Thursday, July 31, 2014

Change

By Olivia Sandham

Family Investment Center recently introduced our new logo and website.  Our new website includes much more than the basics, including dozens of useful financial calculators and interesting articles, as well as an area for our very own blog.  With the ability to now post directly to our website blog, we will no longer be utilizing this blog page for our newest posts.  In honor of our transition, we would like to make our final post on this blog page devoted to change.

First, let’s do an exercise with a pen and piece of paper.  Write down the words and phrases that come to mind when you ponder “change”.  What thoughts and feeling arise?  Take a few minutes to complete this exercise, and allow yourself to write down everything that comes to mind, staying focused on what “change” means to you.

Now, set your pen down and look at your paper.  Would you describe the words and phrases you wrote as positive overall or negative overall?

Quite often, many people have a negative perspective regarding change.  Some might believe “the familiar” is comfortable and secure, while “change” is scary and uncertain.  Sticking with what we know gives us the perception of balance and control, and sometimes might seem like the easier option.  If we don’t change, we can remain in a pattern and we don’t have to face challenges or difficulties.

But what does change really mean?  According to Dictionary.com, one of the definitions of change is “A transformation or modification; alteration (noun). Notice this definition does not include a positive or negative connotation.  Therefore, change can be perceived however we choose, and change doesn’t have to be feared.

Instead, with the right mindset, change could be seen as positive.  Sure, change can be uncertain, but facing the unknown increases knowledge and experience.  Change can bring challenge, but with challenge comes growth and opportunity.  Change can make things seem out of control – but are we truly in control if we are not exercising our right to be different or choose differently?

In fact, lack of change can actually have many negative connotations as well.  How enticing does “staying the same” or “stuck in a routine” sound?  What would you have written down if we had performed the same exercise for the words uniformity, monotony, or stagnant - all of which are opposite of change?

As the famous Mahatma Ghandi quote reads, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”  If you want to view change as a positive, positive outcomes will be all around you.  If you choose to see change as a negative, then you can stay in your “same old routine” and everything around you will stay the same as well.

The amount of effort and work behind implementing the new Family Investment Center logo and website changes was great, and it was indeed challenging.  Weeks were spent making decisions regarding color schemes, wording, and editing.  But as you can see by visiting our new, colorful and useful website and by checking out our new blog area, this change has been well worth it.  We hope you will embrace this change with us, and consider embracing changes in your life as well.

Friday, July 11, 2014

For Richer or Poorer: Financial Tips for Engaged Couples & Newlyweds

This week, one of our very own advisors posted as a guest blogger on StJoeWedding.com.  Laura Price, Investment Advisor and Chief Compliance Officer, covered the always relevant topic of finances for engaged couples and newlyweds.

Quite often, couples make the mistake of waiting until after marriage to discuss their money situation.  Although financial circumstance is not the easiest of conversations, it is one of the most crucial for any successful and long-lasting relationship.

Click here to read the guest blog Laura wrote, titled "For Richer or Poorer: Financial Tips for Engaged Couples & Newlyweds".

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Celebrating Your Financial Freedom

Independence Day or “the Fourth of July” is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, which declared freedom from what is now known as the United Kingdom.  This day is commonly full of celebrations including fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, and more.
 
In honor of Independence Day and our logo, “Money is freedom. Freedom is fun,” we would like to recognize a few of the many characteristics of being financially free.  If you find that you meet these characteristics or are continuously striving toward them, then you should have even more reason to celebrate this year!
  • You are happy with what you have and you are grateful for your blessings.
  • You have financial goals and you are continuously moving forward toward them.
  • You are patient and work for what you want.
  • You are prepared with an emergency fund and an extra savings fund for life's little "what if's".
  • You understand that financial wealth takes time and effort.
  • You are responsible with your money and properly handle your debts.
  • You manage your spending and always have money left after your paycheck.
  • You invest in a long term strategy that builds wealth surely and steadily over time.
On this year's holiday, we wish you lots of love and laughter, and as always we hope you have happy and safe celebrations!  Happy Independence Day from the entire FIC family!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Test Your Skills - Financial Soccer

Has your enthusiasm for the game of soccer been kicked into high gear with the recent excitement of the World Cup?  Now you too can join in on the fun of getting away from the sidelines and onto the playing field online, while also stretching your financial knowledge muscles!
 
