Category Archives: Personal Finance

Top Money Saving Tips for Planning a Home Remodel

Top Money Saving Tips for Planning a Home Remodel, guest post by Hannah West, writer at Home Improvement Leads

 

Top Money Saving Tips for Planning a Home Remodel | Money Savvy Living

 

We’ve all heard horror stories of a manageable home remodel growing into a monster that feasts on money, time, and patience between family members. But proper planning and saving techniques can prepare you for unexpected issues, ease stress, and leave you content with the decisions you’ve made. Here are some of our favorite tips, here at Home Improvement Leads, for keeping things reasonable and slashing costs on your home remodel.

 

Give Yourself a Cushion

Unforeseen circumstances can cause unnecessary anxiety over the budget and the schedule. They’re “unnecessary” because even though you may not be able to specifically anticipate corroded pipes or a bad foundation, you should anticipate some type of issue, especially when remodeling an older home. Building a 15 to 20 percent cushion for unforeseen circumstances helps you keep the rest of the remodel realistic.

The issues may not even be structural. In fact, you may change your mind about a choice you made in the conceptual stage that just isn’t panning out the way you wanted. Either way, put that cushion in the budget. If you don’t use it, no harm done!

 

Top Money Saving Tips for Planning a Home Remodel | Money Savvy Living

 

Use Reclaimed Materials

Finding quality salvaged materials is the perfect solution for homeowners concerned about the environment and/or their wallet. It’s an even better solution for the DIYers out there since some contractors prefer to only work with new materials. Our passion for eco-friendly living gets stronger every day, so it’s likely that future prospective home buyers will appreciate the wise use of resources and the character that reclaimed materials add. But if you’re thinking of selling your home at some point, make sure not to do anything too outlandish—you don’t want homeowners to walk in and see their own renovation list.

 

Handle Your Own Demo

Maybe you’re not enough of a DIY pro to handle the reno yourself. But you can still get your hands dirty by doing your own demo—and saving money in the process. All you need are a few handheld tools and some willpower. But before you go knocking down walls, make sure you know what you’re doing; you need to look out for electrical wiring, plumbing, and load-bearing walls. It’s better to pay for professional demo than to cause damage by hacking aimlessly at the walls.

 

Top Money Saving Tips for Planning a Home Remodel | Money Savvy Living

 

Avoid Rearranging Plumbing Fixtures

Bathrooms and kitchens get a ton of daily use, so the layout of these rooms has to be functional. But if you’re simply tired of the aesthetic and want to move things around, consider leaving fixtures like the toilet and sink where they are. There’s a lot going on behind the walls of your home, and moving a toilet just a couple feet can costs thousands in plumbing costs. If you can give your bathroom or kitchen a facelift without contending with the plumbing, you could save thousands.

 

Think Long-Term

It doesn’t do much good to settle for a more affordable option only to find it needs to be replaced sooner than the premium option you actually wanted. For example, asphalt roofing can be half the price of premium metal, but it can also have less than half the life expectancy. Cast your vision into the future and think about home value, durability, and what you want to come home to everyday.

 

Pay Attention to the Details

You may think big savings only come from compromising on big wish list items like countertops, flooring, cabinets, etc. But a home remodel involves countless small details, many of which involve just a little extra labor that all adds up. For example, if your new design arbitrarily requires custom measurements as opposed to off-the-shelf dimension, that means you’re paying someone to trim and adjust when the material could be directly installed instead. Planning a home renovation wisely is about more than finding a compromise here and there. Do everything with intention and you will find yourself saving money left and right.

 

This has been a guest post by Hannah West. 

Hannah West, guest contributor to Money Savvy Living

 

Hannah writes for Home Improvement Leads with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence while connecting them to quality home remodel contractors.

What is a Return of Premium Life Insurance Policy? And Why You Should Consider Getting One

What is return of premium life insurance? And why should I have it?

Return of Premium Life Insurance | Money Savvy Living

Life insurance.  It’s something that we all know that we need, but figuring out what type of insurance policy to get can be confusing and costly.  You may have never heard of return of premium life insurance, so I’m going to break it all down for you and tell you exactly why you need to add one of these to your portfolio.

A return of premium life insurance policy is different than regular term life insurance or whole life insurance.  But while it is different, it is also similar because it is a sort of combination of the two.

What is term life insurance?

