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Find Ways to Save on Summer Fun

Illustration: http://english4childrentoday.blogspot.com

You may have heard it said that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. That isn’t just a clever rearranging of words; it really has meaning. Financial planning is about the long-term and the short-term. The weather is getting warmer and in the short term, it is easy to spend money and be carefree since it is summer but you may regret it later if you overspend. Rather than let summer take  you where it may, you can find ways to save on summer fun.

Mint offers “5 Ways to Stop Summer from Wrecking Your Monthly Budget” and one of the most important suggestions offered is “Have a Summer Snack Strategy.”

As Mint acknowledges, whether you have kids or not, it is easy to let money spent on summer outings add up. The various free outdoor movies, summer festivals, and other outings you attend may have vendors who are more than willing to sell you food so that the “free” summer activities you attend end up costing more than you imagine. You can bring your own food and plan to take snacks for summer travel too. This includes water. You should definitely buy water if you have none and need it but investing in a good water bottle that you can refill will save you some money. 

And the article even suggests planning for summer treats (again, they mention kids but some adults may need to use a limited treat strategy as well): “If your neighborhood has an ice cream truck, let kids know up front what you will and won’t pay for. You could, for example, buy each kid something from the ice cream truck once a week, and anything beyond that comes from their allowance.”

On the other hand, financial expert Dave Ramsey suggests that summer is a good time for low-cost activities such as playing games outside with family and friends, riding bikes, and using things you have around (like cardboard boxes) to make art projects. Finding ways to enjoy being outside that do not cost a lot is a good way to minimize summer spending.

 If you prefer to relax instead of being active you can find a spot in the shade in your backyard or at a nearby park to read, knit, play cards, nap, etc. Spending time outdoors may possibly also reduce your reliance on air conditioning, provided that you do not crank up the air as soon as you get back into the house

Mothers: Make Time for Financial Planning

Now that Mother’s Day is over and we are back to business as usual, let’s really take a look at and appreciate mothers in the United States–many of whom are balancing a lot of different responsibilities.

According to Pew Research (6 Facts about Moms):

The median age at which women become mothers is older than before. There are many reasons for this but we hope that women who are purposeful about delaying motherhood are able to do some financial planning before their first child arrives.

Women spend more time working than before while at the same time also spending more time on caring for children. In 1965, research found that women spent 10 hours a week on child care; now women spend 14 hours a week on child care. And 12% of parents are also caring for another adult.

In addition to more time spent on child care, most people surveyed said that women are under more pressure to be “involved mothers.” So even though there are statistics to say that men are more involved in child care and housework, women still bear a lot more societal pressure to care for children.

So what all of this says is that while things have changed, the balancing act for women has not necessarily gotten easier. And while women have a enough on their shoulders, many are not engaging in the kind of money management practices that would most benefit them and their families. Whether you are on your own, with a partner, or other family members, women need to be active participants in financial planning because it doesn’t just happen.

Many busy mothers are too preoccupied with their daily tasks or getting through the week to think about financial planning. It isn’t easy to balance the present with long-term goals. This is why you can work with a Fee-Only financial planner that can help you with a strategy to manage your money now and find ways to secure your financial future. Mothers need to make time for financial planning.

Planning How to Fund a College Education

This is the time of year when people get swept up in the joy of seeing graduation photos and buying graduating gifts. It is a fun time but for some the fun only lasts until the realities of paying back student loans hits. While there is no need to ignore the joys of graduation season, families can give thought on how to make the joy last longer by planning how to fund a college education.

At least one person running to be President of the United States is proposing ways to alleviate student debt as part of a platform. But until there is a comprehensive national plan or we change they way college is funded, students and their families will need.

But how did we get here? There was a time when taking out loans for college was not the norm. A Bloomberg opinion piece, America’s Student-Debt Crisis Was Born in the 1600ss, discusses how over time, student loans came to lose their stigma in the United States. In the country’s early days, only a few attended college and they were likely to get grants but when it seemed they took that opportunity for granted, it seemed that loans would help them take education more seriously. Later, after World War II, college became more accessible. While the GI Bill was available for veterans, people who were not in the military also wanted higher education and they were offered loans.

While there is no need to vilify anyone who decides to take out student loans, we are in a time when people are regarding student loans with more skepticism. 

Just as you need to set financial planning goals, you can also form a college savings plan. If you expect your children to contribute, let them know, even before they are of an age to work, so that the expectations are clear.

