FEATURED POST

Advisors Management Group

Be Smart with Your Holiday Jingle
The holidays are upon us, and the pressure is on. There is so much to do to prepare for the holiday season and the holiday bustle can leave you wondering if this is really the most wonderful time of the year. This year, the average American household plans to spend over $1000 this holiday season on gifts, decorations, travel to family and holiday meals. This, on top of normal monthly spending can make November and December some of the most expensive months of the year. Without a plan of attack, December’s holiday magic can easily turn into January’s credit card nightmare. Plan Ahead When it comes to gifts, know who you plan to buy gifts for and how much you intend to spend on them. Stick to the budget. It is easy to get trapped into spending too much especially if you overspend on someone, you may be tempted to buy more for another to make the gift even. If you determine what you are spending, you can determine what you think you’d like to buy to before you enter the store. Use a holiday savings account to save a little bit each month to avoid feeling overwhelmed when the time to shop comes. Keep the store ads with you. Many stores will price match, and this could save you a stop or help you secure an item that you are having difficulty getting at another store. Don’t underestimate how planning your shopping trip ahead can save you both time and money. Plan your route and keep your list handy. By avoiding driving all over town, and potentially backtracking, you can save money on gas and save time. Eating a healthy meal before you head out will put you in a good frame of mind and help you curve the temptation of spending unnecessary money on meals out or stopping for snacks while out and about. Avoid shopping at times that attract crowds like mid-day Saturday and Sunday. By shopping at off times, you can move through your list quickly and with less frustration. Although this one won’t help your pocketbook, time is money and piece of mind is priceless. Shop Online Using a credit card is the most secure way to shop online. It is easier to dispute a fraudulent transaction on a credit card than with a debit card. Remember not to charge anything you cannot pay off when the statement comes. Check multiple websites to make sure that you are getting the best deal. Aim to get free shipping and check for coupon codes. Avoid paying more for something than you should. Items like gaming consoles and other highly desired items are often sold brand new by private parties for a healthy upcharge to parents who are willing to pay anything just to get something that they can’t find in the stores. These items can often be purchased at a fair price after the holidays when the demand drops. Avoid Holiday Scammers and Fraudsters Be mindful of your purse, wallet and credit cards. Watch for skimming devices and be discreet about how you enter you pin number. Track packages and know when they are being delivered. Arrange to have them shipped to your place of employment or to have a neighbor pick them up off your porch. Be wary of vendors selling goods online who ask for gift cards as payment. This is a common internet scam, and it is likely that you will not receive the goods you purchased. Review your credit card statements often. Report and dispute any suspicious transactions right away. By being prepared and organized, you can save time and money so that you can focus on what really matters this holiday season. May your shopping be stress free and may your holiday season be merry and bright!   Rebecca Agamaite, MBA Investment Advisor Representative  Rebecca joined the firm in 2011 as an Investment Advisor Representative. In this role, she works with clients to manage their investment assets and help them obtain their financial objectives. Rebecca brings a great deal of experience to the team having worked for several years at Marshall & IIsley Bank and MetLife.   Advisors Management Group, Inc. is a registered investment adviser whose principal office is located in Wisconsin.   Opinions expressed are those of AMG and are subject to change, not guaranteed, and should not be considered recommendations to buy or sell any security.  Past performance is no guarantee of future returns, and investing involves multiple risks, including, but not limited to, the risk of permanent losses.  Please do not send orders via e-mail as they are not binding and cannot be acted upon.  Please be advised it remains the responsibility of our clients to inform AMG of any changes in their investment objectives and/or financial situation.  This commentary is limited to the dissemination of general information pertaining to AMG’s investment advisory/management services.  Any subsequent, direct communication by AMG  with a prospective client shall be conducted by a representative that is either registered or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration in the state where the prospective client resides.  A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees continues to remain available for your review upon request.
Read More

