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11 Useless things to stop wasting your money on in 2017

January 19th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

shutterstock_416197102Whether it’s paying a late fee or snagging a candy bar while waiting in the checkout line, it’s all too easy to spend mindlessly and waste money. But that cash could be directed toward your savings goals or growing substantially in a retirement account.

“We all have room to set aside a little money for our future,” certified financial planner Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz tells CNBC. “A good habit to develop in 2017 is to take on a more mindful approach to spending.”

Step one is to identify where you’re wasting money. Do any of these purchases sound familiar?

ATM fees

It’ll cost you a record high of $4.57 to withdraw money from an out-of-network ATM. There’s no reason to continue paying these fees, which can add up significantly over time.

A simple 2017 resolution: If your bank’s logo isn’t on the ATM, don’t use it.

If you use one of the traditional, bigger banks, there should be ATM options in your area. Simply look up the locations online and put in the extra effort to get to one of your bank’s ATMs. If there aren’t any convenient ATM options in your city or town, you may want to consider opening a checking account with a more accessible bank.

Late fees

Like ATM fees, late fees are a pointless money suck. And there’s more to late payments than simply paying a fee. Missing payments can also lower your credit score, which affects your ability to borrow money for bigger purchases, like a home or car, in the near future.

Never miss a bill again by setting up automatic payments online for fixed costs such as cable, internet, and insurance. For expenses that can’t be paid online, such as rent, set up calendar reminders and pay them at the same time each month so it becomes routine.

Underused subscriptions

“Nothing makes a company happier than getting its customers to sign up for subscriptions,” writes Yahoo tech columnist David Pogue in his 2016 book, “Pogue’s Basics: Money.”

“Millions of people sign up for 30-day free trials of things, intending to cancel within 30 days — and then they forget. Or they sign up for certain services but have long since stopped using them.”

Look over your last couple of credit card statements and figure out exactly what you’re paying for, whether it be subscriptions to magazines, software, or online services. Next, ask yourself which you can eliminate, and cancel them on the spot to save a couple hundred dollars a year.

You could also use Trim, which automatically finds and cancels your subscriptions with a text.

Buying lunch every day

Eating out can add up quickly. The more food you can prepare at home, the better off your food budget will be. Plus, packing lunch also tends to be better for your waistline.

Of course, it’s OK to treat yourself and buy the occasional meal out, but if you’re aiming to hit major financial goals in 2017, going homemade is one of the simplest ways to cut back without making dramatic sacrifices.

Bottled water

While you’re getting into the habit of packing your lunch, start filling up a water bottle too.

“Most people who buy water in bottles do it for convenience,” notes Pogue. “If you carry a water bottle with you, you spend nothing. (And lose weight. And live longer.)”

Cable

“The average American cable-TV bill is $100 a month,” writes Pogue. That’s a large sum to pay for a service that people often don’t take full advantage of.

Consider cutting the cord and getting your TV from the internet, through services like Netfilx ($8 a month), Hulu ($8 a month), or HBO Now ($15 a month).

Cable box and modem

If you decide you simply can’t live without your cable, at least buy your own cable box and modem.

“As though the cable companies weren’t already milking you dry with the cost of the TV service, they’re also charging you about $235 a year to rent the cable box,” writes Pogue. “You can buy your own replacement cable box for $120 (pays for itself in eight months).”

The same goes for the cable modem. “The damage is about $10 a month, forever,” Pogue says, of the renting option. “Buy your own cable modem for $100, return the one you’ve been renting, and boom: a $120-a-year savings.”

Extra smartphone data

“The cell phone carriers hope you’ll go over your monthly allotment [of data],” says Pogue. “If you do, they slap absurd overage charges onto your bill.”

To never pay an overage charge again, install a “fuel gauge” app, like DataMan or My Data Manger, which will monitor the data you use and warn you if you’re approaching your monthly limit. Pogue also suggests identifying the “gas-guzzlers”: “Different apps use different amounts of data, and you might be astonished to see which ones are the guilty parties.”

Finally, use Wi-Fi whenever you possibly can. When you’re connected to Wi-Fi, you’re not using any of your data allowance.

Excess groceries

Collectively, we waste a lot of food. Every time you throw away excess groceries, that’s money down the drain.

