The Coronavirus Outbreak

Markets sold off around the globe, as news that the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has spread to South Korea, Italy, Japan, and Iran. Many European markets closed down more than 4%. While the U.S. stock markets sold off hard as well, with the S&P 500 Index down 3.35% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 1,031 points by the end of trading on Monday.

“Although the fear over the pandemic is real, and the potential slowdown in the global economy could hurt 2020 corporate profits, let’s not forget that big down days are part of what long-term investors have had to accept,” said LPL Financial Senior Market Strategist Ryan Detrick.

As shown in the chart below, an average year has more than five separate days with at least a 2% correction for the S&P 500 Index. Even last year, with stocks up 30%, there were five separate days that saw the S&P 500 close down at least 2%.

The United States had held up relatively well in the face of the growing COVID-19 crisis. In fact, according to Sam Stovall of CFRA, the S&P 500 actually gained 1.6% a month after the first reported coronavirus case in the United States on January 21. As the chart below shows, stock market gains historically have been normal after the initial outbreak of various health crises have reached the United States.

Now, could the coronavirus impact the global economy more than previous epidemics and pandemics? That’s clearly a strong possibility, as global supply chains have come to a halt in the world’s second largest economy (China). The good news, though, is corporate America just reported a very impressive earnings season. The bad news is that this might change in the near future.

Lastly, we’d like to stress that pullbacks and market corrections happen and are part of long-term investing. In fact, since 1980 the average year has experienced a pullback from peak to trough of 13.7%. Even more impressive: Looking at the 29 years that stocks have been green since 1980, we see the average year had a correction of 10.9%!

We’ll continue to monitor the impact of the coronavirus situation very closely. In the meantime, we would suggest that long-term investors consider staying the course and possibly use this volatility as an opportunity to rebalance your portfolio or add to positions that have recently come down in value.

Disclosure: This website is solely for informational purposes. Nothing on this website should be considered as advice, research or an invitation to buy or sell securities.

Questions To Ask A Financial Advisor

Congratulations, you’re ready to hire a financial advisor! Hiring a financial advisor is an important milestone in one’s financial life. It symbolizes an inflection point of sorts, whereby you have accumulated enough money to justify seeking help in managing it effectively. But hiring a financial advisor can be confusing. Advisors are to money what doctors are to your health – they have years of training and experience, and come in many different varieties, specialties and levels of skill. Their compatibility with you and your goals can vary wildly depending on many different variables.

Even though they may carry the same title, “financial advisor”, the fact is that in today’s regulatory environment that can mean many different things. A psychiatrist and a rheumatologist may both have earned the right to be called “doctor”, but if you have Lupus, there’s only one you’d want to visit. Many advisors offer different services or products, get compensated in various manners, have multiple licenses or designations, work with a diverse range of clients. . . and the list goes on and on. This is not helpful when someone is looking to work with an advisor, in fact it can be discouraging. It’s important that you spend a little bit of time up front to see if they’re the right advisor for you.

Here’s a list of questions to ask a financial advisor when you first meet with them.

What Services Do You Specialize In?

Some financial advisors are more investment management focused and others are more focused on financial planning. Some do both. If you’re not looking for a comprehensive financial plan, and are more interested in having your assets managed, then you can narrow your search and look for an advisor that primarily sets up investment accounts.

But if you’re looking for an advisor that understands your whole financial picture, then work with someone who not only understands your investing goals, but also offers retirement planning, tax planning, estate planning, protection planning, cash flow analysis, help with major purchases as well as other goals.

Are You a Fiduciary?

This is a crucial question to ask a financial advisor. Fiduciaries must put their clients’ best interests before their own. Because of this obligation, financial advisors who are bound by the fiduciary duty tend to have fewer, and ideally, no conflicts of interest. Non-fiduciaries need only to recommend products that are “suitable” — even if they’re not the lowest-cost or most ideal for you.

It’s important that you ask the advisor this question to determine whether they may have any potential conflicts of interest. Some advisors may also act as insurance agents or representatives of a broker-dealer. They may earn commissions from selling or trading products, which may incentivize them to sell these products to their clients when they may not be in the best interest of the client.

What Professional Credentials Do You Have?

Financial professionals can have a confusing list of initials behind their names. You should find out what licenses the advisor has as well as how long they have held those licenses. It’s also recommended that you check their record for any disclosures (past regulatory, criminal or disciplinary actions). If you’re looking for someone to manage your assets, make sure you work with an advisor who has weathered more than one storm, because tough markets are when you will need them the most.

If you’re more interested in financial planning, you should look for an advisor with some sort of financial planning credentials. One of the most popular is the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation. This designation requires its people to complete coursework, a certification exam, and have sufficient experience before using the title. It also requires its practitioners to adhere to a set of ethical standards, including the fiduciary standard that requires them to put your interests ahead of theirs.

