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Mom. Dad. Pack Your Bags.

Sylvia Flores / 21 Jan 2017 / Personal Finance

I was talking with my Mom the other day. The conversation went something like this:

“I talked with my financial planner, and I am going to be able to retire by 66,” she said. “And when I asked him, how long I could live, taking the amount I need to survive, he said ‘forever.’

That may seem pretty wonderful, but like a whole lot of people, she is one dramatic health event away from ZERO retirement dollars. ONE! Well, she’d have social security, but that wouldn’t be enough to live on.

My sweet 79-year old Dad’s an artist and is collecting Social Security now. His income is super fixed—obviously, people don’t typically become artists for the money, even though he has work in museums. Death makes artists rich, not life. Typically.

The good news is that their house is paid off. The bad news is that they have a three-story house on a whole lot of acres that require a whole lot of maintenance and it’s out in the middle of Nowheresville. All I can think about is one of them falling down the steps with no one to hear their screams except wildlife that has no opposable thumbs or 911 dialing capabilities.

America? You could learn a thing or two.

I think a lot of people are in a similar boat. You know, the boat that is one petite iceberg away from busting in half and sinking to the bottom of the ocean? Americans could learn a lot from other cultures. For instance, how they live in multigenerational households and support one another.

Welcome to my Retirement Community! Now accepting Mom(s) and Dad(s).

So, when it comes down to it, I am not putting my parents in a retirement home. I am making them come live with me. Why? They did it for me! Plus, elderly people live longer when they are surrounded by things or people or pets that engage them and LOVE them.

I can be that loving thing/people/pet! And of course they are going to tick me off (and vice-versa), and likely on a frequent basis, but that’s what family is about, right? And the America we live in now is not one of huge wealth, pension plans, and lavish, resort-style assisted-living (unless you have one gazillion dollars.) And if you do, I doubt you are reading this blog.

How do you feel about the multigenerational household? What are you going to do differently, given the current (and sad) economic outlook?

Welcome to the farm otherwise known as the stock market.

So what the heck does Bull vs. Bear market mean? It’s actually quite simple:

  • Bull: Everything is fabulous, the economy is booming, stocks are rising, and unemployment? What unemployment?
  • Bear: Market is hibernating! It’s bad, the recession is looming.

So, you think that playing the market all the time with your retirement is a good plan?

Actually, over time, it all equals out. There are stocks in the bear market that do well, and conversely, there are those in the bull market that tank. Depending on how you invest—conservative, moderate, or aggressive—and where you are in your life—whether you are just starting to invest, are are a late bloomer like me, or are sitting at the gates of freedom—these things could alter or modify your course of action.

Talking with a financial advisor is your best bet. They’ll help determine where you are and what your financial goals should be. The fact is, the majority of people under-save! Things to consider:

  • When do you want to retire? Have you thought about the fact that people are living longer? If you retire at 65 and live to be 100 (I plan to live to 102), that’s a significant nest egg you’re going to need.
  • What does retirement look like for you? Are you going to live at the same level as you are today? Are you downsizing? Do you have adequate health insurances in order to not exhaust your savings in the event of an unforeseen crisis?
  • How much time do you have and how much do you have saved? I’ve just turned 43 and have enough to get me through about… a year of life? I have been paying into Social Security if I am fortunate to have it exist when I retire, but that is essentially a future flying autonomous car payment and solar charging station refill fee. I need to be incredibly aggressive at saving and my financial adviser had no problem saying so.

You don’t have to be a financial genius in order to start. There are people who do this for a living—your goals and your success are theirs as well.

There is only one mistake you can make right now. ONE! That is NOT getting started, NOT saving enough, and robbing yourself of comfort and happiness when you stop punching a clock. Ok, maybe that’s three, but they are all connected!l

PS. Want to know more about the looming retirement crisis that is affecting every single one of us? Get involved and join the conversation with this must-see documentary, Broken Eggs: The Looming Retirement Crisis in America. Bonus! It’s free. You just need to bring the popcorn.

