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Why save for retirement while you’re young? To avoid eating cat food in your old age!

Why should you save for retirement while you’re still young? Retirement is far away. A short answer: Save for retirement, so you’re not working at age 81 and eating cat food. That’s not politically correct, but it’s a stark reality.  

  

Save for Retirement to Continue Living Comfortably

 To continue living comfortably after you stop working, you typically need cash in the bank, a spouse supporting you, or your children taking care of you. (Do you really want your kids paying your bills?)

 Don’t expect Social Security to take care of you. My projected annual social security income is $22,000! Read that again. $22,000 per year.  I’m going to live fabulously until the day I die. $22,000 ain’t gonna cut it!

I plan to have a mix of cash and investments so I can travel the world, buy the grandkids presents, and enjoy wine! I don’t want to live great in my youth then suffer when I’m old. I’d rather balance it (called lifestyle balancing) so I’m comfortable all of my life.

Picture Your Lifestyle in Retirement

Developing a picture of the lifestyle you want in retirement makes it real and gives you a more concrete goal. You don’t need to know all the details . . . just, step back and think big picture . . . . How do you want to spend your time? Volunteering? Traveling? Hanging with family? Now, stop reading, and picture your fabulous lifestyle in retirement.

 

Save Enough to Achieve that Lifestyle

Once you have a vision of your fabulous self in retirement, you start saving! If retirement calculators don’t make your eyes glaze over, use one—either online or through your 401K or IRA provider—to see how much you’ll have annually at retirement with your current savings percentage and investment strategy.

 

Use the KISS Principle for Retirement Savings

If a retirement calculator seems overwhelming, which is true for most people, then use the KISS principle (Keep it Simple, Stupid). Experts recommend you save 10 – 15% of your gross income for retirement each year. (When someone asks you how much you make, the number most people give is their gross salary.)

Next time you hear people fretting about how much to save for retirement, feel confident that you’re on the right track by saving 10 – 15% of your gross income. Your stocking away enough money to stay fly even when you’re old.

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What percent of your income do you save for retirement? What other retirement questions do you have? You’re thoughts and questions—not mine—are the most important. What else do you want to know?

 

 

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Wall Street Gibberish Sounds like the Adults in Charlie Brown


When you hear that stocks down 20 basis points, emerging markets are up, or oil futures are down, does that mean anything to you?  Daily stock market updates are typically jargon and noise.  To me, they sound like adults talking in the Charlie Brown movie, “wah wah woh wah.”

In addition to all the jargon, Wall Street is constantly spewing noise that tells us to change our investment strategy frequently; invest in energy stocks this week and gold the next or foreign stocks on Tuesday and domestic stocks on Wed.  Again, it sounds like, “wah wah woh wah wah.”

 The truth is that the daily swings of the stock market are irrelevant to most middle class people.  It’s important for people buying and selling stocks every day.  (Hmm, who could that be?  Answer, Wall Street folks.)  Your retirement account should have mutual funds that you hold for 5 – 40 years.  Over the long-term, these swings don’t make a significant impact to the fund.      

Here’s a simple truth: The most solid way to accumulate wealth is not stock investment.  It’s sticking to a holistic financial strategy including:

  • Playing good defense:
    • Minimizing your expenses
    • Avoiding consumer debt by
      • Using your savings to pay for large purchases
      • Decreasing your spending to focus on activities that bring the most fulfillment  
  • Playing simple offense:
    • Choosing a job you enjoy and get paid for
    • Sticking to a simple investment strategy for your retirement accounts
    • Planning ahead and negotiating on large purchases to minimize costs

Notice I said nothing about day trading, looking for the next hot stock, or other time-wasting activities.  Life is about living!  Unless your idea of a fun Saturday afternoon is day trading or stock research, you should:

  1. Develop a holistic financial strategy,
  2. Stick to it for several years, and  
  3. Make minor tweaks once or twice a year. 

That’s it!  Don’t worry about the daily market swings.  Next time you hear daily financial news, just remember, “wah wah woh wah wah.” 

What does all the financial jargon sound like to you?  Have you ever acted on short-term stock tip?  Has any of it ever helped you?  Do you have a holistic financial strategy? 