A standard term life insurance policy gives you coverage for a specific period of time (for example: a 20 or 30 year term) and when that time is up, if your family has not had to use the death benefit, the money that you have paid in is a sunk cost—so, cash no value has accumulated, and there is no more insurance coverage either.

What is whole life insurance?

A whole life insurance policy does build cash value, but typically has higher monthly premiums because it is set up to be an active policy until you pass away, so there is no definite term.  Or it gives you the option to cash it out later in life because the premiums that have been paid essentially build a forced savings account for the insured.

What is return of premium life insurance?

With a return of premium life insurance policy, you have life insurance coverage for a specified period of time (a term of 20 or 30 years, for instance), but if you live beyond the term and did not need the death benefit amount, then you are able to get the value of the premiums that you have paid in over that term returned to you.  So at the end of the term, you now have several thousand dollars set aside in a savings!  So basically, you have built a nice savings account for retirement.

Return of Premium Life Insurance | Money Savvy Living

This option is especially appealing for younger adults who may be just starting a career or a family and don’t have a lot of disposable income with which to buy a whole life policy, but don’t want to feel like they are throwing money away on a term policy, assuming they will outlive the benefit.

It is also a nice way to ensure that you and your family have a retirement nest egg too.  While enjoying the benefit of the life insurance coverage, which is important when you have small children or large expenses, such as a mortgage or college to pay for, it provides that safety net for your family with financial security at the time that it is most needed.  But assuming you won’t need to use it for the insurance, it is also a very nice retirement savings tool.

Summary of benefits of return of premium life insurance:

  • Lower premiums—the main goal of this type of insurance is to provide term coverage, so the premiums are lower than whole life, as the focus is not on building the cash value.
  • Fixed premium—because the focus is more on term coverage, the premium is fixed, so for the term of the policy, the premium will not change.
  • Provides term coverage—if something were to happen to the insured during the term of coverage, the entire death benefit would be paid to the beneficiaries.
  • Builds cash value—even though the focus of this insurance is not to build savings, if you do not need the death benefit during the term of the insurance, you will get the premiums that you paid in over the years returned to you.

 

 

 

 

Unique Gift Ideas Under $100

Unique Gifts Ideas Under $100

Unique Gifts from UncommonGoods for Less Than $100 | Money Savvy Living |

This post has been sponsored by UncommonGoods.  All opinions are mine alone.  #UncommonGoods #ad

 

If you are looking for a unique gift for a birthday, anniversary, wedding or other holiday, then you really need to check out these cool gadgets from UncommonGoods.  They have unique gift ideas for every budget, so you won’t have to break the bank trying to find the perfect gift.  It is also nice to know that UncommonGoods was founded on the principles of offering socially responsible products, environmentally friendly products, and giving back through the Better to Give Program.

UncommonGoods offers unique gift ideas for kids, teens, and adults that are sure to be a hit.  I like to look for gifts that fit my frugal lifestyle, but also offer something that someone may never have heard of before, is useful, and will get the “Wow, that’s really cool—I love it!” reaction.  So here is my list of favorites (and they are budget-friendly too!):

 

Birthday Picks: 

Birthstone Definition Necklace, this beautiful necklace is handmade in Texas, exclusively for UncommonGoods, $50

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

Bluetooth Tracking Tag, Do you misplace your keys a lot?  You can change that for only $40

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

Magnetic Key Holder, This key holder comes in the shape of the United States or you can even choose an individual state, $44

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

Craft IPA Beer Shampoo and Conditioner, Yes, beer is good for more than drinking… it will give you beautiful hair as well…$19.95

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

Heat Conducting Ice Cream Scoop, You will never have to dip your ice cream scoop in hot water again or wait for your ice cream to thaw, $19.99

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

 

Anniversary and Wedding Picks:

Ticket Stub Diary You can now easily create a keepsake of all the sporting events, movies, and concerts that you and your significant other attend together…$12

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

Personalized Maple Wall Clock This makes a unique and special gift with the ability to add a surname or date to this clock, $72

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

Personalized Cutting Board  Personal and useful—all in one!  A great addition for any newlywed’s kitchen, $54

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

 

Kids and Teens Picks:

Edible Chemistry Kit What can make learning more fun than a cool science experiment?  One that you can eat!  $18

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

Bioluminescent Aquarium (small) Tiny plankton will illuminate this spherical aquarium when you swirl it.  Truly a one-of-a-kind gift $59.95

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

Equation Geek Watch Geeks rule the world, right?  Your science-loving teen will love this equation watch. $68

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

DIY Lip Balm Kit Not only is this do-it-yourself gift a fun idea, proceeds from these kits helps to provides jobs and support to women in the Washington DC area. $40

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

 

Step outside of the stand-by gifts that you may normally givelike socks… because, really, no one is excited to receive socksagain.

