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Protecting and Growing Your Emergency Fund

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Protecting and Growing Your Emergency Fund

Protecting and Growing Your Emergency Fund

Nearly 25% of Americans report that they have ZERO dollars saved for an emergency.¹

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 must be able to liquidate these funds easily (i.e., not incur penalties if you make too many withdrawals)
  • Funds should be stable (not subject to market shifts)

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


How To Retire With Less

How To Retire With Less

If you had to totally trash your retirement strategy, how would you do it?

There are plenty of extravagant solutions—a gambling spree in Vegas, buying a boat, or shopping only at designer stores would probably do the trick!

But there are less obvious ways to retire with less. There are subtle misteps that may not lead to financial trainwrecks, but may still result in retiring with less. Here are a few!

Never start saving for retirement. The same is true for every undertaking. The easiest way to torpedo your music career? Never practice. It’s unwise to expect your retirement to be financially sound if you don’t start preparing and saving for it today. Starting is the most important step in your journey!

Buy a house you can’t afford. Few things will consume your cash flow and ability to build wealth more than a house that’s out of your budget. Mortgage payments, emergency repairs, and renovations can be costly even after extensive planning and saving. These expenses can scuttle your ability to build wealth if you end up becoming “house poor”.

Buy things you don’t need. Make no mistake—there’s a place for splurging and treating yourself. But there’s a point where buying more stuff simply weighs you down, both emotionally and financially. And if you’re using debt to keep shopping, you might be setting yourself up for less in retirement.

Be afraid of change. It’s incredibly difficult to pursue better opportunities if you fear change. Improving your financial situation, by definition, requires you to do something different, whether it’s spending less or changing careers. Unless you’re already on track for retirement, a fear of change can hinder your ability to reach your goals and live your dreams.

Never learn how money works. This is the easiest item on the list to avoid. Most people are never taught what their money can actually do and how to build wealth. But it can have serious consequences for your future. Not knowing how money works can prevent you from using critical tools like the Rule of 72 and the Power of Compound Interest to detect both bad deals and wealth building opportunities.

If any of these rung a bell with you, contact me. We can discuss strategies to start preparing for retirement, cut your spending, and find opportunities to increase your income!


How Can Graduates Start Building Wealth?

How Can Graduates Start Building Wealth?

If you’re a recent graduate, congratulations! You made it.

Your degree is in your hands and the world is now your oyster. If there’s one thing you should know, it’s that life after graduation isn’t all about partying with friends and family until next summer rolls around again. No, it’s time to start building wealth!

That’s because you have a secret weapon at your disposal—time.

Your money has the potential to grow via the power of compound interest. The longer your savings accrue interest, the more potential they have to grow.

Let’s say you’re 22 and fresh out of college. You’re able to save just $160 monthly in an account earning 9% interest. After 45 years, you would have grown over $1 million!

And, as your income rises, you can increase your savings rate and level up your goals.

But how can you save $160 per month?

It’s pretty straightforward—you should at least implement a budget ASAP, and maybe even start up a side gig. These are simple ways to decrease unnecessary spending and earn more money that can go towards wealth building.

If you want to learn more about building wealth reach out to financial professional you trust and schedule an appointment! They may have the knowledge and expertise to help you start on the path towards financial indepedence.


Wise Financial Moves For Retirees

Wise Financial Moves For Retirees

Retiring can be the most exciting time in a person’s life.

You get to relax and do whatever you want, whenever you want, with whomever you want. But it’s important not to forget about your finances AFTER retirement; here are wise financial moves that retirees should consider once they decide to quit working for good.

Get your will in order. You’ll be ahead of the game if you do—68% of Americans have no estate plan in place!¹ The simple truth is that preparing a will can help ensure that your money goes where you want it to go and save your family a financial headache. If you’re retired and haven’t created a will, do it today!

Plan for long-term care expenses. Why? Because there’s a strong chance you’ll need it—60% of people will need some form of LTC in their lives.² And it can be costly, possibly running into the tens of thousands of dollars. If you’re about to retire or have already retired, consult with a licensed and qualified financial professional about your options for this critical line of financial defense.

Pay off your mortgage! And, if you’ve played your cards correctly, you should be close to paying off your mortgage by the time you retire. Eliminating your home payments may free up a considerable amount of cash for you to spend on your other bills and your retirement lifestyle.

