I Met With a Financial Planner Today

My husband and I scheduled an appointment with a financial planner this week to talk to someone about making our money work for us. I had questions about reducing our tax burden, how best to position our investment dollars to meet our retirement goals, and how to make sure that we’ve used our surplus income efficiently to align with our desires and values and also protect what we’ve built together. It was really a time to get to know our advisor and see if we were a good fit. The key takeaways from our initial interview were:

Financial Planner

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Understanding the planners approach to finance: Our advisor explained the financial planning process and how she establishes goals and helps us achieve them. She also outlined the methodical approach she takes to gathering our financial data, building a case analysis, presenting her strategy, implementing that strategy and finally, following up for review.

Understanding how we can best work together: We discussed the need for foundational advice and advice that looks at the whole picture. We put the wealth management services aside for now but we are going to take advantage of the estate planning services, something my husband and I hadn’t really considered before.

Understanding her financial planning fees: After discussing details like our household income, net worth, and income sources, our planner labeled us “medium complexity”. She quoted us a rate of $125 per month – this includes four face to face meetings per year, and access to her expertise on an on-going basis.

I would recommend you take the time to meet with a financial planner and see how you can make your money work for you.

Do you meet with a financial planner? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Take Care of Your Money, So It Will Take Care of You

Taking care of your money is one of the most important personal finance principles to enact if you expect it to take care of you in your retirement years. It’s not just a matter of pinching pennies – it also means spending wisely and investing thoughtfully. Here are some great ways to take care of your money so you can rely on it later:

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  • Build an emergency fund: then your money can take care of you when your car breaks down, you experience unexpected medical bills, or job loss without having to rely on credit cards or taking on additional debt.
  • Get out of debt: not paying interest on your debt or credit card balance is a great start on the path to respecting your money and making it work for you. Don’t wait 5 years to pay off your car loan, try to do it in 3.
  • Spend time each month monitoring investments and savings accounts, but also try to automate a lot of the saving process so you don’t have to overthink it. Increase you retirement savings and make sure you’re maxed out at work to receive the highest match from your employer. Taking these steps now builds the foundation for your money to grow and take care of you later in life.
  • Build a budget: make sure you know where your money is going and if you can feel good about each dollar spent knowing that it is taking care of your money.

These steps can help you track and take care of every dollar so it will take care of you later.

How do you take care of your money? Let me know in the comments below.

Do You Talk With Your Kids About Money?

The average American household debt is $5,700 and total outstanding U.S. consumer debt is $3.4 trillion, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve. I think these numbers could be improved by introducing the concept of money to children early and teaching them to make good financial decisions that can set them up for success later in life.

Talking to your kids about money can instill a sense of ownership in their belongings and how they get them. It will help them understand how much things cost and how long you have to work in order to earn the things you want. Growing up, I had an early understanding of why my parents had to go to work and what their paychecks went towards, such as rent, food etc. This exposure to the concept of money influenced me to be cognizant of its power and respect what good money habits can enable a person to achieve.

I’m not advocating that you stick a calculator in your child’s hand and have them work out your monthly expenses, but exposure to a few basic concepts can help give them foundational context for what they see in a consumer-based world. Simple things, like:

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  • How to save: Saving birthday or Christmas money for something they really want later on teaches discipline and reinforces the concept of delayed gratification. This is a useful tool to teach them how to save their first paycheck and to understand that they don’t always get what they want instantly.
  • How the bills get paid: Show them what causes the water and utility bills to rise and how they get paid – do you use bill pay? Do you send a check in the mail? Show them how the process works and how money goes out.
  • How credit card works: Credit is an important tool that should be exposed to children early with the understanding that it is like borrowing money to pay later.

What financial lessons are you teaching your kids? Let me know in the comments below.

How to Build a Financially Strong Marriage

Finances are the leading cause of stress in a relationship, according to a survey by SunTrust Bank, some 35 percent of all respondents experiencing relationship stress said money was the primary cause of friction. My husband and I talk about money all the time – specifically how quickly we can pay off our mortgage. But unfortunately, not all couples enjoy having these discussions like we do about budgeting, spending and debt. Let’s look at three easy steps you can take now to build a financially strong marriage.

Financially strong marriage

  • Practice open and honest communication: Trust you partner with all things financial and honestly tell them how much you make and how much debt you have. Ideally, this should be a conversation that happens before you say I do, but if you haven’t already, start now. Open communication is key to maintaining a financially strong marriage by making sure your partner knows both the good and the bad. Show them your student loan and credit card debt paperwork as well as your savings account and investment balances.
  • Create short and long-term financial goals together: Getting on the same page financially is especially important to create shared goals and milestones. Do you have the same financial mindset and goals? Is one of you a saver and the other a spender? Share the budgeting and bill paying duties equally so you’re both in the loop about how much comes in and how much goes out.
  • Begin banking jointly while also keeping separate accounts: Experts recommend having a joint account that both of your paychecks get deposited into and the household bills get paid out of as well as separate accounts for personal money to spend however you like. It’s important to maintain joint expenses together but still have the freedom to spend on gifts and necessities out of personal accounts without having to always explain everything to your partner.

