Tag Archives: cars

How Much Should I Put in Savings?

As interest rates have risen considerably over the last year or so, many people have come to wonder if saving now “makes sense”. The characteristic of saving as a give or take isn’t quite right because saving should always be a part of someone’s financial picture. Let me describe the reasons one would want to save and ways in which to go about doing this.

1. Emergency Fund

The emergency fund is one of the universally required parts of any financial plan. Without emergency reserves the risks of anything, whether a personal household or a business operation, increase exponentially.

Savings for an emergency fund need to be accessible at a moments notice. Keep them in either a bank account or money market account.

2. Short-term savings

Short term savings, for things like buying a house are usually best placed in a short-term CD or money market. For example if you know you want to purchase a home in three months or so, getting a three-month CD can make sense.

If the timeframe is less certain, stick with a money market or basic savings account.

3. Long-term savings

For savings intended for expenses that are further out in the future, your best bet is in either a CD, government note, or a combination of more riskier investments. For example if you’re saving up for a car in 3 years, it might make sense to put the whole thing in a CD.

However if you’re able to take a little more risk, you might consider putting 25% in an S&P 500 index, 25% in a short-term government bond index, 25% in a gold bullion ETF and 25% in a money market. These four together over the last forty years haven’t lost money over any 3-year period as long as their rebalanced annually. (However past returns doesn’t guarantee future performance.)

4. Other Savings Goals

Any other goals should be taken in a case-by-case basis. Talk with your financial advisor about any questions you have before making investing decisions that you aren’t sure about.

3 Factors to Look at When Determining Where to Live

As a financial blog, I have dealt a lot with individual personal finance issues, like what to invest in, how to budget, and what to do in different areas financially. Here I want to step back and cover 3 financial factors that you should think about when considering a city to live in. While these three aren’t the only things to think about, they certainly will cover the broad range of financial determining factors:

Job and Career Potential

Here you’re just trying to get an idea as to how easy or hard it will be to have employment, and sustain employment in your chosen career field. Two of the things to consider are the unemployment rate, which is a good indicator of how many people who want jobs have them, and job growth. With job growth you want to look at the number of new jobs being created, specifically in your career field, over the last decade.

Cost of Living

Housing costs will be broken down into to two big areas: housing and everything else. When looking at housing, there are usually two broad options available. You can either rent or you can buy. You are going to want to compare the costs of rent vs the rest of the country. Pay special attention to the rent increases. For example maybe your area currently has slightly higher rents than the national average, but over the last couple years the rents have been skyrocketing. You want to be mindful of areas in which the costs of living, including rents are rising quickly.

The second housing option to look at is homeownership. What is the average costs of a home in the area. This can vary greatly from one neighborhood to another. For example one neighborhood might costs $300,000 but just across the road might be $250,000 for a similar house. Find the area you’re thinking about and start comparing prices.

After paying for housing there are the rest of the general costs associated with living and breathing. These costs can include food, insurance, transportation, recreation, and especially taxes. Taxes are a huge part of your yearly expenses. There are income taxes (both federal, state and sometimes city), as well as sales tax and property tax. Look at these rates for you area.

Long-Term Stability

The last thing you want to look at after job potential and cost of living is the general stability in the area. The stability of the area is both the economic factors and the political factors.

For example look at one of the leading factors of growth for cities: population growth. Take a look at the recent trend in population. For example are massive amounts of people entering or leaving the area? This might be a sign that things are changing. With the change in demographics and population comes changes in political preferences.

Maybe these changes will lead to political leadership upheaval in the local government. Think about how these changes could potentially impact your life in terms of local taxes, regulations, social programs, and building projects in the future. Are you okay with these potential changes and the uncertainty that comes with them?

Conclusion:

Overall, these three factors can paint a pretty clear picture of the financial concerns about one area over another. After going through them, you should know whether this area is something you would want to consider moving to. Naturally though, there will be others things of concern, like climate, education, health and other issues. While these concerns might not directly impact your finances, most of them should be looked at closely for the effects they could have down the road.

