Review Category : At Home

What Women Need To Rethink About Their Money After Divorce

  Have you ever heard that term ‘they traded in for a new model’ when it comes to discussion around a divorce?   While divorce is never emotionally easy, the more challenging part especially for women is thinking about how to get their finances set after the divorce is finalized.  Many women don’t build a financial plan to recalculate their own goals and objectives, nor do they always fully understand the implications of child support, alimony, or how to best get the assets set up that they took over after the divorce.  Here are five important consideration every woman should rethink after the divorce. Your Home – The last thing in the world you want to do is to sell the house that your kids are used to or move to a new school district. Just the thought of making new friends, new neighbors, and navigating a new school traffic pattern in the morning can be daunting.  However, many women take ...

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5 Ways You Are Wasting Money Without Even Realizing It

The truth is that more people are struggling with cash flow issues in their finances than they do with their investment assets.  The challenge is that we often blow our money in places where we don’t even realize it is going out the back door.  $20 here…$100 there…it can seem at times that we are nothing more than our own ATM machine.    It’s hard to define the difference between spending money and wasting money, but making quality decisions as the CEO of your family finances is paramount to having a successful personal financial picture.  Here are five ways I see that people waste money. Buying Too Large A House – We can convince ourselves that buying a large home is a great idea because we expect long term growth of the value of our home. Remember that primary residence should never be considered an investment, but rather your home.  The place you will raise your family or use a source ...

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Big Financial Pitfalls If You Plan On Working Longer

There are more people I meet every day who tell me that they aren’t planning to retire early, but instead enjoy life a little bit more and succumb to the fact that they are going to have to work later into their lives.  While on the surface this all seems fine and dandy, the harsh reality is that there are some major pitfalls with trying to work past the age of 65.   This strategy is often filled with some pretty unrealistic expectations and can have close to retirement families grasping for straws if their plan isn’t executed successfully.  Here are my pitfalls and tips to be thinking about if you want to work past the age of 65. Reality vs. Fantasy – In a recent study by the employee benefit research, 38% of the workers in the workforce expect to retire at the age of 70 and only 4% actually retire at the age of 70.   So, many workers are ...

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What Blackjack Will Teach You About Retirement

sponsored by Midland National You have made it to Las Vegas and settled into your favorite hotel.   After a few quality minutes of checking out your luxurious room, you decide it’s time to hit the main gambling floor.  Choices, choices.  You walk by the sports book, past the slots, the screaming at the craps table, and you wind up sitting down to play your favorite game – blackjack.   So, what in the world can playing blackjack teach you about your retirement? More importantly, HOW can blackjack teach you one of the most valuable lessons about protecting your retirement assets? Blackjack is an interesting game.  It’s part strategy and part social chatting depending on whether the dealer is giving you a run of easy cards to play or a set of more difficult choices depending on what the dealer doles you out.   In a perfect world, you would be getting blackjack after blackjack (or 21 after 21), but in reality you’ll ...

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Five Biggest Mistakes Families Make with Life Insurance

sponsored by Midland National The month of September is Life Insurance Awareness Month.  While it’s still a few months away, it’s not too early to start protecting yourself today. Most families are getting tons of information thrown at them around the topic of investing, far too often I see families make major mistakes when it comes to life insurance.   I had a widow come to see me just a few months ago when her husband had a tragic accident.   He left her with three young children and a $500,000 insurance policy.   With hardly any other saved money, she was left bewildered on how she would be able to make her bills, pay for her kids’ college education, and then also take care of her retirement.   While $500,000 seemed like a lot money at the time they applied for the insurance, in reality it was barely enough to get by given all of the family goals.  Here are the five biggest ...

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How To Get That College Graduate Out Of The House

Now that your baby is all grown up and has an official college degree, your responsibilities have ended, right?  Wrong!  Your son or daughter has informed you that that they will be moving home after college while they prepare themselves for their next phase in life. According to The Guardian, almost a third of Italian adults (31%) live with their parents.  The highest proportion was amongst 18 to 29 year olds for whom unemployment is particularly high with 60.7% reported living at home.  Are we taking over the Italians?   Last year, NPR reported that a whopping 32.1% of kids aged 18 to 34 were living at home with Mom and Dad. Here are four tips to get that college graduate off the couch and launching into real life. Use Social Media…Yes, Social Media – In order to get your college graduate up and working in a real job, you have to make them treat getting a job like a job. ...

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7 Tricks You Still Fall For At The Grocery Store

Grocery stores have turned into much more than grocery stores today.   They don’t just sell us frozen foods, vegetables, meats, and bread, but today they have become a virtual cornucopia of products and services that range across many different spectrums.  However, at their core, grocery stores aren’t much different than taking a trip to the Wynn in Las Vegas.  They are there to separate you from your money.  As I try to look out for you as a consumer, I thought I would give you the seven best tricks I see grocery stores employ today and how you can become a smarter shopper at the store. Dairy Is In The Back – You might think the reason that dairy products are the last thing you buy in a grocery store is because you don’t want them to get too warm before you check out, but the reality is that dairy is typically in the back or the last aisle because ...

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When You Realize The Best Things In Life Are Free

Sometimes, people will make fun of me for driving a car with 204,000 miles of wear and tear on it.    There isn’t a month that goes by that someone doesn’t ask me, “Ted, when are you going to get a new car?”  On top it, I’m not the kind of person who buys myself much anymore.  I don’t spend a lot money on clothes, I don’t have an expensive hobby, and I don’t even wear a watch anymore.   You’d think I was bunkering up for a financial Armageddon, but in reality a few years ago I realized that no matter how much money you make the best things in life are free. Growing up as a child, we would have NEVER even thought about going to a four star hotel.  Now, for most families it isn’t even about taking a vacation.  It’s about the style points associated with the vacation.   “Hey, have you gone to the Ritz Carlton in …..?” ...

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Five Great Technology Mother’s Day Gifts

Mother’s Day is tomorrow and word on the street is that spending is up this year…bigger than ever. The National Retail Federation estimated that consumers will spend 23.6 billion dollars on Mom this year in 2017, so who says people aren’t shelling out their wallets for Mom. If you are counting that is an average of $186.39 per consumer which is an 6% increase from 2016. Moms work hard and they are entitled to a show of appreciation on their special day. Most consumers will acknowledge that appreciation with a greeting card (77.9%%), though it appears her loved ones will also look for special gifts. Two-thirds (68.5%) of those celebrating will buy mom her favorite flowers, spending a total of $2.6 billion, and 37% percent will look for spring sweaters and blouses, spending a total of $2.1 billion on apparel and accessory items. Mom’s loved ones will also buy 2 billion dollars of consumer electronics this year, so you should ...

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Make Money By Renting Your Car Out?

One of the planning items that most people have when they go on vacation is whether or not to rent a car.  With the evolution of services such as Uber and Lyft, some people are skipping the rent a car altogether and trying to manage the cost of having a car service take you around the city you are traveling through for vacation. However, we love showing people how to make money and one of the up and coming ideas is to rent your car out to others while it is just sitting there in the driveway.   Some people leave the country for an extended period of time and won’t be using their car and others have a weekend car that does nothing but sit and collect dust during the week.   Being smart about making money is getting your assets to work for you instead of you working for your money. The first service you need to learn about is ...

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When You And Your Spouse Just Can’t Agree About Money

It starts with the small arguments. You don’t agree on where to eat out on a date night during the weekend. Then it turns to small petty arguments with not being able to agree on whether to paint the family room that has been all scratched up by the kid’s toys. Ultimately, it leads to full scale arguments about issues on whether to send the kids to private or public school, whether to vacation in Hawaii, and potentially doing a complete bedroom remodel 10 years after you have lived in your home. Although you tied the knot and agree it would be until ‘death do us part’, there are many nights one of you goes to bed before the other simply over the fuming battle about money. Money creates interesting behaviors in all of us.  Some of these feelings were ingrained is us as children based upon the way we were raised.  Some of us came from nothing and our ...

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What Happens To My Frequent Flyer Points When I Die?

When a loved one passes away, there are often many financial matters to deal with in the estate planning process. Often, you have to deal with collecting life insurance policy proceeds, closing out bank accounts, and dealing with the transfer of IRA and 401(k) accounts. In most families, there is also lots of discussion over possessions including automobiles, jewelry, or other collectibles. But, what about all of those frequent flyer points? Will they continue on to a beneficiary or just drift away into a black hole of frequent point oblivion? Before we discuss various programs and what the potential outcomes are at death, let’s talk about some best practices. Most families don’t even really track their miles or points. This is why we encourage people to use the online personal financial dashboard with oXYGen Financial because you actually have the ability to track all and any point programs to know exactly what you have. It’s not a great idea to ...

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Want To Get Wealthy? Try A Budget Cleanse!

There is so much discussion out there on the internet about picking stocks, bonds, exchange traded funds, and mutual funds.   It’s dizzying to sort through the thousands of articles to really ascertain whether indexing is better than active or value is better than growth.  When you think about building wealth, the discussion centers primarily around ‘asset management’, and which assets categories to own to grow your overall net worth.   However, being an expert in the X and Y generation, the next 20 years of financial planning should be much more centered about your ‘cash flow management’ rather than your ‘asset management’. Since we have moved to a society where largely all transactions move through some sort of electronic currency.  For most of you that means debit or credit cards, although we know that many forms of mobile financial technology are developing to easily allow two entities or people to transfer cash to one another.   Rarely do people write checks today ...

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Should I Leave My Kids A Million Dollars

Just the other week, I had one of the more interesting conversations with a client which sparked me to write this article. I’ve never been the kind of advisor that wants to ‘sell’ my clients insurance. I have always felt it to be best to implement risk management products for the best cost possible or utilize insurance vehicles in the best way to accumulate cash based upon each individual client situation. One of my clients called the other day and said they were considering buying a second to die policy. When I initially heard the request, I said, “Well, you don’t really have a need for more life insurance and we have really good accumulation strategies set up for your other goals.” As the conversation deepened, he told me that he wanted to be 100% certain that when he and his wife died that each child would get 2 million dollars no matter what happened with the rest of his ...

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Five Valentines Day Money Saving Ideas

Valentine’s Day is one of those special holidays that can put a real dent in our wallet. The average person in 2016 spend $147 according to the National Retail Federation. Here are five quick money ideas that you can use to still make a special Valentine’s Day while also being smart on how you spend your money. Become Your Own Private Chef – Have you ever tripped through one of those tasty.com videos on Facebook where you see recipes you always thought about making. This would be a great time to avoid the crowded restaurants and make a special meal for your significant other. Flowers At The Grocery Store – Skip the florist and discover that some of your best deals are located right at the local grocery store. Stop by at the end of the day on Tuesday and you’ll pick yourself up a great deal. Buy A Card At Trader Joe’s – You mean food, right Ted? Nope. ...

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5 Key Points To Know When You Decide To Refinance

With the Fed recently raising interest rates, people have already started to write and call me about whether or not it is still a good time to refinance.  You will likely see more offers from your current mortgage company, broker, or bank looking to get you locked in before the Fed raises rates again in 2017.  Here are my smart money moves to five key points to know when you make a final decision about whether a refinance is good for your property. There Is NO Rule Of Thumb — I love these random articles out there that say your mortgage rates needs to be down by a certain percentage for a refinance to make sense. In fact, Investopedia recently wrote, “The typical rule of thumb is that if you can reduce your current interest rate by 0.75-1%” This makes very little sense to me as this is going to be a math equation because all refinancing costs money.   What you are ...

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Six Smart Ways To Save Money On Thanksgiving Dinner

Forty-six million turkeys will be ready to go during Thanksgiving this year. The American Farm Bureau Federation says the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people will average $49.04, a 44-cent decrease from last year’s average of $49.48. Supermarkets are charging $21.76 for a 16-pound turkey, which works out to $1.36 per pound (and three cents less than the per pound cost in 2012).   However, we are interested in saving money, so here are six ways to cut down on cost for Thanksgiving dinner if you are working on a budget. Go Generic – There may be a few brands that you cannot live without for Thanksgiving, consider items such as salt, spices, frozen vegetables, and other items that can save you money without giving up the taste.   Generic brands at many stores have come up in quality over the past five years and in some cases have the same exact ingredients as the big brands. Go pot luck with your ...

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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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OUCH! Is Your Wife Cheating On You With Amazon?

As I get to meet literally thousands of people every year to talk about personal finances and their struggles and successes toward building their net worth, I’ve noticed an interesting trend phenomenon that seems to have an uncontrollable growth.  That is the behemoth that we all know and have come to love as Amazon. Although it has snuck up on us quickly, there is at least one spendaholic in your household (or a very close friend or relative) that has been completely brainwashed and taken over by the alien Amazon nation.   As I recently perused the Amazon website, it dawned on me that Amazon may be one of the most aesthetically displeasing websites when you consider the pure design of a ‘pretty’ website.   But, being the math geek that I am, I counted 27 different pictures that I could click just on the top part of the main page that loaded up on my computer.  Then and only then did ...

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Five Items You ALWAYS Lose That Cost You Money

If you are like me, I can sometimes become an absent minded professor.  My businesses are kept in perfect shape and form, my workouts are always on schedule, and I never forget what I need to pack when I take a trip.  However, when it comes to every day household items, I just plain stopped spending money on certain purchases because overspending on the fancy brands of these items assured me that I would inevitably lose them down the road.   So I finally succumbed to my own absent mindedness and stop buying nice items in five categories that I always seemed to lose.  I thought it was just me, but it probably is a struggle you go through as well. Sunglasses – Ray-Ban’s….cool.  Oakley’s…..so great when you are out on a boat.  Gucci….ever so stylish.    While these all look so great when you are out on the beach, at the pool, or an afternoon party, the reality is that people ...