Consider downsizing your home to a smaller property or RV. That is of course, unless you have a huge family you regularly plan on entertaining! But for many, retirement is a perfect opportunity to move into a smaller, easier to manage home.

And if you’re the adventurous type, why not buy an RV? It’s a great way to travel and explore the country now that you’re moving into a new phase of life.

If you’re retiring, it doesn’t mean there aren’t a few key money moves left to be made. Consider these suggestions to be the cherry on top of your years of diligent work and savvy saving!

¹ “68% of Americans do not have a will,” Reid Kress Weisbord, David Horton, The Conversation, May 19, 2020, https://theconversation.com/68-of-americans-do-not-have-a-will-137686

² “What is Long-Term Care (LTC) and Who Needs it?,” LongTermCare.gov, Jan 4, 2021, https://acl.gov/ltc


5 Common Financial Mistakes That Parents Make

5 Common Financial Mistakes That Parents Make

It happens every day. Parents make financial blunders that can impact their children’s future.

These mistakes are often avoidable. But a parent who has the best intentions and lacks the knowledge needed to properly manage their finances may not recognize these errors until the damage has been done.

Here are 5 common financial mistakes every parent should be aware of!

1. Not saving for their children’s education. You know the numbers—it seems higher education is growing more and more expensive every year. So the time to start financially preparing for your child’s university years is today. Meet with a financial professional to discuss how you can pay for college without resorting to student loans!

2. Not saving for retirement. Skimping on your long-term savings might be tempting, especially if your budget feels stretched to the breaking point by the basic expenses of providing for your family!

But saving can support your long-term financial position. It gives you a shot to pay for your own retirement, it can reduce the impact of long-term care on your family, and it might even create a financial legacy to leave to your children.

3. Spending too much on credit cards. It’s not just parents. Many Americans overuse their credit cards. But it can be a little too easy to do for parents on tight budgets. Don’t have enough in cash to buy your child a new toy? Just put it on the card!

Unfortunately, credit cards can become a significant drain on your cash flow. And the less available cash you have on hand, the less you’ll be able to save for your other financial goals!

4. Buying a house they can’t afford. Make no mistake—your family needs space. You need space! Just make sure that the house you buy is actually within your budget. Mortgage payments can chip away at your cash flow and reduce your wealth building and education funding power. And don’t forget to factor in the cost of house maintenance before you move in.

5. Buying things they don’t need to impress other parents. You love your kids and want the best for them. That’s what makes you a great parent!

But be mindful of why you buy things for your family. Are you providing for your kids? Or are you simply trying to impress your friends and neighbors? Take care that you put the wellbeing of your family first, not the opinions of others.

If you need help navigating your financial responsibilities, contact me! We can discuss strategies that might give your family the upper hand they need to thrive.


6 Advantages of The Cash Envelopes System

6 Advantages of The Cash Envelopes System

The power of the cash envelope system is in its simplicity.

This is how it works. At the beginning of every month, you withdraw in cash all the money you plan on spending. Then, you divvy up your money into envelopes that represent different budget categories. For example, if you’ve budgeted $100 for eating at restaurants for the month, place $100 cash into an envelope labeled “restaurants.” That’s what you’ve got to dip into when you go out to eat. You don’t have to think about it. It’s that simple!

Not convinced? Here are 6 advantages of adopting the cash envelope system!

1. It’s a great way to save money. The ultimate goal of using cash envelopes is to save money. It can be an effective system because it brings your budget out into the open and makes it tangible. It can help reduce the likelihood that you’ll break your system and overspend.

2. The cash envelope system is flexible. Regardless of your age or financial situation, the cash envelope system can help you manage your spending. Barring categories for investing or emergency savings, it empowers you to accurately track and visualize your daily expenses.

3. You can easily see where you’re overspending. Every envelope that’s empty before the end of the month is a category where you’re potentially overspending. You now know exactly where you need to cut back.

4. It helps keep your budget organized. Nothing takes the wind out of your financial strategy quite like an overly complex budget. The cash envelope system takes the guesswork out of your budgeting and let’s you know exactly how much you can spend on what categories, and how much you have left over.

5. Cash envelopes help reduce the risk of impulse purchases. Why? Because they require that all transactions are planned ahead of time. That means fewer unbudgeted and out of the blue treats, toys, and trips!

