Hope for your financial life and beyond

How to Make a Will and Protect Those You Love

Today I’m going to talk about a personal finance related topic that many people ignore – how to make a will. In fact, this topic is more avoided than you think. A recent survey at Caring.com showed that only 42% of Americans have estate planning documents. What’s even worse is that for those with children under the age of 18, the number drops to 36%. Yikes!

how to make a willIt’s not surprising a large number of people avoid making a will. Making a will requires a person to think about one very uncomfortable event – their death. I don’t think anyone of us is looking with anticipation towards that specific day.

However, the reality is this – that day WILL come. It is unavoidable. And the real truth of the matter is, we don’t know when it’s going to be. Not all of us are guaranteed to live to 100.

So before I get to how to make a will, I want to show you why it’s important and how it helps protect your family.

[Read more…]

Emergency Fund Basics: The Step On Which All Other Success Is Built

If you are just getting started with the “getting-my-financial-act-together” bit, you might not know where to begin. Have I got good news for you. It’s time to cut through all the clutter and for you to realize one important truth. The first step to success in all other areas of personal finance is creating an emergency fund of cash. Then you need to save it for a crisis.

emergency fundThat may seem like a bold statement. I can attest though, from personal experience, having money set aside strictly for emergencies is the #1 strategy that has propelled my wife and I forward in paying off debt, saving for retirement and college and investing in the stock market.

Why is that you ask?

Because it’s a fact – emergency situations in life are going to come. We cannot escape them. So it just makes sense that we learn how to manage through a crisis.

If we don’t have cash that is easily accessible to take care of the emergency the moment it hits our door, then we are really only faced with one alternative – going into debt to deal with the situation. And it’s this constant accumulation of debt that hinders our ability to accumulate great wealth over time.

You must break the going-into-debt-to-solve-the-emergency cycle.

In this article, I’ll outline the basics of having an emergency fund. You’ll learn when to start one, what to use it for, how much to save and the best ways to fund it.

[Read more…]

This Is the First Step to a New You This Year

You don’t remember your first day on this earth. You can’t recall how fast the car drove to the hospital, the anxiety of the adults who were with you or the physical pain that one of them had to endure. But eventually there you were – a new you – brought into this world through the miracle of childbirth.

a new youThat would be the only physical birth you would ever have. Someone once asked Jesus whether or not they could enter their mother’s womb a second time and be born again. Of course, that’s silly to even think about. It’s a wonder the question was even asked. No second physical birth is possible.

However, in many other ways we can be reborn. There can be a new you.

It may not be easy to change your habits, lifestyle or beliefs. Lots of work may lie ahead. But, whatever your dream or desire, of this you can be sure – you will never make it unless you do this one thing first.

[Read more…]

How Your Gifts Are Also Fit for a King (Matthew 2:11)

If you could give a gift fit for a king what would it be? You may think you would have nothing to offer such an important person. I’d suggest though, that no matter what your personal or financial status, you always have something to offer. I base that challenge on one of the more intriguing stories that surrounds the birth of Jesus.

fit for a kingThe book of Matthew tells us that Jesus received some special visitors shortly after he was born. We know them as the Magi, or the wise men from the East. We don’t know exactly where they came from although many speculate ancient Persia. The Bible doesn’t state how many there were. We do know they arrived sometime after the birth of Jesus because they came to visit Mary, Joseph and the boy at a house (Matthew 2:11) not in the stable, which many traditional Christmas scenes depict.

The Bible tells us that as the wise men entered the house that day, they came bearing gifts – gifts certainly fit for a king. We are told they bowed before Jesus,  “…and when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).

[Read more…]

Sinking Fund: The Best Way to Save Money for Christmas Gifts

Ten years ago my wife and I hated Christmas shopping. Sure it take enormous amounts of time and energy. But more than that, it played havoc on our December monthly budget. We’d have to come up with money for Christmas gifts out of nowhere while still paying all our other bills. It was a real challenge that often led to frustration and even overspending on gifts. Thankfully, the financial frustrations vanished the day we heard about a simple money management technique called a sinking fund.

sinking fundThe concept of a sinking fund is not new but it took me to my mid-30s to hear about it. Essentially, a sinking fund is a savings fund you create for the express purpose of purchasing something in the future. And, as I’ve found out, it’s a really easy technique anyone can learn. It’s also one of the best practices to help you eliminate overspending and pay for bills, gifts or other budget items that come infrequently.

Because this has revolutionized how my wife and I pay for things, I want to show you how it works. And at the end of the post, I’ll include the template we use to keep track of our savings.

