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Pat S
Pat S is an active duty military officer. On his off time he enjoys working out, reading, writing and spending time with his dog. Pat became interested in personal finance after several costly mistakes early in his military career that could have been avoided by a basic understanding of personal finance.

Investing Strategies for Active Duty Military Members

By Pat S

active duty military memberMilitary members are accustomed to significant challenges. Combat tours, deployments, and frequent transfers are just a few of the difficulties they face on a frequent basis. Perhaps because of this stress, many military members experience significant struggle when it comes to getting ahead financially.

A recent FINRA study reveals that despite a regular paycheck, military members are struggling with significant debt. 82% of military families carry an average credit card balance of $10,000 – and it gets worse. One in four service members reports overdrawing their checking account in the last year, one in five has used a payday loan or auto title loan in the past five years, and only one in two has an emergency fund.

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What Are Municipal Bonds – Pros & Cons of Investing

By Pat S

nyc city hallMost investors stick with the basics and invest in long-term, tax advantaged accounts for their retirement savings, such as pension plans, annuities, 401k or 403b accounts, and traditional or Roth IRAs. All of these accounts provide significant tax benefits and enable savvy investors to keep more of their money for retirement. But for all the positives that retirement accounts have to offer, there is one glaring negative: investors are unable to access funds in these accounts prior to retirement without incurring stiff penalties.

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Early Retirement Planning: 6 Best Tax Efficient Investments

By Pat S

retirement arrow signEarly retirement…most of us want it, but few actually have the motivation and the know-how to get it. Just like a regular retirement, at or after age 59 1/2, retiring early requires planning and saving. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

One, you’ll have to save more money and start earlier because you’ll need your retirement funds sooner and they’ll need to last longer. Two, you’ll have to invest in more than just traditional retirement accounts such as a 401k or IRA, as these can penalize you severely for taking funds out before you turn 59 1/2.

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Zenni Optical Review – Buy Cheap Glasses Online

By Pat S

glasses stackIf you wear glasses or contact lenses, you know about the costs associated with ordering disposable contacts and with staying up to date and in fashion with new prescription eyeglasses. In fact, the National Association of Vision Care Plans puts the average cost of new eyeglasses at $263.00.

Most optical shops accept vision insurance, or provide discounts to members of various associations, including AAA membership discounts. Insurance and discounts typically cannot be combined with other offers, and often only reduce the total price of the glasses by 30%. With prices like that, unsurprisingly, people seek cheaper alternatives. Zenni Optical offers an affordable alternative to your neighborhood optometrist.

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Federal Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) – Complete Guide & Advice

By Pat S

us flag moneyPossibly one of the greatest benefits to U.S. government or military service is the Thrift Savings Plan. The Thrift Savings Plan (also known as the TSP) is a retirement savings and investment plan offered to current employees of the military and federal government.

Since it’s a “defined contribution” retirement plan, the retirement income you receive from the TSP will depend on how much you (and your agency, if applicable) contribute during your working years, along with how well your investments perform over that time.

Though it offers numerous advantages for retirement savings, the TSP is under-appreciated and may be the most under-utilized benefit offered by the federal government.

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10 U.S. Cities Where It’s Better to Rent Than Buy a Home

By Pat S

now renting signAfter the real estate market deteriorated in the wake of the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the prospect of renting a home vs. buying became much more attractive. In fact, this trend has been well supported by a substantial decrease in home ownership to levels not reached in decades.

To be fair, purchasing a home can still be an excellent long-term financial goal as it provides shelter for your family with the potential to build up a solid investment. That said, there remain in the United States many housing markets where renting is a cheaper proposition than buying in spite of declining home values.

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10 Best Affordable Cars for College Students

By Pat S

college girl student carBefore buying a new car, learn more about sensible vehicles for today’s college student. Students can save money by purchasing cars with low sticker prices, low associated insurance premiums, and minimal operating expenses.

College students can estimate costs for maintaining and driving cars by projecting the total amounts of fuel, car insurance, and other fees and expenses associated with owning a car.

To help with this important buying decision, we’ve compiled a list of 10 economical vehicles with the lowest combined sticker price, and the best miles per gallon. Students shopping for new cars should consider miscellaneous costs associated with owning a car. Miscellaneous costs vary depending upon a number of factors, including the type of car purchased, and where the student resides.

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Should Military Families & Active Duty Members Buy a House or Rent?

