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  • Lessons of ‘New Thinking’ in Retirement

    As a financial advice column, we’re dedicated to providing our readers with recommendations, tips, and guidance for how to navigate through the financial aspects of life. We’re apt to offer advice on ways to save money, make wise investments, stick to a budget, and improve your credit score. In this article, we’re going to digress just a wee bit—we’ll still be addressing retirement planning and saving, but instead of getting into specifics about how much you ought to have saved, and where it should be delegated to, we’re going to try on a different type of retirement advice.


    Ann Brenoff of the Huffington Post brought up a very, very good point in her latest article, “On the Fly: When Less is More in Retirement.” She stated that it’s all well and good that we work diligently to save up enough to live comfortably in retirement, and it’s really wise to begin this process early in life (read: in our twenties as opposed to forties.)


    But the really intriguing part of her article came when she mentioned the improbability of “Old Thinking” coming true. That is to say, the belief that retirement savings should consist of simply replicating one’s paycheck, and doing this for however many years a person plans on being retired for. Brenoff predicts that nobody is going to have enough money to retire this way, thus ushering in the “New Thinking” mindset of being happier with less. Brenoff states that if we start working right now on reducing the “stuff” from our life, and train ourselves to be happier with less, we’ll have no need for the multi-million dollar retirement account that we are surely never going to be able to save up for anyway.


    We love the line where Brenoff encourages readers to “lower the bar on our spending, discern our needs from our wants, and teach ourselves to value what we have instead of mourn the loss of what we can no longer afford.” FinanceSpectrum.com loves the simple rule with the dramatic affect, and mimics Brenoff in promoting this type of thinking. Are we by any means suggesting that you stop funding your IRA? No way, José. What we are suggesting is that if you can reduce your monthly spending now, and be happier with less extravagance, fewer dinners out, and a smaller amount of stuff, you’ll not only save money in the meantime but you’ll set yourself up for great joy in your golden years.


  • Taking a Moment to Remember the Fallen Arizona Firefighters



    FinanceSpectrum.com is opting today to forego our usual finance-related article to pay respects instead to the 19 fallen Arizona firefighters, who are currently being meticulously and honorably transferred back to their hometowns for funeral services.


    The men were killed on June 30th when strong winds caused a wildfire near Phoenix to cut off the men’s safety zone as the men were working to build a fire line between the flames and the city of Yarnell. An article published July 7th in Fox News by the Associated Press stated that today marks the day that fellow firefighters will transport the bodies of their 19 fallen colleagues from Phoenix to the small town where they lives, 125 from Arizona’s capital.


    The AP article described the respectful procession that is in the process of taking place, including a motorcycle-led escort, several firefighting vehicles, all of the fallen men’s fellow firefighters, American flags, a quartet of bagpipes, and supporters with hands held over their hearts. But perhaps the most touching thing that FinanceSpectrum.com learned of today is that ever since the fallen firemen were discovered at the scene where they were killed, they have not been left alone. This is apparently a tradition among firefighters in the U.S., to never leave a fallen brother or sister alone until burial. Phoenix fire chief Paul Bourgeois was quoted as saying, “That’s something people don’t realize. We never leave your side. It’s a comfort to the survivors, whether they’re families or fellow firefighters.”


    What a beautiful tradition. As these brave men are taken back to their hometowns and families today, FinanceSpectrum.com wishes to pay our respects and offer thanks to them and to the thousands of other courageous men and women who put their lives on the line daily to keep communities, cities, towns, and families out of harms’ way.

  • 1 in 3 Fortune 500 Companies Offer Pet Insurance to Employees



    We’ve all heard of—and perhaps experienced firsthand—companies offering employee benefits such as health insurance, sometimes including dental and vision, 401(k) plans and other retirement benefits, relocation packages, group-term life insurance plans, and even child care and transportation benefits.


