Setting goals has the power to change your life. Research has shown that people who write down their goals are 33% more successful in accomplishing them than those who don’t.¹ That data seems to verify what we instinctively know. Is there anything worse than working on a project that has no clear objective or outcome defined?
But here’s the million dollar question: Have you written down your financial goals?
It’s one of those simple things that we tell ourselves we’re going to do or that we’ll get around to later, but we tend to leave undone. And that results in our earning, saving, and spending money aimlessly, without purpose. No wonder the majority of 40-somethings and almost a third of people in their 60s are woefully short of having enough for their retirements!²
In case you still need convincing, here are three reasons why you should write down your financial goals the second you’re done reading this article!
Financial goals bring clarity
Imagine trying to build a house without a blueprint. Where would you start? Would you know what supplies you’d need? What color paint you’d want? Would you end up with a basement? Who knows?
Your finances are the same way. Until you have a clear financial goal for your lifestyle and retirement, you’ll never truly know what to do with your money and how it can help you. Once you’re locked in on a vision of your future, you can start exploring the actions necessary to make your dreams become realities.
Financial goals create intensity
Discovering the steps you need to take to achieve your goals cuts away distractions. You’re no longer as susceptible to distractions and temptations because you’re laser-focused on creating an outcome. You can focus all of your mental and financial energy on bringing your vision to life. Clarity leads to focus. Focus creates intensity. Intensity accomplishes goals.
Financial goals are rewarding
There are few better feelings than the one that comes after a day of hard, productive work. That’s because your brain knows that you accomplished what you set out to do.
Your finances are no different.
Setting goals for your money gives you the opportunity to feel that deep sense of reward and accomplishment. It provides your life with a source of gratification that isn’t shallow and instantaneous.
So what are you waiting for? Grab a piece of paper or pull up your note taking app and write down a few financial goals! Be realistic and hyper specific. Let’s talk about what comes to your mind and what it would take to bring that vision of your life into reality!
¹ “Goal-Setting Is Linked to Higher Achievement,” Marilyn Price-Mitchell Ph.D., Psychology Today, Mar 14, 2018, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-moment-youth/201803/goal-setting-is-linked-higher-achievement
² “Here’s how much Americans have saved for retirement at different ages,” Kathleen Elkins, CNBC Make It, Jan 23, 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/23/heres-how-much-americans-have-saved-for-retirement-at-different-ages.html
It turns out that all of the above can be damaging to your health. The first two may come as no surprise, but it turns out people who experience “negative wealth shock” are 50% more likely to die in the following 20 years than their neighbors.¹ That’s an insane uptick! So why are the numbers so high?
Let’s start by defining negative wealth shock.
It can happen when someone loses 75% or more of their wealth. Imagine if you woke up one day and discovered that your $100,000 nest egg had dropped to $25,000. That’s the level of loss needed to be considered negative wealth shock.
Obviously, a loss of that magnitude would be emotionally devastating.
But why does it seem to have such an impact on mortality?
Part of it might have to do with losing access to medical services. People with less money can’t visit the doctor as often and sometimes can’t afford the treatment they need.
It’s also worth considering that dangerous health conditions sometimes result in negative wealth shock.² Perhaps the statistic says more about the seriousness of staying healthy than it does staying rich!
However, there’s also a strong likelihood that losing the vast majority of one’s wealth causes dangerous levels of stress. For example, The Great Recession of 2007 to 2009 actually increased the risk for heart attacks and depression.³
Unfortunately, negative wealth shock is astoundingly common.
A survey discovered that a quarter of participants had experienced it.⁴ Americans aren’t just losing vast amounts of money. They’re experiencing devastating emotional, mental, and ultimately physical damage that could cost them their lives.
So how can you prevent a traumatic negative wealth shock?
First, determine how volatile your net worth is. Is all your wealth concentrated in one investment? What would happen if that investment crashed?
Second, discover how sturdy your protection is. How would you pay the bills if you were out of work or unable to work? Do you have the savings and insurance to protect you and your family?
Third, assess how stable your income is. Would your paycheck vanish if you couldn’t work or if your employer went belly up? Or do you have a team and system in place that could keep you financially afloat?
How did you answer these questions? Let’s talk if you feel that you’re vulnerable to a negative wealth shock. We can brainstorm strategies to insulate your wealth against the worst and protect it for your future.
¹ ⁻ ⁴ “Financial Ruin Can Be Hazardous To Your Health,” Rob Stein, NPR, April 3, 2018, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/04/03/598881797/financial-ruin-can-be-hazardous-to-your-health
“No” is a common answer to that question, often with serious consequences. One study found that financial disagreements were the leading predictor of divorce.¹
And they seem hard to fix. A research paper published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine website proposes that “compared to non-money issues, marital conflicts about money were more pervasive, problematic, and recurrent, and remained unresolved, despite including more attempts at problem solving.”²
Fortunately, creating financial unity with your partner is possible. Here are some ideas to bridge the gap with your partner and start working with your money as a team.
Know thyself (and thy partner)
What would you do if you stumbled upon $1 million? Your answer will help you discover your financial values. For instance, if you would use your new-found cash to create your dream business, you might be a natural investor.
But here are two bigger questions: Do you know your partner’s financial values? And how do they align with yours?
The only way to answer those questions is to start conversations with your partner about money. Ask them how finances were handled in their home growing up and what they want money to do for them. Then, look for a middle ground and develop a set of goals you can work towards together.
Discover how money works together
Those first awkward conversations might reveal an uncomfortable truth— if either one of you has any clue what you’re doing with your finances! Ignorance about how money works is the farthest thing from bliss in a relationship. Without knowledge, it’s impossible to set realistic goals and achieve them. You’ll both find yourselves wasting money on what makes you happy in the moment and delaying achieving your goals.