7 Things That People Never Spend Enough Money On

1. Paper

That’s a strange thing to lead the list with. However paper represents a mentality in the U.S., and especially in other countries, that puts people in a scarcity mentality. I’ve been personally at fault of doing this. Often I’ll try to save paper by writing on the other side or cramming everything on to one page.

This is particularly true when I am in school. I’ll take notes by putting everything close together. Any learning and memorization expert will tell you that leaving space on the paper gives your brain room to process and compartmentalize concepts and facts in your brain.

You need to be comfortable using up more paper, even if that means spending a minuscule amount more.

2. Seminars

Honestly this type of personal improvement hasn’t been something I’ve looked into in the past. However in recent months and years I’ve begun to see how others have used these as networking, learning, and inspirational events.

3. Health

I hope most people value health over money. The natural outcome of this value priority is that you should be spending the money you need to to keep your health at its prime. Don’t forget about health.

4. Others

Pouring money into others, whether through time and experiences, or generous gifts of items and money, is both a heart-warmer, and a perspective-changer. As soon as you begin to look outside yourself to help others, life becomes a ton more meaningful.

5. Car Maintenance

Changing the oil, replacing break pads, and doing general maintenance on your vehicles is a responsible thing for adults to do. It feels like you’re throwing money away, but in the long-term it can save you money in emergencies, breaks, and issues.

6. High Quality Items

Often it is wise to skip the name-brand items and go with cheaper things. This is especially true with things that don’t matter as much like cereal brands or food in general. However if you find an item is cheaper than another, this doesn’t mean instantly that it’s a deal. It’s possible that down the road you’ll spend money on replacing that cheaper item.

7. Books

Call me old fashioned, but I find books are particularly useful in learning. I have personally read hundreds (yes hundreds) of nonfiction books in my free time. While spending $1,000 on books (both e-books and physical books) can seem like a big waste of money when the library is just down the street, I see books as an investment.

When you see nonfiction books as resources and insightful gems of knowledge, it becomes natural to look at the cost-benefit of each book as a more than worthwhile investment.

I personally find physical books to be easier on my eyes and simply to read than e-books.

Conclusion:

Seeing every purchase as an investment can be a fun game to get your mind racing on ways to save and spend money wisely.

Two Twenty-minute Tasks That Will Boost Your Financial Confidence

Most of the financially successful people we read about in magazines, books or see on social media are often portrayed as charismatic, energized, stage magnets. While a lot of them share many of these characters, what these men and women share more than any other trait is confidence. How did they get this confidence?

Confidence is often portrayed as something you can act or be or do. But while you certainly can “be more confident” simply trying to act this way won’t create the lasting change you’re looking for. When trying to build more personal confidence in yourself you have to be drawing this confidence from somewhere.

For example, while hosting at a sushi restaurant I have often heard fellow employees give me advice to “be more confident.” While I was certainly able to heed their advice and stand up straighter and with more confidence for short periods of time, I never was quite able to stick with it long term.

However the days I found it easy to be confident were the days I was diligently working, succeeding in customer service, and completing restaurant tasks with excellence. In a lot of ways it was a self-feeding cycle. I’d begin my shift with energy and confidence in my abilities and as the shift progressed my confidence would be reinforced by continuous action.

In our financial lives as well confidence can’t come from self-talk alone. Your mind has to feel both the emotional side as well as the logical side telling you to be confident. When you know that you are working hard, and have a plan it becomes easier for your emotional mind to reconcile the feeling of confidence with the logical one. Here are two major tasks you can do that each take about twenty minutes to complete:

1. Make a general (very rough) outline of where you want to be financially.

This doesn’t have to be complicated or long. Just take a piece of scrap paper out or grab your tablet and start brainstorming what kinds of things you really want to get out of your financially life over your lifetime. This task isn’t a one time event. You should be reinforcing this plan as well as refining the details of it, over the course of your life.

However this first basic exercise should catch the gist of where you’d like to be in the next year or two to help you get where you want to be with your long-term goals (5, 10 or more years down the road).

