Protecting Your Assets in 2019 with our NJ Estate Planning Firm

NJ estate planning

The typical mental image associated with estate planning may be an elderly person creating a will towards the end of their life. While estate planning is a process to help people prepare for end-of-life issues, it is much more than just creating a will. Estate planning is a concern for people of all ages who have assets to protect and/or family members and loved ones to care for. If you are looking for ways to protect your assets in 2019, our NJ estate planning team can help you get started.

What is included in an estate plan?

Every estate plan is personalized to the individual’s needs. Your plan will look different depending on your goals, your finances and your family situation. An estate plan can include information about medical care, who can make medical and financial decisions on your behalf and what your funeral and burial preferences are. It can ensure the protection of your assets during your lifetime and facilitate the transfer of assets to loved ones after you have passed away. An estate plan can help you establish a legal precedent for your financial, medical, and personal decisions during your lifetime and at the end of your life. Our team at Veitengruber Law will sit down with you to create a personalized plan to suit your needs.

Why do I need an estate plan?

If you do not have an estate plan, some of the most important decisions of your life will no longer be under your control. Unexpected life events that may potentially cause you to become disabled, sick, or seriously injured could cost you the assets you’ve worked so hard for. Because it is impossible to foresee if and/or when you may become sick or unable to take care of yourself and your assets, it is crucial to establish an estate plan as soon as possible. In addition to this, some tools that help you during estate planning may take time to become legally effective. If you do not take the time to plan now, it could cost you or your loved ones later.

The goals of an estate plan are multiple and varied depending on your needs. Typically, an estate plan determines what happens to your assets, helps you protect your loved ones, and gives you the ultimate control over your legacy. With an estate plan solidly in place, you get the peace of mind that you will not be leaving behind unfinished business and your loved ones are not burdened with making big decisions on your behalf. Instead of the legal system and individual family members making decisions about your assets, you will have the final say. You can determine what your legacy will be.

It is also important to note that estate plans should be updated regularly to reflect any significant changes in your life. A divorce, the birth of a child or grandchild, or any changes to your family will need to be reflected in your estate plan across any planning tools you have in place. As your assets grow and you have more responsibilities, you may need to use different tools to ensure an easier process for you and your loved ones. We can help you keep your estate plan organized and up-to-date.

What are some key tools for my estate plan?

There are many different estate planning tools you can use to establish your goals. A last will and testament is one of the more well-known tools used to provide inheritance instructions. What a lot of people don’t realize about a will, is that in most cases your assets will have to go through a probate process, which includes costly probate proceedings, your assets going on public record, and a potentially lengthy legal process. This is to say that not every tool for estate planning is right for everyone.

There are many different tools you can use to set up your estate plan. Some of these tools include establishing a trust, inter vivos gifting, a living will, advanced directives, power of attorney, life insurance, or even incorporating a business. Creating an estate plan involves knowing which tools to use and how to use them correctly. At Veitengruber Law, we can provide you with expert legal advice on optimally utilizing these tools to your advantage.

Estate planning is a complex process with a number of potential elements involved. One error could cost your family and loved ones their inheritance. Our team has years of experience with New Jersey estate planning. We can help you establish a plan individualized to fit your specific needs and continue to work with you to modify that plan if your circumstances change. With our specialized estate planning, you can sleep easy knowing that your legacy and the future of your loved ones has been adequately planned for.

*Photo by CreditScoreGeek.com

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Why We Stand Out as a NJ Real Estate & Debt Relief Law Firm

best attorneys in NJ

At Veitengruber Law, we strive to provide service that is above and beyond the standard. We understand that there is no one size fits all solution to financial and legal issues. Our experienced team manages every single case on an individualized basis, providing proven solutions from years of experience managing cases. Our goal is to help our clients achieve financial security with a customized plan specific to their needs. As a result of our practices, our clients are able to move forward to make stronger financial choices confidently and independently.

George established Veitengruber Law to help families and individuals in need of financial help. During his seven years of experience working as a Senior Associate for a Monmouth County debt resolution firm, George saw first-hand the toll overwhelming debt can have. When he opened his solo practice in 2010, he decided to use his vast legal and courtroom experience to help clients achieve their financial goals. Beyond just providing legal expertise and defense, George and his team stick with clients to help them learn valuable financial lessons. This holistic approach allows George to help clients even after their case has been settled, allowing them to look forward to a brighter financial future.

