You haven’t spent that much money this month. There should be plenty left over to cover this, right?
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…
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.
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.
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/
Some downturns can be seen from a mile away. Others, like the Great Recession and the Coronavirus lockdowns, are black swan events—they catch even the experts off guard.
But they don’t have to find YOU unprepared.
Here’s a quick checklist to help you assess your recession readiness.
Without well-stocked emergency savings, losing your job could spell disaster for your finances—you’d be forced to rely on credit to cover even basic expenses. When you re-enter the workforce, a huge chunk of your income would go straight towards paying down debt instead of building wealth.
That’s why it’s critical to save three to six months of income asap. It may be the cushion you need to soften the blow of unemployment, should it come your way.
Recessions don’t discriminate. They affect everyone from the poorest to the wealthiest. But one group weathers downturns better than most—those with multiple streams of income.
If you have more than one source of income, you’re less likely to feel the full brunt of a recession. If one stream dries up, ideally you would have others to fall back on.
What does that look like? For many, it means a side hustle. Some create products like books, online guides, etc., or they might do something like acquire rental properties. These types of businesses typically only require a one-time effort to produce or purchase but will yield recurring income.
If you’re ambitious, you could create a business to generate income that far exceeds your personal labor. It’s not for the faint of heart. But with the right strategy and mentorship, it could lend your finances an extra layer of protection.
Just as you diversify your income streams, you should also diversify your savings. That way, if one account loses value, you have others to fall back on.
What could that look like? That depends on your situation. It’s why talking to a licensed and qualified financial professional is a must—they can help tailor your strategy to meet your specific goals.
The wealthy have long known that recessions can be opportunities. With the right strategy, you may actually come out ahead financially.
But in order to take advantage of those opportunities, you need to have cash on hand. That way, when others are forced to sell at a discount, you can scoop up assets at a fraction of their true value.
So if you want to be in a position to take advantage of a downturn, make sure you have ample cash on hand. That way, when an opportunity comes knocking, you’ll be ready to answer.
No one can predict the future. But by following these tips, you can prepare your finances for whatever the economy throws your way.
These words have been plastered all over the news and social media feeds for the last two years. And there’s no sign of it stopping.
As individuals and as businesses, we can’t control the economy.
But what we can control is how we respond to it.
The key is to stay focused on your long-term goals, and make sure your actions align with them.
Here are a few tips on how to navigate economic volatility…
1. Check your emotions. Fear is the natural response to economic volatility. What will happen to your job? What will happen to your business? What will happen to your retirement savings?
Know this—one of the worst mistakes you can potentially make is acting rashly on those fears. Volatility creates opportunity. Don’t lose out on potential because of headlines you read. Instead, assess your situation, what you stand to lose, and opportunities you might have.
2. Stay focused on your goals. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day noise of the news. But if you want to help your sanity—and make sound financial decisions—it’s important to keep things in perspective.
How far are you from retirement? What kind of lifestyle do you want in retirement? What’s your strategy for protecting against long-term losses?
If your goals are in line with your current reality, take a deep breath and ride out the storm. If not, it’s time to reevaluate where things stand and make adjustments as necessary.
3. Review your budget and financial strategy. Once you’ve gotten past the initial emotional reaction, it’s time to take a clear-eyed look at your budget and finances.
There are two critical components to examine here—your emergency fund and your debt.
If you have an adequate emergency fund in place, keep it intact. Resist the temptation to tap into your savings to cover short-term losses. You’ll need your emergency fund for different expenses, like emergencies.
As for debt, make sure you’re not overextending yourself with credit cards and loans that only might make sense when the economy is booming. If you lose your job in a downturn, the last thing you want is high-interest debt hanging over you.
4. Meet with your financial professional. It’s simple—a licensed and qualified financial professional can help stop rash financial decision making in its tracks.
A financial professional can help you see the big picture, keep things in perspective, and develop a strategy that can help you stay on track—no matter what the economy throws your way.
While economic volatility can feel frightening, it’s important to stay focused on your long-term goals. Having the right mindset and guidance can help you navigate a crisis with confidence.
Is racking up credit card debt or taking out payday loans financially dangerous? Of course! But they’re obvious. Hard to miss. They’re like a voice yelling into a megaphone “Hey! Don’t do it!”