How to stick to your New Year’s Resolution!

Did you make a financial New Year’s resolution? If you decided to make a drastic change, how’s it going?

My friend Lisa recently said she’s scaling back to eating out only twice a month.  That’s a drastic change, considering she used to dine out 6 days per week (12 meals), spending about $720/ month. Right now she’s got alcohol, milk, and takeout in her fridge. To cut back, she has to make several lifestyle changes, including preparing dinner, wash dishes, packing lunch the night before, remembering to take her lunch to work, and declining meals with friends she used to eat out with. That’s a lot of change.  (Some of those friend’s won’t the happy about her drastic change.)

I suggested to Lisa that she make gradual changes, scaling back to 5 days per week and saving $120/ month in January.  In February, she can move to 4 days per week, saving $240. She can scale back until she’s dinning out for 1-4 meals per week.  That’s saves $705 – $660 monthly and a whopping, $8,460 – $7,920 yearly—enough for three trips to Italy!  The gradual changes give her time to adjust to cooking, planning for meals, and all the other lifestyle changes required to create a new habit.

Last time you decided to make a drastic financial change, did you stick to it?

Making a large, sudden financial change is hard to maintain—just like fad diets that work for a few days and then leave you eating ice-cream out of the tub. Gradual change is more likely to stick. For example, you resolve to save $200 per month to start your emergency savings account.  It’s far better to save $50/ month for 1 year ($600 total) than to go from zero to $200 in one month and then quit for the rest of the year because the first month was too difficult.

Good personal finance habits are just that, HABITS. A habit is, “an action done on a regular basis; an action performed repeatedly and automatically, usually without awareness.”  The key to keeping financial resolutions—and most major changes—to incorporate them gradually so you can create new habits and replaces old ones.

Which financial New Year’s resolutions did you make? How are they going? Are you incorporating new habits? How?

Which goals have me scared as heck?

Exciting Beginnings

When I started Financially Fab last year, I was excited about creating the top online financial community for young professional women. I knew it was a large goal, but was passionate about providing women with solid financial advice. I spent much of 2010 researching blogging and web-based businesses.

Scared as all Heck

Fast forward to January 2011, I’ve done research and now it’s time to act. Let me tell you, that’s scary. The ambitious dream is turning into reality, while everyone (readers, friends, mentors) is watching. In December, I developed 4 goals for Financially Fab in 2011. I was still scared. Then I went to mentors asking for feedback. Without my noticing it, the goals turned into a laundry list of tasks. The breaking point occurred when my friend, the founder and president of a wealth management company, asked, “ What are your 2011 goals?” I listed 4 goals and quickly qualified by saying, first, I need to talk to X, Y, and Z person to confirm. He pushed, “What are your goals? What do you want?” It hit me; I’d been so caught up in having the perfect strategy for Financially Fab that I lost sight of my vision.


Finding my Vision Again

Sometimes, as women, we are so concerned about doing things perfectly that we lose confidence or ask for too much advice. Women in business tend to have higher success rates on the risks they take by doing more research, planning, and preparation than male counterparts. We also take fewer risks and sometimes over-prepare, missing out on opportunities in the process.[i] As women, we have to remember to stay true to our visions!

What are your 2011 goals? I decided that for 2011, I will:

  • Post on Financially Fab weekly until March and twice a week after that
  • Design a financial product for young professional women and get 20 customers willing to pay
  • Do 2 on-camera appearances (outside of Financially Fab) where I discuss personal finance

Join in:

What’s a goal that’s got you scared as all heck? How are you going to act on it? What are your 2011 goals?

How to live like a millionaire!

Imagine what your lifestyle would be like if you were a millionaire!

Do you imagine living in a mansion on the water or carrying a Louis Vuitton purse?

I recently read The Millionaire Mind and Stop Acting Rich, both written by

Dr. Thomas Stanley, a professor specializing in research on American millionaires.  His research spans 30+ years and profiles how millionaires actually live, compiling data  from thousands of surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews.  You’ll be surprised that millionaires don’t have the flashy lives we see in shows like MTV’s Cribs.

Millionaires’ Cars

Of the cars recently bought by millionaires, which do you think was the most popular brand?

