summer kids

Affordable Ways to Keep the Kids Busy This Summer

Regardless of whether you’re a parent who works from home or has a job to go to elsewhere, chances are that you’re already wondering how to keep your kids occupied during the upcoming summer vacation – especially when you start hearing, “Mom, I’m bored.”

If you’re looking for ways to keep your kids occupied without having to spend a lot, the list below will help get you started:

  1. Create an Activity Jar

Although there’s most likely a lot to do around your house, it can sometimes be challenging to come up with ideas at the spur of the moment. Start by writing down a few ideas on separate paper scraps, put them all into a tub or jar and let your kids pick one to do each day. Activities can include ideas such as playing hide and seek, baking cookies, building a blanket fort or even watching a movie at home.

  1. Visit the Library

Nowadays, most neighborhood libraries run various summer reading programs that can often encourage even the most stubborn non-reader to get involved. If possible, schedule a weekly visit to the library and let your kids choose books on topics that they’re keen to learn more about. In many cases, kids who learn to enjoy reading will seldom find the time to be bored.

  1. Search for Free Neighborhood Activities

Nowadays, several neighborhoods offer a number of free or extremely affordable activities for kids and families to take part in. Many blogs and news articles will even offer a calendar list of family- and child-friendly activities that will be available throughout summer vacation.

  1. Explore New Parks

Are your kids tired of the local park? If so, search for other parks that may be in your neighborhood or in other areas that are close by enough to visit for the day. Packing your own snacks and drinks will prevent you from stopping for costly takeout during the day and many parks will allow you to picnic as well.

  1. Let them be Bored

If you intend surviving this summer – and the next few summers – the key is to allow your kids to be bored every so often.

Kids nowadays are more over-scheduled than ever during the school year, meaning that they are hardly ever left to their own devices. This prevents them from learning how to play on their own and be creative, which experts say is a crucial skill to learn.

Providing your kids with some unscheduled down time on a regular basis will help ensure that they can nurture their inner creative skills and spend a little time unsupervised on occasion – which can provide parents with a much-needed break as well!

Keeping your kids occupied this summer need not cost an arm and a leg. In fact, many activities can be enjoyed for free or really cheap if you’re willing to look around and allow them to create some of their own fun from time to time.

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credit-retirement

Preserving your Credit Status Now to Stay Financially Sound After Retirement

It’s no secret that hard work and commitment are required if you want to obtain and keep a high credit score, especially if you’re coming close to retirement. Below are some aspects to consider that will go a long way in helping you to preserve your credit score beyond your golden years.

  1. Don’t Close Long-held Accounts

Keeping a good record on any type of open account over a number of years has a highly positive effect on your overall credit score. If you’re close to retirement age, you may have accounts that were opened several years ago that you might be tempted to close out. However, doing this will have a negative effect on your credit score virtually immediately.

Another way your credit score would be negatively affected is by decreasing the amount of credit you have available to you. A large percentage of your credit score depends on the amount of overall credit you have versus the amount you’re actually using, so decreasing your level of available credit will cause a drastic drop in your score.

  1. Don’t Cosign any Loans

After your kids have moved out, it can be tempting to cosign for them to get their first car or obtain a student loan. However, doing this will increase the level of debt that is showing on your personal credit report. Although this won’t necessarily affect your credit score overall, it can negatively impact your ability to secure a loan in future if your credit to debt ration appears to be too high.

  1. Use Old Accounts Occasionally

When considering your credit score, it’s not good enough to just keep older accounts open – they will have to be used from time to time to prevent creditors from closing them unexpectedly. Using your older accounts every now and then is especially important if you’re currently debt-free, because otherwise the credit bureaus would have nothing to base your score on. Unfortunately, a number of retirees have discovered this too late after being denied loans when they’d not carried debt for several years.

There’s no need to accrue large amounts of debt to keep a credit score active. Just making the occasional purchase and repaying it the following month will usually suffice.

  1. Review Existing Debts before Retirement

A fair percentage of your credit score is based on your ability to repay debt installments on time, and this could become a huge worry if your income decreases drastically after retiring, or if an unexpected medical emergency depletes your savings. Before you stop working, ensure that you’ll still be able to save some money each month and repay all outstanding debts ahead of time wherever possible.

Unexpected events can happen even after you retire, which could result in you needing to apply for a loan. Taking the above measures to protect your credit score now already will help ensure that you’ll be financially prepared for anything that may happen in future. If you would like to find out more about planning for your retirement, contact our advisors today.