Veitengruber Law maintains a concentrated legal focus, allowing George to bring the full strength of his experience and success to the table for every single client. As a full-service real estate and debt relief solutions practice, we can provide unsurpassed services to our clients.

The Veitengruber Law team has years of experience in all aspects of real estate transactions from contract review to real estate presentation and closing services. Your home is typically the largest investment you will ever make. NJ real estate transactions can involve highly detailed paperwork and complex contracts. George and his team can work with you during sales, purchasing, inspections, liens, titles, and contracts so you can feel confident in your real estate transactions.

Veitengruber Law saves an average of 60 families from foreclosure eviction each year. George is highly experienced in the wide variety of legal strategies and foreclosure defenses to help keep our clients in their homes. We analyze our client’s specific circumstances and provide expert guidance on the best foreclosure alternative case-by-case. Our team will explain your options in plain language so you can understand all of your options.

We are also experienced in providing proven debt-relief solutions tailored to every situation. Our team has significant experience negotiating with difficult lenders, creditors, and other financial institutions. Our insight into the way credit card companies work informs the effective solutions we can offer our clients. Your individual debt solution may involve a mortgage modification, loan refinancing, settling with a creditor, or simply creating a good budget to follow. We make sure our debt relief solutions are realistic, appropriate, and unique to each client.

While we know bankruptcy is not a solution for every situation, we work against the myth that bankruptcy is the end of the line. Time and again, we have helped our clients take bankruptcy as a first step back to financial health. Not only can bankruptcy save your home as an automatic stay to halt a foreclosure, it can be an excellent tool to get out from under unmanageable debt. Our team will only suggest bankruptcy if it is truly the best solution for you.

Beyond our expertise and proven success, we offer an approachable experience for our clients. We understand how much stress and anxiety these heavy financial decisions can cause—and how intimidating it can be to reach out to a lawyer for help. Our goal is to make our clients as comfortable as possible throughout the entire process. We want to understand your goals and help you find comprehensive solutions to your problems. Contact us today for a free consultation!

How to Budget for Travel in Retirement

travel in retirement

A lot of people anticipate that their retirement years will be a great time to travel. With more freedom and less time constraints, retirees can spend their days seeing the places they have always wanted to see. On the other hand, it can be hard to see the world on a fixed income. Luckily, jet-setting during your golden years is very possible if you take steps before retirement to budget appropriately for it.

First, you’ll need to be able to answer this question: What are your travel goals?

A budget for one yearly vacation is going to be very different from a budget for extended, more frequent travel to many different areas of the world. This is why it is crucial to determine what your travel goals are. Doing so will help you to plan accordingly. Make a list of places you want to see and get an estimate for how much it will cost to travel to each place.

In planning your retirement travel goals, you’ll need to make sure you don’t leave out any important travel costs. Remember to research costs for:

  • Flight tickets
  • Car rentals
  • Train tickets
  • Taxis/buses/subway fare
  • Dining
  • Tipping
  • Lodging
  • Sightseeing (guided tours, etc)
  • Travel gear
  • Souvenirs/other purchases

It’s a good idea to talk to other retirees who also have the “traveling bug” to see what their recommendations are or if they know of any good travel deals.

After you know your travel goals and approximate costs, you can figure this into your retirement plan. Before retirement, this may mean setting aside some of your savings into a travel fund with the goal of reaching a certain specified amount by the time you retire. Typically, it is considered safe to spend 4% or less of your total retirement savings per year without having to worry about running out of money. This 4% should also take into account everyday living expenses like taxes, food, health care and insurance. After retirement, you may continue to receive some kind of monthly income from Social Security, property you own and rent or investment proceeds. Make sure this income is calculated into your budget.