    But have you heard of companies offering pet insurance as a fringe benefit? We hadn’t, either. Apparently Chipotle Mexican Grill has been offering pet insurance as an option to its employees since 2002, and MGM Resorts International began in 2006. According to a recent Associated Press article in the Washington Post by Sue Manning, Veterinary Pet Insurance is the biggest provider of pet insurance in the nation. To date, they offer policies at one out of every three Fortune 500 companies, and 3,400 other smaller businesses in the U.S.


    People who don’t receive the benefit of pet insurance through their work but have pets might be left with the question of whether or not pet insurance is right for them—a question which comes with quite a personal answer. Naturally it depends on what type of pets you have, how many, the breed, the tendency of the breed to fall ill, their age, your income, and how much money you would be willing to shell out for your pet’s health.


    For those who weren’t aware that pet insurance is being provided as a benefit by many companies around the nation, we wanted to get the word out there. It can be an amazing perk for employees who didn’t realize it was available to them, and for the employers, it can obviously be a fantastic employee retention tool. We’re impressed that so many businesses are discounting and subsidizing pet insurance for our furry friends—hats off to the companies who have already started! To name a few: Ford Motor Co, FedEx, Delta, Amazon.com, Home Depot, Pfizer, and AT&T.

  • College Students = Fresh Meat for Credit Card Companies


    Picture a Day-1 college freshman: excited to be away from home, reeling a bit in his or her newfound and somewhat complete independence, looking to have as many exciting and new experiences as possible, embracing the world as his or her oyster. It’s both a beautiful image (so young, so pure) and a scary one (so naïve, so immature). The fact is that most college students are going to have about a million new experiences at school, but there are many that are well worth their parents’ time to prep them on—thoroughly.


    One such experience is that of money management: paying rent, bills, perhaps tuition, and entertainment costs just to name a few. And with this new responsibility of course comes the temptation of getting a credit card—unlimited money!!—and experimenting with having such a large supply of money so readily available to borrow.


    Parents, that’s where you come in. Not sure where to start? We like a recent article published in the San Luis Obispo Tribune by Steve Rosen. Rosen’s article, “Kids and Money: Credit Card Offers Pour into Students’ Mailboxes,” not only reveals how truly cut-throat credit card companies are at enticing green college students into applying for their line of credit, but offers tips to parents on how to broach the subject with your kids. This is definitely one you should start talking about well before your kids leave the house.


    Highlights from Rosen’s article on things to consider: a credit card used strictly for emergencies; whether or not your child has handled cash or a debit card responsibly in the past; if a parent co-signs on a credit card offer, their credit score could suffer if the student cardholder pays late or, worse, doesn’t pay; discussing the concept of ‘budgets’ with your college kid; and lastly, if you do go the credit-card route, finding a no-fee card with a low credit limit.

  • Sports Fans, Tune in to Pro Ball Games for Health Insurance Information

    That’s right—the changes to ObamaCare, namely the Affordable Care Act which is set to roll out in October, are currently being advertised via major league baseball games. Why would the federal government mix healthcare with sports, you might ask. The answer: why not?


    Back in 2007, Massachusetts began requiring residents to have health insurance and the city turned to its sports teams to help spread the word about such a drastically changing law. The Red Sox allowed the state of MA to set up booths at their baseball games to explain the changes in the law to game-goers and ads were run during the Red Sox television and radio broadcasts. All in all, it proved a pretty successful means to reach large amounts of people in a short amount of time.


    A recent NPR article by Eric Whitney reported that now, with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) changes on the very near horizon, the White House and its state partners are working on getting baseball teams and other sports franchises to assist them in reaching citizens to let the nation know how it is supposed to go about signing up for new health insurance policies through health exchanges under the ACA.


    Interestingly enough, there does seem to be a somewhat ulterior motive to the advertising plans. Whitney reported that the government really needs to reach young adults who are healthy and strong, so that they will purchase insurance and balance out the older and sicker people who will be using up far more services and expenses. Still, the question remains whether it’s cool or not to have federally funded messages at ball games. FinanceSpectrum.com declares that it’s fine, for three good reasons. #1: Baseball is as American a game as it gets, so why not allow messages about the national changes to our health insurance be publicized at the games? It all comes down to keeping Americans in the loop about big new changes which could affect them a great deal. #2: They advertise for everything under the sun anyway, so they might as well advertise for something worthwhile. You can’t look at a baseball stadium without seeing dozens upon dozens of banners and signs advertising this company or another, so why stop at insurance companies, sporting goods stores, banks, and grocery stores? And #3: We fear that many people will not go out of their own way to research the health care changes, and that being the case it’s better to go out and reach them on their level.