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singles-retirement

Can Singles Retire Successfully?

Several singles in their 20s and 30s tend to focus mainly on building their careers and lives that they don’t spare a thought for their retirement. However, the sooner you start planning for your golden years, the less time you’ll need to spend worrying about whether you’ll be able to relax a little after you retire or not.

As a single, there are steps you should take as soon as possible to prepare for this time of your life:

Start Saving as Much as Possible

One of the best steps you can take, as a single is to start saving as much as is allowed in your tax-deferred accounts each year. This may sound like a drastic move, but it’s important to keep in mind that you won’t have financial assistance from a spouse to help cover bills such as a mortgage, utilities and various other expenses.

It’s also crucial that you start building an emergency fund consisting of between three and six months of expenses because, again, you unfortunately don’t have the security of a partner’s savings or income if you are unable to work for an extended period of time for any reason.

Consider Creating a Second Income Stream

If you’ve noticed that you’re struggling to max out your tax-deferred accounts every year or there’s just not enough money to start building your emergency fund, it’s a good idea to think about taking on a second job temporarily – even if it’s part-time.

Taking on a temporary second job could be a financial lifesaver, especially if you have outstanding debts that need to be paid before retiring. After all, you wouldn’t want to be worrying about debt after you’ve stopped working and are living on limited income.

Financial Protection is Essential

As a single, you’re at more risk of financial ruin if you suddenly become disabled or too ill to work. For instance, If you had to find yourself in this situation in your 40s, you’d need to have some form of financial safeguard in place to be able to look after yourself through to your 70s or even 80s in some cases.

When purchasing any form of disability protection, it’s crucial to confirm that payouts will actually cover you for as long as is necessary because several of the cheaper policies in this category will often only pay out for a limited period of time. As such, it’s strongly recommended that you work alongside a qualified financial advisor when searching for this type of financial protection.

If you’re single, planning for your golden years need not be an overwhelming process – especially if you decide to take the above-mentioned steps as soon as possible. Spending wisely and investing appropriately while you’re still working will go a long way in helping to ensure that you’ll be able to enjoy retirement as much as you should.

Get in touch with our team of qualified and experienced financial advisors today to learn more about retiring successfully as a single.

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retirement-tips

Advantages of Downsizing before Retirement

Have you reached the stage of your life where you’re starting to think about or even look forward to retirement? If so, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to start downsizing your home and other aspects beforehand.

Here are just a few great reasons why:

Get Ahead with the De-cluttering Process

Part of the downsizing process is to determine which of your possessions you still need and which ones you no longer use or want. Although it may sometimes be difficult to let go of some items, doing so will allow you to be far more organized and keep your available space for the items you need and treasure the most.

De-cluttering will allow you to need less living space once you stop working, which leads to the next advantage.

Less Maintenance to Worry about

Your golden years are not the time where you should be worrying about how you’ll cover the cost of large home maintenance bills, a heavy mortgage and high utility accounts. Downsizing before you retire will allow you to determine just how much you’ll save on these essential expenses by moving into a smaller property, regardless of whether it’s in a dedicated retirement facility or not.

Fewer Monthly Bills

If your downsizing journey leads you to move into a dedicated senior living community, chances are that you’ll only be presented with a single monthly bill for the majority of your expenses. You’ll no longer have to worry about the added burden of yard maintenance bills or even property taxes because these are usually included in your monthly payment already.

Make Relocation Far Easier

After de-cluttering and keeping fewer possessions, you’ll find it easier to relocate than before – and possibly also have more choices regarding where you want to move to. For instance, if you’ve always wanted to move town or even to a different state, having fewer possessions and monthly commitments will make the process a lot easier for you. When searching, look for places that offer a low cost of living, decent healthcare and amenities that you’ll be able to take advantage of.

Focus on Enjoyable Activities

Downsizing before you officially retire will allow you to focus more on activities that you enjoy, such as hobbies, or even spending more quality time with your family if they’ll be living nearby. These days, retirement communities normally offer several different activities for residents to enjoy – with many of them being free or at very low cost.

Enjoy a Fresh Start

Instead of viewing your journey as just downsizing, think of it as an opportunity to enjoy a fresh start in life. Have you wanted to write a novel or engage in a new project, but not had enough time while you were working? Now will be the ideal time to tackle those goals because a lot of other responsibilities will now have been delegated elsewhere.

If you want to ensure that you’ll enjoy a financially comfortable retirement after downsizing, contact our professional advisors today.

