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Getting a Degree of Financial Security

June 14, 2021

Getting a Degree of Financial Security

The financial advantage gap between having a college degree and just having a high school diploma is widening!

As of 2019, the average college graduate earned 75% more than the average high school graduate.¹ When you crunch the numbers, it’s actually a more robust investment than stocks or bonds.

This income difference is making saving for retirement difficult for millennials without a college degree. According to the Young Invincibles’ 2017 ‘Financial Health of Young America’ study, millennial college grads – even with roadblocks like student debt – have saved nearly $21,000 for retirement.² That’s quite a lot more as compared to the amount saved by those with a high school diploma only: under $8,000.

However, a college grad may encounter a different type of retirement savings roadblock than a reduced income – student loan debt. But the numbers show that even with student loan debt, the advantages of having a college degree and a solid financial strategy outweigh the retirement saving power of not having a college degree.

Here’s an issue plaguing both groups: more than two-thirds of all millennial workers surveyed do not have a specific retirement plan in place at all.³

Regardless of your level of education or your level of income, you can save for your retirement – and take steps toward your financial independence. Or maybe even finance a college education for yourself or a loved one down the road.

The first step to making the most of what you do have is meeting with a financial advisor who can help put you on the path to a solid financial strategy. Contact me today. Let’s get your money working for you.

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¹ “College grads earn $30,000 a year more than people with just a high school degree,” Anna Bahney, CNN, Jun 6, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/06/success/college-worth-it/index.html

² “Financial Health of Young America: Measuring Generational Declines between Baby Boomers & Millennials,” Tom Allison, Young Invincibles, Jan 2017, http://younginvincibles.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/FHYA-Final2017-1-1.pdf

³ “Retirement Plan Access and Participation Across Generations,” Pew, Feb 15, 2017, http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/issue-briefs/2017/02/retirement-plan-access-and-participation-across-generations

The Better Choice: Federal or Private Loans for College

May 26, 2021

The Better Choice: Federal or Private Loans for College

Education can be one of the best investments you can make in your future.

Those with a bachelor’s degree earn, on average, almost $1 million more over their lifetime than those with just a high school diploma. And a person who gets a master’s degree can earn more money than someone with a bachelor’s degree!¹

But how should you pay for higher education? You may not have enough cash on hand to afford school. That means you’ll need student loans. That begs another question—should you get a federal or a private loan? There are many factors that go into answering this question. Let’s break down some pros and cons for both federal and private loans so you can decide which route is right for you.

Federal loans come straight from Uncle Sam. It all begins with filling out a FAFSA form. This form determines your eligibility for loans, grants, and work-study programs.

Federal student loan rates are typically lower than for private lenders. Federal loans also offer more flexible repayment options—you can make payments as a percentage of income or defer them until after school ends. You may also qualify for relief if you default on your loans. In general, a federal loan can be a good choice for many students, whether they’re pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

But remember, there are potential limitations to how much the federal government will lend you. Private loans may be needed to fill in the gaps. They typically charge higher interest rates and have stricter payment options. But they can sometimes be refinanced for better terms.

So if you need loans to afford your education, opt for federal loans first. Then, use private loans to cover the rest, refinancing as needed.

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¹ “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/

² “Federal Versus Private Loans,” Federal Student Aid, https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/types/loans/federal-vs-private

Why Families Buy Term Life Insurance

May 24, 2021

Why Families Buy Term Life Insurance

Why does term life insurance seem to be so common among your friends and family?

For many, it’s simply the most affordable strategy for securing life insurance. And that means it can provide critical financial protection for many different situations. Here are a few of the most common reasons families choose term life insurance.

The power of term life insurance is that it’s typical affordable. It provides a death benefit for a limited term, typically 20-30 years, which means you can often purchase more protection at a lower price than other types of policies. As long as your protection lasts while you have financial dependents, you’re covered.

But there are more pragmatic reasons why families buy term life insurance. For many, it serves as a source of income replacement. When a breadwinner passes away, the income they provide is gone. That means a family might find themselves with a serious cash flow deficiency in addition to the tragic loss. The death benefit can replace the lost income.

A family might also need to purchase life insurance when they have dependents, such as college-aged kids with high educational expenses. If a family has dependents and no life insurance, the burden of funding higher education falls on the family, who are down an income. With term coverage in place, they have the financial power to help cover those bills with confidence.

Term life insurance can also be invaluable for families with high debt obligations. Because it’s often so affordable, term life insurance may provide significant coverage without diverting financial resources away from getting out of debt. And, if the policyholder passes away before the debt is eliminated, the death benefit can also go towards finishing off loans.

Finally, term life insurance can be used to cover the costs of funeral expenses. Families who don’t have any other form of coverage for these out-of-pocket bills often need extra cash to cover the costs of burial. Term life insurance is a simple way to pay for the funeral the family needs.

