Financial Moves In The Event Of A Job Loss

The economy is rolling but it might not always.   In fact, things won’t always be so great.  It’s just the cycle of economics.  I’ve been at my job for 12 years.  It’s great and I feel secure, as I’m sure do many.  Still, it never hurts to prepare in the event of a job loss.  Here are some financial considerations in the event of a job loss.  These are tailored for my family, but are applicable for many.

Unemployment Benefits / Health Care

I would expect that any state unemployment benefits that I would receive would be eaten up by health care premiums, whether it be COBRA or a privately funded insurance policy.

Paying the Bills

We have an emergency fund specifically for events like this. The money isn’t earmarked for anything else. We would use this to pay essential bills.

If unemployment were to continue for longer than that time, we would look into one of several options. First, we could sell some investments. We have non-retirement investment holdings that I could sell that would sustain us for another 6 months or longer. Second, we could re-evaluate some of our other cash holdings. We have additional dollars alongside our emergency fund that are earmarked for things like a new car, home repairs, etc.  These can be be re-allocated if necessary.

Concentrate on the Job Search

Due to having a fully funded emergency fund, I wouldn’t be panicked.  Since we could pay the bills without fear of ‘going under’, this would allow me to focus on a job search.

As of now, there are lots of contract positions available in my field.  I am not inclined to work contract for a considerable length of time.  Many are fine with this.  I’m not.  But, in the interim, to put food on the table, I’d definitely look at these positions.  It could end up leading to something permanent.  That’s how it worked for my current job!

Reducing Expenses

There are definitely some expenses I would look to cut as a method to reduce our cash outlays. Even though we have a fully funded emergency fund, the fact remains that with a job loss, it would no longer be fully funded after I found new work, and would need to be re-built. I would employ the following strategies to make sure that our cash lasts as long as possible and to ensure that we could get back on track as quickly as possible once I found new work:

  • Eliminate Netflix
  • Eliminate eating out
  • Unlevel some of our spending – I currently put aside an equal amount every month so that our monthly spending is fairly even. But, this has increased the amount of cash that is on hand. We could essentially draw down some overfunded accounts.  Of course, we’d work to replenish them later!
  • Let the lawn go brown
  • Reduce or eliminate the A/C and cut back on heat.
  • Cut back grocery spending.  We could save some money at the grocery store.  First would be working through food we have stocked up.  The pantry and freezer would be good for this.

In Summary

When faced with a job loss, finding work is the most important goal.  But, making sure you and your family have the basics is just as important.

Nobody wants to think of a potential job loss, but preparedness is key.  It does happen.  It’s happened to me and while I hope it doesn’t happen again, it’s good to know we are ready in many ways.

Readers, have you faced a job loss?  How did you deal with it?  What job loss preparations do you currently have in place?  

3 Money Tips to Keep Married Couples Happy vs. Hostile

Recently, we looked at 8 tips for newlyweds in debt. Indeed, while it’s admittedly not as romantic as talking long walks at dusk, making wise and practical money-related decisions is not just important for a happy marriage.  In fact, it’s essential!

Why essential? Because the number one cause of marital breakdowns isn’t what you think.  The Lack of shared interests, constant arguing, pesky in-laws, lack of intimacy, or even infidelity are bad, but not the worst. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, the most common reason why couples head to marriage counseling — and then in many cases, to divorce court — is money woes.

The bad news is that there is no magic wand (or app) to keep all money problems at bay. It’s something that all couples — including the 1-percenters out there who certainly aren’t immune from marriage-induced financial pain — need to deal with throughout their relationship.

However, the good news is that there are practical and proven tips that go a long, long way to keeping married couples happy vs. hostile. Here they are:

  1. Talk about money.

Couples will talk about all kinds of sensitive and intimate stuff: rashes, phobias, fetishes (you don’t need all 50 shades of grey — just a handful will get the job done!), and the list goes on. But when it comes to money, even the most transparent couples tend to clam up — usually for fear of sparking a fight. The irony is that unless they talk openly about money, then instead of avoiding tension, couples put themselves on a one-way journey toward conflict.

