phone scams

Expert Tips on Avoiding Common Financial Scams

After working and saving their hard-earned money for many years, many individuals fully expect to be able to retire with a comfortable financial nest egg on hand. If anything unexpected were to happen to their savings, it would be close to impossible for many people to recover their money in time for retirement – especially if they fall prey to a scam of any sort. 

These days, several criminals focus their efforts on scamming the elderly and the best form of protecting your money against them is to ensure that you’re informed and suspicious of any unusual activity. Below are some of the most common financial scams that are aimed at senior citizens. 

  1. Phone Calls from the IRS Scam

When scammers call under the pretense of being IRS representatives, their main intention is to obtain as much of your personal information as possible. In this case, the information they are usually after is your last four digits of your Social Security Number and your debit card information. 

Keep in mind that the IRS will never call you directly – even if you owe money to them. All forms of communication from the IRS will only ever be sent through the US Postal Service, so it’s imperative that you end the call as quickly as possible if a caller claims to be from this agency.

  1. Medicare Scams

Over the past few years, a number of scammers have attempted to go door to door or directly call unsuspecting individuals in order to try and obtain Medicare insurance numbers from them. Once they have this information, it gets used to bill Medicare for services that have never been rendered. 

As with the IRS, a Medicare representative will never arrive at your door or call you. In the event that they need to get in touch with you, it will be done through the mail – unless you need to contact them for any reason. If anyone call you directly or shows up at your door claiming to be from Medicare, end the call immediately or tell them to leave your property immediately.

  1. Offers for Fake Prescription Medications

While you can save a substantial amount of money by purchasing your prescription medications online, always exercise extreme caution if a website claims to offer, ‘cheaper medication alternatives,’ – scams like these will usually operate from a totally fake website. After you’ve sent your payment through, you will most likely receive medications that won’t treat your condition because of fake ingredients. 

It’s crucial to check that any online pharmacy is legitimate before you pay them for any medication. This can be done by verifying whether they are licensed in the state you live in or not and that they have a licensed, experienced and trained pharmacist to dispense medications. 

Although it can seem tedious to verify information before parting with your hard-earned cash or giving out Social Security and banking details, doing so will save you a lot of heartache along the way. If you would like to learn more about making your money work for you, contact us today.

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working and retirement

Getting into the Right Retirement Mindset throughout your Career

While most individuals in their early and late 20s think that their retirement years will take ‘forever’ to arrive, the truth is that this time of your life will arrive far sooner than you realize. The main secret to creating a good-sized retirement account is to start saving as quickly as possible after you start working. 

Getting into the right mindset regarding retirement savings and taking the appropriate action will help ensure that you get to enjoy this time of your life without worrying about money – regardless of how old you currently are. 

  1. Your 20s

This is the time to take full advantage of any 401(k) matching programs your company may be offering, and if you enroll in a program like this before reaching the age of 25, it will significantly reduce the amount of money you’ll need to save on your own than if you waited until reaching your 30s and older. 

Studies have revealed that if you’re able to increase your income by just $5,000 per year in your 20s, it could enable you to accumulate an additional $500,000 during your working life. Just saving 10% of this additional income would see your retirement account grow by a minimum of $50,000. 

  1. Your 30s

One of the best things you can do to prepare financially for your retirement during this time of your life is to stop accruing consumer debt. Wherever possible, pay cash for anything you purchase and direct any bonuses, tax refunds or overtime income towards getting debt repaid as quickly as possible. 

Although there is nothing wrong with splurging on a treat occasionally, money should only be spent if it won’t cause you to go into deeper debt. 

  1. Your 40s

This is the time to make sure that you become as indispensable as possible to your employer, and one of the best ways to do this is to improve your existing skillset. Consider taking additional training courses that will help you to perform better in the workplace – this could even lead to you being given unexpected raises over time, which could then be invested as well. 

  1. Your 50s

At this time in your career, you should consider catching up on retirement savings wherever possible – especially if you weren’t able to contribute to any dedicated plans earlier in your career. By now, the vast majority of your debt should also have been cleared – including your mortgage and any student loans that may have still been looming. 

The extra cash that would previously have been used to repay the debt should now be channeled into your retirement accounts wherever possible. In addition to a 401(k), you should set up a Roth account – this will enable you to save a larger, tax-free amount of money towards your retirement every year. 

The main aspect that will ensure a comfortable retirement is to make it as easy as possible to save money throughout your working life. Sticking to a realistic budget and not spending frivolously on unnecessary items will allow you to retire without having to worry about finances. If you’d like to learn more about saving towards your retirement, contact us today.

