Tag: Mindful Money

 

How to Negotiate Your Way to a Better Budget

Ever wish you could pay less for a car or a couch? Make more money? Negotiation skills can help.

The ability to negotiate is a powerful personal finance tool. We talked to experts to learn the basic skills that can help your budget.

1. Ask questions

“Information in a negotiation is power,” said George Siedel, professor of business administration at the University of Michigan.

You can negotiate better when you know what the other side wants. If you can learn the interests of the person on the other side and match them with your own, you can get to a deal that benefits both sides, Siedel said.

2. Have alternatives

“If you have good alternatives you are in a much more powerful position in a negotiation,” Siedel said.

If you’re negotiating for a raise and another company has offered you a job at a higher salary, you can push harder because you have a good alternative if the negotiation fails, Siedel said. Or if you’re buying or selling a car, having options gives you more power to walk away from any single negotiation. Even if you’re set on a particular car, having an alternative can help get you a better price on your first option.

3. Make an offer

You may have an ideal price in mind when you’re buying a car. But don’t start there when negotiating, Siedel said. If you want the car for $10,000, say you’d like to buy it for $7,000 and see where the negotiation takes you. You may end up paying less than you expect.

Deals tend to be anchored around the opening offer, said John Lowry, president of the Lowry Group, a negotiation training firm. In a situation where there isn’t a set price, like work on your home or car purchase, it can be a good idea to throw out a price to see if someone will accept it.

When would you use these skills?

Negotiation and haggling aren’t huge part of our culture, Lowry said. But it never hurts for consumers to ask if they can get something for less.

“The question is not ‘Where can you use negotiation,’ the better question is, if you’re not negotiating, then why aren’t you in all aspects of your life?” Lowry said.

For example, Lowry teaches negotiation at the Pepperdine University School of Law. Many parents and students call the school and haggle over how much scholarship money they receive or how much tuition the school charges. Any in-home services like contractors, repairmen or cleaners are also subject to negotiation.

Negotiating may be harder in a retail environment, Lowry said. The person checking you out at Target probably lacks the authority to lower prices for you. But if you’re spending $10,000 at a furniture store, you can push the sales staff on prices.

Siedel teaches negotiation both at the University of Michigan and through an online Coursera course. Many students tell him they have found success renegotiating their cable bills by getting alternative prices from other cable providers. (The same strategy is particularly effective when you’re trying to get a better deal on car insurance.)

He also asks students to try to negotiate a discount at a restaurant as part of his course. The majority are successful.

“With about 40 students in the class, they usually save a couple thousand dollars in total,” Siedel said.

Success can depend on how comfortable people are with negotiating. While many students get a discount, half of them find the experience terrifying, Siedel said. Siedel will often negotiate for a discount when staying at a hotel, but his wife refuses to accompany him to the front desk.

What should you avoid when negotiating?

Don’t do all the talking. You can’t argue your way into a good deal. You have to find out what the other side wants and reach a compromise.

Don’t go into a negotiation unprepared. Without good alternatives and an idea of your goal, your negotiation is less likely to be successful, Siedel said.

Don’t waste your time. A discount is great, but if it’s going to take forever to get to a deal, it may not be worth it.

“If you’re having fun with it, there’s nothing wrong with that, but if there are other things you’d rather be doing, don’t become obsessed with saving a few dollars,” Siedel said.

Don’t lie. Exaggerating is one thing, but it can be dangerous to slip into committing fraud, Lowry said. Not only could you face legal ramifications, but misleading people is simply unethical.

How do you get better at negotiating?

The best way to improve is by doing it, even if you fail, Lowry said. Failure might be lead to some temporary embarrassment, but success can have a big impact on your budget. Plus, you may get more enjoyment around everyday transactions.

“If people do it, what they will find is that if they intellectually engage in the process, they’ll find what is typically mundane becomes kind of fun,” Lowry said.

Are you one of those people who hates haggling? You can outsource negotiating your bills to one of these four apps instead.

 

Biggest Financial Regrets Across America

For three years in a row, American adults have the same top financial regret. A May 2018 survey from Bankrate looks at the top financial regrets among Americans and how they deal with those financial regrets. By looking at the most common regrets, we know where we can best focus our future efforts on our investments, bank accounts, and beyond.

The top financial regrets of Americans

The number one financial regret among Americans is not saving for retirement early enough. This financial regret claims the top spot for the third year in a row in Bankrate’s annual Financial Security Index survey. This answer was number one for 18% of respondents.

Number two on the list is not saving enough for emergency expenses, with 14% of respondents most regretful about this. For workers in any profession, an emergency fund is an important part of maintaining financial stability. For freelancers and entrepreneurs, it is best to save at least six to 12 months of expenses in emergency savings.

The third most common regret is taking on too much credit card debt, with 10% of responses marking this as number one. This is no surprise, as Americans have over $1 trillion in credit card debt. The average household holds $8,600 in credit card debt.

