If something unexpected were to happen, do you have enough savings to get you and your family through it and back to solid ground again?
If you’re not sure you have enough set aside, being blindsided with an emergency might leave you in the awkward position of asking family or friends for a loan to tide you over. Or would you need to rack up credit card debt to get through a crisis? Dealing with a financial emergency can be stressful enough – like an unexpected hospital visit, car repairs, or even a sudden loss of employment. But having an established Emergency Fund in place before something happens can help you focus on what you need to do to get on the other side of it.
As you begin to save money to build your Emergency Fund, use these 5 rules to grow and protect your “I did not see THAT coming” stash:
1) Separate your Emergency Fund from your primary spending account. How often does the amount of money in your primary spending account fluctuate? Trips to the grocery store, direct deposit, automatic withdrawals, spontaneous splurges – the ebb and flow in your main household account can make it hard to keep track of the actual emergency money you have available. Open a separate account for your Emergency Fund so you can avoid any doubt about whether or not you can replace the water heater that decided to break right before your in-laws are scheduled to arrive.
2) Do NOT touch this account. Even though this is listed here as Rule #2, it’s really Rule #1. Once you begin setting aside money in your Emergency Fund, “fugettaboutit”… unless there actually is an emergency! Best case scenario, that money is going to sit and wait for a long time until it’s needed. However, just because it’s an “out of sight, out of mind” situation, doesn’t mean that there aren’t some important features that need to be considered for your Emergency Fund account:
You definitely don’t want this money to be locked up and/or potentially lose value over time. Although these two qualities might prevent any significant gain to your account, that’s not the goal with these funds. Pressure’s off!
3) Know your number. You may hear a lot about making sure you’re saving enough for retirement and that you should never miss a life insurance premium. Solid advice. But don’t pause either of these important pieces of your financial plan to build your Emergency Fund. Instead, tack building your Emergency Fund onto your existing plan. The same way you know what amount you need to save each month for your retirement and the premium you need to pay for your life insurance policy, know how much you need to set aside regularly so you can build a comfortable Emergency Fund. A goal of at least $1,000 to three months of your income or more is recommended. Three months worth of your salary may sound high, but if you were to lose your job, you’d have at least three full months of breathing room to get back on track.
4) Avoid bank fees. These are Emergency Fund Public Enemy No. 1. Putting extra money aside can be challenging – maybe you’ve finally come to terms with giving up the daily latte from your local coffee shop. But if that precious money you’re sacrificing to save is being whittled away by bank fees – that’s downright tragic! Avoid feeling like you’re paying twice for an emergency (once for the emergency itself and second for the fees) by using an account that doesn’t charge fees and preferably doesn’t have a minimum account balance requirement or has a low one that’s easy to maintain. You should be able to find out what you’re in for on your bank’s website or by talking to an employee.
5) Get started immediately. There’s no better way to grow your Emergency Fund than to get started!
There’s always going to be something. That’s just life. You can avoid that dreaded phone call to your parents (or your children). There’s no need to apply for another credit card (or two). Start growing and protecting your own Emergency Fund today, and give yourself the gift of being prepared for the unexpected.
¹ “Nearly 25% of Americans have no emergency savings,” Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch, Jun 9, 2020, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/nearly-25-of-americans-have-no-emergency-savings-and-lost-income-due-to-coronavirus-is-piling-on-even-more-debt-2020-06-03
There are plenty of extravagant solutions—a gambling spree in Vegas, buying a boat, or shopping only at designer stores would probably do the trick!
But there are less obvious ways to retire with less. There are subtle misteps that may not lead to financial trainwrecks, but may still result in retiring with less. Here are a few!
Never start saving for retirement. The same is true for every undertaking. The easiest way to torpedo your music career? Never practice. It’s unwise to expect your retirement to be financially sound if you don’t start preparing and saving for it today. Starting is the most important step in your journey!
Buy a house you can’t afford. Few things will consume your cash flow and ability to build wealth more than a house that’s out of your budget. Mortgage payments, emergency repairs, and renovations can be costly even after extensive planning and saving. These expenses can scuttle your ability to build wealth if you end up becoming “house poor”.
Buy things you don’t need. Make no mistake—there’s a place for splurging and treating yourself. But there’s a point where buying more stuff simply weighs you down, both emotionally and financially. And if you’re using debt to keep shopping, you might be setting yourself up for less in retirement.