  • Money Management Tips for Recent College Grads with Loans


    For college grads, it can feel like you’ve got student loans coming out of your ears. Recent data shows that the average college student graduates with about $26,600 in student loans to pay back. And the fact that you have six months after graduating to start making payments can be a little cushion, but trust us—those six months go by fast. You’ll need a game plan, some willpower, and a budget to keep payments timely and get those loans paid down.


    A recent article featured in the Miami Herald, titled “Student Loan Debt Teaches Personal Finance to Students,” is a great resource to turn to for tips and advice on how to adopt smart financial habits, and will certainly help you feel like you’ve got a handle on the whole debt thing. Author Julie Landry Laviolette addresses everything from making a budget, to turning down credit cards, to postponing moving out, to managing debt so that it does not negatively impact your credit score.


    If we can stress one of Laviolette’s tips above them all, it is keeping a budget. No matter how you choose to address the rest, trust us on the budget. It can be a huge change to go from working part time or not at all during college to getting a job that pays a lot more, but then again you’ll also most likely have different financial responsibilities besides the loans as well—rent, utilities, groceries, and so forth. It’s pretty essential to know how much you’ve got coming in and going out.


    And we’re not saying you can’t budget for trips, nights out on the town, and other fun things. The budget isn’t just for boring things like bills and rent, the point of a budget is to encompass all of your expenses—food for your rabbit, gas for your car, that bottle of Two Buck Chuck, the awesome arugula you found at the organic farmers market—and figure out how much you have at the end of each month to save. It’s also designed to make sure that you have enough money to do all the things you want to (and need to) each month.

  • The Exploration Life Philosophy

    The Exploration Life Philosophy Here at FinanceSpectrum.com, we pride ourselves in being trusted advisors on all things related to finance, money management, and retirement planning. But sometimes, we like to step away from the concrete numbers and offer some words of wisdom about the intangible side of life.

    For instance: we came across a riveting article in the Wall Street Journal that we felt needed to be shared. Mitch Anthony suggested in his article, “Your Retirement Goal is More than a Number,” that perhaps society is in need of a shift with regards to how it thinks about retirement and wealth. Anthony pointed out that many people come up with a monetary value, a locked-in number that summarizes their retirement goal… and that’s it. They feel ready to retire, when they meet this monetary goal.

    Anthony challenges readers to enjoy the journey of life, and to treat retirement as more than just a number sitting in a bank account, guaranteeing financial safety for the rest of one’s life. He stated that you don’t need to retire at 65 just because you think you’re “supposed to,” or ever retire at all for that matter. He describes what he refers to as the “Exploration Life” philosophy, one that is forever exploratory and enjoying the journey rather than simply plugging along to the destination.

    We thought that Anthony’s reminder was so important that we’d step aside from our usual financial-focused article to impart his wisdom onto our readers. As much as we give advice on how to keep a budget, maintain good credit, and plan for retirement we encourage consumers not to get “consumed” with any part of it. Enjoy the ride, make each moment count, and ignore the feeling that Anthony describes as, “If you do this and get this, everything is going to be great from that point forward.” Make it great now.

  • Do You Need Travel Insurance?

    It’s summertime, the days are longer, weather is warmer, and more people are traveling. This time of year is traditionally the time that people tend to take summer vacations, whether visiting family across the country, spending a work-free week by the beach, taking a cruise, or making the journey the destination by road-tripping.


    It might occur to people to purchase travel insurance, but it can be difficult to tell when you really need it and you don’t. We turned to a Chicago Tribune article by Gregory Karp which described the pros and cons of opting for travel insurance. Karp stated right off the bat that the reason a person purchases travel insurance is to protect themselves, or people they care for, from a complete financial disaster.