But when you discover how money works as a couple, two magical things happen.
First, you get a sense of what you can accomplish as a team. Suddenly, there’s a vision for your future together that you can work towards.
Second, you notice that you’re communicating more. You swap knowledge, insight, hopes and dreams with each other. You talk about your ideal life together and how to achieve it. That alone is a game-changer for any relationship!
Meet with a professional
It’s impossible to overemphasize the importance of working on your relationship and your finances with professionals. Communicating your feelings and having productive conversations isn’t always easy! A professional counselor can give you and your partner the emotional tools you need to transform constant conflict into cooperative problem solving.
Once you have communication squared away, meet with a licensed and certified financial professional. They’ll provide guidance and insights that can help you make decisions with your money. You might be surprised by the level of peace that appears in your relationship once the stress of your finances is alleviated!
While these steps appear easy on paper, in practice they might push you outside your comfort zone. That’s a good thing! Working together as a couple to create financial unity has the potential to grow you as a person and deepen your relationship with your partner. Start having conversations about your financial values and see where your path leads you!
¹ “This common behavior is the No. 1 predictor of whether you’ll get divorced,” Catey Hill, MarketWatch Jan 10, 2018, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-common-behavior-is-the-no-1-predictor-of-whether-youll-get-divorced-2018-01-10#:~:text=Smart%20money%20says%20this%20argument%20could%20lead%20to%20divorce.&text=%E2%80%9CFinancial%20disagreements%20did%20predict%20divorce,together%2C%E2%80%9D%20the%20authors%20concluded
² “For Richer, for Poorer: Money as a Topic of Marital Conflict in the Home,” Lauren M. Papp, E. Mark Cummings, and Marcie C. Goeke-Morey, NCBI, Dec 6, 2011, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3230928/
Will your plans be durable enough to withstand your working years and sustain you through your retirement? The answers to the following questions can help give you clarity on if your retirement strategy has what it takes!
How’s it constructed?
Not all savings vehicles are created equal. For instance, stashing all your cash in a mattress until retirement is a great way to torpedo the value of your savings. Why? Because inflation will slowly but surely reduce the value of each dollar you earn today. The same goes for low-interest saving options like CDs, bonds, and checking accounts. Even a 401(k) might not be enough!
Realistically, you want to put your money in a place where it can leverage compound interest. That means the cash you save generates interest, and all the interest you earn also generates interest. Interest earning interest on interest eventually unleashes a huge tidal wave of wealth creation that can help carry you through your final years.
What percent of your income will you live on?
Nobody wants to take a pay cut when they retire. But that’s exactly what people relying on Social Security will do; it’s only designed to replace 40% of your annual income!¹ Instead, it’s better to live off of 80% of your salary.²
So what does that number look like now? Assuming you live 30 years after retiring, how much would you need to save before you hit that goal? If you make $60,000, 80% of your income is $48,000. You would need $1,440,000 saved to maintain your lifestyle for three decades.
Once you have that number estimated, determine how much you’ll need to save starting today. You can use a nifty compound interest calculator like this one to get an idea of how much that will be!
Is it tax efficient?
There are few surprises nastier than saving for decades only to have the government bite a huge chunk out of your nest egg at the finish line. We won’t dive into the details of taxes now, but you need to decide when you’ll pay Uncle Sam his share. You can either:
Pay now. CDs and Roth IRAs are options where you pay your taxes, then save the money. You end up only paying the tax rate of today.
Pay later. You don’t pay any taxes now, but you cough up a percentage of whatever you earn in the long haul at a future rate. This is how a 401(k) works.
Pay never. No, you don’t have to hire a Swiss lawyer and hide your money on an island to do this. Ask a licensed and qualified professional about legal ways to achieve tax free growth.
Whatever option you choose, make sure you understand its implications for how much you’ll have when you need it.
It’s always best to review your strategy with a licensed and qualified professional. They’ll have insights and knowledge to help you achieve the retirement of your dreams.
¹ “How Much Can I Receive From My Social Security Retirement Benefit?,” Investopedia, Oct 30, 2020, https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/102814/what-maximum-i-can-receive-my-social-security-retirement-benefit.asp#:~:text=The%20maximum%20monthly%20Social%20Security%20benefit%20that%20an%20individual%20can,the%20maximum%20amount%20is%20%242%2C324
² “How Much Money Do You Need to Retire?,” John Waggoner, AARP, Sep 17, 2020, https://www.aarp.org/retirement/planning-for-retirement/info-2020/how-much-money-do-you-need-to-retire/?cmp=RDRCT-3c5a7391-20200917
Millions of Baby Boomers were preparing for retirement and to pass their wealth to a new generation right as the virus and its fallout blindsided the world. Here are two ways that COVID-19 has transformed the largest wealth transfer in history and how this impacts you and your family.
The transfer has accelerated
COVID-19 seems to be more dangerous for people over the age of 65. Of the 231,197 mortalities recorded by the CDC, 183,324 have been 65+.¹ That’s nearly 80%!
Those numbers represent a staggering amount of tragedy on a personal level. But they also mean that the wealth transfer that’s been predicted for years is off to an early start. Money, resources, and assets that were supposed to last the 20 to 30 years of retirement for Baby Boomers are now being passed on to Gen-Xers and Millennials.
The transfer has been complicated
The simple fact of the matter is that 44% of Baby Boomers don’t have estate plans.² That means a potentially vast amount of wealth has wound up in the hands of grieving family members who have to make tough choices about how it’s distributed. There was never any doubt that the Great Wealth Transfer might get complicated. But the large number of transfers occurring earlier than expected and at the same time will mean that more families will need guidance and wisdom as they navigate these challenging times.