It’s a Credit Card Christmas

It's a Credit Card Christmas | Money Savvy Living

 

I’ll be fine and dandy, Lord it’s like a… credit card Christmas. I’m barely getting through tomorrow… But still I won’t let… spending get me way down…

 

Did you think I was going for a “hard candy” Christmas?  You probably even started to sing along, didn’t you?  Don’t be shy… I know you heard the tune and now it’s stuck in your head, am I right?!

 

Well, it may or may not be a “hard candy” Christmas for you, but it certainly is going to be a credit card Christmas for millions of Americans this year.  A recent Holiday Spending Survey, found that the average individual plans to spend $738 for Christmas this year.  When you add that up for the 245 million adults that plan on doing this shopping, you reach a staggering figure of $181 billion on gifts this holiday season!

 

If you were floored by that figure, wait until you hear this… of those 245 million shoppers, 64 percent of them will use credit cards, or some form of debt, to buy those gifts!  So within the next couple of weeks, over $103 billion dollars in debt will be acquired by Americans just for Christmas shopping.

 

Buying the Perfect Gift is Not an Excuse to Overspend | Money Savvy Living

 

So, how can you keep yourself from having a credit card Christmas?

 

If you haven’t been planning throughout the year already, you can’t really change that at this point, but there are a few things that you can do to help yourself from relying totally on credit cards to pay for Christmas:

 

Use cash—yes, obvious, but as much as you can, use cash.  Using cash keeps you in the clear, so you don’t have to worry about compounding interest on those high interest rate cards.  Even if you pay for half of your gifts in cash, that will be less to pay off in January.  Every small step that you can take to paying off debt makes a huge difference!

 

Pay off credit quickly—sometimes it makes sense to use credit.  Maybe you get a store discount for using their store credit card—and that can actually save you money, but only if you take advantage of the savings and pay the bill off as soon as it arrives next month.

 

Don’t buy gifts that people don’t want—this one gets a bit tricky, but let me explain what I mean.  Have you ever opened a gift and had to try to grin and say thank you when you have no idea what it is?  Perhaps you received a gift, like a $30 canister of gourmet popcorn and thought, “I would have rather had the money that was spent on that instead.”  You know, the nice gift that you really didn’t need or want.  The one that may never be used… I think that we’ve all received them, and probably even given them.  So this year, if you aren’t sure about what to buy, give something that is more meaningful… and here are a few ideas:

 

  • For new parents or parents of toddlers—offer babysitting as your gift.  Seriously, any new parent or parent of a toddler knows that free babysitting is pure GOLD.  I guarantee they will love this gift!
  • For grandparents— make a keepsake ornament from the kids.  Grandparents love anything that is made by their grandchildren, so whether it’s a handprint ornament, craft, or special card, it will be way more meaningful that then sweatshirt that says “World’s Best Grandpa.”  I’ll let you in on a secret: No one really wants to wear these shirts.  Ever.
  • For mom and dad—dad doesn’t need another tie, and mom doesn’t want kitchen utensils.  They probably just want some extra time with you.  So, instead of spending money on something that they don’t really need, invite mom out to lunch just because, make time to go on that hunting trip with dad that you have been too busy to take… they will appreciate this much more…
  • For your kids—as parents we want to make sure that our kids have a HUGE pile of gifts to open.  Because what is better than the joy on their faces and they run downstairs on Christmas morning to see all the wonderful packages that Santa left?!  But, we all know that joy only lasts as long as there are more gifts to tear open and when the dust settles, the kids play with their new loot for about 5 minutes and then life goes back to normal—and all those big bucks you spent to fulfil every Christmas list wish are seemingly wasted… talk to your kids about the true meaning of Christmas and find a way to have them learn the joy of giving… that will last for them a lot longer than getting the hottest, most expensive toy of the season…

 

Just because it seems like everyone around you is giving and receiving the latest and greatest gifts this season, based on the recent Holiday Spending Survey, they may very well be going into debt to do so.

 

Check out one of my posts, 10 Ways to Avoid Overspending This Year for Christmas and find out even more ways to get the perfect gift without overspending and going into debt.