How Are You Compensated?

Financial advisors can get paid in various ways. Advisors acting as fiduciaries typically only accept fees paid by clients. Advisors working for banks, brokerage firms and insurance companies can receive commissions from the sale of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities or other insurance products. It may be hard to determine how these advisors are paid, as some of these commissions are embedded within the products. But keep in mind that advisors who are paid on commission may have an agenda to push and, as a result, are conflicted. Unfortunately, many of them are merely financial salespeople rather than true financial advisors.

To make things easier and avoid conflicts of interest, focus on fee-only advisors. They don’t get commissions for selling products and as we reviewed above, must put your best interests first when working with you. Depending on the service, a fee-only advisor may charge a flat fee, an hourly fee, an asset-based fee or a combination. Typically, advisors charge a flat fee or hourly fee for financial planning services and an asset-based fee for portfolio management. Always get a quote and find out what is included for that amount and what constitutes an extra charge. You might be responsible for trading costs, as well as other account fees. These additional costs can add up, so make sure you’re aware of them before you hire a financial advisor.

Where Are My Assets Held?

Your financial advisor should work with a brokerage, bank, insurance company, or other financial business that will act as an independent custodian for your money. That relationship should be clear and transparent, and you should always have the ability to connect with the custodian directly to see the value of your account instead of relying on the advisor.

Beware of any advisor that won’t share that custodian’s information, that insists on being the only go-between with the custodian, or acts as his or her own custodian. You should be able to go online and check your accounts at any time.

What Is Your Investment Philosophy?

A financial advisor should be able to describe their investment philosophy. Some advisors customize portfolios according to clients’ needs, while others offer a selection of model portfolios that they assign to clients based on their risk tolerance, goals and time frame. It’s important to ensure you have the same investment philosophy. Knowing whether or not their investment style aligns with your personal investing philosophy beforehand can save you a lot of headaches in the long run. A good financial advisor will want to learn about you, your overall financial situation, your risk tolerance and your goals before they make any recommendations.

Do You Have Account Minimums?

Some financial advisors require clients to invest a certain level of assets in order to start or maintain a relationship with them. For example, one financial advisor might work with clients who have at least $100,000 in investable assets, while another advisor might require a minimum of $10 million in assets. On the other hand, there are also advisors that don’t have any account or asset minimums as they typically charge financial planning fees. These account minimum differences is a good indication of the types of clients an advisor typically works with and if they would be a good fit for you.

How Often Will We Meet And Communicate?

In the beginning of your relationship with your financial advisor, it’s important that you have an open line of communication. Once you’ve established a solid plan, communication can be less frequent, but you’ll still want to be keep in touch and have regular checkups. How often is the advisor in touch with his or her typical client? How often should you plan to meet face to face or via conference call? Can you call or email whenever a question arises, or do you have to stick to a scheduled time? The answers to these questions will help you find an advisor that has a communication style that better suits your needs.

What’s Your Succession Plan?

Before starting a relationship with a financial advisor, it is very important to know what would happen to their clients if something unexpected happened to them. Advisors are in the business of helping others plan for their goals as well as a worst-case scenario. You would hope that your financial planner has also planned for unexpected scenarios. Advisors understand that their career won’t last forever, yet many of them don’t have a succession plan in place in case they exit the business by choice or for some unforeseen reason. Ask to see a Business Continuity Plan as well as a Succession Plan from your advisor. Whether your advisor is young or old, they should be ready to make sure that their clients are taken care of, if they are not around.

Conclusion

There are many types of financial professionals out there. So it’s important that you interview a few of them and find one who aligns with your goals, needs and wants in this relationship. Like any other type of relationship, trust is the most important factor. At the end of the day, you are hiring a financial advisor to help you plan for the precious years of your life and handle your money. Hopefully asking these questions will help you identify an advisor that you would like to work with and help start the relationship out on the right foot.

Retiring Wild: National Parks and You

For many older adults, finding time to experience nature can be one of the greatest pleasures in retirement. And what better place to take in America’s splendor than one of our over 400 National Park Service sites?1 For over a century, generations of retirees have explored these stunning landscapes, marveled at the diverse wildlife, and discovered the physical benefits of a retirement spent in the great outdoors.2 But recent research suggests that the mental benefits could be even more important for retirees. Read on to learn more.

