Archive for the ‘Goals’ Category

Hanging On for the Ride

August 25th, 2015

roller coaster rideI’m a fan of the Iowa State Fair and recently filled one of the shifts at Camp CY, the Iowa State University, Iowa State University Extension & Outreach display in the Varied Industries Building. My job for the day was to assist individuals with taking a virtual roller coaster ride using Oculus Rift. The College of Design FLEX team had created an amazing ride through campus and jokingly suggested that there was a “go fund me” campaign to begin construction. Many times during the day I had to put a hand on someone’s shoulder or behind their back to keep them from losing their balance as they experienced the virtual twisting and turning of the ride.
I thought of this today when visiting with an individual who had been listening to the financial news and was feeling concerned about their retirement funds. Investments are very much like a roller coaster ride; you have to decide how much you can handle the experience. As long as things are slowly climbing upward we’re okay, but you can’t go up forever. Financial experts are sharing the typical response: it’s a normal correction; now is a good time to invest; historically when the S&P experiences a drop it has a good recovery period; and those with more time will be okay. Sort of like that hand I placed on someone’s shoulder to steady them.
I expect that we’re in for a bumpy financial ride with many different dips and rises. The Federal Reserve has been giving out early information that they will increase interest rates (look for news in September), and China’s market adjustments are something to expect. As usual the best advice is to stay the course if you are confident you have things allocated correctly; find someone, your financial adviser, to give you some support; and be prepared for some discomfort as we roll ahead.


Goals, Saving

Your Money Your Future

May 1st, 2015

YMYFlogoLife is not about money — but how you deal with money has a huge impact on your quality of life, your family’s life, and the life of your community.

When you have sound information and strong skills, you can make your money work for you and for your future.

The Your Money, Your Future program is a 2-hour, online class offered the first Monday each month.  The class will help you get more for your money, show you how to save money for your financial goals, and manage credit. There is still room available in the May 4th class which begins at 5:30. To register or get more information, contact me at


Credit, Goals, Saving, Spending plans

Money Smart Week – April 18-25, 2015

April 21st, 2015

IMG_0039Money Smart Week, started 13 years ago by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, is designed as a public awareness campaign to help consumers better manage their personal finances. Here in Iowa, more than 200 partner organizations have joined in the fun, promoting financial education with many interesting opportunities to learn. All Money Smart Week programs are free, and strictly educational (no marketing allowed).

ISU Extension and Outreach has been a MSW partner for many years. Programs are offered for audiences from preschoolers to seniors. From scout nights to shred days, essay and poster contests, geocache for college cash, piggy banks, books, and kites – in many cases, a chance to win a prize makes the learning even more fun. Educational program topics include: establishing a budget, protecting financial information, raising money-smart kids, and more.

Go to for more details about activities in your area. Check out your local libraries for a display as well as programming. Spread the knowledge!

Consumer Knowledge, Credit, Goals, Retirement, Saving, Uncategorized

If you are last minute income tax filer….

March 26th, 2015

GettyImages_481414909It’s countdown time to the IRS deadline (April 15). If you miss this date you will incur penalty for late filing, interest on any amount owed, and penalty for late payment; these charges will be  added to your balance due. If you file an extension, but don’t pay all of the balance due by the deadline, you will incur interest on the unpaid amount and penalty for late payment.
NOTE: if you file late, but have a refund coming, there will be no penalty.

Remember: take advantage of tax credits and deductions whenever you’re eligible.
Credits include: Home Energy Improvements; Hybrid/Electric Car; Retirement Saver’s Credit; Education Tax Credits; Earned Income Tax Credit; Child Tax Credit; and Adoption Tax Credit.  And if you might benefit by itemizing deductions, gather complete information on medical expenditures, charitable contributions, unreimbursed business expenses, and more.

File electronically as it is accurate and fast.
Try Free File which is simple, and available to those with incomes below $57,000. Go to the IRS website, www.  and click on the “Free File” icon.  If your income exceeds $57,000 there is a Free File fill-able form.

Choose Direct Deposit for Refunds
You can split the refund up to 3 different accounts if you’d like to make deposits to different savings funds.

Check for Errors and sign using your electronic signature number (or if you mailing a paper copy, be sure to sign your form).


Consumer Knowledge, Goals, Saving

Yard Sale Savvy

March 12th, 2015

ydsaleA friend got herself in a pickle. A small health emergency created a desperate need for cash. My typical response is: Sell what you do not need, do not use, or cannot afford. My second response is: decrease your expenses AND increase your income. If an unexpected expense throws your finances into a tailspin, then it is probably going to require more than an immediate infusion of cash to keep your head above water through the next 6 months.

My friend did not own a single large item that she could sell to bring her the cash she needed, so she decided to do a garage sale. Spring is the perfect time.  A two day sale maximizes profits for the time and energy needed to prepare for a sale. You can open and close your sale any time you want but, early shoppers are usually the best ones.

