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Managing Your Monthly Budget

Managing Your Monthly Budget

You can’t afford to live in a world of denial.

If you want to maintain a budget and save money, then you need a plan. The first step is understanding the basics—what is a budget? How does it work? What are the benefits of having one?

To effectively manage your monthly budget, you must take certain steps from day one. This article will provide some helpful tips and tricks on how to get started and keep going strong until payday rolls around!

What is a budget?

A budget is a plan. It helps you set limits for your spending, so that you can track your income and expenses. Maintaining a budget keeps you aware of when you are spending too much or if there are areas where your money could be saved.

It can also help you understand your spending habits as well as identify problems, such as giving in to too many sales or buying expensive lattes every day. With a clear understanding of how you spend money every month, you may be able to reduce expenses and even start saving for luxuries or emergencies. You can’t have a goal of saving for your next summer vacation if you don’t know how much money you’re spending now.

How to create your budget

The first step is to set goals for yourself for income and spending. When it comes to income, you need to consider all the ways you get paid. What is your salary—after taxes and any other contributions you make, like to a 401(k)? Is your employer cutting back your hours? Do you have another source of income such as a side job or freelance work?

Be completely honest with yourself about how much money you have coming in. Once this figure is known, you can assess your spending and determine how much of your income goes towards them every month.

Next, make a list of all fixed monthly bills, such as rent or loan repayments. Then make a list of variable expenses, such as groceries or gas. Lastly, make a list of all your monthly discretionary spending, or ‘fun money’.

If you struggle with this last step, look at your bank statements. It’s the easiest way to find a complete record of your spending. This will help you pinpoint the areas that you could cut down on or even eliminate.

Leverage your budget

Now that you have your budget, you can take action. You can save money by leveraging your budget to meet your monthly goals.

The first way is to leverage your income. If you have a job, talk to your employer about working extra hours, or ask for a raise. This will give you more money right out of the gate.

Beyond the extra income from a job, there are many other ways to add to your budget.

You can start small and pick up some side work—babysitting, dog walking, delivering pizzas, etc. If you can turn your free time into money, go for it! This all depends on your financial situation and what you feel comfortable with, so take the time to plan accordingly.

You can also think about reducing your expenses. Cutting back on luxury items can save money every month without having to work an extra job. Just think of all the things you could do with the money that’s currently going towards cable TV or eating out every day for lunch!

Don’t forget to have some fun every once in a while. Just find creative ways to have it on a budget. Plan more outings with friends like playing tennis or frisbee in the park, rather than going to the club every evening. Your community is bound to have some free local events going on, especially in warmer weather.

A budget is a way for you to track your expenses and income each month. You can leverage your budget in a number of ways, by increasing income or decreasing expenses—or both! With this knowledge, you’ll be able to save more and plan for the future.


Top Financial Literacy Stories of 2021

Top Financial Literacy Stories of 2021

2021 was another wild ride.

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

These are the top financial literacy stories of 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Rent Keeps Increasing. Will It Stop?

Rent Keeps Increasing. Will It Stop?

It’s official—rent keeps increasing.

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

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

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

Why? Because of a perfect storm of…

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Life Insurance That Lasts a Lifetime

Life Insurance That Lasts a Lifetime

Most people, when they think of life insurance, might think of two types: Term Life Insurance and Whole Life Insurance.

There are two types of policies, but it’s more accurate to think of them as temporary or permanent. It’s kind of like renting an apartment vs. buying a home. When you rent, it’s probably going to be temporary, depending on your situation. However when you buy a house, the feeling is more like you’re settling down and you’ll be there for the long-haul. When you rent, you don’t build value. But when you buy, you can build more equity in your home the longer you own it.

Permanent life insurance can build a cash value, something a term policy can’t do. A term life policy only has monetary value when it pays a death benefit in a covered claim. Temporary and permanent policies also have some types of their own.

For example, term life insurance can include living benefits or critical illness coverage, as well as group term life insurance and key person life insurance, which is sometimes used in businesses. These are all designed to be temporary coverage. Here’s why. The policy might guarantee premiums for 10 years – or as long as 30 years – but after its term has expired, a term policy can become price-prohibitive. For this reason the coverage is, for all practical purposes, considered temporary.