The transfer has been reduced
Perhaps the largest impact of COVID-19 will be a serious decrease in the size of the Great Wealth Transfer. Experts have estimated that around $68 trillion dollars would be transferred from retiring Baby Boomers to their children.³ But 2020 has been a year of economic upheaval. Shutdowns have transformed our economy and caused high unemployment among older workers. It’s not just employees: nearly 100,000 businesses have shuttered due to the lockdowns. That represents years of hard work suddenly evaporating.
People impacted by these events and who are also approaching retirement age have two choices. They can either work into their late 60s, 70s, and maybe 80s to generate a livable income, or settle for less from their retirement years. It seems reasonable to believe that: Fewer family businesses will pass down to younger generations The businesses will be worth less than anticipated Children of employees will have to financially support their aging parents Early retirees will have less to leave future generations
The future of the transfer
We still don’t fully understand the extent to which COVID-19 has impacted the Great Wealth Transfer. Only time will tell! But it’s clear that there’s a massive need to guide families through the challenges of estate planning in the midst of current events. There will also be a huge demand for opportunities and business models that allow Baby Boomers approaching retirement to build wealth and leave financial legacies. Let me know if either of those are of interest to you. We can discuss ways for you to start helping your family protect their financial future.
¹ “Weekly Updates by Select Demographic and Geographic Characteristics,” CDC, accessed Nov 25, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/covid_weekly/index.htm
² “Baby Boomers Aren’t Creating Estate Plans — What That Means for You,” Robert Kulas, Kulas Law Group, Apr 30, 2020, https://www.kulaslaw.com/baby-boomers-arent-creating-estate-plans-what-that-means-for-you/
³ “Here’s how to prepare your heirs for the $68 trillion ‘great wealth transfer,’” David Robinson, Feb 25, 2019, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/22/how-to-prepare-your-heirs-for-the-68-trillion-great-wealth-transfer.html
⁴ “COVID-19 and retirement: Impact and policy responses,” Martin Neil Baily, Benjamin H. Harris, and Siddhi Doshi, Brookings, Jul 28, 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/research/covid-19-and-retirement-impact-and-policy-responses/
⁵ “Yelp: Local Economic Impact Report,” Carl Bialik and Daniel Gole, Yelp, Sep 2020, https://www.yelpeconomicaverage.com/business-closures-update-sep-2020.html
Every dollar bill is at the mercy of the elements. Think of an unforeseen medical emergency as a pop-up windstorm that whips a few thousand dollars out of the truck bed. And that time your refrigerator gave out on you? That’s swerving to avoid a landslide as it tumbles down the mountain. There goes another $1,000.
Emergencies like a case of appendicitis or suddenly needing a place to store your groceries usually arrive unannounced and can’t always be avoided. But there are a few scenarios you can bypass, especially when you know they’re coming.
These scenarios are the potholes on the road to financial independence. When you’re driving along and see a particularly nasty pothole through your windshield, it just makes sense to avoid it.
Here are some common potholes to avoid on your financial journey.
Excessive or Frivolous Spending
A job loss or a sudden, large expense can change your cash flow quickly, making you wish you still had some of the money you spent on… well, what did you spend it on, anyway? That’s exactly the trouble. We often spend on small indulgences without calculating how much those indulgences cost when they’re added up. Unless it’s an emergency, big expenses can be easier to control. It’s the small expenses that can cost the most.
Somewhere along the line, businesses started charging monthly subscriptions or membership fees for their products or service. These can be useful. You might not want to shell out $2,000 all at once for home gym equipment, but spending $40/month at your local gym fits in your budget. However, unused subscriptions and memberships create their own credit potholes. If money is tight or you’re prioritizing your spending, take a look at your subscriptions and memberships. Cancel the ones that you’re not using or enjoying.
Most people love the smell of a new car, particularly if it’s a car they own. Ownership is strange in regard to cars, however. In most cases, the bank holds the title until the car is paid off. In the interim, the car has depreciated by 20% in the first year and by nearly 60% after 5 years.¹
What often happens is that we trade the car after a few years in exchange for something that has that new car smell – and we’ve never seen the title for the first car. We never owned it outright. In this chain of transactions, each car has taxes and registration fees, interest is paid on a depreciating asset, and car dealers are making money on both sides of the trade when we bring in our old car to exchange for a new one.
Unless you have a business reason to have the latest model, it’s less expensive to stop trading cars. Think of your no-longer-new car as a great deal on a used car – and once it’s paid off, there’s more money to put each month towards your retirement.
To sum up, you may already have the best shocks on your financial vehicle (i.e., a well-tailored financial strategy), but slamming into unnecessary potholes could damage what you’ve already built. Don’t damage your potential to go further for longer – avoid those common financial potholes.
¹ “How car depreciation affects your vehicle’s value,” Dana Dratch, Credit Karama, https://www.creditkarma.com/auto/i/how-car-depreciation-affects-value
It can be enlightening to see how rates are applied. Hopefully, it motivates you to pay off those cards as quickly as possible!
What is APR?
At the core of understanding how finance charges are calculated is the APR, short for Annual Percentage Rate. Most credit cards now use a variable rate, which means the interest rate can adjust with the prime rate, which is the lowest interest rate available (for any entity that is not a bank) to borrow money. Banks use the prime rate for their best customers to provide funds for mortgages, loans, and credit cards.¹ Credit card companies charge a higher rate than prime, but their rate often moves in tandem with the prime rate. As of the second quarter of 2020, the average credit card interest rate on existing accounts was 14.58%.²
While the Annual Percentage Rate is a yearly rate, as its name suggests, the interest on credit card balances is calculated monthly based on an average daily balance. You may also have multiple APRs on the same account, with a separate APR for balance transfers, cash advances, and late balances.
