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 exciting when you receive that wedding invitation in the mail. You open it with anticipation wondering when’s the date, time and location. Can you make it? Can you find a sitter? What should you wear? All important details, yet with weddings costing so much ($25,000, $50,000 or more), how much should you spend on the gift?

That may be the biggest question we face. Are you related to the couple, friends, great friends, co-workers, maybe an employee? What if it’s a second or third marriage? I know these thoughts go through my mind when we discuss what gift we going to bring.

Here are my thoughts on how much to spend on a wedding gift:

If you’re the parents of the bride and groom – you’ve probably paid enough. But the gift that makes a ton of memories is helping or paying for their honeymoon. Weddings are so stressful, and I suspect they’d remember more about the honeymoon vs. the actual wedding itself.

  • Casual friends, co-workers, and employees: $50 to $100 per person.
  • Close friends: $75 to $125 per person.
  • Family members: $100 to $150 per person.

Sure, we can focus on a dollar amount, but I’d rather focus on something more special and priceless for a gift. Couples receive all kinds of gifts such as cash, silverware, place settings, etc. Once they write the thank you notes, they won’t remember what you got them. So, let’s change that. Plan something special or memorable for them that will mean more to them than going off a bridal registry at Target.

Here are a few creative wedding ideas:
  • A special picture frame you designed for them that they’ll see every day.
  • A three-day getaway after the honeymoon you used frequent flyer points to pay for. A donation to their favorite non-profit organization in their name
  • If it’s one of your employees, give them an extra week of paid time off.
  • Offer to take their kids for a week while they are off on their honeymoon (maybe not your employee’s kids).

When you stop and think about it, it can be priceless on how creative you can be with a wedding gift. They invited you to their most important day and now it’s your time to think outside the box and have fun with their wedding gift.

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

9 + 13 =

Tracking Your Financial Leakage

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

Tracking Your Financial Leakage

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

Not a day or week goes by when someone doesn’t say to me, “I wonder where all my money goes?” or “I wish the month was a week or two shorter” or “I make a lot of money and I just don’t understand how I can spend so much money.” Most of us seek to understand where we spend all our money. So what are three steps you can take to understand where your money goes and how to finally plug your financial leakage?

With the New Year upon us, it’s a great time to make technology your friend. Invest a couple hours to improve your finances on a Saturday or Sunday while watching a movie or a ballgame. For our clients, we use iAdvise (for those who are not clients but would like access as a standalone, let me know) or a free-spending tracking software is www.mint.com. January 1 is a great starting date.

Don’t worry about what happened six months ago. Start fresh. Establish where you are spending money each day, week and month. You can categorize your spending by stores, events, things and detailed categories right down to stamps. If you watch your pennies, the dollars will follow.

The second step for 2018 is to create a budget.

I know….budget….I hate budgeting……and I’m in the money businesses. But we all need to establish a baseline on where and how much we really have each month to save, spend or give away. It’s so much easier when you make technology your friend. If you get truly detailed, you can know each day, week or month where you are over or under spending. I know what you’ll discover – you actually have more money than you thought and you’ll wish you would have done this exercise years ago. You need to create a margin between your income and spending so you can achieve financial peace.

The third step for 2018 is to understand the priorities you have for your money.

This is the only way to truly master your money and direct it to where you want it to go. Priorities can range from paying off your debt, targeting to save 15% of your gross income, tithing, helping others, paying cash for the new car, etc. I do believe that the more stuff, more money, more stress.

Spending a few hours to kick off 2018 to stop your financial leakage will be empowering. Empowering you to direct where you want your money to go and aligning your actions and values together. Become the master of your money versus your money mastering you.

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

10 + 2 =

You can recover from bad financial decisions

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

You can recover from bad financial decisions

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

Every now and then, I receive a desperate call for help – that call that no one wants to receive. They all have the same premise – someone made a bad decision and knew better and how are they going to recover financially and move on? It’s an SOS of how to recover from bad financial decisions or crisis.

