How Are You Budgeting For "Fun" This Spring

It’s that time of year again. Spring break is approaching  for most families. It’s starting to get warm again, and the yellow pollen is back. Now it’s time for a little spring cleaning, and it’s a great time to clean up your finances as well. Below are five easy steps to cleaning your financial house this spring:

Step One: Discuss your main financial goals with your spouse/significant other – and write them down

Whether saving up for a down payment on a house, paying off outstanding debt, or creating a rainy day fund, everyone has a financial goal or two for the year. Writing down your goals helps you to think through the details and motivates you to achieve them. It’s also helpful in making sure that you and your significant other are on the same page when it comes to your collective financial goals.

Step Two: Track your money’s in-flows and out-flows

Sit down by yourself or with your significant other, and write down on the left-hand side of a piece of paper all your sources of income. Look at your tax forms, W2 or 1040, to get an accurate amount of your income. Then, on the right-hand side of the same piece of paper, write out all your financial obligations. Your paystub should quickly tell you how much you’re paying for healthcare, putting towards your 401K, and how much you are setting aside for taxes. Don’t forget to include your insurance, mortgage, car payments and any other financial obligations that you are accountable for throughout the year.

Step Three: T.S.L. Plan for taxes, savings and life

Looking at your gross income (if you are working), remember that approximately 30 percent will come right off the top for taxes (both Federal and State), 20 percent should go towards savings (emergency fund and retirement assets) and 50 percent to “life”. This formula is key to a healthy financial plan. You can read my previous blog post to learn how this formula will keep your finances in check.

So, do your in-flows exceed your out-flow? I hope so. If not, it’s time to right the ship, and this financial spring cleaning is a great time to reevaluate your budget, savings, and spending habits.

Step Four: Insure what’s important

Cleaning up your finances is a good time to make sure that you have all your important financial assets covered with insurance, which includes your house, car and health. Do you have life insurance, or need more coverage? For most families, the most cost effective option for life insurance is level-term (10 to 30 years). If your life insurance needs have increased (ie: more children or a change in lifestyle) it may be time to revisit your coverage amounts. If you don’t have an agent you are working with, it’s fine to shop for term life insurance online – for quotes visit matrixdirectaccuquote or quickquote.com.

Step Five: Budget for fun

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While cleaning up your finances, be sure to include a budget for fun, whether it’s a trip to the Fox Theatre or a vacation to Florida. Research for my upcoming book, you can retire sooner than you think, shows that happy retirees take nearly twice the number of vacations each year compared to unhappy retirees. One of the smartest and most respected consumer advocates in the US, our Atlanta neighbor Clark Howard, has some great suggestions for traveling on a budget if you’re looking for fun, money conscious ideas.

Have you done your financial spring cleaning yet?

 

9 Pieces Of Financial Advice From Wise Men

There are no secrets to successful financial planning and investing. In fact, the core principles have routinely been shouted from the roof tops for at least 200 years in pamphlets, handbills, sermons, speeches, books, radio shows, TV programs, audio tapes, DVDs, blog posts, tweets, and probably even Snapchats.

I recently came across a list of well-known money-related quotes that pretty much distills the financial wisdom of the ages. Here are my Top 9.

“Rather go to bed without dinner than to rise in debt.” – Ben Franklin. This two-century-old gem pointedly reminds us of the corrosive effect of debt, and wisely urges us to avoid it. Yes, there is “good debt,” including mortgages and business loans, which helps build assets. But many Americans carry too much “bad debt” from credit cards and other consumer loans that were used to finance a lifestyle beyond their true means.

Related: When Good Debt Goes Bad

Related: Actionable Steps You Can Use To Get Rid Of Credit Card And Mortgage Debt

“In investing, what is comfortable is rarely profitable.” -- Robert Arnott. A good reminder that risk is an unavoidable part of investing. And, the higher the risk, the higher the potential returns. In shaping an investment strategy, you need to honestly assess your risk tolerance and create a diversified portfolio that includes some acceptable higher-risk investments. The younger you are, the more risk you should consider.

