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HarMoney™ Money Management Checklist for 2015

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The end of the year is upon us in just a couple days. Here is a checklist of things to do now so you can get more use out of your money in 2015, including a few tips on ways to save money.

 1 Look over your spending. If you haven’t tracked it, make that your #1 goal for January. If you don’t track your spending, you don’t have a clue as to what you’re really spending your money on. This step is a real eye-opener and very empowering, so don’t disregard it as too much of a hassle. When I was teaching, my students loved this exercise as they discovered so much about how mindlessly they spent, what money saving tips they could implement, and found “new” cash to redirect to what they truly wanted to spend their money on. It will help you to take ownership and responsibility for your money and how you want to spend and save it.

 2    Automate your money management. Decide how much you want to save and have it transferred from your paycheck into your savings account, flexible spending account (FSA), and retirement plans. Sign-up for online banking and start paying your bills directly from your account. Yes, it’s safe, and will save you time and money as you no longer will be requiring as many checks, it only takes minutes to actually pay your bills, and you won’t require stamps to mail them.

 3    Review your need for life insurance. If you don’t have any, yet you have family that depends on you, check out term insurance where you can get the most bang for your buck. If you’re looking to create an asset to round out your investment portfolio or help with your estate plans, check into Universal or Whole life insurance. If you’re confused on what you need, make sure you consult a financial planner. I’m here if you need me.

 4    If you’re a homeowner, check the replacement value on your homeowner’s insurance. This needs to be done periodically to make sure you’ve kept up with inflation. There’s nothing worse than having insurance, but not enough to actually help you get out of the nightmare you’re in, such as a catastrophic fire.

 5    Create a list of important documents including their locations. This may sound corny, but let me just say, I’ve had many clients require proof of ownership or experience the loss of a loved one and have no clue where are the important stuff is. Documents such as pink slips, proof of marriage (or dissolution), bank accounts, insurance policies, wills, trusts, etc., cannot be realized without the evidence of such. One of my clients found stock certificates from the 1950’s in her loved one’s underwear drawer, cookie jar, suitcase, and filing cabinet once she was emptying out the house years after their passing. Give yourself the gift of organization in 2015 and set up a system of document retrieval that works for you now and, God forbid, your family if you become incapacitated.

 6    Transfer your E-Fund (emergency savings) account to an internet savings account. To keep the money you’ve set aside for emergencies in a regular passbook savings account is about as smart as putting it under your mattress. Both those ideas have a little merit, but clearly are not what you want for monies that are simply sitting around waiting to be called to duty. Here’s a link to an FDIC-insured online bank offering 1.25%. Go to Bankrate.com to search for other higher paying savings accounts. Make sure you feel comfortable moving ahead and read all the fine print.

 7    Review your investment portfolio and rebalance it. The market has been on the up rise for several years now. It might make sense to sell some of your winners, take the principle and earnings and invest in globally recognized, stable dividend-paying, financially secure companies. Also, take another look at fixed income opportunities. With the economy improving, some bonds may be a good deal for you if the company’s financial position is improving along with the economy. Make sure any changes you make are in alignment with your investment policy, and contact your financial advisor just to be sure. (Again, I’m here if you need me.)

 8    If you’re in the market and need to buy a new car, do it today or tomorrow (if you’re ready), or if in January, buy a “left-over” vehicle. Auto dealerships find themselves with no one to talk to the last couple days of the year. Be prepared before you enter the dealership with your financing. Do not negotiate while there; it’s best to do most of this over the phone. If you’re buying a left-over vehicle, have all your homework done so you can move quickly once the new models are released. Don’t forget to review your auto insurance and have it in place so you can drive the car off the lot!

 9    If you haven’t done so already, get your free credit report. You can get a free report from each of the credit companies: Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. Space them out, one every four months, to keep tabs on what’s happening throughout the year.

