Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Gold Wrapping Paper

Once upon a time, there was a man who worked very hard just to keep food on the table for his family. This particular year a few days before Christmas, he punished his little five-year-old daughter after learning that she had used up the family's only roll of expensive gold wrapping paper.

As money was tight, he became even more upset when on Christmas Eve he saw that the child had used all of the expensive gold paper to decorate one shoebox she had put under the Christmas tree. He also was concerned about where she had gotten money to buy what was in the shoebox.

Nevertheless, the next morning the little girl, filled with excitement, brought the gift box to her father and said, "This is for you, Daddy!"

As he opened the box, the father was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, now regretting how he had punished her.

But when he opened the shoebox, he found it was empty and again his anger flared. "Don't you know, young lady," he said harshly, "when you give someone a present, there's supposed to be something inside the package!"

The little girl looked up at him with sad tears rolling from her eyes and whispered: "Daddy, it's not empty. I blew kisses into it until it was all full."

The father was crushed. He fell on his knees and put his arms around his precious little girl. He begged her to forgive him for his unnecessary anger.

An accident took the life of the child only a short time later. It is told that the father kept this little gold box by his bed for all the years of his life. Whenever he was discouraged or faced difficult problems, he would open the box, take out an imaginary kiss, and remember the love of this beautiful child who had put it there.

In a very real sense, each of us has been given an invisible golden box filled with unconditional love and kisses from our children, family, friends and God.

During this holiday season we hope you cherish all those who have given you their unconditional love.  Happy holidays from all of us here at Family Investment Center!

To read more inspiring short Christmas stories, click here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Superfunding a 529 College Savings Plan

According to a Reuters article shared by CNBC.com earlier this week "Should You Superfund Your 529 College Savings Plan?", college costs have reached an average of $40,917 a year for a private four-year college and $18,391 for a state school, as researched by the College Board.  These high numbers along with ever-increasing tax rates have affluent families and wealthy grandparents considering strategically "superfunding" a 529 college savings plan as a way to aggressively cover college costs while also saving on taxes.

If you are interested in finding out about the benefits of contributing to a 529 plan, click here to read the full article.

Monday, December 9, 2013

10 Tips for a Fresh Financial Start

By Suze Orman

With the start of a new year just around the corner, those with current financial burdens may be seeking advice on a fresh start.  Luckily we found a helpful article published by O Magazine and written by internationally acclaimed personal financial expert Suze Orman titled "10 Tips for a Fresh Financial Start".

Whether you are currently or soon-to-be in need of a financial clean slate, this article provides advice about how to get back on track.  Listed below are the 10 tips provided in the article, but you can click here if you would like to read the article in its entirety.

1. No blame, no shame
2. Take a snapshot of your finances
3. Adopt a fool-proof credit card strategy
4. Try harder to save
5. Separate savings from investments
6. Know your credit score
7. Evaluate your retirement plan
8. Diversify your assets
9. Don't obsess over your home's value
10. Protect your family and your nest egg

Click here if you would like to visit Suze Orman's website.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Hidden Costs of the Holidays & Holiday Season Checklist

SmartAboutMoney (SAM) recently posted an enlightening article titled "Hidden Costs of the Holidays".  The article outlines expenses for non-gift items that consumers tend to forget about when planning their holiday shopping budget, and also provides readers with "SAM's Smart Tip" to help save a little more on these purchases.   Click here to read the full article.

Also, click here for SmartAboutMoney's Holiday Season Checklist, which can help you budget correctly for this year's shopping season.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Retirement Plan Gone Awry: What Do I Do Now?

By Olivia Sandham 

Type the word “retirement” into any search engine and you’ll be directed toward hundreds of web pages, articles, and videos presenting advice on how to save and invest for your retirement.  But what if you’ve already been retired for several years, you are already collecting Social Security, and after taking a closer look, you begin to realize that you will soon be outliving your retirement fund?  You may have planned ahead by saving and investing for decades pre-retirement, but somehow it simply hasn’t been enough to cover your expenses post-retirement.  Although this can be an overwhelming realization, there are several options available, many of which do not require financial expertise.  With a little motivation and “Thinking Outside the Box”, you can remain financially secure throughout retirement.