Periodic Interest Rate
The APR is used to calculate the Periodic Interest Rate, which is a daily rate. 15% divided by 365 days in a year = 0.00041095 (the periodic rate), for example.
Average Daily Balance
If you use your credit card regularly, the balance will change with each purchase. So if credit card companies charged interest based on the balance on a given date, it would be easy to minimize the interest charges by timing your payment. This isn’t the case, however—unless you pay in full—because the interest will be based on the average daily balance for the entire billing cycle.
Let’s look at some round numbers and a 30-day billing cycle as an example.
Day 1: Balance $1,000 Day 10: Purchase $500, Balance $1,500 Day 20: Purchase $200, Balance $1,700 Day 28: Payment $700, Balance $1,000
To calculate the average daily balance, you would need to determine how many days you had at each balance.
$1,000 x 9 days $1,500 x 10 days $1,700 x 8 days $1,000 x 3 days
Some of the multiplied numbers below might look alarming, but after we divide by the number of days in the billing cycle (30), we’ll have the average daily balance. ($9,000 + $15,000 + $13,600 + $3,000)/30 = $1,353.33 (the average daily balance)
Here’s an eye-opener: If the $1,000 ending balance isn’t paid in full, interest is charged on the $1353.33, not $1,000.
We’ll also assume an interest rate of 15%, which gives a periodic (daily) rate of 0.00041095.
$1,353.33 x (0.00041095 x 30) = $16.68 finance charge
$16.68 may not sound like a lot of money, but this example is a small fraction of the average household credit card debt, which is $8,645 for households that carry balances as of 2019.³ At 15% interest, average households with balances are paying $1,297 per year in interest. Wow! What could you do with that $1,297 that could have been saved?
That was a lot of math, but it’s important to know why you’re paying what you might be paying in interest charges. Hopefully this knowledge will help you minimize future interest buildup!
Did you know? When you make a payment, the payment is applied to interest first, with any remainder applied to the balance. This is why it can take so long to pay down a credit card, particularly a high-interest credit card. In effect, you can end up paying for the same purchase several times over due to how little is applied to the balance if you are just making minimum payments.
¹ “Prime Rate,” James Chen, Investopedia, Jun 30, 2020, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/primerate.asp
² “What Is the Average Credit Card Interest Rate?,” Adam McCann, WalletHub, Oct 12, 2020, https://wallethub.com/edu/average-credit-card-interest-rate/50841/
³ “Credit Card Debt Study,” Alina Comoreanu, WalletHub, Sep 9, 2020, https://wallethub.com/edu/cc/credit-card-debt-study/24400
For instance, you can increase the shelf life of cottage cheese if you store it upside down.¹ That’s a great hack if you like saving money every few weeks or eating cottage cheese. But today we’re looking at high return tricks that will impact your wallet every time you check out. Let’s start simple!
DO NOT BUY BOTTLED WATER
Maybe you just get your water out of the tap, but if you’re in the habit of purchasing fancy bottled water, STOP. If you must indulge in decedent H2O, do the cost-effective thing and buy a reusable bottle with a filter. Use the $100 that most Americans spend on water annually for savings or donating to cause you care about.² At the very least, use it to buy something that doesn’t have a free alternative!
Wait until evening to hit up your farmers market
Local vendors usually don’t want to lug their unsold goods back home with them. That’s why they’ll often start discounting their produce as the day drags on. Hit them right at the end of the day to get the best deals. And don’t be afraid to ask them for items that aren’t visually perfect but are still usable.
Always. Make. A. List.
Stores are designed as mazes. You’re meant to wander around and notice as many products as possible. Afterall, you might just see something you “need” but didn’t plan on getting!
That’s why you must bring a list with you when you go shopping. You’re far less likely to explore your options and stay on track if you have a few written objectives.
While you’re at it, try to stick to the perimeter of the store. That’s where the essential items you’ll need are often stocked!
Saving money on food is a long game. If you’re preparing your own meals instead of going out, you’re already well ahead of the curve. Try out these tips to take your frugality game to the next level!
¹ “How to Store Dairy Products to Keep Them Good As Long As Possible,” Margaret Eby, Food and Wine, Apr 3, 2020, https://www.foodandwine.com/how/how-to-store-dairy-products
² “The Money Spent Can Be Used Better Elsewhere,” The Water Project, https://thewaterproject.org/bottled-water/bottled_water_resources
Americans spend about 34% of their income on servicing their mortgages, car loans, and, of course, credit cards.¹
Assuming a household income of $68,703, that translates to roughly $23,359 going down the drain each and every year.²
Obviously, converting that money from debt maintenance to wealth building would be a dream come true for most Americans. But there’s more at stake here than retirement strategies.
The true cost of debt is your peace of mind.
Take the example from above. A third of your income is going towards debt and the rest is split up between everyday living and transportation expenses. You feel you can make ends meet as long as the money keeps coming in.
But what happens if a recession causes massive layoffs? Or if a pandemic shuts down the economy for months?
The sad fact is that the hamster wheel of debt prevents a huge chunk of Americans from saving enough to cover even a brief window of unemployment, let alone a shutdown!
That lack of financial security can have serious repercussions, including bankruptcy. And feeling like you’re always one unexpected emergency away from a financial crisis can result in a myriad of mental health issues. Numerous studies have shown that high levels of debt increase anxiety, depression, anger, and even divorce.³
Conquering debt isn’t about changing numbers on a page. It’s about reclaiming your peace. It’s about securing financial stability for you and your family. Your income is a powerful tool if you can protect it from lenders.