Take a timeout from your regular routine and get your head in the game - Play a round of Visa's "Financial Soccer" and see how you score!
 
http://www.financialsoccer.com/play/
 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Make the Right “BIG” Decisions – Healthy Lifestyle Decisions (pt. 5 of 5)

By Olivia Sandham 

If you’ll recall, the very first post in this series pointed to the idea that financial and lifestyle changes to improve overall wellness seemed similar because they can appear more like sacrifices and they probably wouldn’t stick in the long run.  The post concluded that trying to implement “BIG” financial and lifestyle decisions might be more worth the effort.  Since we have covered all of the financial “BIG”s in the last few posts of this series, let’s finish out the series by summarizing the “BIG” lifestyle decisions that could be made to improve your overall health.

1. Plan and Prepare Ahead:  Set aside a couple hours every few days (I use Sundays and Wednesdays, for example) to put together a healthy shopping list, buy the groceries, and portion/prepare snacks and meals in advance.

Benefits:  No more eating out because “there’s nothing in the fridge”, no more missing snacks/meals, no more microwave meals, no more worry and hassle trying to feed yourself and your loved ones (the stress alone makes me want a brownie). You can eat more healthy and more frequently, which will keep your metabolism going.  You could have more time to enjoy the meals with your loved ones, more energy from eating better, and you might even lose some unnecessary pounds.

Effort:  Planning and preparing does take some time, and certainly some effort at first if this is new to your schedule, but just like anything else you do on a continued basis, it easily becomes a habit and part of your weekly routine.  By having snacks correctly pre-portioned, vegetables and fruit already washed and cut, and meals prepared and ready to cook, you will ultimately save time and stress, which means having more free time and energy for other things.

2. Remove and Replace:  Figure out what food items are holding you back from your goals (i.e. aforementioned brownies) and remove them from your diet by replacing them with a better alternative.  You’ll be looking for less calories, less fat, less sugar, less carbs, and more protein, fiber, and vitamins.  Make small changes in your replacements so it doesn’t seem like such a leap or sacrifice.  Keep trying new and different healthy choices to see what works for you.  If you drink regular soda, try drinking juice or tea, and work your way to unsweet tea and water.  If you drink 2% or whole milk, try drinking 1% and work your way down to skim milk.  If you have a sweet tooth, replace those brownies with fruit and chocolate sauce, and eventually work your way down to eating just the fruit.  Replace your red meats with poultry by preparing them in the same fashion at first, such as using a chicken or turkey patty on your cheeseburger, or using ground turkey in your chili.  Add vegetables where you can, even if you have to add extra seasoning at first.

Benefits:  You can try new and different foods, plus fuel your body with better choices which will result in better health, focus, energy, and possibly even put you in a better mood.  And of course, you might lose some weight by choosing better food alternatives.

Effort:  This might take a little research on which foods work as good replacements and how to prepare them.  You should also pay more attention to nutrition details of items, which could take a little longer when deciding what to buy/order.  But you will be amazed how quickly your body will adapt to eating healthier food items, how little you will miss the old items, and how much better you will feel every day.

3. Focus on More:  When you think about being healthier, do the words "restrict" or "limit" or "diet" come to mind?  Why must we immediately go to the negatives when we think about being healthier?  Instead of thinking about what you could be missing or sacrificing, focus on what you WILL be getting.
  • Eat more frequently
  • Try more types of foods
  • Get more sleep
  • Drink more water
  • Do more physical activity
  • Have more energy
  • Have a more positive attitude
  • Feel more accomplished and in charge of your life
  • Possibly encounter more opportunities along the way
Benefits:  Changing your attitude, although listed as the third item in this blog, should probably be your first focus.  By focusing on MORE, everything you decide to do from here forward will be easier and seem less like a sacrifice and more like something you GET to do, GET to eat, or GET to achieve.

Effort:  This is such a simple change, but it might not be that easy.  Pay attention to your attitude when you hear that little voice inside your head, when you talk to others, and when you respond to others.  Catch yourself if you veer toward the negative or the less, and steer yourself right back on track to the positive and to the MORE.