But what about money mistakes that aren’t so obvious? Or even worse, money mistakes disguised as money wisdom?
Those may not devastate your bank account in one swoop. But they often go unaddressed. And over time, they add up.
So here are some money mistakes you might not have noticed.
Penny pinching. Sure, it sounds like a great idea in theory. But when you’re constantly scrimping and saving, it’s tough to enjoy life. What’s the point of working so hard if you can’t enjoy a reasonable treat now and then?
Plus, penny pinching may stop you from taking calculated risks that could save your money from stagnation.
So instead of extreme thriftiness, try moderation instead. You may find yourself far more inspired to budget and save than if you commit to complete frugality.
Under or over filling your emergency fund. A lot of people make the mistake of not having an emergency fund at all. It leaves them vulnerable to unexpected expenses and financial emergencies.
But when you have too much money in your emergency fund, it might be tough to make any real progress on your long-term financial goals. A good chunk of your net worth could be sunk into an account that’s not growing.
The solution? Save up 3 to 6 months of income in an easily accessible account, but no more. Use that money to cover emergencies ONLY. If it runs low, refill it.
Once your emergency fund is fully stocked, you can devote the rest of your income to building wealth.
Leaving goals undefined. It’s tough to achieve a goal you don’t have. Do you know where you’ll be financially in 5 years? 10? What are some things you’d like to save towards? A nicer home? An awesome vacation? A comfortable retirement? Not sure?
That uncertainty makes it easy to fudge good financial habits. It’s hard to see how lapses in your overall strategy can impact your big picture because you don’t have one.
So when it comes to your money, be specific. Very specific. Write out your goals and make sure they’re measurable. That way, you can monitor your progress and ensure you’re on the right track.
Be on the lookout for these dangerous money mistakes. They may seem innocuous, but they can add up over time and stop you from reaching your financial goals. Stay vigilant and steer clear of these traps!
You’re not afraid of emergencies. Between life insurance and your fully stocked emergency fund, you and your family are prepared for the financial ups and downs of life.
You’re not afraid of losing your job. You have enough saved for retirement already that you don’t depend on your paycheck. Besides, you may even have a side source of income (or three) to help make ends meet!
You certainly aren’t afraid to splurge on yourself. That’s right—you can spend your discretionary funds on the things you love and care about, footloose and fancy free.
You’re not afraid of your future. Why? Because you have a strategy in place, and you’re sticking to it. And you’re on track to retire with wealth instead of want.
Sure, there are metrics and benchmarks and numbers you should be concerned with. Ask a financial professional about what those would look like for you and your situation. They’re different for each person.
But the feeling is always the same—the end of fear, and a sense of peace. You’re ready to focus on the people and things that matter most.
Are you financially free? What steps have you taken to eliminate fear of emergencies, losing your job, treating yourself, and preparing for your future?
It’s a common mindset, and it keeps many from reaching their financial goals. But the truth is, you don’t have to be born into money or have some special talent to create wealth. It all comes down to making a commitment to start building your fortune today.
So why do so many people put off working to create wealth until later in life? There are many reasons, but chief among them is fear.
What if you save your money in the wrong place and lose everything?
What if you can’t access money when you need it?
What if you confirm a deep-seated suspicion that you don’t really know what you’re doing?
But here’s the truth—you’re better positioned to start building wealth today than you ever will be again. That’s because your money has more time to grow and compound today than it will in the future.
That’s especially true in your 20’s and 30’s. But it’s also true if you’re 45 or 55. The best time to build wealth is right now, this very moment.
So what can you do? How can you leverage time to start building wealth? Here are a few simple financial concepts you can use right away.
Create an emergency fund. I know it seems counterintuitive, especially if your credit is in shambles or you have a lot of debt to pay off. But the truth is, building an emergency fund is one of the best ways to begin building wealth because it gives you a margin of safety. If you have money set aside for a rainy day, you won’t have to turn to credit cards or high interest loans when life throws you a curveball. Instead, you can take care of things with your own savings and move on.
Automate saving right now. The best way to start building wealth is to put something away every month. Forget about how much you’re putting away or your interest rate. For now, just put something away, even if it’s just $5. You can work with a financial professional to boost those numbers later on. The important thing is to start now.