Before you grocery shop, think about the meals you’re going to make for the week and write down exactly what ingredients you’ll need to prepare those meals. When you actually go to the store, stick to just the ingredients on your list.

Brand-name products

Going generic — for groceries, toiletries, or pet supplies — is an easy way to save money over time. As Pogue reports, “store brands cost around 30 percent less than national brands.”

You don’t have to buy generic for everything. Identify what’s really important to you and what you’re willing to sacrifice — then, buy brand-name for the stuff you care about and go generic for everything else.

Impulse buys

From grocery stores to department stores, retailers have a way of tricking you into spending money mindlessly. One tactic is loading the checkout aisle with tempting products: cold sodas, candy bars, and 99-cent knick knacks. After all, your self-control is likely spent by the time you’re done shopping, and stores bank on you giving into that pack of gum.

Skip the candy or magazine and redirect that $5 toward your savings goals or retirement account, where it could grow significantly over time.

Saving $1 Million for Retirement

January 19th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

How can you plan to do it? What kind of financial commitment will it take?

How many of us will retire with $1 million or more in savings?
More of us ought to – in fact, more of us may shutterstock_240575053need to, given inflation and the rising cost of health care.

Sadly, few pre-retirees have accumulated that much. A 2015 Government Accountability Office analysis found that the average American aged 55-64 had just $104,000 in retirement money. A 2016 GoBankingRates survey determined that only 13% of Americans had retirement savings of $300,000 or more.1,2

A $100,000 or $300,000 retirement fund might be acceptable if our retirements lasted less than a decade, as was the case for some of our parents. As many of us may live into our eighties and nineties, we may need $1 million or more in savings to avoid financial despair in our old age.

The earlier you begin saving, the more you can take advantage of compound interest. A 25-year-old who directs $405 a month into a tax-advantaged retirement account yielding an average of 7% annually will wind up with $1 million at age 65. Perhaps $405 a month sounds like a lot to devote to this objective, but it only gets harder if you wait. At the same rate of return, a 30-year-old would need to contribute $585 per month to the same retirement account to generate $1 million by age 65.3

The Census Bureau says that the median household income in this country is $53,657. A 45-year-old couple earning that much annually would need to hoard every cent they made for 19 years (and pay no income tax) to end up with $1 million at age 64, absent of investments. So, investing may come to be an important part of your retirement plan.4

What if you are over 40, what then? You still have a chance to retire with $1 million or more, but you must make a bigger present-day financial commitment to that goal than someone younger.

At age 45, you will need to save around $1,317 per month in a tax-advantaged retirement account yielding 10% annually to have $1 million in 20 years. If the account returns just 6% annually, then you would need to direct approximately $2,164 a month into it.4

What if you start trying to build that $1 million retirement fund at age 50? If your retirement account earns a solid 10% per year, you would still need to put around $2,413 a month into it; at a 6% yearly return, the target contribution becomes about $3,439 a month.4

This math may be startling, but it is also hard to argue with. If you are between age 55-65 and have about $100,000 in retirement savings, you may be hard-pressed to adequately finance your future. There are three basic ways to respond to this dilemma. You can choose to live on Social Security, plus the principal and yield from your retirement fund, and risk running out of money within several years (or sooner). Alternately, you can cut your expenses way down – share housing, share or forgo a car, etc., which could preserve more of your money. Or, you could try to work longer, giving your invested retirement savings a chance for additional growth, and explore ways to create new income streams.

How long will a million-dollar retirement fund last? If it is completely uninvested, you could draw down about $35,000 a year from it for 28 years. The upside here is that your invested retirement assets could grow and compound notably during your “second act” to help offset the ongoing withdrawals. The downside is that you will have to contend with inflation and, potentially, major healthcare expenses, which could reduce your savings faster than you anticipate.

So, while $1 million may sound like a huge amount of money to amass for retirement, it really is not – certainly not for a retirement beginning twenty or thirty years from now. Having $2 million or $3 million on hand would be preferable.

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.

Citations.
1 – investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/011216/average-retirement-savings-age-2016.asp [12/8/16]
2 – time.com/money/4258451/retirement-savings-survey/ [3/14/16]
3 – interest.com/retirement-planning/news/how-to-save-1-million-for-retirement/ [12/12/16]
4 – reviewjournal.com/business/money/how-realistically-save-1-million-retirement [5/20/16]

Avoid Winter Slip-Ups

January 19th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

Winter months present hazards that are typically not factors during warmer weather – specifically, slip and fall concerns. With snow and ice covered conditions, you run the risk of taking major falls, which can lead to serious injuries.