And with that, our blog series on Making the Right Decisions concludes.  We hope you enjoyed the series and look forward to hearing how you have started making better decisions toward achieving your finance and health goals!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Make the Right “BIG” Decisions – Earn More Money (pt. 4 of 5)

By Olivia Sandham
 
Last week, we took a look at how renegotiating rates could be a “BIG” decision to improving your financial situation.  This week, we will conclude our discussion on “BIG” decisions by covering the final financial “BIG” and summarizing the lifestyle “BIG” decisions you could make.
 
E A R N   M O R E   M O N E Y
 
If your wallet has been feeling light or you look at your financial accounts at the end of every month and see less than you would like, you may want to consider trying to earn more money.  Here is a compilation of some of the many ways you could earn more money on a regular basis:
  • If you are paid hourly, ask your boss how you can earn more hours or overtime or what you can do to earn a raise.
  • Find a part-time job or become a temp.
  • Rent a spare room in your house.
  • Offer your own services such as  dog walking, babysitting, house sitting, running errands for the elderly, cleaning, landscaping, maintenance, carpentry, tutoring, coaching, photo/videography, graphic/web design, and more.
  • Sell your own products such as handmade crafts/jewelry, up-cycled garage sale items for resale, and fruits and vegetables from your garden.
  • Sell direct sales products such as Avon, Mary Kay, Scentsy, Tupperware, and others.
  • Become a blogger, mystery shopper, write product reviews, or complete surveys.
  • Get paid to wrap your vehicle in advertisements.
  • For more ideas on how to make money, check out this fairly comprehensive article I found while doing some research, titled “52 Ways to Make Extra Money”.
Benefits:  Obviously everyone wants to earn more money so they can have more money to spend right now, so they can worry less about expenses and bills, and have a better current lifestyle.  But many of these particular methods to earning more money also include other underlying benefits, such as:
  • You could invest more money toward your savings/investments, which could mean having a better lifestyle during retirement.
  • Since you will be working a little more for your money, you may be inclined to make better decisions with how you choose to spend/invest it. (cue music “You work hard for the money, so hard for it honey!”).
  • Using your free time wisely to earn more money might keep you from filling your free time by spending it.
  • Many of these activities may result in broadening your professional and social network, which could lead to even more opportunities to earn more money.
  • Many of the ways to earn more money could be intellectually and emotionally exciting and rewarding, since you could challenge yourself, learn something new, explore your creative side, help others, and more.
  • Some of the methods could also increase your level of physical activity and wellness, such as is the case with dog walking, landscaping, etc.
Effort:  Yes, earning more money takes a little more time and energy than some of the other financial “BIG”s explained in this blog series, but depending on how you go about earning the money can determine if the benefit is worth it.
  1. First, decide which method(s) of earning more money seem most appealing and get started on a plan for each.  For instance, if you’re going to talk to your boss, set up a meeting and prepare what you are going to say; if you want a part-time job, update your resume; if you’re going to offer products/services, make sure you have all the necessary supplies.
  2. Next, implement your plan of action by applying for jobs, notifying others of your available services/products (by using word-of-mouth or online sites like Craigslist, Etsy, Ebay, Fiverr, Facebook), signing up for direct sales programs, mystery shops, surveys, or whatever it takes to get your method actually started.
  3. Finally, when it comes time to get out there and “earn that dough”, give it your best effort.  For example, perform better at work than you ever have; impress your boss and co-workers at your new part-time job; be the best dog walker, baby sitter, landscaper, or graphic designer you can be; push yourself to sell more products; explore new and creative ways to earn more money.  When it comes time to actually earning the money, if you (as they say) “hit the ground running”, then you will be well on your way to earning more and more money as time progresses and your endeavors continue to succeed.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post which will wrap up our series by summarizing the three lifestyle “BIG” decisions you could make!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Make the Right “BIG” Decisions – Renegotiate Rates (pt. 3 of 5)

By Olivia Sandham

Last week, we covered how to get started making “BIG” decisions by automating payments. This week, let’s discuss our next financial “BIG” decision that can be made with little effort and sacrifice, but can also have “BIG” results.