As a working mom, one of the biggest benefits that a job can offer is flexibility. And included in that flexibility is the ability to work from home. I personally prefer to come into the office on most days because I really enjoy the social interactions. However, there are certain days when going to the office isn’t the best option for me or members of my team. Here are a few scenarios when working from home is really the best option:

  • Uh-oh, my child is sick! At one time or another, a working parent will always be faced with having a sick child who needs to stay home from school. If your employees can still take conference calls or work on a project that is deadline driven while working from home and tending to their child, then this is a great option. I have worked at places where working from home was frowned upon and I was forced to take PTO. But that’s a whole day’s productivity lost. If employees are able to get the majority of their work done at home, it’s a win-win for both parties.
  • Three, two, one, strike! The Bay Area recently made headlining news when the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit- one of our biggest public transit systems) workers went on strike for almost an entire work week. Can you say commuter chaos? Some of my colleagues were up at 5 a.m. just to beat the crowds getting into the city! Others were never even able to make it in. In times like these, better to just take your laptop home, log in to Skype or Slack and avoid commuter hell.
  • “Your appointment window is between 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.” – We have all had these types of cable, phone, Internet, etc. installations where your appointment is really just a window of time when the installation/repairman may or may not show up. And while we all hope for that 9 a.m. service call, it’s usually not until 4:30 p.m. that the doorbell rings. If you are forced to wait at home for someone, no sense to take PTO when you could be typing away. Plus, working really does help the time pass more quickly!
  • The soccer game starts at 3 p.m. – If you have school age children, then you know this one well. Recitals, games and performances start earlier than the workday finishes. As a parent, you want to go to every one. In order to make it work for both my child and my employer, I make sure to meet deadlines and commitments so that I can continue to have flexibility in the future. Sometimes this requires me to start working at 5 a.m. to finish by 3 p.m. and get to the game. Starting work at the crack of dawn is a lot easier in my pajamas and I get more work done by not having to waste time commuting.

Offering a flexible work schedule can really benefit both employers and employees. I think it adds to increased productivity AND employee loyalty.

Save Me from Myself

Sabrina / 27 Feb 2013 / Personal Finance

It’s America Saves Week, and today’s theme is “Saving Automatically.” I wish I could say that I automatically save! But the truth is that you have to do a lot to get yourself into a situation where you don’t need to do anything.

Like you may have, I have an automatic transfer from my checking account into my savings account. However, there are times when I can just as automatically transfer it back. My savings account does not offer me the traction I need because I have too much access to the money. It is really like a less convenient checking account.

One thing I have to done to curtail my spending is to use cash over my debit card. For instance, when I go out to have a few drinks, I determine how much money I am allowed to spend and put that amount in my pocket in cash. When the cash is spent, the night is over. Having the cash on hand and trading it for goods or services creates the realization of loss that keeps me from frivolously spending every dime I have. Studies have shown that when someone uses a plastic card for a purchase that same sense of loss is not registered, and that is why so many people can easily run up extreme charges or exhaust their coffers with a painless swipe.

Another recommendation for automatic savings comes from our own Bianca Blanco. Each week a portion of her check is deposited into an account for which she has no checkbook, no debit card, no access to the money other than to physically go to the bank and withdraw it. Needless to say, that money is never spent impulsively.

What steps can you take to save yourself from spending your own money impulsively? How can you make saving automatic?

This week is America Saves Week, and did you know the scary fact that 1 in 3 Americans has more credit card debt than savings? In my younger days I would have been part of that 33%, but now I view savings not as a luxury, but as a necessity. As a parent, it’s not always easy to save, but there are some easy tweaks that you can make in your daily living that will help you grow your nest egg.

It’s time to do some math!

Let’s say you could trim just $10 a week off of your expenses. That is less than $1.50 a day, and if you saved that money throughout the year, you would end up with a nice wad of cash – $520 to be exact. If you took that money, threw it into a savings account or other investment vehicle that earned 5% interest, compounded monthly, you would have $2,323 after 30 years. That’s not bad for just trimming a measly ol’ $10 bucks a week!

