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About the author  ⁄ Van Pappas

Van Pappas

Van Pappas, CFP® - Van is a native of Atlanta. He holds his undergraduate degree in Finance with an emphasis in Real Estate. As a planner for 15 years, he earned his CFP designation from Kaplan University. He is currently the Chairman and founder of the Chamblee Chamber of Commerce and sits on the Downtown Development Authority for the City of Chamblee. In 2012, he noticed the value of helping the X-Y Generations and decided to merge his practice with oXYGen Financial. Background and qualification information is available at FINRA's BrokerCheck website.Securities offered through Kestra Investment Services, LLC (Kestra IS), member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Kestra Advisory Services, LLC (Kestra AS), an affiliate of Kestra IS. oXYGen Financial is not affiliated with Kestra IS or Kestra AS. Kestra IS and Kestra AS do not provide tax or legal advice.

The Secret Your Cell Phone Carrier Does Not Want You To Know

These days we look to save on our bills where ever we can.  One area to look at is our Cell Phones.  What if I told you that you could save 50%-75% off your bill?  Three of the big carriers, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile all have invested in secret sub-brands to try and attract the consumers who are more price sensitive.  What they do not tell you is they use the same network as their parent company. Sprint has Boost Mobile.  T-Mobile has GoSmartMobile and AT&T has Cricket Wireless.  You use the same towers, get the same service and generally only pay $25-35 per month. So what about those of you on Verizon?  Well they will not tell you outright, but they have a deal with Tracfone.  Verizon does not want anyone knowing they have this sub-brand as they feel it will diminish the Verizon brand.  Tracfone has a service called Total Wireless, which runs on the Verizon 4G network ...

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Ways To Pay Off Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt is a huge burden on many Americans.  Once you have accumulated the debt, it feels like it is impossible to get out from under.  While getting your current spending under control is the first step (and you may need a financial counselor to help you); there are some things you can do to help pay down the debt. Here are some strategies on paying off that credit card debt.   Paying more than the minimum.  This is a must.  Dig through your cash flow and find a way to cut out expenses, so you can increase your monthly payment to the credit card. Use the calendar to your advantage.  If you can make more than a minimum payment, a proven way to pay more is by make separate additional payments.  Try making a separate half payment every 14 days. Laddering.  Most people with credit card debt have debt on multiple cards.  Make a list of all the ...

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10 Reasons Why You Can Cut the Cable Cord Now

Did you know that the average cable bundle has 189 channels but the average subscriber only watches 17 of them  (or less than 10%) according to a Nielson study in 2014?  Consumers would like to pay for only the channels they watch and free themselves from the shackles of the cable bundle by cutting the cable cord.  Let’s look at the top 10 reasons why consumers can cut the cable cord now! 70+ Channels of Free Over the Air Channels For those here in Atlanta there are over 70+ free channels available via an HD antenna including all of the major networks such as NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, CW and PBS.   These are delivered in High Definition (HD) quality which is better than cable/satellite. 100+ Cable channels available through streaming apps Most people don’t want to give up some of their cable channels such as ESPN, CNN, Fox News, etc. Services such as Sling TV and Sony Playstation Vue with ...

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How To Use Periscope In Your Business

If you have not been paying attention over the last year, a new app call Periscope (bought by Twitter in 2015) is gaining a lot of popularity.  This is a live streaming application.  Users can broadcast a live feed from their mobile device.  The company has not released its current number of users, but they have access to parent company Twitter’s 310 million users.  Their blog site states that over 200 million broadcasts have been streamed and over 110 years of live video are watched every day. So what can you do to integrate this technology into your business. Start by taking viewers behind the scenes of your business. People like to connect on a personal level.  Interacting with your customers and prospects to show them how your business works gives them a glimpse of who you are. Invite customers to have a live conversation. One of the features of Periscope is that viewers can leave real-time comments.  Hold a ...

