Paying for College: Life Lesson 14 of 50


The Concern About Paying for College


paying for college

It’s a real worry parents have today, and it’s not surprising, considering college can cost upwards of $100,000 or more. Paying for college has become very worrisome, and we’ve created a system that encourages you to want others to help pay for some or all of your child’s education.

It’s a natural question to ask where a high school graduate is going to college. And if the response is anything but a four-year degree, it seems like, as a society, we look down on them. Not every student is destined for a four-year program, and that’s perfectly okay.

Technical schools can provide the education and skills necessary to obtain many high-paying jobs, such as auto mechanics, HVAC, LPN, RN, plumbers, linemen, etc. I know because I hire many individuals from these fields, as I lack the expertise to perform these tasks myself.

College tuition has gotten out of control and I suspect that will never change in our society.

Here are a few ways to help you plan for paying for college.

  1. Start setting money aside the day children are born.
  2. Start at a two-year program if needed and then transfer to a four-year program.
  3. Explore options at technical colleges.
  4. Consider not going to college. Many of my most financially successful clients do not have formal educations and instead pursued their passions and worked hard.
  5. Find an employer who offers tuition reimbursement or on-the-job training.

Today’s youth have more educational options than ever before. If your child’s education is a top priority, you may need to redirect your financial resources to saving for their education.

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Ask yourself- can my portfolio support my lifestyle in my retirement? 

15 + 6 =

Starting a Business: Life Lesson 3 of 50


What’s the Real Fear of Starting a Business?


starting a business

For many of you, you made the leap of starting your own business and would never go back to work for someone else. Many might say you’re unemployable at this point. Whether driven by a compelling idea, a deep passion, or a quest for fulfillment, you recognize that becoming a business owner is the path to achieving these aspirations. But yet, one significant hurdle prevents most people from starting their own business, and it’s quite simple: it’s the lack of a paycheck.

It’s hard for many to start their own business because of the need, or desire, for a reliable paycheck. That’s the biggest roadblock for most people who want to be entrepreneur — money. Even with the best business plans and hard work, the statistics reveal a challenging reality: 50% of businesses don’t make it five years. The odds are not in your favor.

I’ve been self-employed for 18 years and it wasn’t always an easy road.

Even today, challenges persist, but experience, on-the-job training, stress management skills, and an evolving perspective on life and business have made these challenges easier to overcome.

If starting a business was easy, everyone one would do it. However, it requires a level of personal and professional commitment like nothing else. Sacrifices will happen, including time with your family, friends, and your money.

If you are looking to start a business, let’s talk on creating a plan that allows you to fulfill your dreams, passions, and, hopefully, allows you to make a living doing what you love.

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7 + 10 =

2023 Year-End Financial Checklist and Considerations


2023 Year-End Financial Checklist and Considerations


Before we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of family events and holiday gatherings, let’s take a moment to consider some important end-of-year financial matters. As 2024 approaches, life tends to get busier, making it worthwhile to address these tasks now and clear some mental space.
In the ever-changing landscape of personal finance, staying ahead of the curve is crucial for securing a stable future, whether you’re actively working or enjoying a well-deserved retirement.

To assist you, I’ve compiled a comprehensive year-end financial checklist covering vital aspects of financial planning. Let’s delve into the checklist to ensure you’re on track for financial success.

Financial Checklist for Those Still in the Workforce

With open enrollment around the corner, it’s a great time to evaluate your job benefits and retirement savings strategy.

Health Savings Accounts (HSA):

If you’re enrolled in a high-deductible medical plan, seize the opportunity to maximize your Health Savings Account (HSA) contribution. Aim for the cap of $7,750 for families and $1,000 for individuals. For those aged 55 and older, an extra $1,000 contribution is permitted.

401(k) Contributions:

Your 401(k) is a cornerstone of your retirement savings. To make the most of this valuable resource, maximize your contributions, reaching the cap of $22,500 (excluding employer contributions). If you’re aged 50 or older, an additional $7,500 is allowed. Proactively managing your 401(k) ensures that you’re on track for a comfortable retirement.


For those utilizing SIMPLE IRAs, consider maximizing your contributions, which have a limit of $15,500 (excluding employer contributions). Individuals aged 50 and above can contribute an extra $3,500.

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA):

If you have an FSA, use those remaining dollars before the year ends. In most cases, FSA dollars follow a “use it or lose it” rule. This means that any funds remaining in your FSA at the end of the plan year typically do not roll over and are forfeited.

Not sure the best strategies for your work benefits? Consider letting me help you review your employer benefit options for the upcoming year.

Financial Checklist for Those in Retirement

While the following checklist isn’t tailored to employment, individuals in the workforce can still benefit from these essential to-dos.

Property and Casualty Insurance Checkup:

With home prices rising, revisit your Property and Casualty (P&C) coverage. Ensure that your policy aligns with inflation, scrutinizing individual line-by-line limits and the full replacement maximum. Proactive adjustments now can save you from unforeseen challenges down the road, particularly if you’re in storm-prone areas like Florida.

