Member Blogs

  • The most effective way to achieve what we set out to accomplish is to identify a specific goals and find people who can support us along the way. Check Our Video Blog On Just Do It http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • 9/30/18  Sunday Saving Money For long term gains in controlling spending and increasing my savings, I look at one area at a time.   Working successfully on just one area leads to a snowball effect of change.   For example, my son wants to cut back on after school activities to increase his weekly downtime.   I am considering the time gain but also what can be saved in spending.   So I am looking at what are the most expensive activities, what are physical outlets for him, what activities might be kept with less participation, and what might go away entirely.   I have a variety of activities to choose from and will make a decision soon.   Next month Ill consider reducing the costs of eating out. 10/1/18  Monday Tracking Investments Chasing the latest hot stock is much like gambling.  Investing is a long term activity that should not be emotionally tied like gambling.  To help avoid emotion in my investments, I pick well diversified index based mutual funds and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) that invest in thousands of stocks that do not get rocket like gains or ship sinking losses.  Tracking these investments is like watching the paint dry.  I track my portfolio as just part of my greater financial picture.  I am more concerned about how my net worth grows than my portfolio in a silo.  Taxes, auto purchases, vacations, housing costs and more can affect my net worth even more than just how my portfolio grows.  This approach has lead me to a healthier financial life. 10/2/18  Tuesday Cybersecurity Cybersecurity is a hot topic.  It can be almost a full time job to lock down ones electronic devices.  There are two key things to do from my perspective. First, lock down the memory or hard drive of the device through encryption.  Using Bitlocker on a PC or enabling the memory encryption on an android phone are two examples.  Second, is keeping passwords complex.  There many ways to generate complex passwords that are 15 or more characters.  One of the easiest is to use a password manager like LastPass or Dashlane. LastPass, as an example, has a password generator built in that can automatically fill a spot on a web application with an new password.  There are many other items that can be addressed after these first two steps. 10/3/18  Wednesday Save Money Help the Environment How can you save money and help the environment?  Perhaps there is not one thing but rather lots of small things you can do instead.  Here is a short list of things I do to save money and make less impact on the nature.  They might stimulate ideas to apply to your life. 1. Reduce air pollution by driving a more fuel efficient, hybrid, or electric car. 2. Take still usable items to a charity rather than put them in the trash and taking the tax deduction. 3. Turning off lights in rooms not occupied and converting to LED bulbs when a light burns out. 4. Use a more water efficient cycle on my dishwasher. 5. Unplugging phone and other chargers when not being used. 6. Trying to use all the food your purchased rather than have it go bad and ending up in the trash. 7. Adjusting thermostat settings to use less heating and cooling when out of the house. 8. Use more water efficient shower heads and faucet aerators. When I do these types of things, I am not just helping the environment or my wallet. I am doing both and, most importantly, creating a lifestyle that will help both over the long haul. 10/4/18  Thursday Keeping it simple. Recently, I realize I had multiple financial accounts that were serving the same purpose for me.  I had no good reason for the separate accounts so I consolidated them. In my work, I have found others often have similar financial account clutter.  It is not unusual in our mobile lifestyle with job changes and cross country moves.  In fact one of the most common tasks I have with clients is consolidating accounts into a few focused and useful ones.  Having fewer account means fewer statements, less tax forms to track down, few logins and passwords to keep track off to name just some of the financial clutter that comes with having many accounts.  Consolidating accounts takes effort and often is not a quick process. Just like cleaning out the proverbial pile of stuff in the corner of the garage, clearing out financial clutter can be beneficial. 10/5/18  Friday Too Frugal? Often, I read about the way to save money is to not buy the daily $4 latte.  Sometimes I find myself in the opposite situationbeing too frugal.  For example, driving across town to save $1.  I have come across others from time to time with a similar mindset. Fortunately I now recognize this self sabotaging behavior.  I consider what my time is worth today.  In the past, I might have had more time than money in which case driving across town made more sense.  In my situation as a Dad with school aged son my time is the more often the limiting factor.  I have had to place a literal dollar value on my time.  Most of the time it is not worth the 15 minutes across town to save two dollars.  This would mean I only value myself at $8/hour.  I know I am worth more than that to my son and myself.  How much dollar value to place on your time? 10/6/18  Saturday Bank Bill Paying Services Have you tried bill paying services through your bank? Many banks today offer free bill paying services to the organizations you pick.  I have found this to be an extremely useful service for my and my Dads bills.  I only have to entered a billing organization details one time.  In the future, I can quickly send a specified amount and have it delivered on the date of my choice in the future.  The banks pay the postage on those automated checks sent by postal mail while others are sent electronically to the billing organization.  A huge plus, is that large utilities and cable companies can have their bills automatically sent or linked to bank.  When I log in I get a notification of a new bill and the due date.  I have auto payments set up for my mortgage and church pledge.  I can change these payments on the fly when amounts fluctuate such as for my property tax mortgage escrow. This highly useful banking service helps me never miss a bill payment in the busy of  life. The post A Week of Thoughts-October 6, 2018 appeared first on Essential Financial Strategies .
  • With the fall semester underway, most college-bound seniors are enjoying their last year of free education. Parents know too well that big costs loom. In my experience, people in their 30s and 40s worry more about paying for kids college
  • What's Driving Stocks

    Shares in US stocks rocketed 7.2% higher in the third quarter! Check Our Video Blog On What's Driving Stocks http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • Business owners often overcome significant obstacles to launch and grow their businesses. Check Out This Interview On Financing Your Business http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • 9/23 Do you hold individual stocks?   Consider the size of your portfolio you may be taking too much risk.   Just consider the wide swings of stocks like Tesla or the problems of Enron and others in the past.   A diversified mutual fund or Exchange Traded Fund gives you the ability for a relatively modest cost often as low as $1000 to own a piece of thousands of stocks.   This type of investment will go up and down with the general stock market but not have the potential of wild price swings of individual stock holdings.   If you own the stock of your employer, it is often acquired at discount through employee stock purchase plans or stock grants and options. These cheaper purchases can be financially beneficial.   Consider that holding onto too much employer stock puts you at double risk as your salary and a large part of your portfolio are based upon the performance of an individual company. 9/24 College tuition inflation is horrible.   Todays tuition rates are much, much higher than in the past relative to the cost of living.   The cost of sending a child to a four year school can be as much as the total of all their expenses from birth to high school graduation combined.   How will you pay for or help pay for your kids higher education? Will you need grants, loans or scholarships? Are you or grandparents saving in a 529 plan?   There are so many questions with answers that vary widely depending upon a particular family situation.   Consider first that retirement savings should come first and then education for the kids.   Will the salary of my childs desired major justify the investment at a particular university or will another cheaper school do just as well?   Can my child take college classes in high school or post high school at a community college to reduce the first year or two of tuition costs?   Should we consider one of the many ways the military can help pay for college education?   There are so many questions to be answered.   Start today to consider your approach as you help guide your child through the maze to college. 9/25 Having trouble saving?   Have a 401K at work?   If Yes to both, slowly increasing your contribution amount is a painless with to increase savings.   Once the matching amount for 401K contributions is reached, many folks do not increase their retirement plan contributions.   Increasing the percentage saved by just 1% every other month can have dramatic effects on the amount put away overtime.   Increasing by just the 1% amount makes a relatively small change in take home pay while helping to reduce income tax and save for tomorrow.   I have clients who have done just this and now are either 30% of gross salary being contributed or have reached the annual maximum contribution limits.   These particular clients are setting themselves up very well for later in life.   They are giving themselves the gift of financial peace of mind. 9/26 Often life events will shift how we think about things.   Marriages, divorces, deaths, and births among other significant life events will change our perspective on life.   The answers to the question How important is it? change as we experience life.    For example, the birth of my son profoundly changed how I look at world and more importantly my current purpose in life.   As those parts of me have morphed, so has my financial decision making process and the criteria I apply to financial decisions.   Periodically I go back and reassess financial areas of my life to see if any changes are required in my accounts, insurance, estate planning, or education funding to name a few.   Have you gone backed and looked at how life has changed your financial picture and needs? 9/27 What happens to your stuff when you pass?   If you die early in life, who will take care of your kids?   These are all important and hard questions to answer.    For me and many others, the work of these questions ends up in Franklin Coveys important and not urgent quadrant.   Items in this quadrant always seem to be put off until tomorrow.   If you are like me, I have had to push away the many seemingly urgent items of life in order to address such not urgent items such as my estate planning needs.   It took effort to pick up the phone and call the attorney, gather the documents and actually make it to the appointment.   My son was my motivation to get it done.   I am so glad I did it so to make my legacy wishes legally known.   It has cleared out part of that not urgent quadrant which unto itself is refreshing.   What is in your important and not urgent quadrant? 9/28 As a rule I believe that only 10% of the annual income should be used for auto purchases.   Translated that means someone earning $100,000 could spend $10,000 annually.   They could purchase a car worth $50,000 if they will keep it for years or longer.   I used this rule recently when purchase a replacement vehicle for my vintage 2007 model. Figuring out the financial number was the easy part for me.   Figuring out the vehicle was the hard part.   I read and read internet postings and reviews and consult consumer reports.   I considered the needs of larger trunk space, larger back seat area for my rapidly growing 9 year old, the latest safety features, and equal or better gas mileage.   With this criteria I narrowed the cars I was interested to three models and test drove those cars in succession on a Saturday afternoon.   One car stood out from the others.   Now I knew which car to purchase. Tomorrow I will share how I got the best price. 9/29 How I got a good price on a new car.Earlier this summer I purchased a new replacement car for 10% below MSRP on car that had only been in show rooms for just over a month.  I had previously narrowed down the desired specific model and color.   Then I researched the availability at local dealers through a number of different websites including the manufacturers and iseecars.com.   I used to the Costco car buying service and the Consumer Reports car buying service (administered by trucar.com ) to initiate contact with dealers. About eight dealerships contacted me.   I requested their drive away price including all taxes and tags with no trade in to be considered.   As dealers started sending me numbers, it was clear which dealers where treating me well and which gave me good pricing.   If a dealership said I would have to come in for the best price they were off my list.   Via email and sometimes phone calls, I challenged dealers to see whom could meet the pricing of the most recent lowest price from another dealer till I reach a price that seemed reasonable based upon price researching.   I took proof of the best price offer to the dealer that had serviced my old car as I was happy with their service department.   They agreed to the price and we shook hands.   I am very happy with the purchase and will use the same technique in the future as it saved me  several thousand dollars in the price of the car and the 10% sales tax combined. The post A Week of Thoughts September 29, 2018 appeared first on Essential Financial Strategies .
