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Life Without (Credit Card) Debt

Life Without (Credit Card) Debt

Our parents, uncles, aunts, and maybe even our grandparents tried to warn us about credit cards.

In some cases, the warnings might have been heeded but in other cases, we may have learned the cost of credit the hard way.

Using credit isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it may be a costly thing – and sometimes even a risky thing. The interest from credit card balances can be like a ball and chain that might never seem to go away. And your financial strategy for the future may seem like a distant horizon that’s always out of reach.

It is possible to live without credit cards if you choose to do so, but it can take discipline if you’ve developed the credit habit.

It’s budgeting time. Here’s some tough love. If you don’t have one already, you should hunker down and create a budget. In the beginning it doesn’t have to be complicated. First just try to determine how much you’re spending on food, utilities, transportation, and other essentials. Next, consider what you’re spending on the non-essentials – be honest with yourself!

In making a budget, you should become acutely aware of your spending habits and you’ll give yourself a chance to think about what your priorities really are. Is it really more important to spend $5-6 per day on coffee at the corner shop, or would you rather put that money towards some new clothes?

Try to set up a budget that has as strict allowances as you can handle for non-essential purchases until you can get your existing balances under control. Always keep in mind that an item you bought with credit “because it was on sale” might not end up being such a great deal if you have to pay interest on it for months (or even years).

Hide the plastic. Part of the reason we use credit cards is because they are right there in our wallets or automatically stored on our favorite shopping websites, making them easy to use. (That’s the point, right?) Fortunately, this is also easy to help fix. Put your credit cards away in a safe place at home and save them for a real emergency. Don’t save them on websites you use.

Don’t worry about actually canceling them or cutting them up. Unless there’s an annual fee for owning the card, canceling the card might not help you financially or help boost your credit score.¹

Pay down your credit card debt. When you’re working on your budget, decide how much extra money you can afford to pay toward your credit card balances. If you just pay the minimum payment, even small balances may not get paid off for years. Try to prioritize extra payments to help the balances go down and eventually get paid off.

Save for things you want to purchase. Make some room in your budget for some of the purchases you used to make with a credit card. If an item you’re eyeing costs $100, ask yourself if you can save $50 per month and purchase it in two months rather than immediately. Also, consider using the 30-day rule. If you see something you want – or even something you think you’ll need – wait 30 days. If the 30 days go by and you still need or want it, make sure it makes sense within your budget.

Save one card for occasional use. Having a solid credit history is important, so once your credit balances are under control, you may want to use one card in a disciplined way within your budget. In this case, you would just use the card for routine expenses that you are able to pay off in full at the end of the month.

Living without credit cards completely, or at least for the most part, is possible. Sticking to a budget, paying down debt, and having a solid savings strategy for the future will help make your discipline worth it!


¹ “How to repair your credit and improve your FICO® Scores,” myFico, https://www.myfico.com/credit-education/improve-your-credit-score


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


How To Spend Your Windfall

How To Spend Your Windfall

If you come into some extra money, how should you spend it?

On one hand you may have some debt you’d like to knock out, or you might feel like you should divert the money into your emergency savings or retirement fund.

They’re both solid choices, but which is better? That depends largely on your interest rates.

High Interest Rate. The sooner you eliminate high interest rate debt, the better. Credit cards and personal loans can swiftly spiral out into crushing financial burdens. Even the highest income gets stretched thin if the interest rate is too high!

So if you fall into some extra cash and you’re faced with high interest debt, consider the peace of mind debt freedom would bring. It may be far more valuable than some zeros in a retirement account.

Low Interest Rate. On the other hand, sometimes interest rates are low enough to warrant building up an emergency savings fund instead of paying down existing debt. An example is if you have a long-term, fixed-rate loan, like a mortgage.

The idea is that money borrowed for emergencies, rather than non-emergencies, will be expensive, because emergency borrowing may have no collateral and probably very high interest rates (like payday loans or credit cards).

So it might be better to divert your new-found funds to a savings account, even if you aren’t reducing your interest burden, because the alternative during an emergency might mean paying 20%+ rather than 0% on your own money (or 3-5% if you consider the interest you pay on the current loan).

Raw Dollar Amounts. Relatively large loans might have low interest rates, but the actual total interest amount you’ll pay over time might be quite a sum. In that case, it might be better to gradually divert some of your bonus money to an emergency account while simultaneously starting to pay down debt to reduce your interest. A good rule of thumb is that if debt repayments comprise a big percentage of your income, pay down the debt, even if the interest rate is low.

The Best for You. While it’s always important to reduce debt as fast as possible to help achieve financial independence, it’s also important to have some money set aside for use in emergencies.

