Get Your Free Credit Score + Credit Monitoring + ID Protection

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We live in an age where everything is digital. That makes our information all in the cloud and accessible anywhere.  This can be very convenient at times, but it can also open you up to potential risk of your information being stolen.

There are lots of companies out there who offer to protect your information.  However, many of them are questionable (at best).  One of them which you can use and feel safe doing is Credit Sesame.

First of all, Credit Sesame will give you your credit score for free.  No strings.  Nothing more than that.  It is truly free.  What is great is that you can add the bonus of credit monitoring and ID protection.  If there are any changes made to your credit profile, you will be notified.  They also provide you with $50,000 in identity theft protection insurance.  This is all free.  Yes – you read that right – FREE!

It is important that you check your credit every year to check for errors.  In fact, an FTC study has found that 20% of Americans, or 40 million credit reports, actually have errors on them!  That could be affecting your interest rates on credit offers and even cause issues if you attempt to get a new auto or home loan.

Keep track of your credit by signing up forCredit Sesame!

Retirement in Your 60s: It Still Is NOT Too Late!

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It is never too late to start saving for retirement -- even if you are in your 60s!!!!


Saving For Retirement: In Your 60s

While it can seem intimidating, it’s important to know that it’s never too late to start saving for retirement. While it may seem like time to save is running out, it’s really just an excuse. If you or a loved one are in the approximately 14 percent of people older than 65 years old who don’t have a retirement account, here’s what must be done in order to reach those golden years with a little peace of mind and money in the bank.


A Long Term Look

Once you retire, money stops coming in and only goes out – that’s an unavoidable fact. It is absolutely imperative that you create (if you don’t have one already) and adjust your financial plan for retirement. This means taking a hard look at spending habits. Gather as much financial information as you possibly can on anything you spend money on – everything from grocery store receipts to monthly gas bills. Programs such as Quicken or Mint can help you track spending.

Once you’ve established what you’re currently living on, it’s time to think about the future. Ask yourself, how much do you plan to live on? Does that total include trips to visit grandchildren or paying off a mortgage? Another thing you can’t ignore, how much do you need for medical bills? If you have a preexisting condition, this will need to be higher, so keep that mind.

Once you understand everything you are spending, start cutting whatever is not absolutely necessary. Have cable? Cut it. Assisting your children with their bills? Stop that. You need to be saving as much money as possible. How much exactly, as much as 50 percent of your monthly income. Yes, we know that is a lot, but it is necessary.

A Health Savings Account (HSA) can help out immensely in retirement since there are tax-advantages to having one. Similar to an IRA, you can withdraw money for non-medical expenses (note: funds will be taxed as income) after age 65.


A Plan In Action

As you decide what the future holds and how you’ll achieve this, it’s worth remembering that the easy answers to your retirement concerns aren’t always the best resolutions. For instance, reverse mortgages may seem like a good idea but there’s more to them than initially meets the eye. They can often do more harm than good since the equity is merely a portion of your home’s worth. Also, reverse mortgages typically come with high fees and upfront costs.

Of course, you may be wondering about other sources of potential post-retirement income – namely, Social Security. Renowned financial expert Dave Ramsey advises people to act as if Social Security doesn’t exist when they’re planning for retirement so that it’s arrival is more of a bonus. However, if you know that these payments will be crucial, it’s best to wait until at least age 70 so you can maximize those payments.

Lastly, if your savings are between nothing and not nearly enough, consult immediately with a financial advisor. They will help you cut expenses and start saving at the levels you need to retirement comfortably, and often with a tried-and-tested plan. A good financial advisor can also help you diversify any investments that you or a spouse carries or give you a technique for properly maxing your saving options.

With retirement so close, action is the key word. If you’re proactive about not only putting money away, but also curbing your spending and making financial changes, you can start making plans for life after work.


No matter how old you are, it is never too old to be saving for retirement. For more advice on navigating financials or saving for retirement, click here for friendly advice from the CommunityAmerica Credit Union Savin’ Mavens.


Money Obstacle #1: Spending More At The Store Than You Plan

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It happens.  You run to the store and plan on spending $25 and before you know it, there is more than $100 worth of items in your cart!  This is tough on the budget  and can result in a lot of overspending.  Check out these simple tips to help prevent you from spending too much at your favorite store!


How many times has this happened to you? You walk into the store and plan on spending just $25 and before you realize it, you have an entire cart full of items and your total is more than $100?  This can be very taxing on your budget.  After all, you only have a limited amount of money to spend and if you overspend at one store, then that has to come from another budget line item.