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feet on the ground

Finding your Feet Financially after Quarantine

Not only has COVID19 left most Americans feeling afraid about their physical health; several families have experienced stress levels unlike anything ever seen before due to sudden job losses or a reduction in working hours. Although life will eventually return to some level of normalcy over time, several families will need guidance with regards to getting their finances back on track.

  1. Prioritize Rebuilding your Emergency Fund

Job losses and reduced working hours have seen millions of families across the world having to dip into their emergency funds – with many of them still not having enough money to cover basic expenses. Once you’re back at work and earning a decent income again, your first financial priority should be rebuilding your backup savings account. 

Each time you receive any form of income or an unexpected amount of money, putting just 5% to 10% of it into a backup account will help rebuild your emergency fund over time. If you’re fortunate enough to receive overtime pay or stimulus checks, part of this money should also be set aside. 

  1. Take Advantage of Historically Low Interest Rates

if you’ve been fortunate enough to rebuild your emergency savings account, the next practical step that should be taken is to repay any consumer debt you may have as quickly as possible. Lower than usual interest rates will work to your advantage at a time like this because it will allow you to apply more of your money towards your debt principal instead of the interest payments. 

  1. Create a New Budget

During quarantine, many families were able to reduce the cost of expenses such as gas, transportation and childcare because they were spending more time at home. 

Now is the right time to reevaluate your existing budget to see if there are absolutely any expenses that could be reduced or even eliminated completely. For example, if one spouse is currently unemployed, would it not be more beneficial to eliminate the cost of childcare until such time as new employment can be found? 

Wherever possible, look for ways to reduce each expense in your budget. This may require changes in your grocery and entertainment budgets, for example. Instead of purchasing all organic foods, you may need to see where cheaper groceries can be obtained – even temporarily. Instead of enjoying a day at the movies, pop some popcorn in the microwave or on the stovetop and enjoy a show on Netflix. 

  1. Consider Speaking with a Financial Advisor

If you’ve secured alternative employment and you need help rolling retirement funds over from one account to another, this is something that should be performed by a qualified financial advisor. They will also be able to provide advice regarding how to start saving towards retirement or even for another large expense, such as a home. 

Although the pandemic has left millions of families feeling completely overwhelmed in several ways, it is possible to start re-gaining control of your finances in a step-by-step manner. If you require advice in this regard and would like to ensure that you have enough money to cover future expenses, get in touch with us today.

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Stress Free Retirement

Ensure your Retirement is as Financially Stress-free as Possible

A number of individuals simply don’t give much thought to retirement – until such time as they realize that they will be entering this time of their lives within just a few years. However, if the right amount of planning and thought is put in early enough, your golden years could end up being some of the most enjoyable and financially stress-free times of your life. The tips below will help you get started on this important journey.

  1. Get as Much Debt as Possible Paid Off Now

Most people who retire will not have as much disposable income available to last from one month to the next. As such, now is the time to eliminate as much of your debt as possible.

Repaying as much debt as possible won’t only save on interest and bank charges; it will allow you to free up more of your current income so that you’ll be able to get by easier once you’re no longer working. Another advantage of repaying debt while you’re still employed is that you won’t have to worry about struggling to repay it when you’re living on a lower income. 

  1. Save as Much Money as Possible 

Regardless of whether you’re in your 20s and just starting out in your career or you’re closer to retirement age, saving for your future is essential. A number of surveys undertaken over the years have revealed that as much as three-quarters of employees have less than $30,000 set aside in savings towards retirement – definitely not enough to survive on. 

The sooner you start saving, the less you’ll have to set aside each month for this time of your life – thanks to the wonder of compounding interest. If you’re still in your 20s, you’ll usually be able to save between 10% and 15% of current income. However, if you only start savings in your 40s, you’ll have to sacrifice as much as 50% of your current income so that you can survive your golden years. 

  1. Spend Carefully

Although your retirement is supposed to be about enjoying yourself, it doesn’t mean that you should go and spend frivolously on costly vacations or other unnecessary items – unless you’re 100% confident that you can afford to. 

If you’ll still be paying off your mortgage after retiring, it’s crucial to ensure that you won’t be paying a penny more than 20% of your retirement income each month on it. Whenever spending money after retirement, don’t be afraid to ask if any senior citizen discounts are available – it never hurts to ask. In some cases, you could have as much as 50% shaved off the original price of an item or service. 

