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July 21, 2021

Strategies to Beat Inflation

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Strategies to Beat Inflation

July 21, 2021

Strategies to Beat Inflation

Inflation can creep up on you and take your money before you know it.

In this article, we’ll be talking about strategies for beating inflation and protecting yourself from its effects. We’ll start by clearing up what inflation is, then talk about the best ways to protect against it (you’ve got options!).

First, what is inflation? Simply put, inflation is the increase of prices over time. This means that if something is worth $100 today, it will probably cost more than $100 dollars in the future. That means the value of your money will probably decrease over time. $1 million may be all you need to live comfortably today, but it may not get you as far as you’d like during retirement if prices continue to rise.

Inflation primarily impacts cash value and money that sits in low interest bank accounts. Since those assets don’t grow at all—or grow very slowly—inflation can torpedo your purchasing power.

The key, then, is to find assets that grow at the same or a faster pace than inflation. That includes things like physical commodities (oil, grain, etc.) and real estate. While they’re not guaranteed to keep up with inflation, they typically increase in value as prices rise.

Investing in the market follows the same logic—the value of stocks typically rises as inflation increases. Again, it’s not a perfect solution, and stock values aren’t guaranteed to rise in value. But they’re options for those seeking to protect their wealth over the long-term from the slow decay from inflation.

Meet with a licensed and qualified financial professional about inflation hedging strategies. They can help you identify vehicles and accounts that may grow at the same (or faster) pace as prices.

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Market performance is based on many factors and cannot be predicted. 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. Any examples used in this article are hypothetical. Before investing or enacting a savings or retirement strategy, seek the advice of a licensed and qualified financial professional, accountant, and/or tax expert to discuss your options.

Top 6 Tips for Cheaper Travel

July 19, 2021

Top 6 Tips for Cheaper Travel

It seems like there is light at the end of the tunnel for travelers who are itching to see the world.

And with travel restrictions seeming to be on the edge of lifting, they may have the opportunity to explore again.

But before you start planning your international adventures, here are 6 tips for cheaper travel.

1. Avoid expensive tourist spots. Paris is lovely this time of year. So are London, Dubai, and Tokyo. They’re also outrageously expensive to stay, eat, and play in. Fortunately, there are many other locations that are just as loaded with culture and fun things to do at a fraction of the cost. Central and South America, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe all feature affordable cities, lovely landscapes, and interesting attractions that go toe-to-toe with classic destinations.

2. Book flights well in advance. Usually the further out you can book, the better. Though some flight sites offer deals on last-minute fares, they’re not always that great of a bargain. It’s typically cheaper to buy tickets a few months in advance. The same logic works for lodging. Speaking of which…

3. Consider staying in a hostel. They’re a great opportunity to meet fellow travelers in a foreign land. They’re often cheaper than an Airbnb or a hotel, and sometimes offer tours. Just do your research in advance—not all hostels are equal as far as cleanliness and safety.

4. Cut transportation costs. Need to travel from city to city? Try taking the bus. It’s not glamorous, but it might be a more cost effective way to get around. While you’re in town, try walking as much as possible and getting public transit when needed. Save your money and spend it on something else like souvenirs or trying a meal you’ve never had before.

5. Explore opportunities to work and travel. You may be surprised by how many programs pay you to visit exciting new places. Whether you’re teaching English in Asia and South America or working as a tour guide in Sweden, opportunities abound. You may earn enough to offset some of your traveling expenses.

6. Eat local, prep at home. Eating out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a tourist destination is a surefire way to quickly deplete your travel budget. Instead, explore local markets to purchase ingredients that you can store or prepare where you’re staying, like protein bars or sandwiches. Those should cover your first two meals of the day. Then splurge on evening fare with local cuisine at an interesting restaurant!

Seeing the world doesn’t have to break the bank. Use these tips to plan your adventure, send me a postcard, and let me know if they make a difference for your budget!

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Is Refinancing Worth It?

July 14, 2021

Is Refinancing Worth It?

What do you think of when you hear the word “refinancing?”

If you’re like most people, your first thought might be that it has something to do with a mortgage. And you’re not wrong! However, refinancing can apply to many different types and forms of loans. In this article we will explore what refinancing is, how it works, and when it can work to your advantage.

What is refinancing?

