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Year-End Financial Checklist | Paradigm Money
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Creating Your Year-End Financial Checklist



It is that time of the year where you make and list and check it twice! But no we are not talking about Santa Claus or your Christmas shopping list, we are speaking about your financial checklist. Everyone’s situation is different, and complexities are inevitable. So Bankrate.com created a few tasks you might want to consider squeezing in before 2018 comes to an end, per the experts (you might see a familiar name):

1. Make sure your holiday spending estimates are brutally honest

Soon enough, if not already, you might declare this and that financial resolution. But in December, there is the added risk of digging yourself into a deeper financial hole from all of that holiday spending. So, try to get ahead of that particular red flag by doing the math of what will cost you what — and be brutally honest.

For example, it’s all too easy to think ‘I’ll spend $400 on gifts’ and assume that’s all the extra spending you’ll do. Reality check? It’s probably not.

“They haven’t accounted for, you know, the new towels they are going to buy for the house because guests are coming or the extra food that they are going to spend [money on] to have a big family dinner or the travel costs they are going to incur to go visit somebody and on and on and on,” Khalfani-Cox says.

So, factor in all of the costs. And if you want to save more in 2019, or hit some other milestone, you may want to find ways to reign in those expenses before it’s too late.

2. Take stock of your finances

Take stock of your finances, including debt and savings. We know: it can feel painful and emotional to do so. But, it will give you a baseline to help you decide what to do next.

“Just make sure you look at these numbers,” says Ethan Bloch, founder and chief executive of Digit, an automated savings app.

Ash Exantus,  director of financial education at BankMobile and author known as “Ash Cash,” also recommends taking stock of whether you achieved your 2018 financial goals — if you set them.

If you didn’t hit them, don’t dwell on defeat. Instead, learn from what happened or didn’t happen. And regardless of where you are at, it’s better to check in than not over the long haul.

“Your money telling you what to do instead of you telling it what to do is really not going to allow you to live the life that you want to live,” Exantus says.

3. Start dreaming about your next financial goal

Now for the fun part: Get dreaming and set your financial goal or goals for next year.

Need a starting place? Deb Kriebel, partner and a wealth manager at Pinnacle Advisory Group, encourages you to try save more than the year before.

“At the end of the year, maybe you look and maybe say ‘oh, I wasn’t able to max out my 401(k) this year. I’m going to max out next year,’” Kriebel says. “Or ‘I wasn’t able to get to a Roth. I’m going to try to do that next year.’ Or, you set up an investment account and you are saving and then say maybe ‘I’m going to increase that by 10 percent.’ And you kind of set a target for yourself for the next year to save more, invest more.”

Whatever your goal is — to increase savings or not —write it down somewhere and choose a starting point to try to attain it. Spoiler alert: even this part is hard. So, don’t go wild here with goals. Digit’s Bloch recommends focusing on one goal and figuring out how much you need by when.

Get specific with the costs, too. ‘I want to get a car this year’ isn’t enough, Exantus says.  You’ll want to consider what kind of car, how much it will cost, including insurance and gas expenses.

4. Consider your employment situation

Carve out the time to think about where you’re going career wise or life wise and where you want to go as it will inevitably tie to one side of your balance sheet: your income and earning potential.

“I think it’s one of the biggest things most people could do that is really underrated right now in our society,” Bloch says.

Part of this soul searching should include assessing how much your employer pays you — and deciding whether you need to do something differently.

“Really focus on what are those goals you want to accomplish, how do you want to accomplish them and what are the tools you need in order to accomplish them — whether it’s a new job or a side hustle,” Exantus says.

5.  Use fintech or digital banking apps to help you automate and understand your cash flow

Evaluating your cash flow doesn’t have to be a laborious experience. Apps like Mint can comb through your financial data to help you get a handle on your spending and savings across all of your accounts. Your bank may also offer similar functionality. Large banks, like Citi, and small banks, like Mercantile Bank of Michigan, offer digital budgeting tools, for example. Depending on how many accounts you have, it might just mean you logging in to a couple of mobile apps to see where you stand.

