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The Secret Strategy to Start Saving

The Secret Strategy to Start Saving

Bills, bills, mortgage payment, another bill, maybe some coupons for things you never buy, and of course, more bills.

There seems to be an endless stream of envelopes from companies all demanding payment for their products and services. It feels like you have a choice of what you want to do with your money ONLY after all the bills have been paid – if there’s anything left over, that is.

More times than not it might seem like there’s more ‘month’ than ‘dollar.’

Not to rub salt in the wound, but may I ask how much you’re saving each month? $100? $50? Nothing? You may have made a plan and come up with a rock-solid budget in the past, but let’s get real. One month’s expenditures can be very different than another’s. Birthdays, holidays, last-minute things the kids need for school, a spontaneous weekend getaway, replacing that 12-year-old dishwasher that doesn’t sound exactly right, etc., can make saving a fixed amount each month a challenge. Some months you may actually be able to save something, and some months you can’t. The result is that setting funds aside each month becomes an uncertainty.

Although this situation might appear at first benign (i.e., it’s just the way things are), the impact of this uncertainty can have far-reaching negative consequences.

Here’s why: If you don’t know how much you can save each month, then you don’t know how much you can save each year. If you don’t know how much you can save each year, then you don’t know how much you’ll have put away 2, 5, 10, or 20 years from now. Will you have enough saved for retirement?

If you have a goal in mind like buying a home in 10 years or retiring at 65, then you also need a realistic plan that will help you get there.

Truth is, most of us don’t have a wealthy relative who might unexpectedly leave us an inheritance we never knew existed!

The good news is that you have the power to spend less and start building wealth. That’s great, and you might want to do that… but how do you do that?

The secret is to “pay yourself first.”

The first “bill” you pay each month is to yourself. Shifting your focus each month to a “pay yourself first” mentality is subtle, but it can potentially be life changing. Let’s say for example you make $3,000 per month after taxes. You would put aside $300 (10%) right off the bat, leaving you $2,700 for the rest of your bills. This tactic makes saving $300 per month a certainty. The answer to how much you would be saving each month would always be: “At least $300.” If you stash this in an interest-bearing account, imagine how high this can grow over time if you continue to contribute that $300.

That’s exciting! But at this point you might be thinking, “I can’t afford to save 10% of my income every month because the leftovers aren’t enough for me to live my lifestyle”. If that’s the case, rather than reducing the amount you save, it might be worthwhile to consider if it’s the lifestyle you can’t afford.

Ultimately, paying yourself first means you’re making your future financial goals a priority, and that’s a bill worth paying.


How NOT To Spend Your Next Raise

How NOT To Spend Your Next Raise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Who Qualifies for Student Loan Forgiveness?

Who Qualifies for Student Loan Forgiveness?

Here’s every Millennial’s dream—you wake up one day to find all your student loan debt completely forgiven.

Recently, that dream became a reality for dozens of former students when the U.S. government gave $17 billion of debt relief to 725,000 borrowers.¹

Still, that hardly puts a dent in the $1.6 trillion in student loan debt collectively owed by 43 million Americans.²

So, what are the chances that your loans will be forgiven, and how do you know if you qualify?

Here are three ways to qualify for student loan forgiveness…

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Work for a qualifying non-profit or public organization? Then you qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.

Under this program, your remaining loan balance will be forgiven after you make 10 years’ worth of payments.³

And fortunately, it just got far easier to qualify—before recent reforms, the denial rate for the PSLF program was up to 99%.⁴

So if you’re a public servant, head over to the Federal Student Aid website and click Manage Loans.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness

Similar to the PSLF program, the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program is available for educators. If you’ve taught in a classroom for 5 years and meet the basic qualifications, you could be eligible for up to $17,500 of debt forgiveness.⁵

But be warned—there are some highly specific qualifications. From the Federal Aid website:

“You must not have had an outstanding balance on Direct Loans or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans as of Oct. 1, 1998, or on the date that you obtained a Direct Loan or FFEL Program loan after Oct. 1, 1998.”⁶

Sound complicated? That’s because it is. As with most financial moves, meet with a debt professional or financial planner to see if you qualify.

Total and Permanent Disability Discharge

If you’re totally and permanently disabled, you may be eligible for a complete discharge of your student loan debt.

You’ll need to submit proof of your disability to your loan servicer. The proof can come in many forms, such as a doctor’s letter, a Social Security Administration notice, or documentation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

As with everything involving bureaucracy and disability, you may quickly find yourself mired in red tape and conflicting phone numbers. That’s why it’s always wise to seek out professional help if you think you might qualify.