  • The U.S. Census Bureau’s annual report on median income has received widespread press coverage since its September 12 release, but much of it is misleading. Check Our Video Blog On Widespread Misinformation Follows Household Income Report http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • Today’s topic, of course, is about the new tax rules. We think tax education is important because paying taxes for government services is a core organizing principle of our society. Check Our Video Blog On New Tax Laws http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • Today’s topic, of course, is about the new tax rules. We think tax education is important because paying taxes for government services is a core organizing principle of our society. Check Our Video Blog On New Tax Laws http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • 9/16 Living on less than one makes doesnt have to feel like money diet. It is about an approach to lifestyle. The cliche of giving up the expensive latte has merit. It can be replaced by an upscale cup of coffee prepared at home for less. Ultimately, there is money saved while still having a certain lifestyle enjoyment. Likewise, in the Chicago area some shorter car trips can avoid the tollways and perhaps only take a few minutes longer to get to the destination. It is not as much about the $2 or so saved on the toll or the latte as it is about making conscience small money choices that add up over time. Most importantly, these small choices causes a shift in ones attitude toward lifestyle and spending that pay large dividends over a lifetime. 9/17 There are often both intellectual and emotional reactions and solutions to financial problems. For example, lets consider credit card debt. Intellectually and by the numbers, it is better to pay off a card that has the higher interest rate first. Sometimes this card has one of the higher balances and it is therefore hard to get traction and feel like there is progress in the debt reduction. Often, it is more effective to make the minimum payments on the higher balance cards and put the biggest effort on the lowest card balance. This permits the card with the lowest balance to get paid off more quickly. Paying off the low balance card provides emotional traction in the process of debt reduction. The monthly payment dollars that are no longer being applied to the lowest balance card can now be applied to the next lowest balance card. Often this means even a larger amount getting applied to this second card. This smallest card debt first approach answers the intellectual requirement of getting the card debt paid off while feeding the emotional side with demonstrated progress in debt reduction. 9/18 Is your house leveraged through a mortgage? Having a 30-year fixed mortgage can be great thing especially at todays historically low mortgage rates. The mortgage locks you in to fixed payments which you pay back with money that due to inflation is worth less in purchasing power while possibly deducting the mortgage interest. This permits you to invest less in your home and use the money elsewhere such as for emergency funds, general investments, college funds, or retirement funds. It is important with such a mortgage to have an emergency fund that is equal to 20% of your mortgage balance as safeguard against any unexpected drops in income. Though against the prevailing American thoughts of retirement, it can be useful to have a mortgage in retirement to provide funds for other uses. 9/19 Should I still give to charities given the new tax law? In short, yes. Why do you give to your favorite charities? Likely because you respect the work of the organizations. The tax deduction reduces the taxable cost of the donation. For example, if you give $100 to a charity and are in the 22% tax bracket, the true cost of the contribution is $88. That is the reduction in income reduces your tax burden by 22%. You still have an out of pocket cost of the $100 no matter how you figure it out either to the charity or with the tax going to the government. The new tax law pushes many taxpayers who in the past itemized deductions into the new higher standard deductions. With these new standard deductions one way to view the situation is that the government is subsidizing your deduction whether or not you give. So, I am continuing to give to my charities like my church without direct concern for the tax deduction. I am not letting the tax tail wag my personal values. 9/20 Eating out frequently can really upset ones finances. It is easier to eat higher quality foods such as Organic or Non-GMO items at home than in most restaurants. Picking out items and planning ahead does take some deliberate effort. ( I keep a running list of food items using Google Keep on my phone.) I often pick quick cooking food items from Costco and the local grocery that provide convenience and organic contents in the same package. I pick them out of the freezer and refrigerator based upon the time I have to prepare a dinner that day. Even though organic and convenient, they provide a meal cheaper than going out to eat a similar meal in a restaurant. 9/21 A fear for many folks worse than dealing with their finances is public speaking. Toastmasters is a great organization that helps people improve their communication and leadership skills in a positive, constructive environment. Members often find themselves creating contacts and improving skills that enhance their professional development and paychecks. While I am partial to the Orland Park Toastmasters, look for a club near you at https://www.toastmasters.org/find-a-club . 9/22 What share class are your mutual funds? Many people dont understand that one mutual fund may have several share classes that hold identical holdings yet charge different expense ratios depending upon how they sold and other factors. This expense ratio can vary by 1% and sometimes more. All things being equal it is best to have the fund with the lowest expense ratio or annual charges. That keeps the funds invested and can make substantial difference in the long term account value. Ask your financial professional if you are holding the cheapest fund class.   If not, can you do an exchange into the cheaper fund class. Make sure to understand any tax implications of the exchange so you are not surprised in tax season. The post A Week of Thoughts September 22, 2018 appeared first on Essential Financial Strategies .
  • Buying a car can be complicated and expensive. With so many different vehicles available from the various manufacturers, it can be difficult to narrow down a make and model, select your trim level, choose a color, and finally pick out your car. And all of that needs to happen before you start getting quotes! Then you need to look at whether or not you should pay cash or finance, consider trade-in values, and shop among the different dealership in your area. And last, but certainly not least, you need to consider the convoluted car buying negotiation process. With so many variables, it can be difficult to know if you are getting a good deal on the new or used car you are looking to buy. Thats where the USAA Car Buying Service comes in. Formerly known as USAA Auto Circle, the USAA Car Buying Service takes much of the guesswork out of the car-buying process. In fact, it makes it downright easy. USAA Car Buying Service Review Lets take an-depth look at the USAA Car Buying Service, including what the offer, how you can score a deal on your next car, how much you might be able to save, and even how you can sell your own car. How the USAA Car Buying Service Works First and foremost, the USAA Car Buying Service is only available to USAA members. Membership is free, but it is only available to current and former military members and their families. You can visit the USAA website to learn more about membership , or to become a member. (USAA also offers banking, investing, insurance policies, and many other valuable member benefits read our USAA review for more info ). The USAA Car Buying Service is run through TrueCar, which is a car buying service that gives buyers a fixed, no-hassle quote from participating dealerships. This makes it easy to shop and compare car prices, print out a certificate, visit the dealership, and buy the car for the quoted price. The process works like this: You visit the USAA Car Buying site. You search vehicles, including the make, model, and trim level. Choose your new or used car. A Certified Dealer gives you an upfront, discounted price including dealer fees and incentives. You can view a price curve that shows you what others in your area paid for the same car. If you choose to go forward, you print a certificate that guarantees the price on that specific car (or save it to your smartphone app). Go to the dealership, present your certificate, and buy your car. Its that simple! The above image shows an example of the price curve you will see on the USAA Car Buying Service website. The MSRP will be listed, along with the average market sale price over the most recent period. The Member Price is also listed. These are actual prices for real sales reported by dealerships. This is a great visual to help you understand the current market, as well as the potential savings you can have if you purchase through the system. How You Can Save Big on Your Next New or Used Car Purchase There are three ways you can save with the USAA Car Buying program: (1) Savings off MSRP, (2) Exclusive USAA Member Bonus Cash Offers, and (3) Loan Rate Discount through USAA. Lets look at each of these in more detail: Savings off Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSPRP): The MSRP is the suggested sticker price you see on new cars. Its important to understand the MSRP is just that a suggested price. Many cars end up selling for below the MSRP. But not all do. Many popular models sell right at the sticker price. (some high-demand or hard-to-find models can actually sell above MSRP, but this is rare). The important thing here is that the USAA Car Buying Service will bring you a firm sale price without having to go through the negotiation process . If you like the offer, you take it. If not, you can use it as a starting point with a different dealer, or find a different car to buy. This reduces your stress and total amount of work, and can end up saving you money in the process. How much can you save off MSRP? USAA members saved an average of $3,554 off MSRP on new vehicles during the 2017 calendar year (most recent data). Thats pretty substantial in my book! From the USAA website: Between 01/01/2017 and 12/31/2017, the average estimated savings off MSRP presented by TrueCar Certified Dealers to users of the USAA Car Buying Service, based on users who configured virtual vehicles and subsequently purchased a new vehicle of the same make and model listed on the certificate from Certified Dealers, was $3,554, including applicable vehicle specific manufacturer incentives. Exclusive USAA Member Bonus Cash Offers: The bonus cash offers are offered through individual vehicle manufacturers. Not all manufacturers participate, and they can change from time to time. So its a good idea to visit the USAA Ca Buying Service to see the most current list. Which Manufacturers Offer Discounts through USAA? As of 2018, the list of auto manufacturers that offer cash discounts include: Alpha Romeo, BMW, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Ford, Jeep, Mercedes, Mini, Nissan, Ram, Smart, and Vantage Mobility International, which sells wheelchair accessible vehicles. Keep in mind this may change. Loan Rate Discount through USAA USAA offers members a discount auto loan rate when they buy a new or used vehicle through the USAA Car Buying Service. The current offer is a 0.50% discount on your USAA auto loan when you purchase a vehicle using the USAA Car Buying Service. (Note: terms apply, and this offer is subject to change, so use this bit of info to understand how the process works. You will need to check with USAA for specific information for your purchase). Like all loans, you will still need to qualify based on your credit score, income, debt to income ratio, and other factors. Still, getting a 0.50% discount  on your interest rate can save you a lot of money over time. So its worth looking into. Of course, many dealerships and manufacturers offer special car loan rates to get buyers in the door. So always compare the USAA interest rate to the one you can get through the dealership. The dealer may be able to offer a better interest rate. Then again, USAA may just come through as the best option. How Much Can You Save with the USAA Car Buying Service? This is a great question, and one that is virtually impossible to answer, since each car is different and many factors contribute to the final purchase price of any vehicle new or used. Some of the factors that come into play include the vehicle you buy (make, model, and trim level), vehicle demand, your region, your specific dealership, specific manufacturer incentives in place at the time of purchase, whether you are paying cash or financing, whether or not you have a trade-in, taxes, and other factors. The USAA website shows that USAA members saved an average of $3,554 off MSRP on new vehicles during the 2017 calendar year. This includes applicable vehicle specific manufacturer incentives. Its impossible to say you will save a comparable amount, since there are so many factors involved. But in my opinion, its never a bad idea to start the car buying process with USAA and see how it will turn out. You are not obligated to use their service if you decide you want to buy through a different dealership or you find a better deal elsewhere. The USAA Car Buying Service is All About Convenience USAA has several programs aimed at helping members save time and money. For example, they also offer USAA Home Circle , which is similar to the USAA Car Buying Service, but for housing. Its a cool feature and one worth checking out if you are moving. The USAA auto program makes it easy to search for car prices, select a dealership, and set up a new or used car purchase right from your phone or tablet. In fact, you can do just about everything through the app, from finding your car, locking in a price, securing financing (if needed), and even buying a new car insurance policy . Many members save money when switching to USAA auto insurance . Of course, insurance rates vary based on many factors, including driving history, age, gender, location, type of vehicle, and more. So it pays to shop around. How does USAA Auto Insurance Compare? Check out our list of Military Car Insurance Providers for more information . Should You Use the USAA Car Buying Service? Like all things, it pays to compare. I used the USAA Car Buying Service to search for my last vehicle purchase. I looked at both new and used vehicles. When comparing new cars, the USAA Car Buying Service compared favorably to several other online car search tools. The key, I believe, is to first determine the exact make and model you want to buy, then get multiple quotes from different locations. Use this information as your starting point for negotiations. Some dealerships may be willing to offer further discounts, while others may hold firm. In the end, I purchased a used vehicle. I used the USAA Car Buying Service to look for used vehicles, but the dealership I purchased my car from did not participate in the program (not all dealerships participate). So I didnt buy my car though the USAA Car Buying Service. But I like the idea of the hassle free price quote. That would have saved me quite a bit of time at the dealership when I was negotiating my used car purchase. Will the USAA Car Buying Service Work for You? I think it can. As I mentioned in a section above, I think using the USAA Car Buying Service as a starting point can save you a lot of time and money in the car buying and negotiating process. At minimum it should help you avoid a nightmare car buying experience . At the end of the day, you may be able to save a little bit more by spending a lot of time negotiating. Or maybe you hit the dealership up at the end of the month when they need just a couple more sales to hit their sales targets and you can save a little extra. But if time is of the essence, then I think it would be very easy to do worse if you tried to do it all on your own. About USAA. USAA provides insurance, banking, investment and retirement products and services to 12.4 million members of the U.S. military and their families. USAA membership is open to all who are serving or have honorably served our nation in the U.S. military – and their families. For more information about USAA, check out this USAA review .
