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

14 Things Ridiculously Successful People Do Every Day

Having close access to ultra-successful people can yield some pretty incredible information about who they really are, what makes them tick, and, most importantly, what makes them so successful and productive.

“Whenever you see a successful person, you only see the public glories, never the private sacrifices to reach them.” – Vaibhav Shah

Kevin Kruse is one such person. He recently interviewed over 200 ultra-successful people, including 7 billionaires, 13 Olympians, and a host of accomplished entrepreneurs. One of his most revealing sources of information came from their answers to a simple open-ended question:

“What is your number one secret to productivity?”

In analyzing their responses, Kruse coded the answers to yield some fascinating suggestions. What follows are some of my favorites from Kevin’s findings.

1. They focus on minutes, not hours. Most people default to hour and half-hour blocks on their calendar; highly successful people know that there are 1,440 minutes in every day and that there is nothing more valuable than time. Money can be lost and made again, but time spent can never be reclaimed. As legendary Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller told Kevin, “To this day, I keep a schedule that is almost minute by minute.” You must master your minutes to master your life.

2. They focus on only one thing. Ultra-productive people know what their “Most Important Task” is and work on it for one to two hours each morning, without interruptions. What task will have the biggest impact on reaching your goals? What accomplishment will get you promoted at work? That’s what you should dedicate your mornings to every day.

3. They don’t use to-do lists. Throw away your to-do list; instead schedule everything on your calendar. It turns out that only 41% of items on to-do lists ever get done. All those undone items lead to stress and insomnia because of the Zeigarnik effect, which, in essence, means that uncompleted tasks will stay on your mind until you finish them. Highly productive people put everything on their calendar and then work and live by that calendar.

4. They beat procrastination with time travel. Your future self can’t be trusted. That’s because we are time inconsistent. We buy veggies today because we think we’ll eat healthy salads all week; then we throw out green rotting mush in the future. Successful people figure out what they can do now to make certain their future selves will do the right thing. Anticipate how you will self-sabotage in the future, and come up with a solution today to defeat your future self.

5. They make it home for dinner. Kevin first learned this one from Intel’s Andy Grove, who said, “There is always more to be done, more that should be done, always more than can be done.” Highly successful people know what they value in life. Yes, work, but also what else they value. There is no right answer, but for many, these other values include family time, exercise, and giving back. They consciously allocate their 1,440 minutes a day to each area they value (i.e., they put them on their calendar), and then they stick to that schedule.

6. They use a notebook. Richard Branson has said on more than one occasion that he wouldn’t have been able to build Virgin without a simple notebook, which he takes with him wherever he goes. In one interview, Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis said, “Always carry a notebook. Write everything down. That is a million dollar lesson they don’t teach you in business school!” Ultra-productive people free their minds by writing everything down as the thoughts come to them.

7. They process e-mails only a few times a day. Ultra-productive people don’t “check” their e-mail throughout the day. They don’t respond to each vibration or ding to see who has intruded into their inbox. Instead, like everything else, they schedule time to process their e-mails quickly and efficiently. For some, that’s only once a day; for others, it’s morning, noon, and night.

8. They avoid meetings at all costs. When Kevin asked Mark Cuban to give his best productivity advice, he quickly responded, “Never take meetings unless someone is writing a check.” Meetings are notorious time killers. They start late, have the wrong people in them, meander around their topics, and run long. You should get out of meetings whenever you can and hold fewer of them yourself. If you do run a meeting, keep it short and to the point.

9. They say “no” to almost everything. Billionaire Warren Buffet once said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” And James Altucher colorfully gave Kevin this tip: “If something is not a ‘Hell Yeah!’ then it’s a no.” Remember, you only have 1,440 minutes in a day. Don’t give them away easily.

10. They follow the 80/20 rule. Known as the Pareto Principle, in most cases, 80% of results come from only 20% of activities. Ultra-productive people know which activities drive the greatest results. Focus on those and ignore the rest.

11. They delegate almost everything. Ultra-productive people don’t ask, “How can I do this task?” Instead, they ask, “How can this task get done?” They take the I out of it as much as possible. Ultra-productive people don’t have control issues, and they are not micro-managers. In many cases, good enough is, well, good enough.