Category: Saving

13 Oct 2021

Advisors Management Group

Making Health Saving Accounts Work for You

When illness or injuries occur, paying for out-of-pocket medical expenses can be overwhelming for many people. By planning ahead and saving a little bit every month you can feel prepared to deal with unexpected medical costs. If you are a participant in a high deductible HSA eligible health insurance plan, a Health Savings Account can be an important part of your overall financial picture. Which insurance plans are eligible? For 2021, an HSA eligible plan must have a deductible of at least $1,400 for and individual and $2,800 for a family plan. HSA eligible plans require the insured to pay for most expenses out of pocket until the deductible is met.  It is important to understand that not every insurance plan is HSA eligible even if the deductible is high. How do HSA’s work? An HSA account allows you to put pre-tax dollars into a savings account, then use those dollars to pay medical expenses without ever paying any tax on the dollars used for the payment. The maximum annual deferral amount depends upon the type of health insurance coverage you have.  Also, the annual contribution limit usually increases slightly each year so you may want to adjust accordingly. HSA eligible health insurance plans may cost less which may allow you to choose to invest what you are not spending on premiums.          How much can I save? For individuals with single health insurance coverage the annual contribution limit is $3,600.  For individuals with family health insurance coverage the annual contribution limit is $7,200.  If you are over the age of 55, you can contribute up to an additional $1,000 per year to increase, your maximum annual contribution to $4,600 or $8,200 depending upon the type of health insurance coverage you have. Contributions can be deductible on your tax return if they are paid out of pocket instead through salary deferral from your employers’ payroll. Additional Benefits Some additional advantages an HSA account provides include: At the age of 65 you can treat your HSA like an IRA and take distributions for purposes other than medical expenses without penalty, although you will pay income tax on the distribution. You can invest the assets in the account no matter what your income is. There are no income limits to be eligible to contribute unlike an IRA.  Once your income goes above a certain level you can no longer make tax deductible contributions to an IRA. For higher income earners an HSA is one of the few ways to save money tax deferred. You can do a once in a lifetime tax free rollover from an IRA to an HSA up to the annual contribution limit. However, you must remain in a high deductible health insurance plan for at least 12 months following the rollover. You are not allowed make rollover contributions to an HSA from a 401(k), 457, or other retirement plan. You can first roll money over to an IRA and then do a rollover from the IRA to the HSA There are options available for those who want to grow their HSA in the equities market. This can be attractive for those who don’t typically spend down their HSA on an annual basis or those who have accumulated a larger balance. Can I use my HSA to pay health insurance premiums? You can only use your HSA to pay health insurance premiums if you are collecting Federal or State unemployment benefits, or you have COBRA continuation health insurance coverage through a former employer. Nathan Deets CFP Investment Advisor Representative & Tax Preparer Nathan joined the firm in 2006. As an Investment Advisor Representative, he is part of the team that designs our clients’ investment portfolios, prepares individual tax returns, and helps our Advisor Team with financial planning for our clients. Advisors Management Group, Inc. is a registered investment adviser whose principal office is located in Wisconsin.   Opinions expressed are those of AMG and are subject to change, not guaranteed, and should not be considered recommendations to buy or sell any security.  Past performance is no guarantee of future returns, and investing involves multiple risks, including, but not limited to, the risk of permanent losses.  Please do not send orders via e-mail as they are not binding and cannot be acted upon.  Please be advised it remains the responsibility of our clients to inform AMG of any changes in their investment objectives and/or financial situation.  This commentary is limited to the dissemination of general information pertaining to AMG’s investment advisory/management services.  Any subsequent, direct communication by AMG  with a prospective client shall be conducted by a representative that is either registered or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration in the state where the prospective client resides.  A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees continues to remain available for your review upon request.