The Cortisol Connection

Have you ever had a stressful day? One that left you tired and irritable? Those feelings are most likely caused by the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol serves an essential purpose in the human body, by helping to regulate your mood, motivation, and fear. However, when someone experiences sustained stress, their elevated levels of cortisol may greatly increase their risk of heart disease, depression, and even negatively impact their memory.2 Luckily, multiple studies show that connecting with nature for at least 20 minutes each day may be correlated to significantly lower cortisol levels.3 But the benefits don’t stop after 20 minutes. In fact, longer durations spent in a natural environment, may further enhance feelings of peace and wellbeing as well as increased mental performance.4

A Thrifty Option

The American National Park system is considered by some to be one of the healthiest and financially smart ways to vacation in retirement. After all, of the 417 current National Park Sites, roughly 300 allow free admission.5 For those who want access to everything the National Park Service (NPS) offers, the Lifetime Senior Pass ($80) or the Annual Senior Pass ($20) are both a steal. Regardless of which you purchase, remember that:

  • The Senior Pass may provide a 50 percent discount on some amenity fees, such as those related to camping, swimming, and specialized interpretive services.
  • The Senior Pass generally does NOT cover or reduce special recreation permit fees or fees charged by concessioners.
  • There may be a service fee depending on how you purchase your pass. For more details, including the most recent ticket prices, visit the National Park Service website before planning your next trip.

A Prescription for Nature

Even though locations like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Zion are the most-popular destinations for retirees, many communities benefit from smaller parks and nature preserves as well. For those who haven’t hiked or camped much, these local areas can be a great way to get started. Even those with more than a few years of national park experience stand to benefit, both physically and mentally, from visiting one of their local wildlife areas. So, before you pack your bags and load up the camper, do yourself a favor and look into what your home offers. You may discover that one of the best ways to stay happy, healthy, and sharp is closer than you think.

  1. Department of the Interior, 2018
  2. Science Daily, 2019
  3. Webmd, 2019
  4. Science Daily, 2019
  5. National Park Service, 2019

How Retirement Spending Changes With Time

New retirees sometimes worry that they are spending too much, too soon. Should they scale back? Are they at risk of outliving their money? This concern may be legitimate. Some households “live it up” and spend more than they anticipate as retirement starts to unfold. In 10 or 20 years, though, they may not spend nearly as much.

By The Numbers

The initial stage of retirement can be expensive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show average spending of $60,076 per year for households headed by pre-retirees, Americans age 55-64. That figure drops to $45,221 for households headed by people age 65 and older.1

When retirees are well into their 70s, spending often decreases. The Government Accountability Office data shows that people age 75-79 spend 41% less on average than people in their peak spending years (which usually occur in the late 40s).

Spending Pattern

Some suggest that retirement spending is best depicted by a U-shaped graph — It rises, then falls, then increases quickly due to medical expenses.

But in a 2017 study, the investment firm BlackRock found that retiree spending declined very slightly over time. Also, medical expenses only spiked for a small percentage of retirees in the last two years of their lives.2

What’s the best course for you? Your spending pattern will depend on your personal choices as you enter retirement. A carefully designed strategy can help you be prepared and enjoy your retirement years.

 

 

 

 

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

2. CBSnews December 26, 2017

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation.

Retirement Realities

Expectations vs. Reality

Predicting exactly what your retirement will be like is about as possible as a meteorologist predicting the weather correctly every single time. In fact, few retirees find their financial futures playing out precisely as they assumed. But, understanding some of the more common assumptions about retirement may help you get closer to your goal than most.

Do Retirees Actually “Outlive” Their Money?

Generations ago, as people retired, many did live in dire straits, sometimes “down to their last dime,” which lead to the creation of Social Security. Today, Social Security is still around and a common supplement to one’s retirement strategy. True, health crises can sometimes impoverish retirees, but working with a financial professional may even help you prepare for this hard-to-anticipate cost.

Retiring on 70-80% of Your End Salary May Not Be Feasible

A quick internet search reveals all sorts of sources instructing new retirees should strive to retire on 70-80% of their end salary, but it can be a tough one to achieve.

Most new retirees often want to travel, explore new pursuits, learn some hobbies, and finally get around to those things they had put off when they were too busy with work. So, in the first few years, some may spend roughly as much as they did before retirement.

For many retirees, median household spending increases on the way to a retirement transition. But, with a smart financial strategy, the annual median household spending in retirement tends to decline gradually after age 60 and begins to plateau when people reach their early eighties.1

Practice Makes Perfect, Even in Retirement

On average, households headed by those older than 65 spend 25% less annually than younger households (a difference of more than $15,000). While health care spending increases in retirement, other household costs decline, particularly transportation and housing expenses.2

Retirement May Arrive Earlier Than Expected

Most people retire closer to age 60 than age 70. Believe it or not, the average retirement age in this country is 61. That means you could find yourself claiming Social Security earlier than you planned, if only to avert drawing down your retirement savings too quickly.3

Living the Life You Want

In general, American retirees seem to have it pretty good. A recent survey found that 47% of American retirees feel that the time they put in before retirement allowed them to enjoy the same standard of living they had while working.4

Remain Flexible in Retirement

Your retirement may differ slightly or even greatly from the retirement you have imagined. Fortunately, it may be possible to create a flexible retirement strategy with the help of a financial professional. It’s never too late to start!