Now let’s say you did that again next year. Your original $520 would have turned into $547, and if you add another $520 to it you’ll have $1,067. Using the same variables as above, in 29 years you’ll have $4,535. You can do the math to figure out the rest, but suffice to say, if you can save just $10 a week each year, in 30 years you’ll have a nice chunk of change.

So what are some ways that you can trim $10 a week for your expenses:

1. Coffee – drink less, make your own, or (if you’re lucky), get work to pay for it. Daily coffee runs are a budget killer; trust me I know! I used to go multiple times per day when I worked across the street from a cafe. Now it’s a bit more of a walk so I just make a cup in the morning at home. Since I drink regular brewed coffee, that was a saving of $2.00 a day. If you are a latte drinker you can easily save more.

2. Buy local, eat in season – Seasonal food that is grown locally is a lot cheaper than stuff that has to be shipped in from further away. Plus, it’s better for your health! If you live in an area that offers a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), then sign up pronto! Each week you will get a box of fresh fruits and veggies at prices that are usually less than at your grocery store. And it’s a lot of fun for kids to open up the box each week and see what’s in it. I subscribe to both Terra Firma Farms and Full Circle. Or check out your local Farmer’s Market.

3. Eat more meals at home – As a working Mom it’s not always easy or quick to get dinner on the table after work, but I try to minimize the number of times our family gets take out or goes to restaurants. Each Sunday I plan our meals for the week, usually around what veggies we have on hand, and I involve my son in this process. He gets to pick at least 1-2 dinners a week, and having a plan usually means we are less tempted to go out to eat. Usually, I can do any prep work the night before.

4. Don’t buy what you can make – Do you enjoy yogurt in the morning? Invest in a yogurt maker and make your own. It’s cheaper to buy milk than it is to buy single-serve yogurt containers, and you can control what ingredients you add. Got a craving for chips? Take some potatoes from your pantry, slice them with a mandolin and pop them in the microwave for a quick snack. Love soup? Make a big batch of soup on the weekend, divide into individual portions and you’ve got lunch for the week.

5. Have “date night” at home – As much as I love spending time with my son, it’s fun to have a date night with my husband every now and again. However, when babysitting costs anywhere from $15-20 an hour, that night out can quickly become very expensive! Rather than going out every time, we came up with date night at home. After D goes to sleep, we put the computers and mobiles to rest, and we do something fun together. Sometimes we queue up a movie from TiVo, play a board game or nosh on some wine and cheese. What’s important is that we spend time together having fun.

Now that I have shown you a few ways to get started, what other ways can you save $10 a week?

I can still remember the day my parents gave me my very first credit card. I was still in High School, and they made me a user on their credit card. Since I had a part-time job I earned money every week, and they told me that I was free to use the credit card as much as I wanted, as long as I paid off my portion of the charges by month-end when they were due. My parents never were, and still aren’t the type to carry credit card debt; any purchases put on the card are paid off as soon as they receive the bill.

Looking back, this was a huge amount of freedom which they gave me, but it also helped to teach me a lesson in very practical terms. They showed me that they trusted me enough to be a responsible young adult, and I, of course, wanted to prove to them that I was one. Every time I used the credit card I wrote it down in my journal, and at the end of the month, I gave them the cash to pay off my purchases. It was a win-win for both of us and I learned very quickly the concept of “don’t’ spend money you don’t have.” Though I was still young, I envisioned replicating this same scenario with my own children someday.

Then I got to college, and THAT was a different story.

My part-time job went away and I no longer had discretionary income coming in weekly. My parents sent me money to cover living expenses and the sort, but that was to buy food, books and other items that college students needed. It certainly wasn’t enough to keep shopping or going out, and there were things I wanted. Not that I needed, but wanted. At first, I used my credit card for small things, like dinner out or some new clothes. Somehow I scrambled and managed to make the payment at the end of the month. But then it started getting bigger and bigger until one month I ended up spending a few hundred dollars on cosmetics at the department store, and when the bill came due, I couldn’t pay it.