Number four on the list is taking on too much student loan debt, a top regret for 8% of respondents. Americans have nearly $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. 44.2 million Americans have student loans, according to Student Loan Hero data.

The fifth most common financial regret is not saving enough for a child’s education, coming in with 7%. Both number four and five on this list share a commonality: they relate to a high cost of college. Number one and number five also have a big common trait: they both involve savings. These two topics are an important part of Americans’ biggest financial struggles.

Last on the top financial regrets list is buying more house than you can afford, with two percent of respondents choosing this answer. Like college, housing costs generally go up, up, up over time. In some areas, buying even a modest home takes up a huge portion of take-home pay.

Here is the full results care of Bankrate:

Biggest financial regrets
via Bankrate

How Americans respond to financial regrets

The list of common financial regrets does not yield many surprises to those who follow economic news, but how people respond to their biggest regrets is a bit more interesting. A full 25% have no plans to deal with their biggest financial regret and continue to go on living with it.

Dealing with financial regrets
via Bankrate

A nice relief, however, comes from the 49% who are already working on addressing their biggest financial regret. Whether it is debt, savings, or something else, a good budget and focus on finances can help overcome most money challenges.

While better than the quarter of Americans with no plans to address financial regrets, 19% plan to start work on their money problems within a year while six percent plan to do so later on in the future.

Only with a long-term focus on your finances can you rise above the statistics and go forward with no money regrets. While most of us would want to be wealthy someday, it takes a real effort to turn that dream into a reality.

Avoiding the biggest financial regrets

The best way to avoid many common financial regrets is simple: avoid going into debt. While it may not seem like a big deal swiping a credit card for a TV or choosing the expensive out-of-state school, credit card debt and student loan debt payments are a very real.

The next major focus to avoid a big regret is to save. Start with even $1 per week. No amount is too small. You can always increase it later. But if you don’t start saving, you will never build up savings to pay for a home, education, or retirement.

Thanks to the time value of money, the sooner you save, the better. Compound interest and compound investment values help your money grow over time. If your money has more time to grow, the impact of that growth is exponentially helpful.

Live a life free of financial regrets

Recovering from financial regrets is very difficult. Rather than turn around a difficult situation, avoid it from the start. That is one of the best paths to lifestyle satisfaction and a life free of financial strain and worry.


This article originally appeared on Due.com.

 

Over 60% of Americans Don’t Know What They Need to Retire

A recent study found that 61% of Americans don’t know how much money they need to retire. This concerning statistic highlights a major problem with retirement savings in the United States. A huge number of Americans have little to no retirement savings despite advice to stash away cash for a comfortable future. Let’s look at some important retirement savings rules to make sure you are not part of this scary statistic.

Americans don’t know how much money they need for retirement

A new study from Bankrate found that six in ten Americans do not know how much money they need to retire. With a large wave of Baby Boomers reaching their golden years and preparing to leave the workforce, millions of Americans may be in for a big surprise when the regular paychecks stop flowing in.

While Social Security or an increasingly rare pension plan can offer a safety net to aging Americans, most of us need much more than we will get from the government to maintain the same standard of living in retirement.

The study went beyond asking what people need to retire. Older Americans fared slightly better than Millennials in the survey and fewer than 2 in 5 non-retirees indicated that they feel their retirement savings are not on track.

Using the 15% rule to save for retirement

To avoid a ramen diet in retirement, you should follow best practices for retirement savings today. That may include contributing the maximum allowed amount to an IRA or Roth IRA in addition to participating in an employer-sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k).

One quick and easy option to meet your retirement needs is to save at minimum 10% to 15% of your gross income (that’s your income before taxes and deductions). This is easy to do automatically in most employer retirement plans.

To reach the maximum $5,500 per year in an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or Roth IRA, you should save $211 per pay period if paid every other week to reach the target savings rate at the end of each calendar year.

If you make $50,000 per year, that means you should save $7,500 per year, or $625 per month, at the very least to maintain the same quality of life in retirement. But remember that this is just a minimum. You can save far more for retirement if you choose!

Calculate your actual retirement needs

While saving 15% or more for retirement is a good estimate on how much to save, you should do better and estimate your actual financial need in retirement. This is a tricky thing to calculate with a ton of accuracy, as you have to estimate your retirement date, how long you will live, and how much you need per month to get your total number.

Lucky for you, a Ph.D. is not necessary to calculate your retirement need. There are a handful of useful tools that make it easy and quick to estimate your financial requirements for retirement.

This in-depth calculator from AARP gives you detailed results on your retirement readiness. The Kiplinger calculator gives you a quicker result in estimating your retirement needs, but with a little less detail.

You control your retirement destiny

If you are behind on saving for retirement, there is no one to blame but yourself. But don’t dwell on the past and savings that have yet to take place. Instead, focus on the future and boosting your retirement savings starting today. That is the only way you will get on track to reach your retirement goals.

