Review Category : Personal Finance 101

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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Is It Time To Consider I Bonds

I was reminiscing the other day about the gifts that my grandmother used to give me for my birthday and at holiday time.    She wasn’t a great gift giver, especially when I would get a sweater vest with the big letter “T” etched right in the middle of the sweater. Oh yeah, I also got socks a few years which is a swell gift if you want to end up on the loser list at middle or high school.   But, the one gift that didn’t mean much to me at the time and paid dividends later were the series EE savings bonds that I stuck in an envelope and let sit in my drawer until they matured.   Those very bonds helped me be able to put a down payment on my first car so I can thank my grandmother for that. With interest rates hovering at an all time low over the past seven or eight years, hardly anybody talks ...

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Why Your Teenager Shouldn’t Have A New Car

If it is your idea, as a parent, to help your teenagers set realistic financial goals and be financially successful in life, one of the worst decisions you can make is to buy them a new automobile. When my daughter was ready to drive, I bought my mother’s 2008 Hyundai Tucson. Funny thing is that it gets my daughter to school and her jobs just as well as any other vehicle. We focus more on teaching her how good the inside of her bank account looks than how the outside of her car looks. She is already well on her way to financial independence–and not making this mistake will help your children get there quicker as well. Specifically, here’s why a new car is such a colossal mistake: The laws of depreciation vs. appreciation. The fact is that cars are guaranteed to depreciate. And the financial lesson you want to teach your children is to buy assets that can appreciate ...

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The 15 Minute Plan

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

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Don’t Get Social With Your Social Security Number

If someone gets their hands on your social security number, they can wreak havoc on your life by using your social security number illegally and assuming your identity to create numerous financial problems.   When it comes to protecting you against items such as identity theft and tax fraud, keeping your social security number sacred is in my opinion the number one priority for confidentiality within your records. Tax Returns- We have seen this type of theft escalate in droves over the past five years.  Someone who grabs your social security number can file a tax return in your social security number and get your refund before you even file a tax return.  In fact, you won’t even find out until you actually try to file your own return. Getting Credit- Once a thief has your social security number, they can easily complete an application for credit.   Retailers make huge money off of store based credit cards, so this is a ...

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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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Three Financial Moves To Make When You Get Promoted

There are few things in life that deserve a glass of champagne more than a well-earned promotion.  After years of blood, sweat, and tears, your company has finally recognized your efforts and decided to move you into a more meaningful role within your company.  Sometimes, only title are associated with these promotions, but more often than not there will be financial rewards as well.   This is exactly your time to fall into the lifestyle inflation trap and make some really smart financial moves that will pay dividends down the road. The Pay Raise– Generally, a new promotion will also mean more responsibility which often equals more pay.  If your salary jumps by $10,000 or even $50,000 dollars this will mean a significant bump in your cash flow for your family.   What should you do with this money?  Is it best to add to your 401(k)?  Start paying down the mortgage?  Or time to purchase that new vacation home?   With pay ...

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Does Jim Cramer Run Your Portfolio?

About a week ago, Marketwatch (www.marketwatch.com) ran story called, “The Most Dangerous Stock Market Since 2008.”   In the past six years of bringing you my Your Smart Money Moves Column, I have shared with you how media can influence what happens in the markets in a very significant way.  Without even reading a lick of this column, would it be any stretch of the imagination to say that if the market hits all time highs that the potential danger gets higher and higher for some type of market pullback? If you really want to see something funny, spend eight minutes today watching this 2009 video of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show.  This particular program poked fun almost five years ago at Jim Cramer, Rick Santelli, and other financial pundits for telling people to continue to buy stocks in a raging bull market before the bottom fell out (http://bit.ly/1aZk5rZ).  The video is particularly amusing with one of Stewart’s great quotes “I ...

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Don’t Forget To Protect The Golden Goose

I have delivered insurance checks in my career and nobody has ever told me they have too much life insurance after a loved one dies. It’s really ironic because there are many media pundits who beat up on having unnecessary life insurance, but those writers don’t have to pick up the pieces after a major breadwinner dies in a family. Recent studies still say that the odds of dying are 1 out of 1. LOL. Even though I think that most families are woefully underinsured when it comes to life insurance, the greatest gap I see amongst Generation X and Generation Y is an apathetic amount of disability insurance. Most people who work for companies believe that the amount of disability insurance they get through work will be adequate to cover their situation should they sustain a long term disability. The stark reality is that most Gen X’ers an Gen Y’ers don’t even read the benefits manual to understand the ...

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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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