In conclusion, term life insurance can be a great way to cover the costs of many big ticket items and expenses at a reasonable cost. Would that be a good fit for your family? Contact me, and we can explore what it would look like for you!

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The Time Value of Money and College

April 14, 2021

The Time Value of Money and College

College is one of the most expensive things that you can spend your money on, but it might not always be a good investment.

College graduates make much more than high school graduates over their lifetimes.¹ Some people think this means going to college is worth the cost because they’ll be able to pay off the loans with their higher salaries after graduation. But as you’ll see in this article, there’s another critical factor you should consider before going off to school.

Which career path will empower you to start saving sooner? The longer your money can accrue compound interest, the more it can grow. Working an extra four years instead of attending school could result in retiring with more. Let’s consider two hypotheticals that illustrate this point…

Let’s say you land a job straight out of high school at age 18 earning $35,000 total annual salary. You’re able to save 15% of your income in an account where the interest is compounded monthly at 9%. Assuming you work until 67, or 49 years, and consistently save the same amount each month over that time period at the same interest rate, you would retire with almost $4 million!

What if instead you attend college and graduate after 4 years? You land a job that pays $60,000 annually and are able to save 15% of your income. If you also retire at 67 after 45 years of work, saving 15% every month, you’ll retire with $4.7 million. That’s almost $700,000 more than the non-graduate!

But what if student loans prevent you from saving for 5 years after graduation? You’d retire with $3 million. In this hypothetical scenario, losing 9 years of saving results in a college graduate actually retiring with less than someone who diligently works and saves right out of high school.

The takeaway isn’t that you shouldn’t attend college. It’s that you should carefully weigh the costs of higher education. Is there a career path you could take right out of high school that would have you saving right away? Will your degree land you deep in debt and behind the 8-ball for building wealth? Or do the benefits of the degree substantially outweigh the costs? Don’t attend a college just because it’s what your peers are doing. Consider your passions, weigh the benefits, and calculate the costs before you make your decision!

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to promote any certain products, plans, or strategies for saving and/or investing that may be available to you. Market performance is based on many factors and cannot be predicted. Any examples used in this article are hypothetical. Before investing, enacting a savings or retirement strategy, or taking on any loans or debt, seek the advice of a licensed and qualified financial professional, accountant, and/or tax expert to discuss your options.

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“The College Payoff,” Georgetown University, https://cew.georgetown.edu/cew-reports/the-college-payoff/

How to Save for Large Purchases

February 10, 2021

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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Handling Debt Efficiently – Until It’s Gone

December 23, 2020

Handling Debt Efficiently – Until It’s Gone

It’s no secret that making purchases on credit cards will result in paying more for those items over time if you’re paying interest charges from month-to-month.

Despite this well-known fact, credit card debt is at an all-time high, rising another 3% this past year. The average American now owes over $6,300 in credit card debt. For households, the number is much higher, at nearly $16,000 per household. Add in an average mortgage of over $200,000, plus nearly $25,000 of non-mortgage debt (car loans, college loans, or other loans) and the molehill really is starting to look like a mountain.

The good news? You have the potential to handle your debt efficiently and deal with a molehill-sized molehill instead of a mountain-sized one.

Focus on the easiest target first.
Some types of debt don’t have an easy solution. While it’s possible to sell your home and find more affordable housing, actually following through with this might not be a great option. Selling your home is a huge decision and one that comes with expenses associated with the sale – it’s possible to lose money. Unless you find yourself with a job loss or similar long-term setback, often the best solution to paying down debt is to go after higher interest debt first. Then examine ways to cut your housing costs last.

Freeze your spending (literally, if it helps).
Due to its higher interest rate, credit card debt is usually the first thing to tackle when you decide to start eliminating debt. Let’s be honest, most of us might not even know where that money goes, but our credit card statement is a monthly reminder that it went somewhere. If credit card balances are a problem in your household, the first step is to cut back on your purchases made with credit, or stop paying with credit altogether. Some people cut up their cards to enforce discipline. Ever heard the recommendation to freeze your cards in a block of ice as a visual reminder of your commitment to quit credit? Another thing to do is to remove your card information from online shopping sites to help ensure you don’t make mindless purchases.

Set payment goals.
Paying the minimum amount on your credit card keeps the credit card company happy for 2 reasons. First, they’re happy that you made a payment on time. Second, they’re happy if you’re only paying the minimum because you might never pay off the balance, so they can keep collecting interest indefinitely. Reducing or stopping your spending with credit was the first step. The second step is to pay more than the minimum so that those balances start going down. Examine your budget to see where there’s room to reduce spending further, which will allow you to make higher payments on your credit cards and other types of debt. In most households, an honest look at the bank statement will reveal at least a few ways you might free up some money each month.