Read More...
28 May 2019

Advisors Management Group

10 Myths About Health Savings Accounts

When you’re choosing a health plan for the year -- whether you get coverage through your employer or on your own -- one option may be a high-deductible plan that makes you eligible to contribute to a health savings account. Weigh this option carefully. There are a lot of misconceptions about how HSAs work. Health savings accounts offer a triple tax break -- contributions aren’t taxed, the money grows tax-deferred, and it can be used tax-free for eligible medical expenses at any time. Here, we take a look at several of the most common HSA myths -- and the reality. Myth: You Must Use HSA Money by Year-End This is the biggest misconception about HSAs. Unlike flexible spending accounts, HSAs have no use-it-or-lose-it rule. You can use the money tax-free to pay eligible medical expenses at any time. The money can pay current medical expenses -- such as your insurance deductible, co-payments for health care and prescription drugs, and out-of-pocket costs for vision or dental care -- but you’ll get the biggest tax benefit if you keep the money growing in the account and withdraw it for medical expenses much later, such as in retirement. You can withdraw HSA money tax-free, for instance, to pay Medicare Part B, Part D and Medicare Advantage premiums after you turn age 65. Most HSAs let you invest the money in mutual funds for the long term. Myth: You Can Only Get an HSA Through Your Employer Although many employers pair an HSA with a high-deductible health insurance plan, anyone with an HSA-eligible health insurance policy can contribute to an HSA. (HSA-eligible policies must have a deductible of at least $1,350 for single coverage or $2,700 for family coverage in 2019.) Many banks and other financial institutions offer health savings accounts. You can find HSA administrators at www.hsasearch.com, where you can compare fees and investing options. If your employer does offer an HSA, however, that’s usually your best option because many employers contribute money to employees’ HSAs (an average of $500 per year for individuals and $1,000 for families), and employers tend to cover most of the fees for employees’ HSAs. Also, contributions made through payroll deduction are pre-tax, avoiding federal and Social Security taxes. If you contribute to an HSA on your own, your contributions are tax-deductible. Myth: You Can’t Use Money in the HSA After You Sign Up for Medicare You can’t make new contributions to an HSA after you enroll in Medicare, but you can continue to use the money that’s already in the account tax-free for out-of-pocket medical expenses and other eligible costs that aren’t covered by insurance, such as vision, hearing and dental care and co-pays for prescription drugs. You can also take tax-free withdrawals to pay a portion of long-term-care insurance premiums based on your age, ranging in 2018 from $410 if you’re 40 or younger to $5,110 if you’re 70 or older. And after you turn 65, you can use HSA money to pay premiums for Medicare Part B, Part D or Medicare Advantage. You can even withdraw money from your HSA to reimburse yourself if your Medicare premiums are paid directly out of your Social Security benefits. “You just need to keep your payment notification from Social Security in your tax records, and you can reimburse yourself dollar for dollar,” says Steven Christenson, executive vice president at Ascensus, a benefits consultant. Myth: You Can’t Contribute to an HSA After You Turn 65 Eligibility to make HSA contributions stops when you enroll in Medicare. That’s not necessarily when you turn 65. Some people who keep working for a large employer at age 65 choose to delay signing up for Medicare Part A and Part B so they can continue to contribute to an HSA (especially if their employer contributes money to the account, too). However, you can only delay signing up for Medicare at 65 if you have health insurance from a current employer (or if you have coverage through your spouse’s employer); the employer generally must have 20 or more employees. Otherwise, you generally have to sign up for Medicare at 65. If you are eligible to delay signing up for Medicare, be sure to enroll within eight months of losing your employer coverage so you won’t have a late-enrollment penalty. You can make pro-rated HSA contributions for the number of months before your Medicare coverage takes effect. If you sign up for Medicare Part A after age 65, your coverage takes effect retroactively six months before you enrolled. Myth: You Must Get Permission From HSA Administrators to Withdraw Money Unlike with an FSA, which usually requires you to gather receipts and get permission from the administrator to make withdrawals, you can withdraw money from your HSA whenever you want. Many HSAs have debit cards that make it easy to use the account for eligible expenses, but you can also withdraw money on your own and keep the records in your tax files to prove that the withdrawals should be tax-free. “FSAs require the administrator to substantiate the claim, but with HSAs, there is no substantiation requirement -- you just have to keep the receipts,” says Steve Auerbach, CEO of Alegeus, which provides technology for HSAs. Myth: You Must Use HSA Funds Within a Certain Time Period After You Incur Medical Bills One quirk of the HSA rules is that there’s no time limit for using the money after you incur an expense. Say you have knee surgery and pay a $1,000 deductible in cash. As long as you had the knee surgery after you opened an HSA, you can withdraw that $1,000 tax-free from the account anytime -- even years later. You just need to keep track of your receipts for the HSA-eligible expenses. Many HSA administrators make it easy to import medical claims-payment records from your health insurance to your HSA and keep track of whether you paid the bill with your HSA or with cash. “We store all of those claims and receipts for you. If, say, in two years you want to take the money out, it can come out tax-free because you’ve already incurred those expenses,” says Auerbach, of Alegeus. Myth: You Can Only Invest the HSA Money in a Savings Account HSAs have savings accounts, so you know the money will be there if you plan to use it for current expenses. But many HSA administrators also let you invest the money in mutual funds for the long term. The fees and investing options vary a lot by company -- some offer low-cost funds from Vanguard, Fidelity and other well-known fund companies. You can compare fees and investing options at www.hsasearch.com. Some HSA administrators charge extra fees unless you maintain a minimum balance. Myth: Your Spouse and Kids Can Only Use HSA Money If Covered by Your Health Plan The rules for contributing to an HSA are different than they are for using the money. For 2019, you can contribute up to $3,500 to the account if you have health insurance coverage on you only or up to $7,000 if you have family coverage. You can also contribute an extra $1,000 if you’re 55 or older. But no matter whether you have individual or family health insurance coverage, you can use the HSA money tax-free for qualified medical expenses for yourself, your spouse and your tax dependents -- even if those family members are covered under a different policy, says Roy Ramthun, CEO of HSA Consulting Services. Myth: You Can’t Use the HSA After You Leave Your Job Here’s another way that HSAs differ from FSAs: You can keep the HSA even if you leave your job. You can usually maintain the HSA through the current administrator or roll it over to a different one (similar to an IRA rollover). And if you have an HSA-eligible high-deductible policy -- whether through a new employer or on your own -- you can continue to contribute to the HSA. Myth: It Doesn’t Make Sense to Have an HSA-Eligible Policy If You Have a Lot of Medical Expenses Some people are reluctant to choose a high-deductible health insurance policy if they have a lot of medical expenses. But you need to do the math and compare the overall costs. In some cases, the premium savings by choosing the high-deductible policy rather than a lower-deductible plan may cover most of the difference in the deductible. And if you have employer coverage, your employer may contribute to your HSA to help close the gap. The employer contribution is generally seed money rather than a match. Many employers deposit a fixed amount of money into the account at the beginning of the year for anyone who has an HSA-eligible policy, says David Speier, managing director of benefits accounts at Willis Towers Watson, a benefits consultant. Add up the difference in premiums, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs for your regular medical expenses, as well as any employer contribution, when deciding on a policy. Many employers are introducing decision-making tools to help with the calculations, says Speier. Source: Kiplinger