If you do receive an unexpected windfall, it will be worth it to take a little time to think about a strategy for how it can best be used for the maximum long term benefit for you and your family.


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/


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/


How NOT To Spend Your Next Raise

How NOT To Spend Your Next Raise

You walk out of the office like a brand new person.

That’s because you’ve done it—you’re going to be earning a lot more money with that raise. The first thing that pops in your head? All the fancy new things you can afford.

Dates. Your apartment. Vacation. They’re all going to be better now that you’ve got that extra money coming in.

And to be fair, all of those things CAN get substantially fancier after your income increases.

But one thing may not change—you still might end up living paycheck to paycheck.

Why? Because your lifestyle became more extravagant as your income increased. Instead of using the boost in cash flow to build wealth, it all went to new toys.

This phenomenon is called “lifestyle inflation”. It’s why you might know people who earn plenty of money and have nice houses, but still seem to struggle with their finances. The greater the income, the higher the stress. As Biggie put it, “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.”

The takeaway? The next time you get a raise, do nothing. Act like nothing has changed. Go celebrate at your favorite restaurant. Keep saving for your new treat. But you’ll thank yourself if you devote the lion’s share of your new income to either reducing debt or building wealth.

Rest assured, there will be plenty of time to enjoy the fruits of your labor in the future. But for now, keep your eyes on the most important prize—building wealth for you and your family’s future.


What to Do First If You Receive an Inheritance

What to Do First If You Receive an Inheritance

In many households, nearly every penny is already accounted for even before it’s earned.

The typical household budget that covers the cost of raising a family, making loan payments, and saving for retirement usually doesn’t leave much room for extra spending on daydream items. However, occasionally families may come into an inheritance, you might receive a big bonus at work, or benefit from some other sort of windfall.

If you ever inherit a chunk of money (or large asset) or receive a large payout, it may be tempting to splurge on that red convertible you’ve been drooling over or book that dream trip to Hawaii you’ve always wanted to take. Unfortunately for many, though, newly-found money has the potential to disappear quickly with nothing to show for it, if you don’t have a strategy in place to handle it.

If you do receive some sort of large bonus – congratulations! But take a deep breath and consider these situations first – before you call your travel agent.

Taxes or Other Expenses. If you get a large sum of money unexpectedly, the first thing you might want to do is pull out your bucket list and see what you can check off first. But before you start spending, the reality is you’ll need to put aside some money for taxes. You may want to check with an expert – an accountant or financial advisor may have some ideas on how to reduce your liability as well.

If you suddenly own a new house or car as part of an inheritance, one thing that you may not have considered is how much it will cost to hang on to them. If you want to keep them, you’ll need to cover maintenance, insurance, and you may even need to fulfill loan payments if they aren’t paid off yet.

Pay Down Debt. If you have any debt, you’d have a hard time finding a better place to put your money once you’ve set aside some for taxes or other expenses that might be involved. It may be helpful to target debt in this order:

  1. Credit card debt: These are often the highest interest rate debt and usually don’t have any tax benefit. Pay these off first.
  2. Personal loans: Pay these off next. You and your friend/family member will be glad you knocked these out!
  3. Auto loans: Interest rates on auto loans are lower than credit cards, but cars depreciate rapidly – very rapidly. If you can avoid it, you don’t want to pay interest on a rapidly depreciating asset. Pay off the car as quickly as possible.
  4. College loans: College loans often have tax-deductible interest but there is no physical asset you can convert to cash – there’s just the loan.
  5. Home loans: Most home loans are also tax-deductible. Since your home value is likely appreciating over time, you may be better off putting your money elsewhere rather than paying off the home loan early.

Fund Your Emergency Account. Before you buy that red convertible, put aside some money for a rainy day. This could be liquid funds – like a separate savings account.

Save for Retirement. Once the taxes are covered, you’ve paid down your debt, and funded your emergency account, now is the time to put some money away towards retirement. Work with your financial professional to help create the best strategy for you and your family.

Fund That College Fund. If you have kids and haven’t had a chance to save all you’d like towards their education, setting aside some money for this comes next. Again, your financial professional can recommend the best strategy for this scenario.

Treat Yourself. NOW you’re ready to go bury your toes in the sand and enjoy some new experiences! Maybe you and the family have always wanted to visit a themed resort park or vacation on a tropical island. If you’ve taken care of business responsibly with the items above and still have some cash left over – go ahead! Treat yourself!


Are You Ready For Entrepreneurship?

Are You Ready For Entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship can be a huge risk.

