Enhancing Your Wealth One Step at a time

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

Enhancing Your Wealth One Step at a time

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

It’s time to start enhancing your wealth one step at a time. But how do you accomplish this? Break it down and take it slowly. It doesn’t happen in one day.

It starts with small decisions that build up over time to create a big impact. Take a step back and look at your life. How do you feel about money? Do you feel secure, confident, and covered? Do you worry, get upset and feel insecure about money? Do you avoid the topic altogether? Assessing your relationship with money is important before you start to take these steps.

Once you understand where you are coming from, it will be easier to begin to shift your thinking. Money is just a means to be able to do the things that you enjoy. If you aren’t enjoying your life, no amount of money is going to change that.

1. Determine your values. What is it that sets you on fire and gets you up in the morning? What do you look forward to at the end of the day or the end of the week? What truly brings you joy and happiness in this world? Maybe when you think about all of this you realize that the best things in life are free for you. In that case, wonderful. However, the fact of the matter is that life costs money. Even just spending time with those you love usually involves a meal, a destination, or some type of entertainment.

2. Cut out the unnecessary stuff. Do you have a junk drawer at home? The one with miscellaneous pens, rubber bands, and free giveaways? Why is it that we hang onto so much that has no value? We live in a culture that loves stuff. It somehow became a sign that someone has ‘made it’ when they have a bigger house, more toys, and a flashier lifestyle. But what in your life could you do without? I’m guessing most of it.

3. Reframe your thoughts. When you think about saving vs. spending, shift your mindset. Would you rather get an expensive coffee drink with a flavor shot and whipped cream on top every day of the week or retire to a house on the water where nobody knows your name? Life is full of trade-offs, and unless we begin to think of the future as something to consider in this moment, we will never have what we think we need down the road.

4. Finally, discuss with others. Yes, it’s taboo to talk about personal topics. But get a feel for what other people make, spend, and save. Determine whether you’d like to make your money go further for you now or in the future. Talk to trusted advisors, friends, and people who are willing to engage in conversation. Especially if you’re struggling financially, talk about it.

In short, I am simplifying your life and saving your time by taking care of this end of the deal. You can focus on your kids’ sporting events, family birthdays, and work deadlines while I worry about your money. Know that it is in good hands.

One common thread that you and I have is 24 hours in a day. If you don’t protect your calendar, before you know it, you are no longer in charge of your schedule. We need to protect one our most important resources – time.

I’ve become guarded of my schedule over the years, so I don’t feel overwhelmed with the day to day expectations of my family and clients. I know I live by a calendar, I have to in order to keep it all straight each day. It’s even typical for my wife and I to compare our schedules to meet the demands of our family. Yet, that’s usually while we are in bed, with computers in each of our laps. Do you have a favorite calendar resource you use to track and schedule your meetings? Do you make a checklist on there too?

The bottom line is that neither you nor I can meet with everyone. I wish I could, I truly enjoy hearing each person’s stories. However, we need to protect our time and our calendar to focus on the items that are most important to us in helping us reaching our goals – personally and professionally.

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Dream Board Session

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

Dream Board Session

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

Have you heard? We are hosting a dream board session on July 28! Learn more by going to this facebook event page. We decided to hold this event because dream boards have become very important in our own lives. We use this boards, which sit right next to our desks, as daily reminders of the ideas, goals, dreams, plans, and visions we have for ourselves and our futures. By having these within sight every single day, we become much more motivated to do something about those dreams. Another piece of it is that these dreams cannot be accomplished alone. There is power in community and in sharing with others. For these reasons, we have created this session that will allow you to do the same for yourself and even sign up if you’re interested in follow-up.

OR watch the video below

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How Much to Spend on a Wedding Gift

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

How Much to Spend on a Wedding Gift

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

It’s something we’ve all thought about when invited to celebrate that special day – how much to spend on a wedding gift. Before tackling this subject, it’s important to note that giving should be based on both the financial position you are in as well as your relationship to the couple. With that, here are some general guidelines to follow.

