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Weekly Round Up

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Weekly Roundup

Hi Everyone!

So, not only did we have more snow earlier this week, but it is supposed to snow again today. This winter is really wearing me out. Anyway, this week I dedicated my blog to my beloved friend, Rob, who passed away suddenly at 40. He left behind a wife and two beautiful daughters, and his death made me think about how prepared I am for the unexpected. On Monday, I talked about keeping your finances always on your mind as a great first step in financial fitness. Wednesday I shared four ways to prepare for financial emergencies. On Thursday I discussed life insurance and its importance. On Friday I shared a great brunch recipe that uses bagels since I met Rob at the bagel store.

This week I really enjoyed the following posts:

  1. J. Money at Budgets are Sexy recapped his year, and as someone who is new to the blog world, I LOVE recaps and highlights of the year past.
  2. Speaking of recaps, Erin at Broke Millennial celebrated her one year blog birthday and shared some of her highlights and top posts.
  3. Grayson at Debt Round Up discussed the importance of changing your mentality to change your financial situation. He also had a great post on Frugal Rules about paying convenience fees.
  4. David at Young Adult Money wrote a blog about catastrophic health care plans that confused many of us with high deductible plans that I actually researched catastrophic plans on my own so I wouldn’t feel so “blonde.” 🙂
  5. Matt at Mom and Dad Money had life insurance on the brain like me. This week he wrote about how to choose the right type of life insurance.

Next week I am focused on the Super Bowl and becoming a champion of your finances. I have my fingers crossed for a big blog surprise on Wednesday. Send good blog thoughts my way!

Top Ten Songs that remind me of my first job

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I was one of those young girls who did not like babysitting, but I did love making money, so when I was 14 years old, I got a job at a bagel store working the 6am to 2pm shift on the weekends and then five days a week during the summer. I worked at this store for five years, so I have many wonderful memories from my mornings working there. We had one tape deck/radio behind the counter and to this day, when I hear the following songs, I always think of the bagel store because inevitably they were on someone’s mix tape that they brought into work. In case you were wondering, even after 5 years, I never got to bring in a mix tape because I was always the “baby.”

10) My Way by Frank Sinatra

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8m0dJXtwwiY

9) Sweet Child of Mine by Guns and Roses

8) Home Sweet Home by Motley Crue

7) Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen

6) I’ll Be There For You – Bon Jovi

5) The Sign – Ace of Base

4) Hooked on a Feeling by Blue Swede

3) Hard Luck Woman by Kiss

2) Love is All Around by Wet Wet Wet

1) Suspicious Minds by Elvis Presley

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wb0Jmy-JYbA

 

FB Foodie Friday – Bagel Casserole

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Before I was Financially Blonde, I was “Bagel Store Girl”

As many of you know, I have devoted my blog this week to the loss of my friend, Rob, who passed away unexpectedly at 40. Rob and I met when I was 14 years old, and I walked into a bagel store with my mom and saw a “Help Wanted” sign. I was tired of babysitting and really wanted another job, so I inquired about the opening. The man behind the counter left and sent Rob my way. One look at him and I immediately regretted my decision. He was not only a large man, but he looked mean and brooding. He informed me that the job was from 6am to 2pm and asked if I had a ride to work. My mom immediately shared that there was no way she would wake up that early to take me to work. After discovering that we lived in the same town, Rob, who was 19 at the time said that he would pick me up every morning for my shift.

My chauffeur, my friend

For three years, true to his word, he picked me up every morning at 5:45 am, and on mornings when he could not, he had a co-worker pick me up instead. There were even mornings when I overslept, he called after getting to the store to wake me up and he would send someone back to get me. I continued to work at the store for two years after that (when I was home from college), but drove myself. I went from fearing my chauffeur to missing him. I have so many wonderful memories from my five years of working with Rob. He not only became a friend, but I developed a love for him like my brother. I even returned home from college to attend his wedding. He later went on to buy and run a number of bagel stores with his family. In recent years, we have been Facebook friends and every few months, I would drive my family over an hour to pick up the best bagels on the planet (in my opinion) or as my son calls them, “Rob bagels.” And every time we went there, Rob would never let us pay, even after Hurricane Sandy when we wanted to support him.