There’s no way to guarantee that it’ll pay off because there are so many unknowns that go into starting a business. But one thing is for sure: If you’re the adventurous type and aren’t afraid to give it your all, you won’t be able to resist the urge to try!

So if you’re thinking about entrepreneurship, here are some factors to consider…

Do you have enough experience in your field?

It’s a fact—entrepreneurs with at least three years of experience in their industry are 85% more likely to succeed.¹ If you haven’t met that threshold, you might not be ready for entrepreneurship just yet! Are you equipped to handle the stress?

Entrepreneurship can be intense. You’re going to be the one who has to problem solve payroll, bookkeeping, marketing, sales, customer service…the list goes on and on.

If you aren’t ready for this kind of pressure, entrepreneurship might not be for you. It may be better to begin developing stress coping strategies now that could serve you well if you pursue entrepreneurship in the future.

Have you developed a professional and personal support network?

Starting your own business is tough. Having a support network can make it easier. Without a positive, supportive circle (in person and online), you run the risk of…

  • Facing both relational and business stress
  • Constant undermining by friends and family
  • Overwhelm, isolation, and burnout

People you know who have already started businesses are great contacts for advice. And if they’re extremely successful, they may even be willing to mentor you as well.

It’s also critical to surround yourself with inspired individuals who can support you in your moments of self-doubt or when you’ve had a failure. These are the people that can help you keep going when things get tough!

Are your personal finances in order?

If you’re paying off massive amounts of debt, have no savings, and are living paycheck-to-paycheck (or worse…borrowing from friends or family), entrepreneurship would likely stress your finances even more. How would you pay your rent or put food on the table if your business underperformed? That’s why it’s best to discover how money works before—not after—you start your business.

This article isn’t meant to discourage you from going out on your own and forging your own business path—entrepreneurship is an incredible opportunity to chase your dreams and build wealth! Rather, it’s supposed to help you succeed. The sooner you start addressing the factors in this article, the sooner you can start building the business you’ve always wanted!


¹ “The Average Age Of A Successful Startup Founder Is 45,” Entrepreneur Middle East, George Hojeige, Feb 5, 2020, https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/345884


4 fundamental home buying guidelines

4 fundamental home buying guidelines

Over the course of a 30-year mortgage term, a humble home may save you thousands of dollars as opposed to a more opulent one.

Even if you abide in a smaller house than you might have envisioned as a kid, it could still provide wonderful memories while offering a haven for your family.

Home ownership can be a desirable goal, but it may become a burden, however, if the home makes you “house poor”. Imagine if every spare penny had to go toward your mortgage or upkeep of your home with nothing left over. That’s the definition of things owning you instead of you owning things. Thankfully, there’s a different way.

If you’re in the market for a new home, there are four areas to consider before you start your serious search.

Save first. You might discover there are lots of ways you could buy a house with almost no money down. However, resist the temptation of low-down-payment loans. In what could be a still-volatile housing market, you would not want to run the risk of finding yourself in a negative equity position, which means you would owe more than your house is worth. You also may pay more for Private Mortgage Insurance, which is required for home loans with less than 20% down. Before you make your move, try to save up for the 20% down payment as well as any additional amounts to help cover closing costs. You’ll also want to have an emergency fund stashed away before you buy.

Think smaller. If you don’t need a “big” house, consider buying a smaller home. Everything in smaller homes may be less expensive to replace or maintain because there’s simply less square footage involved. (The purchase price could be lower as well.)

Keep your budget under 25%. The loan officer for your mortgage might say “yes” to an amount that would cause your monthly payments to be more than 25% of your take-home pay, but that doesn’t mean those payments will fit your budget. Leaving yourself some extra margin may help you navigate life’s surprises and may give you the freedom to save more, provide more for your kids’ college, or even plan that trip you’ve always wanted to take. Bear in mind that mortgage payments may include other fees, which may increase your final monthly payment amount significantly. A 30-year mortgage may provide flexibility

When you’re focused on how much you’re borrowing, a 15-year mortgage that pays down the debt faster may be tempting. Consider a 30-year loan, though. The potential flexibility of not being obligated to a possible higher monthly payment with a 15-year loan may come in handy when those unexpected emergencies happen.

All in all, it’s worth considering your long-term outlook before you even begin your new home search.



Should I Buy Or Rent?

Should I Buy Or Rent?

Home ownership is a big part of the “American Dream”.

But sometimes it might seem more convenient (or economical) to rent rather than buy. Here are two things to consider if you’re looking to buy a house instead of renting.