The sad truth is that few actually qualify for these programs. If you work in the private sector, are healthy, and face significant debt, you’ll need to find alternative strategies for moving from debt to wealth.

Still, it’s good to know that there are options out there for those who qualify. So if you think you might be eligible for one of these programs, don’t hesitate to explore your options.


¹ “Here’s who has qualified for student loan forgiveness under Biden,” Erika Giovanetti, Fox Business, Apr 26, https://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/student-loan-forgiveness-programs-biden-administration

² “Student Loan Debt Statistics: 2022,” Anna Helhoski, Ryan Lane, Nerdwallet, May 19, 2022 https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/loans/student-loans/student-loan-debt

³ “Want Student Loan Forgiveness? To Qualify, Borrowers May Need To Do This First,” Adam S. Minsky, Forbes, May 16, 2022, https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamminsky/2022/05/16/want-student-loan-forgiveness-to-qualify-borrowers-may-need-to-do-this-first/?sh=6aa44a617cdb

⁴ “Want Student Loan Forgiveness?” Minsky, Forbes, 2022

⁵ “Teacher Loan Forgiveness,” Federal Student Aid, https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/teacher

⁶ “Teacher Loan Forgiveness,” Federal Student Aid, https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/teacher


Furnish Your Home Without Breaking Your Bank

Furnish Your Home Without Breaking Your Bank

Furnishing your house can be pricey.

One interior decoration blog estimated that decorating a living room from scratch could cost between $14,400 to almost $50,000!(1) The numbers for the dining room, bedrooms, and kitchen are similarly high. Furnishing an apartment averages between $3500-5800.² But is there a better way? How can you save some cash if you’re trying to furnish your home? Here are a few helpful tips to guide your decorating process!

Plan and prioritize

Start by taking stock of what furniture you have that can be used in your new home. Some of it might work in your new home, some of it might not. Try to get an idea of what existing furniture will go where and make note of new items you’ll need.

Arrange your list of new items in order of importance and buy those first. Mattresses for your bedroom? Top of the list. Abstract modern art to hang in your bathroom? Maybe hold off on that until you’ve taken care of the essentials!

Paint

Concerned that your kitchen is a little drab? Worried that your table cloth doesn’t match your dining room? You might be surprised how far a new paint job will get you! It might be a more budget-friendly way to spice up your living situation than tossing all your old furniture out the door, especially if you do it yourself. Things like tables and wooden chairs are all potential candidates for a new coat of paint, as are the walls of your home.

Shop smart

But there’s no doubt that at some point you’ll need to get a new piece of furniture. What then? Cough up and pay a ridiculous price? You might be surprised by the resources available to acquire furniture at a bargain. Local thrift stores can be treasure troves for things like chairs, coffee tables, and bookcases. Craigslist and eBay are also worth investigating, as are estate and garage sales. And you can always scour the curbs for a free sofa if you’re feeling bold!

Furnishing your new house can be fun. It’s a chance to unleash your creativity and make your home a special place. Just make sure you follow these budget-friendly tips before you start indulging!


¹ “Budget Breakdown: How Much Does It Cost To Decorate A Room?” The Kuotes, https://www.kathykuohome.com/blog/budget-breakdown-how-much-does-it-cost-decorate-a-room/

² “The Cost of Furnishing an Apartment: A Step-By-Step Guide With Breakdown Of Furniture Costs,” Bonnie Stinson, Furnishr, Jan 7, 2022 https://furnishr.com/blog/cost-furnishing-apartment/


Getting Out Of Debt Doesn't Make You "Free"

Getting Out Of Debt Doesn't Make You "Free"

Debt is an unfortunate reality for most people in America.

The average household owes $6,000 in credit card debt alone, and the total amount of outstanding consumer debt in the US totals over $15.24 trillion.¹ It’s a burden, both financially—and emotionally. Debt can be linked to fatigue, anxiety, and depression.²

So it’s completely understandable that people want to get rid of their debt, no matter the cost.

But the story doesn’t end when you pay off your last credit card. In fact, it’s only the beginning.

Sure, it feels great to be debt-free. You no longer have to worry about making minimum payments or being late on a payment. You can finally start saving for your future and taking care of yourself. But being debt-free doesn’t mean you’re “free” to do whatever you want and get back into debt again. It means you’re ready to start building wealth, and chasing true financial independence.