 10    Lastly, review your estate planning documents. No, these aren’t simply for the “rich!” Everyone should have a will, powers of attorney for health and finance, and a living will. The latter combined with the power of attorney for healthcare are called Advance Directives.
If you’ve ever needed to check-in to the hospital, or have had a loved one need to, the hospital will provide these documents for you at that time. However, all these documents require forethought. Additionally, check with your state to see if you qualify for the need of a living trust. In California, if your estate is over $100,000, it’s a good idea to have one. Having a living trust enables your estate to transfer quickly and quietly without the need for a public probate proceeding.

When it comes to your 2015 financial planning, this list is pretty thorough and will enable you to get a good start. I’d do my best to hit all of these within the year, every year. Building your wealth and devising a wealth management system has to start somewhere …so start here. If you have two coins to rub together, that’s a great starting place. If you have an investment portfolio to manage and be responsible for, now is a great time to buckle down, step up to the plate, and put that financial planning and investment advice to work.

 

You can do it! I believe in YOU!

 

It’s your money, your rules, your way!

 

Money Savvy Woman, Inc. © 2014

A Merry Christmas Prayer for You!

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Are you sipping an early morning egg nog latte? Has Santa visited your home and the kids are all a-bustle with excitement? Are you celebrating quietly?

Well, I’ve taken a few moments to think of you as I sit to write this. And as I do, I’m reminded of the Reason for the season. The birth of the Christ child is the greatest gift I could ever receive making any other gifts pale in comparison. I think of the gift of you, and how your presence has blessed me this past year, and all the other blessings bestowed upon me.

So while pondering the reason for the season, I came upon this little poem that answers the questions of Christmas perfectly. I thought you might enjoy it too.

Why do the bells of Christmas ring?
Why do little children sing?

Once a lovely shining star
seen by shepherds from afar
gently moved until its light
made a manger’s cradle bright.

There a darling baby lay
pillowed soft upon the hay;
And it’s mother sung and smiled:
“This is Christ! The Holy Child!”

Therefore bells of Christmas ring.
Therefore little children sing!

~ Eugene Field

My prayer for you is that you welcome God into your heart and home; that you’re blessed with His peace, you’re filled with joy and surrounded with love as we welcome His Son, the Christ child this Christmas day!

Merry Christmas, my friend! Enjoy this blessed day!

Money Savvy Woman, Inc. © 2014

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3 Hot Tips to Reduce Your Taxes in 2014

Cut tax

So many of us are running around trying to get things in order for the holidays …Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, just to name a few. Taxes can slip our minds, and the next thing you know, we’re in 2015 and unable to do much to reduce our tax situations.

Here are 3 amazing ideas to do NOW that will help reduce your tax bill due next year.

  • Make a gift of cash. There are several things you can do that qualify to reduce your taxes or estate.
    • Make a tax-deductible donation to your favorite non-profit or charity. Who’s close to your heart? The Cancer, Heart, or Diabetes organizations seeking a cure? Stopping domestic violence, starvation, or contaminated water? Or helping addicts, runaways, and trafficked individuals, the homeless, special needs or foster kids? You can make a difference with your donations.
    • Give cash gifts to those you mean to help that aren’t non-profits. This will reduce your estate tax. Just remember the limit for this giving this year without a gift-tax assessment is $14,000 for individuals, or $28,000 is your married.
    • Invest in the futures of those you love through education, yours or someone else’s. — Opening a 529 plan and funding it before December 31, is a great way to go. The 529 account is a tax-deferred account that allows you to fund your own or your child’s or grandchild’s education.


    Nearly every state has its own 529, and as a result, they’re all unique. Most have some kind of restrictions or limits, so get on it NOW to find out if your state requires you to jump through a hoop or two.

    If you combine gift giving and funding an education, you can “front-load” a 529 with five years of tuition using your gift exclusion, totaling $70,000 individually or $140,000 for a couple. Again, check for contribution limitations on the account you’ve chosen to get involved in.

