Tuesday, October 11, 2016

It's Not Your Grandfather's Retirement

I remember when I first realized people retire.  First of all, they were REALLY OLD.  Some of them did a lot of travelling, and many just stayed home and did hobbies or socialized with their friends and family.  My father retired when he was 55 years old, and I thought that was the norm, and it became my goal to retire at 55.  My employer for much of my career promised a full retirement at age 55 if you had enough service years and had started young enough, which I had done.
My dad growing up in Santa Cruz, CA


When I was 45 years old, I realized there was no way I could work there for another 10 years.  The old ways of staying with one company had gone, and there were so many opportunities that seemed more appealing to satisfy my need to help, along with my leadership and financial skills.  I left, and never looked back. Fortunately, I had hired a financial planner as soon as I earned my MBA, and relied on her expertise to make the best investment decisions to meet our risk tolerance and future goals.  My parents taught me how to work hard, spend less than you save, enjoy life (especially family and travel), and invest in Real Estate and traditional investments. 

I had to realize that when I left behind that corporate job with a “real” pension, I accepted responsibility for my financial future.  I observed that most people don’t retire until they are 63 years old.  I didn’t know I was going to have to work that long!  I started noticing commercials about your “number.”  Why were those numbers so big?  They said I’d probably spend only 80% of my income in retirement; stop commuting, dry cleaning, business lunches. 

As I have been studying retirement planning for over 10 years now, I see a much different scenario and I don’t think I was the only one who had bought into our father’s retirement.  Employers started reducing retirement benefits, and of course they would not tell anyone that they handed over the responsibility to employees.  A lot of people really thought Social Security would provide enough on top of the retirement pension. The government approved 401K and Roth IRAs, and we liked the potential tax savings, but still didn’t see the whole picture. 

According to a study by Chris Hogan, “Stress and Anxiety Surrounding Retirement”, half of Baby Boomers, who were born between 1946 and 1964, have less than $10,000 saved for retirement.  We are in a bad place with retirement near or already here.  Only 9% of middle income employees save at least 15% towards their retirement.  We don’t have any plans, we’re not saving.  When someone mentions Retirement, we experience anxiety.  We lose sleep. We don’t know what to do.

While some families and cultures have several generations in one home, do you want that to be the only option?  Probably not.  As embarrassing as it is, we need our Baby Boomers to feel comfortable enough to get some help to plan their retirement.  Whether it be their employer, Money Coach, investment professional, banker, or some trusted professional to provide guidance.  It’s time to get in gear, learn your options, and start setting some money aside.  There are lots of us out there to help – the time is NOW to do something.  Make an appointment today.  Write down some goals and questions.  Listen to the suggestions, and pick at least one to start with right now.  Move retirement to a high priority and make it your second job to make solid plans. 

Please remember, there are a lot of us out there to help you understand more about retirement, and there’s no need to be mortified when others see your situation.  You’re not alone.  When you get your retirement plan rolling, help someone else you know do the same.  Let’s share a prosperous future with all of our fellow Baby Boomers.


This is the beginning of my series of blogs on retirement.  Today’s Baby Boomers are my first priority because time is of the essence to do something quickly.  You can find out more about me on my website http://www.moneywiseadvisors.com  

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A little research can keep hidden costs from hitting where it hurts most — your wallet!

The unexpected costs of buying a home


Buying a home is expensive, but it’s not just the price of the house itself that you need to plan for. If you’re considering a new home, BetterMoneyHabits.com can help you look beyond the sale price to understand and plan for the extra expenses that come with making this big purchase.


  1. Low Credit Score
Your credit score has a big impact on what your mortgage interest rate will be and how much you will need for a down payment. If your score isn’t great, you might not even be approved for a home loan.
You can check your credit report at annualcreditreport.com, or by contacting one of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. But if you find you fall into the lower range of credit scores, it is not the end of the world. Check out these BetterMoneyHabits.com videos to get back on track:
  1. Down Payment and Private Mortgage Insurance
The more you put down on your new home, the better. Ideally, you will need to put down 20 percent. At that point, you will receive a better interest rate, have lower monthly payments, and you will not have to pay for private mortgage insurance, or PMI.
PMI is a type of insurance that lenders require you to pay if you are unable to make a full 20 percent down payment. This protects them if you default on your loan. And it’s not cheap. PMI can cost up to about 2 percent of the total loan amount. PMI is either required up front, or rolled into your monthly mortgage payment.
With some loans, you won’t have to pay PMI forever, but check with your lender for more details.
If you cannot come up with a 20 percent down payment, there are some alternative options, such as government programs that require just 3.5 percent. For more information, watch Understanding Alternative Mortgage Options
  1. Closing Costs
Closing costs include things like title insurance, appraisals, and attorney fees. Plan on these closings costs being 3 to 7 percent of the total loan amount. And remember, this is on top of the down payment.
  1. Unanticipated Expenses
Homeownership may come with some unexpected expenses. These could be increased energy costs, the price of new appliances, homeowner’s association fees, or even just the expense of maintaining a nice yard. So make sure you’ve accounted for all these in your budget. And for good measure, start an emergency fund for those things you cannot prepare for. Learn more by watching Create a Safety Net for Life’s Unexpected Events.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