  • The nine-year-old bull market exploded in the last 35 months from 1810 to 2901. Check Our Video Blog On Investment Wisdom At A Poignant Moment In History http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • The nine-year-old bull market exploded in the last 35 months from 1810 to 2901. Check Our Video Blog On Investment Wisdom At A Poignant Moment In History http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • Did your teen get a summer job? Mine did in the dining room of a local assisted living facility. Prerequisite: Ability to speak loudly and slowly. One conversation reportedly went like this: Tonights special is spaghetti with marinara sauce. MARIJUANA sauce?! No, marinARA sauce! After more banter to establish the lack of psychoactive substances in the sauce the resident went with grilled cheese. Good choice. Teens earning money is a beautiful thing! Nows the time to salt away some of those earnings to a ROTH IRA and they wont have to share with Uncle Sam. No tax now, no tax later. It doesnt get much more beautiful than that. TEN things to know about teenagers and ROTH IRAs: To contribute to a ROTH, you must have earned income. For 2018 the ROTH contribution limit is $5,500/year (for people under 50) OR the amount of earned income whichever is less. So, if your teen earned $2,000 in 2018, their maximum contribution is $2,000. If you make too much money, you cannot contribute to a ROTH, but it is unlikely your teen makes this kind of money. As long as your teen earned less than $12,000 in 2018 they have no income tax due on their earnings. (This is the tax free now part!) If they do not take withdrawals from the ROTH until they are 59½ the earnings are all tax free! (This is the tax free later part!) The contributions can be withdrawn at any time for any reason without tax or penalty. (But I dont recommend it!) An adult will be listed on the account if the participant is a minor. A good low-cost IRA provider is Vanguard , Most of their funds have $3,000 minimums, but a few have $1,000 minimums. It doesnt matter where the money actually comes from as long as the teen has earnings. So if the teen wants to contribute $500 and the parents want to match $500 thats fine as long as the teen earned $1,000. Many families incentivize their teen with matching funds. The deadline to make a ROTH contribution for 2018 is 4/15/2019. So how much money are we talking about? Of course past performance is no guarantee of future results! But if you invested $5,500 in a ROTH IRA 42 years ago on August 31st, 1976, the day the first index fund opened at Vanguard (the S&P 500) and reinvested dividends it would be worth a whopping $471,010 on 8/31/18. Yes, I know that ROTH IRAs did not exist in 1976, but just pretend. Compound interest really does float all boats. Happy investing!
  • The average millennial earns a mere $21.80/hour and is dealing with ungodly student loan debt. Check Our Video Blog On Millenial Money Stories with Lindsey Stanberry http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • The average millennial earns a mere $21.80/hour and is dealing with ungodly student loan debt. Check Our Video Blog On Millenial Money Stories with Lindsey Stanberry http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • 9/9 How do you teach your kids about handling money? There are so many different ways and each kid learns differently. Some ideas include allowances, paid for chores, charitable giving, helping budget for a desired toy want, paying their own phone bill, and using a set limit for purchasing new clothes. Each one of these methods has many variations. If one way doesnt seem to work give it a bit more time and consider how to adjust it to become more relevant to your kiddo. 9/10 Often clients find it very useful to set specific goals tied to their finances. For example, perhaps they want to celebrate a milestone anniversary in Italy. The anniversary gives them a specific date to aim for and a budget for the trip gives them the specific dollar amount to set aside for the trip. Then they are able to divide up the dollar amount by the time in order to work toward their special trip. Folks that do this are able to savor the achievement of the goal through anticipation and the actual trip to celebrate the special anniversary. 9/11 Where were you on 9/11? I was in Wiesbaden, Germany in the Army Housing Office discussing with a bureaucrat why I hadnt been assigned housing yet after 60 days in country when the Twin Towers were hit. Needless to say, my housing situation seemed minor at the point. Were we going to war? If so, with whom? Lots of unanswered questions in the chaos of the moment. My military career, like many others, was turned upside down overnight. Many personal questions entered my mind. Was I ready to deploy? Were my personal affairs and finances in order? How would it affect my family? Today, my personal situation as a single parent is much different. Though, similarly, a singular event could still turn my world upside down once again. Will such an ever happen? I dont know. That doesnt relieve me of the responsibility to my son to have our affairs in order should something happen to one or both of us. One step, I recently took was a periodic update to my estate planning documents. While not cheap, I am now more prepared for such a catastrophic event. Today, in memory of 9/11, I will consider what other forms of preparation I might do. 9/12 Do you need to make estimated income tax payments? If so, it can be a quite annoy thing to write those quarterly checks. It is possible for some people to reduce or eliminate these check writing exercises. For example, if you receive a pension it is possible to have withholding similar to when one was working. The form for changing pension withholding is IRS Form W-4P. For others, it is possible to automate the quarterly payments to the IRS. Professional taxpayers can set up automatic quarterly withdrawals from a bank account. The amount is computed by their sophisticated tax prep software and must be approved by the taxpayer. Has your preparer offered it to you? 9/13 Most folks concern around their personal cybersecurity and privacy involve protecting their credit especially after the frequent hacking incidents such as with Equifax. There is more to worry about such as ID Theft. Todays thieves often social engineer and pick up tidbits of info posted on social media so that they can act as better impostors when conducting ID theft activities. These criminals can wreck havoc. One protection is making sure you have adjust privacy settings on your favorite social media outlets. Another valuable protection is using complex passwords. Software such LastPass and Dashlane help individuals create and securely use passwords that are very difficult to break. What can you do today to increase your online security? 9/14 Having a teenager driver in your household can add a great expense to your auto insurance. Check with your insurance company ahead of time to know what youll be facing in rate increases. Perhaps your young driver can contribute to insurance premiums or do other things that limit the expense such as take a drivers education course or by maintaining good grades. These discounts vary by state. 9/15 I am a proud member of the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners. This group provides the tax-focused retainer based model I use to help clients with their finances. As an ACP member, I am a fiduciary planner who provides a distinct alternative in the financial planning marketplace. By assuring clients’ financial plans are comprehensive, I consider not only interest-earning, real estate and equity investments, but also the tax consequences that can impact or be impacted by investment and financial strategies, or tax law changes. I help clients optimize the use of assets for tax efficiency, growth and security to ensure their goals are achieved. Given this focus, I maintain my CFP® and Enrolled Agent status along with professional organization memberships. The post A Week of Thoughts September 15, 2018 appeared first on Essential Financial Strategies .