Option 1:  Re-enter the workforce.  Although you may not be as energetic as you once were, consider finding simple work for modest pay.  Think Outside the Box:  This job does not have to be a traditional position.  For example, parents are happy to pay for a reliable person to watch their children, and grown children are happy to pay for a reliable person to help tend to aging parents.  If you work in a more traditional position, you might be entitled to free services or discounts which could work in your favor during retirement as well.

Option 2:  Offer your knowledge or skills.  After decades of working you most likely picked up a few tips and tricks along the way, which someone may be seeking.  Advertise with your local newspaper offering your services as an informal mentor or advisor in fields in which you have some expertise.  Think Outside the Box:  If you don’t have money to spend on a newspaper ad, ask your local shopping markets and retailers if you can post a sign or flyer for free.  And of course, spread the word with your family and friends.

Option 3:  Prioritize your spending.  It’s easier to stay financially viable during retirement if you are paying attention to your expenses.  Look for deals on needed items, lessen finances spent on clothing, entertainment, and travel, and watch out for spending too much on loved ones.  Think Outside the Box:  Some not-so obvious changes in spending patterns that can make a difference during retirement.  These include using liquid forms of payment (cash, check, debit card) rather than racking up interest bills on credit cards, buying generic rather than name brands, and doing any necessary shopping at church/charity stores.  Any of these adjustments can certainly add up in your favor over time.

Option 4:  Turn your assets into cash.  You may own a home, car, valuables, or life insurance policies which could be converted into liquid assets.  Think Outside the Box:  Converting to liquid assets doesn’t always mean the asset has to be sold.  A reverse mortgage may allow you to withdraw equity from your home without having to moveAlso, consider the possibility of renting out a room in your house, or even consider renting your entire house and living with friends or relatives, or in a modest apartment.

Option 5:  Re-invest and re-grow your nest egg.  Once you follow the previous suggestions, you might start to find extra finances available.  Rather than spending or only saving these funds, stay on track with what you have been doing and look into ways to reinvest your small amounts of income.  Just because you are retired does not mean you can’t continue to grow your nest egg.  Think Outside the Box:  Traditional thinking says the older we are, the less risky our investments should be.  However, since you do not have as big of a nest egg as you did years ago, investing with a little more risk tolerance might create more growth.

Option 6:  Get by with a little help from your friends.  It can be tough to ask people for help, since most of us like to feel independent, and having to explain that we fear outliving our savings can seem embarrassing.  However, it is very likely that you have a lot of people in your life that would be happy to help, even for a short period of time.  They can be friends or family.  This is not the time to be stubborn with pride; rather this is the time to be smart and reach out to others.  Think Outside the Box:  Look into retirement resources and services available within your community, such as services provided at your local church or within a nearby retirement community.

Option 7:  Get in touch with an expert.  Expert financial advisors might take a peek into your assets, liabilities, income, and expenses and give you a better picture of what changes you need to make.  Experts may also be able to help you make adjustments in your investments or assets which you may not have otherwise been aware were options for you.  Think Outside the Box:  If you don’t have the funds to seek ongoing expert advice, at the very least try to find a non-profit firm or government agency who would be willing to offer a short analysis for free.  It doesn’t hurt to make a phone call and ask.  And as always, make sure to utilize your network of friends and family to see if they know anyone who might be willing to help.  Good luck!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

HOW-TO: Keep Spending Under Control During the Holidays

The Southeast Missourian daily newspaper published a time-relevant online article entitled “Holiday Budgeting: Some Ways to Keep Your Holiday Spending Under Control.” We have included the article in this post, or you can click here to read the article in its original form. Comment below to let us know if you found any of these suggestions helpful!

Holiday Budgeting: Some Ways to Keep Your Holiday Spending Under Control

By Robyn Gautschy

A little budgeting before and during the holiday season wouldn’t do you any harm. On the contrary, if you are searching for a way to get out of debt, getting appropriate financial advice before the gift-giving season begins is the best thing that you can do. Most people spend a lot of money on travel, entertaining and presents during the holidays. A significant part of expenditure is done on credit, at huge interest rates. This brings along a lot of debt, which usually destroys people’s cheer after the holiday. If you wish to avoid this, you should check the following 10 tips, which explain how you can have a great holiday without risking some unpleasant financial consequences:

1. Make a List:   Writing down the items that you want to purchase can help you to avoid spending money on unnecessary things. Additionally, the list will remind you to buy everything that you need in order to spend a wonderful holiday with your family.

