Sunday, July 27, 2014

Eating Seasonal Foods - Good for your Body, Good for your Wallet!

Eating foods in season is supportive of our well being.  For example, in the summer Mother Nature provides a bounty of high-water-content foods to help us stay hydrated...water melon, cucumber, tomatoes all add refreshment to hot days.

In addition to supporting your physical well being seasonal produce treats are wallets with kindness.  Local in-season produce doesn't have to travel as far as out-of-season fruits and veggies which often travel thousands of miles from other countries.  Combine the lower transportation costs with the abundance of the local in-season crops and you get lower prices. 

How do you know what's in season?  Two ways:
  1. Prices in the store - when the grocery store offers strawberries at 2 baskets for $1.00 or tomatoes at $1.29 per pound you are looking at in-season foods!
  2. Visit this website - CUESA which shows you the produce in season and provides recipes for incorporating these physically and fiscally health goods into your diet

What's your favorite way to prepare these summer gems? cucumber, tomato, and watermelon?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Career Shift Budgeting (Part 1): Finding Your Next Career

Are you dissatisfied with your career and want to make a change?  Did you recently lose your job due to a layoff and want to pursue a new career? The first step to making such a shift is to identify potential careers to pursue. There are many resources available to assist you with this process, including working with a career development professional.  For you do-it-yourself types, here are a few of my favorite resources for finding a fulfilling career:
Once you've narrowed in on a few potential careers, you will want to explore the following: 
  • Nature of the work - What does the day in the life of a person doing this job entail?  What is the work environment (hours, stress level, travel required, level of autonomy, etc.)  Meet with professionals already working in your desired professional and get the inside scoop on what the job entails.  Explore both the pros and cons before committing to the new career.  You're investing time and money in this change so make sure it is one that you can live with for the long-term.
  • Training and other qualifications needed - Do you have transferable skills or will you need additional education or credentials? If you need training, what will be the cost?  Does your state require special licensing or qualifications (example: most states require a license to be an aesthetician). What are the costs associated with licensing or credentialing?  Some careers, such as Pharmacist and Registered Dietician require college degrees in the specialty along with an internship. You must consider this when calculating the financial aspect of your career change. 
  • Job outlook - Is there high demand for people in this role? What are the future growth prospects for jobs in this arena?  you want to avoid pursuing a career with low growth or one that could become obsolete; both situations could force you to make an other career change in the near future. 
  • Earnings and advancement - Money isn't everything but your new career must be able to support your financial needs. How much can you realistically make in the first few years of your career shift?  Research the average salary + bonus for the early years to determine if you can live off these earnings. Here are a few resources for determining earnings:
Are you considering a career shift?  If so, please use the comments box to share your ideas, questions and suggested resources with fellow readers.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Paperwork that Could Clue You into a Scam

Today I read an article about a financial adviser whose husband, also a financial adviser, had been scamming his clients for over 20 years and she never knew! Of course, looking back she realized there were some red flags that should have alerted her to the situation.  These are the three things she observed:
  • Red Flag 1: His clients' portfolios enjoyed consistently good returns even when the market was performing poorly.(This is not impossible but very unlikely to occur).
  • Red Flag 2: He did not provide his clients with detailed trade confirmations for buys or sells.
  • Red Flag 3: He instructed his clients to make checks deposited to their accounts for investments payable to HIS firm rather than the custodian firm that actually held the investments. I will explain more about the roles of advisers, custodians and brokerage firms in future posts.

In an article on CBS MoneyWatch, she offers advice on what to do if you spot any of these red flags with your adviser. Click here to read the article (keep in mind that in this article she creates more questions than she answers, quite possibly as a way to promote the sales of her book.  You can learn more about the terms and concepts she discusses through free research online).