It takes some re-training on your part, but you CAN do it!  Below are some tips anyone can follow to help keep that spending in check and make sure you stay in line with the budget.



1.  The Shopping List Trick.  This is the best tip I can offer.  Make a list.  Then, start forcing yourself to stick to it!  I personally never shop without a list.  The list keeps my eye on those items I need.  Not only does it help me keep my spending in check, it actually saves me a LOT of time.  I don’t wander the aisles just looking at items.  Instead, it is a list for me to follow and I walk through the store, checking them off of the list as they go into the cart.  When I get home, I’ve only spent the amount I planned on and also never have one of those “Oh – I Forgot the ________!!!!!” moments.

A list can be jotted down on a piece of paper, on your phone using an app or notepad  – it doesn’t matter. If you need help with a list, we have a free template you can download. I print one off and then go to the copy store and pay minimal cost to get a stack printed off every few months.  It helps me have a list at my fingertips at all times – and I add items to it throughout the week so I don’t forget to grab it when I shop.  Get the free form HERE.


2. Menu Planning.  If you aren’t sure what you will have for dinner and/or lunches during the week, you don’t have a plan of action.  Instead, you end up walking through the store and randomly toss things into your cart.  When you get home, you may not have anything you need to put together a meal, which results in another trip to the store – again wandering to find something for dinner, usually meaning more items into the cart.  The cycle repeats itself.

My creating a simple meal plan, you not only know what to have for dinner, you can plan your shopping trip.  You will get those items you need without spending too much!  We share Menu Planning Tips (including free forms) right here!


3.  Don’t fall for end caps and clearance.  These are money spending traps!  You walk by and your eye is drawn the end cap with the big SALE sign in front of it.  If you don’t need that item, don’t grab it.  Also, don’t walk by the clearance section and think “I’ll just look” as you will often pick up items you don’t really need – again, meaning you are spending money you had not originally planned on.

Instead, shop the sections you need.  If you need detergent, just go to that section and grab your item and then go to the next on your list.  Don’t wander through the store as you will be more likely to do “cart tossing” — when you add items to your cart without even realizing what you are spending.


4.  Use a calculator.  If cash truly is something you can not do, or you plan on using your store card for an extra discount, then you need to track what you are spending.  As you add items to your cart, just add the product price to a running total.  You keep track of what you are spending and can stay on budget.

You can also use this to check the per unit price to make sure you are getting the most for your money.  Many stores will put the per unit price on the shelf tag, but if you do not see that, you can determine if the bigger bottle, at a higher price, is less per unit than something smaller, and less expensive.


5.  Use cash.  I know, I know — broken record here.  However, when you use cash, you can ever overspend.  You simply don’t have it to spend.  You are much more aware of what you place into your cart.  You also are less likely to wander the aisles.  Instead, you will grab the item  you went in for and that will be it.   You can even only grab a $20 bill to go in – so there is no possible way you will dip into more cash in your wallet!


6.  Stay busy.  Often times, we go to the store out of boredom.  That means more spending.  Find a new book, a game or get involved with a non-profit.  If you have kids, try to get more involved in activities or even volunteer.  The busier you stay, the less likely you are to head to the store, just to get out of house.


7.  Keep emotion out of shopping.  One thing I never do is shop hungry.  When I do, I buy items I normally would not, because my stomach is controlling my spending.

If I am going on vacation, I stay out of the stores as I find clothes, accessories and other items I think I “need” for my trip.  In this instance, my excitement is controlling my spending.

If I am feeling badly about myself (for whatever reason), buying something I have been wanting may end up making it’s way home with me.  Here, buying it to make myself feel better is the reason for my spending.

There a many emotions attached to spending.  You have to identify which one(s) apply to you and find a way to fulfill that need through another method – other than spending money.


8.  Clean and declutter.  This tip actually has an added benefit.  First of all, when you declutter, you find all of those items you’ve spent money on and no longer need.  It makes you realize where you are spending.  It also makes you think twice about how clean the closet is now and how you don’t want it to be filled up with stuff.

The added benefit of decluttering is that it keeps your house clean and organized!  You can find what you need more easily and don’t have so much “stuff” cluttering the house.


9.  Save first.  When you get money, it is so tempting to run out and spend it on something you may have been wanting.  Instead, make sure you are paying yourself first.  That could mean savings or retirement.  This will decrease the amount  you have to spend, which in turn means you can’t purchase as much!


10.  Budget. Budget. Budget.  With a budget in place, you know how much you have to spend on groceries, clothes and more.  Without one, you often spend willy-nilly and don’t even realize it.  When you have a set budget for $300 on groceries for a two week period, you know that is all you can spend.  No more.  If you spend $350, then you have to take that money from somewhere else in your budget.

