Wealth Habits: Six Ordinary Steps to Achieve Extraordinary Financial Freedom

Title: Wealth Habits: Six Ordinary Steps to Achieve Extraordinary Financial Freedom

Author: Candy Valentino

Hardcover: 256 pages

Publisher: Wiley

Publishing date: Nov. 15, 2022

Who is this book for? 

  • Anyone lacking connections and/or an education who’s wanting to build wealth.
  • Seasoned entrepreneurs, young adults and everyone in between who is looking for financial guidance. 

What’s inside this book?

  • Candy’s own story of how she opened her first store at age 19 (without the benefit of a college education) and built it into a 7-figure business before most of her friends had even completed college.
  • The six key habits to building wealth:
  1. Long-term investing strategies
  2. How to recession-proof your life
  3. Ways to keep money out of the IRS’ hands
  4. What to teach your children about money
  5. How to establish financial protection and security
  6. The secrets to keep more of the money you make (so you can invest more of it)

4 questions this book will answer for you:  

  • Can I get ahead in life without having a formal education?
  • What are the key habits needed for building wealth?
  • Is it too late to turn my money story around?
  • How can I overcome obstacles to my financial freedom?

What people are saying about this book: 

“I love the way Candy thinks. She shows you how to collapse time in a way the most successful people I know have done: breaking wealth down to the simplest form of the game to create success. This book should be required reading for every high school student, aspiring entrepreneur, or anyone who wants to turn the tables on their current financial situation.” – Rick Steele

“People that build wealth do things differently. Not only does Candy understand this from her own experience, but she does a masterful job of giving the reader actionable steps to immediately put them on the path to financial freedom and generational wealth. She has cracked the code, and if you’re looking to change your financial reality, this book is for you.” – Todd Davis

“Candy Valentino is the real deal! She’s overcome massive obstacles and built practical systems to help anyone achieve massive wealth. I highly recommend this book!” – Rory Vaden

“Candy Valentino is an Entrepreneur’s Entrepreneur! By researching and interviewing the various stages of wealth creation from industry leaders, Candy has really done a masterful job of simplifying the complex. This book is a must read!” – Tom Hatten 

Your Turn: What did you think of Wealth Habits? Share your opinion in the comments.

Travel Hacks 1 of 12: 6 Ways to Save on Airfare

If you’re planning a trip overseas, airfare may be your largest vacation expense. Even when flying relatively close to home, the cost of your airline ticket can take a big bite out of your vacation budget. Fortunately, there are loads of ways to save on airfare and leave you with more to spend at your destination. Here, we’ve compiled a list of six ways to save on airfare.

  1. Be flexible with dates and destinations

If you’re willing to be flexible on dates and the destination of your flight, you can potentially save hundreds on your airline ticket. Instead of choosing a date and destination for your vacation and then searching for the best prices, select a date and destination based on the best available deals. If you’re set on going to a particular destination, you may be able to save a boatload of money on the ticket by flying to a nearby airport and then driving to your vacation spot. 

  1. Shop smart online

Harness the power of technology to score the best price on airfare. Searching sites and apps like Expedia, Orbitz and Priceline is like using multiple travel agencies to find the best flights for your vacation. Kayak, another popular travel app, plugs your preferred dates into its search engine and searches airline sites and agency sites to provide you with all the prices and options available. 

  1. Act quickly to snag mistake fares

The best deals on airfares happen by mistake. When an airline accidentally discounts a ticket, you can snag a flight for as much as 90% off its conventional price. Mistake fares get snatched up quickly, so you’ll need to check your favorite airlines and flight apps often so you don’t miss a deal. If you haven’t worked out your child care and/or work arrangements for a date with a heavily discounted airfare, it’s best to grab it anyway and work out the details later. By federal law, airlines must allow 24 hours for free cancellations of all flight tickets. 

  1. Consider booking with a foreign currency

If you’ll be flying a foreign carrier, it may be cheaper to pay for your ticket with the local currency of your destination. Before paying for your flight, check to see if it’ll cost less if you don’t pay in dollars. Sometimes, it can actually cost more this way, but oftentimes, you can save a significant amount by simply changing your location from the U.S. to your destination.

