It might feel like every salesperson is pulling the wool over your eyes to take as much money from you as possible while delivering the least value.
Not to worry! Here are a few car buying insights that can help you get a ride that meets your transportation needs without sacrificing your financial stability.
Buy a used car
Chances are, you’ll buy your first car with limited financial resources. You most likely just need a vehicle that reliably gets you around town without breaking the bank.
In terms of price, used cars beat new cars almost every time. And reliability is decreasingly an issue–used cars sometimes travel 100,000 before they need a major repair.¹
As a rule of thumb, look for used cars that are three years old or more. They often can have the same features as newer models, still have many miles left before they break down, and can cost a fraction of a brand new car.
Ask for a car’s VIN before you buy it
If you decide to buy used, ask for the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of each car you consider. A VIN gives you access to the full history of your car, including…
Once you have the VIN, check it out on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System. They have digital resources that allow you to search VINs and discover the history of the vehicles you’re considering.
Say no to bad deals
Don’t sweat it if you find a not-so-great car at a good price. It’s perfectly fine to walk away and keep searching. 40 million used cars were sold in 2019.² You’ll find the car you want at a price you love soon enough!
Above all, do your research. Buying a first car is a serious financial commitment. The last thing you want to do is drive off with a car that costs too much or will need constant repairs and maintenance. Check out sites like Kelley Bluebook and Consumer Reports to find information on car prices and reliability. Then, start asking around. You might be surprised by how many people in your circles are trying to unload a reliable used car!
¹ “How Many Miles is Too Many on a Used Car?,” Autolist, June 27, 2017, https://www.autolist.com/guides/how-many-miles-is-too-many-used-car
² “New and used light vehicle sales in the United States from 2010 to 2019,” I. Wagner, Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/183713/value-of-us-passenger-cas-sales-and-leases-since-1990/#:~:text=U.S.%20new%20and%20used%20car%20sales%202010%2D2019&text=Sales%20of%20used%20light%20vehicles,and%20automobiles%20were%20sold%20here.
There’s something liberating about closing one chapter of your life and beginning a new one. You realize that this year doesn’t have to be like last year, and that there are countless possibilities for growth.
Now is the perfect time to write a new financial chapter of your life.
In the mindset of new beginnings, the first thing is to forgive yourself for the mistakes of the past and start fresh. Now is your chance to set yourself up for financial success this year and potentially for years to come. Here are three simple steps you can take starting January 1st that might make this new chapter of your life the best one yet!
Automate wise money decisions ASAP
What if there were a way to go to the gym once that somehow made you steadily stronger throughout the year? One workout would be all you need to achieve your lifting goals!
That’s exactly what automating savings and bill payments does for your finances.
All you have to do is determine how much you want to save and where, set up automatic deposits, and watch your savings grow. It’s like making a year’s worth of wise financial decisions in one fell swoop!
Give your debt the cold shoulder
Debt doesn’t have to dictate your story in the new year. You can reclaim your cash flow from monthly payments and devote it to building wealth. Resolve to reduce how much you owe over the next 12 months, and then implement one of these two powerful debt strategies…
Arrange your debts on a sheet of paper, starting with the highest interest rate and working down. Direct as much financial firepower as you can at that first debt. Once you’ve cleared it, use the extra resources you’ve freed up to crush the next one even faster. This strategy is called the Debt Avalanche.
Arrange your debts on a sheet paper, starting with the smallest debt and working up to the largest. Eliminate the smallest debt first and then work up to the largest debt. This is called the Debt Snowball. It can be a slower strategy over the long-haul, but it can sometimes provide more motivation to keep going because you’re knocking out smaller goals faster.
Start a side hustle
You might not have thought much about this before, but you may have what it takes to create a successful side hustle. Just take a moment and think about your hobbies and skills. Love playing guitar? Start teaching lessons, or see if you can start gigging at weddings or events. Are you an embroidery master? Start selling your creations online. Your potential to transform your existing talents into income streams is only limited by your imagination!
Start this new year strong. Automate a year’s worth of wise financial decisions ASAP, and then evaluate what your next steps should be. You may even want to meet with a qualified and licensed financial professional to help you uncover strategies and techniques that can further reduce your debt and increase your cash flow. Whatever you choose, you’ll have set yourself up for a year full of potential for financial success!
Auto leasing has been popular for several decades, but many people still aren’t sure about the sensibility of leasing vs. buying a car, how the math works, and which is really the better value.
Should you lease a car?
In many cases, you can lease a car for less than the monthly payment for financing the exact same car. This is because with leasing, you never build any equity in the vehicle. Essentially, you are renting the vehicle for a predetermined number of miles per year with a promise that you’ll take good care of it and won’t let your kids spill ice cream on the seats. (After all, it’s not really your car.)