Have a sale. To get a jump-start if money is still tight, you might want to turn some unused household items into cash. Having a community yard sale or selling your items online through eBay or Offerup can turn your dust collectors into cash that you can then use toward reducing your balances.

Transfer balances prudently.
Consider balance transfers for small balances with high interest rates that you think you’ll be able to pay off quickly. Transferring that balance to a lower interest or no interest card can save on interest costs, freeing up more money to pay down the balances. The interest rates on balance transfers don’t stay low forever, however – typically for a year or less – so it’s important to make sure you can pay transferred balances off quickly. Also, check if there’s a balance transfer fee. Depending on the fee, moving those funds might not make sense.

Don’t punish yourself.
Getting serious about paying down debt may seem to require draconian measures. But there likely isn’t a need to just stay home eating tuna fish sandwiches with all the lights turned off. Often, all that’s required is an adjustment of old spending habits. If your drive home takes you past a mall where it would be too tempting to “just pick a little something up”, take a different route home. But it’s important to have a small treat occasionally as well. If you’re making progress on your debt, you deserve to reward yourself sometimes. All within your budget, of course!

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When Education Isn't Worth It

October 19, 2020

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 <br> 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? <br> 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/

Who Needs Life Insurance?

September 23, 2020

Who Needs Life Insurance?

Life insurance is important… or so you’ve been told.

But do you really need it? And how can you know? Let’s take a look at who does and doesn’t need the family and legacy protecting power of life insurance and some specific examples of both.

Protecting your dependants <br> Is there anyone in your life who would suffer financially if your income were to vanish? If so, then you have dependents. And anyone with financial dependents should buy life insurance. Those are the people you’re aiming to protect with a life insurance policy.

On the other hand, if you live alone, aren’t helping anyone pay bills, and no one relies on you financially to pursue their dreams, then you still might need coverage. Let’s look at some specific examples below.

Young singles <br> Let’s say you’ve just graduated from college, you’ve started your first job, and you’re living in a new city. Your parents don’t need you to help support them, and you’re on your own financially. Should you get life insurance? If you have serious amounts of student or credit card debt that would get moved to your parents in the event of your passing, then it’s a consideration. You also might think about if you have saved enough in emergency funds to cover potential funeral expenses. Now would also potentially be a better time to buy a policy early while rates are low, especially if you’re considering starting a family in the near future.

Married without children <br> What if your family is just you and your spouse? Do either of you need life insurance? Remember, your goal is to protect the people who depend on your income. You and your spouse have built a life together that’s probably supported by both of your incomes. A life insurance policy could protect your loved one’s lifestyle if something were to happen to you. It would also help them meet lingering financial obligations like car payments, credit card debt, and a mortgage, even if they still have their income.

Single or married parents <br> Anyone with children must consider life insurance. No one relies on your income quite like your kids. It’s what clothes them and feeds them. Later on, it can empower them to pursue their educational dreams. Life insurance can help give you peace of mind that all of those needs will be protected. Even a stay-at-home parent should consider a policy. They often provide for needs like childcare and education that would be costly to replace. Life insurance is an essential line of defense for your family’s dreams and lifestyle.

Business owners <br> No one wants to think about what would happen to their business without them. But entrepreneurs and small business owners can use life insurance to protect their hard work. A policy can help protect your family if you took out loans to start your business and are still paying down debt. More importantly, it can help offset the losses if your family can’t operate the business without you and has to sell in poor market conditions.

Not everyone needs life insurance right now. But it’s a vital line of defense for the people you care about most and should be on everyone’s radar. The need might not be as urgent for a young, debt-free single person, but it’s still worth it to start making plans to protect your future family. Contact a financial professional today to begin the process of preparing!

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Life Insurance Crash Course

September 2, 2020

Life Insurance Crash Course

Does life insurance intimidate or confuse you? You’re not alone.

A recent study found that 65% believed life insurance was too expensive for them, and another 52% didn’t know how much or what kind they needed. 42% of respondents didn’t have life insurance because they didn’t like thinking about passing away!(1)

But life insurance doesn’t have to be mentally or emotionally overwhelming.

That’s why we’ve created this beginner’s guide to life insurance. We’ll give you a simple explanation of life insurance, define the purpose of life insurance, and see who needs it most!

What is life insurance? <br> Life insurance is typically a contract between you and an insurer where the insurer promises to pay an agreed upon amount to your beneficiary(s) when you pass away. The contract itself is called a policy, making you the policy holder. The money your beneficiary receives (depending on the type of policy you have) is called a death benefit. The monthly or yearly payment you give to the insurer in exchange for the insurance is called a premium. In short, you pay an insurer a little bit each month in exchange for a payout to your loved ones in the case of your passing (or because of other circumstances stipulated in the policy).

