It was 1987…

…when I had a wake-up call about planning to save and invest for retirement. Before then, I recall seeing my grandmother’s Social Security check one time. But that was about all I’d thought about the topic of retirement.

Shortly after college graduation, I started working as marketing director for Lifeline Blood Services. One day on my short drive to work, I heard the announcer’s segway into the next story. Following his announcement that “social security will be insolvent in the year 2029,” I sat in the car doing the math. I would be just at retirement age that year.

Suddenly, I began to study planning for retirement. Back then there weren’t as many options as we’re familiar with today. But one thing was obvious, I had to save and invest for my future. This was a wake up call thanks to a radio new story. Spending wisely today is key to preparing for retirement.

One thing is certain…retirement is coming. Will you be ready? For ideas on saving for now and investing in the future, make a plan. Enroll in Personal Financial Management Made Easy to get started.

Giving it your best

On the way to work, I often listen to my friend Steve Bowers on WNWS. I need to make sure he hasn’t commented on my efforts to make him healthy and wealthy that he says just kill all the fun. Another highlight is hearing the common sense words to live by from local pastor Randy Carter.

This morning he shared the story of a student turning in a paper to his professor. For 10 times when the student went to turn in the paper, the professor asked, “Is that the best you can do?” Apparently, the student knew it wasn’t, so he rewrote the paper and turned it in again–10 times. Finally, the student replied, “Yes, this is the best I can do”. The professor replied, “Good, now I’ll read it!”

The point is that we should all give our best to whatever we do. Are you giving your best to sticking to your financial plans? It’s never too late to start changing your financial future.

April 15, 2016 will be here before you know it

Originally posted on Get online. Get on track. Personal Financial Management:

Tax Day is here. I’ve found there are four types of people when it comes to taxes…Those that wait until the last minute because they will be paying; those that wait because they have the procrastinator personality; those that file as quickly as possible because they need the tax refund check; and those that just get it done because it has to be done.

I admit that I’m in that last category. I just want it to be done–usually sometime in February. No matter which one of those categories you fall into, there are a few things you should do now to be ready for next year.

First, while you have your personal information out, get it organized and prepare for organizing this year’s receipts. This will save you much time next year and may take some of the dread from the situation. Whether you use a safe or filing system for…

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Financial four: It’s time again for bracketology!

Millions of Americans are scrambling this week to chart their tournament brackets. With the Financial Four, people also have a way to chart their financial goals.

The National Endowment for Financial Education® (NEFE®) and the Financial Planning Association® (FPA®) are partnering on the fourth annual Financial Four (www.FinancialFour.org), an interactive bracket of 32 concepts that helps users identify the financial areas that are most important to them. Expert financial planners and advisors also used the bracket to weigh in on what they recommend people should be thinking about as their top financial priorities throughout 2015.

“Identifying and managing priorities is the key to keeping your financial life in order. The Financial Four takes the madness out of ranking your financial responsibilities,” says Ted Beck, president and CEO of NEFE. “There aren’t any upsets in this bracket.”

Experts identify their Financial Four

Is the priority establishing an emergency savings or using credit responsibly? Is it more important to have open and regular communication about finances with family members or calculate how much you need for retirement? Financial advisors-turned-bracketologists logged on to www.FinancialFour.org and ranked their top priorities for Americans to focus on this year. Based on their voting results, here is the 2015 Financial Four:

  1. Start Saving Early. The top goal among financial planners and advisors is ensuring that time is on your side when it comes to saving. It’s never too early to start putting money toward your goals and the sooner you begin, the more stable your financial security will be. Remember, with the power of compound interest even small amounts can make a big difference.
  2. Use Credit Responsibly. A close second in the rankings from financial planners and advisors is to stay within your means when it comes to credit. Try to limit credit usage to one account. Above all, always pay bills on time and pay more than the minimum payment due.
  3. Live Within Your Means. Spending less than you earn and living within your income is the surefire way to meet your financial goals. Take the time to understand your financial values and the difference between needs vs. wants.
  4. Ensure Job Security. Take the steps necessary to make certain your employer knows they cannot succeed without you. Make yourself indispensable at work by investing in continuing education and training opportunities.

What is your Financial Four? Complete your own bracket at www.FinancialFour.org. And prioritizing your financial goals is just the first step. For resources, tools and encouragement on successfully managing your finances, visit www.smartaboutmoney.org.

Source: National Endowment for Financial Education

What are you dreaming of?

Studying abroad has been a goal of my son’s since his high school days. This summer he’ll be joining other UT students for a month in Germany.

He considered other European countries for his international business studies, but a couple of years ago his focus turned to Germany. His career goal is working in the renewable/sustainable energy industry. Since Germany is world leader in that industry, this was a natural choice.

Germany has another special significance because my father is a World War II veteran. My son wants to see the places his grandfather–at his age–saw, but under very different conditions. A few years ago I decided that if Christopher went to Germany I’d go at the end of his program and travel together to places on my father’s itinerary. My father has no interest in traveling there, but he’s excited about our plans.

That dream will soon be a reality because I’ve been saving. I will truly be able to enjoy the experience because I won’t come home to credit card d

What are you dreaming of? Stop dreaming. Start saving.

P.S. Christopher’s interest in renewable/sustainable energy industry is ironic to me. He hasn’t lived at home in four years, but I still have vivid memories of reminding him to “turn off the lights”.

Guitar: Need or want?

Last week I started a series of money management lessons for high school students. We started out by considering how people view wants and needs differently and how our values and experiences affect these views.

The group had a good discussion about why a guitar is not truly a need. A proponent of the guitar-is-not-a-need group said simply, “You don’t have to have a guitar to live.” Summed it up nicely. Food (including water), clothing (to keep from getting arrested), and shelter (to stay warm on a day like today) are the basic needs for life. You could add some other items, but these are the basics.

Advocates for the guitar-as-need group indicated it was a way to express himself and another said it was stress relief. While those are good, they fall into a category of things that are nice to have, but not required for life. Several years ago while I was teaching a class for people in Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a gentleman suggested his sky boat was a need because it was stress relief. Really? Many low- and no-cost ways to relieve stress.

How often do we as adults fall into the trap of thinking we “need” something when it is truly just a “want”. You see it’s all good if money is rolling in, we’re able to pay bills, and invest for the future. If not, it’s time for a new view!

How to plan when your income varies

arrow-394142_1280With all the challenges families endured to survive the late 2000’s depression, many took on an income that varies from month to month. One of the common questions I receive in financial education sessions goes something like this: “My company closed in 2009. Since then, I’ve started my own consulting company. I enjoy setting my own hours and being my own boss, but my income varies from month-to-month. I want to be better prepared if there’s another downturn in the economy. I know I need to start saving. How do I set up or use a spending plan?”

If you’re a sole proprietor, it’s legal to use your personal account for your business, but it’s not a good idea because it makes it harder to create a personal spending plan. Your business expenses, including your income, would come from the business account. This also makes tax time easier.

As for setting up your spending plan, average your income over the past 12 months. This will give you a projected average cash flow. Some months you will have more income and others, less. You plan your spending based on this average amount. That plan should include saving any extra for the slim months that can occur.

Even though it’s important to be positive about your opportunities for higher income, it is wisest to plan for a worst case scenario. After a year, do a new average to project a new average cash flow. A spending plan can and should change and evolve over time.

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