Read More...
18 Oct 2018

Advisors Management Group

7 Ways to Save Money on Halloween

You don’t have to play trick or treat with your budget this Halloween when you plan those candy purchases and flex your crafting muscles to make decorations. The National Retail Federation estimates that consumers will spend $7.4 billion on Halloween this year, with the average person shelling out about $77 on decorations, costumes, and candy. But it's possible to make savvy purchases to bring down the cost. Follow these seven tips to save money on Halloween this year. 1. Buy Halloween candy from a warehouse club.  Buying your Halloween candy in bulk from a warehouse club can help you save money and avoid the hassle of making multiple trips to the grocery store to stock up on popular types of candy during the weeks leading up to Halloween. Pick up a few mixed bag varieties to give your trick-or-treaters plenty of options. If you’re feeling generous, go with regular-size candy bars that are also priced at a discount at warehouse clubs. 2. Shop at online party stores for Halloween decorations.  Whether you're hosting a Halloween party or want to deck out your home in Halloween décor, peruse the inventory of online party stores for some great deals before you head out to your local big-box store. Many party stores will offer discounts on bulk buys and run specials on Halloween items throughout the season. Keep an eye out for coupons and online-only offers to save even more on your purchases.  3. Buy arts and craft supplies at the dollar store.  If you’ve caught the crafting bug this season, head to the dollar store or other discount stores in your area to round up basic supplies to make your own decorations. Be creative with ready-made treat bags and other Halloween decorations that you can repurpose to make wreaths, centerpieces and other festive decorations. 4. Search for free activities in the community.  If you don’t have room in the budget to host a Halloween party for the kids or even to stock up on holiday candy this year, plan on taking everyone out for some free Halloween fun at your local community center, school, museums and other local venues. Take a look at the events page in your local newspaper, find events on the Facebook pages of organizations you are a part of or review the community calendar at civic centers and other local organizations to find low-cost ways to celebrate Halloween. 5. Hold off on the pumpkin roundup.  Waiting until Oct. 30 or a few days before Halloween to buy pumpkins could save you some money. Plan on carving the pumpkins on Halloween instead of earlier in the season when the pumpkins are prone to rot. Many stores sell pumpkins at deep discounts right around Halloween to clear out some of the inventory before the big post-Halloween price drop. Keep in mind, you could still use uncarved pumpkins as decorations for Thanksgiving. 6. Make your own Halloween costumes.  You’ll find plenty of tutorials and tips for making Halloween costumes with inexpensive materials online, so get inspired by perusing some Pinterest boards and posts from crafty bloggers. Even something as simple as a decorative mask or a cape embellished with Halloween motifs can be enough to get you in the Halloween spirit. Buy items you can reuse for next year’s Halloween events or even for a costume party this upcoming holiday season. 7. Shop at surplus stores. Stores that carry overstock, surplus and slightly damaged or irregular merchandise can be a treasure trove for bargain hunters and typically carry a large selection of holiday-themed merchandise. Whether you’re in the market for a Halloween-print tablecloth, candelabras or a festive door hanging, surplus stores may have just what you need to create a spooky space at home or in the office. Some of these stores also carry a line of Halloween costumes for kids and accessories you could use to put together your own costumes. If an item is visibly damaged but still usable, don’t be afraid to ask for a discount – some stores will take 10 percent or more off the sticker price to make the sale. Source: USNews.com