  1. Book early

You’ll typically find the best deals on international flights 3-6 months before the departure date. If you’ll be traveling during peak times, like summer or during a holiday season, you’ll want to search for tickets even earlier. Flights are updated constantly, so check often to get the best deal.

  1. Watch out for sneaky fees

Too often, an economy flight will actually cost a lot more than its listing after the airline tacks on all sorts of extra fees and surcharges. For example, you may need to pay a fee for every bag you check during each leg of your journey. Other airlines charge a fee for choosing seats, which may be a necessity if you’ll be flying with young children or an elderly person in need of assistance. Make sure you know exactly how much you’ll be paying before you book a ticket – it can sometimes be cheaper to upgrade your ticket or switch to a direct flight and avoid some of these fees. 

Airfare can be the biggest item on your vacation budget, but there are so many ways to save on this expense. Use the tips outlined here to get the best deal on your tickets and keep your vacation budget intact. Happy travels!

Your Turn: Have you scored a low price on an airline ticket? Share your best hacks with us in the comments.

Which Apps Can Help Me Keep My Financial Resolutions for the New Year?

Q: I’m looking for tools to help me actually keep the financial resolutions I made for the New Year, but I’m confused by all the options. What are the best personal finance apps that can help me stick to my money resolutions this year?

A: These days, there’s an app for virtually anything; and personal finance is no exception. The app market is flooded with personal finance apps, but there are a select few that stand out for their excellent functionality and ease of use. Here, we’ve reviewed five of the most popular personal finance apps to help you stick to your financial resolutions.

  1. Mint

A quick look at this app:

  • Function: Full money management
  • Cost: None
  • Free Trial: N/A
  • Basic Features: The wildly popular money management app lets you track your bills, categorize and review your spending and monitor your credit health, all at no cost. 

Mint excels at providing a complete financial picture in one location. You can link your credit and debit cards to the app, and Mint will read your transactions, categorize them and show you how you’re spending your money. Access your credit score and get a breakdown of how your score is determined. You can also easily create a budget within one of the most popular personal finance apps on the market. 

The one significant downside to Mint is the ads, which many users find excessive, intrusive and annoying. 

  1. Personal Capital

A quick look at this app:

  • Function: Budgeting and investment tools
  • Cost: Budgeting tool is free. Wealth management costs 0.89% of the balance, up to $1,000,000.
  • Free trial: No
  • Basic features: Allows you to manage your assets and investments along with your everyday spending. 

Personal Capital promotes itself as an overall personal finance app, but it really shines at investment management. Track your portfolio by account, asset class or individual security and identify new opportunities for diversification and risk management, all on the app.

The disadvantages of Personal Capital include the relatively high cost for wealth management and complicated budgeting features. 

  1. You Need a Budget

A quick look at this app:

  • Function: Budgeting and tracking expenses
  • Cost: $98.99/year or $14.99/month
  • Free trial: Yes
  • Basic features: Import transactions from your checking account and apply them to each budget category to get a full picture of your spending habits. Adjust budgeting categories as necessary and review detailed reports of how spending is progressing throughout the month. 

You Need a Budget (YNAB) is an app built around YNAB’s famed four rules for improved overall financial health:

  1. Give every dollar a job.
  2. Embrace your true expenses.
  3. Roll with the punches.
  4. Age your money.

The app provides highly detailed budgeting tools and spending reports for the ultimate in money management. YNAB claims its users save an average of $600 in the first two months, and more than $6,000 in the first year.

The cons of YNAB include a premium subscription price and multiple features that can be confusing for new users and those who prefer a simpler interface. 

  1. Prism

A quick look at this app:

  • Function: Bill payment and tracking
  • Cost: Free
  • Free trial: N/A
  • Basic features: Track and pay your monthly bills with ease.