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Quit Buying Stuff You Can’t Afford

Generation X is classically defined as people born between the years 1965 and 1979.    Pretty much those of you in your late 30’s and now, *GULP* into the early 50’s.  Having given personal financial advice to thousands of people, I can tell you that many of you who were born 1960 to 1964 fit within the Generation X type of financial and personal attitude.   Since I am 47 and have had a good deal of financial success on my own, I’ve noticed some big mistakes that I see my generation making with their money and how they think about money.    One of the main problem with our generation is that it seems we can defy gravity when it comes to buying anything but savings for our own future. Where do you think we should take the kids away for spring break this year?      Should we go away for Thanksgiving or would it be better during the holiday season?    I know ...

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Four Financial Moves To Make After You Are Hit By A Flood

With the recent devastation people have experienced in Louisiana by the floods, some new light is being shed on what financial moves you may need to make after you are hit by a Flood.    Over the prior weekends, I did a small piece on the Weather Channel to give some financial guidance for people in Louisiana who were hit by the flood.   With only 12% to 14% of the homeowners actually having flood insurance in an area that was not considered a flood plain, the big question is what money moves you should make after the flood comes through your neighborhood. Source (FEMA.gov) TIME TO MAKE AN INSURANCE CLAIM The first thing is you should try to go back and take photos, but be safe as water damage may make parts of your home extremely unsafe. One thing you should determine is whether or not you want to hire a licensed independent insurance adjuster to work as an advocate for ...

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Do You Need An LLC For Your Rental Property?

With interest rates continuing to hover around record low rates, Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers are swallowing up investment properties all around the United States.  Even though last week an article came out from the N.Y. Times that home ownership is down to a record low of 62.9% (which is the lowest in fifty years), the developments being built around your neighborhoods seem to continue to sell at a record rate. One of the main questions we get all the time from people who buy investment real estate or rental properties centers around whether to hold the property individually, hold it in an LLC, and whether or not you need a separate company if you plan to manage these properties on your own. Let’s go through an example of why you might want to have an LLC.  You have a tenant who has rented your property up on the lake this summer.   They decide to bring a few friends out ...

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How Much Does a Puppy Cost?

As a Private CFO™ to my clients I often get questions that have nothing to do with the traditional financial planning topics you might imagine.  While many are concerned with high level planning areas like retirement or asset allocation, I’ve found that many younger clients crave “life” advice as they educate themselves on making smarter decisions. One of the recent questions I was asked was, “How much does a puppy cost?”  Since it’s been a little over a year since I made the big lifestyle change myself, I thought I’d share some of the things you should consider before taking on a little Old Yeller (sorry, I’m dating myself with one of my favorite childhood movies…). They often compare getting a dog to having your first child, so think twice about the financial obligation, opportunity costs and commitment it takes to be a good “parent” to you pup. Cost to buy the dog can range from a rescue at $250 ...

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How To Do A Wedding For Under $10,000

Will you marry me?    That magical phrase is shared between two people in love every day whether it be on a baseball scoreboard or with the entire family watching in the living room.    Today student debt for Generation Y graduates is approaching an all-time high.  About two-thirds of college grads in the Class of 2015 will graduate with some student loan debt. The average debt is about $35,000. (source: www.wsj.com).  The real question couples should be asking when they tie the knot is “Am I marrying you or your debt?”   With two daughters of my own, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get away with a $10,000 budget, but here is how to plan a fabulous wedding and do it for under $10,000. The Day Of The Week and Limit Guests – Most of us would prefer Saturday as the day of the week we get married. If the weekend is the only choice you have, Sunday can ...

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Why Do College Education Costs Defy Gravity?

In the homes of parents today in their 40’s and 50’s, the debate about how to pay for the rising cost of college has become the topic of conversation.  It isn’t just the fact that while the Government says inflation remains really low, most parents are experiencing that cash flow management is becoming more of a problem than asset management.   So, why do college education costs continue to defy gravity in this low inflation environment. More Non-Teaching Jobs – Higher education payrolls have also been rapidly adding more non-teaching jobs in recent years. Public and private colleges and universities expanded their payrolls by 28 percent between 2000 and 2012, more than 50 percent faster than the previous decade, according to an analysis of higher education staffing by the Delta Cost Project. There are more student programs offered on big campuses, continuing to increase the necessity of these non-teaching positions. Competition For Talent – Ultimately, price is dictated by the law ...

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Remember When You Could Leave Your Door Unlocked

Since it is political season and most of my articles tend to focus on the money side of politics, I thought I would give you some food for thought about the way it is now and the way it was when most of you were growing up as a child.   It’s imperative being in the money business that I stress to people every day the importance of savings and how money can secure their future, but in some ways it worries me on how people may be accumulating money and the negative impact the pressure of having to earn more money is having on families across America. Can you remember when life seemed a lot simpler than it is today?  Is it that you have more responsibilities?  Is it that technology has made you more accessible?  Is it that now you have had a taste of the ‘good life’ that you don’t want to go back to just the status ...

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Trump vs. Clinton Tax Plans

While the election is kicking into high gear, there may be many reasons why you may choose one candidate over the other.  Or, you just may choose to vote for one of the independents this year.   Since I write a column mostly about smart money moves, it might be in the best interest of your family to understand the basics of what the candidates are proposing for tax overhaul and reform.  Here is the high level of Trump v. Clinton for income taxes. PERSONAL INCOME TAX Trump is proposing we move to four tax brackets 0%, 10%, 20%, 25%. More importantly, he is wanting to make the standard deduction for single people at $25,000 and for married couples $50,000 which means those families will pay no tax at all. Clinton is going to hold the same general similar tax bracket structure we have in today’s world. However, she is looking to make two major changes: one being a 4% surtax ...

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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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Five Money Considerations Before You Move

Whether you decide to move across town or across the country, at some point your family is going to be faced with a move. As you grow within a corporation, it’s likely at some point they will ask you to move from one city to another.   This means the financial decisions you make could have a substantial impact on your bottom line.  Here are five money considerations you should think about before you make the move. Rent or Sell – Since you don’t always know how long you’ll be in a city, buying a home is a big family financial decision. If you relocate to another city, an even bigger decision could be whether or not you should sell your existing house or rent it out.   Make sure you review items such as seller costs, moving costs, whether or not you want to be a landlord and what you could get for market rate rental income before you make this ...

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Pay Off The Mortgage Or Invest The Money

One of the most difficult questions that I get from both younger and older clients is whether or not it is a good idea to pay off their mortgage or invest the money?  With interest rates continuing to hover around all-time lows, many people are still in the process of refinancing their existing homes or buying a new one.   If your rate is in the 3% to 4% range, you may be wondering if you should take your excess monthly discretionary income to pay down your home note faster or would it be a better idea to take that cash and invest it for the long term.    This decision has both financial and emotional ramifications, so let’s review the pros and cons of paying off your mortgage. The first part of this analysis is the black and white calculation on whether your money can work harder for you than the interest rate you are paying on your debt.   Let’s say, ...

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The Change Jar Has Gone Electronic

The change jar has been a staple for many years to teach people both young and old about the value of saving a buck. While most people don’t think a penny is worth much anymore, the change jar can show you the power of saving money on a daily basis simply by dropping the change in your pocket at the end of the day into a big old glass jar.   Before you know it, you can save $50, $100, or even more if you put your mind to it over the course of a few months or even the year.  Look for my change jar tips coming up in a new year’s article. For those of you who like the idea of a change jar saving by making small deposits every day, there are now a few electronic websites to help you with a small dollar saving strategy.  Try these out as well for your kids!! Smarty Pig– Smarty Pig ...

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Three Applications To Declutter Your Life

Every day, we become more and more inundated with the overwhelming onslaught of e-mails in our inboxes.  Technology was supposed to make life easier, but in some ways it has just made us all more accessible.   If you are like me, you would swear that every time you click the unsubscribe button that you automatically got enrolled into another set of e-mails.  Here are three applications I found that could help free up more time so you, too, can focus on increasing your bottom line. Unroll.Me- Swipe Left.  Swipe Right.  You can even Swipe Up.   Unroll.Me is one of the first applications I could find to help you declutter a subscription infested mailbox.   Simply download the Unroll.Me application on android or i-phone.   Once you install the application, you can put in your e-mail account and unroll.me will scan your inbox for all of the subscriptions you are currently enrolled in at this time.  If you decide to swipe left, you’ll ...

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Five Money Lessons You Must Teach Your Children

Whether you are a helicopter parent or you have more of a hands off approach, the lessons you teach your children in the early years of their life will have long lasting impacts down the road.  While school, sports, relationships, and more are often a priority in what we teach our children, often money is a subject not discussed between parents and their kids.  Here are five money lessons every parent should teach their children. Credit Cards Are Not A Magic Trick- With the advent of smart applications like Apple Pay and most parents carrying a wallet full of credit cards, less and less do we demonstrate for our children what it is like to pay in cash.   When the kids see all of the dinner bills, shopping, etc. being paid with credit, they may not fully grasp how money actually pays for those items.  You should try from time to time to do a grocery shopping or a trip ...

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Do Parents Gifts Come With Strings Attached?

Imagine this scenario: Mom and Dad get to hear some great news from their son or daughter when they tell them they are getting married.   The initial jubilation and excitement from the news is almost overwhelming as Mom and Dad’s little baby is now going to really be all grown up.   So, Mom and Dad want to help pitch in for the wedding and tell their son or daughter that they will contribute $25,000 toward the wedding.   A few weeks later, Mom now gets involved with the initial guest list and becomes adamant about certain relatives that must be included for the wedding.  The arguments ensue between Mom and her daughter in this case, and then the daughter begins to wonder was this really a gift from Mom and Dad or did it come with strings attached? Most parents will say that they want to help their children or grandchildren when they have excess financial resources to do so down ...

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Should You Loan Your Girlfriend or Boyfriend Money?

“So our relationship is solid. We are both 28. I’m not ready to propose, and there are certainly some kinks. But she has asked if I would consider loaning her some money so she could pay off some of her credit card debt. Details: she has over 8k in CC debt and about 7x that in student loans she makes about 32k a year. Much of this she amassed as she finished graduate school and struggled for a year to find full time employment. Which she has had for the last few months. She expects her income to increase over the next couple years. I have zero debt and make approximately 50k. Additionally, I have about the same as my net wealth. About 1/3rd of which is liquid. We also live in expensive New England and I have been desperately trying to save money for a home in a few years. She would like to as well but her debt ...

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Is Your Spouse Financially Cheating On You?

Sometimes you might wonder if your spouse is signing away on documents that you will never be aware of down the road.   Or, maybe you are concerned that there is some secret stash of money you didn’t know about because it wasn’t included in the family net worth.   At all times in our lives, we will inevitably have little whispers in your ear about whether or not there is cheating going on in our relationships.   Since this is a personal finance column, I’m really talking about financial cheating.  How can you tell if your spouse is financially cheating on you? Swap Credit Reports- What happens in this situation? You think everything is going well in your family finances and then all of sudden you find out that your spouse has racked up $20,000 of credit card charges.   How mad would that make you?  What would that do to your relationship?   It won’t make sense for most families to have all joint ...

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Six Ways We Live Like The Jetson’s Did

Who could ever get this famous theme song to cartoon show The Jetson’s out of their head? http://bit.ly/1IBR6fN  Meet George Jetson . . . His boy Elroy . . . daughter Judy . . . . Jane his wife.   Do you remember watching this funny cartoon show as a kid and wondering in the year 2062 if any of this would actually become a reality?  We are only in the year 2015, and many of those childhood fantasies are now a reality of our day to day lives.   Here are six ways we are starting to live like the Jetson’s. Face Time- Remember when Jane Jetson would have those calls with her friends so they could see each other before they went out to the shopping mall?   Well, in today’s world we have Apple’s Face Time, Skype, Go to Meeting, and now Periscope.  You can pretty much see anybody, anywhere, anytime through the click of a button. Flying Saucers- Most ...

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Why You WILL tell your child YES

Like many parents, I recently experienced the sadness and euphoria of sending our first child off to college.   As much as you can prepare yourself for that moment, it’s an incredibly bittersweet moment as you pull away from campus and see your child really start to begin life on their own.    These are the beginning moments where they make more decision on their own, handle their day to day affairs, and begin to take over the basic management of their finances. I’ve always considered myself to be a parent who would tell my child like is really is without any of the sugar coating.   It wasn’t long before my children realized my feelings on things including why participation trophies make no sense, why your chores in the house don’t deserve allowance, and that soon they will be responsible for their own financial future.  I am in the financial planning business, so you can imagine that money is a top of ...

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You Can Fix It Yourself

It’s Saturday and I’m loathing the idea of doing the few fix it up projects at home that need to be taken care of sooner than later. Like most families, things that you don’t want to do you’ll generally outsource. That is until you realize that many of the blue collar workers who come in to fix your toilets, change a lock on a door, or even patch up a wall might be charging more than you make on an hourly basis. So, one of the trends I’m seeing amongst white collar high dollar earners is a movement of back to figuring out how to fix things themselves. Why not? According to www.searchengineland.com YouTube “How To” Videos are up 70% in views here in 2015 and have reached over 100 million hours of viewing time already. The top how-to home improvement video searches include “how to unclog a toilet,” “how to remove wallpaper” and “how to decorate your bedroom.” “Being ...

