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Summer Fun on a Budget

Summer Fun on a Budget

Aug 2021

Planning for the future is important, but so is enjoying the present. Luckily, there are many fun summer activities that don’t have to break the bank. Here are some tips to have a blast on a budget as the thermometer heats up.


Dining. Whether you enjoy freshly caught fish at an Italian trattoria or boardwalk funnel cake, waterfront restaurants are inherently appealing. But sometimes all you really need is a great view. Save money on your next trip to the beach or lake by packing a picnic meal. Bringing your own food adds a simple charm to your day, and you’ll often find that purchasing tasty treats from the grocery store saves money and leaves you with great leftovers for your next summer adventure.


Travel. Road trips are synonymous with summer travel value for good reason. Airline or cruise travel often leaves you with additional costs beyond the ticket price, such as rental cars or Wi-Fi. In contrast, a road trip lets you better control your budget by bringing more snacks, minimizing surcharges, and picking cheaper lodging through Airbnb or a discount hotel chain. If possible, plan your summer trips well away from major holidays or conventions to avoid price spikes.


Entertainment. You don’t have to leave town to see something new. Check out your city’s social media pages or good old fashioned bulletin boards for upcoming events. Even if crowded fireworks celebrations aren’t your thing, you’ll often find art shows and antique festivals that bring interesting wares — and unique food — to a cultural district near you. In addition, many libraries and parks host free movie screenings that let you experience a familiar classic at a pleasant venue.


Nature. Many people choose the place they live just for easy access to a beach or an unspoiled forest. But city folk need not despair. Use Google Maps to search for city or national parks in your area. Some may be close enough to justify a day trip. Others may be just a turn away from the main road but conceal the bustle in ways that feel like you’ve entered another world.


Activities. Learning about your parks will also show you great places to go for tennis, basketball, baseball and other sports. Certain parks may specialize in specific activities, while others go all-in on a massive multi-sports complex. Flow down the river in a kayak at a state or national park or take your kids to a public pool with slides and fountains that feel like a mini water park! There are also your local YMCAs, athletic clubs, and rec centers for air-conditioned fun, which could include slower-paced games like billiards and shuffleboard for family and friends of all ages. Checking social media may help you find amateur leagues or informal groups that connect you to other enthusiasts.


Staycation. Don’t assume you know your area inside and out. Even small towns have museums and cultural centers you may be unaware of — or offer new exhibits that reveal unknown parts of its history. Unorthodox attractions like ghost tours or escape rooms can be a fun diversion for date nights. If you enjoy camping, pack up some gear for an overnight trip or set up a tent in the backyard.


Don’t head into Labor Day with a huge credit card bill over your head. Keeping your summer activities budget-friendly will help rein in expenses so you can keep the fun going all year long.



Putting off 401(k) Enrollment Could Cost You More Than You Think

Putting off 401(k) Enrollment Could Cost You More Than You Think

Jul 2021

You just landed a new job, and there are so many things to do. You have to set up your new workspace (even if it’s at home), become acquainted with your boss and coworkers and get up to speed on your new responsibilities. And there’s the company-sponsored 401(k) you should sign up for.

It could be tempting to put off investment- and retirement-planning decisions until you settle in. But that’s an idea that could cost you more than you might expect, especially if you have a longer time horizon to retirement.

According to The Motley Fool, a 25-year-old employee making about $47,000 who saves 15% of their income and realizes a 7% annual rate of return would have almost $100,000 more at retirement than another worker with all the same parameters — except that they waited until age 26 to begin their contributions.


So, move signing up for your 401(k) to the top of your to-do list. If the options are a little overwhelming, sit down with a financial advisor who can help you determine your personal risk tolerance and recommend investments accordingly.


Another option to consider if you’re unsure about making investment decisions is electing to contribute to a target date fund (TDF), if your plan offers one. These funds create a mix of investments according to an estimated retirement date.


The fund automatically adjusts the mix and risk of investments to become more conservative as the target date approaches. A TDF handles much of the decision making for you. However, it’s still important to monitor the fund’s performance and periodically check in with your financial advisor to ensure you remain on track to meet your retirement goals.


You generally want to contribute as much as you can to your 401(k) plan. But at minimum, try to contribute at least enough to earn the maximum company match.