Prism takes the stress out of bills. Sync the app with thousands of billers nationwide, add your bills and Prism will automatically track them for you. You’ll get friendly reminders when a bill is nearly due and you can even use the app to schedule payments several days in advance. Never miss a bill payment again!

Prism is an excellent app for bill payment, but it’s otherwise limited in its money management functions. You won’t be able to create a budget or track expenses outside bill payments on the app.

  1. M1 Finance

A quick look at this app:

  • Function: No-fee investing
  • Cost: Free
  • Free trial: N/A
  • Basic features: Blends automated investing with expansive portfolio customization’s.

M1 Finance offers more than 60 pre-built portfolios, or “pies,” for users to choose as their own investment strategy. There’s also the option of building your portfolio on your own in the app. M1 can be a fabulous tool for investors who are looking for automation that aligns with their personal preferences, risk tolerance and investment goals.

While M1 shines as a no-fee investment app, it fails at offering several key features that other competing apps boast, including tax-loss harvesting, advisors and syncing external accounts for investment purposes. 

It’s a new year, and a new chance at improving your financial wellness. Use this guide to find the perfect apps to help you reach your financial goals this year.

Your Turn: Which apps are you using to help you keep your financial New Year’s resolutions? Share them with us in the comments.

What to Buy and What to Skip in January

What’s your January shopping style–all shopped out, or ready to hit the mall again as soon as the last guest leaves? Whatever it is, we’ve got you covered! January begins with a bang, but there are no major shopping holidays once the new year gets underway. Of course, you can still pick up great bargains this month, or find that you’ve overpaid on items that get price drops just weeks after you’ve purchased them. Here’s what to buy and what to skip in January.

Buy: Winter clothing

Were you given a ton of gift cards to retailers over the holidays? If so, you’re in luck! Prices will start dropping on all winter apparel this month so retailers can make room for the new spring line. You can pick up warm-weather wear that’s discounted by as much as 85% and still have lots of time to enjoy it this season.

Skip: Spring clothing

The worst time to purchase an item is generally right before it’s in hot demand. With spring wear landing in inventory this month, prices will be high, so don’t plan on picking out a springtime wardrobe just yet. You’ll start seeing the first round of discounts on spring clothing in April. And of course, as the season deepens, so will the discounts. 

Buy: Fitness gear

The new year is here and it’s time to make good on that resolution to shed some holiday pounds. Retailers know this well, so they’ll slash prices on yoga mats, fitness balls, resistance bands, weights and more. You can also find athletic wear on sale this month, and sometimes exercise machines as well. Shop multiple retailers to score the best deals. 

Skip: Mattresses 

Is your deep winter sleep getting disrupted every night by a lumpy mattress? Hold on just a bit longer before springing for a new one. Online and brick-and-mortar mattress retailers will be dropping prices on their merchandise by as much as 60 percent next month during Presidents Day sale events. As always, look up prices at several online and in-store retailers for the best deal. 

Buy: Linens and soft goods

While you’ll want to skip the new mattress this month, you can still upgrade your night’s sleep without spending a bundle in January. The first month of the year is famous for its white sales, with soft home goods like blankets and pillows seeing discounts as deep as 70%.  

Skip: Snow gear

While winter apparel will see slashed prices this month, snow gear, which includes skis, skates, snowshoes and the like, tend to retail at full-price until the end of the season. Wait just a few more months for steep discounts on all things snow.

Buy: TVs

The football post-season is the perfect time to give your flatscreen an upgrade. Retailers will be competing for your business and offering up promotions on their TVs with discounts that rival those of Black Friday. 

Skip: A new car

Car prices tend to rise and fall throughout the year, so you usually don’t have to wait long for a discount on a new set of wheels. But, if you are shopping for a new car, you don’t want to finalize your purchase in January. According to Edmunds.com, January is the least discounted month of the year for car prices. If you’re not in a rush, you can wait for the big sales that run from fall through the end of the year. Otherwise, the next time you’ll see discounts on cars will be on Presidents Day next month. 

