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Could You Improve Your Personal Finances Today?

December 20th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

Simple decisions & new habits might lead you toward a better financial future.
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In life, there are times when simple decisions can have a profound impact. The same holds true when it comes to personal finance. Here are some simple choices you could make that may leave you better off financially – in the near term, the long term, or both.

Use less credit. Every time you pay with cash instead of credit, you are saving pennies on the dollar – actually, dimes on the dollar. At the start of December, the average “low interest” credit card in America charged users 12.45%, the average cash back card 17.15%. If you want to see your bank balance grow, try consistently paying in cash. There is no need to pay extra money when you pay for something.1

Set up automated contributions to retirement plans & investment accounts. By automating your per-paycheck salary deferrals to your workplace retirement plan or your IRA, you remove the chore (and the psychological hurdle) of having to make lump-sum contributions. You can bolster invested assets with regular inflows of new money, without even thinking about it. Often, arranging these recurring account contributions takes 20 minutes or less of your time.2

Bundle your insurance. Many insurers will give you a discount if you turn to them for multiple policies (home and auto, possibly other combinations). This may help you reduce your overall insurance costs.

Live somewhere less expensive. Sure, it takes money to move, but that one-time cost might be worth absorbing, especially if you can perform your job anywhere. A look at the December United States Rent Report at ApartmentList.com reveals that the median rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles is $1,900. The median rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in Spokane is $630. What is the median rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in Boston? $3,200. How about in Fayetteville, North Carolina? $700.3

Look into refinancing your largest debts. Perhaps your student loans could be consolidated. Perhaps you could qualify for a refi on your mortgage (while rates are still low). Both of these moves could free up money and leave you with more financial “breathing room” each month.

Spend less money on “stuff” and more money on yourself. Many people associate possessions with well-being – the more “toys” you have, the richer your life becomes. That kind of thinking can quickly put you deep in debt. You may find yourself living on margin as your “toys” depreciate.

A wise alternative: pay yourself first and direct more of your income into retirement or savings accounts. Or if you like, use some money you would normally spend on creature comforts to attack your debt. Instead of simply entertaining yourself today, make money moves on behalf of your financial future. Too many people give their financial future little thought, and they may be in for a shock when they reach retirement age.

We all want to splurge now and then, but try spending money on memorable experiences instead of flashy items – you may find the former many times more valuable than the latter.

Forgo several purchases a month and see what happens. A recent SunTrust bank survey found that roughly a third of U.S. households earning $75,000 or more live paycheck to paycheck. Earlier this year, Money noted that the average household credit card balance was nearly $16,000. In short, people are spending too much.4

Some expenses are obligatory, others spur-of-the-moment and unexamined. Pause and think before you buy something; do you really need it? If you separate your needs from your wants and say no to several of them, you may find yourself living a simpler life with less debt and more cash.

Spend less than what you make, invest and save some of the difference – this is the classic path toward improving your financial situation.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

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Citations.
1 – bankrate.com/finance/credit-cards/current-interest-rates.aspx [12/1/16]
2 – forbes.com/sites/robertberger/2016/05/14/20-ways-to-improve-your-finances-in-under-20-minutes/ [5/14/16]
3 – apartmentlist.com/rentonomics/national-rent-data/ [12/1/16]
4 – time.com/money/4320973/why-you-are-poor/ [6/6/16]

Is Women’s Wealth Growing Faster Than Men’s Wealth?

December 20th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

One study says yes. Two major factors may be influencing the trend.

shutterstock_171399218Picture the women of the world growing wealthier. It’s happening right now. Research from the Boston Consulting Group affirms this development. BCG, a leading business strategy advisor, says that as the world grew 5.2% wealthier between 2015 and 2016, women’s wealth grew 6.6%. In total, women own about $39.6 trillion in assets worldwide, and possess a 5% greater share of global wealth in 2016 than they did in 2011.1

What are some of the reasons behind this shift? One reason is that more women are becoming successful business owners. Census Bureau data from 2012 (the most recently available year, at this writing) shows women owning 36% of U.S. businesses, a 30% leap from the levels of 2007. As the ranks of middle market companies rose 4% from 2008-2014, the number of women-owned or women-led middle market firms soared by 32%.2

This has all taken place even though female entrepreneurs typically start a business with 50% less money than their male peers, according to research from the National Women’s Business Council. Perhaps most impressive has been the growth of businesses owned by Latina and African-American women. American Express OPEN found that from 1997-2015, the number of U.S. firms owned by Latinas increased by 224%. Simultaneously, the number of businesses owned by black women rose by 322%. African-American women started up companies at six times the national average during those 18 years.2,3

Beyond the business world, there is a second major reason for the increased net worth of women. They are acquiring or inheriting significant wealth from parents, spouses, or relatives, some of whom are millionaire baby boomers or members of thriving business-class households in emerging economies.1