Look over the list of places you want to visit and put them in a list in order of priority. Next, create a timeline for your travels. This will not only give you concrete things to look forward to, but will help you figure out how much money you will be putting towards travel and when. This can give you a better idea of how travel will fit into your yearly budget. Maybe you will skip traveling a few years in a row to go on a dream trip. You may find your budget in retirement changes year to year depending on your travel plans. Be aware of the impact travel will have on your budget and plan accordingly. Maybe this will mean moving into a smaller house, eliminating a second vehicle, or even just spending less money eating out or on other unnecessary “luxury” activities.

During retirement, it is important to make every dollar count. Thankfully, with less time constraints, it is easier for retirees to stretch a dollar. Scheduling a trip during the off season is a great way to lower your overall cost. Take the time to watch airline deals online with sites like Expedia and Fly.com. Flexibility with when you travel (which will be possible in retirement) will allow you to take trips when they are most cost-effective. The longer you stay in one hotel, the more likely it is that you can negotiate a lower lodging rate. Combining long trips into one big trip can help you save on airfare.


Remember to always look for any senior travel discounts and do not be afraid to take advantage of every single one!


As with any kind of budget, you’re never going to be able to perfectly calculate exactly how much everything will be ahead of time. This is why one of the most important aspects of travel budgeting is leaving yourself a buffer. Spur-of-the-moment excursions, taxis, tips for staff and meals can sometimes exceed your planned allowance. A buffer will cover these extra expenses so you aren’t caught unprepared. Going with this rule, it is a good idea to get travel insurance. While it will make your trip slightly more expensive, it can save you big later if your travels are disrupted or a health issue forces you to cancel your trip.

Traveling can be a rewarding opportunity to have meaningful experiences in your golden years. If you are still preparing for retirement, now is the ideal time to assess where you are in achieving your retirement goals. Don’t let poor budgeting hold you back from living your retirement dreams!

4 Ways to Get the Most out of Your Gift Cards

using giftcards wisely

There’s no question that at some point during your life you’ve struggled to come up with a gift idea for someone in your life. Whether that person is a loved one or someone you barely know, the go-to gift in this case is usually a gift card. They’re quick and easy to purchase, versatile, and satisfying to most gift recipients.

Some years, you yourself may feel inundated with gift cards. If this year was one of those years and you’re buried in a heap of gift cards, we’ve got some tips for you. If your free money is burning a hole in your pocket, read through to the end of our blog post before you give in to that spending temptation.

According to the National Retail Foundation’s holiday projections, over half of all consumers surveyed reported that they expected to give at least several gift cards as Christmas presents. The average person has approximately $300 worth of gift cards in their possession immediately after the holiday season. When that’s the case, self-control and intelligence comes in handy in order to get the most bang for your buck.

Tip #1: Check the balances. Before you launch into a spending frenzy, make sure you know the exact balances on each gift card. This helps prevent overspending and surprises at the checkout counter. After the holidays, the last thing you need is an expense you weren’t expecting. There are various ways you can check your gift card balances:

  • Call the number on the back of the gift card.
  • Search the company online and visit their website. Most stores will have link to check your gift card balance, like this one at Kohls.com.

Tip #2: Wait for the sales. Just as you should when using your own money, wait for a sale when preparing to use your gift cards unless you need an item ASAP. If it’s a pleasure item you’re coveting, like that fresh pair of sneakers you’ve had your eye on or a new smart watch, wait until the price drops.

While there are some companies and certain products that rarely (if ever) go on sale, many items will go on sale regularly. The key is to muster up enough self control to wait for deals like “buy one, get one free” or a percentage off. Your patience will pay off when you’re able to get the most out of your gift card(s) and are able to avoid spending any of your own money.

Tip #3: Trade, sell, or exchange. It’s rare that you’ll receive a gift card that doesn’t suit your personal taste, but if you don’t expect to ever use a card you’ve been gifted, there is a growing market wherein you can sell or trade your unwanted gift card. You probably won’t get 100% of what the gift card is worth, but the more popular the store and gift card, the more your card will be worth in trade. On sites such as Card Kangaroo and CardCash, you can trade or exchange electronic gift cards and even partially used gift cards. Right before the holiday season begins is the prime time to unload the gift cards from your hands, but immediately after the holidays is a close second.