 

 

1. JP Morgan, 2019

2.Yahoo Finance, 2018

3. Gallup, 2018

4. Forbes, 2019

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation.

What Will Your Mortgage Look Like in Retirement?

Anyone who has gone through the process of mapping out their retirement knows there can be a lot to keep in mind. Saving, investing, anticipating medical costs, and making sure you have enough tucked away for years to come is just the start. One question many people overlook is: “Should I pay off my mortgage before I retire?” The answer is more complicated than you may think.

Maintaining a Mortgage in Retirement

Imagine you have $300,000 set aside to pay off your mortgage. But rather than using those funds to pay off your mortgage, you instead invest that money. Sure it’s tempting to stop making a monthly payment, but what if that $300,000 earned a hypothetical 6% for the next five years. You would have a little more than $400,000. Yes, your house may appreciate in value over the same period of time, but you should consider all your choices for that lump-sum of money.

Eradicate (Other) Debt

Before you pay down your mortgage, any extra cash might be better suited to paying off other kinds of debt that carry higher interest rates, especially non-deductible debt, such as credit card balances.

Make Your Mortgage Work

Many homeowners benefit from a mortgage interest deduction on their taxes. Here’s how it works: the amount you pay in mortgage interest is deducted from your gross income, which reduces your federal income tax burden. But remember, the further along you are toward paying off your mortgage, the less interest you’re paying. If you’re unsure if you’ll be able to take advantage of this mortgage benefit, it’s best to consult your financial professional.

Retire Your Mortgage

Your monthly mortgage payment may be a large part of your available capital, especially in retirement. Eliminating unnecessary subsidies can significantly reduce the amount of cash you need to meet monthly expenses.

Uninteresting Interest

Depending on the length of your mortgage term and the size of your debt, you may be paying a substantial amount in interest. Paying off your mortgage early can free up money for other uses. True, you may lose the mortgage interest tax deduction, but remember as you get closer to paying off your loan: more of each monthly payment goes to principal and less to interest. In other words, the amount you can deduct from taxes decreases.

Home Is Where the Heart Is

There’s a value to your home beyond money. It’s where you raised your children, made fond memories, and you may want it to remain in the family. Paying off the mortgage may help make your home part of your legacy. After all, some things you just can’t put a price on.

 

 

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation.

Essentials for Your Year-End Financial Checklist

The year-end deadline for many key financial decisions is approaching. Check your finances now to avoid unpleasant surprises.

December 31 marks the deadline for decisions that can significantly affect your wealth. Taking action now might enable you to reduce your taxes and increase your retirement savings. It’s also a great time to review your entire wealth plan with a professional financial advisor.

Take tax losses on your positions. Your investment portfolio probably has one or more poor performers. You may wish to sell losing positions to realize the losses and offset them against your capital gains. You can deduct up to $3,000 of excess capital losses against your ordinary income. Reevaluate and rebalance your holdings to achieve your desired asset allocations.

Fund your retirement accounts. Although you have until April 15 of next year to fund your retirement accounts, now is the time to determine your remaining contributions to your 401(k) plan and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA). If your income exceeds Roth IRA limits, consider a partial conversion of traditional IRA assets to a Roth IRA*. Also, don’t forget to take any required minimum distributions if you’ve reached age 701/2.

Review your flexible spending accounts. It’s a good time to review your health insurance coverage with your financial advisor and insurance agent. Make sure you don’t let your flexible spending account (FSA) balance exceed $500, the maximum amount you can carry forward into the next year. Some employers offer a grace period until March 15 to use last year’s funds. However, you can only use one of these options. You should check with your employer to see what their policy is.1

Review your beneficiary designations. Circumstances might have changed during the year, prompting changes to the designated beneficiaries in your will, trusts, retirement plans, insurance policies, and charitable gift plans. Review your estate plan to evaluate moving assets to new or existing trusts. Finalize your gifting to family and friends based on the latest gift tax limits. Review your insurance policies to determine if the coverage is still appropriate.

Year-end financial reviews are essential. Contact me today to schedule a review session that will help you find opportunities to manage your tax burden, control your bequests, and start planning your financial goals for the new year.

* Traditional IRA account owners should consider the tax ramifications, age and income restrictions in regards to executing a conversion from a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. The converted amount is generally subject to income taxation.