Take the time to clean and dust the items you’re selling. Fold clothing to ensure it looks presentable and is free from wrinkles and stains. These tasks won’t take up too much of your time and will make a huge difference, since people are more likely to buy things in good shape. Make the shopping experience easy by grouping like items together. Sort clothing by size and gender.

The resale value of used items and clothing is typically only a small percentage of what they cost new. Nicer items might go for a premium, but you risk annoying your shoppers if you price items too high. If you’re worried about overpricing or underpricing your items, consider what you’d be willing to pay if you bought the item secondhand.

There are free and cheap ways to get the word out. Put a free ad on Craigslist and your personal Facebook page. Many communities have their own “garage sale” Facebook pages.  Create and hang outdoor signs that will help guide people to your yard.

Big items such as tables, sofas and dressers tend to lure people out of their cars.  If people can’t see them, they might just drive on by. Place big items outside and on full display, instead of tucked away in your garage.

A garage sale is hard work, but it almost always pays off by freeing up extra room in your home and putting cash in your hand.  ~Brenda

Consumer Knowledge, Goals, Saving, Smart shopping

America Saves Week – Time to Start Saving

February 22nd, 2015

America Saves is a national campaign involving more than 1,000 non-profit, government, and corporate partners encouraging individuals and families to save money and build personal wealth. Consumer Federation of America is comprised of over 270 consumer education, advocacy, and cooperative organizations dedicated to advancing the consumer interest.

February 23 – 28, 2015 is “America Saves Week,” an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good saving behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status. Started in 2007, the Week 125183558is coordinated by America Saves and the American Savings Education Council. Thousands of organizations participate in the Week, reaching millions of people.

The 2014 Annual National Survey Assessing Household Savings (released during ASW) revealed that while most Americans are meeting immediate financial needs, they are worse off than several years ago.

  • Only one-third of Americans feel prepared for their long term financial future.
  • Only 68 percent reported that they are spending less than their income and saving the difference. It was 73 Percent in 2010.
  • Two-thirds of respondents (64%) said that they “have sufficient emergency savings to pay for unexpected expenses like car repairs or a doctor visit.” It was 71 percent in 2010.
  • 76 percent said that they are reducing their consumer debt, or are consumer debt-free. It was 79 percent in 2010.

With encouragement and support, more Americans can be persuaded to:

  • Set a Goal.
  • Make a Plan.
  • Save Automatically.

Savings isn’t something you do once a year. It’s important to save, or to establish goals for saving, but the role that savings plays in helping us achieve our individual needs and goals, America Saves Week is a great time to revisit goals – and to start saving, or start saving more.



Goals, Saving, Uncategorized

Retire On The Money You Make As A Kid

February 5th, 2015

teenworking.2I have had a lot of jobs in my life…mowed and shoveled snow for everyone on our block; baby sat; cleaned house for an elderly neighbor. Then came the high school jobs with W-2’s: the local Dime Store, DQ, corn de-tasseling, waiting tables at a restaurant, and working in a greenhouse. Most of that money went into savings for college. Occasionally I bought a “want” – a sewing machine and a 10-speed bike with handbrakes.

I have no idea how much money I made between the ages of 16 and 21, but had I known…

A child who has a job that earns enough money to contribute $4000 each year to a Roth IRA from age 16 to 21, will have $2,045,042 at the age of 65…TAX-FREE! (Assuming the Roth IRA earns 10% per year) That’s if they never add another penny to the account after age 21.

So, what does $4000 a year look like to a kid? That is $333 a month. The average Waitress, Dishwasher, or Cashier makes between $8 and $9 an hour. At $8, the kid needs to work 42 hours a month…about 10 hours a week.

The money you put into a Roth is not tax deductible but a child’s low tax bracket still makes this a good retirement plan. Think about the youth in your life: how much money do they make each month and where does THAT money go?  ~Brenda

Goals, Saving

Tax Refund? Invest! (one way or another)

January 13th, 2015

182106567If you’re expecting to get a tax refund this year, you may already have plans for what you want to do with it.  I’m not here to change your mind.  But I do have an idea for your consideration: use your refund as an investment.

Am I telling you to put it away for retirement?  Well, that’s certainly one possibility.  When you invest in financial assets that will produce income or grow in value, that pays off in the long run.  If you are 30 years old, and invest $1,000 of your refund in a retirement account that earns an average of 8% annually, you will have nearly $15,000 at age 65, just from that one deposit.  That’s a nice payoff. But financial assets are only one way to get a payoff from your money.

Let’s think of an investment as anything that over time produces value greater than the original cost – that is, anything that can be compared to planting a seed and seeing it grow.