6. It’s a great way to teach your kids about money management. That’s right, the envelope system is simple enough to teach to your kids. Consider setting up envelopes to help them budget their allowance. You can even make it a fun family project and help them decorate their envelopes! Start with simple categories like saving, spending, and giving, and add more categories as time goes on.

If you need a budget that’s simple and can help save you money, cash envelopes may be for you! Identify your top spending categories, buy a few envelopes and label them, and then start filling them with cash. Let me know what results you see!


5 Simple Ways to Save on a Tight Budget

5 Simple Ways to Save on a Tight Budget

There are always ways to cut back on spending.

But when your budget is already tight, they might be hard to find! Read on for 5 simple strategies to save money that may surprise you…

Cook your own food instead of eating out. Eating at a restuarant is about 300% more expensive than cooking at home. For instance, a $12 dollar burger at your favorite spot would cost $4 to prepare in your kitchen.¹

The takeaway is clear—whenever possible, prep your own food. Search the internet for recipes you love, recruit friends and family, and start creating… and saving!

Use coupons and promo codes. There are two ways to take advantage of online coupons and offers.

First, download your favorite grocery store’s app. Look for the savings section and start clipping coupons to your phone. Simply scan the app the next time you buy groceries for some potentially serious savings.

Second, install a plugin, like Honey, onto your browser. It will seek out coupons and promo codes and automatically apply them to your online purchases!

Walk and bike whenever possible. Any opportunity you have to replace your car with your feet or pedals, take it. Doing this has the potential to save you money on both gas and repairs over the long haul. Taking public transportation can also be a wise move—it’s been shown to save $10,000 per household.²

Make your own coffee at home to save money on daily expenses. Making your coffee in a traditional coffee pot can potentially save you over $1,900 annually.³ There’s nothing wrong with splurging on a coffee shop drink every now and then. But try to incorporate brewing your own coffee into your daily routine and see how it impacts your savings.

Find free entertainment. It’s not impossible! Organize a group of friends to throw a frisbee or play tag football in a park. Visit a museum with your family on a free-entry day. Go for a long walk with your partner. You might be surprised by how much fun you can have for free.

Apply these tips and let me know how much you save! What are some money saving ideas you use when you’re on a tight budget?

¹ “The True Cost Of Eating Out (And How To Save),” Amy Bergen, Money Under 30, Feb 11, 2021, https://www.moneyunder30.com/the-true-cost-of-eating-in-restaurants-and-how-to-save#:~:text=By%20contrast%2C%20the%20average%20meal,%244%20meal%20you%20prepare%20yourself.

² “Public Transportation Facts,” American Public Transportation Association, https://www.apta.com/news-publications/public-transportation-facts/#:~:text=Public%20Transportation%20Saves%20Money&text=A%20household%20can%20save%20nearly,living%20with%20one%20less%20car

³ “Here’s How Much Money You Really Save by Making Coffee at Home,” Samantha Rosen, NextAdvisor, February 3, 2021, https://time.com/nextadvisor/banking/savings/save-money-by-making-coffee-at-home/


Two Ways to Prepare for Financial Emergencies

Two Ways to Prepare for Financial Emergencies

It’s not a matter of if, but when an unexpected financial emergency will occur.

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.


3 Simple Steps to Prepare for Retirement

3 Simple Steps to Prepare for Retirement

Are you intimidated by the prospect of saving for retirement?

It may not be as daunting as you might think. In fact, there are simple steps you can take today that can help position you to retire with the wealth you desire.

Pay yourself first. It’s simple—schedule a recurring transfer to your retirement savings account when you get your paycheck. This transforms building wealth for your future into an effortless process that occurs without your even thinking about it.

Save your bonuses. Unexpected windfalls are exciting! But don’t forget to pause for a moment before you take off for the Bahamas. If you hadn’t gotten that bonus, would your life and your current financial strategy still be the same as it was last week? Consider putting (most of) that extra money away for later, and using a fraction of it for fun!

Reduce your debt. Credit cards and any high interest loans are the first priority when retiring debt—so that you can retire too someday! Do you really know how much you’re paying in interest each month? (Once you know this number, you can’t “unknow” it.) But take heart! Use this as a powerful incentive to pay those balances off as quickly as you can.

