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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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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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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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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Don’t Invest In The Dreams of Someone Else

As we age in our financial lives, each of us has had that pit in our stomach feeling of a major financial mistake we wish we had never made. For some people, there will be no recovery from these mistakes while others still have the opportunity to make up for lost time. Although I’ve been fortunate to have very few blemishes in my own personal financial life, the financial move I would welcome doing over again would be to invest in a friends dream with the hope of getting some return on my money. Unless you are a really savvy and experienced investor, I am not a big fan of investing money in a business of a friend unless you are going to be an owner operator yourself. The majority of the time it will take you three times as long to get your money back if you are lucky enough to get it back at all. Almost 15 years ...

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Obamacare: Open Enrollment What You Need To Know

It may be open enrollment season for many of you at work, but for millions of Americans it will be the official open enrollment for Obamacare coming up this Saturday.  Amidst the unknown of the upcoming Supreme Court case regarding federal subsidies, there is a plethora of information to digest for those of you who are considering the federal marketplace for your health insurance.  Here are my five smart money moves Q & A to help you get an initial start to understanding the open enrollment period beginning this week. Get Obamacare Help Here > Question 1:  When does open enrollment start/end and how many people are expected to sign up this year? Starts November 15, 2014 and ends February 15, 2015. You must apply by December 15th if you want your coverage to begin January 1st There are no other enrollment periods unless you qualify for a special enrollment for life events such as marriage, divorce, birth of new ...

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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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Do You Understand The Term Diversification?

Diversification is a term that is often discussed, but is still widely misunderstood amongst investors today. When the financial markets collapsed in 2008, many investors were left wondering if the opportunities to truly diversify were fewer than they once believed. Diversification: Is NOT having your money at four different banks. Many investors still do not understand how FDIC insurance works. Diversification: Is NOT having your money at four separate financial institutions. Many wealthy investors often believe they spread their diversifications risk by hiring money managers at different brokerage houses. This is hardly ever the case. Diversification: Is NOT leaving your 401(k)’s at three old employers. It’s extremely scary to see how many people buy the same mutual funds through their 401(k) at different employers and never really look at their investment strategy as a whole. Diversification: Is NOT necessarily done by buying different mutual funds or exchange traded funds from the same fund family. Diversification: Is NOT subtracting your age ...

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Did You Just Get A Raise In November

It’s pretty amazing to me how many people truly still don’t understand our payroll tax system.  When you work as a W-2 for an employer, both you and your employer are going to pay certain payroll taxes.  The two main types of taxes are the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax and the Medicare tax.   Both you and your employer pay 6.2% into FICA up to $117,000 this year and Medicare is a perpetuity tax at 1.45%.  In 2014, when wages, compensation, etc. get above $200,000 for an individual and $250,000 for a married couple, you will incur an additional .9% Medicare tax this year.   When your w-2 gets above $200,000, your payroll provider should be deducting that amount from your paycheck now, but it is important you double check at work. Since there are many individuals who pay their full amount into social security and their income exceeds $117,000 in a particular calendar year, unfortunately your HR department won’t ...

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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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Is it time to make an appointment with the doctor?

Getting laid off from your job can trigger a myriad of emotions. There are often important financial considerations to make during this period of time, but the number one investment step for someone to take who gets laid off is to review all of your group insurance benefits at work and determine the best course of action for this important foundation of your overall financial plan. You should immediately make any doctor and dentist visits for you and your family before you officially terminate from your company. Another smart idea is to assess how close you are to your deductibles year to date and potentially schedule any surgeries that are necessary, especially if you are getting close to the end of the year. Most large companies will allow you the opportunity to continue your coverage under COBRA, but if you work for a company of less than 20 employees you may only be eligible for state continuation. You could also ...

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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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Four Money Moves To Make When You Get The Pink Slip

The Pink Slip.  It’s the dreaded official notification from your employer that they no longer need your services.   You’ll often hear the corporate rumors flowing within your company about the impending layoffs, but you’ll never suspect that you might be a person on the hit list.   We never imagine that we will be that person who gets called in for dismissal time.   While getting a pink slip is an awful feeling, it’s also a phase in your life where you need to immediately get your financial act together.  Here are my four smart money moves to make when you get laid off from work. Time To See The Doctor- Health insurance is one of the biggest items for consideration during a layoff.  You should make all doctor visits before you separate from service with your current employer.   You should get the details of what happens to your health insurance plan if you get laid off. Are you under COBRA or ...

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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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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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Five Financial To Do’s During Open Enrollment Season

Fall signals the changing of the leaves, football Sundays, and Halloween.  It is also the time of year where many of the companies in Atlanta offer open enrollment for your benefits.  With the complication of benefits packages, it is more important than ever that you learn how to make smart money decisions during your two weeks of open enrollment.  Here are my five smart money moves to look at when your benefits season comes this fall.  Don’t wait until the last minute to check your options!! Your Health Insurance Plan Is Sure To Change– Insurance companies today hardly ever let a company renew its old health insurance plan.  This means that you’ll likely get a new set of plans to sift through during open enrollment.  If you and your partner both have company benefits make sure to weigh the pros and cons of each of your health insurance plans.  Did the deductible change?  Did the coinsurance change? Will you have ...

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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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One Selfie And Create Your Own Dressing Room

The internet is evolving all kinds of new business models every single day. While more consumers are doing shopping on the internet, it can still be very difficult to purchase clothing items because you may not be certain how the clothes will actually fit. Sometimes, packages can come in the mail only to disappoint when you try them on at home. That is . . . until you try the new website www.seeitfit.com. See It Fit is a really cool new website that may help those of you who never want to make a trip to the mall again in the future. The first thing you do on the website is to upload your picture. Who says that selfies are all a waste of time After you upload your picture, you can begin shopping at many major department stores. This includes the GAP, Banana Republic, J. Crew, Kate Spade, and even Tory Burch. The website boasts some of the top ...

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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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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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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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Who Did You Name As Beneficiary

There are a multitude of mistakes that people make when it comes to putting together their wills. These includes naming of executors and custodians, trying to write their own wills, and not considering items such as liquidity. One of the colossal failures in estate planning I witness when people make their wills is not coordinating the will with the overall beneficiary designations they have chosen. Most people believe that the written will supersedes their beneficiary designations which is extremely inaccurate. When you name a beneficiary on a life insurance policy, a 401(k) plan, or an IRA, it is essentially a contract of law. This means that you could attempt to write in your will to leave your IRA to your brother, for example, but the beneficiary designation on the IRA says that 100% is supposed to go to your sister. Despite your wishes in the will, the IRA will go to the named beneficiary. Most beneficiary designation forms today allow ...

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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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Think Wisely About Your Trustee

It’s never fun to think about gloom and doom. However, if you have been successful in building up an asset base or you carry a lot of life insurance, you may be considering setting up a trust fund for your children if something happens to you. There are many potholes that a family can stumble into when establishing a trust, but here are three mistakes parents often make. First, parents don’t often think through who they want as the trustee of trust for their kids. As complicated as it is to select a custodian, parents should consider whether they want a single trustee or a co-trustee to have some check and balance system for the trust. It is crucial to make sure you’ll have the right people in charge of the funds when you are no longer in the picture. Second, parents need to be clear about the goals of the trust. Specifically, most parents don’t think through when and ...

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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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Will The Robo-Advisor Be Short Circuited?

At a recent conference attended by some of the best and the brightest in the industry, I was amazed at the disparity in views and concerns regarding the rise of the Robo-Visor.  Relax…. Although the technology exists, I can’t imagine getting on a pilotless transatlantic flight just as I can’t imagine the majority of consumers handling all of their investments online. That said, Robo like the discount brokerage firms that “threatened” the financial advisors 20 years ago, is here to stay.  More than anything, this is a clear barometer that investing has become more commoditized.  For the Investment professionals who proclaim themselves as money managers you will certainly have the most exposure for losing clients.  For the financial planning professional I see this as an opportunity as more and more clients desire what I call the 3 C’s.  In today’s fast-paced environment we have learned clients seek far more than just investment advice.  They desire a Collaborator, a Connector, and ...

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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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5 Ways For Women To Build Confidence

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

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Attention All 1099’s… There is a BIG October 1st Deadline!!

Since there are so many people who are getting 1099’s and setting up individual LLC’s or home-based side businesses, you need to keep a close eye out this time of year for setting up one kind of retirement plan, a SIMPLE IRA.   The deadlines are just around the corner in the next few weeks, so could this be the right type of retirement plan for you? A SIMPLE IRA (Savings Incentive Match Plan For Employees) was first available to small business owners in 2001. A SIMPLE IRA plan is an IRA-based plan that gives small employers a simplified method to make contributions toward their employees’ retirement and their own retirement. Under a SIMPLE IRA plan, employees may choose to make salary reduction contributions and the employer makes matching or nonelective contributions. All contributions are made directly to an Individual Retirement Account or Individual Retirement Annuity (IRA) set up for each employee (a SIMPLE IRA). SIMPLE IRA plans are maintained on ...

