Thursday, January 26, 2017
Am I paranoid, or are they really trying to overcharge me? In the past six months, we changed our ISP, entertainment, and phone service, saving us $150 each month. I have had to call five months in a row because my bill was wrong – sometimes up to $200 in errors.
I shopped our insurance rates, and it’s reassuring that we already have a company with the best rates and reliable service. Our homeowners’ insurance company had the wrong start date on the policy, and we were able to get it corrected and have two additional months of coverage.
We reduced one bill that provided redundant services and will save $240 a year, and I did find an error on our medical insurance bill dating back to August, and we are getting a refund for $200.
All this is from reading the monthly statements for our bank, credit cards, cell phone carrier, and reviewing the insurance bills at renewal time. Except for the phone service and insurance, I accomplished most of these savings in January. Is there anything you have been missing on your statements? How would you know?
I’ll admit that reading statements and bills is not very entertaining. I’d rather be perusing travel brochures and planning our next escape. That is my motivation for being vigilant about our money – I want to travel and experience new adventures as often as possible. Our next trip keeps me inspired to save now and enjoy soon enough.
I’ve talked about this before, First Step to Control – Review Your Bills. You don’t have to look at every detail on your 401K account, but make sure that your contributions are showing up right, and that the money is being invested the way you had it planned. At least once a year, have a face to face appointment with your financial advisor to ensure your investments are doing what you need them to do. Your goals may have changed, and you want to ensure your securities are still the best choice for you.
Starting today, read all the statements that you receive in the mail or e-mail for the next thirty days. See what you observe about the bills, note any follow-up needed. Make the calls to get things fixed. You are more in control of your finances than you were a month ago. Feels good, doesn’t it? Now, you can browse the internet for your next adventure.
Friday, December 30, 2016
I promised to reveal ways I felt I improved my life in 2016. Here's what I'd like to share:
1. I have less stuff: William Morris said “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” That is my thought process when looking at my clothes, kitchen, pantry, freezer, bathroom cupboards, bookshelf and files. Having less means not as much to clean, items are easier to find, and I feel lighter.
2. Expanded our Travel: As we focus more on experiences, we enjoy our trips even more. Visiting family in Hawaii, while doing lots of walking and hiking. Spur of the moment flight to Mexico with no plans or expectations, or weekday trips to Lake Tahoe to take in all the beauty and fresh air.
3. I am motivated to enjoy Optimal Health: That means physical health, mental health, and financial health. I try to spread my efforts into all three areas for a good balance. Earlier this year, I was turning into an old person by having conversations with friends about our ailments. No more. I’m steering towards encouragement of positive activities. More farmers markets, less weight, more cooking from scratch, more planned menus.
4. I’m striving to be Present: Fully participating in conversations, blocking out distraction, being intensive in what I am doing. Creating a weekly planner to make sure I move forward with my goals. Breaking it down to a daily planner to prioritize and takes steps towards progress and completion.
5. Letting go: Not just stuff. I’m talking about still thinking I would take up golfing, or trying one more time to get along with that negative friend that drains me emotionally. Embracing excellence instead of perfection (that will always be a challenge for me.) Saying “no” to responsibilities or obligations I don’t need to carry. Less disappointment about choices other people make.
What about you? What have you improved, and what will your focus be for the coming year?
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
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
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
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
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.