Planning ahead for your retirement years will help ensure that you’ll be able to enjoy yourself as much as you can without constantly having to worry about finances. If you’d like to ensure that you’ll be able to retire as financially comfortable as possible, contact our investors today.

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extra income

Accumulating an Emergency Fund on an Irregular Income

Are you currently only able to work part-time, freelance from time to time or does your job only provide you with a commission-based form of remuneration? If any of these scenarios apply to you, you’re most likely finding it extremely challenging to set aside any amount of money for unexpected emergencies. However, there are a few steps you can take to help build that necessary emergency fund as quickly as possible.

  1. Determine your Bare Bones Budget

Before you’ll be able to even start planning your emergency fund, it’s crucial that you know what your baseline budget amounts to. 

A baseline budget is that which only covers absolute essentials such as rent or mortgage, transport, food, utilities, debt repayments, and in some cases, childcare costs. Compiling this part of your budget is simply – all you require is a pen and paper so you can compile a list of the above-mentioned items. 

After determining what’s needed to cover these costs, you’ll be able to start looking at calculating a baseline amount of money to save each month – in months where earnings are higher, this can always be increased proportionately. 

  1. Calculate Discretionary Expenses

After calculating how much is needed to survive, it’s time to make another list of expenses for items such as cable, any entertainment costs for activities outside your home, expenses related to sports or hobbies, and meals eaten at restaurants. 

If you’re having a hard time finding where your money is going, you may need to inspect bank statements and credit card bills. Once this has been done, you’ll be able to see exactly where to cut your spending – as drastically as possible. 

  1. Calculate your Average Monthly Income 

Although you might think it’s impossible to do this when earning irregular income, calculating your average monthly income is easier than you think. 

Again, this will involve pulling bank statements for the past 12 months and calculating the total amount of income you’ve received during that time. Dividing the total by 12 will provide you with an average rate of income that you’ve earned on a monthly basis, while also allowing you to see which times of year were quieter with regards to earning money.

  1. Start Building your Emergency Fund

Most financial experts recommend having between three and six months of expenses in a separate savings account, but it can be difficult to do this – especially with a fluctuating income. 

If this goal seems too overwhelming, aim to start off with a backup fund of just $1,000. In many cases, you’ll be able to build this amount of money up by selling a few unwanted items, cutting back on as many discretionary expenses as possible, or even requesting overtime hours at your place of employment if they are available. 

Once you’ve accumulated your $1,000 fund, consider having just 5% or even 10% of your irregular income transferred to some form of a savings account as it comes in as well – this will add up over time. If you would like to learn more about building an emergency fund or planning for your future, contact us today. 

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kids saving money

Why it’s Crucial for Kids to Learn about Saving at an Early Age

While most parents take the job of raising their children seriously, many of them forget that teaching them about being financially responsible is just as important as it is to ensure that they learn good manners along the way. Children as young as three to four years old can be taught the basics regarding how to save and budget their money, and this go a long way in teaching them to work as effectively as possible with their money as teens and adults.

During the Earlier Years

It has been noted that children as young as the age of three years are able to understand the basic concept of how money works. For example, your three year old will not only know that money is required to purchase the toy they want; they do realize that Mom or Dad will have to go to work so they can get the money that’s needed. One of the easiest ways to start teaching young children about money is to show them how to count by using dollar bills.

If the toy your child wants costs $30, show them 30 individual dollar bills, have them count them out and explain that this is what will be needed to pay for the toy. The next step to take is to let your child know that you’ll provide them with one bill in exchange for them completing a simple chore or task around the house. Once they have accumulated enough of the dollar bills, they will be able to purchase the toy. 

As your Child becomes Older

As your child becomes older, it will be normal for them to start wanting costlier toys, clothing and gadgets. For instance, your tween may ask for a phone and this can provide you with a great opportunity to teach them about the art of budgeting. In most cases, mobile phones come with their own monthly bills and part of the responsibility of having one can involve requiring your child to earn the funds to pay part or all of that bill. 

If your children are close to the age of 16, you may already have had them asking you to purchase a car for them. If you’ve started teaching them early enough about saving and budgeting, your child may already have sufficient funds to pay cash for their first vehicle. This will also be the right time to teach them about the insurance that’s required to drive and to cover the costs of gas, servicing and maintenance over time. 

In a Nutshell

When teaching your children about money from an early age, you’ll be doing the following:

  • Teaching them that it’s necessary to earn the money needed to buy the items they want or need
  • Explaining the value of money, making them less likely to spend unnecessarily later in life
  • Showing them how important it is to set money aside for unexpected emergencies
  • Teaching them how and why they need to budget their money to cover monthly bills as adults

When your children know how to spend their money responsibly, they stand a far better chance of succeeding in areas of their lives other than just finance. Contact us today if you would like to learn more about learning how to budget or how to teach your children more about money.

