debt free

Keen to Learn More About Personal Finance? These Blogs Can Help

Understanding and mastering your personal finances can seem challenging – if not impossible – at times. However, there are now so many bloggers out there who delve deeply into the subject of money that the amount of information available is virtually unlimited.

If you’re keen to learn as much as you can about managing your money and making it work for you, these bloggers will be able to provide you with the additional information you need.

Get Rich Slowly

Initially launched by J.D. Roth back in 2006, this is one of the original personal finance blogs that was created. After accumulating more than $30,000 in debt due to credit card usage, obtaining various personal loans and also dealing with an auto loan, he decided to create a plan that would help eliminate all of his debt once and for all.

The Get Rich Slowly blog contains thousands of posts that are dedicated to improving the financial IQ of its readers and topics include tips for earning, saving and investing your money in various ways.

Mr. Money Mustache

If early retirement is your goal, Mr. Money Mustache’s blog is one that is not to be missed. Pete Adeney and his wife used a plethora of strategies to fully retire by the time they had reached 30, and he started his blog six years later.

Pete’s blog features several details of exactly how he retired so early and became financially independent. Although his focus is mainly on the stock market and index funds, he shares ways to shave your grocery bill and utility bills substantially as well – to the point where he either walks or cycles to most places he goes to.

Adeney is also not known for sugarcoating his words, so if you’re not keen on being labeled a ‘complainy-pants’ (one of his favorite terms for folk who complain about their financial situation, but do nothing to rectify it), you may not enjoy the forthrightness of his content.

Inspired Budget

Started by Allison Baggerly in 2011, Inspired Budget is a blog where she speaks completely from personal experience regarding how her and her husband were drowning in six figures of debt – and then how they managed to repay it in five years.

Allison has provided a number of handy resources that everyone can use, such as budgeting and money-saving tips and motivational debt-free posts. Her Instagram account offers daily tips on repaying debt and budgeting as well. Baggerly said that her main intention for starting the blog was to help women manage their money better and achieve financial freedom.

Spending time reading through the content on these blogs will help you gain a better understanding of the various aspects of personal finance – while also allowing you to improve your own financial situation. If you would like to find out more about improving your finances so that you’ll be able to retire comfortably someday, call our team to schedule an appointment with an advisor today.

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retirement-savings

In Your 50s? Take These Steps to Boost Retirement Savings

Your 50s are a part of your life that should be considered as somewhat of a final sprint to the finishing line where working is concerned. This means that absolutely any money that can be set aside will give your existing savings the extra boost they need to be able to provide for you financially once you retire.

Here are some ways in which you can help save as much as possible for this time in your life:

Consider Becoming a Landlord

Landlords earn what is referred to as residual income each month, meaning that they receive income without physically having to work for it.

Although this option may not suit everyone, individuals who enjoy doing DIY and home maintenance projects can accumulate a substantial amount of savings while still earning an income once they’ve stopped working. This can be done by renting out your family property and downsizing, or alternatively, by buying an additional property outright.

It’s strongly recommended that you save between 25% and 50% of the rental income you receive each month. This will go a long way in helping to cover property taxes and any maintenance costs that arise – and they will.

Downsize wherever Possible

Now that you’ve reached your 50s, chances are that you’ve become an empty nester – or will become one shortly. This will most likely result in you having a lot of space in the family home that will no longer be needed.

Instead of allowing the vacant rooms to gather dust, consider selling and moving into a smaller home that will now be more suitable for you. Over time, this will not only save a lot of money; additional funds obtained from the sale of your larger home can be placed into your retirement account.

Increase your Savings Rate

Although this might seem obvious, a number of individuals don’t know how to increase the amount of money they’re saving weekly or monthly. However, it can be done by trimming areas of your grocery budget by a few dollars, canceling any unused subscriptions you may have forgotten about or reducing the amount of money you spend on those ‘nice to have’ extras such as fast food.

Additionally, you could shop around for more affordable internet service providers or phone services – a saving of as little as $10 to $20 a month could make a huge difference over time.

Review your Budget Regularly

It’s recommended to check your budget and bank statements each month so you can determine whether you’re still on track for saving enough money. This will also help prevent you from overspending. This is also not the time of your life where you should be making large purchases such as brand new vehicles or other unnecessary items.

Ensuring that you remain on track financially can seem overwhelming at times, especially as you start nearing retirement age. Contact our financial advisors today if you would like to learn more about saving as much as possible for your golden years.