Be afraid of change. It’s incredibly difficult to pursue better opportunities if you fear change. Improving your financial situation, by definition, requires you to do something different, whether it’s spending less or changing careers. Unless you’re already on track for retirement, a fear of change can hinder your ability to reach your goals and live your dreams.
Never learn how money works. This is the easiest item on the list to avoid. Most people are never taught what their money can actually do and how to build wealth. But it can have serious consequences for your future. Not knowing how money works can prevent you from using critical tools like the Rule of 72 and the Power of Compound Interest to detect both bad deals and wealth building opportunities.
If any of these rung a bell with you, contact me. We can discuss strategies to start preparing for retirement, cut your spending, and find opportunities to increase your income!
In fact, it can be a straightforward—and profoundly enlightening—exercise that reveals your available cash flow and where you can reduce spending.
Here’s your step by step guide to creating a simple budget!
Get a pen and paper (or laptop). You’ll need a place to write and crunch a few simple numbers. If you’re “old school”, a pen, piece of paper, and a calculator will work perfectly. But you can also use a text document or spreadsheet if you’d rather!
Also, consider using a budgeting app. They’re simple tools right on your phone that you can use to track your income and outgo.
Make a list of all your monthly expenses, including housing, utilities, groceries, and transportation. Then, log in to your online banking account. You should be able to determine your average monthly spending in all of your expense categories. Write down those numbers in your budget.
Add up how much you spend in each category. That’s your total average monthly spending!
Then, subtract that number from your income to calculate your average available cash flow. That’s how much money you have leftover each month to tackle debt, save for emergencies, or use to start building wealth.
If it’s a smaller number than you expected, it’s ok. You’ve taken a very important step to face reality and move forward financially! You now know what you’re spending each month, and on what. Look at categories like entertainment and dining out. Can you reduce your monthly spending in these areas?
If your budget is tight and cash still isn’t flowing as freely as you’d like, you may need to consider starting a side hustle or part-time business to help make up the difference.
Ask me if you need help constructing your budget. It’s a simple process that can seriously improve your financial wellness.
That’s why it’s crucial to learn how credit cards work before deciding whether or not to get one. Here are three important truths that everyone should know about credit cards.
Credit cards are NOT free money. You read that correctly. Every time you make a purchase with your credit card, you’re actually borrowing money. Lenders want you to pay that money back—and then some. Using your card for purchases outside of your budget or to buy expensive toys beyond your means can result in a stunning level of debt. But that’s not all…
Credit card debt can take years to eliminate. Credit cards are notorious for high interest rates, averaging 16.43% in the third quarter of 2020.¹ That makes paying down credit card debt especially difficult. In fact, it might take years to pay off some cards if you made the minimum payments alone. Limiting your usage and paying your bill on time every month is an absolute must if you’re going to use a credit card.
Credit cards can be a great way to build credit. But credit cards aren’t all bad! Consistently paying your bill on time and limiting your credit usage can indicate to future lenders that you ll be trustworthy with a loan. They may offer you more favorable interest rates and terms if you have a great credit score!
Credit card usage has the potential to make or break your financial wellness. Recognizing the risks—and benefits—that easily accessible credit can bring should inspire you to navigate your finances with care and intention.
¹ “What Is a Good APR for a Credit Card?,” Melissa Lambarena, Nerdwallet, Mar 4, 2021, https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/credit-cards/what-is-a-good-apr-for-a-credit-card
It may not be as daunting as you might think. In fact, there are simple steps you can take today that can help position you to retire with the wealth you desire.
Pay yourself first. It’s simple—schedule a recurring transfer to your retirement savings account when you get your paycheck. This transforms building wealth for your future into an effortless process that occurs without your even thinking about it.
Save your bonuses. Unexpected windfalls are exciting! But don’t forget to pause for a moment before you take off for the Bahamas. If you hadn’t gotten that bonus, would your life and your current financial strategy still be the same as it was last week? Consider putting (most of) that extra money away for later, and using a fraction of it for fun!
Reduce your debt. Credit cards and any high interest loans are the first priority when retiring debt—so that you can retire too someday! Do you really know how much you’re paying in interest each month? (Once you know this number, you can’t “unknow” it.) But take heart! Use this as a powerful incentive to pay those balances off as quickly as you can.