Permanent Life Insurance: Designed to Last a Lifetime

As its name suggests, permanent life insurance is built to last. It’s a common perception that permanent life insurance and whole life insurance are synonymous, but whole life insurance is just one type of permanent life insurance.

At first glance, a permanent life insurance policy can seem more expensive than a term policy, but you’d have to consider the big picture to be fair in comparing the two options. Over the course of a full lifetime, permanent life insurance can be less costly – in part – because term policies become expensive if you require coverage after the initial term has expired. An investment element also helps to build cash value in a permanent life insurance policy, taking pressure off premiums to provide coverage.

If I’ve left you scratching your head over your options, no worries! Understanding the benefits of each type is important, and choosing which policy is best for you is a uniquely personal experience. Contact me, and we’ll review your options to find the right strategy for you and your family.


How to Build Credit When You’re Young

How to Build Credit When You’re Young

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

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

So, where do you start?

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

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

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

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


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


Turn Your Hobby Into a Side Gig

Turn Your Hobby Into a Side Gig

Do you have a hobby that you really love? Could you use a little extra cash?

What if you could get paid for doing something that you already enjoy doing? We’re all good at something. Many people have turned their hobbies into a side business as a way to earn extra money. For nearly everyone, there’s a topic they know well or a skill they have that many other people don’t have. That niche can spell opportunity – and a chance to turn something you enjoy doing anyway into a money-maker.

Depending on the type of hobby you want to monetize, your startup expenses may be quite low. For writing, coding, or graphic design, you might only need a laptop or tablet – something you may already have. If your hobby is fixing up old cars, however, you might need a place to do the work – possibly adding to the expense. For that scenario, you could check out the possibility of putting in a couple of Saturdays per month at a local shop to help save on rent and insurance costs.

With a little ingenuity, you might be able to earn $10 to $40 (or maybe more) per hour doing work you enjoy. Artists can earn extra money by selling arts and crafts items through virtual stores on specialized websites. Freelance writers, coders, designers, and even teachers can find work as well on similar type websites that bring clients and service providers together. If you have a knack for knowing what’s valuable, you may be able to turn garage sale and estate sale buys into a rewarding online business on any popular consumer-to-consumer and/or business-to-consumer sales website. (Hint: If this is something you’d like to try, start out small. Concentrate on one type of item that might be near and dear to you, like brass musical instruments, or antique mason jars.)

The old saying that asserts “knowledge is power” applies here as well. Let’s say your childhood fascination with dinosaurs never quite went extinct. Maybe there’s a successful educational blog or a YouTube channel in your future. Technology has given us the power to reach a larger audience than ever before and to bring our knowledge to anyone who wants to learn more. Sharing what you know can be monetized in many ways and – if you love doing it – you might not feel like you’re working at all!

Do your research and understand any legal or insurance requirements that may apply to the area you want to get into, but don’t let a little legwork bar the way to your next great endeavor – even if it just starts as a side gig.



Passive Income Requires Work

Passive Income Requires Work

“I want passive income!”, said the community of struggling entrepreneurs (and retirees).

“But what exactly is passive income?” they asked. A simple Google search revealed thousands of articles with a common theme—passive income is money you make while you sleep!

But is passive income really possible, or does it just live in the dreams of people looking for a way to make money without working?

To answer that question, let’s look at what passive income is (and isn’t). Then you can see if it will work for you!

Passive income, generally speaking, is a product or service that requires an upfront investment of time, effort, or wealth to create.

Examples include…

- Rental properties that require wealth to purchase, and are cared for by a property manager while creating rental income - Books, music, and courses that required time and creativity to create and now generate income without regular upkeep - Investing wealth in a business as a silent partner and taking a slice of their revenue

Can those income sources generate cash flow while you sleep? Of course! But notice that all of those opportunities require either work or resources that can only be acquired by work.

Does that mean you shouldn’t prioritize passive income sources? No! They can sometimes provide the financial stability you need.

Just don’t expect a passive income stream to effortlessly appear in your lap.