Companies that offer a what’s called a 401(k) “match” will match your retirement contributions either dollar for dollar, up to a certain amount — or according to a percentage or formula. You always want to aim for contributing at least enough to receive the maximum possible employer match or you’re leaving free money on the table.


What you may intend to be a small delay in contributing to your 401(k) can lead to months or years as life gets busy. If this should happen, you can easily miss upswings in the market and opportunities for growth to compound over time.


Choose to make retirement planning a priority and put yourself first. Your employer-provided financial advisor can be a tremendous resource whether it’s the first time you enroll in a 401(k) plan or your third or fourth time around. And if this isn’t your first experience with a 401(k), be sure to discuss the options for any funds remaining in 401(k) accounts from your previous employers as well.


Don’t delay this important decision set up an appointment with your financial advisor today.




Fast Track Your Retirement with These 6 Tips

Fast Track Your Retirement with These 6 Tips

Jul 2021

If you hope to retire early, there’s a lot to think about. For example, if you stop working before you’re eligible for Social Security, you need to plan how you’ll draw from retirement accounts — assuming you can access those funds without penalty. On top of that, if you’re not Medicare eligible, you’ll need to consider healthcare costs. Orchestrating your early exit from the workforce can be empowering, but it also requires planning and preparation. Here are a few ideas that can help you retire early.


Be specific in your early retirement plan. The earlier you start, the more successful you’re likely to be. Begin your planning with well-defined goals in mind. Figure out your desired age for retirement and work out how much money you’ll need to achieve the lifestyle you want. In many cases, it’s about starting with your end point and working backward. A WellCents financial professional can help you review your goals and set a retirement timeline that’s realistic. With specific and measurable goals, it’s possible to retire sooner as long as you stay on track.


Downsize ahead of retirement. The single biggest expense most people have is housing according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Downsizing ahead of retirement can reduce your housing expenses, free up money for other costs and make your goals more attainable. Plus, if you own your home, selling and downsizing can provide you with additional capital to fund your retirement.


Cut back on large costs. In addition to reducing housing costs, look at other big-ticket items you spend money on. Transportation and food are significant costs for many households. Look for ways to reduce what you spend on these expenses, especially eating out, as they can compromise your ability to live comfortably in early retirement.


Make catch-up contributions. If you’re at least age 50, the IRS lets you make additional contributions to your tax-advantaged retirement accounts. The more funds you can set aside now, the earlier you can retire. Additionally, check if you might be eligible for a Health Savings Account. This is additional tax-advantaged money that you can use for healthcare costs before you’re able to enroll in Medicare.


Pick up a side hustle. If you’re looking for a little extra cash to set aside for retirement or to make catch-up contributions, a side hustle can help a lot. Whether it’s Ubering on the weekends or freelancing on Fiverr, you can generate extra funds to help you retire early or provide you with enough income so that you don’t need to work full time.


Plan to live in a less-expensive area after retirement. Geoarbitrage can be a great way to reduce living expenses and retire sooner. In some cases, retiring outside the United States is one way to reduce costs to the point where early retirement becomes possible. Just do your homework about healthcare, taxes and other important financial aspects of being an expat wherever you plan to reside.


Call in the Pros

Early retirement can become a reality if you plan ahead and take steps toward reducing your cost of living. Contact your WellCents financial professional to discuss your timeline and goals for retirement. As you approach early retirement, more frequent check-ins can help ensure that you remain on track.




Should I Buy or Lease a New Car?

Should I Buy or Lease a New Car?

May 2021

Your once reliable set of wheels is getting less reliable lately, and you’re longing for that new car smell once again. You meander through the local dealership lot trying to avoid the salesperson because you know the very first question that they’re going to ask you is, “Do you want to lease — or buy?”


What’s the better choice?


The short answer is … it really depends. The longer answer depends on your particular circumstances and priorities. Let’s drill down and look under the hood (so to speak) of each option.




Pros: With a lease, you generally can drive a new car at a lower monthly cost. The leasing process is perhaps less onerous than buying, and you can get into a new car every few years. With a lease, you can score some deductions if the vehicle is used for business. So, the bottom line is that you often get more new car for a lower initial cash outlay by leasing, and you can enjoy that new car smell every couple of years.


Cons: When you lease, you aren’t building any equity toward your next vehicle. So you’re starting from scratch each time. Additionally, you may have to contend with costly end-of-lease charges, mileage overage costs and incidental damage charges. You may even have to pay for new tires for a car you turn in.