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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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Do Ivy Leaguers Get Better Rates For Loans

As most of know, student debt is becoming the new silent killer for generation Y.   People in their 20’s and 30’s may need to find different alternatives on how to pay off their student debt or even how to refinance the debt.   Programs seem to be popping up all over the internet and I recently had the chance to interview Mike Cagney, CEO and Chairman of SoFi which is a company who can help with figuring out your student debt and more. If you need to refinance your student loans, SoFI (www.sofi.com) has some really cool programs: Fixed rates can start as low as 3.63% and variable rates even lower.  SoFi has its own specific underwriting process that allows them to be more selective with the types of students it loans to currently.   Think about it.  Better school, consistent job, etc. might mean you have a much better ability to pay back the lender. Unemployment protection is an excellent feature ...

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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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Use The KISS Principle

Today it is more complicated than ever for the average investor to really understand how to pick a mutual fund.   Most novices may choose a fund if it has a 4-star or 5-star ranking.   Or they decide to pick a fund because they did a Google search for best returns and then select one from the top of list.  The truth is, most investors today would be lucky if they could name one or two actual positions that their mutual fund owns if they were asked.  In my opinion fund companies could become more friendly if they used the Keep It Simple Stupid principle. First, mutual fund companies should provide consumers some sort of simple x-ray software so when they choose to buy multiple funds from a fund company, an investor can at least have some idea about how much the different funds overlap.  Far too often, I see consumers who own three or four different mutual funds only to ...

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Listen To What The Baby Has To Say

I am a complete marketing junkie, so I have to give props to financial companies that take risks to launch edgy marketing campaigns.  Historically, investment companies are boring advertisers showing couples taking a bicycle ride, smelling the roses on their front porch, or some actor looking all serious on camera about the ‘serious’ investment company.   I was a bit melancholy this year to see the last installments of the E*Trade baby commercials which completed a tremendous six year run of ad spots. For a marketing campaign to be successful, it has to leave a mark etched in our mind that will last for many years to come.  Think about slogans like Nike’s Just Do It or Wendy’s Where’s The Beef that you can remember just like it was yesterday.   When the E*Trade baby aired during the Super Bowl in 2008, the commercial made us all laugh while at the same time beginning the drip the ideas of what we could ...

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Your Earnings Power Is All About Supply And Demand

Really? Doesn’t my formal college education matter?  Or whether or not I have an MBA?   Could the simple economic principle of supply and demand really dictate how income is earned in America?   Let’s take a look inside at what you desperately need to know if you want to earn more money in your career. I’ve been practicing financial advising for over 23 years and the people who truly build up extremely high level of incomes typically fall into three categories: Business Owners Sales People who rise in companies for staying in the same place more than 10 years What does this have to do with earning income? Well, there are certain skills in business that are trainable and certain skills in business that are learnable.  Gaining a keen understanding about which ones can make you money and why will dictate whether you too are successful in making lots of money. THOSE EARNING UNDER $100,000 The lowest general form of earners ...

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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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I will be getting my first 1099 . . . Now What?

You recently lost your job or your job lost youJ and now you have decided to take some freelance consulting job 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.   At some point next year, you’ll get your first 1099, but what should you be doing here in 2014 to make sure your ducks are in a row come tax filing time? 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 what you can deduct or how exactly incomes taxes will be paid.  Here are some your smart money moves tips for 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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How Does LeBron Become A Billionaire?

There was no way to avoid the news this past week that LeBron James decided he was coming home to Northeast Ohio to return to playing basketball for the Cleveland Cavaliers.    It has been widely shared in the news that LeBron James wants to become the first billionaire athlete.   Is this gutsy move actually designed with the thought in mind to win championships or created in the next set of career moves to forge the path to becoming a billionaire? “It’s my biggest milestone,” he says in a story with GQ. “Obviously. I want to maximize my business. And if I happen to get it, if I happen to be a billion-dollar athlete, ho. Hip hip hooray! Oh, my God, I’m gonna be excited.” (source: GQ) With a reported $250 million dollar net worth, (source: celebritynetworth.com) just what smart money moves does LeBron need to do to get himself to a billion dollar net worth. Win Just One Championship In ...

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Three Reasons Why Software Sales Guys Go Broke in Buckhead

Just closed a big deal, didn’t you?   Now you are the big man on campus as you swiftly exit Johnny’s Hideaway and slide down to Landmark Diner for a 3 a.m. burger.  You pop a ride home with Uber so you don’t bang up the finely tuned up Porsche you just bought, and then it’s on to five days at a four star hotel in Cost Rica.  While it seems like your leading the life of Riley, your ATM statement says otherwise leaving you scratching your head on where all of your cash is going.  So why do software sales guys go broke in Buckhead?  Here are three insights from the Tech Financial Advisor. Bar bills, fancy restaurants & night clubs: We’ve all been there when someone pulls out their credit card and buys a round of drinks for the whole group.  What do you have to show when you wake up the next morning with a $300 bar tab?  ...

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Getting Investment Advice Online: Be Clear About Your Expectations

In order for individual investors to get the most out of their online relationship, they should avoid the colossal mistake most individuals make. The biggest mistake is simply not being clear about expectations. There are many really high quality online investment advisors and overall financial planning offerings on the internet. Some of the online investment advice companies will offer financial planning or other services in addition to money management. Some of them will offer you no customization whatsoever of your portfolio. While others, will allow for some degree of customization based upon your overall situation. However, if you aren’t really clear about what you want out of the relationship, you may become quickly disappointed in what the online provider is going to do for your portfolio. Just like any face to face relationship you would engage in for financial planning or investment advice, do your homework about the organization. Is it venture capital backed and possibly going to be sold ...

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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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Nothing But Net Is All That Matters

Analyzing fund returns can be one of the more treacherous tasks for the average investor. There is so much information on the internet, but it doesn’t necessarily make the regular Joe more knowledgeable when it comes to picking a fund. In addition, the prospectuses have such technical legal and financial jargon that you practically need an engineering degree to get through it cover to cover. In my mind, the most important thing you do not want to overlook is making sure you are comparing funds net vs. net when making a decision about where to put your money. The first piece of the ‘nothing but net’ conversation is to line up all the costs of the fund. Beware that some costs will take you more time and research to find out versus others. Review shareholders fees such as sales loads, exchange fees, and purchase fees. Closely examine fund operating expenses including management fees, 12b-1 fees, and a line item called ...

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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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Don’t Let 2008 Happen To You Again

Should you be concerned at all as Dow 17,000 approaches us and may have already happened by the time you read this article? Is hitting 17,000 going to be your friend to a more bullish market or will it be time for people to take their profits off the table and we will see a pullback?   Is it really just as easy as putting the portfolio car in cruise control and just let it ride down the highway?   Here are a few smart money moves lessons to learn so 2008 doesn’t happen to you again in the future. What’s Your Time Frame?  In 2008, there were many parents who had saved for goals such as their children’s education only to see the balance of the accounts get cut in half.  If your son or daughter has college tuition due in the fall, make sure the allocation of your assets matches your time frame. You Must Have A Risk Mitigation Plan- ...

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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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Miller Lite, Daymond John, and a dip in the Shark Tank

Last Tuesday, we were invited to witness five teams of entrepreneurs pitch their business in an effort to win $20,000 at the Miller Lite Tap the Future live event at Opera Night Club.   We were fortunate enough to be able to interview the esteemed panel of judges including Daymond John from ABC’s “Shark Tank.” If you are thinking about getting in the tank with the sharks or starting your own business, there were five pieces of very important advice that the panel shared with us when it comes to be a successful entrepreneur. Passion- Without passion it doesn’t matter how much money you want to make in your new found venture.  Since there will be plenty of good times and bad times, the burning desire in your belly to stay passionate around your dreams needs to be there to really be successful. Marketing Plan- Most businesses that look to get off the ground simply do not have a plan for ...

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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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Does “Flow” Really Matter To The Average Investor?

To be successful as an investor, it is important to grasp certain basic economic principles including the law of supply and demand. As inflows and outflows are reported within the mutual fund and exchange traded fund industry, the average investor should start to pay closer attention to these numbers when it comes to making their portfolio decisions. Evidence strongly suggests that watching inflows and outflows can quickly demonstrate that the average investor chases performance. How many people have bought at the top of the market and tend to sell at the bottom of the market? Or they end up being a day late and dollar short when it comes to making the right investment decisions. Examining these inflows and outflows can help you spot raw trends of where the mass money is moving and may also present you with opportunities in certain asset classes that may become undervalued. What is decidedly more important than watching the macro trends of money ...