Remember, there is no such thing as free money. All wealth building opportunities require time, effort, and energy to reach their full potential.

If you want to learn more about creating passive income sources, contact me. We can review your talents, your situation, and your dreams to determine smart strategies for developing passive income.


Common Sources of Retirement Income

Common Sources of Retirement Income

Does retirement income sound like an oxymoron? It’s understandable—most people’s only source of income is their job.

But by definition, your job ceases to become your source of income once you retire.

Instead, you’ll need to tap into new forms of cash flow that, most likely, will need to be prepared beforehand.

Here are the most common sources of retirement income. Take note, because they could be critical to your retirement strategy.

Social Security. It’s simple—you pay into social security via your taxes, and you’re entitled to a monthly check from Uncle Sam once you retire. It’s no wonder why it’s the most commonly utilized source of retirement income.

Just know that social security alone may not afford you the retirement lifestyle you desire—the average monthly payment is only $1,543.¹ Fortunately, it’s far from your only option.

Retirement Saving Accounts. These types of accounts might be via your employer or you might have one independently. They are also popular options because they can benefit from the power of compound interest. The assumption is that when you retire, you’ll have grown enough wealth to live on for the rest of your life.

But they aren’t retirement silver bullets. They often are exposed to risk, meaning you can lose money as well as earn it. They also might be subject to different tax scenarios that aren’t necessarily favorable.

If you have a retirement savings account of any kind, meet with a licensed and qualified financial professional. They can evaluate how it fits into your overarching financial strategy.

Businesses and Real Estate. Although they are riskier and more complex, these assets can also be powerful retirement tools.

If you own a business or real estate, it’s possible that they can sustain the income generated by their revenue and rents, respectively, through retirement. Best of all, they may only require minimal upkeep on your part!

Again, starting a business and buying properties for income carry considerable risks. It’s wise to consult with a financial professional and find experienced mentorship before relying on them for retirement cash flow.

Part-time work. Like it or not, some people will have to find opportunities to sustain their lifestyle through retirement. It’s not an ideal solution, but it may be necessary, depending on your financial situation.

You may even discover that post-retirement work becomes an opportunity to pursue other hobbies, passions, or interests. Retirement can be about altering the way you live, not just having less to do.

You can’t prepare for retirement if you don’t know what to prepare for. And that means knowing and understanding your options for creating a sustainable retirement income. If unsure of how you’ll accomplish that feat, sit down with your financial professional. They can help you evaluate your position and create a realistic strategy that can truly prepare you for retirement.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to promote any certain products, plans, or policies that may be available to you. Any examples used in this article are hypothetical. Before enacting a savings or retirement strategy, or purchasing a life insurance policy, seek the advice of a licensed and qualified financial professional, accountant, and/or tax expert to discuss your options.


¹ “How much Social Security will I get?” AARP, https://www.aarp.org/retirement/social-security/questions-answers/how-much-social-security-will-i-get.html


Are You Ready For Entrepreneurship?

Are You Ready For Entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship can be a huge risk.

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

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

Do you have enough experience in your field?

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

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

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

Have you developed a professional and personal support network?

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

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

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

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

Are your personal finances in order?

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

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


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


Should I Buy Or Rent?

Should I Buy Or Rent?

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

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

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

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

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

Well, maybe not.

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

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


How to Budget for Beginners

How to Budget for Beginners

Everybody needs a budget.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


4 Ways to Get out of Debt

4 Ways to Get out of Debt

Dealing with debt can be scary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Passive Income: How It Works

Passive Income: How It Works

What if there were a way to increase your cash flow without starting a second job, changing careers, or getting a raise?

If you’re like many, that sounds exactly like what you and your family need! Who wouldn’t want some extra money coming in? It might seem like pie in the sky, but it’s not a fantasy.

Earning a passive income is more achievable than you might realize. Read on to discover how passive incomes work, what makes them so advantageous, and common ways to create them.

In general, a passive income is cash flow that requires little to no regular effort to create and maintain.