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debt-consolidation-tips

Pros and Cons of Debt Consolidation Loans

If you’re dealing with multiple streams of consumer debt such as credit card, store accounts, personal loans or even outstanding medical bills, chances are that you may have considered applying for some form of debt consolidation loan at some point.

Obtaining any form of debt consolidation loan can make a lot of sense if it allows you to lower the interest rate that is being charged on the outstanding debts, but there may be some downfalls to obtaining this form of loan as well.

Pros

You Could Obtain Lower Interest Rates

One of the main advantages of debt consolidation loans is that it could allow you to repay what is owing at a lower interest rate, which could save thousands of dollars over the course of a year or two. If you’re fortunate enough to qualify for an interest free balance transfer credit card, you’d pay 0% interest for the entire promotion period – but a 3% to 5% transfer fee may sometimes apply.

Deal with One Monthly Payment

Instead of struggling to keep track of several different payments each month, consolidation loans allow you to combine all of your debts into a single payment with a fixed interest rate that won’t change over the life of the loan.

You Could Improve your Credit Score

Although applying for the consolidation loan will temporarily lower your credit score, making regular monthly payments towards it will help improve it again over time – often to a higher score than you had previously.

Cons

It Won’t Solve Financial Problems Over the Long Term

Opting for a debt consolidation loan doesn’t guarantee that you won’t accrue more consumer debt over time, especially if you have a history of living beyond your means. You will need to compile a strict budget and stick to it in the future if you intend changing your financial behavior for the better.

You Could Pay More Interest over Time

Regardless of whether you obtain a lower interest rate when consolidating your debts or not, you could still end up paying more in interest charges over time – especially if you’ll be repaying over a longer period of time. In some cases, debt consolidation loans can take as long as seven years to pay in full, so you must consider this before signing on the dotted line.

It Can Encourage Increased Spending

Paying off credit cards, store cards and other bills with a consolidation loan often creates an illusion for consumers to the point where they think they’ve got more money than they actually have. As such, you could find yourself in an even deeper hole of debt over time, especially if you aren’t willing to rein in your bad spending habits.

If you would like to learn more about compiling a realistic household budget that will allow you to keep up with expenses and even start saving towards your retirement, you can get started by chatting with one of our experienced financial advisors. Contact us today to set up an appointment.

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saving money

Can Lower Income Earners Still Save?

If you’re currently working and not earning a large paycheck, retirement will possibly be one of the last things you’re thinking about at the moment. After all, it’s challenging enough just covering your daily expenses – so how on earth are you still supposed to start saving for retirement?

Believe it or not, there are a few things you can do that will help you start saving for this time of your life – despite being a low-income earner:

Saving Money should be Sacrificial

Several financial experts agree that saving money is a process that should feel as though you’re making a sacrifice of sorts. If this is not the case, they claim that you simply aren’t saving enough. Your main goal should be to save enough money that it forces you to alter your spending patterns.

Instead of going out for pizza or ordering in over the weekend, set the funds aside that you would have used for this and try making your own pizzas at home instead. In most cases, it’s the small things you do that will make the most difference in the amount of money you can save over time.

Most Individuals Spend more than they Realize

Now is the time to start making notes of every penny you spend. Did you purchase a soda at lunchtime? Coffee on the way into work? Takeout on the way home after your shift?

Make a note of every purchase and keep record over the next 30 days, and then go back through your list and mark each frivolous purchase. Afterwards, add up the highlighted purchases – this amount could very well have been put into a 401(k) or IRA instead of being frittered away.

Although doing this will cause you to forfeit a few of those ‘nice little extras,’ remember that these funds could be earning you interest over the next few years.

Look for Ways to Earn More Money

These days, there are more ways than ever to pick up a little extra income on the side. Wherever possible, see if extra shifts are available at your current place of employment. If not, consider caring for your neighbor’s children when they go out for the evening, offer to run errands for a small fee or even check with friends and family about walking their dogs to try earn that little bit extra.

If you’re crafty, consider making items to sell at a local market – or even offer music lessons if you’re good at playing a specific instrument. These might not sound like ways to make a lot of extra cash at a time, but every bit will help. Save everything over and above your regular income, and you might find that planning for retirement isn’t as impossible as you think.

Although earning low wages can make it challenging to compile a retirement plan, it’s not impossible to do so. Tracking your spending, cutting expenses wherever possible and finding ways to bring in that little bit of extra money will go a long way in helping to plan ahead for your golden years.