What is it for? <br> Life insurance can’t replace your presence for your family and loved ones. But it can replace your income. There might be people who depend on your income to make ends meet or to achieve their dreams, like a spouse or college-aged child. Life insurance can offer them the financial resources to maintain their lifestyles. It also provides them some time to grieve and plan their future.

Who needs it? <br> As a rule of thumb, it is recommended that people with dependents have some form of life insurance. Typically that means people with families that rely on their income to pay bills or with aging parents that need financial support. But there are some surprising ways that loved ones in your life might depend on you. Keep an eye out for a blog post with more details on who needs life insurance later this month!

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Life insurance, at its core, can be straightforward and simple. It’s one of the most important layers of financial protection you can provide for your family to help replace your income and give your loved ones some peace of mind. Next week we’ll take a closer look at the different types of life insurance and how much coverage is enough for you!

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Good Debt?

August 24, 2020

Good Debt?

Debt is often seen as something you don’t want.

Monthly payments can be a huge drain on your bank account and can seriously lower your saving and investing power. That’s why eliminating debt is often an early step in most financial strategies.

But does good debt exist?

Are there situations where it’s acceptable or even wise to borrow money? Let’s explore what makes debt “good” or “bad” and some examples of both!

What makes debt good? <br> Not many would argue that living within your means isn’t good. But there are opportunities that you might not be able to afford with your basic income. It turns out that it sometimes takes money to make money! Taking out a loan to pursue those opportunities might be considered good debt. Sure, you might be in the hole for a little while, but you’re hoping you’ll increase your income and net worth further down the line.

Good debt <br> Most of us simply can’t afford a house or college education with money from our checking account, so we have to borrow those funds. But we’re expecting that those investments will pay off. Higher education paid for with student loans will hopefully equip you to land a better paying job that will help you pay down your debt and make you more money long-term. A wise real estate investment might be pricey, but you hope that your property will increase in value and you can make a profit when you sell. Taking out a loan to launch your entrepreneurial dreams is considered an example of good debt. Starting a business, while risky and expensive, can increase your value over the long-term. You’re taking the calculated risk that your long-haul earnings will heavily outweigh your short-term debts.

Bad debt <br> It’s important to remember that bad debt still exists. Most of what we buy loses value very quickly. Try reselling lunch meat a few days after you buy it to see what I mean! Cars depreciate by about 60% in the first 5 years of ownership.(1) And while it might be worth going into some debt to get a reliable vehicle, you shouldn’t typically treat a car purchase as an investment.

It’s also worth considering that even what appears to be good debt might come back to bite you. Neighborhoods and real estate markets change, and a once solid property might end up losing value over the long haul. And while a better education is usually a good thing, going into huge amounts of debt at a private school to study a non-lucrative field might not pay off.

Debt should never be taken lightly. Whether it’s a credit card, a personal loan, or a mortgage, make sure you do your homework to figure out the best move for you. Some of those decisions might be easy (not buying a high-end sports car) but others might take some serious consideration and research (starting a business). Figure out the costs and the earning potential and then make your decision!

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  1. https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/insurance/car-insurance-basics/car-depreciation/#:~:text=Your%20car’s%20value%20decreases%20around,more%20of%20their%20initial%20value.

What Are We Spending Money On?

July 22, 2020

What Are We Spending Money On?

We spend a lot of money.

All things told, we spend about $101 per day, whether we feel it directly or not.(1) That comes out to roughly $36,764 per year. Over half of all Americans spend more than what they earn.(2) The bulk of that goes to important categories like shelter and utilities.(3) But it doesn’t take much digging to find some less important spending patterns. Here’s a quick look at what we’re spending (i.e., wasting) our money on!

Food <br> How can you waste money on food? It’s essential to survival and health!

But it turns out that throwing away cash on food is really easy. Americans spend an average of $209 per month on just eating at restaurants, which comes to a total of $2,508 yearly. Add in the cost of drinks and you’re at $4,776!(4) But that’s just eating when you’re out. Another huge issue is chronically overbuying food to consume at home. We throw out around $1,600 of food per family every year.(5)

That brings us to a grand total of $6,376 dollars spent each year on restaurants, drinks, and wasted food. And that’s not including categories like takeout!

Shopping <br> We’re notorious shoppers. We spend around $108 on approximately five impulse purchases per month. Online shopping is a substantial category as well, with our digital purchases costing us around $84 monthly. Interestingly, we spend nearly $94 per month on subscription boxes. That adds up to $3,432 on non-essential shopping annually.

Personal care <br> Everyone wants to look, smell, and feel attractive. And it turns out that most people are willing to pay a king’s ransom on their appearance. Personal grooming comes out to $94.25 monthly. Gym memberships (which often go unused) cost the average American $72.53 per month. All told, we spend around $2,000 annually on looking good.

