Starting 2017 On the Right Financial Track

With the start of a new year, it is time to consider how well your personal finance plan worked in 2016. Has your spending and saving behavior improved since January 1, 2016? Is your financial situation better than it was this time last year? While we all know that many situations are outside of our control, there are still things we can control. One of those areas is our behavior.   Looking back on 2016, would you honestly say that your mindset for personal finance has matured? If your personal financial situation looks much like it did one year ago then it is time to put your personal finances on the right track.

Pull up your bank statements from the past 12 months and determine whether or not  your checking and savings balances have increased. Hopefully, your savings account has increased in value along with your 401k balance and other investments. Consider whether or not you can increase your savings percentage to continue building your savings balance for emergencies and necessities. Now don’t get depressed if your balances did not increase but your debt decreased. If you were diligently working to pay off debt, then there is a good reason for simply maintaining your checking and savings balances. Keep the $1,000 emergency fund in place if at all possible even while tackling the debt.

The next step I would suggest for the New Year is to reassess your past financial goals and make any necessary adjustments. Set short-term goals that you plan to reach within the next 12 months. Consider any goals from 1 – 3 years in length and create a plan to reach them. Long-term goals would usually include retirement, college tuition for children if they are young, purchasing a home, etc. Break each goal down and develop realistic steps to help you attain the goal. In order to gauge how successful you have been, check to make sure you are still making strides at least every 3 months. If you are not progressing as you wish, make the adjustments to keep you on path to obtaining the goal. Even if you have to take a month or so off from working on our goal because of an unexpected event, get back on track as soon as possible.

Finally, look for ways to improve your financial situation. If you are not satisfied with where you are in your career, make improvements that will help you advance.   A good book to read to help in the career area is “48 Days To The Work You Love” by Dan Miller. At the end of his book, Mr. Miller gives valuable information to help you create a great resume’, cover letter, mission statement, etc.  I used the information from “48 Days” to help me reach my current career goal.

Make 2017 a great year both personally, financially, and in your career. There is no better time to begin improving than today! Make it a priority and get to work making positive changes in your life! Stay on the right track for personal growth and financial stability!


Year-end Tax Strategies To Save Money

This time of the year is a great time to take a look at tax strategies that may save you money for the current year. You should also take time to plan strategies for the upcoming year that will help you build your net worth.

Here are a few strategies worth considering:

1) Make additional contributions to your 401k – If you haven’t maxed out your

401k contributions for the year, consider making an additional contribution before the year ends. The maximum contribution for 2016 is $18,000. If you are age 50 or over you are allowed an additional $6,000 catch-up contribution (

2) Make a charitable contribution – If you itemize deductions, you will be allowed to count donations to qualified charitable organizations. The IRS has a webpage with information on charitable organizations. The website is

There are links to other pages that help you determine whether or not an organization is an exempt organizations in which chartable contributions are tax deductible. Remember that charitable contributions can also be non-cash such as clothing, household items, automobiles, stocks, land, etc. If you happen to be moving in a few months, consider donating items you no longer use to a charitable organization and receive a deduction on your tax return.

3) Consider capital losses to offset capital gains – The end of the year is a good time to take any capital losses on stocks that have lost value. You might only want to do this in order to offset any capital gains you have for the year. Speak with your financial advisor if you have any questions as to the timing of capital losses.

4) Make your January mortgage payment in December – Once again, if you itemize deductions on your tax return, you will be allowed to count any mortgage interest you pay. If you make your January mortgage payment by December 31, any interest paid will be tax deductible for you. Any additional property tax you paid will also be deductible.

5) Pay the Spring semester college tuition in December – Pay the tuition early to be allowed the deduction in the current year if you fall within the limits. Take advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). The AOTC expanded the tuition credit to more individuals. For more information, go to: The annual maximum limit is $2,500.

With just a bit of planning, you can reap benefits on your tax return. Take advantage of any deductions available to lower your tax liability for the year. You can even help yourself while helping others with charitable donations. End the year financially strong and be prepared to start the New Year the same way!

Do You Know Your Purpose?

My husband and I were in a discussion this past weekend on why some people want to do and be the best and why others just settle for mediocrity. We talked about how some people have a fear of not trying while others have a fear of not succeeding. Both can be paralyzing if you let them.