R E N E G O T I A T E   R A T E S

More often than we may be aware, we are charged with paying many one-time fees or paying an on-going monthly or annual rate for a service. However, with a little time, patience, and a dash of gumption, you might be able to lower or completely waive fees, or you may be able to negotiate lower rates. Here is a list of some of the fees or rates you may be able to negotiate:
  • Banking fees – Maintenance fees, transaction fees, processing fees, ATM fees, overdraft fees
  • Credit card fees – Annual fees, balance transfer fees, cash advance fees, over-the-limit fees, late fees
  • Credit card interest rates
  • Vehicle – Insurance rates, maintenance/service fees
  • Home – Rent/Mortgage rates, cleaning services, construction/renovation services
  • Cable/Phone/Internet services
Benefits:
  • Getting fees lowered or waived will add up in the long run.
  • Getting recurring rates lowered will save you money so you can invest or spend it elsewhere.
  • Looking into fees and rates requires paying a little attention to your accounts, statements, and bills, which can be beneficial if there are more fees or higher rates than you were previously aware.
  • Addressing fees and looking into rate changes also compels you to research what competing banks or companies are offering. No matter the outcome of the negotiation, you can make an educated decision if you want to stick with your bank or company or if a competitor might be a better fit.
  • Feeling like a "winner".  Sometimes, the smallest successes can bring that little bit of extra joy to your day, and who doesn't want a little of that?
Effort: Negotiating and saving money could happen all the time if we paid enough attention to know when the opportunity arises. For example, if you have ever talked to your server at a restaurant about poorly cooked or seasoned food, and they accommodated you somehow (remade the food, brought you a new dish, took the dish off your bill), making other negotiations is not much different.
  1. First, be prepared with the information you will need for the negotiation.
    • Know what you want changed or waived.
    • Review your account terms and have your account information handy.
    • Have a few leverage points, such as how long you have been a good customer, in what ways you have been a good customer (always paid on time, never missed a payment, always paid more than the minimum, never had xxx fees before, brought friends and family to the company), and very importantly, know what competing banks or companies are offering relevant to the item you want to discuss.
  2. Second, contact the right person to talk to about the negotiation. Usually, it’s as simple as contacting a customer service representative. Make sure to write down the date and time you called, and the name of the representative who helps you.
  3. Next, when speaking with the representative, be polite and friendly but direct. Keep your conversation simple and ask your questions clearly and straightforward. Use the following conversation tactics as examples:
    • “I see that I was charged an xxx fee, and I would like to have that waived” or “I am curious if I am eligible for a lower rate than what I am currently paying”.
    • If the rep says no, don’t give up! This is only the start of the conversation.
    • Use one of your leverage points and ask again, “I haven’t been charged any xxx fees in the xxx years that I have been a loyal customer,” or “I have paid my monthly rate on time for the xxx years that I have been a loyal customer,” and finish with the question “So, is there anything that you can do for me?” Continue using leverage points in this manner while staying calm and straightforward, always focusing on asking if there is something THEY can do for YOU.
    • Save the last bit of leverage information you have on competing companies for your final attempt, if the conversation even gets that far. “I am still wondering if there is anything you can do for me, because xxx company doesn’t charge for that type of fee at all” or “xxx company only charges xxx rate for that service.”
    • Throughout the conversation, try not to show any signs of anger or frustration. Negotiating is about being persistent while portraying confidence and knowledge, and as good as you may or may not be at it, sometimes they will simply have to tell you “no” in the end. Then at least, you can make an educated decision of whether this is the right bank or company for you.
  4. If you get the fee or rate lowered or waived, the final bit of effort is to check your online account in a few days and look on your next statement to make sure the fees were waived or the rates have been changed.
Tune in next week, where we will finish up our financial and lifestyle “BIG” decisions that can have “BIG” results with little time and effort!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Make the Right “BIG” Decisions – Automate Payments (pt. 2 of 5)

By Olivia Sandham

Last week, our blog discussed how making small financial and health decisions and changes might not work, because many small changes are either sacrifices in disguise, or the effort outweighs the outcome.  So this week, let’s take a look at the first and most extensive financial “BIG” decision that can be made with little effort and sacrifice, but can have “BIG” results.

A U T O M A T E    P A Y M E N T S

Setting up automatic payments for any type of recurring financial debit or credit can be a very beneficial decision for your financial situation.  Here is a list of many of the types of payments you could automate.