How long will you live in the house?. When you own a home, the hope is generally that it will increase in value and that you would be able to sell it for more than you bought it. The best way to do that is to plan to stay in your house for the long haul. So if you’re looking to remain in an area for a while and put down roots, buying a house is a strong consideration.

But let’s face it, not everyone is in that position. Maybe you’re young and hopping from opportunity to opportunity. Perhaps your job requires you to travel frequently or change locations. You might just prefer discovering new, exciting places and not being tied down. Unless you plan on renting out your property, it may not make sense for you to buy. Renting might give you more flexibility to move about as you please!

Can you afford to buy a house? So you want to settle down in a city or a certain neighborhood for the foreseeable future. Does that automatically mean you should buy a house?

Well, maybe not.

You simply may not be able to afford a house right now. Do you have significant debt in student loans or a car? Have you been able to save up enough for closing costs and a down payment? Mortgages might be cheaper than rent at certain times, but that might flip-flop before too long. Are you ready to maintain your house or pay for unexpected damages? These are all questions to ask before you decide to become a homeowner.

Still weighing your homeownership options? Let’s talk. We can review your situation and see if now is your time to buy!


Do I Need Life Insurance?

Do I Need Life Insurance?

It might be uncomfortable to think about the need for life insurance, but it’s an important part of your family’s financial strategy.

It helps protect your family during the grieving process, gives them time to figure out their next steps, and can provide income to cover normal bills, your mortgage, and other unforeseen expenses.

Here are some guidelines to help you figure out how much is enough to help keep your family’s future safe.

Who needs life insurance? A good rule of thumb is that you should get life insurance if you have financial dependents. That can range from children to spouses to retired parents. It’s worth remembering that you might provide financial support to loved ones in unexpected ways. A stay-at-home parent, for instance, may cover childcare or education costs. Be sure to take careful consideration when deciding who should get coverage!

What does life insurance cover? Life insurance can be used to cover a variety of unexpected expenses. Funeral costs or debts can potentially be financial and emotional strains, as can the loss of a steady income and employer-provided benefits. Think of life insurance as a buffer in these situations. It can give you a line of defense from financial concerns while you process your loss and plan for the future.

How much life insurance do you need? Everyone’s situation is different, so consider who would be financially impacted in your absence and what their needs would be.

If you’re single with no children, you may only need enough insurance to cover funeral costs and pay off any debts.

If you’re married with children, consider how long it might take your spouse to get back on their feet and be able to support your family, how much childcare and living expenses might be, and how much your children would need to attend college and start a life of their own. A rule of thumb is to purchase 10 times as much life insurance as income you would make in a year. For instance, you would probably buy a $500,000 life insurance policy if you make $50,000 a year. (Note: Be sure to talk with a qualified and licensed life insurance professional before you make any decisions.)

An older person with no kids at home may want to leave behind an inheritance for their children and grandchildren, or ensure that their spouse is cared for in their golden years.

A business owner will need a solid strategy for what would happen to the business in the event of their death, as well as enough life insurance to help ensure that employees are paid and the business can either be transferred or closed with costs covered.

Life insurance may not be anyone’s favorite topic, but it can be a lifeline to your family in the event that you are taken from them too soon. With a well thought out life insurance policy for you and your situation, you can rest knowing that your family’s future has been prepared for.



How to Budget for Beginners

How to Budget for Beginners

Everybody needs a budget.

But that doesn’t stop “budget” from being an intimidating word to many people. Some folks may think it means scrimping on everything and never going out for a night on the town. It doesn’t! Budgeting simply means that you know where your money is going and you have a way to track it.

The aim with budgeting is to be aware of your spending, plan for your expenses1, and make sure you have enough saved to pursue your goals.

Without a budget, it can be easy for expenses to climb beyond your ability to pay for them. You break out the plastic and before you know it you’ve spent fifty bucks on drinks and appetizers with the gang after work. These habits might leave you with a lot of accumulated debt. Plus, without a budget, you may not be saving for a rainy day, vacation, or your retirement. A budget allows you to enact a strategy to help pursue your goals. But what if you’ve never had a budget? Where should you start? Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how to get your budgeting habit off the ground!

Track your expenses every day. Start by tracking your expenses. Write down everything you buy, including memberships, online streaming services, and subscriptions. It’s not complicated to do with popular mobile and web applications. You can also buy a small notebook to keep track of each purchase. Even if it’s a small pack of gum from the gas station or a quick coffee at the corner shop, jot it down. Keep track of the big stuff too, like your rent and bill payments.