It may seem like a long way off, but your retirement is just around the corner in the scheme of things. Take the steps you need now so you don’t end up in a difficult situation in retirement. Many older Americans find themselves stuck working in retirement or skimping at home to make ends meet. Even if you can’t start by saving a full 15% of your income, you can start with something. Some retirement savings apps let you start with as little as $1 or $5!

Start saving and get yourself on track for your dream retirement. Your future self will thank you.


This article originally appeared on Due.com.

 

4 Things to Look for in a Mate to Get Aligned with Money

If I asked you what kind of person you’d like to spend your life with, you’d probably say you’re looking for someone who is attractive, funny, smart and well-traveled. One last thing: he or she should also have a great job.

But, even if your perfect mate seems to check all your boxes, you still should dive a little deeper by considering the unsexy, real life stuff. For example, you should take into account how your prospective partner handles money. Is he or she a spender or a saver? Does she use a bank that doesn’t charge fees? Does he pay his bills on time or readily use money-saving apps?

While money is often a taboo topic when you’re dating, it’s an important part of the potential mate portfolio. In fact, money is the No. 2 cause of divorce, according to Marriage.com.

“Couples fight over different money habits because there are fundamental differences in their value systems,” says Yulin Lee, Founder of Project M: Mind and Money.

Want to know how financially savvy your mate is – before you say I do? Here are 4 indicators that will give you a glimpse into your partner’s money habits.

1. Your mate has goals

You’ve probably read inspiring stories about people who embrace FIRE (financial independence retire early) and as a result of their smart money decisions, they’re able to travel the world, volunteer, and write books about it.

These people all have one thing in common: they have goals – meaning they have hopes and dreams of achieving more in their lives. Hopefully, your mate has goals and strives hard to achieve them as well.

So, ask the hard questions before saying “I do” and open up about short and long-term goals. Do you want to retire by the age of 45? Does your mate want to start a business someday? Lay it all out on the table.

2. Your mate has awesome communication skills

Poor communication skills ranked No. 3 in the Marriage.com list for why people divorce.

When you have open lines of communication, this brings you closer to your mate, according to marriage expert John Gottman.

So, sit down with your partner and discuss what’s important – to both of you. This will help you define shared values and build a solid foundation together.

3. Your mate has the money basics down

An important indicator of how your partner handles his finances will boil down to how much (or little) money he saves. While every situation is different, you should strive to save for these two key goals:

  • Emergencies and unexpected expenses. Indeed, it’s key to have an emergency savings account.
  • Retirement. If you want to enjoy your golden years and have enough money to live comfortably and pay your bills, start saving and growing your retirement fund – now.

As your relationship with your beau becomes more serious, you should also get the scoop on more detailed financial factors such as:

  • Budget: Does your mate have one and actually stick to it?
  • Credit score: What is it? High, low or somewhere in the middle?
  • Overall debt: Does your partner have student loans, mortgages and credit card debt? If so, how much?

Understanding how your partner saves, spends and budgets will help you both work towards joint financial goals.

4. Your mate aligns money with values

Value-based spending is a great way to get aligned with your money. Why? This gives you a deeper sense of meaning as you’ll be saving or spending your money based on what’s important to you.

For example, if sustainability and recycling is a way of life for you, perhaps you only shop for clothing at thrift stores or consignment shops. Or, perhaps you value outdoor activities and limit your TV and movie expenses to free up funds to travel to national parks. Pro tip: if your mate does this, she’s a keeper.

The key here is to figure out whether you and your mate value the same things, as this will make it easier to align your spending habits. Once you’ve aligned your money with your values, it’s time to establish a routine. As a starting point, establish a budget and follow up with it each month, says Lee of Project M: Mind and Money.

“Schedule it on the calendar so it doesn’t fall through the cracks when life gets busy. Set specific saving goals, and a plan for how to invest them. Tie a reward to the goals to keep the motivation going because human beings don’t always respond well to long term benefits,” says Lee.

Opposites Don’t Attract

Perhaps certain pairings make sense: introverts and extroverts, tall and short, drinker and designated driver. But, when it comes to money, couples need to be on the same page.

It’s hard to imagine a big spender and frugal person living together blissfully. Maybe there are exceptions, but that’s probably because they communicate often and compromise to make it work. But, for the most part, the way you manage your finances is a clear view into how you lead your life.

Money is unavoidable – you need it for just about everything. So, think about your spending habits and those of your partner. Work together to align your spending and savings goals. For example, maybe you want to align your desire for more freedom to travel and don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck. If your mate also feels this way, together you can create a money plan and budget that reflects these goals.

“A mutual understanding of each other’s past and a shared vision for the future are the key foundations for creating financial success together,” says Lee.

 

Best Summer Side Hustles for Teachers

School’s out for summer. Families are enjoying warm weather, fresh watermelon, and fun activities with the kids. But summer also leaves many hard-working teachers worrying about their bank account until they return to school in the fall.