Tip #4: Stock up for next year. If you aren’t a planner, here is a good opportunity to get a jump start on next year’s gifts, whether for birthdays, house-warming, baby showers, Christmas and more. If you aren’t fond of the gift card that you were given, you can easily re-gift it to someone else. Just make sure it’s not back to the same person or someone in the same family.

Gift cards can easily burn a hole in your pocket until you have given in and spent them all. This is where wisdom, self-control, and patience are key. Be intelligent about when and how you spend your gift card(s). By taking your time waiting for the right sale, you’ll be able to get the biggest bang possible out of any gift card(s) you received!

10 Clever Ways to Save Money in the New Year

save money in 2019

By the time the Christmas season passes us by, people are ready to pull out their hair – which may contain a few extra grays after the stress of the holidays. It’s easy to let stress get the best of us, and truthfully, it’s not uncommon to feel like life is a tad unorganized. Thankfully, we get a chance to wipe the slate clean, pull our scattered lives back together, and set an ambitious goal for the coming year. For many people, that means sorting out money matters. In order to adapt a “tabula rasa,” mentality, it’s important to commence the New Year on the right financial path, with a solid budget in place, and your consumer mind in check.

The December holidays can put us in the consumer mindset, provoking the typical American to drop money on anything and everything. Before you know it, you may have racked up debt as high as Mount Everest! Here are a few tips to getting off the debt mountain and back on solid ground.

1.      Budget Build

This may seem like an obvious starting point, but it provides the foundation from which all other money matters flow. A budget’s “job” is to create a sense of financial order. Here’s a piece of advice that just might save you a spike in blood pressure: don’t attempt to draft, edit and finalize your budget in one sitting. Instead, once you’ve collected all necessary financial details (money income and outflow), break up the work into a few manageable sessions. After completing an organized budget table, closely search for places where you can either decrease debt or augment your savings goals. Don’t forget that you should be saving more than you’re spending!

2.      Home-Cooked Helpings

Going out to eat is one of the ways in which many American families spend a significant amount of money. Because money that is spent on items outside of the home is the most flexible, it is the primary category where substantial saving can take place. Preparing more home-made meals is easier said than done, mainly because of the time commitment. There are different strategies that you can use to cut down on time and money spent at the grocery store. For example, make a 10 week meal plan, and every 10 weeks, start the plan over. You won’t get tired of the meals, but it helps keep you prepared for the week ahead as well as knowing what groceries you will need well in advance.

3.      Smart Shopping

Coupons are your best friend. The mail, apps, and grocery stores’ flyers are just a few places where coupons can be found. Apps such as RetailMeNot and BradsDeals make it easy to compare prices at retail stores to guarantee that you’re getting the best buy. You’re right, comparing ticket prices for expensive items is crucial, but check for discounts on more affordable items, too.

4.      Sustainable Solution

Helping the Earth is incredibly important, but so is saving a couple bucks on your heating bill. Consider setting your thermostat just a few degrees lower this winter, especially when you’re not around. A few degrees may not seem like it would make much of a difference in your heating bill, but remember, every little bit helps.

5.      Air Leak Atrophy

Similar to the money-saver listed directly above, any air leaks in your house will contribute to an increase in your heating bill. Slowly leaking air may not be at the top of your list of things to fix in your household, but it’s an easy job that will produce a ROI.

6.      Starbucks Self-Control

“Sleep-deprived and busy, busy, busy” – we often hear these words when we ask someone how they’re doing. It’s true, Americans are busy, but we seem to rely on caffeine to replenish our energy. Caffeine isn’t the worst thing to be addicted to, but it does hit the bank account hard, especially when your coffee stop becomes a daily habit. Try cutting your coffee stops in half, or just stop on Fridays. Let that be your motivation to get you through the week.

7.      Show the Library Some Love

Rather than spending money on movies, books, or magazine subscriptions, drop by your local library to see what they have to offer. Many libraries provide free checkouts for countless books, various magazine subscriptions, and DVDs.

8.      Stop Subscriptions

Do you have random magazine or other subscriptions that you just don’t use? Save a few dollars and cancel it as soon as you can. It’s easy to bite on the “one month for free” bait, but if you forget to stop the subscription, you’ll be a quarter of the way up Mt. Everest before you realize that you don’t even read half of the magazines that arrive at your door.