If you want to learn more about how to start building wealth today, let’s chat. I’d love to help you set some goals and create a plan for getting there. We all deserve financial security, regardless of our age or income level. So let’s find out how you can get started today.
Whether you’re in your 20’s and paying off student loans or in your 40’s and trying to save for retirement, financial decisions can be complicated.
The good news? There are steps you can take to avoid mistakes and help your peace of mind when it comes to money management. Here are some of the most common financial blunders people make, and tips on how to avoid them.
Caring too much about what others think. This may be the tough love you need to hear. No one judges what you drive. Or the watch on your wrist. Or the size of your home. And the one-in-a-million person who does? They’re probably someone with WAY bigger problems than your 2006 economy car that still gets great gas mileage.
But that fear is powerful for a reason. It’s been carefully nurtured by TV commercials and Instagram accounts with a singular goal—to make you buy things you don’t really need.
Know this—you’ll gain far more respect by attending to your own financial situation than by desperately trying to keep up appearances.
Not asking for help when you need it. Let’s face it—mastering your finances is symbolic of becoming an adult. You’re supposed to know how to run a budget, save for retirement, and somehow have enough left over for a nice summer vacation. There’s tremendous internal pressure to act like you know what you’re doing.
But were you ever taught how money works? Did any teacher, professor, or mentor sit you down and explain the Rule of 72, the Power of Compound Interest, or the Time Value of Money? If you’re like most, the answer is no. It’s a cruel double-bind—to feel good about yourself, you must master skills no one has ever taught you.
This keeps you from asking for help. You get caught in shame, denial, and confusion. It’s hard to admit that you don’t know something that seems so basic, so essential.
But rest assured—you’re not the only one. And the right mentor or financial professional will listen to your story without judgment and seek to help you.
Procrastination. There are few things more daunting than staring at a pile of bills, an empty bank account, or an intimidating stack of paperwork. You know what you have to do. But it doesn’t happen because you’re so overwhelmed by the task ahead. And it’s especially daunting if you’ve never been taught how money works—you don’t even know where to start!
But nothing causes financial pain quite like procrastination. That’s because it causes exponential damage. Your bills pile up. Your interest rates rise. Your savings fall drastically behind, and you must save far more to catch up.
The antidote? Break tasks down into smaller, manageable steps. Maybe that means signing up for an online budget app or working with a financial professional. It might mean automating $15 per month into an emergency fund, or cooking one dinner at home each week.
It doesn’t matter how small the task is, as long as it helps put money back in your pocket and stops the scourge of procrastination.
In conclusion, making financial mistakes is something that can happen to anyone. By knowing some of the most common financial mistakes people make and what you can do to avoid them, you’ll probably have more peace of mind when it comes to money management.
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.
It’s a challenge they tackle with gusto. Shaving down expenses with couponing, hunting the best deals with an app on their phones, or simply finding creative ways to reuse a cardboard box, gives them a thrill. For others, budgeting conjures up images of living in tents, foraging for nuts and berries in the woods, and sewing together everyone’s old t-shirts to make a blanket for grandma.
To each their own! But budgeting doesn’t have to be faced like a wilderness survival reality TV competition. Sure, there might be some sacrifice and compromise involved when you first implement your budget (giving up that daily $6 latte might feel like roughing it at first), but rest assured there’s a happy middle to most things, and a way that won’t make you hate adhering to your financial goals.
Simplifying the budgeting process can help ease the transition. Check out the following suggestions to make living on a budget something you can stick to – instead of making a shelter out of sticks.
Use that smartphone. Your parents may have used a system of labeled envelopes to budget for various upcoming expenses. Debit cards have largely replaced cash these days, and all those labeled envelopes were fiddly anyway. Your best budgeting tool is probably in your pocket, your purse, or wherever your smartphone is at the moment.
Budgeting apps can connect to your bank account and keep track of incoming and outgoing cash flow, making it simple to categorize current expenses and create a solid budget. A quick analysis of the data and charts from the app can give you important clues about your spending behavior. Maybe you’ll discover that you spent $100 last week for on-demand movies. $5 here and $10 there can add up quickly. Smartphone apps can help you see (in vivid color) how your money could be evaporating in ways you might not feel on a day-to-day basis.
