Broker Check

Budgeting

When is it ok to use your Emergency Fund?

When is it ok to use your Emergency Fund?

An Emergency Fund is a crucial part of protecting your family and your finances. Once you have that money set aside, it can be easy to justify spending it on things that aren’t emergencies. Here are 3 criteria to help determine if it’s ok to use your Emergency Fund:

  • Unexpected: Were you unaware this was going to happen?
  • Necessary: Is this expense a true need? Be honest, a “true need”.
  • Urgent: Does this need to be paid for right now?
How Much Do I need in My Emergency Fund?

How Much Do I need in My Emergency Fund?

There’s a lot in life that comes unexpectedly. Cars break down. Water heaters stop working. Kids need to go to the emergency room. This can throw a wrench in your finances. An Emergency Fund is a way to protect your family and your goals from the unexpected. You want to have 3-6 months’ worth of expenses in a savings account to cover most emergencies. Where you are in that range depends on your risk tolerance and the following factors:

3 months: Dual Income, Stable Jobs, No Major Known Life Transitions

6 months: Single Income, Unstable or Seasonal Jobs, Big Life Events (Baby, Moving, Job Change)

Tax Filings: Do’s and Don’ts

Tax Filings: Do’s and Don’ts

There’s a lot at stake when it comes to filing your taxes correctly. You could be missing out on money or at risk for penalties and fees. Here are a few tips to ensure you’re getting the most out of your taxes.

Do’s

  • File your taxes or request an extension by April 15th.
  • Double check your details. A small typo could cause an inaccurate filing or delays in your refund.
  • Work with a professional if your filing is more complex. They’re worth the money!

Don’ts

  • Avoid filing because you can’t pay your bill. You can work out a payment plan even if you don’t have the money now, but the consequences are far worse for not filing at all.
  • Not filing all income. Failing to include income or understating it could result in a penalty of 20% of the difference between what was filed and what you actually earned.
  • Overpaying your taxes. If you get a large refund, it’s like loaning the government your money at a 0% interest rate. You can work with your HR department to adjust your withholdings to keep more of your money.



Tax Changes You Should Know for 2024

Tax Changes You Should Know for 2024

Taxes can be confusing especially as tax laws are continually changing. Here are few major updates for 2024 that you should know:

  • Standard Deduction: The default amount deducted from your taxable income is increasing to $14,600 for Single Filers and $29,200 for Joint Filers
  • Gift Tax: The amount you can gift to an individual without being taxed is increasing to $18,000/year.
  • Roth IRA Contributions: The max contribution to your Roth IRA is increasing to $7000 if you’re under 50 and $8000 if you’re 50 or over.

Child Tax Credit: The amount taken off your tax bill for each dependent child you have would be increased to $1800/child for 2023 and possibly $2000/child for 2024, if current legislation passes

5 Easy Ways to Save on Your Next Vacation

5 Easy Ways to Save on Your Next Vacation

Going on vacation is a great way to kick back, relax, and enjoy a new experience. But if you’re not careful, it can add up quick. Here are few tips on how to make the most of your vacation without breaking the bank:

 

  • Make a budget

Expenses add up quick. Make a plan for your money to keep it under control.

  • Avoid tourist-heavy locations

Merchants know that they can charge more in the “touristy areas” and will.

  • Don’t be afraid to haggle

This may not work at a grocery store, but a market or souvenir shop might cut you a deal.

  • Travel during the off season

The more people are trying to book flights and hotels, the higher the prices will be. Try to book in the off season for lower prices.

  • Make it a Staycation

If you’re not in a financial position to take a big trip, consider making an adventure in your own town.



Top Budget-Friendly Spring Break Vacations

Top Budget-Friendly Spring Break Vacations

Spring Break is a great time to emerge from our winter hibernation and enjoy some warmer weather. Below are some of the top Spring Break locations that are still budget friendly:

  • Washington DC
  • Gulf Shores, AL
  • Charleston, SC
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Galveston, TX
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Virginia Beach, VA


How to Have a Dream Date

How to Have a Dream Date

We all need time to step aside from the day to day and just dream. A dream date is a date with your spouse that allows you to do just that. Here are some steps to help create a vision and goals for your future together to make those dreams a reality:

  • Set Some Time Alone

Setting time between you and your spouse helps create intentionality with the time and remove distractions.