Add up expenses every week and develop categories. Once you’ve collected enough data, it’s time to figure out where exactly your paycheck is going. Start with adding up your expenses every week. How much are you spending? What are you spending money on? As you add your spending up, start developing categories. The goal is to organize all your expenses so you can see what you’re spending money on. For example, if you eat out a few times per week, group those expenses under a category called “Eating Out”. Get as general or as specific as you wish. Maybe throwing all your food purchases into one bucket is all you need, or you may want to break it down by location - grocery store, big box store, restaurants, etc.

Create a monthly list of expenses. Once you’ve recorded your expenses for a full month, it’s time to create a monthly list. Now you might also have more clarity on how you want to set up your categories. Next, total each category for the month.

Adjust your spending as necessary. Compare your total expenses with your income. There are two possible outcomes. You may be spending within your income or spending outside your income. If you’re spending within your income, create a category for savings if you don’t have one. It’s a good idea to create a separate savings category for large future purchases too, like a home or a vacation. If you find you’re spending too much, you may need to cut back spending in some categories. The beauty of a budget is that once you see how much you’re spending, and on what, you’ll be able to strategize where you need to cut back.

Keep going. Once you develop the habit of budgeting, it should become part of your routine. You can look forward to working on your savings and developing a retirement strategy, but don’t forget to budget in a little fun too!


¹Jeremy Vohwinkle, “Make a Personal Budget in 6 Steps: A Step-by-Step Guide to Make a Budget,” The Balance (March 6, 2020).


Pro-Tips for Side Gig Beginners

Pro-Tips for Side Gig Beginners

We’ve all probably heard someone talk on social media about their “hustle” or “side gig.”

It’s in style; and it makes sense—and cents? Gigs are now just a click or tap away on most of our devices, and a little extra money never hurts! Here are a few things to consider when starting up a side hustle.

What are your side hustle goals? We typically think of a side hustle as being an easy way to score a little extra cash. But they can sometimes be gateways into bigger things. Do you have skills that you’d like to develop into a full time career? A passion that you can turn into a business? Or do you just need some serious additional income to pay down debt? These considerations can help you determine how much time and money you invest into your gig and what gigs to pursue.

What are your marketable skills? Some gigs don’t require many skills beyond a serviceable car and a driver’s license. But others can be great outlets for your hobbies and skills. Love writing? Start freelancing on your weekends. Got massive gains from hours at the gym and love the outdoors? Start doing moving jobs in your spare time. You might be surprised by the demand for your passions!

Keep it reasonable. Burnout is no joke. Some people thrive on 80 hour work weeks between jobs and side hustles, but don’t feel pressured to bite off more than you can chew. Consider how much you’re willing to commit to your gigs and don’t exceed that limit.

One great thing about side hustles is their flexibility. You choose your level of commitment, you find the work, and your success can depend on how much you put in. Consider your goals and inventory your skills to get there—and start hustling!


7 Tips for Talking to Your Partner About Money

7 Tips for Talking to Your Partner About Money

Dealing with finances is a big part of any committed relationship and one that can affect many aspects of your life together.

The good news is, you don’t need a perfect relationship or perfect finances to have productive conversations with your partner about money, so here are some tips for handling those tricky conversations like a pro!

Be respectful. Respect should be the basis for any conversation with your significant other, but especially when dealing with potentially touchy issues like money. Be mindful to keep your tone neutral and try not to heap blame on your partner for any issues. Remember that you’re here to solve problems together.

Take responsibility. It’s perfectly normal if one person in a couple handles the finances more than the other. Just be sure to take responsibility for the decisions that you make and remember that it affects both people. You might want to establish a monthly money meeting to make sure you’re both on the same page and in the loop. Hint: Make it fun! Maybe order in, or enjoy a steak dinner while you chat.

Take a team approach. Instead of saying to your partner, “you need to do this or that,” try to frame things in a way that lets your partner know you see yourself on the same team as they are. Saying “we need to take a look at our combined spending habits” will probably be better received than “you need to stop spending so much money.”

Be positive. It can be tempting to feel defeated and hopeless that things will never get better if you’re trying to move a mountain. But this kind of thinking can be contagious and negativity may further poison your finances and your relationship. Try to focus on what you can both do to make things better and what small steps to take to get where you want to be, rather than focusing on past mistakes and problems.

Don’t ignore the negative. It’s important to stay positive, but it’s also important to face and conquer the specific problems. It gives you and your partner focused issues to work on and will help you make a game plan. Speaking of which…

Set common goals, and work toward them together. Whether it’s saving for a big vacation, your child’s college fund, getting out of debt, or making a big purchase like a car, money management and budgeting may be easier if you are both working toward a common purpose with a shared reward. Figure out your shared goals and then make a plan to accomplish them!