Some apps give you the ability to set a budget for certain categories of spending (like on-demand movies), and you can keep track of how you’re doing in relation to your defined budget. Some apps even provide alerts to help keep you aware of your spending. And if you’re feeling nostalgic, there are even apps that mimic the envelope systems of old, but with a digital spin.
Plan for unexpected expenses. Even with modern versions of budgeting, one of the biggest risks for losing your momentum is the same as it was in the days of the envelope system: unexpected expenses. Sometimes an unexpected event – like car trouble, an urgent home repair, or medical emergency – can cost more than we expected. A lot more.
A good strategy to help protect your budget from an unexpected expense is an Emergency Fund. It may take a while to build your Emergency Fund, but it will be worth it if the tire blows out, the roof starts leaking, or you throw your back out trying to fix either of those things against your doctor’s orders.
The size of your Emergency Fund will depend on your unique situation, but a goal of at least $1,000 to 3 months of your income is recommended. Three months of income may sound like a lot, but if you experience a sudden loss of income, you’d have at least three full months of breathing room to get back on track.
Go with the flow. As you work with your new budget, you may find that you miss the mark on occasion. Some months you’ll spend more. Some months you’ll spend less. That’s normal. Over time, you’ll have an average for each expense category or expense item that will reveal where you can do better – but also where you may have been more frugal than needed.
With these suggestions in mind, there is no time like the present to get started! Make that new budget, then buy yourself an ice cream or turn on the air conditioning. Once you know where you stand, where you need to tighten up on spending, and where you can let loose a little, budgeting might not seem like a punishment. In fact, you might find that it’s a useful, much-needed strategy that you CAN stick to – all part of the greater journey to your financial independence.
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:
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!
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.
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.
You have a chance to make your life even better with this gift. However, it’s important to handle it wisely so you don’t create any regrets down the line!
Pay down debt. Receiving a sudden windfall is the perfect opportunity to take a chunk out of any credit card debt or student loans that are hanging over you. You may even be able to pay off your car or house!
The simple fact is that debt wears down your ability to build wealth. Using your inheritance to help pay off your loans can position you to start building wealth sooner rather than later.
Build your emergency fund. Having cash on hand can be a game-changer. It empowers you to tackle emergencies like a child’s broken arm, an unexpected car repair, or even short-term unemployment—without turning to debt.
If you don’t have three months of expenses saved, consider using your inheritance to create some financial peace of mind for your family by setting up an emergency fund.
Save for retirement. Now that you’ve covered your bases, you can start using your inheritance to start building wealth for the future. As soon as you can, meet with a licensed and qualified financial professional to start developing a strategy that will make your money work for your future!
Fund your kids’ college education. College is pricey. Whether your children are very young or almost at university age, now is a good time to start saving for college. Once again, it’s best to meet with a financial professional to decide the best way to go about funding your child’s education.
Finally, have fun! You’ve done the hard work of getting rid of debt and building your emergency fund. Now that you have a college education and/or your retirement savings strategies in place, there’s no reason not to splurge on something fun with your inheritance! Just be sure that your fun doesn’t send you back into debt or dip into your emergency fund!
And that’s normally when your emergency fund would kick in. But what if you don’t have an emergency fund? Or what if there isn’t enough money in it to cover your current catastrophe? If you find yourself in this situation, you might consider applying for a personal loan to close the gap—but should you?
The simple answer? Probably not.
Starting with the basics—what is a personal loan? A personal loan is an unsecured debt that allows people or companies in need of money to borrow funds from lenders for any reason including but not limited to…
- Home improvements - Medical expenses - Debt consolidation
These loans are often set up for a short period of time with fixed monthly payments.
There are pros and cons to any form of debt. Personal loans are no different—they have their own set of benefits and drawbacks.
Personal loans can offer lower interest rates than credit cards, which can help you save money on interest payments. That can make them useful for consolidating other high interest rate loans.
However, personal loans can come with higher fees and significant interest rates. And for most financial emergencies, personal loans simply aren’t your best option. For instance, if you’re struggling with medical debt, you should first consider negotiating with your doctor’s office for more favorable payment terms first.
