Renting watches, robot lawn mowers to monthly car rental clubs

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

Renting watches, robot lawn mowers to monthly car rental clubs

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

Photo courtesy ‘Watch Collection Lifestyle’

It’s not often I’m surprised, but this one really caught me off guard. People actually rent watches. Seriously!

Eleven James, an online company based in Detroit, is off to the races. They rent men and women’s watches by the month. When looking at their website it isn’t your Timex watch you’re renting (maybe I’ve just showed my age). Sure they are nice watches but if you can afford to rent a high-end watch, you probably already have a phone, correct? So I wonder how many people check their phones vs. their wrist for the time? I stopped wearing a watch years ago and now wear a Fitbit to track my steps. Yet, these are nice watches.

Robin, a robot lawn cutting service. You can rent an electric mower. Sure it can manicure your lawn each and every day. They just install cable so the robot knows where to go and a home base to recharge. You’ll still have to trim, weed, etc. So it’s not 100% done for yourself.

Car rental clubs. Gone are those two or three-year car leases. Now for the car connoisseur, there are clubs to enjoy a new car each week or month. It’s call Clutch. You pick the car you want to drive each month or each week. They have a fleet of high end vehicles to choose from. Not to mention you can change the cars out if you don’t like it. I leased my Honda for 3 years. Like it or not I’m stuck so I guess I better like it. With Clutch I wouldn’t not stuck.

So all these rental ideas got we wondering……as a society; we’ve changed on how we perceive or look at “stuff”. Our parents and grandparents believed in owing. Owning is powerful and you’ve paid for it vs. having to give it back. Today, it seems our society is shifting and wants the newest and latest models. I blame it on Apple and McDonald’s. We want things now (and waiting for two minutes for “fast” food isn’t acceptable) and you have to have the latest iPhone because the version before just isn’t the same nor does it do the same things. But it does if we are honest with ourselves.

“Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.”

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Financial Freedom – what it means to me

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

Financial Freedom – what it means to me.

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

Everyone’s definition of financial freedom varies based on their background, upbringing and life experiences. It seems today on TV, social media and movies, we have all types of expectations set forth for us to live up to. Yet, what is real life these days? From what I see – most of it isn’t real.

Almost every day, I ask someone what financial freedom means to them. Most reply with a dollar amount so they don’t have to worry about money or expenses and they can financially handle whatever life brings their way.

I’m no different. I believe financial freedom is being debt free and having an asset base provide enough monthly cash to support my lifestyle. That’s it. Basic. What that framework, it’s easy to understand and figure out what your number should be.

There are three steps to help achieve this type of financial freedom:

1. Don’t purchase what you can’t afford. Sounds easy but it’s not. For example, do you purchase a new car at 100,000 miles or do you drive it in the ground? Drive it in the ground. At 100,000 miles you’ve barely went through two sets of tires. And that dream home you desire – “right size” it. Don’t over buy.

2. Pay yourself first. Sounds easy but it’s not. For those in your working years, target 15 – 20 percent of your gross Income. Yes it’s a lot, but that is what’s required to achieve financial freedom. Numbers don’t lie.

3. Pay attention to the tax man. Remember that our money belongs to the government and if we don’t understand the rules, they keep more of it. That’s not ideal if they keep more of your hard earned money.

Financial Freedom doesn’t happen overnight. You and I have to work for it. You know that saying, “Freedom isn’t free.”

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Year-end Financial Challenge

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

Year-end Financial Challenge

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

Can you do it? Yes you can!

I don’t know about you, but when you look through your monthly expenses doesn’t it surprise you how much it costs to live?

Each year, l look to cut 5% to 10% of my monthly expenses.

For example that darn Comcast bill. They enjoy increasing your monthly payment and now you have to call them to decrease it by threating to cancel it. That’s about a $100 a month each time you call.

Verizon – it’s worth revisiting your overall data usage to see if you can save any money. You can usually find $20-$50 a month.

Car and home insurance – You need to work with an independent agent. If you need a referral, let me know. This is an area we neglect not only in coverage levels but premium creep happens. Shop around every couple of years.

Cars, Cars & Cars – We don’t really think about it but these are depreciating assets that just cost us money each month. To help control the cost of my vehicles I’m a big fan of preventive maintenance. That’s how I get my cars to last so long. Plus, in the winters I wash them 3-4 times a week to keep all that crud off them to help prevent rusting. Just sign up for the unlimited car washes. They can be a great value.

Eating & drinking out – This is an easy one to overlook. It’s extremely expensive to drink out these days. Not to mention eating quality food at a good restaurant and I’m not talking about McDonald’s. Keep a close tab on this one.

Day to day – I didn’t notice I spent it but I did. Have you ever looked at your Visa or American Express bill and you spent $5,000 for the month and can’t remember where all that money went until you look at the details? Head to the bank once a week and use cash. I know I spend more when paying with a credit card and using cash helps control my spending throughout the week. I set a weekly amount to live on.

Your tracking software. Our clients can use our iAdvise software, a financial dashboard so they know where they stand every day. You can monitor everything financial aspect of your life and we build that right into your planning. That’s cool! Another good online system is mint.com.

Take an hour and see where you can save a few dollars.