In reference to the latter phenomenon, the net worth of women who live in Asia-Pacific nations other than Japan has risen by an average of 13% a year since 2011. Globally, assets under management owned by female investors grew 8% per year in that time.1

The BCG white paper projects that women may grow even wealthier by 2020. It forecasts that by then, women will control $72.1 trillion of assets around the globe, thanks to their collective wealth increasing by about 7% a year.1

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

«RepresentativeDisclosure»

Citations.
1 – time.com/money/4360112/womens-wealth-share-increase/ [6/7/16]
2 – forbes.com/sites/geristengel/2016/01/06/why-the-force-will-be-with-women-entrepreneurs-in-2016/ [1/6/16]
3 – blackenterprise.com/small-business/black-women-business-owners-outpace-all-other-startups-six-times-national-average/ [3/4/16]

What if You Find a Mistake in Your Retirement Plan?

December 20th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

How common is this? How can you try to correct it if it occurs?

shutterstock_176972168Your latest retirement plan account statement arrives in your email inbox. You take a look at it – and something seems amiss. “That can’t be right,” you say to yourself. There must be some kind of mistake. Who should you talk to about this? Who can fix it?

Mistakes do happen with retirement plans. As a consultant to these programs told the trade journal PLANSPONSOR, they are “ubiquitous.” In fact, they are so prevalent that the Internal Revenue Service devotes more than 20 web pages to helping employers fix them over at irs.gov.1,2

A small business has much on its collective mind, and sometimes its retirement savings program may get short shrift. Errors may occur regarding ongoing salary deferral amounts, plan participant loans, or company matches when an employee’s pay is boosted by tips or bonuses. In the case of traditional pension plans, an employer may even pay the retired worker too much.

How can you detect mistakes? Look at your paystubs consistently to make sure your account balance reflects your contributions. This will not be a direct relationship because of compound interest and yield over the years, but if something is really off, it should be evident. If you happen to have taken a loan from your plan, check to see that the balance reflects this. If you have changed your investment mix or the percentage of salary you defer into the plan per paycheck, examine your account statements over the next several months or year to confirm that these changes are carried out.

How can you try to fix these errors? You should turn to the plan sponsor (your employer) first. Approach your employer’s human resources department according to procedure. Read the rules for addressing such mistakes within the summary plan description (the booklet about the plan that you should have received at or shortly after your enrollment) and bring your account statements with you. Your employer will want to know about any potential mistake, because if it is not corrected, it could mean trouble with the IRS.1,3

About 40% of all workplace retirement plans in America are sponsored by companies with less than 10 employees. In such cases, your human resources contact may, effectively, be your boss. How should you bring up such a delicate matter to him or her?3

One, meet with your boss privately and be very polite. Maintain a pleasant attitude. Avoid appearing disgruntled. The conversation could awaken your boss to the need for better administration, better supervision of the plan.

If the answers you get at work don’t seem adequate, then contact the plan provider (the investment firm that furnishes the plan for your employer). You could also ask the financial professional who consults you to look into the matter on your behalf.

If you have retired after participating in a pension plan and you wish to challenge what you feel is a mistake, you may want to contact the Pension Rights Center at 888-420-6550 or via its website, pensionhelp.org.4

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

«RepresentativeDisclosure»

Citations.
1 – plansponsor.com/Plan-Sponsors-Should-Be-Aware-of-Common-Errors/ [6/1/15]
2 – irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-sponsor/fixing-common-plan-mistakes [9/15/16]
3 – thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/01/08/How-Convince-Your-Employer-Fix-Your-401k [1/8/14]
4 – marketwatch.com/story/what-happens-when-theres-a-mistake-in-your-401k-2016-10-24 [10/24/16]

December, 2016 – Monthly Economic Update

December 20th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Monthly Economic Update

december2016-monthly_economic_update

Dos and Don’ts of Last-Minute Holiday Shopping

December 20th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

shutterstock_521034784If you’ve put off holiday shopping for yet another weekend and still can’t get through your growing holiday to-do list, make sure that you’re not paying a premium for last-minute gifts. Shopping at the last minute may be your only option, but there are still steps you can take to keep costs down and share the holiday spirit under budget.

Here are some dos and don’ts of holiday shopping at the last minute.

Do: Ask about free gift-wrapping services. Many stores will offer free gift-wrapping services on in-store purchases, so you’ll have that gift ready to go the same day you buy it. You’ll save time, or course, but you’ll also save money on gift wrap and assorted supplies. It really does pay to ask if the service is available, especially if you are buying multiple gifts a few days before a holiday event.

Don’t: Go shopping without a list. When you’re on a tight budget and don’t have the option to splurge, make sure that you’re armed with a shopping list and plan to keep your spending on track. It’s easy to get derailed once you’re in the store and on the hunt for gifts. Your list of must-haves will keep you focused on your task (time is running out, after all), and your list will help you stay on budget.

