Getting on Track Financially for 2021

Women helping women 

To say the least, 2020 was unusual in many respects. With the pandemic, business shutdowns, stay-at-home orders and a highly contentious election, the year was definitely one for the history books. It was also an unusual year from a financial perspective. 

Many individuals saved money, as we were not commuting as much, eating out, spending money on entertainment, or buying as many dressy clothes. On the other hand, we may have been spending more on:

  • The food we were cooking and/or ordering in
  • Utilities with more lights, electronics and networking expenses
  • Online shopping in general to alleviate the boredom and stress from being at home 

And because most of us had our routines completely disrupted, tracking our spending and savings may have fallen by the wayside. The new year is a good time to focus on finances. So here are a few ideas.

 

Get tracking

It’s important to understand where your money is going. And if you didn’t save as much as you expected, to understand why. Consider:

  1. If you did track your money, consider comparing 2020 to 2019. How different was it? Which categories increased and which decreased?
  2. You’ll want to consider categories for income, fixed expenses (such as mortgage, car payments), and discretionary expenses at least.
  3. Now, look your totals. Did your outflow exceed your income, such that you were relying on credit cards? If so, how much debt are you carrying and what is it costing to service the debt? 

If you don’t track your spending, consider doing so now. Grab your checkbook and credit card statements and look at where your money went, trying to get an idea of what changed over time.

If you don’t enjoy doing this by hand, there are a number of apps, budgeting programs, and spreadsheets you can use to keep track of it more easily and follow the process above.

 

One step at a time

If it seems overwhelming to look at the whole year at once, consider looking at it one month at a time. The idea is simply to get a realistic picture of how much you earn and spend over time. We believe you can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been. So, gaining an understanding of where your money is going is critical to helping you to plan for a better year this year, hopefully increasing your savings over time.

 

Gasber Financial is here to help you plan for the future. We’re happy to help you look at your monthly and yearly spending, to help you determine places where you can save, and to help you best determine how to pay off any debt you may have accumulated. Please call for more information or with any questions you may have.

Three Ways to Make This Year’s Holiday Even Warmer

Women helping women

 

 

The holidays are supposed to be about family, friends, spending time together, being of good cheer and probably a bit of religion thrown in as well. We’re supposed to be merry and maybe smile a little bigger and spread our love. I’m not quite sure when it became about spending the most on gifts or decorating our homes to within an inch of our lives (think I’m kidding? Just google “extreme Christmas decorations”).

 

I admit that this is an unusual year, so we likely not only need more holiday cheer, but may need some new ways to find it, since we may not be able to have the traditional parties and gatherings. Here are a few ideas.

 

Decorations

I confess that I haven’t begun to decorate yet, but I feel uplifted seeing lights on my neighbors’ trees and displays in their yards. And, if that gives you pleasure, then by all means go for it. Just make sure you aren’t going into debt or sacrificing your other goals to buy the trimmings or lights. You don’t want those good feelings to go away when that January power bill arrives.

 

Gifts

Consider setting a budget for what you want to spend on gifts. You could even set a budget that includes everything you want to spend on gifts, decorations and food during the holidays and begin saving for it in January, depositing 1/12 of the total into the holiday account each month. Then when December rolls around, you’ll be golden.

 

And even though it’s too late to do that for this year, it’s not too late to set budgets overall or for each member of your family. Parents often want to give their kids the world—and likely, especially in a year like this where you feel they’ve lost far more than they’ve gained. However, it’s still a good idea to put a limit on things or at least go in with a budget in mind to help you keep things from getting too out of control.

 

Giving

Another idea that can help warm your heart this year is to give a little more. There are more people in need this year than ever before. And even though you won’t see Santa on every corner, there are many ways to give. Did you know that in 2012, the National Day of Giving, or Giving Tuesday, was created as an antidote to the commercialism from Black Friday and Cyber Monday? It’s true. But we shouldn’t need just one day to give. We should be making a plan to give to the causes that matter most to you throughout the year.

 

Try to determine which organizations you want to help and how much you feel comfortable giving and then stick to it. Don’t be swayed by those sad puppy-dog eyes in the ASPCA commercials and go over-budget (guilty as charged!). If you’re not sure where to give, check out www.Charitynavigator.org—an independent non-profit organization that helps you evaluate the choices and determine the best places for you to give.

 

Gasber Financial is here to help you make confident decisions. We’d be happy to help you budget for the holidays, for giving throughout the year, and more. Please call for more information or with any questions you may have.

How to Provide Care When You Can't be There

Women helping women 

COVID-19 has changed a lot of things in our lives—and the lives of our loved ones. And though there is hope now that vaccines will be ready soon, it will still be a while before they are widely available. So, while you need to be prepared to spend some more time caring for yourself and the loved ones in your house, you may also want to continue supporting parents or other elderly loved ones who don’t live with you. Here are a few ways you can do that. 

Help them stay social and active

If they aren’t already familiar with FaceTime, Zoom or any other video calling apps, try to teach them. It’s easy to teach even over the phone. Once they’ve mastered this, it can be a lot easier to keep them social. You can:

  • Host game nights or happy hours with family on a regular basis
  • Encourage them to sign up for online support groups
  • Help them find an online class they’d like to do

You can also go old school and have your family and friends send them cards, letters and pictures once in a while. You can also consider giving them a project to do. Many of the sip and paint places have created painting from home kits where they send the materials and then you attend the Zoom class at a specific time. There are also a number of places creating things like chunky knit blanket kits and classes if dexterity is an issue. 