2. Always Stick to Your Budget:  Another great financial tip that can help you to avoid holiday overspending is to stay within your budget. If you are tempted to spend more money than you should, you can shop together with one of your friends, who can provide a voice of reason whenever you need it.

3. Look Out for Bargains:  Although you cannot find some really good deals during the holiday season, there are major price variations among the same products provided by different stores. To benefit from these variations, you should take the time to compare certain offers. Another great idea would be to look for presents before prices go up for the official shopping season.

4. Check Return Policies:  It is very important to verify the return policies of various stores prior to buying gifts. This is because these policies indicate the terms that all customers who intend to return goods must comply with. These terms mainly relate to time frames and condition of goods.

5. Record Your Purchases:  This is another useful financial tip for the holiday season. Keeping track of your purchases can help you to understand whether you will exceed the limit of your budget or not.

6. Choose the Right Payment Methods:  If you wish to lower your debt, it is very important to leave the credit card at home. The best payment methods include debit cards, checks and cash.

7. Transfer Your Credit Card Balance to a Low-Interest Credit Card:  If you possess a low-interest card, you should transfer the balance of the high-interest cards to it. This can be a very lucrative financial practice because paying off $1,000 at 6% instead of 18% interest will save you a lot of money.

8. Use Stores’ Point Structure:  Numerous stores are involved in cash-back reward programs, which offer rebates on particular purchases. Although most programs only offer small discounts, these can add up to a substantial savings over one year.

9. Get Gift Cards: Using gift cards in order to keep your budget under control is a truly beneficial idea. Occasionally, this type of deal helps people to get two gifts for the price of one.

10. Use Coupons:  A large number of websites offer coupons that can bring you significant discounts, especially during the gift-giving season.

The time to look for financial advice is before the official holiday shopping season starts. Although shopping might not be as much fun as you expect, the tips presented above can help you to get through the holidays without increasing your debt.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Smart Ways to Donate this Holiday Season

With the holiday season fast approaching, many of us feel an increasing urge to give back to our local communities by supporting charities. Money Talks News recently posted a video describing the Smartest Ways to Donate to Charities. Follow these steps to ensure the money you worked so hard for will continue working hard for those in need, and make sure to listen to the Barry Birr Show on KFEQ 680AM at 9:30 a.m., Monday, November 18th to hear Dan discuss this topic further.

1. Choose a charity whose mission aligns with your passion, whether the assistance includes serving hot meals, helping families get back on their feet, counseling for crisis management, or providing shelter or supplies.

2. Research to find the most efficient charity to meet your goals. Recommended websites include Charity Navigator, the Better Business Bureau, Guide Star, and Charity Watch. Find out how much of every dollar raised goes back into the charity program, and donate to the ones with higher percentages.

3. Give directly to the charity. Do not donate through an agency or telephone solicitors, as they usually keep a large portion of the donations they collect.

4. Get yourself involved and donate your time in addition to your money. Lending an actual helping hand not only aids others in need, but it can also be very rewarding.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Retiring Early Starts Today!

If you are in your 20s or 30s, retiring early is within your reach!  Check out this video from Investopedia to learn a few tips and tricks on how you can achieve your early retirement goals.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Quiz: Do You Know the Keys to Financial Security?

The following quiz has been designed based on economic journalist Knight Kiplinger’s “8 Keys to Financial Security”, an enlightening publication with Kiplinger’s own personal financial wisdom.  The article was first introduced in 1997 in the 50th anniversary of Kiplinger Magazine, and again in both 2002 and 2008.  Along with being an economic journalist and active philanthropist, Kiplinger is the Editor in Chief of Kiplinger Washington Editors in Washington D.C.