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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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Are You An Irresponsible Investor?

If you aren’t a socially responsible investor, does this explicitly imply that you have become an irresponsible investor? LOL. When I first saw socially responsible funds hit the market, most of the initial strategies were fairly straightforward. Avoid the “sin” stocks such as alcohol, tobacco, and gambling. What you need to know today is that socially responsible investing has taken on an entirely different meaning in today’s investing world. You’ve got mutual funds today that invest in undervalued equity securities of large-cap companies with outstanding workplaces. You have funds that invest in common stocks and foreign stocks where investment decisions are made in accordance with Islamic principles. There are others that will address the ecological risks and opportunities of the investment process for the 21st century. My point behind this is that like any other investment you would make with your money, it is incumbent upon you to do the due diligence to determine whether the fund matches both your ...

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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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The Roth 401(k) Conversion: Pros and Cons

Since the Pension Protection Act, Roth 401(k)’s are becoming more popular amongst investors through their employer sponsored retirement plan.   If you have been investing in a 401(k) for some period of time, it’s likely you’ve chosen the pre-tax option and maybe it is time to consider whether or not a Roth 401(k) conversion makes sense for your individual situation. PROS: If you believe you’ll be in a higher tax bracket in the future when you distribute these funds, then converting your existing 401(k) to a Roth 401(k) could make sense. Roth 401(k)’s are subject to Required Minimum Distributions, but you can easily roll your Roth 401(k) into a Roth IRA and this can continue to allow you to defer dollars within your retirement accounts if you don’t need to distribute the money. If the market has another depressed year like it has twice in the past fifteen years, that particular year could be a really good time to convert your ...

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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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Five Ways Social Media Can Make You Money

There are still some people who are avoiding the whole game of social media.   They don’t quite get Twitter or have no interest in Facebook.  In fact, even if they are in the business community they haven’t added their entire professional summary to LinkedIn.  If the whole idea of social media hasn’t garnered your attention, perhaps the notion of putting some dollars in your pocket would be more intriguing.  Here are my five smart money moves on how social media can help you make some cash. Coupons and Deals- If you “follow” the financial people who are ‘frugal’ or cheap on social media websites like Twitter, you can get great advice on coupons, deals, and savings ideas.   Getting these deals just in time can even give you ideas on weekend events where you can receive discounts to places like fairs and festivals. Job Opportunities- Being in relevant groups and paying attention to discussions may help you land your next greatest ...

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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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Top 10 Jobs For 2014

I have a daughter of my own who is finishing up her junior year of high school and we will be looking at colleges and career paths as many other families will be doing across America.   Most kids have no idea what they want to do with their lives, so it probably behooves you as a parent to at least shed some concrete data with your children about what’s paying at the cash register here in 2014. I know.  I know.   Money isn’t everything.  If your children choose their passion then ultimately the will figure out how to make a lot of money within their career.   However, if your child is dealing with the certainty of uncertainty then tip the scales in their favor and give them a few paths to choose from as they embark on their future endeavors.  Careercast.com put together a list of the highest and lowest paying midlevel income jobs across America (http://www.careercast.com/jobs-rated/best-jobs-2014) Best Jobs of ...

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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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Living Paycheck to Paycheck is Not Living At All

Are you one of the many young professionals making good money but have little or nothing to show for it?  It’s ok to fess up because you are not alone.  A matter of fact, based on a study by Reuters 68% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/19/us-usa-survey-paycheck-idUSBRE88I1BE20120919.  Yes, you’re reading correctly: over two thirds of people surveyed find it hard to make ends meet each pay period.  So how does this happen? First, let’s start with some simple math. Salary (total compensation) = $80,000 Annual After Tax Take Home Earnings (amount left after  taxes and health care costs are withheld, assuming a 25% tax bracket and $5,000 for healthcare  = $55,000 Paycheck (amount paid bi weekly) = ~$2,100/paycheck or ~$4,200 each month Now that we understand some basic numbers we can begin to realize where your true take home pay begins.  And just like any CFO of a large corporation, it’s equally important to focus on what cash is ...

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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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Is It Time To Take A Sabbatical?

The corporate treadmill is pushing people to the point of breaking. With longer hours, more responsibilities, and 24/7 access to your e-mail through technology, you achieved your dream of making it up the corporate ladder. Only one problem. You don’t like it. You like the money, the perks, the benefits, but it is killing you and it’s hard to talk about it because nobody wants to hear your story. Well, I do. Imagine escaping the 8 to 8 (since 9 to 5 isn’t even available anymore) daily grind and spending a month in Tuscany, taking a cruise around the world, or simply tucking your feet in the sand without a care in the world. Wouldn’t that be unbelievable? Can you feel the sun beating down on you while you kick back and have a Corona with lime? The phrase sabbatical is actually derived from the biblical Sabbath which in ancient times allowed people for periods of rest and rejuvenation. Admit ...

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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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Should You Ever Borrow On A 401(k)?

For some of you a dreaded financial question may stare you in the mirror at some point in your life. Should you borrow against your 401(k)? While all initial responders in your body say no, there could be a few instances where borrowing against a 401(k) may actually make sense. Here is my smart money moves take on when to make yourself a loan. In general, it is not a smart financial move to borrow against your 401(k) plan. There are many individuals who are quitting their job and considering starting up a new business. In order to start their new entrepreneurial venture, they will likely exit from their current employer. The additional problem is where will the new entrepreneur find the capital to open up their new business? Instead of cashing in your old 401(k), one tremendously creative option to potentially fund a new business is to set up your new corporation and create a Solo 401(k) plan. Solo ...

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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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Is It Worth Going To Conferences?

When you work for a large corporation, you don’t have much of a choice about whether or not you go to the company conference.  They are often filled with workshops, PowerPoints, happy hours, and every once in a while a late night story that you really don’t care to share by the time you get back home.  However, there are industry conferences that are being put on all the time.  In the financial services industry alone, I counted well over 100 conferences I could attend ranging from technical competency training to practice management.   So, is it a smart money move to attend a conference over the next year? Here are seven tips to consider to determine if it will be worth going to an upcoming conference: Determine Where Your Biggest Personal Or Business Bottleneck Is At This Time- If you are going to spend the money to go to a conference, make sure the agenda matches what skill sets you ...

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Girl Scout Capitalism

Who’s got a case of the munchies? Purchasing a box of Thin Mints®- our round, mint-flavored cookies with a delicious chocolaty coating- helps a girl learn money management.  She handles money, keeps records, tracks orders- activities that are essential to running a successful business. (girlscouts.org) Well, 13 year old Girl Scout Danielle Lei and her mom recently showed us all a thing or two about American capitalism when they had some Tag-A-Longs® and other Girl Scout flavors in tow for sale at a San Francisco medical marijuana clinic. We can all learn a thing or two about business from Danielle Lei.  Talk about the notion of free enterprise.   Danielle typically sold her Girl Scout cookies outside of a Safeway, but with her mom’s approval they set up shop in front of the Green Cross which is a medical marijuana clinic in San Francisco.  What happens when supply meets demand?  Within two hours on President’s Day, Danielle sold a whopping 117 ...

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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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What Atlanta’s #Snowmageddon 2014 Taught Us From a Financial Standpoint

Review and shop out your car insurance coverage often. Typically, you can shop your rates out on a semiannual basis to see if you’re getting the best deal possible.  If you were someone who was sliding around in the snow and ice and had Comprehensive and Collision coverage then your insurance will pay to repair or replace your car if it is stolen or damaged in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. Depending on your car, amount of a balance you have left on your car note, distance you commute, and cash flow you can look at ways to increase your deductibles, reduce your coverage, or you can check out my other article about taking a defensive driving class(http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/atlanta-bargain-hunter/2013/dec/04/perks-driving-defensively/) to find ways to reduce your premium. Travel with a full tank of gas. Unfortunately, some friends needed to sleep in their cars overnight and had over 14-24 hour commutes home; some inevitably abandoned their cars because they ran ...

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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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Women Only Spend $49 On Valentine’s Day??

Valentine’s Day is here and The National Retail Federation (NRF) says Americans will spend nearly $17.3 billion on Valentine’s Day this year.  The average guy expected to shell out about $108.38, according to a survey commissioned by the organization. Women say they’ll spend about half that amount at around $49.41 (On second thought women, I’ll just skip the Russell Stover- thanks anyway)  (source www.nrf.com) It’s true that Valentine’s Day gift giving is predominately led by men and what they spend on this holiday.   If you are trying to save some money this year, I figured it would be a good idea to provide you a few tips to still make the holiday fun without breaking the bank.    Apparently, women only need to spend $49.41 to keep the relationship going and men you need to be prepared to spend a Benjamin on the holiday.   Although somehow I think you’ll be spending a lot more especially if you add in a dinner. ...