Accept that your partner may have a different background and approach to money. We all have our strengths, weaknesses, and different perspectives. Just because yours differs from your partner’s doesn’t mean either of you are wrong. Chances are you make allowances and balance each other out in other areas of your relationship, and you can do the same with money if you try to see things from your partner’s point of view.

Discussing and managing your finances together can be a great opportunity for growth in a relationship. Go into it with a positive attitude, respect for your partner, and a sense of your common values and priorities. Having an open, honest, and trust-based approach to money in a relationship may be challenging, but it is definitely worth it.


4 Ways to Get out of Debt

4 Ways to Get out of Debt

Dealing with debt can be scary.

Paying off your mortgage, car, and student loans can sometimes seem so impossible that you might not even look at the total you owe. You just keep making payments because that’s all you might think you can do. However, there is a way out! Here are 4 tips to help:

Make a Budget. Many people have a complex budget that tracks every penny that comes in and goes out. They may even make charts or graphs that show the ratio of coffee made at home to coffee purchased at a coffee shop. But it doesn’t have to be that complicated, especially if you’re new at this “budget thing”.

Start by splitting all of your spending into two categories: necessary and optional. Rent, the electric bill, and food are all examples of necessary spending, while something like a vacation or buying a third pair of black boots (even if they’re on sale) might be optional.

Figure out ways that you can cut back on your optional spending, and devote the leftover money to paying down your debt. It might mean staying in on the weekends or not buying that flashy new electronic gadget you’ve been eyeing. But reducing how much you owe will be better long-term.

Negotiate a Settlement. Creditors often negotiate with customers. After all, it stands to reason that they’d rather get a partial payment than nothing at all! But be warned; settling an account can potentially damage your credit score. Negotiating with creditors is often a last resort, not an initial strategy.

Debt Consolidation. Interest-bearing debt obligations may be negotiable. Contact a consolidation specialist for refinancing installment agreements. This debt management solution helps reduce the risk of multiple accounts becoming overdue. When fully paid, a clean credit record with an extra loan in excellent standing may be the reward if all payments are made on time.

Get a side gig. You might be in a position to work evenings or weekends to make extra cash to put towards your debt. There are a myriad of options—rideshare driving, food delivery, pet sitting, you name it! Or you might have a hobby that you could turn into a part-time business.

If you feel overwhelmed by debt, then let’s talk. We can discuss strategies that will help move you from feeling helpless to having financial control.


Pros and Cons of Simple Interest

Pros and Cons of Simple Interest

Brace yourself: You’ve been brought here under false pretenses.

This post is not so much about a list of pros and cons as it is about one big pro and one big con concerning simple interest accounts. There are many fine-tooth details you could get into when looking for the best ways to use your money. But when you’re just beginning your journey to financial independence, the big YES and NO below are important to keep in mind. In a nutshell, interest will either cost you money or earn you money. Here’s how…

The Pro of Simple Interest: Paying Back Money

Credit cards, mortgages, car loans, student debt – odds are that you’re familiar with at least one of these loans at this point. When you take out a loan, look for one that lets you pay back your principal amount with simple interest. This means that the overall amount you’ll owe will be interest calculated against the principal, or initial amount, that was loaned to you. And the principle decreases as you pay back the loan. So the sooner you pay off your loan, you’re actually lowering the amount of money in interest that you’re required to pay back as part of your loan agreement.

The Con of Simple Interest: Growing Money

When you want to grow your money, an account based on simple interest is not the way to go. Setting your money aside in an account with compound interest shows infinitely better results for growing your money.

For example, if you wanted to grow $10,000 for 10 years in an account at 3% simple interest, the first few years would look like this:

  • Year 1: $10,000 + 300 = $10,300
  • Year 2: $10,300 + 300 = $10,600
  • Year 3: $10,600 + 300 = $10,900

In a simple interest account, the 3% interest you’ll earn is a fixed sum taken from the principal amount added to the account. And this is the amount that is added annually. After a full 10 years, the amount in the account would be $13,000. Not very impressive.

But what if you put your money in an account that was less “simple”?

If you take the same $10,000 and grow it in an account for 10 years at a 3% rate of interest that compounds, you can see the difference beginning to show in the first few years:

  • Year 1: $10,000 + 300 = $10,300
  • Year 2: $10,300 + 309 = $10,609
  • Year 3: $10,609 + 318 = $10,927

At the end of 10 years, this type of account will have earned more than the simple interest account, without you having to do any extra work! And that’s not even considering adding regular contributions to the account over the years! Just imagine the possibilities if you can get a higher interest rate and combine that with a solid financial plan for your future.