Realistically, you have three options when it comes to wedding gifts. Either you can buy directly off of the couple’s registry, give cash or check, or give a gift card to the store that the registry exists at or a place you know they enjoy. Although creativity is wonderful, most engaged couples have thought through what it is that they need to get started, so don’t stray too far from that.

Certainly, money can be tricky, especially because there are so many different reasons for going to a wedding. However, a good rule of thumb is to spend at least $50 on a wedding gift. Usually, this lower threshold (under $100) is appropriate for acquaintances, coworkers, neighbors, and distant family members.

Now, I suspect most families don’t track their spending on a daily or monthly basis. Luckily, St. Croix Advisors clients have access to iAdvise- the most advanced financial planning software. Further, it allows us to track their spending and help establish a monthly budget.

The $100-$150 range is where most people land when purchasing a wedding gift. This amount makes sense for friends, cousins, and those you have a close working relationship with. Anything above $150 is suitable for those closest to you or for people who have the financial ability to give generously.

Additionally, it is a good idea to try to tackle some of the bigger items on the registry first that may be a bit too pricey for the new couple. Currently, you may not be able to afford to give a washing machine as a wedding gift, but maybe you have a good friend going to the wedding who would be willing to combine gifts. It’s a lot easier to run out to the store for some hand towels rather than new appliances.

Also, don’t forget about the other costs associated with weddings. Generally, are you the type of person who buys a new outfit for a special occasion? In this case, were you invited to a bridal shower, bachelorette party, or a similar celebration? Following the wedding, are you going to be giving anniversary gifts? Indeed these are all good questions to ask yourself – try not to overshoot or undershoot on the gift.

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Here are 5 tips to make your 2018 tax season better than 2017

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

Here are 5 tips to take your 2018 tax season better than 2017

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

It’s tax season and Uncle Sam comes collecting taxes; again.

With Trump tax cuts in effect for 2018, know the key areas that impact you.

– Many of us will see some form of income tax deduction as the rates have decreased. That’s good news. With the increase in personal exemptions to $12,000 for individual and $24,000 for married taxpayers, you may not need to file an itemized tax return.

$10,000 Federal deduction limit for high-income tax states.

– We now have a cap of $10,000 federal tax deduction for state and local taxes. This has an adverse impact on higher wage earners. This provision makes living in an income free tax-free state very appealing. For those of us living in Minnesota or Wisconsin, not so much.

For those still working – fund Roth 401k and/or Roth IRA accounts.

– Pay now or pay later. It’s just that simple. If you’ve been told you cannot contribute to a Roth account, you’ve been told wrong. There are various rules on how to fund these accounts, but you’ll appreciate that tax-free income when you retire.

Keep great records – it’s easy to forget and miss deductions.

– Use technology to track your records and numbers. Keep detailed records and receipts so you don’t have to work too hard early in the New Year.

Schedule a tax-planning meeting with your CPA over the summer months.

– CPA’s want to have tax planning meetings with their clients. They want to have these meetings mid-year to allow for time to make adjustments and make necessary changes as needed

Let’s work on just paying our fair share today and tomorrow. Taking the time now can help you to make strategic money decisions and hopefully keep more money in your checkbook vs. Uncle Sam’s. If you need to add a CPA with a business acumen to your team, I’d be happy to make an introduction.

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Certified Financial Planner & Fiduciary – What’s the difference

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

Certified Financial Planner & Fiduciary – What’s the difference

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

What is a Certified Financial Planner?

First of all, I have a financial planner, but they are certified? Secondly, what does it mean to be a fiduciary? Honestly, I’m just trying to find someone who can help me make good financial decisions. As of now, the differences between the variety of advisors are confusing to me. Moving forward, I want to know what I should look for and focus on.

So are all financial advisors, financial coaches, financial planners, wealth advisors, and brokers CERTIFIED? Well, the answer is no.

