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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Managing Depression After Retirement

Depression is one of the most prevalent mental health conditions among older adults, and a commonly made mistake in planning for retirement is not thinking about the significant emotional adjustment that takes place during this time. 

Symptoms of depression can include disturbed sleep, general sadness and a loss of interest in activities that a person used to enjoy, and these can last anywhere from weeks to a number of years – depending on whether satisfaction of life is eventually achieved or not and if an affected person has decided to seek treatment.

If you’ve been feeling depressed after stopping work and you’re unsure why, there are a few steps you can take to help address and alleviate it:

Determine why you’re Feeling Down

Several aspects can cause you to feel depressed after retirement. For example, you may think that you no longer have a sense of purpose because you’re no longer going to work each day. Alternatively, you may not be spending as much time with family and friends as you’d initially anticipated – causing you to second-guess your decision to retire. 

Spend time thinking about what could be causing you to feel depressed – it could be one or more aspects. If you’re struggling to determine the cause, consider journaling daily to track your thoughts. This will allow you to look for potential patterns or trends that may recur.

Identify Activities that you Enjoy

Along with devoting time to activities and/or hobbies you enjoy that may have been neglected during your working years, consider engaging in something new from time to time. Some ideas here include:

  • Volunteering with a charity you feel strongly about
  • Enroll in continuing education classes at a local college or even online
  • Join a senior citizen’s recreational group or sports club
  • Take up part-time employment

When deciding which activities to get involved in, consider what you need the most. Do you want to make new friends? Are you keen to feel useful somehow? Would you like to earn a little extra spending money? Would you like to engage in a little of each? The choice is yours.

Connect with Other Retirees who are Struggling to Adjust

If you’re feeling depressed after retiring, remember that you aren’t alone. There may very well be someone else in your existing social circle or network that is also struggling to adjust to the new normal of not going to work every day. 

Connecting with these people will help you support each other while dealing with the emotional and mental challenges you’re facing during your golden years. If you struggle to meet new people face to face, consider searching for retiree support groups online – these can often be just as beneficial as physical groups and activities. 

Figuring out what is most important to you during retirement and eliminating activities that may be causing you to feel depressed will go a long way in helping you to get the most out of this time of your life. Talking with a financial advisor can also help alleviate some of the financial worries you may be experiencing during retirement as well. 

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kids-and-money

Why Kids Should Learn to Save as Early as Possible

Although preparing young people for a secure financial future is crucial, research has indicated that teenagers in the U.S. are woefully uninformed when it comes to saving and investing. If you have children, it may surprise you to know that kids as young as five years old have the ability to start learning about saving and investing their money.

Here are just a few reasons why it’s crucial to teach your kids about saving and investing as early as possible:

Kids are Developmentally Capable of Learning

A number of studies have indicated that most young children are developmentally capable of learning to save money – even if it’s in a physical piggy bank at home to start off with. Teaching them early will not only provide them with a hands-on mindset about saving part of the money they receive; it could also help them acquire a taste for financial planning that will remain with them into adulthood.

It will Teach them about the Value of Money

In today’s society, physical cash is being exchanged less and less – making it more challenging than ever to educate children about spending and saving. As such, it’s imperative for you to include even your youngest child in the household budgeting process because it will help them develop a basic understanding of how money-related transactions work when using debit or credit cards and online banking channels.

They can Learn about Delayed Gratification

Another reason why it’s crucial to teach young children about how money works is that it will help them to understand the concept of delayed gratification – which will go a long way in helping to ensure that they remain free from consumer debt as adults. 

Studies were performed with young children that involved offering them one piece of candy or one toy right away or two pieces of candy and additional toys if they would be willing to wait for a short while. Most of the children involved in the study opted to wait so that they could receive a better return – meaning that they fully understood the concept of not being able to have everything they wanted right away.

Set them Up for a Secure Financial Future

Educating your children about saving from a young age will also help set them up to enjoy a solid financial future – without the need to move back home due to money-related difficulties. Teaching them the concept of ‘spend, save, share’ will not only introduce a healthy attitude to any amounts of money they receive; educating them about sharing or donating to charity will in turn help raise children to become socially aware adults as well. 

One of the best ways to help teach your kids about money is to have them open their own bank account as soon as they start receiving an allowance and/or financial gifts from friends and family. If you would like additional advice regarding financial education for children, get in touch with our team today. 

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financial mistakes

Avoid Making These Financial Mistakes

Managing and controlling your personal finances is no easy task because it involves careful planning, experience and continual learning to reach the point where you finally feel at ease about the direction your financial future is taking. As such, it’s inevitable that you’ll make at least one or two money-related mistakes along the way. 

Below are some common financial mistakes that can be avoided:

Excessive Spending

It has been said that great fortunes are often lost one dollar at a time. It might not seem like a big deal when you splurge on eating out or buying that coffee every morning, but in reality, every penny you spend will add up over time. 

Spending $30 on that restaurant meal once a week will cost almost $1,600 per year, an amount that could make a sizeable dent in an auto loan or mortgage balance over time. Although you may feel that you deserve this weekly splurge, you should only give in to it if you know that it won’t affect your long-term financial goals.

