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May 29, 2023

What to Do If You Can't Pay Your Bills

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What to Do If You Can't Pay Your Bills

May 29, 2023

What to Do If You Can't Pay Your Bills

If you’re having a hard time paying your bills, there are two strategies that might help you find relief.

A financial professional can help you decide which one works best for you, but here’s what we know about each approach…

Contact everyone you owe

You don’t need to worry about getting punished for asking a creditor if they’re willing to negotiate. Even if they say no, you still gain the satisfaction of knowing you tried. Doesn’t it make sense that a landlord would want their tenant to pay more than nothing? Or credit card companies would want some level of payment over none at all? It’s worth giving it a shot!

Write a letter explaining your situation. Detail why you’re not able to make payments, state how much you can pay instead, when you believe you’ll start making regular payments, and list your income and assets. You might be surprised by how effective your request for relief actually could be!

Work with a debt counselor

Debt counselors can feel like a life-saving resource if you’re drowning in debt and unable to manage your finances. They can help you understand your credit report, help you negotiate with creditors, and offer advice on how to pay off your debts.

However, verify that the debt counseling agency you work with is properly qualified to help you. Here’s how…

■ Find your counselor through the Financial Counseling Association of America or the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. ■ Ask what services they provide for free. Be cautious if they charge for workshops or if they immediately recommend a debt management program. ■ Check their standing with the Better Business Bureau.

Finally, check out the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website to learn more. They have educational resources, links to useful services, and even templates for appeal and complaint letters.

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Tips to Combat Burnout

May 24, 2023

Tips to Combat Burnout

Does work have you down? Do you feel so constantly overwhelmed by deadlines or conflict that you’ve started to emotionally withdraw?

Then you might be facing burnout. It’s a condition that results in uncertainty and stress in a work environment or position. All of that pressure can result in excessive cynicism, poor performance, and a lack of energy.

If any of those sound like you or a loved one, read on for some simple tips and strategies that can help combat burnout.

Seek support and help

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by workplace stress, let someone know! Talking to someone about your feelings is always a wise move. Your friends and colleagues may be more likely to respond with trust and support than you anticipate. Consider also meeting with a qualified mental health professional to better understand your burnout and learn healthy coping mechanisms.

Exercise

If you’re physically able, schedule a daily or weekly workout into your regular routine. Why? Because there’s no simpler way to combat burnout than regular exercise. It’s been proven to combat anxiety, alleviate depression, and increase positive emotions.¹

Don’t be too hard on yourself at first—it may be challenging to motivate yourself if you’re combatting intense burnout. But try an exercise routine for a few weeks and then see how you feel. You may be surprised by the difference it makes!

Make a change

What’s something that causes you consistent stress that you can handle differently? If you’re burned out, it’s a serious indication that something must change. Simply “trying harder” or “toughening up” may lead to more frustration and emotional withdrawal.

Be honest with yourself. Are there changes you need to make in your mindset or do you need to seek a new job? What can you do differently when faced with chaos or urgent deadlines? Don’t settle for making the same mistake over and over. Identify a cause of stress, and tackle it from a new angle!

As said earlier, don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you’re facing serious burnout symptoms. These tips may help you combat burnout. But if they aren’t enough, working with a mental health expert may be what you need to recover and find peace of mind.

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¹ “Exercise for Mental Health,” Ashish Sharma, M.D., Vishal Madaan, M.D., and Frederick D. Petty, M.D., Ph.D., Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2006, 3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/#:~:text=Exercise%20improves%20mental%20health%20by,self%2Desteem%20and%20cognitive%20function.&text=Exercise%20has%20also%20been%20found,self%2Desteem%20and%20social%20withdrawal.

How to Find Your Net Worth

May 22, 2023

How to Find Your Net Worth

Usually when we think of net worth we imagine all the holdings of a wealthy tycoon who owns several multi-million dollar businesses.

Net worth is just a balance sheet of a person’s assets and liabilities, not unlike the balance sheets used in business. You also have a net worth, and it’s important to know what it is.

Calculating your net worth is simple. First, you’ll want to tally up all your assets. These would include:

  • Personal property and cars
  • Real estate equity
  • Investments
  • Vested retirement plans
  • Cash or savings
  • Any amounts owed to you
  • Cash value of life insurance policies

Next, you’ll calculate your liabilities (what you owe someone else). These would include:

  • Loans
  • Mortgage balance
  • Credit card balances
  • Unpaid obligations

Your total liabilities subtracted from your total assets equals your net worth.

The number could be positive, or it could be negative. Students, for example, often have a negative net worth because they may have student loans but haven’t had a chance to build any personal assets.

It’s important to realize that net worth isn’t always equal to liquid assets. Your net worth includes non-liquid assets, like the equity in your home.

Measuring your net worth regularly can be a strong motivation when saving for the future—it can mark progress toward a well-reasoned financial goal.

When you’re ready to put together a personalized strategy based on your net worth and (more importantly) your future goals, reach out! We can use your current net worth as a starting point, while keeping focused on the real target: your long-term financial picture.

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2 Strategies to Build Credit When You’re Young

May 17, 2023

2 Strategies to Build Credit When You’re Young

The sooner you establish your credit score, the better positioned you’ll be for financial success.