In honor of “Rob bagels,” I am sharing this recipe with you today, and I am really excited about it. This casserole is perfect for brunch, but could definitely be consumed for dinner as well. And the best part about it is that it is not only really inexpensive to make and serves at least 6 people, but it is flexible. After the basic ingredients, you can really add whatever you want to the mix, it is difficult to mess up. If you add a bottle of Cava and a grapefruit flavored Pellegrino, you can have brunch and mimosas for 6 for less than $20 all in. LOVE it!

Here is a link to the recipe on my site. Enjoy!

 

 

Financial Fitness Series – Life Insurance

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Confessions of a Financial Advisor

So I have to confess, that until recently I did not understand or value life insurance. It always seemed like a waste of money especially when I was under 30. I knew that I was provided a nominal amount through my company, and I always assumed that this coverage would be adequate should something happen to me. The truth is, I never really fully contemplated what would happen should I suffer an unexpected end to my life. Then two years ago I became a financial advisor, and I received training on life insurance, and it was truly eye opening to me. I really only thought of potential funeral costs to my family should something happen to me. What I neglected to contemplate was the following:

What happens if I am gone to…

  1. Our home Mortgage – If I passed away, how would my husband afford the home our family lives in? Would paying for the home put him in financial distress? It would be hard enough for my son to lose his mom, but to ask him to lose his home and his school would be traumatic.
  2. Household Income – Other than paying the mortgage, my income supplements other family expenses. How would my husband pay for these on his own? We have plans and goals that require two incomes to get there. If you take away one too early, how would that impact the household?
  3. Childcare costs – My husband and I both adjust our schedules as much as possible to make sure my son gets on the bus and has someone to watch him at night. If I passed, would my husband have to hire extra help to make sure our son is cared for?
  4. Future college costs – My son is only seven and we have his college savings started and off to a good start, but with the cost of an education in the United States, we are not near enough close to achieving this goal. If I have passed, would my husband be able to give this gift that we have planned on providing for our son?
  5. Well-being of my family – Other than the above mention changes in finances, it is difficult to know how anyone will handle grief. What if my loss has an emotional impact on my husband to the point that it impacts his work life?

Have you asked yourself these questions? Do you have the answer or solution to all of them should something happen to you or your significant other unexpectedly? Again, I confess that I did not have the answer to these questions. I can assure you that I do now.

How do you determine how much life insurance you need?

Okay, so you have decided that insurance will help you answer all of the questions above. The next question is how much? There are a number of rules of thumb to determine your level of life insurance and the type you need. A blogger that I follow, Matt at Mom and Dad Money, recently wrote a well-thought out blog on how to determine your life insurance needs. I have also suggested and used the app Life calculator. At the end of the day, the answer is completely unique to you and your family. Your formula could be this simple:

life insurance needs

I have also had clients determine the amount life insurance they purchased based on the monthly expenses they could afford in their current budget. As a financial planner, I give clients a ballpark of the type of coverage I would like to see them have based on their life plans and current financial situation, but at the end of the day, something is better than nothing to me.

How do you determine what type of life insurance you need?

There are two basic types of life insurance most people will review, permanent or whole life and temporary or term life. Unless I had clients with complex estate planning or tax planning needs, I rarely saw the benefit of a whole life policy. They are expensive and do not provide as much coverage as a term life policy. As long as you make your premium payments, though, a whole life policy will always remain in place and you can borrow against it. Term life is like car insurance. It’s a use it or lose it type coverage. In my opinion, it is much more cost effective than whole life with greater death benefits, but it will always have an end date. For most clients, though, you will not need coverage past certain life events. Once the house is paid for or your kids are done with school, the financial burdens on your significant other dramatically decrease. On average, a term life policy for $500,000 will cost around $30 a month or $360 a year. Over 15 years, this will cost you $5,400. To me, a $5,400 investment for the potential of $500,000 in return is worth it.

Where do you go for life insurance?

There are many places to go for term life insurance coverage. The first thing I say to clients is to check with their homeowner or car insurance provider. If the provider also offers life insurance as well, they may be able to give you a better “deal” because you are already a client. I actually found this to be the case myself. I priced out a number of providers, but actually received the best deal from USAA, my homeowner insurance provider. There are also individual websites like MetLife or State Farm. Or there are sites where you can compare a few providers like Bankrate.com.