[Read more…]

How to Easily Protect Yourself When Giving to Charities

Are you someone who loves giving to charities? My wife and I sure do. We make it a practice to give at various times during the year. But our interest really peaks during the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

There are so many charitable organizations that do great work at these times of year. It is true that people are in need year round. However, the depth and seriousness of focus seems to peak during the holidays. I think that’s because we have an innate – some would say God-given desire – to help those in need. Many of us have been blessed through the holidays and we want to pass those joys and blessings on to others.

giving to charitiesOf course giving to charities doesn’t have to be only about money. You can give of your time and talents as well. But for most, the easiest path is to donate money and let the charities put that to use the best way they know how.

But how do you know if your money will be used wisely? Perhaps the better question is how do you know if you are not getting ripped off or taken advantage of by a rogue charity or a scam artist?

[Read more…]

4 Basic Strategies for Retirement Planning Everyone Should Know

The retirement years are one of the most rewarding and also potentially delicate phases of life. People experience many joys in their later years. However, they may also have to endure diminishing physical strength, slowing of mental faculties and the onset of age-related illnesses. Given the inevitability of health conditions in old age specifically, it‘s vital to keep the controllable factors in check to avoid exacerbating medical problems. This can be done with good retirement planning.

retirement planningPerhaps the most important such controllable factor is your financial stability. Money doesn’t equal happiness or freedom from sickness or other problems. However, the more funds you accumulate, the higher your chances of having a less stressful retirement when it comes to the financial side of things.

With that in mind, here are a couple of valuable tips for retirement planning that aren’t difficult to do but whose payoff is huge.

[Read more…]

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Investing Money the Right Way

Success in our personal financial life is something we all desire. What that financial success looks like is different for each situation. However, there is one undeniable truth that applies to all of us when thinking about how to achieve our financial dreams and goals – investing money will help you get there.

investing moneyThere are several challenges though when it comes to investing money. For one, people scare themselves out of investing money for fear of losing it. They see the ups and downs of the stock market and don’t want to be involved with that volatility.

Others may not know how to invest or where to start. I remember learning about investing money in my early twenties and feeling extremely overwhelmed.

Still others may feel they lack the time to really make investing work for them. They either started to late in life to make a difference or just don’t have time in their daily schedule to learn about it.

And finally, perhaps the biggest challenge of all – some just don’t have the money to invest.

If you fall into any of those categories or are a beginner just looking to learn about investing money, this article is for you. From my own experience, I had many questions of my own when I first started. So I’ll be answering some of the most basic ones I had like:

[Read more…]

How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off From Service Industry “Professionals”

Have you ever needed to hire a service industry professional for advice, a project or repair? Chances are we have all been there. Why? Because taxes need completing. Cars break down. Computers need fixing. Home air conditioning systems go bad.

You may be among those fortunate enough to know how to do these things on your own. Or at least you know a little about how these things work. The vast majority of the public does not know how to fix a car or computer. We don’t know why AC units malfunction. We rely on industry professionals who are trained to handle such projects or repairs.

service industry Most service industry professionals are hard working and credible people. They are not looking to take advantage of people. They just want to make a living by doing an honest day’s work.

However, we all know that not all service industry professionals fall into this category. In fact, we need to put quotation marks around some service industry workers when we call them “professionals.” They may be experts at their chosen career. But they are also experts at another thing – conning people out of their money. So they don’t exhibit the kinds of qualities we would all want in someone who was truly professional at their job. Here is a case in point.

[Read more…]

Are CDs a Good Investment for the Average Joe?

I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who wouldn’t say “Yes” to the question, “Would you like to make/have more money?” Aside from our job, the best way to get more money is by investing what you have in various financial products like savings accounts, the stock market, real estate or business ventures. Some would even use CDs as a valid investment. But are CDs a good investment for the average person?

Let’s find out.

[Read more…]

Visa Debit Card Safety: What You Need to Know

My daughter just reached an financial milestone the other week when she opened her first checking account several weeks ago. However, she’s even more excited that, along with the checking account, came a Visa debit card. Yep, her first piece of plastic.

Visa debit cardOf course she will have to learn how to use it responsibly. That’s because debit cards act like cash. All transactions post to your checking account register. In other words, when you buy an item with a debit card, the money is immediately withdrawn from your account to complete the purchase.

The advantages here should be obvious. Debit cards force you to budget your money. They force you to keep track of how much money you have left to spend. Credit cards don’t do that. The credit limit is the limitation placed on the account. But once you’ve hit that limit, many people have already spent more on the card than they actually have. That’s what makes credit cards so dangerous.

[Read more…]