At the end of the lease – most often 2 or 3 years – you’ll have the option to buy the car. At this point, in many cases you would be able to find a comparable car for a few thousand less than the residual value on the car you leased. After the lease has expired, most people choose to lease another newer car, rather than buy the car they leased.
If you don’t drive many miles, there may be some advantages to leasing over buying, particularly if you prefer to drive something newer or if you need a late-model car for business reasons. As a bonus, for short-term or standard leases, the car is usually under warranty for the duration of the lease and maintenance costs are typically only for minor service items.
Should you buy a car?
If you’re like most people, when you buy a car, you’ll probably need to finance it rather than plunk down a lump sum in cash. Rates are relatively low, but you can still expect to pay a few thousand dollars in interest costs over the course of the loan. Longer loans have higher rates and more expensive vehicles can make the interest costs add up quickly. Still, at the end of the loan, you own the car.
Older cars usually have higher maintenance costs, but it may be less expensive to keep a car with under 150,000 miles and pay for any repairs, rather than make payments on a new car. Cars are also running reliably much longer now. The average age of cars and light trucks on the roads currently is up to 12 years, which means if you had a 5-year loan, you could be driving for 7 years (or more) without having to make a car payment.[i]
So a big part of the savings in buying a car vs. leasing can occur if you keep the car for several years after it’s paid off. Cars depreciate most rapidly during the first 5 years of ownership, meaning you could take a big hit on the trade-in value during that time. Keeping the car for a bit longer puts you into a period where the car is depreciating less rapidly and you can benefit financially from not having a car payment. But if you think you might be tempted to trade the car in after 5 years (and you typically drive under 15,000 miles per year), you may want to take a closer look at leasing.
Keeping your car for 10 years
How would you like to “make” an extra $28,000 over the next 10 years? That’s enough to buy another car! All things being equal (you make the same modest down payment on a leased car as a financed car), and assuming an average auto loan rate for a $30,000 vehicle, you can save nearly $28,000 in a decade by buying and keeping your car for 10 years instead of leasing a car every 3 years. And that savings applies to each car you own.[ii] (This calculation also assumes maintenance costs.)
Your savings will vary based on the type of car and its price of course, but buying a car and keeping it for a while after it’s paid off can “yield” handsome dividends.
Getting behind the wheel
It’s really up to your personal preference whether you buy or lease. If you like to rotate your vehicles so you can enjoy a new car every few years and not have to worry so much about maintenance, then leasing may be a better option. However, if you like the idea of not having to make a car payment for a good portion of the life of your car, then buying may be the right choice.
Either way, before you take the keys and drive off the lot, make sure to ask your dealer any questions you have, so you can fully understand all the terms and any underlying costs for your situation.
[i] “Vehicles on the road keep getting older, and COVID could push the age higher,” Eric D. Lawrence, Detriot Free Press, Jul 28, 2020, https://www.freep.com/story/money/cars/2020/07/28/covid-average-vehicle-age-12-years/5519557002/ [ii] “Buy Vs. Lease Calculator,” Lauren Barret, Money Under 30, Nov 8, 2020 https://www.moneyunder30.com/buy-vs-lease-calculator*
But not all goals are created equal. Planning to win the lottery is a foolish objective that won’t help you fulfill your dreams. Spending hours clipping coupons worth a few dollars is probably a waste of time.
Fortunately, establishing proper goals is actually incredibly straightforward. You want to pursue objectives that are SMART—specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Formulating these types of goals can radically focus your energy and increase your ability to get things done. Let’s start with the first criteria!
The more specific your goal, the more clearly you’ll understand exactly what you need to do to achieve it. It’s the difference between a vague daydream and a solid plan.
When writing out your financial goals, be crystal clear on exactly what you want to accomplish and why. Outline the steps and people needed to bring about your vision. Something like “I want to make more money” becomes “I want to earn a raise at work by taking on more responsibility.”
How will you know if you’ve accomplished, exceeded, or failed your goal? Including a clear metric gives you insight into how close or far you are from completing your objective.
Decide on a clear numeric goal you can shoot for. Take a vague notion like “I want to save more money” and transform it into “I want to save 15% of my income this year for retirement.” You’ll have a clearer idea of what steps you need to take to meet that benchmark and feel a deep sense of reward once you hit the target.
Trying to attain an ill-defined, pie-in-the-sky goal will only lead to crazy behavior, incredible discouragement, or both. If you’re aiming for something huge (which is admirable), break it down into mini goals and focus on one at a time. Achieving a goal like “I want to start a multi-million dollar business” takes careful planning, a lot of research, and loads of help, but there are many, many people in the world who have done just that. How do you eat an elephant? (One bite at a time!)