  • Quicken Loans is disrupting the mortgage industry. The industry has a long history of being slow and paperwork intensive. Mortgage personnel are often difficult to get a hold of. But Quicken Loans has moved the entire process online. In doing so, they have streamlined the mortgage process, reduced the time needed to process loans, lowered the paperwork requirements, and made the entire process easier for borrowers. If you need mortgage financing – particularly a VA loan – Quicken Loans is an excellent place to start. About Quicken Loans Headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, Quicken Loans began as Rock Financial in 1985 and remains a subsidiary of Rock Holdings, Inc. But it has since grown to become the largest mortgage lender in America (as of January 2018). The company closed more than $400 billion in mortgage loans between 2013 and 2017. They offer mortgage loans in all 50 states. The company launched Rocket Mortgage in 2016, as one of the first all-online mortgage lenders in the country. When you apply for a mortgage through Quicken Loans, you’ll actually be completing the process through Rocket Mortgage. What Quicken Loans Offers In addition to providing mortgage loans, Quicken Loans is also a full-service mortgage resource. They provide educational information, as well as calculators and other tools to help you work through the mortgage process. Some of those resources include: Loans offered. Conventional, Jumbo, USDA loans, FHA, and VA mortgages. Loan are available in fixed rate, adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs), purchases, streamline refinances , HARP refinancing, and reverse mortgages. Mortgage calculators. Quicken Loans offers a variety of mortgage calculators to help you determine the mortgage you can qualify for. Calculators include: Refinance mortgage calculator – calculate your new monthly payment based on different loan amounts and programs. Purchase mortgage calculator – letting you know how much your mortgage payments will be. Amortization calculator – not only shows you the split between principal and interest on your monthly payments but also shows you how you can save money by making extra payments. Home affordability calculator – allows you to calculate the maximum home price you can afford to buy. The Home Affordability calculator: RateShield Approval. You can lock your interest rate for 90 days while you shop for a new home. Here are some sample rates you can view, also, including rates from some of the top VA Loan providers in the country : Other Quicken Loan Services Customer service. Customer service is available by phone, online chat, or e-mail through the website. They also offer customer service in Spanish. Phone support is available Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to midnight; Saturdays, 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM, and Sundays, 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM. Live chat is available Monday through Friday, 7:00 AM to midnight, and Saturdays and Sundays, 9:00 AM to midnight. All times Eastern. In-house mortgage loan servicing. If you’ve ever previously had a mortgage, you’re probably accustomed to the loan being sold off to another service, either immediately, or later in the term. But Quicken Loans services 99% of their loans in-house. So not only will you be able to get your loan through Quicken Loans, but you’ll also make your payments there as well. It’s not a game changer, but it does simplify the process. Quicken Loans Personal Loans. One of the benefits of working with a large lender like Quicken Loans is that they do have other loan products that may be of interest to you. Their personal loans are an example. You can borrow money for debt consolidation, home improvement, buying or repairing a car, to cover medical expenses, make a large purchase, or even for business expenses. Personal loans are fixed rate installment loans, and completely unsecured. You can borrow up to $35,000 with a term of 36 or 60 months. Interest rates are based on your credit history, income, and other factors, and currently range from 5.983% to 29.99% APR. Loans do require an origination fee of 1% to 6% of the loan amount, which is deducted from the loan proceeds. Quicken Loans VA Mortgages Quicken Loans offers VA mortgages for qualified veterans, current service members, and their spouses. And just as is the case with the mortgage process for any type of loan at Quicken Loans, VA loans are completed entirely online. You can begin the process either by applying online or by first talking to a mortgage expert. VA loans have certain definite benefits for veterans and current service members. Those include: 100% financing – there is no need to have a down payment on most VA loan types . You can often qualify with the lower credit score than you can with a conventional loan. You can sometimes qualify with more debt, since VA loans use two debt qualification methods. VA loans often have lower interest rates than other loan types. There is no monthly mortgage insurance requirement on the VA loans. Closing costs are frequently paid entirely by the seller. You can usually include VA Loan funding fees into your mortgage , if you are required to pay them. On a refinance, you can borrow up to 100% of the value of your home with a VA cash-out refinance. In some cases, you can refinance up to 120% of the property value. Quicken Loans is a VA approved lender that processes a large number of VA loans. The company can work directly with the VA to get your Certificate of Eligibility and any other necessary documentation from the agency. VA loan types available include 15, 20, 25, and 30-year fixed rate mortgages, as well as the VA 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage. They even provide jumbo VA loans for amounts up to $1.5 million. Note: Learn more about VA Loan limits by county . And finally, since Quicken Loans provides all other mortgage types, you also have the ability to take advantage of those programs as necessary. For example, VA loans can only be used for certain types of property . They aren’t available for second homes or investment properties. You’ll need a conventional loan to purchase either type of property, and Quicken Loans can make it happen. The Quicken Loans Mortgage Application Process You’ll begin the process by applying online through Rocket Mortgage. You start by creating an account, and then you can begin completing the application. That will require basic information, like your current address, and the address of the property you’re purchasing. (Only your current address will be needed if you are applying for a refinance.) The app will then fill in the details of the property, including the approximate property value and real estate taxes. They will be able to do this because there are a number of online valuation services available, as well as the fact that property taxes are public record. This will, of course, save you time with the completion of the application. But be aware this is just a preliminary step. A formal appraisal will need to be performed on the subject property with most loan types later in the mortgage process. Since you’re entering your basic personal information, including your Social Security number, a credit report will be run on you, your spouse, or any other co-borrowers who will be on the loan. Because of this, they will be able to provide you with an offer of the rate you will qualify at. This is very different from the teaser rate that might be provided based on a self-assessment of your credit , which is more typical of online lenders. Once the rate offer is provided, it will be subject to verification of all the information you’ve provided in your application. You’ll then be able to lock in the interest rate, and an appraisal will be ordered. A $500 fee will then be collected to continue the process. You’ll then move on to the verification process, in which the lender will require that you furnish documentation supporting the information claimed in your application. Upon full approval, you can print out in an approval letter. TIP: If at any time during the application process you need assistance, you can hit the “Talk to Us” button, which is available on every page of the website. The Quicken Loans Verification Process As a fully online process, you’ll be able to supply any and all documentation online, and even sign and submit the multitude of mortgage disclosures and waivers that are part of the mortgage process. If you’ve ever applied for a mortgage before, you know the process is paperwork intensive. Despite attempts by the industry to streamline the process, a substantial amount of documentation will still be required to verify everything on your application. But Quicken Loans/Rocket Mortgage makes the process faster and easier for online submission. Many times, the information in your application can be verified by online third-party sources. For example, the company may be able to obtain income and asset information from those sources with a signature release from you. For that reason, you’ll have to supply a complete information of each institution you work for or do business with, including exact names, addresses, account numbers, and sometimes contact persons within each organization where a verification will be requested. But where the information isn’t readily available, you’ll have to be prepared to supply the paperwork. This can include: Your most recent paystubs. W-2s for of the past one or two years. Documentation of Social Security or pension income (typically award letters and/or IRS form 1099) Income tax returns if you’re self-employed, or have investment rental property. Recent statements confirming bank account balances, investment brokerage accounts, or even retirement plans like IRAs or 401K’s. Copy of the purchase agreement for your new home. A copy of your divorce decree, if you either pay or receive child support or alimony. Evidence of the earnest money deposit made on the new home. Generally, you’ll be able to scan and upload most of these documents to the mortgage web site. Other documents, such as the purchase agreement, may have been e-mailed to you, and could also be easily uploaded to the site. With the application completed online, and all documentation supplied, your application will then go to a human mortgage underwriter. That person will review the documentation to make sure it supports what you’ve claimed in your application. If there is any missing information, conditions may be issued which you will need to satisfy, either prior to application or before closing. Quicken Loans Pros and Cons Pros: You can get a pre-approval in just minutes. The use of third-party verification sources will eliminate at least some of the documentation requirements. You can track your application online, so you’ll know what’s going on at every step of the process. You’ll know exactly what you need to supply, and how to provide it. The uploading process eliminates the need to copy and mail documents, and pay for postage required by traditional mail. Customer service is available, and you’ll have three ways to access it. Quicken Loans is available in all 50 states. Cons: Quicken Loans has no physical branches and they do not offer full-service banking ; they focus only on lending. They do not offer second mortgages or home equity lines of credit. The document uploading process can be time-consuming and confusing if your information cannot be readily verified by online sources. Loan fees are a bit higher on Quicken Loans compared to other lenders, but they emphasize speed in the process over pricing. Once you get your preliminary approval, the process will be very much like traditional mortgage lending, where your application will be reviewed, and additional documentation will be requested. Should You Get Your Mortgage from Quicken Loans? If you’re looking for a fast pre-approval, reduced loan documentation requirements, and complete transparency throughout the entire mortgage process, Quicken Loans is an outstanding source for mortgage financing. This is particularly true for VA loans, since they can be a bit more confusing than other loan types, especially for current service members or those who have been recently discharged. Quicken Loans – through Rocket Mortgage – provides fast pre-approvals so you can know from the very beginning that you’ll be qualified. It will also help to have a pre-approval in hand when you’re negotiating on a new home. The documentation requirements are easier, due to the use of third-party verification sources. And you’ll be kept in-the-loop of the progress of your application throughout the process. This is a mortgage lender well worth working with, whether you are a first-time homebuyer, or you’re buying your third or fourth property. If you’d like more information, or if you’d like to apply for a mortgage, visit the Quicken Mortgage website .
  • To take a sabbatical, build financial independence. Seek out sabbatical friendly companies. Take advantage of natural transitions. And know tricks of the trade.
  • With the mid-term elections approaching and the political stakes increased, the level of misinformation on economic conditions is likely to rise. Check Our Video Blog On Economic Facts To Prepare For The Elections http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • With the mid-term elections approaching and the political stakes increased, the level of misinformation on economic conditions is likely to rise. Check Our Video Blog On Economic Facts To Prepare For The Elections http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • 9/2 Do you have replacement coverage on your homeowners insurance? If not, you may end up with a big bill if you have complete rebuild. 9/3 Are you investing in your professional education and advancement? Consider that your individual human capital today will become your future financial capital. 9/4 How much do your investments cost you each year? Many investments sold by brokers and within retirement plans (like 401ks and 403bs) often are several times more expensive than other available investments. There is really no good reason that the expense ratio for a mutual fund or Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) invested in US stocks should be more than .25% per year. One can find investments costing .05% and less. 9/5 Are your investments diversified and include investments from around the world? Consider that the US is only about 50% of the worlds total stock markets. Dont miss out on global opportunities. It is possible with just 3-4 different mutual funds to be invested globally in over 15,000 different stocks. 9/6 In 2018, state and local taxes are limited to $10,000 for itemizing on federal income taxes. This limitation will push many people into the new standard deductions of $12K for Singles, $18K for Head of Households and $24K for those married and filing joint. There is also an add on of $1300 for those married over age 64 or blind. For unmarried taxpayers add on is $1600. 9/7 Making the commitment to create estate planning documents can be daunting. I know first hand. My motivation to get it done is my son. I want to make sure I lay the foundation for his physical and financial care should something unexpected happen to me. The estate planning documents allow me to make my wishes legally known about guardianship and how to help him with whatever monies I leave him. It is hard for me to think of something more important in my personal legacy. 9/8 Financial record keeping is so important. Even more important is letting someone else know where the records are located and how to access them. In todays world, fewer and fewer folks are using paper and pen methods of running their financial lives. That means loved ones need to know how to getting into our phones, tablets, and computers to access accounts for even simple things like paying the electric bill. Do you have someone that can step in your shoes and knows how to help run your financial life if you are incapacitated? The post A Week of Thoughts September 8, 2018 appeared first on Essential Financial Strategies .