For example, when you first beat debt, are you instantly prepared to cover emergencies? Most likely not. And that means you’re still vulnerable to more debt in the future—without cash to cover expenses, you run the risk of needing credit.

The same is likely true for retirement. Simply eliminating debt doesn’t mean you’ll retire wealthy. When you become debt-free, you can put those debt payments towards saving, leveraging the power of compound interest and more to help make your dreams a reality.

But now that you’ve conquered debt, that’s exactly what you can do! You have the cash flow needed to start saving for your future. You can finally take control of your money and make it work for you, instead of the other way around.

So don’t think of being debt-free as the finish line. It’s not. It’s simply the starting point on your journey to financial independence. From here, the sky’s the limit.


¹ “2021 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” Erin El Issa, Nerdwallet, Jan 11, 2022, https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/average-credit-card-debt-household/

² “Data Shows Strong Link Between Financial Wellness and Mental Health,” Enrich, Mar 24, 2021, https://www.enrich.org/blog/data-shows-strong-link-between-financial-wellness-and-mental-health


How Entrepreneurs Think About Money

How Entrepreneurs Think About Money

Entrepreneurship demands a specific mindset about money.

Ask a friend this question—“what would you do with $1 million?”

Your friend will pause, look at the ceiling for a moment, repeat the question to themselves, and then say something like…

“Well, the first thing I would do is plan a trip to Europe. I’ve always wanted to go, but I’ve never been able to afford it.”

Or…

“Down payment on a new house. Definitely. We’ve outgrown our place and we’re ready for the forever home.”

Or, if they’re really savvy…

“First, I’d knock out all my debt. Then, I’d use half of what’s left to generate compound interest. Then, I’d see about a condo down in Florida.”

These responses are well and good. But they show that your friend is no entrepreneur.

An entrepreneur would instantly respond…

“I’d use it for the business.”

Translation—they’d use the money to make more money.

Maybe they’d use the money to hire an ad agency to run a marketing campaign, driving revenue through the roof.

Maybe they’d use the money to hire more workers, exponentially increasing their ability to serve clients.

Maybe they’d use the money to purchase software or hire a third party to streamline their workflow, boosting their efficiency.

Everyone views money as a tool. It solves problems. Living in a house that’s too small? That’s a big problem. And money can easily solve it.

But entrepreneurs see money as a tool to earn even more money.

To start thinking like an entrepreneur, ask yourself this question—how can I use my money to start making more money? There are only a few answers to that question, and the right one will lead you down the path of starting your own business.


Why The Financial Industry Loves Debt

Why The Financial Industry Loves Debt

The financial industry loves debt. They love it because it’s how they make money.

And best of all (for them), they use YOUR money to make it happen.

Here’s how it works…

You deposit money at a bank. In return, they pay you interest. It’s just above nothing—the average bank account interest rate is currently 0.06%.¹

But your money doesn’t just sit in the vault. The bank takes your money and loans it out in the form of mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, etc..

And make no mistake, they charge far greater interest than they give. The average interest rate for a mortgage is 3.56%.² That’s a 5,833% increase from what they give you for banking with them! And that’s nothing compared to what they charge for credit cards and personal loans.

So it should be no surprise that financial institutions are doing everything they can to convince you to borrow more money than perhaps you can afford.

First, they’re counting on the fact that you never learned how money works. Why? Because if you know something like the Rule of 72, you realize that banks are taking advantage of you. They use your money to build their fortunes and give you almost nothing in return.

Second, they manipulate your insecurities. They show you images and advertisements of bigger houses, faster cars, better vacations. And they strongly imply that if you don’t have these, you’re falling behind. You’re a failure. And you may hear it so much that you start to believe it.

Third, they lock you in a cycle of debt. Those hefty car loan and mortgage payments dry up your cash flow, making it harder to make ends meet. And that forces you to turn to other loans like credit cards. It’s just a matter of time before you’re spending all your money servicing debt rather than saving for the future.

So if you feel stuck or burdened by your debt, show yourself some grace. Chances are you’ve been groomed into this position by an industry that sees you as a source of income, not a human.

And take heart. Countless people have stuck it to the financial industry and achieved debt freedom. It just takes a willingness to learn and the courage to change your habits.


¹ “What is the average interest rate for savings accounts?” Matthew Goldberg, Bankrate, Feb 3, 2022 https://www.bankrate.com/banking/savings/average-savings-interest-rates/#:~:text=The%20national%20average%20interest%20rate,higher%20than%20the%20national%20average.

