Financial Advice for All Life's Creeks

Category: Uncategorized

How to Obtain a Credit Score without a Credit Card

Ironically to obtain a credit score from most leading credit bureaus such as Experian, Equifax or Trans Union online, a credit card is required to order the report.

There are alternatives however and it is possible to find out a credit score without a credit card.

Firstly free information can be found locally by using credit agencies such as annualcreditreport.com. These provide free credit reports, however an actual credit score is often not included with free credit report websites.

Secondly, a payment method other than a credit card can be used at all of the major credit bureaus such as a money order, check and in some instances debit card or direct bank account payments. This will entitle a borrower full information regarding their credit situation such as credit history and an exact credit score, however due to the method of payment, it can be a delayed process.

Lastly, there are many websites which give an estimate on a person’s credit score based upon a series of questions related to their current circumstances and credit history. The results may also include information relating to local credit searches in order for the user to see how their credit rates among similar citizens locally. The downside of such websites is that the score is nowhere near exact as it is a simple estimation from a small amount of data that is collected. While the credit scores from such websites are from less complex algorithms than those of the main credit agencies, the results can be useful if a very fast result is required. They are near as instant as gaining a credit score can possibly be and it is an easy method to obtain a credit score without the need of a credit card. The estimation given, however, may be anywhere within a hundred point radius, for example between 520 and 620.

Consumer Banking: New Products and Services

Traditional banking institutions are facing three major trends and market forces that have a catalyzed a bunch of new consumer banking products and services. First, they are realizing that their trading divisions are best focused on automated trading practices. Second, they’re realizing how important and profitable their consumer banking divisions have become. And third, banks are afraid that the consumer banking market is poachable through tech companies that are offering new kinds of consumer banking services—and Amazon especially which already has a strong foothold in many U.S. households.

Traditional Bank + Tech Company Partnerships

Rather than try to fight new tech companies on their own turf, many traditional banks are looking to partner with these tech companies. The result has been the introduction of entirely new types of personal banking services and a new level of convenience and security to traditional banking. These aren’t the only examples, but here is a selection of new products and services that have come out of these partnerships. 

HSBC + Amount: If you’re like a lot of today’s banking consumers, you want to be able to view multiple loan options to find the right balance of interest rates, repayment schedule, and loan terms. Then, consumers can go ahead and complete an online loan application. Amount is the tech company that powers HSBC’s ability to offer this kind of personal lending platform. Reportedly, loan amounts of up to $30k could be available as soon as the next day.

Rhinebeck + Zelle: Many new products and services are as simple as integrating platforms and features to deliver a great consumer experience. A lot of people who use personal online payment services like Paypal, Venmo, or Zelle wonder why their bank can’t offer this feature. Many banks now do—by partnering with the payments tech company. One recent example is the partnership between Rhinebeck and Zelle. Customers can make a Zelle payment on their phone through Rhinebeck’s mobile app. In fact, Zelle is automatically available on your phone when you download the mobile app.

Goldman Sachs + Apple: Looking to use your phone as a credit card? The Apple Card is a virtual credit card that combines the security of your iPhone and the ability to process credit card payments—including traditional cash back bonuses. It’s backed by Goldman Sachs, who is looking to promote Marcus its consumer banking brand. The early experience and information about Apple Card shows that even new consumer banking products have drawbacks. If you lose your iPhone, it can get really cumbersome to pay off your Apple Card balance.

Citigroup Checking with Credit Card Perks: Having already launched a fancy new digital banking platform, Citigroup is preparing to launch a new product that has long been on the wish list of people who wish they could have their cake and eat it, too. Credit card perks without the credit card. There has long been a gap between Citigroup’s general strength with its consumer banking and its lackluster credit card division. Recently, the bank has been taking an inside-out approach by further incentivizing its consumer banking products with credit-card-style perks. 