1 irs.gov, “Plan now to Use Health Flexible Spending Arrangements in 2018; Contribute up to $2,650; $500 Carryover Option Available to Many” 11/15/17

Money Management 101 for Single Parents Going it Alone

1. Determine What You Owe

As the head of the household, it’s up to you to make sure that your entire family’s needs are being met. In order to do that, you need to be extremely diligent when it comes to money management basics. This is not something that will happen by accident. Instead, you must plan for it and work toward it.

The first step is to set up your “office.” Gather all of your bills, a calculator, a pencil, and your checkbook.

I would also recommend that you grab an old binder that you can use to keep track of your financial data and a shoebox for storing paid bills.

Now you’re ready to begin:

  • Go through all of your bills, and pay anything that is due within the next week.
  • If you have bills coming due that you cannot pay, notify the company and ask them to set up a payment plan with you.
  • Print a copy of the chart “Paying Down My Debts” or make your own.
  • On the chart, list all of your debts, including any car loans, student loans, and credit card debt.
  • In addition, list the total balance left to be paid on all of these debts, and the percentage rate you are paying.
  • For now, leave the fourth column of the chart blank, and store it in your “Financial Data” binder.

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2. Eliminate Joint Debt

Before we create a plan for paying down your debt, it’s important to consider some special circumstances that may apply to you as a single parent. I asked LaToya Irby, Credit/Debt Management Expert, to share her expertise on handling joint debt:

Wolf: Let’s say a single mom still shares a credit card with her ex. What should she do?

Irby: Ideally, she would want her ex to transfer his portion of any joint balances onto his own credit card. That way, everyone is paying for their own debt.

Wolf: What about leaving both names on the account, and agreeing to pay part of the amount due? Is that ever advisable?

Irby: No. If you’ve made an agreement with your ex to split the debt payments on accounts that include your name, and your ex-misses a payment, it’s going to hurt your credit. If the ex-fails to pay altogether, the creditors and collectors will come after you. Not even a divorce decree can change the terms of a joint credit card agreement. In the credit card issuer’s eyes, you’re just as much responsible for post-divorce accounts as before.

Wolf: What about situations when a couple’s divorce decree mandates that one individual must pay off the joint credit card debt, but that person fails to do it?

Irby: You can always file contempt of court papers against him/her, but in the meantime, your credit score suffers. So I suggest paying off the debt to save your credit. If you can’t afford to pay the debt, at least make minimum payments to keep a positive payment history on your credit report.

Wolf: What about other accounts, such as utilities and cell phones?

Irby: The safest thing to do, if you have a service in your ex’s name, is to turn off the account and reestablish service in your name.

 

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3. Find Money to Pay Down Debt

Another thing we have to do before creating a plan to pay down your existing debt is to find money in your budget each month. To assist in this step, I contacted Erin Huffstetler, Frugal Living Expert.

Wolf: How much money do you think the average person can uncover just by being more intentional about spending and budgeting?

Huffstetler: The average person could easily uncover an extra $250 a month—and probably much more.

Wolf: What are the top 5 areas that you think people should look to first when they’re trying to cut their expenses?

Huffstetler:

  • Food spending (both groceries and eating out)
  • TV-related expenses (cable/satellite services, certainly; but also movie subscriptions and rentals)
  • Phone services (particularly extras like call waiting, caller id, long distance, and cell phones)
  • Insurance premiums
  • Miscellaneous spending (all those small amounts spent on coffee, vending machine snacks, and other indulgences)

Wolf: How can single parents, specifically, stretch their child support dollars and reduce child-related expenses?

Huffstetler: For single parents looking to stretch their child support dollars, creativity is the key. Look to children’s consignment shops and thrift stores to buy your kids’ clothes instead of department stores; sign them up for Parks and Rec-run activities instead of privately-run activities (which will always cost more); and don’t feel like you have to make up for being a single parent by buying them extra things—it’s you they need, not stuff.

 

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4. Pay Off Your Debt

The next step is creating a schedule for paying down your debt:

  1. Pay off the debts that charge you the highest interest first.Bob Hammond, author of Life Without Debt, recommends that you pay off the debts that are charging you the highest interest first since borrowing from those creditors is costing you the most money. “Concentrate on paying off the high-cost debts as soon as possible,” Hammond advises. LaToya Irby, Credit/Debt Management Expert, agrees. “Highest interest rate debts cost the most money, especially when those debts have high balances. So you’ll save money on interest charges when you pay off those high-interest rate debts first.”However, there are exceptions to this general rule. Irby notes, “If you’re likely to get discouraged because it’s taking a long time to pay off that high-interest rate debt, you can start with the lowest balance debt. Getting some small debts paid off will motivate you to keep going.”
  2. Pay more than the minimum payment. Aim for paying more than the suggested minimum payment, in order to pay off your debts as quickly as possible.Miriam Caldwell, Money in Your 20’s Expert, shares this advice:
    • Choose one debt to focus on.
    • Increase your payment on that debt by as much as you can.
    • Once you have paid off that debt, move all that you are paying on it to the next debt you want to pay off.
    • You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can get out of debt with this plan!
  3. Meanwhile, continue to pay the minimum balance due on all of your other debts.Record what you intend to pay toward each debt on the debt chart you made in Step 1.