Are your goals appropriate? That seems like an obvious question, but it’s a critical one to ask when establishing objectives. For instance, saving up $1,000 so you can buy your new niece a Swarovski crystal, gold-plated baby rattle (yes, that’s a real thing) might be really memorable, but do you have an emergency fund in place? Make sure you’re meeting those practical, basic financial goals before you start aiming for the non-essential ones.
Knowing that the clock is ticking is one of the most powerful motivators on the planet. You’ll want to establish a realistic time-frame, but deciding that you want to buy a house in two years or be debt free in six months can increase your intensity, narrow your focus, and inspire you to start working on your goals as soon as possible!
Do your financial goals meet these criteria? If not, don’t sweat it! Spend 15 minutes reviewing your objectives and work in specific details or break down some of your more ambitious targets. Remember, I’m here to help if you hit a financial goal roadblock and need some professional insight and clarity!
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
Here’s the breakdown:
Nearly every type of debt can interfere with your financial goals, making you feel like a hamster on a wheel – constantly running but never actually getting anywhere. If you’ve been trying to dig yourself out of a debt hole, it’s time to take a break and look at the bigger picture.
Did you know there are often advantages to paying off certain types of debt before other types? What the simple list above doesn’t include is the average interest rates or any tax benefits to a given type of debt, which can change your priorities. Let’s check them out!
Credit card interest rates now average over 17%, and interest rates are on the rise.³ For most households, credit card debt is the place to start – stop spending on credit and start making extra payments whenever possible. Think of it as an investment in your future!
Interest rates for auto loans are usually much lower than credit card debt, often under 5% on newer loans. Interest rates aren’t the only consideration for auto loans though. New cars depreciate nearly 20% in the first year. In years 2 and 3, you can expect the value to drop another 15% each year. The moral of the story is that cars are a terrible investment but offer great utility. There’s also no tax benefit for auto loan interest. Eliminating debt as fast as possible on a rapidly depreciating asset is a sound decision.
Like auto loans, student loans are usually in the range of 5% to 10% interest. While interest rates are similar to car loans, student loan interest is often tax deductible, which can lower your effective rate. Auto loans can usually be paid off faster than student loan debt, allowing more cash flow to apply to student debt, emergency funds, or other needs.
In many cases, mortgage debt is the last type of debt to pay down. Mortgage rates are usually lower than the interest rates for credit card debt, auto loans, or student loans, and the interest is usually tax deductible. If mortgage debt keeps you awake at night, paying off other types of debt first will give you greater cash flow each month so you can begin paying down your mortgage.
When you’ve paid off your other debt and are ready to start tackling your mortgage, try paying bi-monthly (every two weeks). This simple strategy has the effect of adding one extra mortgage payment each year, reducing a 30-year loan term by several years. Because the payments are spread out instead of making one (large) 13th payment, it’s likely you won’t even notice the extra expense.
It’s the end of nearly two decades of classrooms, tests, essays, late nights, and early mornings, but it’s the start of your full-fledged independence.
That move isn’t always easy. We face a huge number of unknowns when we leave the hallowed halls of the university and enter the dog-eat-dog “real world.” What kind of job will I end up with? Where will I live? What will my coworkers be like? How well will I adjust to a totally new routine? Those are important questions that don’t always have clear answers. However, there are some things you can do that will help navigate your post-graduation world. These aren’t magic antidotes, just helpful steps that might bring some stability and order to your experience!
Create a vision
Having a career vision is essential. It can provide structure and a sense of purpose. Decisions can be weighed by how much they move you towards realizing your goals, which can help give you clarity when making tough calls.
Keep your vision as specific and precise as possible. That dream of working at a prestigious law firm and wearing designer suits every day? Take it and drill down on the details. What kind of law do you want to practice? What’s your dream city? How high up on the ladder do you want to climb? Be honest with yourself about what you really want.
It’s also important to develop a time frame for your goals. Think about a 5 to 10 year time frame and see what you think is realistic!
Map out your path
Now it’s time to map out how you’ll make your vision a reality. What needs to happen for you to get that promotion or end up in the city you want to experience?
The first step is research. Your dream position might require a master’s degree or special licensing that you can’t afford just yet. Maybe you need some time in the field before moving up. Break down exactly what needs to happen, and when, for you to achieve your goal. Sometimes it’s best to start with the goal itself and deconstruct it into smaller and smaller pieces that are easier to manage. Start checking off those little steps until your goal looks more and more achievable!