How to Choose Products and Services

So, in conclusion, financial institutions are getting creative in the products and services they offer consumers in the hopes that they will be able to develop a greater sense of customer loyalty. In few areas of the economy is the “lifetime value of the customer” so keenly understood as the consumer banking industry. In turn, we customers should look around at the products and services that are available to us at any given time—but also that our choice of bank is earning our loyalty in the broadest sense of the word.

What Is a Good Credit Score and Why Is It Important?

A good credit score is simply a rating applied to a potential borrower of credit that tries to define whether that person is low, medium or high risk with regard to offering credit. Credit scores vary from company to company, country to country. However, somebody with a good credit score will attract better interest rates and benefits upon application than somebody with a poor credit score. Additionally, the former will more likely succeed in a credit application than the latter.

Credit ratings are applied by credit bureaus and agencies such as Experian. By collecting data from a person’s credit history, an estimated rating is applied from judging how that person has behaved in maintaining previous credit accounts and from other personal data.

Maintaining a good credit score is becoming more important as time goes by. Traditionally the data was used by a prospective lender in order to help determine whether offering credit was a risky proposition, Nowadays, however entities such as insurance companies and even employers are looking at credit scores and credit history.

A few problems arise when trying to obtain a good credit score. Firstly, no credit agency fully reveals how the ratings are calculated and secondly, there are many difference credit scoring models throughout different areas of the world and even within the same countries and counties. Different creditors look for different factors and this makes improving a credit score difficult. Though it is not an exact science, there are many generally accepted methods to improve credit ratings overall. It is important to obtain a higher rating as possible in order to improve the chances of obtaining credit for the future, whether it be for a mobile phone contract or a mortgage.

As already mentioned above, formulas for a good credit score vary, however some basic criteria outlined below can be very beneficial to a good credit score:

  • Solid payment history
  • A mixture of credit types
  • A low level of recent credit applications
  • The percentage of available credit a person is currently using
  • The length of a person’s credit history

The first step of obtaining a good credit score is to find out the exact state of a person’s existing credit rating. This will give good insight into whether a future application may be accepted or if the same application will be declined, reducing the credit score even further.

With world society counting on credit more all the time, it is important to maintain a good credit score should it be needed in the future for any product or service. Furthermore’ with businesses such as utility companies and employers viewing people’s credit score, it can only be beneficial to gain a positive credit rating or even improve on an existing credit score.

What is the Minimum Credit Score for a Mortgage?

A credit score alone is not the only information that a potential mortgage lender will look at to determine whether or not to process an application. History of outstanding debts and the fact of a person having steady and a long history of income are other major contributors.

However the credit score will likely be used to determine the level of risk of a borrower and therefore the rate of interest that may be borrowed at. The lowest rates of interest are offered to those with the best credit scores, while those with low credit scores receive the worst offers with high interest and higher monthly repayments for the same value of mortgage. In addition to this however, lenders will take the amount of a down payment or deposit into consideration. This can affect the level of interest on the mortgage in a similar fashion the credit score as outlined above.

Even though there is no real minimum credit score level that is required to obtain a mortgage, borrowers that are high risk propositions in the eyes of a lender with low credit scores, will be subject to increased up-front fees in order to be approved at all. The likelihood is high that a larger percentage down payment would be required for lower bracket credit score applicants in addition to high rates of interest. The result of Subprime lending can mean crippling repayments whereby the applicant is forced to decline their own application due to the high costs involved.

However, rates, fees, terms and conditions and other aspects of credit vary greatly from country to country, lender to lender. Generally speaking across the board, higher risk always means higher cost.

It is always worth finding up to date information on a credit file if thinking of applying for a mortgage in order to gauge a rough idea of what interest will be paid locally. In addition to this by checking errors on credit history, removing out of date entries may increase the overall credit score which could have a positive effect on the mortgage offers received.

How the Perfect Home Size Evolves as You Get Older

Some thirty years ago, the average home and household size allowed for 675 sq. ft. per person. Today, that number has crept up to just over 900 sq. ft person. There a lot of ink spilled nowadays between the competing philosophies of suburban McMansions and minimalist tiny-house living. What’s talked about less, even though it matters more for our everyday happiness, is how these preferences and tastes can evolve throughout a person’s lifetime.