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The World Series Of Vaping

Since 1903, The Fall Classic called The World Series has been entertaining baseball fans all over the world.   In 1970, the famous World Series of Poker began at Binion’s Horseshoe and now has a place yearly on ESPN with worldwide coverage of the event.   Is it possible that the next phenomenon to catch on in America will be called The World Series of Vaping or what’s better known as “cloud chasing” today? Is this a joke, Ted?  No, unfortunately this is no joke at all.    E-cigarettes came on the scene about eight years, and now there are an estimated 8,500 vape shops in the U.S. doing over 1.2 billion in annual sales.    Approximately two years ago, owners of the vape shops starting these “cloud chasing” contests to attract more customers.   Now, the number of contests going on across the United States have exploded.    This hasn’t exactly turned into a World Series of Vaping yet, but contests that are held at ...

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Are More Women In The US Going Childless?

There are always interesting angles to discuss when it comes to financial planning.   One of the trends that continues to explode across the United States is the mere fact that more and more women are going childless.  The Wall Street Journal just ran a great article recently on this story.  According to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of women in their 30’s and 40’s going without children is rising.  For women in their late 30’s, about 18.5% of the women aged 35 to 39 are going childless which is sharply up from 17.2% in 2012.  The trends are also up for women aged 40 to 44.  So, what does this mean as it pertains to financial planning for women in the United States who are going without children? In my opinion, there are several reasons we are seeing this trend happening in the United States today: More and more women are getting married later in life. ...

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Why Our Kids Want To Stay At The Ritz Carlton?

Most people around the country recently finished spring break with their children. Some families head to the beach, others work their way to favorite destinations such as Disney World, and some people opt to visit family in another part of the country. This spring break, I headed down to Alys Beach which is one of the nice housing locations along route 30A in the panhandle of Florida. We had a great time on our vacation, but it made me wonder if the expectations I’m setting for my children are going to be achievable for them in the future. I tried to spend some time reflecting on spring break when I was a child. Did I ever stay at a fancy private home? NO. Did I ever stay at a Ritz-Carlton or some swanky resort like Atlantis? NO. Did I dine at gourmet restaurants or play golf on top ranked courses? NO. When did the world change where Boomer and Gen ...

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How Do You Know When It Is Time To Move?

Unless we have a major job change, there are several times in our lives where we ask ourselves if it is time to move from our current home.  Change isn’t easy.   Moving can be even harder.  New friends, new traffic pattern to work, and time to learn a new landscape.   However, moving may be a defensive or offensive play in your family finances depending on your overall situation and the national marketplace for real estate.  Here are four smart money moves scenarios that may give you some insight if it is the right time for your family to move. The Cost Of Private School Is Killing You– Let’s look straight up at the math on this.   If you pay for private elementary, middle, and high school in any major city, let’s assume the cost is $25,000 per year.   If you are in a neighborhood where the public schools won’t suffice, you may be forced to send you children to private ...

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The Emotional Wear And Tear Of Debt

Soup is NOT a meal.   What?  What in the world does that have to do with debt?   One of my all-time favorite Seinfeld episodes is where comedian Kenny Bania gives Jerry Seinfeld a brand new Armani suit and tells Jerry that they can call it even if Jerry takes Kenny out for a ‘meal’ sometime.  Seems like a reasonable deal, right?   Jerry gladly accepts the offer and then ends up taking Kenny out to a restaurant and since Kenny was full from a hot dog he recently ate, he decides to just order soup.   Kenny and Jerry argue about whether soup is a side dish or a meal which inevitably Jerry loses the argument.   Jerry left the dinner with one of the worst three word phrases hovering over his head, YOU OWE ME! Over the years, my philosophy around financial planning has evolved from when I first started in the business almost 25 years ago.   Debts come in many shapes ...

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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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Is The Best Gift For A New Baby A Domain Name?

The birth of a baby is one of the most life changing events for a family.   As parents, friends, and family rejoice in the new addition to their family, many people often wonder what to get the infant for a baby gift.   Over the years, I’ve witnessed being showered with baby blankets, rattles, piggybanks, and designer outfits.   I’ve even bought these gifts myself.  Unfortunately, within six to twelve months most of these gifts are unusable anymore, and wind up in a box that you’ll rummage through 15 years from now.   While a Tiffany’s battle rattle might seem like a good idea, I’m going to share with you why buying a domain name might just be the single best baby gift that you could ever give a newborn. We don’t know what the future will hold for our babies.  They may end up being famous and in the movies.   They could end up being the next successful billionaire such as Mark ...

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Diamond Jewelry Valued For More Than the 4 C’s

People are flocking to jewelry stores around the country to buy that special someone something that sparkles. So what makes one diamond more valuable than another? Ask any diamond and jewelry professional, and they will tell you the factors that influence the value of diamonds are much more complicated than the commonly referred to 4 c’s: Clarity, Color, Cut, and Carat Weight. But, the 4 c’s are really just the beginning of the factors that make up the value of a diamond. I call the remaining considerations ‘Characteristics,’ making a fifth c if you will. Characteristics include any properties that may affect the overall value of the stone, such as the construction of the diamond, the nature of imperfections, as well as natural or man made characteristics. Proper Ratio of Depth and Table Percentages – Depth and table percentages will affect the value of a diamond because they are an indication of a well-proportioned stone. If a depth percentage is too big ...

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Pinterest Bathroom Remodel Ideas For Under $5,000

Kitchens and bathrooms are the two common areas in a home they owners often want to remodel. However, when you get the bid on redoing an entire bathroom or kitchen it could give you a case of sticker shock. If you can’t stomach shelling out $10,000, $20,000, or more for a complete overhaul, then it might be time for some cool ideas to do a mini makeover without busting up your bank account. Here are five ideas from Pinterest that can give your bathroom a little makeover for less than $5,000. Vanity Sink– this could be the centerpiece in your bathroom than can make a great initial impression for any entrance. http://bit.ly/1AC2aVx Subway Tile– If you want to spruce up a painted wall or change out the dull background in your bathroom, nothing pops like subway tile. http://bit.ly/1AnVOd5 Mirror, mirror– For something far less than $5,000, you can use mirrors to make the bathroom look larger and add some pop. ...

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Are You Buying A Home Before You Are Ready?

The American dream of home ownership has been indelibly etched in our minds and hearts for many years in our society.   While I do believe that home ownership is great for most families over the long run, a huge mistake your professional 20 something’s make with their family finances is purchasing a new home before they are truly ready to own a home.  Home ownership will be by far one of the largest purchases a young professional will make in their lives.  Why is it so easy for professionals at this age to make this common yet surprising mistake? Debt Is Cheap- Sometimes, we let the tax tail wag the dog and with all of the press on interest rates being historically low, the young professional is feeling pressure that it could be now or never.  Consequently, many of them are making these purchases without considering short term and long term financial ramifications. The Total Obligation Ratio- Many individuals in ...

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Why Buying a New Car Makes No Financial Sense

My father loved new cars. He loved the look of them, the feel of them, and even the new-car smell. There is something glamorous and glitzy about parading a new car through your neighborhood to impress your friends. Every three to four years, my mother and father would go out and purchase a brand-new automobile. But there is nothing sparkling about buying an investment that will surely lose you money–no matter how much you convince yourself that it makes sense. As a child, you don’t really consider financial matters such as depreciation and how a purchase can be one of the worst things you can do to your family budget. But what if I was to tell you that you should give me $70,000 and within two years it will be worth $45,000? Would you invest your money in that kind of asset class? No matter how much the car may boost up your ego or social status, it simply ...

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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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Do I Need To Make Estimated Tax Payments?

You recently lost your job or your job lost you and now you have decided to take some freelance consulting jobs to pick up some spare cash. You fill out a W-9 in order to get paid, and a few weeks later a check comes in the mail made out to you. You are really excited because no taxes have been taken out and you feel flush with cash. Now, you are beginning to file taxes for 2014 and are starting to wonder when the Government is going to ask you to pay taxes. The reality is that most of you who earned your first 1099 will likely file Schedule C (sole proprietor) with your first year of income. Some of you may set up an LLC, but are still uncertain how exactly money gets from the check that got deposited in your bank account to the IRS for federal taxes and your state for state income taxes. In order ...

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Seven Items Going Up In Cost In 2015!

Everybody says that inflation is staying low, but besides what we see at the gas station you wouldn’t know it when you go to the checkout counter.   While it only costs about half to fill up our tanks, some categories of spending continue to defy gravity going into 2015.   Here are seven items that are going to climb in 2015 and your smart money moves alternatives to keep your dollar stretching throughout the year. BOURBON Bourbon sales continue to skyrocket as the demand for higher end bourbon brands continue to be sought out across the country.  These bourbons may need a 10 to 20 year aging process, so production is extremely limited at this time.  However, just like wine, most of the average bourbon drinkers couldn’t really tell the difference between a higher end and lower end bourbon, and some distilleries make multiple brands in the same place just with a different blend.  Try something like Old Crow or Kentucky ...

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Five Sports Dates Ideas For Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is coming up this week and rather than write a blog on how you can do this day on a budget, I thought I would share some different ideas than you might read on the internet.   People always talk about dinner, flowers, chocolates, and jewelry, and while those are classic favorites, you might consider doing something different for a change.   Here are five great ideas you can do right here in Atlanta if you love sports and want to have a great time on Valentine’s Day. Top Golf (http://topgolf.com/us/)-The main location is in Alpharetta, and another one is opening up soon in West Midtown.   What’s makes this venue great is that you can have a great time no matter whether you are a serious golfer or not.   With the lit up targets at night, tasty cocktails, and excellent food, you can spend $100 and have a great time for a few hours of fun. Andretti’s (http://andrettikarting.com/)– As their ...

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10 Questions To Ask Your CPA

If you are hiring an accounting or tax and business firm, it should go without saying that you have a CPA involved in looking over all of the work.   However, not all accounting firms are created equal.     Some accountants are aggressive, some are conservative, and some care about nothing more than just preparing your taxes.   With the tax bomb right coming right around the corner over the next decade, isn’t it time you asked your CPA these important questions? Question #1: Do you believe I’m paying too much, too little, or just the right amount of tax? Beyond simply preparing tax forms, an accountant should be involved in business planning throughout the year. Typically, you should be planning a tax review in the beginning of the year to ensure you create the most efficient tax strategy possible.   If your CPA just gives you the “we are doing great” speech, it could be time for a move Question #2: Do you ...

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How Bill Belichick And Deflategate Can Help You Save Money On Your Super Bowl Party

It’s all anybody can talk about now leading up the Super Bowl . . . #deflategate.   Even though Bill ‘the science guy’ Belicheck has vehemently denied any tampering with the footballs, there is silver lining from #deflategate.  What if Bill Belicheck was helping you host your Super Bowl party?  Maybe he could draw a parallel from deflating footballs to showing you how to deflate your budget and still pull off a touchdown for a Super Bowl Party.  The Super Bowl is the second largest single day of food consumption after Thanksgiving.  It also ranks as the most widely watched television show of the entire year.  This can be an exciting day to invite over family, friends, and work colleagues over to your home to enjoy the big game.   If you don’t have a big budget to host the Super Bowl, here are my (and Uncle Bill’s) smart money moves to stretch your dollar into the end zone. Make It A ...

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Why Your Family Income Statement May Be In The RED

Whether or not you accept the role, you are the CEO of your family finances. Many seasoned manager and vice presidents do an excellent job at work managing the profit and loss (P & L) for their divisions. However, most don’t apply the astute management techniques they learn at work to their family finances. Why not? The fact is that even if you have a college degree or an MBA, nobody ever really teaches a personal finance course on how to run your family finances like a business. The two metrics that most business owners review in their business are the income statement (P & L) and the balance sheet. Running your family income statement efficiently (or profit and loss statement) to maximize your cash flow is part I. The cash flow then drives the balance sheet (net worth) which is part II. Net worth is what will ultimately create your overall family financial security. The balance sheet is simply ...

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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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The Rising Cost Of A College Application

We see so much in the news today about the rising cost of college education and the crushing statistics around student debt.   These sobering figures are giving much cause for consternation around whether the cost of an elite college education is really worth the price of admission.  Just the other day, I shared with a young couple that to put their newborn through a fully funded elite private school education would require them to save almost $1,000 per month!   Although there is much debate about college education, hardly at all does anyone discuss the costs of just applying to get to that college education.   With application fees being another boon for colleges, here are some smart money moves figures you need to plan for within your family budget as your child prepares for the application process. Application Fees– With a school like Harvard that received over 35,000 applications @ $75 a pop, it represented over 2 million in application fees ...

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Have You Done The Research?

Giving to a good cause can evoke some of the most wonderful emotions we feel. The problem is that many individuals give without always doing the proper research on the charities or what the charities do with the donated money. Most of you can remember the Seinfeld episodes where George gets people to donate lots of money to the human fund without anybody asking any real questions about the charity. When they did, George gave them a few concise answers and people just accepted it as fact. Nowadays, friends ask us all the time through social media to donate money to various causes by clicking a link and filling out a form. Companies ask us to round up while shopping on line or make a $1 donation at the cash register while checking out our groceries. If you have budgeted aside a percentage of your income or a dollar amount that you can afford to give away, I recommend that ...

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How To Make A 100 Bucks Quick

Are you experiencing a bit of a credit card hangover from a little too much shopping and dining out over the holidays.  If you have fallen behind by $1,000 or more on your credit cards, it can seem to be a daunting task to crawl out of this New Year’s financial hole.  So, I thought I would give you 10 of my ideas on how to make some quick money here in the first quarter of 2015 to pay off that debt! Loan your stuff – Yes, loan out your stuff to other people and I’m not talking about doing a creepy Craigslist.   There are two websites called www.loanables.com and www.neighborgoods.net that you can rent out your stuff to your neighbors such as your lawn mower or kayak and make a little dough. Have a garage sale – Garage sales can average between $100 bucks and $500 bucks depending on how much stuff you clean out of your closets.  I recommend ...