One final thought: Simple isn’t always the way to go, and that can be a good thing.


Four Ways Parents Can Help Their Children Build Wealth

Four Ways Parents Can Help Their Children Build Wealth

Creating a financial legacy isn’t just for the wealthy.

Parents, you may be better positioned to build a legacy for your children than you think. That’s because if you leverage basic financial concepts and strategies, you might be surprised by how attainable a sizable inheritance is! Here are four ways you can help your child build wealth.

Save a nest egg for your child’s retirement. Do you have a million dollars lying around to give to your child? Probably not. But you have something that’s even more valuable—time.

What if the moment your child was born you put $13,000 in an account earning 6.5% interest? By the time they turn 67—even if you don’t add anything else to that account—it would be worth $1,000,000. That cash could make all the difference for your child’s financial future. To make the most of this strategy, meet with a licensed and qualified financial professional before your child is born. They can help you make the preparations to put it into place.

Start saving for college. A college education is a huge expense, and it’s one that will only increase in cost. So what should you do to prepare for this future burden?

Start saving as soon as your child is born! The same principle applies—the sooner you start saving, the greater your potential for growth. Once again, collaborate with a financial professional before your child is born to maximize this strategy.

Adjust your emergency fund. Nothing can derail well-laid financial plans quite like an unforeseen emergency. And nobody seems to attract unforeseen emergencies quite like kids!

That’s why it’s important to create an emergency fund to cover 3-6 months of income. It’s a time-proven line of defense that can protect you from dipping into your savings or going into debt to cover home repairs or midnight ER visits!

Create a will. Finally, it’s important to consider estate planning. Why? Because it ensures that your wealth and assets are passed down to your children. It’s a final and meaningful way to provide for your family, even if you’re not with them physically. Proper planning can also help shield them from the complexity of estate taxes and the burden of the probate system.

Leaving a financial legacy is far more doable than you may have imagined, and the time to start preparing is NOW. Collaborate with a licensed and qualified financial professional as soon as possible. They’ll point you towards practical steps you can take to start building wealth for your children today.


Is It Ever OK To Use a Credit Card?

Is It Ever OK To Use a Credit Card?

Is it ever OK to use a credit card? Yes… but with qualifications.

Let’s explore some situations where using your credit card makes sense…and what pitfalls to avoid.

You’re strategically leveraging rewards. It’s perfectly possible to reap the benefits of cash back rewards without going into debt to earn them. How? Try using your credit card just for everyday purchases like gas and groceries. If you don’t overspend, you’re essentially getting paid for using your card.

But that’s the trick. Those rewards can make it tempting to buy things you don’t need. It’s easy to justify excess purchases if you’re earning those extra points! But in the long-term, the rewards won’t outweigh the costs and risks of overusing a credit card. So if you think you can thread the needle of responsibly using a credit card to leverage points without overspending, go for it!

You’re making significant online purchases. The simple fact is that there are serious rewards—and protections—when you use your card for online purchases. This is especially true for travel. Some cards offer specific rewards for booking hotels or plane tickets that you should certainly take advantage of. There are also some protections for online purchases that credit cards offer. Once again, don’t plan a fancy vacation just to take advantage of rewards. But if you need to travel, you might as well get any benefits coming to you!

Wisely using credit cards is a matter of self-control. If you can take advantage of rewards and protections without overspending, good for you! For others, however, it may be wise to avoid cards altogether while they pay down their debt.

Not sure which strategy is best for you? Contact a licensed and qualified financial professional. They can help evaluate your situation and make a recommendation.


Why Generation Z's Financial Habits are Fascinating

Why Generation Z's Financial Habits are Fascinating

Gen Z has grown up in a world where social media rules. They’ve never known it any other way.

The older Gen Zers have just come out of college, but this group’s imprint on society is already clear. You might be surprised by their attitude towards money and wealth! Let’s explore how these digital natives interact with money and why their financial habits might be influencing your business strategy.

Social media is an integral part of their world. They spend more time on their phones, tablets, and laptops than any other generation. The iPhone was old news by the time younger Gen Zers were born. This generation needs a whole new set of rules for how they shop and find financial advice.

For instance, Gen Zers are 72% more likely to buy from brands they follow on social media.¹ And there’s been an explosion of financial advice–not all of it good–on TikTok—#personalfinance has 3.5 billion views on the platform.² So if you’re interested in not just understanding Gen Zers, but also getting their attention, it pays to keep up with social media trends.

Gen Zers have yet to accrue massive debt. Gen Zers have thus far avoided the traps of credit card and student loan debt that have burdened every generation before. The numbers aren’t stellar–on average, Gen Zers have over $10,000 in non-mortgage debt–but that’s just a fraction of the debt carried by the typical Millennial or Gen Xer.