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Going Digital With Your Filing Cabinet

When I was 12 years old, I found an old term paper in a box of my father’s things.  It was about creating a Cashless Society.  It intrigued me as a child on other things we could get rid of in our society.  My biggest desire was to get rid of paper.  I hated it.  So as a teenager and young adult, the idea of being paperless was exciting to me.  By the mid 90s scanner technology and cost had reached a point where I could start to realize my digital dream. I began scanning every bill, invoice, statement and tax return I had.  Fast forward 20 years and now my filing cabinet is 100% completely digital.  Here are 5 things you can do to achieve my dream of a Paperless Society. Ditch the receipts. Grocery Stores, Gas Stations, Fast Food joints.  Unless the receipt is something you can deduct on your tax return, then there is no reason to ...

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5 Ways Pokémon Go Can Help Your Business

In the 70’s we had the Pet Rock, in the 80’s it was Cabbage Patch Kids, the 90’s was Beanie Babies and today we have the latest craze, PokemonGO.  The difference with this fad is that it is attracting the attention of adults.  Some are the young adults that might have played with the original Pokémon games and cards from 20 years ago.  But it is even attracting the 40 somethings, and if Grandma hears enough about it, we might be seeing our senior citizens playing as they go on their daily walks. So for those that are still messing with their Pet Rocks and have not heard about PokemonGO, here is a simple explanation.  Using a phone App, the player wanders the real world hunting for animated Pokémon monsters.  Gathering Pokémon, builds your collection and makes you more powerful to battle other players in game Gyms. The game is causing people to walk in areas where they might not ...

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5 Steps to becoming a LinkedIn Leader

These days there are so many social media platforms it is overwhelming.  Each service caters to a specific social activity.  When it comes to doing business, LinkedIn stands out at the top of the pack.  If you already have a LinkedIn profile, you know it serves as a kind of online resume.  But if you just hope someone is looking at you, then you are missing out.  No matter what business you are in, using the site to form connections can be a great benefit.  So how do you increase engagement on the site to become a LinkedIn leader?  Try these steps. Request connections/send messages regularly. Spend at least 30 minutes each week searching for new connections to build your network.  Ask your current connections for introductions to relevant people in their networks.  Also look to join groups that will drive the type of connections you are looking for. Send ‘thank you’ messages when you make a new connection. Make ...

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The 15 Minute Plan

Have you seen those commercials for fitness programs that say all you have to do is spend 15 mins a day in their program and you will get lean and fit.  You know, they show a before and after picture of someone that has been through the program.  Now, I do not know if they work, but I do know if you stick with any kind of plan you will see some kind of results. It is no different with your finances.  You have to have a plan and stick to it.  Here are some steps to your 15 minute plan. The start of any plan revolves around cash flow management.   In the 17 years that I have been in financial planning, I have found that the most successful people are those that can create, manage and read an Income-Expense statement.  You start with a system for collecting your data.  You can use pen and paper; an Excel spreadsheet; a ...

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Can Bourbon Save Social Security

So I know what you are about to say, what does Bourbon have to do with Social Security.  Well nothing in regards to the distilled spirit itself.  But a possible excised tax could save the day.  Our Founding Fathers have used an excised tax on Spirits three times in American history to pay for wars.  Washington did it to pay for Revolutionary war debts.  The Great Whiskey Rebellion eventually forced a repeal.  But then Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln both used a Spirits Tax to pay for their respective wars; War of 1812 and the Civil War.  Today the Federal Government does not have tax on spirits, they leave that up to the state governments. Fast forward to today.  Social Security has been called the Third Rail of politics.  A subject that politicians do not want to tackle for fear of being ousted from their jobs.  So what are the three biggest problems with Social Security and possible solutions. The ...

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My Roth IRA turned Five

Why is age 5 so important for your Roth IRA.  Well, there is a little discussed rule around Roth IRAs.  We know that they grow tax free.  We know that we can take contributions out at any time without penalty.  We also, know that at age 59 ½ we can start taking from either our IRA or our Roth accounts. But what most people miss is the 5 year clock on Roths.  The Roth rules say that to take distributions tax-free and penalty-free, your Roth account has to have been open for at least 5 years.  That means when you turn 59 ½ your account also has to be at least 5 years old.  I’ve been asked by clients if the clock resets each time they make a contribution; or does each contribution have its own 5 year clock.  The answer is no.  The clock starts when the account is first opened. In 99% of cases, the clock is a ...