If you’re stressed about debt and seeking some relief, let me know. We can review your situation together and come up with a game plan that will recover the financial security that’s rightfully yours.
¹ “Study: Americans Spend One-Third of Their Income on Debt,” Maurie Backman, The Ascent, Mar 6, 2020, https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/credit-cards/articles/study-americans-spend-one-third-of-their-income-on-debt/#:~:text=And%20recent%20data%20from%20Northwestern,feel%20guilty%20about%20their%20predicament
² “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2019,” Jessica Semega, Melissa Kollar, Emily A. Shrider, and John Creamer, United States Census Bureau, Sept 15, 2020, https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2020/demo/p60-270.html#:~:text=Median%20household%20income%20was%20%2468%2C703,and%20Table%20A%2D1)
³ “The Emotional Effects of Debt,” Kristen Kuchar, The Simple Dollar, Oct 28, 2019, https://www.thesimpledollar.com/credit/manage-debt/the-emotional-effects-of-debt/#:~:text=In%20that%20study%2C%20Gathergood%20found,including%20depression%20and%20severe%20anxiety.&text=The%20study%20also%20reported%20that,stress%20also%20report%20severe%20anxiety.
But maybe you – or a friend – learned about those consequences the hard way. Most late bill payers fall into 1 of 3 camps: they forget to pay on time, they don’t have enough income, or they have enough income but spend it on other things.
In case you – or your friend – are stuck in 1 of these camps, consider the following tips to help pay the bills on time.
I forget to pay my bills on time.
If this is you, you’re actually in a more advantageous position. There are many easy fixes that can help get you back on track.
Use a calendar. This is a tried and true, but often underutilized, method to track your bill due dates. When you get a notice for a bill – either by email, text, or snail mail – jot the due date on your calendar. You can also set a reminder if you use an electronic calendar.
Fiddle with your due dates. Many companies offer flexible due dates. Experiment with what due dates work for you. Some people like to pay their bills all together at the beginning of the month. You may find that you like to pay some bills in the beginning and some in the middle of the month. It’s up to you!
Take advantage of grace period/late fee waivers. If you do forget about a bill and have to make a late payment, give the company a call and ask them to waive the late fee. Late fees can add up, ranging from $10-50 depending on the account. It’s worth a try!
I don’t have the money to pay all my bills.
If your income doesn’t cover your outgo no matter how diligently you pinch those pennies, it won’t matter what type of bill payment method you use, you’re going to have trouble. If you’re in this situation, there are 2 solutions: increase your earnings or decrease your expenses.
Find a side gig. Take a temporary part-time job to make some extra income. Delivering pizza in the evenings or on weekends might be worth doing for a few months to make some extra dough.
Shop around. Shop around for savings. Prices vary on almost everything. Take a little extra time to make sure you’re getting the rock-bottom best prices on your insurance, cable, phone plans, groceries, utilities, etc.
I overspend and don’t have enough left to pay my bills.
Managing income and expenses takes some practice and persistence, but it is doable! If you find yourself consistently overspending without enough left over to cover your bills, try the following:
Create a budget. Get familiar with your income and expenses. This is the only way to know how much disposable income you’re going to end up with every month. You can track your budget daily on an app like PocketGuard, Wallet, or Home Budget.
Stash the money for bills in a separate account. Put your bill money in a separate checking or savings account. This will keep it quarantined from your spending money and help make sure it’s there when the bills come due.
Good Financial Habits
If you feel bill-paying-challenged, or you have a friend who is, try some of the above tips. Taking care of your obligations when you need to can relieve stress, build good credit, and reinforce healthy spending habits for life!
Afterall, you financially protect your home, your car, your health, and your life with insurance. Why not do the same for what’s typically your largest debt obligation?
But a MPI policy might not be the best way to help your family pay off the house.
Here are three questions you should ask before you buy mortgage protection insurance.
Will my payout change?
The fundamental weakness of most MPI policies is that their payout decreases over time. As you work down your mortgage, there’s technically less to protect.
That becomes a problem if your premiums don’t change even as your payout plummets. You’ll be paying the same amount for less protection!
Ask about policies that feature a level death benefit. They’ll provide you with the same amount of death benefit regardless of how much is left on your mortgage.
Will my premiums change?
Premiums for MPI aren’t always fixed. The amount you pay for protection each month might decrease or skyrocket. Your wallet is at the mercy of your insurance provider!
Just remember that fixed premiums might be a double edged sword. It may be useful to have a policy with premiums that lower over time if you don’t have a level death benefit. Ask about fixed premiums for your MPI before you find yourself paying more for less!
Would life insurance be a better option? (hint: the answer may be yes)
Term life insurance may be a better choice than MPI. Payouts are guaranteed by the insurance company and premiums are fixed. You won’t have to worry about paying more for less protection as the years go by.
It’s also flexible. A chunk of the death benefit may knock out the mortgage, while the rest can fund college, health care costs, and living expenses.
There are special circumstances where MPI is superior to term life insurance. It typically doesn’t have medical restrictions, making it a good option for people who normally wouldn’t qualify for term life insurance. Just remember to ask your financial professional these questions if you decide to learn more!
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to promote any certain products, plans, or insurance strategies that may be available to you. Before taking out a policy, seek the advice of a licensed financial professional, accountant, and/or tax expert to discuss your options.
That’s not as crazy of a number as it might appear. Your income funds your family’s lifestyle and fuels their dreams. It’s how you pay for the house, the car, their education, and all the big and little things that make life run.