  • Target your retirement planning. Setting money aside NOW for your future is still doable. Check out these options:
    • If you have a 401(k), you can contribute up to $17,500 if you’re under age 50, and $23,000 if you’re 50 or over. If you haven’t hit the limit, ask your employer if it’s possible to add a lump sum to take you up to that limit.
    • You can still open a traditional IRA if you aren’t offered a retirement planning provision through your employer. The limits on contributions with this account are $5,500 if you’re under age 50 and $6,500 if you’re 50 or over. The account must be opened prior to the end of 2014, however, you can fund the account up until April 15, 2015. (Nice, huh?)

       

  • Review your investment portfolio for non-performing stocks, bonds, or securities that no longer suit you. As an advisor, we call this “tax harvesting.” When a stock or fund under-performs and creates a loss, it should be reviewed to see if it’s a position that no longer fits in with your investment policy. If that’s the case, you can acquire up to a total of a $3,000 deduction for investment losses offsetting the capital gains taxes on the winning positions you’ve liquidated already this year. It should be noted, that this only applies to taxable accounts and not tax-deferred, or qualified, accounts.

There’s a bunch of meat and potatoes in this little blog, so if you have questions or are unsure, ask your advisor. If you don’t have one, I’d be happy to help you.

Managing your money wisely gives you the most opportunity to build your wealth. That’s what I’m here for, to help you build your wealth.

If you feel you don’t have any wealth to build with, that’s a whole ‘nother blog. But allow me to encourage you to simply START. Put aside something each week, even if you if you consider it a meager beginning… at least you’ve begun! Millionaires are born from windfalls, generally. They’re made over time. You can be a part of that club with sound money habits, advice, and follow-through.

God bless you as you celebrate this season, and we’ll talk soon.

Remember, it’s your money, your rules, your way! Believe in YOU! I do.

Money Savvy Woman © 2014

Whose Voice Is It?

pretty girl holding a finger on her lips

When giving it your all to lead a HarMoneyous™ life in blissful HarMoney™, whose voice do you hear in your head?

I’ll never get ahead!

This is too hard!

Will it ever change?

There isn’t enough …I’m not enough.

Are those the words that rattle around in your head? Today I encourage you to ask yourself, “What benefit do I get from reciting these words?” If you can find a benefit that actually propels you forward, then carry on with that conversation. But if you’re like most of us, those words only sting us, bring us down, make us feel inept, and paralyze us.

Someone asked me, “Do you ever have a bad day? What snaps you out of it? Whose voice do you hear when you’re feeling like throwing in the towel and giving up?” This person always saw me as a positive force, someone who never had a bad day, and that really isn’t the truth. I’m just as challenged as everyone else. But I will admit to having a defense mechanism. I’ll share it with you now.

“Don’t take anything personally because you’re only setting yourself up to suffer.”
Don Miguel Ruiz. In his book, The Four Agreements, I learned that what most people say out of anger or judgment, really has more to do with them and where they’re at than me. I can choose to respond as opposed to react. A simple, “thank you for sharing,” is generally what comes out of my mouth. If they pursue the situation, I’ll add, “I take that into consideration,” and move on. Hearing those words in my head when I’m feeling attacked or put down, usually keeps my head up and my attitude positive.

“Incremental steps are still moving you forward. Don’t stress, move forward.”
Joanne Fillpot Fletcher. When I was an employee, Joanne was my boss. We soon found that we were a great team and could do a lot of work together. But with that success came a HUGE list of projects and things to do. I remember one day going into her office, shutting the door, and with tears in my eyes, said, “I don’t think I can keep this up. I’m not getting anywhere!” Her response was burned into my brain. I’ll never forget it and I live by those words today. “Incremental steps are still moving you forward.” Now when I feel “in demand,” another phrase for “overwhelmed,” I remember her calm and reassuring voice that reminds me that I’m still moving ahead if I do one thing to take me further along my intended path.