3 Smart Expenses You Can Avoid

Looking at your spending plan, it’s fairly easy to anticipate the regular monthly expenses, and with a bit of planning, the gift occasions, school activities and annual fees.  What is frequently not anticipated are the expenses that others try to include without our pre-approval.  They offer, and we accept the opportunity to spend our precious money.

Awareness is the key to this conversation, and please understand the choice placed before you is optional.  You can start to realize that commitment or acceptance of others’ expectations can “force” you into an expense you didn’t even realize you wanted! 

Here are some examples that I have experienced in my own family’s finances:


  •       When our family plan had an available phone upgrade, they went to our teenage son for a few years as he wore them out quickly.  Now, when the upgrade becomes available, there’s the anticipation of using the latest technology.  As soon as we had a chance, we upgraded my husband from a flip phone to the newest iPhone.  He primarily uses it to make calls.  Should we have waited a little longer, or selected a less expensive phone?  It is not a mandatory upgrade. We had a choice.


  • Our kids, or we as parents, want to experience every sport, musical instrument, and community organization available.  Youth build lifelong skills and friends through activities.  Each pursuit has fees, equipment, travel and various expenses to contribute.  We will spend all afternoon and weekends driving them all over the place to participate.  Parents end up with no free time, and a lot less money.  Who says it has to be this way?  Set a limit on time and money for activities, which is VERY important with blended families who need to ensure all guardians are on board with the plan and able to give money and time.       
  • Can you politely decline a destination wedding, family reunion of 3rd cousins, or a weekend in Vegas with friends you don’t really enjoy anymore?  If you truly don’t want to go, save the money and precious time and say no.  Tell them you didn’t budget for it, you don’t have that much time, or whatever honest answer you can give.  Other people’s desires and priorities do not need to be forced onto you.  Feel comfortable telling the truth, and not participating out of guilt or responsibility.  You really have the power to make your own choices.


Wouldn’t it feel delightful to have more control of your cherished time and money?  Could you remove the culpability of not doing the things above, and replace it with the empowerment of making smart choices?  This is my goal at MoneyWise Advisors, to encourage you to take action and power to control your finances, and start achieving your goals and dreams.  Your personal finance strategy becomes the tool to increase your earning power.  What choices do you have in front of you today?

Friday, February 26, 2016

by Camilla Cheung, Wise Bread

Sometimes, building a healthy cushion of savings can seem like a daunting task. We all know how easy it is to make a late credit card payment, or to end up spending all of your paycheck without remembering to save part of it. One easy way to get started on saving this America Saves Week is to automate your savings. Having technology work to save money for you takes much of the effort out of the equation, saves time, and makes it easier for you to achieve your goals.

1. Automate Retirement Contributions
If your employer matches retirement contributions to your 401K or retirement plan, be sure to take advantage of the free money! Sign up for retirement contributions to be automatically taken out of your paycheck. This saves you money in several ways. First, it contributes money before you even see your paycheck and get an opportunity to spend that money; and second, it saves you money on taxes as it is withdrawn from your pre-tax income.

Even if you don’t have a retirement plan with your employer, you can still schedule your account to contribute automatically to your own retirement plan. Scheduling your contribution a day or two after you receive your paycheck ensures that saving for retirement is a priority.

2. Transfer Money to Savings Accounts
To prioritize savings, schedule an automatic transfer of a certain amount of your monthly income into a savings account. Your savings will benefit from being set aside from your regular spending, as well as benefitting from a higher dividend rate. Eventually, even just a small amount squirreled aside every month can translate into a healthy buffer of savings to hold you over on a rainy day.

If you are self-employed or a freelancer and you have to pay quarterly or yearly taxes on your income, sending the estimated tax you owe to a separate account every month will help you to avoid an unpleasant surprise at tax time.

