Traveling Smart During the Hot, Pricey Summer of ’08

June 17, 2008

Summer is when we hope to get time off to relax. But with regular gasoline prices nearing $4 and energy prices pushing tourism expenses higher on everything from plane fare to meals out, paying for this year’s summer vacation might be a significant source of financial stress.

A recent GfK Roper Reports survey indicated that 55 percent of respondents said they are limiting “discretionary expenses like eating out and vacations.”

If that sounds like your agenda, here are some ways to save on travel this summer:

Stay closer to home: Is it that boring around home? Rather than flying across the country, check out the tourism website for your state or the nearest adjoining state to yours and just see what looks interesting. Those websites offer coupons, too. Also, sign up for e-mail from your local transit agencies and check their websites – you might hear about special deals at local museums or parks and free parking sites where you can leave your car before you pick up the train or bus.

Read more

10+ Ways to Save on Fuel

May 29, 2007

by Jenny McKinney and Patrick McKinney, Retirement Planning Guides at About.com

With the price of gasoline constantly increasing, we are all looking for ways to save on this necessary liquid. If you own a gas guzzler, you might need to look for all the help you can get just to be able to afford the fuel for necessary trips.

Here are 10+ ways to help save on fuel. If you have some tips you’d like to add, email them to Jenny and Patrick at retireplan.guide@about.com.

1. Be sure your tires are inflated to the correct pressure. Your owner’s manual will tell you how much air you should have in each tire.

2. If you get a discount for using a store card, use it. If you get a discount for a credit card, use it only if you plan to pay off the balance when it’s due. Your savings on gasoline might be lost if you have to pay interest.

3. Keep your highway speed to around 55mph. Faster speeds can consume more gasoline.

4. Don’t accelerate up and down while driving. Try to keep a constant pressure on the gas pedal.

5. Plan your trips. If you have to drive very far to the market, make sure you purchase everything you might need for several days.

6. Have your automobile checked by a reputable mechanic to be sure it is tuned up and running it’s best.

7. When possible, walk instead of driving. It’s healthier and will save gasoline.

8. Carpool whenever possible.

9. Keep your car clean and waxed. Dirt and grime can cause a small decrease in gas mileage.

10. Watch for things that can obstruct the air flow on your automobile. Things such as the car top carriers can reduce gas mileage.

11. Use cruise control if you car is equipped with it.

12. Let the kids ride the school bus insead of driving them to and from school.

13. Never let you car run while you dash into the store, post office, etc.

14. Use your air conditioner instead of opening the windows while driving at high speeds.

It’s hard enough to save money for retirement without having to spend unnecessarily on the necessities of life. Almost everyone has a car and relies on gasoline or some type of fuel so it makes sense to try to economize whenever possible. We should really try to save on fuel even if it weren’t so expensive.

Wondering what prices are at some of the stations across the country? fueleconomy.gov is a handy web site that will answer your questions.

Small Ways to Save Big

April 2, 2007

Kiplinger.com has a great article on 20 Small Ways to Save Big by Jessica Anderson. 

Think you don’t have enough money to start saving? Even little deposits add up to big bucks — especially when you start young. 

You’ve heard of the savings crisis in America. You’ve probably even thought, ‘yeah, I should probably save more.’ But eking out an existence is tough on a starting salary and sometimes comfort takes precedence over cutting corners. Besides, if you can only save $50 or $100 a month, is it really worth it? The answer: absolutely.

Click here to read on…

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50 Ways to Cut Health Care Costs

December 20, 2006

Just ran across the article 50 Ways to Cut Health Care Costs on CNNMoney’s website. 

As fast as health care costs are rising, I think it’s a good idea to educate yourself about your health care costs and how to cut them.

#3 Pay up front, in cash – I have done this several times, and have gotten a 15% discount as a result.  If it’s a cost that won’t be covered by insurance (because you have a high deductible), then it benefits you to pay up front to get the discount.

#10 Visit a retail health clinic (such as CVS and Walmart) – I haven’t had any reason to do so yet, but it’s nice to know that I have somewhere else to go for poison ivy, the flu, or other small ailments that’s less costly than a visit to the doctor.

#18 Consider an HSA – although these aren’t right for everyone, I have an HSA and love the savings (lower premiums and a tax break).

