Financial Education Resources

Recent ACP Member Blogs

  • Whether you think we have been in one long pandemic, or you are counting waves or phases, the latest news on the spread of COVID-19 may make you nervous. In some states, children have already started a new school year; in other states, children will start at the end of the month or after Labor [] ©Bring Clarity to Your Finances™. Back to school jitters—parents, students, and employers is a post from Bring Clarity to Your Finances™
  • There’s no shortage of financial advice to be found on the internet, social media, the 24 hour news, and even from your friends & family. We’re bombarded with new opportunities to save, invest, and yes, even lose money. FOMO, YOLO, crypto, repeat. Surrounded by all the noise, a lot of folks simply don’t do anything. Ironically, in many cases, doing nothing is often the best course of action. As Jack Bogle famously said, “Don’t do something, just stand there! ” But there are a few things we can all do before we just stand there to make sure we’re not leaking money from our financial ship. What are they? Only pay for what you use. Sounds obvious, right? My mom is a member of the Greatest Generation. She’ll be 91 in October, and she still saves every receipt and checks them off against her credit card statements each month. She’s a Depression kid, so not a penny gets spent without purpose. She’s also not on the internet subscribing to all sorts of sites, software packages, streaming entertainment, etc., so she has a small advantage, but aside from the most dedicated folks I know in the FIRE community, let’s be honest, few of us check our credit card & bank statements that closely every month. I’m a pragmatist, so I’m not saying you need to become like my mom & keep every scrap of paper to double check, but at least once a year - I recommend around tax time or the new year, check those statements for expenses you don’t need anymore, or maybe never even needed in the first place. I’m as guilty as anyone of letting stuff like this slip. A few years ago I finally looked closer into a monthly charge on my Amex bill which turned out to be from my old sushi business, which I’d sold two years before that! These companies are clever, and they give the charges generic names, which can look like something else you might otherwise be buying, so as not to raise any flags & lead you to cancel the service. Last year I even found the craziest bit of fraud on one of my credit cards. Someone was using my credit card to pay for, “fraud protection,” from one of the credit agencies. A few phone calls solved each of these mysteries & added $30 & $50 back into my bank account every month. It’s true that the companies often make you jump through hoops to cancel, but it’s tough to think of easier money to put back in your pocket. Take a look at your investment accounts. Another obvious suggestion? Maybe, but much more important and overlooked than you might think. In my experience, many folks get their investment statements in the mail & just pile them in the junk drawer or throw them in a pile in the home office. What’s in there? Do you really know? Maybe you know what’s in your taxable brokerage account, if you’re into the stock market & fancy yourself an active investor. (That’s a subject for another blog post.) But what about your 401(k)? Or the IRA you opened twenty years ago when you got your first job? What are the chances that the investment options you selected years ago are still the right ones for you today? A lot has changed in the last decade or so. Did you know to look for low cost index funds back in 1998? Even if you did, there’s a good chance that they may not have been part of the investment menu back then. I’ve seen plenty of legacy 401(k)s and IRAs stuffed with high fee mutual funds and even company stock that people never bothered selling after moving on to different jobs. One client ended up saving over 1% in annual fees after moving into index funds. One percent added to you investment returns every year, year after year. People pay investment managers good money to add less than that to their investment performance and they’re happy to do it. Pay yourself that money. Set it & forget it. One of the best things anyone can do to prepare for the future is to save & invest. But there are a lot of demands placed on our money, and it’s super easy to, spend it if you’ve got it, to paraphrase the saying. In the old days, which really wasn’t that long ago, you might have had to write a check, or multiple checks, each month into your different savings & investment accounts. Nowadays, it’s so much easier to set up automated savings and investing that in my opinion it’s the only way to go. If you’re not doing this already, or if you think it’s too basic, please think again. Start small if you have to, but begin to populate those savings accounts. Once you have your automated savings set up, and stop leaking money by spending before you save, unlike the old investment accounts I wrote about above, you can ignore them most of the time.