Range Rover?            

Top-of-the line Mercedes?

Porsche?

The correct answer is . . . Toyota!  Surprised?  “Most [millionaires] do not drive luxury makes of cars.”[i] “The median price paid by millionaires for their most recent [car purchase] was only $31,167.  The typical price paid by decamillionaires (someone with $10+ million in net worth) was $41,997”[ii].

Millionaire Dining

What do you think is the typical price millionaires paid to eat at their favorite restaurants, including tax, tip, and drinks?

$100?

$250?

$300?

The answer is . . . $19.59! “Only three-tenths of 1 percent [.003%] typically [spent] more than $100.”[iii] How much does dinner cost at your favorite restaurant?


Check out more millionaire stats:

Price paid for most recent haircut:

  • Female millionaires: $44.58
  • Male millionaires: $16.00[iv]

Cost of most recently purchased suit:

  • Typical Millionaire: $299.50
  • Decamillionaires: only $482! [v]

Millionaires typically don’t spend a large percentage of their wealth on clothes. When shopping, millionaires look for sales![vi] Millionaires—are frugal, allowing them to reinvest and grow their wealth.

Get involved!

How did the millionaire stats compare to your spending habits?  And your expectations? What surprised you the most?  What didn’t?

I’ll respond to all comments and emails!


[i]Stop Acting Rich, p. 203; [ii]Stop Acting Rich, p. 204; [iii]Stop Acting Rich, p. 156-157; [iv]Stop Acting Rich, p. 60 ; [v]Stop Acting Rich, 72; [vi]Stop Acting Rich, 73 – 74;

How the iPhone cost as much as a trip to Greece!

I love to travel and enjoy fashion, but electronics are not a big deal to me. I normally buy new gadgets when I need them and rarely because they’re new or sexy—except for the iPhone.
 

I succumbed to pressure from my new team at work and bought the iPhone. One guy, Brian, should’ve worked for Apple’s marketing team.  He was constantly thinking up new iPhone commercials.  For months, I heard teammates say—“There’s an app for that . . . . Check out this flashlight app . . . . The iPhone does this faster . . . . Google maps is much better on an iPhone,” and many more comments.  It felt like working in an infomercial! When Brian showed me how to hack into the iPhone to get internet access on my laptop for no additional charge, I was sold.  I bought the iPhone a few weeks later, justifying the purchase with the free internet.

1st Problem: Justifying Long-Term Costs with Short-Term Benefits

I justified an ongoing, long-term cost—monthly plan and maintenance to the iPhone— with a temporary benefit.  Apple would eventually block the hack, which they did a few months later. Once I couldn’t use my iPhone to get internet on my laptop, I lost my main benefit and was stuck with the ongoing costs. Long-term costs should only be justified with long-term benefits; otherwise, when the short-term benefits are over, you end up stuck with all costs and none of the value.

2nd Problem: Maintenance Costs were too High

I dropped things, and often. The iPhone was the most delicate phone on the market, due to the large glass screen.  After having the iPhone for 8 months, I accidentally dropped and broke it, despite using a heavy duty case. Apple charged $295 for a replacement iPhone and wouldn’t lower the cost by allowing me to downgrade to older version or one with smaller memory.

Final Solution: Change phones & providers!

I had 2 options—sink another $300 into the iPhone, for a total of $1,725 annually, or move on to another phone. The chart below explains why the iPhone was so dang expensive!


How the iPhone cost as much as a trip to Greece!
First iPhone * $350
Yearly Costs for Cell Phone Plan: $90/ month for 350 minutes, texts,and iPhone data plan $1,080
Yearly cost before breaking phone $1,430
Replacement iPhone $295
Total 1-Year Cost for iPhone $1,725 !!!!

For someone that’s not into technology and would rather spend that money traveling, it didn’t make sense to throw more money at Apple or AT&T.

I changed to Sprint, where I got more minutes and unlimited texts for $20 less per month and got a HTC Hero with Android apps and a touch screen for $179 after the rebate.  Get this—paying the early termination fee and buying a new phone was only $14 more expensive than getting a replacement iPhone.