Are you a teacher looking for ways to keep cash flowing in the summer? We’ve rounded up our favorite summer side hustles that don’t include babysitting your neighbor’s kids. Read on to learn more.

1. Tutor

If you love your job, continuing to teach in the summer may be the best option for you. There are numerous ways for teachers to continue educating children in the summer. Some options include teaching at a summer school in your district and one-on-one tutoring with struggling students.

Companies like Varsity Tutors, focused on teaching online with a flexible schedule, pay $20 an hour on average. Alternatively, companies like Catapult Learning work with at-risk students to improve educational outcomes. According to Glassdoor, the company pays teachers $24 an hour or more.

2. Sell lesson plans online

Do you spend hours coming up with perfect lesson plans and activities for your students? Why not save your fellow teachers time and make money by selling those plans to other teachers?

Marketplaces exist for teachers to sell educational resources across grade levels, including Teachers Pay Teachers and Teacher’s Notebook. You can also reach out to local homeschool groups, where parents are often looking for high-quality lesson plans. Tools like Canva can help you make your ideas even more professional, without a need for design skills.

3. Freelance writing and editing

Every business needs a website and social media presence. This means that there will always be a demand for high-quality written content. If you have solid writing or editing skills, consider putting them to use. Freelance writing, proofreading, or editing can be a lucrative side hustle.

To get started, try joining sites like UpWork and PitchWhiz to find writing jobs. Or, reach out to publications you read anyway and pitch your article ideas. For editors and proofreaders, Gramlee and Kibin are free platforms to list your services and get matched with clients.

4. Work as a camp counselor

If you love being outside and spending time with kids, working as a camp counselor can be the best of both worlds. While you’ll still be working with kids, the environment is more fun and laid back than school.

For teachers who want to travel the world, consider counselor positions for outdoor adventure programs like Outward Bound, NOLS, and Wilderness Adventures. While the pay isn’t great (assistant leaders at Outward Bound start at just $64 a day), these companies cover travel, accommodations, meals and activity expenses for trip leaders. Besides: you’ll get to experience something new.

5. Teach English online

Have you ever thought about leaning on your teaching expertise by helping kids in foreign countries learn English? Many programs have popped up in recent years that pay educated, native English speakers to tutor online.

While teaching via webcam may seem awkward, there are benefits to these programs. The pay is reasonable, ranging from $15 to more than $25 an hour depending on experience and the company. You set your schedule, taking time off as needed for vacation or family. And, your daytime hours remain free so that you enjoy the summer. Why? Tutors often teach in the early morning or late at night – which is daytime in China.

Popular platforms include VIPKID, Qkids, and Cambly, all of which have higher starting pay rates for certified teachers.

6. Offer house sitting services

If you are craving those summer months to recover from the busy school year, you can prioritize relaxation while still bringing in some cash. One idea is to offer house sitting services in your local area for families heading out on vacation. Among the typical house sitting tasks: bringing in the mail, watering the plants, and feeding the cat. It’s a cushy gig that gives homeowners peace of mind.

If you live in a destination area, also consider providing rental management services. Owners of vacation rentals pay a decent fee, on average 28% of the rental price, according to Rented.com. Rental managers meet new renters to hand off the keys and instructions, coordinate with a cleaning service and remain on call for any issues with the property.

Take time to re-energize

As a teacher, you’re doing important work all year. But you also deserve to get ahead on your savings. Luckily for you, these side hustle opportunities will help you earn and save money in the summer months. Before you dive in, however, don’t forget to take the time you need to read a good book, relax, and take care of yourself. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

 

How We Saved BIG Buying Our First Home

Buying a house is a symbol of the American Dream, but it can also easily become the American Nightmare if you’re not financially prepared.

My husband and I bought our first home in May and we took all the steps needed to make this an enjoyable experience. We also didn’t want to go broke in the process. It was our goal to buy a house with a  mortgage payment we can afford. More importantly, we still wanted to enjoy our lives, travel, and continue to save money.

Here are a few ways we saved big as first-time home buyers. Better yet, we’re not house poor.

We Got a Fixed-Rate Conventional Loan

There are many different types of mortgages. We went for a conventional loan with a fixed interest rate.

Why? As mortgage interest rates are now low, we wanted to lock in the best rate possible to ensure that we have fixed payments every month.

Another reason why we chose a conventional loan was because we wanted to make a sizeable down payment and knew we would not have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) if we could pony up 20% of the cost of the house. A general rule of thumb is to put at least 20% down to avoid paying PMI. But, if you can’t do this, a conventional loan allows you to get rid of your PMI payment once you have 20% equity in your home – even if you couldn’t initially afford a hefty down payment.

We Improved Our Credit

My husband and I started working on improving our credit two years before we applied for a mortgage. We paid off debt, used credit cards wisely, and corrected any errors on our credit reports.

We focused on developing better spending habits and paying bills on time. By the time we got pre-approved and started looking for houses, both of our credit scores were over 750.