Why? Because your credit score touches every aspect of your financial life—a high score can help you obtain a lower interest rate on mortgages and car loans, insurance payments, and even your rent!¹ That can help free up more cash for building wealth.

So, where do you start?

Apply for a credit card… and then use it responsibly! Credit cards are excellent tools for building your credit history. If you attend a university, you might be able to score a student credit card. However, just remember that credit cards are not free money. The less you use your credit card, the higher your credit score. Choose a few recurring expenses, and limit your credit card usage to those. Then make sure you pay off the balance every month, on time.

Use automatic payments on all your debts. Missing payments on your debt obligations can torpedo your credit score. It’s absolutely critical to pay on time for your credit card bill, student loan payments, and anything else you owe.

Consider automating all of your debt payments. It’s a simple, one-time move that can steadily reduce your balances and help boost your credit score.

As you build your credit history, you’ll be able to apply for credit in larger amounts, and you may even start receiving pre-approved offers. But beware. Having credit available is useful for certain emergencies and for demonstrating responsible use of credit—but you don’t need to apply for every offer you receive!

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What Are The Odds of Winning the Lottery?

What Are The Odds of Winning the Lottery?

Your odds of winning the Powerball are 1 in 292.2 million. For Mega Millions, your odds are 1 in 302.5 million.¹

Translation—you almost certainly will not win the lottery.

You have a greater chance of being killed by lightning (1 in 2 million), having a fatal encounter with a venomous plant or animal (1 in 3.4 million), or being crushed by a falling plane (1 in 10 million).²

The worst part? Playing more doesn’t improve your chances of winning. The probability of drawing the lucky numbers resets every time you buy a scratch-off or choose your “lucky number.” You’re throwing money at a tiny moving target that you’re almost guaranteed to miss.

If you do like to purchase lottery tickets for entertainment—try to keep it to just that. Make sure you budget in ticket purchases with other fun-related activities, and if you do reap some winnings, make sure you have a strategy for saving a portion towards your financial goals.

Buying lottery tickets is generally an unproductive activity. If left unchecked, it can turn into a money blackhole that will almost certainly never pay off. You work too hard for your paycheck to waste it on what amounts to impossible odds.

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¹ “What Are the Odds of Winning the Lottery?,” Kimberly Amadeo, The Balance, Nov 4, 2020, https://www.thebalance.com/what-are-the-odds-of-winning-the-lottery-3306232

² “The Lottery: Is It Ever Worth Playing?,” Investopedia, Jan 29, 2021, https://www.investopedia.com/managing-wealth/worth-playing-lottery/

Spend Less or Earn More?

Spend Less or Earn More?

What’s the most effective way to meet your financial goals—increasing your income or cutting your spending?

The answer? It depends on your situation. While both strategies can be useful, they’re not interchangeable. Read on to discover the advantages and limitations of each approach… and which one may be right for you.

Spending less: An immediate solution with a fixed floor.

There’s no doubt that cutting expenses is the fastest way to move closer to your financial goals. Canceling a streaming service, clipping digital coupons on your phone, and carpooling are simple lifestyle adjustments that take only seconds or minutes to accomplish.

But stricter budgeting can only go so far. Moving back in with your parents, walking to work, and never having fun again may still not be enough. There’s only so much you can cut before you seriously decrease your quality of life!

Earning more: High effort, massive potential.

On the surface, increasing your income can seem like a daunting task. Developing your skills, working an extra job and starting a side hustle or business can be labor and time intensive. Furthermore, some of those investments may not pay off immediately—a business or side gig may not generate significant income for weeks, months, or even years!

But those investments also have massive payoff potential. Once you’ve mastered a skill, your earning power is only limited by the market demand for your abilities and your time. And as you grow more and more competent, your potential to earn only increases.

The takeaway?

Spending less is a quick and simple move towards your financial goals. But, over the long-term, earning more has far more potential to create the wealth you desire. If you need to quickly increase your cash flow, create a budget and reduce your excess spending. But when your financial situation stabilizes, take inventory of your skills. You might be surprised by how many money earning talents you have, if you take the time to cultivate them!

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3 Things to Remember When Asking for a Raise

May 8, 2023

3 Things to Remember When Asking for a Raise

Are you ready to earn more money?

Don’t let fear of asking for more hold you back! Here are 3 simple things to remember when asking for a raise that can elevate your pitch and improve your odds of success.

Be straightforward

Don’t beat around the bush—tell your boss that you think you deserve a higher salary! Higher-ups won’t be blindsided or angered by the request, so long as you frame it respectfully and you don’t ask for an outrageous income boost.

Demonstrate your value

There are two ways to demonstrate your value to your employer. The first is simple—point out the great work you’ve done over the past year. What projects have you crushed, when have you shown initiative, and how have your skills grown? Make a list of your accomplishments and be prepared to share them with your boss.

The second is to research your position. What are other workers in your role and industry earning? Even better, what do they earn in your city and at your experience level? That’s the ballpark raise you should ask for, if it’s applicable.

Ask at a strategic time

Did your manager wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning? Probably today is not a good day to ask for a raise in that case. But are you both celebrating a significant professional win? You might have better luck!