Every month you chip away at your debt, you’ll owe less and pay less in interest. (You’ll feel better too.) And you know what to do with the leftover money since you knocked out that debt. Hint: Save it.
But keep this in mind—life is about balance. It’s okay to treat yourself once in a while. Just make sure to pay yourself first now, so you can REALLY treat yourself later in retirement.
A recent survey revealed that 83% of respondents underestimated their subscription spending by a wide margin.¹ On average, they thought subscriptions only cost them $80 per month. In reality, it was over $230.
That was back in 2018. Since the COVID-19 Pandemic started in 2020, that number has dramatically increased. A 2020 survey discovered that, on average, consumers added $192 in new subscriptions after lock downs started.²
The takeaway? Subscriptions might be consuming more of your cash flow than you realize.
Scroll through the apps on your phone. Are there streaming, dating, or wellness subscriptions that you pay for but never use? Unsubscribe and uninstall them!
If you and your family regularly use a streaming service, consider cancelling your cable subscription. They’re expensive, and your streaming services probably carry your favorite shows as it is.
It’s also worth investigating the value of any subscription boxes you receive. Is a monthly shipment of makeup or comic books significantly improving your life? Or do most of the items go unused? If the latter is true, consider cancelling your subscription.
Once you’ve cleared out unnecessary subscriptions, you might be surprised by how much cash flow you’ve freed up for reducing debt or building wealth.
¹ “You probably spend more on subscriptions than you realize,” Angela Moscaritolo, Mashable, Feb 20, 2019, https://mashable.com/article/you-probably-spend-more-on-subscriptions-that-you-realize/
² “Americans More Than Tripled Subscription Service Spending Amid Social Distancing,” David Dykes, Greenville Business Magazine, May 14, 2020, http://www.greenvillebusinessmag.com/2020/05/14/308970/americans-more-than-tripled-subscription-service-spending-amid-social-distancing
2020 witnessed home prices soar by 15% to average more than $320,000–a prohibitive price for many seeking to buy their first house.¹
But even if you aren’t ready to buy a house today, there are steps you can take now that may better position you to become a homeowner in the future!
Build your emergency fund
An emergency fund is a critical line of financial defense that can help lay the foundation for buying a house. That’s because an emergency fund provides a cash cushion while you prepare to purchase your home and then begin paying off your mortgage. The unexpected expenses of homeownership can be far less detrimental to your long-term goals when you have a dedicated fund specifically designed to cover emergencies!
Increase your credit score
An excellent credit score is imperative for first time home buyers for two reasons…
First, actions that increase your credit score–debt management and paying your bills on time–can help create a solid financial foundation as you shoulder the responsibility of servicing a mortgage.
Second, lenders typically offer more favorable loan terms to people with high credit scores. That can result in more cash flow over the life of your mortgage. A recent survey discovered that mortgage holders with very good credit scores save more than $40,000 over the lifetime of their loan!²
Take steps to boost your credit score before you start house hunting. Automate your bill payments so they’re always on time, and begin reducing the balances on your credit cards, student loans, and auto loans!
Start saving for your down payment ASAP
Aim to have a down payment of at least 20% of your future home’s value saved before the home buying process begins.
Why? Because paying more up front and borrowing less to buy your home reduces the interest you’ll owe over the long-term. A substantial down payment might also lower the price of closing costs and negate your need to buy private mortgage insurance. Usually, the higher your down payment, the better!
The time to lay the groundwork for buying your first house is now. Build an emergency fund, increase your credit score, and save enough for a significant down payment. Then, search for a house that meets your needs and won’t break the bank!
¹ “U.S. home prices hit a record high in 2020. Is home buying still affordable?,” Peter Miller, The Mortgage Reports, Oct 13, 2020, https://themortgagereports.com/70539/record-high-prices-record-low-mortgage-rates-during-covid#:~:text=Home%20values%20and%20sales%20prices,on%20record%2C%E2%80%9D%20says%20Redfin.
² “Raising a ‘Fair’ Credit Score to ‘Very Good’ Could Save Over $56,000,” Kali McFadden, LendingTree, Jan 7, 2020, https://www.lendingtree.com/personal/study-raising-credit-score-saves-money/
There’s something liberating about closing one chapter of your life and beginning a new one. You realize that this year doesn’t have to be like last year, and that there are countless possibilities for growth.