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How Does The My RA Work?

Trapped in my office by the Snowpocalypse that hit Atlanta on last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to watch the State of the Union (#sotu) Address delivered by President Obama.   There is a whole lot of financial topics we could talk about on Your Smart Money Moves, but I’d like to review the topic around the new proposed investment vehicle called the MyRA.  Since we already have the SEP-IRA, SIMPLE-IRA, Rollover IRA, Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, Beneficial IRA, etc., wouldn’t it have just been easier to call it the My IRA instead of the new urban dictionary word called MyRA? The concept behind the MyRA account would be a new type of bond within a Roth IRA-type umbrella.  Contributions would not be tax-deductible, but earnings would be tax-free when you withdraw it in the future.  It’s unclear about how closely the rules on this account shadow the rules of the current Roth IRA. The investment vehicle would be a new ...

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Is Your Zillow Estimate (Zestimate) Really Worth It?

Zillow and Trulia are two of the largest websites when it comes to shopping and comparing home prices within your local area.    Twenty years ago, most of who were shopping for a home typically contacted a real estate agent first.   Once we gave the agent all of our new home wish list, they would compile a ‘get in the car’ tour where you were whisked away to see 20 or 30 homes before you narrowed it down to just a just a few.   Then, after comparing prices and your options, you would make an offer on the property that best suited your family.   Now companies like Zillow and Trulia allow you to turn this funnel completely upside down.  Do the values shown on these websites really matter? What is a Zestimate®? (source: www.zillow.com) The Zestimate® (pronounced ZEST-ti-met, rhymes with estimate) home valuation is Zillow’s estimated market value, computed using a proprietary formula. It is not an appraisal. It is a ...

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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 Rising Cost Of The Winter Olympics

Even though the Winter Olympics are right around the corner, it seems to me that the Summer Olympics always bring along a lot more hype and storylines than the Winter Olympics. The other night, I believe I stumbled across the Olympic trials for both ski jumping and curling at which point it took me all of about eight seconds to promptly change the channel. Although the men’s USA Hockey win is indelibly etched in our minds from the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, most of us only pay attention to a few of the events like figure skating and men’s hockey. Thinking about taking the family to Sochi for the Winter Olympics? Think again. According to NPR, Russia is spending $51 billion on the Sochi Winter Olympics, the most expensive Olympic Games ever by a wide margin. The preparations have not gone smoothly. Construction has been delayed repeatedly and marred by accusations of political corruption. The outlandish price tag ...

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5 Tax Tips Before You File

It’s the beginning of February and your tax documents will be piling up by the day as a new mail from your mortgage companies, banks, and investment companies are sent out to you.   As you begin to stack up your pile of information to bring to the CPA or accountant, did you ever wonder if there are still ways you can save money on your 2013 income taxes before you hit the SEND button to the IRS?   Here are my 5 smart money moves on tax tips before your file away for another year. Contribute To An IRA- Whether this is a Traditional IRA or for small business owners/freelancers a SEP-IRA, these types of IRA contributions could still potentially be tax deductible for the 2013 calendar year even though the contributions and accounts were opened in 2014.   The biggest mistake individuals make is not investigating how these vehicles work or the adjusted gross income limits that would make things like ...

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How To Do The Super Bowl Party On A Budget

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.  Needless to say that it is not a national holiday, but it will sure act like one this upcoming Sunday.   Much like Thanksgiving, 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 your smart money moves to make a touchdown on a budget. Make It A Potluck Sunday- If you are smart and stick to finger foods for your party (chicken tenders, pizza bites, and pigs in a blanket), get your guests to bring the side dishes and desserts.  Most people like to pick during the game, so this type of set up will work very well. They Bring The Vodka, You Bring The ...

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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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The Best Way To Get Rid Of The Junk From Your Trunk

Writing catchy titles is my second favorite part of doing the Your Smart Money Moves column after helping all of you become better at making money decisions.  When I looked in the Urban Dictionary under Junk In Your Trunk, I got the following answer: a little more than badonkadonk but less extreme than having an SUV in the pants (boy that is a wide range!).  Use it in a sentence please: I don’t mind a woman with a little meat on her bones, a little junk in her trunk.  Most of us who own a home, end up acquiring a lot of clutter and junk at home, so I thought I would give you five places you can get rid of the junk from your trunk. Facebook- Recently, I’ve noticed more people selling tickets to professional sporting events or concerts right within their Facebook feed.  If you have something you want to sell from your home, I wouldn’t put a complete listing within ...

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Do You Change Lanes In Traffic?

Several days a week my travels take me from Milton to Buckhead during morning rush hour traffic. If you talk with most Atlantans who live in north Fulton County, they’ll be able to tell you exactly what times to beat the traffic if you are going to drive downtown and when the traffic will subside if you want to wait it out. Otherwise, it is destiny that you’ll be moving bumper to bumper for an hour or so on the journey to downtown Atlanta unless school is out of session. Being stuck in traffic is a pet peeve amongst all of us. Once your automobile comes to a dead standstill, you’ll begin to notice that when your lane comes to a complete stop that it appears other lanes are moving faster than yours. Once you convince yourself that the lane on the far right is actually moving faster, you’ll begin to squeeze your car over lane by lane until you ...

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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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Who Gets The I-Tunes Account When You Die?

Over the past decade, we have certainly seen a proliferation of what is coined today as ‘digital assets’.   When it comes to asset allocation we have all learned about stocks, bonds, cash, and real estate, but how about the acquisition of those assets involved with digital platforms?   The most recent articles on your smart money moves discussed the bitcoin, but you have a virtual cornucopia of digital assets including I-Tunes, Amazon, Paypal, EBay, and even assets such as the very blog you are reading.    How can you plan to make sure your heirs get the most of your digital assets as the average is north of $30,000 today? The first consideration is to ask yourself just what is your digital estate plan? As it stands today, most state laws don’t specify whether or not you need a digital executor.   Currently, there is legislation being worked on called The Uniform Fiduciary Access To Digital Assets Act to create some consistent rules ...

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Are We Going To Run Out Of Special Days?

The New York Stock Exchange isn’t closed often during the course of a calendar year.  New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, Washington’s Birthday, Good Friday, Memorial Day, 4th Of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas in case you were wondering or wanted to mark it on your calendar.   As I glanced through all of the holidays during the course of the year, I was reminded about how Hallmark and American Greetings must have been in a war room together to see how many more ‘special days’ they could add to the calendar so Americans will buy more cards and gifts. I’m all for celebrating something important, but this special day and special month deal is absolutely out of control.  I’m not sure whether we are out of months of the year yet, but here are just a few ‘special days’ on the calendar as a reminder of the heightened level of idiocy we’ve attained by making sure every group ...

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How Marketers Manipulate Us To Buy More Stuff!!

Did you know that the highest paying job in America is and will always be marketing?  That’s right.  No matter how good your product is, it all doesn’t matter if you can’t get people to line up and make a purchase.   Marketers are smart.  Marketers are cunning.  Marketers (well some of them anyway) have learned the secret sauce that makes us want to buy more stuff even though we don’t really need it or even want it!   If you pay attention, you can learn the tricks of the trade but here are three ways that marketers learn how to separate you from your money: We Don’t Buy In Absolute Terms–   In one of my favorite books, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, he discussed the theory of relative pricing vs. absolute pricing.   Don’t confuse this with the idea of presenting you with three choices knowing that you’ll likely pick the one in the middle.  In the case below of the Economist ...

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How Much Should I Pay for a Custom Suit?

$399 for a custom suit? You may be surprised to hear that the price tag can be well beneath 4 digits. Many tailors in this space start their pricing around $1,000, but most of us in the X&Y generation don’t want to foot that kind of a bill to look sharp.  I’ve been fortunate to watch two Atlanta entrepreneurs start a custom suit business more “tailored” to our needs. Trio Tailoring https://www.triocustoms.com/ realized there was a big need for moderate to low priced custom suits in the market, and the concept has been well received locally and is gaining traction nationally.   Check out the tips below from the owners at Trio – Benjamin McMillan and Mike Hu: Fit matters more than brand. The cardinal rule of the Office Style Guide is that the fit of the suit trumps everything else. A three-piece from the Ferragamo Fall Collection isn’t doing you any favors when the jacket is falling off your shoulders. ...

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How Much Time Do You Really Waste?