Then, consider what financial areas you might want to automate, so that the task gets done without requiring regular work from you. This won’t be everything.

“The reality is most people can’t fully automate their financial life because they don’t have enough cash for buffers,” Digit’s Bloch says. “To really automate everything, you need a pool of cash in your checking account. In reality, most people just don’t have that.”

So, consider settling on the areas of your finances that you can safely automate. This approach could help you avoid the inertia that comes with taking on a manual banking task that could feel daunting, like paying down college debt.

“Most people do not want to manage their money every day or every week and they shouldn’t. It’s ridiculous,” Bloch says.  “I don’t know how to grow my food. I eat food every day. It works great. I don’t know how to repair my car. I drove it to work today. It works great. … I think [finance] is going to become like this.”

6. Max out your 401(k) and find other ways to save

Now is the time to contribute the maximum amount to your 401(k), if you have one and have the funds to do so.

If you are under 50, you can contribute up to $18,500 in 2019. If you are 50 or older, you can contribute another $6,000. The perks of pre-tax contributions coming from your paycheck are reducing your taxable income, and at the same time, forcing you to save, Pinnacle Advisory Group’s Kriebel says.

To save more, consider opening up a Roth IRA, which allows you to put after-tax money aside that grows tax-free at a time of year where you have a good idea of your annual income.

This year, the maximum amount workers can contribute to a Roth IRA is $5,500 — if you’re younger than 50. That goes up to $6,000 in 2019. Pro tip: the amount you can contribute changes based on your income. If you’re single, contributions start to phase out at $120,000.

“I think it’s a fabulous way for anyone to save if you are under the income thresholds,” she says.

Unlike a retirement account, a Roth IRA lets you take the principal out — what you contributed to it —with no tax. “It’s a great way to have a kind of emergency fund,” Kriebel says. “But in the same regard, invest it, let it grow and hopefully you won’t need it [and] it will just keep growing.”

7. Take advantage of tax breaks

Don’t overlook potential tax breaks. Yes, they’re considerably different than last year’s because multiple changes to tax rules have gone into effect.

But there are breaks to consider, such as if you’re a small-business owner. Case in point: In the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provision, a qualified business income (QBI) deduction lets small-business owners deduct as much as 20 percent of their qualified business income.

“It is a nice way to not get taxed on all your income while you’re trying to build,” Kriebel says.

It may also be a good time to check in with your accountant before year’s end, especially if you have a big milestone ahead.

“I know that nobody everybody likes to think about the tax man,” The Money Coach’s Khalfani-Cox says. “But it’s often the case that you can save yourself a lot of money in the following year or better plan how to get ahead by being strategic during the last quarter and certainly the last month of the year. So, anything that you can do before the end of 2018, by December 31, that can lower your tax bite with Uncle Sam is definitely time and effort and money well spent.”

8. Whatever your decisions are, be intentional about them

At this time of year, you’ll be getting a lot of opinions on what you ought to do with your money — including pressure from family members.

But only you know what you want. So, while spending pressure may be overflowing this holiday season, consider what you really want to achieve. Perhaps that means making gifts, instead of buying them, to avoid overspending. But prepare to be courageous — your verdict may very well go against the social norms of your circle at an emotionally charged time of year.

“Everyone has different ideas of what the holidays should be,” Amy Jo Lauber, CFP and president of Lauber Financial Planning. “Love and family and friendship and relationships and money, everything gets all tangled up at this time of this year. So, it’s hard to kind of keep your footing. … Come January, you don’t want to be completely blindsided and you don’t want to be full of regret. Regret is a very expensive emotion. I would want everyone to do things intentionally whatever they decide to do.”

Ash Exantus aka Ash Cash is one of the nation’s top personal finance experts. Dubbed as the Financial Motivator, he uses a culturally responsive approach in teaching financial literacy. He is the Head of Financial Education at BankMobile and Editor-in-Chief at Paradigm Money. The views and opinions expressed are those of Ash Cash and not the views of BankMobile and/or its affiliates.