Only CFP’s (Certified Financial Planners) are certified. Furthermore, CFPs have an entire education process to complete. Moreover, rigorous exams and ongoing education requirements are part of the gig. Also, it can take a year or two of education to obtain this designation. Certainly, it doesn’t happen overnight. Correspondingly, the requirements are not the same throughout the industry. Provided, some titles require less time and energy to obtain. Personally, if I’m searching for a financial advisor, I want to understand the different designations. Additionally, I want to know what was actually required to obtain that designation.

Nowadays, many brokers, representatives, and advisors have to only meet a ‘suitability’ standard. Namely, the investment must be suitable to make today. Again, CFPs have a more ongoing duty to their clients.

A fiduciary has a higher standard to meet. It’s an ongoing standard. They have to ensure that your investments are hitting certain targets on a regular basis. It just doesn’t stop after the service is sold.

Also, fiduciaries document everything. For instance, they outline how they work, their processes, and how they get compensated. Realistically, Besides, I’d only work with someone who is a fiduciary. Most of all, I want to know someone has my back and is held to a high standard.

Not all planners are created equally.

There are many different types of financial firms or companies. Some are compensated through commission, while others are hourly or fixed-rate. Most financial advisors are not fiduciaries nor Certified Financial Planners. Don’t be afraid to have meaningful conversations and ask questions. It’s important to understand the differences between all these types of ‘advisors.’

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4 Steps on how to afford college – High School graduation is in the air.

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

4 Steps on how to afford college – High School graduation is in the air.

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

How to afford college?

I’m not worried about having to pay $10,000, $15,000 or $30,000 each year for four or five years for my kids to attend college. I used to worry about having to save or pay for college. I don’t anymore. My perspective completely changed based on my personal experience that wasn’t even related to paying for college. I’m happy to have a sidebar conversation on why if you ever want. Back to paying for college and how to make it affordable. Here are 4 simple steps each and every one of our kids can take to help pay or reduce their college tuition bill.

Over my vast experience in the financial services world, talking with hundreds if not over a thousand people, it’s generally not the mortgage or the car payment, but rather just everyday life that really gets us. It all adds up. $5 here, $50 there, $250 here- it all adds up to real money each month. It’s financial leakage. We all have it, yet, some of us are better than others at controlling it.

ACT Score

This is the best way to obtain free money for college. When you kids focus and invest the time preparing for this exam, chances are it will be money in the bank, depending on the school if you score a 30 or higher. Most kids are not going to achieve a perfect score on the ACT to get a full ride, but I suspect many have the chance to receive some type of money based on their score. I know this is to be true as I’ve seen it firsthand.

FAFSA Form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)

This is going to seem like a dah moment, but it’s overlooked and so easy to fill out your form wrong and miss out on real money. First off, you don’t even want to fill out the form, so you rush through it not paying attention to the details. For example, line 91 of the FAFSA form wants to know about parent’s current investments. Without thinking or looking into the details, you’ll look at your balance sheet and fill it in. But wait…. what are they really asking? This line has major exclusions – the home they live in, cash, savings and checking accounts the value of life insurance and retirement plans, and other similar types of accounts. You want to make sure you understand the question they are asking and provide the actual number they seek. Otherwise, you might be missing out on financial aid monies.

Award letters

No matter what, you want to schedule an appointment with the financial aid officers. I’ve had clients knock off $3,000, $10,000 off their kid’s yearly tuition bill just by making a phone call. Many are reluctant to make a phone call or plead on their own why they need additional financial support. I see it this way, do you have another way within 10 minutes to make $5,000 or $10,000? No, you do not!

Save money with community college first

I know many will not find this ideal. Heading to a local community college, but it’s a great strategy on how to afford college and truly allow you time in discovering what you‘d like to pursue as a degree. Changing your college major is expensive. Remember, when you graduate with a four-year degree from a college or university, it’s doesn’t matter that you attended the local community college.

These are four simple steps on how to afford college. College will be your 3rd or 4th largest expenses in your lifetime. Let’s it get it right together. If you want to discuss other money-saving strategies, give me a shout.

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