Read More...
19 Jul 2018

Advisors Management Group

3 Tips to Chart Your Own Map to Retirement

When it comes to retirement planning, working Americans are primarily on their own -- pensions are a thing of the past and the future of Social Security is increasingly uncertain. As the retirement landscape continues to change, so do Americans' expectations about this phase of life. Many of the pre-retirees we speak to say they're not interested in following an established retirement road map and want to stay professionally engaged. Others tell us that saving enough to live off of for 20 to 30 years simply isn't feasible. The 2018 Capital One Financial Freedom survey found that while two-thirds of Americans (65 percent) say they're confident in their financial future, many have a long way to go -- just half have a long-term financial plan, and among non-retired Americans, nearly one-fifth don't expect to or don't know if they'll ever retire. Given these dynamics, it's important to take the time to reflect on your own financial situation, long-term goals and timeline for working and generating income so you can take control of your financial life. Here are three tips to help you build a realistic retirement strategy so you can enjoy this evolving, yet exciting, time: 1. Take control of your financial situation. When you start thinking about the future, begin by answering these three questions -- do you have credit card debt, and a game plan to manage it? Have you established three to six months of emergency savings? And are you leveraging a 401(k) or an individual retirement account? Working to reduce debt and build up savings is an important first step in building a long-term financial plan. Don't forget to also reflect on your goals and consider how much money you'll need to reach them. Retirement looks very different to different people, and it's important to enter this phase with eyes wide open. When determining how much to save, understand your timeline, risk tolerance (how you handle the markets ups and downs) and future plans -- will you move, travel or pursue new hobbies? You should also prepare for unexpected and rising costs, like health care. If you're not sure how much to put away, common wisdom suggests saving 10 to 15 percent of your income, but if that's not feasible starting small is OK too. The important thing is to start saving something now. 2. Think about ongoing income streams for your future. As you begin planning for the future, think through how a combination of savings, benefits, wages and investment income can work together to support you. If you don't want to keep working full-time but living off your nest egg isn't practical, explore transitional employment options or consider selling real estate or other assets. And remember, it's never too late to start saving -- even if you haven't saved aggressively earlier in life, you can still make the most of accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs now. Try to stay proactive and don't dwell on missed investing opportunities. Focus on what you can do now, which can make a big difference for you and your loved ones. 3. Put yourself first. Putting yourself last has serious consequences for your financial future and may have an adverse impact on others, too. In fact, The Pew Research Center recently reported the number of parents living in their adult children's households has doubled since 1995 (increasing to 14 percent). Understandably, many of us put our family first and prioritize our children's education costs over retirement planning, but the later you start planning for your future, the less time you have to grow your nest egg. You can always take out education loans, but you can't borrow for retirement. Whether retirement is right around the corner or further out on the horizon, it's important to take steps to gain control of your financial life and build a specific plan that works for you. No matter your age or stage of life, establishing sound financial habits helps give you the security and flexibility to enjoy retirement on your own terms. Source: Yahoo Finance

Read More...
19 Jul 2018

Advisors Management Group

Why Americans Tap Their Retirement Savings Early

Most people don't intend to raid their retirement accounts — and that's just the problem. Tapping your retirement dollars early is almost always considered taboo, although, at times, it can seem unavoidable. By far, the majority of Americans said they dipped into their retirement funds to pay off debt or bills. In fact, GOBankingRates polled nearly 2,000 people who dipped into their retirement funds. The other most common reasons cited were to cover a financial emergency or medical expense. Less than 10 percent said it was to buy a home and just said 3 percent said they tapped their retirement savings to pay college costs. But for those with little or no savings, a lack of proper investment income and planning leaves many Americans at risk of retiring broke. Most financial experts recommend stashing at least a six-month cushion to cover anything from a dental bill to a car repair — and more if you are the sole breadwinner in your family or in business for yourself. Source: CNBC

Read More...
26 Jun 2018

Advisors Management Group

Are You Saving Enough?