How do you and your partner handle the finances? Let me know in the comments below.

3 Reasons to Invest In the Stock Market

NASDAQ, S&P 500, DOW Jones…what does it all mean? The stock market can be overwhelming for beginners but it’s an effective tool to make money. I read an interesting article this week from the U.S. News about reasons to get into the market, and it helped crystallize a couple of really good points about investing.

According to Sam Seiden, chief education officer at Online Trading Academy, the stock market is one of the biggest wealth creators in history. Here are 3 reasons to start investing in the market and claiming your own piece of the pie:

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  1. The stock market fluctuates, but will go up over time. Due to 401(k) programs and other retirement plans, there are huge direct investments into the stock market each month that usually force prices higher, Seiden says. “When a company in the S&P 500, Nasdaq, or Dow Jones industrial average doesn’t perform well, the exchange simply removes it and replaces it with a better one, helping prop up prices,” Seiden says. He also says it is in Wall Street’s best interest to have stock market prices move higher because many of the firms own much of the stock themselves.
  2. You don’t necessarily need to pick a “killer” stock. Investing can be done on a micro-level with individual stocks or on a macroeconomic level by purchasing a basket of indexes that map back to the Standard and Poor’s 500 index or other global benchmarks. “You can invest in mutual funds but those come with higher fees,” Seiden says. “You can invest in individual stocks, which will tend to have the biggest market moves, or ETFs. You can also invest in options on the stock market, which offers lower capital investing and more customized strategies.” Start by creating goals and deciding what strategy you will use to achieve them.
  3. Compound interest is still the most powerful force in the universe. Starting early and saving often is always better. For example, if an investor begins investing $3,600 per year at age 25 for 15 years at an 8 percent interest rate and then stops, she will have earned $1,050,000 by age 70. If another investor begins investing $3,600 per year at age 40 and does it for 30 years at an 8 percent interest rate, she will only have earned $450,000.

Try to think of investing in the stock market as your long-term strategy that takes time and patience. You’re not going to become rich overnight but can slowly build wealth as you build a portfolio of stocks over time.

What’s stopping you from jumping into the stock market? Let me know in the comments below.

 

How to Have Fun in Reno on a Budget

The Biggest Little City in the World offers great attractions with even better price tags. One of Reno’s great features is the convenient and accessible mix of urban and outdoor locations. Whether it’s taking in a free concert in Wingfield Park or getting out to stretch your legs, you don’t have to go far or sacrifice your cell phone service to find some adventure. If you want to have fun on a budget look no further:

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  1. Hiking: Reno offers more than just a hike through the downtown casinos! There are many great opportunities to get outside for free and take a stroll through beautifully maintained trails hidden within the city itself. Some of the most popular trails are Hunter Creek Trail, which is known for the waterfall at the end, and Bartley Ranch Regional Park which has several trails to choose from.
  2. Aces Ballpark: enjoy a night of baseball with a General Admission Ticket for only $8 to the 9,000+ seat ballpark. Or, take in a game with the newly formed Reno 1868 USL soccer team who play in the same arena.
  3. Nevada Museum of Art: located downtown, the Nevada Museum of Art features stunning exhibits that change often and offer something for everyone. These price tags can’t be beat: $10 for general admission, $8 for students and seniors, $1 for children 6 to 12 years old and free for children 5 and under. The view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains from the rooftop is an exhibit all by itself!

Reno is more than meets the eye and offers great opportunities to explore and expand your horizons without breaking the bank.

What’s your favorite Reno activity on a budget? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Why Isn’t Personal Finance Taught in Schools?

Chemistry, English, Math, Spanish, U.S. History… where’s the finance class?! I asked myself this question in high school, as I flipped through the course catalog, looking for some sort of Introduction to Business or Basic Finance class. Because I had never had the opportunity to take a business or finance class, I started out my first year of college as an “Undecided” major, only knowing that I was interested in business but unsure of what that entailed. I had to use my first year of college to navigate the business school with help from college counselors and professors, eventually choosing to major in Finance and minor in Accounting. Introductory courses in high school would have helped me tremendously in college preparedness and starting my educational life on the right path.

Only 17 states require high school students to take a course in personal finance. Data released from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s Investor Education Foundation reveals that high school students who are required to take personal finance courses have better average credit scores and lower debt delinquency rates as young adults. The study found “notable improvements” in credit outcomes for 18-22 year olds in three states – Idaho, Georgia and Texas – where financial education mandates are considered rigorous by the Council for Economic Education.

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Teaching high school students some basic information about student loans and credit cards would set them up for success for their entire lives. When they first step foot on a college campus they would be better prepared to understand what they’re signing before being attracted to credit card vendors on campus enticing them with a free t-shirt. A lot of parents don’t teach their children the basics because they may not understand it themselves. Public high schools in every state should be required to offer a personal finance course for those interested. It can save students from making financial mistakes early on that put them behind for years to come. Basic material covered should include:

  • Student loans
  • Credit cards
  • Car loans
  • Savings accounts
  • Investing
  • Mortgages

Wait…this sounds fun! Can I teach it?

Why do you think more schools don’t offer business classes? Did your high school offer a finance class? Let me know in the comments below.