  • Get Out of Your House

It’s also hard to dream when that pile of laundry is taunting you from the other corner of the room. Being in a different location can help you focus.

  • Talk through dreams for retirement, for 10 years, and the next year.

Allow yourself to ask, “What could life be like?” Try not to shoot anything down too early, especially if it’s your spouse’s idea.

  • Set shorter-term goals

To make those dreams a reality, you’ll need to break them down into smaller achievable goals. Otherwise, the dream will just stay a dream.

5 Common Money Mistakes Couples Make!

5 Common Money Mistakes Couples Make!

Managing money with someone else can be tough. You both are unique individuals that have different ways of viewing the world. But it can be one of the best avenues to strengthen communication and align your goals. Below are five common mistakes that could be holding back your finances and your relationship:

  • Spouses Keeping Separate Accounts

Studies have shown that married couples that combine their finances tend to have more fulfilling relationships and tend to see greater financial success.

  • Not Budgeting

Budgeting allows you to align your spending with your goals as a couple. Not budgeting can lead to overspending, accumulating debt, and delaying your dreams.

  • Only One Person Manages the Finances

Though one person may do more “crunching the numbers,” it’s important both are engaged in making decisions together and aware of their spending throughout the month. 

  • Not Talking About Large Purchases

Ultimately, making a large purchase without talking about it first can lead to tension, because the decision wasn’t made together. This can leave your spouse not feeling that their input is valued.

  • Merging Finances Too Soon

It might seem like the big next step in the relationship is to merge finances or purchase a home together, but if you’re not married, you may be opening yourself to some huge risks. In the event of a divorce, there are legal protections and processes setup. If you’re only dating or engaged and split up, it gets a lot messier from a legal perspective.

5 Budgeting Myths That Are Losing Your Money!

5 Budgeting Myths That Are Losing Your Money!

I get it. Budgeting can sound as exciting as getting your taxes done or watching paint dry. But if you’re wanting peace of mind with your finances and forward progress with your goals, budgeting is essential. Here are a few misunderstandings about budgeting that you should know the truth about.

 

1) I don’t have time to budget

-Once you get in the habit of budgeting and staying consistent, it really doesn’t take much time.

When you know your numbers after a few months, creating a new budget is really just tweaking the previous month’s budget.

 

2) I’m not good at math

-Maintaining a budget only requires basic addition and subtraction. No math geniuses needed. But if that still stresses you out, there are great apps like Every Dollar, that do most of the math for you.

 

3) Having a budget means I can’t do anything fun

-Using a budget means deciding to spend your money on the things that are important to you. You’ll want to make sure you have your necessities covered and are preparing for the future, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun too.

 

4) I keep track of my budget in my head

-That may work for large expenses and bills, but other spending is sure to sneak through the cracks. Those are the expenses that add up and surprise you. A successful budget is an accurate budget.

 

5) I make enough money not to budget

-No matter what income you are bringing in, you need a budget. You can always find something else to blow your money on unless you setup a plan for it. Budgeting is being intentional with what you do with your money no matter how many dollars you’re earning per month.



How to Keep Black Friday from Busting Your Budget

How to Keep Black Friday from Busting Your Budget

  1. Set a Budget - Decide how much you want spend for each person and stick to it.

    2. Do your Research - Hunt around for the best prices and map out what stores you plan to go to.

    3. Set a Time Limit - once you know where you want to go, set a time limit for each store. You’re more likely to spend more money, the longer you stay in the store. You’re also more likely to make rushed, impulsive purchases if you run short on time.

Making a Christmas Budget Work

Making a Christmas Budget Work

Christmas is a time of year to enjoy and celebrate with loved ones. One thing that can distract us from that is when we get disorganized with our finances. It can be really easy to find yourself spending more money than you intended or even racking up credit card debt. Below are steps to take to stay on top of your finances this holiday season, so you can be freed up to actually enjoy it:

 

  1. Set your spending limit

It’s important to know your total funds available before building out your Christmas list. If you build out your list first, you may be more likely to go over on your spending and rely on credit cards or funds that were meant for something else.

 

  1. Setup holiday categories

Make an exhaustive list of who you’re getting gifts for, any new decorations, holiday events, and additional food. Divide your available funds through those categories. If there aren’t enough funds for all the categories, you’ll need to reduce the amounts or potentially be willing to say no to some extra events or lawn ornaments.

 

  1. Track your spending

Find a central place that you can keep receipts and also track your spending. I recommend an excel spreadsheet or a budgeting app like Every Dollar. It’s important to be able keep each of your spending categories up-to-date so that you know what you have left to spend.

 

  1. Prepare for next year

If you found yourself tight on funds, this year, start saving in January for next Christmas. Take your new Christmas goal and divide it by 11. That’s your new savings goal for each month. It’ll take a weight off your shoulders next year knowing you already have the money set aside

How to Stretch your Giving this Christmas

How to Stretch your Giving this Christmas

The holidays are a great time to reflect in gratitude on what we have in our lives and out of that gratitude, give back to others in need. If your budget is a little tighter to be able to give financially this year, here are a few ideas on how to give in other meaningful ways:

Volunteer Your Time:
*Though many organizations need financial support to do the work that they do, they also need volunteers to give of their time.*

-Homeless Care Package
Those without a home this season are in need of basic necessities. A thoughtful way to give is to put together a bag with essentials like water, non-perishable food, socks, or hand warmers.

-Employer Matching
Some employers will match employee giving to approved organizations. Check with your company’s HR department to see if your company does.

-Sell or Donate Items in your Home
You may be sitting on clothing or items that you can’t remember the last time you used. Consider donating them to a thrift store or selling them and giving the profits to a non-profit you care about.

-Write Letters
You can not only bless someone with your time or gifts, but you can also bless them with your words. I know, it’s old school when we have the option of texting and messaging, but who doesn’t love getting mail that isn’t junk mail or a bill!
Last Minute Gift Ideas

Last Minute Gift Ideas

Ok, it’s crunch time. You may not have been as on top of Christmas shopping as you hoped, and time is running out. Take a deep breath. Here are some last minute gift ideas that are quick, but still meaningful:

1.Gift Cards
A gift card is a great way to personalize your gift by choosing the store or restaurant that your loved one enjoys, but still giving them the flexibility of how and when they use it.

2.Make a Certificate or Voucher
You can make a certificate for anything from a sporting event, to a night of camping in the backyard, to coupons for backrubs and extra chores around the house. These can be creative and fun ways to provide an experience and not just more stuff.

3.FOOD!
Food is always a great gift, unless it’s fruitcake. Unless your loved one is weirdly into fruitcake, then go right ahead. But usually some chocolates are a safe bet.

4.Subscription
Depending on your budget, covering the cost of a subscription service for a period of time can be a fun gift. There are so many options out there from learning a new skill through Master Class or Udemy, providing meals delivered to their door through Blue Apron or Hello Fresh, or even an online streaming service.

5.Amazon “Cool Last Minute Gifts”
When all else fails, you can always type “Cool Last Minute Gifts” into Amazon for gift ideas with fast delivery to your door.
5 Tips on How to Make Financial Goals That Stick

5 Tips on How to Make Financial Goals That Stick

2023 is coming to a close. WIth it, comes the new possibilities of 2024. Many of us make resolutions, only to have them fall through before the end of January. Here are some tips with your financial goals for 2024, to make them stick:
1. Align with your Long-Term Goals
Do you have a vision of where you want to be in 5 or 10 years? Take the time to dream what that looks like and then set your annual goals to be what’s needed to get you there.

2. SMART
Many of us have heard the acronym for SMART goals, but it bears repeating. Make sure your goals meat the following criteria: 1) Specific 2) Measurable 3) Achievable
4) Relevant 5) TIme-Bound

3. Baby Steps
In Atomic Habits, author James Clear talks through the need for setting small manageable daily goals. The biggest hurdles to achieving our goals are the lack of consistency and being intimidated by large goals.

4. Make it visible
Make a chart that tracks your goals' progress and hang it somewhere you can see it everyday. That serves as a daily reminder to take the next step.

5. Don’t Do it Alone
It’s a lot harder to make zero progress on a goal when you know someone else is going to ask you about it. If you’re married, you should be creating financial goals together with your spouse. If you’re single, find a friend or family member to help hold you accountable.
The Top Goal Categories For Balanced Success

The Top Goal Categories For Balanced Success

It doesn’t take long to see, if one area of our life is out of order, it can quickly pull down other areas of our life. You may have fitness goals for the year, but if your family and social life isn’t going well, you might head to the ice cream aisle instead of the gym. Zig Ziglar created what was called the “Wheel of Life” to highlight main areas we should set goals in to create balance in our life. Here they are:

1) Career
2) Financial
3) Spiritual
4) Physical
5) Intellectual
6) Family
7) Social
How to Clean Up Your Finances After the Holidays

How to Clean Up Your Finances After the Holidays

Each year, the holiday season flies by at warp speed and before you know it, it’s over. If you’re like many, your bank account is still trying to figure out what just happened to it. If you’re feeling stressed trying to clean up your holiday financial mess, here are some next steps that will help you reset and start 2024 off strong:

1) List your debt: write out your debts from smallest to largest balances and prioritize paying the smallest debt off first. This will give you a focused to do list.

