Should I Make an Online Will or Hire a NJ Estate Planning Attorney?

nj estate planning attorney

Today, you can do pretty much anything online. From shopping to taking an online class to becoming ordained, there is typically a way to use the internet to accomplish your goals. There are even online tools to help you create a will. When it comes to estate planning, a will can help you prepare for end of life decisions and prevent disputes after you’re gone. A quick Google search will provide dozens of websites designed to help you create a will in less than an hour. It is important, however, to know all of your options. Before you create your will online, take the time to make sure this is the best choice for your specific needs.

There are three main ways to create a will. The first option is to prepare the will yourself. While this option is free, it requires a lot of detailed planning and instructions. You need to think of every single asset you possess and the logistics of passing on those assets. If you accidentally leave something out of the will, your loved ones could face legal fees and tax consequences to try and fix the mistake.

The second option is to use a do-it-yourself online service. These (paid) online services will give you access to software that provides suggestions and step-by-step directions as you create your will. While these services typically charge less than an estate planning attorney, they will not provide you with any legal advice.

The final option is to seek the help of an experienced attorney to create a will. While this is the most expensive and maybe even the least convenient of the three options, it is undoubtedly the one that will lead to a binding, well-drafted will. An experienced attorney will know exactly how to protect your assets to the full extent of the law. The added human touch of working with an attorney will assure you get a will personalized to your individual needs.

How do you know which option is the best for you?

First, it is important to check the laws where you live. In New Jersey, the will must be signed by at least two witnesses who are required to watch you sign the will. The witnesses do not need to read the will, but they must be people who don’t stand to benefit from the will. If you are creating a self-proven will, you and your witnesses must sign a sworn statement before a Notary Public. NJ law does not require that you file your will with a government agency. Instead, you should keep it in a safe place where your executor can access it when needed.

The next step is to take an honest look at your estate and what your needs are. Take into account your assets, your family situation, and the complexity of the will you will need. If you have little property and small investments, doing a will on your own or through an online service will probably work out fine. But the more complex your situation, the more likely it will be that you will need the advice of an attorney when drafting your will. An experienced attorney will be able to provide expert advice on different estate planning tools that may fit your circumstances better than a simple will.

For most people what it really comes down to is cost. Obviously, the cost of creating a handwritten or typed-out will could be nothing or very low. For online services, the cost can vary from $10 to $600+ depending on what documents you need and the service you use. The cost of hiring an attorney or estate planner will vary, but it does tend to be the most expensive option at face value. But it is important to note that these professionals know how to get it right the first time and can offer invaluable legal advice that can save you financially later down the line. Estate planning lawyers are knowledgeable about tax considerations, alternative estate planning tools, legal requirements, and dealing with a variety of complex situations. The more moving parts involved in a will, the more money you can save in the long run by hiring an experienced NJ estate planning attorney.

When it comes to your assets and your legacy, you don’t want to have to second guess your choices. At Veitengruber Law, we offer personalized estate planning strategies. We can explain the full breadth of your legal options in plain language and help you make informed decisions about your assets. We will work with you to utilize the legal options that are best for your goals. Contact us today at 732-852-7295 for your free, no-obligation consultation.

Common Causes of Debt and How to Avoid Them

nj debt relief attorney

Almost every household in the USA carries at least some debt. The simple explanation for debt is that you spend more money than you make, but there may be some less obvious factors that have contributed to your accumulation of debt. Taking the time to think about how you got into debt could help you avoid similar mistakes in the future. These are 6 of the most common causes of debt and how to avoid them:

1. Loss of Income

The sudden loss of a steady income can quickly lead to debt and financial troubles. You may be laid off, fired, or experience a decline in your personal business. You may need to take time away from work or leave the workforce completely to care for a child, an aging family member, or attend to your personal health needs. After the sudden loss of income, you may become overwhelmed by everyday expenses, and debt can easily build up.

One of the best ways to defend against this kind of debt is to build an emergency fund. In times of financial health, live below your means and put any extra money into savings. An emergency fund should be able to cover at least six months of expenses, so even if your income declines unexpectedly you will have the financial support you need to get back on your feet

2Medical Expenses

As one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in America, medical costs can easily push someone into debt totaling tens of thousands of dollars or more. With expensive treatments and high premiums, even those with health insurance can struggle with medical debt. When facing medical expenses, people will turn to savings or even credit cards to pay for their care. Since you can never predict what your health will be like in the future, it is best to take precautions now to prevent medical debt. Enroll in a good health insurance program. Even if paying for health insurance will cost you more now, trying to pay out of pocket for a medical emergency in the future could be financially devastating. You can also plan to include potential medical expenses in your emergency fund.