 

Sizing a Home During Every Stage of Your Life

By understanding how your personal preferences may change as you get older, you’re more likely to be happy in your current place and be ready when you recognize it’s time to move.

 

  • If the dream of homeownership hits you at an early age, while you’re still trying to get established in your career, then you might be willing to look at smaller dwellings just because any place you can call home is a place you’re going to love. Plus, you can always upgrade later.

 

  • When you start and grow a family, a bigger-sized home becomes more of a priority, if not an absolute necessity to keep your sanity. Chances are, your only limits are how much you can affordable in a location known for having good schools.

 

  • As you age as your kids launch their own lives, it’s often time to downsize. You probably aren’t as willing to tolerate DIY home repairs, cheap linoleum floors, and other oddities that you didn’t mind as a young, first-time homeowner.

 

Make Real Estate a Personal and a Financial Investment

Liquidity and mobility is an issue with homeownership, especially when you take into account realtor commissions and the lost equity that comes with selling a home. This isn’t an option for everyone, but if you’re looking further down the river at your retirement portfolio, you might be interested in real estate investment. It may sound crazy now, but rather than sell your home as part of downsizing or upgrading, you might turn the home into a rental property.

 

And crazy as it sounds now, one day you might even find yourself looking to move back into this former home. Sprawling ranch homes can be great for families with school-age children in which the parents want some distance between the master bedroom and the kids’ rooms. They can also be great for seniors and elderly folk looking to stay in their own homes as long as possible. In the interim, you might spend a decade or two as a globe-trotting empty-nester with a luxury condo as your home base.

 

Don’t Fall for the Luxury Trap—It Could Cost You Thousands

If you have a smartphone (and who doesn’t at this point), you’ve probably visited a social media app. These platforms allow individuals to present curated versions of their lives; users post luxurious locations, gourmet meals, and daily latte pictures in order to portray a specific image of themselves. For those of us who aren’t paid for using these apps, either in the form of sponsored content or brand deals, these lifestyles might appear effortless and easily achievable. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.  

 

FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, is real, and it’s a slippery slope when it comes to personal finances. Take, for example, Lissette Calveiro, a 26-year-old woman who felt pressured to keep up a glamorous social media presence after moving to New York City. She splurged frequently on brunches with friends and expensive clothes to take the perfect photos for her 12,000 Instagram followers. Meanwhile, her internship was unpaid, so she attempted to fund this lifestyle with nothing but a part-time retail job. As a result, she found herself nearly $10,000 in debt. Don’t be like Lissette. 

 

So, here’s how to indulge the luxury trap without completely falling for it. Moderation is key, so limit your luxuries to “once in a while,” or every few weeks. If you have to do it for social media content (it sounds dumb, but this is one of the biggest drivers of FOMO spending), take dozens of photos in different settings and under different lighting. You’ll get the content you need, and you’ll be able to spread it out over the course of several weeks. By consuming in moderation, you’ll also gain more appreciation for your moments of luxury—that $15 cocktail will feel more special if you can only buy it once each month.   

 

Another way to indulge luxury FOMO? Prioritize. While taking a 9-hour flight in business class might make for a fun story and a great Instagram post, spending thousands of dollars for a short, likely boring experience is not a smart decision. Instead, settle for a $6 latte or a Bloody Mary with brunch. While smaller expenses will add up over time, it makes more financial sense to get the $6 Sunday latte instead of the $1,000 business class flight. 

 

If you have social media FOMO and want to live a life of luxury, don’t compromise your financial security for a shot at Instagram fame. Instead, indulge smartly and in moderation—you’ll enjoy your purchases more and save money in the meantime.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Savings

Thinking about building your savings can seem overwhelming—especially if you’ve just paid your monthly bills. Taking more money out of your paycheck, even if it’s just to put into a savings account, can feel impossible. While there’s no magic solution to increasing your savings, there are several steps you can take to make the process easier (and a bit less painful). Here are my top tips for putting more money away. 