Ideally, families would start to save when children are young in order to leave ample time for college savings to grow. If that is an option for you, start now, both with general savings and a 529 account.

If you do not have many years to save, you can still save something and look for grants and scholarships. And you can also talk with your child about the costs of higher education and what you are willing to give. If the sky is the limit, work with that. If you feel okay about covering tuition but want them to pay for books or room and board, make that clear. Perhaps, your child will need to start at a community college and transfer or go to a school with in-state tuition.

Overall, the idea is that once a young adult is finished with school, they are not shocked or overwhelmed with paying off the loans that financed that education. Remember: You Can Graduate College Without Crippling Debt.

Are Your Adult Children Derailing Your Retirement Planning?

Bankrate and Barron’s used different angles to address retirement planning issues for parents:

Half of parents financially helping their adult children say it’s putting retirement savings at risk:
“Bankrate asked Americans at what age they thought a person should start paying for their bills. Most of the results dovetailed the traditional mindset that 18 is the golden age of adulthood — except when it came to big-ticket items.”

And the article goes on to throw out terms like “coddling” and “helicopter parenting.”

Kids Are Terrible for Your Retirement :

Barron’s says, “Don’t have children. Just buy long-term care insurance. It’s a lot cheaper. And you have some assurance it will actually turn up when you need it. Every state has an insurance regulator that does its best to keep insurance companies honest. But there are, as yet, no regulators for kids.”

Barron’s adds that given the cost of raising children (to the official age of adulthood and beyond), you should not have children for financial security. Instead, you can opt to manage your finances in such a way that “you may not have to spend your golden years resenting your children.” 

Bankrate’s statistics on the numbers of adults who are sacrificing their retirement savings to help adult children are in indication that there may be a number of seniors facing troubles in retirement.

You have have heard this idea before: as they tell you on an airplane, you have to put your own mask on first before you can help others. If you deplete your retirement savings to help an adult child who doesn’t manage to find financial stability, that money will be gone. Your child may or may not be able to help you in the future if you need it and you will have put your own financial security  at risk.

And if you need an impartial third party to help you examine your finances and retirement outlook, a Fee-Only financial planner can assist.

Password Access is a Part of Estate Planning

If you are like many of us, your day-to-day life requires an increasing number of passwords. Maybe you forget one from time to time and find yourself locked out of something you need to access and going through the hassle of proving your identity so you can gain access again. Or maybe you use a  password keeping program that holds all of your passwords so you don’t have to think about them. You may even do what experts sternly advise us no to do: use the same password for everything.

No matter what you do to solve password dilemmas, the point is: you can find a way to gain access even if it is a hassle. Now imagine if you were not around or incapacitated. Then what?

Kiplinger.com published a piece entitled “Your Estate Plan Isn’t Complete Without Fixing the Password Problem.”  If you have not considered passwords as a part of estate planning before now,  you should.

If you have the necessary estate planning documents executed but no one can get to your accounts, financial statements, or e-mail, this can create difficulty.

Kiplinger suggests several ways to prevent your heirs or estate executor from being locked out:

Share passwords with someone you trust: You can either provide that person with the passwords or you can provide them with a way to access your computer if your computer saves passwords. 

Put a list of passwords in a safe deposit box: This method seems simple enough but issues may arise if you change your passwords. Even when you rare committed to keeping the same passwords, circumstances may arise that cause you to change passwords. You would then have to remember to update your password list.

Use a digital wallet: A digital wallet will have all of your passwords and store them in the cloud. Someone would still need the password to your digital wallet. You could tell the password to someone you trust (to avoid writing it down) or your could leave the digital wallet password in a safe deposit box.

The purpose of this post, as all of our other posts is to prepare you, not to scare you. We know that many people find the prospect of estate planning daunting enough as it is but if you have ever dealt with what happens when someone doesn’t prepare adequately, you will be able to appreciate the gift of preparation.

Bring Clarity to Your 2020 Taxes

Whether you just filed yesterday, filed earlier in 2019 , or have asked for an extension, as Policygenius.com says, you should “Start determining your 2020 tax strategy today.”  This is especially true if you filed an extension because you want to be better prepared next year: “Although Tax Day 2020 is a year away, remember that your taxes are a look back at the prior calendar year.”

This may seem like an obvious statement when you scramble to find receipts and documentation as the tax deadline approaches but have you considered that you do not have to struggle to account for an entire year at the very end of it? Instead, you can spend the year, laying the groundwork for a less stressful tax season.