Directly deposit your wages from your employer into your bank account
Automatically pay:
- Rent/Mortgage
- TV/Cable/Internet/Cell
- Utilities
- Subscriptions
- Insurance
- Credit Cards
- Savings
- Investments (such as an Individual Retirement Account)

Benefits:
  • No more missing payments or making mistakes on payments.  Set up automatic payments correctly and your payments will be on time and in the exact amount you want.  With direct deposit, your money will be in your account around the same time every pay period.
  • More time for the other aspects of your life.  The amount of time it takes to set up and monitor an automatic payment (which you only have to set up the ONE time) will most likely be less than what it takes to collect, open, sort, and file the bill you receive in the mail (a process that occurs every month), and that doesn’t even include the time it takes to write the check, tear off and fill out the payment stub, stamp and fill out the envelope, and put the envelope in the mail (whew!).  Also, setting up a one-time direct deposit or automatic savings/investment payment can save time and hassle of frequent visits to the bank to deposit checks or transfer funds.
  • Save money.  You could save on checks, envelopes, ink, stamps, and the cost of fuel used for trips to the store for these items, or the bank to make your deposit.  Plus, some institutions offer better account options, waive certain fees, or supply rewards or other benefits for having automatic payments/deposits or emailed statements, because it saves on their bottom line since less paper and less labor is needed.
  • Making full payments - on time, every time - will help your credit score.
  • Eliminating all that paper and driving saves on the environment.
  • Finally, automatic payments have the flexibility to update, change, or cancel your payments with just a brief phone call or a few clicks of a button online.

Effort:
  1. If you are interested in direct deposit from your employer, talk to your Human Resources department.  For most companies with direct deposit, all you need to do is fill out paperwork and supply them with a voided check, deposit slip, or letter of authorization from your bank.
  2. In order to set up automatic bill and investment payments:
    • You will first need the information for accounts you wish to automate (found on your bill or statement).
    • Next, you will want to either 1) Contact your bank and set up online bill pay, or 2) Contact the companies through which you have recurring payments and set up automatic bill pay.
    • Any of these steps can be accomplished by making a call to customer service, or setting up automatic payments online.
  3. Where possible, you may want to consider switching to companies which DO allow automatic payments.
  4. Of course, you should monitor automatic payments to make sure they are the correct amounts occurring at the correct time.  Log into your online account and look at the most recent transactions.  Remember to watch your balances, because you wouldn’t want to overdraft your payment account, or overpay a bill.
  5. For the savvy and experienced auto-payer, you could consider using a rewards credit card to pay your bills, and then pay off the full credit card balance every month.  This allows you to earn points/rewards while also making a few monthly payments from your checking account.  Again, this is ONLY recommended if you pay off the credit card balance in full every time you make a payment, because you DO NOT want to build up any more debt.
 
Next week, we will take a look at more of our financial and lifestyle “BIG” decisions that can have “BIG” results with little time and effort.  Stay tuned!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Make the Right "BIG" Decisions (pt. 1 of 5)

By Olivia Sandham




 
Earlier this week, an email circulated through our office with this article.  It is typical for us to share work-relevant articles every so often, but what was NOT typical was that for the next several minutes, everyone in the office emailed their thoughts and responses to the article.  The most memorable quote one of our advisors pulled from the article was:

“Make the right BIG decisions, and the small ones won’t mean so much.”  We even jokingly (okay, maybe seriously) considered ordering coffee mugs with this quote.