“Know what you own, and why you own it.” – Peter Lynch. Seems obvious, but many investors have lost track of their holdings, or never fully knew them. The journey to financial success is like any trip. You need to know both your destination and how you are getting there. Otherwise you’ll get lost, or take much longer than necessary to arrive. Review your portfolio on a regular basis and tweak it as needed.

Related: Why You Should "Own Your Age" In Your Investment Portfolio

“Speculation leads you the wrong way. It allows you to put your emotions first, whereas investment gets emotions out of the way.” – John Bogle Successful investing is a marathon. You need to set specific goals, settle on a strategy and execute that strategy consistently and dispassionately – year in, year out. Jumping in and out of the market based on fear or greed is bad for both your nest egg and your stress levels.

“Personal finance is not rocket science. Personal finance is about 80% behavior. It’s only about 20% head knowledge.” – Dave Ramsey. Discipline is everything. It’s not enough to say you are going to cut your spending and increase your savings. You have to actually DO IT. Consistently.

“I will tell you how to become rich. Close the doors. Be fearful when others are greedy, be greedy when others are fearful.” – Warren Buffett Be wary of the ‘hot thing.” Be careful about jumping on the latest investment trend. Seek out the upside opportunities when things are looking bad. When Apple stock recently took a slight tumble, smart investors saw that as a “sale” on a great stock, not a sign to dump their shares.

Related: 7 Smart Ways To Get Started Investing

“The four most dangerous words in investing are, ‘This time it’s different.’” – Sir John Templeton.   Beware of false prophets, both purveyors of doom and sunshine sellers. Learn a bit about the market -- it’s history and patterns.

“Investing should be more like watching paint dry or watching grass grow. If you want excitement, take $800 and go to Las Vegas.” -- Paul Samuelson No day trading. No. Day. Trading.

Related: Does Day Trading Add Up?

“If you have trouble imagining a 20% loss in the stock market, you shouldn’t be in stocks.” -- John Bogle   There will be market ups and downs over the course of your investment journey. A few will be dizzying. But over the past 100 years the market has moved steadily higher. Keep your perspective. Remember: The current value of your portfolio means very little if you are 20, 30 years away from retirement.

Related: 6 Completely Terrible Pieces Of Financial Advice

Download The Wela app to get started on your financial journey today.

9 Most Important Things To Know About Personal Finance

There are so many crappy lists on the Internet, most of them designed to get advertising in front of your eyeballs. We have our own non-crappy list to share. It's our list of fundamental truths of personal finance and investing. 

1. It Ain’t Rocket Science – Money guru Dave Ramsey has observed that “80% of personal finance is behavior” not education. You don’t need to be an expert on the stock market or high finance to start building for the future. All you really need is a solid plan and the commitment and discipline to stick with it over the years.

2. Start Early – Time can provide a powerful tailwind for your investments. The sooner you start saving for retirement, the more time your money has to take advantage of compound interest – a process in which the interest on your savings earns more interest. We should start saving for retirement from Day One of our first job. If you haven’t started yet, do it today! Waiting just 8-10 years to launch your savings program can really slow your growth and reduce the size of your potential retirement nest egg.

Related: Entrepreneurs - Why They Need Financial Planning Too

3. Set Goals – If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there. Carefully define your savings objectives, whether it’s a house or retirement. Visualize them in detail. Then, figure out how much you need to reach that dream. Use that information to craft a plan to reach your goal.

4. Budget – We too often think of a budget as a straightjacket or prison cell. But it’s actually an empowering tool that allows you to see where your money is actually going, better control your spending and stay on track towards your goals. If you don’t have a budget, you are flying blind in one of the most important aspects of your life – your finances. We guarantee you will get at least three significant surprises when you start analyzing your spending. “I spent how much at Starbucks last month?!

5. Spend Less Than You Make – Common sense, right? But it’s incredibly easy in this easy-credit, consumer-driven world to live beyond our means. Try to save at least 15% of your income.

6.  Pay Yourself First – You can’t spend money you never see. Arrange to have your savings deducted from your paycheck via the 401k plan and/or direct deposit into a brokerage account.

Related: Why Investing In Your 401k Is A No-Brainer

7. Always Take Free Money – If your employer offers to match a percentage of your 401K contribution – and most do -- maximize that benefit by contributing to the match limit.