3. Expanding Families

The cost of raising a child is estimated to be around $250,000.00 from birth all the way through to adulthood. So, even if you feel you have plenty of extra money, having a kid can quickly change that. The new financial responsibility of raising a child can also be affected by the need for childcare. Paying for childcare can be so expensive that it can be cost prohibitive, causing some cases families to live on one income so one parent can stay home to care for the child(ren).

Whether you are a single-income or multiple-income home, the expenses of raising a child can quickly add up. Start saving before you have kids and prioritize saving throughout your child’s life. Prepare yourself by investigating the best childcare options for your specific financial situation before having children. Ideally, wait to have kids until your income will support adding a little one into the mix.

4. Divorce

A lot of financial changes take place after a divorce. With each person going from two incomes to one income and the added expenses of alimony, child support and legal fees, getting divorced can be very expensive. When facing divorce, it is important for couples to look critically at the financial impact of their decisions.

Often, the more amicable the split, the less likely it is that the divorce will have disastrous financial consequences for both people. If couples can agree to work together financially through a divorce, they can lower their legal costs and normally find more mutually agreeable results. Working through an arbitrator or divorce mediator can further save money on legal fees that accumulate when working within the court system. By working together, couples can come up with a solution that is financially best for everyone involved.

5. College Costs

For many young people today, crippling college debt has become the norm. Student loans add up quickly and sometimes recent graduates are not prepared to make the loan payments they accumulated getting their degree.

As a parent, you can help your future college graduate by starting to save for their college education as soon as possible. If you are student facing the expense of college alone, there are ways to reduce your student loan debts. Make smart choices about the schools you attend. Private schools may have the name or the prestige you think you need, but remember they offer the same degree that you will be getting from a state school. You also don’t have to start college right after high school or go to college full time. Working before and during college is a great way to offset expenses.

6. Lack of Insurance

Both in the case of individuals and businesses, not having adequate insurance can send people scrambling during an emergency. Home owners insurance, car insurance, and medical insurance can all make a huge difference when disaster strikes. Insurance is an essential aspect of financial planning. Take the time to understand your insurance policy. What does it cover? Would that coverage be enough to get you through an emergency? Being uninsured or under-insured can land you in huge debt if you are faced with a sudden unfortunate event.

 

It can be easy to fall into debt. Taking the time now to analyze your financial situation and plan for the future can reduce your risk of falling into the above debt traps. No two people have the same debt problem. At Veitengruber Law, we offer individualized debt management services to help you get back to financial health and security if you have occurred debt that you can’t seem to shake. We can also help you set up a plan to avoid accruing debt in the first place. Call us today at 732-852-7295 for your free debt management consultation!

Budgeting for NJ Business Owners

NJ Business Owners

If you’re a NJ business owner, you know it is essential to find efficient ways to keep track of your finances. Establishing a business budget can help you track and organize your financial resources so you can make informed decisions about how to run your business. But not every budget is the same and different budgets work better for different companies. There are a variety of budgets to help you manage your spending and utilize successful strategies in order to maximize your assets and revenues. Here, we lay out some of the most popular budget plans for your business:

  1. Master Budget

Your master budget is the big picture. It combines all of a company’s individual budgets (sales, operating expenses, income streams, etc.) to help business owners evaluate the overall performance of their business. This type of budget will give you a comprehensive overview of your company’s general financial health. This budget is best utilized by larger companies, allowing different managers to see how their departments’ progress aligns with company goals.

  1. Operating Budget

An operating budget is typically what business owners think of when they hear the word “budget.” This type of budget is a projected forecast of income and expenses over a specific period of time. An operating budget allows business owners to get an understanding of their business’s financial health on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. Over time, owners or managers can analyze this data to figure out in what areas overspending is occurring.

  1. Financial Budget

Unlike an operating budget, a financial budget looks beyond income and expenses to assets, liabilities, and equity. Typically, data for a financial budget is laid out in a balance sheet to provide an overview of the financial health of the business. This kind of budget is very important for determining a business’s value relative to public stock offerings, funding opportunities, or for a merger.

  1. Cash Flow Budget

A cash flow budget allows business owners to project how and when cash comes into and out of a business during a specific time period. This helps a business understand if they are managing their money efficiently. In analyzing a cash flow budget, a business owner can see whether or not upcoming financial obligations will be met or if they need to look into other financing options.

