Posts Tagged ‘consumer debt’

Everyday Money Mistakes

Posted on: June 8th, 2010 by

Money Mistakes - Financial Planning - Rockville, MDFor the amount of financial advice that we find in books, magazines, and online, we still tend to make a lot of mistakes when it comes to our money.  Some of these mistakes might not cost us huge sums, but others can cost us a small fortune.  Even the small mistakes, multiplied over a lifetime, can add up to an enormous sum.

One of the big things is mutual funds.  Do you actually know how much you pay for the funds in your retirement account?  Mutual fund companies don’t send out monthly or quarterly bills.  Instead, they quietly deduct their fees from the returns on your investments.  These fees can add up to thousands of dollars over a lifetime of investing.  To see how much you are really paying, use a free service use a free service such as to track the actual expense of your funds and ETFs.

Errors in your way of thinking can cause problems as well.  Don’t equate monthly payments with affordability.  Too many people decide whether they can afford something based on whether they can manage the monthly payment.  This is particularly true for homes and cars.  Just because you can handle a payment does not mean you can truly afford the item.  Monthly payments ignore the true cost of ownership.  A car, for example, also requires insurance, gas, repairs, and maintenance.  Instead of focusing on the monthly payment, separate needs from wants and evaluate how you might better use the money.  If you have consumer debt, for example, consider paying off the debt before buying something that will commit you to future monthly payments for years to come.

If you can reduce your mortgage payments, do it.  Reducing a mortgage by even 1% can result in substantial savings.  Whether it’s due to falling mortgage rates, which are at historic lows, or an improved credit score, you may be able to save thousands of dollars of the life of your home loan by refinancing.  Even if you have a low rate now, you should look into the current mortgage rates to see if you can do better.  That 1% savings may justify refinancing over the life of the loan.

A lot of people miss the great deals they can find online.  You can find deals, coupons, and promo codes on just about everything.  Also, many retailers offer additional discounts if you buy online.  Shopping online is often more convenient than going to malls or stores and having to wait in lines.  Before you set out on your next shopping trip, check online and see what coupons or deals are available for the products you are looking for.  The deals could be substantial.

Now that we are post tax season, pending you didn’t file an extension, you should take the time to scan over your return.  If you got a rather large refund, it’s simply the result of you having too many withholdings taken out of your check.  Letting the government hang on to the money for a year until it comes time to file again gives the government an interest free loan.  Instead, ask your employer for new W-4 forms and adjust your withholdings so you can pocket more of your paycheck now.

Finally, don’t mislead yourself into thinking that making the minimum payments on credit cards will get you out of debt.  Even low interest rate credit cards charge a high interest rate.  Just making the minimum payments will add a lot of interest to your total payments over the life of that debt.  Rather than making just the minimum payment, commit to paying more than the minimum, even if by just a few dollars.  This will help pay off your debt much faster.

Sandwich Generation: Do Your Still Take Care of Your Children?

Posted on: May 4th, 2010 by

Financial Planning - Rockville, MDThere seems to be a universal problem with being in the “sandwich generation”: many of them are still taking care of their children, often into adulthood, even up to age 30.  According to financial sources, many adult children are faced with overwhelming college debt and are unemployed.  But the adult children of the sandwich generation are also dependent on their parents because of overspending resulting in a lot of consumer debt.

What would your financial advisers suggest?  They suggest that you focus on helping your children acquire the money skills necessary for financial independence and to create a timeline for your children to achieve that independence.  You need to teach them how to budget, save, and live within their means.  Help your children, rather re-teach them how to budget and maybe come up with creative ways to save on a daily basis.  If they are getting Starbucks everyday, teach them how to make their own coffee at home and save that expenditure.

You may also want to assist your children with their resumes and keep your ears and eyes open for any job, even if it is entry level.  An entry level position pays more than no job at all.  Teach them how to search for a job and not to be overly picky with unemployment levels what they are.  Allowing them to live at home without any sort of deadline for them to be out by will not motivate them to get up and avidly seek employment.  Stop enabling them.  If there is cut off to the free ride, they will most certainly do everything they can to make money and put food on the table.

As for the sandwich generation with teenagers in the household, you should still teach them about budgeting and saving.  Have them get a summer job or afterschool job.  As you cannot put them out of the household, make them work towards other things to teach a good work ethic.  Have them pay for their car insurance or else they cannot be driving.  That will almost certainly motivate a teenager.  This may put you in the middle, but it is for their own good in the long run.  Finally, consider sitting down with a financial planner to discuss setting up savings plans for your younger children to give them a head start.