10 Ways to Avoid Overspending this Christmas | Money Savvy Living

Ways To Decrease Your Energy Bill This Winter

Ways To Decrease Your Energy Bill This Winter | Money Savvy Living

 

The leaves are changing colors, the days are getting shorter, and everything is being flavored with pumpkin spice. Why? Because winter is just around the corner.

 

Wintertime often evokes charming images of snow-covered mountains, holiday cheer, and warm hot chocolate by a fireside. Unfortunately, however, winter also delivers to homeowners a not-so-pleasant gift: an increased energy bill.

 

The last thing any homeowner wants is to worry about an expensive energy bill when he or she is already stressed about purchasing gifts for the entire family. After all, the holidays are supposed to be about giving, togetherness and relaxation, right? So give yourself one less thing to worry about this winter season and use these ways to decrease your energy bill this winter (so you can even afford to buy your sister’s coworker’s daughter’s dog the perfect gift).

 

Be Mindful of Unnecessary Electricity Use (And Peak Hours): You don’t have to be an energy-efficient guru to reduce your winter electricity bill, you just have to start with a few small tasks. Although it might be hard to get used to, try unplugging all devices that you do not actively use (i.e.  toaster, blender,  curling iron, etc.). These things can add up and will eventually increase your energy bill overtime. In fact, the United States Environmental Protection Agency reports that unused, but plugged in, devices waste over 100 billion kilowatt hours per year. So think again before deciding to leave your cell phone charging all night. It is also important to note that there are peak hours in the day where electricity is at its most expensive. Power companies charge more for electricity during these peak hours, usually between 6am to 10am and 3pm to 9pm, due to the fact that these are times when most homeowners are running their dishwashers, doing laundry and blasting their heaters. If you have a flexible schedule, consider changing the times you use the most energy to cut down on costs.

 

Lower Your Thermostat 2 Degrees: It can be tempting to crank up your heater to 80 degrees on those cold winter nights, but little do you know, wasting that heat is costing you a fortune. Consider setting your thermostat a few degrees below comfortable and add an extra blanket to your bed. Turning your heater down just two degrees, if you are running your heater for the majority of the day, can save you up to $180 per year.

 

Install A Tankless Water Heater: Traditional electric water heaters account for up to 11 percent of a homeowner’s total energy bill. They keep a tank full of water heated at all times, which is a big waste, especially for homeowners who spend most of their days at the office. A tankless water heater warms up water on demand and only as needed, which can save you the cost of having to keep 40 to 50 gallons of water consistently hot. A tankless heater typically uses 30 to 50 percent less energy than a traditional water heater and operates solely on natural gas. Another advantage of a tankless water heater is that it will provide a continuous flow of hot water. This means, if you want to reward your long day with 45 minute shower, go for it! While the upfront cost of a tankless water heater is more expensive, it is sure to keep your energy bill low for years to come.

 

Go Low-Flow: Installing “low-flow” appliances, such as sinks and showerheads, is another great way to keep your energy bill low during wintertime and beyond. Although the words “low-flow” don’t sound terribly appealing, most homeowners report that after a while, they barely notice a difference. Since low-flow appliances require less water, less energy is required to heat that water, ultimately saving you energy and money. A great tip to save you even more money is to insulate your water tank and then set the thermostat two degrees cooler. Because of the insulation, you won’t be able to tell the water is actually colder.

 

Although winter is still a few months away, it is never too early to start taking the steps that will lead you to a cheaper energy bill.

 

If you liked these great tips, you can also check out other articles that Than has contributed to Money Savvy Living:

Technology has made Buying a Home Easier for Millennials | Money Savvy Living

Technology has Made it Easier Than Ever for Millennials to Find Their Dream Home

 

*This guest post was contributed by Than Merrill, CEO of FortuneBuilders, former NFL player, author, and businessman.

Than MerrillBio: Than Merrill, CEO of FortuneBuilders, is one of the most successful real estate investors in the nation. As a graduate of Yale University and a former NFL player, Than attributes his success in sports, business, and investing to coaching and education. Than exhibited his real estate prowess as he starred on A&E’s Flip This House, is a highly sought after speaker, and bestselling Amazon author of “The Real Estate Wholesaling Bible.”  Merrill is also active in philanthropic efforts and started a non-profit charity, with his wife Cindy, called Equal Footing Foundation. In addition to his own charity, Merrill spearheaded the creation of FortuneBuilders Gives; the company’s philanthropic initiative to provide opportunities for employees and students to give back to their communities.