As the age old adage says, ‘time is money and money is time’.   If you consider this for a moment, time is really the great equalizer in life.  In actuality, it is the one commodity that we all have exactly the same amount of each and every moment of our lives.  While we all have varying levels of responsibilities, we have the unbelievable power to make choices every single day on how we invest, spend, or just simply waste our time.   However, most people don’t fully appreciate how much money they may be wasting when they don’t have an idea where their time really goes. One calculation worth going through is to figure out what an hour of your time is worth.   If you get paid a salary (and bonus) through work, one quick analysis would be to take your annual income and divide it by 2000.  In this case, I just used 50 work weeks at 40 hours a ...

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Just A Thought…

By: Genna Jenkin The Your Smart Money Moves Mom In this world where everyone is a self-proclaimed expert, (bloggers included!), it’s often difficult to decipher who is left to take all this advice that so many of us are doling out. As I take a step back and take stock of my credentials I realize that I may not have any life-changing “tips”, but what I hope is that the small items I do share may at least cause a little “shift” in how you look at your spending habits. To this end, I recently experienced a very life-affirming moment with my teenage daughter. It was a dreary Saturday and I was bracing myself for the barrage of requests to take her to the mall or the movies or maybe bowling to stave off boredom. However, to my surprise, she had something else in mind. Instead of all those money-guzzling activities she chose to invite a couple of her girlfriends ...

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Retirement Assumptions: What’s Your Legacy Goal?

When you are building out your long term retirement plan, a financial advisor will often have to make many different types of assumptions. I have authored numerous articles around this topic. You need to consider market downside risk, interest rate risk, inflation risk, liquidity risk, tax risk, sequencing risk, and several others. Often, one major mistake made around the discussion regarding building a quality retirement plan is actually having the end in mind. What do you want your legacy to be when you pass on? This is a crucial conversation to have at the onset of your overall comprehensive financial plan. Consider this for a moment. If you tell your financial advisor nothing, he or she will likely build out your retirement plan analysis by using a ‘death age’. From the conversations you have with your planner or from some default number in the financial planning software, you will arrive a set age usually in the 85 to 90 range. ...

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What If You Were Down 27%?

The Dow Jones industrial average (DJIA) rose 72.37 points, or 0.4%, to 16,576.66 on the last trading day of 2013. For the year, the index of blue-chip stocks was up 26.5% — its best performance since 1995.   The media, can sometimes be our friend or our foe.  Unfortunately, because our lives are so busy we often just get snippets and sound bites of information about our investments and money issues.   When you hear the DJIA had a banner year, your first thought is often “did my investments do as well as the stock market?” Most investors have a very short memory of their original risk tolerance, goals, or objectives when they start analyzing returns on their money.   Without setting proper expectation, banner years in the stock market like 2013 can send you into the depths of unhappiness because you may feel you missed out on a golden opportunity.  However, what happens if you were down 27% or even 33.84% as ...

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The Simplified Home Office Deduction

We have seen a monumental shift to more and more individuals who are freelancers, consultants, or starting some type of home office business over the past five years.  The home office deduction has often been bandied about as the dreaded ‘red flag’ that will surely cause you an audit.   When you file your 2013 taxes here in 2014, the IRS has now offered you a simplified version of the home office deduction so you don’t have to break out your spreadsheets and start doing a set of massive math calculations. The new optional deduction is $5 for each square foot of home office space up to a maximum of 300 square feet.   Instead of filling out the usual 8829 form, you’ll use a new worksheet in the Schedule C instruction book and enter your simplified home office deduction in Schedule C.   Of course, the regular rules around home office deductions will still apply, but here is some guidance the IRS ...

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Could Stamps Be A “Forever” Investment?

There is a reason you want the Your Smart Money Moves blog by your side.   Over three and half years ago, I wrote you a blog about buying forever stamps.  Did you take advantage of my advice?  With any overall financial plan, the one silent killer people often leave out is inflation.     Especially when it comes to the actual cost of buying your basic staples like groceries, gas, and utilities. While there has been a substantial increase in business being done on the internet, the United States Postal Service (USPS) will raise prices effective January 26th, 2014 to 49 cents for the first ounce of a first class stamp.   This would essentially be a 6.5% increase.   Bulk mail is also going up by 6% and with a raise to 33 cents, postcard will be up 10% versus 3 ½ years ago. How can you make a smart financial decision?   Load up on Forever stamps! Issued in 2007, the first forever ...

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10 Ways To Cut Your Food Bill

Is your family what I call an equal opportunity grocery shopper?   When you look at your debit or credit card statement, do you wonder the reasons why Kroger, Publix, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods all show up as a line item?  For individuals and families alike, the ‘food’ bill has become one of the largest line items in the household budget.   Food can include groceries, dining out, and even meals on vacation.   Here are my ten your smart money moves tips on how to trim the ‘fat’ from your food bill this year. Make A List– I picked up a cool list pad from Urban Outfitters.   You can snag a list by searching for grocery list under images in Google if you want one for free. Sunday Night Grilling– It’s hard to prepare all of your meals for the week.  Consider grilling up a bunch of chicken or steak in bulk on a Sunday night and keeping it to add ...

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Why Do You Yell At The 800 Number

And there I found myself at 1 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon. In a fit of rage and anger that only those who talk to computers can appreciate, I found myself screaming at the top of my lungs. “Representative! Representative! Representative! Representative! Representative!” By the 6th or 7th time I screamed representative the computerized phone system had already won the battle and I was waving the white flag. Was it too much to ask this Christmas holiday to just speak to a plain old human being? How is it that completely inanimate objects like hangars, double circled key chains, and computerized 800 numbers can get us so unnerved that it just brings out the worst in us? You have to admit, that at least once in your life you have been where I was just a week ago. You felt helpless and deserted after your phone call to the cable company, the magazine subscription company, or perhaps it was for ...

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Can AMC Save You $20,000?

I can remember the home movie theater at the Jenkin household back in 1976.   Oh yeah, scratch that!  Not only didn’t we have a home movie theater, we didn’t even have a garage.   The closest you got to a movie theater experience was praying that you didn’t burn the Jiffy Pop shaking on the open flame on the stove and hoping that the VHS rental was actually rewound by the person before you as the tape popped into the VHS system. The new wave of mega mansions scream of home movie theaters.  Some of them come close to replicating what you would see in a real theater with high end popcorn machines, prints of movies we love hanging on the wall, and even a plush set of drapes that pull back as the movie begins.   The most important MTV Cribs feature that home movie theaters must have are the plush remote control seats equipped with Big Gulp cup holders and ...

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Score A “GOAL” With A 2014 Georgia State Tax Credit

Today people still don’t understand the different between a tax deduction (we sometimes call this an above the line deduction) and a tax credit (we sometimes call this a below the line deduction) which is impacted by the line on your tax return we call taxable income. The important distinction is that a credit is a ‘true’ dollar for dollar reduction of your total tax. Whenever these types of tax programs are available, you should pay close attention to see if you can qualify and take advantage of the program. In the state of Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program, Inc. is something you need to look at closely as we kick off the new year. In 2008, the Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 1133 (HB 1133) and Governor Sonny Perdue signed it into law. The legislation was further amended in 2011 (HB 325) and 2013 (HB 283). The law provides for the creation of student scholarship organizations (SSOs) to which ...

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How To Organize Your 2014 Budget

Even though exercise and diet remain the top two New Year’s resolutions that most Americans have, the next few days might provide you with some opportunity to visit your overall 2014 spending plan.  It can be a painful process sometimes building out a spending plan (or budget) as your self-reflection may often reveal ugly spots that you just don’t want to see. The first and most important step toward a financially successful 2014 is to get a reality check around where your dollars and cents were actually spent in 2013.   Here are my six tips on how to organize and set up a household budget.  This is the bedrock of what has created a successful personal financial plan for my household for many years. Gather The Last 12 Months Of Fixed Expenses– Fixed expenses are generally expenses that do not change much over the course of the year.  An example of this would be your rent or mortgage.  Most of ...

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Three Small Things That Can Make A Big Difference This Year…Really!

By: Genna Jenkin The Your Smart Money Moves Mom “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”, also known as the beginning of another calendar year full of plans and expectations of a new and improved you. For some this blank slate may be very appealing, for me however, it is rife with pressure. I’m panic-stricken by the thought of all these huge goals looming before me. The weight-loss, the exercise regime, the healthier diet, the super-organized, always patient and wise parent, and ofcourse the supportive and sexy wife. Could anything be more daunting? And more importantly, could anything be more unrealistic? We are constantly being told to “stop and smell the roses”, translated as taking time to enjoy the small moments in our lives. So why not employ this philosophy when making the inevitable New Year’s resolutions? This is what I’m thinking, sometimes it’s the small things that can make the biggest difference. #1: Diet ...