² “Mortgage rates hit 22-month high — here’s how you can get a low rate,” Brett Holzhauer, CNBC Select, Jan 24 2022, https://www.cnbc.com/select/mortgage-rates-hit-high-how-to-lock-a-low-rate/


What Every Entrepreneur Needs

What Every Entrepreneur Needs

Every entrepreneur needs a problem to solve.

It’s more important than a business plan (though you need a business plan).

It’s more important than mentorship (though you DEFINITELY need mentorship).

It’s more critical to success than killer products, funding, or even skill.

All of those things are important pieces of the puzzle—but without a problem to solve, none of them matter.

Why? Because if there is no demand for your product or service, you’re guaranteed to fail.

In order to have demand, someone has to have a need that’s not being met. That’s why you need a problem.

Even the most outlandish luxury items solve problems—they make customers feel a certain way about themselves. They make people laugh, or feel successful, or feel wanted. And for many, they’ll pay a premium to achieve that.

Some businesses solve problems that people don’t even know they have. Did anyone before July 1994 think that going to a bookstore was a massive hassle? No! Well, except one person—Jeff Bezos. But it turns out his hunch was right. He solved a problem that no one was aware of, and has profited handsomely for it!

It doesn’t matter if you’re starting a side hustle on the weekends or launching a million dollar startup. You must solve a problem. And the more demand your solution creates, the higher likelihood of success you’ll have.

So what should an entrepreneur do first? Find a problem! Ask yourself—or better yet, ask people around you—what kind of problems they have. What kind of pain in their lives do they wish would just go away? Is there a way to solve that problem with your skills and talents?

If so, congratulations—you’ve found a viable business opportunity.


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.


How Should You Fund Your New Business?

How Should You Fund Your New Business?

So you want to start a business.

You’re done with the 9-to-5, and ready to transition from employee to entrepreneur.

But there’s one last hurdle—how will you pay for it?

Starting a business requires resources. Whether it’s a laptop, store front, circular saw, or musical instrument, you’ll need tools to ply your trade. You’ll also need to consider the cost of hiring employees as your business grows!

There are three common strategies entrepreneurs leverage to raise money for starting a business…

1. Raise capital. Trade ownership of your business for money.

2. Borrow money. Pay interest for money.

3. Self-fund. Cover business expenses yourself.

There’s no right way to fund your business. But there are clear pros and cons to each approach. Let’s explore them further so you can have a better idea of which may be best for you!

1. Raise capital. This strategy involves scouting out wealthy individuals and institutions to give you money to fund your business. But it’s no free lunch. In exchange for funding, investors want a slice of your company. As your business grows, so does their profit.

That gives them a powerful say in the management of your business. If you raise capital this way, you may find these stakeholders calling the shots and pulling the strings instead of you.

Plus, raising capital simply is out of reach for most entrepreneurs. Unless you’re disrupting a major industry and have extensive experience, the risk-reward situation may not make sense for potential investors.

2. Borrow money. It’s straightforward—you ask a lending institution or friend for money that you’ll pay back with interest. Both parties take a calculated risk that your business will increase its value enough to repay the loan. It’s a simple, time-tested strategy for funding a new business.

The advantage of getting a business loan is that it keeps you in full control of your business. No board of directors or controlling shareholders!

But business loans require planning to manage. Your business will need to consistently make payments, meaning you’ll need to consistently earn profit. That’s rarely a surefire proposition when you’re first starting out.

So while debt can help your business expand and hire new talent, it’s typically wise to hold off on borrowing until later.

3. Self-fund. This is far and away the most realistic strategy for most entrepreneurs. It’s exactly what it sounds like—pay the upfront costs of starting a business yourself.

No debt. No working for someone else. You’re completely free to run your business. You’re also completely financially responsible for the outcome.

Will you be able to buy a storefront outright? Or start a competitive car manufacturer? Probably not. But there are dozens, if not hundreds, of opportunities that require far less capital.

Look around. You may have the tools you need to start a business at your fingertips! In fact, if you’re reading this article on a laptop or desktop, you’re positioned to start an online business right now. All you need is a service to provide clients.

The takeaway? The funding your business needs will depend on your situation. Challenging an established industry with a revolutionary approach? Then you may need outside funding. But if you’re like many, you have all the tools and resources you need to start your business.


Life Without (Credit Card) Debt

Life Without (Credit Card) Debt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Toxic Financial Habits

Toxic Financial Habits

As well-intentioned as we might be, we sometimes get in our own way when it comes to improving our financial health.

Much like physical health, financial health can be affected by binging, carelessness, or simply not knowing what can cause harm. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel – as with physical health, it’s possible to reverse the downward trend if you can break your harmful habits.