3. Pay Bills Automatically
Avoid late fees by paying your bills automatically. Some bills can be put on your credit card, whereas others can be set up to be paid directly from your bank account.

It’s also a good idea to set up your credit card bill to be directly paid from your bank account. That way, you avoid late fees as well as costly interest on overdue amounts. Be sure, however, that you have enough money in your account to avoid overdrawing your account and incurring additional fees.

4. Get Money Back With Credit Card Rewards
There are many no-fee credit cards that offer cash back or rewards points. Use your card for all your regular purchases (and your monthly bills), and you’ll earn free rewards or cash back for your spending. If you plan to spend money on travel, rewards points that allow you to buy airplane tickets or hotel stays can also help save you money. Choosing the right credit card can also net you additional perks like car rental and travel insurance when you pay with your card.

It’s important to use your credit card responsibly, so be sure you can pay your balance in full every month to avoid extra fees.

5. Use Technology to Cut Energy Costs
If you spend a lot on heating and cooling costs, investing in a smart thermostat can automatically save you energy and money, by reducing your energy usage during hours that you are away from home or at night. Many thermostats can also set different zones of your house to heat and cool differently depending on your needs, making your energy usage more efficient.

When your appliances are in need of replacement, replace them with energy-efficient models that will automatically reduce your energy usage every time you use them.

6. Simplify and Save While Shopping
Many people can’t be bothered to cut out physical coupons and fiddle with all those little slips of paper at the store, but with smartphones, it’s much easier to automate the couponing process. Many grocery and big box stores have apps that allow you to choose the coupons you need from the app, and then apply them all by scanning your phone at checkout. Other apps aggregate coupons from many different retailers.

For regular purchases of things like diapers, toilet paper, and other necessities, consider joining an online subscription service, which will deliver your purchases to your door regularly, as well as offer a discount in the process. That way, you won’t be stuck paying full price when you have to run out and buy these items at the last minute.

7. Keep an Eye on Your Accounts
Staying aware of the activities in your accounts helps you to track your spending, as well as detect any fraudulent activity. But it can be a bit of a pain to sign into each individual credit card and bank account separately. Instead, tie your accounts into an app (such as Mint.com) that allows you to see your transactions at a glance. This will help you to rein in your spending if needed, transfer money to savings or investment accounts, as well as save time keeping track of your accounts.

By setting your finances to automatically save for you, you’ll quickly be on your way to saving both time and money.

What will you do during America Saves Week to automate your savings?


Wise Bread is an online personal finance and credit card education magazine. It has won best of the web awards from PC Magazine, Kiplinger, and About.com. 

A Personal money coach can help you implement some of these steps if you need a professional to help you get started.  We offer many resources and support at our MoneyWiseAdvisors website; please check out our new website released this week.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Plan For Your ‘Someday’ With These 3 Easy Ways To Save

Working hard, paying bills, and putting money aside for your needs and wants in the “now” are so often automatic in our day-to-day lives – so why aren’t we thinking about or planning for the future? According to the 2015 Retirement Confidence Survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, nearly one-third of workers have almost no retirement savings or investments (< $1,000), and a staggering 57% are underprepared with less than $25,000 for retirement.

It’s clear that anyone not using the present to plan for retirement will likely be setting themselves up for a less than golden future. But it’s never too early or too late to save for retirement. Try one – or more! – of these three ways to take advantage of retirement savings opportunities right now to build yourself a more secure future:

1. Open Up a my Social Security Account

Social Security benefits play an important part of planning for retirement. Don’t forget about your my Social Security account! This free account can help you determine what your benefits will be and when will be best for you to start receiving them.

2. Save Early and Save Often, No Matter How Much You Earn
                                                                                                      
Starting retirement savings early is the best way to take advantage of compound interest and establish good savings habits. Take advantage of any workplace opportunities, like a 401(k) or 403(b), and never turn down “free money” that comes in the form of employer contributions or matches. Individual Retirement Accounts or IRAs are also a great way to save, with some tax benefits in the process. If you get paid by direct deposit from your employer, you may also be eligible to participate in the new myRA program. myRA is a simple, safe, and affordable retirement account created by the United States Department of the Treasury for the millions of Americans who face barriers to saving for retirement.

Need help finding ways to save? Turning off your phone or cable could save you $5 a month. Find a penny, pick it up; by saving $.50 in change a day, you will save $15 a month. For more ideas like these, visit America Saves online.