Refinancing is the process of transferring all or part of an existing loan from one loan to another. This is done in order to achieve a…

  • Lower interest rate
  • Lower monthly payments
  • More favorable repayment period
  • Or all of the above

Let’s consider an example. Say you have a $10,000 loan with a 5% interest rate and a 10-year term. You’ll pay $106 every month to service the debt, and over $12,000 in total once interest is included.

But you think you can do better! You find someone else who’s willing to loan you $10,000 at a 2.5% interest rate over a 10-year term. You’d save more than $1,000 in interest and pay less every month. That’s a far better deal.

So, you would borrow money from your new creditor and use that sum to eliminate your existing loan. You’ve used another loan to decrease your interest burden and increase your cash flow. That’s the power of refinancing in a nutshell. It’s often worth the effort if you can decrease your interest rate without increasing your term.

But it may not be a silver bullet for your debt.

Refinancing only works if you can score a new loan with a more favorable contract. There may be times when interest rates are high and finding lower rates simply isn’t possible. Even then, a lower interest rate may not offset the costs of a longer loan term.

That’s why it’s always best to work with a financial professional before you refinance any loan. Their expertise can help you determine whether refinancing will help or hinder your progress towards your financial goals.

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This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to promote any certain products, plans, or strategies that may be available to you. Any examples used are hypothetical. Before taking out any loan or enacting a funding strategy, seek the advice of a licensed and qualified financial professional, accountant, and/or tax expert to discuss your options.

What’s Happening In The Housing Market

July 12, 2021

What’s Happening In The Housing Market

By now, you’ve heard the housing market horror stories.

Chances are you know someone who thought they’d found the perfect home at the perfect price, only to be wildly outbid at the last minute. Maybe you’ve been that someone.

So what’s going on? How did the housing market go from a pandemic-fueled lockdown to a frenzy?

It’s simple—the tight housing market has a lot to do with supply and demand.

It started in 2020 during the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic. To combat the economic crisis sparked by shutdowns, interest rates plummeted to an all-time low. At the same time, workers in cities started flocking to states with more reasonable costs of living. After all, their work situation was almost entirely remote—why shell out $2,000 per month for a broom closet in Manhattan when you could pay the same for a 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom house in Iowa?

Millennials were especially driven by the favorable market conditions. They were eager to buy houses and establish roots.

That’s the demand side. What about the supply?

Even before 2020, there was a drastic housing shortage in the United States to the tune of 2.5 million units.¹ Toss in shutdowns of construction companies and lumber mills, and you had a recipe for an even worse shortage. That equates to a sellers market—those selling can often expect massive payouts while buyers may have to face bidding wars and skyrocketing prices.

So what should you do?

The answer depends on the individual. Those looking to buy should be prepared for a lengthy (and expensive) process, and buying might not make sense unless you’re planning on staying in your new home for at least five years or more.

There’s no telling how long the market will continue its hot streak. Just make sure you have your finances in order and a clear strategy before you commit to making a massive purchase like a home in this climate.

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¹ “The U.S. Faces A Housing Shortage. Will 2021 Be A Turning Point?” Natalie Campisi, Forbes, Jan 4, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/mortgages/new-home-construction-forecast/

Keeping the House

July 7, 2021

Keeping the House

Life insurance can save your house.

Picture this…

A couple owns a beautiful home out in the suburbs. It’s where they’ve raised their children and made memories that will last a lifetime.

Until one of them passes away too soon. Suddenly, the whole picture shifts. See, they are a two income household. They relied on both income streams to buy groceries, cover children’s education… and pay the mortgage.

Now, the surviving partner isn’t simply coping with grief. They’re facing the potential loss of their house, with all of its memories and meaning, as well.

It’s not a far-fetched scenario. Death is one of the Five D’s of foreclosure—the others are divorce, disease, drugs, and denial.

Life insurance can help. It’s the safety net to have in place to protect your family from financial uncertainty and provide for their future.

That’s because the death benefit that’s paid out to your loved ones can cover the cost of mortgage payments, or possibly even pay off your mortgage entirely.

What does that look like in the scenario from earlier?

First, it prevents a personal tragedy from becoming a financial crisis. The last thing a grieving person needs is to have to cope with financial stress.

Second, it means that the grieving partner could keep the house if they so desire. After some time has passed, they can make plans on what the future of their life should look like, without undue financial restrictions.