  • Sprint is the fourth largest cell phone network in the US, by number of subscribers. Like the other major cell phone providers, they offer discounts to a variety of customers, including those who work for large corporations, universities, affinity groups, and to those who are serving, or who have served in, the US armed forces. The Sprint Military Discount is available to those who are currently serving in the military, as well as those who have served honorably. Let’s take a look at the Sprint military discount, who is eligible, savings, and whether or not it is worth switching carriers to take advantage of the savings Sprint offers. Sprint Military Discount Eligibility The Sprint Unlimited Military Plan is available to all current and former military members, including active duty, National Guard, Reserves, veterans, and their family members (when the military member or veteran is the primary account holder). Sprint verifies eligibility via an application form on their website . The discount is managed through the Sprint WorksSM Program, which is the same program Sprint uses to manage group discounts and special offers to employees, students, universities, and other organizations. How Sprint Verifies Your Military Discount Eligibility: Sprint can use one of several methods to verify your eligibility. These can include your .mil email address (easiest, since it is handled digitally) or via a records match in a third party database. You can also submit documents verifying your military service (either in person at a Sprint store, or by uploading them to your Sprint account, or faxing them to Sprint). Eligible Proof of Military Service includes Military ID Card , Military Orders, Veterans ID Card , or Department of Defense Form 214 . You can also use a W-2, or Military Retiree Account Statement to prove your military service and military discount eligibility. Note: Sprint recommends that individuals block out or delete personal information on your supporting documents, such as SSN, account numbers, date of birth, and other confidential information. Sprint Unlimited Military Plan Features: The Unlimited Military Plan essentially amounts to a Sprint military discount on the Sprint Unlimited Basic plan. This plan includes the following features: Unlimited data, talk and text nationwide TV, with Hulu 500 MB mobile hotspot DVD-quality streaming Global roaming in more than 185 worldwide locations Unlimited talk and text in Mexico and Canada and 5GB of 4G LTE data. Free Hulu Subscription included with monthly Unlimited Military Plan  1 Hulu Limited Commercials plan is included per eligible Sprint account. This offers a monthly value of  $7.99. (Note, the Sprint offer may be an answer to the T-Mobile Military Discount , which includes a Netflix subscription). There are some restrictions for heavy data users. Also note that Mobile Hot Spot speeds are reduced to 3G speeds after 500MB/mo. See the Sprint website for full details. Visit the Sprint website to see full plan features, costs, and additional information . Sprint Unlimited Military Plan 50% Off Family Lines The Sprint Unlimited Military Plan offers a 50% discount on family lines. You will need to pay the full price for the first line, then the savings kick in at 50% off each additional line. (The previous Sprint Military Discount was 15% off, so this offer can be better if you add more lines). The Sprint military discount also requires the member sign up for Sprint AutoPay. Here is the current pricing for the Unlimited Military Plan: Line 1: $60 Line 2: $20 Lines 3-6: $10 each The Sprint Unlimited Basic plan without the discount on the family lines would cost $60 for the first line, $40 for the second line, and $20 each additional line. So the savings is more substantial as you add more lines to your account. You should see the discount on your Sprint billing invoice within 1 to 2 billing cycles. Note: These are the base prices and dont include taxes, fees, or overages. The Unlimited Military Plan may not be combined with other offers. How to Get the Sprint Military Discount: Visit the Sprint website , and fill out the pre-registration form. The form requests your name, military branch, email, and current phone number. If you are currently in the military, then you can use your .mil email address to verify your eligibility. Otherwise, you may be required to submit additional proof of service. You can also sign up at a Sprint Store, or over the phone (additional verification of military service required). You will receive an email with a offer code once your application and military status has been verified. Be sure to sign up for Sprint AutoPay to receive the full discount. Should You Switch to Sprint? I am currently a Sprint customer, and have been for nearly 10 years. I have been happy with the service and my phones in the time I have been a Sprint customer, and have no reservations recommending them to family or friends provided Sprint meets your needs. Here are several factors to consider before switching to Sprint: How is the Sprint network in your area are there any coverage gaps? How does the monthly cost of the Sprint Unlimited Military Plan compare to your current plan? Other potential cost savings (Hulu subscription, being able to use your phone as a mobile hotspot, unlimited talk, text, and data, etc.) Additional features – unlimited talk and text in Mexico and Canada, Global Roaming Whether or not you would need to buy new phones How does Sprint Coverage Compare? Each of the major cell phone providers has coverage gaps (as much as they would like you to believe otherwise). So I would check with others in your area who have Sprint, just to make sure their coverage in your area is good. How does the savings compare? This is quick and easy just look at your current bill and the number of lines you have and apply it to the Sprint Unlimited Military Plan. See which one comes out ahead. While some cell phone providers offer a discount as a flat percentage, the Sprint savings adds up more quickly the more lines you add. (Be sure to deduct the Hulu subscription price if that is something you will use, or are already subscribing to and can cancel). Would you need new phones? There are two major cell phone networks in the US: the GSM Network (AT&T and T-Mobile) and the CDMA Network (Verizon and Sprint). You wouldn’t need a new phone if you already have a phone on the Sprint or Verizon network. You can visit the Sprint website to learn more about the Sprint Unlimited Military Plan . Sprint Military Discount Program Sprint Military Discount - Available for Current and Former Military Members, including National Guard and Reserves! Learn More Full Disclosure: We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
  • Aretha Franklin, the legendary singer, succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 76 on August 16, 2018. Check Our Video Blog On Another Member Of Music Royalty Dies With No Will http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • Aretha Franklin, the legendary singer, succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 76 on August 16, 2018. Check Our Video Blog On Another Member Of Music Royalty Dies With No Will http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • Aretha Franklin, the legendary singer, succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 76 on August 16, 2018. Check Our Video Blog On Another Member Of Music Royalty Dies With No Will http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • T-Mobile is the nations third largest cell phone provider. But they also happen to offer the best military discount on cell phone plans . The T-Mobile military discount is available to both current and former military members, as well as their family members when the additional phones are included on the military member or veterans plan. Perhaps the best part about the T-Mobile military discount is that it applies a 20% discount to their flagship plan, the T-Mobile ONE Plan , which features unlimited talk, text, and data, unlimited in Mexico and Canada, works in many overseas locations, and even includes a monthly Netflix subscription . To top it off, the savings are greater when you add more phones (half off the next five lines, compared to standard pricing). Overall, this is a great plan, at a great price. Let’s take a look at the T-Mobile Military Discount, including features, cost, and eligibility. T-Mobile Military Discount on the T-Mobile Military One Plan The T-Mobile military plan is really a discount on the T-Mobile ONE Plan, which is their premium monthly plan. Here is what you will get with the T-Mobile Military One Plan : Unlimited talk, text, and data.* Unlimited in Mexico and Canada. To include talk, text, and up to 5GB of 4G LTE data. In-Flight texting + 1 hour of data. On all GoGo®-enabled flights to, from, or within the U.S. Mobile hotspot data included. Keep all you data connected at max 3G speeds. Stream unlimited entertainment. Video at DVD quality, 480p. Taxes and fees included. (no surprise fees on your monthly plan bill). Texting and data abroad, including unlimited text and data roaming and flat-rate calling in more than 140 countries. Free Netflix Standard subscription Standard 2-screen subscription for almost any device, even TV. (Legal speak from the T-Mobile website): *On all T-Mobile plans, during congestion, the small fraction of customers using >50GB/mo. may notice reduced speeds until next bill cycle due to prioritization. Visit the T-Mobile website for a full rundown of features and pricing . T-Mobile Military Discount Eligibility The T-Mobile website states the military discount is available to all active duty service members, veterans, retired military personnel, members of the Army Reserve or National Guard, and Gold Star families. The discount also will be available to veteran-owned businesses. There are a couple notes regarding eligibility: The military member or veteran must be the primary account holder & account must maintain a valid military line. T-Mobile for Business customers are eligible up to 12 lines; however, government accounts are not eligible. No Credit Check and Prepaid customers are not eligible. You will need to provide proof of military service within 45 days of opening your new T-Mobile account, or otherwise applying for the military discount. Your plan will revert to the T-Mobile ONE at an additional cost of up to $20/line per month if you are unable to or fail to provide your proof of military service . How does T-Mobile verify military status or military service? The T-Mobile website states they will accept any document that proves the customer is serving or has served in the US military. The form must include he veterans first and last name, valid dates of service, and/or status, for example active duty, or a veteran (with an honorable discharge). T-Mobile will accept numerous forms of verification, but the most common documents are DD214 , leave and earnings statement, and military orders. What do I do if my military status changes? This offer is open to current and former military members, so you will not need to contact T-Mobile. Your eligibility will remain intact and you will not need to change your plan. T-Mobile ONE Military is available to all military, veterans, National Guard, Reserve, and Gold Star family members. T-Mobile Military Pricing The most important thing to know about this military discount is that it is a permanent discount. This is not a promotional discount. Of course, things are subject to change. So it never hurts to take advantage of great offers when they pop up. The T-Mobile Military Discount is on the T-Mobile ONE plan. Here are the current rates (and remember, unlike most cell phone carriers, T-Mobile plans include all taxes and fees). Here are current rates with AutoPay enabled (lines cost $5 more per month if you do not enable AutoPay): Line One $55 (20% off standard pricing) Line Two add $25 (50% off standard pricing) Lines 3-6 add $10 each (50% off standard pricing) Again, the price you see is the price you pay. All taxes and fees are included. T-Mobile May Even Pay Off Your Current Phone or Early Termination Fees T-Mobile is doing their best to grow their customer base. And they dont want something like a cell-phone contract to get in the way of adding customers. So they are willing to pay your early termination fees if you need to break your contract to change carriers. Get a new phone and we’ll pay off your current phone and service contracts – up to $650 per line or $350 in early termination fees, via prepaid card when you trade-in your device. As you can imagine, there are some terms: Limited-time offer; subject to change. Eligible device trade-in, new device purchase, qualifying credit, port-in from eligible carriers, and qualifying service required. Payments consist of (1) credit for device trade-in and (2) virtual prepaid MasterCard® Card in amount of carrier’s Early Termination Fee or remaining device balance, including lease purchase option if applicable, minus trade-in credit (expires in 12 months). Tax excluded. Submit proof of balance (limit $650 per individual) & 90+ days with carrier within 30 days of port-in and be active and in good standing when processed; allow 8 weeks. We might ask for more information. Up to 5 lines; must be activated in same market with same billing address. One offer per subscriber. T-Mobile Prepaid MasterCard Card is rebate/reimbursement or exchange on new device, service, or port-in; for any tax implications, consult a tax advisor. No money has been paid by you for the card. [] Visit the T-Mobile website for more details on the T-Mobile Military Discount Plan . How Much Can T-Mobile Save You? T-Mobile claims their current military discount can save a family of four $764 compared to Verizons military discount program and $665 compared to AT&Ts military discount. Of course, your savings will vary based on your current cell phone plan and the number of lines you add. As with all offers, its a good idea to run the numbers to see which carrier is the best for your needs. For my current situation, my wife and I would pay a comparable amount per month for the cell phone line (actually $5 per month cheaper with T-Mobile). But we also subscribe to Netflix and pay that out of pocket. So we would save an additional $10.99 per month on the Netflix subscription. $16 per month works out to $192 per year, which is a decent savings. We could possibly save more than that, because I pay $10 a month on a mobile hotspot through T-Mobile. Under the T-Mobile military discount, you can use your phones as a hotspot. So I may be able to save around $312 per year. Now were talking real savings! The only downside? I would need to buy two new phones, because my wife and I have Sprint phones, which are on a different network. AT&T and T-Mobile use the GSM network, and Verizon and Sprint are both on the CDMA network. So I need to check with my wife and see if we wan to buy new phones and switch networks. Buying new phones will delay the payoff, but it should equal out over time. Should You Switch to the T-Mobile Military One Plan? Overall, I have to say that T-Mobile offers the best bang for your buck out of all the major cell phone carriers. Their military discount is also the most generous our of all the cell phone providers. Is it right for you? Only you can answer that. I recommend looking at several factors: How the T-Mobile network is in your area The monthly cost of the T-Mobile Military One Plan compared to your current plan Other potential cost savings (Netflix subscription, being able to use your phone as a mobile hotspot, unlimited talk, text, and data, etc.) Additional features unlimited text and data overseas, unlimited media streaming Whether or not you would need to buy new phones Whether or not T-Mobile will assist you with buying out your current contract Overall, Id say T-Mobile will work for a lot of folks. But in other cases, you may currently have a better or more const-effective plan. If so, stay with what works. Visit the T-Mobile Military Discount Page to Learn More . T-Mobile Military Discount T-Mobile Military Discount - Available to Military Members and Veterans! Click to learn more. Learn More Full Disclosure: We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
  • You’ve made it past the hard part. You’ve survived a few years, maybe more, in business, but your business is stressing you out. Why? Check Out This Interview On Fix The Problems http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • You’ve made it past the hard part. You’ve survived a few years, maybe more, in business, but your business is stressing you out. Why? Check Out This Interview On Fix The Problems http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • You’ve made it past the hard part. You’ve survived a few years, maybe more, in business, but your business is stressing you out. Why? Check Out This Interview On Fix The Problems http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • You’ve made it past the hard part. You’ve survived a few years, maybe more, in business, but your business is stressing you out. Why? Check Out This Interview On Fix The Problems http://masteringyourmoney.com/
  • 8/28 Automating savings is the by far the easiest way to put away for tomorrows financial needs. Sending a small amount to a 401K or bank savings account directly from a paycheck is painless once established. Likely after a few times, it wont be miss it as much and increasing the savings contribution in a few months will be easy. 8/29 Estate planning does more than make plans for after death. It helps deal with events of incapacity such as comas. Who will make your health care and financial decisions if you were in a coma for an extended period of time? 8/30 In 2018, exemptions have gone away on Federal Income Taxes. In many cases, they have been replaced with a child tax credit and a new family tax credit. These credits are often more favorable that the old exemptions when combined with the new lower tax brackets. 8/31 Deciding how to fund both retirement and your kids education can be challenging! Two key considerations: 1) Dont give up the free money of an employers match on a 401K contribution; and 2) there are no scholarships or grants to fund retirement. 9/1 Creating a specific financial goal helps by providing focus when making other money decisions such as whether or not to purchase something. The post A Week of Thoughts September 1, 2018 appeared first on Essential Financial Strategies .
