Leap Year 2016 | Leap into Success!

Leap Year 2016 | Leap into Success!

So, it’s Leap Year 2016 and we have February 29 to enjoy, so why not make the best of it and leap into a whole new level of success and happiness?  You can decide to better your life at any moment, so why not hop onto the positive energy of the Leap Year?  It’s never too late to dedicate yourself to new endeavors or embrace a positive attitude.  Here are a few tips..

Success

  • Leap into that area that you know will move you forward in terms of skill sets and education.
  • Evaluate your career status and leap into whatever will take you to the next level.
  • Leap into something fun that you do on a regular basis, whether it be having fun with PhotoShop (per the featured photo) or dancing or having coffee with a friend.
  • Leap into a workout program that ultimately leads to more success in all areas of your life.

Money

  • Make More Money!  If you have a traditional job, ask your boss how you can make the highest amount possible at your organization… then go for it!  If you are self-employed, hire a virtual assistant for the mundane tasks so you can spend more time on activities directly related to cash flow and customer satisfaction.
  • Start Making Money!  If you are not making money, it’s your time to “Leap” into some cashflow.  Take online classes from Udemy.com or codeacademy.com.  Watch what happens…

Love

  • Use the energy of Leap Year to move forward in a relationship where you’ve been holding out.  Practice your skills as an excellent partner.
  • If you are a single woman, this is the year that you are allowed to ask a man to marry you, so make sure he is responsible and financially stable before popping the question that could possibly lead you into a world of hidden debt. The Dogz know this is ridiculous…the “allowed to ask” thing, not the debt thing. 

So have fun with Leap Year 2016 and Leap into Success with Career, Love and Money!  Catch the frisbee!

The Dogz

 

 

FinCon 15 | An Excellent Adventure

FinCon 15 | An Excellent Adventure

My four-hour flight to Charlotte, NC for FinCon 15, the premiere personal finance bloggers’ conference, was spent sitting next to a high powered couple.  They were on their way to see the Republican candidates that had a lively scrap the night before in the CNN debate.  I mentioned that I was going to a conference for financial peeps with missions to teach money skills and responsibility. The woman laughed skeptically while saying, “Good Luck!” I wanted to say, “No really.  It’s possible.  We inspire and teach people to transform their lives.” But I was too tired.

(more…)

MoneyDogz – Best Personal Finance Articles

MoneyDogz – Best Personal Finance Articles

“Cheers!” to the best personal finance articles that we have recently come across.   The Dogz would like to begin regularly highlighting the websites, articles and authors that help the world move forward on the road to a successful career, smart living and financial independence. (more…)

Groundhog Day Spending:  5 Tips to Create New Habits

Groundhog Day Spending: 5 Tips to Create New Habits

Does it feel like Groundhog Day when you get your monthly bills? Have you experienced repeated guilt that manifests itself in your stomach like a lead balloon?  If so, then it’s time to be nice to your stomach and your financial situation.

Here are 5 tips to help create new habits and eliminate the Groundhog Day repetition with your spending.  Once you’ve found a method that seems best for you, practice is the key. This means that you must repeat the new positive behavior over and over to establish a whole new meaning to your personal Groundhog Day.

1. Find Alternate Habits

Find another activity that replaces your need to spend.

  • Take up a low cost activity that improves your life at the same time.   Yoga, nature walks or training for a 5K could take you to the next level in your health and well being.
  • Focus your energy on educational activities to launch a new career or take your hobbies to a new level of satisfaction.  There are free online classes with organizations such as Coursera.
  • Find new low cost (or free) ways to nurture your existing relationships with your family and friends.
  • Develop new relationships with people that have similar financial values and goals.

2.  Affirmations

Say these affirmations 3 times a day PLUS whenever you get the urge to spend.