It’s also a good idea to find a mentor to guide you. Ideally this would be someone who’s undertaken this journey themselves! They’ll have insights into roadblocks that you’ll face and little tips that can make all the difference.
No plan is perfect. We’ll always overlook a detail, not factor in a risk, or overestimate our ability to handle something. It’s easy to get discouraged when those things go wrong. It can make your dream feel unattainable, and you might start to doubt yourself. But rolling with those punches and not getting discouraged by setbacks is essential to achieving your goal. Take a step back, assess the situation, learn from your mistakes, and get back to the grind. You might have to adjust your expectations and even re-evaluate your process. That’s fine! Do what you need to do and get back to work once you’ve hammered out the details.
Remember that flexibility is key. Your passion for a certain type of work or field of study might cool off as the years go by. You might find that your goal of becoming an alpha executive conflicts with your goal of being an available parent. Don’t push those hard decisions off until tomorrow. Do some serious soul searching about what matters to you today, make some goals, figure out a process, and don’t let little failures get you down!
It’s linked to lung cancer and heart disease, and is associated with nearly 1 in 5 deaths in the United States.(1) But smoking damages more than your body. It can also seriously hamper your financial health in ways that might surprise you.
The upfront cost of smoking
Cigarettes aren’t cheap. Prices per pack vary from $5.25 in Missouri to $12.85 in New York, but the national average comes out to around $6.28.(2, 3) Smoking a pack per day will run you $44 per week, $188 per month, and $2,292 per year. Over 20 years you’ll have spent $91,671 on cigarettes. That’s a lot of money to light up!
Health care costs of smoking
But smoking carries more subtle costs. Hospital bills, medication, and treatment all cost money, and smoking bumps up your chances of needing those at some point in your future. In total, smoking-related illness costs the United States over $300 billion per year.(4) Smokers also have to face higher insurance costs because of the health risks presented by their habit. All told, smoking one pack per day costs around $15,000 a year, or $40 per pack.(5)
The opportunity cost of smoking
What would you do with $15,000? If you’re smoking a pack per day, your answer is to spend it on a highly addictive chemical that feels great in the moment but will damage your health long-term. But what would happen if you put that $15,000 to work? Could that be the cash you need to start building a business? Maybe that could be the foundation of your child’s college fund or inheritance. That nicotine hit might be what you think you need to destress or get out of bed in the morning, but it’s costing you more than short-term cash. It’s denying you the potential to live on your terms and start building your future.
Quitting cigarettes can feel daunting. They’re an easy coping mechanism that you might depend on. Imagining a day without lighting up with your morning coffee could be downright terrifying. But smoking costs you more than just 6 bucks per pack. It costs you more than your future health. The price of a quick nicotine fix could be stopping you from reaching your full potential and stealing life-changing opportunities.
Trying to quit? Check out these resources from the CDC.
In fact, most people throughout history have had zero outside financial protection in case of an untimely death. So why did life insurance appear? Let’s start by defining what it is.
What is life insurance?
Life insurance is essentially an agreement where people pay a company a premium on a policy that will provide a financial benefit in the case of an untimely death (or if other circumstances occur that are defined in the policy). Let’s say you have a spouse and a few kids. You know that if something were to happen to you it would leave them in a serious financial bind; being down an income could mean moving to a worse neighborhood, serious lifestyle changes, debt, and so on. An appropriate life insurance benefit Life insurance is worth considering if anyone in your life depends on you financially.
Roman soldiers: pioneers of life insurance
So where did the idea of life insurance come from? The first known example of life insurance was in a powerful organization with a high turnover rate: the Roman Army. Burials were culturally significant to Romans but expensive, which was bad news for poor soldiers constantly waging wars across ancient Europe. In response, they started burial clubs. Members of these clubs would cover funeral costs for their fallen comrades. It wasn’t much compared to the complexity of modern life insurance, but it at least provided a basic honor to soldiers and their families in the case of a tragic death.
Coffee Houses and Churches Not much is known about insurance in general after the fall of the Roman Empire. However, another high-risk field sparked its rebirth during Europe’s colonial era in the late 1680s. Merchants, sea captains, and sailors all worked high risk jobs; pirates, storms, and disease were serious threats to shipments and crews. What we think of as insurance was born to protect the pockets of investors in the case of a maritime catastrophe.
The first life insurance company opened in London just a few years later in 1706. The Amicable Society for a Perpetual Assurance Office was founded by William Talbot and required members to pay an annual fee. In 1759, American Presbyterian ministers created an organization to protect families of deceased pastors, with the Episcopalians following suit a few years later.