Starting early isn’t possible for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play catch-up. Calculate what you will need to save in order to live comfortably in retirement. Once you have turned 50, you can make “catch-up contributions” – an extra amount beyond the normal limits that you can contribute to tax-deferred retirement plans.

3. Take the America Saves Pledge

Those who make a commitment to themselves and their family to save usually save more than those who don’t. Make your commitment to retirement savings today and receive regular advice and support via email and/or texts while you save money. America Saves will provide you with the motivation and advice you need to reach your savings goal.


Tammy Greynolds works for America Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support low- to moderate-income households to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at AmericaSaves.org. America Saves is proud to be part of the “Campaign for a Secure Retirement: Helping Millions of Americans Plan and Save for Retirement” joint, national educational retirement campaign to encourage retirement planning and saving and to promote the online Social Security Statement, available through mySocial Security, as an important retirement planning tool.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What to Tell the Children

Often, one of the hardest decisions people make in the estate planning process is how much (and when) to tell their children or other heirs about their plans.  Many people are very hesitant to reveal the details of their family's expected inheritances.  Many parents say they fear that if their children find out they can expect a substantial legacy in the future, they'll be less likely to work hard and save in the present.

 Another worry is that revealing an estate plan could lead to family squabbling and resentment.  This is especially true if you plan to leave unequal inheritances to family members.  Many families will simply avoid talking about the subject in order to keep peace.  If there's a blended family with children from a prior marriage, things can get even more complicated.

 But while it can be difficult, there are also some very good reasons for having a detailed talk with your family about your estate plan.  For one thing, if there's a chance of family squabbling and bitterness, it can be better to tell everyone what to expect now, while you are still alive and have a chance to explain your motives and smooth things over.  You could explain, for instance, why you're leaving more assets to a child with a large family than to a child who is single, or why you're leaving money to a charity that has always been important to you.  
Another thing to consider is that, if someone dies suddenly, the family is often left very confused about finances.  They don't know what assets there are, or where they're located, and searching for them can be extra stressful when the family is already suffering the grief of losing a loved one.  If you discuss your assets and your plan now, so that everyone knows what to expect, it can make things much easier after you pass away.
Many parents who talk about their plans with their children are surprised to discover that their children sometimes have good ideas.  If a family owns a vacation home, for instance, the parents might have one thought about what to do with it, but the children might come up with a plan that better protects the home and better suits their future needs.
Talking with your children also allows you to coordinate your estate plan with your children's own estate plans.  You might discover, for instance, that the whole family can save taxes if you give more assets directly to your grandchildren, or create trusts for your children instead of leaving assets to them outright.  

 If you are concerned about these issues, it's a good idea to discuss them with your attorney.

Thanks to Joan Medeiros, http://www.sacramentoestateplans.com  for sharing this information.Compassionate Service. Tailored Solutions.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Looking for ways to reduce your water usage and waste, while saving yourself some green? Here are some helpful hints and tips for that money-wise and eco-friendly homeowner.  Undoubtedly, the toilet is the biggest water hog in the bathroom. Those made prior to 1993 use up to 8 gallons per flush, which is approximately 5 times the current toilet use.  If you’re unsure of the age of your toilet, check under the lid. According to the “National Geographic’s Green Guide,” the toilet’s manufacture date is usually stamped under the lid. Plumbing leaks account for 14 percent of total water usage in the average American home. Toilets are the main source of this leak. An inexpensive but effective test to check for a toilet leak is to use 5-10 drops of food coloring in the tank. Do not flush. Check the toilet 15 minutes later for colored water leakage into the tank.








Another source for water waste is the shower. Older shower heads were not low flow rated. You can test your shower head efficiency with this simple test. Turn the shower and catch the water in a bucket for 2 minutes. If the bucket overflows, your shower head is a wasteful model. Consider replacing it with a low flow shower head. It’ll save you money and reduce water waste. You can find shower heads for as little as $15 at any hardware store. That’s a great return on your investment because you’ll save money and water with every shower. If you really want to be frugal and eco-friendly, turn the shower off while soaping up. EarthEasy.com reminds us that even with a new shower head, a moderately short shower uses between 20 to 40 gallons of water, while a bath can use 50 to 60 gallons of water. When checking for leaks, be sure to inspect your pipes and faucets. Although these may require a professional to assist in the inspection or repair, the long-term benefits will save you money.








These hints for saving water are courtesy of Julia Frazier Yank/Nebraska Home Sales Realtor