Wow, I can't believe it's been so long since I updated my blog...
I have to admit I was maintaining several blogs and running my financial planning business and got burned out on blogging for a while.
So I took a step back, thought about what topics are really important to me, and am now back in the saddle.
After some long contemplation and some much needed business planning, I realized that my typical client is a few years away from retirement and as a result their main questions are:
- Can I retire at (date/age)?
- Do I have the right investments to meet my goals?
- When should I start collecting Social Security
- Which accounts do I draw down from first (after I have retired)
Well of course I was blogging about all the wrong topics for this group of people (debt management, budgeting - this group is way past these topics, well most of them are).
To meet the needs of my audience I will be discussing retirement planning, Social Security and other baby boomer appropriate topics at my main financial planning site, Beacon Financial Advisors. In addition I started a a Social Security blog that I use to educate people about Social Security benefits (have had a blast working on this one!).
I know the main topic on SavingAdvice.com is on saving money, but I also know there are some baby boomers here. I'd like to share my retirement posts here as well in hopes that some of you will find them helpful.
Looking forward to being a part of this community again
Wow, I can't believe it's been so long since I updated my blog...
Post from my Money Wise Coach blog earlier today...
You'd never guess there was any good news in the economy based on the gloomy headlines and the lack of consumer confidence. The economy is definitely in turmoil right now, but I've always felt that the media focused on the negative news and buried any good news.
So I was thrilled to see "10 Things That Are Going Right" on Kiplinger.com today.
According to the guys at Kiplinger, there are a few reasons to be optimistic about after all:
1. Oil prices have dropped 50% in the last three months. I have definitely noticed this at the gas pumps as gas prices have dropped from over $4 per gallon to $2.33 per gallon earlier this week. This will definitely help the old pocket book each time we fill up.
2. Deals on new cars are abundant as car makers have suffered a double digit decline in sales. This is good news for consumers in the market for a new car. In addition, car makers have finally started developing hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles which should have long-lasting benefits.
3. Interest rates are low and are expected to go lower. So again, consumers in the market for a new car or house should benefit.
4. Home prices are down significantly, which is good news for first time home buyers who were previously priced out of the market.
5. Bank deposits have never been safer. Thanks to the bailout plan FDIC insurance on checking and savings accounts and CDs held at FDIC insured banks has more than doubled.
6. Stocks are on sale. If you have time on your side (10 or more years to invest), you should definitely take advantage of the down market to buy low (remember buy low, sell high?).
7. Technology continues to advance, which means televisions, computers and other tech gadgets are super cheap.
8. U.S. harvests have had one of the best years ever (I didn't know this, did you?), which means U.S. exports are up, and profits are up, allowing farmers to pay down debt.
9. The November elections mean new leadership for the U.S. and optimism for positive change going forward. After the year we‚Äôve had, who wouldn't be happy about a change in leadership?
10. Expect bargains and great deals this holiday season. Retail sales are expected to be slow this holiday shopping season, which means retailers are planning on giving deep discounts. If you're a bargain shopper, this is good news indeed
So, it's not all bad news... Thanks to the folks at Kiplinger.com for giving us something to be happy about.
I just blogged about an exercise that I use to reduce stress. While the exercise is really meant to help you de-clutter your mind when you have too much to do, it's also a great way to reduce stress.
Since the stock market and economy are causing a lot of stress for people lately, I thought I'd share.
If you'd like to read about my simple exercise to reduce financial stress, please click here.
DH and I were planning on going to Colorado for vacation this year, but have changed our plans due to the rising gas prices.
Just wondering if others are changing their vacation plans due to gas prices?
Blogged about this on my regular blog earlier today...
I just realized that I haven't posted to this blog in almost a year! It's not that I haven't been posting, it's just that I've been busy posting to my Ebiz Tax Tips blog and my Financial Tips for WAHMs blog, that I haven't had time to post to this one!
Anyway, just wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year, and I am looking forward to catching up on everyone's blogs!
I've been too busy to blog for a while, because I am buried in tax returns.
Not that I'm complaining; over half of the returns that I've received so far are from new clients who were referred to me by current (happy) clients. Nothing makes me feel better than to get a referral from a client, because it tells me I'm doing a good job!
Anyway, the one theme I've noticed this year - everyone, and I mean everyone is asking about the telephone tax credit! Just cracks me up. It seems like such an insignificant tax break to me compared to other recent tax law changes, but everyone is so focused on the telephone tax credit. I guess I can blame the media for that one, since there are so many articles about it? I even blogged about it myself, but just to keep my clients from asking me about it! Lol...
Enough ranting, it's looking to be a beautiful day here after a lot of cold and snow, so I'm going to enjoy it!