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inflation

What to Do when Inflation Deflates your Retirement Plans

Inflation has been quite rampant over the past few months with little to no end in sight, which is causing many older employees and recent retirees to worry about whether they can continue to afford covering their daily expenses. Although Social Security is designed to provide cost of living adjustments every so often, these still often fall short.

How Inflation Affects Retirement

It’s crucial to remember that inflation has a significant impact on anyone who is seeking out a traditional retirement as well as those individuals who are keen to retire early. 

Inflation is classified as the general increase in the price of goods and services over a period of time, and while this has averaged out at around 2% per year previously, this percentage has increased substantially over the past year or two. This means the cost of everything from groceries to gas, medical care and housing will continue rising for the foreseeable future. 

Minimizing Financial Losses

Below are some steps that can be taken to help ensure that you don’t go broke after retiring:

Trim Regular Expenses wherever Possible

If your budget is already tight, any further price increases will make it almost impossible to survive from month to month. Pricing for services such as phone contracts, home internet and insurance can often be negotiated, especially if you inform your current provider that you’re considering switching to another company. 

Now is also the time to thoroughly peruse bank statements to ensure that you aren’t paying for any unused memberships or services that you may have canceled a while ago.

Change Grocery Shopping Habits

If you’ve noticed an increase in the cost of groceries and you haven’t been adding anything extra to your cart, it’s time to make a few changes. These can include switching from fresh to frozen produce, consuming smaller portions of meat products, using dried beans and lentils instead of canned or even trying alternative brands that may be more cost-effective.

Don’t Delay Large Purchases

Although this may sound counterintuitive, pricing of appliances and other household items is also increasing alarmingly. As such, you should not delay purchasing these items if you already have the funds set aside to pay for them – chances are that they could cost as much as 30% more in a few months’ time.

Work with a Reputable Financial Advisor

Another crucial step to take when protecting your retirement funds against inflation is to work closely with a reputable financial advisor. These specialists are trained to follow the markets, which allows them to make the appropriate decisions to ensure that your money can grow as much as possible. 

When searching for an investment advisor, ensure that they are suitably qualified, registered and experienced – failure to do so could result in disastrous consequences for your financial future. If you would like to find out more about securing your retirement savings against higher than average inflation rates, get in touch with our team today.

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spring break

Planning a Spring Break Vacation on a Limited Budget

If you’ve been considering taking a vacation with your family this spring, chances are that you’ve noticed just how much the cost of everything from gas to accommodation to meals has risen recently. However, this doesn’t always means that you’ll have to put your plans on hold – in fact, you can still enjoy a spring break vacation if you’re willing to make a few adjustments to your plans.

Rethink your Initially Planned Destination

While locations such as Florida, Orlando or even Cancun in Mexico are deemed as popular spring break destinations, it doesn’t mean that you have to visit one of them to have a great time. Not only will the more popular destinations be ridiculously crowded; pricing for everything from rooms to drinks and activity prices will most likely be through the roof as well. 

Instead, opt for a location that isn’t as popular with the regular spring break crowds and you’ll suddenly find that your trip will become a lot more affordable than you think.

Consider Driving to your Destination

Although it will take longer to reach your vacation spot if you’re driving, chances are that you’ll save a huge chunk of cash by doing so. In addition, you won’t have to cover the exorbitant cost of car rental at your destination either. 

If you decide to drive, you’ll also have to choose your destination accordingly – after all, you wouldn’t want to spend more than a day or two on the road there and back.

Find a Grocery Store Close to your Destination

One of the biggest expenses you’ll encounter when going on spring break vacation is the cost of meals. However, this can be drastically reduced if you’re willing to do a little of your own meal prep and purchase groceries instead of relying entirely on restaurant meals. Snacks can also be purchased this way for a fraction of the price of those being charged at hotel shops.

Find free Activities to Take Part in

Wherever possible, seek out free activities to do that are close to your chosen destination. For example, if you’ve got a great deal on a cruise, avoid visiting the casino and opt for one of the many free evening shows on offer instead. If you’re staying at a resort, be sure to check the property calendar or activity board to see if any shows or activities are available for free or low cost – many resorts also offer free movie nights or even trivia activities for guests.

Alternatively, you can take the family on a local hiking trail or even visit a local farmer’s market if you’re looking for something different to keep them occupied on your trip. 

With a little strategic planning, it is possible to enjoy an affordable spring break vacation with your family. If you would like to learn more about being able to save money each month and invest for your future, our qualified and experienced team of financial advisors will be more than happy to assist you.

