Financial Planning

Budgeting for a Pet

Budgeting for a petOne of the effects of the stay-at-home rules and lockdowns due to COVID-19 is that pet adoptions are on the rise. That’s great news for the many rescue animals that have been waiting for a forever home. At the same time, it’s important to remember the “forever” part. Adding an animal to your family shouldn’t be a spontaneous decision. It takes forethought and budgeting for a pet.

Think about what sort of pet will best fit your personality and lifestyle, today and a year from now. It could be wonderful to have a kitten to keep you company while you’re working from home or a dog to take for long walks while your gym is closed. But also consider how the animal will respond when you return to the office and gym. Even pets typically considered low-maintenance – like rodents, birds, fish and reptiles – require a regular time commitment for providing food and fresh water, and cleaning cages and tanks.

Budget for initial and long-term expenses of the pet you choose. Initial costs are adoptions fees, medical expenses such as vaccinations, spay/neutering and microchipping, and supply costs for items that may include a bed, litter box, leash, cage, tank, toys and so on. Food is the most obvious ongoing expense, but other costs may include grooming, training, medications and emergency veterinary care.

Americans spent nearly $96 billion on their pets in 2019, according the American Pet Products Association annual  consumer survey. Basic annual expenses for dog and cat owners averages $1,380 and $900, respectively.

 

Ideas for a Healthy New Decade

ideas for a healthy new decadeAgain this year, my favorite Christmas gift was a book. My son gave me The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick. Author Gene Stone interviewed dozens of people who never get sick and asked them for their secrets. His book features 25 people who each possess a different secret of excellent health – one that makes sense and has a proven scientific underpinning. It got me thinking about ideas for a healthy new decade.

Some of the so-called secrets aren’t that astounding, though they’re presented with an interesting twist. Late comedian George Burns, who lived to be 100 years old, was remarkably healthy and fit his entire life. When asked to reveal his secret, he puffed on his cigar and said, “Eat half.” That’s a pretty easy one, considering the out-of-control portions served at many restaurants. Split that giant cheeseburger with someone.

Other ideas are more surprising and challenging. One example? Cold showers.

For thousands of years, ancient physicians recommended frigid showers for healing and to boost immunity. For me, that’s rough. A cold shower is not what I want on shivery mornings, despite Phoenix’s comparatively moderate winters. So I’m easing into the idea. My strategy is to pull back on the hot water just enough so that my shower is on the edge of warm and cold. Then I hurry out.

Another idea that takes some adjustment is consuming brewer’s yeast daily. A natural by-product of beer production, brewer’s yeast is a probiotic and excellent source of B vitamins and other nutrients. It looks like whole-wheat flour and tastes like liquefied pizza dough. I add a half-teaspoon to flavored, fizzy water, and then I choke it down. But, I’ve gotten used to it.

Maintaining financial health also involves a mix of simple ideas and uncommon though proven ones. Some are easier to put into action than others. At Perspective, we’re committed to helping you develop practical strategies to become and stay financially fit. Here’s to a physically and financially healthy new decade!

“I look to the future because that’s where I’m going to spend the rest of my life.” — George Burns

By |2020-01-17T09:36:55-07:00January 27th, 2020|Books, Financial Planning|

Make Positive Life Changes

Many people dream about suddenly getting a large sum of money. You win the lottery. Perhaps you receive a significant inheritance. But few think about how they will handle the responsibility of their newfound wealth. Lupe Camargo recalls a young woman who came to her for help. The woman had not handled money well in the past and feared she would make poor choices with a recent inheritance. They discussed small steps she could take to make positive life changes that would have lasting impact on her finances and her family’s well-being.

In this moving, five-minute video, Lupe shares the impact this experience had in her own life and career, as well.

By |2019-08-14T13:59:43-07:00December 9th, 2019|Advisors, Financial Planning, Video Blog|

Price of Free Trial Subscriptions

There is a price of free trial subscriptions.

Subscription services are everywhere – from streaming on our electronics to groceries at our doorsteps. They’re convenient. They give us stuff we want, usually with a free trial. Who doesn’t like free? Of course, there is a price of free trial subscriptions. Because a credit or debit card is required to sign up, Americans lose a surprising amount of money to free trials. That’s the hook.

“[It’s] convenient if you actually enjoy the service and plan on using it again in the future,” said Courtney Moore in a recent report for Fox Business. “But a number of Americans get trapped and lose money to auto-renewing subscriptions when these trials expire.”

About 46 percent of us subscribe to at least one online streaming-media service (i.e. Netflix, Hulu, Sling), according to consulting firm McKinsey & Company. About 15 percent of online shoppers subscribed to an e-commerce service in the past year, mainly subscription boxes (i.e. Ipsy, Dollar Shave Club, BarkBox); 35 percent have three or more. The monthly fee for popular subscription services is about $10 or less, which seems reasonable (by design). But that adds up over time and with multiple services. People get busy and often forget to cancel the subscriptions they no longer use. When they do remember, the process for cancellation can be cumbersome or even deceptive.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns: Some dishonest businesses make it tough to cancel, hiding the terms and conditions of their offers in teensy type, using pre-checked sign-up boxes as the default setting, and putting conditions on returns/cancellations that are so strict it could be next to impossible to stop deliveries and billing.

A recent Bankrate report found that nearly 60 percent of consumers had been charged against their wishes for a subscription service. If you’ve been wrongly charged, or if a provider refuses to cancel your subscription, report it to the FTC and file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

 

By |2019-12-03T13:36:20-07:00December 2nd, 2019|Current Affairs, Financial Planning|

Secondary Education Tax Credits

In the past, I’ve written about Arizona tax credits that support local schools and nonprofits. Such credits enable you to make charitable donations using money you would otherwise pay in Arizona income taxes. But did you know there are also a number of federal income tax credits that benefit you directly with a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your tax bill? That means a tax credit valued at $1,000 actually lowers your tax bill by $1,000. Here are details about two secondary education tax credits that are especially advantageous.

American Opportunity Credit

This allows you to claim the first $2,000 you spend on undergraduate expenses for tuition, books, equipment and fees. It also lets you claim 25 percent of the next $2,000 of expenses (for a total of $2,500). Parents can claim the credit if they paid for the student’s education expenses and that student is listed as a dependent on their tax return. Otherwise, the student can claim it. Full or reduced credit is given if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) was less than $80,000 or $90,000, respectively ($160,000 and $180,000 for joint filers).

This credit is especially valuable for students because it’s refundable. That means you can still receive 40 percent of its value (up to $1,000) and receive a tax refund even if you earned no income in 2019 and owe no income taxes. Because this credit is available for a maximum of four years, the largest benefit will be years when there are $2,000-to-$4,000 of expenses.

Lifetime Learning Credit

This is ideal for graduate students or anyone taking classes to develop new skills, even if you already claimed the American Opportunity Credit in the past. It’s available to undergraduate, graduate and non-degree or vocational students; and there’s no limit on the number of years it can be claimed.

Students can claim 20 percent of money paid toward tuition, fees, books and supplies needed for coursework, up to $2,000. The credit has a lower MAGI threshold ($67,000 for individuals, $134,000 if filing jointly) and is not refundable.

Read www.irs.gov/credits-deductions-for-individuals to learn more, or talk with your tax advisor about whether you qualify for these or other beneficial tax credits.

By |2019-11-20T08:34:42-07:00November 25th, 2019|Financial Planning, Taxes|