Something like modern life insurance was beginning to appear. But the next two centuries saw massive economic and social changes that permanently affected the insurance industry. We’ll explore those in part II!
Habits are behaviors that we do so frequently that they feel second nature. So your friend who’s woken up at 5:00 AM to work out for so long that it seems normal to him? He’s unlocked the power of habit to wake up, get out of bed, and make it happen.
Healthy money habits are the same way; they open up a whole new world of financial fitness! Here are a few great habits you can start today.
Begin with a Budget
Developing a budgeting habit is foundational. Consistently seeing where your money is going gives you the power to see what needs to change. Notice in your budget that fast food is hogging your paycheck? Budgeting allows you to see how it’s holding you back and figure out a solution to the problem. The knowledge a budget gives you is the key to help you make wise money decisions.
Pay Yourself First
Once you’re budgeting regularly, you can start seeing who ends up with your money at the end of the day. Is it you? Or someone else? One of the best habits you can establish is making sure you pay yourself by saving. Instead of spending first and setting aside what’s left over, put part of your money into a savings account as soon as you get your paycheck. It’s a simple shift in mindset that can make a big difference!
And what easier way to pay yourself first than by automatically depositing cash in your savings account? Making as much of your saving automatic helps make saving something that you don’t even think about. It can be much easier to have healthy financial habits if everything happens seamlessly and with as little effort as possible on your part.
Healthy financial habits may not seem big. But sometimes those little victories can make a big difference over the span of several years. Why not try working a few of these habits into your routine and see if they make a difference?
It sometimes feels like an endless jumble of big words and cryptic abbreviations. Add on top of that how stressful talking about the loss of a loved one can be and you’ve got a topic that can seem unapproachable.
It just so happens to be incredibly important.
Life insurance is an essential line of defense for your family in the case of tragedy. It can give them the time and resources they need to grieve and make a plan for the future. But where should you begin? Here’s a quick guide to weighing and understanding your life insurance options.
Term Life Insurance This option provides coverage for a specified term or period of time (10, 20 to 30 years). It’s just pure life insurance and typically your premiums are lower the younger you are.
Universal Life Insurance (ULI) Universal life insurance is a relatively new insurance product that combines permanent insurance coverage with additional features. If the (ULI) is funded sufficiently, it may provide coverage for the duration of your life and depending on how you’ve structured your policy, there can potentially be a cash value. Keep in mind that if you decide to take out loans or withdrawals there may be fees associated with it.* Be sure to meet with an agent to discuss the specifics of a ULI policy.
Whole Life Insurance These policies include a standard death benefit coverage, and with cash value guaranteed on all premiums paid during an insured’s lifetime.** Critical illness riders may also be offered as part of a whole life insurance policy.
Finding the right life insurance policy can be difficult. Call me, and we can review your options to find Whole Life Insurance that’s a perfect fit for you and your family!
Loans, withdrawals, and death benefit accelerations will reduce the policy value and the death benefit and may increase lapse risk. Policy loans are tax-free provided the policy remains in force. If the policy is surrendered or lapses, the amount of the policy loan will be considered a distribution from the policy and will be taxable to the extent that such loan plus other distributions at that time exceed the policy basis. * Any guarantees associated with a life insurance policy are subject to the claims paying ability of the issuing insurance company.
“To have and to hold, from this day forward…” At a time like this, there are 3 more “I dos” for you to consider:
1. Do you have life insurance?
Any discussion about life insurance is going to start with this question, so let’s get it out of the way! As invigorated as people feel after finding the love of their life…let’s face it – they’re not invincible. The benefits of life insurance include protecting against loss of income, covering funeral expenses, gaining potential tax advantages, and having early access to money. Many of these benefits can depend on what kind of life insurance you have. Bottom line: having life insurance is a great way to show your love for years to come – for better OR worse.*
2. Do you have the right type and amount of life insurance?
Life insurance policies are not “one size fits all.” There are different types of policies with different kinds of coverage, benefits, and uses. Having the right policy with adequate coverage is the key to protecting your new spouse in the event of a traumatic event – not just loss of life. Adequate life insurance coverage can help keep you and your spouse afloat in the case of an unexpected disabling injury, or if you’re in need of long term care. Your life with your spouse isn’t going to be one size fits all, and your life insurance policy won’t be either – for richer or poorer.
3. Do you have the right beneficiaries listed on your policy?
This question is particularly important if you had an existing policy before marriage. Most newlyweds opt for listing each other as their primary beneficiary, and with good reason: listing the correct beneficiary will help ensure that any insurance payout will get delivered to them– in sickness and in health. If you couldn’t say “I do” to any or all of these questions, contact me. It would be my pleasure to assist you newlyweds – or not-so-newlyweds – with a whole NEW way to care for each other: tailored life insurance coverage – ’til death do you part!
