Financial Lifestyle

Credit Card Dos and Don'ts

The Basics: A credit card is issued by a financial company that gives the holder an option to borrow funds, usually at the point of purchase. Credit cards charge interest and are used primarily for short-term financing. Interest typically begins to be charged one month after a purchase is made, and borrowing limits are pre-set according to an individual’s credit rating.

If you're like me, you probably receive multiple offers weekly from credit card companies seeking new customers with easy to complete applications. In fact, I'd be willing to bet you have one or two sitting in your mailbox right now! These of course are almost always unsolicited. Before you sign on the dotted line and mail in one of those application, you need to know more. Here are some dos and don’ts regarding credit cards.

 
"Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving."
                                    - Warren Buffett
 
 

Dos

Shop around. The credit card industry is very competitive, so compare interest rates, credit limits, grace periods, annual fees, terms, and conditions.

Read the fine print. The application is a contract, so read it thoroughly before you sign it. Watch for terms such as “introductory rate,” and be sure you know when that introductory rate of interest expires.

Pay your bill in full each month. Pay off your statement each month in full and on time; otherwise, you will begin paying interest charges and may be charged late fees. Paying off your bill each month can also help ensure that you stay out of debt.

Track your spending. Look closely at your credit card statements each month to be sure that you actually approved the charges that appear. Mistakes can happen, and you don’t want to pay more than you agreed to.

Pay attention to changes in your credit agreement. Occasionally, the credit card company will send you updates on the contract you have with it. If you don’t pay attention, you could miss something important.

 
 

Don’ts

Don’t spend money you don’t have. Buying things without the money in your savings account can lead you down a dangerous path. Before you know it, you could be in a lot of debt with no way to pay it off.

Stay below your maximum credit limit. Creditors want to see that you know how to use your card wisely. Keeping your balance low and making payments in full are good ways to do that. Just because the option to spend more is there doesn’t mean that you should take advantage of it.

Don’t sign up for store credit cards just to receive a discount. Opening a credit line at a store to obtain a discount on a purchase then and there may not be a good idea. Remember that credit cards affect your credit score and that opening too many can actually hurt it. Plus, store credit cards tend to have much higher interest rates than those offered by financial institutions.

Don’t apply for additional credit cards if you have balances on others. Pay your balances on existing cards before you open new accounts. Getting in this habit will make you less likely to open too many accounts.

Don’t give your credit card to someone else. Whether you authorize it or not, giving your credit card to someone else to use is against the law.

 

Although having a credit card is important in helping you to establish a credit history, they are often misused. A credit card can be a powerful tool in the hands of a responsible individual, but it can be even more powerful in a destructive way in the hands of someone who is unaware of its pitfalls. Keep these tips in mind before obtaining and using a credit card.

8 Life Events that Require Financial Guidance

Almost everyone stresses over the daily obligations of financial planning, but many also neglect the significant life stages that require special attention and strategies. Here are 8 key life events that could benefit from professional financial guidance.

1. Graduating from College

College graduation marks the first major transition into adulthood. The progression from school to career is a significant milestone and the perfect time to get financial advice. Whether you or a loved one has graduated, this is also a great time to assess needs such as college debt repayment, savings strategies, or insurance.

Luckily, most recent graduates have time on their side. With the decades ahead and the power of compound interest, it’s the perfect time to have a discussion about the benefits of saving right now. The financial foundation built now will have a major impact on the rest of your financial life.

2. Marriage or Divorce

Professional finance advice is extremely beneficial at the time of marriage. Goals such as combining finances, handling credit issues or debt problems, and building a successful financial life with your spouse will be hard to establish without objective financial advice. Click here to download our helpful checklist for newlyweds.

On the other end of the spectrum, divorcees should ensure that they protect their finances. If you’re entering divorce proceedings, important tasks like updating your will, changing your insurance policies, and protecting your investment accounts need to be handled with care and are best managed by a professional.