It is interesting that I met a student last week that introduced me to a few new up and coming individuals in the motivational arena. I decided to read some of their books and I came across a great section in one book that I want to share with you.

The book was written by Grant Cardone called “Be Obsessed Or Be Average” and the section is titled Figure Out What Your Purpose Is.

Here are the majority of the questions he poses in this section:

  • What are the things I have always wanted to do?
  • What bores me?
  • What do I do that causes me to forget to eat?
  • What have I been interested in since childhood?
  • What am I willing to do for no money?
  • If money had nothing to do with my life, what would I do with my time?
  • What amount of money would I need to really make a difference for the better?
  • What can I do better than anyone?
  • What are some of my natural skills?
  • What have I always been good at?
  • What have I always been bad at?
  • What skills or talents do I have that I ignore?
  • In what areas do others think more of my abilities than I do?
  • What are the skills I need to develop?
  • What do I want to be remembered for?
  • What contributions can I make to society that I would be most proud of?
  • What do I want to make sure people never say about me?
  • Who are five successful people I admire?
  • What are those people doing that I admire?
  • What do I have in common with that list of people?
  • What makes me feel good?
  • What gives me energy?
  • What bad habits do I need to stop?
  • What good habits do I need to start?
  • If I knew I wouldn’t fail, what would I do?
  • If I could be known for one great thing, what would I want it to be?

These questions really made me stop and take a look at myself and my life. My charge to you today is to take a few minutes out of your busy schedule and seriously answer each question truthfully. Once you find out what it is that your life is about or that you want your life to be about, you will be better equipped to take the necessary steps to improve yourself to become who your are meant to be in life.

I believe you will be amazed at how much better you will feel about yourself when you find your purpose and you work to reach that purpose. Don’t let self-doubt keep you down. Overcome that doubt to be the best you can be and you will bring out the best in others!

Budgeting for Retirement

It may seem like retirement is many years out in the future. I used to think so, as well, but then I realized it really isn’t that far away and that I need to make plans for my retirement budget. You see we often put off those things we dread and retirement planning can often fall into that category.

To make things less painful, why not get a head start while time is on your side? There is no better day than today to begin considering your retirement options. Take a few minutes to sit down and make a list of how you would like to see yourself living in retirement. List any expenses you think you would have along with your income. Now this is where reality sets in. What will your income be in retirement? Have you ever really considered that question before? Be realistic and make an educated estimate as to the income. In addition, will there be other expenses you don’t currently have that you will need to consider in the budget? I am sure there will be and there are certainly expenses now you may not have in retirement such as the cost of work clothes and commuting expenses to name a few. Seriously consider all that you can think of to include in the retirement budget.

Below are a few steps to help you get started down the retirement budgeting path:

Step 1: a) Create a list of all the expenses you cannot change which we call fixed

expenses. No matter where you live in retirement you will need to

consider utilities, insurance, taxes, etc., that you will continue to pay

throughout retirement.

b) List categories for food, clothing, transportation, medication and any

other items you will need for retirement. These will differ based on your

individual circumstances.

c) Consider all the expenses you currently pay for that you feel are

necessities and decide whether or not your quality of life will change if

you do away with them in retirement.

Step 2: Consider the rising costs of certain expenses and make necessary

adjustments. For example, insurance continue to rise. Your medical costs

may be greater in your retirement years as health begins to decline.   Will

you need to add an expense for medication or increase your current

spending in that area?

Build in the cost for inflation in your retirement budget. Even though you

may currently spend $150 a month on food, the costs may increase and you

may have to spend $200 twenty years from now to purchase the same amount

of food.

Step 3: Don’t forget to include entertainment costs in the budget. I know that my

husband and I want to be able to travel and attend events in retirement

so we will include those costs in our retirement budget. We will also need to

consider additional costs of visiting our family if they move away.

Don’t let retirement take you by surprise. By paying attention to the retirement budget now and making a plan, you will be better prepared to face and enjoy those retirement years instead of worrying if you will have enough money to cover your expenses. It’s a smart move to make. Your future self will thank you.

Zig Ziglar’s Rules for Success

Zig Ziglar was a motivational speaker, author, and salesman who was born in Coffee County, Alabama. His early childhood was difficult as he father passed away leaving his mother a widow. There were 12 children in total and Zig was the 10th of those children.