Not budgeting A household without a budget is like a ship without a rudder, drifting aimlessly and – sooner or later – it might sink or run aground in shallow waters. Small expenses and indulgences can add up to big money over the course of a month or a year.

In nearly every household, it might be possible to find some extra money just by cutting back on non-essential spending. A budget is your way of telling yourself that you may be able to have nice things if you’re disciplined about your finances.

Frequent use of credit cards. Credit cards always seem to get picked on when discussing personal finances, and often, they deserve the flack they get. Not having a budget can be a common reason for using credit, contributing to an average credit card debt of $6,913 for balance-carrying households.¹ At an average interest rate of over 16%, credit card debt is usually the highest interest expense in a household, several times higher than auto loans, home loans, and student loans.²

The good news is that with a little discipline, you can start to pay down your credit card debt and help reduce your interest expense.

Mum’s the word. No matter how much income you have, money can be a stressful topic in families. This can lead to one of two potentially harmful habits.

First, talking about the family finances is often simply avoided. Conversations about kids and work and what movie you want to watch happen, but conversations about money can get swept under the rug.

Are you a “saver” and your partner a “spender”? Is it the opposite? Maybe you’re both spenders or both savers. Talking (and listening) about yourself and your significant other’s tendencies can be insightful and help avoid conflicts about your finances.

If you’re like most households, having an occasional chat about the budget may help keep your family on track with your goals – or help you identify new goals – or maybe set some goals if you don’t have any.

Second, financial matters can be confusing – which may cause stress – especially once you get past the basics. This may tempt you to ignore the subject or to think “I’ll get around to it one day”.

But getting a budget and a financial strategy in place sooner rather than later may actually help you reduce stress. Think of it as “That’s one thing off my mind now!”

Taking the time to understand your money situation and getting a budget in place is the first step to put your financial house in order. As you learn more and apply changes – even small ones – you might see your efforts start to make a difference!


¹ “2020 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” Erin El Issa, Nerdwallet, Jan 12, 2021 https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/average-credit-card-debt-household/

² “2020 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” Erin El Issa


Unwinding Yourself Into Stress

Unwinding Yourself Into Stress

Americans carry a stunning amount in credit card debt— $895 billion as of June 2021.¹

You read that right: $895 billion. And that’s after decreasing in 2020 due to the pandemic.

It seems like many have ended up being owned by a tiny piece of plastic rather than the other way around.

How much have you or a loved one contributed to that number? Whether it’s $10 or $10,000, there are a couple simple tricks to get and keep yourself out of credit card debt.

The first step is to be aware of how and when you’re using your credit card. It’s so easy – especially on a night out when you’re trying to unwind – to mindlessly hand over your card to pay the bill. And for most people, paying with credit has become their preferred, if not exclusive, payment option. Dinner, drinks, Ubers, a concert, a movie, a sporting event – it’s going to add up.

And when that credit card bill comes, you could end up feeling more wound up than you did before you tried to unwind.

Paying attention to when, what for, and how often you hand over your credit card is crucial to getting out from under credit card debt.

Here are 2 tips to keep yourself on track on a night out.

1. Consider your budget. You might cringe at the word “budget”, but it’s not an enemy who never wants you to have any fun. Considering your budget doesn’t mean you can never enjoy a night out with friends or coworkers. It simply means that an evening of great food, fun activities, and making memories must be considered in the context of your long-term goals. Start thinking of your budget as a tough-loving friend who’ll be there for you for the long haul.

Before you plan a night out:

  • Know exactly how much you can spend before you leave the house or your office, and keep track of your spending as your evening progresses.
  • Try using an app on your phone or even write your expenses on a napkin or the back of your hand – whatever it takes to keep your spending in check.
  • Once you have reached your limit for the evening – stop.

2. Cash, not plastic (wherever possible). Once you know what your budget for a night out is, get it in cash or use a debit card. When you pay your bill with cash, it’s a concrete transaction. You’re directly involved in the physical exchange of your money for goods and services. In the case that an establishment or service will only take credit, just keep track of it (app, napkin, back of your hand, etc.), and leave the cash equivalent in your wallet.

You can still enjoy a night on the town, get out from under credit card debt, and be better prepared for the future with a carefully planned financial strategy. Contact me today, and together we’ll assess where you are on your financial journey and what steps you can take to get where you want to go – hopefully by happy hour!