Of course, Gen Zers haven’t had as much time to accrue debt. It could well be that in 10 years they have just as many student loans and high credit card balances as older generations. But there is hope! Why?

Gen Zers are avid budgeters. 68% of Gen Zers use some form of budgeting system.³ Only 41% of the general population can say the same.⁴ That’s a massive improvement! If Gen Zers can use their budgets to avoid massive debt, they could find themselves well positioned financially.

In other words, Gen Z is hungry to learn how money really works. They’re already taking steps to avoid the missteps of past generations. The real question is who will teach them what it takes to become wealthy?

¹ “Generation Z Spending Habits for 2021,” Lexington Law, Feb 8, 2021, https://www.lexingtonlaw.com/blog/credit-cards/generation-z-spending-habits.html

² “Viral or vicious? Financial advice blows up on TikTok,” Nicole Casperson, InvestmentNews Feb 15, 2021, https://www.investmentnews.com/financial-advice-blows-up-on-tiktok-but-at-what-cost-202260#:~:text=That%27s%20what%20financial%20advice%20is,form%20of%2060%2Dsecond%20videos.

³ “Generation Z Spending Habits for 2021,” Lexington Law, Feb 8, 2021, https://www.lexingtonlaw.com/blog/credit-cards/generation-z-spending-habits.html

⁴ “What Is a Budget and Why Should I Use One?,” Tim Stobierski, acorns, Sep 6, 2019, https://www.acorns.com/money-basics/saving-and-budgeting/budget-meaning/#:~:text=While%20many%20factors%20likely%20contribute,budget%2C%20according%20to%20U.S.%20Bank.


Bad Financial Habits and How to Overcome Them

Bad Financial Habits and How to Overcome Them

Read on if you ever find yourself struggling to stay afloat financially.

Do you ever feel like no matter how much money you make, it never seems like enough? You’re not alone. A recent survey found that more than half of middle-income families didn’t have three months of expenses saved.¹ Debt and spending can be out of control for many reasons—the economy, our upbringing, or even because we’re hardwired to want more. This article explores three bad habits that may be hurting your financial situation. You might be surprised by what they are!

Treating credit cards like free money. When you’re tempted to buy something and don’t have the cash, it’s easy to just use credit. But instant gratification can have serious consequences. Little by little, you may find yourself racking up more and more debt. Paying your monthly credit card bill can start requiring all of your cash flow… and maybe more. Yikes.

The solution? Limit your credit card usage as much as possible. Make a habit of only using your credit card for certain low-dollar items, like gas. If you can’t buy your impulse purchase in cash, go home!

Trying to buy happiness. It’s tempting to think that you’re going to be happy if you buy one thing or another. But what happens when the newness wears off? Suddenly, you have a closet full of clothes and shoes that really aren’t making you any happier! The same is true of houses, cars, gadgets, anything you can think of. Buying things to keep up appearances or just because you think they’ll make you fulfilled is a recipe for overspending on things that, ultimately, don’t matter.

The key is to find happiness beyond your material possessions. That’s no small task, and there’s no set road map for it. But it’s absolutely critical to find a source of meaning that isn’t tied to stuff and things. You could be happier—and more financially stable—for it.

Ignoring your financial situation. Let’s face it—finances can be scary! Overwhelming debt, paying for college, and feeling out of your depth are uncomfortable emotions. And ignoring and denying uncomfortable feelings is often a first line of defense.

But it’s a dangerous game. Ignoring what the numbers tell you can lead you deeper and deeper into financial instability. You could be setting up a much harder path for yourself in the future than if you tackled your financial situation now.

Tackling your financial fears isn’t always easy. It might require serious soul searching. Just know these three things…

Acknowledging the problem is the first step. Once you can admit that your finances need help, you’re ready to start making positive changes.

Seeking help is always wise. Whether it’s a friend, spouse, qualified counselor, or financial professional, enlisting help can give you the courage you need to face your fears.

You can do this! It might not feel like it, but you have what it takes to confront this challenge… and win! Don’t lose hope, and start moving forward.

Managing your money wisely requires more than knowing different techniques and strategies. It takes maturity. The more you invest in making improvements to your life overall, the better emotionally equipped you’ll be to navigate the world of personal finances.

¹ “A year after COVID, personal finances are not so grim for millions of Americans,” Jessica Menton, USA TODAY, Apr 9, 2021, https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/money/2021/04/09/irs-stimulus-check-2021-third-covid-payment-unemployment-benefits/7015277002/


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