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When kids have to help their parents financially

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

When kids have to help their parents financially

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

It’s not surprising; it’s something I hear on a regular basis. Just change the dollar amount for how much your household makes. I bet most of us can relate especially when you have a couple of kids, mortgage, car payment, are saving for retirement, etc.

As baby boomers enter their golden years, some are discovering new financial challenges including running out of money. I have to tell you this isn’t an easy situation or conversation to have with anyone.

Being in the financial world for such a long time, I have seen first-hand how someone can run out of money. It’s easier than you’d think. Here are a few ways it happens:

1. They didn’t save enough in the first place. When we are 20, we believe we have our entire lives ahead of us. But before we know it we are 70! Overtime you realize you didn’t save enough money, Social Security isn’t enough and other retirement savings won’t make it. I see kids financially supporting their parents all the time. It might be a couple of hundred a month, but as you work to help your parents, you have to make sure you don’t neglect your overall retirement goals and savings needs.

2. A sickness or illness wiped them out. Chances are they have insurance but it can and does fall short for all of our needs and they are now faced with a mountain of medical bills. Then you are left wondering what to do and how can Medicaid help.

3. They got suckered. This one is becoming all too common. It happens a few ways. First, older folks are lonely and seek companionship, someone to hang out with. They develop a friendship online or with someone locally. Over time, the friendship builds and it turns out this new “friend” needs financial help. And before you know it, all their accounts are cleaned out. Yes, this happens. They actually “give” all their money away. Make sure you receive duplicate financial statements each month so you can monitor account activity of your parents. Secondly, people fall for some phone or internet scam. It seems like common sense to now fall for this….but it’s not. Pay $5,000 and we’ll send you winnings of $1 million. Or you owe the IRS and if you don’t pay with bitcoin or gift cards you are going to jail.

It can be very hard to sit on the sidelines and watch your parents suffer. I know my clients don’t want their parents to suffer but it’s not always as easy just to give someone money. Sometimes that doesn’t solve the underlying problems.

If you like to talk about how to best help and support your family members, let’s talk.

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2018 Employee Benefit Open Enrollment

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

2018 Employee Benefit Open Enrollment

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

It’s hard to believe 2017 is coming to an end open enrollment is just around the corner. It’s easy to take your employer benefits for granted. But let’s not! Let’s make sure you have fully taking advantage of the benefits your employer offers. After all, you are working hard for them each day.

Here are a few key items to evaluate this year during your open enrollment period:

  • Join the 1% club. Increase your 401(k) savings each year by 1%. It’s easy, and you won’t miss the money.
  • Ask the question, will you have too much money in pre-tax retirement? This means when you retire will all of your income be taxable in your retirement years? Funding a Roth IRA is a great option for tax-free income in your retirement years.
  • Review your medical coverage. Have you or a family member’s health status changed? Will you require medical care outside of your primary network? Are you saving enough into your HSA account to cover items not covered by your plan and out of pocket expenses?
  • Examine your disability insurance. Chances are your largest asset is your ability to produce income. Are you fully insured in the event you develop a sickness or illness? Will your benefits be taxable? Read the policy, so you are informed.
  • Are there any new benefits? What benefits have you overlooked all these years and now maybe you should have them? Companies offer a host of benefits as your life changes, so will your needs. Keep up-to-date. Often having the proper amount of life insurance is an overlooked benefit until it’s too late.

If you need help analyzing your employee benefits, let’s schedule a time to meet to make sure they are properly incorporated into your financial planning.

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This wasn’t in the plan!

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

This wasn’t in the plan!

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

I’m in my office the other day and a friend stops to say “Hi.” Turns out his wife was diagnosed with cancer and as he continued to share their journey, he made a profound statement, “This wasn’t in the plan!”

Not in this ballpark, the next ballpark and even the one after that he went on describing. Life just has a way of throwing us curveballs that even the best ballplayers can’t hit. I attend Eagle Brook Church in Woodbury, Minnesota, and as I listen to the sermons (which are the best around) I struggle with no matter how hard I pray and I too am tossed into things that aren’t in my plans.

We all have a vision for our life – a roadmap and outline of the outcomes we seek. Recently, I’ve been having one of those continual experiences that wasn’t a part of my plan. No matter how much we vision and plan, it seems that there are many point when we are not in control. For me, attending church on Saturday helps my heart and soul, but sometimes I still struggle just like my friends and clients. How many other financial advisors are willing to drop their egos and admit they are not superhuman?

I still vividly recall a seeing another good friend, Joe, two weeks before he passed away. He said to me “none of this matters” and I didn’t understand what he was saying. So I asked him, “What are you saying?”

He repeated himself, “None of this matters!” I asked him what he meant. He said, “The house, cars, boats, four wheelers. They don’t matter. All that matters is my family.” And with that he asked me to help take care of them when he was gone. I can’t begin to tell you how much impact he had on me. He is in my thoughts each day when I work to help my clients.

I continually reassess my own financial plan and so should you. Our situations are always evolving and our financial plans need to keep up. Just like my friend who came by to share the news of his wife’s cancer and how they’ve paused everything to focus on her cancer treatments.

Take the time out of your busy life to pause to make sure “it’s not too late” for the type of financial planning you wished you would have done. Many times we have to have critical conversations even when we don’t think it’s necessary. If you’ve been delaying that critical conversation, take a minute and give me a call. I’ll be here so we can talk through it.

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