 

Make a Realistic Budget 

Budget-building is daunting and repetitive, but building your savings and staying consistent will require a clear plan. Try out a few budgeting apps to see what works, or opt for a standard Excel spreadsheet. Track your bills, necessities, and frivolous spending, then establish how much money you want to save every month. Start small and be realistic—even if that means saving just $50 each month.  

 

Try the Change Jar Method 

It sounds crazy, but the change jar method can actually help save money in the long term. At the end of every day, deposit loose change in a receptacle and watch your savings fill up. To ensure you save with this method, use cash for as much spending as possible. At the end of the day, you’ll always have something to put in the jar. 

 

Cut Costs Around Your Home 

Much of our income goes toward monthly living expenses. It’s not something to be ashamed of—its simply a fact of life. However, these recurring monthly expenses can add up, and cutting one or more of your services can lead to great savings. Review your monthly expenses and see where you can trim cost. Cut your cable bill and opt for a subscription service instead. Downgrade your Internet if you don’t use it that much. Enroll in energy-saving programs from your electricity provider. 

 

Set Up Automatic Transfer 

Out of sight, out of mind. Ask your bank how to set up an automatic transfer to your savings account. Allocate a certain percentage of each paycheck to be automatically placed into savings. This is an easy and low-stress way to build your savings account.  

Take the Buy Nothing New Challenge and See What Happens

People around the world are trying to gain control of their financial lives and spending habits. As a result, more individuals are turning to the “Buy Nothing New Challenge” as a way to curb spending and remain mindful. The originator of this idea, The Happy Philosopher, first experimented with the idea of not buying any clothe for a year. The Internet personality quickly discovered that this wasn’t challenging enough. The idea then expanded to include everything—not just clothes. If this sounds like a fun or challenging idea, try your hand at it and see what happens. 

 

For those interesting in adopting this lifestyle, there are a few exceptions and disclaimers that define what it actually means to buy “nothing.” “Stuff” is difficult to define, but most loosely describe it as permanent, durable goods that are not necessary to life. Anything consumable or related to hygiene or household products (think: cleaners) doesn’t count, but many challenge-accepters have gone the extra mile and switched to DIY cleaning and hygiene materials. Emphasis is also placed on maintaining and repairing what an individual already owns, but select circumstances provide grounds for exception (replacing a laundry machine damaged beyond repair, for example). 

 

Additionally, experiences don’t count. This includes everything from flight tickets to hotel stays. Virtual stuff is also okay, but gifts should tend toward ”experience” rather than physical objects (concert tickets, event access). Borrowing and renting is also allowed, and care should be taken not to harm or withhold necessities from animals during the process. Home improvement is a gray area, but if a repair or item is necessary, it is okay.  

 

So, there you have it. The rules of the game. While most people undertaking the Buy Nothing New Challenge attempt to do a full year, start with a week and see how you feel. Then, take the challenge month by month. After a few weeks of practicing this lifestyle, you might be surprised by how much money you’ve been able to put away. 

College Financing: Tips for Students

If you’re a high school upperclassman or recently-graduated, congratulations! You’ve hit one of the first large, professional milestones in your life, and you have something to celebrate. If you’re independently researching college financial options and strategies, I’m proud of you—you’re already more proactive than most of your peers. While it’s easy to get caught up in the swells of end-of-high-school graduation and taking the first steps into adulthood, realizing the impact of your education on your financial wellbeing will bring you crashing back to shore. That might sound scary, but don’t worry—you’re not alone in this journey, and the friends, adults, and professionals in your life will be able to provide guidance, empathy, and essential advice. However, it’s my turn to give my two-cents. So here it is.

 

As a teenager or young adult, conceptualizing money can be very, very challenging. I know I was immune to the stress of college financing in the early years of my education; seeing “Cost of Tuition: $55,000” never registered as “an expense bigger than most adult’s annual salaries.” Compounded over four years, the cost of an education never truly felt like “a quarter of a million dollars.” But, unfortunately, this is exactly what it costs to get an education in the United States. If you attend a standard four-year college or university, your education will likely cost six figures—and as someone whose high school job paychecks are never more than $200 each pay period, that figure might not truly register.