It’s not advisable to use a personal loan to make a large purchase, like a new TV, either. If you’re using the money for anything other than a last resort for emergencies or debt consolidation, it’s probably not worth it and could end up costing you more in interest payments down the road.
In conclusion, personal loans can be useful in specific circumstances or if you’re at the end of your financial rope. But they shouldn’t be your first option. Making sure you’ve got a sufficient emergency fund in place, a well-thought-out budget, and a solid savings strategy set up as soon as possible may help avoid the need for a loan and create more debt.
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
So the best way to deal with one is to prepare for it in advance. Below are two extremely effective and relatively easy steps that can help you prepare so that when something does happen, your financial strategy isn’t thrown into disarray because of unplanned expenses.
Start an emergency fund. Your first goal will be to save up enough money to cover six months of expenses. Then when a small emergency crops up, you’ll be able to dip into this fund. But beware! You’ll need to discern what counts as an emergency—going out to eat because you don’t feel like making dinner or going shopping because there’s a great sale going on doesn’t count!
Make sure you have the right insurance. Not every issue can be solved with a simple emergency fund; serious medical issues, disability, or death can all cause financial trouble that may fall well beyond the scope of an emergency fund.
There are three things that you need to consider: health insurance, disability insurance, and life insurance. They can help provide protection for your family if you become unable to work or if hospital bills threaten your cash flow.
If you feel unprepared for a financial emergency, contact a licensed and qualified financial professional. They’ll have insights into how you can create an emergency fund, and help you evaluate your options for financial protection.
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/
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!
Specific. 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.”
Measurable. 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.
Achievable. 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!)
Relevant. 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.
Time-sensitive. 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!
Every dollar bill is at the mercy of the elements. Think of an unforeseen medical emergency as a pop-up windstorm that whips a few thousand dollars out of the truck bed. And that time your refrigerator gave out on you? That’s swerving to avoid a landslide as it tumbles down the mountain. There goes another $1,000.
Emergencies like a case of appendicitis or suddenly needing a place to store your groceries usually arrive unannounced and can’t always be avoided. But there are a few scenarios you can bypass, especially when you know they’re coming.
These scenarios are the potholes on the road to financial independence. When you’re driving along and see a particularly nasty pothole through your windshield, it just makes sense to avoid it.
Here are some common potholes to avoid on your financial journey.
Excessive or Frivolous Spending. A job loss or a sudden, large expense can change your cash flow quickly, making you wish you still had some of the money you spent on… well, what did you spend it on, anyway? That’s exactly the trouble. We often spend on small indulgences without calculating how much those indulgences cost when they’re added up. Unless it’s an emergency, big expenses can be easier to control. It’s the small expenses that can cost the most.
Recurring Payments. Somewhere along the line, businesses started charging monthly subscriptions or membership fees for their products or service. These can be useful. You might not want to shell out $2,000 all at once for home gym equipment, but spending $40/month at your local gym fits in your budget. However, unused subscriptions and memberships create their own credit potholes. If money is tight or you’re prioritizing your spending, take a look at your subscriptions and memberships. Cancel the ones that you’re not using or enjoying.
New Cars. Most people love the smell of a new car, particularly if it’s a car they own. Ownership is strange in regard to cars, however. In most cases, the bank holds the title until the car is paid off. In the interim, the car has depreciated by 20% in the first year and by nearly 60% after 5 years.¹
What often happens is that we trade the car after a few years in exchange for something that has that new car smell – and we’ve never seen the title for the first car. We never owned it outright. In this chain of transactions, each car has taxes and registration fees, interest is paid on a depreciating asset, and car dealers are making money on both sides of the trade when we bring in our old car to exchange for a new one.
Unless you have a business reason to have the latest model, it’s less expensive to stop trading cars. Think of your no-longer-new car as a great deal on a used car – and once it’s paid off, there’s more money to put each month towards your retirement.
To sum up, you may already have the best shocks on your financial vehicle (i.e., a well-tailored financial strategy), but slamming into unnecessary potholes could damage what you’ve already built. Don’t damage your potential to go further for longer – avoid those common financial potholes.
¹ “How car depreciation affects your vehicle’s value,” Dana Dratch, Credit Karama, https://www.creditkarma.com/auto/i/how-car-depreciation-affects-value
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/