How cheap it was to switch to Sprint
AT&T Early termination fee $130
Cost of HTC Hero after rebate $179
Total cost of switching to Sprint (just $14 more than replacement iPhone) $309

The Sprint plan offers more minutes, unlimited texts, and costs $240 per year less than AT&T—just enough for a plane ticket to visit my best friend in Seattle!

The iPhone was the best phone on the market.  But did I need the best phone? Nope! Just one that fit my lifestyle.


If I had bought the replacement iPhone, I would have spent over $1,700 on my cell phone!


$700 saved on cell phone pays for roundtrip international flight!
iPhone HTC Hero Difference
Phone $350 $ 179* HTC Hero was over $170 cheaper
Monthly Plan $90 $   70 Sprint $30 cheaper monthly and fewer dropped calls
Yearly costbefore breakingphone $1,430 $1,029 HTC Hero/ Sprint was $400 cheaper
ReplacementPhone $295 $0 HTC Hero was not as delicate and was unlikely to break
Total 1-YearCost $1,725 $1,029 Saved about $700! Cost of international flight!

For some people, almost two grand was worth it. If you prefer electronics and can afford the iPhone after savings and bills are paid—then go for it!

As I said in the beginning of the post, I’m not into electronics. If I had two grand to spend, I’d rather travel or shop.  Spending according to my values meant changing from the iPhone to a cheaper phone and having more travel money!

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What new item did you purchase because your friends, family, or coworkers influenced your decisions?  Did the new purchase match your values?

Try adding up the total yearly cost. With the yearly cost in front of you, ask yourself if the item is worth that much?  Would you rather spend that cash on something else?

* Although I bought cases for both phones, the cost of 2 iPhone cases and 1 HTC case was not included in the calculations.

 

Do you really save when you buy discounts?

I was thinking about Black Friday and how hundreds of people camp out overnight to get massive discounts, such as 60-inch flat screen LCD TVs for $150, 70% of laptops, and buy 1 get 1 free digital cameras. Most people go through the hassle of waiting in line and waking up before dawn, so they can save money.  But, do they really save?

My questions to you are: When you buy things on sale, does that mean you’re actually saving money?   Do sales really help you keep more cash in your bank account?

What do you think?

Think about it . . .

A little bit more . . .

Got a final answer?

Alright, time’s up .


My answer: Often discounts and sales actually hurt your bank account! Let me explain with a personal example.

A few years ago, I went into Banana Republic to buy a winter jacket during the after Christmas sale.  I planned to buy one item—a jacket for about $125.  The sales were better than expected! The jacket was marked down from $300 to $32! (You already know what happened next, don’t ya?) I bought more stuff, for a total of 1 jacket, 3 pairs of pants, and 3 tops. The total cost was over $200. I walked out smiling about much money I saved.

But did I actually save money? Here’s the math:

Planned Actual Difference
# of Items 1 7 Bought 6 impulse buys
Average Price per Item $125 $32 Average price per item was about $95 less than expected, due to great discounts
Total Price $125 $225 Spent $100 more than planned, a full Benjamin gone from my bank account

I walked out happy and smiling because I bought 7 items on sale–1 that I needed and 6 that I bought on impulse.  I wasn’t thinking about the bottom line: My bank account was $225 poorer. Did I actually save money?  Was this actually a net plus to my life or finances? No to both!

I can’t tell you how many times I went shopping with the mentality that if I got discounts per item, I saved overall.  It took a while, but it finally sunk in–I save money only when my total shopping bill is less than planned or the extra items are things I needed. (Ladies, I mean need like food, water, shelter, etc. Not the way you “need” another pair of black pumps or a new LBD.)

By buying extra items I didn’t need, I wasted money.  I could have bought just the jacket, and had about $195 to spend on something I really valued.  (Like 3 -4 nights at a hotel in Greece!) Store owners are smart.  They get us in the door with sales, hoping that we’ll buy more overall. 😉

Proving the point that impulse buys often waste money, I rarely wore the 6 impulse buys and no longer even have them.  The jacket, which I needed, has lasted 4+ years, is still worn regularly, and is hanging in my coat closet right now.

Now it’s your turn: When you get discounts, does it feel like you saved money? Even if you spent more overall?