Connect with Than on social media:  Website \\  Twitter  \\  Google+  \\ LinkedIn

Side Hustles That Will Actually Give You a Full-Time Income

Side Hustles that will acutally give you a Full Time Income | Money Savvy Living

 

Isn’t it everyone’s dream to be able to work a side business and generate a full-time income?  I mean it would be sooo much easier to just roll out of bed and sit at your computer in your jammies all day and make money, right?  You’ve probably even heard people say, “I make money while I’m sleeping…”

 

And maybe they do.  But that doesn’t just happen overnight.  So, I want to set your expectations from the beginning.  This isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme.  These side hustles take time, energy, and effort.  But the potential that comes with these opportunities is great.  While they may start out as side hustles, they can turn into a full-time career.

 

Let’s talk about expectations first.  There are a few things that you need to keep in mind when starting a side hustle:

  1. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s going to take time.  Sure, you could luck out and be the exception to the rule, but don’t expect that.  Understand that you are building a business—an asset—and it will take some time.  Give yourself a few years to grow your side hustle.
  2. Set goals. Give yourself a road map of goals.  Think about what you are going to do each day, each month, and each year to reach your goals.  Remember, what you do daily to reach your goals with what is going to matter in the end…
  3. You must believe in your business. Starting a side hustle needs to be an extension of you—it must be a passion of yours.  Something that you truly believe in.  Don’t set a goal to write a book if you hate writing and struggle to put a few sentences together on a loved one’s birthday card… sounds obvious, right?

 

Now you need to pick a side hustle.  So where do you start?

 

Side Hustles that will acutally give you a Full Time Income | Money Savvy Living

 

There are several things that you can start today to earn money:

  1. Photography—if you own a nice camera and love to capture beautiful moments, then starting your own photography business is a great option. Even as you are building a portfolio, you can make some money by offering less expensive photo sessions to families, weddings, senior pictures, etc.
  2. Start a blog. (You can find out how to do that here, in my step-by-step guide to starting your own blog.)  In this day and age of the internet, it is quite easy to start your own blog and write about whatever your favorite topic is, and get paid for it.  Of course, just because you have a blog doesn’t mean that you will be raking in the dough immediately.  But you can write and build your portfolio and following and then you can pitch to larger websites and get paid to write for them, place ads on your blog, write sponsored content, or even incorporate affiliate links into your posts.
  3. Start your own online FBA shop on Amazon. My friend Travis, over at Stuff Parents Like, has a great FREE mini course on how to start your own Amazon FBA business—and I actually know him and know that he truly makes money doing this!  He will layout the framework (you buy products and then ship them to Amazon to fulfill orders) and go over the pros and cons with you.  With an FBA shop, you don’t have to worry about shipping to customers or dealing with customer service issues, Amazon will do that for you… Before starting your own FBA shop, you should definitely stop by and listen to the mini course.
  4. Open your own online store. There are several platforms that offer you the ability to just create an account and then pay a fee when you list an items or when that item sells, or to create an online storefront for your very own products or brand.  Unlike the Amazon FBA, you are responsible for shipping and your own customer service policies, such as returns, etc.  Here are a few platforms that you might want to look into if you have some items to sell:
  • Ebay—new or used goods, can sell almost anything: electronics, books, clothing, jewelry, video games, toys…
  • Poshmark—new or used women’s clothing and accessories
  • Etsy—handmade or vintage goods
  • Shopify—online, social media options, and in-store
  • Spreadshirt—online t-shirt shop
  1. Start your own virtual franchise. So what is a virtual franchise, and how is it different than an online store?  Well, both a virtual franchise and an online store are e-commerce platforms, meaning the majority of sales happen online.  The difference that the franchise offers you is to be part of a business that is already established, so you have your own online store front to sell products from a particular company.  You typically don’t have to worry about shipping out products, buying or holding inventory, or customer service—because the company does that for you.  But the nice thing about the franchise aspect is that you actually do own a little piece of the business for yourself—you are building your own business and creating your own asset!  And the part that I love about this the most, is the asset that is built can be passed along to your children (or whomever you want) someday.  So not only can you create a stream of income for yourself in the present—and into the future for retirement—but you can pass it along to your kids and they can continue to grow the business and generate the income!  Once I figured this out, I partnered with two companies and now have virtual franchises that are generating current income and building my own assets to pass along to my kids someday—and I have the freedom of being a work-at-home mom, rather than punching the clock for someone else!  I literally researched several companies and found these two that aligned with my goals (because, after all, you have to believe in the company and products that you are partnering with):
  • Juice Plus+ —this company is one which offers whole food supplements from dehydrated fruits and vegetables, in capsule form and chewable form (so even kids can take them—and that’s a big deal in our house because my youngest son literally only eats pizza and corn dogs, and the occasional banana—and now I can at least feel like he is getting some good nutrition in…) The whole food aspect was important to me because I have always been interested in eating healthy and taking supplements and protein shakes, but many of the “health” products that I tried in the past, gave me headaches because the vitamins and minerals were lab-created, not naturally occurring.  I always wondered why something “healthy” for me gave me headaches and made me feel terrible… what I didn’t realize was the difference it would make to get the vitamins and minerals straight from the source—fruits and vegetables!  Within a few months of taking these products, I felt better and noticed changes in my body (I have been migraine-free for over one year now and have noticed other positive changes too), so when you find something that is good, good for you, and has no side effects because it is literally the same as eating fruits and vegetables, that’s a company that I know I can feel confident about partnering with.  Click here to find out more about starting your own Juice Plus+ Virtual Franchise.
  • Rodan+Fields—I had been looking for a good skincare regimen for quite a few years now… you know how those fine lines start to appear in your 30’s, well, I was on a mission to find something to slow that aging process… and it took a while, but I found it with Rodan+Fields. I had tried several skincare products and many of them caused me to break out or even caused those little white bumps around my eye area.  So when I tried Rodan+Fields and didn’t break out and was able to use an eye cream without experiencing the little white dots, I was very excited!  Not only did their products not have a negative effect on my skin, but I saw a great improvement!  Does anyone else find it really frustrating to spend money on skincare that is supposed to be helping, and in fact, the only result more issues??  So when you find products that work, you want to stick with them!  Because I am most concerned with diminishing fine lines and facial redness, I use the Soothe and Redefine regimens… fine lines are fading away, any puffiness around my eyes are gone, my skin has a much more even tone—and the best result—I no longer wear foundation!  Of course, they have more lines of skincare to help with sun damage and even acne and post-acne scarring, which I personally have friends that have seen tremendous results using those regimens.  Again, a company that I saw and felt the benefits of the products and could confidently partner with… Click here to find out more about starting your own online skincare business with Rodan+Fields.