Organize your finances to see where you are

This step is just to catch a brief overview of where you money stands at this point. Get out your bank statements, look at your investment accounts, estimate the rough value of your home and the mortgage you have on it. Once you know your assets, liabilities, and the rough monthly budget you take in (income) and the expense you take out (expenses) you’ll have a very general picture of where you are.

These two, first steps alone will give you a sense of clarity about what really matters to you and where you are financially, thus what is needed to get you to the next step.

Can Debt Ever Be Good?

Most people have heard of Dave Ramsey. His financial advice has helped millions of people get out of debt and free up their financial inflow (their income). So is this simplistic advice the whole picture when it comes to debt?

The list of successful people who have made fortunes with debt says otherwise. When’s the last time you heard of a wealthy person who built a massive business without borrowing money in some sort of way? It’s not very common. In fact, the three richest people in the US, and the world for that matter (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet) have all built businesses or bought businesses that used debt regularly in their operations.

But why is Dave Ramsey so against debt? While I can’t get into his head, there are three legitimate reasons I can think of why he dislikes the idea of borrowing money entirely:

  1. Debt has to be payed back. While the future ability to pay off debt is uncertain, the requirement to pay it back is definitely certain. This represents risk.
  2. Debt gives control and responsibility of part of your financial life to someone else. While you are still responsible for taking care and utilizing whatever you purchased with the debt, you are no longer owning this thing altogether by yourself.
  3. Debt costs money and time. To borrow money it usually takes time and complications. On top of that there are costs associated with borrowing like origination fees, legal fees, and (of course) interest. While the rate of return you get on your money might be greater than the interest rate, you are involving more risk into your financial picture.

So, after close examination, do Dave Ramsey’s probable reasons and concerns for not using debt seem pretty well founded? I’ll leave that up to you. However they can be summarized in one word: Risk.

Debt represents risk. Whichever way you borrow money, whether for a home, real estate property, or college, recognize that debt is a risk that cannot be overlooked. While I believe debt cannot or should not be eliminated from our lives completely, taking a careful look at it can go a far way in eliminating pitfalls.

3 Things to Value More Than $1M

As the U.S. continuous its decade-long economic improvement, it’s hard for many of the younger folks to remember a time where fear was prevalent and jobs were scarce. While I was much younger in 08 and 09 I remember the feeling and conversation around money during that period.

Not only am I confident that hard times will hit the U.S. economy again, I suspect (based on history) that some sort of crash or drawback isn’t too far away. Simply looking back at the last couple decades of market crashes gives us some picture of how rare the past 10 years have been.

We’ve seen relatively low turmoil in the market, particularly stocks. Except for a few difficult weeks, the U.S. stock markets haven’t experienced a real drawback since the mortgage meltdown. But just 5 or 6 years before that the markets were down in 2002. And just two years before that the markets were down in the technology bubble of 2000.

Consistently throughout history we’ve had market crashes or corrections every six to 10 years. Here we are in 2018, with trade fears on the horizon, wondering if another crash is near. It’s been about a decade.

With all the turmoil, fear, anxiety and uncertainty in the markets, it’s very easy to become focused so much on the world of money that 1) we lose historical perspective on a potential loss, but 2) we lose life perspective on the true importance of money as it relates to our life.

Which matters more, a 50% drop in the Stockmarket (which won’t be a permanent loss unless you panic and sell) or a loss of a close loved one? While most people would value the close relationship above a temporary financial loss, it’s strange that so many of us put more energy worrying about areas of finance we can’t control and less time improving our current relationships.

Don’t get me wrong, money is important. Money has power, both in our life (to buy things and help others we care about) and in politics (to influence people), but there are three big things more important than money we can’t forget:

1) God

2) Close relationships (friends and family)

3) Health (physical and emotional)

Deepening these areas of your life both in depth (deepened commitment and improvement) and in length (time spent improving and investing in) is a great first step in not only improving these three areas but also setting yourself up to improve the 4th area: Money.