Important things to note

  • Typically when you enter into a life insurance policy, you lock in a rate/premium for the length of the policy. This rate/premium is based on a number of factors, but the primary are age and health. Therefore, it is best to get this sooner than later. My husband recently added additional coverage with another provider and since he was over 40, his rates were dramatically higher.
  • Many people have automatic coverage with an employer, if so, make sure it is enough based on your calculator (it typically is not), if not, you can always get another policy on your own. The benefit of this policy is that you can leave your employer, but still maintain your coverage.
  • There are a number of different options when it comes to structuring life insurance policies. Make sure you ask LOTS of questions and that you are aware of all of the features of yours.
  • Once you have coverage, make sure your loved ones know you have it and how to claim it should something unforeseen happen.

 

Do you have life insurance? If so, what worked best for you and do you feel you have enough? If not, why not?

Financial Fitness Series – Emergency Landing

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Your airline is prepared

I was recently on a flight from New York to Las Vegas. About 30 minutes into the flight, the gentleman behind me became physically distressed. The flight attendant immediately rushed into action, within minutes, he had called a doctor, assessed that the man did not speak English as a first language so he found a French translator, and provided the doctor with oxygen and a medical kit. The situation was communicated to the pilots and doctors on the ground were consulted. The man was initially stabilized; however, he passed out again and was carried to the back of the plane for further assessment. Within 20 minutes of the initial signs of distress, our plane had landed in Detroit, the paramedics were waiting, and a new plan was put in place for our plane. Apparently we needed to refuel and have a maintenance check while grounded because the plane landed with 10,000 pounds more weight (due to fuel) than it was supposed to have. Within the hour, we were back up in the air, and in awe of the airline crew and staff. This was clearly not what the crew thought would happen on this flight; however, it was clear that they had plans and procedures on what they should do should something like this occur.

Four Steps to Prepare for a Financial Emergency

Do you have your own emergency plan or procedure should something happen to you financially? Just like I witnessed on this flight, and I recently experienced with the loss of my friend, life is unexpected, and the best way to deal with the unexpected is to plan for it.

  1. Emergency Funds – In my mind, these funds are the most important for a client to have, and yet most of my clients when we first meet have very anemic emergency fund account. In fact, roughly 75% of people do not have a healthy savings account. A good rule of thumb is that you should have six months to a year of your monthly expenses saved in your emergency funds in cash. So if your monthly expenses are $2,000, you should have at least $12,000 in your bank account in cash for emergencies. Do you have this? When you are saving, this should be the first fund you build. I have clients ask how much they should put in 401ks or retirement accounts or pay off student loans, and if their emergency funds are not high enough, I won’t let them invest in or pay down the other options. I have seen too many people get into financial distress like credit card debt, etc. because their emergency funds were not robust enough. If you have a tough time savings, then you need to find a savings strategy for you to help you get there. A few of my blogger friends have written great posts on savings strategies. I also recently wrote a book that gives specific advice and exercises on getting to the savings goals you need to achieve.
  2. Life Insurance – Tomorrow I am going to write more on life insurance, but after emergency savings, I feel it is one of the keys to handling a financial emergency. For most of us, our own mortality is not something that we are comfortable contemplating; however, we have no guarantees in life, and I would rather have my clients experience the temporary discomfort of thinking about death than live through years of financial pains should a surprise life event transpire.
  3. Strong Credit – Last week I wrote about credit and the importance of a strong credit profile. In a life emergency, we never know exactly what we will have to do. I am sure that the pilot of my flight did not know immediately that he was going to have to land in Detroit. However, after careful analysis, it was determined that Detroit was the ideal landing location. If you experience a financial emergency, you may have to move or you may have to change jobs or you may temporarily deplete your emergency funds. Strong credit and access to credit can help you buy time and save costs during times of change.
  4. A Will / Living Will / Power of Attorney – This topic goes along the lines of life insurance and is actually the most “painful” one for my clients to contemplate. Again, creating a will or other legal document that will carry out our wishes should we be unable is not something that is pleasant to think about; however, when you are healthy and active is the best time for you to put thought to this. If you have a child, a will is an absolute must in my mind. It does not have to be something expensive to create either. There are a number of online resources such as Legal Zoom and Total Legal that allow you to prepare a will, easily for around $100. A living will and power of attorney can both be created online as well. These documents will help loved ones care for you while you are still here. And also note that once you create these documents, you should plan to review them at least every year or so in case your situation has changed. I had clients to created a will after their first child was born, but never revisited it and had since had two other children. Wills, living wills and powers of attorney take the stress out of an already stressful situation.