 

DO SOMETHING TODAY | Money Savvy Living

Are you looking to work from home or start a side business?

What are you waiting for?

Take the leap…

 

 

3 Ways to Creatively Diversify Your Investment Portfolio

3 Ways to Creatively Diversify Your Investment Portfolio | Money Savvy Living

 

When you think of investments, you probably think of putting money in a specific stock or mutual fund.  While those are probably the most widely known investment vehicles, there are a few other investment options that can help you to effectively plan for retirement and diversify your portfolio.

 

Zero coupon bonds— This type of security doesn’t pay interest (a coupon) to the investor, but is traded at a deep discount, providing profit at maturity when the bond is redeemed for its full face value.  These are typically long-term investments that can take ten years or more to mature to full face value.  One of the greatest advantages of zero coupon bonds is to reduce portfolio risk by locking in a known level of return on investment.  Investors can purchase different kinds of zero coupon bonds in the secondary markets that have been issued from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Treasury, corporations, and state and local government entities.

 

Annuities— An annuity is an insurance product that pays out income.  Annuities are a popular choice for investors who want to receive a steady income stream in retirement.

Here’s how an annuity works: you make an initial investment in the annuity (which is an insurance product), and it then makes payments to you on a future date or series of dates. The income you receive from an annuity can be paid out monthly, quarterly, annually, or even in a lump sum.  You can choose to receive payments for the rest of your life or for a specific number of years.  How much you receive depends on whether you opt for a guaranteed payout (fixed annuity) or a payout stream determined by the performance of your annuity’s underlying investments (variable annuity).  While annuities can be useful retirement planning tools, they are also known to have high investment expenses.