I want to address red flag 2, no detailed trade confirmations provided to the clients for trades.  When you or your adviser places trades in your investment account (brokerage, mutual fund, IRA, etc.), you will receive a trade confirmation of the transaction detailing such things as the name of the investment you purchased or sold, quantity of shares or bonds, price paid or received per share/bond, commission paid, etc. A trade confirmation is essential for responsible investing for two reasons:

  1. Verification that the broker has filled your order according to your instructions - carefully review the document for accuracy and report any errors to your adviser as soon as possible so corrections can be made. If you wait to long to point out irregularities in the transaction, you could lose the ability to rectify the situation.
  2. Documentation for taxes and gains/losses tracking - account statements do not contain sufficient details to support your declaration of gains or losses.  The IRS requires a valid trade confirmation as proof of the buy or sell transaction.  This confirmation can be on paper or electronic (a method many brokers now utilize to minimize paperwork you must maintain.  Be sure you keep a backup of the electronic files). 
For those of you not familiar with my philosophy of personal finance, I believe we are all responsible for our own money decisions.  Anyone who takes responsibility for their financial well-being understands that attention to detail, education and a bit of skepticism go a long way to putting one on the path to personal finance success.  If something seems too good to be is!  If something seems a bit off or is!  If a financial adviser's style or recommendations rub you the wrong are probably wise to find a new adviser.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Saving Money on Your Food Bill

According to an article from PLoS One,  food waste in the USA has progressively increased from about 30% of the available food supply in 1974 to almost 40% in recent years.  For a family of 2 with 1 income, this translates into a throwing out $3,266 worth of food (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics: Consumer Expenditure Survey 2008).

To minimize the amount of food I throw out, I conduct a quarterly eat-down.  What is an eat-down? It is when you focus on creating meals using only what you have on hand (fridge, freezer and pantry).  Rather than stop at the grocery store once a week, I'll simply go "shopping" in my own kitchen, using up items before they spoil and saving money in the long run.   It’s actually fun trying to come up with creative recipes.  Anyone have a good recipe that calls for cream of celery soup and jar of cocktail onions?

If you decide to implement an eat-down at your house, I’d like to hear your strategies and results.  Simply add your comments to this post. I’ll do the same.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why should I get my credit report annually?

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If you want to order your free annual credit report online, there is only one authorized website, The Federal Trade Commission has a link on their website (click here to access the FTC section on free credit reports).

So why should you get your credit reports annually?
  • To detect identity theft - Your report will show you any new accounts opened in your name as well as who has been checking your credit. If an account appears on the report that you did not open or if a company (especially a retail store where you have not applied for financing) inquires into your creditworthiness, you can take action to prevent potential identity theft from taking place or at least minimize the impact.
  • Uncover errors - The reporting agencies make mistakes, trust me! Equifax still has my married name on my report even though I changed back to my maiden name 14 years ago (and, yes, I changed it with the Social Security Administration so that isn't the issue as Equifax claims. You won't believe the hoops I have to jump through to fix it but that's for a future post.) Fortunately, this error hasn't impacted my credit worthiness. Other mistakes, such as reporting a late payment on a credit card when you paid on time, can have a significant impact on your credit score and will result in you paying a higher interest rate on loans or being turned down for a loan.
Personally, I recommend you view your credit reports at least every six months (many things can happen in 12 months). Of course, you will have to pay for the mid-year reports that you obtain but the small investment can save you a great deal of headaches.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Making Home Affordable

You may have heard about the government's "Making Home Affordable" program. Aundrea Beach-Greco, a Certified Mortgage Planner in the Las Vegas area, provided some much needed clarification regarding this latest development in the housing market on her blog today. To learn more, check out her latest post.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I have a tough time giving politicians any slack when they fail to pay their taxes. I'm a honest tax paying citizen of the USA. I have several businesses and I declare all of my income (yes, including cash payments). I carefully account for every sale and source of revenue as well as tracking legitimate expenses. The law states that you do not have to pay more tax than you owe under the law. Law is not about just "word" but also "spirit".

The article that follows is in regards to a politician owing taxes on expenses she (or more likely, her financial advisers) claimed as "Per Diem". Anyone with any understanding of the concept of Per Diem can see that these payments do not qualify for this classification but, instead, fall under the category of income. The spirit of the law was violated. But who violated it?

Was she an innocent in this situation? Did some financial adviser steer her down a slippery slope? Could be. If your employer sends you a W-2 or other tax statement showing the income you must declare, you trust their knowledge of the matter, right? Perhaps someone on her financial advisory staff told her that her expenses while living at her home could be considered travel expenses for work. If they did, they need to be sanctioned and fired pronto!

Unfortunately, ignorance is no excuse under the law. Let this story serve as a lesson to you...You need to know as much if not more than your advisers. You need to give everything they say the "gut test". If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.