Now is the perfect time to write a new financial chapter of your life.
In the mindset of new beginnings, the first thing is to forgive yourself for the mistakes of the past and start fresh. Now is your chance to set yourself up for financial success this year and potentially for years to come. Here are three simple steps you can take starting January 1st that might make this new chapter of your life the best one yet!
Automate wise money decisions ASAP
What if there were a way to go to the gym once that somehow made you steadily stronger throughout the year? One workout would be all you need to achieve your lifting goals!
That’s exactly what automating savings and bill payments does for your finances.
All you have to do is determine how much you want to save and where, set up automatic deposits, and watch your savings grow. It’s like making a year’s worth of wise financial decisions in one fell swoop!
Give your debt the cold shoulder
Debt doesn’t have to dictate your story in the new year. You can reclaim your cash flow from monthly payments and devote it to building wealth. Resolve to reduce how much you owe over the next 12 months, and then implement one of these two powerful debt strategies…
Arrange your debts on a sheet of paper, starting with the highest interest rate and working down. Direct as much financial firepower as you can at that first debt. Once you’ve cleared it, use the extra resources you’ve freed up to crush the next one even faster. This strategy is called the Debt Avalanche.
Arrange your debts on a sheet paper, starting with the smallest debt and working up to the largest. Eliminate the smallest debt first and then work up to the largest debt. This is called the Debt Snowball. It can be a slower strategy over the long-haul, but it can sometimes provide more motivation to keep going because you’re knocking out smaller goals faster.
Start a side hustle
You might not have thought much about this before, but you may have what it takes to create a successful side hustle. Just take a moment and think about your hobbies and skills. Love playing guitar? Start teaching lessons, or see if you can start gigging at weddings or events. Are you an embroidery master? Start selling your creations online. Your potential to transform your existing talents into income streams is only limited by your imagination!
Start this new year strong. Automate a year’s worth of wise financial decisions ASAP, and then evaluate what your next steps should be. You may even want to meet with a qualified and licensed financial professional to help you uncover strategies and techniques that can further reduce your debt and increase your cash flow. Whatever you choose, you’ll have set yourself up for a year full of potential for financial success!
After all, it’s hard to find a family that doesn’t have debt hanging over them. In this day of easy credit and deferred interest, it’s not hard to accumulate sizable financial obligations.
It is possible, however, to become debt free. One method, the so-called “snowball” method, can be an effective way to get on top of those seemingly never-ending payments.
When you think about tackling your debt, it might make sense to pay off the obligation you have at the highest interest rate first, when you look at it mathematically. But sometimes the highest interest rate debt may also be the largest amount you have to deal with, which might create frustration if the balance is going down too slowly.
The debt snowball method can seem counterintuitive because it doesn’t always follow the math, since in most cases, the math favors paying down the debt with the highest interest rate first. The snowball method instead focuses on building momentum – the idea that small successes can lead to larger successes. Paying off the smallest balance first can build momentum to plow through the next largest balance, then the next one and so forth – like a snowball gaining size and speed as it rolls down a hill.
To restate, once you’ve paid off the smallest balance, more cash is available to put toward the next smallest amount. After the second smallest amount is paid off, the cash you freed up by paying off the first two debts can now be applied to the third largest balance.
The snowball method of debt repayment is intended to help simplify the process of becoming debt free. Because you’re starting with smaller balances and working your way up, your mortgage (if you have one) would be one of the last balances to tackle. Some financial experts might recommend leaving the mortgage out of your snowball payments altogether, but that’s up to you and how ambitious you are!
Ready to start?
First, remind yourself it may take some time to get your debt to zero, but hang in there. If you stick to your strategy, you can make great strides toward financial freedom!
Second, make a list of your debts and sort them by size from lowest to highest. Then, pay the minimum on all the balances except the smallest one, and put as much as you can towards that one. Let’s say the payment you’re making on the smallest balance is $20. Once that balance is paid off, add that $20 to whatever you were paying toward the next smallest balance. Let’s say that balance has a minimum payment of $30. That means you can now put $50 a month toward it to knock it out faster.
When the second balance is paid off, you’ll have an extra $50 a month you can put towards the third highest balance.
See the snowball? Keep going! Over time, you should have enough momentum and freed up cash available to really make a dent in your debt.