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What Are Your Financial New Years Resolutions?

It is that time of season when you will begin to ponder your new year’s resolution.  Will it be exercise?  Will it be a new diet? Or will it have something to do with improving your family finances (which coincidentally is right behind diet and exercise).  Making resolutions (or goals) can be a very arduous process because it often makes you face some of your own realities whether you like it or not.  Here are five of my smart money moves as you approach 2015. Shop Every Bill In Your Household– Shop all of your bills and ask for a deal from your existing companies.  Specifically, ask for the company retention department.  The new year is when a business want to secure their revenue for the entire year.  Call your cable, mobile phone, utility, and landscaping companies, and ask them for a new deal.  You’ll bring money back into your wallet immediately. Secure The Domain Name For “Your Name”– Unfortunately, many individuals never go out and ...

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Five Smart Money Moves To Make In 2015

Can anyone remember Y2K just like me and thinking I can’t believe it is the year 2000?  Well, before the blink of an eye we are now at 2015 and another new year to take stock of where you are financially and what moves you should make this year to improve your bottom line.   Since there are so many financial items to watch as the CEO of your family finances, here are my five items to put on your financial list as moves to consider in 2015. Shop Your Bills– January is one of the best months to get on the phone and shop each and every one of your bills.  One of the quickest ways to free up more disposable income to pay off debt or increase your savings is to gain back more cash flow in your family profit and loss statement.  Remember, companies like to know that they have booked their recurring business for the year in ...

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Who Will Take Care of Mom and Dad?

For Boomers and Generation X’ers, you are probably beginning to see the early stages of your parents slowing down or perhaps one of them had a mild health scare over the last five years that got you thinking who is going to take of mom and dad?    Before each one of your brothers and sisters rush to put their finger on their nose and scream “NOT IT!”, it may be time to have a serious discussion about who will bear the responsibility should your mom and dad need someone by their side for financial or medical decisions.   There are several key mistakes that I see families make when it comes to discussing their aging parents’ finances. Who will be the main caretaker for Mom and Dad? – Since many siblings are strewn across the country, you should have a discussion with Mom and Dad so they know who will be taking the lead for potential items such as power of ...

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One Great Gift Idea For The College Football Playoff

With less than two weeks to go until Christmas, you might still be looking for a great stocking stuffer or gift especially for that avid college football fan.   This year will be the first National College Football Playoff with Alabama, Florida State, Oregon, and Ohio State, and there is sure to be much hoopla and hype coming up for New Year’s Day. Whether you use this as a holiday gift or just pick this up yourself for a New Year’s Day party, it is a must to check out FANPANS (www.fanpans.com). FANPANs came about after realizing no one was producing customized baking products for dedicated college football fans.   Started by Courtney Hoffman, she shared with me how the company got off to such great growth. “As a Tennessee grad, we started with a big power T cake.  We followed up with ice cube trays, then muffin pans, then the line was born.” FANPANS has some really cool products for the ...

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How To Avoid A Holiday Financial Hangover

Set yourself a budget. Most people overspend during the holidays because they don’t go in with a budget for each person they are going to buy presents. Typically, when you go on an impulse shopping spree, you often spend more than had originally planned for before the shopping excursion.  My recommendation is to set a clear budget with a fixed dollar amount per person, and then work yourself backwards.  Remember, it isn’t always the amount of gifts that somebody gets . . . it’s the thought of the gift that counts. If at all possible pay cash and stay away from the credit cards. Think about what you are going to give people who work for you, with you, or who help you. People such as the mail person, trash collectors, paper delivery people, etc. If you’ve got people that work in your house or do work for you in a regular basis, think about how much cash or what ...

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Does Whole Foods Equal Your Whole Paycheck?

Most consumers today have a very difficult time holding themselves accountable for their discretionary spending. In fact, I have seen more families making $100,000 or even $250,000 who are still managing to live paycheck to paycheck. The largest area of spending waste that I have seen proliferate in the family budget by far are in the categories of grocery shopping and dining out. You would think from all of the television programs that we have today showing us all these cutting edge techniques to cooking that we would actually learn how to cook, but instead all we have learned is how to eat out more. It’s just easier, simpler, and quicker than making a game plan for weekly meals. At least that is what we think. In addition, what’s increased as well is the number of trips families make to the grocery stores with all of the options for gourmet takeout food. I remember going once per week on Sunday’s ...

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Why Wouldn’t Student Loans Be Forgiven?

Last week I was invited on to NBC 11 Alive news in Atlanta to discuss this recent article (http://cnb.cx/1ubs042) that shared a study where it was discovered that 24% of all Millennials expect that their student loans will ultimately be forgiven.   That’s a downright scary statistic.  One in four of the kids who are borrowing money to pay for their current college education expect that they won’t have to repay the very debt that they borrow.   How can this be?  Isn’t this generation the most educated of all time?   What is going on in America?   Here is my smart money moves take on the details and where this is headed. First things first, I’m not really sure at all why we are surprised by this sentiment.   Back in the real estate crash of 2007 & 2008, how many people simply handed over the keys to their properties, walked away from their homes, and came out unscathed by never fulfilling their ...

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Til Debt Do You Part

My team is extremely fortunate to get to work with so many successful Gen X’ers. Many of them have done phenomenally well in their careers, and then begin considering marriage at a much later stage in life toward their late 30’s to early 40’s. This often brings up the question when we do financial planning with them about whether or not it is a good idea to get a prenuptial agreement. There are pros and cons to getting this type of agreement, but the one important item many couples do not remember to put in these agreements when they execute them is what will happen with the DEBT. Most couples remember to talk about the bank accounts, the retirement accounts, the family inheritances, the real estate, and the closely held businesses. However, most people assume that all prenuptial agreements are only dealing with people who have significant wealth. What happens when a couple gets married and you still have outstanding ...

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5 Gifts You Didn’t Know About For The Holidays

One of the reasons I love having clients is that I get to meet all kinds of different business owners. There are those that have been entrepreneurs for their whole lives and others who woke up one day with a dream of creating a product that could change the face of an industry. Now that it is holiday time, I thought I would share with you some stocking stuffers and other gift ideas that you won’t see on mainstream lists and items that will leave your family quizzing you on how exactly you found that item. Just say you heard about it on YourSmartMoneyMoves and enjoy these five gift ideas for the holidays. Pet Applause (http://etsy.me/1A1klG2)- Cindy Patrick has come up with a truly genius idea in the card and memory book business for pets. Aren’t you sick and tired of the same old thank you cards? If you are a pet lover, you will love her ‘Thank You Furry ...

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What To Buy and Not to Buy On Black Friday

Now that I gave you my five smart money moves on how not to get ripped of on Black Friday, let’s talk about some specific items that should be on your naughty and nice list. With so many deals being fired off at you through email, it can be difficult to know where the best place to spend your time should be over this holiday weekend. Should you get out now on Thanksgiving when the deals start flying off the shelf? Is it best to go on Black Friday? Or perhaps you should wait until Cyber Monday and just sit in the comfort of your home striking deals on the computer. Here are five items to buy and five items to avoid during Black Friday weekend. WHAT TO BUY (these are all true if you can actually get in to score the Black Friday ad deal!!!!) Asus Intel Laptop @ Staples– How could anything be better than a $100 laptop? You ...

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Gift Happiness Is About Expectations Met Or Unmet

The holiday season will be upon us soon and what could be better than having your parents give you a large gift of cash, real estate, or stock? Now think about wrestling with unwrapping the emotional paper that will come along with this gift for the rest of your life. I have shared with people that happiness in life is largely dictated by expectations either met or unmet. When a parent gives a large gift to their children or grandchildren, there is often no discussion around the expectations that come along with the gift. (i.e.what type of wedding you need to have, what type of house you must buy, where your children must attend college) Consequently, most parents believe they have the right to start telling their children what to do with the money, and most kids feel obligated to listen to their parent’s advice part in fear of disappointing their parents or even worse worrying about never getting a ...

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Don’t Get Ripped Off On Black Friday

After the turkey, the football, and the one awkward conversation with your cousin that happened to get stuck at the card table with you at the end of the big Thanksgiving table, comes the second holiday during Thanksgiving week called Black Friday.  The day’s name originated in Philadelphia where it originally was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would occur on the day after Thanksgiving. Use of the term began by 1966 and began to see broader use outside Philadelphia around 1975. Later an alternative explanation began to be offered: that “Black Friday” indicates the period during which retailers are turning a profit, or “in the black.” (source: Wikipedia) People often ask me if Black Friday really offers good deals.    I have always responded with the answer, “It depends”.   The reason is that if you aren’t careful with your shopping you could end up paying the same prices you would have paid for merchandise ...

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Why a Prenup Needs to Include Debt

My team is extremely fortunate to get to work with so many successful Generation Xers.  Many of them have done phenomenally well in their careers, and then begin considering marriage at a much later stage in life toward their late 30s to early 40s. This often brings up the question when we do financial planning with them about whether or not it is a good idea to get a prenuptial agreement. There are pros and cons to getting this type of agreement, but the one important item many couples do not remember to put in these agreements when they execute them is what will happen with the debt. Most couples remember to talk about the bank accounts, the retirement accounts, the family inheritances, the real estate, and the closely held businesses.  However, most people assume that all prenuptial agreements are only dealing with people who have significant wealth.  What happens when a couple gets married and you still have outstanding ...

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10 Money Saving Deals On Veterans Day

There are so many ways we should thank our Veterans on this special day.   In this great country of ours, many restaurants and shops across American are giving back to our military and offering them some really amazing deals.  Here are ten of my favorites for Veterans to check out and please go to a great military blog http://themilitarywallet.com/veterans-day-free-meals-and-discounts/ to check out the full list. (source: TheMilitaryWallet)  Make sure to have the appropriate I.D. with you before you go and always check local stores to make sure they are participating in the program. Applebee’s, free meal, Nov. 11, 2014: Last year, Applebee’s served over one million free meals to military veterans and active service members. Applebee’s is again offering a free meal to military veterans and active-duty service members on Veterans Day, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014. There will be 7 entrées to choose from, beverage and gratuity not included. Military ID or proof of service required. More. California Pizza Kitchen, Nov. 11, 2014. Choose ...

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I Can’t Take Money Until 59 1/2

There is an ever-changing landscape of families and individuals who are working on making work-optional by the age of 50 or 55. This doesn’t mean that they won’t continue running some small business or choosing projects to work on that they really enjoy, but at this financial juncture in their lives they are wondering how they may be able to tap into their retirement savings accounts. The biggest misconception people have about retirement savings accounts is that they simply cannot touch the money before the age of 59 ½ or they will pay significant penalties to the IRS. You’ll want to check this IRS link out. (http://1.usa.gov/1rB1ufw) Essentially, IRA owners have an option called Substantial Equal Period Payments which would allow them to withdraw money from their IRA or qualified plan before the age of 59.5 without incurring the IRS 10% early withdrawal penalty. The IRS will require individuals to continue the SEPP program for a minimum of five years ...

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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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5 Ways To Stop The Energy Vampires

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year.   Handing out candy to all of the kids in my neighborhood never gets old, and at least one child each Halloween season is dressed up as a vampire.   Computers, cell phones, cable boxes, and printers can be the Vampires that suck up your money by giving you a bigger monthly electricity bill.  The EPA estimates that plugged in devices can suck up $100 a year or more to keep power going to devices not being actively used.   What are five smart money moves that can be used to stop the energy vampires from biting you? Suzanne Jones, Interim President and CEO of the Association of Energy Services Professionals says, “We estimate that by spending $500 on energy efficiency devices that more than $1,800 in energy savings can be generated.” Use A Smart Shower Head- There are many devices on the marketplace that will stop the water flow when the water ...

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Don’t Accidentally Pay The Homeless Man… Again

Let’s face it, the city of Atlanta hasn’t quite perfected the art of mass transit, and sometimes driving to an event is not only easier, but could be your only option. However, once you finally make it near the Dome, Turner Field, etc, the daunting task of finding the cheapest parking rip off still remains. You may creep your way over to that one trusty lot you usually rely on, only to find its full or “prepaid only” that day. Or maybe the only Falcons parking that’s still open is that $60 lot. Once you finally find your space, and pay, how many times have you walked away wondering if you just paid the actual lot attendant, or a homeless man? Next time, try this new parking service called Parking Panda! (https://www.parkingpanda.com/) You’ll save time and money! Just search for the venue the event is being held at; you’ll then be given a list of available parking lots and decks ...

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How You Can Beat The All You Can Eat Restaurant

While buffets have been around for centuries, the “all-you-can-eat” buffet has been rumored to originate in the 1950’s in Las Vegas where some of the best buffets in the world are located.    The All You Can Eat platform has been implemented on colleges, cruise ships, and even at a section in the Dodger Stadium.   Our eyes can become bigger than our stomachs when we glance at all of the delicious items on the buffet.  Crab claws, pizza, egg rolls, pasta, shrimp, and every dessert imaginable.   Here are my three smart money moves on how you can ‘beat’ the all you can eat restaurant. Learn How To Prepare For The Meal–  First, do not drink sugary soda or alcoholic drinks when dining at a buffet.  You should stick to water if at all possible.  These sugar drinks tend to require more water to digest them.  This will not be good if your strategy is to eat more.   Consider starting your meal ...