If you go by the book, you would shoot for 10% to 20% of your gross income. But that ballpark figure can be deceiving. Savings and retirement estimators are helpful, but often misleading, tools. These calculators can be insufficient to determine how much money you should be saving based on a few calculations. It’s not wise to solely trust calculators to tell you if you’re adequately prepared for an emergency or retirement. In addition, some people trying these calculators may be so discouraged by the numbers they see that the tools end up not helping at all. If you looked in a financial planning textbook, an individual should be saving 10% to 20% of his or her gross income. However, that number, in and of itself, doesn’t tell the entire story. To estimate how much money you should be saving you can’t rely on general advice. And maybe that isn’t the right question to be asking anyway. Maybe instead of asking how much should you be saving, you should ask yourself how much can you save? Are you saving as much as possible? In a time when many Americans live without an adequate safety net, prioritizing savings is increasingly difficult for many people. Here are a few things to consider as you start thinking about your savings goals and how to ramp them up. Lifestyle Choices Affect Savings One of the biggest obstacles to savings is living outside of one’s means. Acquiring debt, installment payments and frequent “Keeping up with the Joneses” spending binges consume funds that could otherwise be saved and earn interest. That probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you, but what if you are living within your means? Your money decisions money can still have an impact on your ability to save. We all can do better. Not being purposeful in aligning your current spending with your priorities will undoubtedly leave you falling short of achieving your goals. I have seen many people who say being prepared financially for retirement is extremely important to them. However, when you look at their finances you quickly see that they’re spending a major portion of their income maintaining their current lifestyle. For example, I knew one man who was saving 6% of his gross income in a retirement account, while also receiving a 3% match from his employer. The problem was that he was also spending, on average, 20% more a month than what he made, running up credit card and home equity debt while depleting his savings. While he was saving for his future, at the same time he was destroying his current wealth and on the path to financial distress. The Curse of Instant Gratification Another problem many families face is the drive for instant gratification. Instant gratification is a curse to savings, in part because of the ease and convenience of both online shopping and digital banking. Advancing technologies facilitate spending money, and consumer demand drives technology’s march forward. More than simple wasteful spending, instant gratification may sometimes include necessary and functional purchases — just at the wrong time. For example, many people like driving a new car with the latest technology, but do you really need it? You may need a car because of where you live or your job, however do you need to purchase the latest model factory delivered with all of your specifications? Ways to defer gratification include: Make a list of wants, and save toward large purchases so you can pay in cash. These don’t have to be major purchase like a home or car, but could be a family vacation, a new washer and dryer or that new Ultra 4K TV. Use a debit card for purchases, not a credit card. If the money isn’t in the account, don’t make the purchase. Leave credit or debit cards behind completely and use only cash. Basically, don’t blow your money. Simple enough, right? But even the rich and famous can have trouble with that concept. Take Johnny Depp. His business managers, whom he is suing, say his “lavish spending” — $30,000 per month on wine, $200,000 per month on private jets and reportedly $75 million to buy homes, a horse farm in Kentucky and several islands in the Bahamas — has put him in dire straits. Saving enough for wants, emergencies and other unpredictable expenditures means having enough money left over from paychecks to save. For many this will be a difficult change to make. It will mean that you are willing to exercise financial discipline and delay purchases until you can afford them while also meeting your savings goals. Conclusion No calculator or estimator can come up with the exact amount for any one person to save. Knowing what to prepare for is personal to each individual situation. Every person who wonders how much to save must first examine a larger picture that includes long-term financial goals, lifestyle choices, spending habits, wants, desires and necessities. It is a personal decision that deserves thoughtful contemplation and strategic financial planning. If you are currently wondering how much you should be saving to reach your version of financial success, you can always reach out to a Certified Financial Planner. The time you take now to prepare for your financial future can make all the difference in your long-term quality of life. Source: Kiplinger.com

Read More...
17 May 2018

Advisors Management Group

Are You Overspending on Groceries?