This article and our comments got me thinking (and researching) about the “small decisions” we make when attempting to better our financial position.  Several decisions could include:
  • Cut back on expensive coffee (the premise of the article)
  • Cut back on monthly subscriptions
  • Use homemade shampoo, laundry detergent, cleaners, etc.
  • Use coupons
  • Use a fan instead of air conditioning, or more clothes/blankets instead of heat
  • Buy generic brands at the grocery store
  • Buy from second-hand or thrift stores
  • Eat out less
  • Drive less
Somewhere along the lines of researching small financial changes (and maybe because it was lunch time), I ran into articles about making small diet and exercise changes to improve lifestyle.  This got me thinking, does the same quote apply?  So, I put together a list of “small decisions” we make when attempting to better our diet and exercise:
  • Use a food journal
  • Cut back on alcohol, sweets, fat, and carbs
  • Eat out less (repeat item!)
  • Walk/bike more (aka drive less - repeat item!)
Does anyone notice a trend with most of these ideas, besides the fact that they are “small” changes?  When I read this list, all I see is the word SACRIFICE.  I can’t speak for everyone, but when it comes to making any decisions that are going to stick for the long-haul, I need to be motivated and I need to feel like the change is worthwhile.  But cutting back on the small joys in my life is not motivating, and putting in a lot of extra time and effort for a small result is not a worthwhile change to me.  Here’s what comes to mind for me when I look at these ideas:
  • Cut back on expensive coffee:  The couple of extra bucks for expensive coffee might be worth it.  A smooth and flavorful coffee is either a morning ritual to get your day started (as necessary to waking up as showering in the morning), or as is the case for me, it is an occasional indulgence because I don’t drink coffee that often, so it better taste really good when I do.
  • Cut back on monthly subscriptions:  There seems to be no better deal than movies or TV shows on demand in my living room (or on-the-go smart devices) for a monthly price of what it would cost for me to go out to or rent a movie only ONE TIME.  And don’t get me started on movie theater snack prices versus snacks at home!
  • Use homemade shampoo, laundry detergent, cleaners, etc.:  Anything DIY (do-it-yourself) almost 99% of the time ends up being a BWTM (big-waste-of-time-and-money) because I make a big mess and don’t use half of it anyway because it never works as well as the real stuff.
  • Use coupons:  I am already panicking just thinking about how much extra time I would have to spend finding, cutting, organizing, and remembering to actually use coupons.
  • Use a fan instead of air conditioning, or more clothes/blankets instead of heat:  My house is a place of solace, and the temperature being (as the nursery rhyme says) “not too hot and not too cold, but just right” is an extremely important part of that.
  • Buy generic brands at the grocery store:  Most generic brands just aren't the same - they don't taste right, they don't smell right, they don't feel right!
  • Buy from second-hand or thrift stores:  Second-hand and thrift stores are okay for certain purchases (I have found some neat furniture and gifts), but there is something that just irks me about buying some items like clothes and children’s toys that have been used before by someone I don’t know.
  • Use a food journal: I feel anxiety just thinking about how much effort it takes to measure and write down every little thing that goes into my mouth.
  • Cut back on alcohol, sweets, fat, and carbs:  I don't know what happens, but if I am trying to eat less of something, I suddenly feel deprived and as if it is the only thing I want to consume, and then I feel guilty for wanting what I am not supposed to have, and it's just a big awful cycle that always seems to backfire.
  • Eat out less:  Eating out is already a once-in-a-while affair, and usually involves an event or celebration of some sort.  This would just be taking away all my fun!
  • Drive less OR walk/bike more:  If I didn’t drive as much, I would either stay at home all the time or I would have to bike/walk, and I have no desire to arrive to work or other engagements either freezing with icicles of snot running down my face, or sweating profusely out of every pore.  Plus, imagine how much earlier I would have to leave...
Okay, so you might be thinking that my inner child ("But I want that!") and my inner laziness ("But I don't wanna!") is definiting sneaking out between the lines.  But isn't that just what happens with any decision?  If we make decisions that dissatisfy our inner needs on a regular basis, how can we expect to succeed at these changes?  As you can see, it’s pretty obvious for me that the “small” changes listed above (sacrifices!), no matter how many times I try, probably aren’t going to stick.  So what kind of decisions would?  As the quote says, “Make the right BIG decisions.”   Here is a list of a few financial “BIG”s that might be better to think about:
  • Automate payments
  • Renegotiate rates
  • Earn more money
And now a list of the lifestyle “BIG”s that might stick better:
  • Plan and prepare ahead
  • Completely remove and replace “bad” food items
  • Focus on getting MORE
The “BIG” financial decisions can be exciting when accomplished and can take very little time and work, sometimes just a few minutes online or over the phone.  And the lifestyle “BIG”s can be fun and effortless, too.  What's great about these decisions is you only have to find the nerve once in a while to implement these changes, and the best part, they could actually SATISFY your inner needs instead of making them feel like sacrifices!

Read our blog for next week as we dive into the tips and tricks on how you could accomplish each of these “BIG” decisions!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Build Weath and Discover Financial Freedom


FinancialMentor.com
 
1) Spend Less: Align your values and goals, and track your spending so you can focus on being accountable and staying disciplined.  Consider eliminating wasteful expenditures, repairing instead of replacing, and selling unused items.  Also, avoid using credit cards for bills or to extend purchasing power.
 