 

The fact of the matter is: that number is real, and it is never going to go away. Sure, you’ll chip away at it with merit and aid-based scholarships, grants, and loans. You might not even have to start paying until well after you graduate. I didn’t realize how much I owed until I got my first job; I had to call my federal loan provider and apply for income-based repayment. Most of us, though well into adulthood, are still paying off our undergraduate education. I’m not trying to scare you; I’m trying to instill a sense of responsibility and financial wherewithal.

 

That said, there are ways to bring your college costs down while in school. If your college does not require on-campus housing after the first couple of years, consider moving off-campus. This is a great way to save money, as Room & Board/Meal Plan expenses are often very, very high. Sign up for Work-Study jobs if you’re eligible or find an on- or off-campus job to offset your book and food expenses. Opt for digital texts rather than $300 textbooks and ask your professors if they have any paid research positions available. If you can, see if you can complete degree requirements in 3 or 3.5 years instead of four. Research private scholarships both before and while in school to bring loan costs down early.

 

All of that said, remember: It is your job to be a student. This is what you’re paying for, and you should take full advantage of this unique position. Pick up a job, but don’t sign up for so much paid work that your studies suffer. If your school recommends on-campus housing to facilitate community, don’t be afraid to live in a dorm all four years. Your college experience is unique to you, and you should live the way you feel most comfortable. When it doubt, ask your financial aid office and friends for financing advice. Many financing options are based on individual institutions, and your college might have a game-changing strategy for you to pursue.

College Financing: Tips for Parents

For parents, college is a simultaneously exciting and daunting enterprise. On one side of the creek, you’ve instilled within your child a sense of adventure and a love of education—good job! On the other, you may have just signed you, your graduate, and the family up for decades of loan payments and debt mitigation. That sounds terrifying to most people, but don’t fret. Parents before you have figured out how to finance this massive undertaking, and parents after you will have an even more difficult time coming up with tuition payments. Though it’s easy to get lost in the stream when it comes to financing college, there are strategies you can adopt to tackle the situation one wave at a time.

If your college student is several years away from entering school, you’re in the best place to tackle the financial mountain head-on. The best way to pay for your child’s education is to pay for it directly—as much as possible. One of my favorite strategies is to save through a 529 Plan, which you can start as soon as your child is born. This is a tax-advantaged saving plan designed specifically for college costs. Sponsored by states, state agencies, and education institutions, the money you invest will grow, tax-free, and can be withdrawn for educational purposes without paying taxes.

 

If you’ve saved your financing strategizing for the last minute, you can still take steps to ensure your child’s financial wellbeing. Every college student (or their parent) must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA); the Department of Education utilizes the reported data to assess the amount of federal loan support your student needs. The Stafford Loan is the most common type of federal student loan, and it can be subsidized or unsubsidized. These have low, fixed interest rates, repayment starts six months after graduation, and credit history is not a factor. In most cases, your child will be eligible for a Stafford Loan to cover some or all tuition costs. However, the Stafford Loan will be in your child’s name; technically, this will be their financial burden.

 

However, the federal government also has something called a Parent PLUS Loan, which allows parents to help finance their child’s education. PLUS Loan holders can borrow an amount equal to the cost of tuition, but securing this type of loan is more difficult than the Stafford. Additionally, Parent PLUS Loans come with a fixed interest rate of 7.00% (very high), and repayment begins as soon as the loan is fully distributed. If you are not awarded a PLUS Loan through your FAFSA application, reach out to the college’s financial aid office and ask how you can request a PLUS Loan.

 

If you are uncomfortable taking out loans for your student’s education, you have other options. Many parents tap into their retirement plans. If you choose this option, check to see if you will incur early withdrawal penalties or what the taxes on the withdrawal might be. However, think very seriously about this decision; there are loans available for college, but there are no loans for retirement.