Because lenders look at credit scores for co-borrowers, they will often take the lowest score into account. Yet, neither of us wanted to be the weakest link. Plus, since both of us had such strong credit scores, we secured the best interest rate for our mortgage. This will save us thousands of dollars over time.

Our House Was Move-in Ready

Buying a move-in ready house was super important to me. My husband and I are not handy and we wanted something we would not have to completely renovate.

Our home was the perfect compromise. It was listed at a price that was at least $15,000 less than other homes in the area, was moderately maintained and had some good bones. The kitchen was updated along with one of the bathrooms. The roof was new, the HVAC system was in good shape and there was even a new deck in the backyard. Another bonus: a sprinkler system was recently installed. We definitely didn’t need to invest anywhere near $15,000 into the house. The only thing I really wanted to do immediately was hire a cleaning service and replace all the carpeting with laminate flooring. No big deal.

The best part: we didn’t have to spend extra money on hotels or stay with family while having major work done to the house.

We Bought Almost Everything Used

To save a ton of money when buying our house, we purchased used furniture. We also budgeted to buy stuff for the new house – using only the cash we had available in our bank account.

I found most of what I needed on the Facebook Marketplace. Among my bargain buys: a glass table with six chairs, a sectional sofa, an indoor storage bench, a patio table, and a wicker loveseat for the patio. Total cost: under $1,000. Can’t beat that price.

Our Sellers Purchased a Warranty

The sellers of our new house were kind enough to purchase a 13-month warranty that we can use if certain things in the home need repair. Because our house was built in the 60s, something is bound to need fixing.

Among other things, the warranty covers electrical work, plumbing and HVAC repairs. All we need to do is pay a service fee for a contractor to come out to either fix the issue or replace the item.

We’re DIYing like Crazy

Finally, we DIYed a lot to save money. As first time home buyers, we enjoy working on projects together and learning new skills. For example, I installed a backsplash and my husband sanded drywall in our second bathroom.

We’re even getting the family involved. My dad installed our flooring and window treatments, saving us the cost of hiring contractors to do this.

Final Word

Buying a home is a huge financial commitment. But, if you plan ahead you don’t have to go completely broke in order to achieve the American Dream. By taking a page from my book, you too can take steps to save money, pay down debt and become a homeowner.

 

Money Stress Is an American Problem; Here’s How to Fix That

Americans are stressed out about money.

The statistics about Americans and money aren’t great in most cases; in 2015, 76% of CFP’s said that their clients number one financial stressors was healthcare costs. A 2016 survey of Baby Boomers revealed that 60% fear running out of money in retirement. And 30% of adults in the US feel stressed about money constantly.

Money is supposed to be a tool. But when you don’t understand it, or earn enough of it, it gets to feeling stressful really quickly.

If you’re feeling stressed out about money, here are a few ways to calm down and sort the situation out.

Take a Deep Breath

When you’re beginning to feel that money stress get out of control, take a deep breath. Stress is physically unhealthy for us and it keeps us from being really productive. Before you can do anything else, you need to take care of yourself.

Figure Out Your Numbers

Numbers always tell the truth. Sometimes it might be difficult to hear that truth, but it’s always the first step.

You can start by listing out all your monthly expenses and categorizing them into needs and wants. This helps you see where you can cut back, if you can cut back at all. Second, do the same thing with your debts; list them out so that you know what you owe and where to send it.

Knowing your numbers gives you the power to change them. Whatever your next move is, reduce your money stress with figuring out the numbers.

Learn About Money

Learning and reading about money is a great way to demystify it. If something feels foreign to you it’s probably going to stress you out more than the thing that feels familiar. Money stress will go away over time as you learn more about money.

You can read blogs and books about money. Start listening to money podcasts. You can talk to friends and family about how they manage their money. There are a lot of options to learn about money once you start looking. Here’s a list of three books about money to kickstart your journey.

Start Small

Taking one step today and one step tomorrow is the way to go. Don’t try and climb your money mountain all at once. Small things become big things, and time can be your friend.

For example, something you’ll hear a lot in the personal finance world is that you need to have an emergency fund with 6 months living expenses saved in it. That can take months, if not years to save! But starting off my saving $50 a month is great- it lays the groundwork for your emergency fund and introduces the habit of saving.


This article originally appeared on Due.com.

 

Halfway Through the Year: Mid-Year Financial Planning Guide

Remember the winter – when you were popping champagne with friends and crowding around the TV to watch the New Year’s Eve ball drop? This year held so much promise.

In fact, you may have been among the 41% of people who make New Year’s resolutions every year. Perhaps you even resolved to get your finances on track for good.

Time flies, doesn’t it? We’re mid-way through 2018 and now is a great time to check in on your online bank account to see if you’re on track to meeting your financial goals. Nervous? Don’t be.

We’ll show you how to assess your progress. And, if you think you can be doing better, well, don’t worry — we’ll show you how to get back on track so you can end the year strong. Take a look at our top 3 steps to shore up your financial game plan for the year.