If that’s a peace you would like to help provide to your family, contact me. We can review what life insurance would look like for you and your budget.

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Habits of Successful People

Habits of Successful People

Successful people come from all types of backgrounds.

But did you know there are certain habits they tend to have in common? What’s better yet, they’re mostly practices that don’t require a huge budget to start doing. Here are three concrete ways that you can imitate the wealthy—starting today!

Wake up early (but also get enough sleep). Let’s establish right away that most people shouldn’t wake up at four in the morning if you’re going to bed at midnight. Lack of sleep can exacerbate or cause dozens of health and mental issues ranging from obesity to depression (1). That’s the exact opposite of what rising with the sun is supposed to do!

The primary perk of going to bed early and waking up early is that it helps give you control of your day. You’re not simply rolling out of bed forty-five minutes before work and coming home too tired to do anything useful. Instead, you get to devote your most productive hours to something that you care about, whether that’s meditating, working on a passion project, or exercising. Speaking of which…

Exercise. Exercise is something that the successful tend to prioritize. One survey found that 76 percent of the wealthy devoted 30 minutes or more a day to some kind of aerobic exercise (2). It seems obvious, but working out doesn’t just improve physical health; it can help ward off depression and increase mental sharpness (3). It’s no wonder so many successful people make time to exercise.

Read. Almost 9 out of 10 wealthy people surveyed said they devote thirty minutes a day to reading. Why? It turns out that it can improve mental awareness and helps keep your brain fine-tuned (4). But reading can also be a valuable way of expanding your perspective, learning new ideas, and drawing inspiration from unexpected places.

Some of these habits might seem intimidating. Switching your bedtime back three hours so you can wake up before sunrise is a big commitment, as is working out consistently or reading books if you’re just used to scanning social media. Try starting off small. Get out of bed thirty minutes earlier than usual for a week and see if that makes a difference. One day a week at the gym is much better than zero, and reading a worthwhile article (like this one!) might pique your appetite for more. Whatever your baby step is, keep expanding on it until you’re an early rising, iron-pumping, and well-read machine!

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Begin Your Budget In 5 Easy Steps

June 23, 2021

Begin Your Budget In 5 Easy Steps

A budget is a powerful tool.

No matter how big or small, it gives you the insight to track your money and plan your future. So here’s a beginner’s guide to kick-start your budget and help take control of your paycheck!

Establish simple objectives. Come up with at least one simple goal for your budget. It could be anything from saving for retirement to buying a car to paying down student debt. Establishing an objective gives you a goal to shoot for, and helps motivate you to stick to the plan.

Figure out how much you make. Now it’s time to figure out how much money you actually make. This might be as easy as looking at your past few paychecks. However, don’t forget to include things like your side hustle, rent from properties, or cash from your online store. Try averaging your total income from the past six months and use that as your starting point for your budget.

Figure out how much you spend. Start by splitting your spending into essential (non-discretionary) and unessential (discretionary) spending categories. The first category should cover things like rent, groceries, utilities, and debt payments. Unessential spending would be eating at restaurants, seeing a movie, hobbies, and sporting events.

How much is leftover? Now subtract your total spending from your income. A positive number means you’re making more than you’re spending, giving you a foundation for saving and eventually building wealth. You still might need to cut back in a few areas to meet your goals, but it’s at least a good start.

If you come up negative, you’ll need to slash your spending. Start with your unessential spending and see where you can dial back. If things aren’t looking good, you may need to consider looking for a lower rent apartment, renegotiating loans, or picking up a side hustle.

Be consistent! <br> The worst thing you can do is start a budget and then abandon it. Make no mistake, seeing some out-of-whack numbers on a spreadsheet can be discouraging. But sticking to a budget is key to achieving your goals. Make a habit of reviewing your budget regularly and checking your progress. That alone might be enough motivation to keep it up!

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What's a Recession?

June 21, 2021

What's a Recession?

Most of us would probably be apprehensive about another recession.

The Great Recession caused financial devastation for millions of people across the globe. But what exactly is a recession? How do we know if we’re in one? How could it affect you and your family? Here’s a quick rundown.

So what exactly is a recession? The quick answer is that a recession is a negative GDP growth rate for two back-to-back quarters or longer (1). But reality can be a bit more complicated than that. There’s actually an organization that decides when the country is in a recession. The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) is composed of commissioners who dig through monthly data and officially declare when a downturn begins.