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I Said I Would Never Go Back To That Restaurant

There are more than 125 large scale national fast food chain restaurants (source: Wikipedia). These range from McDonalds to Buffalo Wild Wings to Bonefish Grill. You should take a look at the list when you have some free time. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fast_food_restaurant_chains). Whether it is a local restaurant in your neighborhood or a national fast food chain, we have all had that experience of going to a restaurant only to complete the meal thinking to ourselves, “This is the last time that I ever eat here!” Our memories seem to work in mysterious ways. As clear as we can recall some things in life, it appears that the time machine tricks us into thinking that the bad experiences or bad food in restaurants we hated may not have been as awful as we once remembered. Why is that? Surely, when we leave feeling deathly sick for the next three days you’d think the experience would stick with us? Or the ‘miscellaneous stuff’ ...

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What to Ask When Buying a Used Car

My engine blew on my fully paid off car in late 2013.  It was only the second car that I’ve owned, and it was great to me for nine years.  Not having a car payment for years, I was enjoying diverting that extra savings to other areas of my financial life. You’ve probably heard that a new car’s value drops immediately when it’s driven off the lot. When the time came, I was set on buying a used car with low mileage to take advantage of the depreciation the first owner experienced. While I think I made the right decision, follow the five helpful tips below so you don’t get in a financial bind when you purchase your next used car. Was the car leased or owned? The previous owner of a car is a big sign of what’s to come for a used vehicle.  Cars that were leased often can be neglected since drivers know they’ll be returning it ...

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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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Is A Seven Year Car Loan A Good Idea?

When it comes to making smart money moves, our family has never been a big fan of buying a new car.   In fact, the last new car that we bought was back in 1993 when we really did the math on how much smarter it is to buy a used car that is somewhere between two to four years old versus getting a new one.   While getting a new car should be a well thought out planned purchase, it often falls into the camp of a spur of the moment purchase depending on when you get in the mood.    In a sound financial plan, you should begin to save for the (new) used car purchase the moment that you pay off the old purchase. Recently, an article came out which sent my financial sensors into outer space. Experian Automotive says that in the first quarter of 2014, 24.9% of all new-car loans were 73 to 84 months long.  Four years ...

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Is Disney World For You Or For Them?

For dual income families with children today, you often burn the candle at both ends trying to be the best you can be at work and the best you can be at home. You want to create magical memories for your children because some days you don’t get to see them when the sun comes up or until the sun goes down. Due the frenetic pace you are running every day, it’s not that your competency shrinks, but your capacity shrinks often forcing you to make bad financial decisions. The dumbest financial lesson I see parent’s teach their children today is to take fancy vacations that simply aren’t in the family budget. As a side note, over the top birthday parties aren’t far behind on my list. Vacations are still at the top of the list. Take the average parent today who has a 4 year old and a 2 year old and they get the bright idea to wipe ...

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Times Are Still Good For Buyers

Much like the stock market, the real estate market for most parts of the country have enjoyed the past five years. With a low interest rate environment, existing inventory in many metropolitan markets have been getting snapped up and you have seen new homebuilding occurring in cities and suburbs alike. Although many people speculated interest rates were going to shoot up over the past several years, I personally believe that the cool off in the real estate market is excellent for homebuyers. If prices are starting to flatten out and interest rates still remain incredibly low, being able to borrow capital at a 4% interest for 30 years makes home ownership very attractive. You still need to remember to only buy what you can afford in your family budget and don’t overextend yourself as home ownership usually comes with added bills and yearly maintenance. Just like the stock market, it is hard to have a crystal ball to say when ...

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The Latte Effect: How much could you be saving?

Do you regularly spend a few dollars on everyday things that you could probably live without? We’re all guilty of it but we tend to ignore the bigger picture. Think about it: if you saved the money you spent on small, day-to-day purchases, you could quickly save up a large sum of money that could be better used to benefit you down the road. Get familiar with the latte effect – the idea that unconscious spending on small things each day adds up to a vast amount over time. Change your spending habits While a dollar here and there may seem trivial in the scheme of things – as you can see, those dollars accumulate quickly. That’s not to say, however, that you should cut out all of life’s little luxuries. Pleasures such as medium lattes, manicures and lunches out can be enjoyed in moderation. It’s all about balance and discipline with your finances. Think about your everyday purchases – ...

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Do We Even Need Vacation Policies Anymore?

When I was running one of my first corporate divisions for a Fortune 50 company, I had a very wise operations person by my side.   One day he shared an important lesson with me that I will never forget.  He said, “Ted, don’t plan to put any policies in writing that you are not 100% certain that you plan to enforce.”   In the midst of this, I have learned through corporate America, and through running several of my own businesses, that policies can be both good and bad for the culture of an organization.   One that has come under some heated debate is the notion of whether or not we need vacation policies in organizations anymore. What’s more scary to you and the health of your organization . . . a) your employees have four weeks of vacation but they never take it (OR) b) you have an unlimited vacation policy and worry about people abusing it? The truth ...

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Can The Government Garnish Your Social Security Check?

With our nation at 17.5 Trillion dollars in debt (source: debtclock.org) and growing, is it any wonder where the Government will strike next to begin collecting more and more revenue.   With tons of people behind on payments on their student loans, there is a new phenomenon that people collecting social security need to be on guard for . . . that your Social Security check can be garnished.  Yes, that’s right; you can actually have some of your fixed income in retirement taken away from you. With more people going back to get a mid life college degree and more parents and grandparents co-signing loans, once your name gets on the dotted line for a federal loan you will be responsible to pay it back one way or another.   Back in 2000, only six people were being garnished for delinquent loans and now that number has risen to over 156,000 people.   The total garnishments exceeded more than $150 million dollars ...

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Do You Need Peyton Manning Insurance?

With the first official NFL Football game underneath our belts, the start of a new NFL season is now going to be the center of our TV rooms every Sunday.  For those of you who were lucky enough to draft Marshawn Lynch on your fantasy football team, your team had a head start going into opening weekend. What started out as something for people to just have fun following NFL Football has now turned into something far more serious than ever expected.  In fact, some people are questioning whether the new NFL rules enacted this year have something to do with the big business of fantasy football, in which the grand prize is $100,000 or more in some leagues.  The big question is ‘do you need fantasy sports insurance’? As people who deal with all types of insurance in our business, it’s pretty amazing to think that there could be such a thing as fantasy sports insurance (FSI).  However, in ...

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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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Is The Best Part of Waking Up, Really Folgers In Your Cup?

Do you need a cup of coffee to get your day going, or a cup after lunch to carry you through the rest of the day?  According to Statistic Brain, 54% of Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee every day.  There’s definitely no shortage of places to purchase coffee whether it be from a grocery store, a coffee house, or a fast food joint.  Known more for their fast food, McDonald’s has recently launched a campaign to increase awareness around their coffee brand, McCafé.  It was announced that from September 16th until September 29th (National Coffee Day), consumers can get a cup of coffee during breakfast hours…all on the company’s dime!  Plus consumers are invited to share their pre-coffee moments with @McCafe #sipandtell.  If you are already a McCafé fan, you will be pleased to know that McDonald’s has announced an alliance with Kraft Foods to offer the brand in grocery stores by 2015! If you have a ...

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Five Financial Moves To Make On Your Birthday

Our birthdays are usually a day of reflection and celebration all at the same time.  It’s often the one day of the year we measure ourselves against our goals, take stock of where we are in life, and think about what may be coming in the near term horizon for our future.   You’ll often compare how you look versus your friends on places like Facebook and think about where you are in life when it comes to your money and savings.  Here are my five smart money moves tips you should be considering on each and every birthday. Insurance– When it comes to life insurance, every year you get older there is more of a chance that you will die.  Thus, the cost of life insurance will continually go up.   You may need to decide what kind of insurance to buy whether it be a 10, 20, or 30 year term insurance or maybe this is the year you should ...

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Millennials And The Housing Market

For decades, the American dream looked something like this: go to college, get a job, buy a home. More recently, that picture has changed, due to the increasing amount of student debt millennials are graduating with, the unstable job market and a shaky, but strengthening, housing market. In the second quarter of 2014, homeownership rates for people under age 35, the millennial generation, were at the lowest they’d been in decades — less than 36 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancy Survey. The lack of homeownership among Millennials doesn’t affect only them: It is expected to have a greater impact on the housing market in general. What’s keeping millennials from buying? While there isn’t just one factor that is keeping the younger generation from buying, one area in particular is having a great effect on their ability to buy a home, and that’s student loan debt. Currently, the amount of debt outstanding on federal and private student loans ...

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Get Educated On One Word: RISK

You are a big spender and she’s a mattress stuffer. You like the idea of house flipping and she prefers a money market. You’ll go for the IPO and she’ll go for the blue chip stock that has been around forever. Now that you are newly married or living together, how can you ever see eye to eye on the best way to manage the family investments? Here are three quick young couple tips to deal with opposing investment styles. Get educated on the meaning of the word RISK. It’s likely nobody ever explained all the types of risk associated with investing to a young couple. Did the money mattress person realize they could be safely going backwards each year with the risk of inflation? Did the IPO investor realize the risk of losing all of their money with the latest social media stock? The young couples of today need to get informed on what risk really means. Get educated ...

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Don’t Let Your Kids Fritter Away The Money

I salute all of the parents in America.  By far, it is the toughest job that we will ever have, filled with moments of both sadness and euphoria, as Billy Joel would put it in his music.   It’s hard watching our kids make mistakes, but sometimes it is the only way they can learn.   However, there are three smart money moves scenarios that I’d like to share with you in order to help you help your children become smarter about their money. Zero to 18 years old- INSTITUTE A 50% RULE– Since we continue to move to a cash and gift card society, physical presents are something we don’t see as often anymore.   The gift card as we know it actually makes you spend more money because it doesn’t really feel like cash.   That is mentally how younger people get into problems like credit card debt, because you never actually see the money.   The 50% rule is simply this;  take ...

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Why Pay Ticketing Fees?

How many times have you been sitting home on a Thursday night trying to find things to do for the weekend on Access Atlanta (http://www.accessatlanta.com/) and say “Honey, let’s go to a concert at The Fox Theatre” or “Or guys, let’s catch the Hawks game?” There have been plenty of times that I’ve jumped on StubHub and grabbed last minute tix to Braves, Hawks games, and concerts all over Atlanta. Because of my lack of planning, and apparently everyone else’s, the past few years we’ve seen the success of companies like StubHub, CheapTickets.com, TicketMaster.com, and various others who offer consumers tickets to their favorite concerts, sporting events, and plays. As many of us know, some of these sites charge some form of underlying ticket fees that can range from $10-$25 per ticket. These companies provide a great last minute service of finding tickets; provide a venue for people who need to sell their tickets a chance to get some of ...

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The Lost Art Of The Hand Written Thank You Note

I’m really not sure why any of us get excited about going to get our mail every day.   Even though we know that ultimately the mail will deliver us three pieces of mail that are bills, five different types of non-sensical catalogues we didn’t order, and one incredible bulky Val-Pak stuffed with coupons, we still never get tired of the intrigue of opening up mail.   Even the halfhearted effort of companies that send us birthday cards unsigned still doesn’t seem to be able to break our spirit around the excitement of getting the mail.     Every once in a while when the sun shines bright and the weather is oh so perfect, it comes to our amazement that somebody today actually sends us a hand-written note and there it is; our day is made. For more than twenty years now, I have never stopped sending hand written thank you notes. Notes that have a personalized message so ...

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Uber For Seniors?

Uber for seniors?   I have no idea if this will ever be a business model, but I did have a laugh and an awakening moment the other day at one of my client’s homes over a cup of coffee.     In Fulton County (Atlanta), I was completely unaware of the amazing car services that are available to seniors to get around town.  With all of the new restaurants, shopping, and entertainment venues, even those that can’t drive or don’t have family to help them can get access to these cool services. The first of these services is the DART S Service.  It was started back in 2010 and to be eligible for the program you must: Be a Fulton County resident 55 years or older Have limited access to transportation Doesn’t own a car Permanently or temporarily cannot safely operate a vehicle Has no consistent means of transportation Has no access to services within reasonable walking distance To apply for the ...

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Smacking Gillette and Schick in the face.

Ok…  Everybody who shaves dreads reaching for new razors at the grocery store.  The prices are absolutely ridiculous.  And as someone who also shaves their head, it makes it doubly worse because of the added “real estate” I have to cover every time I shave.  I end up going through blades faster and using more of the damn things.  And the final straw?  For me it was the eternal search for the most comfortable blades with supposedly no discomfort, razor burn, or razor bumps.  I remember seeing new 3 blade razors, then 4 blade razors, then 5 blade.  All with names like Fusion®, Proglide®, Hydro®, Quattro® that promised smooth, close, comfortable shaves.   But, by the end of the week I would still find myself rejoicing in being able to give my face a break by not shaving on Saturday or Sunday… or both.  Do you want the answer?  Buy an old school Double Edged Safety Razor.  That’s right.  Shave just ...

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How About A $500,000 Tax Break For You?

Publication 523 may end up being your favorite IRS publication.  That is if you can really have an IRS publication that you really like.   When you sell your main home or primary residence, up to $250,000 may be excluded from your income.  The amount jumps up to$500,000 for married couples that sell their primary residence.  When individuals or couples start considering retirement decisions, they often don’t think about the equity in their house nor the tax treatment that may occur when they downsize their primary residence.  (source: IRS.gov) In order to meet the primary residence exclusion requirement you must meet the following requirements: You owned the residence for any two of the last five years. 24 months of 760 days. You occupied your residence for any two of the last five years. You haven’t used the exclusion within the last two years. If you are married you need to meet the following requirements: You are married and file a joint ...

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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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Can You Ditch The Debt Collector?