Not Having an Emergency Fund

More than half of working Americans have admitted that they would have to pay for a $400 emergency by using a credit card because they have no savings set aside. This behavior will not only cause debt to accumulate quicker than you realize; over time, that $400 emergency could end up costing you double that amount because of accumulated interest and finance charges. 

It’s recommended to have an emergency fund that can cover a minimum of three months of regular expenses – this will become a literal financial lifesaver over time.

Making Minimum Payments on Credit Cards

Although many individuals think credit cards are helpful and provide them with reward points, the hard truth is that they become dangerous where financial responsibilities are concerned – especially when you only make the minimum required payments on outstanding amounts each month. 

If you have to use a credit card for any reason, ensure that either the full amount is repaid as quickly as possible or that you repay a fair bit more than the minimum required payment. This will reduce the amount of interest that is being charged over time.

Failing to Save for Retirement

Several Americans delay starting retirement funds because they think ‘there’s still lots of time to do this.’ However, this time of your life will arrive before you even realize it.

Starting a retirement fund in your 20s or 30s will not only mean that you’ll need to set aside smaller amounts each month; the power of compounding interest over a few decades will help ensure that your money grows by a sizeable amount – giving you enough to retire on when the time comes. 

It can seem overwhelming to try and compile a budget, establish an emergency fund and save for retirement at the same time. However, taking one step at a time will help you achieve these goals and provide you with the peace of mind you deserve where your financial future is concerned. 

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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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early retirement

Points to Consider before Taking Early Retirement

While some individuals are forced to take early retirement due to job losses, deteriorating health, or unexpected family responsibilities, others may choose to retire early so that they can spend more time engaging in activities that they enjoy such as traveling, volunteering, or spending time with friends and family. Regardless of why you may be considering retiring early, it’s essential to consider the following pros and cons before pulling the plug on your job. 

Pros of Early Retirement

  1. It can be Beneficial for your Health

When you no longer have to rush to work each day, you’ll be able to get the sleep you truly need, spend more time out in the fresh air and sunshine than before and generally enjoy a more relaxed pace of life. 

  1. You’ll have Time to Travel

Having more time on your hands will also mean that you’ll be able to travel more – no more limitations due to only having a few vacation days per year at your corporate job. The earlier you’re able to retire, the more time you’ll have to see as many places as possible before age-related health issues arise. 

  1. You Have the Chance to Embark on a New Career

If you’ve been considering changing careers, doing so sooner rather than later will allow you to stand more chance of being noticed by potential employers. You may even be considering starting your own business, and the earlier you can do this, the more chance you’ll have of making a success of it. Launching your own business at age 55 could provide you with intellectual stimulation for at least another 15 to 20 years.

Cons of Early Retirement

  1. A Smaller Social Security Benefit

The earlier you take Social Security, the smaller your payments will be. For example, if you were born in 1960 or later and you start taking benefits at age 62 (the earliest age you’ll be eligible to do so), you will receive payments that are 30% lower than if you had to wait until age 67. For every year that you don’t take Social Security from age 67 to 70, your payments would be 8% higher each month. 

  1. Retirement Savings will have to Last Longer

If you retire at 50 or 55 and live to age 90, your IRAs and other retirement accounts will need to have sufficient balances in them to support you for 35 to 40 years. However, if you retire at 70 or 75, these funds will only have to last for between 15 and 20 years. 

  1. You’ll have to Foot the Bill for Health Insurance

In many cases, you’ll have to cover the cost of health insurance yourself until you become eligible for Medicare when you turn 65 – and premiums can be double or even triple of what you were paying while working.

Deciding when you should retire is not just a matter of making up your mind and handing your notice into your boss. If you would like to learn more about making the most of retirement, contact us today. 

 

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How much does that Second Job really Pay?

Many families are finding it more and more difficult to make ends meet each day, which has resulted in a number of individuals taking on second (or even third) jobs to ensure that they can keep meeting their monthly obligations. While it can seem like a good idea to have more than one job at a time, there are some aspects to consider beforehand.

 

Increased Mental and Physical Fatigue

Taking on a second job could result in you wearing yourself down mentally, emotionally and physically – far quicker than if you were only working at one job. While it may sometimes be possible to overcome these feelings after a while, it’s essential to evaluate your position every few months to determine whether the additional fatigue is worth what you’re being paid at the second job or not. 

 

Less Focus on your Main JobMain

Another issues you may encounter when taking on a second job is that you won’t be able to give as much focus to your main job as you did before. Over time, this could become problematic, especially if the lack of focus prevents you from being able to perform, as you should.

 

Less Family Time

When taking on a second job, it not only means that you’ll be spending more hours working; you will unfortunately also be spending less valuable time with your family. While this may not seem important initially, young children can often become upset when they aren’t able to spend as much time with a parent as they did previously. 

 

Take Additional Expenses into Consideration

Many individuals only see the initial amount of money they’ll be earning after taking on a second job. However, it’s essential to take additional expenses that will be incurred into consideration. 