Step 1: What’s your measurable end-point?

“Be better at money” and “save more” are noble goals, but they’re a bit wishy-washy. For example, are you “better at money” if you’ve bumped up your retirement contributions, yet you’re still overdrawing your checking account? Have you really “saved more” if you’ve only saved five dollars? What about $500?

See what I mean? It helps to have a clear-cut defined goal.

Here are some examples of solid financial goals:

  • Save 10% of your paycheck towards retirement
  • Set up a $1,000 emergency fund
  • Get one month ahead on monthly expenses (and know what that number is)
  • Pay zero bank fees

Once you have a measurable end-point for your goal, you can track your progress against this goal like a measuring stick.

Step 2: How close are you to reaching your goal?

There are two ways to reach a goal. You can do it in short bursts and sprints (like if you’re expecting a big bonus or raise), or with a slow, steady, constant pace (like if you set aside the same amount of money every month).

If possible, it’s a better idea to go the steady turtle route since this will help you make a habit of it. After all, once you get a big bonus or raise, you’ll be able to find 10,000 different excuses for how to spend the money (hello, sushi bar — you deserve a nice night out, right?)

If this is the case, and you’re trying to save a constant set amount, try this: divide your total goal amount by 12 (one for each month of the year).

For example, if you’re trying to pay off a $5,000 credit card balance before the end of the year, you need to pay roughly $416.67 per month (it may be a bit more, assuming interest will be tacked on each month). Or, if you’re trying to save $4,000 into your emergency fund, you need to set aside $333.33 per month.

Now, multiply that number by how many months we are into the year. If you’re doing this in July, for example, you would multiply your monthly number by seven. This will tell you how far along you should be if everything is going according to schedule. For our credit card example, you need to have paid $2,916.69 so far. If you’re shooting for a $4,000 emergency fund, your savings amount should be $2,333.31.

Step 3: Celebrate! Or, knuckle down.

How close are you to meeting your goal? Are you on track? That’s great – congratulate yourself!

If you’re not on track, no worries. There’s still plenty of time to try to reach your goal. Here are some tips to help you get back on track, or stay on track:

  • Automate your finances

The best way to make progress towards your goals is to take the routine hassle out of it and automate your finances. You can set up automatic debt payments or transfers to your savings account by logging into your account or calling up customer service.

  • Up your side hustle game

A great way to make more money to reach your goals is by starting a side hustle. If you like people and have a new(ish) car, you can try driving for Lyft or Uber. Spare room in your home? Try renting it out on Airbnb. Have a few minutes while you’re watching TV? Try filling out surveys or doing VA (virtual assistant) work. You can even get a part-time weekend job at a fun store or business. The options are endless.

  • Seek support

I guarantee you that no matter what your goal is, there are a ton of other people out there reaching for the same thing. Why not try to find them in online or real-life support groups? You can be as open or as anonymous as you want. What counts is hearing stories and getting support from other people who are going through the same struggles as you.

  • Get professional help

Need some serious accountability and advice? Try reaching out to a fee-only financial advisor or financial coach who can help you get back on track. The XYPN Planning Network is full of great advisors and coaches who can help you.

Don’t panic

You’ve got this. If you’re currently on track, all you have to do is keep up the pace. If you’re falling behind, don’t worry. Even if you won’t reach your original goal, you’ll still make a lot of progress just by trying. After all, no one ever ended the year and said, “gee, I wish I had less money saved,” or “wow, I wish I hadn’t paid off so much debt over the past year.”

If you buckle down and start working toward your financial goals now, you’ll be in a better spot by the end of the year than you are right now. What’s not to like about that?

 

Too Broke to Date? How to Handle Relationships and Money

As student loans and housing costs have risen over the past 15 years, you may have accumulated your fair share of additional financial baggage. Indeed, millennials are struggling to meet traditional markers of financial success.

Whether you are in debt or have an apartment you can’t really afford, you’re not alone. And, while you struggle to pay your bills and get ahead, you may not feel comfortable discussing your financial sitch with a new romantic partner.

Here’s the deal though—studies show that conflicts about money are related to divorce. While you may be far away from wedded bliss, learning to talk about money—the good, the bad and the ugly—with your romantic partner is a smart skill to practice. Here’s everything you need to know about how and when to share your financial truth.

Understand your money

If you don’t understand your own financial situation, it’s impossible to talk about money. Period. Because of this, the first step to discussing your financial status with a romantic partner is to make sure you know what you’re talking about. This doesn’t mean you need an MBA in finance, but it does mean that you need to understand the basics—including what’s on your bank account statements and credit card bills. You should also have at least a rough monthly budget and be able to stick to it. From here, you can then opt to make a few quick changes that will boost your confidence and your bank account balance. Here are 3 suggestions:

Step #1: Switch to a bank with no fees.

Step #2: Cut out unnecessary expenses (like subscriptions you never use).

Step #3: Track your spending and earnings.

