Friday, April 25, 2014

Ten Giant Wastes of your Money

Do you waste money? Do you misuse it to the point that you might as well set it on fire? Do you have money to burn? I am sure you don’t think you do. No one wants to waste money but we often do unknowingly. There are more money wasters out there than I can list in the blog. After you have read my top ten ideas for how we waste money, I encourage you to pass along your own ideas. I will compile them and put your ideas into a future blog. You can respond to this blog or send them to

  1. Unused memberships for which you are still paying. Gym memberships, online gaming, dance clubs, fraternal organizations, etc. These memberships take money from us every month. If we are not using the advantages of these memberships, why are we still paying for them?
  2. The social life is cool, but at what cost? One or two nights a week out drinking and carousing can cost you $30-$50 a night depending on the bar. It’s not all booze because when you are out drinking you invariably want to go out to eat. Who’s going to run home and fix pasta after four drinks? Besides, all those cool people at the bar are not at your home!
  3. Regularly eating lunch in restaurants or take out. How much does it need to cost before you decide to start making your lunch at home and taking it with you? A cheap lunch of a deli sandwich and a soda can run $7 today, much more if you want something more elaborate. If I eat out four times a week all year long how much does that cost at my (low) average of $7 per day? Try nearly $1,500! It runs about a third as much to bring your lunch regularly.
  4.  Style. Addicted to style and fashions? Do you have fashion magazines coming to your door? Is the next thing from your fav designer the next must have fashion addition? Cool your jets. This is a problem for men and women. You can be helped; you just have to admit you have a problem! Now, repeat after me, “I am addicted to fashion!”  Good, now get some counseling!
  5. Gas hogs. Have you checked the gas mileage on your car lately? A ten mile per gallon difference, going from 20 mpg to 30 mpg, can be a $1,000 savings at $4 per gallon! (based on US resident avg. mileage of 15,000 miles annually)
  6. Cable Premium Services. Do you still have HBO, Showtime, Starz, Cinemax, and the Movie Channel? It may be costing as much as $50 monthly/$600 annually to maintain these movie channels. Is it worth it? A subscription to  a streaming video provider is much cheaper!
  7. Tired of paying for cable? Did you know your local broadcast TV stations still broadcast on the air? Modern flat screen TV’s have digital tuners built into them. A $10 rabbit ear  style TV antenna from your local electronics store connected to your Flat Screen can bring in a lot of programming; 54 stations in San Jose alone without a cable box or a satellite dish! Local television stations now broadcast in digital, meaning they have a lot more programming available. What was one channel prior to the advent of digital broadcasts is now 3 or 4 different channels. You want more? Consider internet TV. There are a variety of inexpensive internet TV devices ($100 or less) that work with your high speed wireless internet to bring you 1,000 channels of programming such as Youtube, the major TV networks, and most cable networks. Your Smart TV or BluRay DVD player may have this access built in to it. If you have a fast internet connection and an antenna on your TV, you might be fixed and be able to tell cable and their rising monthly fees good bye. Typical cable bills can be >$100 monthly. Would that look better in your savings account?
  8. Still getting the newspaper at home? If you have the internet and a smart phone, is the newspaper necessary? Every news item in the paper was a news item 24 hours ago on the internet. Why do you want old news delivered to your door?
  9. Do you buy extended warranties? When you check out of electronics stores with your gadgets, you are often asked if you want the extended warranty. These are unnecessary as the manufacturers generally have pretty good warranties to begin with. The extended warranties have a laundry list of exclusions that often prevent you from using the warranty as it was originally intended. Extended warranties are seldom used and make a lot of profit for the store where you purchased your item.
  10. You don’t maintain a budget. You get paid and have no idea where your money goes because you don’t track it or pay attention to it. You hope that payday comes soon as you may be running out of money. That’s no way to live your life! Build a simple budget and use it to control your spending. You will save some money!