Prevention

shutterstock_506081020Consider the following recommendations to help you stay on your feet during this time of year:

  • Wear the proper footwear that provides traction on snow and ice. Footwear should be made of anti-slip material; avoid plastic and leather-soled shoes or boots.
  • Exercise caution when entering and exiting vehicles, and use the vehicle for balance and support.
  • Try to walk only in designated areas that are safe for foot traffic. If you notice that a walkway is covered in ice, walk on the grass next to the sidewalk, which will have more traction.
  • Avoid inclines that are typically difficult to walk up or down as they may be more treacherous in winter conditions.
  • Take small steps to maintain your center of balance, walk slowly and never run. When possible, walk with your hands free to maintain your balance. And despite the cold temperatures, avoid putting your hands in your pockets. This will help you better maintain your balance and allow you to break a fall should you slip.
  • Use handrails, walls or anything stationary to assist in steadying your feet.
  • Look ahead to the path in front of you to avoid hazards.
  • Test a potentially slippery area before stepping on it by tapping your foot on the surface first.
  • Remove debris, water and ice from all walkways.
  • Sand or salt surfaces covered by ice or snow to provide traction.
  • Dry your shoes or boots on floor mats when entering a building.

If You Begin to Slip…

  • Twist your body and roll backward to avoid falling forward and injuring your face.
  • Try to relax your body when you start to feel your legs give way.
©2015 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

January, 2017 – Monthly Economic Update

January 19th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Monthly Economic Update

Weekly Economic Update

Netflix Secret Movie Categories Hack

January 19th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

shutterstock_512527525

You know that horrible, rug-pulled-out-from-under-you, life-spinning-out-of-control feeling when you’ve poured the wine and settled into the couch and opened the Netflix…and realized there’s nothing you want to watch? It’s all okay now, thanks to this genius Netflix surfing hack.

Gizmodo notes that the trick only works if you’re watching Netflix through your web browser, but when you do, you’ll notice the URL is something like netflix.com/browse/genre/10757. That number at the end of the web address is the key that unlocks tens of thousands of super-specific genres you can check out.

All you have to do is enter a new number code and you’ll find a new genre to watch. There is one website and one Google spreadsheet that have listed all of Netflix’s ridiculously long list of genres, from Cerebral Foreign Movies from the 1970s (669) to Irreverent Independent Mockumentaries (4553).

According to The Atlantic, there were 76,897 “altgenres” available on Netflix as of 2014. So this might take you a while. But hey, you were going to waste time on Netflix anyway, right?

Rental Car Insurance: Tips On What You Need To Know At The Counter

January 19th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

Rental car insurance can be confusing and frustrating. Learn what you need to do before you ever step foot in a rental car office.

Apps to Prevent Distracted Driving

January 19th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

While everyone knows they shouldn’t use a smartphone behind the wheel, one in every four crashes still involves someone texting, snapping, sharing, or chatting on a mobile device. So how do we save ourselves … from ourselves? I’ve tested more than a dozen apps and gadgets that promise a fix.

DriveMode Wins Top Spot

Every major cellular provider offers something to help with distracted driving. I found AT&T’s free DriveMode app for Android and iPhone works the best, and after nearly six months of testing, is the only one that I still use every single day.

It turns on automatically when your car starts moving more than 15 miles per hour and silences text alerts. It doesn’t totally lock your phone down, though: anyone who texts will get a pre-configured response (like “I’m driving, will call you back in a minute”) and you can still access music, navigation, and select contacts on your phone with a single click. Parents can also set up the app notify them when a teen driver disables it.

The reason this app blew past the competition for me is because it’s super simple to use and eliminates the most common sources of distraction: phone calls, text messages, games and social media. You just set it and forget it. At the same time, it allows some interaction with the things I rely on, such as the Waze navigation app and streaming music via Spotify. Many safety experts argue that the only safe place for a smartphone in a car is in the trunk—but human behavior has already shown us that doesn’t work. (I’m not sure I could get anywhere anymore without Waze.)