An estimated 1 in 3 adults with a credit history — or 77 million people — are so far behind on some of their debt payments that their account has been put “in collections. “That’s a key finding from a new Urban Institute study. It examined non-mortgage debt, including credit card bills, car loans, medical bills, child support payments and even parking tickets. The debt in collections ranged from as little as $25 to a whopping $125,000. But the average amount owed was $5,200. (source money.cnn.com).   So, what happens when the debt collector comes calling for you? Don’t Ignore Them-  Look, it can be incredibly disheartening to have to deal with a debt collector, but at some point you will need to face the music.  These aren’t the days of BMG/Columbia 6 CD’s for a penny and then change your P.O. Box. (Although admittedly I got a ton of CD’s this way).  Changing your name, address, or phone number might help you ...

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The Top Five Things People Like To Steal

Tell me lies. Tell me sweet little lies. I do enjoy Fleetwood Mac’s music and for years people have been convincing themselves that there IS a difference between a lie and a ‘white lie’. Y ’know, the lies that don’t really count. If you asked most people on the street, they will vehemently deny ever having been a thief in their lifetime. However, most of us at one time or another have magically ‘borrowed’ something that wasn’t ours and conveniently it never got returned. Here is my top five list of things people like to steal. PENS- Does it really matter when you realize five minutes after leaving the Chinese takeout place that you lifted the one pen they had to sign off on the credit card slips. Nah! You ‘earned’ that pen from paying more than you should anyway . . . that is at least according to you. Whether it is a hotel room, the cube next door ...

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Five Vices That Could Ruin Your Financial Future

We all have vices.   For some people it is biting their nails when they are stressed out.  For others it is taping and watching every single episode of the Real Housewives on Bravo TV.   Some vices are innocent while others can get you in big trouble.  Here are five financial vices you want to avoid if your goal is to become rich. Gambling- I am not talking about placing a $5 bet on the NCAA basketball championships.   The lottery for most people (especially scratch off tickets) can be a very addictive habit and one that is tough to break.  Spending $40 a week on lottery tickets vs. $40 a week saving in an IRA could mean a large differential in your ability to be able to retire one day.  The odds of your numbers coming up are slim to none. New Cars- I know that there is nothing like the smell of a new car.   There’s also nothing like the ...

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Selling Jewelry to Help Pay for College

Over the years I have met people who have sold their jewelry for hundreds of different reasons from saving the rain forests and donating to charities, to paying medical bills and forming a new business. We have helped clients pay for weddings and divorces, debt relief, retirement and to help family members in financial need. I can relate to all of these life events, but as a father, the one I relate to most easily is paying for my children’s education. We have helped many graduates pay off the debt that they have acquired while getting an education. We have also helped many parents and grandparents contribute to 529 plans – a tax-advantaged savings plan designed to help save for future college costs. Jewelry proceeds that are invested early have the time to grow tax free within a 529 plan and jewelry sold today, to pay down debt that could’ve accrued over the years, presents a much better financial footing ...

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Social Media May Be Your Best Freshman Class

It’s likely that students starting college in September have spent the past four years of their lives become experts at social media mediums including Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr. Without ever taking a class on social media, these platforms are indelibly integrated in the way an 18 year old communicates with their friends and family. In 1987, I didn’t even have a computer to bring to Boston College with me. Rather than give advice on student loans, budgeting, and other financial topics, I’d like to encourage the upcoming freshmen going to college to expand their social media networks and learn how to use these platforms to build their future. You see, it’s simple that life teaches you it’s not what you know but who you know that will ultimately get you further in life. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to become an excellent student, but rather leverage your expertise and begin to build your networks out today so when you ...

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Why Is It So Hard To Spend Money In Retirement?

The number one concern for most people approaching retirement age is that they will run out of money. It is such a great fear amongst individuals and families that many people actually deprive themselves of the number one objectives they had for retirement. Having fun! When you are working 40, 50, or 60 hours a week and raising a family, you often dream about what you will do when work is optional. You daydream about taking the vacations to destinations you have never seen like Australia. You ponder the idea of spending three months sitting beachside and purchasing that cool convertible you always wanted your whole life. So, what’s stopping you? It isn’t the kids. It isn’t the work. It isn’t the weather. Why is it so hard for retirees to enjoy the money they saved for that very purpose of enjoying when work becomes optional? Without proper planning (and even sometimes with proper planning), the fact is that most ...

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My ATM Receipt is My Check Register

If you make 50k, 100k, or 500k, you might still be living paycheck to paycheck.  With more and more people using their ATM receipt as their check register and not reading their bills before clicking yes from online bill pay, this problem continues to grow in American.  What’s neat about oXYGen Financial is that we believe each family is the ‘CEO’ of their family finances and should treat it as a business. No family has an infinite amount of revenue, so what is the smartest way to run the family profit or (lossL) statement to maximize cash flow to reach your financial goals? Thus, we like the language of spending plan for the profit and loss versus budget. Make sure you calculate your family revenue- include not just salary, but if you are going to earn overtime, bonus, raise, commissions, stock options, etc. Build a strategy to minimize income taxes.  Of course, the more you are able to keep the ...

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How to Combat Wedding Fatigue

Now that June has passed (statistically the most popular month for weddings), you are out of the woods in regards to attending weddings, right? Think again. The next three months, from August to October, rank 2-4 in popularity (Source: Majesticmixers.com) and are sure to put a crunch on your wallet. More Americans are getting married this year than the last few years, the first upward swing since the Great Depression (Source: MarketWatch.com). If you are like me, you start to dread the fancy envelope with the script writing in the mail. In the last calendar year I have been invited to 12 weddings located in Georgia, Florida, New York, Las Vegas, and Mexico. I have been invited to 5 bachelor parties from Vegas to Austin and New Orleans to Charleston. Is there a way for a normal 28 year old to afford all this? The answer is yes, and no. At some point, it is ok to say no. A ...

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$3.99 To Never Go To The Grocery Store

Many years ago, a small company named Webvan emerged during Dotcom 1.0 telling us they were going to utilize the internet to create a service that would help deliver groceries right to our door.   As history reveals, it didn’t work during that time almost 15 years ago, but a new company Instacart (www.instacart.com) has emerged with a $3.99 grocery store service model catching fire around the United States.  I recently had the chance to interview some of the executives now bringing the model to the greater Atlanta area. The business model of Instacart is a grocery delivery service that delivers in as little as an hour!  They connect you with personal shoppers in your area who pick up and deliver your groceries from your favorite local stores.   Currently, they handle Kroger (and soon to be Whole Foods) in the Atlanta area. The delivery fee for your first order is free.  After that, it’s $3.99 for a two hour delivery and ...

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Daddy, Daddy, Please Take Me To The Gas Station

Gas Stations.   Growing up in New Jersey, the only thing I looked forward to when Mom or Dad was filling up at the pump was watching the attendant wipe down our front windshield and cracking the window to catch a whiff of the gasoline smell.  Most certainly, we avoided getting out of the car to use the gas stations bathroom facilities and if you wanted something to eat the best you could hope for was a Little Debbie snack or a pack of Lance’s peanut butter or cheese crackers. Today’s gas stations look more like part convenience store, part gourmet food store, and part fill up your tank.   Recently, a new RaceTrac opened up near me on Old Milton Parkway and I was amazed at how the entire store was put together.   The friendliness of the staff and the cleanliness of the store was simply off the chart.  But why oh why do kids ask Daddy and Mommy now to ...

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A $5,000 Watch Doesn’t Make You Look Cool

Have you ever met someone who you would classify as a wine snob? Someone who knows all the best wines and will tell you why that $50 bottle of wine is superior to the two buck Chuck you get at Trader Joes? In the world of watches there are also people who you will meet who are watch snobs. The people who will assure you that the Rolex they spent $5,000 for is the best that money can buy, and can give you all of the brand name watches you should own over your lifetime if you really want to show people you have hit success. The dumbest purchase I ever made was spending $5,000 on a watch. I wore two watches over the course of a year, one that cost $5,000 and one that cost $79. The $5,000 watch was a Panerai and the $79 was a Diesel. I generally messed with people when they asked me about the ...

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Who Will Take Care Of Your Aging Parents?

Generation X will have its first official fifty year old group next year.  It’s hard to imagine for a  Gen Xer because we are still convinced that bands like Huey Lewis and The News and Foreigner are kind of cool when officially on the music circuit they are considered ‘oldies’ already.    Most of our parents are hitting that late 60’s to mid 70’s range and now we are wondering who is going to take care of Mom and Dad.   You may have even joked last Thanksgiving by putting your finger on your nose and declaring NOT IT when asked this very question by your sister or brother.    Here are four important ideas to be thinking about when it comes to who will take care of your aging parents. Who Is Playing Quarterback? The bigger your family, the more of a likelihood that someone has become the favorite son and there is a black sheep lurking in the family as well.  ...

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5 Mistakes To Avoid At Your High School Reunion

“Dude! I can’t believe it’s already been 10 years!” This is something I am starting to see a lot on my social media feed as I brace for my first high school reunion. I had mixed feelings about attending but in the end, $70 to spend a night hanging out at a country club with some old friends, reminiscing on old stories and having a few cold ones, sounded like a good time. Here are a few tips I am planning on following myself: DON’T overdress. You aren’t Justin Timberlake so don’t show up in a skinny suit and tie and act like it. It’s intimidating to others and makes you look more like a loser than a winner. And I hope you weren’t planning on going in a T-shirt and jeans…Did you want Best Looking 2004 to think you are a dish washer at the local Taco Mac? (if you are, well…its been 10 years, move on!). A simple ...

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Five Robotic Moves I Hate On Social Media

Social Media is absolutely an integrated part of our lives today.   We might have wondered whether or not the computers would take us over one day, and I have been noticing more and more automated social media moves that are starting to make us all look like robots.   Using social media to post original content, pictures, cool selfies, and cutting edge articles are all fantastic.  Here are five robotic moves I keep seeing on social media that we all have to put an end to right now. CONGRATS ON LINKED IN- I am seeing this one on LinkedIn all the time.  When someone hits an anniversary for a job, LinkedIn prompts your network to say congratulations on your feed.   If you really want to wish me congratulations then take a few minutes and write a note or share it with your network.   Say congrats if you mean it not because you have slot machine like tendencies to just push the ...

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Five Cheap Things To Do With Your Kids This Summer

If your children aren’t off at camps or their job is only part time, a few weeks into summer they might just be driving you up the wall.   If that’s the case, then you become the full time Julie The Cruise Director at your home.   Here are your smart money moves on five cheap things to do with your kids this summer that won’t put a dent in your wallet. Go For A Bike Ride In Your City- Most cities and suburbs today have carved out some type of greenway or beltline like trail as witnessed in my hometown of Atlanta.   It could be for a walk or a bike, but taking in one of these trails while bringing along a little picnic can really make a fun day. Go See A Matinee- Prices for movies (especially 3-D and IMAX) have soared through the roof for kids.  Don’t wait until the nighttime or the weekends to see a new release ...

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Universal Studios Times Your Coke Refills?

A few weeks ago I attended a conference held at Disney World. While our accommodations were at the Disney World Contemporary Resort, we decided to venture out to visit Universal Studios which now boasts two separate parks and a humongous City Walk filled with shops and restaurants. My eldest was very clear she wanted to see all that the newly opened Harry Potter portion of the theme park had to offer. When you head out to these types of resorts, there are all kinds of ways to save money. It’s important you do your homework about the best ways to save money on tickets, buying express (or fast) passes, and making sure you are smart about multi-day passes. I’ve always felt that food was one of the grossly overpriced parts of the experience in attending these parks. From the candy stores to the hamburger joints, be prepared to spend forty to fifty dollars a meal unless you have planned ahead. ...

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Learn The Term ‘Delayed Gratification’

With the average recent graduate in 2014 accumulating almost $30,000 in student debt, now is not the time to spend money on purchases you do not need. The moment a new college graduate starts earning an income, it will generally be more net cash flow coming into their household than they have ever seen before in their lives. Often, this new found cash flow can burn a hole in the pocket of new college graduate. Spending a ton of cash to take a huge car loan on a nice sports car, taking too fancy a vacation, or even buying a new home when you aren’t ready for all the ancillary expenses can pile debt higher and deeper before student loans are paid off. Incurring more debt after your enormous student debt is a very bad idea. Now is the time to take stock of exactly where you are with each and every loan. You should access the National Student Loan ...

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Was Your Mutual Fund A One Hit Wonder?

We love lists.  In fact, we have become addicted to them.   Every year, magazines and newspapers publish lists of the best and worst performing mutual funds.   As investors, we often have an impulsive nature to chase the latest and greatest mutual funds often without doing the proper due diligence before we invest new money or transfer our IRA accounts.   What should you ask before investing in a top performing mutual fund from last year? Was this a sector play?   In any given calendar year, one specific sector of the market may dominate versus other sectors of the market.  Just because gold or technology or emerging markets were the top performing sector from the year prior doesn’t necessarily mean they will repeat in the following years to come.   You should be certain that particular sector matches your long term investment objectives before you invest your money. Is it the same manager?  Sometimes mutual funds perform very well and then a given ...

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Six Things You Should Buy At The Dollar Store

Dollar Stores. Dollars Stores. It seems that dollar stores and discount stores are popping up at strip malls all over the place in suburbs across America.   People often wonder are these stores just full of junk and odd lot products, or is there an opportunity to really get a bargain discount when you enter dollar mania.   Here are my six smart money moves tips on what to buy when you go to the dollar store. Wrapping Paper- Is there really such a thing as top quality wrapping paper?   I suppose some people like the fancy patterns and glitter, but doesn’t it all end up in the garbage?   You can stock up and get great buys on wrapping paper at the dollar store. Picture Frames- Why spend $25 at Crate and Barrel or Pottery Barn for a plain frame that most people are going to view from a distance.   You can literally spend pennies on frames at the dollar especially on the smaller ...