9.      Exercise Economically

Naturally, exercise has a myriad of benefits, from keeping your weight in a healthy range to boosting your mental health and even improving your body’s health at the cellular level. Humans were created to move! Unfortunately, the cost of gyms and personal trainers can be outrageous. Instead, make a habit out of grabbing a friend to do an activity that doesn’t revolve around food or drinks. Try hiking, biking, taking a walk, or any other activity that gets you moving.

10.   Sidestep Shopping Online

Simply scanning your email inbox can be a slippery slope, especially if you’re one to get sale alerts from your favorite stores. Avoiding these promotions and sales can save you a lot in the long run. Using email filters, you can automatically send all of your promotion and sale emails to a special folder, limiting your temptation to see them right when they come through.

Saving money is a challenging task when everyone around you falls prey to the lure of retail. There are countless ways that you can save money in 2019, but it will take some discipline. Start with our tips and add a few of your own. Before you know it, your holiday debt will be reduced to dust and your savings account will start to grow.

9 Smart Money New Year’s Resolutions for 2019

money new year's resolutions

Everyone looks forward to the New Year as a fresh start. This year, use your New Year’s Resolutions to benefit your wallet! From big goals to small changes, these 9 tips can get your finances on track in 2019:

 

  1. Eliminate/Reduce Credit Card Debt

If your credit card debt has gotten out of control in 2018, plan to make paying down your credit card balances a priority in 2019. With the Federal Reserve likely to increase interest rates this year, credit card debt is only going to become more expensive. Set a specific goal for yourself, (for example:  pay down 25% of your current debt). Focus on paying down the debt under the highest interest first to avoid income-draining interest rates. If you are struggling to make credit card payments, do not hesitate to reach out for help from Veitengruber Law.

 

  1. Pay Down Student Loans

For a lot of people, student loan debt is a heavy financial burden. It’s a great idea to take 2019 as an opportunity to make a huge dent in your student loans. Start by reviewing your loans and determining which ones have the highest interest rates. Making extra payments on those loans will save you money on interest in the long run. Paying more than the minimum due each month is also a great way to make sure you are not spending more than you should on interest. If your interest rates are high or you have a lot of different loans, consolidating your loans may allow you to get a lower interest rate and create more manageable monthly payments.

 

  1. Emergency Fund

In 2018, 39% of Americans paid for an unexpected $1,000 expense with their savings.* Many Americans end up in debt trying to cover unexpected costs. Most experts recommend having at least six months’ worth of expenses in savings, but if you are starting an emergency fund from scratch, make your goal something you think is reasonable to achieve. Even having a few hundred dollars in savings is better than nothing. You may want to consider setting up automatic transfers from your paycheck into a savings account so you are not tempted to spend this money.

 

  1. Improve Your Credit Score

The first step to improving your credit score is to know what it is in the first place. Signing up for free and reliable credit score monitoring through services like Experian or Mint will help you see how healthy your credit score is now. Good credit scores range from 700-749 and scores of 750 and higher are considered excellent. If your credit is not where you want it to be, make raising it your priority in 2019. Small things like paying your bills on time, keeping credit card balances low, and setting up automatic payments right after you’ve gotten paid can help reduce your debt and improve your score.

 

  1. Do Taxes Early

Filing for your federal income tax returns as soon as you can is a great way to start the New Year. Not only will you get your refund faster, it can give you extra time to pay taxes you may owe or help you avoid needing a tax extension. If you are expecting a big life change in 2019—like returning to college or buying a home—filing early will help you get a head start on this paperwork. For instance, students can use the information on their 1040 form to apply for financial aid. Plus, the sooner you apply for your refund, the less likely it is that you will be the victim of tax return identity theft.

 

  1. Cook More

Americans spend thousands of dollars a year eating out. A big way to save money in 2019 is to spend less time eating out and more time making your own food. Use 2019 as a chance to get more comfortable in the kitchen. Bring lunch from home, meal prep on the weekends, and spend some time researching quick-to-make meals. The more frequently you eat food bought from the grocery store, the less money you will spend—and the healthier you will be, too!