8. Don’t Go House Crazy – There is nothing worse than being ”house poor.” A too-big mortgage payment can really limit your ability to save – and spend on other things you need and want. So, when shopping for a new house is careful not to over-buy. Think very carefully about what you actually need in a home. How many square feet? How many bedrooms? How big a yard? How important is it to live in that trendy neighborhood? Stick to those parameters in your search. And remember: You don’t have to spend every dollar the bank is willing to lend you.

Related: How Do I Know How Much To Spend On My House?

9. Protect Yourself – A complete personal finance plan includes provisions to protect the life and future you are building. Life insurance and estate planning are key to making sure your obligation to your loved ones is met, even after you are gone. If you don’t have life insurance start shopping for it today. (If you haven’t reviewed your policy in a while, do that. Make sure your benefit reflects any changes in your situation.) As soon as that’s done, make your will and get it filed. You can use an attorney or an online legal service like LegalZoom.com.

Related: Do You Need a Will?

So, there you have it – the most useful, least misleading list in the history of the Internet.

Have questions? Not to worry. Just Click the button below. 

How to Build your investment portfolio to meet your retirement needs

There are any number of core investment philosophies, each with it own merits and uses. How do you decide which strategy or philosophy works best for you?

At Wela, we believe both growth and income investing have important roles to play in a successful retirement portfolio. During the front part of your wealth-building years, we recommend a growth strategy in which you invest heavily in stocks that will gain in value over the years (and decades), allowing you to reap significant profits when you cash out.

But as you near retirement we believe in transitioning to an income-driven portfolio consisting largely of assets that generate a steady cash flow that can provide you with a “paycheck” in retirement. That income comes from stock dividends, bond interest and income from alternative investments, such as preferred stocks, real estate investment trusts (REITS) and royalties from energy trusts.

One thing I love about income investing is that a well-crafted income portfolio can meet your retirement spending needs for years while limiting the drain on your capital.

 

Working Years: To understand the benefit of income investing, it might help to think of your retirement portfolio as a house. During your working years, you build your portfolio brick-by-brick -- dollar-by-dollar, asset-by-asset. It begins as a starter home -- functional but not fancy. Over time, you add rooms and amenities; a second floor, basement media room and a deck. With luck, the house appreciates over the decades until it’s worth, say, a million dollars.

Retirement: Now it’s time to retire. How do you get your money out of the house? Well, if it’s a growth “house,” you sell it off piece-by-piece and use the proceeds to fund your retirement. When the last piece is sold, the money is gone.

But if it’s an income house, it generates “rent” in the form of that asset income from stocks, bonds and other investments. That income, previously reinvested while you were “building the house” can now be used to cover your expenses. You may well have to sell some parts of the house over the years, but at a slower rate than the owner of a growth “house.”

How much slower? Well, imagine you have a portfolio at retirement worth $500,000 that can generate $20,000 in annual income. Assuming you can live on that money (plus Social Security, pensions, et cetera) after 10 years you would have derived $200,000 from your portfolio but it would still be worth about $500,000, depending on how the market moves.

In order to derive the benefits of both growth and income investing, we recommend the “bucket” approach to creating an effective retirement investment portfolio. As the name suggests, your investments will fall into one of three categories or “buckets.”

Bonds – Contributions to this bucket are invested in a diversified range of bonds – Treasury municipal and corporate – that will provide a steady stream of interest income while protecting your principal. To maximize your return over time you will need to diversify these holdings.

Your portfolio should hold a greater percentage of bonds (as opposed to stocks), as you get closer to retirement. We recommend “owning your age” in bonds. When you are in your 30’s, bonds should make up 30% of your portfolio. When you are 50, that percentage should be 50%.

Stocks – This is where growth comes into play. During your working career this bucket will contain mostly shares in companies that have large growth rates, but don’t pay much of a dividend. Think Netflix or Amazon. Ideally, these stocks will significantly appreciate in value over the years. When you retire, you will shift your holdings into income stocks – shares that show some growth but pay a nice dividend. Apple and Disney are good examples. There are several excellent growth ETFs that allow you to tap into the appreciation of a whole basket of companies.