  1. Don’t hide large transactions.

Couples shouldn’t have to report every purchase they make down to the last latte. But they should certainly share the news — preferably ahead of time — when they make large transactions. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of time before thousands of dollars that should be in an account are missing.  Then, the accusations and insults fly, fast and furious. And if you think that hiding transactions is a rarity, think again! A poll by CreditCards.com found that 20% of people in a relationship have spent more than $500 without telling their partner.  Plus, about 1 in 20 spouses maintain secret accounts or credit cards. Yikes!

  1. If you need help: GET IT!

Last but certainly not least, many people think that since they were good with money before marriage (or at the very least, they weren’t obliged to declare bankruptcy), that this acumen will naturally and automatically flow over into their married life. This is not necessarily the case. A marriage is not merely a collection of two individuals.  Nope.  Marriage is an altogether different entity that is far more complex. There is no shame or embarrassment if couples admit they need financial management help from an expert. On the contrary, it is a sign of maturity and responsibility.

If All Else Fails… 

Sometimes, even couples with the most robust spending and savings plan and the best of intentions run into massive and, frankly, un-fixable debt problems. If this is the road that you’re on — or you suspect that it’s where you and your partner will be in the future — then your best move may be to consult a bankruptcy lawyer. This doesn’t mean that you will (or that even you should) file for bankruptcy. But you certainly need to know what your options are, so that you can make choices that protect your long-term financial health and, indeed, your wonderful marriage.

Some Cub Scout Camping Tips To Know

My son is in Cub Scouts.  We just went on our fourth camping trip in the time he’s been a scout.  We always have a great time.  The Cub Scout ranches that our pack visit offer many similar activities.  There are cabins for sleeping. They have areas where you can pitch a tent.  There are scheduled activities such as archery and BB guns.  Some have lakes for swimming when the weather is warmer.  While you’ll find tips on all of these, I thought I’d provide some Cub Scout camping tips that are more practical.  These are tips I’ve learned only from experience.

Plan Your Meals

Your pack should get together and plan meals.  They should be simple yet filling.  You’ll want to keep them simple because many kids have simple tastes.  It’s best to find things that most kids will eat.  We do things like hot dogs for lunch and pasta for dinner.  They’re pretty easy to make and we generally don’t have complaints.

Do The Math On Serving Sizes

One thing our pack has NOT figured out is how to buy the right amount of food.  We estimated 35 people for our most recent trip.  This was pretty accurate.  Yet we bought three times the amount of pasta and sauce that we needed.  Three times!  How?  Because we always forget that of the 35 people, many of them are small people.  They won’t eat a full serving!

Have Backup Plans For Food

With just about every trip, there’s been one meal that didn’t work out according to plan.  One time there was a plan to cook packets of food over the fire.  It took a whole lot of time to get a fire going, and stuff was either getting burned or not cooking.  We had a lot of hungry scouts and a bunch of food that nobody wanted.

This past time we had planned some of the food to be baked in the oven that was listed as in our cabin.  The only problem is that the oven didn’t work.  So, we had to figure out how to cook some items on the stove.

A backup plan would have helped in both of those cases.

Inventory Your Supplies

We found that we didn’t have a few things that would have been helpful.  Among the missing items:

  • Aluminum foil
  • Ziploc bags
  • A strainer (for pasta)
  • A ladel

One of the reasons that we fell short is because, for many, this was the first time camping.  Every year there’s a new group of parents and kids, so things get passed around.  Therefore, many of the people simply don’t know what we have and don’t have.  A master list would have been helpful and is something we will definitely do.

Divvy Out Responsibilities

Both scouts and parents should have clear responsibilities.  On our most recent trip, we sort of forgot about this when it came to cooking.  We didn’t have parents signed up, and two parents ended up making every meal!  As one of those parents, it got exhausting.  We should have had people sign up and share responsibility.

Plan Down Time

As I noted above, there are lots of scheduled activities at many cub scout camping trips.  These are important and can teach great skills.  But, some down time is necessary as well.  Kids need a chance to rest or find other things that they want to do.  During some of our down time, we had some kids sit and play board games.  Other kids found a gaga ball pit and got a game going.