Withholding

If you became aware that you did not withhold enough this past year, don’t let another year go by without adjusting. Policygenius offers a guide to the IRS withholding calculator if you need help understanding the actual IRS Withholding Calculator.

Documenting Deductions

It would be wonderful if all of us could carefully organize the documents we need for deductions in labeled folders throughout the year but some of us just are not there yet. What you can do is start somewhere—keep expense records together somehow: in the same folder or in a shoebox, for example. Find a method that works for you. If you like to do this electronically, scan all of your documents and save them to the computer. The idea is to eliminate the need to tear apart your office, home, car, closet, etc. each year at tax time looking for receipts and bills.

Retirement

Policygenius suggests that you check your retirement contributions when you check your W-4 because:

“Funding your retirement account comes with tax benefits. You can contribute to traditional retirement accounts tax-free, while you can withdraw from Roth accounts tax-free in retirement. Aside from the tax benefits, you’re also making it easier to reach your retirement goals.”

And remember, a Fee-Only financial planner can help you bring clarity to your 2020 taxes.


Financial Literacy 101: Investing Comes with Risks


In this Dennis the Menace comic, you see Dennis about the break a piggy bank with a hammer and the caption reads, “Sorry, Piggy…But investments come with risks.”  At his young age, Dennis understands that it is not all smooth sailing when you invest. In this case, he has found some reason to literally ‘break the bank.”  He is telling the piggy bank he is sorry but as many adults know, it is the investor who may actually feel some pain.

A MarketWatch Opinion column asks, “ How much investment risk should you take?” The subtitle that says. “ Your retirement investment are in it for the long haul” offers a clue. The article that follows offers a detailed look at the ups and down of investing over a 40 year period. Perhaps you do not completely understand all that is being said and cannot decipher the tables presented. That is okay. What you need to know is some basic principles of investing and to find a financial planner you can trust to help you work through any anxiety you may feel when things change. The article warns that some brokers and financial advisers may highlight only the upswings of a certain fund or investment and leave out information about any losses.  As the article notes, “…we cannot know what the future holds. All we can know is the past.”  But how you examine the past and how you apply the lessons learned makes all the difference.

Not only do you have to accept some risk, you need to accept responsibility for diversifying your investments. Again, the article goes into details that may seem complicated to some but you have to at least start with the basic idea that you need to look into putting your resources into more than one kind of investment. Knowing that means you won’t put all of your money into one funds. Yes, your investment will go through ups and downs over time and in this example, “…the evidence is clear that fixed-income investments mitigate those losses.”  

April is Financial Literacy Month and many of us don’t know as much about finance as we could. While you do not have to study as much as a professional like a Fee-Only financial planner, some basic knowledge of finance will help you figure out your goals and be useful when you work with a financial planner.

Don’t Fall for Common Financial Myths

Forbes discusses “10 Common Financial Myths That Should Be April Fool’s Jokes” and now that the first of April has passed, we hope that you will consider some of what they say and not take it as a joke.  It isn’t about doing the exact opposite of what everyone says; rather it is about making financial planning choices that work for you.

Dump stocks when the market is down. The market will go up and down; it can’t continuously go up and up. If you have chosen well and haven’t invested all you have, you can decide to hold on and wait for an upswing. And: “Then build a portfolio that matches your risk tolerance so you’re not tempted to bail out at the next downturn.”

Estate planning is for wealthy, old people. You don’t have to wait until old age and you don’t have to be rich to put plans in place to direct health care if you’re incapacitated and distribute your assets in a way that doesn’t burden your heirs.

You’re better off buying that renting. The decision to buy or rent depends on you, your lifestyle, and where you live. Overall, it makes sense to buy if you plan to stay in a home for at least a few years. However, some people have no tolerance for repairs or property taxes, even when they have the means to buy and plan to stay in an area. It really depends on you.

Pay your mortgage off early. Since a mortgage takes up a large chunk of a person or family’s budget and since mortgage rates are often low, people are advised to pay off a mortgage early. While getting rid of a mortgage can free up money for investments and other things, this advice is not just about money; sometimes it is also about the sense of accomplishment one gets from tackling major debt. On the other hand, in certain circumstances one can make a case for why you should never pay off a mortgage.

A Fee-Only financial planner can help you discern what will work based on your individual financial situation and goals.

 

 

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