 

  1. Retirement Savings Plan

It is important to start saving for retirement as soon as possible. There are many options for creating a savings plan for retirement and you can determine which one is best for your specific circumstances. Maybe your employer provides a 401(k) plan, but if not – you can open an IRA or, if you are self-employed, a Simplified Employee Pension IRA. If you already have a retirement plan in action, reassess the plan in 2019. Could you be saving more? Are you on track for retirement?

 

  1. Home Improvements

While some home improvement projects will cost big and add value to your home, sometimes it’s the small projects that can have a big impact on your finances. Investing in energy-saving appliances in 2019 could allow you to save money every month on energy costs.  Energystar.gov has recommendations for energy efficient products and other home improvement ideas to get you thinking about ways you can save money on energy this New Year.

 

  1. Focus on Your Health

The average American spends over $4,000 a year on health care. Make your health a priority in 2019! Join the gym, focus on eating well, and take the time you need to relax. Go to the doctor at the first sign of illness instead of waiting until your health has been severely diminished. Preventative healthcare measures can save you big in the long run.

 

 

 

*From Bankrate

Student Loan Relief for NJ Retirees

NJ retirees

A growing number of people entering retirement are struggling to afford their student loan payments. Some older borrowers may have taken out loans for themselves to go back to school later in life, while others co-signed loans for their children or grandchildren. As of 2015, the average student loan debt owed by borrowers 65+ was $23,500 and nearly 40% of those loans were in default.* Carrying student loan debt into your 60’s can make it extremely difficult to sustain your standard of living through retirement.

 

Even worse news is that an increasing number of borrowers in retirement have had portions of their Social Security retirement and disability benefits garnished for nonpayment of federal student loans. If a loan is in default, lenders can take up to 15% of a retiree’s monthly Social Security benefits. This can affect retirees’ ability to buy food, pay for housing or afford needed medication. If you are struggling to make student loan payments under a retirement budget, consider the following options.

 

Many lenders offer loan modification options for borrowers struggling to keep up with their payments. Some offer ways to temporarily reduce student loan payments through deferment or forbearance. Deferment will allow you to put off your loans for a designated time period, usually no longer than three years. Borrowers approved for deferment will not have to make payments during that time. Under some loan agreements, you may even be able to defer interest accrued during the deferment period.

 

Forbearance is similar to deferment, with some slight differences. Under forbearance, your loans will be paused or reduced for up to a year. Your interest, however, will still continue to accrue under forbearance. Many times, lenders will allow borrowers to apply for an elective forbearance with the understanding that this kind of loan modification can only be utilized a limited number of times. It is important to note that these types of interventions are effective for momentary financial struggles, but are not long-term solutions. These options will allow you to postpone repayment, but they do not take away the debt.

 

Under some circumstances, you may be able to file a special request to get your student loan debt forgiven. This request must include a written Complaint indicating the student loan debt is causing undue hardship on the borrower. The official legal Complaint will be served in court together with a Summons on the applicable lender(s). A judge will then decide whether or not to forgive all or some of the student loan debt. This decision will be based on the borrower’s income, their financial hardships, any medical hardships and whether or not the individual has previously tried in good faith to make the loan payments.

 

While you can file this Complaint yourself, the document must be in a special format and include very specific information about the borrower’s financial situation. Up to 40% of these cases result in at least a partial loan forgiveness for the borrower. While law firms do charge a fee to assist in these filings, it’s easy to see that you’d likely get a huge return on your investment of the expert help of an experienced attorney. At Veitengruber Law, we know what judges are looking for in these filings and can help you present a detailed case that is likely to be decided in your favor.

 

Student loan debt can be hard to manage at any age, and especially so for those living on a fixed income. Don’t let student loan debt drain your financial resources in retirement. Call us today to get individualized advice on your specific case.

 

*Statistics from AARP

Budgeting in Retirement: Living Well in Your Golden Years

budgeting in retirement

Having a well thought-out budget is the best way to start your retirement on the right foot. Retirees must plan to have a form of steady income and create a budget that fits their expected lifestyle. In retirement, financial priorities will change with your changing lifestyle. It can sometimes be hard to determine what kind of retirement budget is realistic until you have entered retirement. While some people overestimate their expenses in retirement, some people struggle to adapt to life on a fixed income. For these reasons, it is a good idea to revisit your budget several times a year.