That’s not to say that they don’t require work. But the labor involved in opening a passive income stream is normally upfront—you spend time and/or money in the beginning to set up the income stream, then sit back and reap the rewards as time goes on.

It’s an advantageous model because it can potentially free up your time—which is the most valuable resource you have.

But be warned—not all opportunities to create passive income are created equal. Here are a few proven strategies for you to consider!

Create digital products. EBooks, online courses, stock photos, and stock music are all passive income generators. They require initial time investments to create and publish, but then earn you money as users buy them over time.

Rent out property. Renting is a classic source of passive income. It requires money upfront to buy the property—and maybe time and more money for renovations. But once rent starts coming in, they’re income sources that don’t require your daily attention. (Note: Becoming a landlord may have other costs involved, like repairs or replacing old equipment or appliances.)

Build a team of sales professionals. This is the hidden gem of passive income. There’s a starting commitment of time to learn about your market and how to close sales. Then you’ll need to create a team of salespeople. Every time they make a sale, you earn a portion of the profit. Once you’ve mastered the basics, the sky’s the limit for how much passive income you can potentially earn!

If having a passive income stirs your interest, let me know. We can review your financial position, skills, and the opportunities available and see which one might work best for you!


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*


Pay Yourself First

Pay Yourself First

Your paycheck makes everyone rich… except you.

Allow me to explain.

Your labor actually is helping make your boss rich. He gives you a portion of earnings in exchange for your time and effort. No harm, no foul. But what becomes of that paycheck?

It goes right back to people just like your boss.

The owner of your favorite coffee shop gets a piece.

Whoever dreamed up your favorite streaming service gets a piece.

Your landlord gets a huge piece.

And your credit card provider? They gobble up whatever’s left.

Everyone gets rich while you’re left scrambling to make ends meet. You get another paycheck and the cycle repeats.

So how do you escape this endless cycle and begin building wealth?

Before you do anything else, you’ve got to pay yourself first.

Start treating your personal savings as the most important bill to pay. Here’s the simplest way:

  • Decide how much you want to pay yourself each month and adjust your budget accordingly
  • Set-up a recurring automatic payment from your checking account to your savings account. Schedule it right after your payday.
  • Pay rent, utility bills, and buy groceries after your automatic transaction goes through
  • Use whatever is left for your lifestyle

Remember, the most important person you owe money to is you. Prioritize your own savings and use your income to build wealth for yourself.


Bouncing Back From A Pandemic?

Bouncing Back From A Pandemic?

There is no denying that COVID-19 has changed what can be considered “normal”.

We didn’t think how fragile chatting around the water cooler at work, having a meal in your favorite restaurant whenever you wanted, or going to the movies on the weekend really were. But months of shutdowns, social distancing, and required mask-wearing have made us feel it. Life is definitely different from what it was in February 2020.

And that’s where your opportunity lies.

Despite the negative ramifications, COVID-19 has created the chance you’ve been waiting for to live life on your own terms. Here’s how you bounce back from the pandemic stronger than ever and poised to pursue your dreams.

Decide Where You Want To Live. You’ve seen the headlines; people are fleeing cities like New York and Los Angeles for suburbs or even totally new states¹⁺². Those trends aren’t necessarily new, but there’s no doubt that COVID-19 has accelerated the process. And it makes sense when you think about it. Cities are convenient. People are willing to live there and often pay absurd rent because it places them near job opportunities. But months of lockdowns and surging unemployment have either shattered traditional career dreams or shown workers they can function anywhere with an internet connection. Why live somewhere expensive that you don’t like with no jobs?

But the mass urban exodus is also the opportunity of a lifetime. First, remember that you can work anywhere in the world that has an internet connection. You’re no longer tied to the eastern seaboard or California if you want a high paying job. Second, those ex-city dwellers have gotten used to services and amenities. Meeting those demands in a smaller city where property can be cheaper and taxes can be lower has huge upside potential. All you have to do is identify where you want to live and determine the opportunity level. Love mountains and fast internet? Check out Chattanooga, the “Gig City” of the south! Durham, North Carolina has a low population density paired with a huge demand for college degrees.³ And Iowa, once thought to be a cornfield disguised as a state, has a booming economy and awesome culture.⁴ The point isn’t that you should move to a remote part of the midwest and flee civilization (though that’s always an option). It’s that opportunity is more accessible than ever from anywhere in the country and is only limited by your imagination and courage. So why not investigate that small town or mid-sized city you may have never considered before? Now is the time to explore your options!