 

Ultimately, your child should take the wheel as much as possible when planning for college. While I understand that you want to help as much as possible, this is a difficult game to navigate: you want to secure your own financial wellbeing while ensuring your child’s ability to repay student debt. I recommend sitting down with your college student to talk about what debt is, what it means, and how they can begin to finance their educational investment (we have a guide, if it helps). If all else fails, talk to the school’s financial aid office—they frequently steer parents in the right direction.

 

 

A Few Key Money Spots People Miss

When you think about how to save money, spend it wisely, or invest it wisely, those are the big levers to financial success and freedom. However, people often miss some crucial moments to save or make sure they are in good shape, and they are very common moments that I want to mention.

#1 Accounting – Spend

Hire an accountant. Yes, it will cost more than Turbo Tax, but an accountant is someone who can ensure that you aren’t going to get a penalty or audited. If you do, you have someone contracted on your behalf to make sure everything goes smoothly. In addition, you could be wasting money in various ways or not aware of new changes to the tax law that you could benefit from. If you own a small company they can recommend excellent payroll software companies or proper expense reports or general documentation that is helpful or your day to day and makes general account much easier and smoother without needing a full time accountant.

#2 High Points Credit Card

Get one. Go to the Points Guy and research what you need for your lifestyle. No need for travel points if you are a homebody. Then put everything on here. Now listen. If you aren’t good with day-to-day expenses you need to be careful here, but in general if you aren’t using a points card you are giving away money. Then put everything on here. Figure out how to put every little expense here. Especially, recurring home expenses like gas, electric, internet.

#3 Your Mortgage

This is typically a one-time expense or a once every so often expense so make sure you understand every detail, every expense, and compare compare compare mortgage rates. You might look at a $100 fee on a $500,000 loan and think it’s nothing, but if you are mortgaging that amount that $100 could end up being $300 over the life of the loan. Agora can help find the cheapest origination fees. Nerdwallet can find the best rates. I know I know, you are tired from looking at houses and home inspections and negotiating and earnest money and closing costs…but pay attention. The process is set up to be very easy to add more and more dollars to the process, so dig in and fight or put it on the seller.

#4 Pay Your Mortgage Off Early

Look. This doesn’t have to be suffocating. You don’t need to pay it off in half the time. However, if you make just one extra payment per year, you will shorten your loan by 7 years. So if your payment is $2400 just make it $2600 and don’t think about it again. If you have more, pay more. Depending on the loan type and length and the like, you typically will pay about 3x the amount of the loan if you take it to term. So your $500k house will cost you $1.5 million–just in the financing, not the home improvements–over the life of the loan. Certainly, you want to get as much money into the market as you can, but you will have more money to put into it later if you aren’t paying 3x. You don’t need a special loan to do this, just add more principle to the payment each month.

#5 Pay Your Car Off Early

Same as with mortgage. Take the longest payment plan that doesn’t increase your rate, get the smallest payment they require, then pay it off fast. Car rates are typically about 2x what mortgage rates are, so you won’t pay 3x over it’s life, because their lives are shorter, but you want to pay the least interest possible. The reason for the smallest payment, is so that around Christmas or when you want to take a vacation, you can back off for a month without taking a penalty.

#6 Remember You Don’t Have Enough

This philosophy came from my high school buddy’s dad. I’m not sure if he knew what he was talking about or was just being cynical, but he usually had some wise advice, and he said this to us once and it stuck. You don’t have enough. This works at any age. It’s really hard to truly convince yourself that you have enough. Certainly some people actually do, but even they think they don’t. If you are comfortable and feel like you do, you don’t. Or at least convince yourself that you don’t. This will keep you looking at each expense and lifestyle choice through the lens of long term security. It will keep you straight and narrow.

Why You Keep Cash in Investment Accounts

I hear this quite a bit. People see investors who talk openly about their strategies and hidden in their discussion is how much cash they keep on hand. It’s usually a throwaway comment, which is probably why people think they are really missing something as it comes off like something that everyone knows. Here are the two things you are likely thinking, and then here is what they actually mean.