Buy: Holiday decor and gift baskets

The bargain-priced holiday leftovers you found on the shelves at the end of December will be selling at even lower prices this month. Get started on next year’s holiday prep by stocking up on wrapping paper, decor and even small gift baskets for those last-minute presents you frantically shop for each year. You can also pick up these small gifts to have on hand whenever you need one for any reason throughout the year.

It’s a new year, and a great time to pick up a fantastic bargain. This guide can help you learn what to buy and what to skip in January.

Your Turn: Have you picked up a bargain buy in January? Tell us about it in the comments. 

Step 12 of 12 Steps to Financial Wellness-Review and Tweak

Congratulations! You’ve reached the 12th and final step of the 12 steps to financial wellness. In this step, we’ll review each of the previous steps and adjust this part of your financial health as necessary. 

Step 1: Track your spending

Are you being responsible in tracking your spending? You can do this with a budgeting app, by keeping a running estimate of how much you’re spending in each category in your head, or by reviewing your receipts and checking account statements at the end of each month. Knowing where your money is going will help you make more responsible spending decisions in the future. 

Step 2: Create and stick to a budget

Budgets need to be reviewed and tweaked every few months or so to ensure they still work for your present life circumstances. Fluctuations in consumer prices, your income and various life expenses need to be accounted for in your budget. If your budget no longer works for you, make some changes until it does again.

Step 3: Pay down debt

Take a minute to review where you are in your debt-paying journey. Have you made as much progress as you’d hoped to at this point in time? Can you beef up any payments and make that debt disappear sooner?

Step 4: Talk money with your partner         

Have you had the big money talk with your partner? Are you remembering to touch base on money matters on a regular basis? Do you need to revisit any of the topics you’ve discussed, such as sharing accounts, dividing expenses and saving up for a shared dream?

Step 5: Spend mindfully

Review some of your recent purchases. Are you blowing money on stuff you don’t need instead of relieving stress and emotional overload in a healthy manner? If so, look for better ways to de-stress and remember to avoid temptation by disabling one-click purchases and staying away from stores that trigger your overspending impulse.

Step 6: Pay it forward

The money, time and smiles we share are the only moments that are truly ours. Are you remembering to pay it forward? You can volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, donate clothing to the less fortunate and help your favorite charity.

Step 7: Pay yourself first

Are you remembering to feed your savings? Remember to prioritize having an emergency fund with three to six months’ worth of living expenses. Once you have that funded, you can work on saving toward long- and other short-term saving goals by automating a monthly transfer from your checking account to your savings account. At this time, you may want to consider increasing the amount you are putting into savings each month by trimming some discretionary expenses.

Step 8: Know when and how to indulge

Living a spartan lifestyle without any indulgences can make you lose your budget–and fast! Instead, make sure you know when and how to indulge. Are you remembering to work your selected just-for-fun expenses into your budget so you can indulge without the guilt? Now is a good time to look back at your indulgences to figure out if they were good uses for your money.

Step 9: Check your credit score

How are those three magic numbers doing? If you’ve been following the rules for boosting and maintaining a high credit score, like paying your bills on time, having several active cards and keeping your credit utilization low, your score should have improved during these last few months, opening the door to low-interest loans and more.

Step 10: Think about retirement

Have you opened and furnished retirement accounts at work and beyond? Take the time now to review these accounts and to assess whether your funds have reached the place you’d hoped they would by now. 

Step 11: Start investing

Have you taken the beginner steps toward investing? A crucial part of successful investing is reviewing your portfolio on a regular basis and adjusting as necessary. Make sure your investments are performing well and that your assets are diversified in the most optimal way.

Step 12: Review your overall financial health

In this final step, you’ll review your financial health on a regular basis, just as you’ve done here. Don’t forget to maintain each component of your financial wellness to keep it in top shape.

Reviewing your financial health on a regular basis is an important part of staying financially fit. 

Your Turn: How often do you review your financial health? Tell us about it in the comments.

How to Budget in Times of Inflation

With inflation at record highs, many Americans are finding it difficult to stick to a budget. After all, when groceries have leapt in price and household staples can be double, or even triple, what they cost just a year ago, how can the same amount of money get you through the month?