The changes may feel minor, but being proactive with your finances is an important first step. Now it’s time to get clear about how you feel about money.

Own your emotional baggage

The more you understand about your own relationship with money, the easier it is to confidently talk about it with a new romantic partner.

For Jeff Proctor, a 28-year-old entrepreneur in Blacksburg, Virginia, it was his own self-doubt that made it difficult when he started dating his girlfriend more than two years ago.

“At the time, I was at a low point in my first attempt at entrepreneurship. My income was effectively zero. With business expenses mounting and my own personal cash reserves running dangerously low, it definitely had an effect on our relationship, but not in the way you might expect. We were both perfectly content with being frugal and not making fancy dates the norm, but what was hard for me was my own self-perception of being inferior,” says Proctor.

“My girlfriend was on a very upward career trajectory, so I almost felt like I had to hide my current lack of success. Since our relationship was so new, I was very self-conscious about that,” he recalls.

When you start dating someone new, you may be under pressure to impress that person. And, this can bring out your own internal insecurities. To help combat this, remember that trust is more important than perfection.

Honesty is key

When you feel self-conscious about something—student loans, debt, low income—it’s tempting to hide it, but that’s actually the worst thing you can do when you’re getting to know a new romantic partner.

Debbie Todd, CPA, and CEO at iCompass Compliance Solutions, LLC and 1 Hour Impact, says:  “Be honest with yourself about your real financial picture. Don’t ‘puff and bluff’ your way into seeming to be in better shape than you are. Pretending and lying only makes it worse.”

If you potentially see a future with someone you’re dating, it’s important to be honest because the truth will eventually come out, says Todd. With this in mind, it’s infinitely better to mention your financial baggage on the third date than to mention it three days before you’re getting married.

Here’s the deal: if a romantic partner is worth your time and energy, then he or she is going to be understanding about your financial situation. If not, you’re probably better off without that person.

“It sounds cliché, but you really do need someone who loves you for you, and doesn’t care about your financial situation…When I hit entrepreneurial rock bottom and had to go back and get a full-time job, my girlfriend still supported and believed in me,” says Proctor.

“Fast forward to now, and I am 100% full-time in my business and making more than I have ever made before,” he says.

If you’re doing the work—paying your debt, saving what you can, working hard at your job and taking positive financial steps—then you don’t have anything to be ashamed of. The right boyfriend or girlfriend will understand. The likelihood is that he or she also has some financial regrets to share with you.

Sooner is better than later

Disclosing your financial status to a new romantic partner is hard because it requires vulnerability. But the longer you delay the conversation, the harder it will become.

“[Disclosing your financial status] is probably not a topic for a first or second date, but if you both think the relationship has significant potential, then the ‘money talk’ should commence shortly after,” says Todd.

“One of the key reasons why relationships (and marriages) end is squarely pointed at money issues. You don’t have to be financially rich to be happy, but you do have to have a rock-solid foundation of trust, honesty and willingness to address major life areas of the relationship. Money is surely one of them,” she says.

Remember: there’s no set timeline for talking about money, but the rule of thumb is simple – sooner is better than later.

Bottom line

Money is complicated and everyone makes mistakes and has regrets. With this said, large student loans, credit card debt and other financial situations don’t define who you are as a person or who you are as a life partner.

Take time to review your finances and check-in with your emotions. After that, follow the advice here. Before you know it, you’ll be ready to take the plunge with your new love interest and come financially clean.

 

The 21 Best Financial Habits to Develop at Every Age

Your financial health and potential for building wealth are dependent on your habits. Short of winning the lottery or receiving a massive inheritance, the best financial habits involve those little decisions you make every day and every week.

Developing these habits all at once is problematic. First, there is a steep learning curve. Second, not all strategies are equally effective at every age. The best approach is to gradually master your financial habits as you grow older. There are good money habits to build at every stage of your life.

In General: The Earlier, the Better

For the most part, the earlier you learn these financial habits, the better. If you’re able to develop habits ahead of your age, you’ll stand to benefit. There are three reasons for this:

  • Habit acquisition. It’s easier to learn new things and build good habits when you’re young. If you establish good money practices early enough, it will be nearly impossible to break those habits.
  • Mistake adjustment. If you employ a habit but make a mistake in its execution, it can destabilize your financial track. Making that mistake early gives you ample time to recover from that mistake and learn from it. That way, you never repeat it again.
  • There’s also the power of compound interest to consider. Investing money early allows compound interest to grow that money exponentially over decades. It also prevents compound interest from working against you. A good example is in the case of debt.

In Your Teens

Your teenage years won’t come with much responsibility or many opportunities to make a significant income. Accordingly, there aren’t many financial habits you’ll need to focus on. These three are a good start:

  1. Saving money. Saving money is one of the best habits to learn early. In your teens, you’ll be tempted to spend every cent of your incoming paychecks. However, learning to squirrel away at least a portion of your earnings will always be beneficial.
  2. Tracking your spending. This is also the best time to start habitually tracking your spending. Instead of buying what you feel like, when you feel like it, write down how much you spend in each of several categories. Then, compare expenditures with income. This will provide you with the budgeting skills necessary to last a lifetime.
  3. Opening and using. You probably don’t “need” a credit card in your teens. However, it’s useful to have as an emergency option. Plus, it’s ideal for starting to build credit, which you’ll need in the future. Consider opening a savings, checking, and credit card account in your name. Then, focus on managing them responsibly.