  1. Labor Budget

If your business has employees, creating a labor budget is important to help you determine how many workers you need to employ to achieve your desired level of productivity. This budget is helpful for establishing payroll costs of running your business and, in some cases, planning for the hiring of seasonal workers.

  1. Capital Budget

This budget is helpful for business owners preparing to purchase large assets like expensive machinery, new technology, or a bigger work space. This kind of budget establishes what the cost of the new asset is and analyzes whether or not the predicted return on investment is worth the expense of the purchase. This can help business owners plan for a big purchase as well as determine cost effectiveness.

  1. Strategic Plan Budget

Most businesses work under the vision of a strategic plan. A strategic plan sets up the long term goals of a business—but doesn’t always include long term budget goals. Make sure you don’t make that mistake. By including financial information in your overall vision for your business, you can better understand how you need to plan in order to create financial growth.

  1. Static Budget

A static budget is a financial plan that remains fixed. This a good budget for businesses that have very predictable and consistent income and expenses. Business owners are able to judge the performance of their business by comparing their static budget to the actual financial performance of their business. This can be particularly useful in monitoring a increase or decrease in sales performance.

Budgets are important to the success of any business. Besides allowing you to track your success internally, a well maintained budget can help you attract investors or secure business loans in the future. Don’t overlook the importance of creating an effective financial plan for your business. Veitengruber Law offers the long-term planning you need. Our experienced team can help you devise a sound financial plan to protect your assets and grow your business to new levels of success.

Selling Your NJ Home When You’re Underwater on Your Mortgage

selling your NJ home

Do you owe more on your mortgage loan than what your home is actually worth? If you do, you’re not alone. This is called an “underwater” mortgage and it can be a huge obstacle to selling your home. Although the good news is the number of underwater mortgages has decreased significantly over the last five years, the challenge of selling your NJ home with an underwater mortgage hasn’t changed. Unfortunately, sometimes homeowners simply have no other option but to sell. If you find yourself facing this dilemma, chances are you will be writing a check to your lender after the close of sale. The good news is you can use these tips to reduce the amount you owe!

If you owe more on your home than it is worth, you could end up losing money in the selling process. If your home is worth $150,000 but you still owe $180,000 on your mortgage, you could end up making up the difference in payments to your lender after the sale closes. And that payment increases if you can’t manage to sell your house for the maximum price it is worth. Owing a lender after a sale is never a desirable outcome for a homeowner.

How can you limit the financial impact of selling your house with a mortgage that is underwater?

Ideally, you would wait to sell for as long as possible. Waiting to sell can help you in two ways. First, it could give you the time needed to allow your home to increase in value. The closer the estimated value of your home is to how much you owe on your mortgage, the less you will owe your lender after the sale. Second, waiting to sell gives you time to make enough monthly mortgage payments to decrease the amount you owe. Taking the time to make extra payments on the principal balance of the loan could help you increase equity.

Sometimes, however, it isn’t possible to wait to sell. A growing family or a change in employment can leave you needing to sell quickly. If you do need to sell now, do an honest assessment of your home. There are certain repairs you must make in order to sell your home. Listing your home while it is in disrepair will not lead to top dollar offers. Fix broken appliances, repair damaged floors and repaint dingy walls. Give your outside some attention as well. Keep your lawn tidy by pulling weeds and mowing regularly. Add some inexpensive plants to your front porch to create a more inviting façade for interested buyers.

While you do want to spend the least amount of money fixing up your home to sell, one expense that may be worth it is hiring a professional home stager. These experts know how to use the furniture and décor you already have to create an appealing display for potential home buyers. In shifting around your living spaces, they can make your home appear more spacious and charming. Your potential buyers need to be able to envision the full potential of your home—and a professional stager can help create a wonderful first impression.

Setting the right asking price for your property is important and nuanced. While it may seem like a good idea to ask for more than the property is worth in order to make up for the money you owe, that is not advisable. More often than not buyers are well aware of what a home is worth in the current market. Setting your asking price too high can have the effect of turning people away before they even see your home. At the same time, you do not want to undersell your home and spend more than you need paying the difference to your lender. Seeking the advice of a real estate agent familiar with your area is a great way to set a good asking price. Experienced real estate agents will know what price will attract the highest volume of interested buyers. The more buyers that are interested in your home, the more likely you are to sell for the full value of your property.