Sticking to a budget during times of high inflation is challenging – but not impossible. Here are five ways to budget while in times of inflation.

  1. Plan your grocery purchases

Groceries can take a huge bite out of a monthly budget. Fortunately, there are ways to trim your grocery bill, even when prices are soaring.

First, shop your pantry and fridge before hitting the store. You may not remember exactly what you have at home, and doing a quick scan of your food items can help you stick to purchasing only what you need. 

Next, plan your week’s dinner menu before shopping so you can pick up exactly what you need for the week in just one go. The fewer trips you make to the grocery, the less you’ll spend on impulse buys. Also, when you have the ingredients you need and plans in place for dinner each night of the week, you’ll be less likely to make a last-minute decision to indulge in takeout or fast food.

Consider joining a club store at this time as well. You’ll need to spring for a membership, but you’ll enjoy steep savings on groceries and other products. Just be careful to only buy what you need, no matter how cheap an item might be.

Finally, don’t forget to shop sales and to couponize. Use apps like Reebee, Checkout 51, Flipp and Grocery IQ to stay in the know of what’s on sale in each store, and to download coupons for even bigger savings. 

  1. Consider an energy audit

With winter approaching and the cost of energy sources still climbing, this can be a good time to have an energy audit performed on your home. An audit will help identify energy drains around your home, such as air leaks near your windows and doors, so you can fix them to make your home more energy-efficient. You can also take additional measures toward saving on energy costs, such as switching all lightbulbs to LED bulbs, unplugging electronics when not in use and setting your thermostat a little lower during winter, and a bit higher in the summer.

  1. Choose your indulgence

Everyone needs to treat themselves to something special every now and then, but with costs rising on restaurant meals, movie tickets and clothing, something’s gotta give. Take a closer look at your just-for-me purchases of the last few months, and try to narrow them down to just one or two treats. You can swap them with an enjoyable activity that doesn’t cost much, such as a hike or bike ride, or cut them out completely.

Alternatively, you can find ways to trim the cost of your indulgences. For example, if you love dining out but restaurant meals are destroying your budget, you can decide to eat out but skip the desserts and wines, or opt for a midday meal so you can take advantage of lunchtime specials. 

  1. Switch your auto insurance plan

If you’ve had your auto insurance policy for a while and you’ve maintained a good driving record during that time, there’s a good chance you can save a bundle by switching to a new insurance plan and/or provider. Reach out to a representative at your current insurer to discuss your options. Ask about raising your deductible in exchange for a lower premium, reducing overall coverage or negotiating for a safe driving discount. After obtaining a quote, call several other providers to get competing quotes. You can choose to go with your lowest offer, or call back your present provider and ask them to match it for your continued business.  

  1. Pad your income

As always, when income doesn’t meet expenses, you have the choice of trimming expenses or boosting your income – or you can do both! In addition to following the cost-cutting tips outlined here, you can also look for ways to increase your income.

If your paycheck is suddenly not enough to support your lifestyle, consider asking for a raise. Your workplace may have already given you a cost-of-living raise to reflect rising inflation last year, but this may prove to be insufficient as costs have continued to rise. Don’t be afraid to ask for another raise at this time.

In addition, you can look for other ways to pad your monthly income. Find a side hustle, like driving for a ride-share company or consulting for hire, which you can do at your leisure on weekends. Ask your workplace about taking on additional projects on an as-needed basis for additional pay. Open a small service business doing something you love and excel at. Every extra dollar earned counts!

Times are hard for the average American consumer, but with careful planning, you can ride out the record-high inflation rates and keep your budget intact. Use the tips shared here to get started. 

Your Turn: How are you adjusting your budget for inflation? Share your tips and hacks with us in the comments. 

What to Buy and What to Skip in December

December blows in at the peak of the holiday shopping frenzy, and then it tiptoes out with the end of the year and post-holiday calm. Black Friday deals are long over, and there are no major shopping holidays this month, but you can still find a fabulous deal before and after the holidays. So, whether you’re finishing up your holiday shopping or looking for year-end bargains in any category this month, we’ve got you covered. 