The Daily Digm (News)

Celebrities Caught Cheating to Get Students into College + How to Prepare for the Cost of College the Right Way!



Actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are among the dozens charged with using deceitful tactics to funnel students into top colleges. The alleged crimes, uncovered by the FBI, including bribing officials, cheating on exams and wrongfully claiming athlete status in order to nab spots at top universities such as Yale, Stanford, and Georgetown. “Desperate Housewives” star Huffman is accused of paying $15,000 for her daughter’s answers on the SAT to be corrected and was released on a $250,000 bond by a Los Angeles court Tuesday.

As a student, I understand that you want to do what is necessary to help your children succeed but breaking the law to do so is not worth it in the long run. So if you are a parent who wants to help your child with college what do you do? Although, college isn’t something that they will attend until they become an adult it is important that parents start to plan for this expense as early as possible. With childcare being almost as much as rent or a mortgage it can be difficult to save money for anything these days, especially college expenses.

Fortunately, a 529 Plan can help parents save money for their child ’s future college experience. The 529 Plan is a tax-advantaged investment. It was created to encourage parents, grandparents, legal guardians, etc., to begin saving money for the future college educations of their children, grandchildren, are legal wards. It receives its name from Section 529 in the IRS Code, and it is offered by state agencies and state organizations.

Not all states offer the 529 Plan, but those who do individually decide how the plan is designed and what kind of investment options they will offer. Most plans allow investors to come from out of state. The advantages for in-state residents who apply for a 529 college savings plan within their state can include tax deductions, matching grant and scholarship opportunities, protection from creditors, and even exemption from financial aid debt.

The 529 Plan is offered in two different forms. There is a prepaid plan, sometimes also called a guaranteed savings plan, which allows you to purchase tuition ahead of time, based on the current calculations of what the tuition of a specific university is. It is then paid out when the beneficiary of the policy attends a college or university.

There are also savings plans, which are based around the market performance of an underlying investment. These investments are generally comprised of mutual funds. Forty-eight states, plus the District of Columbia, offer the 529 savings plan. Usually, savings plans become more conservative, the older the beneficiary gets. There are also options for risk-based investments, which allows underlying investments to remain in the same fund, no matter what the age of the ultimate recipient.

The 529 college savings plans are a great way for parents, grandparents, or legal guardians to ensure that their young loved ones will be able to afford to go to the very best colleges and receive the very best degrees. It allows children the opportunity to follow their dreams, like before they are actually capable of reaching them. They are ideal plans for adults who want to provide college funds for their children but are unsure or unable to go about it in the way the movies have always told them they should. The 529 plans are realistic and affordable investments, designed to ensure a child’s future successes.

So as you contemplate whether or not you will start your family, keep in mind of these expenses but also know that there are vehicles available to make the ride smoother (pun intended)

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Is It the End for Brick and Mortar Retail Stores? + How to Find a Job with Longevity



More than 5,300 brick-and-mortar stores are slated to close in 2019. The closures are “more of the same for the retail industry,” according to Business Insider, which suffered the shuttering of more than 250 million square feet of store space in 2017 and 2018. Payless ShoeSource is the driving force behind the latest crop of closures — with 2,500 of the discount shoe stores set to close, it may be the largest retail liquidation in history. Gymboree, Charlotte Russe, and Family Dollar are also planning mass closures.

This may be due to Amazon.com low prices and fast delivery or due to consumers being more and more comfortable to shop online. Regardless of the reason, Brick and Mortar retail stores closing have a big implication for young people since these jobs are usually the first job they get. So how do you find longevity in a job and how do you prepare for it? Here are four ways to prepare for the job you want no matter your age:

1. Focus on Your Strengths, Not What You’re Lacking

Whether you are 20 years old or over 40 instead of focusing on your age, you need to focus on your strengths. Many young people with limited experience or older people who may not be up to date with the latest technologies focus on what they’re lacking, and this is a big mistake. Do you have the qualifications for the job? Can you bring value to this position? Whatever your strong suits are you should play that up in your resume, cover letter or communications with the recruiter. It’s easy to focus on why you can’t get the job, but the trick is not to let that get to you. Focus on your value!

