A household budget is a critical and basic part of any plan for financial freedom. It is the foundation on which everything else is built. But a budget is not something that you set and forget. You have to review and revise it regularly, so that it continues to reflect your expenses and keep you on target for your long-term goals.
December is a great time to do this review in preparation for the coming year. So in this episode of the podcast I wanted to talk about what you need to do to get ready for 2018. What better way to have a happy new year than to know that it will lead to a bright financial future!
One of the biggest news stories right now has to do with the tax reform bills that have been passed in both houses of Congress. They make sweeping reforms to many areas of the tax code, and each version has some differences. But as a student loan lawyer, I am most concerned about how it would affect education, and if you are a student, a parent of one, or a graduate, you should be concerned too.
So in this episode of the podcast I wanted to go over the changes and discuss what they could mean for you, and what could end up in the combined bill.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, or some other December holiday, the “season of giving” can be the biggest budget buster of them all, especially as you approach the annual finish line. A “spirit of giving” is a wonderful thing, but there are practical, financial limits that should not be ignored, or it can put you in a financial hole when the credit card bill comes in January.
That is why, in this episode of the podcast, I talk about 15 things you can do to be sure that you are celebrating the new year on a firm financial footing after having a wonderful holiday season.
I have discussed in previous episodes of the podcast about the importance of having a short term and long-term financial strategy. The former is accomplished by a budget and the discipline to keep track of expenses and keep within the limits of that budget. In fact, in Episode 13 I reviewed the online budgeting tool EveryDollar to maintain that strategy.
But the long-term strategy is having savings and a retirement plan, so that you will have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your efforts now are paying off and that your financial freedom will last for a lifetime. To help you do that, in this episode of the podcast I review Wela, an online tool that gives you the ability to gain an overall view of your entire financial situation from one free application: investments, cash, credit card debt, student loans, and real estate.
In most instances, pleading guilty or being found guilty of a disorderly, or petty disorderly, person’s offense (New Jersey’s equivalent of a misdemeanor) is bad enough, with the fines, costs, and sometimes jail time. But there are some things that can happen outside the judge’s sentence for the offense.
Sometimes you can lose your job! This is called employment forfeiture, and it can have a devastating effect on your financial freedom. So in this episode of the podcast I talk about this forfeiture, how it works, when it could apply to you, and what effect it can have.
Just about everyone knows these days that student loan debt is a real crisis in this country. With well over $1 trillion owed, and a significant amount in default, today’s college graduates are struggling with a major burden to carry through life. But there is a way for you, as their parents, to ease that burden.
The federal tax code, under section 529, has created tax incentives for contributing to a college fund. Referred to commonly as a 529 Plan, it can help you save for your child’s education. Every dollar you save (and grows with your child) is a dollar they don’t have to borrow! So in this episode of the podcast, I talk about these plans, what they are, what the money can be spent on, and whether they are right for you.
Achieving and maintaining financial freedom involves making the right decisions about your finances. It’s about choosing the right mortgage with the lowest interest rate, deciding with each purchase whether you want or need that item or service, and picking the right insurance company and policy options and coverage.
One important decision is where to do your everyday banking. Where do you keep your money? What institution has the best services, lowest fees, convenient branches, and the like. But it is also important to decide whether to go with a traditional bank or a credit union. So in this episode of the podcast I talk about the advantages and disadvantages of a credit union, and who should bank with one.
A lot of people do that one stupid thing in their lives that they’re not proud of. It’s that youthful indiscretion, that one brush with the law encountered by that otherwise law abiding citizen. Sometimes it’s that joint in your pocket or your car; sometimes it’s an impulsive grab for goods in a store that leads to shoplifting charges.
Fortunately, courts in New Jersey recognize this and give you a one-time "out" for these charges, called a "diversion." Two of them, Conditional Discharge and Conditional Dismissal, are used for minor charges in traffic court, while another, Pretrial Intervention, is used for more serious charges in county court.
In this episode of the podcast, I will discuss diversion for minor charges, as a criminal record can cause real problems for your financial freedom, often leading to the inability to get a job or a higher paying one!
A person’s credit score is becoming more and more important, as it is used for more and more things. Now, it is not only key to getting a mortgage or a car loan, but to renting an apartment or getting insurance! There are lots of web sites out there that talk about credit and tell you what you have to do to build (or rebuild) a credit score.
Doing it, however, can be a daunting task, and people don’t always know where to turn for help. In Episode 27, I talked to Alex Frees of Credit Repair Publishing on tips for how to build or repair your credit for a better financial future. He is back in this episode to talk about how his company can help you through the process.
In New Jersey, when it comes to traffic tickets, the fines and other costs or consequences that you might incur are often not the end of the story. There are the points on your driving record as well. Although unlike other states, New Jersey doesn’t assess points for every moving violation, those that do can add up. Once they do, they can cause a major disruption in your life and threaten your financial freedom.
So in this episode of the podcast, I am going to talk about the specific ways that points can be disruptive, as well as the steps you can take to have them removed. Being proactive with your driving record can lessen the chance of problems (although driving safely and within the rules of the road to avoid tickets in the first place is even better!)
A key part of achieving and maintaining financial freedom is having the right insurance coverage. A loss that would otherwise have been covered by a policy can be devastating to your finances! In order to be sure that you have the right coverage at the right price, it is critical to have an agent on your side.
That is why, in this episode, I talk to Dave Strout of Cettei & Connell here in Woodbury about the many reasons why having an independent insurance agent is so important.