3. Adding a Member to Your Household

The birth of a child is a miraculous event, but that new addition will bring huge financial and lifestyle changes. College funds will need to be created, wills and insurance policies need to be updated, and a whole host of new expenses will need to be managed. Make sure that your new bundle of joy is off to the best start possible by bringing in a professional.

4. Job and Income Changes

Whether you are starting a new job, changing careers, or accepting a well-deserved promotion, there are important financial considerations to address. During a job change, you’re better off with a financial planning professional who can help you minimize taxes by rolling over retirement accounts and making the most of your stock options. A professional can also help you adjust your financial plan so you start putting more money aside and preparing for a future of continued financial growth.

5. Buying and Selling Property

If you’re buying a home, a professional can help you review your situation in an effort to maximize your tax benefits, deal with capital gains exclusions and taxes, and find write-offs and deductions you might otherwise have missed. Buying and selling property is complicated, and it’s not worth tackling on your own.

6. Illness or Hospitalization

An unexpected illness or hospitalization can strike at any time, and when it does, your finances are soon to be impacted. If you find yourself hospitalized or stricken by a sudden illness, reaching out to a professional could minimize the financial impact and help you recover more quickly. A financial advisor will also help with long-term care options and disability insurance, estate planning, life insurance, and a host of other planning topics that will have an impact on your overall portfolio.

7. Inheriting Property

Dealing with an inheritance can also be complicated, hence why it made our list. If your inheritance comes in the form of a lump sum, it is important that you minimize the tax bite and address outstanding debts. If you are inheriting a retirement account like a 401(k) or IRA, you’ll definitely benefit from assistance with rollover options and investment advice.

8. Retirement

Retirement may be the most important transition in your life. From maximizing and managing benefits to developing a distribution strategy, the right professional can be an invaluable resource.

Everyone wants to feel comfortable by establishing long-term financial security, so it’s worth taking an honest look at your current financial situation and goals. Every day we take the complexity out of financial planning for our clients. We can make it simple for you too, so don't hesitate to contact us directly if you need someone to look over things with you.

Keeping Up with the "Joneses"

Financial envy is even more of a thing now than it ever was. Today, we not only have television shows displaying lifestyles of the rich and famous, we’re punched with images and status updates in social media, too.

We not only see the “Joneses” on television, but we are likely connected on social media to colleagues and friends who post frequent photos and statuses about their new luxury car, boat, or 3-carat diamond ring. Though we may think the grass is greener at the Joneses, we have no way of knowing whether that snapshot is a true picture of “the good life,” or a depiction of living beyond one’s means.

One 2016 study of household debt in America shows the average household has debt balances totaling almost $17,000, and the average household with any kind of debt, including mortgages, owes nearly $135,000.

If you’ve been struggling to keep up with the Joneses and your financial life reflects that, it may be time to make some changes to improve your quality of life. Here are a few simple ways to start:

  • Stop comparing yourself to others. The truth is you never really know what someone else’s financial picture actually looks like. Don’t view their portrayed success as your failure. It is highly possible that they are living beyond their means.

  • Learn to live within your means. The key is to spend less, despite how much you may be making. You should start by tracking your spending and figuring out where your money is going. You might be surprised at what you find.

  • Stop enabling yourself. Making a significant change to your lifestyle can be difficult. If you find yourself struggling with this be prepared to cut yourself off. Cut up your credit cards or ask someone to do it for you. Change has to start somewhere.

  • Commit to your own financial well-being. Nobody cares more about your money than you do, which is why it is so important that you take actions towards improving your situation. You need to commit to improving your own financial well-being, because no one is going to do it for you.

  • Find value in yourself and in others. Studies show that buying material things makes us happy, but only briefly. Instead of spending mindlessly, invest your time in your family and relationships. That is where the real value is.

No matter how much money you earn, the “Joneses” will always be there. They will have a bigger house and nicer cars. They will throw better parties and seem happier than most people. Just remember, trying to keep up with them is an impossible task and a waste of your time.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss making changes in your financial life, we are happy to talk.