Zig was known for his motivational speaking and writing. Below is a list of 10 rules for success he has mentioned throughout his career:

  1. “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” In other words, have a dream. Give

yourself a goal to work towards achieving. “A goal properly set is halfway


  1. Think as a champion – “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your

altitude.” Keep a good attitude in everything you do.

  1. Be committed – This seems to be an issue for many people because they can’t

seem to commit to anything. “People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither

does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” Be committed everyday to give

your best in everything you do.

  1. Do it right now! Procrastination delays success. Stop making excuses and do

what it takes to reach your goal beginning today.

  1. Be prepared – Preparation is necessary for success. Arrogance keeps you from

being prepared. It shows when you are not prepared.

  1. Keep your word – “If your word is no good, you are no good.” If you don’t keep

your word, it will be difficult for others to depend on and trust you. Be a person

that keeps his/her word.

  1. Set your goals – Choose to set goals, and realize your potential. It is your choice

to make. If you choose not to set goals, the future consequences may not be what

you would want. Write the goal down, make the action plan, and put a specific

date to reach the goal. Do you know when you will reach the goal? Only after you

actually take action toward reaching the goal.

  1. Evaluate where you are – Take a look at how you are investing your time and

resources. Are you headed in the right direction?

  1. Have integrity – Display integrity on your job, at home, in your everyday life.   Be a person of integrity.
  1. Don’t quit – “Remember that failure is an event, not a person.” We will never

know how much success we might have had if we quit just short of the goal. If

you fail, get back up and try again. Don’t let defeat overtake you. Keep trying

until you succeed. Become the best you can be and don’t give up.

These are just a few of the many inspirational tips that Zig Ziglar gave over the years. It is advice that should be used as you continue striving to reach your potential!

Credit Cards and Debt in America

For many American consumers, the use of credit and debt is a common occurrence. For all too many, it is a daily occurrence as people often cannot cover their basic living expenses due to the amount of debt they carry. In order to make ends meet they use their credit cards. It appears that we have dug ourselves in to a deep hole that seems almost impossible to get out of at least anytime soon.

Here are a few statistics on current personal debt in the U.S. found on

  • More than 160 million Americans have credit cards.
  • The average credit card holder has at least three cards.
  • On average, each household with a credit card carries more than $15,000 in credit card debt.
  • Total U.S. consumer debt is at $11.4 trillion. That includes mortgages, auto loans, credit cards and student loans.

We may think credit is a new concept, but it dates back many years in America. Merchants and consumers used credit as far back as the late 1800s. Department stores and oil companies began issuing their own credit cards in the early 1900s that were only for credit at their store. The first actual bank credit card that could be used for purchases appeared in the early 1950s.

How long would it take to pay off the average credit card debt of $15,000 at an interest rate of 15.9 percent with only the minimum payment? If you made a monthly payment of $349, it would take you 5 years and 5 months to pay off the $15,000 debt and it would cost you over $7,300 in interest! In order to pay the debt off in 3 years, you would need to make a payment of $527 per month which would cost you a little less than $4,000 in interest. As you can see, sacrificing a little more per month to make the additional payment will save you $3,300 in interest and will cut 2 years and 5 months off the amount of time it will take to pay the debt in full.

This week take a look at your current debt and payments and work with your budget to find extra money that can be designated as extra debt payments. The amount of sacrifice you make now can make a substantial difference in your net worth.  Save on interest payments by always paying more than the minimum payment.  Make a conscious effort to knock out your debt quickly so you can be better prepared for your financial future. Once the debt is paid off, avoid getting back into debt.  Stop the vicious cycle of debt for yourself and for your family!



Finding a Higher Rate of Interest for Your Cash

It can be somewhat of a disappointment when you take a look at the current yields on savings accounts. We all know that we need to save but there seems to be little reward for saving when it comes to interest rates. Is there somewhere to store our cash while still benefiting from interest earnings?