I've been noticing that more and more of my friends, family and clients are selling items on eBay and making a profit.
I sold quite a bit of stuff a few years ago - just trying to clean out the closets, etc. - but have never tried to make a real profit doing it.
Anybody having any luck on eBay, and what are you selling?
Have a great day!
Well, thanks to the freezing rain, snow, and ice we've had over the last few days, I've had 3 No Spend days in a row!
But, I have to say it was probably due to the weather more than anything else. Since I work from home, I was able to stay inside for the worst of the bad weather, and that meant no spending.
DH is out of town for the rest of the week, and I've got plans with the girls at least 2 of those days. So... probably won't have any more No Spend days this week, but I'm content with the 3 I've had already.
Twice a year Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) team up to provide consumers with free financial advice during Jump-Start Your Retirement Planning Days.
Jump-Start Your Retirement Planning Days is a chance for consumers to get free financial advice by telephone from some of the nation's top financial advisors.†
Consumers can call from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Janaury 16th and Friday, January 26th.†
Financial advisors will be standing by to answer people's most pressing retirement questions.
The toll-free number for the Kiplinger's Jump-Start Your Retirement Planning Days is 888-919-2345.†
More information can be found at Kiplinger.com or at NAPFA's website.
I don't know if you guys read blog carnivals, but I've seen 2 this week that are very creative and interesting to read.
The Carnival of Personal Finance: Financial Superheroes Edit... by Get Rich Slowly, and
The Ten Commandments of Frugality (Festival of Frugality #56)
I wish I was that creative! Alas, I'm just a numbers person...
My dh frequently complains that the Sunday newspaper is a waste of money (probably because he just reads the sports and comic sections and throws the rest away!).
Our Sunday paper usually has a sticker on it that say's there are $35 in money-saving coupons inside (or whatever the amount is). I'm not much of a coupon cutter, but today's paper had a brown paper bag (grocery size bag) from Office Max inside, which allowed shoppers to save 15% off all items you could fit into the bag.
I was planning on stocking up for tax season today anyway, so I grabbed that bag and off to Office Max I went. Since I was stocking up on higher priced items like toner and ink cartridges, I saved over $25 on my total by using the shopping bag!
So is the Sunday paper a waste of money? No way! I saved enough to buy the Sunday paper for the next two years, so my dh can continue reading the funnies and sports section every Sunday without worrying about wasting money.
I think I'll add the savings to our vacation fund...
Well, it looks like I'm going to finally have my first No Spend Day.
I mentioned in my previous post that the grocery store is usually what keeps me from having a no spend day.
I made it through today without going to the grocery store, but I'll definitely have to go tomorrow, cuz the Chiefs made the playoffs and we plan on grilling up some good chow for the game (even though I don't think anyone expects us to beat the Colts)!
Anyway... I'm excited about my first No Spend Day and am looking forward to many, many more No Spend Days in the future!
So far in 2007 I have not had a No Spend Day.
My biggest obstacle is that we go to the grocery store almost every day. As hard as I try (grocery lists, menu planning, etc.) I always seem to need something.
So... I'm on a mission to have my first No Spend Day (tomorrow - already went to the grocery store today). Wish me luck!
Money Smart Life is running a blog contest starting today. It's The Small Idea, Big Change Challenge.
Here's the post on his blog...
"The blogosphere is full of financial wisdom and inspiration. Often, the smallest idea or article is all we need to help us make a much needed change in our finances. I challenge you to share what blogger inspired your financial success in 2006!
Enter the Small Idea, Big Change Challenge and let everyone know what idea led to a big financial change in your life! The winner of the challenge will receive a 1 hour consultation with a certified financial planner.
Kristine McKinley is a CFP and CPA from Beacon Financial Advisors whom some of you may recognize from her blog contributions to various finance carnivals.
The winner of the challenge will get a mini-version of her Right Start Financial Checkup. The prize is one hour of phone consultation with Kristine on your investment or tax issues.
So how do you win? Here are the rules:
1) Write about any small idea from a personal finance blogger in 2006 that inspired you to a big financial change.
It doesnít have to be a small idea but usually thatís all it takes. If you have a blog of your own, post your entry there. If not, send me the information via my Contact page and Iíll post it on this blog.
The submission should contain two things:
* A link to original post from the blogger that inspired you.
* A link back to this post.
The winner will be chosen for the people by the people! As the submissions link back to this post, youíll see them at the bottom of the page. Get out and vote for your favorite success stories by leaving a comment on their post. You can vote for more than one.
Whichever submission has the most comments by the end of the day January 15th wins! At the end of the contest, Iíll write a summary post linking back to all of the submissions and announce the winner.