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school graduation

Budget Friendly High School Graduation Gift ideas

High school graduation is usually an exciting time for students and their families. While current circumstances may not always allow for official graduation ceremonies and after parties, parents and other family members can still help their kids celebrate with a number of different – and affordable – gift options.

Below are just a few great ideas for affordable gifts that you can surprise your high school graduate with:

  1. A Plush Bathrobe

Plush bathrobes are an absolute must for teens that are about to embark on their college journeys because they’re ideal for those really chilly mornings, lazy afternoons and for getting to and from the communal bathrooms. Nowadays, these bathrobes are available in virtually any color and style you can think of, so there’s sure to be one that will suit even the fussiest high school grad.

  1. A Portable Bluetooth Speaker

This will probably be one of the most-used gifts you give because it can be used virtually anywhere, from inside the dorm room playing soft music while studying to out and about or around the pool over the weekends while relaxing. These speakers can be purchased for as little as $50 in some cases, depending on brand preference.

  1. A Mattress Topper

Most dorm room beds are not of the most comfortable varieties, which is why giving the gift of a high quality mattress topper will make all the difference when it comes to getting a good night’s rest away from home. Several varieties are available, ranging from basic foam to top of the range cooling gel options.

  1. A French Press

Is your recent graduate a coffee lover? If so, a double-walled stainless steel French press will be the ideal gift for them to pack in their bag for college. Not only is the stainless steel unbreakable, you or your graduate won’t have to continually fork out money for disposable filters and K-Cups over time either.

  1. A Laptop Backpack

Your teen will definitely need something sturdy and practical to carry their laptop and other accessories around campus safely, so a high quality laptop bag will make an excellent graduation gift. Be sure to choose an option that’s waterproof and that has wide comfy shoulder straps because this will most likely be one of their most used items.

  1. A Weighted Blanket

Weighted blankets are known for their ability to soothe and relax whoever is underneath them, which can be a lifesaver for a graduate who will be spending time away from home for the first time. Various guides are available online that will help you select the right blanket according to your teen’s weight.

High school graduation gifts need not cost thousands of dollars to be of use. In fact, it’s often the more affordable and practical items that will be most appreciated by your teen – especially when they find themselves in a brand new environment and having to do a lot more for themselves after leaving home for the first time.

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retirement planning

What Happens when Both Spouses Can’t Retire at the Same Time?

In cases where you and your spouse are close in age and approaching retirement at the same time, you may be wondering what to do if you cannot both retire together. However, several financial experts have agreed that in most cases, it’s actually recommended that retirement be staggered instead.

Below are a few basic guidelines for situations where one spouse isn’t able to retire right away:

Consider the Advantages

Staggering your retirement has a number of benefits, which is why it’s the recommended course of action to take. For instance, you and your spouse can stop working at a point in your career that works best, which enables you to both benefit as much as possible from pension or retirement packages. It will also allow you to evaluate and adjust your finances to accommodate the upcoming second retirement – regardless of whether it happens in a few months or even a year or two from now.

One of the main aspects to deal with is that of deciding which spouse will stop working first, and there are some points to consider here:

  • Health Conditions – If one spouse has a health issue that may worsen if they continue working, then it would make sense for them to retire first
  • Income – If you still rely heavily on earned income to make ends meet, it would be best for the spouse who earns the most to continue working for the time being
  • Retirement Benefits – If you or your spouse can increase retirement benefits by waiting a little longer to stop working, this is a crucial aspect to think about. The extra funds could make a huge difference to your budget after retiring
  • Job Security – It’s essential for both spouses to consider their job security. This could help prevent either one from being laid off soon after the other has retired
  • Health Insurance – If you and your spouse are covered under a single insurance plan, and if it provides good benefits, the spouse with the insurance may want to wait to retire

Preventing Resentment

If one spouse retires right away and the other still has to work for a few more years, it may cause the working spouse to experience feelings of jealousy. However, this should instead be considered as an opportunity to obtain the help you need – for instance, the retired spouse can now assist with housework and running errands during the day so you can spend quality time together at night.

When one spouse stops working before or after the other, it provides a great opportunity to implement budget updates that you may already have discussed. Even though one of you is still working, it may be possible to start living on your planned retirement budget. This will allow you to see whether your proposed budget is realistic and you’ll be able to save a little just before full retirement as well.

If you are keen to retire, but aren’t sure how to determine whether you’ll have enough to live on once you and your spouse stop working, get in touch with our advisors today.

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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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