2) Build a budget: Make a plan for every dollar that will be coming in this month. Try to cut back any extra spending to prioritize paying off the first debt on your list from step 1.

3) Extra Income: If needed, be willing to pickup some side hustles to increase your income in order to knockout debt.

4) Plan for Next Year: Once you clean up your finances from 2023, start planning for next year. Estimate what you hope to spend next year and divide that by the months remaining until next Christmas. You can also make it a smaller amount if you have more margin in your budget for November. Even $50/mo from January to October is $500 toward your next Christmas.
How to Make Long Term Goals That Actually Happen

How to Make Long Term Goals That Actually Happen

It can be easy to make resolutions for a New Year, but it’s tough to keep them. One of the traits of a strong short-term goal is that it ties into a longer-term goal. It makes it part of a bigger plan. If you have a tough time planning what’s for dinner, let alone your hopes for the future, here are some tips on how to create long-term goals that last:

1) Make a 10-Year Plan: Try to set some time aside to dream what you would like your life to look like in 10 years. This can be your career, home, family lifestyle, and vacationing. Try to find anything and then build off of it.

2) Reverse Engineer Your Plan: Once you have a picture of what you want, try to calculate the cost or time it would take to make it happen. Break it down by yearly and even monthly goals.

3) Know Why It’s Important: If your dream is going to become a reality, you’ll need to know why it’s important to you. Your desire for that dream is going to have to be greater than the cost it takes to make it happen.

4) Make It Visible: Find some way to make your goal visible to put it at the forefront of your brain each day. It can be a chart to mark your progress or maybe a picture of a country you’d like to travel to.
The Difference Between a Financial Coach and a Financial Advisor

The Difference Between a Financial Coach and a Financial Advisor

You may have heard the term Financial Coach and Financial Advisor and wondered, “What’s the difference?” Ultimately, both are available to help you win with your money, but they have different training and areas of focus. Here are a few of the main differences:

1) Timeline: Financial Advisors tend to have a mid- to long-term horizon with their planning window. They help you find the right financial products to prepare for retirement or other larger purchases down the road. Financial Coaches focus on helping you with your monthly spending habits as well as build a plan for short-term goals. That being said, you typically work with a Financial Coach for a shorter period of time.

2) Focuses: Financial Advisors typically have a security license which allows them to purchase and sell investments on your behalf. They also may offer services such as insurance or estate planning. Financial Coaches are not able to purchase investments, but instead equip you with the skills and knowledge to build a monthly spending plan, hit your savings goals, and knock out debt.

3) Payment: Financial Advisors typically are paid by commission (a percentage of an investment transaction) or fee based (a percentage of the total client’s portfolio that they manage). Financial coaches are instead paid by an hourly rate.

Reasons You Could Benefit From A Financial Advisor

Reasons You Could Benefit From A Financial Advisor

We have information at our finger tips and because of that, it can be easy to assume we can figure out just about anything. Afterall, there’s probably a how-to video on Youtube for whatever you need. However, there are still plenty of things that it’s good to call the professionals on; root canals, appendectomy, and managing your investments. Here are a few reasons to work with a Financial Advisor:

1) You Can Know Your Numbers: It can be scary hoping you have enough for retirement or for saving for your kid’s college, but a Financial Advisor can help you have some peace of mind. They’ll run calculations on what you need to live off of or what college may cost in the future and what you need to save to get there.

2) Maximize Your Investments: Financial Advisors can help you select investment products that are right for you, between finding products that are more tax efficient or more likely to perform better.

3) Give Perspective on Investing: It can be easy to react to news stories about the market performing poorly making you want to sell your investments, or a company is doing really well, making you want to buy stock in it. One of the greatest benefits of working with a Financial Advisor is perspective. They’ll help you create a plan for your long-term investing that works best for you and stick to it.