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Eight Books To Read In 2014

With 2014 approaching us quickly, it is a good likelihood that you received an Amazon or Barnes & Noble Gift Certificate as a secret Santa gift, a stocking stuffer, or under the tree.   While reading has in a large part gone the way of You Tube and anything that will make us laugh in ninety seconds or less, engaging yourself in a really good book could help you personally, professionally, and even financially.   I have put together my short list which contains a virtual cornucopia of different types of reads.  Find one of these and put it on your to do list for 2014. Think Like A Freak, Stephen Levitt and Stephen Dubner– This book is one of the follow ups from Freakonomics and is scheduled to be released in the March to May time frame in 2014. Freakonomics is all about turning your brain inside out and being able to look at situations from an entirely different perspective.  There ...

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How To Maximize Your Holiday Gift Cards

Ho! Ho! Ho!  It appears that you’ll need Santa’s sleigh to get around town to return the clothes you didn’t like and the mountain of gift cards you received to all of the stores around town.  Place your bets! Place your bets! My bet is that one of every three gifts you garnered this holiday season was a gift card.   Now, you have to make a game plan over the next few days into the first January weekend to figure out how you’ll actually spend these gift cards.   The big question you should be pondering is whether or not there are any smart money moves you can make to maximize those holiday swipeables.   Here are five tips from your smart money moves to improve the holiday take: Read The Back Of The Card– Some of the gift cards you got this holiday season have an expiration date and some do not.   Cards that carry an expiration date can start to ...

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Why Don’t YOU Donate The Dollar!!

A little over a year ago, Your Smart Money Moves brought to you the initial story over now what is a phenomenon that has struck department stores, grocery stores, and even mom and pop retailers. Let me paint a picture for you. The executives of Whole Foods looked excitedly at the growth of their profit and their stock price and thought maybe it was time for them to become a good Samaritan. Aren’t we just lucky enough that we get to buy extremely overpriced food items from them every week? Some Whole Foods corporate department conjured up the notion that one way to become a better corporate citizen would be to ask us each and every time we grocery shop if we want to make a donation to their favorite charity. In fact, almost all retailers are doing this today. Being the smarmy sarcastic business guy I can be from time to time, I had another idea up my sleeve ...

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2013: 10 Overlooked Tax Deductions

It’s the most wonderful time of year again as 2013 comes to a close.  So you aren’t fretting at tax time, maybe it will make sense over the next 9 days to put together an effective year tax management strategy to keep as much of your hard earned dollars as possible in your wallet.  Every CPA or accountant seems to have a slightly different slant on the tax code, but here are your smart money moves tips that may be able to help you increase your bottom line.  Remember to talk with a qualified CPA or Financial Advisor before you decide to implement. Charitable Mileage– Most taxpayers are very good at keeping receipts of their cash donations that they make to the organizations they donate to during the course of the year.   One of the deductions few taxpayers pay attention to is the charitable mileage deduction.  For 2013, you can deduct .14 cents per mile driven for rendering gratuitous services ...

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What Is An Appropriate Holiday Tip To Give?

Why is giving the right tip such a moral dilemma?  Year after year we are faced with the same problem, yet most of us have different solutions each time.  Was this a good year for me?  Was this a bad year for me?  Do I like this person less?  Do I like this person more? It’s enough internal dialogue to make you think you were front row for your own Woody Allen movie.   My mother was a fifth grade school teacher for her entire career.  We had many laughs over the gifts Mom got from kids in her class (which is why I guess they stopped this tradition). Your Smart Money Moves has prepared a holiday tipping guide for you this holiday season: Postal Worker- They can’t receive more than $20 anyways, so just stick to $20 cash.  If you really want do them a favor, use the post office more than you do today as pretty soon you could ...

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I Just Want To Be In Charge Of Me

Like most people fresh out of college, I dreamed of landing a job with a Fortune 500 company. Most of us wanted to get a good company on our resume so we could begin building our careers. The thought of working your way up the ladder was truly exciting, and when you met your first big boss with the cushy corner office it got you motivated even more to work harder for your dreams. Many of these big companies flashed fancy trips, stock options, and powerful titles at you. In return, you follow the bouncing ball and drink whatever Elixir the powers at be were serving for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So what’s this movement we are beginning to see here in the United States? Is it the loner movement? Is it a trend of more people that want to work in their pajamas at home? Is this a monumental shift in the course of time that your friend isn’t ...

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Setting and Making Realistic Financial New Year’s Resolutions

It is almost 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.  Making resolutions (or goals) can be a very difficult process because it often makes you face some of your own realities like it or not.   When you decide to set goals that are realistic, I have been a big cheerleader over the years to use the S-M-A-R-T goal setting system.  Here is how it works. *S is for Specific– Be very specific about what you are trying to accomplish.  Don’t tell yourself you want to pay down debt.  Instead, give yourself a specific goal such as paying off $10,000 of debt. *M is for Measurable– Have a way to track your progress.   In the last example, make a chart for paying off $833 a month and cross it off each month ...

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Clark Griswald Would Like These Ideas

By: Genna Jenkin The Your Smart Money Moves Mom So here we are less than 10 days out before Christmas Day arrives.  If you’re like me your best laid plans have gone by the wayside and you are scrambling to cram in all the shopping, wrapping, baking, decorating and merry-making you can before the big day.  Amidst all this madness a sobering thought occurred to me…on December 26th it’s all over!  All the build-up and anticipation end so abruptly it can leave one feeling a bit, dare I say it, depressed. In order to do my part in preventing PHD, post-holiday depression (not an official medical term), my suggestion is to give gifts that the recipient can look forward to all year long (or at least a few months).  These are not your mother’s jelly-of-the month club offerings.  In fact you may be inspired to treat yourself to one (or two) of the enticing options.  Another huge perk is that ...

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Your 2013 Year End Smart Money Moves

Believe it or not, 2013 will be a footnote in the history books in just three weeks.   As you scurry around to shopping malls and local outlet stores to find presents and stocking stuffers; make sure you don’t forget important money items, that can be worth a lot more than a plate of cookies on the fireplace mantle.  We often overlook some of these items, because we simply run out of time or they just pass by us because we don’t know about them at all.  Here are some year end ideas from the Your Smart Money Moves Column. Do you have a will/living trust? If they don’t have a written one, then the state they live in will have one for them.  My guess is that you don’t want the state to decide how your parent’s assets should be distributed.    The will has many features to it, but most importantly it allows for your parents to essentially say which ...

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The Food In The Middle Sucks!!

With the explosion of large scale stores like Whole Foods and Farmer’s Markets in just about every different neighborhood, it is clear that the movement to eating more healthy food is becoming important to people in America. The new buzz word all around is “organic” food, mostly from the way it’s grown and produced. It’s clear that most households want to watch their health and wallets, but are more than willing to pay premium money today for food that they think is better for them. Restaurants have almost overused the term farm-to-table, giving us the indelibly etched picture in our minds that what’s on our plate got here from something directly down the street or in the backyard of the restaurant. Recently, I had a chance to interview one of the owner of the restaurant Bocado in West Midtown, Brian Lewis, and he made a very interesting comment to me during our lunch. He said, “Ted, the food in the ...

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What Is A Bitcoin?

In the past several months, more and more people have been asking me about the stock market, the US Dollar, and just in general where the direction of the economy is headed. One of the questions that seems to have come up more over the past month is what is a Bitcoin? Are these fantasy dollars for those that play in the second life world? Are they coins that you can use at arcades and places like Dave & Busters? Are Bitcoins for real or are they just some other crazy scam that we should all be wary of in the future? According to www.bitcoin.org, Bitcoin uses peer-to-peer technology to operate with no central authority or banks; managing transactions and the issuing of bitcoins is carried out collectively by the network. Bitcoin is open-source; its design is public, nobody owns or controls Bitcoin and everyone can take part. Through many of its unique properties, Bitcoin allows exciting uses that could ...

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What Should I Do Before I Quit My Job?

You have officially decided that you want to quit your job. While all of your emotions tell you to write the resignation letter and head to your bosses office, you muster up the energy to consider the pros and cons of making this important decision. Are you quitting this job and going to open up your own business? Will you quit to move to a higher paying job with better benefits? Is quitting this job just for a complete career change? Quitting a job can be one of scariest career decisions you ever have to make or it can be an empowering situation. It all depends if you have your ducks in a row. Here are some your smart money moves considerations before you tender that resignation letter. Where will my income come from next month? If you quit a job, you should really be thinking about where the next six to twelve months of income will be funneling into ...

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Heads Or Tails On The New “Coin” Card?

