Achieve Your Financial Goals in 2019

With 2019 right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about what we would like to achieve in the coming year. Many have goals pertaining to finances, whether it’s to save for retirement or a down payment on a home, build wealth though investment or reduce debt. In fact, more than 77% of Americans were expected to make a New Year’s resolution for 2018, and this trend is sure to continue as we head into 2019.

Create financial goals you’re sure to achieve. Here’s a plan to keep you on track:

  1. Identify what you want. We often don’t reach our goals because they are not what we want, but what others say we should want.

  2. Assess your financial situation. Once you’ve set your priorities and know what you want to achieve this year, review your complete financial situation.

  3. Set SMART Goals. When creating your goals keep this acronym in mind.

    Specific and written

    Measurable in progress and completion

    Attainable

    Realistic in time and skill

    Time-bound

    For each goal state specific and written monetary amounts, and the time frame in which you plan to achieve the goal.

  4. Make a plan. Once you’ve specified your goal, create a plan to make it a reality.

    What do you track to achieve your goals?

    A budget

    Expenses

    Defined steps to achievement

  5. Place a visual reminder of your goal in sight.

Purposefully Give Thanks

Did you know Thanksgiving wasn't celebrated regularly until President Abraham Lincoln declared the fourth Thursday of November a national holiday? It is a day to purposefully give thanks and appreciate everything we have.

How to be purposefully grateful every day

  1. Appreciate the little things.

  2. Look on the bright side.

  3. Count your blessings.

  4. Volunteer.

  5. Show appreciation

    Keep a gratitude jar. Write down what you’re thankful for on a piece of paper and place it in the jar. Regularly pick a piece out of the jar and read what you’ve written. You’re guaranteed to feel more grateful.

Get More ROI From Your Kitchen Renovation

In addition to being of the most popular renovations homeowners complete, the kitchen often nets the highest return on your investment (ROI) relative to other areas in your home.

5 popular kitchen trends with great returns

  1. Smart technology. Some of the latest kitchen appliances feature technology that allows you to control the appliances from your smartphone, save energy, and work more efficiently in the kitchen.

  2. Open-space concepts. Consider removing some or all of the upper cabinets and store dishes, food, and other items at eye-level.

  3. Touch technology. Activate the faucet with your elbow or the back of your hand when your hands are full or dirty. Touch technology streamlines meal preparation, makes it easier to keep your sink and faucet clean and helps ensure safer food preparation.

  4. Comfortable gathering space. Creating a comfortable seating area encourages family to hang out together while dinner is cooking. Kids can do homework and your friends can socialize during parties.

  5. Purposeful lighting. Take your lighting to the next level by illuminating the interiors or undersides of your cabinets. Cabinet and under cabinet lighting combine function and style to add an element of sophistication to your remodeled kitchen.

3 Ways to Have More Income in Retirement

  1. Consider delaying your Social Security benefit. Claiming at your full retirement age will ensure you receive your full monthly benefit.

  2. Become a landlord. Consider purchasing a rental property or leasing extra space in your home through publicly hosted sites such as Airbnb.com or VRBO.com.

  3. Why retire? More Americans are continuing to work part time or in a consultant capacity after retiring from their full-time careers or businesses.

How to Retire Well

Conventional wisdom suggests we should save about 10 to 12 times our current income; however, many people approach retirement having saved much less. So, how much is enough? The amount of money you should have saved before you retire depends on many personal factors and considerations, including:

  • Your lifestyle

  • Your retirement plans

  • Your health

  • Other income sources

  • Financial obligations and expenses

    Keep in mind that nothing is set in stone and your circumstances may change at anytime. Changes in your health or that of a family member, or changes in your family status, may affect your financial situation.

    If you do not have a financial advisor, I would be happy to refer you.

The Benefits of Reduced Debt

If you've set a goal to pay down your debt this year, you're not alone. According to a study by NerdWallet, more than 40% of Americans have this goal in sight. Strategically reducing or paying off debt benefits your finances tremendously, but can positively impact other areas of your life as well.

  1. Reduces stress.
  2. Improves your credit score.
  3. Easily pay an unexpected bill.
  4. Increases your disposable income.
  5. Boosts your retirement income.
  6. Models good financial habits for others.
  7. You may become more generous.

Create a Get Debt-Free Plan

  • Get an accurate overview of your debt.
  • Decide which debt to pay off first.
  • Make it easier to pay off your unwanted debt by signing up for automatic payments.
  • Be sure to keep your debt in check.

3 Ways to Earn Extra Money

  • Get a side hustle...consider sharing your skills to earn extra cash.
  • If you have extra room or an in-law apartment, consider renting it through Airbnb.
  • Clear the clutter...sort through your stuff and set aside items and consider selling them online, at a consignment shop or in a garage sale.