Pack Extra Shoes and Socks

There are a lot of outdoor activities.  Kids need dry shoes.  Kids will inevitably find a way to make their shoes wet.  Have extra shoes and socks.  Trust me on this.

Enjoy The Experience

Parents are busy keeping an eye on everything, and getting the kids to their next activity on time.  If not that, then it seems there’s something going on with regards to eating.  It’s sometimes hard to stand back and enjoy it, but make sure you do.  There were times I just stood back and watched the kids for a few minutes.  I watched kids that didn’t really know each other share in a cool game.  A kid that was not doing well at something would get encouragement from a fellow scout.  Watching the kids interact and form bonds was really cool.  Don’t miss it.

These are just a few cub scout camping tips I’ve come up with.  The biggest tip, though, is to have fun and make sure your scouts are having fun.  That’s really the biggest goal.

Readers, do you have any cub scout camping tips or similar tips you could share?  Please share in the comments below.  Thanks for reading.

8 Tips For Newlyweds In Debt

If you’re a recent or upcoming newlywed, congratulations!  This is an exciting time, of course, and there’s so much ahead!  You’ve got many things to look forward to.  However, if you’re like many newlyweds, debt is a part of your life.  Nobody likes debt, but most of us have it.  Here are some tips for newlyweds in debt.

Be Honest

Hopefully, by now, you know everything there is to know about each others finances.  But, if you don’t, it’s never too late.  Make sure you both come clean about all of your debt.  You have to know where you’re starting from.

Rank Your Debt

Newlyweds in debt should make it a goal to get out of debt, or reduce it as much as possible.  Once you have all of your debts listed, start ranking them.  Figure out which ones you would like to get rid of first.  A variety of factors can tie into these decisions.  Do you have some debts with small balances that you can get out of the way easily? Are there high interest rate debts?  Or, do you owe money to family that you’d like to pay back?  Each couple will rank their debts differently, but it’s important to have a plan.

Create A Budget

Once you’re married, it’s important to create a budget.  If you’ve never done a budget, the first step is to simply track your spending.  Make sure you know where every dollar that you spend is going.  Also, understand every dollar that’s coming in.  Then, you can make a budget based on this information.  Sometimes you’ll have to adjust your budget as seasonal changes can create variances throughout the year.  The idea is to have money left over that you can use to pay down your debt faster.

Cut Spending

After you’re in tune with your budget, look at ways you can cut spending.  Every dollar you don’t spend is money you can allocate toward your debt.  Can you go out to eat less?  What about not having drinks while out for dinner?  Could you make your coffee at home?  A few dollars here and there may not seem like much, but it adds up quickly.

Increase Your Income

While cutting spending can free up money, so can bringing more money home!  Work hard at your job.  Apply for promotions.  Look for new opportunities.  In addition to your regular job, look for side hustles.  Can you tutor? Would you enjoy driving for Uber or Lyft now and then?  Can you house sit or clean a house or two?   When you have extra money, throw it right to accelerating your debt payments.

 Have An Emergency Fund

Before you attack debt, make sure you have $1,000 set aside for unexpected costs.  It may be tempting to put every dollar to debt, but you need a cushion.  Life throws things at you, and if you have an emergency fund there, you won’t have to worry about adding more debt to your life should something unexpected happen.

Don’t Ignore Retirement

You may be tempted to put every dollar you can toward debt, even if you forsake retirement savings.  I would advise against that.  Even if you put just a couple percent of your paycheck toward retirement, it’s building a good habit for a lifetime of savings.  More importantly, if your employer offers a match, make sure you contribute at least the amount necessary to get the full match.  Otherwise, you’re leaving money on the table.

Look Ahead

Newlyweds in debt may find themselves with a great plan if they follow the steps above.  However, it’s important to look ahead.  Make sure you understand where you think you’ll be in a few years time.  If you plan on starting a family, have a plan on how that will impact your finances.  These decisions could alter the priorities you set earlier.  You may find you’ll balance things out differently if your long term and short term goals diverge, which they probably will.

These are just a few tips I have for newlyweds in debt.  Will they get you out of debt instantly? No.  It’s often a long road.  But, the point is to make progress, and these tips will hopefully help.