My heart goes out to these people. These events shouldn’t define who you are. John Maxwell, Pastor, author of Failing Forward, talks about how these events shouldn’t define who we are. It’s a moment in time and can we fail FORWARD from these experiences. When you start to contemplate this, it’s so true for all us. We can fail forward, but I’d suggest it isn’t easy and each an one of us will probably require help.

Here are three steps you can take.

#1 – Take the embarrassment out.

There isn’t one person that I don’t encounter that hasn’t or isn’t currently experiencing their own problems. I have them too. Find someone who has walked in your shoes. Most of us are afraid of sharing our problems because others are going to judge us. I’m here to tell you it’s easier said than done, but we need to get over it. I’ve learned over the years how much I can learn from others and it’s downright powerful – so powerful at times where I don’t have to re-invent the wheel.

This can come in many forms – support groups, church organizations, Employee Assistance Programs, counselors, non-profits, attorneys, CPAs, financial advisors, and even government resources. Do your homework, ask lots of questions about how can they help you, and how they have helped others in your situation.

#2 – You built it once; time to go do it again.

No one’s said life’s going to be easy. At times, it’s not. I’ve talked to people who have lost it all; big time. For many, we forget that the pile of crap we are walking through, someone might have it worse. Sometimes the best way to rebuild is to be grateful for what we do have and realize that our situation could be worse. Though at times, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.

Many times, we have to recover from a financial hardship or setback. For some it might be recovering from an unexpected $5,000 bill, for others, it might be that they lost their entire net worth. I’m here to tell you that if you built the financial resources the first time, you can do it again, and you know it.

It starts by examining your financial priorities and making some hard decisions you never thought you’d have to make.

It’s not ideal because you never thought you’d find yourself in this situation, but you are. So returning to the basics is where to start. You will probably need to make some hard short-term decisions. Just go with it. Don’t fight it. Rip off the Band-Aid. It’s the slow rip that’s the most painful.

This might require selling your home, getting rid of stuff you really don’t need, cashing in your retirement account, taking a loan and list goes on. None of these are ideal but when you are in a tough situation, you need to explore all your options.

With your short-term decisions behind you, you can look toward mid-term decisions. What’s the plan for going forward? How are you going to pay yourself back, pay others back? How are you going to forgive someone else so you can move forward? Sometimes we need to reinvent ourselves. Do you need a new job that pays more or has better benefits? Maybe you need to change your living situation. It’s time to look at those decisions.

#3 – Bankruptcy

It’s the last resort, but it’s there if you need it. Our government has established a stop-gap measure and even a second chance option called bankruptcy. I recall a time when if someone filed for bankruptcy it was disgraceful and you were viewed as a bad or questionable person.

How many times did Henry Ford, Walt Disney or Famous Dave’s file for bankruptcy? Many. It happens. It’s a moment in time. It doesn’t define who you are, rather it’s a resource for a fresh start so that you never have to find yourself in the same situation again.

If you reached a point where you feel you’ve exhausted all your options, speaking with a bankruptcy attorney is a good option. They can educate you and help you determine if this is the right option for you and your situation.

You can recover from bad financial decisions.

Shit happens. Life is short. Sometimes life is hard. But that doesn’t mean we can’t fix or find ourselves in a much better situation in a short period of time by making some hard short-term decisions. If you find yourself in this type of situation and would like a sounding board, please feel free to reach out. I’m happy to lend an ear and see what resources we can help put you in touch with.

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

15 + 8 =

2018 New Year Resolutions

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

2018 New Year Resolutions

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

Each year I make a couple of New Year Resolutions I’d like to fulfill. One I’ve had for years – drop more pounds. I’ve done well, but the remaining 20 or so have been the hardest. Thus, weight loss has made my list again this year. Many of you might also have that goal on your list, but I suspect saving more money or reducing your debt is probably also on there.

For many, money has always been a struggle.