Budgeting is tough – I will not lie.  However, once you have one in place and get use to following it, you will feel more balanced and can really keep your spending in check.  Learn more about budgeting (including FREE templates and forms you can use to make one yourself).


What additional tips do you have to add to our list?

Retirement In Your 50s: Tips to Save

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Saving for Retirement: In Your 50s

Half a decade is something that should absolutely be celebrated. But if you don’t have enough, or anything, put away into a retirement account, you may need to put the champagne back on ice. If you’re savings aren’t where they should be and you’re planning on working for at least another ten years, there’s still time to change your habits so you can face the future from a comfortable financial position.


Increase The Odds

Twenty-six percent of people between ages 50 to 64 years old don’t even have a retirement account, much less money put away for ‘life after work’. According to investment brokerage company Fidelity, the average person needs to have approximately 8 times their ending salary put away “to help increase the odds that you won’t outlive your savings during 25 years in retirement.”

It’s important to factor in scenarios such as health care, emergencies and house payments. Estimating how much you can expect to comfortably live on is the first step to take when you’re planning for retirement later than most. There are a variety of tools available for establishing this number. For example, AARP has several resources, ranging from practical advice columns to an online retirement calculator.


Expert Assistance

Another valuable resource is a financial advisor, who can help you manage your current income in a way that allows you start saving for the future. On average, you should be saving about 15 to 20 percent of your current salary. If your company offers matching, take advantage. If you have an IRA, plan to deposit the entire $5,500 yearly total and the extra $1,000 catch-up contribution.

If you have some funds saved, speak with an advisor about taking a more conservative approach to your investments. If your financial advisor is pushing you towards risky investments, it might be time to look for a new advisor. This is the time to make sure your money is secure.


Debt Removal

Your 50s is also the time to pay down and remove any debt that you or your spouse may be carrying. Credit cards, student loans, cars, even mortgages – try to pay these off as quickly and reasonably as possible. Not only are interest charges taking a bite out of your paychecks, having these things paid off means you’re in full ownership, too. When you remove the debt, make an effort to put those same monthly payments amounts into your retirement savings. After all, you’d gotten used to not having the money anyways, right?


Social Expectations

If you’re planning to rely heavily on Social Security, you will need to proactive about your expectations. The earliest you can start receiving partial social security benefits is age 62, with full benefits available after age 65. There are positives and negatives to taking benefits early or late and your decision about when to retire is not one to make lightly. The Social Security Administration website is a great resource for questions ranging from planning and preparation to documentation and benefits.

With so many options and pathways to choose from, planning for retirement in your 50s can feel overwhelming. However, if you start heavily saving money, you should be able to approach retirement with far more confidence.


No, it’s not impossible. Next week, we’ll talk about saving for retirement in your 60s. For more advice on navigating financials or saving for retirement, click here for friendly advice from the CommunityAmerica Credit Union Savin’ Maven

How To Save on a Short Disney Trip

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There is no rule that you have to plan a week long (or more) trip to visit Disney.  If your budget doesn't allow for that, you can still plan a one or two day trip and have a great time!  Check out these tips from Disney Planning Experts on what to do to ensure you get the most out of your trip!

If you want to visit Disney, but don’t have the budget (or time) for an extended trip, you might try a one or two day instead.  Of course, you want to get in the fun, but you also need to make sure you get the most bang for you buck!

I reached out to several Disney Travel experts to get some tips and ideas from them on what to do to make sure do just that.  These people have some great ideas to help you enjoy the park during that short time you might have to visit.  We’ve also included a link to the website and/or Facebook page here as well.  That way, if you want to learn more or need some help planning your trip, you can reach out to them directly.

1.  Stay on the Disney property.  This will save you the cost of parking ($20 a day).  You will also be submersed in the magic the entire time you are visiting – allowing you to fully enjoy the experience. You might check out the value resort, which is a lower cost stay, but still allows you to stay on the property. (Tip from Lisa with

2. Take advantage of resort freebies.  There are always parties, games, art projects and more going on at the pools.  Find the times and you can have a chance to enjoy a little something FREE during your visit!  (Tip from Liz with PixieLizzie.)

3. Skip the Park Hopper pass.  On a shorter trip, you won’t want to bounce around because the travel between wastes time. Pick the parks you want to be in the most and choose 1 for each day of your trip. Once you have the parks picked, take a look at the attractions for each park and earmark your faves and the ones you want to skip. You should also use the My Disney Experience app and website to pull up each ride and seeing the description of each one. Using the new fast pass+ guests can pre-select 3 rides per day. This will also save time.  (Tip from Nicole with Happily Ever Disney).