As I see it, some purchases can be investments.  Buying a new or different car?  Maybe.  If you’re buying a car because you don’t like the color of the old one or you want a better sound system, I would not see that as an investment.  It doesn’t provide any long-term payoff.  But if  you’re buying a  car that is necessary so you can commute to a new job, that’s an investment.  It will pay off because it enables you to earn money at the job.

Likewise, a new computer could be an investment if it is going to be used to further your education, but if you’ll mainly use it to surf the web and pay games, then it may just be an expense… no long-term payoff.

If you’re buying experiences, you can also evaluate the payoff.  Some experiences will provide a greater payoff than others.  Some people plan a family outing each year with part of their tax refund.  Most family outings will have some short-term payoff, providing family bonding time and enjoyment.  But some outings provide greater long-term payoff.  If your children have never seen a live play on stage, then taking them to a community theater production might have greater long-term payoff (expanding their cultural awareness) than going to a movie that’s a lot like the other movies they’ve seen.

Paying debts is a common use of tax refund money.  It provides an immediate payoff, and some larger payoff too if it saves money in interest or means you won’t get evicted.  I suggest, though, that you take debt payoff a step farther and invest in financial security by setting up an emergency savings account that will prevent you from being in debt when tax time rolls around next year.

How will you invest part of your tax refund this year?  ~Barb

Goals, Saving ,

Countering Commercialism

December 16th, 2014

excess - smThere is a lot of commercial excess in the world around us, and it’s especially evident at this time of year.  The messages of “Buy, Buy, Buy” and “I want, I want” are SO dominant at holiday time.  On top of that, we may observe our friends and neighbors and feel tempted to “keep up with the Joneses.”

It is a challenge to be a responsible consumer!  How do we remain firmly committed to our own priorities in the midst of messages of excess?

I don’t have a magic answer, of course, and I won’t pretend I never give in to messages that pull me away from my priorities.  But I can point to some key financial principles that can help us.

  1. It’s all about goals.  If we clearly identify our goals, articulate why they’re important to us, and post them where we’ll see them, then we are better able to say “no” to distracting options.
  2. Limits are helpful.  Life is rarely “all or nothing.” Most of us want to spend some money beyond our minimum needs; we just don’t want to spend too much.  To be in control of our money, we can make a plan that includes limits for each type of spending.  Then choose a method for sticking to that limit.  One method is to use cash.  Give yourself so much cash for the week or for the spending category, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.
  3. We always have a choice.  Even though there is excess around us, it only enters our lives when we choose to let it in. When we see an option that wasn’t in our plan, the best thing we can do is to stop and decide: if I spend money here, then what part of my planned spending will I give up in exchange?  We may want to blame the store displays or our friends, but our decisions are ours alone.

How will you focus on your priorities during the holiday season and beyond?


Goals, Smart shopping

What’s Your Number to Start Saving for Retirement?

September 2nd, 2014

6870886851_76c9703cca_z retirement savings

So you just got your first job and you think retirement is a long time from now.  But saving money towards retirement today means you will put in less than if you wait to start your retirement fund.  What?

The chart and explanation below explain how this works.

Annual Savings Rate
Required by middle-income family replacing 70% of pre-retirement income

At age:  
                   % of income to save if starting at age:

                                 age 25                age 35                   age 45

62                              15%                      24%                           44%

65                              10%                      15%                           27%

67                                7%                       12%                           20%

70                                4%                       6%                             10%

                                                                      Source: Boston College Center for Retirement Research

A recent study from Boston College Center for Retirement Research found that 50% of working families won’t have a big enough nest egg to maintain their standard of living in retirement. Two reasons behind the lack of nest egg are low saving rates and lower stock market returns.

Consider a middle income person who wants to retire at age 65.  As the chart shows, he needs to save 15% of his preretirement income annually, starting at age 35. Note: that pace of savings assumes that the retirement account earns 4% a year more than inflation.

There are huge benefits by starting the saving and investing earlier as well as big benefit in delaying retirement:

  • If that middle income person starts at age 25 instead of 10 years later, he can reach his nest egg target size by saving just 10% a year.
  • But someone who does not start until age 45 must sock away a daunting 27% of income to retire at 65 or 20% to stop at age 67.

The data view someone who is 54 to 56 years old to be middle income if he earns $45,500 to $97,500. At ages 30 to 32, that range is $36,500 to $68,500.

By delaying retirement, you give yourself longer to contribute and can put in a smaller amount.  To illustrate, let’s return to that middle income person who starts saving at age 35 and needs to save 15% annually if he retires at age 65.  Delaying retirement will help.  If he wait until 67 to retire, he will need to save 12% a year, according to the Boston College study. If he keeps working until age 70, a 6% yearly savings rate will get the job done.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has updated Retirement publications. Retirement: Secure Your Future materials are available at

Happy Saving – Susan

Goals, Retirement, Saving