 

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5. Budget Your Monthly Expenses

Now that you know where you stand financially, and you’ve created a plan for paying down your debts, it’s time to make sure that you’re making any other necessary adjustments so that you can keep up with your plan. And this means creating a budget.

I know this can be intimidating, but I’m going to make a suggestion for you: Sign up for Mint.com. It’s a free financial software program available on the Internet, and it will basically do your budgeting for you. It will create a visual pie chart showing how much you’re spending each month on housing, gas, food, entertainment, and more. This way, if it turns out that you’re spending a lot more on food than you really should, you can begin to make the necessary adjustments to get your spending under control.

If you would prefer to create your budget the traditional way, allotting a certain amount of money to each spending category, I’ve created an online budget calculator you can use, which includes categories for child support and other details specific to your life as a single parent.

Finally, in taking a look at where your money really goes each month, it’s important to know approximately how much money you “should” be spending in each category. Generally speaking, your net spendable income (after taxes) should be allocated as follows*:

  • Housing: 30%
  • Food: 12%
  • Auto: 14%
  • Insurance: 5%
  • Debt: 5%
  • Entertainment: 7%
  • Clothing: 6%
  • Savings: 5%
  • Medical/Dental: 4%
  • Miscellaneous: 7%
  • Child Care: 5%
  • Investments: 5%

 

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6. Set Financial Goals

Now that you’ve worked out a plan to pay down your debt, and you’ve created a budget, it’s time to determine your needs moving forward.

Specifically, as a single parent, you need to ask yourself some questions, such as:

  • Do you need to file for child support?
  • Do you need to get a higher-paying job?
  • Is it time to think about going back to school?
  • Do you need to consider moving into a home/rental that would reduce your overall monthly payments?
  • Are there alternatives, such as taking on another job or splitting expenses with another single parent family, that you need to consider at this point?

One of the things that I want you to know is that the ball is in your court. You determine where this goes from here on out. But unfortunately, you can’t do that if you’re ignoring your financial health, right?

So the fact that you’ve come this far in the process of getting a handle on your finances tells me that you’re determined to make the changes you need to make in order to provide for your family’s future.

So go ahead and ask yourself these questions. So much of single parenting is learning to roll with the punches and be creative in the face of adversity. If, indeed, you need to make some pretty major changes, now is the time to do it. Don’t incur any more debt where you are. Be resourceful, follow through, and do what you need to do to turn your financial situation around.

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7. Increase Your Net Worth

The next step is to determine your net worth and begin adding to it.

Determine Your Net Worth:

Your net worth is what you own minus what you owe. Programs such as Mint.com, Quicken, and Microsoft Money will calculate your net worth for you, automatically.

You can also determine your net worth simply by adding up all that you own, including all of your investments, the equity you may have paid into your home, the value of your car, and any other assets you possess; and subtracting what you owe in remaining debts.

Set Up a Savings Account:

Once you know where you stand, you’ll be ready to set up a savings account. You can do this through your regular bank, or begin investing in a mutual fund that pays interest.

Even if you can only afford to set aside $25 or $50 per month, it will begin to add up.

Before you know it, you’ll have an emergency savings plan in place, to protect you in the event that your car breaks down, or your home needs a major repair.

In addition, this regular savings will help you increase your net worth over time.

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8. Become Even More Frugal

Unfortunately, all of the work you’ve already done in steps 1-7 will have little lasting value if you don’t change your attitude toward money. Now is the time to become even more frugal and learn to live within your means.

Practice Discipline:

Stop imagining that more money is going to pour in tomorrow—through finally collecting on unpaid child support, winning the lottery, or getting a promotion. If those things happen, great! You’ll be even better off. But living as if they’re going to happen is causing you to spend money you don’t have.

Instead, force yourself to make purchases with cash only. Do not continue to pay outrageous interest payments toward credit cards for purchases you don’t absolutely need. You can get by without that new furniture, right? What else could you skip, in the interest of spending only what you have right now in the bank?

Try These Ideas:

  • Check Freecycle before you make another major purchase. Someone else may be giving away the very thing you’d like to buy!
  • When you’re getting ready to buy something specific, look for it on eBay first. I buy a lot of my clothes, new-with-tags, through online auctions!
  • Forget trying to keep up with “The Jones’s.” You already know your value; don’t get caught up trying to “prove” your worth to others by having “just the right” house, car, or appearance.
  • Do not use shopping, ever, to appease your emotions.
  • Finally, when you do go to make a big purchase, step back and give yourself a few days–or even a week–to think about it. There’s no reason to suffer through buyer’s remorse and try to justify to yourself purchases that you really can’t afford. Think it over carefully and make those purchases, when necessary, with cash.

