Buying a vehicle? Check the TCO

If you are in the market for a new or used vehicle, then it is important to do some homework before you settle on make and model. Here are a few things to consider before you pull the trigger on buying that new or used vehicle:  Continue reading “Buying a vehicle? Check the TCO”

Don’t be passive when managing investment costs

As you know, gains in your stock investments are not guaranteed, even though it may feel like it if you’ve been invested in the market for the last decade.  Looking at the last five years, the S&P 500 index has increased an average of nearly 17% annually, with only minor corrections along the way.  In fact the S&P 500 returns have been so consistent that most large cap equity funds haven’t been able to beat this performance. Over a five year period only 17.6% of large cap equity funds beat the S&P Index (see exhibit 1 below).  In other words, if you had simply invested in the S&P 500 index then you would have done better than the majority of professional stock investment managers. But that’s not the end of the story. Even if you had invested in a fund that tracks the S&P 500 index, you still could have under-performed depending on the fees you paid to the investment company that managed your money.  Continue reading “Don’t be passive when managing investment costs”

Don’t pay to manage your credit score

I was asked earlier this week what’s the best way to check a credit score? There are a few ways to get your credit score, but check to see what your credit card company offers first. Many credit card issuers now provide cardholders with their credit score as a free benefit.  The card issuer I use provides my FICO® score, score history, key factors affecting my score, and suggestions on how to improve my score.  Continue reading “Don’t pay to manage your credit score”

How to maximize the money you make from payments

Individuals can use similar methods employed by businesses to monetize payments made to vendors. For individuals that diligently optimize payments the results can generate hundreds, and even thousands, of dollars in extra cash with the same level of budgeted spending.    Continue reading “How to maximize the money you make from payments”

3 ways the new tax act impacts your personal finances

The new tax act, also known as the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, includes a number of important changes that will directly impact your tax liability and indirectly effect your investments. Here are three key ways your personal finances will be impacted by these changes:  Continue reading “3 ways the new tax act impacts your personal finances”

How much money do I need to retire?

I was recently asked by a friend if I’ve calculated the amount of money I need for retirement, and if so, how did I do it?  I think he was surprised by my response that I calculated the amount a long time ago when I first started working and have been updating the plan numbers every year based on new information. I asked him if he had a retirement plan and his response was that he’s also been saving for retirement since he started working many years ago, but his “plan” was to save as much as he could, whenever possible.  Continue reading “How much money do I need to retire?”

Have we declared our financial independence?

Financial literacy (a.k.a. FinLit) is the education and understanding of various financial areas, such as saving, spending, investing, insurance, budgeting, retirement and tax planning. The positive impacts of financial education on people are clear, as are the negative impacts to those that lack FinLit.

Continue reading “Have we declared our financial independence?”

How to donate your money more wisely

Caution:  This article contains graphic images that may help some people make more informed decisions about donating money.

Ever wonder how much of the money you give to a charitable cause actually finds its way into the hands of the people that need it?  Well, you can find that information and most anything else you want to know about a specific charity by using independent organizations that rate the quality of charitable organizations.  Two of the more well-known organizations are Charity Navigator and CharityWatch. Both have very useful websites and information to help evaluate charities.  Continue reading “How to donate your money more wisely”

3 questions every parent and child should answer before choosing a college

If you’ve been reading my recent articles you may sense a theme (or an obsession) with figuring out the costs and benefits of going to college.  There are clearly benefits of going to college, but it is a ‘big money decision’ and should only be made with the appropriate level of due diligence.

While the decision about which school is the “best fit” is somewhat subjective, the cost of obtaining a diploma and how to pay for it should be viewed more objectively.  Continue reading “3 questions every parent and child should answer before choosing a college”

Investing in picks and shovels

I don’t profess to know much about digital currencies or marijuana, but I do know something about speculative investing.  If there’s one thing I know, it’s that you’ll see history repeat itself if you’re around long enough and paying attention.  As it relates to the current digital currency mania, seen in the astronomical price increase of bitcoin, we’ve been here a few times before.  I’m certain you’re not old enough to remember the 17th century tulip bubble crash in the Netherlands or the “gold rush” in the 1800’s, but the “digital currency rush” is similar.  The rapidly rising prices and a fear-of-missing-out creates a frenzy that drives investors to bet it all (or too much) in hopes of getting rich quickly.  Continue reading “Investing in picks and shovels”