¹ “2020 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” Erin El Issa, Nerdwallet, Jan 12, 2021, https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/average-credit-card-debt-household/


What to Do First If You Receive an Inheritance

What to Do First If You Receive an Inheritance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Key to Successful Saving

The Key to Successful Saving

For many, saving is not a priority.

There are a lot of reasons why. It takes planning and self-control. You’ll have to ask yourself if you can fit every purchase into your budget. It means giving up something today in order to benefit tomorrow.

These are all true, but saving doesn’t have to be hard work. One way to make it easier is to automate your savings and then watch your balance grow!

Automation is such a powerful tool because it makes saving effortless. With automation, saving is now a default, as opposed to a decision—you’re always saving in the background.

For example, you might have a goal to save $1,000 for a vacation. If you’re saving $20 per week, that would take less than a year. And the same logic applies to larger goals—it’s a key strategy for creating retirement wealth.

First, decide how much money you can afford to save each month. Then set up automatic deposits from your main bank account into your savings account. That’s it! Every month, money will go straight from your paycheck to your wealth building efforts.

Now, you’re positioned to go about your daily business, confident that you’re preparing for the future. And it only takes a few minutes to do! If you want to discover more wealth building strategies, contact me. We can review your financial situation and create a game plan.


4 fundamental home buying guidelines

4 fundamental home buying guidelines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Pros and Cons of Simple Interest

Pros and Cons of Simple Interest

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

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

The Pro of Simple Interest: Paying Back Money

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

The Con of Simple Interest: Growing Money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bad Financial Habits and How to Overcome Them

Bad Financial Habits and How to Overcome Them

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Should You Apply For a Personal Loan?

Should You Apply For a Personal Loan?

Sometimes the world throws financial obstacles your way.

And that’s normally when your emergency fund would kick in. But what if you don’t have an emergency fund? Or what if there isn’t enough money in it to cover your current catastrophe? If you find yourself in this situation, you might consider applying for a personal loan to close the gap—but should you?

The simple answer? Probably not.

Starting with the basics—what is a personal loan? A personal loan is an unsecured debt that allows people or companies in need of money to borrow funds from lenders for any reason including but not limited to…

- Home improvements - Medical expenses - Debt consolidation

These loans are often set up for a short period of time with fixed monthly payments.

There are pros and cons to any form of debt. Personal loans are no different—they have their own set of benefits and drawbacks.

Personal loans can offer lower interest rates than credit cards, which can help you save money on interest payments. That can make them useful for consolidating other high interest rate loans.

However, personal loans can come with higher fees and significant interest rates. And for most financial emergencies, personal loans simply aren’t your best option. For instance, if you’re struggling with medical debt, you should first consider negotiating with your doctor’s office for more favorable payment terms first.

It’s not advisable to use a personal loan to make a large purchase, like a new TV, either. If you’re using the money for anything other than a last resort for emergencies or debt consolidation, it’s probably not worth it and could end up costing you more in interest payments down the road.

In conclusion, personal loans can be useful in specific circumstances or if you’re at the end of your financial rope. But they shouldn’t be your first option. Making sure you’ve got a sufficient emergency fund in place, a well-thought-out budget, and a solid savings strategy set up as soon as possible may help avoid the need for a loan and create more debt.


Two Techniques to Help You Prepare for Retirement

Two Techniques to Help You Prepare for Retirement

As with anything important, saving for retirement can be intimidating.

It’s a natural instinct to avoid tasks that seem overwhelming. But not preparing adequately for retirement can have serious consequences—you may find yourself rapidly approaching that time in your life with little saved!

Here are two simple, actionable steps that can help you overcome the intimidation of saving and move you closer towards your financial goals.

Save 15% of your income. This is a good rule to follow for the long term, but it may not be realistic all the time. Elderly parents living with you? A child going through college? If saving 15% feels impossible or overwhelming, start by setting aside something more manageable. Saving 1% of your income may not feel like much, but it’s far better than putting away nothing! And once you get used to saving, you might be surprised by how eager you are to increase that percentage.

Automate savings so they happen without any effort on your part. Set up an automatic monthly transfer from your checking into your savings accounts. This way, you’ll never have to worry about forgetting or neglecting your savings. It’s helpful to schedule the transfer right after you get paid. This technique, called “paying yourself first”, results in your paycheck helping to build wealth for you, and not someone else!

It’s never too early–or too late–to start saving for retirement. The earlier you begin, the more time your money has to grow and compound over a lifetime. And even starting closer to retirement is still better than never starting at all! Begin with these two techniques, and develop your strategy from there.


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