Alternative Income – This smallest bucket holds income-generating assets that are neither stocks nor bonds. This includes real estate investment trusts, preferred stocks and shares in pipeline and energy storage companies. All of these assets are traded on open markets like stocks and bonds.

While income investing isn’t the only way to saving for the future, in our experience it’s a way to have your “house” provide safety and warmth during your retirement years.

Interested in learning more about investing? Read how an average family retired with 1 million dollars in savings. Download our free eBook on investing here

Disclosure:  This information is provided to you as a resource for informational purposes only.  It is being presented without consideration of the investment objectives, risk tolerance or financial circumstances of any specific investor and might not be suitable for all investors.  Past performance is not indicative of future results.  Investing involves risk including the possible loss of principal.  This information is not intended to, and should not, form a primary basis for any investment decision that you may make. Always consult your own legal, tax or investment advisor before making any investment/tax/estate/financial planning considerations or decisions. 

Wela Whip - This Is Getting Ridiculous, HBO Worth $20 Billion, Millennials Buying, Myers-Briggs Flawed, Rise of Curse Words

This is getting ridiculous Malaysia Airlines is really getting hit on the chin in 2014. First they lose a plane and now one of their planes was reportedly shot down. All 280 passengers and 15 crew members were killed. Reports are suggesting it was shot down near the Ukraine - Russia border. If this is true, it's really sad. Conflict is terrible no matter what, but even more so when innocent people are harmed. Read More

Is HBO worth $20B? Rupert Murdoch certainly thinks HBO is worth it. In fact, he's willing to buy all of Time Warner just for the rights to HBO. He must be a huge Game of Thrones fan... or could it be True Blood? Either way Time Warner has rejected the initial offer, but don't count Mr. Murdoch out just yet. He might just go hire Ari Gold to help. Read More

$20 million in revenue... all based on a flawed product Do you remember the Myers-Briggs test? Well, studies (and even its creator) say it's flawed. The arguments are wide ranging as to why it's not valid, but one point that stands out is that the creator based the test off of personal experience and not research. He made the test up! This could be good or bad news for readers depending on whether you agree or disagree with the results! Read More

Hey realtors! Millennials are looking to buy Surprise! The millennial generation (18-34) is actually buying homes. Trulia recently saw the millennial generation's homeownership rate rise 0.9% in 2013. It looks like those roommates we have had since we were kids (our parents) are out! Read More or Sign up for our home buying boot camp to get ready to buy your own home!

Curse words finally find their calling... predicting economic cycles I don't know who cares about this sh**, but it's good cocktail material. A recent study by Bloomberg showed that CEO's language loosened a bit during rough economic times. In the good times, CEO's tend to wane off these F***ing words. It looks like we are in ok times right now though. Read More

Wela Whip - Chick-Fil-A Cows Are Pissed, An Uber Problem, and The Cupcake Fad Crumbles

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Roosters are impotent and the Chick-Fil-A cows are pissed! A key breed of rooster is having fertility problems that would trouble us all. The world's largest chicken breeder has discovered a genetic issue (without a solution at the moment) that is reducing the roosters' ability to reproduce. However, the problem for all of us is that it has led to a rise in chicken prices... which spells trouble for the Chick-Fil-A cows! Read More

An Uber problem For a company that relies on social media going viral, this turns the age old adage "any press is good press" on its head! A recent DC Uber ride went bad... really bad. The Uber driver got into a high-speed chase and put the passengers in real danger. Thankfully no one was hurt. Up to this point, people have been trusting in Uber's screening process for drivers, but this may cause a rumbling... a rumbling that Uber needs to quickly chase away. Check out the passenger's account of the event. Read More

We are all smarter than a 15 year old...right?! The Organization of Economic Cooperation & Development is conducting research to discover how financially competent today's youth are with this 10 question quiz. Thankfully we were able to pass the test (see our results here). Take a stab at it and let us know, on our Facebook page, how you did. This has television show written all over it... right Jeff Foxworthy? Read More

