Hope for your financial life and beyond

Should I Retire Early? – 9 Questions to Help You Decide

What do the numbers 61, 65 and 73 have in common? You might guess they are the home run records set during various Major League Baseball seasons by Roger Maris (1961), Mark McGwire (1999) and Barry Bonds (2001) respectively. However, for our purposes here those numbers represent peoples ages. Specifically, the age they may be looking at to mark the beginning of their retirement. In fact, we could also put in numbers like 55, 50 or even younger as even people at those ages are asking could I or should I retire early.

should i retire earlyLet’s just get this out of the way right at the beginning…clearly a person can retire at any age they choose. However, to receive full financial benefits from the Social Security Agency will require a person to work until a certain age (based on when they were born). For example, I was born after 1960, so full retirement age for me isn’t until age 67 according to the Social Security website.

I could begin to receive benefits as early as age 62. However, those benefits would come to me at a reduced rate. The calculation used by Social Security is based on the number of months once I retire until full retirement age is reached. In my case that would be 60 months if I retired at age 62.

Retiring early at age 62 sounds great. However, it would really cost me. It would turn a potential $1,000 benefit into only $700, a 30% reduction. $300 dollars a month would go a long way. The Social Security website has a great chart showing all the ages and reduction percentages.

So the choice to retire early isn’t a no brainer. In fact, there are many other things to account for aside from the financial considerations.

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Is Investing in Bitcoin a Good Idea?

Once Bitcoin was a blip on the radar. It emerged in 2009 as a trail-blazing digital currency that was created and held electronically. The purpose was to disrupt the ways we paid for things and exchanged funds.

It seemed as if its biggest proponents were a little ahead of themselves. We are living in an increasingly tech-centric world but the idea of an online currency that was essentially invented out of thin air taking over our financial systems always seemed far-fetched. Many believe it still does.

The question now isn’t whether Bitcoin can supplant conventional currency, but whether it can exist alongside it with enough value to be a worthwhile investment. This is the way more people seem to be looking at Bitcoin. This new outlook begs the bigger question: is investing in this pioneering cryptocurrency a good idea?

For those who might be interested here is a break down of some of the pros and cons.

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Always Plan a Budget Around These 5 Expenses First

The first time I sat down to plan a budget with my wife, we didn’t know where to start. There were literally dozens of expense categories popping into our head at once. The whole process seemed a bit overwhelming.

plan a budgetAt some point it dawned on us that we needed some clarity about the process. We needed to narrow the field and focus on certain priorities in the budget. By doing that, it became obvious what areas of the budget we needed to focus on first.

What we found was that there are five fundamental expenditures to focus on when you plan a budget. Without them, any person would have a difficult time surviving. Coincidentally, these categories will also be some of the most expensive budget items each month. Those two reasons alone – basic survival and cost – should justify why it’s important to start with them when you plan a budget each month.

Five Basic Categories When You Plan a Budget

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Simple Investment Strategies Everyone Can Try

Being wise with your money is easier said than done. Even if you are someone that excels at saving, it only takes one sudden emergency to drain out your account and force you to begin from scratch. While it can be disheartening to think about your financial future, it is also important to consider the ways that you can make more money.

Investing can seem like an overwhelming practice if you are not familiar with the intricacies of the industry. There are easy steps that you can begin with. Take a moment to look over some of these points on how you are able to invest in simple ways.

With enough research, and a bit of courage, you will be ready to get out there and start making your bank account look the way that you had always hoped it would.

Where to Start?

Often, most people are slow to enter the world of investments because it can come across as an area where you need a lot of money to see success. While it is always more helpful to invest with a large sum of cash, you can begin with any amount.

An easy way to start is opening an account tied to your checking account. You can usually set up an automatic transfer to your account on a regular schedule. Although this seems easy, not dipping into savings takes a decent amount of discipline.

If the temptation is too high, another option is to open an account at a different bank or credit union. It is a good idea to start your transfer amounts at a reasonable point and slowly increase how much money you are transferring over the course of time. This will help you to grow your investment fund in a healthy way.

Consider Your Retirement

One of the biggest investments you will make is how to save for your future.

Retirement might seem like it is in the distant future, but it will come much quicker than you anticipate. If you are not currently saving for your retirement, then you absolutely must start looking into the option now. When the company you work for offers retirement options and a 401(k), you need to be sure to take advantage of these opportunities.

If your employer offers matching contributions, be sure to contribute at least the amount offered. This matching contribution calculator can help you figure where to begin. You’ll be surprised at how significant the difference is when taking advantage of the contribution.

And it’s easy to set up automatic transfers into your retirement account through your employer—it’s deducted directly from your paycheck. When you do not have to actively worry about transferring funds, it becomes much easier to make a difference in your investments.

Educate Yourself

No one is able to make every financial decision alone. There are going to come moments on your investment path where you need the expertise of professionals.

The internet is a treasure trove of information from online courses at KhanAcademy to Fisher Investments review of finance books of finance books to real-time market information from MarketWatch. You can also search for relevant information shared by financial experts in order to get an idea of what you should do next.

If your circumstances warrant, you can even look for a qualified financial advisor.

There are many considerations for you to explore when saving for your future. Making smart investments is all about commitment. If you are commit to transferring your funds on a regular basis into a retirement account or investment account, then you will be putting yourself ahead of the curve.

Do your research and discover other useful ways for you to invest your money and you will be well on your way to financial security for your future.

Questions: What’s your best tip for someone looking to invest? What investing mistakes have you made and what did you learn from them?