4.  Stock your fridge.  Make sure you visit a local grocery store and grab breakfast and snacks.  Then, stock your fridge!  Now, you’ve got breakfast and all of your snacks, which you can stuff into your bag.  Add in some bottled water and now, you’ve got inexpensive snacks, instead of the expensive ones you will find through the park.  It is also an added bonus when you are in your room at 9 pm and everyone needs a bedtime snack too.  (Tip from Stacey with Fairytale Journeys with a Touch of Magic).

5.  Use Your Disney Vacation Account.  This is a great way to save money and gift cards to use towards your trip!  The great feature about this is that when you save $1,000, you will receive a FREE $20 gift card!  You can sign up HERE.  That can be used towards souvenirs and other trinkets.  (Tip from Gundi with Wish Upon a Star with Us).

6.  Use a reputable travel agent.  This may seem like it would cost you more – but it does not.  When you utilize a reputable agent, they can really help you make sure you get the most out of your trip while ensuring you stay in budget!  All of the tips on this post were provided by such agents, so feel free to reach out with any of them. (Tip from Kathryn with Magical Moments Vacations).

7. Plan your meals ahead of time. You can find menus and prices for the various restaurants online.  This way, you can make sure you dine where it fits into you budget.  You might even be able to split meals with your kids!  They never seem to eat it all anyhow, so just clean up their left overs and skip paying for a meal.

If this doesn’t work for you, look into the meal plan option, as you may save more going this route (it is all pre-paid before you go).  (Tis from Lindley with Mickey Adventures and Krissy with Magic of Mickey Travel).

8. Wait and go when you can afford a longer trip.  If your budget doesn’t work for a longer trip one year, you may want to save and try to go for a longer period of time in the future.  You can actually save hundreds and catch more venues if you plan your trip for one week or longer. (Tip from Kim with Magical Vacations by Me).

9.  Plan your park visit.  Get into the park the minute it opens and head to the back of the park to hit those rides first.  Most start at the front and work back, making for longer lines.  You can sometimes find little to no lines at all – making sure you get the most out of your trip to the park. (Tip from Trevor with Middle of the Magic Travel).

10.  Go during off season.  Try to plan your trip during values seasons which are January – early February or September.  The lines are shorter and you can get more bang for your buck!  (Tip from Heather with AAAMagicCreator).


Ten Secret Savings Tips For Shopping at Target

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The best way to save money at any store is to know the secrets.  Check out these TEN great secret tips to help you get the most out of your Target shopping trip!!

I remember having a conversation with someone once at Target.  She found out that I ran this site and she said this to me:

“My parents and I have this ongoing argument about where you save more money.  I say it is Walmart and they say it is Target.  Which of us is correct?”

My answer to her was simple:

“Target. There are so many ways to stack savings at Target, which are not available at Walmart.”

We had a short conversation and I shared with her these tips.  I’ve got my ten secret savings tips for shopping at Target!  The best part – you can stack several of these together and dramatically increase your savings!!!


cartwheel-logo (1)

1.  Cartwheel. This program has been around for nearly 2 years (since May 2013).  Since then, it has expanded and now offers hundreds of offers.

What is great about this program is that you can use it on your phone OR you can review and print your savings at home before you shop.  That is so helpful for anyone who may not have a smartphone.

The way it works is simple.  You find the products you plan on purchasing through the app.  You “claim” the offer, which is added to your account. Then, shop as usual.  When you check out, you show the app to your cashier on your phone.  He or she will scan it and the savings will be applied to your purchase.  If you do not have a phone, you hand over the printout and they can scan the code that way instead.

If you haven’t used this app or program before, you can read more about How To Use Target Cartwheel.


2.  Price Match.  Many people know that you can price match to some stores, but did you know you can also price match to online prices as well!?  Yep!  Not only that, but you can also still use your coupons as well.

The entire price matching policy can be found on Target’s site here.  The general things you need to know include:

  • The item must be the same brand, size, weight, color, quantity and or model number in order to be matched.
  • If it is for a competitor ad, it must be the in the original ad and valid the date that the price match is requested (meaning you can’t use an old ad or upcoming ad).  If you are matching prices, the retail price must be valid on the website at the time you make your purchase.
  • They will match prices for the following online retailers:  Amazon, Walmart, BestBuy, ToysR Us, and BabiesRUs.  Note that in order to match Amazon, it must be fulfilled by Amazon and not a third party seller.
  • If you previously purchased something within 10 days prior to the lower price, bring in the ad (or have the website information) along with your receipt, and you will receive the difference back in the form of cash.
  • You can use coupons to price match.  Keep in mind that Target and Cartwheel coupons are applied first and then price match will be applied.  If, after applying the coupon, the price is lower than the competitor, there is no additional adjustment needed.  However, if the price is still more than the competitor, the price will be reduced further.