It’s not about just timing your request with your boss’s mood. Consider asking either during your annual performance review or while your company is making financial plans for the upcoming year. Your higher-ups might be more inclined to reward your work if they observe your accomplishments laid out logically or see that they have cash available in the new year.

Don’t get discouraged if you hear a ‘no.’ If they give you performance related reasons, take note and implement their suggestions. Your company may simply not have enough cash on hand currently to give you anything more. Continue to deliver results, and ask again later!

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How to Save for Large Purchases

May 3, 2023

How to Save for Large Purchases

So you’re saving for retirement. Good for you!

You’re further in the game than a lot of people. But retirement’s probably not your only financial priority that requires saving for. Buying a house, raising children, buying cars for your children, and paying for college for your children are just a few expenses you can expect along the way. Preparing for those purchases now can protect your finances from getting blindsided when the time comes. Here are a few steps you can take to start preparing for substantial purchases today.

Write down upcoming expenses and purchases

Make a timeline of all your major, non-regular expenses. Determine how much they could cost, and then rank them in terms of urgency and importance. If it’s urgent and important–like saving for the delivery of a newborn–address it as soon as possible. If it’s important, but less urgent–like toddler-proofing your home–schedule it for later.

Budget out how much you’ll need and start saving

Once you have your priorities straightened out, figure out how much you’ll need to have saved and how much time you have available. Then, set up automatic deposits that put aside money for your savings goals.

Seek higher interest rates

Saving for your purchases in accounts with higher interest rates can give your money the extra juice you need to crush your goals. That may mean opening a high interest savings account with an online bank. But for some items, you might be able to find accounts specifically designed to help you. Meet with a licensed and qualified financial professional and see what options you have available!

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How to Reduce Debt with Limited Income

May 1, 2023

How to Reduce Debt with Limited Income

Is your income holding you back from paying down debt?

It may feel like necessities such as housing, groceries, and transportation are consuming your cash flow. So how can you pay down debt if you feel like you’re struggling to put food on the table?

Reducing debt with a limited income is certainly a challenge. But if you know the right strategies, it’s an obstacle that you can work to overcome. Read on for tips that can help you pay down debt, regardless of how much you earn.

Budget debt payments first

The next time you sit down to budget, start by allocating money for reducing your debt. It should be your number one priority. Then, budget for essential living expenses like housing, utilities, and groceries. If you need more cash flow, cut down on non-essential spending like dining out and purchasing new clothes.

Start a side gig

If cutting expenses alone doesn’t free up enough cash, explore ways to make more money. That doesn’t always mean starting a second job—after all, this is the golden age of side gigs! Here are just a few hustle ideas for your consideration…

■ Resell books, clothes, and shoes you might pick up from the thrift store on eBay ■ Rideshare or deliver groceries and food ■ House sit, baby sit, or pet sit for friends and neighbors

Ultimately, your ability to earn income is only limited by your creativity in solving problems. What other opportunities are there for you to help others and earn extra income?

Make more than minimum payments

Your debt will linger if you make only minimum payments. That’s because minimum payments are nearly erased by interest. You make a payment, but the interest may put you almost right back where you started.

Instead, choose one debt to eliminate at a time. You should start with the one with the smallest total balance or the highest interest rate. Keep making the minimum payments on your other debts, and target that one debt with the rest of your available financial resources. Once it’s gone, choose the next smallest balance. Rinse and repeat until your debts are gone.

The biggest takeaway is that if you’re working with a limited income, paying off debt has to become your number one financial goal. Devote as much of your budget towards it as possible and increase your earnings if you have to. But it’s well worth the effort—once your debt is gone, you’ll have significantly more income for building real wealth!

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Strategies for Coping With Medical Bills

April 26, 2023

Strategies for Coping With Medical Bills

What’s your strategy for paying medical bills?

It’s a question anyone serious about protecting their finances must answer. Afterall, medical expenses are the number one cause of bankruptcy in the country.¹

But there are resources at your disposal. Read on for some strategies to help you lighten the financial burden of medical bills.

Review your bill for mistakes

Somewhere between 30% to 80% of medical bills contain errors.² Check every bill you receive for any mistakes and report them immediately. You don’t need to pay for medical services you didn’t use!

Negotiate a payment plan

The scary price tag on your medical bill isn’t always final. Hospitals are sometimes willing to negotiate a lower cost if they’re aware of your financial situation. Contact your healthcare provider and inform them if you’ll struggle to pay the sticker price. Then, ask for price alternatives or for a more lenient payment plan.

Avoid using credit cards for medical bills, if possible

Using credit cards to cover medical bills can be a critical blunder. Instead of paying a low interest–or maybe no interest–bill to a hospital, you may end up making high-interest payments to your credit card company.

Whenever possible, use cash to pay for medical expenses. That may mean cutting on vacations, not dining out, and holding off on purchasing new clothes until the bill is settled. (Hint: A great reason to keep an emergency fund is to pay unexpected medical bills.)

If none of these strategies make a dent in your medical expenses, consider reaching out to a professional for help. Hospitals and insurance companies sometimes have case workers who can point you towards programs, organizations, and agencies who may be able to help provide some financial relief.