Neither World Financial Group nor its agents may provide tax or legal advice. Anyone to whom this material is promoted, marketed, or recommended should consult with and rely on their own independent tax and legal advisors regarding their particular situation and the concepts presented herein.
Any guarantees associated with a life insurance policy are subject to the claims paying ability of the issuing insurance company.
Travelling, shopping, events, and surviving in-laws can seem like full-time jobs, leaving you stressed and frazzled. But that’s not what the holidays are about; they’re supposed to be a special season of taking time to enjoy the things and people you love and care about.
Try out these tips to take control of your time this holiday season. Trust me, your loved ones will thank you!
Write down your priorities and make a schedule
Make a list of all the things that you want (and need) to do for the holidays. These might be hosting a big family get-together, decorating the house and yard, attending a community parade or concert, or just enjoying some good food and drinks with friends. Mark them on your calendar and figure out what you need to do in preparation and when you can do it. Organizing a plan for how and when things get done will make you much more efficient and help prevent scrambling at the last minute to buy tickets or make reservations.
Accomplish what you can before the crunch
Get as much work out of the way before the holidays get hectic. Maybe that means wrapping up projects or having meetings a few weeks early, or prepping your family holiday cards a month in advance. Space out your work so that you can get the little tasks done before things start to pile up.
Learn to say no
This is especially important for extroverts and the super-social. Overbooking yourself during the holidays is one of the easiest ways to increase stress levels and torpedo productivity. Figure out your priorities, make your schedule, and stick with it. Tempting as it may be, saying “yes” to fifteen ugly Christmas sweater parties and eight New Years Eve bashes will whittle away your free time and limit your enjoyment of the season.
Most importantly, remember why you’re trying to use your time effectively. The goal is to make memories with the people you love by doing things you care about. Use these tips to avoid getting bogged down in the busyness of the season and to prioritize the things that matter most.
By comparison, that amount might be enough for a down payment on a first home or for a well-equipped, late-model minivan to shuttle around your 1.6 to 2 kids – assuming your family has an average number of children as a result of your newly wedded bliss.²
Having cold feet about shelling out that much cash for one day’s festivities? Or even worse, going into debt to pay for it? Here are a few ideas on how you can make your wedding day a special day to remember while still saving some of that money for other things (like a minivan).
Invite Close Friends and Family
Many soon-to-be newlyweds dream of a massive wedding with hundreds of people in attendance to honor their big day. But at some point during any large wedding, the bride or the groom – or maybe both – look around the well-dressed guests and ask themselves, “Who are all of these people, anyway?”
You can cut the cost of your wedding dramatically by simply trimming the guest list to a more manageable size. Ask yourself, “Do I really need to invite that kid who used to live next door to our family when I was 6 years old?” Small weddings are a growing trend, with many couples choosing to limit the guest list to just close friends and immediate family. That doesn’t mean you have to have your wedding in the backyard while the neighbor’s dog barks during your vows – although you certainly can. It just means fewer people to provide refreshments for and perhaps a less palatial venue to rent.
Budget According to Priorities
Your wedding is special and you want everything to be perfect. You’ve dreamed of this day your entire life, right? However, by prioritizing your wish list, there’s a better chance to get exactly what you want for certain parts of your wedding, by choosing less expensive – but still acceptable – options for the things that may not matter to you so much. If it’s all about the reception party atmosphere for you, try putting more of your budget toward entertainment and decorations and less toward the food. Maybe you don’t really need a seven-course gourmet dinner with full service when a selection of simpler, buffet-style dishes provided by your favorite restaurant will do.
Incorporate More Wallet-Friendly Wedding Ideas
A combination of small changes in your plan can add up to big savings, allowing you to have a memorable wedding day and still have enough money left over to enjoy your newfound bliss.
There’s a happy medium between a royal wedding and drive-thru nuptials in Vegas. If you’re looking for a memorable day that won’t break the bank, try out some of the tips above to keep things classy, cool – and within your budget.
¹ Seaver, Maggie. “The National Average Cost of a Wedding Is $33,391.” the knot, 2018, https://bit.ly/2FycQmH.
² Russell, Andrew. “Here’s why Canadians are having fewer children.” Global News, 5.7.2017, https://bit.ly/2C1fPii.
³ Mackey, Jaimie. “What Are the Most Affordable Months to Book a Wedding Venue?.” Brides, 9.10.2017, https://bit.ly/2ry6wSt.
If you’ve just used up your emergency fund to cover your last catastrophe, then what if a new surprise arrives before you’ve replenished your savings?