The cupcake fad crumbles Monday morning was a sad day for cupcake lovers. Crumbs cupcakes closed the doors to all their bakeshops after defaulting on their debt. The company was the poster child for the cupcake fad, so it will be interesting to see the ripple effect. Nevertheless, this hasn't stopped people from trying to sell 'supposedly' the stores last cupcake... for $250! Seems like a bit much for a stale cupcake... Read More

The $44,000 potato salad A Kickstarter campaign of potato salad has raised over $44,000 and the campaign has 22 more days on it. What's the money going to be spent on? Actually it's going to be spent on a Labor Day party in Columbus, Ohio. Although we do love potato salad, we didn't think it could help us raise enough money for a down payment! Read More

The significance of today's date: 7-11 For us 7-11 means the gas station with awesome Slurpees. Here is a commercial that helped us bring back the memories. Read More

It’s Not How Long You Save, It's How Early You Start

not how long you save This is a picture of when compounding mistakes finally crumble….

This was during that two day interview where Lance Armstrong opened up to none other than Oprah and admitted doping.

When I think of compounding mistakes, I can always turn to the Lance Armstrong story. I appreciate what he has gone through and how he has brought about awareness for testicular cancer (being a survivor myself). But how he handled the doping allegations is tough to ever appreciate.

During all of the investigations and through all of the victories, Lance Armstrong denied ever doping. He would go after people accusing him and, ultimately, he was so deep in the lie and had so many victories, he had to continue, had to compound his lie. When it all came to an end, the unraveling of the lie was very difficult because he was so deep into it already.

This is a simple example of a negative compounding effect. The first lie isn’t hard to unwind, but once you get multiple lies going to try and cover your tracks, it begins much more difficult to unravel.

But compounding can be a positive, especially for savers. And in the positive scenario, starting early is the best thing to do.

Compound this, compound that… enough, just tell me what it is!

In the investment world, compounding just means the ability to generate more earnings from your past earnings.

The idea is simply put when using some simple numbers. Say, we had $100 and we were able to earn 10% on that money. After the first year, we would have $110 ((100*10%)+100), which is $10 more than we had to begin the year. So, to start the next year, we would now have 110 and are able to earn 10% off of that. That means we would earn $11 ($1 more than we earned in the first year). And now we have $121. You get the point.

This would be similar to a retailer selling one shirt to person A. Then, just because they sold a shirt to person A, person B buys two shirts. And because person B bought two shirts, person C now buys four shirts and so on. The manager didn’t have to do anything; it was just because that first person bought a shirt. The moral of the story is that the more our money has the ability to compound, the more we begin to earn without having to do a thing. I, personally, like the sound of that!

A 10 year saver > A 30 year saver

This is where the fun begins and we can truly see the power of compounding. And the beautiful thing is that it doesn’t even mean you have to save, necessarily, forever, just early.

An individual that starts saving $200 a month at the age of 20 and stops saving, forever, at the age of 30 will have over $335,000 (assuming a 7.5% annual return) at the age of 60.

The individual that delays starting to save and decides to start saving $200 per month at the age of 30 and continues saving all the way until 60 isn’t as lucky. Assuming the same 7.5%, the individual would have less than $270,000.

To me, this BLOWS MY MIND!! The individual that started saving early only had to save $24,000. While the older individual had to save $72,000, and the late saver still isn’t even close to the younger person!

Let me break this down for everyone another way: the individual that started saving later puts away $48,000 more over the saving period and is left with over $65,000 LESS. That seems like a raw deal to me.

Compounding is something that does take favorites. It awards those that start early; and the award is very generous!

Enough reading, start SAVING

If you are still reading, you are wasting time.

The benefits should have already been expressed early. You need to go to your bank’s website and begin making a saving plan automatic. Every second, day, week, month or year you waste, the harder it’s going to be for you to reach your goals.

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The Atlanta Braves Experience - VIP versus Budget-Conscious

It’s that time of the year again in Braves Country where you can’t stand around a water-cooler without hearing someone say that they’re attending a game that week. Did you know, though, that you can enjoy this all-American game, and stay within your budget! Turner Field offers the unique ability for everyone to choose the kind of experience they want for the game, whether it’s to spend $25 for two people and just enjoy a game, or to spend $250 for two people and be pampered and catered to while during the game.