  • VA mortgages are available to eligible veterans, who can use them to finance up to 100% of the purchase price of an eligible property, up to VA approved loan limits . Eligible veterans can also finance the VA Funding Fee as part of the loan . Because of that arrangement, the veteran is able to purchase a home with no down payment. The zero down payment loan has largely been eliminated since the Financial Meltdown, for all loan types except VA mortgages. But in order to qualify for that financing, the property that you are purchasing must be deemed eligible according to VA property guidelines. Though there are certain types of properties that the VA considers to be ineligible, the great majority of properties will qualify. VA Loan Minimum Property Requirements (MPRs) The VA will require prospective home buyers to obtain an inspection and an appraisal before they will agree to guarantee the home loan. These inspections are required in order to protect all parties, including the buyer, the lender, and the VA. For the most part, VA Minimum Property Requirements are common sense. But there are some specific requirements that you should be aware of, including: Non-residential property use. Any property must be primarily residential in nature. The VA specifies that no more than 25% of the home can be used for non-residential purposes, such as space dedicated to a shop. In addition, the commercial use of the property should in no way impair the home’s use as a residence. Space requirements. The home must have satisfactory space for living, sleeping, cooking and dining, and sanitary facilities. In other words, all of the amenities that the typical buyer would expect in a typical home. Mechanical systems. These include the furnace, hot water heater, and other mechanical systems typical to residential properties. They must be deemed safe to operate, protected from destructive elements, have adequate capacity and quality, and have reasonable future utility, durability, and economy. For the most part, if a system, such as the furnace, is malfunctioning or is well beyond its useful life, repair or replacement will be required. Upgrade may also be required in some situations, such as where a home has inadequate electric capacity to support modern systems. This sometimes becomes an issue with very old properties or rural properties. Basic construction. The property cannot exhibit any kind of structural defects, such as excessive settling, water leakage, defective construction, rot or termite damage. Generally speaking, the roof must be expected to last at least several years after purchase. Property access. The property must have acceptable pedestrian and vehicle access. For example, there should be direct street access, rather than having to cross over another property in order to get to the subject home. There should also be access to the home without having to pass through another living unit. These are just the general VA MPRs. Special circumstances will require special consideration. Don’t be too upset if the property is rejected or requires major repairs prior to closing. It’s all being done to protect you as the borrower and owner of the home. Existing Property Eligibility Here is the number one thing to remember when using a VA Mortgage : They are intended to help eligible veterans purchase a primary residence . VA mortgage financing is available for 1 to 4 family, owner occupied properties. VA Loans are not available for non-owner-occupied properties, such as vacation homes or investment properties. The subject property must be occupied by the veteran and his or her spouse and family. In order to qualify as an existing property, the home must be fully completed for at least one year prior to occupancy by the veteran. Otherwise the property will have to have been occupied by the previous owner. And of course, the property must also meet VA Minimum Property Requirements (MPRs), as described above. Part of the reason why qualifying as an existing property can be beneficial is because VA mortgages on new construction are generally more complicated. New Construction Eligibility A property is considered to be new if it has been completed less than one year and never occupied. In order to close on a property that is deemed to be new construction, the home must be 100% complete, or 100% complete through customer preference items, such as appliances, countertops, and flooring. A newly constructed home is considered eligible if any of the following criteria have been met: The home is covered by a one-year VA builder’s warranty, or Enrolled in a HUD accepted ten-year insured protection plan, or The home was built by the veteran, who acted as the general contractor in the construction, and is using the property for his or her own occupancy. There are special eligibility rules if the subject property is either proposed or under construction. A property appraisal will be required either before or during construction if the following apply: The appraisal will be based on proposed construction exhibits, and The builder offers a one-year VA builder’s warranty If the property is considered to be a manufactured home, it must be attached to a permanent foundation, and it must also be taxed as real estate. A property, typically a mobile home, that is taxed as a motor vehicle or some similar classification, will not be eligible for a VA mortgage. In any case involving new construction, a certificate of occupancy issued by the local authority may be required. Additional Types of Property Eligible for VA Loans The VA does offer loan guarantees on the following types of residential properties. However, not all lenders will offer mortgages for all of these types of properties. So you may find you need to search among different VA Mortgage lenders to find the right match . Homes in Approved Condominium Complexes The VA must approve condominium complexes before veterans can use a VA Loan to purchase a home in that complex. This requires the complex to go through a VA approval process, which includes reviewing the complexs organizational documents and bylaws, homeowners association policies, budget and finances, parking availability, and more. The VA also maintains a list of approved condo complexes . This can come in handy when you are considering buying a condo. You will need to work with a VA Approved Lender if you do not find the condo complex on the VA list. Mobile Homes / Manufactured Homes Many people mistakenly believe the VA doesnt offer a loan guarantee on mobile homes. This is not true. However, the VA does require the home meet certain qualifications before they will guarantee the VA Loan. And of course, you will also need to find a lender that offers mortgages on mobile homes.* For example, the manufactured home will need to be permanently affixed to the foundation and otherwise meet the VAs Minimum Property Requirements, as listed above, and must be taxed as real estate, not as a motor vehicle. All mobile homes must also meet minimum square footage requirements and have permanent eating, cooking, sleeping, and sanitary facilities. *Why is it difficult to find a lender willing to offer a mortgage on a mobile home? Mobile homes dont tend to appreciate much and tend to have a shorter lifespan compared to modular homes and other traditional home types. The default rate is also higher on manufactured homes compared to other home types. Some VA Home lenders, including Veterans United , do offer loans on mobile homes under certain circumstances. Modular Homes or Prefabricated Homes Modular homes are built off site, trucked to the home location, and built on site. This is a more efficient and economical way to build a home. These homes tend to be more sturdy than mobile homes, and often appreciate more over time. These homes are eligible for VA loans, and it is easier to find a lender that will back a home loan on a prefabricated house, as opposed to a mobile home. Like manufactured homes, the modular homes must have a permanent foundation, and must meet HUD guidelines. Properties Considered Ineligible for a VA Mortgage The Veterans Administration lists six types of properties that are determined to be ineligible for financing: Does not meet Minimum Property Requirements (and cannot be made to comply) In most cases, this refers to matters of safety and livability in the property, and not cosmetic issues. There may also be times when the property either has or lacks features that are not consistent with the general market area, such as excessive commercial use. Located in Flood Hazard area where flood insurance is not available Regular homeowner’s insurance policies don’t insure against flooding. The inability to obtain flood insurance could result in the property being destroyed without financial recourse. Located in the Coastal Barrier Resource System Under the Coastal Barrier Resources Act of 1982 these are areas that have been determined to be ecologically sensitive, and ineligible for federal expenditures and financial assistance. Since the VA is a federal agency, it is unable to lend in those areas. Proposed or new construction located in Airport Noise Zone 3 (high noise) Severe noise could impair the marketability of the property, since very few people are willing to purchase such a home. Located in unapproved Condominium Developments (Condo) This is a limitation that applies to virtually all types of mortgages. A condominium project is thoroughly analyzed, and can be disqualified for such issues as too many non-owner occupied units, an insufficient budget, or significant uncompleted common elements, among others. Cooperatives Condominiums and cooperatives are often used interchangeably, but they’re actually very different. With a condominium, you actually own the interior of the unit. With a co-op, you only own a share of the company that owns the entire building. That means that legally you don’t actually own real estate. For that reason, many lenders shy away from cooperatives, including the VA. Additional Types of Properties Not eligible for VA Loans The VA does not allow the use of the VA Loan for all types of home or property purchases. Remember, the purpose of the VA loan is for the veteran to be better able to purchase a stable place to live. This is why the VA is only intended for personal use, and must be occupied by the homeowner within a 60 days of closing on the purchase. The VA does not allow the use of the VA Loan on the following property types: VA Loans Can Not Be Used for Unimproved Land The VA does not allow the VA Loan to be used for the purchase of land unless the veteran also plans to immediately build a home on the land. This will also require pre-approval from the VA, and may include additional paperwork, inspections, and other red tape. The most common situation in which a veteran can use the VA loan to buy land is when it is used in conjunction with a new construction VA loan. VA Loans Can Not be Used for Investment Properties or Vacation Homes The VA Loan is intended for personal use as a primary residence. It is not intended to be used to fund an investment property purchase. So you cant use the VA Loan to buy a home to immediately rent out to someone else. And you cannot use it to buy a vacation home, summer home, beach house, lake house, or second home. You can, however, use your VA Loan eligibility to purchase a multi-family home up to 4 units in size, provided you intend to live in one of the units. So in a way, you can use the VA Loan to fund a multi-family investment property, as long as you also use it as your primary residence for at least one year. VA Loans Cannot Be Used for Farms (Unless the Veteran Lives There) Again, this all comes down to intent. Many farmsteads have a home on the land. You can use the VA Loan to buy a working farm but only if you intend to live there. You cannot use the VA Loan to buy a farm if you only plan to use it for the land value. Recommended for All Veterans: Get a Home Inspection Despite VA property requirements, and the fact that the home will be inspected by an appraiser, you should always consider getting a home inspection performed on the property. It can cost anywhere from $200 to $500, but it’s money well spent. After all, after you close on the home and move in, any problems with the property will be your responsibility to repair. At a minimum, a home inspection represents a second pair of eyes. The appraiser has already inspected the property, and listed anything that may be an obvious problem. But a home inspector goes in and does a much closer inspection. Not only will he identify problems and potential problems, but he will also gauge the necessity of making those repairs, and even the costs. Home inspections are not usually required, but getting one is a good way to protect yourself, your family, and your investment in the home.