12. They touch things only once. How many times have you opened a piece of regular mail–a bill perhaps–and then put it down, only to deal with it again later? How often do you read an e-mail and then close it and leave it in your inbox to deal with later? Highly successful people try to “touch it once.” If it takes less than five or ten minutes–whatever it is–they deal with it right then and there. It reduces stress, since it won’t be in the back of their minds, and it is more efficient, since they won’t have to re-read or re-evaluate the item again in the future.

13. They practice a consistent morning routine. Kevin’s single greatest surprise while interviewing over 200 highly successful people was how many of them wanted to share their morning ritual with him. While he heard about a wide variety of habits, most nurtured their bodies in the morning with water, a healthy breakfast, and light exercise, and they nurtured their minds with meditation or prayer, inspirational reading, or journaling.

14. Energy is everything. You can’t make more minutes in the day, but you can increase your energy to increase your attention, focus, and productivity. Highly successful people don’t skip meals, sleep, or breaks in the pursuit of more, more, more. Instead, they view food as fuel, sleep as recovery, and breaks as opportunities to recharge in order to get even more done.

Bringing It All Together

You might not be an entrepreneur, an Olympian, or a billionaire (or even want to be), but their secrets just might help you to get more done in less time and assist you to stop feeling so overworked and overwhelmed.

 

 

Written By: Travis Bradberry
Source: Inc.

Let’s Go On A Money Adventure

It’s never too early to start teaching kids the value of money, so Ally created a children’s book to help kids learn about money skills as part of their Wallet Wise financial literacy program.

Planet Zeee and the Money Tree is a tool to help parents and educators teach children the fundamentals of learning, saving and growing money. Take your child on an intergalactic adventure with the kids from Planet Zeee as they learn important money lessons from their Earthling friends. It’s never too early to teach children financial responsibility and good money habits.

Download your free copy here!

 

 

 

FOMC Raises Rates By 25 BPS As Expected, But Now Sees 3 Hikes Instead of 2 in 2017

As was expected, the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) policymaking arm, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), decided to raise rates by 0.25% (25 basis points) at the conclusion of its two-day meeting. The move had been fully priced into financial markets for the past month or so. This is the second rate hike in this cycle. The first was a year ago in December 2015. Here is a side by side comparison of the statement released today versus the statement released at the last FOMC meeting on November 2, 2016. The big story in today’s meeting is that the FOMC now expects to raise rates three times next year; at the September 2016 FOMC meeting, the Fed expected just two hikes in 2017, and the market and the Fed were aligned on that assessment before today.

In its statement, the FOMC made few changes to its assessment of the labor market, the overall economy, household spending, and business capital spending relative to November, but meaningfully upgraded its view of the labor market. For the second straight meeting, the FOMC sounded a bit more concerned about inflation, noting that “Inflation has increased since earlier this year.” In addition, the FOMC said that “Market-based measures of inflation compensation have moved up considerably.” As it did in November, the FOMC highlighted that the “near-term risks to the economy are roughly balanced,” and the statement again mentioned the committee would “monitor inflation indicators and global economic and financial developments,” a phrase that has been in every FOMC statement this year.

As it has for a year, the FOMC noted that it expects the pace of rate hikes to be gradual and that any future hikes are data dependent and not on a preset course.

The Fed also released a new set of economic forecasts and dot plots at today’s meeting, as it does four times a year. The key takeaways here are that FOMC members now think the Fed will hike rates three times in 2017, down from two hikes embedded in the September 2016 dot plots. The FOMC still expects three 25 basis point hikes in 2018 and 2019, as it did in September. The long run fed funds rate—what the Fed would consider neutral—rose from 2.875% in the September 2016 dot plots to 3.125% today. This is the first time in nearly five years that the Fed has moved up its assessment of the long-run fed funds rate. Fed Chair Janet Yellen was conducting her fourth and final press conference of the year as this blog was being prepared.

As of now, Fed speakers are not scheduled between now and year-end. The minutes of today’s FOMC meeting will be released on Wednesday, January 4, 2017, and the Beige Book for the next (January 31-February 1, 2017) FOMC meeting is due out on Wednesday, January 18, 2017. President-elect Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address in late January/early February will be of keen interest to the Fed and Fed watchers. In addition, the mid-February 2017 appearance by Yellen before Congress for her semiannual monetary policy testimony will provide the market with insight into the Fed’s views on any specifics on fiscal policy provided by the incoming Trump Administration and Congress in early 2017. The interaction between fiscal and monetary policy in 2017 is a key concern for markets.