By Pat S

house flagThere is a great debate among active duty military regarding renting vs. buying a home. Because these military members may be called upon to deploy or change duty stations at any moment, numerous active duty families choose to rent. Still, others have determined that despite an unpredictable lifestyle, it is better to invest in real estate by purchasing a family home.

The decision whether to buy or rent a home following what is called a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move is highly personal, and numerous factors play into the decision. These factors include financial and career based decisions as well as practical and emotional concerns.

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What Is a Roth Federal Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)

By Pat S

money boat waterThe U.S. Federal Government’s Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a deferred contribution retirement plan for Federal employees. The TSP is administered by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, an independent government agency, for the benefit of civilian Federal employees as well as active duty and reserve military members.

The TSP offers similar savings and tax benefits to a traditional 401k plan. You can contribute up to $16,500 of pre-tax income if you are under the age of 50, or $22,000 if you are 50 or older. The amount you contribute plus any matching funds deposited by the government accumulate tax-free until you withdraw funds during retirement (defined as age 59 1/2 for tax purposes). At this point, the entire withdrawal is taxed as ordinary income.

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10 High Paying Jobs for High School Graduates That Don’t Require a Degree

By Pat S

high school graduates groupTraditionally, attending college has been associated with increased earning power, decreased employment volatility, and long-term financial success. In fact, according to studies done by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, higher education can indeed be equated with higher earnings.

The historical success of college graduates, however, has increased the demand for higher education, which in turn has changed the face of the modern educational system. In recent years, established universities have hiked their prices considerably (i.e. average costs have increased 439% since 1982), while new for-profit institutions have arrived on the scene to meet the demand of students who may not qualify for or cannot afford entrance into traditional colleges.

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Difference Between Credit Cards vs Debit Cards – Which Is the Right Way to Go?

By Pat S

credit card vs debit cardIf you are able to keep your expenses in check and use credit cards wisely, paying for your daily expenses with credit or debit cards is a no-brainer. Using plastic can greatly facilitate budgeting, since sites like Mint.com can automatically track your purchases, and you can also avoid unsafely carrying large sums of money for regular purchases like groceries, gas, or entertainment.

Eventually a cashier will ask, “Will that be credit or debit?” What goes through your mind when you decide? Do you simply brush it off because it doesn’t matter to you? Do you think about whether one of the options will actually save you more money, or how your financial security will be affected by your choice?

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Small and Micro-Cap Stock Investing – Definition, Benefits & Risks

By Pat S

small cap stocks plantNowadays it seems like everyone has their favorite investing style. Nowhere is this more evident than Wall Street itself. Everywhere you turn, a different investment advisor or mutual fund is touting a new magic formula for market beating returns. Do they all deliver on their promises? Not even close. 66% of actively-traded funds fail to beat the market over any period in excess of 5 years, according to Time Magazine. When you factor in the expenses and sales loads of these advisors and mutual funds, it is safe to say that the percentage of the funds that fail to beat the market is even higher.

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Top 5 Famous Benjamin Franklin Quotes on Money – Personal Finance Wisdom & Lessons

By Pat S

benjamin frankin hundred dollar billBenjamin Franklin’s image is indelibly printed not only within the American psyche, but also on the largest issue of currency printed by the U.S. Treasury – the $100 bill. It would be hard to choose a more appropriate founding father to feature on the $100 bill, seeing as how prior to his tenure as one of the greatest and most famous statesmen of the American Revolution, Franklin was the founder and proprietor of a printing shop.

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Top 10 Green Energy Technologies & Solutions for Home Improvement

By Pat S

green energy earthBetween heating and cooling your home, gassing up your car and watering your lawn, energy costs are one of the most significant expenses that many of us face on a monthly and annual basis.

Thankfully, there are numerous ways to reduce both your carbon footprint and your recurring energy costs. Many of them are simple and common sense techniques that do not require major changes, construction, installation, or upfront expenses. In fact, there are a number of ways to save energy at home and slash your home energy consumption and costs by up to $2,500 a year without much effort. You can even significantly cut the cost of commuting to work without purchasing a new fuel-efficient car.

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Why You Need a Taxable Brokerage Account in Addition to an IRA & 401k

By Pat S

nest egg cashThose of us who are passionate about paying down debt, saving for the future, and investing  are no doubt familiar with traditional, tax sheltered investment accounts.

The usual suspects are: 401k retirement plans, which allow you to defer your tax burden until age 59 1/2 when withdrawals are taxed as ordinary income, and Roth IRAs or Roth 401ks, where you are able to contribute after tax earnings now and never pay additional taxes on the earnings or interest as long as withdrawals are deferred until age 59 1/2.

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