 

Managed futures— Managed futures are an alternative investment strategy in which professional portfolio managers use futures contracts as part of their overall investment strategy.  Managed futures provide portfolio diversification among various types of investment styles and asset classes to help diminish portfolio risk in a way that is not possible in direct stock investments.  Professional money managers, also called commodity trading advisors, typically monitor managed futures accounts.  A diversified managed futures account will generally have exposure to a number of markets such as

  • Commodities—cotton, cocoa, coffee, sugar
  • Metals or Energy—gold, silver
  • Agriculture—soybeans, corn, wheat
  • Equity Indexes—S&P futures, Dow futures, NASDAQ 100 futures
  • Currency—foreign currency, U.S. government bond futures

Introducing futures into a portfolio reduces risk because of the negative correlation between asset groups.  This means that when traditional markets are experiencing growth, managed futures are not doing as well, however, when traditional markets are not doing well, managed futures are typically profitable.

 

 

*Before implementing any particular investment strategy, make sure to fully research the risks, rewards, time horizon, and fees involved, either on your own or through the advice of a financial advisor.

The True Costs of Car Ownership

Photo via AAA.com

Photo via AAA.com

 

According to the 2015 “Your Driving Costs” study by AAA, the American Automobile Association, the cost of owning a vehicle decreased by nearly 2% last year.  The study takes a look at costs associated with vehicle ownership such as: fuel, maintenance, insurance, tires, and depreciation.  The study cites lower gas prices and lower financing charges, as the main factors influencing the decrease, and overall, helping to offset some of the other expenses.

 

Let’s take a look at some of the costs of car ownership and find the areas where we can save:

 

Fuel

Obviously, the cost of fuel is not a factor that you can control.  However, the type of vehicle that you choose can make a huge impact on the amount of fuel that you will need to buy.  To save on gasoline, you may want to look at smaller, more fuel efficient cars.  Hybrids and electric cars also help to increase fuel efficiency.  Many newer non-hybrid cars even have an “Eco-Boost” mode, which can also help to make the car run more efficiently and use less gas.

 

Maintenance

The older a vehicle gets and the more miles it travels, repairs are going to be necessary.  These types of costs can be curbed, though, if you diligently follow suggested maintenance, such as regular oil changes, tire rotations, and fluid checks.  These are relatively small expenses for maintenance that can save you, literally, hundreds of dollars in repairs due to letting these things slide…  Take advantage of coupons and specials to save a few bucks when going to a dealership service department or other auto shop.

 

Insurance

Insurance can be quite costly and can vary greatly between companies.  Some factors that go into the cost of insurance remain constant though.

  • Cars that are more expensive to repair are going to cost more to insure
  • Choosing higher deductibles can help to curb monthly costs
  • Keep a good driving record; fewer accidents and claims means lower premiums
  • Bundle insurance policies; having multiple policies with one company can qualify you for additional discounts
  • Young drivers can lower insurance costs by earning good grades and not having a car in their name.

 

Depreciation

Everyone knows that as soon as you drive a new car off the lot, it is worth less.  In order to avoid that hit in value, there are a few things you can do:

  • Buy a used car— With lease programs still being popular options, many good vehicles are returned to the dealerships after a few years with less than 50,000 miles on them.  Often, you are able to buy an extended warranty up to 100,000 miles, making these much less expensive choices, but still backed by the manufacturer.
  • Take care of your car—Take your car for regular oil changes and tire rotations.  Regularly wash your car, as some environmental factors can actually be corrosive to your car’s paint over time.
  • Drive your car longer—Most depreciation occurs when the car is new and decreases at a slower rate the older the car gets.  Buying a car and trading it in after only two or three years can put you in a negative-equity situation, whereas, keeping the car and driving it  for six or seven years allows you to pay off the auto loan and, typically, get past any negative equity.

When is the Best Time of Year to Buy a New Car?

Best Time of Year to Buy a New Car | Money Savvy Living

 

Are you in the market for a new car? Are you in the market for a new car? Fall is a great time of year to go new car shopping and the time of year that you are most likely to get a good deal. Why is that? New cars for the next model year typically start making their way to dealerships in the late summer or early fall. This means that car dealerships need to make room for new inventory.

 

So what are some ways that you can get the best deal?

 

Steer clear of first year models.

Whenever a company comes out with a new make or model, it is usually more expensive, especially if it has been highly anticipated. Car makers also refine and make changes to a design after a car has been on the market for a year or so that could affect safety, performance, or usability in future models.

 

Dealer cars are nearly new, without the new price.

Dealer-driven cars are basically new cars, except they will have a few miles on them. These cars may be driven by someone from the dealership or used as courtesy cars for a year and then sold. You can really get a good deal on these because they are considered “used” cars, even though title has never actually transferred.

 

Last year’s model will get a discount.