#1. It’s not cash as is hundreds in a brief case.

This is not actually cash, like you would use to buy beers at the ballgame. What people mean when they say we keep 5% in cash is not physical bills, but anything that is not invested. This will become more clear in a second. But short answer: not actual cash.

#2. Why have that money digitally and not invest it?

This one I get a lot. You already have it in an account. It’s like you got all the way to the goal line and took a knee. Why keep 10% in cash in your brokerage account? How about putting that into a money market and at least making a few lousy fractions of a point on it?

Here’s why. Let’s say you have $200k in your brokerage account and 10% in cash or $20k in cash (funds not invested). First, again, this is how people mean this when you hear it. Here’s the reason and in a second I’ll explain why the % in cash also changes.

If you hold 10% in a market that has been soaring, we know from studying the trends that on average every 13 months the market will take a 10% hit. Such as today on Dec 30, 2017, we haven’t seen a significant drop was Feb 2016 so we are long overdue on the averages. This is typically thought of as a correction line in retrospect, but always thought of as the end of the world as it’s happening. The market is just settling, and then at some point it returns.

Now. During these times–and also other times when companies or bonds or funds you like are being undervalued–when you have cash on hand, you can invest in things when there is a price reduction. If you don’t have cash on hand, then you miss out on some good deals. And crucially, here is the point: it takes time to get cash of any size into an into an account, at minimum 3-5 days from the time you execute the transfer. However, if you aren’t on top of it immediately, this adds time. If it happens over a weekend or a holiday, this adds time.

So cash keeps you lose and ready to pounce when something happens.

Fluctuating Cash Amounts

Depending on your age and your investing type and the market, you might hold 5% and you might hold 20%. Right now, for example, I’m looking to add a percent each month waiting on the drop to get in. After the drop and the big invest, given my age and risk profile, I might only hold 1-2% for a while until the market stabilizes. By that point, I might be leveraged enough, I might not be. I might have extra cash, who knows? The point is that you need to use cash to your market advantage.

Retirement: A Calm Stream with No Stillwater

Deciding when to retire is never easy. You need to have a firm grasp on what your current living expenses are and what your future living expenses may look like. Even then, it’s an exercise that based in the fundamental uncertainty that is life and mortality. Sure, there are certain kinds of data you can use to make informed plans. A family history and honest look at your lifestyle habits can create a personal life expectancy, but you just never know. As my mother used to say, you could get hit by a bus tomorrow. And life expectancy is still just an over/under for when your retirement resources need to last.

 

Choosing a number and having specific goals can be a great motivational tool, but it’s got to be based on the complete picture including both financial resources and personal priorities. A million dollars is frequently thrown about as a kind of benchmark, but it’s largely a moving target and the number itself can be misleading. For more context, check out these twin online sources….the first one from 2015 makes the argument that a million dollars is no longer enough for retirement, while this one from 1017 makes the argument that it’s still possible to retire happily with less than a million dollars. It really just depends.

 

Ideally, you’ll be financially secure enough to fully enjoy your retirement while still doing away with the idea that you have an expiration date. A calm stream that never stops moving, that’s a creek that can be maneuvered in old age.

 

More Thoughts on Retirement

Choosing to retire is never purely a financial decision. Some people are seemingly constitutionally incompatible with retirement. They go out of their minds with restlessness. A lot of us only realize how important feeling useful has become to us until we retire. You may have a plan to fill your time, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to find endless leisure as rewarding as you first imagine.

 

It’s one thing if you have kids to which you can leave a healthy inheritance, but I’ve always thought retirement plans are even trickier for childless couples. How do you ensure you have enough to stay comfortable in old age, while still leaving it all out on the field? Do you have a cause you’ve always believed in so much that you’ll be happy to leave the bulk of your legacy?