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¹ “Top 5 Reasons Why People Go Bankrupt,” Mark P. Cussen, Investopedia, Feb 24, 2020, https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0310/top-5-reasons-people-go-bankrupt.aspx

² “Over 20 Woeful Medical Billing Error Statistics,” Matt Moneypenny, Etactics, Oct 20, 2020, https://etactics.com/blog/medical-billing-error-statistics#:~:text=80%25%20of%20all%20medical%20bills%20contain%20errors.&text=Some%20experts%20across%20the%20web,between%2030%25%20and%2040%25.

2 Ways to Save with Digital Coupons

April 24, 2023

2 Ways to Save with Digital Coupons

Did you know there’s a simple way to save money on your everyday shopping?

Digital coupons can reduce your costs at check out and free up cash flow for building wealth. Best of all, they’re nearly effortless to use. Here are two ways to save money with digital coupons!

Download apps for your favorite stores

Most stores allow you to clip coupons directly to your phone. Before your grocery shopping excursion, download your favorite store’s app and look for the coupon or savings section. All you have to do is choose which coupons to clip and then scan your phone when you check out. The savings will automatically be applied to your purchase. It only takes a few seconds and can add up to serious savings over time.

Install a coupon extension on your browser

Saving on your online shopping is even easier. Coupon browser extensions like Honey or Cently search the internet for coupon codes, discounts, and better deals, and then apply them to your purchase. You don’t have to lift a finger—just buy an item like you usually would and let the extension do the rest. Do some research on which extension is best for you, then locate and download it in your browser’s store.

A final word of advice

Don’t let your new-found coupon clipping power go to your head! Coupons can save you money on your regular shopping. But, if you’re not vigilant, they can encourage you to buy–and spend–more than you might otherwise. Instead, apply digital coupons to your normal purchases. You might be surprised how quickly the savings add up!

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How Your House Can Earn You Money

April 19, 2023

How Your House Can Earn You Money

If you’re a homeowner, your house can do more than just consume cash flow–it can generate it as well!

Here’s how…

Rent out a unit, basement, or room of your house at a price that helps offset the cost of your mortgage. It’s really that simple!

Let’s consider an example that demonstrates why this strategy is so effective.

Suppose you’ve saved enough money to put a down payment on your first home. Good for you! You’ve done the legwork, and discovered that your mortgage payment will be around $1,000 per month. You’ll also need cash for property taxes and homeowners insurance, too. Even though you’re glad you’re in a home of your own, you might start wondering if you’ve bought a money pit that will consume your cash flow for the next 15 to 30 years.

But you’ve also bought a potential source of income, if you think a little outside the box.

See, your house has a finished basement that’s begging to be transformed into a rentable space. All told, you could rent it out to a friend and put those funds toward your mortgage.

By simply utilizing space that you already own, you can unlock a revenue stream that can help offset your mortgage payments!

That extra cash flow can cover daily expenses, pay down the house faster, or help you begin saving and investing.

This strategy, called “house hacking”, may not be for everyone–it favors homeowners with duplexes or finished basements. Plus, it requires the homeowner to become a landlord, a role some may not care for.

If you have the space, consider renting out a slice of your home to someone you trust. It’s a simple way to leverage resources you already have to generate the cash flow you may need!

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¹ “Forget coffee and avocado toast — most people blow nearly 40% of their money in the same place,” Lauren Lyons Cole, Business Insider, Apr 26, 2019, https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/how-to-save-more-money-2017-8#:~:text=Housing%20accounts%20for%20about%2037,further%20limiting%20his%20housing%20expenses.

Identify Your Ideal Mentor

April 17, 2023

Identify Your Ideal Mentor

Mentorship is a key to success.

The numbers confirm what we already know. Students who regularly met with a mentor were 52% less likely to skip school and 46% more likely to say no to drugs.¹ At-risk adults with mentorship expressed more interest in pursuing higher education. It makes sense; a mentor can offer a unique perspective on your circumstances and also help you talk through the situations you face. There isn’t a person on the planet who wouldn’t benefit from having a mentor at some stage in their life.

But finding the perfect mentor for you? That’s where the challenge begins.

Building a mentoring relationship with someone can be time consuming work that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Here are three essential indicators to help you identify the right person to be your mentor.

Do you want to be like this person?

There are plenty of high-achieving, high-earning individuals that you probably wouldn’t want in your life. That’s not to say you can’t learn from someone who doesn’t share your values, has totally different interests, and works in a field you find less than stimulating. But a mentor should be a person who you strive to imitate. Ask yourself these questions… Who inspires you to work harder and smarter? Who do you admire for their integrity and kindness? Who do you find yourself emulating and feeling good about it? That’s the person you want as a mentor.

Can you develop a friendship with this person?

Mentorship is NOT just having an older buddy around you can swap jokes with. There must be a real bond of friendship for it to actually work. It’s worth considering what you look for in a friend. Do you seek someone who respects your decisions and opinions? Are you comfortable with appropriate and constructive criticism? Or do you surround yourself just with video game partners and rec league teammates? Nothing wrong with those friends or acquaintances, but a mentor must also have the interpersonal skills and emotional maturity to achieve a deeper level of connection. It’s the only way they’ll be able to speak into your life, challenge you, and help you level up.