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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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Can Your Student Loans Be Forgiven?

Last week, I did an interview with Lynn Berry about how new college graduates should handle student debt.   With the average debt approaching $30,000 per college graduate, many students are wondering about the best methodologies to deal with this issue as they begin their careers.   Saying “I Forgive You” is never easy and here are my smart money moves on how some of your student loan debt can be forgiven. Public Loan Service Forgiveness Program- The PSLF Program is intended to encourage individuals to enter and continue to work full-time in public service jobs. Under this program, borrowers may qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance of their Direct Loans after they have made 120 qualifying payments on those loans while employed full time by certain public service employers. (source: studentaid.ed.gov)   The idea under this program is similar to what some public employer’s do with an MBA program.  You work for us for a period of time (generally a minimum ...

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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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Five Things To Buy At Five Below

My oldest daughter absolutely loves Five Below.   This is the store where essentially everything is five dollars or less and is really geared for that tweener group as a base consumer.   Often, when we bring our kids to a flea market, dollar store, or places like Five Below, you still have teach them about how to be a smart shopper and find the really good deals.   Here are five of my favorite smart money move purchases to make if you go to Five Below. Candy- Yes, I said candy.   You are going to need to buy candy somewhere, and there are plenty of $1 per box candy deals available at Five Below.   More of the drugstore chains, Wal Mart, and other stores are recognizing that people have home movie theaters and that has really driven down the price of a box of candy.  Never, never pay full price for Milk Duds againJ Case Protectors- These are amongst the best deals ...

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Advice From A Jeweler On Buying The Engagement Ring

Congratulations on your decision to formalize your relationship. Studies show that married people are happier and live longer, so you’re on the right track. First, allow yourself enough time to think through and understand all the new information that you will be involved with in your search for the perfect diamond ring. One of your first decisions will be to decide whether to surprise her with a ring or shop together. That will depend on your relationship. There are advantages and disadvantages in each case. A good middle ground and one that will keep you in budget is to let her pick out the engagement ring mounting and you come back to select the diamond. The most important thing is to make the occasion a romantic one to remember. There are many factors to consider: the shape of the diamond, the size versus quality of the diamond, deciding on white gold or platinum or yellow gold or a combination of ...

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How Do You Get In State Tuition At An Out Of State School?

The cost for college education continues to rise at a blistering pace.  Although tuition and fees can vary widely amongst colleges and universities, the cost for tuition and fees for the 2013-2014 school year was $30,094 at private colleges.    For in state schools it was $8,893 and $22,203 for out of state students at public schools.   That doesn’t include housing and meals which ran another $10,000 on average and books and school supplies that were about $1,200.   Considering these factors, is the only answer to send your child to an in state school?   Not necessarily.   Here are some ideas on how to get your child in state tuition to an out of state school. By the way, the answer we aren’t searching for is to change your children’s address to a relative that lives in the state where you want your child to go to school.  What the real smart money moves are about, is gaining a better understanding of ...

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Five Ways To Make Your Car Last Longer

In August of last year, car prices had achieved a record high of over $31,000 in 2013 (source: www.usatoday.com), and it has become more important than ever that you protect the life of your automobile.   Automobiles today can easily last for more than 250,000 miles with using some of these Your Smart Money Moves tips.  My latest used car purchase is already at 130,000 miles and I intend to take it over the 200,000 mile marker.   Here are five ideas on how to make your car last longer. Follow the maintenance book- It always pays to be penny wise and not pound foolish.  There is a reason the dealership gives you a laid out schedule with a coupon book for servicing your car.  If you follow that guide to a tee, the cost of maintaining your car will be a lot less expensive than having to shell out a bunch of cash for a new one. Keep your tires full- ...

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Does Anybody Cook Anymore?

Driving down Highway 9 in downtown Alpharetta the other evening, I noticed that the parking lots were packed like a bunch of sardines in a can. Restaurants are popping up one by one as weeds would in the front of our yards. Crust, Salt, Pure, and others are all just a stones throw away from one another. Since this wasn’t a Saturday night, I gave pause for a moment to contemplate whether anyone in Atlanta actually cooks anymore. Have the kid’s sporting events, hectic work schedules, and brain overload just made us all say screw it and just give in to the fact that it is easier to just go out and eat? With our family of five, I’ve noticed that even taking out casual fare restaurant food can run $50 to $60. Go out to a middle of the road type restaurant and you are talking $70 to $90 with basic fountain drinks. Add in a couple of appetizers, ...

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Who Was Your Investment Role Model?

Each of us has a very special relationship with our money.  Whether it was a family member, a work colleague, or somebody famous, the lessons we learned from our investment role models shape the way we think about our money decisions later in life.  Fortunately, I had an unbelievable role model in my very first job out of college.  My previous boss indelibly etched three powerful principles back in 1991 that guide my investment decision making more than 20 years later. Pay yourself first.   As simple as this seems, he forced me to begin deducting $166.66 a month into an IRA account when I was just twenty one years old and struggled to make those payments each and every month.   No matter how much or how little money you make, one of the most powerful lessons is to take the savings off the top and then learn to live off the rest.  Take a third of every raise and add ...

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You Only Love Your Child One Quarter Of A Page?

When I came home on Friday, my daughter proudly handed me the new edition of the school yearbook. The new yearbooks are more bright, colorful, and insightful than my Hightstown High School 1987 edition where we barely got in photos of all of the varsity sports teams. Like most yearbooks, photos were displayed of the different classes from seniors to freshmen. Sections showed photos of energetic students displaying school spirit and pictures of the best dressed to the class clown. After all of the normal content, I stumbled on to the next section where parents wrote heartfelt notes to their children along with pictures of the students with their family or even growing up as a baby. What mystified me initially about this section is that some of the graduation notes were on a full blown page while others seem to be shrunk down to one-third or one-quarter of a page. I naively asked my daughter how the school went ...

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6 Badass Moms Making It Happen

Since today is Mother’s day, I thought it would be cool to salute Moms that are carving the business world up and making money in all kinds of different businesses.   It is still true that the hardest job in the world is raising children.  I’m not sure you could really put a price on what that is worth, but here are a few moms who are doing double duty and putting themselves in a work optional position. Tina Fey– With eight Emmy awards and Two Golden Globe awards, Tina Fey is recognized as one of the leading comediennes in the entire country.  She gained her notoriety as the head writer for Saturday Night Live and who could forget her portrayal of Sarah Palin.   Tina’s got two children and often donates her time to Autism Speaks. Coupon Mom– Stephanie Nelson is The Coupon Mom™ and has taught television viewers and readers how to save in many areas, including groceries, restaurants, online shopping, gifts, and ...

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5 Amazing Technology Gifts For Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is less than a week away and word on the street is that spending is up this year.    The National Retail Federation estimated that consumers will spend 20.7 billion dollars on Mom this year in 2014.  If you are counting that is an average of $168.94 per consumer which is an 11% increase from 2013. Moms work hard and they are entitled to a show of appreciation on their special day. Most consumers will acknowledge that appreciation with a greeting card (81.3%), though it appears her loved ones will also look for special gifts. Two-thirds (66.6%) of those celebrating will buy mom her favorite flowers, spending a total of $2.3 billion, and 33.5 percent will look for spring sweaters and blouses, spending a total of $1.7 billion on apparel and accessory items. Mom’s loved ones will also buy books and CDs ($480 million), housewares or gardening tools ($812 million), personal experience gifts like a day at the spa ...

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How Rich Do You Think You Are?

Wealth can be defined in many different ways, but classically it is measured through one’s net worth.  Your net worth is simply everything you own versus everything you owe.  The own part of the equation includes real estate, cash, stocks, bonds, 401(k)’s, IRA’s, businesses, and much more.   The owe part of the equation includes mortgage debt, student loan debt, car loans, credit cards, and more.  Once you subtract the liabilities from the assets, you can begin to determine just how rich you really are in today’s day and age. WHERE DO YOU RANK IN WEALTH (source: wsj.com) (If you have a household net worth of X … you rank in the Y percentile): $50,000 … 60th percentile $93,000 … 50th percentile $100,000 … 48th percentile $200,000 … 34th percentile $500,000 … 18th percentile $750,000 … 12th percentile $827,000 … 10th percentile $1 million … 8th percentile $1.4 million … 5th percentile $6 million … 1st percentile There is a really ...

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Could A Coffee Infused Donut Make Your Kids Money?

In the past few weeks, several of my clients have asked me about how to get their children started with investing.   As generation X parents are watching their children grow up, they are realizing that educating their kids about how the stock market works is an important lesson, which they unfortunately don’t spend enough time in school systems teaching.   We do not tell our kids now that money doesn’t grow on trees, but we do tell them that i-phones don’t grow on trees.   Rather than getting frustrated, you should take advantage of this by helping them get excited about investing their money instead of spending their money.   At oXYGen Financial, we are soon considering launching a course for our clients’ children to teach them these very important techniques. www.computershare.com–   This is was the first place that I got my oldest daughter into stock investing.    When she was learning about topics like percentages in school, I thought being able to track ...

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Is Technology Draining Your Cash Flow?

Have you ever had one of those moments over the past year where it felt like technology itself wasn’t really a good invention at all?   Perhaps your nine year old told you that they needed a new mobile phone because theirs was out of date.    You may have flipped through your premium movie channels only to joke to yourself that there’s never really a good movie on to watch when you are clicking away.   Possibly, you became so frustrated because in your drawer of bottomless cords at home you couldn’t find the plug in charger for one of your devices.    Technology is so integrated in our lives today, but is technology itself draining our cash flow? The Mobile Phone Game- Admit it.  You couldn’t tell me all of the plans your cell phone carrier offers today even if you bought a phone three months ago.  Verizon recently changed its plans again, now allowing you to pay a monthly fee for ...

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$250,000 And Struggling

When the fiscal cliff went into effect in the beginning of 2013, the country declared a new baseline for a married couple by defining $250,000 of household income as being ‘rich’ or ‘wealthy’.   Even though making $250,000 of household income for most families in America seems highly unattainable, talk to someone who lives in a top 20 major metropolitan market and you’ll find out a wildly different set of circumstances.  Could it be that a family who makes $250,000 is actually struggling?  Yes, Yes, and Yes.   Let’s break down the numbers for family that has three children (this is a hypothetical scenario, but I’ve seen plenty that look just like this) Save For Retirement-  If 10% comes off the top (you’ll need at least that to make a decent work optional scenario, but probably a heck of a lot more) that will equal $25,000.   Now you are down to $225,000 assuming it goes into a pre-tax 401k plan. Health Insurance ...

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The Colleges With The Best Return On Investment

When we manage money for people we get asked this question all the time.  The investor who gives you $100,000 to manage typically wants to know in advance what you think the expected return on investment is with their cash and over what time frame.  Typically, most investors want to know how long it will take you to double their money.   With today’s student debt approaching almost $30,000 (source: Forbes), should we be choosing and ranking school by return on investment? Payscale, a company who diligently tracks salaries in the United States, recently came out with its 2014 report on collegiate return on investment.   You’ll note some of the best schools in the country are at the top supporting my theory about paying only for the elite colleges and universities in the United States.  However, the most amazing part of the study is that clearly engineering and technology driven schools blow away the rest of the field. Harvey Mudd College ...

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Are Those Making $200,000 More Likely For An Audit

Nobody wants to get an audit.   About 1 in 150 of us will experience some type of audit in our lifetime.   The good news is that if you follow these six smart money moves, you may be able reduce your chances of getting flagged in the future. You didn’t disclose all of your income– The IRS gets copies of your w-2’s, 1099’s (reporting of your interest and dividends), and capital gains and losses.  Make sure you collect all of your statements from work, investments, etc. “Measure Twice Cut Once” whether you or your accountant does the math. You have a big mouth– Never brag (especially on social media) that you pulled a fast one on the IRS. The IRS does more trolling today than ever before on social websites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. Whistleblowers can earn some significant rewards (15% to 30% by filing form 211) by turning in cheats.  Be very careful of ex-girlfriends, ex-spouses, etc. The dreaded ...

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What If Someone Stole My Tax Refund?

With the deadline looming for taxpayers, the crunch will be on for people scrambling to get their final documents together and submit their official tax return.   Imagine this scenario.    You submit your tax return only to receive a rejection notice from the IRS several weeks later saying that they have already received a tax return submitted by you already.   How’s that for a situation that is sure to rock your world. Unfortunately, in today’s world all you really need are some social security numbers and the internet to start winning at the tax return identity theft game.  According to the USA Today, a government report in November said the IRS issued $4 billion in fraudulent tax refunds over last year to criminals who were using other people’s personal information.  Attorney General Eric Holder said this week that the “scale, scope, and execution of these fraud schemes” has grown substantially in size. What should you do if someone stole your tax ...

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Are The Elite Private Colleges Worth The Price Of Admission?

It is apparent that college education costs and health insurance are the two arenas that have defied gravity over the past six years through this recovery. With college tuition escalating at a much faster rate than normal information and continued pressing coming on family savings, the average household today may wonder if getting a diploma from an expensive prestigious private college is worth the ticket of admission. If your son or daughter is lucky enough to have the qualifications to get into the ultra-elite schools (such as Harvard), then my answer is yes. There is a short list of impressive schools that have a strong alumni base stretched out across the United States or have the really high end credentials necessary to help a student make a major impact with their career in the short term. There are many very good private colleges that cost $50,000 to $60,000 a year beyond the short list of these prestigious school, and these ...

