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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2 + 6 =

I’m rightsizing my home

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

I’m rightsizing my home

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

I have to tell you, preparing your home for sale is a pain in the rear, period! I thought hiring a professional would make it easier, but it wasn’t.

Here is what I’ve learned from this process. I know when you look at me you think of style, fashion, hipness and the list goes on. All true of course, but the truth is I wanted someone good with color and design to help prepare my home for sale. So we hired an interior designer to help us. I asked all the right questions and if they would have answered my questions correctly, more importantly honestly, I never would have hired them. I have no problem paying for their services, but this is how they really get paid.

First, is I purchase all the items to stage my house. Furniture, lamps, drapes, bedding and the list goes on. But this is what gets me. When my house sells, the interior designer keeps each and every item I purchased and if I’d like to keep any of them I pay them again for the item. What? Sure, I wouldn’t mind updating my bedroom sheets, comforters, pillows, etc., but I have to pay for them twice? Huh?

Second, is when I asked for the carpets, granite and all those other big items if there do was an additional fee. I was told no. Turns out when the carpet guys came to my house to collect the remaining balance the math didn’t add up to the invoice I agreed to pay the interior designer. They do indeed charge additional fees. I only wish I could charge their markup rate.

Third, I just wanted to pay an hourly rate for these services. Initially, I was told it would cost $1,500 for their services and I was fine with that. Yet, by the time we would have paid her $7,000 to pick some carpet, granite, faucets, etc., for my home. That’s good money and I’m in the wrong business.

If they would have answered my questions honestly, I would have never hired their firm. And they know it. When I questioned what they told me, they couldn’t come clean for almost 15 minutes.

I asked the right questions but was given the wrong information. So here is what I learned for the next time. In my business, I’m required to provide my clients an outline of services, how I’m compensated, etc. I’ll going to require that from other service providers as well. I also want to make sure I’m dealing with a decision maker of the company. No middle men or middle women.

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4 + 5 =

Meaningful breakfast meeting

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

Meaningful Breakfast Meeting

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

Today, I had a chance to have breakfast with a friend – a pleasure I get once or twice a year with him. He’s very successful in whatever ways you define success. He owns several great businesses, has a loving family, wonderful kids and happy grandkids that he adores. He also is strongly committed to this faith and our country and had lived a great life.

During our conversation, he told me that about 18 months ago he just didn’t feel something was right and went to the doctor. It turns out he had cancer.

As I normally try to do, I seek to understand people and ask lots of questions. I’ve spoken with other individuals with cancer and they’ve said to me that they were grateful they got cancer. I asked him about that, and his immediate responses was, “Yes, I get that.” No hesitation at all. My follow-up was if he could explain that to me? He said, “ Yes. It (cancer) showed me what was really important in life.”

I thought to myself, wow, that’s the same response I’ve had from others when I’ve asked them. It’s not about the cars, houses, clothes, but it’s about your family and friends. That’s a values lesson that doesn’t hurt any of us to have each and every day. I suspect this isn’t an easy lesson to maintain at times for most of us.

What was even more powerful and just darn right surprising to me, was our own infamous bucket lists we have in the back of our minds or written down. He said, “Throw that stuff right out the door,” once you get a diagnosis like this. Wow, I hadn’t thought about in this context, but you may not have time to travel, see the world, jump from airplanes. Rather your time is now spent on saving your life.

I look forward to my future breakfast meetings with my friend and continuing to learn, improve and hopefully be impactful along the way.

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15 + 9 =

Men – Three ways to improve your sex life!

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

Men – Three ways to improve your sex life!

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

As a man, I’ve been a lifelong learner and by my side is my wife who continually educates me along with way. I’m thankful she’s helped me become a better man. Sure, it’s taken over 26 years and the fact is her job will never be done.

So what are the three ways to improve your sex life? First, do not discuss your finances before bed. I suspect you know that nothing ruins the mood more than discussing money and maybe how much you (or rather your spouse) may have overspent in the last few weeks.

The second way to improve your sex life is to be realistic when it comes to budgeting each other’s financial needs. Our needs and wants can vary greatly. Sure, my hair cut costs me $14 and I’ve been told it looks like it. But when I add a tip it’s an entire $20 bill to look this good. Now let’s say Mrs. Anderson haircuts cost $125 and by the time you add the highlights and tip it can really add up. BTW – she looks great! So how can one fairly compare a $20 haircut to a $125 haircut? It’s impossible and I will state that I am not qualified and will never do it again.

The third and final way to improve your sex life is to have some mad money. Its money that neither one of you can complain about that you spent. You know what I’m talking about. It’s that verbal performance review on how you spend your family’s hard-earned money with a couple of questions and observations – i.e. How long have you had that? How much did that cost? I can’t believe you spent much money on that. I hear this all the time with couples I work with.