Parents know all too well that getting food on the table doesn't come cheap. If you're not careful about your expenses, you might just blow a good portion of your paycheck on a routine stop at the supermarket. To help you figure out if you're overspending on food for your family, budgeting website Growing Slower created a monthly grocery spending guidelines chart. The guideline, which was shared by The Real Deal of Parenting Facebook page, uses data from the USDA's Cost of Food report to make recommendations for a thrifty monthly grocery budget based on family size. The chart starts with a family of one and goes up to a family of 11. For just a mom, dad and child, for example, Growing Slower suggests dedicating between $475 and $558 a month on groceries. For a family of six, the range is $768 to $999 per month. The chart can be seen here or below: Family Size (Total) Thrifty Monthly Grocery Budget 1 $200 - 227 2 $392 3 $475 - 558 4 $557 - 707 5 $633 - 882 6 $768 - 999 7 $870-1089 8 $1013-1216 9 $1166-1343 10 $1355-1442 11 $1543-1536   When the chart was shared on The Real Deal of Parenting's Facebook page, a lot of parents were surprised at how they actually spent less than the range given for their size family. Though, it's worth noting that a family of four that includes a toddler and a breastfeeding baby is very different than one that includes two voracious middle-schoolers. It's also not a complete science — it doesn't account for the cost of groceries in more expensive cities, and it doesn't account for extra spending on meals out of the house. So take it with a grain of bargain salt, and see if your family's spending is on track. Source: PopSugar.com

Read More...
27 Nov 2017

Advisors Management Group

Tips for Reducing Your Electric Bill

Electric bills are kind of a mystery. You always remember to turn off the lights before you leave, so why is your bill still sky high? The average household spends about $112 a month on energy bills and prices are steadily rising, according to the Energy Information Administration.  The first step to demystifying your electricity bill, and hopefully reducing it, is to take stock of where you use the most energy.  "Cutting energy waste results in energy savings, but it also translates into money savings," said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, a coalition that promotes energy efficiency. You can find a professional energy auditor to help you assess your home's energy use, potentially for free, through your electric company or the Department of Energy’s website. If you follow their efficiency upgrade recommendations, you could shave 5% to 30% off your energy bill.  Free and Easy Lifestyle Changes Can Add Up Heating/Cooling Heating and cooling takes up the largest chunk of your monthly energy bill, but cutting back doesn't have to mean being uncomfortable. Callahan recommends cleaning your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) unit every 30 days to keep the system running efficiently. “If you’ve got clogged or dirty filters, you’re just using more energy to push that air through,” she said. Keeping the blinds open in the winter and closed in the summer can also reduce the burden on your HVAC system, she added. Using a ceiling fan instead of your air conditioner can keep temperatures and costs low in the summer.  These three steps combined can save you anywhere from $62 to $118 per year, Energy Impact Illinois estimates. Water heaters Water heaters are typically large energy consumers and Callahan suggests lowering the temperature on your water heater from the standard 140°F to 120°F. This can reduce water heating costs by 4%-22% annually, according to the Department of Energy. Washing your clothes in cold water can cut costs since about 90% of the electricity consumed by washing machines is used to heat the water. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that can save the average household up to $40 per year. Air drying your clothes can further reduce energy consumption and save you money.  Appliances A typical American home has 40 products that are constantly drawing power, even if they're not in use. This is responsible for 10% of your electricity use, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Energy vampires, like your phone charger, computer and coffeemaker, can cost the average household $100 a year, according to the Energy Dept., and should always be unplugged when not in use. “An easy way to do this and make sure it all gets done is to have a power strip,” said Callahan. Power strips make it easy to unplug everything at once, and smart power strips automatically cut power to devices that are in standby mode. If you're diligent, you can cut your standby power consumption by 30%, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reports.  Discounts Although you probably only interact with your utility company when it's time to pay the bill, Dr. Iain Walker, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, recommends checking its website for savings opportunities. Some utility companies offer rebate programs and off-peak rates which can be up to 30% cheaper, Walker said. "There's a lot of good stuff out there," he said. Customers can capitalize on this by "load shifting," or saving energy-intensive activities until the rates are low.  Long term investments: Bigger savings Behavioral changes do add up, but you have to alter your home to really make a difference in energy consumption, Walker said. Long-term savings come from bigger investments, like getting new windows or proper insulation. If you're planning on upgrading your appliances, many companies and states offer rebates that make it cheaper to purchase energy saving technology, like LED bulbs or Energy Star certified appliances.  "The more you spend, the more you save," he said. Heating/cooling Seal leaks, doors and windows. Homeowners should start by buying cheap caulk and weatherstripping, Callahan says. This can reduce energy use by at 15% to 30% on your heating and cooling costs each year, the Department of Energy estimates. "Those cracks and leaks can be the equivalent of a 3 foot by 3 foot window open all the time," Callahan said. Buy a programmable thermostat. For as little as $20, you can automatically set your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day. Doing so can save up to 10% on your heating and cooling costs, according to the Department of Energy. "That’s a great way to make sure that you’re not wasting energy when no one’s home except the goldfish," she said.  Install or add insulation. Insulation can cut your costs but estimated savings varydepending on your location and fuel type. "There are many utility programs out there that will give you a pretty good rebate if you add insulation to your home," Walker said.  Lighting Both experts recommend switching to LED bulbs, which last much longer and are 90% more efficient than traditional bulbs.  Replacing your five most used lights with Energy Star approved LED bulbs can save you $75 per year.  Appliances "Don't throw out good equipment, but if you’re in the market or the systems are getting old, buy the most efficient items," said Callahan. Energy efficient appliances sometimes cost more upfront, but can save you money in the long run. An Energy Star certified refrigerator, for example, could set you back about $800 or more depending on the size, but the you could save $260 in energy costs in five years. Source: USAToday.com