1. Where should your money be spent or invested first?
a. Giving money to my children
b. Investing in myself
c. Paying off debts
d. Increasing my investment portfolio

ANSWER: (b) Investing in myself.  Developing and increasing your knowledge and skills through continuous education and training should be considered your most valuable asset, since this will ultimately determine your overall earning power.

2. What is one of the most important items to acquire as you move forward in life?
a. Stocks/bonds
b. A house
c. 401K
d. Insurance

ANSWER: (d) Insurance.  Prior to investing in financial assets, make sure you have enough insurance to cover the big risks in life such as serious illness, disability, or early death.  If an emergency arises, insurance will take care of it and you will not have to dip into your financial investments as much.

3. What items should you purchase using borrowing methods (credit)?
a. Everything should be purchased with credit
b. Low price, short-term items that you can pay off quickly, such as clothing, travel, and entertainment
c. High price, long-term items such as education courses or a car or home
d. You should never borrow or use credit

ANSWER: (c) High price, long-term items.  Use your borrowing methods wisely to purchase investments of lasting value, and make sure to pay off as much as possible as quickly as possible to avoid interest fees.

4. In what order should your payments take place?
a. Investments, savings, bills, credit card
b. Credit card, investments, bills, savings
c. Savings, bills, credit card, investments
d. Bills, investments, credit card, savings

ANSWER: (a) Investments, savings, bills, credit card. Trim and prioritize your spending so that you are able to pay into your mutual fund, money market, or brokerage account first so these investments can continue to grow.  Then add money to your savings account/emergency fund and pay all of your regular monthly bills.  Finish up by making a payment toward your credit card or other debts.

5.  What is the best method to investing?
a. Take big risks; the more times you swing, the more homeruns you will hit.
b. Take moderate risks; you hit some and you miss some.
c. Take a risk and swing only when you think the time is right.
d. Don’t take any risks at all; you can’t lose if you don’t play.

ANSWER: (b) Take moderate risks.  Use dollar-cost averaging to invest regularly in markets whether they seem good, bad, or indifferent, and maintain the patience to wait out the occasional bear market.

6. What should be included in your investment portfolio?
a. Strictly liquid assets, such as savings and cash accounts
b. Only safer investments like bonds and CDs
c. Only high return assets such as stocks and high-yield bonds
d. All of the above

ANSWER: (d) All of the above. Successful investors know that each asset category will perform at some point, and on the reverse, each category will also have a time of lull.  Having a diversified portfolio with all of these types of assets will ensure the best performance over the long-haul.

7. Which famous quote should be your personal money mantra?
a. “We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” –Aristotle
b. “I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money.” –Pablo Picasso
c. “You only live once, but if you work it right, once is enough.” –Joe E. Lewis
d. “A penny saved is a penny earned.” –Benjamin Franklin

ANSWER: (a) Aristotle said it best.  Saving money is always a good idea (Franklin), but making investments allows for growth you wouldn’t otherwise experience.  Also, you shouldn’t have to feel as if you are living in poverty (Picasso), but living beyond your means (Lewis) is not the right concept either.  Instead, get in the habit of making consistent and informed financial decisions on a daily basis, and you can lead an agreeable lifestyle while keeping your long-term goals achievable.  If you need to, look closely at your current lifestyle and budget, trim back dispensable spending, and invest and save on a regular basis.

8. How generous should you be when giving your time and money to others.
a. I should occasionally give a small amount to others
b. Giving to others should come first
c. I shouldn’t give anything to others
d. I should give what I can afford to give, when I can afford it

ANSWER: (d) I should give what I can afford to give, when I can afford it.  You own financial security is connected to the financial, physical, and spiritual health of others in your community, in our nation, and in our world.  Sharing your good fortune by donating your money, time, and talent helps to create a stronger economy and a healthier, safer world, which benefits us all in the long run.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Are You Making Smart Money Moves?

A recent post under Personal Finance on the U.S. News & World Report website listed 50 Smart Money Moves. We have taken our top 30 from this list and created a "Financial Check-Up" for our blog readers. Check each smart money move you believe you follow on a regular basis, and see where your money-moves rank with our results below.