 

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older person working

Why Individuals are Retiring Later than Ever Before

These days, reaching the age of 60 or 65 doesn’t automatically mean that an individual will retire from work. In fact, several people are now waiting longer than ever before or in more serious cases, have to continue working indefinitely in order to survive. Below are some reasons why employees are retiring at later ages than previous generations.

Waiting for Larger Social Security Payouts

Although it’s possible to officially retire at the age of 62, individuals who do this will receive smaller payments from Social Security than those who are willing to wait until reaching 65 – or even older. It’s a known fact that those who retire early can receive payments that are as much as 30% lower than those received by older individuals, and there may also be restrictions with regards to other forms of income as well.

Longer Life Expectancies 

Twenty to thirty years ago, a sense of urgency existed for individuals to retire when reaching the age of 65 or even sooner. However, this is not so common anymore because many people are living longer than they did previously – while also enjoying a better quality of health in general. This means that many employees can now easily stop working when reaching the age of 70 or more and still be able to enjoy a decade or two of leisure time.

They want to Remain Active

More individuals than ever are realizing that there are a number of benefits associated with remaining physically and mentally active. For example, several studies have revealed that regular mental stimulation can delay or even prevent the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s. This means that anyone working in fields where cognitive thinking skills are needed will significantly reduce their risk of developing conditions such as these. 

Exercising the body regularly has many benefits as well, such as reducing the chances of developing conditions like arthritis, heart disease and obesity.

Retirement Accounts have been Lost

Delaying retirement is often an extreme necessity for some individuals. For instance, when markets crashed and the housing crisis occurred a few years ago, several people saw their life savings and/or retirement accounts dwindle away to virtually nothing. Although many of these employees have been working hard since then, chances are that they won’t have enough money to retire unless they are willing to work a few extra years.

Healthcare Benefits are Essential

Senior citizens who are still in good health are often dismayed to discover that their Medicare benefits will not be able to cover all of their health-related expenses. As such, those who require these benefits might have to work a few extra years so that they can make use of the health savings accounts and/or medical plans being provided by their employers. This is especially true in cases where specific medications that require high Medicare co-payments are concerned.

If you think that you may not have enough money to retire or you’d like to learn more about making better investment-related choices, contact our team for assistance today. 

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retirement decluttering

Items you should De-clutter after Retiring

Although most individuals see downsizing as a highly undesirable chore, the truth is that you could find this to be an emotionally and spiritually freeing process – especially if you have recently left the workforce. Having fewer possessions to keep track of will allow you to focus more energy on aspects that are important to you, such as spending more time with family, traveling or even having the ability to move into a smaller home.

Below are some examples of items that can do with being de-cluttered:

Sentimental items

Items such as old greeting cards, ornaments, photos, trophies and any other similar items fall into this category. Although you should hold on to items that are really special to you for any reason, you may not be able to take all of it along with you if you’re moving to a smaller home or retirement facility. 

Consider choosing a few of your most treasured items that mean the most to you and find out if other family members or close friends would be keen to take any of the others over from you. A great way to be able to remember the items you’re parting with is to take pictures of them that can be kept forever.

Old Paperwork

Most individuals are guilty of holding on to far more paperwork than they are required to. Once paperwork is older than seven years, it should be discarded responsibly – shredding these documents is usually a good idea. If there are sentimental items such as old report cards or certificates of achievement, these can also be photographed before discarding them.

Large Items

Large appliances, oversized furniture items and that unused exercise bicycle that has been used to hold everything except an exercising individual over the years should all be downsized at this time. The same can be done with those boxes of items you’ve had in your storage unit or garage and haven’t opened in the past few years – chances are that you’ll never need the items in them again anyway. 

This can also be the ideal time to downsize your household to one vehicle – you’ll then only have to cover the servicing, maintenance and insurance costs of a single vehicle instead of multiple units.

Books

Books take up a lot of space, are quite heavy to move and in many cases have digital alternatives available these days. If you’ve been collecting a lot of books over the years and won’t have the space to take them all with you to your new home, you’ll need to consider selling them or donating them to various charities or schools. 

The only exception you should make is if you have any autographed books. If you enjoy reading, consider joining your local library – they have thousands of books that can not only be borrowed for free – you won’t have to worry about storing them either. 