  • “I use my personal power to say No to spending.”
  • “I don’t need to purchase anything that isn’t absolutely essential.”
  • “I am confident in who I am and don’t need to impress anyone.”
  • “I have no need to ‘Keep Up with the Joneses.’
  • “This powerful habit of ‘saying no’ will significantly improve my financial security, my confidence and my personal power.

3. Reward System

Establish a system to reward yourself and celebrate when you have achieved your goals.  Here are some ideas.

  • Give yourself a small prize that will delight you.  Purchase a special song that melts your heart like “Road of Life” or music that’s full of joy and makes you want to sing-a-long like “All the Way to Heaven.”
  • Celebrate each achievement with a pal over a glass of wine, smoothie or a chai tea.
  • Start a friendly ‘say no’/’stick to the budget’ competition with a friend where the loser has to buy a ‘treat’ for the winner.
  • Celebrate by allowing yourself to enroll in that low-cost class you’ve always wanted to take, but blew all available money on clothes, restaurants or travel.

4.  Put Blinders On

If you don’t see available money, then assume it’s not there to spend.  Have  your employer deduct amounts from your paycheck and send it directly to savings or a 401k retirement plan.

Wink. Wink.  “What money?”  “I only make x amount.” “I never had that money to begin with.”  Wink.

The Dogz found that in their experience, blinders worked very well  😉 

5.  Focus on Future

If you are someone that justifies unnecessary spending while completely ignoring your future financial stability, it’ s time to reset, reboot, and completely shift your thinking.

Which one of these 2 scenarios is more appealing?

  1. You must ask your children and friends for financial help every month in order to survive because you no longer have the energy or confidence to work.
  2. You are completely self sufficient, healthy and fully engaged in life with soul satisfying hobbies, wonderful relationships, and traveling to places that you love.

Example of statements that keep us from achieving the 2nd scenario are the following…

  • “You only live once.”
  • “I deserve this.”

Luxury spending ‘in the now’ has jeapordized the financial security of many people in later years.  Focusing on the future while taking control of the present can lead to amazing possibilities for your financial life in your golden years.  Picture what you want for your future, then make it happen.

Summary

Use the above tips to get your own creativity going.  It’s actually possible to find joy in saving and investing for your financial future.  Celebrate when you reach milestones such as getting out of debt and maxing out your contributions to your retirement plan.  Share what you’ve achieved on social media or on YouTube.

Know that life can be fan-freakin-tastic without luxury spending. Volunteer for good causes. Increase your compassion for yourself and others. Laugh more.  Love more.  Use your brand new habits to improve your quality of life.  Practice. Practice. Practice.  Woof!


Groundhog Day movie clip:  Below is a hilarious video of the evolution of Bill’s character as Ned the insurance salesman pesters him to buy insurance 🙂

Note:  Groundhog in featured photo belongs to large family that lives by the The Dogz’ bank.  

3 Smart Money Moves for 2015

3 Smart Money Moves for 2015

Use the bright sparkle of hope the new year brings as an opportunity to improve your finances by making 3 smart money moves for 2015.

1.  Create or Improve Your Budget

Yes, the B word.  Embrace your reality and document your income and expenses.   If you already have a budget, it’s time for a  critical analysis of your numbers.

Some people’s budgets are so tight that they are only dealing with  bare necessities for survival.  Others may have loosey budgets that have an allowance for habitual non-necessities like restaurants, gifts and entertainment, yet they are not making more than the minimum payment on their credit cards.   This is where it’s important to establish new habits to ensure that you are aggressively paying down debt and fully funding your retirement account.

Ask yourself these questions while you determine your budget.

  • Am I making aggressive debt payments before allowing spending on non-necessities?
  • Am I fully funding my retirement plan before allowing spending on non-necessities?
  • Where are my budget suckers?
  • Can I find creative alternatives to any budget suckers?
  • Can I cut down my entertainment, gift giving, alcohol, restaurant or other non-essential spending?
  • Can I live in a less expensive situation or get a roomie to help with housing expenses?
  • Can I downsize my car or try alternative transportation?
  • Can I bring in more income?