3.  Clearance. Target has items on clearance quite frequently.  These can be found on the end cap displays.  The discounts start at 15% and work up from there.  You can actually review the Target clearance tag to know not only the discount, but also if the price will be reduced any further.

  • If the reduced price ends in a “6” or “8”, the price will drop further.
  • It the reduced price end in a “4”, that is the lowest the price will drop.
  • You can use coupons on clearance priced items.
  • The amount of the discount can be found at the top of the red clearance tag.

When it comes to holiday discounts, they usually hit the lowest price within 7 – 10 days following the holiday.

Click over HERE to lean more about how to read the clearance tags here.


4.  RedCard. This is a way to save on every single purchase…..every time you shop!  When you use your REDcard  (debit or credit), you save 5% on all purchases.  Not only that, but you can designate a portion of your purchase profits get donated to the school of your choice.  Finally, you get free shipping on all purchases online – always!!!

You may want to read more about the REDcard and get signed up for yours!!!


5. Gift Card promos. These are a great way to get paid when you shop.  Every week, Target has offers which provide shoppers a gift card with their purchase.  It is usually a purchase of 2 or 3 (sometimes 4).  You make the purchase of the select items and can earn a Target gift card for $5.  That is money right back in your pocket.

When you get the gift card, you can use it right away – but not in the same transaction.  So, you would need to run two separate transactions if you wish to use it right away.

What is great is that you can use your Target store, Cartwheel and manufacturer’s coupons towards your purchase — and that has no affect on earning the gift card!!

One final thing to keep in mind, if you happen to return any item purchased which offered the gift card, you will have that total netted from the refund (and in a worse case scenario, need to give more money for returning the product).


6.  Stack coupons. This is my favorite way to stack coupons (and your REDcard)!  You can use up to 3 coupons on a single purchase!!  Here is how discounts are taken.

1 – Target Store coupons (mobile or print)
2 – Target Cartwheel coupon
3 – Manufacturer’s coupons
4 – Target REDcard discount

If you happen to have a coupon for $x off of a $xx purchase, you can also use that as well – allowing for FIVE total ways to save on your purchase!



7. Price reduction differences.  Each week, Target offers several discounts, which can be found in your local ad.  They also offer Temporary Price Cuts – which are unadvertised.  You will want to keep your eyes open for these discounts as well.  Make sure you read the tag as it will tell you how long the promotion runs – so that if you get another great coupon to use – you can save even more!!


8.  Rainchecks.  If you want to pick up an item, but find that there are non on the shelf, make sure you ask for a rain check.  This will allow you to purchase the item at the reduced price, once it is back in stock.

You do need to read the fine print on the promotion as some offers are only available while supplies last and will issue a rain check.  If in doubt, just as at Guest Services and they will be more than happy to help.

When you redeem your rain check, make sure that you also use those coupons!!!


9. Use rebate sites.  Another great (and simple way) to increase your savings is to use rebate sites — on top of the discounts and coupons!  Sites such as Ibotta, Snap! by Groupon and ReceiptPal are just a few of the ways to save.

Each of these sites pay you after you make a purchase.  With Ibotta and Snap! by GroupOn you have to claim offers and then make the purchase.  With ReceiptPal, you just make any purchase.  Then, within 5 – 7 days you will get money deposited into your account!


10. Weekly matchups and deals. Finally, the best way to save money at Target, is to use all of these tools shared above with the weekly deals.  When something is already on sale and you stack your coupons, Target REDcard, rebates and other tools, you can truly maximize your savings.  Find them right here by clicking our TARGET tab above!

Now that you’ve read all of these tips, do you agree that Target is a GREAT place to head when it comes to trying to save money?

Retirement Savings: In Your 40s

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Ask anyone who’s been or is there: ages 40 to 49 are a busy time. There are quite a variety of expenses to consider. For many people, funds aren’t just being allotted to the costs of raising children; aging parents may need some financial assistance as well. And let’s not forget about existing debt and mortgages.

While it may seem like your accounts are being pulled in several directions, it’s equally – if not more –important that you are moving money into a retirement savings account, too. Approximately one-third of people aged 30-49 years old don’t have a retirement account. If you’re in this category, you need to start thinking even further ahead.