It’s truly amazing about how fast a new product, app, or service can go viral through social media.  If you haven’t seen the video for new ultimate single credit, debit, and rewards card called “COIN” then you should really check it out!  Here is a link to the main website: www.onlycoin.com.  With all of our wallets looking a little bit more like a George Constanza special, Only Coin attempts to use modern day technology to take multiple cards in your wallet and shrink it down into one singular swipe card.   Will the new “COIN” card come up heads or tails with consumers? Coin has a mobile app that will allow you to add, manage, and sync the cards that you use most in your life to your Coin card.   The process of adding card information to your mobile app is supposed to be very easy according to Coin.  However, as we all know, technology is never as simple at the ...

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Can French Fries Be A Low Cost Meal?

I hope everyone in Atlanta really likes food trucks because it appears to me that they are here to stay.   Food trucks have now become a staple in our dining scene with large food truck parks, food trucks sitting outside of office buildings, and random food truck street vendors lined up around the city.  In fact, in a recent visit to Washington, D.C., the George Washington University tour guides told me that the food trucks are often more busy than Whole Foods or the on campus dining options.   Food truck dining has simply become another menu item on our choice list of where to eat.  Best of all, Food Trucks can save us money by avoiding the expensive drinks, large tips, and other parts of a meal that can pad money on to our bill.  Here are a few trucks I recommend you visit to take a bite out of Atlanta’s foodie scene without losing your wallet:  The Fry Guy- ...

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Your Smart Money Moves with oXYGen Financial 12/03/13

Taped 12/03/13 Listen every Tuesday morning at 8:00 a.m. on ROCK 100.5 | Atlanta’s Rock Station to “Your Smart Money Moves” with The Rock 100.5 Morning Show and oXYGen Financial. Ted Jenkin, CFP® and Kile Lewis, CRPC® are the founders of oXYGen Financial, and our chief financial officers. All your money questions answered Breathe easier at http://oXYGenFinancial.net ...

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No More Buying Cookie Dough From Your Kids!

By: Genna Jenkin The Your Smart Money Moves Mom We’ve all been there. At some point during the school year your child brings home the dreaded fundraising envelope! Inside are all the materials you will need to ply friends and family to purchase vats of cookie dough, reams of wrapping paper or the never-ending magazine subscriptions. However since these unwanted items help in providing much-needed funds to your local schools the purchases are begrudgingly made. Can you imagine what a treat it would be to be able to provide those same funds to your youngster’s school not by buying something, but by getting rid of something you no longer need? This is the concept behind an amazing program conceived by Stacey Boyd. Since this entrepreneur and CEO of Schoola.com opened the cyber doors of her new idea, schoola.com/stitch, many parents throughout the country have signed up to make money for their schools by cleaning out their closets, specifically their children’s closets. ...

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Four Dining Out Programs That Can Save You Money

In the last month, you’ve seen oXYGen Financial help give you tips on buying wine, brunch deals, getting social, and much more on Atlanta Eats.   As you read the blog each week, we will continue to help you with money saving strategies and other unique dining out articles.   If you apply these savings each month toward retirement, your kid’s college education, or reducing your mortgage, you’ll really put yourself in a unique position to achieve your financial goals.  Here are four different programs that can be really effective to help cut down your “eating out” splurges. The Dining Out Card– (www.thediningoutcard.com)  The dining out card is unique in nature because it allows you to get 25% off your alcohol and food bills for participating restaurants.  Many card programs only allow you to get a discount on food bills.  This card is accepted in over a half-dozen cities and now has Atlanta on the list with over 150 participating restaurants and ...

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Four Television Words That Make You Lose Money

If you really want to see something funny, spend eight minutes this Sunday morning watching this 2009 video of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show.  This particular episode poked fun 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 (View The Clip).  The video is particularly amusing due to one of Stewart’s greatest quotes (in my opinion) “I would have a million dollars today if I followed CNBC’s advice . . . provided that I started with a hundred million dollars.” With the Dow Jones Industrial Average hitting 16,000, it reminds me that two very powerful words are at the heart of most money decisions:  Greed and Fear.   For years, I have always shared that Fear is just an acronym for “False Evidence Appearing Real”.   Fear makes us do squirrely things with our money.   Greed, on the other hand, jerks at our emotions ...

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Do You Buy Your Bride A Wedding Gift?

Recently, one of my readers asked me the question, “should I buy my bride a gift on our wedding day?” This got me thinking about how much weddings have changed over the past twenty years, from the large-scale traditional weddings to the new getaway destination wedding/honeymoon combinations.   You’ve sacrificed to save for a wedding ring that was more expensive than you expected, a party that cost a bunch more than you expected it would, and to boot, an extravagant honeymoon on top of everything else! So, is it important to ALSO get a wedding gift for your bride? The exciting news is that there aren’t many articles out there written by “Miss Manners” about the dos and don’ts of wedding gifts for your beloved bride.  It’s not necessary that it cost a certain amount of money or be as big, as often discussed with engagement rings.  Instead, if you do buy a gift it should be something really memorable that ...

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Why Does Generation X Have Lifestyle Envy?

It’s official.   For years and years everyone has labeled my generation (Generation X) the slacker generation.  We were the ones that really started on the video game revolution with games like Pong and Atari and now we have relegated ourselves to worst in class when it comes to overall debt. Although the average balance on credit cards is neck and neck with baby boomers at $5,343 per card and we don’t carry quite as many credit cards as baby boomers, the average debt for a Gen X’er has soared to over $30,000. The Experian study showed that nationally, the average debt in the United State is $27,887 and the average bankcard balance is $4,501.   So, why is such a successful generation getting so deep in debt?  What actions can you take today to start improving your situation? There is a reason why Gen X’ers and Millenials are using their credit cards more and falling behind on their payments.  I call ...

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Why Kroger Got This Moms Order

By: Genna Jenkin The Your Smart Money Moves Mom Finally…someone listens to what I need. (I just never thought it would be Kroger!!!) I am an equal-opportunity shopper when it comes to purchasing groceries for my household.  As I attempt to explain to friends and family each establishment fills a certain need.  So you will find me rotating my jaunts to Whole Foods, Publix, Trader Joe’s and Target.  However, it is time in my local Kroger that depicts what a satisfying shopping relationship should be. I have a very specific set of items that I purchase from Kroger and after shopping there for a month or so I received I lovely surprise.  They mailed me a dozen or so coupons. Now, I am not a coupon clipper, I find that the time it takes is not worth it and the items that are discounted are rarely what I’m interested in purchasing.  Here’s the difference with Kroger.  The fact that they ...

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IRS Retirement Plan Contribution Numbers For 2014

As you begin wrapping up your 2013 tax year and begin planning for 2014, you should take note of the announcements the IRS recently made for 2014 retirement plan contribution limitations. Depending on what happens with your overall salary and bonuses for 2014, you may need to adjust your percentage contribution within your paycheck so you don’t overfund your plan. Or, if you have freed up cash flow in 2014, you may be able to increase your overall contributions. Here are the important numbers to know for the Sunday paper edition of Your Smart Money Moves. (source: www.irs.gov) 401(k) – There was no cost of living adjustment this year. If you are under the age of 50, your maximum allowable employee deferral will be $17,500. Those who are 50 years of age or older will be able to put away an additional ‘catch-up’ contribution of $5,500 in 2014. If you have a solo/individual 401(k), you can put away up to ...

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How To Get Funding For Your Start Up Food Truck

You watch Atlanta Eats with Steak.  You listen to Mara on the Atlanta Eats Radio every Saturday. You are consumed with Top Chef, Chopped, and seeing every possible Iron Chef throwdown you can DVR.  Now, you’ve got the bug to start your very own business.  With the proliferation of the modern day food truck hitting the scene, how would you secure funding to start up your very own mobile food business?  Having worked with business owners over the past twenty years (and starting four companies myself), you should know in advance that starting a business is going to be really tough work (you can check out my entrepreneur series here on www.yoursmartmoneymoves.com).  So, what may be the best modern day ideas to get funding for your budding business? WWW.FOODSTART.COM– Foodstart is a crowdfunding business that was specifically built for the restaurant industry.   You can post up your new food truck or coffee shop idea and ask for donations to start your ...

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Your Freshman Year In College Taught You Key Lessons About Saving Money Today

Every person who went to college has some crazy story about something ridiculous they did during their freshman year. At least one of you reading this story took down a neighboring street sign and somebody else can only remember parts of their inaugural spring break trip. If you are finding it difficult to recall just what you learned in your college courses, perhaps there is some practical life advice that could be learned to get your family spending plan in realignment. Is it possible that your freshman year in college was a lesson for saving you money today? Here are five things I’ll jog your memory with if you need to get a plan going as 2014 is right around the corner. You cooked ‘cheap’ meals which you would surely turn your nose up at eating today– Did your diet consist of family size portions of spaghetti, instant noodle soups, and day old pizza? What kind of money could you ...