Build A Business. You’ve always wanted to build a business. And the COVID-19 pandemic has created the perfect opportunity to become an entrepreneur. Before you think it, let me just say—I know it sounds crazy. Starting a business is risky in the best of times, much less after economic shutdowns and a massive market decline. Plus, the pandemic has shot our collective anxiety levels through the roof!⁵ It can feel like there are uncountable roadblocks between you and pursuing your dream of being a business owner.

That’s why you have to be strategic about what type of business you start. Remember, the key to making money is problem solving. The larger the problem you solve, the more money you can potentially make. You probably won’t have to think too long and hard to come up with a list of ways you can help people for a dollar. Real estate agents, for instance, are helping families relocate outside the big city. Food delivery services are helping people stranded at home satisfy their pizza cravings. Do some research into a problem you’re passionate about solving and try some brainstorming for solutions. And because of the economic climate, you might be one of the few people taking action to fix things instead of living in fear!

In short, there’s opportunity hidden in this pandemic. You can bounce back from this season of COVID-19 in a place you love with a business you’re passionate about. If you’re interested in starting a business, let me know! We can talk about some big problems that are facing Americans and how you can help solve them.

¹ Matthew Haag, “New Yorkers Are Fleeing to the Suburbs: ‘The Demand Is Insane,’” The New York Times, Aug 30, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/30/nyregion/nyc-suburbs-housing-demand.html

² Sally Lockwood, “‘The city has become unbearable’: Why are so many people leaving Los Angeles?,” Sky News, Sept 14, 2020, https://news.sky.com/story/the-city-has-become-unbearable-why-are-so-many-people-leaving-los-angeles-12070183

³ Madison Hoff, “20 US cities with great jobs and smaller crowds that could bounce back quickly after the coronavirus pandemic,” Business Insider, May 16, 2020, https://www.businessinsider.com/cities-that-could-bounce-back-from-coronavirus-2020-5

⁴ Winona Dimeo-Ediger, “Why is everyone moving back to Iowa?,” MarketWatch, March 19, 2019, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-is-everyone-moving-back-to-iowa-2019-03-18

⁵ Alexa Lardieri, “Coronavirus Pandemic Causing Anxiety, Depression in Americans, CDC Finds,” U.S. News & World Report, Aug 13, 2020, https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2020-08-13/coronavirus-pandemic-causing-anxiety-depression-in-americans-cdc-finds


What Does Financial Control Look Like?

What Does Financial Control Look Like?

You work too hard for your money to let it go to waste.

So why does it feel like you have so little control? How many people feel financially helpless? Like there is barely enough to make ends meet and never enough to prepare for the future?

78% of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck before the pandemic hit.(1) That means most of us weren’t in control of our finances. We were just riding the coattails of a fabulous economy.

So what does it take to achieve financial control?

Here are some basic ways to grab the reins of your personal finances!

Knowledge. You should know how much you make. But do you know how much you spend and on what? Discovering that your bank account is empty at the end of each month is one thing. But figuring out where your money is going—that’s something else entirely. This knowledge is what will help equip you to create a strategy and take control of your life.

Start by figuring out how much you spend in total and subtracting that number from how much you make. Then, break down your spending into categories like rent, gas, eating out, entertainment, streaming services, and anything else that takes a chunk out of your normal expenses. It might feel like homework, but hang in there.

Preparing. Goals are the key to creating an effective financial strategy. You have to know what you’re building towards if you want to develop the best steps and strategies. It’s okay to think simple. Maybe you’re just trying to get out of debt. Perhaps you’re trying to save enough to start a business or buy a home. Or you might be a bit more ambitious and have an eye on a dream retirement that you want to start preparing for now.