We are all thankful that airlines have emergency plans and procedures should the “unexpected” happen on a flight, so we should do the same for ourselves should an unexpected life event transpire. The four steps that I outlined represent a great start to making sure that you are prepared for an emergency landing.

Do you feel prepared for an unexpected life event? How have you prepared? If not, what do you need to work on?

 

 

Music Mondays – Always on my mind

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Last week, I received devastating news that a good friend of mine passed away unexpectedly. He was only 40 years old, and he left behind a wife and two beautiful daughters. I have spent the past week reflecting on our friendship, as I had known him since I was 14 years old, and I decided that I would dedicate this week’s blogs to my wonderful friend, Rob and the lessons that can and should be learned from an unexpected death.

Elvis Love

Rob was a HUGE Elvis fan. At his funeral there was even a large bouquet of flowers that spelled out the word ELVIS. And I have to admit that I am not a big Elvis fan, so it took me a while to find inspiration from his music to write this blog, but I am actually really excited about today’s message. I often tell people that the path to financial fitness is similar to the path to physical fitness. They both take commitment, hard work, a plan, time and energy. Above all else, though, they require mindfulness. If you are not constantly thinking about getting physically fit or financially fit, you will get distracted from your goals. So, let this song act as a reminder to you to keep your financial goals, always on your mind.

Four steps to keep your financial goals always on your mind

1)   Set your goals – I frequently meet with clients who know they need financial help; however, they have never set financial goals. Not having financial goals is like driving around in your car without a destination. Yeah, it may be fun for a while, but over time you will realize that you wasted time, energy and gas and now you are lost. I recently wrote about successful goal writing, so make sure when you set your goals they are specific, achievable and measurable. They don’t have to be crazy or complex. They can be as simple as “Save $100 every month” or “Improve my credit score by 20 points in three months.”

2)    Pick your accountability buddy – One of the main reasons why my clients pay money to work with me is for the accountability that I provide for them. I give them “tough love” and keep them on task. Sure there are many people who are self-motivated enough to achieve their own goals without an accountability buddy, but for those who need help, you should ask for it. My buddy is my husband, but it could be a friend, a co-worker or a relative. An accountability buddy is another person who will help you keep your finances on your mind. Whoever you feel will judge you the least and support you the most is the best accountability buddy.

3)   Set your calendar – Just as it is important to set goals, it’s important to check in on them and make sure you are on track. The best way to do this is setting calendar reminders to review your financials. What better way to keep your finances on your mind, then a pop-up reminder? I do this with my clients monthly; however, if you are just starting out on the path to financial fitness, weekly check-ins are more effective until you feel you are heading in the right direction, then you can switch to monthly.

4)   Remember to evolve – Just as the earth has been evolving for 4.5 billion years (give or take a few – my husband is a physics teacher) our financial goals evolve over time. If you get a raise, then you should increase your savings goals. If you decide to have children, you need to adjust your spending goals. During your calendar scheduled check-in times you should also note your evolution and determine if any changes should be made.

Do you have any other tips for keeping your finances on your mind? What works best for you?

Weekly Round Up

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Weekly Roundup

My Week In Review

I hope you are enjoying a wonderful start to your weekend. In New York, I am sitting here working on this blog and watching snow fall, AGAIN. I am usually a big fan of the winter, but I already feel “over” this one. Anyway, this week I was focused on credit on my blog, and an amazing thing happened! During three client meetings, I literally pulled up my blog to illustrate and educate my clients on credit, so that made me psyched that my blog was relevant to them. I started the week with the song, Royals by Lorde. It serves as a great reminder to not get yourself in credit card trouble just to try to live a high end life like someone else. Then I shared an infographic with a breakdown of your credit. On Thursday, I illustrated the benefits of good credit. And on Friday I continued my two weekly series sharing a new recipe for 4 under $15 and my Top Ten favorite movies about money.