While de-cluttering your physical possessions is an important part of the downsizing process, don’t forget about de-cluttering your debt as well (if you have any). The fewer expenses you have to cover in retirement, the less you’ll have to stretch your available finances to survive. 

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safe investments

Safe Investment Options to Fund Retirement

Your retirement years are supposed to be the time of your life when you can relax a little and engage in the hobbies and interests you never had much time for while you were working. However, this will only be possible if you have saved enough money to live on well in advance.

While there are no absolute guarantees with any type of investment, the options discussed here tend to be among the safest choices – meaning that you’ll be able to make the most of this time of your life without worrying about finances.

Savings Accounts and/or CDs

When interest rates are attractive, these two options can be an excellent way for you to start investing money safely for your retirement. However, you’ll need to keep in mind that you won’t be able to rely solely on the interest from these two sources because they tend to attract rates of between 2% and 3% at most. This means that for every $100,000 that has been invested, you’ll only earn between $2,000 and $3,000 per year – and there are broker fees to consider as well.

Bonds

When you buy bonds, it means that someone else owes you a sum of money and they will be paying you interest on it. 

When these investment tools are used alongside a well-diversified portfolio, safer options such as government or federal bonds and those issued by other reputable corporations can enable you to earn a decent amount of income once you’ve retired.

Immediate Fixed Annuities

If a little more predictability is what you’re looking for with regards to investing, consider the option of an immediate fixed annuity. 

Immediate fixed annuities involve having a contract drawn up at the time of purchase that will guarantee you of a specific amount of income over a predetermined amount of time. In most cases, you will also start receiving an income from these annuities virtually immediately or from one month after they have been purchased. You’ll receive monthly payments with this form of investment. 

Age is a Crucial Factor to Consider

When you’re searching for some of the safer investment options for retirement, you’ll need to take your current age into consideration. If you’re in your mid to late 40s or older, it’s strongly recommended that you focus mainly on investments that are lower risk because you may not have enough time to recoup losses if they occur. If you’re still young, say in your 20s or 30s, you still have a little time on your side to take a few bigger risks on the stock market. 

Some other reliable forms of income you can use to supplement retirement income include rental payments from property you may own, home equity and real estate investment trusts (REITS). If you’re not sure where to start with regards to ensuring that you’ll have enough money to live on during your retirement, get in contact with our team today. We look forward to assisting you. 

 

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double savings efforts

Is it Possible to Double your Savings Efforts?

Regardless of whether you’re building an emergency fund, paying for your child’s college tuition or trying to save for that much needed vacation trip, putting funds into dedicated accounts can be quite challenging at times. Many individuals have stated that they simply cannot seem to save enough money, no matter how hard they try. However, the tips below could help you to double the amount of money you’re currently saving.

  1. Give up One Luxury Item or Service

These days, most individuals have at least a few luxury items or services that they think they cannot do without such as a daily coffee or a meal out with the family each week. Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with the occasional treat, it’s crucial to keep in mind that even the smallest amounts of money that are spent in this way will add up over time. 

For instance, a $40 fast food meal once a week will add up to around $160 per month, or a whopping $1,920 over the course of a year. Putting an amount of money like this into an emergency savings account or an IRA will yield extremely positive results over time. It’s not necessary to give up all of life’s little extras – after all, what would life be without the occasional treat? However, sacrificing one thing can make the world of difference to your finances.

  1. Take Advantage of your Company’s 401(k) Benefit

If you’re fortunate enough to work for a company that offers a 401(k) benefit and you don’t take advantage of it, you will be missing out on a tremendous amount of money over time. 

Your employer will usually provide you with a matching contribution up to a predetermined amount, so you should ideally be contributing the same amount from each of your paychecks. This is by far the easiest way to double the amount of funds that you’re currently saving and another benefit to this form of saving is that these funds are deducted from your earnings before taxes – saving you even more over the long term. 

  1. Don’t Put All your Eggs in One Basket

Although there’s nothing wrong with being more on the conservative side when investing your hard earned cash, you should ensure that your funds are invested in a number of different ways – diversification is essential if you’d like to see your investments grow as much as possible. 

When diversification is approached correctly with a knowledgeable financial advisor, it provides your funds with the opportunity to double, triple or even quadruple over time. A good combination of funds can include your 401(k), a regular IRA and the purchase of shares in companies that are performing well – potential returns on a portfolio like this are virtually limitless. 

Over time, you may also want to think about investing in property to further diversify your portfolio. 

The right time to take a look at your savings and investment portfolio is right now. If you’re unsure of how to get started with making the right investment choices, contact our team for assistance today.

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