If you are trying to sell your home with an underwater mortgage, you don’t have to roll over and accept a huge financial loss. There are plenty of things you can do to increase the value of your home quickly in order to yield the highest offers from potential buyers. Interested in other options? Ask us if a short sale is right for you.

Filing for NJ Bankruptcy isn’t the Only Solution to Unpaid Debt

nj bankruptcy

School loans, medical bills, mortgage payments, credit card bills, auto loans, past due utility bills, overdue taxes: what do they all have in common? They’re all forms of debt. If you’re dealing with multiple types and sources of debt, you know that they can deplete your bank account and tank your credit score. If the concept of getting out of debt feels like scaling Mt. Kilimanjaro, it’s beyond time to take action. Fortunately, filing for NJ bankruptcy isn’t your only option, even if your debt mountain feels insurmountable.

First and foremost, it’s crucial to be aware of exactly how much money you owe. It can be challenging to really SEE the true culmination of your debts, but trust us when we say that facing the reality of your situation is the only way to make a change. Ask yourself if you are more inclined to stay on top of a digital plan or if the act of physically writing things down works better for you. Then, sit down with a pad and pencil or your laptop. Compile a comprehensive list of your debts, being sure to include the following information:

  • Type of debt (Ex.: Mortgage, Student Loan, Credit Card, etc)
  • Name of creditor (Ex: Bank of America, Sallie Mae)
  • Total amount of each debt
  • Monthly minimum payment amount
  • Interest rates applicable to each debt
  • Due dates for each debt

IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t disregard the list once you’ve made it. Refer back to it often, especially when paying the bills. As your amount of debt fluctuates, and hopefully decreases, make sure to update the list. Watching your total debt amount go down is immensely rewarding and can be the motivation you need to continue making progress.

Your next step is to determine how you will manage and pay off your existing debt. There are many different strategies, tactics and approaches that can help you chip away at your total debt amount before you even formulate a repayment plan. For example: if you currently pay monthly or quarterly utility bills, contact your provider(s) and negotiate a more manageable payment plan. If you show that you are being proactive, they will be more inclined to work with you.

Another way to make your debt more manageable right off the bat is via loan modification. If you can get the monthly payment reduced on one or more of your largest debts, your jumping off point will be much more advantageous. Additionally, you may want to explore settling a debt through a lump-sum payment.

As you create your debt resolution plan, you should employ (at the very minimum), the four following strategies:

1. Prioritize the debts that need to be paid off first.

Primarily, you want to consider the interest rate. Eliminating debts with a higher interest rate first will reduce your overall amount of debt faster. If the interest rates on all of your debts are all similar, you could choose to pay off the debt with the smallest balance first to give yourself a goal that is achievable.

2. Pay your bills on time each month.

By doing this, you’ll not only boost your credit score and keep your account in good standing, but also sidestep the possibility of having to make late payments, which will increase the amount of money you have to pay out.

3. Pay something, even if you can’t make the minimum payment.

Sometimes it’s a reality that you may not be able to pay the full bill on time or even the minimum payment. If this is a temporary situation, call your creditor and tell them how much you can pay that month. Paying even the smallest amount is putting forth a good faith effort that many creditors will look upon favorably. This doesn’t actually decrease your amount of debt, but it can sometimes buy you a month without late fees as long as you reach out to the creditor and explain your situation.

4. Create a monthly payment calendar.

This will give you a better idea of how and where to allot each paycheck. If your paychecks fall on the same day each month, for example the 1st and 15th, you can keep the same calendar from month to month. If payday varies for you, we suggest making a new calendar every month until your debt is under control – and even beyond.

If this all seems like more than you can manage, consider working with a professional. Many people balk at the idea of a debt-relief attorney because they don’t want to be “coerced” into filing for bankruptcy. However, in the same way that physicians don’t treat every patient with a one-size-fits-all remedy, attorneys don’t nurture financial health with a blanket answer.

Our goal at Veitengruber Law is not to see how many people we can get to file for NJ bankruptcy! Rather, we take the time to formulate an individualized plan for each and every client, particularly when they’re seeking advice for running a household or business. With this goal in mind, we will strive to restore your financial health to its optimum function. We have significant experience in dealing with creditors to negotiate debt resolutions other than bankruptcy. We will, however, give you our honest opinion if filing for bankruptcy truly is your best option. Call, email or FB message us today – let us know where you are in your debt struggle, and we’ll get started formulating a plan post-haste.

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 Veitengruber Law’s 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

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!