But not all goals are created equal. Planning to win the lottery is a foolish objective that won’t help you fulfill your dreams. Spending hours clipping coupons worth a few dollars is probably a waste of time.
Fortunately, establishing proper goals is actually incredibly straightforward. You want to pursue objectives that are SMART—specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Formulating these types of goals can radically focus your energy and increase your ability to get things done. Let’s start with the first criteria!
The more specific your goal, the more clearly you’ll understand exactly what you need to do to achieve it. It’s the difference between a vague daydream and a solid plan.
When writing out your financial goals, be crystal clear on exactly what you want to accomplish and why. Outline the steps and people needed to bring about your vision. Something like “I want to make more money” becomes “I want to earn a raise at work by taking on more responsibility.”
How will you know if you’ve accomplished, exceeded, or failed your goal? Including a clear metric gives you insight into how close or far you are from completing your objective.
Decide on a clear numeric goal you can shoot for. Take a vague notion like “I want to save more money” and transform it into “I want to save 15% of my income this year for retirement.” You’ll have a clearer idea of what steps you need to take to meet that benchmark and feel a deep sense of reward once you hit the target.
Trying to attain an ill-defined, pie-in-the-sky goal will only lead to crazy behavior, incredible discouragement, or both. If you’re aiming for something huge (which is admirable), break it down into mini goals and focus on one at a time. Achieving a goal like “I want to start a multi-million dollar business” takes careful planning, a lot of research, and loads of help, but there are many, many people in the world who have done just that. How do you eat an elephant? (One bite at a time!)
Are your goals appropriate? That seems like an obvious question, but it’s a critical one to ask when establishing objectives. For instance, saving up $1,000 so you can buy your new niece a Swarovski crystal, gold-plated baby rattle (yes, that’s a real thing) might be really memorable, but do you have an emergency fund in place? Make sure you’re meeting those practical, basic financial goals before you start aiming for the non-essential ones.
Knowing that the clock is ticking is one of the most powerful motivators on the planet. You’ll want to establish a realistic time-frame, but deciding that you want to buy a house in two years or be debt free in six months can increase your intensity, narrow your focus, and inspire you to start working on your goals as soon as possible!
Do your financial goals meet these criteria? If not, don’t sweat it! Spend 15 minutes reviewing your objectives and work in specific details or break down some of your more ambitious targets. Remember, I’m here to help if you hit a financial goal roadblock and need some professional insight and clarity!
It can be enlightening to see how rates are applied. Hopefully, it motivates you to pay off those cards as quickly as possible!
What is APR?
At the core of understanding how finance charges are calculated is the APR, short for Annual Percentage Rate. Most credit cards now use a variable rate, which means the interest rate can adjust with the prime rate, which is the lowest interest rate available (for any entity that is not a bank) to borrow money. Banks use the prime rate for their best customers to provide funds for mortgages, loans, and credit cards.¹ Credit card companies charge a higher rate than prime, but their rate often moves in tandem with the prime rate. As of the second quarter of 2020, the average credit card interest rate on existing accounts was 14.58%.²
While the Annual Percentage Rate is a yearly rate, as its name suggests, the interest on credit card balances is calculated monthly based on an average daily balance. You may also have multiple APRs on the same account, with a separate APR for balance transfers, cash advances, and late balances.
Periodic Interest Rate
The APR is used to calculate the Periodic Interest Rate, which is a daily rate. 15% divided by 365 days in a year = 0.00041095 (the periodic rate), for example.
Average Daily Balance
If you use your credit card regularly, the balance will change with each purchase. So if credit card companies charged interest based on the balance on a given date, it would be easy to minimize the interest charges by timing your payment. This isn’t the case, however—unless you pay in full—because the interest will be based on the average daily balance for the entire billing cycle.
Let’s look at some round numbers and a 30-day billing cycle as an example.
Day 1: Balance $1,000 Day 10: Purchase $500, Balance $1,500 Day 20: Purchase $200, Balance $1,700 Day 28: Payment $700, Balance $1,000
To calculate the average daily balance, you would need to determine how many days you had at each balance.
$1,000 x 9 days $1,500 x 10 days $1,700 x 8 days $1,000 x 3 days
Some of the multiplied numbers below might look alarming, but after we divide by the number of days in the billing cycle (30), we’ll have the average daily balance. ($9,000 + $15,000 + $13,600 + $3,000)/30 = $1,353.33 (the average daily balance)
Here’s an eye-opener: If the $1,000 ending balance isn’t paid in full, interest is charged on the $1353.33, not $1,000.
We’ll also assume an interest rate of 15%, which gives a periodic (daily) rate of 0.00041095.
$1,353.33 x (0.00041095 x 30) = $16.68 finance charge
$16.68 may not sound like a lot of money, but this example is a small fraction of the average household credit card debt, which is $8,645 for households that carry balances as of 2019.³ At 15% interest, average households with balances are paying $1,297 per year in interest. Wow! What could you do with that $1,297 that could have been saved?
That was a lot of math, but it’s important to know why you’re paying what you might be paying in interest charges. Hopefully this knowledge will help you minimize future interest buildup!
Did you know? When you make a payment, the payment is applied to interest first, with any remainder applied to the balance. This is why it can take so long to pay down a credit card, particularly a high-interest credit card. In effect, you can end up paying for the same purchase several times over due to how little is applied to the balance if you are just making minimum payments.
¹ “Prime Rate,” James Chen, Investopedia, Jun 30, 2020, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/primerate.asp
² “What Is the Average Credit Card Interest Rate?,” Adam McCann, WalletHub, Oct 12, 2020, https://wallethub.com/edu/average-credit-card-interest-rate/50841/
³ “Credit Card Debt Study,” Alina Comoreanu, WalletHub, Sep 9, 2020, https://wallethub.com/edu/cc/credit-card-debt-study/24400
Americans spend about 34% of their income on servicing their mortgages, car loans, and, of course, credit cards.¹
Assuming a household income of $68,703, that translates to roughly $23,359 going down the drain each and every year.²
Obviously, converting that money from debt maintenance to wealth building would be a dream come true for most Americans. But there’s more at stake here than retirement strategies.
The true cost of debt is your peace of mind.
Take the example from above. A third of your income is going towards debt and the rest is split up between everyday living and transportation expenses. You feel you can make ends meet as long as the money keeps coming in.
But what happens if a recession causes massive layoffs? Or if a pandemic shuts down the economy for months?
The sad fact is that the hamster wheel of debt prevents a huge chunk of Americans from saving enough to cover even a brief window of unemployment, let alone a shutdown!
That lack of financial security can have serious repercussions, including bankruptcy. And feeling like you’re always one unexpected emergency away from a financial crisis can result in a myriad of mental health issues. Numerous studies have shown that high levels of debt increase anxiety, depression, anger, and even divorce.³
Conquering debt isn’t about changing numbers on a page. It’s about reclaiming your peace. It’s about securing financial stability for you and your family. Your income is a powerful tool if you can protect it from lenders.
If you’re stressed about debt and seeking some relief, let me know. We can review your situation together and come up with a game plan that will recover the financial security that’s rightfully yours.
¹ “Study: Americans Spend One-Third of Their Income on Debt,” Maurie Backman, The Ascent, Mar 6, 2020, https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/credit-cards/articles/study-americans-spend-one-third-of-their-income-on-debt/#:~:text=And%20recent%20data%20from%20Northwestern,feel%20guilty%20about%20their%20predicament
² “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2019,” Jessica Semega, Melissa Kollar, Emily A. Shrider, and John Creamer, United States Census Bureau, Sept 15, 2020, https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2020/demo/p60-270.html#:~:text=Median%20household%20income%20was%20%2468%2C703,and%20Table%20A%2D1)
³ “The Emotional Effects of Debt,” Kristen Kuchar, The Simple Dollar, Oct 28, 2019, https://www.thesimpledollar.com/credit/manage-debt/the-emotional-effects-of-debt/#:~:text=In%20that%20study%2C%20Gathergood%20found,including%20depression%20and%20severe%20anxiety.&text=The%20study%20also%20reported%20that,stress%20also%20report%20severe%20anxiety.
But maybe you – or a friend – learned about those consequences the hard way. Most late bill payers fall into 1 of 3 camps: they forget to pay on time, they don’t have enough income, or they have enough income but spend it on other things.
In case you – or your friend – are stuck in 1 of these camps, consider the following tips to help pay the bills on time.
I forget to pay my bills on time.
If this is you, you’re actually in a more advantageous position. There are many easy fixes that can help get you back on track.
Use a calendar. This is a tried and true, but often underutilized, method to track your bill due dates. When you get a notice for a bill – either by email, text, or snail mail – jot the due date on your calendar. You can also set a reminder if you use an electronic calendar.
Fiddle with your due dates. Many companies offer flexible due dates. Experiment with what due dates work for you. Some people like to pay their bills all together at the beginning of the month. You may find that you like to pay some bills in the beginning and some in the middle of the month. It’s up to you!
Take advantage of grace period/late fee waivers. If you do forget about a bill and have to make a late payment, give the company a call and ask them to waive the late fee. Late fees can add up, ranging from $10-50 depending on the account. It’s worth a try!
I don’t have the money to pay all my bills.
If your income doesn’t cover your outgo no matter how diligently you pinch those pennies, it won’t matter what type of bill payment method you use, you’re going to have trouble. If you’re in this situation, there are 2 solutions: increase your earnings or decrease your expenses.
Find a side gig. Take a temporary part-time job to make some extra income. Delivering pizza in the evenings or on weekends might be worth doing for a few months to make some extra dough.
Shop around. Shop around for savings. Prices vary on almost everything. Take a little extra time to make sure you’re getting the rock-bottom best prices on your insurance, cable, phone plans, groceries, utilities, etc.
I overspend and don’t have enough left to pay my bills.
Managing income and expenses takes some practice and persistence, but it is doable! If you find yourself consistently overspending without enough left over to cover your bills, try the following:
Create a budget. Get familiar with your income and expenses. This is the only way to know how much disposable income you’re going to end up with every month. You can track your budget daily on an app like PocketGuard, Wallet, or Home Budget.
Stash the money for bills in a separate account. Put your bill money in a separate checking or savings account. This will keep it quarantined from your spending money and help make sure it’s there when the bills come due.
Good Financial Habits
If you feel bill-paying-challenged, or you have a friend who is, try some of the above tips. Taking care of your obligations when you need to can relieve stress, build good credit, and reinforce healthy spending habits for life!
Afterall, you financially protect your home, your car, your health, and your life with insurance. Why not do the same for what’s typically your largest debt obligation?
But a MPI policy might not be the best way to help your family pay off the house.
Here are three questions you should ask before you buy mortgage protection insurance.
Will my payout change?
The fundamental weakness of most MPI policies is that their payout decreases over time. As you work down your mortgage, there’s technically less to protect.
That becomes a problem if your premiums don’t change even as your payout plummets. You’ll be paying the same amount for less protection!
Ask about policies that feature a level death benefit. They’ll provide you with the same amount of death benefit regardless of how much is left on your mortgage.
Will my premiums change?
Premiums for MPI aren’t always fixed. The amount you pay for protection each month might decrease or skyrocket. Your wallet is at the mercy of your insurance provider!
Just remember that fixed premiums might be a double edged sword. It may be useful to have a policy with premiums that lower over time if you don’t have a level death benefit. Ask about fixed premiums for your MPI before you find yourself paying more for less!
Would life insurance be a better option? (hint: the answer may be yes)
Term life insurance may be a better choice than MPI. Payouts are guaranteed by the insurance company and premiums are fixed. You won’t have to worry about paying more for less protection as the years go by.
It’s also flexible. A chunk of the death benefit may knock out the mortgage, while the rest can fund college, health care costs, and living expenses.
There are special circumstances where MPI is superior to term life insurance. It typically doesn’t have medical restrictions, making it a good option for people who normally wouldn’t qualify for term life insurance. Just remember to ask your financial professional these questions if you decide to learn more!
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to promote any certain products, plans, or insurance strategies that may be available to you. Before taking out a policy, seek the advice of a licensed financial professional, accountant, and/or tax expert to discuss your options.
That’s not as crazy of a number as it might appear. Your income funds your family’s lifestyle and fuels their dreams. It’s how you pay for the house, the car, their education, and all the big and little things that make life run.
So what would happen if your income were to suddenly stop if you became ill or were to pass away?
Could your family afford to stay in the neighborhood? Would a child have to compromise their education? Would your spouse have to get an additional job to cover the daily costs of living?
Life insurance helps answer those questions in the event of your income disappearing.
So why buy a policy ten times your annual income?
