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.
How much is your commute costing you? If you’re like most Americans, the amount is probably way too much.
According to ABC News, the average American worker lives 16 miles away from work, and with gas prices rising (currently at around $4 per gallon), your commuting budget is going to start running on fumes. For a normal 40-hour, five-day work week, and with a modern average of 20 MPG, rough math reveals that you’ll spend around $1,600 per year on fuel alone.
Picture this: You find the perfect house, forgo the bank and the associated mortgage paperwork, and break out your checkbook to purchase a home outright. While paying cash for a home is a still a far-fetched dream for many people, it’s actually becoming more common in the real estate market. The National Association of Realtors reports that the number of homes bought with cash has increased to 32% in January of 2011 versus 26% in 2010.
The statistics are even more striking in some of the real estate markets hardest hit by the recession. In Southern California, for example, approximately 30% of home sales made in January were paid for in cash, while in cities like Phoenix, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada that number is topping 50%.
In 1980 in the United States – just over 30 years ago – a new home in this country cost an average of $76,000, and the median income was $17,710 per year. Compare that to 2011, when even after the recent recession, the median home price stood at $139,000, and median household income was $50,233 per year according to the US Census Bureau.
Why the vast difference in prices? One word: Inflation. Like aging or weight gain, the effects of inflation are both gradual and profound. Inflation creeps up on us over time, and as we continue our normal spending and consumption habits, the almost imperceptible increase of consumer prices doesn’t seem to make a huge difference in our day to day finances – which means it is all too often vastly underestimated.
Let’s face it. Although you may want to reduce your carbon footprint and save the earth, it can be very difficult to know exactly how to do it without spending a fortune.
Sure, there are plenty of ways you can upgrade your home to be environmentally-friendly on a large scale with solar-power water heaters, solar-power generators for your rooftop, and energy star appliances – but that can get expensive very quickly.
If you’re expecting a tax refund this year, you need a good plan for your money. Maybe you already have the funds earmarked for some spending, but before you let your tax refund burn a hole in your pocket, remember that the government isn’t sending you a bonus check – it’s money that should have been yours all along. In fact if you’re receiving a huge refund, you’re probably having too much withheld. Be sure to revisit your W-4 form and adjust your federal income tax withholding allowances.
It’s well known that some cities weather tough economic times better than others (Hello, Detroit? Are you still standing?). A recent Standard and Poor survey revealed that housing prices nationwide have fallen to their lowest levels since the beginning of the great recession.
If you’re a homeowner, this probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you. Many American homeowners find themselves upside down on their mortgage loans, owing more than they could sell the home for in the current marketplace.
But if you don’t own a home, now might be a great time to buy real estate – especially if you live in one of the following cities, where the real estate markets have been hit the hardest.
As turmoil continues to erupt and longstanding regimes are falling in the Middle East and North Africa, the global community is feeling the economic effects of trouble in and around crucial oil-producing nations.
While the unrest may seem distant and foreign, instability abroad quickly affects us at home, especially when it comes to oil prices. Crude oil prices have already soared to over $100 a barrel, causing significant pain at the pump and rising gas prices. Gas prices in some parts of the United States have already reached $4 a gallon, and rates will keep climbing.
You’ve heard plenty of lame one-liners and empty tokens of advice: Save 15% of your income to retire comfortably; save two grand per month to retire a millionaire; save a million dollars to retire comfortably; plan to withdraw 4% annually in retirement.
Financial advice isn’t helpful if all you get are platitudes and generalizations. Too often, experts toss around figures about how much you need to save and invest, without considering your long-term personal financial goals.
Many investors find themselves experiencing extreme emotional shifts in concert with the unpredictable rises and falls that come with stock market investing. Anxiety may hit like a ton of bricks when prices fall, while excitement sets hearts racing with exhilaration when they rise.
Those who choose to invest in long-term dividends, however, will not feel this same angst as stock prices shift. These investors know that the financial success of their investment is not based on the vagaries of the market itself, but rather on the long-term success of the company. They believe that the stock price and dividend will eventually rise over the long haul, resulting in huge gains over a long period of time.
Serving in the United States Armed Forces is a career choice that requires years of sacrifice, challenging and dangerous assignments, and fairly meager pay.
However, one of the benefits offered to the men and women who choose a life of service and sacrifice is a pension plan.
This pension is payable immediately upon retirement for qualified active duty service beyond 20 years.
What Is a Military Pension?
Military members are eligible for a pension (lifetime monthly paychecks), following 20 years of qualified active duty service. The amount of your lifetime payments are determined by the retirement program that you are eligible for. There are three programs:
More and more employers are using Facebook as a tool in vetting potential candidates for employment. With the rise of social networking sites, we all have some kind of online presence that may reveal experiences that a potential employer would frown upon. You know what I’m talking about: the keg stand during college, a bachelorette party, maybe even comments from friends or relatives that may be embarrassing and childish.
The fact is, you don’t know what your future employer’s religious background, home life, or sensibilities are and it’s in your best interest to scale back your Facebook profile to the least offensive level as possible. There are opportunities to find jobs using social media tools so make sure you give yourself the best chance to succeed.
Creating your first budget can be extremely overwhelming. So overwhelming, in fact, that only 40% of American families have a working monthly budget. But it’s worth the effort. Developing a budget that you can maintain over the long term has been definitively linked to building wealth, while simultaneously helping you get out of debt and cut expenses.
When I built my first budget several years ago, I knew approximately how much money I was making annually, but I had never broken down my expenses by category to figure out what I could afford on a recurring basis, or how much money I could regularly invest.
In 2008 and 2009, many target date fund investors lost fortunes learning that funds without well-designed “glide paths” can leave you dangerously overexposed to stocks in the few years right before expected retirement. If you know how target date funds are designed – as well as their benefits and downsides – you’ll be able to choose the best target date fund for your portfolio.
“Income” and “wealth” have incorrectly become synonymous in American culture. While the two concepts often go hand in hand, using the terms interchangeably is misleading. America’s most wealthy individuals don’t necessarily draw the highest levels of income.
For example, while professional athletes, top executives, doctors, and lawyers have reputations for high salaries, their obligations can make accumulating significant wealth very difficult. Many wealthy individuals, on the other hand, have never earned an exceptionally large paycheck.
Income vs. Wealth – Different Definitions
I like to think of income as the amount of money someone receives on a regular basis, while wealth is the length of time that person (or family) could maintain their current lifestyle without receiving compensation for performing additional work.
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