Cable and streaming <br> Another big category of spending is entertainment and apps. The biggest culprit here is—surprisingly—cable. On average, we shell out $90 per month for unlimited access to reality shows and documentaries, many of which are now available online. Throw in spending on movie streaming ($23.09), music streaming ($22.41), and other paid apps ($23.24), and our overall spending on digital entertainment is around $1,904.88 per year!

Tallying these four categories, we see that Americans are spending about $13,712.88 annually on non-essential items. That’s a staggering amount of money! It’s enough for a full year of college, including tuition and books.(6)

Non-essential spending does have its place—it can actually be very important to your quality of life and overall well being. But you might be surprised by how much of your financial power is getting wasted on things that are truly unnecessary or have cheaper alternatives.

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What Are Foreign Transaction Fees?

What Are Foreign Transaction Fees?

Travelling abroad can be expensive.

Tours, hotels, gourmet food (unless you’re in England), and plane tickets can add up quickly. But a three percent charge for buying something in a foreign country? That can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It’s called a foreign transaction fee, and it’s an easy way for credit card companies to make an extra dime off your out-of-country adventures.

What’s a foreign transaction fee? <br> A foreign transaction fee is a charge that your credit card issuer tacks on when a transaction goes through a foreign bank or involves a currency that needs to be converted. Charges vary between providers, but normally the fee is around 3% of the transaction total.

It doesn’t seem like much. A burger in Germany might go from $3.50 to $3.60 if your provider charges a 3% foreign transaction fee. But it can start to add up over extended vacations or study abroad programs, especially if you’re on a college student’s budget!

Can you avoid foreign transaction fees? <br> Fortunately, it’s getting easier to dodge foreign transaction fees. Some companies have totally eliminated the fees from their cards. Others have cut back on the number of cards that carry the fees. But the trend definitely seems to be that foreign transaction fees are on the way out.

Overall, a 3% charge while you’re abroad isn’t the end of the world. But if you’re planning a budget backpacking trip or trying to make ends meet as an exchange student, it’s probably worth looking into a card that won’t charge you extra!

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Student Loans: avoid them or use them the smart way?

Student Loans: avoid them or use them the smart way?

Going to college can be a great way to invest in your future and get the training and education you need to thrive in the modern job market.

But we’ve all heard the horror stories of students saddled with thousands in loans that they struggle to pay back, sometimes for years. Student loan debt is often the most pressing financial issue for college students and recent grads.

So how do you take advantage of the benefits of a college education without burdening your future with years of debt? Here are some tips to help you avoid high student loan payments and pay your student debt off more quickly after graduation.

Work through school <br> The days of working a minimum wage job to put yourself through school seem to be over. However, working enough to cover at least some of your books and living expenses may make a huge dent in the amount of money you’ll have to borrow to graduate.

Work-study programs on campus are often good options, as they are willing to work around your class schedules. Off-campus part-time jobs can be a good option as well, and may offer better pay.

Live as cheaply as possible <br> Everyone knows the cliché of the broke college student existing on nothing but ramen noodles. While not many people would recommend trying to live on nutritionless soup every day, you should be able to find ways to cut your cost of living to reduce the amount of money you need to borrow to sustain your lifestyle.

Try living off campus with family or roommates and packing sandwiches instead of paying expensive meal tickets and dorm fees. Bike, walk, or take public transportation to avoid parking. Take advantage of free on-campus healthcare, counseling, free food events, free entertainment, and more so you can spend as little as possible on living campus life.

It’s okay to go out and have fun sometimes, but don’t borrow from your future in order to live beyond your means now.

Try to avoid unsubsidized loans <br> Subsidized loans are offered by the Department of Education at lower interest than many private bank loans, and they do not begin accruing interest until after you graduate. Take advantage of these loans first and try to avoid the unsubsidized private loans which begin accruing interest immediately and often have a higher rate. (1)

Be mindful of your future payments <br> It can be tempting to expect that you’ll have a great job earning plenty of money and time to pay back the student loans you’ve accumulated. But each time you take out a loan, you make your future payments higher and your payback time longer. Be sure to look at the numbers of how much your payment will be every time you up your loan amounts. Can you realistically envision yourself being able to pay that amount every month in just a few years? If not, it may be time to rethink the student loans you’re racking up, and possibly even reconsider your degree or career plan.

Go to trade school, earn an apprenticeship, or work in your chosen field before you commit to a college degree in that field <br> It’s not a popular topic with many high school guidance counselors, but learning a trade and finding a well-paying job without a degree is not only possible but a great option. Try finding an internship or trade school where you could get training for much less money than a university.