Here’s what to buy and what to skip in December. 

Buy: Electronics

If you missed the Black Friday sales on electronics, you can still cash in on some incredible savings. Many retailers will keep the leftovers from November’s sales marked down through the end of the month. Look for discounted electronics at big box stores, online retailers and directly from manufacturers.

Skip: Winter clothing

It’s still too early in the season to find any real discounts on clothing. If you can wait until retailers start slashing prices on cold-weather wear after the holidays to drum up some business, you’ll save big on winter wardrobe essentials. 

Buy: Toys

As the year draws to a close, you’ll start seeing steep discounts on toys and games from retailers that are looking to clear the season’s inventory before the holidays. If you can handle the stress of last-minute shopping, the week or two leading up to Christmas can be the perfect time to pick up some budget-friendly stocking stuffers for the special little someones in your life.

Skip: Fitness equipment

Trying to slim down before the holidays? Hold off a bit on purchasing exercise equipment and you can save big. Soon, fitness gear and clothing, as well as gym memberships, will drop in price as consumers commence with the annual New Year’s resolutions fitness craze. Until then, you can enjoy brisk walks and runs around the neighborhood at no cost.

Buy: Champagne

Welcome the new year with the pop of your favorite champagne, all at a price that doesn’t break the budget. Liquor sellers will be competing for your business this time of year, and prices on the celebratory beverage will plunge as New Year’s draws near. Take advantage by stocking up on your favorite bubbly at a bargain price.

Skip: Furniture and bedding

This isn’t the time of year to upgrade your household and give your bedroom a facelift. Furniture and bedding will be sold at full price at most retailers this month. Instead, wait for the January white sales to purchase the same items at discounted prices. For even deeper discounts, shop for furniture and other home goods at fantastic prices at Presidents Day sale events in February.

Buy: Christmas decorations

Prepare to deck the halls without spending a bundle. You’ll find holiday decor, wrapping paper, tree ornaments and more slashed up to 50% in price the day after Christmas. With prices like these, it’s not too early to think about next year’s holiday season! Just keep

everything well-wrapped and store in a dry place. Come next year, you’ll be ahead of the holiday shopping before the season even starts. 

Buy: Gift cards

Gift cards are the perfect antidote to out-of-control inflation. They’re always appreciated, and you won’t feel like you’re spending a ton on a gift that’s not really worth the price. Best of all, you can find discounted gift cards all through December on sites like GiftCardGranny, CardCash and through private sellers listing on sites like Craigslist. Some sites will even let you customize the card with a personalized message for the recipient. 

The year is drawing to an end, but the savings on some items is just beginning. Use the tips outlined here for knowing what to buy and what to skip in December. 

Your Turn: Have you picked up any great buys in December? Tell us about them in the comments!

How Can I Save on Holiday Shopping?

Q: I’m always worried about money during the holiday season, and with inflation soaring, I’m more stressed than ever. How can I save on holiday shopping this year?

A: If you’re worried about making it through the holiday shopping season in the midst of record inflation, you’re not alone. A recent survey shows that 59% of American shoppers are stressed about buying holiday gifts this season due to higher prices. However, with some careful planning and budgeting, you can enjoy stress-free holiday shopping. Here are seven easy ways you can save during this holiday season.

  1. Shop early

It’s always a good idea to do your shopping early in the season so pressure and crowds don’t cause you to make decisions you’ll come to regret. This year, experts are urging shoppers to hit stores earlier than normally planned so they can take advantage of early season sales. Many big-box stores are struggling with a supply surplus thanks to an inflation-triggered decline in demand. This will likely lead to sales events to make room for more up-to-date inventory. You can take advantage of this surplus by shopping these sales and saving on your holiday purchases.