For instance, your gas bill will more than likely increase as a result of driving to and from your second job. You may be required to purchase uniform or other items that can only be used while working or even cover the cost of additional meals out while on the job. 

Another expense that many parents forget to take into consideration when looking at taking on an additional job is that of childcare – especially if the second position is going to require night shift hours. Many sitters will charge higher than average rates for taking care of children during evening hours. 

Before agreeing to take on that additional job, it’s essential to calculate how much of your extra earnings will be going towards job-related expenses. If you’re only going to be netting a dollar or two per hour after deductions, it will probably not be worth your while to take the position.

Another point to consider before taking on additional employment is taxes on the earnings from it. As such, it may be a good idea to chat to a professional financial advisor beforehand. They may be able to help you trim your existing budget in such a way that you won’t need to take on additional employment in order to make ends meet. 

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Why it’s Essential to Set Financial Goals

If you want to be financially successful, it’s essential for you to set money-related goals at the beginning of your journey. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to chart your progress along the way and see whether any adjustments may be needed along the way. 

 

Goals Enable you to Set Up a Realistic Financial Plan

Determining what your financial goals are will give you the opportunity to compile a realistic plan to help achieve it. Simply receiving your paycheck and paying recurring bills without realizing where all of your money is going will not allow you to make the most of your finances over time. For instance, if you would like to retire with a balance of $1 million, you’ll need to know how much will have to be saved and/or invested each month and how long you still have to get to that amount.

 

You’ll be Able to Track your Progress

Being able to track your progress will not only allow you to see if you’ll be able to realistically achieve your financial goals; if one of your goals is to eliminate all of your consumer debt within a specified timeframe, seeing the amount of money owing shrink each month will be an excellent motivator over time as well. 

 

Goals Help Keep you Focused

Another reason why it’s essential to set financial goals is that they help keep you focused. In other words, it will make it easier for you to ‘keep your mind on the prize’ so to speak. 

Regardless of whether you’re saving to buy a car, house or even an overseas vacation, it’s a good idea to take pictures of the items you’re saving for and place them in a spot where they can be seen regularly. This has been proven to be one of the best motivators around that will help prevent you from overspending on impulse purchases.

 

Enjoy a Sense of Achievement

Although it may seem like it’s taking forever to achieve some of your larger financial goals, there’s little else that feels as good as that sense of achievement you experience once one has been reached. 

Once you’ve achieved your first financial goal, you’ll be even keener to see how quickly you can reach any others you’ve set. Consider giving yourself a small reward for each goal you achieve – maybe treat yourself to a coffee that you don’t usually purchase, for instance. 

 

Enjoy Peace of Mind

Once you start achieving your financial goals, you’ll be rewarded in another way that you may not even realize initially – being able to enjoy peace of mind in knowing that your financial future will be more secure than it was before. 

If you’re unsure of how to go about setting realistic financial goals, you may need to enlist the help of an experienced financial adviser. They will be able to let you know whether you’ll need to reduce current expenses or increase your income in order to achieve your financial goals. Contact our team today to learn more about planning ahead for a financially secure future. 

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Why it’s Essential to Teach Kids about Finances

It’s no secret that the earlier your kids are taught how to save, spend and invest their money, the better money managers they will become as they grow older. This will enable them to live independently and manage their lives far better over time as well. Here are a few compelling reasons why you need to start teaching your kids about money as soon as possible.

 

It Helps them Develop Good Money Habits

A study undertaken by the University of Cambridge noted that in most cases, a kid’s money habits are solidly formed by the time they reach the age of seven. This means that if you are whipping out the plastic to pay for everything from groceries to clothing to school supplies, your kids will think that it’s OK to make all of their future purchases on credit. However, your kids will notice just as much if you are paying cash or using a debit card for purchases and in most cases, they will follow suit as they become older. 

 

They Learn to Earn their Money

Many parents make the mistake of simply handing out allowances without expecting their kids to do any work in return for the money. This not only creates a sense of entitlement over time; it will not show your kids that that they have to earn any money they receive when they become adults. Instead, it’s recommended that allowances be linked to chores that are over and above those that they perform regularly. 

 

They can Learn about the Dangers of Credit Card Misuse

Once your kids turn 18 years old, companies offering them credit cards will inevitably hound them. If you haven’t taken the time to teach them how to use credit cards responsibly, they could find themselves in financial dire straits within a very short time. 

 

They can get a Head Start on Investing their Money

Kids who are taught about money and how investments work from a young age stand a far better chance of being able to manage their funds, as they grow older. If you are actively investing money into various platforms, there is no reason why you cannot teach them how these can be used to enable their money to work for them over time in the form of compounding interest.

 

They can Practice Setting up a Budget

It’s far better to have your kids learn to budget and make their money mistakes while they’re still living under your roof because financial errors that occur once they’re out on their own will cost them dearly. Providing them with an app such as EveryDollar will not only help teach them to budget even the smallest amounts of money; it will do so in a way that they enjoy – by means of using a phone app.

If you have kids and would like to teach them how to master their finances from a young age, but aren’t sure where to or how to get started, contact us today. Our team will be more than willing to assist you.

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