Next time you’re planning or prioritizing your life in a way that isn’t consistent with your values, remember in what order your values lie.

The Bad Thing About “Following Your Dream”

Whenever I hear someone say they’re trying to live their dream, I wonder, how many people out there have truly reached the point where they can fully pursue their interests?

I know I haven’t fully embraced my passions but over the last two years I’ve certainly gotten better. In two weeks I plan to take the second step towards pursuing “my dream”. The first step I took was this April when I took my 10 day road trip that drove me through Jacksonville, FL.

The second part of this pursuit will take place when I take my second trip there. I plan on leaving in two weeks. The trip will involve a drive from Michigan down to Nashville, TN, then a 2 day visit to Jacksonville, FL. On the way back up I plan on hitting Forsyth Park, Savanna, GA..

The question you might be asking is, why Jacksonville? That’s a very good question. It has more to do with my future than it does with my present. Currently I’m in college. I work nearby and have friends nearby. However somewhere down the road – maybe in 3 years or 10 years – I will move somewhere better.

It’s been a big thing for me to truly feel that the place I’m living in is right for me. I don’t feel most of Michigan is. For starters I like warmer weather. On top of that I’m looking for a city with more social and economic activity – unlike most of Michigan.

Explaining this often takes up a great deal of time. People will criticize my interests and goals. The dream I have certainly isn’t a common one. What should I do then?

What do you think, should I share “my dream” with the world or keep it inside my head?

Do you have a dream that most people around you think is stupid or weird? Feel free to jump into the comments below…

How I Drove 2,300 Miles Without My License (And Why You Shouldn’t) Part 3

As I left Dallas I realized the trip was almost over. “What’s next?” I thought as I drove up towards Oklahoma City, OK.

Later that night I decided I would be traveling up through Kansas. Sounds like a cool place right? So off I went, driving late into the night. I was ready to explore Wichita and Kansas City as soon as I found a place to stay for the night.

At this point I was in southern Kansas, near Wichita. It was near midnight. Out on the country road it was 65mph but as I entered a little town I didn’t see the sign that said 45…  oops.

Lights flashed behind me. Even though this was my first time being pulled over after four years of driving (I’m not a bad driver btw) I couldn’t help feel a little discouraged. Was it a speed trap?

As the female officer walked up alongside the vehicle I pulled out my registration and reached for my wallet. “Hello,” she said, “I just wanted to let you know you were speeding. Not by too much, though. Can I see your license and registration?”

I handed her the registration. Opening my wallet I fumbled as I opened up where the license normally is supposed to be. I pulled out the enhanced license slip that holds the license. Opening up, I looked inside… my license was gone.

“Umm,” I awkwardly said, still looking through my wallet to see if it was somewhere else. “I can’t find my license.”

“Ok,” she said, “Can I see maybe student ID or something with a picture on it while you keep looking?” “Sure.” I handed her my student ID.

I continued to look as she went to her car. A few minutes later another police car showed up. This time a man stepped out. He and the woman walked up alongside the car. “Did you find it?”

“No luck I said,” glancing up. I got out of the car and started looking in the back. “Where is it?” I thought. I was so confused as to where it could have gone. I continued to look. “Here, can you use this?” The man officer held out a flashlight. “Thanks,” I said, realizing I also had a flashlight somewhere in the car.

After a little while they told me to pull up a few hundred yards to a little gas station. Shortly after parking they asked me to put the car keys in the car and get out. “Look,” the man said, “from our perspective this whole situation is bizarre. It looks like you’re telling the truth, but it’s taking a lot time for us to look you up in the Michigan Driver’s records.

Finally, fifteen minutes or so later they were able to look me up and get my drivers license number. I wrote it down and we said our goodbyes. The male police officer, George, shared his name and we shook hands. They were very nice and considerate.

Whatever happened that day, I’m very glad for kinder, understanding police officers.

By the way, I did find my license a few days later, but that’s a whole different story. At the end of the day we can take one big lesson a way: Even if you think your license is in your wallet, it never hurts to double check.