My dad could have just paid it off or asked me to pay it in installments, but I don’t know if that would have had a great impact. Instead, he made me gather up everything that I bought, marched me (and the items) back to the store and told the clerk that I purchased them without having the means to pay for it and that they needed to be returned. I was mortified and horribly embarrassed, but it was the last time I used their credit card for a frivolous purchase.

Now that I am a parent, I plan to do the same with my son. I know that credit card companies actively pursue college kids on campus, but I plan to make him an authorized purchaser on my credit card long before then. I want him to understand cause and effect, how to responsibly use credit and be able to live by the motto – “Don’t Spend Money You Don’t Have!” Then, when he chooses to establish his own credit, I will have hopefully instilled good habits!

I recently came across an article about things not to say to a working mom, and I found myself nodding my head at each and every statement. I have to assume that these comments are made by either stay-at-home moms, or by people who don’t have children. It’s true that the grass is greener on the other side, but I am completely envious of all of my SAHM friends. Not that I don’t love my job, but I would much rather be spending my days with my child (especially before “D” was in preschool) than going to the office. Even though my son is my best friend and we have a great relationship, I still struggle with the guilt over working and missing out on those hours during the day. Maybe that’s why I am glued to his side from the second I get home until he falls into bed!

Since the article was about things NOT to say to a working mom, I started to think about the positive statements that are said to me, as a working Mom. One of the first things that popped into my head was, “You are so lucky to work for a company that lets you bring kids to work!”

Shout-out to Ubiquity because it’s true. Sure there are many reasons, but one of them is because we foster a culture that is accommodating to working parents, both in the flexibility to work off-site, but also to bring our children to work. It’s a win-win for both sides, really. During school vacations, I don’t have to worry about finding daycare, and they don’t have to worry about me missing work or having diminishing productivity. If my child is sick, I can stay home and take care of him and still get my work done. And now that I am losing my Friday daycare and I have a few months before “D” starts school full-time, I can alter my schedule between working at home and bringing him with me to the office.

Does having this flexibility make me extremely happy? You bet it does! And with happiness comes loyalty to the company, with loyalty comes pride in work, and so on and so forth until it’s a love-fest all around. Plus, my son is happier because he gets to spend more time with me, and he is also learning that a positive work environment makes for less-stressed parents.

So if you are an employer who is looking for a way to motivate and retain employees, I strongly encourage you to look at ways to make the life of a working parent easier. If your office can accommodate children, then bring them in once in a while. If you don’t have a work-at-home policy, think about creating one. If you are an employee who wants to change your company’s culture, propose some ideas to your HR department, they might agree to give one a try.

The original article can be found here.

So, as I alluded to in my last post, I upped my contributions to 10%. Now, based on that, I am still going to fall short of the roughly $1.5 million I need to retire comfortably by about $579K.

It seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? $1.5 million seems like a huge amount. But considering that I would like to retire at age 67 and that I intend on living pretty similarly to how I live now—lots of travel, a little house on the beach, etc.—that’s what I’m going to need. And that $1.5 million suddenly seems really low if you are considering unforeseen medical expenses or who knows what, and where the heck are things going to be in 29 years? That’s what I’ve got. 29 years. Maybe 32 if the job market still loves me when I’m 70.

Beware. Scary statistic ahead.

I mentioned this horrible statistic in a previous blog: American workers are falling short of what they need to retire by about $6.6 TRILLION dollars. Because we aren’t saving enough, we have this nasty thing called elder poverty. Can you imagine, living, learning, and working your derrière off for 67+ years, only to find yourself struggling to make your next meal?

DUDE. There is no way that is going to be me.

I’m consistently impressed by young peeps like my friend MattBrown, who has been saving since he was knee-high to a grasshopper. He’s also a 20-something, so he’s sure to have that retirement cash cow to rely on, and he may even be able to retire sooner than 67. I’ll tell you what. I am going to continue to be aggressive about saving. What’s the next goal for me in contributions? I want to raise the roof to 15%. With that, I’ll have more than is anticipated for me to retire, and that beach cottage in a foreign country with 365 days of sunshine? SECURE.