There’s also a difference between a recession and a depression. A recession typically lasts between 6 to 16 months (the Great Recession was an exception and pushed 18 months). The Great Depression, by contrast, lasted a solid decade and witnessed unemployment rates above 25% (2). Fortunately, depressions are rare: there’s only been one since 1854, while there have been 33 recessions during the same time (3).

What happens during a recession. The NBER monitors five recession indicators. The first and most important is inflation-adjusted GDP. A consistent quarterly decline in GDP growth is a good sign that a recession has started or is on the horizon. Then this gets supplemented by other numbers. A falling monthly GDP, declining real income, increasing unemployment, weak manufacturing and retail sales all point to a recession.

How could a recession affect you? The bottom line is that a weak economy affects everyone. Business slows down and layoffs can occur. People who keep their jobs may get spooked by seeing coworkers and friends lose their jobs, and then they may start cutting back on spending. This can start a vicious cycle which can lead to lower profits for businesses and possibly more layoffs. The government may increase spending and lower interest rates in order to help stop the cycle and stabilize the economy.

In the short term, that means it might be harder to find a job if you’re unemployed or just out of school and that your cost of living skyrockets. But it can also affect your major investments; the value of your home or your retirement savings could all face major setbacks.

Recessions can be distressing. They’re hard to see coming and they can potentially impact your financial future. That’s why it’s so important to start preparing for any downturns today. Schedule a call with a financial professional to discuss strategies to help protect your future!

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Tips for Getting Out of Debt

June 16, 2021

Tips for Getting Out of Debt

Americans owe a whopping amount of debt.

Total consumer debt, for example, tops $4 trillion,¹ and the average household owes $6,741 on credit cards alone.²

Debt can cause a serious drain on your financial life, not to mention increase your stress levels. You may be parting with a big slice of your income just to service the debt—money that could be put to better use to fund things like a home, your own business, or a healthy retirement account.

Fortunately, there are lots of ways to get out of debt. Here are 3 of them…

Create a budget. Before you can start digging yourself out of debt, you need to know how you stand with your income versus your outgo every month. Otherwise, you may be sliding deeper into debt as each week passes.

The solution? Create a budget.

First, start tracking your expenses—there are apps you can get on your phone, or even just a notebook and pencil will do. Divide your expenses into categories. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Food, utilities, rent, entertainment, misc. Add them together every week and then every month.

Then, review your spending and compare it with your income. Spending more than you make? That has to be reversed before you’ll ever be able to get out of debt. Make a plan to either reduce your expenses or find a way to raise your income.

If debt payments are driving your expenses above your income, call your lender to see if you can get a plan with lower monthly payments.

Seek out lower interest rates. If you’re paying a high interest rate on credit card debt, a good portion of your monthly payment may be going towards interest alone. That means you may not be reducing the principal—the amount you originally borrowed—as much as you could with a lower interest rate. The lower your interest rate, the more your monthly payments can lower your debt—and eventually help you get out of it.

Find out the annual percentage rate (APR) on your current credit card debt by looking at the monthly statements. Then shop around to find any lower interest rates that might be out there. The next step would be to transfer your credit card debt to that new account with the lower rate. The caveat, however, is if any fees you may be charged now or after an introductory period would nullify the savings in interest. Always make sure you understand the terms on a new card before you transfer a balance.

Another option is to apply to a lender for a personal loan to consolidate your high interest rate debt. Personal loans can have interest rates significantly below those on credit cards. Again, make sure you understand any fees, penalties, and terms before you sign up.

Increase your monthly debt payments. Now that you’ve got your spending under control, it’s time to see if you can raise your debt payments every month. There are two primary methods to do this.

First, review your expenses to see if you can cut back in some categories. Can you spend a little time each week clipping coupons to reduce your grocery bill? Can you make coffee at home rather than purchasing it at the coffee shop every day? These changes can add up! Review entertainment costs, too. Can you cut out one or more streaming or cable services? It might be a good idea to find introductory offers that can reduce your monthly payments. Check into introductory cell phone offers, too, but always read the fine print so you don’t have any surprise fees or costs down the road.

Second, make a plan to increase your income. Can you ask for a raise at work, make a case for a promotion, or find a higher paying job? If that’s not in the cards, consider working a side gig. A few extra hours a week may increase your monthly income significantly—and help get you out of debt a little faster.