For those who are looking for a fun activity that won’t break the bank, going to a Braves game during the week is a great way to enjoy a classic summertime experience. Pack a cooler with your favorite snacks, sandwiches and beverages, and head over to the Blue Lot where if you’ve purchased your parking pass beforehand, you can park for $10. Partake in the age-old tradition of tailgating with friends, family and a few hundred other Braves fans. Then purchase a ticket for General Admission for 6 bucks at the door. Walking into the game full and “hydrated” means you can enjoy the all-American sport of baseball without worrying about spending more than $16 or $22 if you bring someone else. If you’d like to get out of the nosebleed section without paying full price, Costco actually sells great Braves tickets in a lower section for $60 (for 2), saving you 57 percent off of face value. If you prefer to experience the finer things in life, pick up individual tickets to the “Atlanta Braves Suites.” Typically used for corporate entertainment, these suites are “club level” (high enough to see the whole field but low enough to see the details). The suites have exterior balcony seats, climate-controlled interior, flat screen television, five Braves yearbooks, and concierge service. You can purchase an individual ticket for a suite to a single game for $105 which includes a $30 food and beverage credit. If you were to take a date or friend, you’d be looking at $220 which would cover the game, parking and $60 worth of dinner and drinks. It’s really a good deal and a great idea when it’s 90 degrees outside. If you’d rather attend a Braves game and feel more like you’re going to a Country Club, then it’s time for you to look into the Braves Suntrust Club. These seats are typically owned by companies (for employee and client entertaining), so it’s not as easy as just purchasing the tickets online. However, with seats just behind home plate, an interior club room, a separate entrance, and all food, drink and parking included, it definitely has the most plush baseball experience offered at The Ted. No matter what your budget is, there is no right or wrong way to enjoy watching The Braves. What are your favorite tips and tricks to getting the most out of your Turner Field experience?

Wela Whip - Slicing Up The Apple Pie, Proud to be an American, The Sopranos versus House of Cards

Slicing up the Apple pie Getting a piece of your favorite apple pie just got a bit easier. Apple, unexpectedly decided to split their stock 7 to 1… which means that someone who held one share of Apple, will now own seven. Now, instead of one share costing about $550, it will only cost about $78 per share. Hell, the stock will soon be the cheapest thing Apple sells! Read More

Proud to be an American in Beantown! One year and one week since the Boston Marathon bombing, one of the largest fields in the race’s history (32,530), took on the emotional task of honoring those who lost their lives or were injured in the horrific event last year.  In an amazing feat, 38 year-old American, Meb Keflezighi, was the first American to win the Boston Marathon in 31 years.  Here’s to you Mr. K, and the rest of the exuberant crowd at the race, you honor us all by showing that America is resilient, and has the grit that’s necessary to bounce back and do the virtually impossible in the face of adversity. Read More

The Sopranos versus House of Cards It’s Gandolfini (may he rest in peace) versus Spacey. In an attempt to grab some of the streaming video market share from Netflix, Amazon has acquired access to some of HBO greatest shows for its Prime subscribers. These streaming shows will be exclusive to Amazon Prime subscribers, and the first time they will be available to stream for non-HBO subscribers. It’s now the mob versus politics… wait, they aren’t the same?! Read More

Add me to your circle… okay, I’ll friend you on Facebook Wait, you meant Google Plus… oh, we didn’t know anyone used that. Well, it looks like the man who led the charge for the Google Plus efforts is leaving the company. Although Google Plus isn’t shutting down (too many peoples dismay), it seems that the following didn’t come through given Facebook’s dominance. It looks like Google’s circle may be weakening… Read More

Hmm….what would college have been like? Umm, excuse me, sir, is that rufies, you’re putting in my drink?  Oh, it’s just powdered alcohol?  Perfect.  The Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau just approved Palcohol, powdered alcohol that you mix with water, soda or juice to create your Brisk-like Cosmo.  This is not an investment tip, however, it may be worth selling your beer and liquor stocks since bringing packets of liquor is a lot cheaper than buying $11 beers at the Braves games. Read More