Read More...
22 Oct 2017

Advisors Management Group

How to Create an Early Holiday Shopping Budget

Taking just a little time now (even just an hour) can save you a lot of stress, money and time later on when you'd rather enjoy the holiday season. If that gets your attention, keep reading for a few easy, important tips to get organized now for a successful shopping season later. Dig out last year's shopping list. In today's digital age, "digging out" last year's shopping list is hopefully as easy as opening a saved file on your computer, tablet or smartphone. Take a look at who you shopped for last year and how much you spent. This can refresh your memory, help create a budget for this year and kick-start your new shopping list. Create a budget. Knowing how much you spent on gifts last year is helpful, but you should also survey this year's financial situation to see how much you can afford to spend. If you have a savings account for holiday shopping, check the balance. Also see what expenses are coming up and make sure you have a cushion for emergencies. When creating a budget for the holidays, give yourself a spending limit for gifts and don't forget to account for entertaining and party hosting, decorations and travel costs. For even more control over your budget, you can narrow down a budget per person on your shopping list. If this is sounding like more lists than you know how to manage, you'll want to check out the next tip. Download a holiday planning app. Technology saves the day again: There are several helpful (and free) apps to help you plan, budget and organize the holiday season. Santa's Bag is a popular iOS app that gives you an easy and colorful platform for budgeting, planning and checking off the items on your list. You can create a total budget amount and an amount per person, and the app will automatically update your budgets when you tell it how much you spent. The app allows you to enter everything from your gift ideas to whether an item has been purchased and even wrapped. For Android users, Christmas Gift List is a similar solution with the ability to track all your shopping, keep an overall and per person budget, and even archive lists so you can check back on previous years. Prioritize your shopping. After you start your list, you might notice there are a few gifts that are more specific than others. Your wife might be hoping for a new cashmere sweater, but your daughter has that specific new smartphone in mind – plus, she'd love it in that hard-to-find color. For gifts that will fly off the shelves early, make a priority to get these first. Of course, waiting for the week of Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday will give you the best chance of finding a deal, but you may want to keep an eye out for savings starting now. Note which gifts on your list need early attention and which ones are more generic or flexible that can wait until later. Subscribe to stores and coupon websites. Now is the perfect time to get on the email lists of the stores where you know you'll do most of your shopping. You'll be first to know when they have flash sales or free shipping days. You can also follow the accounts of your favorite shops on social media for exclusive sales and promotions. Subscribe to coupon and cash back websites and sign up for alerts now, and you'll have all the best deals hitting your inbox directly – the perfect solution when you need an idea for the sibling who has everything. See, that wasn't too hard. Now that you spent a little time getting organized for the holidays, you can go back to enjoying fall. Here's one last tip: Stock up on heavily discounted candy the day after Halloween and use it for delicious holiday dessert recipes next month.  Source: Money.USNews.com

Read More...