Are you struggling with debt? Get in touch with me and we can work on a strategy for a debt-free future.

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¹ “Consumer debt hits $4 trillion,” Jessica Dickler, CNBC, Feb 21 2019, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/21/consumer-debt-hits-4-trillion.html

² “2020 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” Erin El Issa, Nerdwallet, Jan. 12, 2021, https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/average-credit-card-debt-household/

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

Mortgage Protection: One Less Thing To Worry About

June 9, 2021

Mortgage Protection: One Less Thing To Worry About

How many things do you worry – er, think – about, each day? 25? 50? 99?

Here’s an opportunity to check at least one of those off your list. Read on…

Think back to when you were involved in the loan process for your home. Chances are good that at some point during those meetings, a smiling salesperson mentioned “mortgage protection”.

With so many other terms flying around during the conversation, like “PMI” and “APRs”, and so much money already committed to the mortgage itself – and the home insurance, and the new furniture you would need – you might have passed on mortgage protection.

You had (and hopefully still have) a steady job and a life insurance policy in place, so why would you need additional protection? What could go wrong?

Before we answer that, let’s clear up some confusion.

Mortgage Protection Insurance is not PMI. <br> These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing.

Both Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) and Mortgage Protection are insurance, but they do different things. PMI is a requirement for certain loans because it protects the lender if your home is lost to foreclosure.

Essentially, with PMI you’re buying insurance for your lender if they determine your loan is more risky than average (for example, if you put less than 20% down on your home and your credit score is low).

Mortgage protection, on the other hand, is insurance for you and your family – not your lender.

There are several types of mortgage protection, but generally you can count on it to protect you in the following ways:

  • Pay your mortgage if you lose your job
  • Pay your mortgage if you become disabled
  • Pay off your mortgage if you die

Say, That Sounds Like Life Insurance. <br> Not exactly. Mortgage protection actually can cover more situations than a life policy would cover. Life insurance won’t help if you lose your job and it won’t help if you become disabled. Mortgage protection bundles all these protections into one policy – so you don’t need multiple policies to cover all the problems that could make it difficult to pay your mortgage each month. (Hint: A life insurance policy would be a different part of your overall financial plan and often has its own separate goals.)

How Does Mortgage Protection Work? <br> A mortgage protection policy is usually a “guaranteed issue” policy, meaning that many of the roadblocks to purchasing a life insurance policy, such as health considerations and exams, wouldn’t be there.

If you lose your job or become disabled, your policy will pay your mortgage for a limited amount of time, giving you the opportunity to find work or to make a backup plan. Again, your house is saved, your family still has a roof over their heads, and you’re a hero for thinking ahead. Accidents happen and people lose their jobs every day. Mortgage protection is there to catch you if you fall.

One More Thing… <br>
A mortgage protection policy is a term policy, so you don’t need to keep paying premiums after your house is paid off.

Now that you know a little bit more about mortgage protection policies, have those 99 worries ticked down to 98? Reaching out to me for guidance on your financial worries could help you make that number smaller and smaller… 97… 96… 95…

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How to Make the Most of Your Life Insurance Policy

June 7, 2021

How to Make the Most of Your Life Insurance Policy

Your life insurance policy is one of the most important things you’ll buy in your lifetime.

Knowing how to make the most of it will help you sleep better at night and more easily plan for the future. We’re going to cover the aspects of life insurance with a focus on making those numbers work for YOU!

Choose a policy with enough coverage. As a rule of thumb, a life insurance policy should provide a death benefit that’s at least 10X your annual income. Why? Because the benefit can serve as an income replacement for your family if you pass away. A payout above 10X your annual income can provide your family with a generous financial buffer to recover and make a plan for their future. Buying enough coverage helps ensure your policy fulfills its function—to financially protect your family when you pass away.

Choose the right type of insurance. There’s no one-size-fits-all life insurance policy. They each have different strengths and shine in different circumstances.

Term life insurance, for instance, is typically better for families who need protection on a thin budget. That’s because term is often an affordable option for securing a large death benefit.

Permanent life insurance might be better if you’re looking for an investment that grows over time. It’s also a good choice if you need lifelong protection for your spouse and children, but don’t want to be burdened by higher premiums as they age. That makes it particularly attractive to families with permanent dependents or who are interested in wealth-building vehicles.