So what would happen if your income were to suddenly stop if you became ill or were to pass away?
Could your family afford to stay in the neighborhood? Would a child have to compromise their education? Would your spouse have to get an additional job to cover the daily costs of living?
Life insurance helps answer those questions in the event of your income disappearing.
So why buy a policy ten times your annual income?
First, it can act as a buffer while your family grieves and figures out next steps. A proper life insurance death benefit can allow your family to cover final expenses while they decide how to move forward.
Second, it can help your family pay off remaining debts and start funding future opportunities. This reduces the financial burden your loved ones will face in your absence.
Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule. A stay-at-home parent provides services and care that would be costly to replace and should be covered with that in mind. Families with medical concerns might need to consider a policy worth more than ten times their annual income.
But in general, a life insurance policy for ten times your income will help cover the major expenses your family will face.
Want a more precise estimate on how much life insurance you and your family need? Contact a financial professional. They can offer insights into how much coverage your specific situation calls for!
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to promote any certain products, plans, or strategies that may be available to you. Before purchasing a life insurance policy, seek the advice of a qualified and licensed financial professional, accountant, and/or tax expert to discuss your options.
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:
Remember, the most important person you owe money to is you. Prioritize your own savings and use your income to build wealth for yourself.
Nationwide shutdowns and social distancing orders bottomed out home buying in the spring, only for demand to skyrocket over the late summer and fall.¹ All the ups and downs and uncertainty about the future have made it hard to tell if now is the time to buy or if it’s better to wait things out!
Fortunately, there’s a simple principle that can bring some clarity to your house hunting process. The 30/30/3 Rule can help you determine the right amount of house for you, whatever your stage of life! It’s composed of three mini-rules that we’ll explore one at time.
Rule 1: Don’t spend more than 30% of your gross income on mortgage payments
In other words, don’t sign away too big of a portion of your income in mortgage payments. This rule makes sure you have a healthy chunk of your cash flow available for other essential spending and building wealth. There’s definitely wiggle room to pay more as income increases, but 30% of your gross income is still a good target!
Rule 2: Have 30% of the home’s value saved in cash before you buy
Banking up a solid stash of cash before you purchase can protect you from several threats. Using about 20% of that cash as a down payment can get you lower mortgage rates and dodge private mortgage insurance.² Also, keeping a 10% buffer provides you with a useful line of defense against unexpected repairs and appliance replacements. Just remember to keep your housing fund away from risk. Think of it as an emergency fund for your house rather than a savings vehicle!
Rule 3: Avoid houses over 3X your gross annual income
This one is simple: Don’t buy a house you can’t afford! Do you make $50,000 per year? Shoot for a maximum $150,000 price tag. This is a simple way of narrowing your house hunting and managing your overall debt.
Why The Rule Works
Let’s say you’re earning the average American income of $56,516 per year, or $4,710 per month.³ You read the headlines about the housing market and decide to snatch up a home. An opportunity presents itself; there’s a gorgeous home in a good neighborhood that’s selling for $169,548 (3X your annual income) with a 3.1% interest rate (the national average). With monthly payments of $724 per month, you’ll only be handing over 15% of your income to the bank. Almost $4,000 dollars of cash flow would be at your disposal!
What if you had the same income level but were looking at a house worth $339,096 (6X your annual income) with a 6.2% interest rate (double the national average). You’ll be forking over nearly half your income for your house. That’s a huge amount of firepower that could be used to build wealth or start a business!
The 30/30/3 Rule is an easy way to simplify your search and protect your income from costly mortgage payments. Don’t forget to review your home buying plan with a financial professional who can help put this helpful principle into practice!
¹ “‘The housing market is on a sugar high’: Home sales are soaring, but is it a good time to buy? Here’s what the experts say,” Jacob Passy, MarketWatch, Aug 24, 2020, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-housing-market-is-on-a-sugar-high-home-sales-are-soaring-but-is-it-a-good-time-to-buy-heres-what-the-experts-say-2020-08-21
² “Should You Go Beyond a 20% Down Payment?,” Crissinda Ponder, LendingTree, Aug 30, 2019, https://www.lendingtree.com/home/mortgage/large-down-payment/#:~:text=Compensates%20for%20a%20lower%20credit,risk%20for%20your%20mortgage%20lender.
³ “Here’s how much the average American earns at every age,” Emmie Martin, CNBC Make It Aug 24 2017, https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/24/how-much-americans-earn-at-every-age.html#:~:text=Here's%20how%20much%20the%20average%20American%20earns%20at%20every%20age,-Published%20Thu%2C%20Aug&text=The%20median%20household%20income%20in,men%20and%2040%20for%20women.
⁴ “Current mortgage rates – mortgage interest rates today,” Jeff Ostrowski, Bankrate, Oct 7, 2020, https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/current-interest-rates/
The larger the problem to solve, the more rewards you will reap. We instinctively know this is true, even if we can’t articulate it. Just look at our spending habits.
Our favorite coffee shop solves our lack-of-energy-in-the-morning problem.
Music streaming soothes our rush hour stress with our favorite tunes.
A food delivery app removes the hassle of driving to a restaurant.
Your brands of choice provide you value by solving your problems. The more they fix, the more you love them!
So, imitate your favorites. Explore the problem you’ve identified until you’re an expert. Next, develop a solution that crushes the problem.
Training your sights on providing value won’t magically make you successful. But it can serve as a guiding light when you feel directionless and unsure of your next steps.
Can’t find your target market? Brainstorm which companies or agents would gain the most from implementing your solution. Be as specific as possible in explaining the benefits.