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The Biggest Financial Mistake People Make During Divorce

Divorce can often bring about tumultuous times for a family. Sometimes they can go very smooth and others can literally be the ‘War Of The Roses’. In the midst of being between the lawyers, couples often make financial mistakes that can lead to problems down the road. The number one mistake that I have seen amongst divorcing couples is their lack of consideration around liquidity of assets. It’s pretty common after a separation that one spouse will end up with the primary residence and in turn the other spouse may wind up with a commensurate amount of assets between brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, and savings accounts. While the math may show a true 50/50 split of the overall net worth of the couple, the reality is that one of the spouses will be stuck with a paper asset that could be tough to dispose of if cash flow becomes an issue. This can also occur when one spouse is the ...

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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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Can the Government Inherit your Estate?

By: Patrick R. Norris* When a new couple comes to visit me to set up the base of their first estate plan, one of the common questions that I often receive is: “can the government really inherit [or take] my property if I don’t have a Will?”.  This is a question that always make me smile because while the technical answer is “yes”, a much more practical answer is “highly doubtful”. You see when someone does not have a Will, the laws of their State essentially make a Will for them.  State statutes place your relatives in an orderly line for inheriting your estate.  So long as they are living, the first person in line receives your property when it comes time to inherit.  If they are not living, the next person in line just steps up to inherit. If you do have a [valid] Will, the State Statutes are “trumped” and your Will (not State Law) dictates who inherits ...

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What To Do When You Come Into A Large Sum Of Money

Coming into a large sum of money is a game changer for people of all ages.  Unfortunately, there are lots of different decisions to consider upon receipt of these windfalls which causes most individuals and families lots of consternation on what are the smart money moves.  Whether these dollars are received from inheritance, cashed out stock options, or a gift, it is imperative that you make a smart plan or you can easily squander your newfound fortune.  Recently, I helped several folks from different walks of life when Airwatch was bought out by VMWare.  This instantaneously created a new set of millionaires.   Here are the ‘your smart money moves’ ideas to make when you come into a large sum of money. Do Nothing For 60 Days (unless you are right at the end of a tax year)–  When people inherit property, cash out stock options, or receive a gift, far too often I see people immediately buy themselves something or ...

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Stop Trying To Impress People With Your Money

If you are really trying to get wealthy, there are important life lessons to learn that will make you a smart money moves person.   It’s very difficult to pull down your guard when it comes to money.  You might be ashamed or embarrassed around poor financial decisions you made, and then tend to overcompensate by spending too much money just to prove that you can keep up with your friends or neighbors.  Here is a great post on how to build up your bank account and leave the right impression on others. You don’t have to dress for success anymore– Has anyone seen Mark Zuckerburg as of late?   Jeans and a hoodie will do just fine.  Don’t worry about the label on your clothes or your pocketbook. It just doesn’t matter. Be a leader– Perhaps you can be the one to suggest walking around a local fair or flea market, or even going to a free park to throw a ...

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Three Ways To Lower Your Family Mobile Phone Bill?

Round and round she goes, where she stops nobody knows.   That seems to be the prevalent thinking today when it comes to your family mobile phone bill.   Your youngest wants the latest and greatest in technology to impress their friends, and your oldest texts faster than you can run the 40 yard dash.  With a drawer full of old plugs, cords, and adapters, it is almost becoming a full time job to keep up with managing your family mobile phone bill.   Here are three very smart money moves for you to consider to keep your monthly bill in check. Who Is Your Top Ten?– Most of the mobile phone companies will offer some type free minute program around your top ten friends and family you call the most.   Between my phone, my wife’s phone, and the three phones my children have, we did an inspection to see which numbers were called the most in order to access the most amounts ...

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Financial Considerations For The First Marriage After 40

You almost gave up hope that you would meet Mr. Right.  Or maybe it is Ms. Right.  However fate struck lightning and you finally met the person that you are convinced you were meant to spend the rest of your life.    At some point, reality sets in as the wedding date gets closer and it starts to dawn on your that there may be real discussions that need to be had around money and financial goals.   Not something you typically discuss when you are enjoying fine dining, front row concerts, and swanky hotels on the beach. Remember, everybody has a financial story.  Especially the person that you are about to wed.   It is important to peel back the artichoke to better understand your partner’s attitudes and feelings around money and planning for overall financial goals.   Here are my five smart money move financial considerations for those that are getting married for the first time after 40. Should you get a ...

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Four Affordable Watches For Men To Start Your Collection

There was a phase in my life where I got into watches for a year or two.   Today, I’ll only wear a watch once or twice a week since my phone pretty much tells me the time at the click of a button.   You’ll hear people bragging a lot at work or social events about their watches.   Rolex has always been the gold standard, but they will name drop watchmakers like Panerai, Bell & Ross, Tag, and Breitling all as ‘if you really want to impress watches.   Most of price tags on these watches are in the several thousand or more category, so can you start your watch collection for less than $1,000 bucks and still look like a million?  You betcha!  Here are four watches that I would take a look at for yourself or for someone as a gift to start out a really cool collection. Jack Spade Conway 38mm Watch–  I have always had an eye for ...

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Five Best All Time John Candy Movies

It’s hard to believe that John Candy has been dead for 20 years.   On March 4th of last week, the 20th anniversary of his death passed by all of us.   Since John Candy was one of my favorite comedy movie heroes growing up as a child, I would be remiss not to spend at least one Your Smart Money Moves articles talking about my five favorite all time movies that he starred in or had a guest appearance.   I suppose I could tie in a cheap Saturday night or Sunday afternoon by camping out in your house and watching a double feature with some $1 box candy and some microwave popcorn, but I just flat out think that John Candy was awesome. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles- Of all the John Candy movies I love, this has got to take the top spot.   The scene of he and Steve Martin going the wrong way on the highway and John Candy saying ...

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Five Financial First Time Homebuyer Mistakes

In all of the financial transactions we make in our lives, there are few that pale in comparison to the excitement of making the purchase of your first home.   Many years ago, the first time homebuyer merely began with a starter home, but expectations have significantly increased today with new homebuyers wanting all of the modern up to date amenities included in their first home.  Oddly enough, the first time home purchase is often made with as swift a decisions as buying a new car although the purchase may be ten times the size of a new car.   Here are your five smart money moves to make so you can avoid the pitfalls and traps that most new homebuyers make. Falling In Love With Your Mortgage Pre-Approval:  Just because you are pre-approved for a $400,000 loan doesn’t mean you can actually afford a $400,000 loan. “Listening to the mortgage lender when they tell you that you are pre-approved for a ...

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Five Simple Ways To Eat Healthy On A Budget

Whoever thought that eating a box of Twinkies® could be less expensive than eating a bowl of Brussels sprouts?   This whole notion of eating ‘organic’ has really hit the country like a tidal wave over the past five years.   More and more families want to make sure that their foods aren’t genetically manufactured out of a laboratory.   Parents more than ever want to make sure their kids don’t have foods with lots of toxins or synthetic hormones.  What we’ve also realized is that these foods are incredibly expensive which is why the running joke is that Whole Foods will take your whole paycheck.  Here are five simple ways you can still eat healthy if you are trying to watch your budget. Begin The Day With A Protein Shake– They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  If you’ve looked recently at the cost of a pint of strawberries and blackberries, you’ll quickly realize that you can’t ...

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Five Tips For Ordering Wine When You Dine Out

We’ve all had that dinner where you go out with someone who is truly a wine snob.  Or so they think so.   There are few movie scenes better than watching Paul Giamatti in the movie Sideways as he sits alone in a fast food restaurant drinking his prized 1961 Chateau Cheval Blanc from a disposable coffee cup while he aggressively cuts away at his steak.   Going out to a fancy restaurant can be very intimidating when they wine list is present to you on your lap.   However, you shouldn’t get overly nervous because here are five smart money moves for ordering wine when you dine out. Avoid Ordering By The Glass– Restaurant owners generally try to make back the cost of a bottle of wine from the price of just one glass.  What sucks for you as well is that it’s likely the wine was opened already possibly even from the day before.   The bottom line is that you’ll get ...

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Save Big, Save Little for College

For many of us, one of the biggest expenses that we’ll have is paying for our own or our child’s college education. Personally, I knew that I wasn’t going to have a “Free Ride” during college. Although I played Division III college basketball, I still maintained 4 jobs in college and used the tutoring services so that I could qualify for as many academic scholarships as possible and to pay down some of my student loans before I graduated.  According to the College Board, statistics show that over the past 30 years the average annual increase for college tuition has ranged from 3-5% above and beyond inflation(Consumer Price Index). I recently had the chance to interview Mandy Ginsberg, CEO of Tutor.com/former CEO of Match.com, about the different ways to help students save and pay for college. Below are a few tips that Ginsberg shares with our readers. “Save Big” Ginsberg says. Many people transition from paying for day care to ...

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The Flappy Bird Economy

If you have kids or teenagers in your family, then it’s likely you have seen the highly downloaded app called Flappy Bird. Sometimes the simpler the game is, the better off it does because anybody can play the game. Consider apps like Tetris or Candy Crush or Angry Birds which absolutely killed it with downloads. The goal of the game is really simple. Just touch the screen to flap your bird up or down guiding the bird between various heights of piping that have a narrow entryway for your bird to fly through. The game is incredibly addicting! Dong Nguyen mysteriously put this post up on Twitter on February 8th @ 2:02 P.M. “I am sorry ‘Flappy Bird’ users, 22 hours from now, I will take ‘Flappy Bird’ down. I cannot take this anymore.” There was massive speculation around why he took down Flappy Birds as it was reported he was making $50,000 a day. Some say that the pipes ...

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Five Things You Can Live Without

Navin R. Johnson is one of my all-time favorite characters.  In the classic movie the Jerk, he says, “And that’s it and that’s the only thing I need, is this. I don’t need this or this. Just this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that’s all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that’s all I need. And that’s all I need too. I don’t need one other thing, not one – I need this. The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches, for sure. And this. And that’s all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the ...

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The Biggest Investment Mistake You Make Every Year

We all know that investments can be for short term, medium term, or long term.   Investments are often thought of in terms of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, etc.    Some people invest their money in private ventures and some in public companies.   Business owners will almost always tell you the best investment is their business.   In my opinion, the biggest investment mistake each and every person makes on a yearly basis is not setting aside enough of their personal income to invest in themselves.   Investing in yourself can be personally, professionally, and financially rewarding.   Here are my top five ways to invest in YOU! Advance Your Education- There are so many outlets today to gain extra knowledge and education.  It doesn’t have to be done necessarily by going back to school full time.   You could do a three day executive course or just sign up for one night class.  You could take an online course on a site like ...

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Don’t Forget the $150 Drivers Education Tax Credit

Who knew? The Driver School License Training Act actually exists.   This is why Your Smart Money Moves is a top ranked blog.  We stay on top of these things so you can improve your bottom line.   You’ll be filing taxes soon, and if you live in the State of Georgia and have a child who took drivers education you can be eligible for this nice little tax credit.   As long as you took courses from a private school, you’ll be eligible for this 2013 state tax deduction. O.C.G.A. 48-7-29.5 (2010) 48-7-29.5. Tax credit for private driver education courses of minors; required documentation; rules and regulations (a) A taxpayer shall be allowed a credit against the tax imposed by Code Section 48-7-20 with respect to the amount expended by such taxpayer for a completed course of driver education for a dependent minor child of such taxpayer at a private driver training school licensed by the Department of Driver Services under Chapter ...

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How To Lower Your Cable Bill

Bills. Junk Mail. Bills.  So many times I’ve mentioned how excited I get to open the mail every day only to realize it’s either a junk solicitation, a statement, or a bill.   Still no pen pal letters, and thank you cards are far and few between.   January is typically the time of year that I’ll call all of my vendors and see what kind of deal I can strike with them.   When it comes to cable, internet, and/or home phone (if you still have one), Comcast may provide one or all of these services for your family.   How can you go about lowering your current Comcast bill? First things first.  Don’t waste your time calling the billing department.   All they are going to do is spend time making sure you are paying your bills and that the bill looks accurate.  You can spend your energy and effort disputing a bill, but it isn’t going to change your budget one bit. ...

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The #1 Moving Destination Is Atlanta?

As a small business owner, we face challenges every single day. It’s always nice to see great news or interesting articles about our hometown city, so I thought this one was worthy of sharing with you on Your Smart Money Moves if you hadn’t seen it or saw a caption somewhere in your LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter feeds. According to www.businessinsider.com, last year, truck rental giant Penske told us the No. 1 moving destination in America was Atlanta. The year before that, they told us the No. 1 moving destination in America was Atlanta. And the year before that. And now we learn that this year, everyone is … still moving to Atlanta. People complain about a lot of things in Atlanta or sometimes affectionately called Hotlanta.   They complain about the traffic.   Now, I lived in Boston and Washington, DC where the traffic was way worse than the traffic here in Atlanta.  And I think anyone who is from L.A. can attest to the fact that ...

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10 Ways To Save Money On Home Improvements

For almost a decade in the 1990’s, we were entertained by the standup comedy turned TV show starting Tim Allen called Home Improvement.   Tim played the stereotypical American male doing all the manly things with his ‘tool man’ belt, sports cars, and watching sports.   Who can forget the funny projects turned bad on the Binford sponsored Tool Time show within a show and the Tool Time girls including Pamela Anderson and Debbie Dunning.   All jokes aside, home improvements are a big part of our lives.   Often, we make impulse decisions on new projects or additions to the home.  I put together my 10 Your Smart Money Moves tips when it comes to saving on the bottom line for your next home improvement project. Look for natural light– Surprisingly, cutting a hole in a particular part of the house an installed a quality window or sunlight can be relatively inexpensive and cut down on overall electricity costs. Use a ‘how to’ ...

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