Get out last month’s checking account statement and see where your money went. How much was your cable bill? How much did you spend eating out? What was your gasoline bill for the month? You may find some fine incentives that can help justify one or two lifestyle changes that can help you save a few dollars here and there. The only question remaining is, are you ready to make that change? I am sure your savings account and your wallet would be happier. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Turbo Charge Your Retirement

Q:Hey, Credit Union Guy, I'm in my 40s and haven't saved nearly enough to prepare for retirement. How can I 'turbo-charge' my retirement savings to catch up?

 A: The good news is that you still have a lot of peak earning years ahead of you. Many people don't hit their professional stride until they reach their 40s, 50s and 60s, and they have their best earning years, by far, late in life. If you qualify for a traditional pension, so much the better, because many systems use your highest-paying three or five years to calculate your benefits. These traditional pensions, however, are getting quite rare.
The bad news is this: Interest rates are at or near record lows. That's great for borrowers, but it makes things a lot harder on savers. Chances are, you will need to save a lot more money to generate a given level of retirement income than your forebears did a generation or two ago.

Here are some ideas: 
Rein in spending sharply. Learn to enjoy cooking, rather than eating out. Cut back on cable TV packages and take up exercise instead. The lower your monthly expenses, the more free cash flow you will have available to invest. All solutions to your problem start with this one step.

Pay down consumer debt and credit card debt. With credit card interest rates in the high 20s for some people, this is often the very best return on your investment you can get. Every dollar you pay down in credit card debt sooner or later nets you a return on investment equal to the interest rate on the card - with no risk, and no taxes due. Pay it off early and keep your future dollars.

Next, make sure you are making the most of your tax-advantaged retirement savings opportunities. Are you working for someone else? Increase your 401(k) contributions. Maximize your IRA or Roth IRA contributions if you are eligible.

Do you own your own business? Can you start one? If so, you have some additional options: You can form and contribute to a SEP IRA, or simplified employee pension plan. This plan allows you to contribute up to 25 percent of your income from the business into a SEP IRA, or up to $49,000 per year, tax deductible. No taxes are due until you take the money out. Some businesses may be better off forming a SIMPLE IRA or Solo 401(k), depending on the specifics. Consult a qualified financial advisor with experience in retirement planning to find out which alternative is most appropriate for you and which will enable you to maximize your contributions.

Want more ideas? If you are self-employed and have your own business, you have few or no employees and a steady stream of cash flow, you can make nearly unlimited tax deductible contributions to an insured pension fund, under Section 412(i) of the Internal Revenue Code. (Make sure you have an experienced advisor working with you on these. This might not be a job for your nephew who is just getting started in the life insurance business).

Have you spoken to your investment advisor about the growth in your account? How much risk can you honestly accept? The saying is the higher the risk the higher the yield. Is that risk and the stress worth the yield? A good advisor will set you up with some options that can mitigate or modify your risk. 

Are you renting? It might be time to buy. That may sound expensive now, but interest rates are extremely low as of this writing. Even if rates rise to five percent or more, it would still be historically low. If you're in your 40s, you will have that 30-year mortgage paid off in your 70s. At that time, you may want to convert the equity in your home to a stream of income via a reverse mortgage. It's not for everyone, but if you rent rather than buy, you won't have that option. You can make that decision when you get there.

Above all, save money. Squirrel money away every way you can. Cash is still king, and there's no substitute for healthy cash reserves in your credit union account, whether in checking, certificates or other conservative savings options. You might not get a great return, but it's safe, secure and steady. Most of your success is going to come from controlling spending decisions, rather than from making brilliant investment decisions. Set things up so you don't have to be brilliant to succeed, just prudent.

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Meriwest’s Spring Pre-Owned Car Sale is this Weekend!
Sat-Sun: April 12th and 13th
Chesbro Financial Center, San Jose, CA

Sale Hours:
  • Saturday, April 12th:
    9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, April 13th:
    10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Event Location:

Take advantage of this special event!
  • Low auto loan rates
  • Huge selection of over 200 quality vehicles
  • Up to 100% financing available for qualified buyers*
  • Fast and friendly service
  • Trade-ins welcome
Plus PRIZES and more!