Struggling to discover a niche in a saturated market? Look for issues that competitors and industries have ignored or missed. It might be something they’ve accepted as cost of business.
Trying to scale up? Diligently research the obstacles your new clients face and tailor your solutions to their specific needs.
Let me know if you’re hungry to start a business. We can talk about the problems facing some of the largest industries in the world and how you can provide much needed solutions.
Operating at your full potential consistently sounds too good to be true. We all want to accomplish more at our jobs and around the house. But a million little distractions always seem to throw us off course. Sure, we all have flashes of inspiration, but many of us settle for a fraction of our true capabilities.
But there’s a better way.
Researchers have discovered that high productivity doesn’t have to be limited to short bursts. There’s actually a very specific state of mind that results in stunning levels of output that’s triggered by certain psychological factors. It’s called flow, and understanding how it works may change your life.
What is flow?
Technically speaking, “Flow is a cognitive state where one is completely immersed in an activity… It involves intense focus, creative engagement, and the loss of awareness of the self.”¹ Think of it like this: what’s your favorite quarterback thinking about when he’s making a game winning play? Almost nothing else besides what he’s doing in the moment. That state of total concentration on the task at hand is what defines flow. Other sensations follow. Decisions seem to make themselves. You lose awareness of what’s going on around you. Time either seems to fly by or you see things in slow motion. And, most importantly, you feel awesome. You’re “in the zone.”
You’ve almost certainly achieved this flow state at least once in your life. But it probably doesn’t seem replicable. You were just on during that highschool football championship game or playing that local show with your buddies or giving that presentation. Fortunately, research hasn’t just described flow; it’s discovered a few factors that contribute to achieving peak performance.
The first flow key is to establish goals. Your brain loves objectives. It loves feeling like it’s accomplishing things. Having a clear outcome in mind will help you tune out the distractions that don’t matter and hone in on what does. Identify your desired goal, outline in detail how you’ll accomplish it, and then proceed to the second flow key.
The second flow key is the balance between challenge and boredom. Very often, facing a difficult task doesn’t naturally induce deep focus. It actually can make us feel anxious, scared, and avoidant. However, a mundane and simple activity, like washing dishes, doesn’t require the brainpower to trigger intense concentration. Flow lives in the happy medium between those extremes of crushing anxiety and mind-melting boredom. You have to have the confidence that you can actually crush the challenge at hand, but also not find it too easy or boring. Dial in your ideal difficulty level before you start a project. Expect more from your mundane responsibilities and get help for the daunting ones. Raise the stakes for your performance but make sure you don’t drown in the process!
The third flow key is immediate feedback. Let’s say you’ve hired a coach to help you master a skill. Would you prefer them to write up an annual review on your progress or give you tips, critiques, and advice as often as possible? Think about all the bad habits and practices you would develop without their regular oversight. You might discover you’ve been doing things wrong for a whole year if you’re only getting an annual checkup! Instant feedback allows you to constantly refine your process and execution while also setting up micro goals for you to accomplish. It’s a simple way to add a dash of challenge to your daily routine that locks you in and helps you achieve peak performance. Seek out frequent feedback. Ask your boss or co-workers or coach to give you critiques as often as possible. That constant stream of input will either make you feel good about what you’ve accomplished or give you new obstacles to overcome!
Achieving this state of peak performance isn’t always easy. There’s a cycle to entering flow that includes a difficult first phase. It’s hard work for our brain to enter into total focus and concentration. This first barrier is where most of us quit because intense concentration doesn’t feel great at first. But overcoming that initial resistance can open up a whole new world of productivity and performance. Use the three flow keys, push past the opening waves of discomfort and get into your zone!
¹ “Flow,” Psychology Today, accessed Sept. 24, 2020, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/flow
They feature a wide range of people in neat home offices and coffee shops bent over laptops in deep focus. And that reflects how most of us think about them; freelancer and entrepreneur are two different words for people who work outside the traditional employee/employer world.
But there’s more to the picture than stock photos let on. Here’s a look at the difference between freelancers and entrepreneurs.
Freelancers trade time and skill for money
The word freelance comes from the early 19th-century when English authors attempted to describe medieval mercenaries. Most knights in the middle ages pledged their loyalty to a lord. They swore that they would use their skills and resources to support their sovereign in times of war. But there were many knights who worked as mercenaries. They would fight for whoever had the most coin. Sir Walter Scott referred to these soldiers for hire as “free lances” in his novel Ivanhoe, and the name stuck.¹ Soon it was used to describe working without long-term commitments to a single employer.
Freelancers are essentially modern day mercenaries. They have a skillset that’s in demand and they sell it off to the highest bidder, typically for a short period of time or a specific project. They trade their skills and time for money, and then move on. A freelance graphic designer, for instance, might get hired by a small business in need of a new logo. They pay the designer a set fee, the designer delivers the logo, and the two parties part ways. The freelancer doesn’t have any more responsibilities towards the small business beyond completing a specific task, and the small business pays the freelancer a fee.
The main appeal of freelancing is flexibility. You get to decide for whom you work, the hours you work, and from where you work. Yes, you’ll have deadlines, but you get to decide how you’ll get everything done. Freelancing is also a great choice if you’re currently an employee and want to start exploring your options. Striking a balance with your side-gig and your main income stream can help bring in extra money to cover debt, save for retirement, or just have nicer vacations.
But freelancing has drawbacks. You’re still completing tasks for other people, you have to manage projects by yourself, and work can sometimes dry up. If you can’t maintain a healthy time balance with your main job, that work could suffer.