( ) Decide on financial goals.
( ) Create a spending plan.
( ) Resist retailers' enticements.
( ) Track your own spending.
( ) Don't accept posted prices (i.e. price-matching).
( ) Research products online before visiting stores.
( ) Earn money from more than one source.
( ) Negotiate your salary.
( ) Don't shy away from all debt and make sure to choose the best credit card or loan for you.
( ) Pay off high-interest-rate debt quickly.
( ) Check your credit report and build a solid credit history.
( ) Track and review account statements.
( ) Take advantage of rewards cards.
( ) Adopt a hands-off approach to investing (consider a professional).
( ) Remember the risk-versus-reward rule.
( ) Start early, invest often.
( ) Don't try to time the market, and don't follow the market every day.
( ) Check your Social Security statement online and calculate your own retirement number.
( ) Take baby steps.
( ) Save even when you're not earning.
( ) Live with family members.
( ) Look for non-financial ways to help family members.
( ) Prepare to help aging parents.
( ) Avoid sharing credit accounts.
( ) Live more simply, use fewer products, and find cheaper hobbies.
( ) Plan weekly meals.
( ) Insure yourself.
( ) Make sure you're ready for X (house, baby, retirement, etc.).
( ) Cancel/avoid catalog subscriptions.
( ) Find ways to lower your utility bills.
If you checked 0 to 10 Smart Money Moves, you are:
Moving at the Speed of Slow.  Though you may not be where you should be now, there’s still hope!  Which of the above are you doing regularly and which areas do you need to work on?  Consider the ways you can start to implement these things into your life, put them into practice, and monitor as you go.  You’ll be glad you did.  If you need help getting started, don’t be afraid to ask for it!
If you checked 11 to 20 Smart Money Moves, you are:
Moving in the Right Direction.  So you’re not quite there, but don’t give up.  Be sure to track your progress and make adjustments when necessary.  If you need advice to reach your goals, contact a professional.
If you checked 21 to 30 Smart Money Moves, you are:
Moving toward Financial Freedom...and freedom is fun!  Way to go!  You’ve worked very hard and it’s paying off.  Slip-ups and setbacks can (and likely WILL) happen, so be careful not to regress backward.  Keep up the good work and you can enjoy the fruits of financial freedom!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

PIMCO: Stay The Course

PIMCO (PacificInvestment Management Company, LLC) produced a market-relevant article earlier this month entitled “Stay The Course”.  This article discusses four (4) reasons why long-term investors should remain focused on their goals and not fear rising rates.  Click here to view the full article (with visuals!) in PDF form.

1)  Rising Rates Build Income:  With interest being the primary driver of bond returns, reinvesting into a gradually rising rate environment can actually help build long-term growth.  When rates rise, new bonds may pay higher, which can increase what you (as a lender) receive in the long run.
2)  Lower Volatility Helps Preserve Capital:  During uneasy times in the market, investors are often reminded why fixed income investments can be solid anchors for their portfolios.  Bonds have historically been less volatile than stocks, while also providing capital preservation, income and growth, and low-to-negative correlations to equities.
3)  Cash ‘Safety’ Comes at a Price:  Investors concerned about market fluctuations and short-term bond volatility may be tempted to withdraw their investments until prices stabilize.  However, with cash and money market investments typically yielding rate of returns close to zero, and especially after accounting for inflation, these types of investments can actually provide a negative return.  Compounding over the long-term, maintaining investments in bonds will almost always generate a higher rate of return.
4)  Experts Have Access to a Diverse Toolset:  Although mainstream media tends to focus on U.S. Treasuries (which are the most sensitive to changing rates), the “market of bonds” is exceedingly diverse and global, including corporate and high yield bonds, mortgage-backed securities, floating rate issuers, emerging market bonds, and many others.  Since each sector or asset class responds differently to economic and market trends, a skilled bond fund manager should be capable of diversifying a portfolio which can defend against capital losses while also capturing a range of growth opportunities.
PIMCO is the world’s largest bond investor and one of the world’s largest active global fixed income investment managers.  As of the end of 2012, PIMCO had $2 trillion in assets under management.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Diversification: The Benefits of Holding a Wide Range of Investments