It’s hard to balance our wants and needs. A great New Year’s resolution would be to understand our relationship to money. Our money values – good or bad – were established at a young age. Most of us learned about money from our parents and maybe we need to reset our expectations and have a reset in 2018.

I suspect no matter the resolution we’d like to fulfill has to deal with trade-offs or saying no today so we can say yes tomorrow. To save more money, we are saying no to “stuff” today. We are postponing our wants until a future date. We continue to learn to be content with what we have. Sometimes “no” seems to be the hardest word or action to follow through with.

I’m a big believer in visually seeing the goals I’d like to accomplish.

I’ve created a “Dream Board” for what I want to accomplish in my life. I have it in my home office so I can see it every day to ask myself one important question…” Are the decisions I’m making today helping me reach the goals I’ve set forth or not?” At times, I already know the answer is no, which means I need to reset my thoughts or actions to work my plan.

Accountability partner. Sometimes we need to share what we want to accomplish and not be judged. I know I’m that way. I have some big goals I’d like to accomplish with the time I have remaining. Everything I hear and read about strategies to help you reach your goals say you need to share your goals with someone. It needs to be someone that you respect and wants to help you reach your goals, and won’t judge you no matter how crazy your goals might be.

A great New Year’s resolution would be no new debt!

No new car loans, no more adding to the credit card, no buying that oversized home because long-term interest rates are low. We all have the ability to be debt free. Sure, it’s not going to happen overnight, but it certainly can be achieved before you or I retire. Remember, debt limits your future lifestyle.

If you seek an accountability partner in 2018 to help you reach your goals, I’d be honored to be that person. Or if you’d like help in creating a dream board, I can also help you with that.

Here’s to you fulfilling your 2018 New Year Resolution!

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

7 + 4 =

4 Financial Steps – I want to know where your money goes?

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

4 Financial Steps – I want to know where your money goes?

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

Financial Steps

Doesn’t that seem to be the $64,000 question when you review your finances? You make good money and it seems to never be enough. Where does your money go? Let’s talk about 4 different financial steps to take.

I’ve opened up my credit card statement for the month and I can’t remember where I spent so much money without looking at the details. But, once I look at the detailed bills, I go oh “Yep, right there. I remember that, I remember that.” I always wonder how the heck did it add up so fast? I can’t be the only one that this has happened to. Have you experienced this?

Does it seem money just disappear in seconds yet it takes so darn long to earn it? Have you ever received a bonus and once you received that bonus within a day or two it’s gone?

Here are four steps easy steps to follow to know where your money goes:

1. Make technology your friend

With online financial software, you can not only track your day-to-day spending, establish a budget and see daily where you stand financially. Investing a few hours now will turn into real money overtime in your pocket. Mint.com is a good option and I use Emoney as it ties into comprehensive financial planning software along with budgeting software. You can print all kinds of reports and most importantly track your financial progress.

2. Cash is great but it’s hard to track down the penny

The reason I like cash is I seem to spend less vs. using my Marriott Rewards card. But, I do like all the upgrades and perks that come along with using a credit card and it does make it easy to link my transactions to my financial software. With cash, you must be disciplined about manually entering all your spending into your software.

3. Establish a base-line of spending over 90 to 120 days

It becomes surprising when you start looking month-to-month where all your money goes. This will allow you to make some easy, yet some hard decision about your spending patterns.

4. Financial “leakage” happens everyone

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 called financial leakage. We all have it yet, some of us are better than others at controlling it.

With knowledge about your money, you become even more powerful and capable of reaching your financial goals. You can make better, informed decisions along with reducing your financial stress and aligning your actions with your values is empowering.

St. Croix Advisors, LLC is an investment advisory firm. We seek to help our clients achieve financial simplicity. Before implementing financial ideas you read, work with a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or CPA for advice or recommendations that fit your own financial situation.

Also, sign up for our eNewsletter blog that includes timely financial matters, news, and planning strategies that you can implement today.

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

10 + 13 =

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

14 + 8 =