Choose a policy that fits your budget. Life insurance shouldn’t consume your income. Rather, it should protect your income in case of disaster. Get as much life insurance as your family needs, but don’t add all the bells and whistles if you can’t afford it!

You want a life insurance policy that protects your family, aligns with your goals, and doesn’t break your budget. If you’re not sure what that looks like, meet with a licensed and qualified financial professional. They can help you hammer out goals and find policies that help you meet those goals!

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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.

Fixed and Variable Interest Rates: Which One's For You?

Fixed and Variable Interest Rates: Which One's For You?

Fixed interest rates are stable, but variable rates may save you money.

Which may be right for you? Read this article to find out!

First, some housekeeping—what’s the difference between fixed and variable interest?

It’s exactly what it sounds like. A fixed interest rate remains the same throughout the life of the loan. Variable rates, however, are typically tied to another interest rate. If that rate changes, your rate changes.

So what does that mean for you?

In general, fixed interest rates are safer. Because they’re locked in, they won’t suddenly skyrocket if the economy changes. However, their rates are initially probably higher. You’re trading overall payment for stability.

Variable rates, then, can seem like a better deal. Historically, data shows that borrowers pay less on variable rate loans than fixed rate loans. But there are two important things to consider…

  1. Past performance never guarantees future returns. Just because variable rates saved people money in the past doesn’t mean they will in the future.
  2. Variable rates can have catastrophic outcomes. In 2008, families with adjustable rate mortgages suddenly found their interest rates skyrocketing. Many weren’t able to pay their bills and foreclosed, which contributed to the Great Recession.

The takeaway is that variable rates are not to be treated lightly. Consult with a licensed and qualified financial professional before you borrow money. Their knowledge of the current financial landscape can help you choose an interest rate type that works best for you and your goals.

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This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to promote any certain products, plans, or strategies that may be available to you. Before taking out any loan or enacting a funding strategy, seek the advice of a licensed and qualified financial professional, accountant, and/or tax expert to discuss your options.

Don't Panic: What You Need To Know For Your Life Insurance Medical Exam

Don't Panic: What You Need To Know For Your Life Insurance Medical Exam

I don’t know about you, but most people don’t like exams – either taking one or having one done to them.

But there’s no need to panic over your life insurance medical exam (yes, you’re probably going to have one). I’ve got some steps you can take before the “big day” to help prevent readings which may skew your test results or create unnecessary confusion.

One important thing to keep in mind is that the exam’s purpose isn’t to pass or fail you based on your health. Your insurer just needs to understand the big picture so they can assign an accurate rating. Oftentimes, the news can be better than expected, and generally good health is rewarded with a lower rate. Alternatively, the exam might uncover something that needs attention, like high cholesterol. That might be something good to know so you can make necessary lifestyle changes.

Think of your exam as a big-picture view. Your insurer will measure several key aspects of your health. These areas help determine your life insurance class, which is simply a group of people with similar overall health characteristics.

Your insurer will most likely look at:

  • Height and weight
  • Pulse/blood pressure tests
  • Blood test
  • Urine test

Tests can indicate glucose levels, blood pressure levels, and the presence of nicotine or other substances. Body Mass Index (BMI) – a measurement of overall fitness in regard to weight – may also be measured as part of your life insurance exam.

So let’s find out what you can do to prepare for your exam!

The most obvious cause that could affect your results is medications you’ve taken recently. These will probably show up in your blood tests. Bring a list of any prescription medications you’re taking so your insurer can match those to the blood analysis.

Over the counter meds can interfere with test results and create inaccurate readings too, so it might be best to avoid them for 24 hours prior to your medical exam if possible. Caffeine can cause spikes in blood pressure.¹ Limit your caffeine intake or avoid it altogether, if possible, for 48 hours prior to your exam. Smoking can elevate blood pressure as well.²

Alcohol has a similar effect on blood pressure. Try to avoid alcohol for 48 hours prior to taking your life insurance medical exam.³ Some types of exercise can also spike blood pressure readings temporarily.⁴ If you can, avoid strenuous exercise for 24 hours before your medical exam.

Some types of foods can create false readings or temporarily raise cholesterol levels.⁵ It’s best to avoid eating for 12 hours prior to your exam, giving your body time to clear temporary effects. Scheduling your exam for the morning makes this easier.