Will this person challenge you?

Ultimately, a mentor is someone who pushes you to be better. Someone who fuels your personal growth and accelerates your maturing process. That means they can’t shy away from taking you to task for your failures. But they’ll also celebrate your victories with you and won’t take credit for your accomplishments. They’re not afraid of pointing out your weaknesses, while at the same time giving you tools to overcome them and move on. The right mentor for you realizes that the truth is a powerful tool of change, that encouragement is the best motivator, and that accomplishment is the ultimate reward.

Let’s be clear; there’s nothing wrong with casual, relaxed friends. Not every hangout has to be an intense brainstorming session or motivational seminar. But don’t neglect the relationships that will push and challenge you to grow. Look for the people in your life who inspire you and start a conversation. Ask if they want to grab some coffee and talk about how they do it. Put in the legwork building a real mentorship with someone you want to be like and watch the fruits of that friendship flourish!

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When Education Isn't Worth It

April 12, 2023

When Education Isn't Worth It

After room and board, a degree from a private university costs $46,950 per year.¹

A public university charges less than half that, with an annual price tag of $20,770.² That’s over double what it was in 1980 after adjusting for inflation.³ Why the sharp increase? Part of the answer is that demand has skyrocketed over the past 40 years. An information age requires knowledgeable, highly-skilled workers, and getting a degree is the traditional way of meeting those criteria. Rising demand has occurred alongside a steady decline in state funding for public education. One report found that 79% of tuition increases stemmed from such cuts.⁴

But there’s always been an assumption, despite the ballooning costs of higher education, that attending university would be worth it. Afterall, graduates almost always earn more than their peers.⁵ It’s an investment in a future income, right?

The diminishing returns of a degree

But that old model is simplistic at best. College simply doesn’t pay off for some graduates. Data demonstrates that the lowest earning college grads actually earn less than their highschool educated counterparts. ⁶ They actually lost income by going to university! It makes sense when you do the math. Going into crippling debt to get a speech and drama degree only earns you about $28,300 after graduation. ⁷ And the huge supply of highly-educated workers has put pressure on once prosperous careers. For example, more people graduate from expensive law schools in the United States than there are job openings for attorneys. ⁸ Sure, there’s 6-figure potential there if you can land a job, but you’re competing with dozens of other qualified prospects. It’s easy to see why people have become so cynical about higher education.

Simple solutions?

Overall, there are certainly times when a college degree is not worth the time and treasure. Spending 12 years at a private institution to get a doctorate in an obscure field with low pay and a brutal job market? There are probably more profitable ways to spend your time. But overall, there are numerous degrees that may still pay off; the average Bachelor’s degree is worth around $2.8 million over a lifetime. ⁹ But you must plan strategically. It all comes down to how you reduce the cost of your education and maximize your upside potential post-graduation.

Narrow your search to only include public schools in your state. Do as much research on scholarships and apply for as many as possible. Live with your parents to cut down on room and board costs. Take a gap year of work between your bachelors and masters degree. And do some research on job opportunities in the field before you get a diploma. You might decide that going into debt to become a petroleum engineer is a better investment than signing your life away to the humanities!

If you’re a parent, start planning your child’s higher education today. That will involve choosing the right schools and encouraging them to work hard and love learning. But you must also provide them with a steady financial foundation to pursue their dreams. Helping them get a degree debt-free might empower them to study their passions instead of chasing paychecks to fight off loans. There are financial products on the market designed to help you save for your child’s future, no matter what level of education they decide to pursue. Let’s schedule a time to meet and we can discuss your options in detail!

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¹ Hillary Hoffower, “College is more expensive than it’s ever been, and the 5 reasons why suggest it’s only going to get worse,” Business Insider, JunE 26, 2019, https://www.businessinsider.com/why-is-college-so-expensive-2018-4

² Hoffower, “College is more expensive than it’s ever been,” Business Insider

³ Hoffower, “College is more expensive than it’s ever been,” Business Insider

⁴ Abigail Hess, “The cost of college increased by more than 25% in the last 10 years—here’s why,” CNBC, Dec 13 2019, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/13/cost-of-college-increased-by-more-than-25percent-in-the-last-10-years.html

⁵ Anthony P. Carnevale, Ban Cheah, Andrew R. Hanson, “The Economic Value Of College Majors: Executive Summary,” Georgetown University Center On Education And The Workforce, 2015, https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/Exec-Summary-web-B.pdf

⁶ Emma Kerr, “Is College Worth the Cost?,” U.S. News & World Report, June 17, 2019, https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/2019-06-17/is-college-worth-the-cost

⁷ Alison Doyle, “Average College Graduate Salaries: Expectations vs. Reality,” The Balance, June 6, 2020, https://www.thebalance.com/college-graduate-salaries-expectations-vs-reality-4142305

⁸ “Occupational Outlook Handbook, Lawyers” Bureau Of Labor Statistics, Sept 1, 2020 https://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/lawyers.htm#tab-6

⁹ Anthony P. Carnevale, Stephen J. Rose and Ban Cheah, “The College Payoff: Education, Occupations, Lifetime Earnings” Georgetown University Center On Education And The Workforce, 2011, https://cew.georgetown.edu/cew-reports/the-college-payoff/

What Are The Odds?