Click here to read the full article: https://money.cnn.com/popups/2006/moneymag/healthcare/index.html

Beware the High Cost of Payday Loans

December 16, 2006

I noticed that a payday loan store moved into my neighborhood recently, then I looked around and realized there are several in my area.

This made me wonder… how profitable are these payday loan places, that they are popping up on every street corner? I’ve heard that payday loans charge high interest rates, but I had never really researched this info before now.

Here’s what I found out…

First, if you’re not familiar with payday loans, basically, they are short-term loans, usually in small amounts. Typically, you write a check for the amount of the loan plus fees, and the lender cashes the check on a specified date, usually one to four weeks later.

Here’s an example: you need $100 to pay your bills so you borrow $100 from a payday loan company. You write a check for $115 and leave it with the lender, to be cashed in two weeks. Your fee for that loan is $15 – that is an annual percentage rate (APR) of 391%.

Although the Truth in Lending Act requires lenders to disclose the finance charge, including the APR, many consumers do not understand the true cost of a payday loan. To continue the example above, let’s assume that you can’t pay the $115 when it comes due. The lender allows you to roll the loan over for another two weeks, but you pay another fee each time you do this. If you rollover the loan in the example above three times, your total finance charges would be $60, for a $100 loan. That equates to an APR of more than 1000%!

As you can see from the example this a very costly way to borrow, even when compared to high interest credit cards. If you find yourself in a cash bind, here are some alternatives to payday loans to consider: a personal loan from a bank or credit union, a personal loan from family or friends, a cash advance against your credit card, a cash advance from your employer, etc.

Emergency Fund: Why You Need One

December 14, 2006

As a financial planner, I encourage my clients to have an emergency fund.  This is often met with the following questions:

1.  Why do I need an emergency fund? and
2.  How much should it be?

To answer the first question, you need an emergency fund for the following unexpected expenses or situations:

* Car repairs
* Home repairs or improvements
* Job loss
* Job downsize (forced to work fewer hours)
* Unexpected medical expenses

By having an emergency fund, you won’t be forced to turn to credit cards to pay for these unexpected bills.

The general rule of thumb is to save between three and six months of your living expenses in an emergency fund.  If you have no dependents, good credit, and a steady income, you can probably get by with three months; if you have a fluctuating income or work in a field that is not steady (home construction is a great example right now), you should aim for six months in your emergency fund.

One more thought… you should keep your emergency fund in a high interest money market or CDs (a portion, not all of your emergency fund) to earn a higher interest rate than your checking/savings account.

Put Your Finances on Auto Pilot

September 9, 2006

I was at a conference recently, and learned a great tip to automate many of my email communications.  After I implemented this tip, I started thinking about all the ways you can automate your finances to help achieve your financial goals. 

So… this week’s tip is a list of ways to put your finances on autopilot:

1.    Invest in your company’s retirement plan.  This is the easiest way to put your savings on autopilot, by far.  And many companies provide a matching contribution, so there’s free money involved as well!

2.    If you don’t have a company retirement plan, setup your own retirement plan (IRA, Roth IRA, SEP IRA and many others) and establish an automatic withdrawal from your bank account to your retirement plan.

3.    Setup an automatic withdrawal from your checking to your savings account to save for emergencies, rainy days, vacations or other short term financial goals.

4.    Setup automatic withdrawals to pay for recurring bills.  This way you won’t ever miss a due date.

5.    Setup automatic withdrawals to pay the minimum on your credit card.  There’s nothing worse than paying a late fee because you didn’t get your credit card payment in on time.  This tip will make sure you always get at least the minimum payment in on time each month.  You can always send in extra money when you want to.

6.    If you’re self employed, transfer a specified amount each month to a savings account until it’s time to send in your quarterly tax payment.  This will be much less painful than coming up with 3 months of estimated taxes at one time.

7.    Adding onto #6, if you’re self employed, consider incorporating your business and putting yourself on the payroll.  Then you will be required to withhold taxes and submit them periodically.

There are many more ways to put your finances on autopilot, but these will get you started.  The important thing is to make it automatic, and painless, so you’ll never miss the money.

Why You Should Always Pay Yourself First

May 24, 2006

You’ve heard it over and over again: Pay yourself first.  Why is this so important?  First, it establishes good saving habits.  If you continuously pay yourself first, despite whatever is going on in your life at that time, you will be much more likely to achieve your goals.