Last month, T. Rowe Price Investor featured an interesting article providing advice about investing in a broad range of sectors, capitalizations, and geographic regions.  The article also explains how this diverse asset allocation minimizes your exposure to risk in any one area, expands your ability to benefit from opportunities in the global economy, and reduces volatility in your portfolio.  Establishing an appropriate mix of stocks, bonds, and short-term holdings is just the beginning.  Click here to read the article and comment below to let us know how a diversified portfolio has benefitted you through recent market changes.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

How The Economic Machine Works

Narrated by American businessman Ray Dalio, this video explains the economy and its cycles in a simple and helpful way.  Dalio is the founder of Bridgewater Associates, one of the largest hedge fund investment management firms with nearly $120 billion under management.  Dalio was also listed as one of "Bloomberg Markets' 50 Most Influencial" people in 2011 and 2012.

Friday, September 27, 2013

How To: Talk to Your Spouse About Retirement

DID YOU KNOW?   Only 38% of couples are planning together and 2/3 of couples don’t agree on when they will retire, according to a 2013 study from Hearts and Wallets.  CNN Money published an insightful article this week offering advice on how to discuss retirement with your significant other.

Before jumping into discussion with your spouse, separately sit down and write out a list of all of your own desires for retirement.  This will ensure everything is brought out into the open when you discuss the topic.  Also prepare yourself to overcome the “all-me” attitude.  Plan to listen without interrupting, repeat back responses to make sure you understand and are understood, and avoid criticism.

Once you sit down face-to-face to discuss retirement desires, focus on what will make you both happy.  Ask yourselves, “What are our goals for that stage of our lives, and what will fill our time?”  This will help you figure out what retirement means to both of you, whether it be the time to kick back and relax, spend more time with your families, or travel the world together.

Don’t be afraid to openly discuss your concerns, as challenging as this may be.  The toughest topics in this area may be age differences and life expectancy.  Younger partners may want to work for years after their spouse retires, and women should consider the statistic that they tend to live longer and may outlive their husbands.  Repeat your spouse’s points to demonstrate you appreciate their view, and provide your contrasting opinions in a way that feels collaborative. 

Understand the realities of your budget and plan accordingly.  Openly discuss current and future debts and investments.  Some couples may want to sit down with a financial planner who can help serve as an advisor as well as an arbiter to keep emotion out of the discussion.

Focus on the “why” versus the “what” when considering future plans, purchases, and your retirement budget.  Ask yourselves “WHY should we do this?” when considering making special purchases or investments.  Keeping this focus will help push you toward compromises that are in tune with both your heart’s desires, and are within reach of your finances.

Overall, when discussing retirement with your spouse, maintain the emphasis that you are both moving forward toward a happy and fulfilling life together.  Although you may not agree on a few specifics just yet, concentrate on your similarities and keep the focus on your wants and needs as a couple first.

And remember, as with any financial plan, there should always be flexibility.  Nothing is set in stone, so revisit your retirement plans as often as you would your investment portfolios.

To view the full article, click here.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

5 Ways to “UP” Your 401(k) Plan

By Olivia Sandham

1. “BUMP UP” your deferral rate.
The average 401(k) deferral rate lingers near 4%, but this doesn’t mean your investment has to.  Increase your deferral to 10% of your paycheck, and your deferral combined with the company match will build an income base that can last in retirement.  Find out if your plan has an auto-escalation feature, which will allow you to automatically raise your deferrals incrementally over time.

2. “CHANGE UP” your fund allocation.
Over the long term, it takes time and skill to choose 401(k) funds successfully.  What seemed like the proper allocation when you were 25 will most likely change when you are 10-15 years older.  If periodically assessing your funds seems time-consuming, a target date fund or asset allocation fund may be more appropriate.

3. “SAVE UP” your account.
There may be a handful of valid reasons for pulling cash from your 401(k), such as a new home or business purchase, or for an emergency situation.  But you could be charged a 10% tax penalty on early distributions taken before you are 59½, and you may have to repay the loan within 60 days.  Instead, consider your 401(k) strictly as a retirement savings account: money goes in and stays in until retirement.  If you do have to take a loan, repay it as soon as possible so your money can get back to work for you in the market.