Retirement involves a lot of big changes, but one of the biggest changes is how most people get paid. Instead of receiving a weekly or biweekly paycheck, retirees typically rely on income that pays out once a month. On top of this, many people find their monthly income reduced in retirement. It can be a big mental shift for people entering retirement to suddenly adjust to all of these changes. Sometimes the best way to adjust your budget in retirement is to go back to basics. Here is how you can take one month to monitor and analyze your retirement budget:

Throughout the month, keep all receipts, payment confirmations, and a tally of any cash spent. It is best to record these expenses daily so you do not accidentally leave something out. Use a spreadsheet, notebook, or app to track your expenses. In tracking spending for a month, you can get a good idea of where your money is going. At the end of the month, sort your expenses into categories: groceries, dining out, entertainment, phone, utilities, housing, insurance, transportation, etc. Be sure to factor in irregular expenses like holidays and birthdays. Your expenses in December are likely to be a lot different than your expenses in June, for instance.

Next, analyze the results. This analysis is meant to be a realistic assessment of your lifestyle as it relates to your spending and income. Where is your money going each month? If your monthly budget was based on your pre-retirement lifestyle, you may see some significant differences between your expected spending and your actual expenses. Maybe you spend less on transportation and entertainment, but you spend more on eating out and medical expenses. Pay attention to these shifts in spending and make sure you are adjusting your budget accordingly.

After you have identified the trends in your spending, figure out where you can cut expenses. Determine which expenses are needs (like bills, housing, transportation, etc.) and which expenses are wants (like entertainment, hobbies, and gifts). In retirement, your “needs” may change. While you may have needed two cars when you and your spouse were working, is this still a necessary expense? Are you eligible for discounts to your cell phone or insurance plan? While you want to make sure you cover your essential expenses first, finding ways to make cuts to necessary spending will give you more financial freedom in general.

Finally, it’s time to put all these insights into your finances to create a new plan for your budget. Identify five goals that make sense for your income and expected expenses. Goals help you align your budget with the intention of getting the most out of your income. Make your goals specific and give yourself deadlines. Find ways to keep yourself accountable. Sign up for auto-pay, use an envelope system to categorize your spending, or get your spouse or partner to join you in your strides to reach your goals. A budget is only as good as your ability to stick with it!

You can do this financial check-in every six months or whenever your budget seems to be spread too thin. Sticking to a budget will help you feel more secure and relaxed so you can enjoy your golden years. Get your finances back on track by taking a fresh look at your retirement budget as we move toward the New Year!

Retired in New Jersey – Do I Really Need a Car?

retired in New Jersey

Owning a car gives you the freedom to hop in and drive wherever you want, whenever you want. While most of us tend to see this convenience as a necessity, the cost of owning a car can be a major burden on your budget—especially after retirement. When it comes to deciding whether or not you really need a car, it is important to consider your individual needs. Here are some things to think about if you’re wondering if you can get by without a vehicle.

After retirement, of course you want to spend your money pursuing lifelong dreams and kicking back. But many people find themselves struggling to maintain their lifestyle with retirement savings. There are few choices that can make as big of a financial difference as the choice to give up your car. The following is a typical breakdown of monthly car expenses:

  • Car Payment: $300.00 per month
  • Gas: $150.00 per month
  • Insurance: $80.00 per month
  • Maintenance: $100 per month
  • Parking: $40.00 per month
  • Depreciation: $200.00 per month

These expenses add up fast!  The average car owner spends $870.00 a month on their car—and that’s not including the potentially huge cost(s) of unforeseeable repairs in the event that something breaks or you are involved in an accident. If you are a multiple-car household, these costs can absorb a huge amount of your budget. Even giving up just one car can save you thousands throughout the year.

So getting rid of your car can help you save big, but how will you get around without one? There might be more options than you think.