Using a credit card can be an expensive option, so you might be leery of adding debt with a high interest rate. However, you can’t let the ship sink either. What can you do?
A personal loan is an alternative in a cash-crunch crisis, but you’ll need to know a bit about how it works before signing on the bottom line.
A personal loan is an unsecured loan. The loan rate and approval are based on your credit history and the amount borrowed. Much like a credit card account, you don’t have to put up a car or house as collateral on the loan. But one area where a personal loan differs from a credit card is that it’s not a revolving line of credit. Your loan is funded in a lump sum and once you pay down the balance you won’t be able to access more credit from that loan. Your loan will be closed once you’ve paid off the balance.
The payment terms for a personal loan can be a short duration. Typically, loan terms range between 2-7 years.[i] If the loan amount is relatively large, this can mean large payments as well, without the flexibility you have with a credit card in regard to choosing your monthly payment amount.
An advantage over using a personal loan instead of a credit card is that interest rates for personal loans can be lower than you might find with credit cards. But many personal loans are plagued by fees, which can range from application fees to closing fees. These can add a significant cost to the loan even if the interest rate looks attractive. It’s important to shop around to compare the full cost of the loan if you choose to use a personal loan to navigate a cash crunch. You also might find that some fees (but not all) can be negotiated. (Hint: This may be true with certain credit cards as well.)
Before you borrow, make sure you understand the interest rate for the loan. Personal loans can be fixed rate or the rate might be variable. In that case, low rates can turn into high rates if interest rates continue to rise.
It’s also important to know the difference between a personal loan and a payday loan. Consider yourself warned – payday loans are a different type of loan, and may be an extremely expensive way to borrow. The Federal Trade Commission recommends you explore alternatives.[ii]
So if you need a personal loan to cover an emergency, your bank or credit union might be a good place to start your search.
Sometimes, a lot of money. They have the potential to throw a monkey wrench into your savings strategy, especially if you have to resort to using credit to get through an emergency. In many households, a budget covers everyday spending, including clothes, eating out, groceries, utilities, electronics, online games, and a myriad of odds and ends we need.
Sometimes, though, there may be something on the horizon that you want to purchase (like that all-inclusive trip to Cancun for your second honeymoon), or something you may need to purchase (like that 10-years-overdue bathroom remodel).
How do you get there if you have a budget for the everyday things you need, you’re setting aside money in your emergency fund, and you’re saving for retirement?
Make a goal
The way to get there is to make a plan. Let’s say you’ve got a teenager who’s going to be driving soon. Maybe you’d like to purchase a new (to him) car for his 16th birthday. You’ve done the math and decided you can put $3,000 towards the best vehicle you can find for the price (at least it will get him to his job and around town, right?). You have 1 year to save but the planning starts now.
There are 52 weeks in a year, which makes the math simple. As an estimate, you’ll need to put aside about $60 per week. (The actual number is $57.69 – $3,000 divided by 52). If you get paid weekly, put this amount aside before you buy that $6 latte or spend the $10 for extra lives in that new phone game. The last thing you want to do is create debt with small things piling up, while you’re trying to save for something bigger.
Make your savings goal realistic
You might surprise yourself by how much you can save when you have a goal in mind. Saving isn’t a magic trick, however, it’s based on discipline and math. There may be goals that seem out of reach – at least in the short-term – so you may have to adjust your goal. Let’s say you decide you want to spend a little more on the car, maybe $4,000, since your son has been working hard and making good grades. You’ve crunched the numbers but all you can really spare is the original $60 per week. You’d need to find only another $17 per week to make the more expensive car happen. If you don’t want to add to your debt, you might need to put that purchase off unless you can find a way to raise more money, like having a garage sale or picking up some overtime hours.
Hide the money from yourself
It might sound silly but it works. Money “saved” in your regular savings or checking account may be in harm’s way. Unless you’re extremely careful, it’s almost guaranteed to disappear – but not like what happens in a magic show, where the magician can always bring the volunteer back. Instead, find a safe place for your savings – a place where it can’t be spent “accidentally”, whether it’s a cookie jar or a special savings account you open specifically to fund your goal.
Pay yourself first
When you get paid, fund your savings account set up for your goal purchase first. After you’ve put this money aside, go ahead and pay some bills and buy yourself that latte if you really want to, although you may have to get by with a small rather than an extra large.
Saving up instead of piling on more credit card debt may be a much less costly way (by avoiding credit card interest) to enjoy the things you want, even if it means you’ll have to wait a bit.