Make sure they have the care they need

If you cannot be there to help them, there are a number of ways you can still provide care. You can:

  • Hire someone to check on them or to provide nursing assistance if needed
  • Schedule regular grocery, pharmacy, and household good deliveries
  • If they’re not feeling well, encourage them to call their doctor and, if needed, send an Uber to help them get where they may need to go

And if you are able to visit them, wear a mask—for their protection and yours—and consider staying at a hotel. If that’s not possible, just try to be as safe as possible. 

Gasber Financial is here to help you make confident decisions during even the most stressful of life’s transitions. Please call for more information or with any questions you may have.

Giving Thanks Safely

Women Helping Women: Giving Thanks Safely 

 

As Covid-19 cases are on the rise, having a happy Thanksgiving this year may look a lot different than years past. We know that even in a crazy year like this one, there is much to be thankful for. So, we created this quick article to offer a few ideas to help you stay safe, while still having a meaningful celebration. 

If you must gather, keep it small

While Thanksgiving is traditionally a time for gathering with family and friends, the CDC is currently recommending that to be the safest, you should only celebrate with the people that you live with. 

If you have your heart set on an in-person celebration, they offer the following guidance:

  • Keep the celebration to 10 people or fewer
  • Eat outside if possible and, if not, try to keep doors or windows open
  • Mix only with one other family
  • Wear masks when not eating and try to maintain your distance
  • Wash your hands often
  • Avoid going in and out of the kitchen unless you are the person preparing the food
  • Use paper and plastic or request guests to bring their own
  • Have only one person serving all the food
  • And you can even consider having guests bring their own food 

Zoom with your loved ones

You could also set up a Zoom to celebrate with your family and friends. You can even make it fun by creating one menu with recipes from each family, so you’re all enjoying the same foods at the same times. Even through social distance, you can still go around the tables and say what you’re thankful for or play other games together too. 

Start a new tradition

Another idea may be to start a new Thanksgiving tradition this year. If it’s just going to be you and your nuclear family, for example, maybe you want to splurge a little. You could consider eating out if there’s a restaurant you feel comfortable with. Or you could consider ordering the whole dinner in from a restaurant, caterer or somewhere like Whole Foods. This may feel a bit odd, but can be a good way to relax and truly enjoy this holiday in a new way. 

We know that these ideas may not sound like as much fun as a typical year, but they’re designed to help you stay safe—because the health of you and those you love, is one of the most important things to be thankful for. 

At Gasber Financial, we are thankful for clients like you and hope that however you decide to celebrate, you will stay safe and healthy. Happy Thanksgiving.

Achieving Retirement Security - 3 Items for woman to consider

 

You may not have realized it, but last week was National Retirement Security Week. To honor it, I wanted to take a little time to talk about retirement income and what you need to do to get and stay on track. 

Here are three key things to consider when it comes to planning for and living in retirement…and they may not be exactly what you expect. 

  1. The money matters

First, of course, the money does matter. It’s important to develop a realistic understanding of what your income and expenses will truly be in retirement. As you know, there are actually many pieces of the retirement income pie, including savings, Social Security and any pension or retirement plan assets. And, there are many other considerations as well. Working together, we can look at: 

  • What your assets look like now and what they could grow to in the future
  • What sources of income you have now and may have later (it’s common to overestimate the value and duration of alimony, for example)
  • How much Social Security you are likely to receive
  • How much Medicare and other health care might cost (we have an expert that can help you understand the choices you may need to make)
  • What your living expenses and other liabilities may be
  • What your tax situation may be (it’s common to underestimate your future tax bite)
  • And more

 

But when it comes to retirement, there’s far more than just the money to consider. 

  1. Envision the future

To get a true idea of what your retirement will be like, you should envision how you want to spend each day. Volunteering, working out and going to the theatre sound great, but can you really do that each day? You may want to consider the following questions: 

Will you still work? If so, will you stay in your career or try a new job (see the next installment)? Take some time to imagine how you might feel if you were not doing your current career anymore. How tied to your career is your identity? Will you be happy if you are not doing that job anymore? It’s important to consider these things to help ensure you will truly be happy in retirement. 

Now, if you will be going from full-time work to part-time, or to not working at all, consider how you will spend the rest of your time each day. If you dream of gardening, horseback riding, knitting, reading or other things, try to be realistic about how much time you will actually want to spend doing these things each day. It may not be as much as you think, so you will want to consider what else you will do each day. 

If you plan to volunteer, consider which groups you will want to volunteer with and how much time you plan to volunteer each week or month. 

Will you work out? If you worked out near your place of business, will you still go to that gym or will you need to find a new one? In fact, if you do a lot of things near your job, like shopping, socializing and more, you may want to think about where you will do things once you retire. You may no longer be willing to commute to do these things. And, if there are no facilities near you, or if you feel your home will be too remote once you retire, you may want to consider moving.

 

Another thing to consider is who you will socialize with. Where do your friends and family live? Are they close to you or far away? If you are going to be home more, perhaps you want to consider a community that is designed to be more social. 

  1. Make a plan

Whatever you envision for your retirement and however many assets you may have, the bottom line is that you need a plan. Yes, things can change over time. The markets may go down, the tax laws may change, and you may make decisions that change the trajectory of your path. We believe that the key to successfully planning for and living in a secure retirement is to: 

  • Have a plan and regularly review that plan
  • Have a professional you rely on to help you along the way
  • Continue making decisions that keep you on track toward your goals 

At Gasber Financial, we believe strongly in the power of planning and positive thinking. We can help you build and review a plan to help you achieve a secure retirement.