  • It’s often said, the healthier you are, the longer you live. But how does that adage hold up in retirement? Can retirement deteriorate your health? Retirement isn’t historically seen as the healthiest move, at least according to professors from the national bureau of economic research. The golden years may not be so golden after all. Rising mortality rates in men over 62 led researchers to question if lifestyle changes associated with retirement—leisure, less physical activity, mental stimulation, and social interactions—were to blame. Their findings suggest the importance of keeping your physical and mental health a top priority throughout retirement. Let’s take a look at a few ways to keep your mind and body sharp in retirement (and reasons why you want to). Healthy Retirees Tend To Be Happier It’s no surprise that in a Merrill Lynch/Age Wave report , a majority of retirees said that good health is the most crucial ingredient for a happy retirement. It makes sense, right? There’s a reason people who go to the gym are stereotypically happier people. More physical activity encourages lower heart rates, decreased cholesterol levels, and lowers the risk for fatal diseases such as heart failure. Just Keep Moving Experts recommend getting about 150 minutes of exercise per week for the average healthy adult. That doesn’t mean you need to spend that time in the gym on the treadmill exclusively. There are many ways to get physical activity, whether it’s walking outside, biking, gardening, going to the park with your grandchildren, bowling—the options are endless. Strength and balance training are also vital as they can actively lower your risk of falling. Falls are responsible for about 32,000 deaths per year (CDC ). Aside from fatality, falls put you at risk for other serious injuries that require intensive medical care, such as surgery for a broken hip and then months of physical therapy on top of that. Accidents happen, and they can’t always be prevented, but taking care of your health decreases your chance of fall risk. Eating Well Isn’t Just For Growing Kids. Physical exercise is only one component of a healthy lifestyle—you also have to focus on what you’re putting into your body. Fruits and vegetables aren’t just good for your grandkids; they’re vital for you too! Perhaps you try to incorporate more veggie-focused meals once per week, like meatless Mondays. When you find a healthy balance between physical exercise and nutrition, you will feel better, stronger, more energized. Exercising doesn’t just help boost your immune system, but it can actually promote independent living. When you’re physically fit, you can freely move about the day and be more in control of your life. You don’t have to rely on others to help or do work for you, which gives you the freedom and peace of mind knowing that you are still in control of your life. Exercise Your Mind and Prioritize Wellbeing Physical health and wellness are only one piece of the puzzle. Your mental health needs to be a top priority throughout retirement. Retirees with an appetite for learning new things and challenging their brains help keep them mentally sharp. Exercising your mind may help prevent cognitive decline and reduce your risk of dementia—so it’s worth putting in the extra effort. Not sure where to start? You can keep your mind sharp and improve cognitive abilities in numerous ways, including: Reading Learning a language Playing a new instrument Cracking the Rubix cube, crossword puzzles, or other brain games Social activities Another way to improve cognitive function and mental health is—you guessed it—exercise. Exercise works the muscles that activate mood-boosters which reduces stress and helps you fight off ailments such as depression. As a bonus, exercise doesn’t have to be a solo activity! You can join a group fitness class or walking group to essentially kill two birds with one stone. You get the exercise your body needs and the social connection you crave. Whether you want to read a book from a new genre every month, solve the latest crossword puzzle, or finally learn how to play the flute, you have a multitude of ways to exercise your mind. When you put your mental agility and health at the forefront, you’ll notice that you're more alert, sharp, and excited about new discoveries and opportunities. Stay Active To Accomplish Your Goals Many retirees use their time to do the things they wanted to do but didn’t have time while working. Does that sound familiar to you? You’re no longer bound behind office walls or a screen, so take advantage of it. Travel to Europe, see the Golden Gate Bridge, run a marathon, spend more one-on-one time with your family and grandchildren—whatever it is, go for it. Make dedicated time to accomplish your goals and do the things that mean the most to you. You’ve spent a majority of your life working, planning, and saving for this special time, don’t squander it. Now is the time to sit back and think about what's most important to you and what lights a fire inside of you because no matter how many miles you walk or crossword puzzles you solve, you won’t be living your most fulfilling life if you're not passionate about what you're doing. Finding Your New Purpose Take your time to flesh out your new purpose in retirement. Many retirees find a lot of meaning in volunteering and giving back to the community. Perhaps you find fulfillment with your family and supporting your grandchildren. Whatever your new purpose is, follow it. The reality is that finding a new purpose and implementing new lifestyle changes are challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone. Our team at Step by Step works with you and seeks to help you make deliberate decisions that encompass your goals and values. If you’re ready to take the next step and find financial contentment, let’s get in touch .
  • outlined retirement killers that could get in the way of you really enjoying life after working hard for so many years and they include: Not putting your plan on paper: The article observes that many people are terrified of running out of money in retirement but just as terrified of writing out a plan [] ©Bring Clarity to Your Finances™. Dont Stop Your Retirement Before It Starts is a post from Bring Clarity to Your Finances™