AT&T DriveMode app works with other carriers, but the other providers have their own solutions too. Sprint’s Drive First app is great, but only available for Android phones. Same with T-Mobile’s DriveSmart app and you’ll have to pay $4.99 to get it to do what AT&T’s DriveMode does automatically. Verizon’s Driving Mode controls come straight from its Android Verizon Messages app, so it doesn’t work on iPhones either. It also disables texts and sends an auto-reply whenever you get a message, but it doesn’t turn off any other distractions. It also needs to be turned on manually every time you get in the car, unless you’ve paired it with Bluetooth.

Other Apps Worth Taking For A Spin

SafeDrive (free for Android and iPhone) makes a game out of staying off of your phone and I really like it. Instead of preventing you from looking at your phone, it awards you when you don’t. Whenever you’re in a car, a screen pops up on your phone that shows how many points you’ve earned. Leave your phone alone, and you earn points as you drive—but if you touch your phone, all of those points vanish. You can cash in your at your local gas station, and the list of other retailers is growing. Other SafeDrive users can even challenge you to see who racks up the most miles without using their phones. Winners get glory, and more points.

Focus — Screen Free Driving (iPhone) is another fun take on staying off your phone—kind of like smartphone shaming—but in an effective way. It launches when you start driving, and if you touch your phone, a voice sternly says, “hang up and drive.” If you don’t, the app gets downright angry, yelling phrases like, “lock your phone NOW,” “eyes on the road, Chief,” and even, “would your parents be happy with you if they knew you were doing this?”

It’s funny, impossible to ignore, and helps you realize how much time you really do spend sucked in by your smartphone. At the end of every drive, it gives you a road report showing how many minutes you’ve been distracted with your devices. That’s pretty eye-opening too. It’s free to download, but you can unlock extra features for $4.99, including how speeding reports for teen drivers.

If you absolutely need to stay plugged-in while on the road, try Android app MessageLOUD ($15.99/year). It’s a new service that automatically reads your texts and emails out loud as you drive. It works with Gmail, MS Exchange, Yahoo, Outlook, Office365 and Hotmail. It lets you delete, dismiss, auto-reply, or call back with a single tap or swipe—a lot like controlling your radio—without taking your eyes off the road. It’s still a fairly new app and more distracting than DriveMode, but a step up from having your phone in your hand and your eyes on the screen. The app makers are working on an iOS version now.

In theory, Siri should read my messages too, but I think I’ve dropped my iPhone too much and scrambled her brain. Everytime I ask, “read my texts,” she tries to Facetime someone named Dex.

Targeting Teens

This is an especially dangerous time for teen drivers. An annual AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study shows the highest number of teen deaths on the road occur during the year’s “100 Deadliest Days” between Memorial Day and Labor Day. When it comes to tech support, there are lots of options here, but my favorite is tXt Blocker ($7/month). It shuts down the phone completely when your teen is driving (and lets you set up “No-Cell Zones” to prevent texting from work or school) that teens can’t hack around. You can also track and find your teen through the tXtBlocker website and see reports on how safely they’re driving.

Source: usatoday.com

Fight the Flu!

January 19th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

What is Influenza (also called Flu)?

shutterstock_317547830The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.

Signs and Symptoms of Flu

People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (very tired)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

How Flu Spreads

Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose.

Period of Contagiousness

You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.

Onset of Symptoms

The time from when a person is exposed to flu virus to when symptoms begin is about 1 to 4 days, with an average of about 2 days.

Complications of Flu

Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.

People at High Risk from Flu

Anyone can get the flu (even healthy people), and serious problems related to the flu can happen at any age, but some people are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and young children.

Preventing Flu

The first and most important step in preventing flu is to get a flu vaccination each year. CDC also recommends everyday preventive actions (like staying away from people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes and frequent handwashing) to help slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory (nose, throat, and lungs) illnesses, like flu.

Diagnosing Flu

It is very difficult to distinguish the flu from other viral or bacterial causes of respiratory illnesses on the basis of symptoms alone. There are tests available to diagnose flu. For more information, see Diagnosing Flu.

Treating

There are influenza antiviral drugs that can be used to treat flu illness.

For more information, see “Seasonal Influenza, More Information.”

Source: cdc.gov
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