Click here to view the FOMC schedule for 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES: The economic forecasts set forth in the presentation may not develop as predicted. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide or be construed as providing specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual security. Basis Points are a unit relating to interest rates that is equal to 1/100th of a percentage point. It is frequently but not exclusively used to express differences in interest rates of less than 1%. The Beige Book is a commonly used name for the Fed report called the Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions by Federal Reserve District. It is published just before the FOMC meeting on interest rates and is used to inform the members on changes in the economy since the last meeting. Monetary policy is the process through which the monetary authority (central bank, currency board, or other regulatory committee) of a country controls the size and rate of growth of the money supply, which in turn affects interest rates. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is the branch of the Federal Reserve Board that determines the direction of monetary policy. The eleven-person FOMC is composed of the seven-member board of governors, and the five Federal Reserve Bank presidents. The president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York serves continuously, while the presidents of the other regional Federal Reserve Banks rotate their service in one-year terms. This research material has been prepared by LPL Financial LLC.

Is This 100-year Old Indicator Suggesting Market Strength?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow) gained for the sixth consecutive day yesterday and closed at a new all-time high for the third straight day. The Dow Jones Transports (Transports), meanwhile, had another big day yesterday and has been one of the top performers since the election. The Dow and Transports will forever be linked, as they are the two components to Dow Theory. Charles Dow created the Dow Theory in the late 1800’s, and it revolves around needing confirmation from both industrial and transports before establishing market direction. Think about it—if both the industrial and transports are strong, this likely suggests an improving economy. The flip side is if both are going lower, the economy is weakening.

Another way to look at the relationship between the two indexes is to compare them on a relative strength chart. When the ratio of the Transportation Index to the Dow increases, this means that transports are outperforming. We have found that when this ratio on a weekly chart moves above its 40-week simple moving average for more than three weeks, stocks tend to move higher over the next year. This signal triggered recently; the last time it happened was in late 2012, right before a huge equity rally in 2013.

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Looking at historical data going back to 1979, this signal triggered 20 times. Take note, we removed the two largest recessions over the past 20 years, as we don’t see any signs of a coming recession. The S&P 500 gained more than 9% on average six months later and was higher 80% of the time. Going out a full year, the S&P 500 has been up more than 16% on average and higher all 20 times.

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Could this newfound strength from the transports be telling us the economy could be set for strong improvement as we head into 2017? It very well could be, and this could be another reason to expect the equity bull market could possibly continue as well.

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All indexes are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment.The economic forecasts set forth in the presentation may not develop as predicted. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide or be construed as providing specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual security. Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal. Because of its narrow focus, specialty sector investing will be subject to greater volatility than investing more broadly across many sectors and companies. The S&P 500 Index is a capitalization-weighted index of 500 stocks designed to measure performance of the broad domestic economy through changes in the aggregate market value of 500 stocks representing all major industries. The Dow Jones Industrial Average Index is comprised of U.S.-listed stocks of companies that produce other (non-transportation and nonutility) goods and services. The Dow Jones Industrial Averages are maintained by editors of The Wall Street Journal. While the stock selection process is somewhat subjective, a stock typically is added only if the company has an excellent reputation, demonstrates sustained growth, is of interest to a large number of investors, and accurately represents the market sectors covered by the average. The Dow Jones averages are unique in that they are price weighted; therefore, their component weightings are affected only by changes in the stocks’ prices. This research material has been prepared by LPL Financial LLC.

How to Talk Money with Your Spouse

Ugh. You know you should talk to your spouse about money, but every time you do, someone gets angry, feelings get hurt and you promise yourself you’ll never bring up the subject again.

Am I right?

OK, I’m sure some of you can talk money like a pro with your spouse, but I’m willing to bet a whole bunch of you dread the thought. I’m a saver who used to be married to a spender. I know.

Even though you may think it’s a lost cause, you still need to try to keep the lines of communication open. Edelman Financial Services found 44 percent of surveyed couples believe money is the root cause of most divorces.