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Snoop Dogg Gets Approved Preferred Rates For Life Insurance?

Sometimes it really pays to have an insurance agent who knows what they are doing.   As rules and regulations get more complicated, this is why you want someone like me on your side.   The truth is I don’t have the foggiest idea if Snoop Dogg got approved preferred rates for life insurance, but what I do know is that it has been alleged that Snoop Dogg, Lady GaGa, and Willie Nelson have all rolled a joint or two in their lives.   With more than 19 states now offering medical marijuana and several states have legalized the sale of the pot, are there important things for you to know about this when you apply for life insurance? Of course having written insurance policies for over 20 years, I’ve heard just about everything when I take an application.  Uhhh . . . Ted . . . will marijuana show up on blood test?  If yes, how long do you figure it will ...

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Do You Have 6.2% Extra In Your Paycheck?

It’s pretty amazing to me how many people truly still don’t understand our payroll tax system. When you work as a W-2 for an employer, both you and your employer are going to pay certain payroll taxes. The two main types of taxes are the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax and the Medicare tax. Both you and your employer pay 6.2% into FICA up to $113,700 this year and Medicare is a perpetuity tax at 1.45%. In 2013, when wages, compensation, etc. get above $200,000 for an individual and $250,000 for a married couple, you will incur an additional .9% Medicare tax this year. When your W-2 gets above $200,000, your payroll provider should be deducting that amount from your paycheck now, but it is important you double check at work. Since there are many individuals who pay their full amount into social security and their income exceeds $113,700 in a particular calendar year, unfortunately your HR department won’t ...

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Ramen Noodles Hits The Scene For Fine Cuisine

Let’s face it.  Even if you are a complete cheapskate today, it probably won’t compare to the lengths you went to in college to save a few bucks.   Between having roommates, wearing the same shirt twice (or three times), and learning how to buy food in bulk, you worked hard to make every dollar stretch.   One of the staples of the college diet was the ever popular Ramen Noodles.  Invented in 1958 and brought to its first American plant in 1978, Maruchan (maker of Ramen Noodles) produces over 3.6 billion packages of Ramen Noodles soup each and every year.   Could it be that Ramen Noodles are now a part of the fine dining scene? RAMEN NOODLE BURGER– The Ramen Noodle Burger debuted at the Smorgasbord Fair in Brooklyn. Made as a classic burger but wrapped in fried ramen noodles, instead of the usual bread, the ramen burger was created by Keizo Shimamoto who produced 150 for the fair and sold ...

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Is December The Best Month To Buy A Car In Georgia?

It’s become pretty common knowledge that the end of the year can be one of the better times to go car shopping.   While there is no guarantee that all year end auto dealership sales will affect every single model on the floor, more often than not you can score on a 2013 model while the 2014 models are rolling out on to the floor.  Remember, that dealerships are businesses that need to hit sales goals, so I would encourage you to go toward the latter part of the month (especially at the end of a quarter) and even at the end of the day when the salespeople are motivated to get a deal done.  But why could from now until the end of the December be a great time to specifically buy a car in Georgia? Beginning March 1, 2013 of this year, state and local sales tax no longer apply to the purchase of a motor vehicle (except for ...

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The Georgia 529 Is The Perfect Stocking Stuffer

As we head into the holiday season, all families begin to deal with the “what do you want for . . .” time of year.   I suppose it really doesn’t matter if it is a birthday, Christmas, or some other special occasion, it seems to be more difficult every year to tell family members what to get for the kiddies.   Years and years of cleaning toys out of toy chests, drawers, and underneath the couches tell me the ghosts of Christmas past had many a toy that was used once and never again.  If you have a child with a 529 plan in the state of Georgia (www.path2college529.com), there is a process where you can encourage others to gift into the plan you set up for your child. STEP 1- In the middle of the screen, you will see this paragraph that will begin the process.  You can click the eGift button to begin getting the word to friends and family. ...

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10 Restaurants In (and Around) Atlanta Where Kids Eat Free

Having studied marketing for the better part of twenty five years, I have learned that the words FREE, ZERO, and SALE are some of the most powerful to get us as consumers to take action.  With the rising costs of dining out, wouldn’t it be great to be able to take the family out without breaking the budget.   One way to dine well in Atlanta and keep a few dollars in your wallet is to scour the area you live in for Kids Eat Free deals.   While these deals are typically for kids under 12 (or 10 some cases), you can get these savings from local establishment to really large chains across America.  Here are ten to check out in the ATL. South City Kitchen– (Vinings) You better get here promptly at dinner time because Sunday through Thursday kids under 12 eat free from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. when an adult entrée is purchased.   Some of the best Southern ...

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The Bar Of The Future Is Coming To A Corner Near You

A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune of spending a couple of days back on Bourbon Street in New Orleans.   Talk about a place to practically see every type of bar on the planet in just a handful of city blocks.   Bars that housed every single kind of Tequila, ones that had awful singers on stage doing karaoke, and cowboy bars ready to throw unsuspecting drinkers from the mechanical bull.   When bars get really crowded, you are lucky if the bartender can hear your order while the noise from the music blasts at a decibel level ready to blow your eardrums.   While technology continues to change our day to day lives, it will soon change the bars of the future.  Here are just a few things coming to a pub down the street from you. Radio Frequency Identification Bracelets (RFID) will change the way of the bar of the future.  In places like Disney World, RFID bracelets are ...

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Local Library: You Pay for This!

Some of my clients always ask, Cristina, what do you do in your free time? Well, one of the things I do in my free time is read. I’ve actually been on this kick where I’ve read at least one new book a month. This idea came to me as I was walking in a major brick and mortar bookstore a few months ago. I had a 15% coupon and I was in there on a mission to buy a new book for some leisure reading.  As I was perusing the New Release section of the store, I realized that there were so many new books that I wanted to read but didn’t want to fork out the cash to buy  them all. I noticed  that most books were between $10-$15 and if you got a hard cover they were more in the $15-$25 range. Don’t forget e-books  are around $7.99-$10.99 as well!  It pained me to think that if ...

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Daymond John Tells Me How To Swim In The Shark Tank

As featured On Miller Lite Tap The Future, enjoy this article and more with Miller Lite: http://bit.ly/1fCnjV6  Even though I run a financial services company full time and help individuals and business owners as a Private CFO® reach their goals, from time to time I get the privilege of having a press pass to speak with some of the brightest business minds in the world.   My press pass took me last week to a well known club in Midtown Atlanta to go face to face with business leaders in the Atlanta community and front and center with Shark Tank’s own Daymond John. On Tuesday, October 22nd, five teams of entrepreneurs pitched their heart out at the Miller Lite Tap the Future Live Pitch Event, but only one team was selected as the potential winner from the Southeast. Miami-based Elebev impressed Daymond John from ABC’s “Shark Tank” with their product Sfiro, transparent ice spheres that make beverages safer and more enjoyable.  Before the event, I ...

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6 Restaurants In (and Around) Atlanta To Get 50% Off A Bottle Of Wine

Pinot Noir. Super Tuscan. Chardonnay. Cabernet. There are so many different wines to choose from when you go out to eat a fine meal.  As we’ve shared on Atlanta Eats TV, don’t feel worried about choosing the lowest cost bottle of wine on the menu at a high end dining establishment because they aren’t going to put a bad bottle of vino on their wine list.   However, timing when you eat a local hot spot can make all the difference between paying $60 a bottle and $30 a bottle.   Here are six restaurants to get 50% off a bottle of wine. Pricci–(Buckhead) On Thursdays from 5:00 p.m. to 10 p.m. get a ½ off a bottle of wine.  This is a great deal for a ‘going out’ night!  (www.buckheadrestaurants.com) Barcelona Wine Bar–(Virginia Highlands) Sunday would be a great night to enjoy some taps and get ½ off a bottle of wine.  Barcelona has an incredible overall wine list (www.barcelonawinebar.com/atlanta) Mezcalito’s ...

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We Can’t Control Our Eating Out Expenses

On Atlanta Eats Radio this past weekend, I shared that more and more families in Atlanta spend more money eating out than they do saving for retirement.   If that is your case, then maybe it is time to get a financial plan in place to learn how to pay yourself first.  If savings come of the top, you won’t feel as guilty for what you spend within the rest of your overall budget.  However, if you think you are going to save what is leftover at the end of every month, expense including eating out and vacation will pull a virtual Pac-Man on your household budget.    Here are six simple ideas to help you control spending each month so you can save more for retirement. Do Brunch– We all enjoy eating at the hottest new restaurants that come on the scene here in Atlanta.  Brunch is usually half the price of dinner, so go that route first before engaging in ...

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