Review your budget regularly to look for areas to cut spending so that money can be applied to paying off debt and saving for the future.

2.  Get Out of Debt

Getting Out Of Debt.  The abbreviation for that is GOOD.  Actually, it’s Excellent.  Remember that interest on debt is wasted money. This wasted money is the same money that could be used for savings, a retirement fund or essential items in your life.  It’s common for entire debt amounts to be unnecessary such as the case of luxury purchases.

Another less discussed side effect of debt is that it can be  a ‘monkey on your back’ or a huge weight carried around that can take it’s toll on personal power.   Emotional distress, worry, lack of self-esteem, fear, hopelessness and other negative emotions are not unusual for those constantly carrying debt and can impact other areas of life such as relationships and career.  Don’t let it happen.

Use the budget that you’ve established or improved in #1 as your roadmap.   Understand that just making the minimum payment will waste money & extend the time period of making payments unnecessarily.  Get creative, make cuts, change a living situation or do whatever makes sense for you to attack the debt like a pitbull.

3.  Fully Fund Retirement Accounts

Fully funding your retirement accounts is so much more important than most people realize.  The earlier you start and the more you contribute,  the more amazing the results can be for your future financial security.

Is it possible to develop a million dollar nestegg?  Run the numbers on an investment calculator to see what’s possible.  If you start early enough & contribute the maximum amount throughout your career, you will be pleasantly surprised at the estimates.  Market conditions will always have an impact, but the earlier one starts to invest, the better chances of coming out ahead over time despite market drops.

If your company provides a company match to a 401k plan, it becomes even more of a no-brainer to make the required contribution as that translates directly to ‘free money,’ ‘gratis green,’ and ‘do zero for the dough.’  Please don’t give up that opportunity.

Retirement Vehicle Information to Consider

  • 401K – The maximum contribution amount is  $18,000 for 2015.
  • Traditional & Roth IRA’s –  The maximum contribution amount is  $6,000 for 2015.
  • Simple IRA – Self-employed individuals have a maximum contribution limit of $12,500 in 2015.
  • SEP (Simplified Employee Pension) – Self-employed individuals have a maximum contribution limit of $53,000 in 2015.
  • Roth IRA’s are an excellent retirement vehicle with much more flexibility than traditional IRA’s and 401K’s.   You always have the option of taking out the money that you contributed with no penalty.

Summary

If creating a budget, getting out of debt and fully funding your retirement plan feels impossible right now, just tackle what makes sense for your specific situation one step at a time.

Find out for yourself how good it feels to get a grip on your finances and your life.  You may very well notice that you have more personal power, confidence and an amazing feeling of freedom.  Celebrate each small victory.  Be proud of your ability to establish new habits that will launch you into the world of financial security.  Woof! 

 

 

 

5 Tips on Saving for College

5 Tips on Saving for College

If your little cutie wants to be a magician that wins America’s Got Talent when he or she grows up, saving for college may seem like a moot point. On the contrary.  A youngster’s  dream can shift faster than the speed of light from wanting to be an astronaut to wanting to be a physician like Patch Adams.  Making sure your child gets a solid, relevant education is very important on their road to success, whatever they choose to do.

Keep these 5 tips in mind as you tackle the challenge.

1. Stay Tuned with Reality

Stay on top of college cost projections to make sure you are on track to save enough money.  Maintaining proper perspective and focus is important to reach your financial goals.

The average cost for a 4-year education today at a private school is $129,000, which is tuition and fees only.  Once you add in books, room and board,  transportation and unexpected costs, that figure can grow substantially.

The cost for a private college in 18 years is projected to be $312,000 per the Family Guide to College Savings.  Again, please note that these average figures DO NOT include room and board, transportation, meals or supplies.

If your mini-me braniac is Harvard bound, there’s a whole new story regarding cash outflow, so hang on to your hat.  The current estimation for tuition at Harvard for a 4-year degree in 2032 is $600,000.