Every month you chip away at your debt, you’ll owe less and pay less in interest. (You’ll feel better too.) And you know what to do with the leftover money since you knocked out that debt. Hint: Save it.

But keep this in mind—life is about balance. It’s okay to treat yourself once in a while. Just make sure to pay yourself first now, so you can REALLY treat yourself later in retirement.


Expenses to Expect When You're Expecting

Expenses to Expect When You're Expecting

You’re expecting? Congratulations!

As you’re probably aware by now, growing a baby comes with serious financial responsibility. Here are a few expenses to anticipate and start planning for as soon as possible!

Prenatal care costs. Keeping both the mother and baby healthy throughout the pregnancy is a top priority. That means regular checkups and ultrasounds to make sure everything is progressing safely and normally.

Investigate what’s covered and what you’re expected to pay for beforehand. Health insurance policies will often cover prenatal care, but it’s best to find out what your expenses will be ahead of time. Out of pocket, prenatal care costs on average $2,000, so start preparing now!¹

Maternity clothes. Pregnancy requires a wardrobe overhaul for women that, on average, costs about $500.² Fortunately, there are commonsense strategies to cut back on this expense. Check local thrift stores for maternity options, and even consider buying flowy dresses or tops that are a size–or three–larger than your normal size. Also, ask family members if you can borrow their spare maternity clothes. Try to avoid designer maternity clothes which can come with a hefty price tag.

Delivery expenses. The cost of giving birth varies greatly—from $4,000 to $20,000 depending on your state and health insurance coverage.³ Again, it’s critical to consult with your healthcare and insurance providers to see what you’ll be expected to cover. The earlier you discover this information, the better—it gives you time to start saving for the hospital bill!

Budgeting for doctor visits, the delivery, and the hospital stay positions you to cover those expenses without having to borrow money. And that means you can provide your child a financially stable environment in which to grow, without the stress caused by unexpected medical expenses.

¹ “How Much Does it Cost to Have a Baby?,” Rickie Houston, SmartAsset, Oct 01, 2020, https://smartasset.com/financial-advisor/cost-of-having-a-baby#:~:text=The%20average%20price%20of%20having,and%20the%20hospital%20care%20fee.

² “Dressing for Two,” Stephie Grob Plante, Vox, Jan 30, 2018, https://www.vox.com/2018/1/30/16928328/maternity-clothes-pregnancy-miscarriage

³ “What It Costs to Have a Baby,” Heather Hatfield, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/baby/features/cost-of-having-a-baby#1


Savings Rates Need Some Serious Saving

Savings Rates Need Some Serious Saving

Ever hear the old story of the 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine?

In the years when there was an abundance of crops, it was wise to store up as much as possible in preparation for the years of famine. However, if instead of saving you ate it all up during the 7 years of abundance, the result would be starvation for you and your family during the 7 lean years. This might be an extreme example in our modern, First World society, but are you “eating it all up” now and not storing enough away for your retirement?

The definition of retirement we’ll be using is: “An indefinite period in which one is no longer actively producing income but rather relies on income generated from pensions and/or personal savings.”

According to this definition, the “years of plenty” would be the years that you are still working and generating income. While you still have regular income, you can set aside a portion of it to save for retirement. This amount is called the “Personal Savings Rate.”

According to the latest statistics, the monthly personal savings rate for Americans is approximately 13.6% of their income.¹ For much of the past decade it’s hovered around 7% to 8%, briefly spiking during the first months of the COVID-19 Pandemic to over 30%.

Suppose you’re looking to retire for at least 10 years (e.g., from 65 years old to 75 years old). Even if you’re planning to live on only half of the income that you were making prior to retirement, you would need to save up 5 years worth of income to last for the 10 years of your retirement. Just raw saving at average rate without the power of interest would take years before it became the wealth most people need to retire.

So unless you’ve found the elixir of everlasting life, we’re going to need to do some serious “saving” of the personal savings rate. Is there a solution to this dilemma? Yes. If you’re looking for possible ways to store up and prepare for your retirement, I’d be happy to have that conversation with you today.

¹ “Personal Saving Rate,” U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Nov 25, 2020, http://bit.ly/2qSGrR3.


First Steps Towards Your First Home

First Steps Towards Your First Home

If you’ve checked home prices recently, you know that this is a rough time to be a first time house hunter!

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/


How to Make the Most of Your First Job

How to Make the Most of Your First Job

So you’ve just started your first job. Congratulations!

Whether you’re a highschool student working a cash register or a fresh-out-of-college graduate who just landed a cubicle, a first job often comes with a steep learning curve. But don’t let that weigh you down! This is your once in a lifetime opportunity to start your financial journey strong and develop skills that will last you throughout your career.

Here are two simple steps you can take to make the most of your first job.

Start saving.
A first paycheck is a magical thing. It makes you feel like the hard work has finally paid off and you’re a real adult. You might just become unstoppable now that you’ve got a regular income!

But that empowerment will be fleeting if you spend everything you earn.

It’s absolutely critical that you begin saving money the moment your first paycheck arrives. This practice will go far in establishing healthy money habits that can last a lifetime. Plus, the sooner you start saving, the more time your money has to grow via compound interest. What seems like a pittance today can grow into the foundation of your future wealth if you steward it properly!

Evaluate your performance.
There’s much that you can learn about yourself by studying your job performance. You’ll get an idea of strengths that you can leverage and weaknesses that you need to work on.

But most importantly, you might discover moments when you’re “in the zone”. You’ll know what that means when you feel it. Time slows down (or speeds up), you’re totally focused on the task at hand, and you’re having fun.

That feeling is like a compass. It helps point you in the direction of what you’re supposed to do with your life. Do you get in the zone when you’re working on a certain task? With a group of people? Helping others succeed? Pay close attention to when you’re feeling energized at work and delivering quality results… and when you’re not!

Above all, keep an open mind. Your first job might introduce a passion you’ll pursue for the rest of your life… or it might not. And that’s okay! Whatever it is and wherever it leads, be sure to save as much as you can and to pay attention to what you like. You’ll be better positioned both financially and personally to pursue your dreams when the time comes to make your next move!



When Should You Retire?

When Should You Retire?

Have you ever thought about when you want to retire?

You’ve probably daydreamed about what you want to do when you no longer have to withstand the 9-to-5 routine. But do you know when you want retirement to become a reality?

The average retirement age for people in the US is about 63. However, there’s a large group of people who continue to work past 65.¹ Two motivations that could be contributing to this situation are:

  • They choose to work but don’t have to.
  • They have no choice but to keep working.

It’s apparent that the first option might be preferable to the latter – even if you love what you do.

Here’s why: having the choice is better than having no choice at all.
Imagine that as you approach the time when you want to retire that you love your job and experience a lot of satisfaction in what you do. But there’s no option for you to stop even if you wanted to because of bills or obligations to yourself or your family.

As you approach retirement age – whatever that may be – there could be other things in your life that matter to you that come into conflict with the job you love. Some of these “other things” may include (but aren’t limited to) spending time with family, volunteering at an organization you’re passionate about, traveling the world, etc. Except for a lucky few, most can’t both traveling around the world AND work the job they love. That’s when having the resources to choose comes in handy.

It’s important to have a strategy to reach your retirement goals, whether it’s retiring at age 65 or earlier. Having a plan in place doesn’t mean you absolutely have to retire. But at least you’ll have the flexibility to do so!


¹ “Average Retirement Age In The United States,” Dana Anspach, The Balance, Jul 31, 2020, http://bit.ly/2nW9AWJ.


3 Ways to Teach Your Children How to Save

3 Ways to Teach Your Children How to Save

A study discovered that most children have established their money habits by age 7.¹

Before they might know what a 401(k) or mortgage even are, their financial future is already starting to take shape. It’s never too early to teach your kids the wisdom of budgeting, limiting their spending, and paying themselves first. So the sooner you can instill those lessons, the deeper they’ll sink in!

Fortunately, teaching your kids about saving is quite simple. Here are two common-sense strategies that can help you instill financial wisdom in your children from the moment they can tell a dollar from a dime!

Give your child an allowance
The easiest way for your child to learn how money works is actually for them to have money. If it’s within your budget, set up a system for your child to earn an allowance. The more closely it relates to their work, the better. Set up a list of family chores that are mandatory, and then come up with some jobs and projects around the house that pay different amounts.

What does this have to do with saving? The simple fact is that spending money you receive as a gift can feel totally different than spending money that you earn. Teaching your children the connection between work and money instills a sense of the value of their time and that spending isn’t something to be taken lightly!

Teach your child how to budget
Budgeting is one of the most essential life skills your child will ever learn. And there’s no better time for them to start learning the difference between saving and spending than now! The same study that revealed children solidify their spending habits at age 7 also suggested they can grasp basic financial concepts by age 3!

So when your kid earns that first 5 dollar bill for working in the yard, help them figure out what to do with it! Encourage them to set aside a portion of what they earn in a place where it will grow via compound interest. Explain that the longer their money compounds, the more potential it has to grow! If they’re natural spenders, help them determine how long it will take them to save up enough to buy the new toy or game they want and that it’s worth the wait.

Start saving for yourself
Remember this–the most important lessons you teach your children are unconscious. Your kids are smart. They watch everything you do. Relentlessly enforce spending limits on your kids but splurge on a vacation or new car? They’ll notice. That’s why one of the most critical means of teaching your kids how to save is to establish a savings strategy yourself. When you make and review your monthly budget, invite the kids to join! When they ask why you haven’t gone on vacation abroad for a while, calmly inform them that it’s not in the family budget right now. Model wise financial decision making, and your children will be far more receptive to learning how money works for themselves!

The time to start teaching your kids how to save is today. Whether they’re 2, 8, or 18, offer them opportunities to work so they can earn some money and give them the knowledge and resources they need to use it wisely. And the sooner your kids discover concepts like the power of compound interest and the time value of money, the more potential they have to transform what they earn into a foundation for future wealth.

“The 5 Most Important Money Lessons To Teach Your Kids,” Laura Shin, Forbes, Oct 15, 2013, https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurashin/2013/10/15/the-5-most-important-money-lessons-to-teach-your-kids/?sh=2c01a4956826


Set Yourself Up For (Financial) Success In The New Year

Set Yourself Up For (Financial) Success In The New Year

A new year is a massive opportunity.

There’s something liberating about closing one chapter of your life and beginning a new one. You realize that this year doesn’t have to be like last year, and that there are countless possibilities for growth.

Now is the perfect time to write a new financial chapter of your life.

In the mindset of new beginnings, the first thing is to forgive yourself for the mistakes of the past and start fresh. Now is your chance to set yourself up for financial success this year and potentially for years to come. Here are three simple steps you can take starting January 1st that might make this new chapter of your life the best one yet!

Automate wise money decisions ASAP
What if there were a way to go to the gym once that somehow made you steadily stronger throughout the year? One workout would be all you need to achieve your lifting goals!

That’s exactly what automating savings and bill payments does for your finances.

All you have to do is determine how much you want to save and where, set up automatic deposits, and watch your savings grow. It’s like making a year’s worth of wise financial decisions in one fell swoop!

Give your debt the cold shoulder
Debt doesn’t have to dictate your story in the new year. You can reclaim your cash flow from monthly payments and devote it to building wealth. Resolve to reduce how much you owe over the next 12 months, and then implement one of these two powerful debt strategies…

Arrange your debts on a sheet of paper, starting with the highest interest rate and working down. Direct as much financial firepower as you can at that first debt. Once you’ve cleared it, use the extra resources you’ve freed up to crush the next one even faster. This strategy is called the Debt Avalanche.

-Or-

Arrange your debts on a sheet paper, starting with the smallest debt and working up to the largest. Eliminate the smallest debt first and then work up to the largest debt. This is called the Debt Snowball. It can be a slower strategy over the long-haul, but it can sometimes provide more motivation to keep going because you’re knocking out smaller goals faster.

Start a side hustle
You might not have thought much about this before, but you may have what it takes to create a successful side hustle. Just take a moment and think about your hobbies and skills. Love playing guitar? Start teaching lessons, or see if you can start gigging at weddings or events. Are you an embroidery master? Start selling your creations online. Your potential to transform your existing talents into income streams is only limited by your imagination!

Start this new year strong. Automate a year’s worth of wise financial decisions ASAP, and then evaluate what your next steps should be. You may even want to meet with a qualified and licensed financial professional to help you uncover strategies and techniques that can further reduce your debt and increase your cash flow. Whatever you choose, you’ll have set yourself up for a year full of potential for financial success!


Should you buy or lease your next vehicle?