    Karp defines “financial disaster” as having to spend $45,000 to be airlifted off of a mountain in a foreign country after getting injured, like if somebody was hiking the Alps and suffered a major injury. In Karp’s mind, not getting to go on a trip does not really qualify as being a financial “disaster,” but rather more of an annoyance as certain things won’t be refundable.


    The rule of thumb, which Karp gleaned from experts, is to consider travel insurance if you are going to be traveling abroad or if a hefty portion of a domestic trip is nonrefundable. Also, travel insurance covers different types of things, so it’s wise to really dig deep and find out exactly which plan cover what—and what is not included.


    The long and short of it is that needing travel insurance completely dependant on the person, age, health, destination, degree of risk on the trip, cost of trip, refund ability, and many other factors. There’s no cookie-cutter answer for who needs the insurance, so we hope we have pointed you in the right direction and now leave the ultimate answer of whether YOU need it up to you!


  • Credit Tips for the Forlorn

    Most people that I meet understand (for the most part) the value of having a good credit score, but many of them aren’t quite sure what to do in order to give their score a boost besides paying off all of their debt. The funny thing is, in order to get good credit, you actually need to accrue a certain amount of debt. What your credit score shows is that you are a reliable borrower, somebody who is trustworthy with money and will pay it back on time and in full if lent to.


    And of course having a good credit score comes with innumerable perks, including the best rates on loans for things like cars and mortgages, which could save thousands of dollars in the long run, as well as giving you an easy time at things like renting, applying for a job, even taking out life insurance. All of these things involve people checking your credit to see what kind of track record you have going for yourself.


    There are many great resources to help guide you in giving your credit a boost, but one recent article we stumbled upon and liked was published on July 5th in the U.S. News Money section, called “The Do’s and Don’ts for Building a Solid Credit History.” Author Sienna Kossman gives a great description of how to start, what NOT to do, and of course the best things to do in order to give your credit a lift. She gives advice from experts, such as concentrating credit-building efforts on one line of credit, such as a credit card, that you pay off in full each month, and avoiding letting the balance get to more than 50% of your allowed credit which can actually cause a dip in your score.


    So get out there, grab a free credit report (available to you once per year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus, meaning you get three total,) and dive in. Trust us, it’s far better to work on your credit when you don’t have a cause to check it, than to start too late and not have a top-notch score when you need it—for things like applying for a job, purchasing a house, or taking out a car loan.

  • Plan for Retirement Health Care Costs While You’re Healthy

    When it comes to saving up for retirement, half the battle is knowing how much you’re going to need. The other half, of course, is starting early enough so that you can hit your mark and reach your financial goal on time to retire at a decent age. One of the big things to keep in mind when factoring how much you’ll need to have saved is considering the healthcare costs that retirement will bring with it.


    In a recent Fox Business News article by Casey Dowd, he points out that healthcare expenses really have a way of eating up individuals’ retirement savings but that same cost unfortunately appears to be an oversight to many consumers gearing up for retirement. According to a quote from Fidelity Investments taken from the article, if a couple retires this year at age 65, a good bet would be roughly $220,000 to cover all health-related costs for the two of them if they each live to their average life expectancy ages—82 for the husband and 85 for the wife.


    Now, that’s not to say that they both might not live for another decade apiece. That’s the tricky part about saving for retirement, is nobody really knows how many years you’re going to need to have saved up. Dowd recommends talking to people who are in retirement themselves to find out how much they saved for healthcare costs and how it’s working out for them. He also advised people to do their due diligence and really research what Medicare covers and doesn’t, so that they can be prepared for what’s going to have to come out of pocket. Dowd encouraged readers to also work with your financial advisor about their recommendations for the “what-ifs” of retirement, and how to plan for those.


    These are all excellent pieces of advice, and we here at FinanceSpectrum.com back Dowd’s guidance 100%. If you are starting to think about retirement or really getting serious about planning, his article is a must-read to prepare yourself mentally for how to approach healthcare costs during your golden years.