2) Earn More: Increase your working value by personal and professional development through education and training.  Seek higher paying jobs or additional income through part-time or freelance work. Consider turning your hobby into an income stream or even starting a side business.
 
3) Invest Wisely: Connect with a credible and knowledgeable investment advisory firm to wisely invest your funds.  Re-evaluate your investments every so often to make sure you are on track.
 
4) Financial Freedom: Enjoy living the life you want and deserve!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Home Buying Tips

Considering buying a new home?  Dave Ramsey suggests a few helpful tips for those getting started.  Check out the section on Dave's website "Home Buying Tips" for more information.

Step 1:  Evaluate Your Finances
Before considering buying a house, you may want to get your finances in order.  Buying a home is a blessing but can be quite a financial commitment, so consider having a fully-funded emergency fund before anything else.  Also, ask some important questions such as 1) Can I make a 10-20% down payment? 2) Can I afford a 15-year fixed rate loan? 3) Can I keep the house payments below 25% of my monthly income?

Next, in order to increase your chance of getting the best deal when buying your home, try getting a pre-approved mortgage.  Taking time to compare offers from trusted mortgage providers can make sure you stay within your price range and allow you to make an instant offer when you find the perfect home.

Also, remember to consider the extra costs involved with owning a home.  Home owners have added expenses of property taxes, utilities, insurance, and more.

Step 2:  Call The Pros
Start by making a list of features you would like in your new home.  A new house is a significant financial AND time investment, and you and your family will want to be happy for many years to come in the new place.  Having a good idea of where you would like to live (city, suburbs, country), how many stories/levels you want, if you want a garage, walk-in closets, and backyard size are just a few considerations to pass along to your buying agent.

Next, find the right buying agent to help you buy your house, to help you save time and money.  A good buying agent could  be someone who only takes commission from the seller of your house and does not charge you, someone who makes sure you never pay more than you should by representing you well in price negotiations, and someone who makes sure all the appropriate paperwork is completed.

Also, take time to find the right home inspector in advance, so when you find the perfect home you will already have someone to inspect it for you.  A good home inspector could be reliable, come highly recommended by people you know, have solid references, and a good background.  The home inspector you pick could have a broad knowledge of home systems and structures and a long history in the inspection business, and should also be independent and have no connection to the seller.  Finally, you may want to make sure your home inspector will give you a complete report.

Step 3:  House Hunting
Location of your new home may be very important, not only now but in the future.  Unless otherwise planned, you may eventually want to resell your house, and you might want it to be in a good location.  Some considerations to make regarding location include 1) How close is the home to your office? 2) Is the home in a good school district? 3) Is the home conveniently located near shopping centers, churces, etc? and 4) Is the home in a low crime area?
 
Also, remember that not every seller may own up to the physical details that need to be fixed.  Consider getting the home inspected early in the process, and possibly hiring an independent inspector to objectively view the home inside and out.  Then consider including anything the inspector finds that needs to be fixed (plus the estimated costs) in the final contract.

Step 4:  Close The Deal
Before making the final moves to buying your home, consider getting a property survey, which could reveal boundaries, easements, encroachments, and other legal concerns which could alter the value of your home and property in the future.   Common issues (such as your neighborhood lots having Public Utility Easement) could allow a utility company to, for example, place a large electricity pole in your front yard, thus changing your home's value.
 
Now is the time to consider utilizing the home inspector you may have already picked.  The inspector may examine the home's condition and look for problems you may not have noticed, with key areas including the roof and gutter, house foundation, basement, and crawl space, heating and air condition systems, electrical systems, plumbing, kitchen counters, cabinets, faucets, etc., and bathrooms.
 
Once the home has been inspected and you are ready to make an offer, this may be the time your buying agent could come in most handy.  The buying agent should have access to a wide variety of information to keep you on track for offering the right amount to buy your home.  When negotiating offers, it may be best to keep the communication going through your buying agent, because they could be your best advocate and your best advisor at this point.
 
Finally, before you sign the mortgage and make the long-term commitment of buying (and continually paying for) your house, you may want to re-evaluate your mortgage to your financial capabilities.  The recommendation is a 15-year fixed rate, with your down payment at 10-20% of the home's value, and your house payment less than 25% of your monthly, take-home pay.
 
This article was written based off information provided by the section "Home Buying Tips" on Dave Ramsey's website (click here).

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