Do: Check the store or shopping center schedule. Many stores will open early and close late to accommodate last-minute shoppers like you. This means that you can avoid the after-work traffic jam by arriving later in the evening or rising early to get your holiday shopping done before work. Check the mall and store hours to confirm opening and closing times and plan accordingly. Consider that many holiday shoppers may not be willing to shop at the crack of dawn, either. If you can make a trip out earlier in the day, you may be able to beat last-minute crowds.

Don’t: Forget about your local grocery or convenience stores. Many grocery stores, drugstores and convenience stores are stocked with holiday items that make for great last-minute holiday gifts. From boxes of chocolate to gift baskets filled with goodies, stocking stuffers and smaller gifts may be available at low prices at your local grocery or hardware store. Keep an eye out for in-store specials and markdowns as Christmas draws near. These stores will need to clear inventory as quickly as possible, so you may be able to get a good deal before the after-Christmas sales.

Do: Make use of smartphone apps for last-minute deals. Whether you’re heading to the electronics store, a gourmet food store or your favorite big-box store, use shopping apps, such as SlickDeals, RetailMeNot and Coupon Sherpa, to get the latest coupon codes, coupons and other discounts on online and offline purchases at the last minute. You’ll rarely have to pay the full retail price on gift items once you’ve checked these apps for deal alerts and the latest coupons.

Don’t: Worry about Christmas Eve crowds. If you’re the ultimate procrastinator who left the holiday shopping until Christmas Eve, there’s still hope. Most people are already home for the holidays – and at home for Christmas Eve – so if you still have a few gifts to round up for Christmas Day celebrations, now’s your time to shine. Just keep in mind that many stores close early on Christmas Eve, so you will need to head out earlier in the day to pick up those gifts.

Do: Consider food gifts. If you’ve been baking away this holiday season, consider wrapping up some of those treats in an attractive gift tin or food gift box as a last-minute holiday gift. Cookies, brownies, cupcakes and other baked treats can make the perfect gift for any foodie on your gift list. Even better? They are an easy gift to put together at the last minute. If you don’t have any time left to be in the kitchen, you could also put together a mini gift basket of holiday candy, boxed cookies and other treats you already received or purchased to give away as a last-minute gift. Regifted holiday treats may not be the most thoughtful gift to give, but this late in the season, there’s not enough time for thoughtful.

30 Simple Holiday Décor Ideas

December 20th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

Looking to update your holiday decor? Find more easy holiday decorating ideas here.

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Twist on a Traditional Wreath

Instead of the traditional evergreen, try a homemade wreath of citrus fruits. Start with a circular piece of florist’s foam, then use wooden florist’s picks to secure large items, such as oranges, first. Continue with smaller fruit: kumquats, clementines, limes. Tie with a thick velvet ribbon.

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Sparkly Ornament Display

Place vintage ornaments on a cake stand nested with leaves for a stunningly simple centerpiece.

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Personalized Place Settings

Serving holiday dinner buffet style? Wrap each dish in a sheet of parchment paper and tie with a length of ribbon before stacking it. Guests will be rewarded with a pretty presentation (not to mention a little gift-opening practice).

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Invite Greenery Inside

Lush greenery draped around the house, especially doorways, creates an inviting atmosphere and a woodsy aroma.

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Get More Great Ideas

Visit http://www.realsimple.com/ to see the rest of these awesome decorating ideas.

Quick and Easy Holiday Recipes

December 20th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

Impress your guests this holiday with some quick and easy holiday delights from the chefs at Food Network.
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Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com

Institute for Highway Safety has awarded 82 new vehicles as the safest picks for 2017

December 20th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has awarded 82 new vehicles as the safest picks for 2017.

Of the 82 vehicles awarded, 38 earned the highest ranking of Top Safety Pick+. Those vehicles not only earned good ratings in five crash test evaluations but have effective features that can prevent crashes, the IIHS said.

Toyota/Lexus led among automakers with nine of its 2017 models making the Top Safety Pick+ list. Honda and its Acura division had five Top Safety Pick+ awards.

Meanwhile, 44 vehicles were in the Top Safety Pick category, one ranking lower.

IIHS said that it toughened the criteria for Top Safety Pick+ to reflect headlight evaluations that it launched this year. Only seven of the vehicles in the top category earned a good rating for headlights.

The vehicles that got a good headlight rating are: Chevrolet Volt small car, Honda Ridgeline pickup, Hyundai Elantra small car, Hyundai Santa Fe midsize SUV, Subaru Legacy midsize car, Toyota Prius v midsize car and Volvo XC60 midsize luxury SUV.

“The field of contenders is smaller this year because so few vehicles have headlights that do their job well, but it’s not as small as we expected when we decided to raise the bar for the awards,” IIHS President Adrian Lund said in a report.

The 2017 report also found that autobrake features are becoming more common, with 21 of this year’s winners including a standard front crash prevention system with automatic braking capabilities.

Here’s the complete list of this year’s winners.

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