How to Make a New Year Resolution That Works For You

Once again it’s the turn of the calendar to January which means you may be thinking about making a new year resolution. It’s quite normal to think about all you want to accomplish in the year ahead. Having targets to shoot for is important to move forward in life. Without direction our life will grow stagnant and directionless. It will have no spark.

new year resolutionBut just thinking about a new year resolution isn’t enough. You have to develop a definitive plan of action. These are the step-by-step plans that will help you accomplish what you want.

In order to get your plans on the right track, you have to decide on the right type of goal. Goals are hard enough to reach. I’m convinced though, we frustrate ourselves by not making the right type of goals in the first place. Consequently, we end up drifting aimlessly because we did not have the proper starting point.

So how do you set goals that will help your new year resolution become a reality? Above all they must contain a few basic elements.

New Year Resolution Goals Done Right

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A Christmas Memory That Still Challenges Me to This Day

I love the Christmas season. Yes, it’s hectic. I know, it’s cold. Yes, travel is a nightmare. Each of those issues may bring back a Christmas memory you’d rather not recall.

a christmas memoryDespite all that, I look forward to Christmas. Always have. As a young child it meant a trip to my grandparent’s house in Indiana each year. We’d usually stay for a week with the rest of the extended family crammed into the house. My sister and I camped out on air mattresses in my grandfather’s study.

I don’t know how my grandparents did it, especially my grandmother. Cooking for 15 plus people for the week must have been exhausting. In fact, from our sleeping position in the study, my sister and I could see the light of her bedroom and the kitchen click on early – EARLY – each morning. She always pulled it off though with the perfect mixture of meats, fruit salads and desserts that we all liked.

It was crowded in that house but for a young child, it was as close to nirvana as one could come. So many things happened during the week that were out of the routine. There were later bedtimes, watching endless TV (sports) with my uncles, playing in the snow outside and having a steady stream of board games going on the inside.

But what I remember more than anything – and what ended up touching my life the most to this day – was our annual gift exchange.

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When It’s a Challenge to Say I Am Thankful for You

Recently I had the chance to reconnect with someone who meant a great deal to me many years ago. My youth pastor took an interest in me when I was in the 8th grade. Not only did he become a mentor but someone I considered a friend (as much as a teen can have an adult i am thankful for youfriend). I don’t know where I would have ended if not for his guidance and counsel. So before I left our time together, I said to him how I am thankful for you being in my life.

On the ride home, I got to thinking that I just don’t say I am thankful for you often enough. There are so many people who support me, encourage me and flat out love me no matter what. Life would be a challenge and quite frankly no fun without them. Family, friends, work associates…they lift my spirit on a daily basis.

If you fit into those categories, I am thankful for you being in my life.

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5 Can’t Miss Things to Do Before Selling Your Home

Are you thinking of selling your home anytime soon? Well, now is a great time to do it. Homeowners sold over 5.25 million homes in 2015. This increased to 5.3 million in 2016. Although the rate of sale declined in August 2016, the prices of houses were still up from August 2015. With some help, you can take advantage of the recovering real estate market and sell your home at a great price.

Selling your home can be both stressful and exciting. It’s exciting because it means change, but that’s alsselling your homeo why it’s stressful: it means change. Like most people, you’ve probably formed an emotional attachment to your home or neighborhood. Leaving it may feel like a betrayal. There is no need to think that way – it’s not.

The following tips will help you make sure that you’ve covered all your bases before you sell your home and will help you feel good doing it.

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Operation Christmas Child: Changing Lives One Shoebox at a Time

I believe the Bible when it says, He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor”  (Proverbs 22:9). There are spiritual and emotional blessings that come when we give to others, especially those in challenging life situations. And this time of year I can think of nothing better to give to than Operation Christmas Child. 

operation christmas childCan you imagine living in a world with no Christmas? What does that look like?

There are no kids eager to wake you up at 7:00 a.m…no smiles when a gift is received…no feelings of being special…no thoughts that someone cares for you.

What an unattractive and dismal scenario. Sadly, millions of children all over the world experience a Christmas just like this.  Their Christmas is bitter, meaningless and without hope.

That’s where Operation Christmas Child steps in. But they are only able to do so with your help. Here is how.

Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Program

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“I’m Rich!” – How to Handle a Lump Sum Payment of Money

I’m sure you’ve daydreamed at some point about how life would change if a large lump sum payment of money came your way. Say like a million dollars? We’ve all played this game and fantasized about all the good we could do for ourselves and others with that much money.

lump sum paymentFor most people, this will not happen. The better likelihood is that it will take many years of hard work accompanied by traditional saving and investing to become wealthy. That’s how most of us will reach our financial milestones.

However, people’s lives can change quickly because they receive a lump sum payment of money worth six or seven figures. How could this happen? Well, here is how and it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme.

Ways to Receive a Lump Sum Payment of Money

The following are ways a person could receive a lump sum payment of money:

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The Hidden College Debt Statistics You Never Hear About

The cost of college continues to expand with each passing year. With it, so does the amount of student loans being processed. It’s leading to an alarming amount of college debt that is hamstringing the life of graduates.

college debtBy now I’m sure you’ve heard the alarming student loan statistics. Americans now owe over $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. For the class of 2016, the average borrower will owe just over $37,000, a figure that is up 6% from last year.

But those are just your basic top line college debt statistics. They are the most visible numbers but they don’t tell the whole story. There are some hidden statistics (i.e. not usually reported) that highlight what this college debt is doing to students later in life. They show that virtually every decision in life can be impacted by college debt.

How College Debt Impacts Your Life

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