Most New Jersey cities, suburbs, and even some rural areas have public transportation in the form of buses, trains, and/or trolleys. On average, people spend about $120.00 per month on public transportation. In order to figure out if this is an option in the area you live, do a quick internet search to see what kind of services are available. Many counties in NJ have their own bus services for travel to popular destinations like local shopping centers, hospitals, or larger travel hubs. If you’ve always owned a car, the number of public transportation services available in your area may surprise you.

Even if public transportation can’t get you everywhere you need to go, there are plenty of other options at your disposal. Is your community walkable? Are there bike paths? Walking or biking around town is a great way to stay active in retirement with the added bonus of being able to explore parts of your area that you would typically zoom right past while driving.

Ride sharing is also an increasingly popular way to get around. With companies like Uber and Lyft offering rides to customers for around $1-$2 per mile, these affordable options give you the convenience of a car without all the hassle and expense. Especially if you live in an area where it is difficult to pick up public transportation, ride sharing services are a great way to get around while saving money.

With the average monthly cost of a car equaling $870.00 a month and the average cost of using public transportation or ride-sharing typically around $120.00 a month, you could save about $9,000.00 a month. That’s no small savings! All that extra money can put a little more cushion in your budget, allowing you to live more comfortably. You can use that savings to do the things you’ve always wanted to do, like travel or pick up a new hobby.

Not everyone can give up their car. But owning a car is not always a necessary expense. If you can get by without a car, you can save big. Look at all of your options to decide whether or not owning a car in retirement is the right choice for you.

Cell Phone Resources for Senior Citizens

cell phones for seniors

With more and more people entering their senior years using cellphones for everything from keeping in touch with family to entertaining themselves with the latest games, figuring out how to budget for a cell phone is important for most seniors. With plans ranging from simple pay as you go flip phones to smart phones with unlimited data, there are a lot of options to choose from. Here are some tips for making sure you are getting the best deal for yourself or your loved one.

 

First, figure out what you really need. With so many different capabilities being offered on digital devices, it can get overwhelming to decide what kind of phone is right for you. Do you need the smart phone with GPS and apps? Or would your needs be met by a simpler flip phone for calls and texts only? Many companies have developed senior-friendly phones that include higher volume options, bigger buttons, and simpler menu screens to help seniors navigate their devices. If you still aren’t sure, ask the provider if you can take the phone model you are considering for a test drive. Make sure you choose a phone that works for you.

 

Many providers are now offering senior discounts and services geared specifically to their 65+ customers. AT&T’s Senior Nation Plan offers service for basic phones for seniors 65 and older. With their plan, you get 200 anytime minutes, unlimited calls to other AT&T customers, and 500 minutes for nights and weekends for $29.99 per month. Verizon’s Nationwide 65+ Plan includes 200 anytime minutes and pay as you go texting for $29.99 per month. You can add data to this plan for $10 for every 75MB. T-Mobile’s Pay As You Go Plan is perfect for seniors looking to use their cell phones for emergencies only, with plans starting at $3 per month for 30 minutes of calls or 30 texts.

 

Greatcall is a service geared towards helping seniors stay connected and independent through their mobile phone options. Their devices were made with seniors’ needs in mind. Their Jitterbug Smart2 smartphone offers a simplified menu screen and internet access while the Jitterbug Flip offers bigger buttons, a brighter screen, and a powerful speaker. All Jitterbug phones come with built-in support at the push of a button, connecting the user with 24/7 5-star urgent response agents. Greatcall services provide peace of mind for relatives and keep seniors connected. Their service plans start at just $19.99 per month.

 

If you are a low-income household, you may qualify for some additional discounts for cell phone service. Lifeline is a government funded program that helps low-income families get discounted internet or cell phone services. Lifeline can help get you connected with local providers that participate in the discount program. There is a limit of one discount per household and it can only be used for cell phone OR internet, but not both. Many big providers also offer low-income discounts. These services are not listed, though, so you will need to ask potential providers directly if they offer these programs and if you qualify.

 

A cell phone makes you instantly connected to family and friends, providing peace of mind and convenience. Choosing a cell-phone service is an individualized choice based on your needs and budget. Take the time to choose the service that is right for you or your loved one and don’t be afraid to shop around and compare prices for the best deal.