First, it can act as a buffer while your family grieves and figures out next steps. A proper life insurance death benefit can allow your family to cover final expenses while they decide how to move forward.
Second, it can help your family pay off remaining debts and start funding future opportunities. This reduces the financial burden your loved ones will face in your absence.
Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule. A stay-at-home parent provides services and care that would be costly to replace and should be covered with that in mind. Families with medical concerns might need to consider a policy worth more than ten times their annual income.
But in general, a life insurance policy for ten times your income will help cover the major expenses your family will face.
Want a more precise estimate on how much life insurance you and your family need? Contact a financial professional. They can offer insights into how much coverage your specific situation calls for!
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 purchasing a life insurance policy, seek the advice of a qualified and licensed financial professional, accountant, and/or tax expert to discuss your options.
Nationwide shutdowns and social distancing orders bottomed out home buying in the spring, only for demand to skyrocket over the late summer and fall.¹ All the ups and downs and uncertainty about the future have made it hard to tell if now is the time to buy or if it’s better to wait things out!
Fortunately, there’s a simple principle that can bring some clarity to your house hunting process. The 30/30/3 Rule can help you determine the right amount of house for you, whatever your stage of life! It’s composed of three mini-rules that we’ll explore one at time.
Rule 1: Don’t spend more than 30% of your gross income on mortgage payments
In other words, don’t sign away too big of a portion of your income in mortgage payments. This rule makes sure you have a healthy chunk of your cash flow available for other essential spending and building wealth. There’s definitely wiggle room to pay more as income increases, but 30% of your gross income is still a good target!
Rule 2: Have 30% of the home’s value saved in cash before you buy
Banking up a solid stash of cash before you purchase can protect you from several threats. Using about 20% of that cash as a down payment can get you lower mortgage rates and dodge private mortgage insurance.² Also, keeping a 10% buffer provides you with a useful line of defense against unexpected repairs and appliance replacements. Just remember to keep your housing fund away from risk. Think of it as an emergency fund for your house rather than a savings vehicle!
Rule 3: Avoid houses over 3X your gross annual income
This one is simple: Don’t buy a house you can’t afford! Do you make $50,000 per year? Shoot for a maximum $150,000 price tag. This is a simple way of narrowing your house hunting and managing your overall debt.
Why The Rule Works
Let’s say you’re earning the average American income of $56,516 per year, or $4,710 per month.³ You read the headlines about the housing market and decide to snatch up a home. An opportunity presents itself; there’s a gorgeous home in a good neighborhood that’s selling for $169,548 (3X your annual income) with a 3.1% interest rate (the national average). With monthly payments of $724 per month, you’ll only be handing over 15% of your income to the bank. Almost $4,000 dollars of cash flow would be at your disposal!
What if you had the same income level but were looking at a house worth $339,096 (6X your annual income) with a 6.2% interest rate (double the national average). You’ll be forking over nearly half your income for your house. That’s a huge amount of firepower that could be used to build wealth or start a business!
The 30/30/3 Rule is an easy way to simplify your search and protect your income from costly mortgage payments. Don’t forget to review your home buying plan with a financial professional who can help put this helpful principle into practice!
¹ “‘The housing market is on a sugar high’: Home sales are soaring, but is it a good time to buy? Here’s what the experts say,” Jacob Passy, MarketWatch, Aug 24, 2020, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-housing-market-is-on-a-sugar-high-home-sales-are-soaring-but-is-it-a-good-time-to-buy-heres-what-the-experts-say-2020-08-21
² “Should You Go Beyond a 20% Down Payment?,” Crissinda Ponder, LendingTree, Aug 30, 2019, https://www.lendingtree.com/home/mortgage/large-down-payment/#:~:text=Compensates%20for%20a%20lower%20credit,risk%20for%20your%20mortgage%20lender.
³ “Here’s how much the average American earns at every age,” Emmie Martin, CNBC Make It Aug 24 2017, https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/24/how-much-americans-earn-at-every-age.html#:~:text=Here's%20how%20much%20the%20average%20American%20earns%20at%20every%20age,-Published%20Thu%2C%20Aug&text=The%20median%20household%20income%20in,men%20and%2040%20for%20women.
⁴ “Current mortgage rates – mortgage interest rates today,” Jeff Ostrowski, Bankrate, Oct 7, 2020, https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/current-interest-rates/
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.
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.