What Are The Odds?

Your brain is more powerful than any computer on the planet.

It can store roughly 2.5 million gigabytes of information.¹ Yahoo’s colossal data warehouse can only store 2 million gigabytes.² And your brain does it with the same energy it would take to light a light bulb, not a huge power grid!³ But all that computing firepower still doesn’t help the brain understand one simple concept: probability. Which is unfortunate, because misunderstanding the odds of something happening can seriously impair your decision making, especially when it comes to money and finances. Let’s take a look at the problem of comprehending probability, how it impacts your money, and a simple strategy to counteract it.

We don’t understand probability

It’s a scientific fact that humans struggle to properly understand probabilities. A 2018 meta-analysis from the University of Rensburg found that presenting people with probabilities often results in potentially huge errors of judgment.4 For instance, a woman was wrongfully charged with the murder of her sons because a medical professional testified to the low probability of their dying naturally.

Part of the problem is presentation. The meta-analysis showed that presenting tasks as natural frequencies (i.e., 1 out of 10) instead of percentages (10% chance of something happening) actually increased peoples’ performance in understanding the probability they were presented with. Even then, the leap was only from 4% to 24%. You still have merely a 1 in 4 chance of effectively grasping a probability! So while presentation helps, it doesn’t address the deep-seated mental block people have regarding understanding odds. Humans just seem to overcomplicate, misinterpret, and misconstrue probability.

Probability and Money

But does that really matter if you’re not buying lottery tickets or spending weekends at the races? You might be surprised by how often our inability to understand chance impacts our money decisions. There are countless examples. You want to start saving and investing your money. You’ve figured out that buying when the market is low is the best way to maximize your dollar. You hold back, waiting to time the market for that dip that’s certainly right around the corner. Perhaps you decide to start a business right when the economy is cooking. The DOW’s been climbing for the last three years, so there’s no reason for it to stop now, right? Or maybe you’ve held off on buying life insurance because the odds of your suddenly passing away are one in a million. Those are all instances of risky behaviors that stem from an innate human inability to grasp probabilities.

How a professional can help

But there’s a surprising solution to the probability problem: education. Ask a mathematician to gamble on a coin toss. They’ll choose either heads (or tails) every time. Why? Because they know how probability works and don’t let a few flips throw them off. It’s a 50/50 chance every time the coin is tossed, so why try to game the system? Your personal finances are no different. You need someone on your side who knows the math, knows the economy, and can guide you through a run of bad luck without losing their head. You need a financial professional. They can help you grasp some basics and the strategies that can help protect you from the seeming randomness of finances. Stop rolling the dice. Reach out to a professional today!

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¹ “What is the Memory Capacity of a Human Brain?,” Clinical Neurology Specialists, https://www.cnsnevada.com/what-is-the-memory-capacity-of-a-human-brain/

² “What is the Memory Capacity of a Human Brain?,” Clinical Neurology Specialists, https://www.cnsnevada.com/what-is-the-memory-capacity-of-a-human-brain/

³ “Computation Power: Human Brain vs Supercomputer,” Foglets, 10 Apr, 2019 https://foglets.com/supercomputer-vs-human-brain/#:~:text=The%20amount%20of%20energy%20required,charge%20a%20dim%20light%20bulb.

⁴ “Why don’t we understand statistics? Fixed mindsets may be to blame,” ScienceDaily, Oct 12, 2018, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181012082713.htm

Questions to Ask Before Buying a Home

April 5, 2023

Questions to Ask Before Buying a Home

Buying a home is one of the largest investments many people will ever make.

It’s also among the most complicated and time-consuming transactions. So before you sign on the dotted line, it’s best to ask yourself these key questions:

What are my needs for space?

How much can I afford to spend each month on my mortgage, utilities, and repairs?

Are there pre-existing problems with this property?

How is the neighborhood? Is it safe? Are the schools good? What kind of amenities are nearby (i.e., grocery stores, restaurants, sports)?

How much will I need for closing costs and my down payment?

What’s my strategy for a bidding war?

What are my needs for space?

When you’re buying a home, it’s important to take stock of your needs for space. Do you need a lot of bedrooms for a growing family? A large backyard for barbecues and birthday parties? Or would you be happy with a more modest property that will save on monthly mortgage payments?

Planning ahead will help you stay within your budget and find the right property for your needs. Take time to sort through the options and be vigilant to rule out homes that may seem appealing at first glance, but might not truly serve your family.

If you’re unsure about what you need in a home, consult with a real estate agent who can help figure out the amenities that are best suited for you.

How much can I afford to spend each month?

It’s important to be realistic about how much you can afford to spend each month on your mortgage. A good rule of thumb is that your mortgage payment should not be more than 30% of your monthly income. And remember—just because you’re pre-approved for a certain amount, that doesn’t mean it’s what you can actually afford to spend.