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Failure to Launch

The other day, I came across an old Matthew McConaughey movie about a young adult that just did not want to move out of his parent’s house because he had it so good.  It got me thinking about the financial impact living at home has on young adults.  The majority of twenty-somethings are really not interested in living with Mom and Dad long-term.  But a NerdWallet Study has found those who stay at home until age 25 can retire five years earlier. Today’s Millennials are coming out of school with more student loan debt than earlier generations and residential rent has been rising by double digits just over the last 3 years: these are just 2 of the factors that are pushing the average expected retirement age for today’s college graduates to age 75.  This does not leave a lot of golden years to live out those retirement dreams. There are some changes that can be made in your personal ...

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Should You Be Luke Skywalker or Yoda

Most people want to be the star of the show – the hero that saves the day.  Whether you are a business owner, have employees that you manage, or part of a team, it’s not hard to be the star of the show by crushing that work presentation or exceeding your sales goals.  In life you have these hero opportunities all the time, to be Luke Skywalker, the destroyer of the Death Star and the hero of the day. However, it is the heroes or those behind the heroes that are more influential? Maybe instead of being Luke, you are better off being Yoda.  You remember Yoda, right?  The small, green Jedi Master that mentored Luke.  Being a mentor to those around you can be far more rewarding than being the hero.  We all have a knowledge base that is beneficial to someone.   Spreading that knowledge will increase your sphere of influence and create greater life wealth. Take a moment ...

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Tryin To Make A Dollar Out of 15 Cents

No, this is not a post on the famous rap song, nor am I recommending that you follow any of the lyrics from the Tupac or Master P songs.   However, I am often asked the question: “How can I get more out of my paycheck?”  There are plenty of things you can do to stretch those dollars in your pocket. A few years ago there was a Wall Street Journal survey1 that asked “If you were to face a $2,000 unexpected expense in the next month, how would you get the funds you need?”  Only 24.9% of respondents reported being certainly able to come up with $2,000 in 30 days for an unanticipated repair or expense.  It begs the question you should ask if you have the emergency reserves for these expenses. Here are a few things you can do to prepare for that unexpected expense: Know the difference between wants and needs Pay off credit cards (you probably do ...

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The $40 Underwear

As a financial advisor, I tend to be frugal when spending money. I use coupons; buy groceries on sale; get shoes and clothes off the rack; and purchase underwear in a three pack at Walmart. (Maybe this is more than you want to know about me). So recently while in the car with my wife a commercial came on the radio for an Underwear clothing company. It intrigued me as they claimed that their underwear was made of such great quality and material that it felt like you were wearing nothing at all. A design guarantee that you will never get a wedgie and it will never ride up on you. They never stated how much the underwear cost, so the rest of the conversation with my wife was on how amazing that sounded, which then went into a 30min conversation on the history of the technological advancements of underwear. (Yes, we have been married a long time and that ...

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How to Get off Cable TV

So many of us are TV junkies.  Growing up in the era before Cable and DVRs, somehow we were able to watch shows live each week.  But life is busy these days and it is hard to watch all the great shows.  Not too long ago, I was shopping my bills and realized by dropping my Cable bill, I could save some significant money.  After doing some research I found three interesting options. Chromecast by Google.  This is a small device that plugs into the HDMI port on most new TVs.  Using your smartphone, tablet or laptop, you can have Internet programming on your TV screen.  There are no monthly fees for the device itself, but some Internet sites will have subscriptions for content. (Netflix, Hulu, etc.) Roku has a couple of device options.  Their pricing is higher than the Chromecast, but it is full of additional features.  One model even comes with a Voice Search option. HD antenna.  Local ...

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The $14,000 Black Belt

When I was a kid, my mother would say “Go outside and throw a ball around”.  Now days, kids have so many activities.  When did kids get so busy?  As an example, my son is in Karate, Greek School, Chess Club, Drama Club and if he had his way, he would be in Cub Scouts and Basketball.   Of course, someone has to take them to all these activities.  Time issues aside all of these activities cost money.  My parents spent less than $20 on that ball and glove; and the tree I used to throw the ball at, was Free. When we first started Karate, I thought my son would phase out of it.   But after 2 ½ years, I realized that my son was fully hooked on the activity and we were in it for the long haul.   So it got me to thinking about the cost.  See unlike traditional seasonal sports that last 8-10 weeks, Karate is year ...