“God first, family second, career third!”
Mary Kay Ashe. Often I find myself being pulled in many directions, some of my choosing and a lot not. When that feeling of “what am I doing?” hits me, Mary Kay’s voice reassures me that all I have to do is get my priorities straight and all will fall into place. Sometimes, a few minutes of prayer for strength and a call to hear my hubby’s “Hi, babe, what’s up?” are all I need to get me back into the swing of things.

“A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.”
Baz Luhrmann. Have you seen the movie “Simply Ballroom?” It was Baz Luhrmann’s directorial debut. It’s a movie about living your true, authentic self and not by the dictates of others. There are so many lines I quote from that movie to keep me on track, but this is clearly my favorite, especially after learning what he went through to get the movie produced and distributed.

“Be still and know that I am God.” The Lord. This is my mantra when I need to quell anything that disturbs me. I use it to fall asleep at night, to calm me down, and to let go of things. God is the answer when it comes to handling challenges in my life. Without Him, I’m lost. With Him, I can do anything.

My friend, the holiday season is both wonderful and challenging. There are so many “suppose to’s” and “not enough.” YOU are enough. YOU have all you need. What are the voices that can reassure you? Make a list of them and put them in your wallet. You’ll be glad you did.

You can do it! I believe in YOU!

God bless you in the days ahead as we prepare for and partake in family gatherings and celebrations.

Money Savvy Woman, Inc. © 2014

Are You Wondering How to Budget?

Where Does All the Money Go?

Does the word BUDGET make you want to run?

Do you pull your hair out trying to figure out why you’re doing something that always seems to end in failure?

Well, I’m here to say, it doesn’t have to be that way. HarMoneyous™ budgeting is actually a lot of fun. In this brief blog, I’ll share a really cool, and affordable, budget tool and app that I completely believe in.

But first, let’s get clear on what a budget really is. According to Investopedia, a budget is “an estimation of the revenue and expenses over a specified future period of time. A budget can be made for a person, family, group of people, business, government, country, multinational organization or just about anything else that makes and spends money. A budget is a microeconomic concept that shows the tradeoff made when one good is exchanged for another.”

Notice that last line …it shows a tradeoff…
This is the concept I want to get into your head today. You’re trading your money for the things you need, want, and wish for.
Understanding this concept is the key to building wealth.

A perfect example is going to your desk with your latest paycheck and deciding that 35% will go to pay your mortgage, 15% will go to groceries, 20% will cover the car payment and fuel, 10% you give to your favorite charities, 10% is saved to pay property taxes, 5% you put in your pocket, and the last 5% of this particular paycheck, you split between bills for next month and your vacation fund. The next paycheck you’ll do the same thing …based on your take-home earnings, you’ll decide what needs to be paid now, what needs to be put away for future needs, and give some away to keep that positive flow going.

What it is not is sitting down with the phone bill, cable bill, and life insurance premium invoice, then going to your bank account online to see what your balance is, and paying them based on what you see in your bank account currently. This habit only breeds havoc and is one of the worst forms of money management.

A great budget planner that utilizes this approach is “Your Need a Budget.”
YNAB is so awesome! You can link it to your accounts and work at home on your computer and when you’re out shopping, on your smart phone. I’m in total alignment with their philosophy and highly recommend it. It’s some of the best budgeting software out there that gets you budgeting into abundance faster than anything else I’ve been introduced to. Using this link, you can save a little on the one-time fee (not annual fee, ONE-TIME fee.)

So again, budgeting doesn’t have to be a nightmare. HarMoneyous™ budgeting is truly FUN! Why?
Because the more you believe in yourself, stick to your routine, and gain momentum, the more you become empowered and self-confident. And THAT, my friend, is the BEST feeling of all …to KNOW and FEEL you’re doing it!

If you’re struggling with believing it can be fun, or even done, here’s a link to one of my earlier video blogs that will give you a little pep talk. You can always find a silver lining if you allow yourself to. Remember, it’s your money, your rules, your way!

You can do this! I believe in you!

Money Savvy Woman, Inc. © 2014