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9. Schedule Your Own Weekly Financial Check-In

Grab your calendar and schedule a weekly financial update meeting with yourself. This is an extremely important step in managing your personal finances, and it’s one that you need to continue each and every week. During your “meeting” time:

  • Pay any bills that are due.
  • If your bank statement has arrived, take the time to balance your checkbook.
  • Check the balances of your checking and savings accounts.
  • Update your debt list to incorporate any recent payments.
  • This is also a good time to write out your grocery shopping list and check what’s on sale at your local grocery store this week (either using the store’s Web site or the sales circular that comes in the newspaper).
  • Finally, also make note of any upcoming expenses you need to anticipate and plan for.

An attitude of gratitude and finances.

 

 

References:
Irby, LaToya. Email interview. 24 Oct. 2008, 
Huffstetler, Erin. Email interview. 24 Oct. 2008. 
Sources:
Caldwell, Miriam. Email interview. 27 Oct. 2008, Hammond, Bob. “Debt Free Key: 10 Steps for Coping With Credit Problems.” Life Without Debt. Franklin Lakes, NJ: Career Press, 1995. 31-32, Irby, LaToya. Email interview. 24 Oct. 2008. 
“Spending Plan Online Calculator.” Crown Financial Ministries. 11 Oct. 2008.

Written By: Jennifer Wolf

Source: thebalance

 

 

 

Your Money: Sharing Family Getaways Without Any Cottage Conflicts

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Picture it: 40 picturesque acres nestled in Wisconsin lake country.

That is the ideal getaway the grandfather of Chicago financial planner Tim Obendorf’s wife built around 50 years ago. Then the property passed to the next generation, with ownership shared by four people.

Now they are thinking about the next generation: 11 potential owners.

Without the right planning, that paradise could turn into hell.

As brothers, sisters, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents gather this summer at family homes to go hiking, canoeing or swimming, there will also be arguments over schedules, property taxes or mortgage costs, and upkeep duties, along with the thousand other matters that come with shared homeownership.

“Whenever a number of families are under the same roof, conflicts are going to arise,” said Jill Shipley, managing director of family dynamics for Abbot Downing, a division of Wells Fargo that handles high-net-worth families and foundations.

That is why Obendorf’s family has already logged a couple of family meetings. “It’s never going to be perfect, but you have to decide you value the place, more than the hassles of working through family issues,” said Obendorf.

It is not surprising that vacation homes have become a point of contention. Many vacation homeowners are baby boomers: They possess the bulk of the nation’s assets and are projected to hold over 50 percent by 2020, according to a study by the Deloitte Center for Financial Services. They are now beginning to retire as they hit their 60s and 70s.

The potential problems are plentiful: Is the place big enough for everybody? Who gets it on July 4th weekend? Do they split costs equally? Who cleans up, handles repairs, or stocks the fridge?

And the big one: When the owners eventually pass on – who gets the place?

How can families get the most out of shared vacation properties this summer, without either going broke or killing each other? Some tips from the experts:

Draw Up a Calendar

Just like season tickets for a sports team, some dates will be in high demand. So if the property is not big enough to handle multiple families at once – or, let’s face it, you just do not get along – pick your spots. “Establish a rotating lottery each year, and allow each family member to pick their respective dates,” suggests Kevin Reardon, a financial planner in Pewaukee, Wisconsin.

Write Down a Policy

Everyone has different opinions of what a getaway should be, so hash it out and put it all down on paper. One key item: Whether ongoing costs like property taxes, homeowner’s association dues and repairs are split equally, or allocated based on usage.

Create an Opt-out

A sure way to guarantee family resentment: One member being forced into an arrangement they do not want. If a family cottage is being passed to the next generation, allow an escape hatch that permits one member’s share to be bought out by their siblings. After all, not everyone might be able to use the property to the same extent, especially if they have moved far away.

Bring in a Pro

Siblings, of course, do not always get along. In fact, 15 percent of adult siblings report arguing over money, according to a new survey from Ameriprise Financial. To make sure everyone is heard, bringing in a trained facilitator is probably your best bet, advises Shipley.

Have the Discussion Now

“I have been in many family meetings where the kids ask, ‘I wonder what mom and dad would have wanted?'” says Shipley. So if you are fortunate enough that the family matriarch and patriarch are still around, arrange a family meeting and find out what they envision for the property in the decades to come.

Maybe they want it to stay in the family, as a legacy for the grandkids. Or maybe, because of family circumstances like far-flung siblings, it would be wiser to just sell the property and split the proceeds.