2. Set a budget

Budgets are for holidays, too. Sit down before doing your shopping to build a reasonable budget for your holiday shopping. Factor in current prices when working out your budget. Of course, this is only half the work – you’ll need to stick to that budget for it to be worth anything. Make this easier by allocating a specific amount for every gift, shopping with cash and/or reviewing your budget frequently as you do your holiday shopping. 

  1. Shop with a list

Instead of hitting the stores blindly, create a list of every gift you plan to buy for friends and family. You can browse online stores for inspiration, but resolve not to start shopping until you have a complete list. You’ll be far more likely to stay within budget when your purchases are pre-planned. 

  1. Leave some last-minute shopping for Green Monday

While it’s best to do the bulk of your shopping early in the season, you can leave some last-minute gift-shopping for Green Monday, which falls on Dec. 14 this year. This is when retailers make their final pre-holiday markdowns. Be prepared for slim pickings, though, so don’t leave any specific gifts for this late in the season. 

  1. Think outside the box when planning your gifts

If ever there was a holiday season to get creative with your gifting, this is it. Retail inventories are full of products that were backed up during the post-pandemic supply-chain disaster. Think furniture, home decor and more. While much of this may not make for typical holiday gifts, there’s no real reason you can’t delight a loved one with a new office chair, exercise bike or coffee organizing station.

  1. Give gift cards

Protect your gift list against inflation by giving gift cards. You can find discounted cards on sites like GiftCardGranny and CardCash, or use cash-back apps to earn them at no cost. Gift cards are easy to shop for, easy to budget for and always appreciated by the receiver.

  1. Use apps to save

In 2022, there are so many apps that can help you spend less on your shopping, and even put money back in your pocket. Here are some money-saving apps you might want to download ahead of this shopping season:

  • Drop. This free app allows you to link your credit and/or debit card, and shop directly from the app at 300+ retailers. Earn points back on every purchase. Use your points to purchase gift cards.
  • Honey. Why pay full price when you can get the same item for less? This coupon-scanning app will automatically find promo codes and coupons for items you’re searching for so you can save on your shopping. You can earn points on purchases made through the app, too.
  • Fetch. Earn points on grocery purchases by scanning your receipts after you shop. Redeem points for gift cards.
  • Ibotta. Get cash back for your purchases by scanning your receipts with this app. Use for online purchases, and by linking store loyalty cards for in-store purchases, too. Redeem points for cash or gift cards. 

Holiday shopping may be a race against inflation this year, but with a little pre-planning, you can complete your shopping with your budget intact. Use the money-saving tips outlined here to get started.

Your Turn: How do you plan to save on holiday shopping this year? Share your best tips and hacks in the comments. 

Step 10 of 12 Steps to Financial Wellness-Plan for Retirement

[Now that you’ve learned how to indulge responsibly and are mindful of your credit score, it’s time to start planning for retirement. This is true no matter your stage of life.]

It’s never too early – or too late – to start planning for your retirement. However, like all long-term savings goals, retirement should ideally be planned for as much in advance as possible. That’s because the more time you allow for your savings to grow, the bigger the nest egg you’ll be rewarded with when it’s time to cash in on your funds. 

Here’s how to get started on planning your retirement.

Set a target number

Before you start squirreling away money for the future, determine how much you’ll need to have saved for living comfortably and independently throughout retirement. Experts recommend taking your current living expenses and multiplying that number by 400 to reach the amount you’ll need for sustaining yourself based on a 4% return.

Choose your retirement accounts

Next, you’ll need to select a place to keep your retirement savings. There are many options to consider, some of which you may already have if you are employed. Here’s a quick review of the two most common retirement accounts:

  1. 401(k)

If you’re currently or previously employed, you may already have a 401(k) that’s collecting money for your retirement, and investing it so it can have an opportunity to grow. Take advantage of this retirement tool by maximizing your contributions. Additionally, many employers will match a portion of, or all, your contributions, which is literally free money that will help your investments grow, tax-deferred.