Up and Over The Hill

Most people hit their peak earnings during their 40s. Now, don’t get caught up in thinking that means it is time to buy that dream home. Because what comes after a peak? That’s right, a downhill slide. If you’re presently struggling to live within your means, imagine how you’ll feel when you’re facing life without a steady paycheck.

What kind of costs can you expect at or after 40? It’s undeniable that health care costs will continue rising as you age because you will likely need more care. There are two sure fire ways to delay spending time in doctors’ offices and taking more medication – diet and exercise. Yes, we know these aren’t fun, but numerous studies have shown time and time again that taking care of yourself helps ward off conditions that come with aging.

Mid-life is also when many think about purchasing or upping life insurance for themselves or family members. This can be a matter of dollars each month and is definitely something to look into. None of us believe the unexpected will happen, but its best to be prepared, for your family’s sake, in case it does.


A Different Angle

If your retirement savings are minimal or non-existent, you need to strongly consider a lifestyle change. Many families are joining what’s being called the tiny house movement. Downsizing is key but moving into a 500 square foot home is not. It’s more about reducing unnecessary living costs, such as cable, leisure expenses and debt. While you’re decreasing across the board, you can more easily max out your retirement vehicles.

Up your retirement savings up as high as you can to make up for any lost wages later. Not sure how much you’ll need to retire? Use a retirement savings calculator that tailors suggested deposits to your age, income and even estimated inflation. For reference, you should be saving 12 to 15 percent of each paycheck in your 40s, at a minimum.


A Bite Out of the Sandwich

You may feel like your retirement savings should be put on the backburner when you’re faced with more immediate financial concerns at home. Many of today’s 40 year olds are in what’s considered the ‘sandwich generation’ meaning they’re in between caring for children and for their parents. While it can be daunting, the best approach to sensible retirement saving is a pragmatic one.

Hopefully, you or your spouse’s parents have put money aside for retirement. If they didn’t or lost funds due to an emergency, you will need to work together as a family to cut expenses and find ways to provide for their needs. Help get your parents’ paperwork in order and you’ll have a clear picture of what to expect.

Your kids will likely need help with expenses before, during and after college. The best way you can help them out? Teach them some self-sustaining habits, such as cooking, basic car maintence, simple sewing or even gardening. Remember, they can always get a loan for their education and you cannot do the same for retirement.

With all the choices you make and the busy activities of your 40s, use this momentum to move your retirement savings forward. Doing so makes the next 40 years something to look forward to, not fear.


For 50-year-olds, retirement is a looming prospect. Next week, we’ll talk about what can still be done to maximize savings and diversify portfolios. For more advice on navigating financials or saving for retirement, click here for friendly advice from the CommunityAmerica Credit Union Savin’ Mavens.

Retirement Savings: In Your 30s

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Saving for Retirement: In Your 30s.  Even if you missed the retirement savings boat in your 20s, it is not too late to get started.  You simply need different strategies.  Find out WHAT you need to do if you are in your 30s and starting to save for retirement.


Saving For Retirement: In Your 30s

For many of us, our 30s are a dynamic time in life. During these busy years, jobs turn into careers and relationships are solidified by marriage or transformed by children. And, according to the online real estate database website Zillow, most people are in their mid-30s when they buy their first home. These big changes often come with big price tags, but are also no excuse to slack on or avoid saving for retirement.


Work Smarter

Thirty-three percent of people ages 30 to 49 years old don’t have a retirement account. If you’re within this one-third of people, and in your 30s, you need to make retirement savings a priority. If your company offers retirement savings through a 401(k), start by discussing your options with someone in human resources. They can get you set up with a plan that works well with your income and goals.

If you already have a 401(k) in operation, consider making more aggressive investments. Since you are hopefully making more now than when you started working, it’s wise to consider changing or upping your retirement allocations with each raise. Even if it’s no more than a single percentage a year, keeping your savings in line with your earnings is a smart long-term plan.


Invest Time, Too

A 2014 survey conducted by Charles Schwab, found that only 11 percent of workers spent five hours or more assessing their 401(k) investment options. This is far less time than how long many of us spend researching a new car or a vacation! If the idea of investments and the terminology attached overwhelms, you might consider taking a course (choose from a free online class or a short unit at a community college to learn how to save that heard-earned money). Or, think about hiring someone to help.

A trained professional can ensure you are meeting your retirement goals. When you work with a financial planner, he or she will help you establish an account and assist with diversification – an important element to successful investment. A good financial planner can be invaluable when your accounts, and family, grow.