Kristine will contact the winner to schedule the meeting and determine the personal finance questions to be covered in the consultation.
Iíll be giving updates on the contest over the next two weeks so subscribe to my feed to stay in the loop.
For more information and updates, check Money Smart Life's blog often!
You can start completing and sending in your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) as soon as Jan 1.
Although the deadline for the FAFSA form isn't until July 2, 2007, you'll want to get yours in early. This is one case where the early bird really does get the worm.
Even if you don't think you will qualify for financial aid, you should complete this form. Many schools require the FAFSA for merit and other non-financial need based awards.
Click here to get your FAFSA form or to complete it online.
I'm catching up on my reading this week. Piggybacking on my last entry What it takes to be rich, I just read another article on CNN Money's site called Make your first million in 2007.
The article talks about 5 ways to become a millionaire:
1. Make saving automatic - Sign up for automatic investing plans... That way the money starts compounding immediately. Plus, you'll never miss it.
2. Take advantage of Uncle Sam - Make full use of any tax-sheltered accounts that are available to you, such as a 401(k) or IRA.
3. Make stocks work for you - Stocks give you the best shot at high returns, having returned more than 10% a year since 1926, twice the return of bonds. If you don't consider yourself a stock picker, a broadly diversified index fund - tracking either the S&P 500 or Wilshire 5000 - is a perfectly reasonable option.
4. Boost your earning power - As the numbers show, the fastest way to amass seven figures is to pull down a big salary. If you're young enough, a professional degree such as an M.B.A. or a J.D. will pay off.
5. Don't stop saving - Remember, just because you've stopped doesn't mean inflation will. As the years tick by, a million dollars will become worth less and less - and you'll need more and more to lead the lifestyle you were counting on. So when you hit the seven-figure mark, keep going.
I actually think this is a pretty good article and recommend many of these strategies to my clients.
However, my first thought when I saw this article was that this won't make you a millionaire in 2007 (the title of the article).
But if you put these tips into place early, and persist each year, you will become a millionaire eventually.
And, if you're young, most likely you will need well more than $1M to retire, so the sooner you develop good money habits the better!
I was reading CNN Money and ran across an article titled 'What it takes to be rich'.
Of the 4 people profiled, 3 were business owners and the 4th invested in real estate to become rich.
Although I agree that entrepreneurism and real estate offer some great opportunities to build wealth, I don't think you have to be a business owner or invest in real estate to become wealthy.
As a financial planner I have met many people who are traditional wage earners, who have become wealthy (millionaires even) by saving money and investing wisely (most did so using just their 401K).
I think that 'what it takes to be rich' is good money habits and making good decisions with your money more so than how you earn it.
What do you guys think?
I just added up my holiday spending for this year, and I did ok!
Although I don't stick to a strict budget, I did have a spending limit in mind - both a total limit and per person.
I have to say that I overspent on my two nieces (the two babies of the family - I just couldn't help myself!). But, thanks to a couple of really good sales, I saved quite a bit on gifts for my parents and sister, so I still met my overall spending limit.
Thrifty Ray blogged about Christmas Account 2007... Already?, and I couldn't agree more with him. Having a savings account/fund just for Christmas gifts is a huge stress reliever, so I will be starting mine soon.
How about everyone else? Did you meet or exceed your spending budget? Any tips/thoughts to make next year a better year?
I just noticed that the newest tax legislation will allow taxpayers to deduct premiums paid for mortgage insurance beginning in 2007.
Mortgage insurance is typically required when home buyers purchase a new home with less than 20 percent down.
Mortgage insurance premiums typically range from $50 to $150 per month, which could mean a $600 to $1,800 deduction on your tax return.
This deduction is only available to taxpayers who itemize, but if you're a home owner (especially if you've just purchased your home) you should have enough mortgage insurance, real estate tax, and other deductions to itemize.
Prior to this tax law, only the interest paid on a mortgage was deductible.
This deduction won't help everyone. The deduction will be limited to taxpayers with adjusted gross income below $110,000.
Finally, you're out of luck if you are already paying mortgage insurance. This deduction will only apply to mortgage insurance contracts issued in 2007, and it's set to expire on December 31, 2007.
I noticed that a payday loan store moved into my neighborhood recently, then I looked around and realized there are several in my area.
This made me wonder... how profitable are these payday loan places, that they are popping up on every street corner? I've heard that payday loans charge high interest rates, but I had never really researched this info before now.
Here's what I found out...
First, if you're not familiar with payday loans, basically, they are short-term loans, usually in small amounts. Typically, you write a check for the amount of the loan plus fees, and the lender cashes the check on a specified date, usually one to four weeks later.