Just like any other retailer that needs to clear out old inventory to make room for the new, car dealers are willing to discount last year’s models to move them off the car lot. These cars are brand new, except for a couple of test-drive miles on them. You may not have a lot of choice in color or options because you will be limited based on what is left in inventory, but you are sure to save thousands of dollars as compared to the new model- year vehicles.

 

Limit the extras.

Find out what options come standard on the vehichle that you are looking to purchase and which are extra. You can literally save thousands of dollars by getting a vehichle with only the options you need.

 

Do your research before you step onto the car lot.

  • If you have a trade-in, or are looking to buy a used car, go to a website to estimate the car’s value:
  • Decide what type of car you want and what options you need. Saving money is only a good deal if the vehicle will suit your needs. Most car manufacturer’s websites have car builder options available. This allows you to price a new car with only the options that you want; this can give you a good idea of what price you can expect to pay.
  • Look up inventory online. Many dealerships will have their inventory available to view online. This can be a huge time-saver when it comes to deciding which dealership to go to, instead of actually going from one car lot to the next.
  • Call several dealerships before visiting in person. This is a quick, efficient way to comparison shop without having to spend an entire day driving from dealership to dealership to figure out where you can get the best deal. Most dealerships are willing to quote prices (excluding trade-in) over the phone. This is definitely worth your time to do because prices can vary greatly from dealership to dealership.

 

Best Time of Year to Buy a New Car | Money Savvy Living

Benefits and Tax Obligations of Starting a Side Business

Benefits & Tax Obligations of Starting a Side Business | Money Savvy Living

 

The following is a guest post by Anthony C. Campidonica, CPA, EA, MBA, MSA:

 

Starting a side business can help you reach financial freedom. The extra money you earn through your business can reduce debt or be invested.

 

Starting a Business. Starting a side business can be as simple as offering a service you already provide. For instance, if you are a bookkeeper as an employee, you may be able to do extra bookkeeping on the side for other companies. You can sell items you already have, such as kid’s clothing. Alternatively, you can resell items to which you already have access. For example, a client I work with is a cycling enthusiast. He was able to track down very hard to find bike parts, and now runs an online business reselling the parts to other cycling enthusiasts.

 

Tax Benefits. A side business can present you with favorable tax opportunities. Business owners are allowed to convert personal expenses into legal business deductions if those expenses are considered ordinary and necessary expenses related to the operation of the business activity. These expenses include, but are not limited to, cell phone bills, computer, and meals and entertainment.

 

Tax Obligations. As a self-employed individual, you are generally required to pay quarterly estimated taxes for your self-employment tax and income tax.

 

Self-Employment Tax – Self-employment tax (SE tax) consists of Social Security and Medicare tax. It is similar to the Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld from the pay of most employees. You are generally liable for SE tax if you had net earnings from self-employment of $400 or more. Self-employment tax is a percentage of your net earnings from self-employment. Net earnings are calculated as the gross income you derived from your business less ordinary and necessary business expenses.

 

Income Tax – You are required to pay income tax, which is in addition to the SE tax, on your net earnings from self-employment. This is a tax imposed on your income from your business, which is determined by applying a rate to the net earnings.

 

Quarterly Payments – Because you do not have an employer withholding Social Security and Medicare taxes, and income tax for you on your earnings, you make estimated payments to pay these taxes. Speak to a tax professional or use the worksheet in Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals to find out if you are required to file quarterly estimated tax payments and if so, the amount of the taxes.

 

Recordkeeping. Based on my experience, the taxpayers who were the most organized with their records paid the least amount of taxes because they were able to account for their income and expenses.  Learning how to properly substantiate your expenses can save you both time and money. There are many software programs that can help you maintain your records in an orderly and consistent manner.

 

I strongly recommend you talk to a tax professional regarding the tax implications of starting a business and the tax obligations that come with it.

 

About the Author:  Anthony C. Campidonica (Tony) (http://outsmartingthesystem.com/author) spent over eight years as an Internal Revenue Agent (tax auditor) with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This experience provided him with unique insight of tax laws and the opportunities provided to the rich. Tony recently wrote Outsmarting the System (http://outsmartingthesystem.com) because he believes that everyone – not just the rich – need to be aware of the constraints of the system and the opportunities provided to them through the tax laws.

 

Tony is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in California and an Enrolled Agent (EA). He holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and a Master of Science in Accountancy (MSA).

1 2 3 8