2. Attack Your Job Search from All Angles

Networking, Answering ads and/or working with recruiters are the most effective ways to land a job. It is important that you just don’t focus on one method but all three. Networking obviously is the ideal way because it allows you to communicate your value directly, but the other methods have their benefits as well. Be proactive and use each method effectively.

3. Show/Explain Your Leadership Abilities and/or Innovation

Leadership and taking the initiative have nothing to do with age. Young leaders and old leaders can be more or equally effective as those who have the “ideal” age. Focus on your leadership abilities and be sure to display this to your current or potential employee. Also, make sure you are keeping up to date with current trends in your industry. This will allow you to show your innovation and add more value to your company.

4. Ask For What You are Worth

Lastly, ask for what you are worth. Don’t let being “too young” or “too old” deter you from asking for a salary you deserve. In fact, trying to downplay your worth may very well backfire on you. Also, if you have been with a company for a long time and your salary outpaces what the position is worth making sure you are adding to your skill set and not staying complacent.

Following these four tips can help you gain or retain employment. What are some other ways? Comment below>>>

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President Trump to Send 2020 Budget + How to Stick to Your 2019 and Beyond Personal Budget



President Trump will send the White House’s proposed 2020 budget to Congress today — a month later than usual following the partial government shutdown. Trump is expected to ask for $8.6 billion for additional barriers along the Mexico border, with $5 billion allocated to the Department of Homeland Security. The budget is also expected to seek increased military funding and a reduction in domestic programs, according to The New York Times. We will see in the upcoming days whether the budget will be improved or not.

When it comes to properly managing your personal finances, a budget is the best tool you can use to guarantee your success. It is your roadmap to tell you how to get to your desired goal in a timely manner. Contrary to popular belief a budget doesn’t limit the amount of money you can spend. Instead, it gives you direction based on what you tell it to do.

Despite this unrestrictive control everyone has, it is still a difficult fear for some to stick to their budget. The following are five ways you can hold yourself accountable and stick to your budget:

1. Create Affirmations

Affirmations are a great way to achieve any goal. They keep in your mind’s eye what is most important and transport those ideas to your subconscious. Put them in your smartphone as an alarm in the morning so that as you begin your day, you are reminded as to what your goals are. For example, if you have a financial goal of saving $5,000 this year to invest, your affirmation could be, “I am so happy that I have saved $5,000, I will use and spend this money wisely to grow my net worth.”

2. Limit Your Access

Many people falter on their budgets because the access they have to their money is too easy. Separate your bill account, savings account, and a spending account. Automate all of your bills to your bill account, automate your savings into your savings account, and what is left over goes into your spending account. Managing your money in this way removes the temptation that you undoubtedly will have to use the money for other purposes.

3. Track Your Spending

Most people who don’t stick to a budget don’t really know where they went wrong. It is usually small unplanned expenses that do the most damage. When you track your spending consistently, you are creating a mechanism that will hold you and every dollar accountable. As you spend and subsequently track your spending, you can assess where you are unnecessarily spending and stop as soon as possible.

4. If You Can’t Stick to Your Budget, Change It

You are in total control of your budget so, in order to hold yourself accountable, you need to face the fact that if you can’t stick to your budget, then you must change it. Whether it is by decreasing expenses or increasing income, focusing on how to recreate a budget that will be more suitable to the lifestyle you want is imperative. Don’t assume you will fail at something that you have the power to change.

5. Find an Accountability Partner

Sometimes holding yourself accountable requires some reinforcement. Because of competition or the fear of letting someone down, having an accountability partner is a powerful tool in trying to stick to any financial goal. Creating a system that allows you to have periodic check-ins on your budget can go a long way. Whether it’s a friend, a significant other, a financial coach, or co-worker, align yourself with someone who can help you stay the full course of sticking to your budget.

We want to hear from you! What are some other helpful ways that you can hold yourself accountable to your budget?

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