Roth Conversions for Tax Efficiency:

Seize the opportunity presented by historically low tax rates through Roth conversions. Assess whether this strategy aligns with your current tax bracket and time horizon.

Monetary Gifts and Strategic Giving:

Take advantage of the annual gift exclusion by gifting up to $17,000 per person in 2023. For couples, this means a joint gift of $34,000. Leverage this allowance to support your loved ones financially.

Year-End Charitable Giving:

Contribute to causes close to your heart through cash, IRA Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs), or stock. Explore avenues that align with your philanthropic goals, providing both benefits to recipients and potential tax advantages.

Donor-Advised Funds for Strategic Philanthropy:

If you find yourself uncertain about specific organizations, consider establishing or contributing to a Donor-Advised Fund (DAF). This innovative approach empowers you to invest funds strategically for future charitable donations, offering both flexibility and valuable tax deductions.

Estate Planning Review:

Regularly reassess the beneficiaries listed on your retirement accounts and insurance policies. Life is dynamic, requiring updates to your overall estate plan. Stay proactive in aligning your assets with current intentions and circumstances.

Let’s Ensure You’re Ready for 2024

In summary, here’s your year-end financial checklist:

    ❍ Maximize contributions to your Health Savings Accounts (HSA).

    ❍ Maximize your 401(k) Contributions.
    ❍ Maximize contributions to your SIMPLE IRAs.
    ❍ Use any remaining Flexible Spending Account (FSA) dollars.
    ❍ Review and optimize your job benefits for the upcoming year.
    ❍ Conduct a comprehensive Property and Casualty Insurance Checkup.
    ❍ Explore the benefits of Roth Conversions for improved tax efficiency.
    ❍ Make the most of the annual gift exclusion for Monetary Gifts and Strategic Giving.
    ❍ Contribute to Year-End Charitable Giving through cash, RMDs, or stock.
    ❍ Consider the advantages of Donor-Advised Funds for flexible and tax-efficient philanthropy.
    ❍ Review the beneficiaries in your various estate planning documents.

This is by no means a comprehensive list and not all of them will pertain to you. If you’d like to delve into any of these tasks together, reach out today for a tailored strategic discussion.

Let’s ensure these financial matters are addressed, allowing you to wholeheartedly focus on welcoming the new year with friends and family. Your financial well-being is my priority.

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10 + 13 =

Are You Behind on Saving for Retirement?


Are You Behind on Saving for Retirement?


If you find yourself counting down the years to retirement and worrying that your savings aren’t quite up to par, you’re far from alone.
This is a common theme among those approaching retirement age. This feeling can persist even if you have saved diligently. However, it’s important to recognize that this uneasiness is not uncommon, and it often stems from expectations. Start with these steps to gauge your current financial situation.

Use the 4% Rule

For a quick back-of-the-napkin calculation to help you know where you stand, I like to use the 4% rule.

Just add up all of your investment and retirement account values and multiply that number by .04 to determine your (hypothetical) annual withdrawal, then divide that number by 12 to get your monthly “income.”

For example, if you saved $500,000 for retirement, the 4% rule would give you a monthly income of roughly $2,000, which you can expect to last approximately 25-30 thirty years.

It’s important to note that this is a simplified example. Factors such as inflation, market performance, healthcare and personal living expenses can all impact how long your savings actually last.

Is 4% the right planning number for everyone? Nope! But it’s a great place to start when you’re considering your spending habits and financial future. For a customized retirement strategy that takes into account your specific financial situation and goals, reach out to us.

Assessing Your Spending Habits

Now, it’s easy for someone like me to tell you to cut your expenses, but depending on the decisions you’ve made throughout your life, your financial commitments can’t always be quickly or easily changed. Even so, taking stock of your current spending habits is an important first step toward changing them.

Knowledge is power, and I believe that our checkbooks reveal our true financial priorities. Think about it: our account ledger can show us where we spend our money each day, each week, each month, and each year. Read my blog post on Financial Leakage and Budgeting for tips and ideas.

Rethinking Retirement

The world has changed so much when it comes to the meaning of retirement. Rather than retire outright, some older workers are shifting from full to part time or even taking up new, less stressful jobs.

Many people are rethinking their work lives, especially as they approach retirement. Depending on your personal goals and financial situation, some out-of-the-box thinking may be necessary. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with working in your golden years—but I’d rather have that be your choice!

Financial security in retirement is achievable, but it starts with taking informed actions today. Here at St. Croix Advisors, we can help you simplify your golden years and enjoy it to the fullest. Contact us today.

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Ask yourself- can my portfolio support my lifestyle in my retirement? 

4 + 2 =

Achieving Financial Security


Achieving Financial Security


I’ve tried saying no, but it does occasionally offer some benefits…
These days, I limit the time I spend on social media. I check to see what’s happening with family, friends, and clients, and I log off quickly. I don’t even have the Facebook app on my phone. One useful group I did find on Facebook was a retirement group where people pose retirement/investment questions to strangers to solicit advice. In many respects, I find this scary (you have no idea who these people are or what their background or qualifications are for giving financial advice), but at the same time, it’s helpful to see what different people are thinking about as they approach or experience their retirement years.