It’s also a good idea to have a budget for other costs associated with homeownership, such as property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, utilities, maintenance, and repairs. It’s impossible to fully estimate these costs in advance. But by planning ahead, you can get an idea of your potential monthly expenses and weigh them against your income.

Are there pre-existing problems with this property?

It’s critical to be aware of any potential problems. This includes checking for any major repairs that may need to be done, as well as researching the surrounding neighborhood. Is this house in a flood plain? How is the foundation? When was the last time the roof was replaced?

It’s a good idea to have a home inspection done before making an offer on a property. This will help you get a better idea of the condition of the property and what repairs need to be made.

If you’re not comfortable with the condition of the property—no matter how beautiful or spacious the house is—it’s best to walk away and find a property that’s a better fit overall.

How is the neighborhood? Is it safe?

Are the schools good? What kind of amenities are nearby? When you’re buying a home, it’s important to take into account the surrounding neighborhood. This includes researching crime rates, checking out traffic patterns, inquiring about the schools, and seeing how close you are to stores or activities that are important to you.

If you have children, it’s critical to research the schools in the area. You’ll want to make sure that there is a high-quality education available. You’ll also want to be aware of any negative reviews about the schools in the area.

How much will I need for closing costs and my down payment?

There are a number of costs that you’ll need to budget for. This includes the down payment, closing costs, and moving expenses.

The downpayment is the amount of money that you pay upfront when you buy a home. It’s usually between 5% and 20% of the purchase price. So if you’re buying a $400,000 home, you’ll need to pay between $20,000 and $80,000 upfront.

Closing costs are the fees that are charged by the bank and the government when you buy a home. These costs can range from 2% to 5% of the purchase price. So in the example above, you would be paying between $8,000 and $20,000 in closing costs.

Moving expenses can range from $500 to $5,000, depending on how much stuff you have and how far you’re moving.

It’s important to budget for these costs ahead of time so that you’re not surprised when you sign the paperwork and are handed the keys.

What’s my strategy for a bidding war?

It’s a problem that’s caught many off guard in the current housing market. That’s why it’s important to have a strategy in place. This includes knowing how much you’re willing to spend and being prepared to make a higher offer than the other buyers.

It’s also important to have your finances in order. This means that you should be pre-approved for a mortgage and have enough money saved up for your down payment.

If you’re not comfortable with the idea of a bidding war, it’s best to walk away and find a property that’s a lower price.

Buying a home is never an easy decision. That’s why these questions should all be considered ahead of time—preferably with your realtor—so they don’t catch you by surprise when buying a house! What other factors can you think of? Let us know what future homeowners might want to consider when purchasing a new home.

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Playing With F.I.R.E.

April 3, 2023

Playing With F.I.R.E.

Financial Independence. Retire Early. Sounds too good to be true, right?

But for many, it’s the dream. And for some, it’s even become a reality.

What is the Financial Independence Retire Early, or “F.I.R.E.” movement? It might be obvious, but it’s a movement of people who are striving to achieve financial independence so that they can retire early. How early? That’s up to each individual, but typically people in the F.I.R.E. movement are looking to retire between their 30s and 50s.

How are they doing it? By saving as much money as possible and living a frugal lifestyle. That might mean driving a used car, living in a modest house, and cooking at home instead of eating out. They scrimp and save wherever they can to save.

So why is the F.I.R.E. movement gaining in popularity? There are a few reasons…

Some people want freedom. They want the freedom to travel, to spend time with their family, and to do whatever they want without having to worry about money.

Others are tired of the rat race. They’re tired of working jobs they don’t love just so they can make money to pay for things they don’t really want. They’d rather be doing something they enjoy and have more control over their own lives.

And finally, people want security. They want the wealth they need to live comfortably and fear-free, and they want it now. They don’t want to wait until they’re 65 or 70 to start enjoying their retirement.

It’s a challenging path. Achieving financial independence and retiring early takes hard work, sacrifice, and planning. You’ll have to face financial challenges like covering health insurance, for one.

So if you’re thinking about joining the F.I.R.E. movement, what are some of the first steps?

1. Assess your finances. Figure out how much money you need to live on each month and how much you need to save to achieve financial independence.

2. Set financial goals. Determine where you want to be financially and create a plan to get there.

3. Make a budget and stick to it. Track your spending and make adjustments as needed so you can save more money.

4. Invest in yourself. Education is key, so invest in books, courses, and other resources that will help you build your wealth.

5. Stay motivated. Follow other F.I.R.E. enthusiasts online, read blogs and articles, and attend meetups to keep yourself inspired on your journey to financial independence.

So are you ready to play with F.I.R.E.?

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Living Benefits vs. Disability Insurance

Living Benefits vs. Disability Insurance

Here’s a pressing question—how would your family make ends meet if your income dried up?

There are only three answers…

  1. My family would have to seriously alter their lifestyle to make ends meet.
  2. Passive income from my business and investments would provide for my family.
  3. Insurance would provide my family with the cash they need.

For many, option 3—insurance—is the most practical solution.

Often, that looks like life insurance. It pays your family a cash sum (called a death benefit) if you pass away. The death benefit can replace your income to help your family process their grief without also facing a financial crisis.

