Hope for your financial life and beyond

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.

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6 Ways We Survive the Dark Side of Rental Real Estate

My wife and I purchased our first home to be used as a rental property seven years ago. That move was the culmination of several years’ worth of reading about and planning to own rental real estate. It took us that long to feel knowledgeable and confident enough to put a plan into action that would earn us a steady income stream aside from our normal careers.

For the most part, our experience has been a positive one. In fact, I’d say overall it has been great. However, we have had our share of challenges along the way, like:

rental real estate…an unexpected new well we had to drill and install (that was pricey!)

…leaky copper pipes that had to be replaced in an entire house

…a dual tenant situation where one roommate left, leaving us with half the monthly revenue stream on that property until another roommate could be found

…tenants who don’t inform you of repair issues in a timely manner (“Really? It’s been leaking how long?”)

…tenants who won’t pay on time, or ever

…tenants, who by their actions force you into court (that’s a post in itself!)

…managing the finances to account for repairs, taxes and the house that sits vacant for months while you do said repairs or find a new tenant

…dealing with the emotions that come when facing these tough circumstances

…the time it took away from our already busy schedule to take care of all this

Are you prepared for all that and more? If you are game, then I have five suggestions that will help you manage through some of the dark times that will inevitably come. And I’ll tell you the sixth thing we’ve done recently that has taken our rental real estate business to the next level.

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How to Get Out of Debt and Win in Five Simple Steps

Are you up to your eyeballs in debt? Don’t see anyway out? If so, take heart. You are not alone. Millions of Americans live with this burden and never once think about how to get out of debt.

how to get out of debtYou shouldn’t ignore the mountain of debt piling up. It would be better if you paid close attention because excessive debt will cripple your wealth building process. It will mess up your savings, the kid’s college funding, and even your retirement investing. In many cases, it also ruins your relationships.

People choose to ignore the debt crisis in their lives for many reasons. Some aren’t self aware enough to see how debt is affecting their life. Others enjoy the perks that come from excessive spending and think debt is the only way to get what they really want. I’m sure in some cases, people see the mountain of debt is so overwhelmingly high. As a result, they don’t know where or how to begin climbing out of it.

Whatever your circumstance, what I am about to share can help. How to get out of debt involves five simple enough steps to understand. However, the steps themselves won’t be easy. A few will be challenging to implement. Your behavior will have to change if you are going to be successful.

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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.

Let’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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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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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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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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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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What Does a Financial Advisor Do and Do I Need One?

Most likely you have run across someone in your circle of friends who is working with a financial advisor. This may have you thinking that you need to have one as well. It sounds like it might be a helpful step but you don’t really know the answer to the question, What does a financial advisor do for me?

what does a financial advisor doIt’s a great question. Before you hire professional services you need to know what they are all about. You need to understand if they can help with your specific need. You wouldn’t hire a tax professional to do your lawn care, right?

So I’ll help you with both questions today. Let’s tackle the What does a financial advisor do? question first.

What Does a Financial Advisor Do?

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How to Stop Waiting for Next Year to Get Your Finances Right

Sports fans are always waiting for next year. In any given season, only four teams out of 122 in the four major U.S. professional sports leagues win their respective championship. 118 teams and their fan bases are left hoping that next year will be different.

waiting for next yearOf course we always have hope, right? A few shrewd personnel moves from the front office management can surely turn things around. And maybe, just maybe the manager will finally figure it out next year and make all the right decisions.

Unfortunately, most of the time things don’t get better. The team doesn’t improve. There are injuries. Managers get fired. Free agents go elsewhere.

And once again we are left waiting for next year to get things right.

Many people adopt this same approach with their finances. Instead of addressing their money problems right now they take the “waiting for next year” approach. People who follow this way of thinking typically:

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