4. “FOLLOW UP” on your investments.
Make a plan for your 401(k) and keep an eye on it to ensure you are still on track to meet your savings goals.  A 401(k) is a long-term investment, which means there will be highs and lows in performance, so you should periodically check to make sure you’re on track.  Review and keep your quarterly statements, but don’t preoccupy yourself with looking at your account every day.  An appropriate time to reevaluate your 401(k) plan on an annual basis would be during re-enrollment so you can make any necessary adjustments.

5. “LINE UP” your future budget.
Once you’ve retired, you will rely on your 401(k) savings as a stream of income.  Before reaching too near to that point, get an idea of what your future expenses will be.  Understanding how your lifestyle will be during retirement will help you make sure your 401(k) plan will be able to cover these costs.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Introverts Versus Extroverts in the Investment World

Which makes a better investor: an introvert or an extrovery?  Yahoo Finance reported an interesting article on this topic.  A clinical psychologist, Laurie Helodge, explained how extroverts are attracted to investing for the thrill they get from it. Thrill-loving can be an indicator of big risk taking.

Warren Buffet is a very good example of an introverted investor. He has taken risks but those risks were taken after much thought and research. An introvert will tend to gather more research before taking a risk. Introverts are reluctant to spontaneous decisions.

Investing behaviors can be tracked all the way back to our genes. Dopamine is what causes extroverts to get a high from investing by focusing on high achievements. Saratonin is what causes introverts to calm down. Both extroverts and introverts have their share of downsides. An extrovert might act too quickly, whereas an introvert might be overly cautious and miss a great opportunity in relying on more research.

This research is important because it reminds both introverts and extroverts to put themselves in an environment that they can perform at their best. For extroverts, an environment with lots of stimulation and background noise (even if it is just music). For introverts, a low-stimulated and quiet space. "Extroverts can learn when it is time to pull back and gather more information," advises Helgoe. "And introverts can learn when it is time to trust their analysis and push forward."

To read the full article, click here.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Could I flip a house?

If you are considering flipping a house, whether you enjoy working on houses, want to earn profit, or any other reason, this article offers insightful advice: How House Flipping Works

Monday, August 19, 2013

Shh! The Secrets to Investor Happiness are Revealed

Want to know the secrets? Marketwatch filled us in on the secrets and we are sharing them with you!

1. Stop worrying about what other people think
You will be a much happier individual if you stop comparing your financial situation with those of others.

2. Be honest
If you are honest with what you want and where you stand in certain areas in your life, it is easier to be honest with others. You have to be honest with yourself first.

3. Avoid buyers remorse
Just because an investment might not go the way it was supposed to, it doesn't mean that it will always be low performing.

4. Advocate for yourself
You aren't afraid to ask the doctors for clarification, so why not ask your advisors questions about your portfolio? They are there to help you and want to answer your questions! If you don't speak up, there becomes a disconnect between you and your money. It is important to stay actively involved in your portfolio's management to make sure you and your advisor are on the same page to best meet the goals you have.

5. Don't be afraid
A well-diversified portfolio should ease a lot of nervous investors' minds.  Rises and falls in portfolio value are normal.  It is important to not be afraid and know that your advisor is looking out for you!

To read more about the secrets of investor happiness click here.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

More Money Doesn't Always Bring More Happiness

Yahoo Finance shares a fasinating book, "Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending," written by two behavioral scientists: Dr. Elizabeth Dunn and Dr. Michael Norton. Within this book are five ways to make you a happier individual in the long run.

1. Buy more experiences and less material items.
"Research shows experiences provide more happiness than material goods in part because experiences are more likely to make us feel connected to others," Dunn and Norton write. With that being said, before you go buy a brand new iPhone, realize that a dinner with friends could bring you more satisfaction than the phone purchase.

2. Direct your focus on buying more time and less on getting more money.
"Wealthier individuals tend to spend more of their time on activities associated with relatively high levels of tension and stress, such as shopping, working, and commuting." It is important to incorporate things that you enjoy doing into your hectic schedule. You will find yourself being much happier if you better balance your work and personal life.

3. Realizing you can be house rich and happiness poor.
Studies have shown that people that buy a bigger house are happier with their house but not happier with their lives. It may be time to rethink such a large purchase if it doesn't contribute to our overall happiness.