Here's an example: you need $100 to pay your bills so you borrow $100 from a payday loan company. You write a check for $115 and leave it with the lender, to be cashed in two weeks. Your fee for that loan is $15 - that is an annual percentage rate (APR) of 391%.
Although the Truth in Lending Act requires lenders to disclose the finance charge, including the APR, many consumers do not understand the true cost of a payday loan. To continue the example above, let's assume that you can't pay the $115 when it comes due. The lender allows you to roll the loan over for another two weeks, but you pay another fee each time you do this. If you rollover the loan in the example above three times, your total finance charges would be $60, for a $100 loan. That equates to an APR of more than 1000%!
As you can see from the example this a very costly way to borrow, even when compared to high interest credit cards. If you find yourself in a cash bind, here are some alternatives to payday loans to consider: a personal loan from a bank or credit union, a personal loan from family or friends, a cash advance against your credit card, a cash advance from your employer, etc.
I just created a new blog, especially for work-at-home-moms.
The blog will feature articles, tips, worksheets and other tools on personal finance topics such as:
* budgeting and cash flow management
* debt management
* investing for beginners
* saving for college
* saving for retirement
* income tax planning
Since WAHMs can have unique financial needs, I wanted to create a blog that featured articles and tools just for them.
If you are a WAHM, what topics would you most like to see articles/worksheets/tools on?
I would love your feedback and comments on the new blog: Financial Tips for WAHMs blog ~ Thanks!
I was excited to see that I was quoted in the Chicago Tribune this morning, in an article on Health Savings Accounts.
Although I have been quoted in articles previously, this was the first time that a reporter sought me out specifically to contribute to an article (she read an article I wrote about HSAs a while back).
If you'd like to read the article, it's located at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/yourmoney/chi-0612030...
I know, you've heard this a hundred times. But with recent news stories about credit card fraud (I'm assuming the number of fraud cases goes up during the holidays, thus the number of news stories on credit card fraud goes up - good assumption?).
Anyway... SHRED those credit card offers!!! Many fraud cases begin with a credit card offer that you received in the mail and discarded. Your best protection against this type of fraud is to shred the offer and application so no-one can use it to commit fraud in the first place.
An even better strategy would be to quit getting credit card offers (unless you want them of course). You can opt out by going to www.optout-prescreen.com or by calling 1-888-567-8688.
May you have a safe and fraud-free holiday!
Does anyone here participate in blog carnivals?
I participated in my first blog carnival (Carnival of Personal Finance) today. It's located at Carnival of Personal Finance #76.
Just curious what others think about blog carnivals?
Would you remember to pay your credit card bill if you didn't receive your monthly statement?
I noticed this morning that I hadn't received my most recent credit card statement, but that it was time to pay the bill.
I logged into my account, and sure enough my due date is just two days away!
Good thing I checked, since most credit card companies slap $30-40 late fees on if you're even the tiniest bit late paying.
Hopefully, you won't have any missing credit card statements, but if you did, would you remember to pay your bill on time, or would you get slapped with a late fee?
Here are some tips to help you avoid paying bills (and credit cards!) late:
* Schedule time each week or twice a month to pay bills
* Put important due dates (rent, credit card payments) on your calendar
* Use a spreadsheet to track bills and credit card payments
Implementing some type of system to make sure you pay your bills on time can be a huge time and money saver.
If you do miss a credit card (or other bill) payment, call the company and ask them to refund the late fee. If you have a good reason, and you haven't missed any payments previously, they should honor your request.
I was thinking about ways to keep holiday spending in check this morning. Here's what I've come up with so far:
1. Set spending limits, including a total limit for all holiday gifts, and limits for individuals you will be buying for
2. Make a list of each person you want to buy for and gift ideas. Carry list with you as early as Fall to take advantage of any sales, etc.
3. Start a Christmas fund in January for next year. Many banks offer these. A CD (if interest rates are good) might be another good idea.
4. Make your own gifts (if you have creative talents). I like to cook, so I will sometimes bake goodies and give as gifts.
5. Pay cash. Or, if you are disciplined enough, use your credit cards, but pay the balance in full as soon as you get the bill.
Any other suggestions?
There is only one legitimate website to do this and it is www.annualcreditreport.com. Beware of ads or other websites that offer a free annual credit report. Many of these are scams or they are trying to sell you something.
At www.annualcreditreport.com, you can request a free credit report once every 12 months. This credit report does not include your credit score, but you can purchase your credit score by contacting one of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion).
Another great resource for credit reports is www.myfico.com, where you can purchase your credit report from all three agencies, including your credit score. myFICO also has an education section where you can learn more about your credit reports and score.
You should check your credit report annually for errors and/or fraud.