In episodes 34 & 35 of the podcast I talked about forming the right mindset to achieving financial freedom, and then how you can implement that mindset today to get you to your goal. In this episode I am going to talk about tips that are more strategic and preventative, allowing you to play some defense against potential problems in the future and take a longer view of your financial future and freedom.
In Episode #34, I talked about forming the right mindset for establishing financial freedom. You have to have the right approach and attitude first before trying to implement the steps necessary to reach your goal. So in this episode, I talk about what you can do now with that mindset to achieve financial freedom. In the next episode, I will talk about the bigger picture, and long term financial freedom.
Attaining and maintaining financial freedom is a matter of habit and mindset. Having the right outlook and attitude about your finances, and then reinforcing it through the establishment of certain habits.
That is why I am doing a series of podcasts, starting with this one, about getting into the right mindset, and then reinforcing the right habits. Adopting these as soon as you can will get you that much closer to financial freedom. In this episode, I will talk about the establishment of the proper mindset, so as to lay a proper foundation for the habits.
The biggest transaction in most people’s lives is the purchase or sale of a home. Home ownership is a part of the American Dream, and can be very exciting. However, there are some problems that can arise in the transaction if you don’t take all of the proper steps (and sometimes, unfortunately, even if you don’t).
So in this episode I talk with the owner of Cardinal Real Estate Services here in Woodbury, Lynn Stambaugh, about 5 things you can do to insure the best chance that your closing will go through without a hitch.
One of the simplest and easiest ways to get into trouble (and go to jail) in your bankruptcy is to lie on your petition. Whenever you file for bankruptcy you sign a document, under oath, that you have fully disclosed everything you own, everyone you owe, everything you earn, and everything you spend.
Unfortunately, not everyone follows this rule and tries to get away with hiding something, whether it is an asset they own or a stream of income. With the Abby Lee Miller case in the news again, I thought I would talk in this episode of the podcast about how the star of the reality TV show “Dance Moms,” is going to jail because she decided to hide a large portion of her income from her trustee and the bankruptcy court.
Many people prepare their tax returns to discover that they are getting a refund. This is certainly great news and cause for celebration. Others, however, find out that they owe taxes, many in an amount they find to be unaffordable. They cannot simply write a check and enclose it with the tax return.
This can cause a lot of stress, as they face having to pay interest, possible penalties, and collection actions down the road, like wage garnishments and liens on their homes! That is why, for this episode, I invited back accountant Ira Krassan to talk about what can be done to negotiate a payment plan with the IRS, or an offer in compromise if the full amount cannot be paid. There are things that you can do, and Ira is here to tell you all about it!
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, so in this episode I talk about how this practice has become more of a threat to safety on our roadways than drunk driving, and how you can avoid being a part of the statistics. In 2002, distracted driving resulted in approximately 2,600 deaths, but that number increased by 22% in 2011 to 3,331 fatalities.
Texting while driving is a leading cause of distracted driving, and the NHTSA reports that texting while driving is currently responsible for approximately 1.6 million accidents every year – about 25% of all driving accidents.
So how can you keep from being a statistic? Well, I put together a dozen tips on what you can do to avoid driving distractedly. They won’t protect you from someone else who is texting and driving, but it will make you safer!
The educational system in this country is great and can teach you many things. However, one of the topics most schools leave out is how to be an adult. How do you live life, pay bills, handle credit, cook a meal, fix your car, or file a tax return? Kids often learn these lessons the hard way upon graduation, which can often lead to financial difficulties. The earlier we learn these lessons and start implementing them, the better.
Luckily, someone has come up with a solution. Two women in Maine, Rachel Weinstein, a psychotherapist, and Katie Brunelle, a wellness coach, have started what they call The Adulting School, to address the simple subject of how to be an adult. So in this episode I wanted to talk about this project and how it can help or youth.
Many Americans live from paycheck to paycheck, often without a budget. Even those with savings can’t withstand long periods of time without any income. Therefore, job loss or a disability can be a major threat to someone’s financial freedom.
The good news is that, if you were disabled due to a job related injury, New Jersey law provides you with benefits that can ease the economic strain of being out of work. To discuss the details of this law, I interview worker’s compensation attorney Sam Gaylord about what you can do to protect this freedom if you get injured on the job.
These days, so many things in life are tied to your credit score. If you want to buy a house or a car, get a credit card, or even insurance, that three digit number becomes critical. But what do you do if you are just establishing a credit history, or are rebuilding your credit after a bankruptcy or foreclosure?
So in this episode I spoke with credit counselor Alex Frees to get answers to those questions and tips on how to build or repair your credit for a better financial future.
With a new President in office, many student loan borrowers are hoping for a change for the better. There has been quite a bit of discussion in the past years about the national “student loan bubble” and what to do about it, and people are looking to Donald Trump to take action.
He has made some statements in the campaign last Fall, but has not taken any action on it so far in his first 100 days. But I thought it would be interesting to discuss in this episode what he has said to give an idea of what he might do in the future if and when he takes action.
Michelle Singletary, a personal finance columnist for the Washington Post, is the author of The Power to Prosper: 21 Days to Financial Freedom and The 21 Day Financial Fast, in which she lays out what she calls the 21-Day Financial Fast. The fast is about curbing the need to consume because, in her view, we all consume more than we need. I read about this Fast when I came across an article she wrote in the Post describing it, and I thought it would be a good idea to do an episode on it. It might just be the thing for you!