What I enjoyed this week

  1. Girl Meets Debt raised the question of whether you should pay off debt or save for retirement. Just as she shares the ongoing debate over team Brit-Brit and team X-tina, I am sure there will never be an answer for this since it is a personal choice, but it was a great conversation!
  2. Holly at Club Thrifty shared her not so secret life as a credit card churner. I was personally fascinated by this strategy as I have often wondered about trying it, but feared it would get too confusing for me. I am totally impressed by her results, though!
  3. Cat at Budget Blonde shared her 4th year in review. As someone who just started following her, I really loved getting the “quick” update on her life and get to know her better.
  4. Laurie from Frugal Farmer guest posted on Frugal Rules about a desperate measures budget. I love the concept of this, and I also love the idea of implementing and trying this out before you actually need to live it.
  5. Matt at Mom and Dad Money asked the question about how much life insurance you need. I am actually going to focus on life insurance this week on my blog, so I enjoyed reading his thoughts.
  6. David at Young Adult Money shared a new (to me) way to save money through Chippmunk. I ALWAYS love learning new tips on saving money.
  7. Grayson at Debt Round Up provided a great review on Walmart Family mobile. Again, I always love thoughts and ideas on how to save money.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend, especially if you have Monday as a holiday. I lost a wonderful friend suddenly this week who was only 40 with two young daughters. In honor of his life and death next week I will be focusing on making sure you are financially prepared for a surprise death. It is not a “fun” topic, but I see too many people unprepared for life surprises and there is nothing worse than that.

 

 

 

Top Ten Movies About Money and Finance

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Did you watch the Golden Globes last Sunday? They are my favorite way to kick off the awards season, and they help me determine if I need to head to the movie theater to see something amazing. I already know that I want to see American Hustle and Saving Mr. Banks, but Leonardo DiCaprio’s win for Wolf of Wall Street made me wonder if I should add that movie to the list. So this Friday, in honor of the latest movie about money and finance, I thought I would highlight my Top 10 Movies about money and finance.

10) The Secret of My Success – I was a HUGE Michael J. Fox fan growing up, and I loved the idea of Brantly working his way to the top from the mailroom.

9) Trading Places – This is not only a funny movie, but a great “David vs. Goliath” tale. I had a client once who was a commodities trader and I asked him if a day in his life was anything like this movie, and he said that some days it could be.

8) The Sting – One of my all-time favorite movies. I will never forget how shocked I felt at the end the first time I saw it. Plus, Robert Redford and Paul Newman really do make an awesomely sexy team.

7) The Money Pit – Although it does not take place on a trading floor or in a bank, I love this movie as a cautionary tale on the lessons of poor planning when it comes to home buying.

6) Quicksilver – I love this movie about Kevin Bacon losing his successful trading job and becoming forced to earn a living as a bike messenger.

5) Rogue Trader – This movie is a great reminder on how people on Wall Street will never learn. Despite the fact that this person took down a bank in 1995, we have had similar situations since at JP Morgan, UBS and others.

4) Too Big to Fail – As someone who was working for Bank of America when these activities were taking place, it felt like watching a documentary when watching this movie.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqYTQB6lrQQ

3) Working Girl – I remember watching this movie in high school and not really having a concept of what it was about, I just knew that I wanted Tess to prove everyone wrong in the end. Then I started working on a trading floor and helped finance mergers and acquisitions, and I had a whole new respect for Tess. Many M&A transactions started out with just an idea like Tess had and then spiraled into something more.

2) Boiler Room – Even though this movie was a fictionalized tale of a “chop shop,” what is frightening to know is that this is not a farfetched concept and I am sure that there are a number of boiler rooms around the country still. Buyer beware!

1) Wall Street – Even though I hate the idea of the tagline “Greed is Good,” Wall Street is filled with people who believe this. I know, I worked with many of them. Hence, the reason I left Wall Street.