The great thing about Mrs. Anderson and myself is we always agree on the who, what, where, when and why about money which is why I’m so qualified to write about. Just ask me! I’m looking to reach the one percent of individuals reading this that just can’t help themselves and money is always on their mind. Surprisingly, as a financial advisor, money is not always on my mind. Money is not always an easy subject brining up all kinds of positive and negative emotions. There is always time to bring up this topic, but you need to ask when is the best and appropriate time to discuss. And that time is never, ever bedtime.

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Are You Married to Your Business or Your Spouse?

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

Are You Married to Your Business or Your Spouse?

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

As a business owner, you’re a special breed. Many people don’t know just how much hard work, sacrifice and time goes into running a successful business. Then, there’s the stress of not just bringing a paycheck home to meet the needs of your family, but ensuring that you are able to retain and compensate your employees. Add in issues with compliance, taxes, and the economy and some days, it’s tough to even remember the world exists outside your office walls.

Yet, as the old adage goes, “It takes all types.” However, if you’re married and your spouse is not a business owner, he/she might not “get it.” We’ve all heard the horror stories about the missed anniversaries, absenteeism in children’s lives, and as we’ve talked about in our previous blogs about Prenups, the divorce rate continues to climb.

Can a successful business owner also experience happiness in their family? I emphatically say “Yes”, provided there is balance and understanding from both spouses. In my work with many business owners and their families, I’ve seen the following factors as key to allowing a business to run smoothly while keeping peace at home.

PRIORITIES – From the get-go, you must both have a mutual understanding of your goals for your business and the needs for your family. If you can honestly priorities both, you have a good chance of succeeding in other areas as well.

COMMUNICATION – Communication is the key…it really is. The couples that I see experiencing the most success in their relationships take the time to really communicate with one another. Whether that means a family meeting or routinely touching base at dinner, you must ensure that the other person is up-to-speed. If the business is in trouble, tell your spouse. If something is affecting your home life, tell your spouse. Keep those lines of communication open.

COMPROMISE – Give and take is all it takes. Yes, you might have to work late every night, but maybe those e-mails can get answered from home so your spouse can make plans one evening. Additionally, the spouse who is not the business owner must compromise as well, as the business owner will be expected to pour of themselves into the business. The other spouse knows he/she must pick up the slack around home at times.

LITTLE THINGS – Be willing to be flexible. Yes, as a business owner you’re pulling long days, but you also have the freedom to do some of the little things that either drive your spouse crazy or might be far more difficult for him/her to manage. Whether this means working from home to care for a sick child, picking up the dry-cleaning, or even running to the grocery store for last minute items, your spouse will certainly appreciate the help, especially if his/her job does not allow them the same flexibility.

OFF SWITCH – That’s right, the off-switch. As a business owner, I get it, it’s not just making a living, it’s a way of living. However, what may be your way of living might not be hospitable to your spouse. You need to find a way to unplug, so that your life has balance. You don’t need to answer EVERY e-mail immediately, nor do you need to focus on work 24/7. Delegate, wait until morning, focus your intentions while at work, and make yourself available to your family when you’re home.

GET OUT OF DODGE – Take a vacation. Regularly. If you and your spouse have an annual vacation where you’re able to spend meaningful time unplugged from the workplace and connecting to one another, it will give you something to look forward to and work toward. DO NOT SKIP VACATIONING TOGETHER. Even if you can just get away for a long weekend, it could be just what the two of you needed.

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5 + 13 =

Saving for College or Saving for Retirement

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

Saving for College or Saving for Retirement

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

Often, clients are willing to forego saving for retirement (under the guise of postponing it) in favor of saving for and financing their children’s higher education. This is a dangerous game to play and one that is not recommended.

With advancements in health care and increased lifespans, coupled with decreasing home and investment values that could occur at the wrong time, outliving your retirement is a very real possibility without proper planning.

I understand that for many families, you may not be able to save for both retirement and college simultaneously. However, you should not put your future (in terms of your retirement) on the line to cover college expenses for your children. I hear your arguments, and yes, children are the future, but just don’t do it.

“Why?” you might ask.For starters, you can get loans to cover college expenses. You cannot get loans to cover your retirement expenses. Additionally, when you’re funding your retirement savings, those financial tools may be more tax friendly AND still allow access to that money down the road. For college savings, it is very specifically for college expenses only.

The best plan? Continue saving for retirement. In fact, save as much as you can for retirement.

Then, when the kiddos start coming along, start saving for their educations as early as possible (i.e. when they’re babies), so the amount may build incrementally as they grow up.

If your kids are older now and you’re already staring down the gauntlet of college expenses, thinking that you should have started sooner, don’t fret, there are still plenty of options available to you. Contact me today for more information on formulating a plan for your situation.

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