9 Tips To Take Care Of Your Roof

We replaced our roof a few years ago.  It cost us a lot of money.  Chances are if you own a home for a long period of time, you’ll have to replace the roof.  Once you do, you’ll want to keep it lasting for as long as possible.  With winter just a few months away, give your roof some attention.  A few easy tips and you can extend the life of your roof.  This can save you thousands in the long run.  Here are some tips to take care of your roof.

Inspect It Regularly

I don’t get up on my roof regularly.  However, I do walk around and check things out regularly.  I will look things over every spring.  After a big windstorm, I always walk around.  So far I haven’t noticed any problems, which is great.  However, if there did happen to be a problem, early detection and repair is key.

Keep Your Gutters Clean

We have a lot of tall trees around our home.  Every year the leaves clog the gutters.  I don’t enjoy paying to have the gutters cleaned, but I do anyway.  Clogged gutters can increase your chances of ice dams under the shingles.  Gutters that are clear will allow water to drain off properly.

Keep Trees Trimmed

As I mentioned above, we have many mature trees.  We keep them trimmed regularly.  One of the things I had done during trimming is to have branches close to the roof removed.  I don’t want them scratching against the roof.  Nor do I want branches or twigs falling loose onto the roof.

Remove Debris

If something does land on your roof, make sure it gets removed.  Moisture can form underneath anything that sits on your roof for a long period of time.  Getting up on your roof isn’t fun, nor is paying someone to do so.  However, if you need your roof cleared of something, you may have to bite the bullet.

Stay Off The Roof As Much As Possible

Try to stay off the roof if at all possible.  As mentioned above, there might be times when you need to get up there.  However, try to stay off of it.  People traipsing around will just create additional wear and tear.  This can shorten the life of your roof.  Additionally, many roofs have materials which are meant to reduce spotting or mildew.  Anytime you get on the roof, you knock some of this material off.  So, stay off the roof if you can.

Don’t Mess With The Structure Below

A co-worker of mine once had an attic fan installed.  Without their knowledge, the installers cut through part of a truss.  A roofer later told them that this was bad as the trusses are installed in a way to evenly distribute the load.  They ended up having to take on an expensive repair to reinforce their structure.  Make sure anything you have installed, such as attic fans or solar panels, don’t modify the support structure of the roof itself.

Leave The Snow On The Roof

Going along with the item above, it’s usually best to leave snow alone.  There is the occasional snowfall that does require removal, but most of the time, the roof can handle heavy snowfalls.  Homeowners that attempt to rake or shovel the snow off often cause unnecessary harm to their roof.  If you are nervous about the snow on your roof, call a roofer.

Ventilate Your Attic

When we had our roof redone, our roofer added more soffet vents.  He said that code dictated how many vents need to be installed during construction.  Builders follow this. However, this is way short of what roofing manufacturers recommend.  More ventilation keeps the attic space from overheating.  It also reduces moisture buildup from underneath.

Hire Professionals

If you have any work done tied to the recommendations above, hire professionals.  Whether it’s someone working on your roof or someone that will come in contact with it, professionals are much more used to being up on a roof.  Solid pros will know how to do their work with the roof in mind.  They should also be insured in the event that anything does happen.

To properly take care of your roof, these are practices I follow.  I hope that they’re helpful.  Everyone wants a long lasting and healthy roof.  After all, the roof is what covers us up!

Readers, what do you do for your roof?  What tips do you have to take care of your roof?  Let me know in the comments below.

7 Ways For Families To Manage Student Loan Debt

If your family has student debt, you’re not alone.  If you feel like it’s a mountain with no end in sight, that’s also quite normal.  The fact is that student loan debt is a huge part of our lives.  Some people think that their debt is something they’ll have to deal with forever.  But, it doesn’t have to be that way.  You can manage student loan debt.  It might not be easy or quick, but a good plan can pay off.  Here are a few way for your family to manage student loan debt.

Make Student Loan Debt Payoff A Priority

Some people think that student loan debt will be around forever.  For some people, paying off their debt is just another bill payment.  If you’re serious about getting rid of student loan debt, give it more priority.  Additional attention is necessary to tackle something so big.