 

The Rising Waters of Adulthood

It’s seemingly never long enough before the full weight and responsibility of adulthood hits you. Several years of student loans may have carried you through college and while (hopefully) it’s paid off with gainful employment after graduation, there’s still the ins and outs of managing your student loan debt. Or maybe you took a different path and the financial waters of your adult life starts with creating a business plan, securing a small business loan, finding an accountant, and choosing payroll software solutions.

 

The financial waters only rise more quickly after that. There’s financial planning for your wedding and the cost of a new baby. There’s saving for early retirement savings and a down payment on a house. There’s qualifying for and choosing a home mortgage. There’s life insurance and estate planning.

 

Finding and Refining Your Stroke

This is often a time in which, despite being at or near your peak earning potential, it still feels like you’re just trying to keep up. Now, if I can take the metaphor on to dry land, it’s a marathon not a sprint. You can’t save for an entire life in a single day, week, or month. Nevertheless, this is where you put your childhood beliefs and early adult practices into their greatest use. You learn how to plan for the future, while simultaneously remembering to appreciate the current moments for their fleeting, if immeasurable, value. When your finances are a clear creek, you can see more than just numbers in the water.

Teenagers, Youth, and Generational Swells

A generation ago, the big thing was to save for a car. Nowadays, owning your own car isn’t as necessary or as much of a status symbol as it used to be. Take that first paycheck or two and buy yourself a new phone, shoes, or TV. Even still, there are even bigger things teenagers will want. Still, saving strategies for teenagers don’t have to be entirely about planning for a responsible future. Maybe your last year of high school is turning out to be a real drag. Okay, so you decide to work more and save more than you would otherwise. That way, when you get to be a freshman in college, you’ll have some savings so that you don’t have to work as much then. Or, you know, you could end up borrowing a little less.

 

Tips for First-Time Job Seekers—Even before you graduate high school and are still only looking for a part-time job to save for a car, college, personal shopping habits, or just to help the family, there are things that you should look for, before you settle on the first job posting you find:

 

  • Can you find a job that pays a “livable wage?” A lot of jobs for teenagers only pay minimum wage with the knowledge that teenagers don’t have to worry about major household expenses. Other employers look to recruit and retain workers, even “unskilled workers,” by paying a livable wage. These employers may not advertise these postings to teenagers, but are willing to consider them. This can be the difference between $7-$10/hour and $15/hour. Wondering how a livable wage is defined where you live? Check out this calculator produced by researchers at MIT.

 

  • Finding a job you don’t hate, or at least a job where you’re likely to make friends to balance out the negative stuff. It’s never too early to set the expectation that your job should fit your personality and contribute to your life in some way beyond monetarily. Not the social type and have little interest in making friends, for example? Look for a work/study job in which you can pursue your academic goals—or even just read for part of the time.

Kids and Lemonade Stands on the Shore

When we’re very young, we’re still in our parent’s boat on the Clear Creek of the family’s financial life. Simply understanding the concept of money and that things have a cost is an important development stage for the young child. There are a number of ways you can do this as your kid grows up—whether it’s a minimal allowance and a cookie jar, a neighborhood lemonade stand, or physically paying for things with money. Our parents will create a safe environment for us to interact with money. It’s kind of like coming ashore so our parents can create a safe environment for us to interact with money and begin to develop our financial habits.

 

Tips for Young Parents—Eventually, you’ll want to start to teach them about more complex financial concepts—things like opportunity costs, cost-benefit analysis, coupons, and interest. Of course, these financial lessons need to be age-appropriate to be helpful and instructive. These guides from Dave Ramsey and Parents.com can help explain what types of lessons should be taught to children at different ages. Before long, they’ll be swimming and paddling in their own creek with all the tools to navigate the clear, if uncertain, waters.

Create Your Own Clear Creek Financial Life

At any particular point in your life, you can probably think of your financial circumstances as a creek of moving water, sometimes getting caught up in swells and eddies, sometimes crashing against rocks, and sometimes rushing forward more quickly than is entirely safe. But we also like to think of a creek as a larger metaphor for our entire financial life. From the headwaters to the mouth of our creek, as we travel downstream, we can look to optimize our current position while also looking ahead to our future travels….

 

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