how it works. If your guess is the closest without going over, you win the prize. And whether it’s a cash pot, a season pass for your hometown’s team – or even just the jellybeans themselves, it’s a situation with a lot at stake. You’ve been presented with a ripe opportunity to prove your keen intellect, not to mention maybe winning some free candy!

You may start pulling out your old high school algebra equations. You may laboriously count the visible jellybeans so you can extrapolate the total. You may even pick the jar up and hold it to the light – shaking it and assessing any gaps in area coverage.

Take your time. It’s a big decision.

Unfortunately for many people, it seems not as much thought goes into estimating how much a life insurance policy may cost. Can you guess how much a policy might cost?

LIMRA’s 2021 Insurance Barometer study shed a little light on just how off these guesses can be: When Millennials surveyed were asked how much they thought a healthy 30-year-old would pay for a term insurance policy, their median guess was $1,000 – more than 6 times the actual cost!¹

That stat is pretty revealing: odds are that the number you have in mind is a lot higher than what you might actually end up paying for your policy. As a result, it may feel like you’re saving money right now by not having life insurance. But in the case of a sudden illness, the passing of a breadwinner, or an unexpected loss of income, not having (what is potentially affordable) protection for your loved ones feels as silly as writing down a guess of 1,000,000 jellybeans next to the mathematician’s answer of 1,086.

The bottom line: Have you overestimated how much a well-tailored life insurance policy could cost you? Not sure? Reconsider your guesstimate with a financial professional who knows the in’s and out’s of your needs and what coverage may be available that fits your budget. (It’s like knowing how many jellybeans are in the jar before you have to guess!)


¹ “Top Misconceptions About Life Insurance,” LIMRA, https://www.limra.com/siteassets/research/research-abstracts/2021/2021-insurance-barometer-study/2021_barometer-infographic.pdf.


Matters of Age

Matters of Age

The younger you are, the less expensive your life insurance may be.

Life insurance companies are more willing to offer lower premium life insurance policies to young, healthy people who will likely not need the death benefit payout of their policy for a while. (Keep in mind that exceptions for pre-existing medical conditions or certain careers exist – think “skydiving instructor”. But in many cases, the odds are more in your favor for lower premiums than you might guess.)

At this point you might be thinking, “Well, I am young and healthy, so why do I need to add another expense into my budget for something I might not need for a long time?”

Unlike a financial goal of saving up for a downpayment on your first house, waiting for “the right moment” to get life insurance – perhaps when you feel like you’re prepared enough – is less beneficial. A huge part of that is due to getting older. As your body ages, things can start to go wrong – unexpectedly and occasionally chronically. Ask any 35-year-old who just threw out their back for the first time and is now Googling every posture-perfecting stretch and cushy mattress to prevent it from happening again.

With age-related health issues in mind, remember that the premium you pay at 22 may be very different than the premium you’ll pay at 32. The reason is simple—most people physically peak by the time their 30.¹

If you’re feeling your mortality after reading those numbers, don’t worry! You’re probably not going to go to pieces like fine china hitting a cement floor on your 30th birthday. But there is one certainty as you age: your premium will rise an average of 8-10% on each birthday.² Combine that with an issue like the sudden chronic back problems from throwing your back out that one time (one time!), and your premium will likely reflect both the age increase and a pre-existing condition.

If you experience certain types of illness or injury prior to getting life insurance, it often goes in the books as a pre-existing condition, which will cause a premium to go up. Remember: the less likely a person is going to need their life insurance payout, the lower the premium will likely be. Possible scenarios like the recurrence of cancer or a sudden inability to work due to re-injury are red flags for insurance companies because it increases the likelihood that a policyholder will need their policy’s payout.

A person’s age, unique medical history, and financial goals will all factor into the process of finding the right coverage and determining the rate. So taking advantage of your youth and good health now without bringing an age-borne illness or injury to the table could be beneficial for your journey to financial independence.


Sources:
¹ “A map of the ages when you peak at everything in life,” Digital Information World, March 16, 2021, https://www.digitalinformationworld.com/2021/03/a-map-of-ages-when-you-peak-at.html#
² “How Age Affects Life Insurance Rates,” Investopedia, June 29, 2021, https://bit.ly/2L7P0x6.


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