Steady As You Grow

Once children enter the picture, so do a host of excuses about why retirement saving is impossible. While it’s important to provide every avenue of support for your little ones, you must do so responsibly. For instance, starting a state-sponsored 529-college plan for your children is a great way to save for college expenses but it’s important to remember that they can always get a loan for school – you can’t for retirement.

What is your key takeaway for saving if you are in your 30s? Start putting more money away for retirement. While saving 10-15 percent of your income for retirement might be difficult, it will feel so good when you are comfortably retiring in your 60s.


Next week, we’ll delve deeper into saving for retirement in your 40s, while providing for your family. For more advice on navigating financials or saving for retirement, click here for friendly advice from the CommunityAmerica Credit Union Savin’ Mavens.




How to Start Investing

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

If you want to start investing, you may not even know where to start!  Check out these strategies to help you learn HOW to get Started Investing!!!


You want to started investing but aren’t sure what steps to take. I’ll walk you through the basics and you’ll be ready to go soon.

First you should know that the stock market offers a great way to grow your wealth. However, the rewards of earning 5%, 8%, or even 12% per year on your investments comes with the risk of losing money. The dollar value of your investments may fall one year and then take years to recover from these losses before delivering gains.

Think about These Issues Before You Start Investing

Because of possible fluctuations in market value, investors are often urged to invest for the long term. Generally, you should invest only if you will not need your money for 5-7 years at a minimum. The time between now and when you’ll need your money for your children’s college education, retirement, the purchase of a vacation home, etc. is called the time horizon. For example, if you are investing toward buying a small cabin on the lake in 15 years, then your time horizon is 15 years.

Beyond establishing your time horizon, you should ask yourself a few questions, such as:

  • Am I investing for retirement, education, or another purpose?
  • How much do I have to invest, and is that money available in a lump sum, a regular monthly amount, or both?
  • How much time do I want to spend managing my investments?
  • How much money do I want to spend in investment fees?
  • How much fluctuation from the U.S. stock market performance am I willing to accept?

Your responses will guide your investing decisions, not only for the types of investments but also the brokerage firm you choose.

Consider Investing for Retirement with Low-Cost Index Funds

Let’s say you are investing for retirement, have an initial investment of $3,000 with $100 to add monthly to your investment, want to minimize the time and money you expend on investment management, and would like to closely match U.S. stock performance (either the S&P 500 or the entire market).

You can open an IRA with an online brokerage firm such as E*Trade, Fidelity, Schwab, TD Ameritrade, or Vanguard. To get started investing, you will need to fund your account. Typically, funding can be arranged by setting up a link between your checking account and the brokerage account, and making transfers. The initial process can take a few days but after the connection is established, you can move funds to purchase shares of stocks, mutual funds, or ETFs.

Next, purchase either commission-free, market-index exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or no-load, no-transaction-fee market-index mutual funds.

For example, you can buy shares in Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund Investor Shares (VTSMX) for a minimum initial investment of $3,000 and additional investments of at least $1 (be sure to sign up for paperless statements to get the $20 account fee waived); or you could purchase shares in commission-free Schwab U.S. Broad Market ETF (SCHB) for $1,000 (or any multiple of its market price, which is about $50 at this writing); and make additional minimum purchases that equal the fund’s share price.

Buy Individual Stocks If You Are Comfortable with Greater Risk

Alternatively, you may be interested in growing your wealth more aggressively and are willing to accept risks (and losses) associated with potentially greater rewards. You have plenty of time to spend evaluating and selecting individual stocks plus you don’t mind paying transaction fees associated with the purchase and sale of stocks (or sector or specialty mutual funds or ETFs).

Again, you could open a regular brokerage account with any of the online brokerage firms as long as you meet account minimums, such as $500 at E*Trade, $1,000 at Schwab, and $2,500 at Fidelity. You could choose stocks on your own or find ones using screening tools available on each firm’s website.

After determining what you’d like to buy and the approximate quantity, you’ll want to set a price to indicate how much you are willing to pay for shares and then place your order. Fees to place orders typically run about $9.99 or less.

Decide Whether Innovative Brokerage Firms Are Right for You

You might also consider investing with a newer firm, such as Betterment, Motif Investing, or Loyal3; these companies all have unique approaches to serving customers that may or may not meet your needs.

Betterment makes investment decisions on your behalf and charges an account management fee rather than individual transaction fees; you may like this approach if you don’t have time to invest on your own. Motif Investing offers fee-free investing through its Horizon Motifs, which are comprised primarily of market index ETFs, along with its specialty motifs that trade for a flat $9.95 fee. Loyal3 has a totally fee-free platform in which you can buy shares (or even fractional shares) of certain stocks with an investment of as little as $10.