 

Declutter Your Living Spaces

The average person will spend a total of 3,680 hours, or 153 days of their life, searching for misplaced items. Typically, the only time many of us think about decluttering our homes or spaces is when we're getting ready to move. Whether you're moving or just want to save time and space, this easy five-bin approach is a great way to start simplifying your living environment.

The 5-bin approach:

  • Bin 1: Items that need to be put away.
  • Bin2: Items to be fixed.
  • Bin 3: Items to donate.
  • Bin 4: Items to be recycled.
  • Bin 5: Items to discard.

What about sentimental items?

1. Decide if it's worth keeping.

2. Choose a few items that remind you of a loved one.

3. Keep in mind, you can get rid of an item without getting rid of the memory.

 

Hire the Right Contractor

Get referrals. Ask your family, friends and neighbors for the names of contractors or trades  professionals they've used and make a list of companies that serve your area.

Get in touch. Once you have a list of companies, call them and ask if they specialize in your type of project.

Research your options. Contact your local Better Business Bureau and your state's consumer protection agency to review the reputation of the companies on your list.

Meet the contractors in person. Meeting face-to-face not only allows you to ask more questions, it also provides insight into the contractor's communication style, character, and attention to detail.

Get estimates. Ask the companies on your list for an estimate and have them break down the costs, including materials, labor and expenses.

Be on the lookout. Beware of doing business with contractors who do the following:

  • Give you a quote before seeing the job.
  • Demand a large deposit upfront to purchase materials.
  • Insist you sign a contract on the first visit.

Sort out the details before work begins:

  • Payment
  • Time
  • Expectations
  • Get everything in writing.

How to Boost Curb Appeal

If you're thinking of selling this year we would be happy to help you decide which of these projects would net the best value based on our experience. Even if you're not planning to sell any time soon, updating and maintaining your home regularly shows you take pride in owning it.

  • Wash the exterior
  • Paint
  • Install vinyl siding
  • Repair or replace the roof
  • Pay attention to the details
  • Nurture your landscape
  • Build a fence
  • Stay on top of maintenance

It's Tax Time!

Tax day, April 17, 2018, is just around the corner. Whether you plan to complete them in a weekend or are pulling together the information to give to your tax preparer, here are a few tips to get started.

Be Prepared

  • Create a tax checklist to gather all of the documents you'll need.
  • Download the latest catalog of forms and publications from IRS.gov or have it mailed to you.
  • Most tax software programs will allow you to input your information early. Start filling in your information now, so that you're not rushing to complete it in April.
  • If you have dependents, make sure you know their Social Security numbers so that your return isn't delayed. If you are divorced, decide which parent will claim the children beforehand to prevent an audit or delay.
  • You may have until April 17, 2018 to contribute to your traditional and Roth IRA for 2017. Check the IRS for specific contribution information.

Expecting a Refund? Plan ahead to Avoid Delays

Create a file for all of your forms.

Keep a copy of your previous year's tax return.

Choose to e-file your taxes.

Get your refund earlier by choosing direct deposit.

4 Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft This Season

1. Watch your mailbox. When income tax forms start coming in the mail, a potential ID thief can easily gain access to personal information.

2. Destroy Sensitive Material. Use a confetti paper shredder to ensure that your documents are properly destroyed.

3. Choose the Right Tax People. Beware of companies that hire seasonal workers with minimal training.

4. Be careful Online. If you plan to use an online tax service, ensure the site is reputable.

 

What to Do if Your Information Has been Stolen

Identity theft can happen to anyone. Even if you're careful, a thief may be able to attain your information by hacking into the systems of larger businesses, as millions of people learned last year with the Equifax data breach.

The rise of data breaches

The Equifax data breach in 2017 showed that even if you're vigilant about protecting your personal information, it may still be compromised. In this breach, hackers stole information from 143 million Americans, including people's names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver's license numbers, as well as the credit card numbers of 209,000 people. Equifax has set up a page for those who may have been impacted:Equifaxsecurity2017.com. Due to the size of the breach, Equifax has made everyone eligible for a year of free credit monitoring.

What to do if you're the victim of a data breach:

The first thing you should do if you suspect you're a victim is to check all of your credit reports-Equifax, Experian and TransUnion-by getting a free credit report at annualcreditreport.com. If you've already accessed your credit report this year, you may have to pay a fee.

Next, monitor your credit card and bank accounts for unauthorized activity and review each charge carefully. If you find or suspect you're a victim of fraudulent activity put a freeze on your credit file. You may also place a fraud alert on your credit file to warn creditors that your identity was stolen. Additionally, file your taxes early to prevent a scammer from filing for you and collecting your refund.

What to do if your information has been stolen:

Although credit card microchips have curtailed counterfeiting, thieves gave become focused on opening new accounts with stolen information.