Second, the power of compounding.  Sometimes called the 8th wonder of the world, the power of compounding is truly remarkable.  The best way to explain this concept is to show you an example:

Person 1 invests $2,000 per year beginning at age 19 and ending at age 27.  Person 2 invests $2,000 per year beginning at age 27 and continues to invest until retirement age. Assuming the same rate of return (10 percent) in each of the two examples, a person who invests early and for just eight years will have more money at 65 years old than will someone who starts late and invests for nearly 40 years.

Example 1: Example 2:
Age Annual Investment Year-End Value Annual Investment Year-End Value
19 $ 2,000 $2,200 $ 0 $ 0
20 $ 2,000 $4,620 $ 0 $ 0
21 $ 2,000 $7,282 $ 0 $ 0
22 $ 2,000 $10,210 $ 0 $ 0
23 $ 2,000 $13,431 $ 0 $ 0
24 $ 2,000 $ 16,974 $ 0 $ 0
25 $ 2,000 $ 20,872 $ 0 $ 0
26 $ 2,000 $ 25,159 $ 0 $ 0
27 $ 0 $ 27,675 $2,000 $2,200
28 $ 0 $ 30,442 $2,000 $4,620
29 $ 0 $33,487 $2,000 $7,282
30 $ 0 $36,835 $2,000 $10,210
31 $ 0 $40,519 $2,000 $13,431
32 $ 0 $44,571 $2,000 $16,974
33 $ 0 $49,028 $2,000 $20,872
34 $ 0 $53,931 $2,000 $25,159
35 $ 0 $59,324 $2,000 $29,875
36 $ 0 $65,256 $2,000 $35,062
37 $ 0 $71,782 $2,000 $40,769
38 $ 0 $78,960 $2,000 $47,045
39 $ 0 $86,856 $2,000 $53,950
40 $ 0 $95,541 $2,000 $61,545
41 $ 0 $105,095 $2,000 $69,899
42 $ 0 $115,605 $2,000 $79,089
43 $ 0 $127,165 $2,000 $89,198
44 $ 0 $139,882 $2,000 $100,318
45 $ 0 $153,870 $2,000 $112,550
46 $ 0 $169,257 $2,000 $126,005
47 $ 0 $186,183 $2,000 $140,805
48 $ 0 $204,801 $2,000 $157,086
49 $ 0 $225,281 $2,000 $174,995
50 $ 0 $247,809 $2,000 $194,694
51 $ 0 $272,590 $2,000 $216,364
52 $ 0 $299,849 $2,000 $240,200
53 $ 0 $329,834 $2,000 $266,420
54 $ 0 $362,818 $2,000 $295,262
55 $ 0 $399,100 $2,000 $326,988
56 $ 0 $439,010 $2,000 $361,887
57 $ 0 $482,910 $2,000 $400,276
58 $ 0 $531,202 $2,000 $442,503
59 $ 0 $584,322 $2,000 $488,953
60 $ 0 $642,754 $2,000 $540,049
61 $ 0 $707,029 $2,000 $596,254
62 $ 0 $777,732 $2,000 $658,079
63 $ 0 $855,505 $2,000 $726,087
64 $ 0 $941,056 $2,000 $800,896
65 $ 0 $1,035,161 $,2000 $883,185
Less $ invested ($16,000) ($78,000)
$1,019,161 $805,185
Money increased 64 fold 10 fold

Need I say it again?  Pay yourself first, and start early!

Services

Beacon Financial Advisors, LLC, is a fee-only financial planning and Registered Investment Advisory firm headquartered in Lee’s Summit, Missouri and serving the greater Kansas City area.

The firm offers comprehensive financial planning services. Beacon advisors work solely for their clients. Click here to learn more about our services.

About Us

Kristine McKinley, CFP®, CPA, is the founding principal of Beacon Financial Advisors, LLC, an independent, fee-only financial planning firm located in Lee’s Summit, Missouri and serving the greater Kansas City area.

Kristine focuses on providing fee-only financial planning, investment advice, and tax preparation to individuals and families from all income levels.  About Us

In the News

Investment News – Kristine McKinley discusses the 0% Social Security COLA (for 2016) in No Social Security cost-of-living adjustment in 2016.

Kiplinger Magazine/NAPFA – Kristine McKinley answered reader’s tax questions during the 2013 Jump Start Your Retirement Plan Days sponsored by Kiplinger magazine and the NAPFA Consumer Education Foundation.