The Fiscal Cliff of Retirement

Sylvia Flores / 24 Jan 2013 / Personal Finance

Are you as sick as I am about hearing the term “Fiscal Cliff”? Thanks media for killing me with that news every two minutes. Maybe we should rephrase it as the “Fiscal Apocalypse of Retirement”. Maybe that’s what the Mayan’s were talking about!

In all seriousness, people are going nuts. I have a friend who sold off all of his stock in Apple (which is his retirement) the week before the deadline because of crazy fear of said cliff. Here’s the thing. Your retirement plan takes something that Americans are no longer experts at. It’s this thing called “patience”.

Time + Patience = MONEY

We have officially moved into a “microwave society”—this term coined by my dear friend Chad Parks. We want what we want and we want it RIGHT NOW. In the game of retirement dollars, this behavior will—how do I say this nicely? Screw you over in the long term.

We need to talk.

No one—and I mean this—no one can predict the future of the markets (not even those pesky Mayans). You need to go about saving with the idea that the money you put away is untouchable. Don’t rob your future self. Your future self wants to have a great life when things are winding down. Put money in. Be patient. Don’t cash out for a new car or a house. And stop thinking that your house is a retirement plan. It’s not. Your retirement plan needs to be a separate entity that you love and care for and it takes PATIENCE!

Make a resolution. Stick to it!

There is a fiscal cliff of retirement (enter your retirement age here). If you don’t save, you will not be able to live comfortably. Depending on your age, Social Security may or may not be there for you—according to the Social Security Administration, it’ll be insolvent by 2034. Scared? And Social Security is not enough to survive on. You don’t want to have to choose between meals, medication, or a roof over your head!

So, what are you going to do in this New Year? I’ll tell you what I’m doing. I’m raising my contribution to 10% (which means I have a lower taxable income—double win!). I’m cutting back on frivolous things, and am securing my retirement future so I can sit on some foreign beach for the rest of my days, drinking wine and eating olives and cheese.

As soon as my son was born, my husband and I opened a saving account for him. We felt this was important because we received many cash gifts for him, and we wanted to keep this money separate from ours; after all, it’s HIS money. He is four now, and since his birth, we have deposited all of his cash and checks into this account, and it’s grown quite a bit (far more than mine!). Once he was old enough to begin to understand the concept of money, we introduced him to what we call the 50/40/10 rule.

Quite simply, 50% of all the money he receives (either earned or gifted) must go into a savings account. Period. No questions asked. His age prevents him from completely grasping the concept of savings, but I know that repeated reiteration of just the word “savings” will help integrate it into his vocabulary and hopefully will become standard practice for him as he gets older. When he becomes an adult maybe the percentage will change, but it’s my goal to teach him that he has to incorporate savings into his overall money plan.

The 40% is what we call the discretionary piece. Though D is still too young to need discretionary spending, I believe when he gets older, 40% of what he either earns or is given should be determined by him. Maybe he will choose to save that money (great!) or maybe he’ll use it to buy something he wants. Either way, I am trying to equip him with the right mentality that he shouldn’t just spend everything he receives as a gift. Half of it has to be saved, and some of can be used for fun.

Lastly comes the 10% and this is another non-negotiable. This portion of his money must be given to charity, and it’s with this part that we really get to have fun. My husband and I kept track throughout 2012 and at the end of the year, we told D how much he had to give. Then we asked him to choose three charities to whom he wanted to contribute. He asked us for suggestions, and we gave him some based on both his and our interests. It was really warming to see him ask questions about each charity – about what they did and who they helped. It’s so important to me that D realize that there are many who are less fortunate in this world and that it’s up to him and his generation to step up and make a change. At his age, contributing money toward these causes is how he can help.

In the end, D chose three different charities. It’s important to let your child choose for themselves to whom they want to give because it teaches them they have a choice over where their money will be spent, even if not over the amount.

Remember that many of these values that you instill in your child from an early age will stay with them their whole lives, so start talking about money now!

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© 2018 Ubiquity Retirement + Savings / Privacy Policy
1160 Battery Street, Suite 350, San Francisco, CA 94111 / Support: 855.401.4357