Set up a Trust

One way to take future financial squabbles out of the equation altogether: If families have the resources, they should create a trust to “fund the maintenance and ongoing use of the property in perpetuity,” says Shipley. “That is one solution to reduce conflict, and keep the property in the family for generations.”

 

 

 

Written By: Chris Taylor
Source: Reuters

Raising Kids to Be Smart About Money

Young minds are programmed to absorb and copy the behaviors around them, which means the sooner you instill proper money management skills, the more prone your kids are to become mature and responsible stewards of their own cash-flow in the future.
“Becoming financially literate early in life is fundamentally important to your financial well-being as an adult,” says Micah Fraim, award-winning CPA and best-selling author.

“I was pinching pennies at five years old, calculating the cost of grocery items per ounce, refusing to buy expensive clothes unless they were on-sale and foregoing scoops of ice cream from the ice cream shop, so I could buy multiple gallons at the grocery store,” Fraim says. “Now as an adult, I still have that same mindset and live well below my means.”

The following kid-approved strategies help you teach the core tenets of being financially savvy; in terms they’ll understand and appreciate. Consider how you can use them to teach your little ones to be smart about money.

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Find Opportunities for Lessons

At some point, your child will inevitably deplete their allowance on impulse purchases, rather than holding out for the more expensive item they’ve been asking for. Instead of giving them more money, or buying it for them, use this as an opportunity to demonstrate that money is a finite resource, which must be allocated over an extended period. Once you spend, it’s gone until you can make more.

Have a conversation about what else they could have done with that money, or how much longer they would have needed to save to get the big-ticket item they wanted. Perhaps give an example of when you spent foolishly, or better yet, saved enough money to buy something important, like your house or car.

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Demonstrate that Income Is Earned

Chores are an easy way to teach children that money must be earned. This tangible incentive for contributing to your household shows them that have to work for what they want, and even do things they may not want to do—i.e. vacuuming and doing the dishes.

The concept of having to earn your money is a positive outcome of rewarding children financially for completing chores. However, some parents find that this method doesn’t necessarily teach money management, making it a bad way to teach children how to be smart about money. The key to avoiding the latter is the set-up.

Susan Borowski, mother and author for Money Crashers, shares how she set this up with her teenage son:

“As a contributing member of the family, my 13-year-old son is expected to do certain chores around the house for free. He can earn money for tackling larger tasks, many of which he can choose, some of which he cannot; the amount he earns depends on the difficulty of the task or how long it takes. This forces us to discuss money each time he takes on a larger task.”

This shows them that they have control over how much they earn, rather than it being a given.

Secondly, keep chores focused on money management with an app like Chore Monster so children can track what they’ve done and earned. This is an easy way to establish a record-keeping system, for both chores and allowance, seeing increases or decreases in money earned over time.

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Establish a Record-Keeping System

When your child is consistently earning allowance or money for chores, it’s important that they’re able to account for what happens with that money. The more emphasis you put on this piece of the earning, the more they’ll see the value of managing their funds. They’ll start to notice wasteful spending habits and identify which pitfalls to avoid during their next allowance payout.

Designate a folder where they can stockpile receipts and a notebook where they can track all purchases. This simple method of financial reporting is an ideal precursor to balancing a checkbook, analyzing bank statements, or creating a monthly budget.

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Use Visual Aids to Your Advantage

Although the “piggy bank” is a time-honored childhood favorite, this approach to money management doesn’t allow your child to see the positive outcome of their coin stashing. For a more functional alternative, use a transparent mason jar or clear plastic Tupperware container, both of which gives them an unobstructed view of the progressive financial increase that comes from diligent and habitual saving. This tool makes the abstract concept of saving easy to see and understand.

You can also open a bank account for older children. This gives them a chance to become familiar with bank statements, which act as a visual aid. Each time a new statement comes in, they can sit down and look at how much money was put into the bank account and how that’s changed month-over-month. Many banks now offer online portals, as well, where your children can see progress represented in bar and pie graphs; these may be easier to understand and digest.

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Encourage Them to Set a Savings Goal

There’s a sense of accomplishment and empowerment in reaching a goal with no shortcuts taken or assistance received. Channel this mindset when encouraging your child to practice economical behaviors. Next time they express interest in the latest gadget, suggest they purchase it themselves and develop a step-by-step plan together, so they feel equipped for the undertaking. This process of setting aside money with a specific goal in mind reinforces the gratification gained from being smart about money and purchasing the item without any help.

It’s never too early to start teaching your kids about how to be financially savvy. Too many people don’t learn about personal finance until it’s too late — like when they’re buried in student loans — so teaching these skills early on is important for setting your children up for success later in life.

 

 

 

Written By: Jessica Thiefels
Source: PBS