  • If you’re a veteran of the US military, and looking to buy or refinance a home, you need to work with a VA loan specialist. Only such a specialist will know all of the benefits you’re entitled to, as well as special programs and pricing available. There are only a handful of VA loan specialist lenders in the country . Veterans United Home Loans is one of them. This is the exact type of mortgage lender you should be looking to work with if you’re a veteran. About Veterans United Home Loans Founded in 2002, and based in Columbia, Missouri, Veterans United Home Loans has grown to become one of the largest VA mortgage lenders in the country. In fact, the company specializes in VA mortgages, making it one of the very best companies for veterans to obtain home loan financing with. This is important because VA loans are perhaps the best mortgage program available. They enable veterans to purchase homes with 100% financing, meaning there is no down payment required. This is in contrast to conventional mortgages, that require a minimum down payment of between 3% and 5% of the purchase price, or FHA mortgages that require a minimum down payment of 3.5%. VA Loans also come with no monthly private mortgage insurance requirement, or PMI. This is in contrast to conventional and FHA mortgages, both of which do require monthly mortgage insurance payments if your down payment is less than 20% of the homes purchase price. The company has an A- rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) (on a scale of F to A+). The company has been accredited with BBB since 2004, and has just 25 negative reviews to nearly 1,400 positive reviews. And in late 2017, the JD Power Survey of 25 mortgage lenders gave Veterans United Home Loans an Overall Satisfaction Index rating of 889 based on a 1,000 point scale, the highest of all companies on the survey. Veterans United Home Loans Products and Services Veterans United Home Loans offers a full range of VA home loan products, available for both purchases and refinances. VA Loan Purchases. You can purchase a home with a 0% down payment for up to $453,100 in most counties . But Veterans United Home Loans can also provide maximum loans as high as $1.5 million. First-time Homebuyers. VA loans are specifically well-suited to first-time homebuyers. Since they don’t have a down payment requirement, making that first home purchase doesn’t need to be delayed by saving up money. Also, the lack of a monthly mortgage insurance requirement means a lower monthly payment. Meanwhile, VA mortgage guidelines tend to be more lenient than they are with conventional financing. USDA Loans.Veterans United Home Loans also has USDA Loans available from the US Department of Agriculture. These are available for homebuyers with lower incomes, including veterans, to purchase homes and land in certain designated rural areas. VA Refinance Loans. These give you the ability to refinance an existing mortgage, whether it’s to lower your interest rate and monthly payment, or to get cash out for other purposes. It can be used to refinance a conventional mortgage, an FHA loan, or another VA loan. VA Streamline Refinance. The technical term for these are Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loans , or IRRRL loans. They’re refinance loans available only for existing VA loans. They’re primarily to lower your interest rate and monthly payment, or to refinance an adjustable-rate loan into a fixed rate. They do not require a new VA Loan Certificate of Eligibility , and most do not require a new appraisal. Whatever the loan type, if you’re an eligible veteran, Veterans United Home Loans will help you qualify for the loan, and walk you through every step of the process. Veterans United Home Loans Features and Benefits Veterans United Home Loans helps veterans with every stage of the home-buying process, from education, to pre-qualification, through mortgage processing, and right to the closing table. Some of the specific services they offer include: Military Advisors. Veterans United Home Loans works with former senior enlisted leaders from each branch of the armed services to help educate veterans about homeownership, and how VA loans can help them realize that dream. This helps the company to accommodate the unique needs of veterans, whether they’ve been discharged for many years, are new to civilian life, or still in active service. Customer Service. You can get in touch with a Home Loan Specialist at Veterans United Home Loans by phone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The company also has branch operations available in more than 20 locations. Credit Building. Veterans United Home Loans recognizes that credit is often an issue for service members transitioning into civilian life . They can help explain the ins and outs of credit, as well as to help you improve both your credit and your credit score. This can be done through a program called Veterans United Lighthouse. It’s designed to help potential homebuyers improve their financial profile. Since 2008, the program has helped more than 8,000 previously denied borrowers close on a home. Veterans United Realty. When you’re finally ready to buy a home, you have the option of working with Veteran United Home Loans independent affiliate partner, United Veterans Realty. They work to connect you with real estate agents in your area who specialize in helping veterans and military families through the home buying process. Veterans United Home Loans Borrower Education Servicemembers entering civilian life often don’t understand the technicalities of home buying and mortgage financing. For that reason, Veterans United Home Loans offers special programs dedicated to close that information gap. These include: Homefront Academy. This is an online training service, with live instructors, providing courses and tools to help you obtain your VA loan. This includes a director of education, a licensed real estate agent, a credit expert, and a residential mortgage loan originator. Calculators and Tools. Veterans United Home Loans offers the following calculators: Affordability Calculator – enables you to calculate how much mortgage you can afford, based on your income, recurring expenses, credit history, and the type of mortgage you want. Mortgage Payment Calculator – provides monthly payment amounts based on various loan sizes. Also includes real estate taxes and homeowner’s insurance in the payment. VA Loan Funding Fee Calculator – the VA Funding Fee is the premium you pay for VA mortgage insurance. It’s an upfront charge, that’s added to your loan amount. There are different levels of this fee, and this calculator will show you exactly how much it will be based on your eligibility, loan type and loan amount. In some cases, the VA Loan funding fee can be waived . VA Loan Limit Calculator – In most counties in the US, the VA loan limit is $453,100. But it can be either higher or lower in certain areas. This calculator enables you to find out exactly what the maximum VA loan amount is in the county where you are buying. You can also view the VA Loan limit list on our site for more information . Homebuyer Education. If you’re a first-time homebuyer, Veterans United Home Loans has a long list of resources to help you become an informed buyer. There are courses that explain homeownership, credit, home loans, the VA process itself, your life as a homeowner, and reusing your VA loan benefits. These programs can take the mystery out of the home buying and the mortgage financing process. Veterans United Home Loans Mortgage Rates Veterans United Home Loans doesn’t make its rates and loan fees available on its website. This is actually a good idea. The rates and fees published on most mortgage lender websites are generally only for the most qualified borrowers, with large down payments, high incomes, and excellent credit. In order to calculate a truly relevant interest rate, Veterans United Home Loans first collects information about you as a borrower. This includes your income, your debts, and your credit history. Only when that information is available can they provide an accurate estimate of what your rate and fees will be. This can actually be part of the pre-qualification process. Once you complete it, you’ll not only know what your rates and fees will be, but also how much you can afford to borrow, and what additional documentation you will need between application and closing. You’ll start the process by prequalifying, based on the financial information you supply. You will then be provided with a pre-approval. That will let real estate agents and home sellers know exactly what you’re qualified for, strengthening your bargaining position when you find a home you want to buy. Want to compare VA Loan Lenders? Visit the VA Loan page on our site to compare different lenders and get a quote on an interest rate for your next home purchase. Veterans United Home Loans Advantages and Disadvantages Pros: Veterans United Home Loans is a VA loan specialist lender. This is important because VA loans are unique in the mortgage industry. Mortgage lenders who primarily lend by either conventional and/or FHA loans may not fully understand the VA mortgage process. 24/7 customer support you may need that in the middle of the night when you have important questions. Military Advisors. Veterans often have unique circumstances, that need the advice and input of actual military personnel. Veterans United Home Loans has abundant educational resources and calculators. These will give you an opportunity to learn what you’re getting involved in, as well as being able to crunch numbers before you actually commit yourself to the purchase or refinance. Cons: Veterans United Home Loans doesn’t offer secondary home financing programs, such as home equity loans or home equity lines of credit (HELOCs). They specialize in VA loans, which makes them experts for this loan type. But there are certain situations where it might be more beneficial for a veteran to use either a conventional loan or an FHA loan. For example, VA loans are not available for second homes or investment properties . Conventional financing will be required in either case. (check out our list of best military banks for more lenders that specialize in military customers ). Branches are available only in some states. Most of the process will take place by phone, email, or regular mail. Should You Get Your VA Loan Through Veterans United Home Loans? Veterans United Home Loans is a highly specialized mortgage lender. If you are an eligible veteran, this company should be on your short list of mortgage lenders. While it’s often assumed first-time homebuyers understand the process, it’s not always true. This is especially the case with recently released service members. The home buying process can be especially complicated for someone who is coming into the financial world for the first time. Veterans United Home Loans can make that transition a lot smoother than it otherwise might be. It’s important to understand that while a lot of mortgage lenders do offer VA loans, only a handful specialize in them. VA loans have an incredible number of nuances, and you should be working with a specialist lender to get the most benefit out of all that VA loans have to offer. If you’d like more information, or if you’d like to apply for a loan through the company, check out the Veterans United Home Loans website .