Figure out what it is you want and how much it will cost. From there you can use your budget to start cutting back in categories where you spend too much. You might discover that you need to increase your income to accomplish your goals. Map out a few steps that will move you closer to making your dream a reality.

Action. Once you’ve built a strategy based on your goals and budget-fueled insights, the only thing left is to follow through and take action. This isn’t a grandiose, one-time maneuver. This is about little decisions day in and day out that will help make your dreams a reality. That means making small moves like meal prepping at home instead of eating out, or avoiding clothing boutiques in favor of thrift shop finds. Those little acts of discipline are the building blocks of success. You might fall off the wagon every now and again, but that’s okay! Pick yourself up and keep pushing forward.

It’s important to have each of these three components operating together at once. Knowing your financial situation and not doing anything about it may not do anything but cause anxiety. Cutting your spending without an overall vision can lead to pointless frugality and meaningless deprivation. And a goal without insight or action? That’s called a fantasy. Let’s talk about how we can implement all three of these elements into a financial strategy today!

Sources:

(1) https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2019/01/11/live-paycheck-to-paycheck-government-shutdown/#3305f4cb4f10


What's Up With Online Banks?

What's Up With Online Banks?

Online banking is pretty normal these days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(1) https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/banking/pros-cons-online-only-banking/#:~:text=Online%20banking%2C%20by%20definition%2C%20means,accounts%20via%20the%20internet%2C%20too.

(2) https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/banking/pros-cons-online-only-banking/#:~:text=Online%20banking%2C%20by%20definition%2C%20means,accounts%20via%20the%20internet%2C%20too.

(3) https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/banking/pros-cons-online-only-banking/#:~:text=Online%20banking%2C%20by%20definition%2C%20means,accounts%20via%20the%20internet%2C%20too.

(4) https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/banking/pros-cons-online-only-banking/#:~:text=Online%20banking%2C%20by%20definition%2C%20means,accounts%20via%20the%20internet%2C%20too.


Mediocre Money Mindsets

Mediocre Money Mindsets

Healthy money habits start with mature money mindsets.

Even though it’s not always obvious, we carry lots of assumptions and attitudes about money that might not be grounded in reality. How we perceive wealth and finances can impact how we make decisions, prioritize, and handle the money that we have. Here are a few common money mindsets that might be holding you back from reaching your full potential!

I need tons of money to start saving <br> It’s simple, right? The rich are swimming in cash, so they’re able to save. They get to build businesses and live out their dreams. The rest of us have to live paycheck to paycheck, shelling out our hard earned money on rent, groceries, and other essentials.

That couldn’t be further from the truth! Sure, you might not be able to save half your income. But you might be surprised by how much you can actually stash away if you put your mind to it. And however much you can save right now, little as it might be, is much better than putting away nothing at all!

I need to save every penny possible <br> On the other side of the coin (get it?) is the notion that you have to save every last penny and dime that comes your way. There are definitely people in difficult financial situations who go to incredible lengths to make ends meet. Just ask someone who survived the Great Depression! But most of us don’t need to haggle down the price of an apple or forage around for firewood. And sometimes, the corners we cut to save a buck can come back to bite us. Set spending rules and boundaries for yourself, but make sure you’re not just eating ramen noodles and ketchup soup!

I don’t need to budget <br> There are definitely times when you might not feel like you need to be proactive with your finances. You don’t feel like you’re spending too much, debt collectors aren’t pounding down your door, and everything seems comfortable. Budgeting is for folks with a spending problem, right?

The fact of the matter is that everyone should have a budget. It might not feel important now, but a budget is your most powerful tool for understanding where your money goes, areas where you can cut back, and how much you can put away for the future. It gives you the knowledge you need to take control of your finances!

Breaking mediocre money mindsets can be difficult. But it’s an important step on your journey towards financial independence. Once you understand money and how it works, you’re on the path to take control of your future and make your dreams a reality.


Credit Score vs. Credit Report

Credit Score vs. Credit Report

Your credit score is a big deal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Latoya Irby, “The Side Effects of Bad Credit,” The Balance, April 5, 2020.

  2. Latoya Irby, “The Side Effects of Bad Credit,” The Balance, April 5, 2020.


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