I took the liberty of researching current savings and money market interest rates and tried to find the best places to stash the cash.  My research came up with the following institutions and their current savings account and money market rates:

  • Synchrony High Yield Savings pays 1.05% APY with no minimum balance requirement or monthly service fee.
  • Alostar Bank of Commerce Savings pays 1.05% APY with a $50 required minimum deposit to open the account. No average monthly balance required and no monthly service charge.
  • Barclays Online Savings pays 1.00% APY with no monthly maintenance fees and no minimum balances to open.
  • Ally Online Savings pays 1.00% APY with no monthly maintenance fees and a limit of six transactions per statement cycle.
  • Savings pays 1.00% APY with no fees and no minimums to maintain and no monthly maintenance charges
  • CIT Bank High Yield Savings pays up to 0.95% with a minimum deposit of $100 to open and no maintenance fees. Interest is compounded daily.
  • FNBO Direct online savings pays 0.95% APY with no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements. It takes $1 to open a savings account.

The research also found high yield Money Market Accounts to be:

  • EBSBDirect pays 1.25% APY with a minimum $2,500 to open the account and a balance of $10,000 required for this rate.
  • Dime money market account pays 1.10% APY for 12 months with a required $1,000 opening deposit. There are no monthly fees with up to 6 transactions per month this account.
  • ableBanking money market account pays 1.00% APY with a $250 minimum deposit to open the account.
  • Ally bank money market pays 0.85% APY with no monthly maintenance fees. Interest is compounded daily and no minimum opening balance is required.

I would suggest doing your own research to find the right institution for your savings.  Compounded interest is best due to the fact that your interest will earn interest.  Interest rates change so look for the best offer with the least restrictions.

Find the best rates that work for you and put that emergency fund and other savings to work earning compound interest. Before you know it you will begin to see that savings plan grow quickly by taking advantage of higher interest rates for your savings.  Since you are going be saving money you should earn as much interest on it as possible.  This is another step in the wealth building process that with a small amount of effort has the potential for a great reward!

Networking on a Daily Basis

There are usually opportunities to network everyday, but sometimes we may miss the opportunities without even realizing it. Networking can be a crucial step in building the career we desire. Those people we pass in the hallways, airports, standing in line at the mall, or wherever we may happen to be may be exactly the people who can help us in our careers. We might even be able to help them, as well.

It is a great idea to carry business cards with you at all times in case the opportunity arises for you to make a new contact. Just this past week several of my students spent time in my office creating business cards to carry with them to an event where they would be making contacts with business professionals.   They wanted to make sure they were prepared just in case the opportunity to make a new contact was to present itself.

If you plan on attending an event and you know who will be attending, take time to find out about the people you may be introduced to or have the opportunity to meet. It helps to know as much as you can before meeting and striking up a conversation. This gives you a chance to consider topics of conversation beforehand to help you be prepared.

Don’t make the mistake of overlooking people you work with on a daily basis. Learn to meet new people that you aren’t already familiar with and expand your networking base. The conversation could be started with, “I know we have seen each other quite a few times but I don’t believe we have been introduced.” I am amazed at how quickly the awkwardness vanishes and true conversation takes place once you make the first move.

Make it a point to meet people at your workplace from various levels or departments within the organization. It’s a fact that people tend to make friends at work with people who are similar and have similar interests but reach out to people with other interests to expand your network.

A great way to meet new people at your place of work is by joining committees or serving as a volunteer for various events. When you serve on a committee you have an excellent opportunity to make new friends and new contacts.  I enjoy being part of the community within my organization. From time to time I have chosen to stay within my own department and I have found that to be less than rewarding emotionally and within my career. Step outside your box or your comfort zone and you might be amazed at how many people you will get to know better.

A final point to make is remember to listen instead of just always trying to think about what you can say next. People want to know you are actually giving them your undivided attention. Part of building any relationship, even a work relationship, is learning to listen. Be engaged in the conversation and be the kind of listener you want others to be when you are speaking. Build a strong network that will be beneficial to you and to others. Get started networking today!

Interviewing tips to help you land that job!

Interviewing skills are key to landing a great job. The interview will determine whether or not you will receive the job offer. In my line of work, I often give advice on interviewing. There are great resources available online that will help guide you, as well. Today I would like to share several of my tips to help you overcome your nervousness and be prepared for those job interviews.

Tip 1: Research the company – When you receive the day and time for your job interview, make sure you take the time to research the company that you are interviewing with to show that you are truly interested in working for the company. You will need to know what the company does so that you will be prepared to discuss the job opportunity during the interview. Often, the interviewer will ask you why you would like to work for the company or how your skills would be a fit for the company. A statistic from an article on Business Insiders states that 47% of managers will eliminate a candidate if they are not knowledgeable of the company in the interview.

