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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