Pros: When you purchase a car, you know for certain the price you’ll pay without having to wonder about unexpected fees down the road. You can also build equity in the vehicle over time, which can be particularly beneficial if you intend to keep the car and drive it long after the loan period. Plus, since it’s yours, you can customize your rims, your stereo or anything else you want as you wish (as long as its street legal). And you can sell or trade in your vehicle whenever it suits you rather than at a predetermined end-of-lease date. 


Cons: Buying is usually more expensive than leasing at the outset. And you can’t just turn it back in and walk away — you eventually will have to sell or trade in the car. Finally, if you buy new, you’ll take a big depreciation hit as soon as you drive off the dealer lot.


Your Ride, Your Reasons


Getting back to the original question, if the goal is to spend as little as possible to get into that new car, and you think you’ll be ready for another vehicle in a few years, then leasing likely makes the most sense. However, if you can’t wait to rebuild your engine and add a mega-sized subwoofer in your trunk — and you want more control over when your next purchase may be, than buying new might be right for you.


But remember that the real cost of a car is not only the price tag, it’s how much it costs you during the entire time you own it, including maintenance, gas, repairs and insurance. When analyzing the per-month cost of leasing vs. owning, remember to amortize the equity you have in the car over the entire period of ownership.


If you’re still confused, ask your financial advisor to help you run the numbers.

Retirement Planning Starts with A Dream

Retirement Planning Starts with A Dream

May 2021

There can be a lot to get your head around when it comes to retirement planning: asset allocation, risk tolerance, real rates of return, target date funds — not to mention Social Security and Medicare. Sometimes, it can make you feel like you need a Ph.D. in economics just to make a retirement investment decision — or at least a helpful and knowledgeable financial professional


But there’s one area where even the best advisor can’t step in — and that’s knowing the ideal retirement for you. Only you know what that dream is. And this is really where the retirement planning process needs to begin, because the more specific you get, the better chance your plan has to achieve your retirement goals.


Besides … isn’t dreaming the dream the fun part? So, grab a pen and paper (or your laptop) and start by answering these basic questions:


When do I want to retire? This is a big one. You may think that everyone wants to retire yesterday. While it’s true that some people want to end the daily grind as soon as possible, others may want to work longer because they still enjoy what they do or who they do it with. And for others, the ideal situation might be to downshift into part-time work for a few years before fully retiring — or taking a different job that pays less doing something that’s really fun. Think about what that perfect timeline looks like for you rather than treating your 65th birthday as an arbitrary deadline.


Where will I want to live? Perhaps you plan on staying in your current home or relocating to be closer to your children and grandchildren. Maybe you want to sell your house and buy a condo on the beach — or downsize to save money in exchange for an earlier retirement. If you’re really adventurous, your ideal destination might even be outside the U.S. entirely.


How much do I want to travel? Many retirees look forward to traveling more once they’re no longer clocking in. Consider to what extent travel factors into your retirement dream. Do you want to cruise around the world? Buy an RV and hit the road for months at a time? Or travel to Europe every spring? Also, consider your travel tastes. Are you the type who aspires to stay in four-star resorts lounging in your own personal pool cabana — or are you more of a roadside motel and grab-a-burger type?


What hobbies do I plan to enjoy? Some activities may not cost much at all. If you enjoy tending your garden and watching the birds and butterflies visit, that’s going to cost you a lot less than a passion for dressage. There will be a lot of time to fill during retirement, so think carefully about how you’ll want to spend it.


What about eating out? Do you look forward to frequent fine dining during your golden years — five-course, white-tablecloth meals complete with a good bottle of cabernet? Eating out frequently, especially at nice restaurants, costs a lot, so it’s important to know how this expense factors into your retirement.


Visualize All the Details


Once you get all the specifics laid out, create a binder (or a computer file) with photos and descriptions of all the elements of your ideal retirement. Many self-help experts recommend visualizing goals to improve your chance of achieving them. Add to your retirement “dream book” whenever you feel inspired.


Of course, there are many other retirement expenses to consider that aren’t quite as fun to think about, such as medical costs. But, starting your plan with a clear picture of your retirement dream will not only help you set more accurate and realistic goals, but it can also help keep you motivated to stay the course when it comes to your saving and investing objectives along the way.

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