Tip 2: Learn about the interviewer(s) – It is important to be able to relate with the interviewer(s). In order to do this, try to find out who the interviewer is and research their job title, responsibilities, and other information about them. LinkedIn could be a good option for this research as well as the company website. My last job interview actually involved several people so I tried to learn as much about those I knew would be present as I could. Five of my interviewers were unknown to me ahead of time so I just had to be prepared to answer questions from various different people.

When I first started in my career, interviews were basically one on one. Today interviews can be group interviews in which several possible job candidates are interviewed together or an interview with multiple interviewers and one candidate. My last two job interviews included multiple interviewers during my first interview. While this can be somewhat intimidating, be relaxed and confident in your abilities. If you are not qualified for the job and aren’t confident in your abilities, then it might not be a good fit. If you feel that you can easily adapt and learn, then by all means interview for the position.

Tip 3: Dress for success – No doubt you have heard this phrase time and time again but remember you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. In other words, the interviewer will decide whether or not they are interested in you within the first 90 seconds of a job interview. Dress professionally during your interview! Dress for success by considering your interview outfit well in advance of the interview. It doesn’t necessarily take a great deal of money to purchase a nice interview outfit. I have what I call my “interview suit” which is a basic black suit that won’t go out of style anytime soon. For women, a nice pair of pants and blouse will suffice if that is all that you have. I almost always wear a suit and just change the blouse that best reflects the company where I will interview. Remember ladies, do not wear large jewelry, lots of makeup, and lots of perfume. Avoid trendy clothes and keep it professional.

For men, I would suggest a nice pair of pants with a button shirt, tie, and a jacket if you have one. The shirt needs to be tucked in and the belt and shoes should match. If you can purchase a suit or jacket for the interview, it will probably pay off for you. Also, make sure your outfit has been ironed and looks crisp and clean. As I advised the ladies, do not wear too much cologne.

My son will soon graduate from high school and he has asked for a nice suit to wear for college interviews and job interviews. I think that is a great idea! Make a great first impression.

With just a little forethought and planning, you can be prepared for a great job interview!

Basics of Investing in Stocks

As you work on getting out of debt and building wealth, you will need to begin learning about the basics of investing. Today’s post will discuss how to purchase stocks for your investment portfolio.

What are stocks? Stocks are basically shares of ownership in a company. For example, if someone wants to invest in a company in order to build wealth, that person would want to consider owning shares of stock in the company. I feel safe to say that most people have heard of McDonalds as it is a global company, so I will use it as a sample illustration. I decide to take time to research McDonalds, and then decide that McDonalds is a company I believe will continue to be a strong company. Be cautioned here; do your research! Don’t just invest on a whim without analyzing the numbers. Never invest in stocks if you do not understand how they work! There are many free investing webinars and videos on the Internet that teach the basics of investing.

To purchase shares of McDonalds stock, a brokerage account would be required. E*TRADE, Charles Schwab, Ameritrade, and Scottrade are examples of brokerage firms. Once an account has been opened and funds have been deposited, buying and selling of stocks can begin.   If a share of McDonalds stock is trading at $112.57 and you have $1,000 to use to purchase the stock, divide $1,000 by $112.57 to see how many shares you can purchase. In this case, you could purchase 8 shares of McDonalds stock and would have a little less than $100 dollars left. Brokerage fees vary per trade but $9.95 is what I usually pay per trade.

You might be wondering how money can be made on stocks. A realized gain on stock is the result of selling the stock at a higher price than you paid for it. An unrealized gain is when you still own the stock, but the price has increased. I call this a gain on paper. In other words, I will only realize the gain if I sell the stock at a higher price than I paid for it. If you sell the stock for $126.50 and you paid $112.57 you would earn a gain of $ 101.49 [($126.50 – 112.57)*8 -$9.95].

Another way to make money by investing in stocks is through dividend income. A dividend is money that is paid out of earnings to investors. McDonalds currently pays a dividend of $3.76 per share of stock. If you own the 8 shares of McDonalds stock from our example above, you would also receive $3.76 per share per annually which equals $.96 quarterly or 4 times per year. The total amount you would receive annually in dividends on 8 shares of McDonalds stock this year is $30.08. The current dividend yield is 3.34% for McDonalds stock.

Check out a few videos on stock investing found at