Hope for your financial life and beyond

How to Choose A College So You Don’t Waste Money On Tuition

You may have noticed recently the federal government stepped in to help 18-year-olds with one of the biggest decisions of their lives – how to choose the right college. Although you don’t necessarily need a college education to have a successful career, the U.S. Department of Education estimates that a college graduate will earn one million dollars more on average over their lifetime when compared to someone with only a high school diploma. That figure alone makes attending college a worthwhile consideration.

college fund jarBut what college should you attend when there are thousands to choose from? Enter President’s Obama’s Consumer Reports-styled College Scorecard. It’s an initiative headed by the Dept. of Education where, “You’ll be able to see how much each school’s graduates earn, how much debt they graduate with, and what percentage of a school’s students can pay back their loans,” the President noted in a recent radio address.

The scorecard tool offers much more information than that however. Prospective students can input a college name into the site and receive all kinds of useful information about the school’s program. Among other things, potential schools can be sorted by location, size, degrees offered. The site is receiving rave reviews as the latest advancement in helping students choose the right college.

You will have to take some steps to make your college decision an easier one. There is simply too much money at stake for you to make the wrong choice. Here are the three most important things you can do.

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Beyond the Retirement Plan: 3 Things You Must Do Before You Stop Working

For many people, retirement planning means saving enough money to cover expenses after they stop working. Whether they sock money away into a 401(k), IRA, a savings account, or just stuff cash under the mattress, getting ready to retire is just about the money.

retirement planWhile having enough money to pay for housing, food, and other expenses is certainly very important, it’s not the only concern if you want to have a fulfilling retirement. There are several other issues to address before you say goodbye to the working world for a new life of leisure, which can make a big difference in how comfortable you feel — and your family feels.

So before you start planning your retirement party, make sure you’ve addressed these important issues.

1. How Will You Fill Your Time?

If you have spent the last four or five decades working, suddenly having your days free is bound to present some challenges. Not only will you no longer have your actual work responsibilities, but also your off-hours won’t be spent thinking about work, either. You might have images of traveling, spending more time with your family, pursuing a hobby, or other ideas, but do you really know how you will spend your days?

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How to Make a Home Inventory Checklist in Case of a Catastrophic Loss

Recent events surrounding the theft and eventual recovery of our family basketball goal have me thinking more about home security. One issue that presented itself during that incident was that I did not have proof (like a model number or receipt) or identifying marks on the goal that it belonged to me. If I had that proof the police could have pursued the matter more aggressively.

home inventory checklist in case of lossDuring the ordeal I had a conversation with a friend of mine who used to be a detective. He mentioned a case he investigated where a man had his entire music collection stolen. Fortunately for him, he had written down the title and artist of every CD in his collection. He gave that list to my friend who, believe it or not, was able to track down the collection. Of course, he was aided in his search by the fact that the not-so-intelligent thief sold the entire collection at once…to one pawn shop.

Wasn’t too hard to link those to events together.

My friend went on to say he has made a home inventory checklist of everything of value in his home. In case of a catastrophic loss such as a house fire, he will be able to present his home inventory checklist to the insurance company showing concrete evidence of what he did own. Of course that won’t help him recover the sentimental items he lost but it will give him a better chance of recouping the fair market value to replace all the consumer products he lost.

So, guess what the kids and I started doing over Christmas break?

How to Make a Home Inventory Checklist

We haven’t entirely completed our project but these are the steps we are taking to make our home inventory checklist:

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Reshaping My Focus in 2015, Plus a Short Survey For You

Happy New Year catMay I say an early Happy New Year to you! We’ve finally arrived at the final week of the calendar year. I hope 2014 turned out to be all you hoped it would. I’m excited about the future that lies ahead and am looking forward to making some big blog steps in 2015.

I’d like to take a few moments today to share several goals I have for Luke1428 and beyond in 2015. I mentioned the other day how not developing clear and specific goals for 2014 was a big disappointment. It caused me to drift around many a day in that I didn’t have targets on which to focus. I’m not sure why my apathy toward goal development happened in 2014 but I’m committed with renewed effort to a different course this year.

My Goals for Luke1428 in 2015

Here are the three main things I’ll be focusing on in 2015. They represent a change in focus as to how I’ve approached managing Luke1428 to this point.

Understanding the Needs of My Readers

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The Hidden Issue Behind the Best-Laid Plans

Hidden Nuggets Series #66 – “…you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away…” – James 4:14

“Mary, I know what I’m going to do tomorrow and the next day and next year and the year after that. I’m shaking the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I’m going to see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Coliseum…then I’m coming back here and go to college and see what they know, and then I’m going to build things…”

george bailey and mary hatchSounds like this man is going to have a wonderful life. His path is clear. His steps are ordered in sequence. His vision is grand.

Yet, the movie character George Bailey never saw how life might disrupt his best-laid plans. He wasn’t anticipating any curveballs, like the impending tragedy coming to his family…that he’d take over the Building and Loan…that he’d give his college money to his brother Harry…that Harry wouldn’t want to take George’s place at the building and loan…that he’d marry Mary…that he’d use his honeymoon money to solve an economic crisis…that he’d face personal financial ruin over no fault of his own.

Funny how life chews up our plans, spits them out and declares, “Take that!”

George didn’t accomplish any of the dreams hatched in his young adult mind. But that doesn’t mean he never should have planned. Planning is vital for success. Maybe he could have been less arrogant though by understanding who it is that really orders our path. That’s the hidden issue behind our plans…they are subject to the one who knows what the future holds.