Consider community colleges and state schools <br> It’s a common misconception that private, ivy league, “big name” colleges are far superior to state schools and automatically the better option. However, state schools can often have great programs for far less money. Also, if you choose a local school, you can live close to your family support system while working through college. It’s possible to have a very successful career with a college degree from a state school, and be more financially stable in your future than someone struggling to pay off loans from an expensive private college.

Likewise, an associate’s degree from a community college can save money toward your bachelor’s degree, allowing you to pay far less than you would even to a state school. Just make sure your degree and credits will transfer to the university of your choice.

Find a graduate program that pays YOU <br> If you choose to pursue a Masters or Doctorate degree, try to find a program with a teaching assistant position, fellowship, or some other option for getting reduced tuition or getting paid to get the work experience you need.

Resist the urge to move up in lifestyle when you graduate <br> When you scrimp your way through school, it’s tempting when you get your first degree-related job to celebrate by loosening the reins on your frugal ways and start living it up as a young professional.

It’s great to reward yourself, and you need to adapt to your new financial situation (you may need a new wardrobe or a better car), but resist going too crazy with all the “extra” money a new job in your field can make you feel like you have. You should still live on a budget and manage your money carefully to pay off your student loans as soon as possible so you’re better prepared to move into the next phase of life unencumbered by a mountain of debt. Make paying back debt a priority, and pay extra when you’re able.

Education can be expensive and in some cases impossible to get without loans. But with frugality and an eye toward the future, you’ll be better prepared to get the education you need to succeed in life without being encumbered by debt for years. The high cost of education combined with the high cost of living can make a college education more of a financial burden for today’s students than ever before. By thinking outside the box and carefully prioritizing your educational goals—balanced with your finances—you can pursue your dream degree and have a better chance at a stable financial future.

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Headed in the Right Direction: Managing Debt for Millennials

Headed in the Right Direction: Managing Debt for Millennials

Three simple words can strike fear into the heart of any Millennial:

Student.

Loan.

Debt.

The anxiety is not surprising: In 2015, 7 out of 10 college graduates had $30,100 in student debt.

$30 grand? For that you could travel the world. Put a down payment on a house. Buy a car. Even start a new business! But instead of having the freedom to pursue the American Dream in the palm of their hands, there’s a $30,000 ball and chain around Millennials’ feet.

That many young people owing that much money before they even enter the workforce? It’s unbelievable!

Now just imagine adding car payments, house payments, health insurance premiums, and more on top of that student debt. No wonder 57% of Millennials report that paying for essentials alone is a “somewhat-to-very-significant” source of stress!

Now is the time to get ahead of your debt. Not later. You can manage that debt and get out from under it!

So how do you do that? Sometimes improving your current situation involves more than making smarter choices with the money you earn now. Getting out of that debt ditch means finding a way to make more.

There are 2 things you can monetize right now:

  • Your education
  • Your experience

Both have their own challenges. You may not have spent much time in a particular field yet, so not a lot of experience. And what if you’re working a job that has nothing to do with your major? There goes education.

Two speed bumps. One right after the other. But you can still gain momentum in the direction you want your life to go!

How? A solid financial strategy. A goal you can see. A destination for financial independence.

Debts can become overwhelming – remember that stat up there? But with a strategy in mind for the quick and consistent repaying of your loans, so much of that stress and burden could be lifted.

Contact me today. A quick phone call is all we need to help get you rolling in the direction YOU want to go.

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A New Season of Life Insurance

A New Season of Life Insurance

Did it seem like only yesterday that you were welcoming your first child? Time flies when you’re having fun!

How amazing is it to see your children growing and maturing as they prepare to leave your home and begin their college education? At this stage of life, your family’s needs are changing and growing as quickly as your kids are.

A new, really big need? Financing a college tuition. College Board reported that the average 2016-2017 tuition plus room and board for an in-state, 4-year public college was $20,092, and the average private college counterpart cost $45,365.   And that cost is coming at a time when saving for your retirement becomes an even more important and present need.   Life insurance is more important for your family now than ever. As you and your loved ones take new steps – whether that’s winding down into retirement or revving up into adult life – life insurance can help make sure everyone stays on track with their dreams in the event of a sudden death or other unexpected life event.

The proper life insurance policy can help cover expenses including your child’s college tuition and the income replacement for your spouse to continue down their road to retirement. One quick phone call with me is all you need to get the ball rolling. Let’s review your existing policy or get you started on one that can help your family meet their needs – in all seasons of life.

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Top Reasons Why People Buy Term Life Insurance

October 23, 2019

Top Reasons Why People Buy Term Life Insurance

These days, most families are two-income households.

That describes 61.9% of U.S. families as of 2017. If that describes your family (and the odds are good), do you have a strategy in place to cover your financial obligations with just one income if you or your spouse were to unexpectedly pass away?