If your debit or credit card number has been stolen:

  • Contact your bank or credit card company to cancel your card and get a new one.
  • Review all of your transactions and call the fraud department if you notice fraudulent charges.
  • Update your automatic payments with the new card number as soon as it arrives.

If your bank account information has been stolen:

  • Contact your bank to close your account and open a new one.
  • Review your transactions and contact the fraud department to report false charges.
  • Update automatic payments with your new information.

If your driver's license information has been stolen:

  • Contact the DMV and report your license stolen. The state may then flag the number in case someone tries to use it.

 

Market Insights 2018

While the national market offers insight on overall trends in real estate, we can give you the scoop on what's happening in our local market. Whether you're thinking of buying or selling or you just want to know more about our local real estate market, give us a call!

Home prices and values are expected to rise modestly.

Home prices have been increasing around the country, with cities such as Dallas, Portland, and Seattle experiencing the largest year-over-year gains. In fact, Washington has experienced the fastest rise in housing prices in the United States over the past few years. While the National Association of Realtors anticipates 2018 home prices will rise by 3.5 percent, Freddie Mac predicts they'll increase 4.9 percent.

Existing home sales have leveled off for now.

Experts predict 2018 will spell more of the same for home sales. Many believe this is due to the increase in interest rates in 2017, which may have reduced the purchasing power of many homebuyers.

Will 2018 be a banner year for new homes?

Many experts predict that new home sales will drive the market in 2018. A total of 1.33 million housing starts are expected for 2018, an increase from 1.22 million in 2017. While total home sales are expected to increase over two percent, new home sales are expected to increase eight percent, reaching 670,000 sales.

What about mortgages?

Although mortgage rates may have increased slightly, over the last few years, rates have remained at historically low levels. Freddie Mac, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, predicts an increase in the volume of mortgages, which follows other predictions that signal an increase in home sales.

Why learning about the real estate market matters (even if you're not currently in the market for a home)...

1. The health of the local market influences the value of your home.

2. Make the right decision if you're thinking about buying or selling later in the year.

3. Get the full economic picture.

Holiday Travel Tips

If You're Flying

  • Do your research. Whether you're planning weeks in advance or you're trying to get a last-minute deal, it helps to do your research. Choose flexible travel dates to help you pinpoint the best deal.
  • Plan carefully. Flying in the winter may increase the chances of flight delays due to inclement weather. Avoid narrow layover times.
  • Pack light. More airlines are charging to check bags. Save money by packing lighter or sending items ahead to your destination instead of bringing them on the plane.
  • Leave early, whether you're flying or driving. This will allow you the buffer time necessary to deal with traffic jams, parking, and security.
  • Stay up-to-date on flight changes. Download your airline's app to get alerts about gate changes and delays.

Stay Healthy While You Travel

  • Stay hydrated. Bring a water bottle and fill it at the water fountain once you pass through security or purchase water from a vendor in the secured area.
  • Bring your own blanket and pillow. While some airlines still provide these amenities, most do not.
  • Bring healthy snacks, including nuts, dried fruit and other easily portable food items.
  • Move around to avoid blood clots.

If You're Driving

  • Get your car ready. Take your car in for a tuneup and address any potential issues beforehand.
  • Plan your route ahead of time. Whether you're driving a few hours or a few days, it helps to know the route you're taking.
  • Keep roadside assistance information on hand. Having this information readily available will help you think clearly and act quickly in the event of car problems.
  • Store a cell phone charger in the car. Keep a charger in the glove compartment or center console to keep it charged in case of an emergency.
  • Pack a winter safety kit if you're traveling through a snowy area. The kit should include an ice scraper, a small snow shovel, tire chains, tow rope, jumper cables, a blanket, flashlights, a first-aid kit and a portable radio.

Tips For Traveling With Children

  • Take your time.
  • Pack small toys.
  • Pack a change of clothing.
  • Have a small bag with only diaper-changing items.
  • Remind your children not to talk to strangers.

Tips For Traveling With Pets

  • Make sure your pet has identification.
  • Get your pet up-to-date on its vaccinations.
  • Secure the animal properly in the car.
  • If you're traveling by air and crating your pet, ensure it has room to move and stand.
  • Take a direct flight to reduce stress on the animal.
  • If you're traveling by car, stop frequently.

Determining Your Home's Value: Effective Pricing is Critical!

Even in today's active market with challenging inventory levels, when it's time to market your home, you will be faced with this question: What is my house worth? Ordinarily, real estate agents and those doing home appraisals will look into house valuation by comparing homes currently available and the recent home sales in your area to be able to come up with a suitable value for your home.

What are the factors affecting home values@

  • Location
  • Condition
  • improvements
  • Current state of the market

Not every home has its price. This is why determining your home's value is extremely vital. There is a complete home value range for every home. Understanding this will give both the buyer and you as the seller a benchmark to make wise decisions. Need to know more? Call us today!