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I Took A College Course In My Car

Living in Atlanta almost my whole life, I have seen the traffic get worse each year.  After the 1996 Olympics, the city just seemed to get really big and really spread out.  The amount of time Atlanta drivers have to spend in their cars is on the rise.  The metro Atlanta average commute is 28.7 minutes, with some areas over 40 mins.  A study by Harvard Health Watch found that the average American spends 37,935 hours driving a car in their lifetime. Cranking Radar Love by Golden Earring on the stereo can be fun on occasion, but I thought I should take advantage of this wasted car time.  Why not feed my brain on the way to my next appointment or commute.  There are a number of online programs that you can pay for, or you can chose to get some free podcasts from Open Education Database: http://oedb.org/ilibrarian/skip-the-tuition-100-free-podcasts-from-the-best-colleges-in-the-world/ What do you do during your wasted car time? Written by: Van Pappas ...

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4 Things Pulp Fiction Taught Us About Finances

Recently, I was re-watching the movie Pulp Fiction after 20 years.  These days, when watching old movies, I find points on financial topics that I missed in the first showing.  Here are 4 financial items I picked up from the movie. The Briefcase We never see what is in the famous briefcase.  There are all kinds of theories.  The auora that shines when the case is opened, makes me think there are Gold bars in the case.  Over the last 20 years since the release of the movie, gold has had a compound annualized return of about 7.2%.  While that sounds good, three other classes did better; S&P 500, Oil and Real Estate.  A briefcase full of gold would be nice, but I wonder if Marcellus Wallace had any other assets. Five Dollar Milkshake I was always impressed with the scene at Jack Rabbit Slim’s restaurant where Uma Thurman orders a $5 milkshake.   Vincent Vega (Travolta) has a great line ...

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Rent or Buy, Which is Better?

In my 16 years as a financial planner, I have been asked this question many times. For decades our society has told us that renting is just throwing your money away and that buying a house is a good investment. Even the government tries to influence our behavior with offering a tax deduction on the mortgage interest. We have to start realizing that your house is not an investment. Investments should be able to feed you income; and as I always say ‘You can’t eat your house’. So which is it, Rent or Buy? Let’s compare some facts. First with renting you don’t have maintenance costs, mortgage interest, property taxes and renter’s insurance is dramatically less expensive than homeowner’s insurance. If you average $1000/month in rent over 30 years, that’s a total of $360,000. Throw in another $15/mo for renter’s insurance and the total spent to rent for 30 years is $365,400. Now if you were to buy, say a ...

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7 Ways to Cut your Cellphone Bill

Today’s household has to deal with so many expenses that my parent’s generation did not have.  When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, we did not have a cable bill, an internet bill and most certainly no cell phone bill.  Now, we cannot do without these items.  If we are going to have these extra expenses, we might as well get the best deal possible.  Consider some of these cost cutting items. Consider prepaid service. Pay-as-you-go services have gotten a lot better recently.  If you are not a heavy cell phone user you usually come out better by only paying for what you use. Check for discounts. Many carriers offer discounts if you are an employee of a company that uses their service.  Do a Google search with the carrier’s name and the words “employee discount”. Look for a family plan. If you need multiple lines, most carriers will offer a better per-line price than their standard ...

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Down Payment Vs Invest The Difference

While 30-year mortgage rates are not at the lows of 3% we saw in 2012, mid to low 4% rate are still really good. It is very tempting to make a small down payment and use the difference in an investment with a higher potential for return. If you only make a 5% down payment instead of a 20%, you will pay thousands in extra interest and PMI insurance. Plus, beating your 4% cost of funds is no slam dunk. Making a larger down payment will ensure that you your return on money is equal to your mortgage rate and will give you a small monthly mortgage payment, leaving you free to invest the extra cash or hang on to it for everyday expenses. Making additional principal payments on your mortgage can save you thousands in interest and pay off that loan quicker. It’s hard to put a return on investment by becoming mortgage free, but taking the weight off ...

