If your holiday to-do list looks a lot like ours, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. Especially with the year we've had, it may seem like there's no wiggle room in that list to tackle some back-burner tasks you've been putting off. But, with a fresh new year coming up, it turns out that this time of year is perfect for laying the groundwork of financial wellness! We were able to zoom in with Jim Curran and his team from Cape Cod 5 and learn some of the first steps toward taking stock of current, future and goal financials! We hope you find this as helpful as we did!
Jim Curran, Darin Weeks, Eric Lavoie and Beth Grady join Deanna for a Financial Wellness virtual seminar
Eric Lavoie ran us through the basics of budgeting and credit scores, recommending methods for paying down debt: the snowball method of paying of the smallest debt first, and then allocating that payment to the next highest debt once paid off. Similarly, the avalanche method of debt payoff tackles the debt with the highest interest first, and then once paid off, that payment goes to the debt with the next highest interest.
Next on Eric's list of advice was the creation of a budget - a great idea to "give every dollar a purpose," as you track each transaction and deposit made from your accounts over the course of a month and are able to more closely determine needs vs. wants as you jot down each online cart this holiday season.
Of course, no financial talk is complete without talking about savings: Eric's recommendation of "pay yourself first," acts on such services like employer 401k contributions. An easy way to make the most of your long-term savings is to contribute the maximum to your 401k so that both your contribution and a possible match by your employer work as hard as they can in your benefit.
"Start small, be consistent, and tailor to your own habits, needs, and lifestyle," - Eric Lavoie
Darin Weeks ran us through the "road map" of first-time homebuyer brainstorming:
Determine your primary motivation: from the type of home you're looking for to the area you'd like to live in.
How long do you plan on living in the home you're thinking of purchasing? Will this be a long-term place? Or, are you looking for somewhere to be for 3-5 years until your family grows and you may need something with a bit more space?
When it comes to considering a down payment, for Cape Cod5 and many local banks, cash is key and this circles back to Eric's earlier advice on creating a budget and savings plan.
Alongside a down payment, knowledge of credit history is something that comes in handy for first-time homebuyers. Be sure to familiarize yourself with your own score and any factors that can help you keep it in the best range to suit you needs.
As with many things, a stable employment history and sustainable gross income also play into buying a home.
How are credit scores determined?
Beth Grady was able to draw off Darin's homeownership talk to dive into some important considerations for all of us: asset protection.
Insurance coverage review, estate planning and document security are all things that should be reviewed regularly:
Insurance coverage, yearly - think life, auto, homeowners, health, disability and any others. If, like many Americans, you're offered a high deductible plan through your employer, it's a good idea to ask if there are any benefits in place to help offset the costs, be it HSA enrollment or possible deductible reimbursement.
Estate planning, though not a yearly review like insurance, should still be reviewed - beneficiaries, though, should be reviewed annually. A good rule of thumb for review on these is either 3-5 years or following a major life event like a marriage, birth, etc. Estate planning outlines wishes to prepare for emergencies - things like power of attorney, healthcare proxy, trusts, and wills are all examples of estate planning that can help to protect families.
As we dig out the holiday decorations, it's also a good time to think about our document storage: the old Amazon box in the hall closet might not hold up forever. Some websites can allow for safe, secure digital storage of documents - let your power of attorney or healthcare proxy have the password so that they're able to access documents if you're unable.
We are so grateful to have been opportunity to sit down with this knowledgeable team from Cape Cod 5 to outline the beginner's roadmap to financial wellness, especially as we start getting into the thick of the holiday season at the end of a tumultuous year.
If you're still curious about any of the info from the seminar or you're ready to tackle the next steps, the team at Cape Cod 5 are always available to help our community grow!
You can watch our entire workshop on our YouTube Channel!