In Your 20s

In your 20s, you’ll be out of school and ready to start your career so you need these financial habits:

  1. Checking your credit score. Checking your credit score is free.  Therefore, it’s good to get in the habit of checking it regularly. Knowing your credit score is valuable for making big-ticket financial decisions. It can direct you to weaknesses in your credit report to work on improving them.
  2. Contributing to a 401(k) or similar program. If your company offers a 401(k) or a similar investment program with a company match, take advantage of it. Company matches are essentially free money.
  3. Mastering your student loans. The average college student graduates with $30,000 in debt. If you don’t start addressing it now, the power of compound interest will make that debt even harder to manage. You don’t have to pay your debt down right away. However, you should have a solid long-term plan in place.
  4. Minimizing your credit card balances. Have one or two credit cards you regularly use. But, it’s important to get in the habit of keeping those balances low. If you accumulate too much debt, it could take over your life.
  5. Living below your means. This is the best way to generate more savings over the long term. Since you’ll be spending far less than you make, you’ll naturally end up with more money to save or invest every month. Opt for less expensive housing and save money on fees and subscriptions.
  6. Setting short-term and long-term goals. Get in the habit of setting and following both short-term goals (like saving up for a home down payment) and long-term goals (like investing $5,000 a year). With good goal planning and execution, all your other financial efforts will become easier.

In Your 30s

Once you’re in your 30s, you’ll have established career momentum to do these:

  1. Establishing a comprehensive emergency fund. You should have an emergency fund in your 20s.  However, by your 30s, that fund should be comprehensive. That means big enough to cover several months of expenses in case you lose your job or face some other catastrophe.
  2. Setting a course for retirement. This is when you’ll need to start thinking about your retirement goals. When do you want to retire? What accounts will you rely on to do it?
  3. Taking advantage of your credit. You’ve built and checked on your credit for the past decade or two. Now’s the time to start taking advantage of it. Buy a house you can afford or open new lines of credit to finance your business idea.
  4. Learning the value of insurance. Understand the value of insurance and take advantage of it for your financial interests. For example, you’ll want a good policy to cover your health, home, car, and other important assets. Plus, you may want to choose a different deductible or coverage policy that best suits your needs.
  5. Renting or buying (as appropriate). Know the advantages of renting versus buying in your area. There may not be a need to rush into buying a home or you may miss out on significant equity by renting. Every location is different.
  6. Navigating marriage and children. Consider the financial implications of marriage (if you’re planning to get married) and the expenses associated with raising children. Planning a family responsibly can mean the difference between affording a comfortable lifestyle and succumbing to debt.
  7. Planning for your children’s futures. If you’re planning to send your kids to college, start thinking about college savings(or a similar savings strategy for your children). For example, you may choose to open a 529 college savings plan and contribute regularly to it.
  8. Investing as a monthly expense. Think about investments and retirement savings as a monthly expense. These become necessary, regular expenditures for the sake of your future. Don’t let your other living or entertainment expenses distract you.

In Your 40s

In your 40s, you’ll have mastered the vast majority of important financial habits, but there are still a few to learn:

  1. Rebalancing your portfolio. Now, you should be in the habit of routinely rebalancing your portfolio. This includes adjusting your assets to favor the current market conditions or to help gradually reduce risk as you prepare for retirement. Slowly move toward a bond-heavy distribution of assets in your investment portfolio.
  2. Prepping for divorce. No matter how happy you are currently, there’s a significant possibility that your marriage will end in divorce. This event can be financially devastating to one or both parties. It’s imperative that you plan how to handle those expenses.
  3. Intelligently managing your assets. If you’ve had good financial habits for the past few decades, you should have significant assets to manage. These include properties, vehicles, and other investments. Make sure you’re managing them intelligently and improving their resale costs. Also, cite them properly on your taxes and sell them when appropriate.
  4. Splurging when appropriate. Retirement isn’t everything. By now, you should know the difference between a healthy splurge and reckless spending. However, don’t be afraid to pamper yourself every once in a while. Start doing more things that make you happy.

Beyond Your 40s

At this point in your life, your efforts should focus on maintaining the status quo and learning from your past mistakes. Additionally, it’s about concentrating your savings and investments on retirement prep. By the time you hit 50, all these financial habits should have prepared you for a stable future. There should be enough resources and experiences to help you achieve long-term goals.

Don’t regret your financial decisions. Take the time to learn and master these money habits as early as possible. And, be grateful for the discipline you exercised.


This article originally appeared on Due.com.

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