A recent New York Times article details the rise of consumer debt, which has reached a new peak and now exceeds the record-breaking $12.68 trillion of consumer debt we had collectively back in 2008. In 2017, after a sharp decline followed by a rise as consumer sentiment improved, we reached a new peak of $12.73 trillion.[i]
A trillion is a big number. Numbers measured in trillions (that’s 1,000 billion, or 1,000,000 million – yes, that’s correct!) can seem abstract and difficult to relate to in our own individual situations.
While big numbers can be hard to grasp, dates are easy. 2008 is when the economy crashed, due in part to an unmanageable amount of debt.
Good debt and bad debt
Mortgage debt still makes up the majority of consumer debt, currently 68% of the total.[ii] But student loans are a category on the rise, currently more than doubling their percentage of total consumer debt when compared to 2008 figures.[iii] Coupled with a healthier economy, these new levels of consumer debt may not be a strong concern yet, but the impact of debt on individual households is often more palpable than the big-picture view of economists. Debt has a way of creeping up on families.
It’s common to hear references to “good debt”, usually when discussing real estate loans. In most cases, mortgage interest is tax deductible, helping to reduce the effective interest rate. However, if a household has too much debt, none of it feels like good debt. In fact, some people pass on home ownership altogether, investing their surplus income and living in more affordable rented apartments – instead of taking on the fluctuating cost of a house and its seemingly never-ending mortgage payments.
Credit card debt
Assuming that a mortgage and an auto loan are necessary evils for your household to work, and that student loans may pay dividends in the form of higher earning power, credit card debt deserves some closer scrutiny. The average American household owes over $15,000 in credit card debt,[iv] more than a quarter of the median household income. The average interest rate for credit cards varies depending on the type of card (rewards cards can be higher). But overall, American households are paying an average of 14.87% APR for the privilege of borrowing money to spend.[v]
That level of debt requires a sizeable payment each month. Guess what the monthly credit card interest for credit card debt of $15,000 at an interest rate of 15% would be? $187.50! (That number will go down as the balance decreases.) If your monthly payment is on the lower end, your debt won’t go down very quickly though. In fact, at $200 per month paid towards credit cards, the average household would be paying off that credit card debt for nearly 19 years, with a total interest cost of almost $30,000 – all from a $15,000 starting balance! (Hint: You can find financial calculators online to help you figure out how much it really costs to borrow money.)
You may not be trillions in debt (even though it might feel like it), but the first step to getting your debt under control is often to understand what its long-term effects might be on your family’s financial health. Formulating a strategy to tackle debt and sticking to it is the key to defeating your personal debt monsters.
That equates to landing a new job roughly every 2.5 years by age 32!
So if you’re feeling the itch to leave your current job and head out for a new adventure in the workforce, the experience you’ve gained along the way will go with you. You may have made some great business connections too, and gotten some fabulous on-the-job-training. All of these things will “travel well” to a new job.
But there’s one thing you can’t take with you: An employer-supplied life insurance policy. While the price is right at “free” for many of these policies, there are several drawbacks that may deter you from relying on them solely for coverage.
1. An employer-provided policy turns in its two weeks notice when you do. Since your employer owns the policy – not you – your coverage will end when you leave that job. And unless you’re walking right into another employment opportunity where you’re offered the same type and amount of coverage, you might experience gaps or a total loss of coverage in an area where you had it before. When you’re not depending on an employer to provide your only life insurance coverage, you can change jobs as often as you please without the worry of the rug being pulled out from under you.
2. The employer policy is touted as ‘one size fits most.’ But it’s not likely that a group policy offered through an employer will be tailored to you and your unique needs. There may be no room for you to chime in and request certain features or a rider you’re interested in. However, when you build your own policy around your individual needs, you can get the right coverage that suits who you are and where you’d like to go on your financial journey.
3. An employer policy may not offer enough to cover your family. What amount of coverage is your employer offering? When you’re first starting out in your career, a $50,000 or even a $25,000 employer-provided policy might sound like a lot. But how far would that benefit really go to protect your family, cover funeral costs, or help with daily expenses if something were to happen to you?
Whether or not your 5-year plan includes 5 different jobs (or 5 entirely unrelated career paths), with a well-tailored policy that you own independent of your employment situation – you have the potential for a little more freedom and security in your financial strategy. And you won’t be starting from square one just because you’re starting a new opportunity.
Long, Heather. “The new normal: 4 job changes by the time you’re 32.” CNN Money, https://cnnmon.ie/1RRxCfl.
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 the average American could potentially save over $500 per month! 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.
Martin, Emmie. “Here’s how much money the average middle-aged American could save each month.” CNBC*, 11.8.2017, https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/08/how-much-money-the-average-middle-aged-american-could-save-each-month.html.