Wow. That’s a real conversation-opener, isn’t it? It’s not easy to think about what might happen if one income suddenly disappeared. (It might seem like more fun to have a root canal than to think about that.) But having the right coverage “just in case” is worth considering. It’ll give you some reassurance and let you get back to the fun stuff… like not thinking about having a root canal.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Term insurance and how it may help with your family’s financial obligations, read on…

Some Basics about Term Insurance
Many of life’s financial commitments have a set end date. Mortgages are 15 to 30 years. Kids grow up and (eventually) start providing for themselves. Term life insurance may be a great option since you can choose a coverage length that lines up with the length of your ongoing financial commitments. Ideally, the term of the policy will end around the same time those large financial obligations are paid off. Term policies also may be a good choice because in many cases, they may be the most economical solution for getting the protection a family needs.

As great as term policies can be, here are a couple of things to keep in mind: a term policy won’t help cover financial commitments if you or your spouse simply lose your job. And term policies have a set (level) premium during the length of the initial period. Generally, term policies can be continued after the term expires, but at a much higher rate.

The following are some situations where a Term policy may help.

Pay Final Expenses
Funeral and burial costs can be upwards of $10,000. However, many families might not have that amount handy in available cash. Covering basic final expenses can be a real burden, especially if the death of a spouse comes out of the blue. If one income is suddenly gone, it could mean the surviving spouse would need to use credit or liquidate assets to cover final expenses. As you would probably agree, neither of these are attractive options. A term life insurance policy can cover final expenses, leaving one less worry for your family.

Pay Off Debt
The average household in the U.S. is carrying nearly $140,000 in debt. For households with a large mortgage balance, the debt figures could be much higher. Couple that with a median household income of under $60,000, and it’s clear that many families would be in trouble if one income is lost.

Term life insurance can be closely matched to the length of your mortgage, which helps to ensure that your family won’t lose their home at an already difficult time.

But what about car payments, credit card balances, and other debt? These other debt obligations that your family is currently meeting with either one or two incomes can be put to bed with a well-planned term life policy.

Income Protection
Even if you’ve planned for final expenses and purchased enough life insurance coverage to pay off your household debt, life can present many other costs of just… living. If you pass unexpectedly, the bills will keep rolling in for anyone you leave behind – especially if you have young children. Those day-to-day living costs and unexpected expenses can seem to multiply in ways that defy mathematical concepts. (You know – like that school field trip to the aquarium that no one mentioned until the night before.)

But Wait, There’s More
A well-planned term life insurance policy can provide other benefits as well, including living benefits that can help prevent medical expenses from wreaking havoc on your family’s financial plan if you become critically ill. One note about the living benefits policies, though: If the critical and chronic illness features are used, the face value of the policy is reduced. But which might be more prepared to take a financial hit: the face value of the life insurance policy that just helped you cover your medical expenses… or your child’s college fund?

In some cases, policies with built in living benefits may cost more than a standard term policy, but it may still cost less than permanent insurance policies! And because a term policy is in force only during the years when your family needs the most protection, premiums can be lower than for other types of life insurance.

Term life insurance can provide income protection to help keep your family’s financial situation solid, and help things stay as “normal” as they can be after a loss.

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Big Financial Rocks First

September 9, 2019

Big Financial Rocks First

A teacher walked into her classroom with a clear jar, a bag of rocks, a bucket of sand, and a glass of water. She placed all the large rocks carefully into the jar.

“Who thinks this jar is full?” she asked. Almost half of her students raised their hands. Next, she began to pour sand from the bucket into the jar full of large rocks emptying the entire bucket into the jar.

“Who thinks this jar is full now?” she asked again. Almost all of her students now had their hands up. To her student’s surprise, she emptied the glass of water into the seemingly full jar of rocks and sand.

“What do you think I’m trying to show you?” She inquired.

One eager student answered: “That things may appear full, but there is always room left to put more stuff in.”

The teacher smiled and shook her head.

“Good try, but the point of this illustration is that if I didn’t put in the large rocks first, I would not be able to fit them in afterwards.”

This concept can be applied to the idea of a constant struggle between priorities that are urgent versus those that are important. When you have limited resources, priorities must be in place since there isn’t enough to go around. Take your money, for example. Unless you have an unlimited amount of funds (we’re still trying to find that source), you can’t have an unlimited amount of important financial goals.

Back to the teacher’s illustration. Let’s say the big rocks are your important goals. Things like buying a home, helping your children pay for college, retirement at 60, etc. They’re all important –but not urgent. These things may happen 10, 20, or 30 years from now.

Urgent things are the sand and water. A monthly payment like your mortgage payment or your monthly utility and internet bills. The urgent things must be paid and paid on time. If you don’t pay your mortgage on time… Well, you might end up retiring homeless.