Should you buy or lease your next vehicle?

Behind housing costs, transportation costs are often one of the top expenses in most households.

Auto leasing has been popular for several decades, but many people still aren’t sure about the sensibility of leasing vs. buying a car, how the math works, and which is really the better value.

Should you lease a car?
In many cases, you can lease a car for less than the monthly payment for financing the exact same car. This is because with leasing, you never build any equity in the vehicle. Essentially, you are renting the vehicle for a predetermined number of miles per year with a promise that you’ll take good care of it and won’t let your kids spill ice cream on the seats. (After all, it’s not really your car.)

At the end of the lease – most often 2 or 3 years – you’ll have the option to buy the car. At this point, in many cases you would be able to find a comparable car for a few thousand less than the residual value on the car you leased. After the lease has expired, most people choose to lease another newer car, rather than buy the car they leased.

If you don’t drive many miles, there may be some advantages to leasing over buying, particularly if you prefer to drive something newer or if you need a late-model car for business reasons. As a bonus, for short-term or standard leases, the car is usually under warranty for the duration of the lease and maintenance costs are typically only for minor service items.

Should you buy a car?
If you’re like most people, when you buy a car, you’ll probably need to finance it rather than plunk down a lump sum in cash. Rates are relatively low, but you can still expect to pay a few thousand dollars in interest costs over the course of the loan. Longer loans have higher rates and more expensive vehicles can make the interest costs add up quickly. Still, at the end of the loan, you own the car.

Older cars usually have higher maintenance costs, but it may be less expensive to keep a car with under 150,000 miles and pay for any repairs, rather than make payments on a new car. Cars are also running reliably much longer now. The average age of cars and light trucks on the roads currently is up to 12 years, which means if you had a 5-year loan, you could be driving for 7 years (or more) without having to make a car payment.[i]

So a big part of the savings in buying a car vs. leasing can occur if you keep the car for several years after it’s paid off. Cars depreciate most rapidly during the first 5 years of ownership, meaning you could take a big hit on the trade-in value during that time. Keeping the car for a bit longer puts you into a period where the car is depreciating less rapidly and you can benefit financially from not having a car payment. But if you think you might be tempted to trade the car in after 5 years (and you typically drive under 15,000 miles per year), you may want to take a closer look at leasing.

Keeping your car for 10 years
How would you like to “make” an extra $28,000 over the next 10 years? That’s enough to buy another car! All things being equal (you make the same modest down payment on a leased car as a financed car), and assuming an average auto loan rate for a $30,000 vehicle, you can save nearly $28,000 in a decade by buying and keeping your car for 10 years instead of leasing a car every 3 years. And that savings applies to each car you own.[ii] (This calculation also assumes maintenance costs.)

Your savings will vary based on the type of car and its price of course, but buying a car and keeping it for a while after it’s paid off can “yield” handsome dividends.

Getting behind the wheel
It’s really up to your personal preference whether you buy or lease. If you like to rotate your vehicles so you can enjoy a new car every few years and not have to worry so much about maintenance, then leasing may be a better option. However, if you like the idea of not having to make a car payment for a good portion of the life of your car, then buying may be the right choice.

Either way, before you take the keys and drive off the lot, make sure to ask your dealer any questions you have, so you can fully understand all the terms and any underlying costs for your situation.


[i] “Vehicles on the road keep getting older, and COVID could push the age higher,” Eric D. Lawrence, Detriot Free Press, Jul 28, 2020, https://www.freep.com/story/money/cars/2020/07/28/covid-average-vehicle-age-12-years/5519557002/ [ii] “Buy Vs. Lease Calculator,” Lauren Barret, Money Under 30, Nov 8, 2020 https://www.moneyunder30.com/buy-vs-lease-calculator*


Got debt? Throw a snowball at it!

Got debt? Throw a snowball at it!

Most of us wish we could be debt free, but it seems like a dream reserved for a few financial wizards.

After all, it’s hard to find a family that doesn’t have debt hanging over them. In this day of easy credit and deferred interest, it’s not hard to accumulate sizable financial obligations.

It is possible, however, to become debt free. One method, the so-called “snowball” method, can be an effective way to get on top of those seemingly never-ending payments.