One common theme among those I interact with is that most are seeking financial security. And why would anyone not? But “financial security” looks and means something different to each of us based on our background, our upbringing, and our lifestyle, as well as what we strive for down the road.

Many times, what “security” looks like is not just a mathematical calculation but an emotional one. One recent Facebook post broke down the three levels of financial security one can achieve: financial security, financial independence, and financial freedom.

Financial security is defined as having enough income to cover your basic living expenses. It’s a foundational level that takes decades of hard work and saving to achieve, where you’ve worked for thirty or forty years and can finally put in your two-week notice and not look back. (I often hear people say you need a million dollars saved up before you can retire. The truth is, you don’t.)

Financial independence is what I think most people seek when they use the term “financial security,” but it’s hard to differentiate between financial security and financial independence. Financial independence just means having more passive income to cover your lifestyle, which includes more than the basic necessities of financial security. That might include extra income to travel once or twice a year, eat out a few times a week, and have extra spending money each month.

The third level is financial freedom. Very few people will ever truly achieve this level of freedom. This is when you have multiple passive income streams in place to create the life you’ve always dreamed of, which enables you to do the things you love while also giving back. You still live within a budget, but this level of freedom allows you additional choices on how you live.

Common to all three of these definitions is the phrase “passive income.” Passive income comes in a host of different forms, from Social Security, an income stream from your investment/retirement accounts, a pension (though this is becoming less and less common for younger people), income from a business you own, rental real estate, and so on. For some, passive income is even viewed as part-time work in a low-stress position where they aren’t taking their job home at night.

When I think about financial security, I think about time. Time to take a relaxing vacation—so relaxed you don’t adhere to a rigid timeline. Time to cook those meals that take hours to prepare and eat, take naps you don’t have to set alarms for because you slept so well the night before, and finally start to conquer that mile-long to-do list. That time to invest in ourselves is what I want to help all my clients achieve.

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Ask yourself- can my portfolio support my lifestyle in my retirement? 

11 + 8 =

The Dreaded B-Word


The Dreaded B-Word


Photo by Carlos Muza

Not a day goes by when someone doesn’t say to me, “I wonder where all my money goes?” or “I wish the month were a week or two shorter” or “I make a lot of money, I just don’t understand how I can spend so much of it.” Most of us wish we better understood where we’re really spending all our money. Luckily for me, Mrs. Anderson has followed my financial advice over the years. (Almost too well—I’ve created a financial ninja. Sure, it’s great at times…but other times, she asks what I purchased from Amazon for $19.28) Everyone’s on a budget, whether formal or informal. But knowledge is power, and we can all stand to be more impactful with our resources.
If you’re the type of person who has no interest in budgeting, guess what? Unless you’re consistently spending beyond your means, you are already using a budget. Congratulations! Now, to curb your spending, just focus on achieving these three numbers:

  • 20 percent savings
  • 30 percent lifestyle
  • 50 percent housing

If you conquer your spending and savings rates, you’re more likely to enjoy life down the road. But no matter how well your informal budget may be working, one way or another, you still need to start tracking the numbers.

So what three steps can you take to understand where your money is going and how you can finally plug your financial leakage?

1. Make technology your friend.

Some Saturday or Sunday while you’re watching a movie or a ball game, invest a couple hours in improving your finances. Try using software like Mint, a website like, or Google for a host of other options to choose from.

Don’t worry about what happened six months ago; this your opportunity to start fresh. Establish where you are spending money each day, week, and month. You can categorize your spending by restaurants, events, home items, and any other useful category, right down to stamps. If you watch your pennies, the dollars will follow.

2. Create a budget.

I know, the word “budget” makes you cringe. (I hate budgeting too, and I’m in the money businesses!) But we all need to establish a baseline for how much we really have to save, spend, or give away each month. To truly achieve financial peace, you need to create a margin between your income and your spending. This is so much easier when you make technology your friend.

By looking at the numbers in detail, you can finally see each day, week, or month where you are over- or underspending. I know what you’ll discover: you actually have more money than you thought you did, and you’ll wish you would have done this exercise years ago.

3. Understand your priorities.

Prioritizing your goals for your money is the only way to truly master it and direct it where you want it to go. Priorities can range from paying off your debt, saving 20 percent of your gross income, tithing, helping others, paying cash for that new car, and so on. I believe that more stuff means more money and more stress; look for opportunities to spend your money in creative, thoughtful ways, not just on the acquisition of more “stuff.”

Spending a few hours reversing the flow of your financial leakage will be empowering. Now, you can direct where you want your money to go and align your actions and values. Become the master of your money instead of letting your money master you.

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Ask yourself- can my portfolio support my lifestyle in my retirement? 

9 + 8 =