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Start Your Emergency Fund

November 8, 2015

So, what happens when you find yourself in a money crisis? The car breaks down, or the dog has to go to the vet, or you forgot your boss’s birthday. First response – stress. How are you going to pay for it? I know the battery grim reaper has been knocking at my door with slow car starts, so it really did not have to be an emergency. When I’m in a spot where I don’t have the money, I’ll ignore the problem. Often, the problem only worsens. The battery dies on the way to work and I miss a few hours’ pay to get it fixed. Now my paycheck is smaller. Bad news seems to attract more bad luck.

What would happen if you had an emergency cash fund? Start setting one up now until you have $500 to $1,000 set aside in a mattress savings account. Many credit unions or internet banks will open an account with as little as one dollar or maybe $25 at others. Check your home and car insurance deductibles to make sure your emergency fund could cover a car accident or house fire. This ensures that you have enough set aside for most of the money surprises that could throw you off track. Again.

Put money aside for emergencies

Now is the time to use all those money saving tricks you’ve seen to actually save money and put it in the bank right away. Coupons at the grocery store, eat breakfast at home, and walking to the library instead of driving to the book store. Every time you save, or find, extra money stash it in the emergency savings. You’ll feel stronger and more resilient as it grows.

Now you are in control. You have more flexibility. You can avoid credit card debt. There are more choices when you have money saved. Use the emergency funds ONLY for real emergencies, not great sales or vacations. As soon as you deplete the account for an emergency, start building it back up.

A fully funded emergency cash fund will change your outlook on money. Don’t live in fear of it, you need it to live every day. Start controlling your money and your circumstances will change for the positive. If you don’t have an emergency cash fund, find some money today and open that account. You are getting stronger.

8 Steps For Holiday Money Smiles

October 22, 2015

Every year we plan to enjoy the holidays with less frantic shopping, more memorable time spent with family and friends, and staying on budget. Once we hit the day after Thanksgiving, all plans are off. How can this year be different?

Plans are great, and written plans are the ones that are more likely to succeed. Here are some suggestions to consider. Start writing your plan now:

Write out a budget of what you plan to spend, including decorations (avg $40) and food (avg $85).
If the money isn’t already set aside, there’s still time. The average planned holiday amount is $689. O.K., so you started a bit late this year. Set aside $75 a week for the next 6 weeks, you’ll have $450 by Black Friday.
Use cash (not debit cards). You’ll spend an average of $180 more if you use plastic. Hide credit cards until 2013.
Don’t fall for the impulse purchases – keep a printed list or put a list on your smart phone and stick with it.
Stores offer credit cards with discounts because they sell more to you – don’t do it!

Focus on happiness – discuss your plans with friends and family. Have a potluck or cookie party and recipe exchange. Encourage smaller exchanges for our kids who already have too many toys.

Be creative – yeah crafts, cooking, baking are always appreciated. Creativity extends to funding gifts, too. Use reward points, re-gift unused gift cards, or use them to shop for gifts.

After-holiday sales are great if you need it and include it in your spending plan. Return gifts promptly for refunds, use money and gift cards to make purchases. Still keep those credit cards out of reach.

Remember, right down your spending plan right now. Keep it handy and get through the season smoothly and with happy recollections of 2016.

Plan For Your ‘Someday’ With These 3 Easy Ways To Save

July 17, 2015

Working hard, paying bills, and putting money aside for your needs and wants in the “now” are so often automatic in our day-to-day lives – so why aren’t we thinking about or planning for the future? According to the 2015 Retirement Confidence Survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, nearly one-third of workers have almost no retirement savings or investments (< $1,000), and a staggering 57% are underprepared with less than $25,000 for retirement.

It’s clear that anyone not using the present to plan for retirement will likely be setting themselves up for a less than golden future. But it’s never too early or too late to save for retirement. Try one – or more! – of these three ways to take advantage of retirement savings opportunities right now to build yourself a more secure future:

1. Open Up a my Social Security Account

Social Security benefits play an important part of planning for retirement. Don’t forget about your my Social Security account! This free account can help you determine what your benefits will be and when will be best for you to start receiving them.

2. Save Early and Save Often, No Matter How Much You Earn

Starting retirement savings early is the best way to take advantage of compound interest and establish good savings habits. Take advantage of any workplace opportunities, like a 401(k) or 403(b), and never turn down “free money” that comes in the form of employer contributions or matches. Individual Retirement Accounts or IRAs are also a great way to save, with some tax benefits in the process. If you get paid by direct deposit from your employer, you may also be eligible to participate in the new myRA program. myRA is a simple, safe, and affordable retirement account created by the United States Department of the Treasury for the millions of Americans who face barriers to saving for retirement.