If you are ready, now is the time to get started in investing, regardless of whether the market is up or down today. The sooner you start, the more your money can grow.


Julie Rains is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance, mortgages, and investing. She writes for her own blogInvesting to Thrive as well as other media outlets including Wise Bread and Loans101
Julie holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Julie started investing soon after graduation and has continued to invest and learn over the past 20+ years. In her free time, she enjoys cycling with friends and spending time with her husband and nearly grown sons.

10 Ways To Score Free (or Pretty Inexpensive) Books!

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

If you love to read, you know it can be expensive to purchase all of those books!  Find out these TEN secrets to help you score cheap (or even FREE) books!!!


My kids love to read.  My youngest can’t go to bed at night without her Dad or I reading her something from the pages of her latest library book — or one of those old standby favorites.  Our son loves to spend those last ten minutes at night reading before he turns out the lights.  The same holds true for our oldest daughter.

I love to read, but have to be careful because it seems that the minute I open the pages, I get sucked in and can’t stop until I reach the end!  Needless to say, I don’t read as much as I would like to because I don’t have the time.

Are you like my family?  If so, you know that this love of reading can get pretty expensive!  Here are TEN ways to score either free books — or at a discount!


1.  Free Kindle and/or Nook Books.  Each day, we post a round up of several books you can score for free.  We try to mix up the list as much as we can, but you can actually check them out yourself too!  Just visit the Cheap Reads page on Amazon to catch the latest freebies.

If you use a Nook reader, they also offer free books, but nearly as many (and they can be more difficult to actually look through to find them… many are just free previews).  You can visit THIS page on Barnes & Noble to see if you can find some which work for you.

Remember that you do not need to own a Kindle to read these books. You can download the free Kindle app to your tablet, smartphone or other electronic device and can read any Kindle books.


2.  Book Swaps.  This method can actually serve a dual purpose.  You set up a party so you can catch up with your friends (bonus 1) and you all bring the books you are through reading and then swap with one another (bonus 2).  You can get rid of those books you’ve finished with and get some new ones in the process — all for free!!


3.  OnLine Swap. is a great site where you can trade out your old paperbooks for new ones.  You just list a book you want to trade out and then send it to the person who asks for it.  You can then get another one in return!  You will need to pay postage on the books you send out, those which are sent to you are sent postage paid.  You can then keep the book, or turn around and swap it again when you are through!


4.  Skip the new release.  Rather than rush out and grab that newest title, you should wait for a while.  The price will drop after some time.  If you really need it, you might check your library to check it out for free.  There may be a wait list, but your patience can pay off in savings!


5.  Check Out Used Book Stores.  It is amazing what you can find when you visit your book store.  You may need to visit several of them to find the one that usually has the titles you want and then, add them to your “must frequently visit” list.  You can find these books at a much lower cost than if you purchased it brand new from a larger book store or even online.


6.  Review Before You Buy.  You probably do research on appliances, vehicles and more before you spend your hard earned money and the same holds true for books.  You can often preview pages on sites such as Amazon (even if you plan to purchase the book at your local store).  You will be able to make sure it is what you are looking for.

In addition, there are also other customer reviews you can look over too, in order to get an idea of what others had to say.  Of course, I don’t always rely upon them, unless it is overwhelmingly negative (simply because opinions can vary so greatly).


7.  Garage or Estate Sales.  You can often find books at amazingly low prices.  The only down side is that the selection may be more limited.  If you are visiting an Estate Sale, you have greater chances of finding some of the older titles you may want — especially some of the classics!


8.  Library. This seems obvious, but many times, people forget about this option!  Of course, if you do not return them timely, you will have to pay a late fee.

Make sure you also ask your library about Library Book Sales.  They will sometimes sell old books and movies, in order to make room for newer titles.  Sure, they are used, but that doesn’t mean they are not still perfect to read.


9.  Shop Online Outlets.  These can be a great way to find titles at reduced prices.  Many times, the books have been read only once, which makes them in excellent condition.  A couple of sites to check out are and  Both offer some really great discounts!


10.  Rent Books Monthly.  Here’s another way to score books at a discount.  You can actually RENT them.  Books Free is a service which is much like HuluPlus and other sites.  You pay a monthly fee and get to rent a select number of books.  When you are done, you return them and then get new ones back!
If you love to read, you know it can be expensive to purchase all of those books!  Find out these TEN secrets to help you score cheap (or even FREE) books!!!