“Financial pressures can lead to the breakdown of the family,” David Bach told me. Bach is the vice chairman of Edelman Financial Services and author of “Smart Couples Finish Rich.”

His research found that being on the same page financially with a spouse not only helps keep you out of divorce court, but it can also fatten your bank account. Of those who discuss finances with their spouse, 36 percent have savings of $100,000-$499,000.

How do you have healthy money conversations with your spouse? Here are five suggestions from the experts.

1. Make it a scheduled event

A woman writes in her calendar.

© altrendo images/Getty Images A woman writes in her calendar. 

The problem with most money discussions is that they usually arise when there is a problem. When one person says, “Honey, can we talk about the budget?” the other person may instantly think, “Ugh, what’s wrong?” Or they may assume they’re in trouble for spending too much.

Either way, it puts the other person on the defensive or in a foul mood right from the get-go.

Instead, agree on a specific day for a monthly review of the family finances. It could be the first Friday of the month or on each payday. It doesn’t have to be long or involved either. It could be as simple as 10 minutes spent going over last month’s cash flow and identifying major or periodic expenses coming down the pipeline.

A regular meeting gets both spouses on the same page financially and ensures they both take ownership of family finances. I asked Anne Malec, a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of “Marriage in Modern Life,” what she thought was the biggest mistake couples make when having money conversations.

“It’s probably the feeling that it’s one partner’s issue to solve [money] problems,” she told me. However, a monthly meeting takes the burden off one spouse to work alone to balance the budget.

2. Pair it with something fun

A couple chats during a dinner date.

© Portra Images/Getty Images A couple chats during a dinner date. 

To sweeten the appeal of a monthly money discussion, pair it with something fun. Bach is a fan of “money dates” and notes that he has clients who always follow up their appointments with him with a movie or dinner out.

“My really happy couples don’t look at their money as drudgery,” he explains. Instead, they use financial meetings as an excuse for a night out.

You don’t have to see a financial planner to make a money date work for you. Simply plan to have your money conversation at your favorite restaurant or if that’s too extravagant for your budget, follow up an at-home money talk with a rented movie and homemade treats.

The point is, make it fun so your spouse doesn’t think of the money talk as work. They might still not love the idea, but they may be willing to endure it with a smile because they know something good is happening afterward.

3. Focus on goals, not bills

A stack of bills.

© Jupiterimages/Getty Images A stack of bills.

Another tip that can make money talks less painful is to focus on shared goals, not everyday bills. Bach suggests couples open a dream account where money can be put aside for a vacation, travel or some other family priority.

“Money is just a tool to design your best life,” Bach says.

Rather than focus on how little you may have, focus on how to make the best use of it. By talking about goals, you’ll naturally bring in a discussion of bills as well. For example, if you and your spouse want to take an anniversary trip, you both may be more likely and willing to cut back in other places.

4. Bring in a third party if needed

A couple meets with a financial planner.

© Paul Simcock/Getty Images A couple meets with a financial planner. 

Sometimes your bad money habits are so ingrained that bringing in a third party to air out the topic is necessary. You could use a marriage and family therapist like Malec or a financial planner like Bach. Or you could go a different route if that’s not in the budget or if your better half balks at the idea of talking about money problems with a stranger.

Bach suggests working through a financial book or workbook together or attending a financial seminar to jump-start the discussion. In my situation, I told my husband I’d like us to attend Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University program as a Christmas present. Was he happy to go? No. Did it change our family finances and marriage? You bet.

5. Understand your partner’s perspective

A young couple looks over their expenses.

© Richard Elliott/Getty Images A young couple looks over their expenses. 

Finally, talking about money with your spouse requires a great deal of patience and empathy. Your spouse probably isn’t purposefully being difficult. They simply may have a different understanding of money and different expectations than you.

“Each [spouse] has money beliefs about how it’s all going to work,” Malec says. “These beliefs aren’t articulated but they are acted out.”

So while your spouse’s money habits might get on your last nerve, remember that they are probably only doing what they saw modeled at home growing up. Or at least give them that benefit of the doubt.

“You’re in this together,” Bach says. Once you start playing the blame game, you stop working as a team. And once you stop working as a team, you might find yourself agreeing with the 44 percent of people who say divorce and money disagreements go hand-in-hand.

Written by Maryalene LaPonsie of Money Talks News

(Source: Money Talks News)