Hope for your financial life and beyond

Want to Chase Your Dreams? This Is the Right Way to Win Big

I hope you have some big goals you are trying to reach. Setting the right type of goals is key for personal and professional growth. But have you adequately prepared for what is ahead as you chase your dreams?

Our family faced a situation several years ago when my wife was facing a professional identity crisis. She enjoyed teaching math to high school students and was quite good at it. Although she loved the students, teaching wasn’t leaving her personally and professionally fulfilled.

So we began to discuss a big goal for her – making a career change that would take her from classroom math teacher to CPA. Those initial discussions were exciting. But, they were also filled with some indecision, apprehension and a little fear about how to accomplish the task.

chase your dreamsThe point here isn’t to be a discouragement as you chase your dreams. By all means, find your passion and go for it. However, many people have a tendency to jump before they think. That’s a mistake. You have to plan for the drawbacks and unforeseen situations that will arise as you chase your dream. The better you can prepare for those ahead of time, the easier they will be to deal with when they come.

We faced our share of issues during my wife’s transition. The great thing is we dealt with them and she eventually reached her goal.

Could it have gone smoother? Absolutely! That’s why I’m sharing five hints today from our experience that I hope will help you chase your dreams and reach that goal. You have to think these things through ahead of time and know how to deal with them if you want to win big.

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Should You Invest in the Stock Market During a Trump Administration?

Last week the stock market was setting all-time highs as the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed 20,000 for the first time. Since the close of trading on Nov. 4th, the market has raced ahead by over 2,200 points to where it stands today. Of course it remains to be seen whether this market can sustain the momentum or not under the leadership of our new President, Donald Trump.

stock marketJust typing that last sentence seems surreal, for people in both parties. We hardly could have imagined this two years ago. Whatever your political views, you have to give him credit for doing what no one thought possible. It’s something we haven’t seen in the history of our government.

President Trump is still an unknown quantity. By his own words, he is new to the political scene. We do not fully know how he will proceed with matters of national policy or foreign affairs because he doesn’t have a long track record for us to parse through. But we do know one thing about him. President Trump is a businessman through and through. He has done well for his family and the thousands of people he has employed.

Will this expertise be good for businesses across the country though? And will it translate into upward momentum in the stock market? Should you invest in the market during the Trump presidency, be it four or eight years? Let’s try to find out.

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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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“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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How to Develop a Purposeful Plan for Giving Away Money

If you have found your way to this article, you most likely have a charitable heart and enjoy giving away money to a church, charitable organization, favorite cause or the girl scout who shows up at your door selling cookies. But have you ever thought about how you give away money? Do you give purposefully or haphazardly as opportunities pass in front of you?

giving away moneyDeveloping a purposeful plan for giving away money might seem silly. Perhaps you want to give wherever and to whomever you like without feeling constrained by a plan. There is great freedom in that philosophy. However, as I’ve found out over the years, there are also great dangers.

Putting together a purposeful plan for giving away money is a fundamental exercise you should go through to have success with your personal finances.

We try really hard to make a monthly budget that works. We plan for how we will pay for college and support ourselves in retirement. So why would we ignore this area of our finances where a lot of money could potentially pass through our fingers over the course of a lifetime?

Why We Got Purposeful

My wife and I both enjoy giving away money to our church and other causes we believe in. However, as we became more financially healthy, we realized we had a greater responsibility to manage our giving wisely. We decided to get purposeful with our giving for several reasons:

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Do You Really Need Life Insurance for Your Family?

Our own mortality is a topic we don’t like to discuss. I was reminded again of this recently when a friend of mine had open heart surgery. He is doing great and expected to make a full recovery. But as I sat in the waiting room with his wife and family during the surgery, I kept thinking how her life would change if things took a turn for the worse.

do you need life insuranceThere are so many questions after the death of a spouse. Some of those questions relate to money. It may seem insensitive to link death and finances together but it’s a reality we can’t ignore.

What would happen if your spouse died today? Would your financial life come crashing down also? Would your family suffer because you weren’t prepared for this event?

Fortunately, those questions can be answered. The best part is you can settle it and have peace of mind before anything happens by purchasing a quality life insurance policy.

What is Life Insurance?

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5 Personal Finance Items to Evaluate at Least Once a Year

When was the last time you took inventory of your personal finances? It’s easy to get things set in place and then just ignore them. Who really wants to continually review all the facets of personal finance anyway? It takes so much time.

personal finance checklistWell, here is the thing – the pace of life is fast. Because of that, it’s easy to let things slip by. When it comes to our money, we may be missing out on opportunities to improve on the things we have in place and save money in the process.