Entrepreneurs trade their team for money
Defining entrepreneurship is tricky. Freelancers and entrepreneurs have many things in common. But they end up working on different levels of risk and solving problems in very different ways. Remember how we said freelancers were like mercenaries, fighting wars for other people in exchange for money? Entrepreneurs are like the lords mercenaries fight for. They make decisions, assume responsibility for outcomes, and build things that last even when they are long gone. A more modern example would be your favorite local restaurant. The owner of the business doesn’t take your order, pour your drinks, and prepare your food. They have a team that does all of that for them. But they had the vision of owning a restaurant, may have reached out to investors, and then took on the financial uncertainty of starting the restaurant. They make the top-level decisions but rely on a team to ensure that the day-to-day operations work smoothly.
Starting a business is risky. Only 25% make it past their 15th birthday.² But the advantage of successfully starting a business is that it will eventually reach a point where it runs on its own. Apple didn’t need Steve Jobs to operate. Amazon doesn’t need Jeff Bezos. Neither does your favorite local restaurant. They’re all built on a system and have teams that empower them to grow and accomplish more than they could independently. A freelancer’s income, however, is tied directly to the time they invest. If they get sick, they can’t earn. Losing just a single client could be a significant loss of business.
Interested in freelancing or starting up your own venture? Let’s talk! There are perfect opportunities out there for you to start exploring your potential.
¹ “The Surprising History of ‘Freelance’,” Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/freelance-origin-meaning
² Michael T. Deane, “Top 6 Reasons New Businesses Fail,” Investopedia, Feb 28, 2020, https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/1010/top-6-reasons-new-businesses-fail.aspx#:~:text=Data%20from%20the%20BLS%20shows,to%2015%20years%20or%20more.
It’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer. Teaching your kids how to handle money is important. But how you go about giving them cash can set precedents that last a lifetime. Here are a few different takes on giving your kids money.
Not giving your kids money
There’s a lot to not love about this system at a glance, especially if you’re the kid. It seems like a way to simultaneously prevent your children from having fun and learn nothing about handling money. But it has some silver linings. Not paying your kids to do chores can be a way to teach them about the value of work without tying it to a monetary reward. That’s an important life lesson that can be applied to volunteer work and responsibilities with their future family. You also may be on a tight budget and handing out an allowance is just not part of your financial strategy right now.
Giving your kids an allowance (no work required)
This is a system where you give your kids a set amount of money each week or month. This is a straightforward way to get your kids some cash that they can spend, save, and use to learn about money.
But just giving your kids an allowance without requiring something in return, like doing chores, has some potential drawbacks. Most people will eventually have to get a job so they can earn money. Giving cash to your kids without tying it in some way to work may create a sense of entitlement that simply isn’t realistic.
Paying your kids commission
In this system, you pay your kids as they complete tasks. You would set up a job posting with different payments for different chores. Pay your kids when they’ve completed the work. If they get the job done quickly with a good attitude and some extra flourish? Give them a raise! It’s a great way of rewarding excellence and teaching children the monetary value of their time and hard work.
But this system also has flaws. Some of the most rewarding work we do can be for family or friends, or to serve our communities—with no reward other than appreciation and pride in a job well done. Giving the impression that one should only put in hard work or help out with the family for cash isn’t something every parent is comfortable with.
Fortunately, there are many ways to combine each of these systems. You could have non-paying chores that are duties simply because the kids are members of the family and then extra paid jobs. Or maybe offer a base allowance to teach your kids about saving, giving, and spending, and then paid chores added on. These systems can evolve over time as your kids grow. Let the needs of your family and what you want to instill in your children guide you.
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
Accountants, hedge fund managers, and even some attorneys fall under the umbrella of “financial professional”. But you don’t have to be a mega-corporation or global bank to use the services of a money expert. For any family, a financial professional can serve as an educator who assesses your financial health, a planner who can help you prepare for the future, and a trusted advisor who offers high-quality counsel as you navigate life.
Financial professionals as educators
Money management can be difficult. It’s full of confusing terminology, big numbers, and the constant fear that someone’s trying to take advantage of you. Financial professionals specialize in many different fields, but at the end of the day they’re all educators. An investment advisor has to teach you about different strategies and products so that you can make informed decisions about your future. A financial professional can show you how to make a budget and attack debt.
Don’t settle for a professional who just wants to manage your money. Look for someone with the patience and expertise to educate you about how money works.
Financial professionals as planners
There’s a significant debate in the financial service industry about the difference between a financial advisor and a financial planner. But the simple fact of the matter is that you should seek out a financial professional who will help you prepare for the future, regardless of their title. You want a professional who will help you map out a long term investment strategy. Someone who considers insurance, long term care, and estate planning. The best professionals, regardless of their speciality, help you gain some perspective and give you the tools to map out your retirement. Talk with your professional about your wealth and goals so you can draw up a financial blueprint for your retirement and beyond.
Financial professionals as advisors
The financial services industry used the term “advisor” in a specific way, but a high-quality financial professional has wisdom to offer you in any situation. Challenges like credit card debt and student loans can seem overwhelming, especially when unexpected expenses pop up. It’s easy to lose focus and have your debt strategy get derailed. But an advisor can give you the wisdom and insight you need to prepare for a crisis and stay the course of financial independence. They can encourage you to build an emergency fund that will protect your financial strategy from unexpected expenses. When the economy takes a dip, they can give you the perspective you need to not make hasty or emotional moves that could seriously impact your retirement timeline. The financial professional you want by your side is the one with the wisdom and expertise to advise you through all of life’s storms.
When your car breaks down, you turn to a car mechanic. When you’re planning an event, you turn to an event planner. The same should be true of your money. When you set out on the path of financial independence, be sure to look for a financial professional with the know-how to educate you, to help you prepare, and to advise you through the obstacles of life.