  1. IRA

An Individual Retirement Plan (IRA) is a retirement fund that allows your money to grow, tax-deferred. Like with a 401(k), some employers will match a portion of, or all, contributions. However, there are federal limits on how much you can add to your IRA annually. You can choose between a conventional IRA or a Roth IRA. A conventional IRA lets your money grow tax-deferred, but withdrawals are taxable. A Roth IRA does not feature tax-deferred growth, but qualified withdrawals are not taxed.

Presented in the table below is a brief summary of the pros and cons of each retirement vehicle for easy comparison. 

Features401(k)IRARoth IRA
Allows Matching FundsYesNoNo
Tax-DeductibleYesDepends on income, tax-filing status and other factorsNo
Tax-Deferred GrowthYesYesNo
Taxable WithdrawalsYesYesNo
Maximum Yearly Contribution (2022)$20,500$6,000 $6,000
Maximum Yearly Contribution Age 50+ (2022)$27,000$7,000$7,000

After you’ve identified the retirement fund strategy that best works for your goals, you’ll also need to choose somewhere to invest the money. Low-risk investment vehicles, such as federal bonds or trust funds, are usually the best choice.

Select a target date fund

If you are saving for retirement through the use of a 401(k), be sure to check if your employer offers a target date fund. This refers to your planned retirement date. You’ll know your employer offers a target date fund if there’s a calendar year in the name of the fund, such as “B.K. Holdings Retirement 2055 Fund”. Simply determine an estimated guess of the year you intend to retire, and then pick the fund with the date closest to your anticipated retirement date. 

A target date fund is a smart choice because it spreads the money in your 401(k) across many asset classes, such as large company stocks, small-company stocks, bonds and emerging-markets stocks. Then, as you near the target date, the fund becomes more conservative, owning less stocks and more bonds, automatically reducing your risks as you near the date of your retirement.

With a bit of work and a lot of planning, you’ll have your future secured in the best way possible.

Your Turn: What’s your retirement vehicle of choice? Share it with us in the comments!

Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together

Title: Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together 

Author: Erin Lowry

Paperback: 288 pages

Publisher: TarcherPerigee

Publishing date: May 2, 2017

Who is this book for? 

  • Cash-strapped 20- and 30-somethings who are always stressing about money.
  • Anyone looking to take control of their financial health.

What’s inside this book?

  • A step-by-step guide to take you from broke to financial master.
  • Tips and tricks for tackling every kind of money situation, in addition to basics, like investing, credit card debt and budgeting.
  • Anecdotes from Erin’s own journey from a debt-crushed millennial to a money master who successfully negotiated a 40% raise.

 4 lessons you’ll learn from this book:  

  1. How to understand your personal relationship with money.
  2. How to manage student loan debt without falling into a panic.
  3. How to successfully navigate social outings in which you’re the only broke one among your friends.
  4. How to find out about your partner’s true financial health.

4 questions this book will answer for you:  

  1. Should I treat money more like a Tinder date or a marriage?
  2. Is it possible to conquer a mountain of debt without getting a massive windfall?
  3. How can I learn about money on millennial terms?
  4. How can I get on the same money page as my partner?

What people are saying about this book: 

“Broke Millennial takes the typical preaching and finger-wagging out of money lessons and replaces them with humor, empathy and a fun, pick-your-financial-path twist, while offering helpful and practical advice to successfully navigate all the financial questions you’ll face in the real world.”— Farnoosh Torabi

“Rich with specific advice to guide readers on the path to financial wellness. Millennials who may be overspending because of #FOMO need to read this book stat!”— Bobbi Rebell

“Thinking about money, especially when you don’t have much, can be painful. But Erin Lowry shows that you don’t need to be a mathematical genius to get on the right track. She makes it easy for people to build a financially healthy plan for life. Spend some time with this book, and your financial decisions and confidence will improve, no doubt.”— Nicholas Clements

“If you’re looking for a book to give to a recent grad, your friend who has no idea what a budget is, or just want to read a personal finance book from someone like you who’s been there…you absolutely need to grab a copy of Broke Millennial.” — Jessica Moorhouse

Your Turn: What did you think of Broke Millennial? Share your opinion in the comments.