  • If you have heard of the National Guard or the Reserves, you have probably heard the phrase, One Weekend a Month, Two weeks a Year. Perhaps you saw it on a billboard or TV advertisement. Maybe you heard it from a recruiter, or while you were on active duty. One Weekend a Month, Two weeks a Year is a quick and dirty reference to the minimum service requirements for members of the Guard and Reserves. Im here to tell you that phrase is completely true. But it can also be a wildly inaccurate representation of the service commitment made by members of the Guard and Reserves. One Weekend a Month, Two weeks a Year is the minimum service requirement Reserve Component members are scheduled to serve. However, its more of a guideline than a hard and fast rule. Its possible to serve much more than that in a year, up to and including serving on a full-time basis. Members can also serve less than this amount and still earn a Good Year toward retirement. Lets take a deeper look at Guard and Reserves service requirements. Well start with a question about Guard and Reserve training, then dive deeper into the minimum annual service requirement you can expect, and the reality of what it means to serve in the Guard and Reserves. This article will serve as a primer for anyone considering joining the National Guard or Reserves . Guard and Reserve Initial Training Requirements What follows is a recent question we received from a reader who is thinking about joining the Guard or Reserves (branch to be determined). Hello Ryan, I am interested in potentially joining the military (Air Force or Marines), likely in a National Guard or Reserve capacity. Im having a hard time finding out how (if at all) the training / tech school differs for Reserve/Guard members. Ive read that you can train closer to home, but have struggled to find anything to back it up. Your podcast has been invaluable to me thus far in my research. Thank you for your time, effort, as well as your service. Thank you for contacting me, and Im glad my podcast has been helpful. This is a great question. Youre probably having a difficult time finding this information because tech school training doesnt usually differ for members of the Guard and Reserves. For the purposes of initial military training, the Guard and Reserves are extensions of active duty. Members go through the same basic training, followed by the same tech schools as their active duty counterparts. Some tech schools may require a follow-on training, or seasoning days, in which the member performs some additional training at their unit, an active duty base, or in another tech school. Their service differs only after they complete basic training, tech school, and any required follow-on training (if any). After initial training, the member then reports to their Guard or Reserve unit and is then on the standard Guard or Reserve schedule, which is often referred to as one weekend a month, two weeks a year. Annual Training Requirements, or, One Weekend a Month, Two Weeks a Year The phrase, One Weekend a Month, Two Weeks a Year refers to the minimum service requirement Guard and Reserve members are scheduled for each year. But it can vary dramatically, which we will cover. The one weekend a month refers to the normal monthly drill assembly (also called a Unit Training Assembly, or UTA). This is further broken down into two days, each of which is two drill periods, for a total of four drill periods per drill UTA. The two weeks a year refers to two weeks of Annual Training (also called AT days). These two weeks can be done either individually, or as a partial or full unit, depending on how the base or unit schedules the training. The weekend drill assemblies are generally served at your unit. This is why serving in the Guard or Reserves is often referred to as serving closer to home. Of course, this is relative, as you may have a commute to your unit  (in some cases you may be eligible for travel reimbursement ). The two weeks of Annual Training can be served in different times or locations, based on unit needs or scheduling requirements. Many units schedule these two weeks during the summer, but there is no standard rule. Some bases may schedule everyone to serve their AT days at the same time and location. This is more common in branches that need larger units to perform their duties. For example, an Army Reserve unit may require an entire company or battalion to report at the same time and location for field training. And the Air Force may require an entire flying squadron and support units to perform training missions together. This is the only way these particular units can train to work and fight together. Other units may be able to function on a smaller scale. So they may be able to serve their AT days at a different time and place. Some members may even be able to serve their two weeks of Annual Training on an individual basis on their own schedule. This distinction is important to understand because in some branches of the military, and in some career fields, you will be required to serve your two weeks a year in a fixed time and place with everyone else. However, members of some other military branches and career fields may have more flexibility in their Annual Training requirements. Earning a Good Year in the Guard and Reserves Its important to understand the annual service requirements, how you earn points for your service, and how they add up to qualify for a Good Year, or a year that is credited toward retirement. Members need to earn 50 Points in order to qualify for a Good Year toward retirement . 20 Good Years qualify a member for Guard / Reserve retirement benefits . Active duty time counts toward retirement as well, so you may already be on your way to earning a military retirement if you are current or former active duty, and are considering joining the Guard or Reserves. This podcast / article discusses the finer points of the decision process . Each type of service earns Retirement Points. The points break down like this: 15 Participation Points for membership in the Guard, Reserves, or Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) 1 Point for each day on Active Service (Active Duty, Active Duty for Training, and Annual Training tours) 1 Point per Drill Period (Each Drill weekend normally has 4 Drills, so this is good for 4 Points on a normal Drill weekend). 1 Point for serving in an Honor Guard for Funeral Honors Duty  (normally capped at 1 Point per day, regardless of the number of funerals in which you serve as an Honor Guard). 1 Point for each three study hours of qualifying military correspondence courses. How Many Points Should You Earn in a Year? Members who serve the minimum number of scheduled days should earn approximately 78 Retirement Points per year. One Weekend a Month, Two Weeks a Year, breaks down to 78 points per year: 15 Participation Points 48 Points from Drill Weekends 15 Annual Training Points = 78 Points You get 15 participation points, just for being a member of the Guard and Reserves. This is automatic. Each Drill Period is worth one retirement point and one day of base pay. There are two drills per day, for a total of 4 drill periods per drill weekend. Finally, you have the two weeks per year which is 15 days. (Trivia: why is two weeks 15 days? I dont know. Ive seen people quote 14 days and 15 days; use this is a ballpark estimate). Can You Earn More Retirement Points? Absolutely. This is a topic unto itself, as there are many, many ways to earn additional retirement points . This can include performing additional training, being activated or mobilized, Professional Military Education (PME), taking certain correspondence courses, serving on an honor guard or burial duties, temporary active duty, and much more. Federal law limits the number of inactive duty points you can earn each retirement year. Reserve year ends on or after 30 Oct 2007: max of 130 Points Reserve year ends on or after 29 Oct 2000: max of 90 Points Reserve year ends on or after 23 Sep 1996: max of 75 Points Before 23 Sep 1996: max of 60 Points These limits only apply to inactive points. Active duty points dont count toward that limit. The maximum number of total points you can earn each year is 365 (366 in leap years). Can You Miss Training Days, UTAs, or Annual Training And Still Get a Good Year? This is the dirty little secret you never hear about in the Guard and Reserves (at least, until youve been around the unit for awhile). It may be possible to miss a certain number of training days, UTAs, etc, and still earn a Good Year toward retirement. But you have to tread carefully here. As you read above, members are scheduled for enough training to earn about 78 Points each year. But you only need 50 Points to earn a qualifying year toward retirement. Why is this? The basic answer is that officials understand not everyone can make every single unit drill assembly. Or they may not be able to take off the two weeks for their Annual Training. This could be for personal, medical, or professional reasons. So it can be possible to miss one or more drills, or the Annual Training, and still earn a Good Year. But here is the kicker you need to get written permission from your unit, or you risk missing out on a Good Year. In fact, you can have the requisite number of Points and still not earn a Good Year if your unit determines you did not earn it (most commonly for too many unexcused drill absences, or other administrative problems). Note: Im not an expert on this exact situation, so this is something you would need to take up with your base legal department or personnel section if you believe it may apply to you. My recommendation is to always have a written record of excused absences so you have the required documentation for your service records . Drill Attendance and Annual Training Participation is Important for You and Your Unit My recommendation is to do your best to attend every UTA and do your AT days if able. Most units have required training and appointments you need to attend during your Drill weekends. Missing out on those can make it difficult to stay on top of your training requirements. And your two week annual tour is a great time to become more proficient in your military duties. Missing that time may make you less effective in your unit. If you do miss a Drill, I recommend trying to make it up if or when possible*. I have done this a couple times. For example, I missed a Drill Weekend while my family and I were relocating to a new state. I made it up the following month by coming in two days early. This gave me 4 consecutive Drill days, which is a great way to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. *There are two date considerations when making up Drill dates and UTAs: The first is the fiscal year (which always begins on Oct. 1), and the second is your Anniversary Year End (AYE), which is the anniversary of the date you joined the Guard or Reserves. You can find this in your annual points statement or through your personnel or human resources office. You will need to make up missed Drills or UTAs before your AYE for it to count toward your Good Year, and you may need to schedule certain events around the fiscal year, when budgets can become tight. Can You Skip the Two Week Annual Training Requirement? The two week Annual Training is a normal service requirement and is usually considered part of the minimum service requirement for the year. However, it can, and often does, vary based on branch of service, unit, and career field. Some members may find they serve well in excess of the two weeks Annual Training. Members can also be receive orders for additional training requirements, or be activated for other reasons, including deployments, mobilizations, disaster relief, and more. Members may also have the two weeks waived for various reasons, and still earn a Good Year. In some cases, the member may participate in training outside their unit, and have that take the place of their Annual Training days. For example, in three of the last four years I did not serve the two week Annual Training (AT) with my unit. Instead, I was on Active Duty for Training orders (ADT), including two different tech schools (each of which was two months long), and Officer Training School, which was nine weeks long. My unit allowed these training events to stand in for my two weeks of Annual Training. While this may seem like the same thing on the surface, the days are actually coded differently, and the funding comes from different budgets. Had I wanted to, I could have asked my unit to allow me to perform the AT days. This would mean more Retirement Points, and more pay.  But also more time away from my family. Some units may or may not give their members the option. Remember, as I wrote above, your ability to waive your AT days will depend entirely upon your branch of service, your unit needs, your career field, current training needs, and other factors. Some Guard and Reserve Members May Serve Much More than Average Everything written so far is based on the minimum service requirement. But many Guard and Reserve members serve much more than the minimum. There are many reasons for this, including their unit needs, their career field, because they volunteered to serve additional days, mobilizations, deployments, being activated, and many other reasons. Some members serve in career fields with very high operations (ops) tempos. Some career fields allow their members to serve almost as many days as they want (common with flight crews, Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) crews, special ops, certain medical fields, and other high-demand or undermanned career fields). Some members also volunteer for orders as often as possible, picking up orders whenever the need or opportunity arises. How Much Time Can You Expect to Serve in the Guard and Reserves? If all of this sounds vague, and slightly complicated, thats because it can be. You may be able to breeze through several years in the Guard or Reserves, and never serve more than the minimum number of days. And another member in your unit may serve twice as many days as you. In other words, even people in the same unit may have very different duty requirements based on their career field, training needs, availability, and other factors. The best advice I have for someone considering joining the Guard or Reserves is to contact a recruiter at your prospective unit, and ask them about the unit mission, ops tempo, current needs / open jobs, and what you may be required to do in one of those jobs. If possible, you may be able to interview with one of the members of your prospective career field to get a better understanding of the day to day job, training requirements, ops tempo for that job, likelihood of deployments or mobilizations, and any other relevant questions you may have. Serving in the Guard and Reserves Requires a Major Commitment Overall, serving in the Guard or Reserves requires a commitment of yourself, and your family, if you have one. You may only be required to serve on a part-time basis. But you may also be required to serve up to a full-time basis if you are activated or mobilized. So it can require a commitment of your employer as well. This last point is important, as you may be required to spend time away from your civilian job. The good news is there are employment protections in place, through the USERRA program. USERRA is a federal law that covers Employment Rights for Active Military, Guard, and Reserves . Essentially, USERRA serves to protect your job in the event you join the military. There are a lot of nuances, so its best to read more about it to get a basic understanding of how it works. The military does provide legal assistance to members, so you can always consult with a military attorney (or JAG, Judge Advocate General), if the need arises. Be Prepared to Make Personal and Professional Sacrifices Serving the either the Guard or Reserves may only require a minimum amount of time. But more likely, it will interfere with your personal or professional life at some point. My good friend Doug Nordman is fond of saying this about serving in the Guard / Reserves, You know youre doing something right when your family, your unit, and your civilian employer are all equally frustrated with you. There is a lot of truth to his statement. In my four years of serving in the Air National Guard I have missed birthdays, anniversaries, dance recitals, school events, and family events. I have missed time from work and my business has suffered as a result. And I havent even been deployed. All of these missed events came over the course of my normal drill weekends, or during the several times Ive been activated for training (each time for around two months). Many people are deployed for months at a time and their sacrifices can be much greater. These are difficult sacrifices to make. It takes a loving and understanding family. It takes creativity on your end to celebrate birthdays and other events in advance, or when you return home. But it also takes dedication to your service. And a commitment to the people in your unit. I love serving in the Air National Guard. I believe in the mission. I love being around the unit members. I feel honored to be a part of our nations military. And I love that Im earning benefits both in the present moment, and Im working toward a Reserve retirement and all the benefits that entails . Guard and Reserve Service is a Calling One Weekend a Month, Two Weeks a Year is a good marketing slogan. But serving in the Guard or Reserves is much more than that. Its a calling. It is a commitment to a lifestyle of service, whenever, and wherever you are needed. Its not always easy. Sometimes it may feel like the sacrifice is too great. But ultimately, it is rewarding.
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