Need help finding ways to save? Turning off your phone or cable could save you $5 a month. Find a penny, pick it up; by saving $.50 in change a day, you will save $15 a month. For more ideas like these, visit America Saves online.

Starting early isn’t possible for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play catch-up. Calculate what you will need to save in order to live comfortably in retirement. Once you have turned 50, you can make “catch-up contributions” – an extra amount beyond the normal limits that you can contribute to tax-deferred retirement plans.

3. Take the America Saves Pledge

Those who make a commitment to themselves and their family to save usually save more than those who don’t. Make your commitment to retirement savings today and receive regular advice and support via email and/or texts while you save money. America Saves will provide you with the motivation and advice you need to reach your savings goal.

Tammy Greynolds works for America Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support low- to moderate-income households to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at AmericaSaves.org. America Saves is proud to be part of the “Campaign for a Secure Retirement: Helping Millions of Americans Plan and Save for Retirement” joint, national educational retirement campaign to encourage retirement planning and saving and to promote the online Social Security Statement, available through mySocial Security, as an important retirement planning tool.

What to Tell the Children

June 24, 2015

Often, one of the hardest decisions people make in the estate planning process is how much (and when) to tell their children or other heirs about their plans. Many people are very hesitant to reveal the details of their family’s expected inheritances. Many parents say they fear that if their children find out they can expect a substantial legacy in the future, they’ll be less likely to work hard and save in the present.

Another worry is that revealing an estate plan could lead to family squabbling and resentment. This is especially true if you plan to leave unequal inheritances to family members. Many families will simply avoid talking about the subject in order to keep peace. If there’s a blended family with children from a prior marriage, things can get even more complicated.

But while it can be difficult, there are also some very good reasons for having a detailed talk with your family about your estate plan. For one thing, if there’s a chance of family squabbling and bitterness, it can be better to tell everyone what to expect now, while you are still alive and have a chance to explain your motives and smooth things over. You could explain, for instance, why you’re leaving more assets to a child with a large family than to a child who is single, or why you’re leaving money to a charity that has always been important to you.

Another thing to consider is that, if someone dies suddenly, the family is often left very confused about finances. They don’t know what assets there are, or where they’re located, and searching for them can be extra stressful when the family is already suffering the grief of losing a loved one. If you discuss your assets and your plan now, so that everyone knows what to expect, it can make things much easier after you pass away.

Many parents who talk about their plans with their children are surprised to discover that their children sometimes have good ideas. If a family owns a vacation home, for instance, the parents might have one thought about what to do with it, but the children might come up with a plan that better protects the home and better suits their future needs.

Talking with your children also allows you to coordinate your estate plan with your children’s own estate plans. You might discover, for instance, that the whole family can save taxes if you give more assets directly to your grandchildren, or create trusts for your children instead of leaving assets to them outright.

If you are concerned about these issues, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your attorney.

A Personal Money Blog

June 9, 2015

I finally decided to jump into the blogosphere. I’ve had my share of money related experiences, and helped a lot of friends, family and co-workers with their financial situations. I created Money Wise Advisors http://www.moneywiseadvisors.com/ as an answer for the people who wanted a more intense money coaching experience. This has been rewarding to start my own business and help people make positive changes in their lives.

I’ll start with a little of my background. My mom was a stay-at-home mom who showed me how to balance a checkbook, helped me get my first credit card and shared stories of success and lessons learned. Both my mom and dad always shared with me that the most important thing you can do to get ahead is to spend less than you make. I was brought up in a very frugal, sensible household where we ate casseroles, sewed our own clothes, and spent time with friends and family more than going out to restaurants or other entertainment venues.

Along with being frugal, there was a time to spend for the right reasons. My parents, thank goodness, enjoyed to travel. We took Sunday drives to nearby towns, camped in our truck with a camper shell, or later in our small trailer. We visited family out of town on weekends. Even better, we flew to British Columbia and Hawaii. We enjoyed our family vacations, learned a lot about the places we visited, and shared memories through photos and stories.

Sure, it was a simpler life just a few years ago. My goal is to break down our current circumstances into easier controlled decisions on how to live well and save and invest for the future. Are you telling your money what to do each month? I’m a money coach, and I’ll say the first step is to pay attention to where your money currently goes.

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