Even though these monthly obligations might be in mind more often than your retirement or your toddler’s freshman year in college, if all you focus on are urgent things, then the important goals fall by the wayside. And in some cases, they stay there long after they can realistically be rescued. Saving up for a down payment for a home, funding a college education, or having enough to retire on is nearly impossible to come up with overnight (still looking for that source of unlimited funds!). In most cases, it takes time and discipline to save up and plan well to achieve these important goals.

What are the big rocks in your life? If you’ve never considered them, spend some time thinking about it. When you have a few in mind, place them in the priority queue of your life. Otherwise, if those important goals are ignored for too long, they might become one of the urgent goals - and perhaps ultimately unrealized if they weren’t put in your plan early on.

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How to Get Off of the Post-Grad Financial Roller Coaster

How to Get Off of the Post-Grad Financial Roller Coaster

Congratulations on earning a college degree!

Your years of hard work could result in better job prospects (including better benefits for you and your family), job security, a larger income – and years of repaying student loan debt that could adversely affect your retirement savings! Wait a minute…

According to the Young Invincibles ‘Financial Health of Young America’ study, the average retirement accounts of those with a college degree and no student loan debt grew at double the rate of those with a college degree and student loan debt.

That makes sense: if someone does not have to pay back loans, they’ll potentially have more to set aside for retirement, putting them in a better position than someone who has to wait to set aside the same amounts due to student debt loans.

What doesn’t make sense is that your future should suffer such a potentially lengthy setback right on the heels of dedicating yourself to bettering your chances. What an emotional roller coaster – working hard for years to improve your future but having to delay the benefits of your hard work because of debt!

There’s a way out from under your student debt: a solid financial strategy to pay it back and a life and a solid plan to help with financing your future. I can help you with both.

Contact me today, and together we can work on a strategy that could bring back a little of the excitement of earning that degree!

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Time to Make One More Call

June 26, 2019

Time to Make One More Call

Even if you already have a life insurance policy, pay your premiums on time, and know it will be there when you need it most, there’s one more thing to keep in mind…

Major life changes.

Think of your life insurance policy as a member of the family – like someone important you update when anything life-changing happens to you!

Regular reviews of your existing life insurance policy can help you keep it updated due to changes like:

  • Getting married or divorced
  • Having a baby
  • Buying a house
  • Heading to college (you or your kids!)

September is Life Insurance Awareness Month. What an ideal time for us to meet up and review your current policy – and see how you can make the most of it!

I have some ideas to share about how you can make the most of your existing policy – and what to add to reflect how your life has changed!

Contact me today. Let’s get together to review where you stand.

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How Much Life Insurance Do You Really Need?

June 17, 2019

How Much Life Insurance Do You Really Need?

Determining how much life insurance you need is a little bit different from, say, figuring out what to do in a movie theatre when the teenager behind the concessions counter asks, “Would you like to upgrade that popcorn to a large for only $X? You’ll get a free refill!”

You might fall into 1 of 3 general camps at this point:

1. “No way. I don’t even like popcorn that much. It’s just what you’re supposed to do when you go to the movies.”
2. “Well, it is just a few more cents… But what if I don’t eat all that popcorn? What if I don’t need the free refill? What if I could use that extra change on something more important later?…”
3. “FREE REFILL?! Sign me up!”

Come to think of it, choosing a new life insurance policy or adding additional coverage can elicit similar responses:

1. “No way. I don’t even think about death that much. Having a little life insurance policy is just what you’re supposed to do.”
2. “Well, it is just a few more dollars each month… But what if I don’t end up using the benefits of that rider? What if I could use that extra money on something more important now?
3. “ANOTHER RIDER FOR MY POLICY?! Sign me up!”

In spite of a few general similarities when faced with the decision to upgrade what you already have, choosing a life insurance policy is – and should – be more involved than a “Small, Medium, or Large?” mindset. And with the right guidance, you can finance a policy that has the potential to protect what is most important to you, fit your needs, and get you closer to your financial independence.

The most honest answer I can give you about how much life insurance you really need? It’s going to depend on you and your goals.

General rules of thumb on this topic are all around. For instance, 1 rule states that the death benefit payout of your life insurance policy should be equal to 7-10 times the amount of your annual income. But this amount alone doesn’t account for some other pressing needs you family might face if you suddenly weren’t around anymore…

  • Paying off any debt you had accrued
  • Settling final expenses
  • Continuing mortgage payments (or surprise upkeep costs)
  • Financing a college education for your kids
  • Helping a spouse continue on their road to retirement

And these are just a few of the major payment pain points that your family might face without you.

So beyond a general baseline of what would be absolutely necessary for your family to continue on with a bit of financial security, how much life insurance you have will be up to you and what your circumstances allow – and what a solid financial strategy could help your circumstances to become.

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