Stress can affect blood pressure readings.⁶ (Surprise, surprise.) Try to schedule your life insurance medical exam for a time when you’ll be less stressed. After work might not be the best time, but maybe after a good night’s rest would be better.

Have any further questions on how you can prepare for your exam? I’m here to help!

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¹ “Caffeine: How does it affect blood pressure?,” Sheldon G. Sheps, M.D., Mayo Clinic, Jan, 26, 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/blood-pressure/faq-20058543

² “Smoking, High Blood Pressure and Your Health,” American Heart Association, Oct 31, 2016, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/smoking-high-blood-pressure-and-your-health#.Wrz8uNPwZTZ

³ “Short-term Negative Effects Of Alcohol Consumption,” BACtrack, https://www.bactrack.com/blogs/expert-center/35042501-short-term-negative-effects-of-alcohol-consumption

⁴ “Does Exercise Raise Blood Pressure?,” Barrett Barlowe, SportsRec, Nov 28, 2018, https://www.sportsrec.com/6277164/does-exercise-raise-blood-pressure

⁵ “How to Prep for a Cholesterol Test,” Vanessa Caceres, Livestrong.com, Apr 29, 2020, https://www.livestrong.com/article/326114-what-not-to-eat-before-cholesterol-check/

⁶ “Managing Stress to Control High Blood Pressure,” American Heart Association, Oct 31, 2016, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/managing-stress-to-control-high-blood-pressure#.Wr0OsdPwZTY

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 Advantages of Survivorship Insurance

The Advantages of Survivorship Insurance

A survivorship policy pays out only after two people pass away.

Why does that matter? For many families, it doesn’t. They need more traditional forms of life insurance that protect income for their spouses and children.

But there are specific situations where survivorship insurance might be critical for your legacy. Read on for the advantages of survivorship insurance!

First, survivorship insurance can be an invaluable tool for estate planning. If one spouse dies, they can pass their assets to their spouse without facing federal estate taxes.¹ Not so for wealth left to future generations! For some couples with substantial assets to pass on to children, survivorship can leave a sizable death benefit that can offset the cost of estate taxes.²

If this strategy appeals to you, reach out to an attorney and a financial professional. You’ll need their help to get your estate in order and navigate your state’s tax system.

Second, survivorship insurance can cover ailing or elderly couples. As a rule of thumb, survivorship insurance is a good option for those who don’t qualify for term or permanent life insurance due to health or age. That’s because the rates are based on two life expectancies, potentially lowering rates and increasing your likelihood of qualifying.³ This is especially useful if the couple has children who are still dependents or will need special care.

In conclusion, survivorship insurance can be a powerful tool for specific people in specific situations. That’s why it’s best to collaborate with legal and financial professionals to make a decision that will be right for you and your family.

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¹ “An act of mutuality: Survivorship insurance,” Shelly Gigante, MassMutual, Mar 30, 2021, https://blog.massmutual.com/post/survivorship-insurance

² “An act of mutuality: Survivorship insurance,” Shelly Gigante, MassMutual, Mar 30, 2021, https://blog.massmutual.com/post/survivorship-insurance

³ “An act of mutuality: Survivorship insurance,” Shelly Gigante, MassMutual, Mar 30, 2021, https://blog.massmutual.com/post/survivorship-insurance

A Matter of Life and Debt

May 17, 2021

A Matter of Life and Debt

You might never have thought about this before, but how are debt and life insurance connected?

Well, the answer is very simple. Debt is one of the largest financial struggles in society today—total consumer debt has grown to a staggering $14.9 trillion as of 2020.¹ That represents a staggering financial burden on Americans throughout the country.

But what happens if someone in debt passes away? The debt doesn’t just vanish. The estate of the deceased is often responsible for repaying creditors.² That means a family, already down an income, has to cope with the stress of managing debt.

That’s where life insurance can help.

Life insurance pays out a lump sum in the event of death. The money can help family members repay debt, care for children or other dependents, and provide financial security to those left behind.

So how much life insurance do you need? That’s something only you can answer for your own household. Typically, experts recommend 10X your annual income to provide a sufficient financial cushion for your family. But, depending on your level of debt or the particular needs of your spouse and children, you may require more coverage!