A Better Perspective on Planning

In the Bible, these words from the apostle James bear this idea out,

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Starting a Small Business in 2015

One of my goals for 2015 is starting a small business. I’ve been thinking about this for some time now and believe I have an idea that’s worth pursuing. It does relate to writing and blogging so I do have some experience in figuring out how this venture can turn out to be profitable.

starting a small businessNeedless to say though, when starting a small business there is so much to plan for. One can’t be whipped up in a night. While this won’t be an exhaustive list of everything that must be considered, here are the top five things I’ve been thinking through lately.

Pursuing an idea or passion that fills a need

Ideas are a dime a dozen. The light bulb goes off on a new one every day. But does a small town with five pizza stores really need another one? Probably not, unless there is a unique angle to it that differentiates from the others. You will have a hard time getting started let alone succeeding in a town filled with so much competition.

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6 Financial and Emotional Reasons to Retire Early

Have some good reasons to retire early? The thought of leaving that career and setting aside the accompanying stress that it produces does sound exciting. In fact, you may already have begun to plan how you might be able to that 10 or 20 years before your retirement benefits are available.

reasons to retire earlyIt’s a lofty goal one that you must be sure about. You can’t just waive a magic wand and make it happen or ensure that it will be enjoyable. It takes planning and deep consideration of all the financial and emotional reasons to retire early before you pull the trigger.

To that end it would be wise to consider the following as they relate to early retirement. You may find after working through them that you want to hold onto that career for a few more years.

Financial Reasons to Retire Early

These first three reasons to retire early all focus on the financial side of the equation:

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How to Make a Zero Based Budget in 3 Easy Steps

One task that may not be apparent to first time budgeters is to create a zero based budget. My wife and I had tried to make a monthly budget before but for one reason or another, our budgets never seemed to work. Putting this step in place helped us lesson those failures and move us towards a place of continual success with our budgets.

zero based budget

The process of putting a zero based budget together is not hard to understand. Like any other budget it does require some planning and attention throughout the month because you might have to tweak some numbers here and there as life happens. In my opinion it’s the best type of budget to put together as it leaves no room for money to go unaccounted for.

What Is a Zero Based Budget?

There are a few simple steps to take in order to make a zero based budget.

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8 Questions to Ask When Setting Up A Family Inheritance

family inheritanceIt’s hard enough to deal with the topic of our own death let alone what will happen to our possessions once we pass away. Setting up a family inheritance can get complex and technical.

The aftermath of what we do could lead to a potential mess as this 2012 article from Fox News demonstrates:

“Heirs of a wealthy New York art dealer were left a $65 million sculpture [named “Canyon”]…The bequest comes with a $29 million tax bill, but since the piece includes a stuffed eagle, it can’t be sold…federal law makes it a crime to possess, transport, sell or otherwise convey a bald eagle, whether it is alive or, as in this case, stuffed…placing a value on an item that cannot be sold is no easy feat. The venerable auction house Christie’s placed the value of “Canyon” at zero. The IRS initially put it at $15 million, then jumped the figure to $65 million…”

Most of us will never have to deal with numbers that large. But it’s no wonder we get confused with our heirs, the courts and the IRS to account for. It all seems like a big tangled mess.

So what should we do?

Well, the wrong answer is to ignore the wealth transfer process. With better planning the wealthy art dealer mentioned in the article above could have avoided placing this conflict in the lap of her family. Perhaps asking some relationship and technical questions would have eliminated some confusion and helped the inheritance pass with greater ease.

Family Inheritance Relationship Questions to Ask

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The Hidden Costs of College: How to Manage the Incidentals

costs of collegeMy alma mater, Cedarville University in Ohio, has a favorite destination that attracts students each and every day while school is in session – Young’s Dairy in Yellow Springs. It’s definitely one of the hidden costs of college because I had no idea how much time I would spend there. It seemed like once a week someone in my dorm would yell, “Hey, we are making a Young’s run. Who’s coming?”

Boy, that was always tempting. Seemed like it always came at the right time too. You know…at 9 o’clock at night when your punching out that term paper and your stomach is rumbling. What college student could resist a grilled cheese, fries and milkshake in that moment?

Defining Hidden Costs of College

Those late night snack runs are one example of the hidden costs of college. They are hidden because we miss factoring them into the overall expense of college. Students and parents focus on the big college numbers that are causing so much trouble: tuition, fees, room and board and forget there are a bunch of little incidentals that, when taken cumulatively, add up to big dollars.

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How Being Flexible Saved Our Vacation

being flexible

Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier

Two Saturdays ago, I’m standing along the first base wall at Great American Ballpark watching my daughter get an autograph from Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier. It’s the first day of our family’s 8-day vacation that will take us to Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, OH, on to Niagara Falls, NY and back through the Smokey Mountains as we return home.

The weather is warm and sunny and the look of excitement on my daughter’s face as she gets the autograph makes me realize why I love vacations. What a memory she will have of that moment. I can’t think of a better way to get our vacation started.

I strike up a conversation with a couple standing next to us who were visiting from Columbus, OH. I’m interested in asking them how long the drive is from Cincinnati to Columbus because we intended to drive there after the game and spend the night on our way to Cedar Point. What they said next shattered my “this-vacation-is-starting-out-so-well” feeling.

According to a news report, Cedar Point had a major water main break. The park was closed Saturday and would be Sunday and possibly Monday. “Nooooooo!” I screamed on the inside. “Those are the exact days we plan to be there!”

The kids were going to have so much fun and now would be incredibly disappointed. Perhaps the couple misheard the report and it’s not as bad as they let on. I tried to console myself with this notion.

During the 6th inning my wife received an email from Cedar Point stating that it was indeed as bad as we had heard. Our reservations to stay at the park had been cancelled. Our plans foiled.

What would we do now?

Well, we learned the importance of being flexible.

Being Flexible Can Make or Break A Vacation

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