Additionally, your entire family will have to commit to your plan to manage student loan debt.

Build excitement. Look at the end goals.  Picture your life without debt.  Have plans for what you can do when student loan debt is gone.

To properly manage your student debt will take time and dedication.  Know this up front and be ready for a long but fulfilling journey.

Create A Budget

If you don’t have a budget, now is the time to get started.  You cannot manage student loan debt optimally without one.  A budget will show everything you’re bringing in and sending out.  Put student loan debt payments at the top of your budget.  Make sure it’s front and center.  Give it the attention in your budget and it will spill over into your life.

Keep in mind there are some tips, especially if you’ve never had a budget before.  Start simple.  Spend some time just tracking at first.  Eventually, expand it to track goals.  Then, track against them.  Keep building your budget.  A good budget is something you grow into.  A good budget will help you manage student loan debt.  It won’t take long to get there, I promise!

Review Your Extras

Once you’re cruising along with your budget, start looking at it in depth.  What are your spending categories?  Are any of your spending habits changeable?

The goal here is to find money in your budget that you can re-allocate to your student loan payments.  Any bit of extra counts!  Don’t think that just because it’s only $5, you shouldn’t bother.  Guess what?  Every dollar makes a difference!  Plus, dollars add up.  In fact, starting small is a great way to start.  Chances are you’ll find small amounts and the difference in your life won’t even be noticeable.  Once you get a few of these changes under your belt, you can challenge yourself to go bigger.

Keep reviewing your spending and asking what you can change.  Premium cable channels.  Your cell phone bill.  In fact, do you really need to replace your cell phone already?  All of these and many other things are questions you can ask.  The answers can help manage student loan debt.

Allocate New Money

If you want to start paying down your debt faster, a great way is to allocate new money.  When you get a raise at work, figure out the difference in your paycheck and increase your student loan payment.  If you get a bonus, send that as a one time payment.  Same goes with income tax refunds.

The bottom line is that you should be living within the budget you created earlier.  Committing extra money to your student loans is a fast and easy way to knock that balance down.

Set Goals And Track Targets

Paying off your student loans will likely take considerable time.  In order to stay motivated, set some targets.  Every so often, check how you’re doing.  Targets give you something to track along the way.  For example, if you set a target to pay off 5% of your balance the first year, but you end up paying off 6%, that’s great progress.  It may not seem like a lot, but it is.  Why? Because it shows that you’re ahead of schedule.

That kind of little check up can provide extra motivation to keep on going.  Plus, you can challenge yourself to do even better the next year.

Snowball Payments

If you can pay extra on your loans, target one payment for the extras.  Which one is up to you. Some people like paying off the loan with the smallest balance.  Others prefer targeting the loan with the highest interest rate.  To me, there’s no hard and fast rule.  But, regardless, pick one and knock it out.  Otherwise look into student loan consolidating and refinancing.

Why do I recommend this instead of spreading payments to multiple loans?  For me, it’s a matter of motivation.  Once you get a loan fully paid off, guess what? You’re going to feel great.  That’s going to be a meaningful accomplishment!  You can immediately start applying that payment to the next loan.  Then you can knock that one out, and so on and so forth.

A side benefit is that eliminating loans change your cash flow obligation.  While the goal is to never reduce your student loan payment, reducing the number of payments does give you flexibility in the event of an emergency or job loss.

Celebrate Milestones

Paying off your student loans can take years. It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture over a long period of time.  In order to reduce this, set milestones and celebrate.  When you hit your first 10%, go to a special dinner.  If you get that smallest loan paid off, consider a small getaway.  When you’re halfway there, get that fancy bottle of wine you once sipped.

These little motivations along the way will show definite achievement.  And, the celebrations will keep you motivated to hit the next goal.  That’s what it’s all about in the end!

I hope that these tips have helped.  I won’t sugarcoat it.  Paying off debt isn’t easy, especially if you have a lot of it.  But, you can do it and you can come in way ahead if you follow these steps.

Readers, do you have any good stories about paying off student loan debt?  How do you manage student loan debt?  Please comment below.  And, thanks so much for reading!