Life insurance could be critical for the financial well-being of your family if you’re carrying debt. It might provide the cash they need to pay your creditors and start building a new future.

If you’re looking for life insurance, contact me. We can estimate the amount of protection that’s right for your family!

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A Beginners Guide to Saving and Shredding Documents

May 12, 2021

A Beginners Guide to Saving and Shredding Documents

It’s time to manage all those papers that are taking up space in your filing cabinets!

But how? Which documents should you preserve? Which ones should you shred? Here are 11 helpful tips on what to do with tax documents, legal documents, and property records.

Documents to keep. At the top of this list? Estate planning documents. Your will, your living trust, and any final instructions should be carefully labeled, stored, and protected. Your life insurance policy should be safeguarded as well.

Records of your loans should be preserved. That includes for your mortgage, car and student loans. Technically, you can shred these once they’re paid off, but it’s wise to keep them around permanently. Someday you may have to prove you’ve actually paid off these debts.

Tax returns. Here’s a trick—keep tax returns for at least 7 years. Why? Because there’s a 6 year window for the IRS to challenge your return if they suspect you’ve underreported your income.¹ Keep your records around to prove that you’ve been performing your civic duty by properly reporting your income.

(Check your state’s government website to determine exactly how long you’re supposed to keep state tax returns.)

Property records. Keep all of your records pertaining to…

  • Your ownership of your house
  • The legal documents for buying your house
  • Commissions to your real estate agent
  • Major home improvements

Save these documents for a minimum of 6 years after you move out of your home. If you’re a renter, keep all of your records until you’ve moved out. Then, fire up your shredder and get to work!

Speaking of your shredder…

Annual documents to destroy. Every year, you can shred paycheck stubs and bank records. Just be sure of two things…

First, make sure that you’re not shredding anything that might belong in your tax records.

Second, be sure that you’ve reviewed your finances with a professional who will know which documents may need preserving.

Once you’ve done that, it’s fine to feed your shredder at your discretion!

Credit card receipts, statements and bills. Once you’ve checked your monthly statement against your bank records and receipts, you’re free to shred them. You may want to hold on to receipts for large purchases until the item breaks or you get rid of it.

When in doubt, do some research! It’s better than tossing out something important. And schedule an annual review with a licensed and qualified financial professional. They can help you discern which documents you need and which ones can be destroyed.

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¹ “Save or Shred: How Long You Should Keep Financial Documents,” FINRA, Jan 27, 2017, https://www.finra.org/investors/insights/save-or-shred-how-long-you-should-keep-financial-documents

How Inflation Impacts Your Savings

May 10, 2021

How Inflation Impacts Your Savings

It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee!

The reality is that your retirement savings might be losing value every day. It’s because of something called inflation, and it may result in your finding yourself retiring with less than you anticipated. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how inflation affects your savings and what you can do about it.

First, what is inflation? Inflation is a measurement of how much prices are rising over time. And it’s not just that the price of gas is skyrocketing or some other commodity—inflation affects everything.

That may not necessarily be a problem for you, so long as your wages are increasing with the rate of inflation. Commodities might get more expensive, but your rising paycheck means you can still afford what you need. But if income isn’t keeping up with inflation, an upper-class income today may only afford you a middle-class income tomorrow!

But there’s another danger that inflation poses.

Let’s say you have $1 million dollars in the bank that you’ve put away for retirement. Good for you! You’ve probably already dreamed of how you’ll use that cash once you retire. A new home, a new car, worldwide travel, you name it!

But here’s the rub. Over time, the cost of those items (most likely) will steadily increase. So will the basic cost of living. By the time you retire, your $1 million has far less purchasing power than it did when you first started saving. You haven’t lost money, exactly. Your money has just lost value.

So how can you combat the slow decay caused by inflation?

Start by moving your money away from low, or no, growth places. Your Grandma may not like to hear this, but hiding money in your mattress is an easy way to torpedo its value over the long haul!

Find investments that actually grow over time and help beat inflation. Over the last 100 years or so, the average inflation rate has been 3.1%. That’s the bare minimum rate at which your investment should grow, if you’re using it for long-term wealth creation.

A licensed and qualified financial professional can help you with both of these steps. The sooner you start the process of protecting your wealth from inflation, the more you insulate yourself from the danger of waking up with less money than you’d thought!

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