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5 Ways For Women To Build Confidence

So I know what you are about to say.  What does a 44 year old guy know about women building confidence.  I’m not about to tell you that I know the secret of women, but I thought I would attempt to list some things women can do to build confidence.  After reading  from the book The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, I picked up these 5 ways woman can build confidence: You don’t have to make things perfect, so stop tinkering You have to keep moving forward and tinkering takes time.  Even if you are wrong, failing fast can reduce the time going down blind alleys. Leave your comfort zone Try something you thought you’d never be good at.  The old saying  “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger” is so true. Take credit for your successes Don’t just brush off a compliment, accept it.  Use it to give your next step confidence. Give rid of ...

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McDonald’s Happy, and Starbucks isn’t Lovin’ It

September 29th is National Coffee day and McDonald’s is going to be Lovin’ It.  If you drink coffee, you’re going to be Lovin’ It too.  The fast food chain will be giving away free small McCafe coffee during breakfast for the two weeks leading up to National Coffee Day.  While you and I are going to be lovin our SmartMoneyMoves, saving money for a couple of weeks; McDonalds is going to be smiling all the way to the bank.  This is the second time they have done a two week coffee give away.  At their spring event they gave away millions of cups and the huge success brought in many new customers.  The company has found that those coming for the free coffee, will also buy other breakfast items.  Their breakfast items are very profitable for them, so free coffee actually nets them millions. And if you get hooked on their flavor, soon you will see thru Kraft both McCafe ...

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How Many Mailers for Mountain Property do You Get

You know what I’m talking about.  Those flyers you get in the mail for that fabulous property in the North Georgia mountains for some rock bottom price.  They usually have some picturesque view of a stream and a beautiful cabin in the corner.  How tempting is that?   4.3 acres with mountain views and river access for only $7,500.  And let’s not forget in big letters across the top “Land Liquidation” or “One Day Only” to get you to act quickly. So is this a good deal, or just clever marketing. Just like the hay day of the Timeshare sales strategy, if you go to check out one of these deals, you are going to get the hard seminar sales pitch.  You remember; you just had to sit thru a 90 minute presentation that ended up with you being cornered until you relented or forced your way out.  And the ‘From Only $7,500’ is not what you saw in the picture; ...

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7 Things To Do When You Win The Big One

Do you think you will ever have to worry about money again if you win the lottery? Sorry to break it to you, but you will. There are many stories of winners being their own worst enemy by quickly squandering the fortune.   Let’s look at what Your Smart Money Moves should be when you win the big one. Before the ticket blows out of your hand while you are waiting for a bus, the first step should be to sign the back of the ticket.  A lottery ticket is a bearer instrument, so whoever signs the ticket and presents a photo ID can claim the prize. Remain anonymous. It’s amazing how many people come out of the woodwork when they know you have money.   You’ll get the charities, the long lost friends,  CPAs, lawyers and financial planners all vying for your business or looking for a piece of the pie.  Unfortunately there are only a handful of states that do ...

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How To Teach Your 5 year Old About Money.

We do a poor job of teaching our kids about money in this country. In order to get my kid started in the right direction I set up the following system. I threw out my son’s piggy bank and gave him three jars. I labeled one, money to spend, one money to save, and one money to give. I told him any time he got any money he had to split it into thirds. Then I explained that he could use the spend jar money on anything he wanted. I would never question what he wanted to spend that money on. The money to save jar could never be touched. And the money to give jar was not only for church offerings but when he got invited to friends birthday parties he had to buy the birthday presents with his money to give jar. (I was tired of spending my money on his friend’s presents). I was amazing to see ...

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Fantasy Sports Insurance?

Ok, I’ve heard it all now.  I’m not a fantasy sports guy, but as a numbers person I can understand the attraction.  More than $1 billion is spent each year on Fantasy Sports leagues.  League fees can run from free to $1000.  The more the 25 million people playing in paid leagues can pocket real money.   Those that are spending money find it frustrating to draft a player who gets injured in real life and have to be sidelined on their fantasy team.  An injury can ruin your fantasy lineup and your season could be over just as it is getting started.  Industry studies show that the average fantasy player spends $467 annually on various sports leagues. Along comes a businessman to create FantasyPlayerProtect.com which provides insurance to reimburse league entry fees plus up to $250 for other expenses like subscriptions to research your players.  With their tag line being  ‘Injuries Happen – FantasyPlayerProtect has your back’, you are able ...

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