And in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t take as much time as you think to do a thorough review. It will be worth it compared to the consequences that might come should you miss something important.

The idea of taking inventory of your financial life is not new. King Solomon in the Bible was the wisest man who ever lived.  In the book of Proverbs he wrote this:

“Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds; for riches are not forever, nor does a crown endure to all generations.” (Prov. 27:23-24)

We cannot assume just because something was once a good deal, investment or financial goal that it will continue to be so. Our life circumstances change so we should be on the cutting edge of awareness about these matters.

Your Yearly Personal Finance Review

Here are five key areas of our personal finances that my wife and I review at least once a year:

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A Wedding To Do List For After You Say “I Do” (Infographic)

If you are inside of one year until you tie the knot with your significant other, you probably have a million things to accomplish on your wedding to do list. OK, maybe not one million but there are a lot of things to take care of. I’m sure it seems like it’s happening so fast. Just when you check one item off another one pops up.

I’m being reminded of how fun yet frantic wedding planning can be by my cousin. She moved to Georgia a few years ago and wouldn’t you know it met the man of her dreams. They are getting married in May of 2017. And it seems like every time we get together with them she’s telling us of another item she checked off her wedding to do list.

The latest item was the biggie – her wedding dress. Her mom came down last week and the two of them picked out the perfect one. I say it’s perfect because no one has seen it yet. And no one will until wedding day which is fine.

It’s drawing me back in time to so many things that happened for my own wedding 20-plus years ago. I’m remembering some of the things we did right, some of the things we did wrong and some of the things we forgot to do altogether. It’s easy to let things slip by – especially after the wedding.

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This Smith and Wesson Stock Chart Reveals Our Biggest Fear

Smith and Wesson stock is reaching heights never seen before in the history of the company. The stock price closed at $29.07 on Friday, just 30 cents shy of it’s all time high. However, that alone doesn’t tell the whole story.

Smith and Wesson stock has been tracing higher for the last five years. As you can see from the stock chart below, on Sept. 26, 2011, it traded at $2.52. If you would have bought then, you’d be looking at a 1,053 percent increase. Not bad for a five-year investment.

smith and wesson stock

Chart courtesy of Morningstar.com

The bulk of the rise in the stock price has occurred since January of 2015. Since that time Smith and Wesson stock has risen from around $10 per share to what we see today. Again, not a bad return for a year and a half investment.

So what’s driving the stock price? Well, in the most basic of investment world terms, it’s company sales. Just a few weeks ago the company announced fourth quarter sales of $221.1 million. That figure was an increase of 22.2% over the fourth quarter of last year.

So the company is growing by selling more of its product. Those sales are leading to increased profits and a healthier company balance sheet. Investors are taking notice and more are purchasing the stock for their portfolios (hence the rise in Smith and Wesson stock price).

“But what’s driving sales?” you might be asking. Well, in case you don’t know Smith and Wesson manufactures and sells firearm products and accessories. That’s right…it’s a gun company.

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How to Resolve the What Career Should I Have Dilemma

Have you ever asked yourself the question, What career should I have?  If so, you know the answers aren’t that obvious. Coming to a decision about what career bests fits you can be quite a dilemma, no matter if you are right out of high school or in your mid-30s looking for a career change.

It sure was for me.

what career should i haveAfter high school graduation, everyone wanted to know what I was going to study in college. I didn’t know so I just told everyone I’d be taking my general education requirements first and decide on a degree track later. Seemed like the wise thing to do considering I didn’t know what else to do.

In the end, I chose psychology and counseling as a course of study. I didn’t know where that would ultimately take me later in life. All I knew at the time was that it matched up with my personality, my ability to listen and my desire to help people.

My chosen field of study didn’t lead me to a counseling career per se. After grad school, I ended up in education, first as a teacher and then as a principal at a small private school. Years later, I laid down my career as an educator and am now working as a youth pastor. While I’m not counseling in the strictness definition of the word, my education did prepare me in a lot of ways for things I faced (and am facing) when it comes to dealing with families and kids.

So in college, when I asked the What career should I have question, did I end up choosing the right one? Was my path of study appropriate, especially since I didn’t end up pursing that career in the end? Could I have gone through some steps to make a better choice that would have led to a career that aligned with my educational goals?

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