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couch potato

Don’t Become a Couch Potato After Retirement

Just because you’ll be retiring from your daily job and commute, it doesn’t mean that you should spend the rest of your life sitting around doing nothing. In fact, research has confirmed that retirees who remain active will experience higher levels of satisfaction and better health than those who laze their days away in front of the TV or computer. 

If you’re looking for ways to keep busy or new activities to try after stopping work, the list below will help you get started:

Take a Hike

Spending time out in nature has been proven to be one of the best ways to de-stress and rejuvenate the body and soul. As such, this activity will make you feel better physically and emotionally. 

The good news is that it isn’t necessary to go on an overnight hike or multiple-day camping trip to enjoy these benefits – even a short hike of a few miles will be highly beneficial. It will also provide you with an opportunity to take a break from technology, which is something everyone needs from time to time.

Foster a Pet

Many retirees are hesitant to outright adopt a pet because they worry about what will happen if they’re no longer able to care for it. However, many animal shelters now offer the option of fostering a pet as well. This entails having the shelter or rescue organization cover the cost of the animal’s food and care, while the pet in question provides companionship.

Fostering a pet will help keep you physically active, especially if regular walking is required – which will benefit your health as well as that of the pet.

Join a Book Club

After retiring, it’s just as important to keep your mind active as your body. A 2016 study in the Social Science and Medicine Journal revealed that spending an hour or two reading each day can help increase a senior’s lifespan substantially as well – even more good reason to curl up on the couch with your favorite book at least a few times a week.

Learn a New Language

Learning a new language is an excellent way to ensure that your mind remains active after you’re no longer part of the workforce because it will help keep your memory and concentration skills sharp as you get older. A number of free and online options are now available for anyone who wants to learn new languages, such as Babbel and Duolingo.

Do Volunteer Work

This is by far one of the most popular ways for seniors to keep busy once they’re no longer working. Most volunteers report that getting actively involved in causes that are important to them provides a sense of fulfillment, which in turn helps make them happier. 

Keeping physically and mentally active during your golden years will not only help keep you fit and healthy; you’ll also be able to fill your days with a number of social activities that are enjoyable.

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grocery store prices

Are Rising Grocery Prices Destroying your Budget? Stretch your Meals with These Tips

Most grocery items have experienced steep increases in pricing over the past year or two, making it more difficult than ever for families to make ends meet when shopping for food – and in many cases, purchasing less food simply isn’t an option, especially for larger families. 

If you’ve been feeling the financial pinch each time you’ve been grocery shopping recently, these tips can help stretch the food you buy – which will in turn give your budget somewhat of a reprieve as well:

Keep Breakfast Cheap

Breakfast is a meal that can be kept quite simple, while still being filling and taking up the smallest part of your food budget. For instance, oatmeal, toast and eggs are among some of the cheapest foods available and they are all filling as well. Including these breakfast options will help slash your food budget substantially.

Stock Up on Low-cost Staples

Whole grains such as dried legumes; oats, rice, quinoa and millet remain inexpensive as well, despite price hikes on fresh foods and meat products. These can all be used as filler ingredients when preparing dishes containing meat, which will allow you to use less meat per meal. 

In cases where canned goods such as tuna, beans and other foods that your family eats are on sale at good prices, it’s a good idea to stock up on them – they can often be combined with the above-mentioned dry foods as well.

Freeze Leftovers Promptly

One of the most common contributors to food waste is leftover portions that get left to languish at the back of the refrigerator. Instead, these should be frozen as soon as they’re cool enough and labeled well. This will not only prevent food from being thrown away because it’s gone bad; having frozen leftovers on hand will allow you to grab a portion and reheat it for dinner on a busy night as well.

Get Into the Habit of Meal Planning

 Without a meal plan on hand, food will quickly get forgotten about – and end up being tossed. Sitting down and preparing a weekly meal plan will allow you to only purchase the items needed for those dishes you intend preparing that week. For further savings, consider planning meals around foods that are on sale each week.

Use Seasonal Produce

Although it may initially be difficult to change from your favorite fruit and veggies, focusing on using produce seasonally will shave hundreds of dollars from your grocery bill each year. Just one example is apples that will cost just a few dollars per bag during fall, and shoot up to as much as $10 per bag during summer.

Stretching ground beef with items such as lentils, rice or even quinoa will also go a long way in helping to shave the cost of your grocery bill. Implementing even one or two of these tips will see your food lasting a lot longer than usual as well. 

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