When you think about tackling your debt, it might make sense to pay off the obligation you have at the highest interest rate first, when you look at it mathematically. But sometimes the highest interest rate debt may also be the largest amount you have to deal with, which might create frustration if the balance is going down too slowly.

The debt snowball method can seem counterintuitive because it doesn’t always follow the math, since in most cases, the math favors paying down the debt with the highest interest rate first. The snowball method instead focuses on building momentum – the idea that small successes can lead to larger successes. Paying off the smallest balance first can build momentum to plow through the next largest balance, then the next one and so forth – like a snowball gaining size and speed as it rolls down a hill.

To restate, once you’ve paid off the smallest balance, more cash is available to put toward the next smallest amount. After the second smallest amount is paid off, the cash you freed up by paying off the first two debts can now be applied to the third largest balance.

The snowball method of debt repayment is intended to help simplify the process of becoming debt free. Because you’re starting with smaller balances and working your way up, your mortgage (if you have one) would be one of the last balances to tackle. Some financial experts might recommend leaving the mortgage out of your snowball payments altogether, but that’s up to you and how ambitious you are!

Ready to start?
First, remind yourself it may take some time to get your debt to zero, but hang in there. If you stick to your strategy, you can make great strides toward financial freedom!

Second, make a list of your debts and sort them by size from lowest to highest. Then, pay the minimum on all the balances except the smallest one, and put as much as you can towards that one. Let’s say the payment you’re making on the smallest balance is $20. Once that balance is paid off, add that $20 to whatever you were paying toward the next smallest balance. Let’s say that balance has a minimum payment of $30. That means you can now put $50 a month toward it to knock it out faster.

When the second balance is paid off, you’ll have an extra $50 a month you can put towards the third highest balance.

See the snowball? Keep going! Over time, you should have enough momentum and freed up cash available to really make a dent in your debt.


Setting SMART Financial Goals

Setting SMART Financial Goals

So you’ve set some financial goals. Good for you!

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!


Why Financial Goals Matter

Why Financial Goals Matter

Setting goals has the power to change your life. Research has shown that people who write down their goals are 33% more successful in accomplishing them than those who don’t.¹ That data seems to verify what we instinctively know. Is there anything worse than working on a project that has no clear objective or outcome defined?

But here’s the million dollar question: Have you written down your financial goals?

It’s one of those simple things that we tell ourselves we’re going to do or that we’ll get around to later, but we tend to leave undone. And that results in our earning, saving, and spending money aimlessly, without purpose. No wonder the majority of 40-somethings and almost a third of people in their 60s are woefully short of having enough for their retirements!²

In case you still need convincing, here are three reasons why you should write down your financial goals the second you’re done reading this article!

Financial goals bring clarity
Imagine trying to build a house without a blueprint. Where would you start? Would you know what supplies you’d need? What color paint you’d want? Would you end up with a basement? Who knows?

Your finances are the same way. Until you have a clear financial goal for your lifestyle and retirement, you’ll never truly know what to do with your money and how it can help you. Once you’re locked in on a vision of your future, you can start exploring the actions necessary to make your dreams become realities.

Financial goals create intensity
Discovering the steps you need to take to achieve your goals cuts away distractions. You’re no longer as susceptible to distractions and temptations because you’re laser-focused on creating an outcome. You can focus all of your mental and financial energy on bringing your vision to life. Clarity leads to focus. Focus creates intensity. Intensity accomplishes goals.

Financial goals are rewarding
There are few better feelings than the one that comes after a day of hard, productive work. That’s because your brain knows that you accomplished what you set out to do.

Your finances are no different.

Setting goals for your money gives you the opportunity to feel that deep sense of reward and accomplishment. It provides your life with a source of gratification that isn’t shallow and instantaneous.

So what are you waiting for? Grab a piece of paper or pull up your note taking app and write down a few financial goals! Be realistic and hyper specific. Let’s talk about what comes to your mind and what it would take to bring that vision of your life into reality!

¹ “Goal-Setting Is Linked to Higher Achievement,” Marilyn Price-Mitchell Ph.D., Psychology Today, Mar 14, 2018, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-moment-youth/201803/goal-setting-is-linked-higher-achievement

² “Here’s how much Americans have saved for retirement at different ages,” Kathleen Elkins, CNBC Make It, Jan 23, 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/23/heres-how-much-americans-have-saved-for-retirement-at-different-ages.html


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