4. Overindulgence can make the good things lose their sparkle.
When you have more financial resources available, why not indulge whenever you want? If you had your favorite ice cream cone every single night after dinner, you might just get sick of it! As with bigger material items, over indulgence can make those purchases lose their sparkle. "This is the sad reality of the human experience: The more we're exposed to something, the more its impact diminishes," Dunn and Norton write.

5. Focus more on others and less on yourself.
You will actually feel happier in the process of helping others. "In [a study] of more than 600 Americans, personal spending accounted for the lion's share of most people's budgets," the authors write. "But the amount of money individuals devoted to themselves was unrelated to their overall happiness. What did predict happiness? The amount of money they gave away. The more they invested in others, the happier they were." You might not feel as good as you thought you would after making a monetary donation. The reason is you might not be physically seeing your money be put to use. Make sure to stay in the loop with the organization you are donating to so that you feel more engaged!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bonds 101

Check out this is a short video on bonds produced by Investopedia!

Investors recieve a bond in exchange for money which serves as a loan to the bond issuer. When the bond matures, you will receive the face value of that bond. The face value is what you initally paid for the bond. The interest of a bond is known as the coupon. The investor is promised to recieve the full par at the maturity date with regular interest payments.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Ten Things You Need to Know About Stocks


      This week’s “pin” features stocks. We have compiled a list of basic stock fundamentals with links to further explain the material provided.


    1)   Sectors.  Sectors are a way of categorizing and classifying stocks. They are typically classified by type of business or industry.  The fastest growing sectors are currently the health and technology industries, although that varies often. 

    2)   Growth vs. Value.  Growth stocks are just as they sound: they are anticipated to grow at an above-average rate.  Value stocks, on the other hand, are viewed as bargains in the sense that the market has undervalued the stock and the investor hopes to get in before the market corrects the price.

   3)   Company size (“capitalization”).  A company’s size is measured by its market capitalization.   Large-cap companies are typically established with a lower growth prospective than small cap. Small-cap companies tend to have higher growth potential in the long run, but investors may see more volatility with small-cap stocks since small companies have a higher likelihood of running into trouble as they expand.

   4)   Risk.  The possibility of a stock performing worse than expected.  There are many types of risk that an investor must consider, such as market risk, political risk, business risk, and others.  Typically, the larger the risk, the larger the possibility for return. The best way to minimize your risk is to properly diversify your portfolio.

   5)   Taxation.  Your income and capital gains are taxed unless the stocks are held in certain types of retirement accounts.  Some investment strategies can reduce tax liability, but as with all other investment considerations, this must be done with care and prudence.   

   6)   Trade fees.   These fees are imposed when stock is bought or sold.  Some brokers will label this fee as a “transaction fee.”  Trade fees can range in price, so be sure to research a broker’s fees before making transactions.

   7)   Cyclical vs. Defensive.  Cyclical stocks are sensitive to the economic cycle.  In tight economic times, people are less likely to spend money on unnecessary items, such as retail and entertainment, which can impact cyclical stock prices.  Defensive stocks include necessary items, such as food and medicine.  For this reason, defensive stocks tend to change very little when the economy declines.

   8)   Selecting stocks.   The first step in selecting a stock to purchase is to determine your objective and risk tolerance.  You must also remember the importance of diversification, as investing in a single company is much riskier than investing in, say, eight or ten companies.  The more you know about a company and about the current market, the better.  You can also narrow your search for stocks using a stock screening tool.   

   9)   Diversification.  This is a technique used to reduce risk in a portfolio whereby a variety of investments are placed within a portfolio instead of investing in only a few companies.  As an example, Charles Schwab & Company has created the following visual representation showing how to diversify your portfolio:


   10) Stocks vs. Mutual Funds.  Mutual funds are used to diversify a portfolio better than individual stocks allow.  Each mutual fund contains holdings of several different individual securities, allowing an investor to easily spread his or her investment dollars among several companies instead of just one.  Another advantage of mutual funds over stocks is that each fund has a professional manager of its own, who buys and sells securities within the fund so the individual investor doesn’t have to.  Every investor is different, so individual circumstances must be fully considered when constructing a portfolio. 


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