But what if you become disabled and can’t work? If you’re like many who face a disability before age 60, the next phase of your life might be spent recovering. You may be out of the workforce for several years, or even permanently.

That’s where two different types of insurance can come into play—life insurance with living benefits, and disability insurance.

Life insurance with living benefits gives you access to your death benefit while you’re still alive. The living benefits get triggered when a qualifying event occurs, like…

Chronic illness Terminal illness Permanent disability It may be the infusion of cash that you and your family need to help cover medical bills and living expenses.

But there’s a catch—it depletes your death benefit. If you pass away, you may have little to nothing left to leave your family.

Disability insurance works more like traditional car or home insurance. You pay a monthly premium. In return, your insurer will pay you a portion of your income if you become disabled. It’s a simple way to protect your income in the event that you’re no longer able to work.

Both private insurers and government programs provide disability insurance. You can check with your human resources department or a benefits advisor at work to see if they offer the option.

So which strategy is better for you? That depends on your situation. It’s wise to consult with a licensed and qualified financial advisor before making a choice.

But keep in mind, either way—life insurance with living benefits or disability insurance—you’re helping to protect your family financially so that they can carry on, and keep doing the things that matter most to them.

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This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to promote any certain products, plans, or policies that may be available to you. Any examples used in this article are hypothetical. Before enacting a savings or retirement strategy, or purchasing a life insurance policy, seek the advice of a licensed and qualified financial professional, accountant, and/or tax expert to discuss your options.

Is Saving Money on Utilities Worth the Effort?

March 27, 2023

Is Saving Money on Utilities Worth the Effort?

Penny pinchers and smart savers have developed dozens, perhaps hundreds, of ways to save money on their utility bills.

Have you heard of any of these…?

Putting rocks in the toilet tank to save money on water. Cranking down the thermostat in winter and cranking it up in the summer to save on power. Manically unplugging every appliance that’s not in use.

Maybe you knew a family growing up that used all these strategies to make ends meet. Or maybe it was your family!

But is it really a good idea to cut back on utilities?

If you’re backed into a financial corner or new to saving, it’s not a bad place to start. But if you’re working toward financial independence, you likely have greater obstacles to overcome.

Here’s a breakdown of the average American’s annual consumer spending…

Housing: $21,409

Transportation: $9,826

Food: $7,316

Personal insurance and pensions: $7,246

Healthcare: $5,177

Entertainment: $2,912

Cash Contributions: $2,283

Apparel and Services: $1,434

That’s a lot of money flying out the door each year!

Where do utilities fit into the picture? According to Nationwide, families spend an average of $2,060 on utilities each year.

That puts it towards the bottom of the average American’s budget.

Cutting your spending on housing, transportation, or food by one-third would free up more cash flow than reducing your utilities by half.

So before you invest in some space heaters or start lugging rocks into your bathroom, evaluate your overall spending. Are there problem areas where cutting back would create greater results?

If you answer yes, focus your time and attention first on those categories. Find a cheaper apartment or recruit roommates. Carpool with friends. Dine out less.

But if you’ve already budgeted and you still need more cash flow, turning off some lights and using an extra blanket or two at night won’t hurt.

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¹ “How much is the average household utility bill?” Nationwide, https://www.nationwide.com/lc/resources/personal-finance/articles/average-cost-of-utilities

² “Average annual expenditures of all consumer units in the United States in 2020, by type,” Statistia, Dec 9, 2021 https://www.statista.com/statistics/247407/average-annual-consumer-spending-in-the-us-by-type/#:~:text=This%20statistic%20shows%20the%20average,amounted%20to%2061%2C334%20U.S.%20dollars.

Debt is a Big Deal. Here's How to Use It Wisely

March 22, 2023

Debt is a Big Deal. Here's How to Use It Wisely

Debt must be respected. If you don’t take it seriously, it could derail your finances for good.

But while debt is no joke, it’s not necessarily bad. If handled wisely, debt can help you reach financial milestones and provide for your family.

It all starts with understanding the difference between good debt and bad debt.

Good debt is debt that you can afford and that can help you build wealth.

Think of it like this—often, you need to spend money to make money. But what if you don’t have mountains of cash to throw at every opportunity that comes your way?

That’s where good debt can help. It can give you the cash you need to seize opportunities like…

- Starting a business

- Buying a home

- Getting an education

Those can help you boost your income, purchase an appreciating asset, or increase your earning potential. And as long as you’ve done your homework and can afford your payments, good debt can help you leverage those opportunities with no regrets.

Bad debt is the exact opposite—it’s borrowing money to buy assets that lose value. That includes…

- Cars

- Video games

- Clothes

Debt can simply make these items more expensive than they already are. And what do you get in return? Nothing. Just more bills.

So if you find yourself borrowing money to buy things, stop and ask yourself: Am I making an investment? Do I think the value of this purchase will increase? Or am I simply spending because it feels good?

Here’s the takeaway—debt is a powerful tool that can be good or bad. Handle it wisely, and it can help you build businesses, buy homes, and increase your earning potential. Handle it carelessly, and you can cause serious harm to your financial stability. So do your homework, evaluate your opportunities, and meet with a licensed and qualified financial professional to see what good debt would look like for you.

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