If your higher education strategy for your kids involves in-state schools or community colleges, the average 4-year tuition costs are estimated to be close to $100,000 in 2031.

2.  Start Saving Early

If you start saving early on, the chances of reaching your financial goals increase greatly.  Taking advantage of the compound interest phenomenon with an excellent investment strategy can pay off nicely if you are diligent at making contributions. The more time you allow your money to grow, the better chance you have of recovering from market dips.

For example, If you invest $5,000 now and contribute $200 a month for 17 years with a return rate of 7%, you will have $94,991 in 17 years. Using one of the tax-friendly investment methods described below would get you close to covering tuition and fees for an in-state school or a community college.  Try Dave Ramsey’s investment calculator to vary estimates for different scenarios, including what you need to invest to account for room and board as well as other college expenses.

Your risk tolerance will determine how much you want to invest, the level of risk in the investments you choose, and how much you may want to keep in a regular bank account.

3.  Check Out 529 Plans

529 plans are offered by states and/or educational institutions as  incentive programs that have tax advantages to help your money grow, or they can lock in today’s tuition rate so that it’s actually possible to achieve your goals despite rising costs.  Money in the 529 plan can only be withdrawn for qualified expenses related to education.

There are two types of 529 plans:  1) savings/investments plan… and 2) a prepaid tuition plan that locks in lower costs today, so that if tuition doubles in 16 years, your rate is locked in at today’s price.  Find out more through your targeted college and/or compare state programs online.

Kiplinger’s recently came out with the Best 529 College-Savings Plans  that includes detailed advice and information for the nervous Nellies as well as bulldog investors.

A common question is “What if the child doesn’t need all of it or opts out of higher education altogether?”  The money is transferrable to other members of the family if unused.  If little Mary becomes a serial entrepreneur after her first lemonade stand and her tech start-up gets purchased by Facebook when she is 16,  then her 529 money can be transferred to her brother Billy.  It can also be transferred to a first cousin (latest rule change)  or even Mom who wants to go to Cosmetology school.

Otherwise, there is a 10% penalty to withdraw the unused money.

4. Check Out a Roth IRA

If your own retirement plan isn’t fully funded and you’re not absolutely sure you won’t have to pay a penalty on an unused 529 plan, talk to a financial advisor about whether or not you would qualify to use a Roth IRA plan as a vehicle to save for Junior’s college expenses.

If you do qualify,  a Roth IRA is much more flexible than the standard IRA /401K because it actually allows you to take out the dollar amount you placed into the account at any time PENALTY FREE.  Please note that you cannot take out any money that is earned as a result of your investments until you are 59.5 years old, except for qualifying reasons, but you can take out the principal amount that you contributed at any time.

The only drawback of the Roth IRA is the contribution limit each year.  You can only contribute an amount that equals your earned income with a max of $5,500 per person & $11,000 per couple under the age of 50 for 2014.

Example:  Contributing the maximum amount of $11,000 into monthly contributions from both parents…  $916 per month at an interest rate of 7%, the total amount after 17 years would be  $397,472.33.    Your contribution amount that you would be allowed to withdraw without penalty would be $187,000, which could very well cover in-state school expenses.  The remaining amount would stay in your Roth account for YOUR retirement when you are allowed to take out the earnings at 59.5 years old.   This strategy works best when the amount in your Roth account is in addition to other fully-funded retirement accounts that meet your goals.

5.  Solicit College Fund Gifts

Let family and friends contribute to a college fund for birthday and holiday gifts instead of giving your little one more junk that clutters up the house.  The IRS offers a break on gift and estate taxes for the giver if money is contributed to a child’s 529 college-savings plan.  Consult your tax professional for details on this.

 

Note:  The content on MoneyDogz is not intended to be professional  financial advice.  It is for educational and informational purposes only.  Please consult a licensed financial professional about your situation. 

 


%d bloggers like this: