5 Ways to Save on Your Christmas Shopping

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Dear Rich Lifer,

With two of the biggest shopping days of the year behind us, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it might seem like there are no more deals to be had.

However, malls and retailers know this is just the beginning of the holiday shopping season.

According to Sensormatic Solutions, 8 out of the 10 busiest days for in-store foot traffic this year will take place in December:

  1. Black Friday, November 29
  2. December 21, the last Saturday before Christmas
  3. December 26, the day after Christmas
  4. December 14, two Saturdays before Christmas
  5. November 30, the Saturday after Black Friday
  6. December 22, the last Sunday before Christmas
  7. December 23, the Monday before Christmas
  8. December 28, the Saturday after Christmas
  9. December 27, the Friday after Christmas
  10. December 7, the first Saturday in December

Sensormatic based this list on stats collected from previous years showing peak in-store traffic periods.

Although mall and in-store foot traffic is declining overall in America, this is expected to be a big year for holiday spending.

The annual Deloitte holiday survey predicts spending will grow by 4.5% to 5%, and top $1.1trillion.

But with in-store shopping shifting to online, it’s more important than ever to know how to score the best deals wherever you shop.

To help you out, I compiled a short list of some of my favorite online and in-store shopping apps. I’ve mentioned a few of these before, in various issues, but with the Holidays rapidly approaching, I want you to have the best ones all in one place.

These are a mix of internet browser extensions (aka plug-ins or add-ons) and apps for your smartphone or tablet.

If you’ve never heard of browser extensions before, don’t worry. They’re easy to use. You simply go to the listed website, click “install” on the add-on, and it will automatically be added in your internet browser.

The next time you’re shopping online, the extension will pop up and work its magic. The best part is all these apps and extensions are free, and can save you a bundle.

Here are my top five shopping apps to save you money this holiday season:

Honey

Gone are the days of clipping coupons. The Honey browser extension literally automates couponing for you.

Once you add the Honey extension to your internet browser, whenever you check out at any online retailer, say Amazon.com or Walmart.com, Honey will scour the internet for digital coupons and automatically apply them to your order.

With the click of a button you can save yourself the hassle of searching coupon sites and having to type in confusing coupon codes. Honey also will send you alerts for price drops.

It can provide you with price histories on items in your digital shopping cart and tell you whether to buy now, or hold out for a better deal later.

Fakespot

The Wall Street Journal recently published a story exposing fake online reviews.

According to the story, more than one third of online reviews on major websites, including those on Amazon.com, Walmart, and Sephora, are fake, meaning they are generated by robots or people paid to write them.

If you’re worried about buying something with an overhyped review, Fakespot.com’s browser extension will help.

Fakespot flags both reviews and products it suspects are bogus and grades product reviews to help you avoid being duped by fake 4- and 5-star reviews.

The app also summarizes the most helpful reviews, which can save you a ton of time if you’ve waited until the last minute to get your Christmas shopping done.

PriceBlink

If you like to price shop online, then you’ll love PriceBlink. Instead of opening up multiple browser tabs with different retailers, you install PriceBlink and visit one major retail website.

For example, say you shop at Amazon.com, a yellow bar will pop up from PriceBlink, you click on “Compare Prices” and you’ll get a list of prices for that same item at other stores.

The browser extension checks prices at 11,000 stores. Because there’s no PriceBlink mobile app, if you want to quickly price shop in-store, you can use the app ShopSavvy. Or, use the Amazon and eBay apps.

When you tap the camera icon in any one of these apps then point your phone at an item’s barcode, the app will find competing prices.

Rakuten

Formerly known as eBates, Rakuten is an app and browser extension that allows you to earn cash back on your purchases.

How it works: once installed, you shop as you normally would online and you’ll earn cash back on qualifying purchases at more than 3,500 stores.

Once you’ve collected at least $5 in rewards, Rakuten will send you a check in the mail. You’ll receive a check quarterly with whatever cashback rewards you’ve earned.

If you choose to take your earnings as a gift card instead, you can earn more rewards faster. You can also link your credit card to the smartphone app and score cash back on certain in-store purchases, plus 5 percent cash back on meals at more than 10,000 participating restaurants.

RetailMeNot

Next time you head out shopping, add the RetailMeNot app to your phone. The app supports a wide selection of stores and food chains. The app supplies barcodes to be scanned at the register with your order.

Simply search for the retail store you’re shopping at and see if there are any coupons or sales. Similar to Rakuten, you can earn cash-back offers both in-store and online.

It doesn’t matter if it’s Black Friday or the last Saturday before Christmas, with these five apps and extensions installed, you can score the best deal no matter what time of year.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

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3 New Retirement Rules You Need to Know

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Dear Rich Lifer,

Spend less than you earn. Never take a loan to invest. Don’t borrow more than you can repay.

If you stick to these simple money rules, you won’t ever be a slave to debt.

In retirement planning, there are rules of thumb that can help guide you away from financial ruin as well.

For instance, the 4% rule is great to avoid running out of money. But, a lot of basic retirement rules like these need a refresh.

If I’m being candid, there are too many Americans planning their financial futures with outdated advice and rules that no longer hold true today.

That’s why I thought it’d be a good idea today to share with you three new rules of retirement. These are new ways of looking at old problems that I think everyone should know.

Rule #1 – Forget About Your “Retirement Number.”

Only 39% of Americans have tried to figure out how much money they need to retire, according to FINRA.

I’m willing to bet the other 61% of Americans will do just as fine as the first group. Here’s why…

Too often we fixate on a single number — usually the amount of money we think we need saved to retire comfortably.

If you’re hoping to finance at least part of your retirement with savings, this is the wrong approach to take.

For most people, if you ask them what money means to them, they say things like “freedom,” “security,” and “having options.” Notice they didn’t say luxury cars and boats, beach villas, or expensive jewelry?

That’s because the number that matters most to you probably isn’t the number in your bank account. It’s the number of years of freedom those digits in your bank account buy.

If you frame retirement through this lens then your perception of wealth changes too.

For example, if someone is worth $1 million and lives a lifestyle that’s costing them $200,000 a year, this person likely only has five years of freedom and security to their name.

On the other hand, someone with a net worth of $200,000 who lives on $10,000 a year, plus Social Security, has 20 years of freedom banked. (Assuming their nest egg is invested and keeps pace with inflation and taxes.)

By our new definition, the second person is wealthier. You can think of wealth like a ratio: the money you have versus the money you need to live life on your terms for as long as you please.

Looking at wealth in time versus dollars is a powerful way of thinking about retirement.

Rule # 2 – Saving Beats Earning More.

If wealth is about time, and money buys freedom, then there are two ways you can become wealthier: make more money or spend the money you have more wisely.

Which one do you think is easier?

Going back to our example of someone with a net worth of $200,000. If that person were to spend $20,000 annually above Social Security payments, they’d have 10 years of financial wealth.

But if they could find simple ways to cut their annual expenses in half (a little over $800 per month), they’d double their financial wealth to 20 years.

Compare that scenario to someone who decides they want to keep their $20K-a-year lifestyle. Instead of cutting spending by $10,000 a year, they find ways to make an extra $10K each year.

The problem is you won’t get all that money after taxes. Even if you were willing to work an extra 10 years to maintain your current spending levels, you might bring home a total of $80,000 after taxes.

So, your net worth after 10 years would be $280,000. With a $20K-a-year spending rate, you have about 14 years of wealth.

What’s the better deal: Spend $10,000 less per year, and you immediately gain 10 years of wealth, or spend a decade making an extra $10,000 to gain about four years?

Surprisingly, living frugally actually has a better payback than taking on a side hustle.

But what about happiness?

If you think spending less will make you unhappy, it’s very unlikely. Research shows that we quickly get used to living on less, just as we quickly get used to living on more.

Plus, people tend to get more happiness out of experiences rather than buying stuff.

Most of the best memories you have probably cost very little. Taking your children and grandchildren out for ice cream, going on hikes, cooking dinner together.

Cutting costs is not rocket science either. I’ve shared several tips on how to save money by cutting cable, downsizing, selling your old junk…you name it.

I recommend starting by cutting one thing out of your budget for one or two months and see what that does to your happiness.

Rule # 3 – Delay Taking Social Security.

I touched on this on Monday, but it’s important enough that it bears repeating. There are a number of reasons why people choose to take Social Security as soon as they can rather than wait.

Sometimes it’s outside of their control, other times it’s because they don’t want to dip into their retirement savings.

If you’re taking benefits ASAP to protect your nest egg, you’re making a huge mistake. A better choice is to spend your savings today so you can delay taking Social Security.

When you follow this rule, you’re basically buying one of the best annuities around: one that’s guaranteed by the government, keeps pace with inflation and has a survivor benefit.

Plus, each month you wait to take Social Security, it gets better. Delaying payments from age 66 to 70 can raise your monthly benefit 32 percent, even before cost-of-living increases kick in.

While there are a lot of factors you need to consider, as a general rule of thumb, delaying Social Security is a solid strategy for most.

If you’re single, and in good health, wait.

If you’re the higher earner in a married couple, wait until 70 unless you and your spouse are in poor health.

If you’re the lower earner in a married couple, filing early is okay too, especially if one of you is in poor health.

Always run the numbers first to see what’s best given your circumstances.

These rules are meant to be guidelines not the gospel. Adopt the ones that fit your situation and discard the ones that don’t.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

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3 Moves You Need to Make BEFORE the Holiday Rush

This post 3 Moves You Need to Make BEFORE the Holiday Rush appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Dear Rich Lifer,

We’re entering the busiest time of the holiday season, and I’m sure you have a lot going on.

But the reality is that, with the end of the year rapidly approaching, now is also the time to consider some last-minute moves that can substantially change your finances as well.

So before time runs out, I want to give you three of the best ones …

Tax Loss Harvesting

Although plenty of stocks have made big gains in 2019, others haven’t fared as well.

So if you have some open losses in your portfolio, you might consider selling them before year’s end so you can deduct the losses on Tax Day, 2020.

It works like this:

First

If you also booked gains this year, you’ll be able to offset them on a dollar-for-dollar basis with no limit.

Second

If you recorded more losses than gains — or no gains at all — you can use your losses to offset some ordinary income. The maximum amount is $3,000 ($1,500 if married filing separately) … but you can carry additional losses forward for future tax years.

Doing this before year-end is a no brainer if you have losing positions that you don’t think will ever come back.

You will not only get a tax break, but you can then take the proceeds from the sale and reinvest them in better long-term choices.

Of course, even if you have underwater positions that you would like to continue holding for the long-term, you STILL might consider selling them at a loss for the tax advantage.

Why? Because as long as you wait more than 30 calendar days before buying back those same positions, the loss will count on your tax form.

The IRS applies what is known as a “wash rule.”

What Qualifies as a Wash?

Basically, they will not recognize a loss if you’ve bought replacement stock within 30 calendar days before or after you sell your losing position.

However, if you wait 31 days, you’re fine and the loss counts.

Aren’t tax laws great?

The real risk is that the stock could rebound over those 30 days and you’d miss out. But I would consider taking the chance, it all depending on the position.

You might also consider another tactic during this season of giving …

Charitable Donations

If you happened to spot some unused items while you were digging out your holiday decorations, now is a great time to take them to your local charity.

And the same thing is true if there’s a particular cause you’d like to fund.

Reason: As long as you itemize, your charitable donations will also be deductible come April 15th.

Here’s some of the fine print straight from the IRS:

“To be deductible, charitable contributions must be made to qualified organizations. Payments to individuals are never deductible.

“If your contribution entitles you to merchandise, goods, or services, including admission to a charity ball, banquet, theatrical performance, or sporting event, you can deduct only the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received.

“For a contribution of cash, check, or other monetary gift (regardless of amount), you must maintain as a record of the contribution a bank record or a written communication from the qualified organization containing the name of the organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution.

“In addition to deducting your cash contributions, you generally can deduct the fair market value of any other property you donate to qualified organizations.”

If you want even more details, go here. But suffice it to say that this is one of those rare tax items that helps you do well by doing good.

Last but not least, one last time…

Look at Your Retirement Accounts

Some accounts — such as IRAs — give you all the way until April 15th, 2020 to sock away money for 2019. But others must be established and/or funded by December 31st.

For example, if you have access to an employer’s 401(k) plan, your contributions have to be in before New Year’s Day.

So if you’ve been slacking, there should still be time for you to get something in there for this calendar year.

Doing so will provide you with more money for the future … the possibility of matched contributions from your employer … PLUS a nice tax break on your 2019 taxes.

Self-employed? Then DEFINITELY consider opening a Solo 401(k).

I’ve written about them before, but I never get tired of saying it: Opening one could allow you to sock away as much as $56,000 just in 2019 … or even $61,000 if you’re over 50!

But again, you have only until December 31st to establish a Solo 401(k) and elect to contribute any money that is to count as your “employee” part of the overall contribution (though the money itself can go in by April 15th).

One Last Thing

This is also the time to consider implementing any changes to existing accounts — for example, converting a traditional IRA to a Roth.

As with all the other moves I described today, personal circumstances will dictate a lot of what makes sense for you personally… and you may be best served by talking to a tax professional to get more information on all the ins and outs.

But my overall point is that — despite the holiday madness — this is also the best time of the year to make important decisions that will affect you well into 2020 and beyond.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

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What I Told My Dad About Social Security

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Dear Rich Lifer,

It’s been a few weeks since the Paradigm Shift Summit went down in New York, and I’ve already covered a few of the many ideas and concepts I shared at that awesome event.

But there’s one I haven’t yet touched on… and it started with a question from one of the audience members.

The Set Up

I had just finished outlining how several of my favorite Social Security strategies were no longer available because lawmakers had shut them down.

Indeed, I have strong reason to believe that these various “loopholes” were closed precisely because I (and a handful of other people) popularized them in articles and letters that went out to hundreds of thousands of retirees.

My own parents got in before it was too late and I estimate they’ll grab an extra $100,000 or two out of the system because they were able to act.

Based on the feedback I’ve received over the years, plenty of other readers benefited from that information as well.

Of course, that’s no consolation to anyone considering their options these days.

Which brings me to the audience member’s question…

The Shot

“Are there still any good Social Security tricks available now?”

The answer is yes.

And one of them is completely obvious though roughly 96% of Americans do not take advantage of it.

That trick is delaying benefits until age 70.

Why would I possibly recommend this? Especially since I spend a lot of time criticizing the Social Security program?

It’s simple: While I continue to believe that our national retirement system is riddled with problems, I am also a pragmatist.

This is why, in addition to recommending other tactics that are no longer available, I advised my own father to delay taking his Social Security benefits until age 70 if possible. (Which he did.)

See, I consider Social Security to be the best fixed immediate annuity currently available.

The Smoking Gun

Remember, annuities are basically life insurance policies in reverse.

In their simplest form, you pay money upfront and then start collecting monthly fixed payments for as long as you live.

Die early, and you “lose.” Live for a long time, and you may make more than you paid up front.

The same basic principle is at work when it comes to delaying your Social Security benefits.

If anything, Social Security differs from the typical private fixed annuity because it is based on a MUCH LESS AGGRESSIVE actuarial table.

And while I always get a lot of feedback on the issue of future inflation and the overall “time value” of the money you receive from Social Security, don’t forget that Social Security does contain an inflation adjustment — as flawed as that adjustment may be.

This is something that many private annuities DON’T have.

The Fallout

So here’s an example of how delaying your Social Security benefits might work in the real world:

Scenario #1. You are able to collect $12,000 a year from Social Security at age 65.

Scenario #2. You wait an extra year and start collecting $12,680.

Just for delaying 12 months, you will now earn an extra $680 annually for the rest of your life. And your “cost” for doing so was $12,000.

To arrive at your annual interest rate, or “return on investment,” you simply divide the $680 annual payment by the initial $12,000 you “spent.”

What you’ll come up with is an annual rate of 7.1%!

To be clear, I am merely saying that by forgoing $12,000 for that one year of benefits, you are now going to receive an extra $680 a year for every additional year you live.

Now I know there are a lot of “ifs” involved. So, yes, it’s a gamble. Just about every investment decision or insurance contract is.

And obviously, if you need the money to live on then just start taking your benefits as soon as you can.

But from a mathematical standpoint, it might make sense to delay collecting — especially given the fact that interest rates remain far lower than historical norms.

If you have “longevity genes” in your family, the idea only becomes more compelling.

And that’s just based on the simple analysis.

The Resolution

There are additional reasons to favor Social Security over a regular annuity.

First, if you worked during that extra year of delaying, it’s quite possible you would have FURTHER increased your future payments because your earnings record would have also gone up.

Second, these “annuity” payments currently get favorable tax treatment in many cases, and it’s entirely possible you would get further tax benefits by delaying that extra year.

Third, Social Security’s built-in survivor benefit might also make delaying for the additional income all the more attractive to couples.

That last point is especially critical because I also told my mother to begin collecting her benefits at an earlier point than my father.

In doing so, she started getting immediate income … but also retained the ability to step up to my father’s higher benefit if she ends up widowed at any point.

So if you’ve been thinking about purchasing an annuity and you haven’t yet filed for Social Security, take a little time to work out all the pros and cons of various strategies before you make a final decision.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

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Not All That Glitters is Gold

This post Not All That Glitters is Gold appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Dear Rich Lifer,

Are diamonds the biggest scam in history?

Before the 19th century, diamonds were scarce. It wasn’t until the discovery of huge diamond mines in South Africa in the late 1800s that diamonds flooded the market.

Except they never did…

For most of the twentieth century, the diamond market was entirely controlled by one company: De Beers.

The Diamond’s History

De Beers manipulated supply, signed agreements with global suppliers to control distribution, and set prices. In addition to having total control over the price and supply of diamonds, De Beers also found a way to manipulate market demand.

In the late 1930s, De Beers hired ad agency N. W. Ayer to come up with an advertising campaign to help sell more diamonds.

At the time, Americans considered diamonds to be a luxury reserved only for the super wealthy. If De Beers was to sell more diamonds, it needed to give consumers at different income levels an excuse to buy.

The concept of an engagement ring had existed since medieval times, but it had never been widely adopted. And before World War II, only 10% of engagement rings contained diamonds.

Because diamonds are a naturally resilient stone, N. W. Ayer decided to portray a diamond as something eternal. And what could be more eternal than love and marriage?

According to the New York Times, N.W. Ayer’s game plan was to “create a situation where almost every person pledging marriage feels compelled to acquire a diamond engagement ring.”

For the first half of the twentieth century, De Beers ran ads promoting this new narrative. The ads always featured an educational tip called, “How to Buy a Diamond.” The instructions said: “Ask about color, clarity and cutting, for these determine a diamond’s quality, contribute to its beauty and value. Choose a fine stone, and you’ll always be proud of it, no matter what its size.”

In four years between 1938 and 1941, they reported a 55% increase in U.S. diamond sales. The next phase in the marketing plan was to convince Americans that marriages without diamonds were incomplete.

This birthed the slogan, “A Diamond Is Forever.” These four words completely changed the way Americans perceived diamonds and AdAge even named it the #1 slogan of the century in 1999.

The slogan was exactly what De Beers needed. It reinforced the fact that a marriage should last forever and it discouraged people from reselling their diamonds.

If a mass re-selling happened, it would have disrupted the market and revealed the alarmingly low intrinsic value of the rocks.

I hate to say it, but diamonds are crap. And even though you know the truth now, it doesn’t change the fact that we live in a society that buys into this narrative.

Now you could boycott buying diamonds altogether but I doubt your wife or girlfriend would like that very much.

So, what should you do?

If diamonds are on your buy list in the next couple months, might I suggest a few tips to save you some cash.

Tip 1 – Never Buy Diamonds from Chain Jewellers

Major jewellers like Kay, Zales, Jared, Tiffany’s, etc. have inflated prices and they’re hard to negotiate with.

The harsh truth is as soon as you leave the jeweller, a diamond loses over 50% of its value. So you need to make sure you’re getting the absolute lowest price possible and you won’t find it at major chains.

Tip 2 – Shop Independent Jewellers or Online

You’ll find the best deals on engagement rings and diamonds at independent jewellers or diamond wholesalers. If you happen to live in New York, you have a lot of options for wholesales — take advantage.

The good thing about independent jewellers and wholesalers is you can typically negotiate on price. You’ll also be more likely to find something unique versus the major chains.

If you want to get the absolute lowest price on a diamond ring, try shopping online. Blue Nile and James Allen are two popular and reputable sites. You choose the price, size, and quality specifications with dozens of setting options.

You can expect to save nearly half compared to rings in major retail stores when you shop independent or online. Plus most online stores offer you free shipping and free returns.

Although diamonds are one of the biggest scams in history, it’s fair to assume you’ll still end up having to break down to buy some now and then. Just know you don’t have to pay full price ever.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

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Hassle-Free Tips for Taking Care of Loved Ones

This post Hassle-Free Tips for Taking Care of Loved Ones appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Dear Rich Lifer,

Becoming a caregiver can happen when you least expect it.

Say a parent trips, breaks a leg, and can’t get around any longer. Or suppose you visit over the holidays and discover rotting food in the frig, the range with a burner still on, and a mountain of unopened mail on the dining room table.

Now the responsibility of providing the care has fallen on you.

You’re not alone. Families provide 80% of the long-term care in the U.S.

And according to a recent study by the Family Caregiver Alliance, about 34.2 million Americans provide unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older.

All this care takes a toll on the caregiver, especially for those caring for family members with dementia:

  1. More than half said their social life has suffered
  2.  45% feel alone
  3. Physical and mental health has declined for many
  4. Many feel a financial burden

It can be the most stressful job you’ve ever had and can trigger emotions like guilt, resentment, and anger. Burnout is frequent. So you’re going to need all the help you can get.

Potential Resources

Experts recommend that the first step is to create a team. That could include: other family members, a circle of your loved one’s friends, and neighbors.

Plus there are tons of places where you can go for assistance. And the sooner you ask, the better.

Here are a few:

  1. Community Resource Finder lists events and support groups in your area
  2. AARP’s online Caregiving Community where you can post questions and comments, and read advice from experts.
  3. Caregiver Action Network provides practical help, support, and information for caregivers.
  4. John Hopkins University’s online course on caregiving
  5. American Cancer Society
  6. Family Caregiver Alliance offers information, support, and resources for family caregivers.
  7.  National Alliance for Caregiving is a coalition of national organizations focusing on advancing family caregiving.
  8. Alzheimer’s Association’s Training and Education Center

You May be Able to Get Paid

Latest figures show that the annual economic value of informal care provided by family members is $470 BILLION.

And the financial toll on caregivers can be life changing …

A study by Merrill Lynch found that 68% of family caregivers spend $190 BILLION a year for out-of-pocket, care-related expenses.

Among those:

  • 67% had to reduce their own living expenses
  • 63% had to withdraw money from savings or sold assets to provide care
  • 34% spend between 21% and 100% of their monthly budget on caregiving expenses
  • 32% stopped or reduced contributions to savings/retirement plans
  • 21% borrowed money to provide care

What’s more, there are lost hourly wages, reduced Social Security benefits, and forgone retirement plan contributions.

But depending on where your loved one lives, you might be able to get paid for the care you provide.

Medicare, the health insurance for people age 65 and older, does not pay for long-term care services, such as in-home care and adult day-care services.

Some states, though, have programs that will pay family members who are providing care to someone who is on Medicaid — the government health insurance for low-income Americans.

More information on programs that may be available to help ease the financial strain of caring for a family member can be found at:

Organizations that offer financial help with specific diseases. Go to the Family Caregiver Alliance site and scroll down to Disease-Specific Organizations.

And if your loved one is a veteran, he may be eligible for home and community based services. Contact your County Veteran Service Office for specifics.

Before It Happens…

Parents are living longer. With that though, comes a greater chance of chronic illnesses and a higher probability of needing your help as a caregiver … a task for which you probably have no training or experience.

But by taking a few steps beforehand, you’ll be much better equipped if that time ever comes.

Find out where your parents keep important documents, such as Powers of Attorney, health care proxies, Wills, trusts, and insurance policies.

Where do they bank, do they have a safe deposit box, where is their checkbook?

Who is their attorney, accountant, doctor, insurance agent, and financial advisor?

Discussing finances and caregiving with parents can be a challenge. Some may see it as a taboo subject. In fact, 75% of family caregivers have never discussed their financial role with their care recipients.

However, understanding your loved one’s finances and wishes while they are still able to communicate clearly can mean all the difference in the care you are able to provide … without turning your world upside down.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

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If You Like Eating Out: Read Me

This post If You Like Eating Out: Read Me appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Dear Rich Lifer,

When it comes to saving money, a category many people cut out right away is dining out. This makes sense – restaurant meals can be pricey, and when you add on tax and tips, they can break the budget quickly.

Luckily, if you use a little forethought, there are lots of ways you can save money and still indulge in a meal out now and then.

Here are a few of our favorites:

BYOB

An easy money saving tip is to drink water instead of pricey soft drinks or alcohol, but sometimes you just want to enjoy a tasty beverage with your meal. Sodas can cost $4-5 apiece, though, and beer and wine is much more per serving. Instead of spending $8 each for a glass of house wine and a decent beer, look for local restaurants that will let you bring your own.

Yelp and Google reviews will usually mention if a restaurant allows you to bring your own, and while some places might charge a small corkage fee, it’s nominal compared to the price of buying a bottle from the restaurant – or worse, paying per glass prices.

Grab a Groupon

Sign up for Groupon emails for your area and scroll through the offers every few days. They often have coupons for great new restaurants as well as your old favorites, so buy them when you can and save them for when you want to enjoy a night out.

One word to the wise, though – look very carefully at the small print on your offer. Unlike gift cards, Groupon offers aren’t available at all times and they can expire, so be sure to play by the rules.

Eat Out at Happy Hour

I’m not saying you should sit at the bar and drink dollar beer and eat peanuts – that’s a fun experience in and of itself, but it’s not a meal.

Many nicer restaurants have a full Happy Hour menu with lots to choose from, and the pricing is a lot less than what you’d pay if you sat in the main portion of the restaurant. Because Happy Hour is usually so lively, you’re likely to get good service this way, too.

Double Dip Online

If you’re not totally set on a specific restaurant, go to Rakuten.com and look up Restaurant.com. If you shop through this portal, you can get a discounted gift card from Restaurant.com (like a $25 gift card for just $10!) AND you’ll get cash back on the purchase from Rakuten. You can enjoy many great local restaurants at a deep discount this way!

Shop in Advance

Next time you’re at Costco, look at the big kiosk of gift cards right in the middle of the store. You’ll probably find cards for some of your favorite restaurants – at an amazingly low price!

If you pick up a few discounted gift cards now, you can save them until you want to go out again – it will feel like you’re eating for free (and you’ll still be dining out on the cheap).

Go OUT to Eat

If you want to skip out on the restaurant experience, but still have the same delicious food, you can still save by ordering takeout from your favorite restaurant and eating it elsewhere.

Not only will you save by skipping on the drinks, appetizers, and desserts you might normally order, by taking food out, you’ll also save on the tip you’d normally pay. Even if you tip on to-go orders, it’s usually much less than the 20% you’d tip for the sit down experience.

Instead of going home to eat, though, you can make your takeout extra special by heading to a picnic table at a local park. This way, you can save while dining al fresco – and you still don’t have to cook anything!

Check Out the Senior Menu

While this might seem like an obvious option, many people overlook it because they assume there won’t be enough food or that the choices will be boring or bland. At many classic favorite eateries, the senior menu is a selection of the same exact items – they’re just at a lower price.

Take a look and see if what you want is there before looking at the standard-priced items.

Split a Meal

Let’s face it – at many restaurants, the dinner portions are out of control!

At On The Border, for example, their Dos Equis Fish Taco meal is over 2000 calories, and at The Cheesecake Factory, the Pasta Carbonara with Chicken clocks in at almost 2300 calories! Each of these dishes is your whole recommended daily allowance on just one plate!

Instead of overeating, or wasting half the food, split a bigger meal with your dinner companion. If you’re worried that you’ll still be hungry, add an inexpensive house salad to start. You’ll both be full and happy – for half the cost of two standard entrees.

Don’t Skip the Apps

I’m not talking about appetizers – I’m talking about savings apps on your smartphone. If you want fast food or to go to a fast casual restaurant, download the restaurant’s app before you go.

Many places will give you a free item just for downloading, and others will let you earn towards even more free food by placing your order through the app – this saves money and time, too.

If it’s a sit down restaurant you prefer, check out OpenTable or Seated. These apps give you monetary rewards for making your reservations via the app – and using the service is convenient, too.

Follow your Favorites and Get Rewards

If you have a favorite few restaurants, follow them all on social media and sign up for their rewards clubs via email. You’ll get money saving coupons and the inside scoop on when they’re having special events with discounts, too.

Sometimes, they’ll even reward their most loyal customers with free appetizers, and really, who doesn’t love free food?

So, even if you’re eating on a budget, there you have it, a ton of great ways you can save big while dining out. If you budget wisely, you can enjoy a meal out as often as you like without breaking the bank!

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

The post If You Like Eating Out: Read Me appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year? Not So Fast…

This post The Most Wonderful Time of the Year? Not So Fast… appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Dear Rich Lifer,

The holiday season is often hailed as “the most wonderful time of the year”. For most that is true!

Filling your days with hot cocoa, classic movies, and the smell of pine trees, baking cookies, or logs burning on the fire, along with the company of friends and family to warm your heart can be festive indeed. But for some, especially those further north, the long, dark winter months can be dreadful, regardless of the joy surrounding them, if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

If you’ve never heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, it’s a medical condition that affects the lives of millions of Americans. Seasonal Affective Disorder, more commonly known as S.A.D, or seasonal depression, is defined as a form of depression that is directly related to the change in seasons.

Bouts of Seasonal Affective Disorder begin and end at around the same points in time every year (meaning for most that symptoms begin in the late fall, and continue into the winter months, ending in spring).

What Causes S.A.D.?

S.A.D. occurs for a variety of reasons, one of which being a lack of exposure to sunlight, which affects your circadian rhythm.

Think about it: winter months tend to be much darker than the summer months. The sun sets earlier, leaving less opportunity to get outside and absorb its rays. Just as a plant cannot thrive without sunlight, nor can we. S.A.D may also be caused by a drop in serotonin, or melatonin levels.

Many Americans were raised with the mindset that mental health is not important. Maybe when you were growing up you were told to “man up”, “get over it”, or “toughen up”. Many people, men especially were lead to believe that “emotional weakness” and depression were just things that you could snap out of. As medical science has progressed with modern brain imaging, we have been able to verify physical changes in brain chemistry that indicate that depression is a real disorder and something that you can seek medical assistance for.

I am here to tell you that Seasonal Affective Disorder is real, and something that should be addressed with your doctor if you are suffering through it.

How to Identify Seasonal Depression

S.A.D is different from the “winter blues” that we may get from time to time. S.A.D cannot be “cured” by simply putting on a happy Christmas movie or taking a walk around the block. Many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder without even knowing it! If you are struggling with the following symptoms and have been a few years, it may be time to see your doctor.

Losing Interest or Motivation

Maybe you were an avid painter, woodcarver, or loved to work on the old hot rod not so long ago, but now you can’t seem to force yourself to pick up your tools and work. Maybe you once loved to cook, read, or exercise, but now you can’t seem to pull yourself out of bed. If “why bother?” crosses your mind at the thought of a once beloved activity, you may be showing signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Struggling with Low Energy

If simple tasks are now exhausting to you, it could be another symptom that you are suffering from S.A.D. If even simple things like getting out of bed in the morning, or getting off the couch seem like too much effort to bother with, it could be a sign that it’s time for a mental health checkup with your doctor.

Change in  Sleep Schedule

While trouble sleeping can be a sign of numerous medical issues, if coupled with other symptoms on this list, you may want to consider bringing this up with your doctor. When it comes to S.A.D, most patients report struggling with sleeping too much. However, if your energy has been low during the day, causing you to nap more, you may now be struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep at night.

Difficulty Concentrating

Want to read up on your Paradigm newsletters or subscriptions but you just can’t seem to focus? Maybe it’s taken you a ridiculous amount of time just to reach this point in the article. Are you forgetting things more frequently, misplacing items, or having trouble sitting still?

Difficulty concentrating is yet another sign of S.A.D.

Increased Feelings of Anxiety, Irritation, or Agitation

Changes in mood, especially extreme ones, should always be taken seriously.

If you find yourself burning with anger over spilled milk, tearing up at the drop of a hat, or dreading ordinary phone calls or tasks, these may be red flags that point towards Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Feeling Hopeless or Worthless

Often times difficult to talk about, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness are major concerns, and should be brought up to your doctor quickly, especially if they have come on suddenly and are not normal for you.

Weight Gain

Whether it be from lack of exercise due to low energy and motivation, poor eating, or (more commonly) a combination of both, weight gain (beyond your typical gain from the milk and cookies you typically consume around this time of year) is a symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder and should be discussed with your doctor.

Treatment Options for S.A.D.

If you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, do not lose hope! You are not alone: an estimated 10 million Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

There are treatments and ways to help alleviate the symptoms of S.A.D. If you do suspect that you suffer from S.A.D, the first step is to make an appointment with your doctor.

It may be difficult for you to discuss, but opening up to your Doctor or another medical professional could lead to relief from these harrowing symptoms. Your doctor may recommend a variety of treatments, from antidepressants, changes in diet or even, light therapies may be beneficial.

Go in with an open mind and try your best to make an effort for your health.

Regardless of what you were raised to believe, having a condition such as Seasonal Affective Disorder does not make you “crazy”. If you were suffering with arthritis, you would go see a doctor and have the condition treated. Your brain is the most powerful organ in your body. Why not treat it as such? Investing in your health is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

The post The Most Wonderful Time of the Year? Not So Fast… appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Turn Your Trash into Cash

This post Turn Your Trash into Cash appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Dear Rich Lifer,

eBay is an interesting place. If you’ve ever been working on a project and needed some odds and ends, the chance of you finding someone selling what you’re looking for on eBay is pretty good.

I’ve bought all kinds of things from eBay over the years and it’s saved me a ton of money. From used tools to furniture, vinyl records to gift cards, you name it.

Even downright weird things, like empty egg cartons for DIY soundproofing, I’ve been lucky enough to find sellers.

What this means is that you could also be selling these things too. For example, what do you do with used toilet paper rolls? If you’re like most people, you throw them away.

But, you could collect them and resell the rolls on eBay for a few bucks. There’s a surprising number of weird things people will buy online.

So before you declutter your house this holiday season, check online to see if someone might be interested in buying what you’re throwing away.

Here’s a list of 10 things you probably didn’t know you could sell on eBay for decent money:

Toilet Paper Rolls

Yes, the cardboard rolls that your kids refused to change can be sold for a few bucks on eBay. As long as the rolls are clean and not crushed, you can usually get anywhere from 10-50 cents for each one. Crafters and other hobbyists will buy them in large quantities for projects.

Paper towel rolls sell well too. Just make sure when you ship them, you use a box to avoid crushing them. The great thing about selling cardboard rolls is they’re super lightweight so shipping is typically cheap.

Wine Bottles and Corks

Do you drink wine? Is that even a question?

What do you do with the leftover corks? If you’re like most people, you probably recycle the bottles and toss the corks.

But there are people looking for both wine bottles and corks. The going rate seems to be anywhere from $20-30 for two hundred corks. Wine bottles sell for about $1 each but you usually have to clean the labels off and sort them (blue, green, etc.).

Egg Cartons

Like I said earlier, I’ve bought egg cartons on eBay for a DIY soundproofing project, and I was amazed at how many sellers there were.

It doesn’t matter whether you have cardboard, plastic or styrofoam cartons, people are buying them all on eBay. Crafters and backyard chicken enthusiasts seem to be driving this market.

Instead of throwing away your egg cartons why not sell them to someone who will use them and make a little extra cash! Most cartons are selling between $10-49.

Remote Controls

Next time your TV breaks, or if you bought a new one over Black Friday, look online to see if someone’s interested in buying your old remote. For every broken TV, there’s usually a perfectly good remote someone else needs.

It helps if you know the model of the TV that the remote goes with. And make sure you specify the condition and whether you’re including batteries or not. Also, you’re not limited to TV remotes.

People are looking for remotes for all sorts of electronics. Stereo systems, projectors, air conditioners…whatever you have in your junk drawer, someone might be willing to buy.

Box Tops for Education

If you have kids or grandkids, there’s a good chance their schools run competitions for collecting the most box tops.

Instead of throwing them out, stop. You might be able to earn some cash with a few seconds of work. Parents are looking for cheap ways to get these codes and would rather pay a few bucks for a bag of trimmed BTFEs than collect them individually. You’ll get anywhere from $4-25.

Coupons

If you’re not into couponing that’s okay. But there are a lot of people who are and would be willing to pay you for your coupons that you get in the mail.

Depending on the discount and store, buyers will pay $2-10 for 10%, 15% and 25% off coupons. A great example is Pottery Barn – those coupons can go for a few bucks because of how much the savings could net you.

Next time you get a pack of coupons in the mail, take a look at eBay and see if anyone’s buying.

Old Software/ Installation CDs

I bet you’re surprised that someone would pay you for an old copy of Windows or Microsoft Office, right? Well, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

Some people are still using old computers to handle simple jobs, or they’re collecting software to display in their office. In any case, if you have a junk drawer filled with installation CDs and old software packages, you might be able to offload them on eBay.

Empty Makeup Containers

Vintage containers are a big seller online. But you can make some money off newer containers too. M.A.C. a cosmetics brand offers a Back to M.A.C. program that lets you exchange six empty makeup containers for a free lipstick.

If your daughter or wife likes M.A.C. makeup but not a fan of the lipstick, why not sell the containers for cash to someone who will participate in the program.

Huge Pinecones

Crafters love these. If you’ve ever visited a place where there’s massive pine cones, grab a few to take home with you.

There’s a ton of people buying “big” pine cones on eBay for arts and crafts. Big is usually close to the size of a can of soda but anything bigger than average will do. Some of the giant ones, the size of wine or champagne bottles, sell for $10!

Anything Discontinued

This last one seems obvious but I’m not talking about just anything vintage. There’s a ton of random things you can sell that are worth a lot of money that you never would have guessed.

For instance, remember Lehman Brothers? A Lehman Brother’s mousepad can net you $10. The Lehman Brothers 2007 annual report sold for $99!

If an iconic company goes bankrupt, there’s usually some money to be made with the junk that’s left behind. Surprisingly, people want to own this “historic memorabilia.”

These are just a few of the weird things you can make some money off selling on eBay. There’s no doubt a lot more. Next time you’re doing a purge, see if you can make a few bucks by selling your old junk online.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

The post Turn Your Trash into Cash appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Don’t Fret over Winter Woes. Do This Instead!

This post Don’t Fret over Winter Woes. Do This Instead! appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Dear Rich Lifer,

In many parts of the USA, dealing with winter weather is no joke!

Whether you’re in Ohio or Oregon, the snow, freezing cold, and weeks without seeing the sun can really drag you down.

Social occasions also become fewer and farther between because no one wants to go outside in dreadful weather.

Not only that, it’s a major inconvenience to get around, and living costs, like food, car insurance and can be much more expensive, not to mention your heating bill. For many people, winter weather drives prices up and quality of life down.

What’s a Man to Do?

The good news, is now that you’re retired, you don’t have to stay put if you don’t want to… and there are many beautiful cities with warmer weather, low cost of living, and lots to do even in winter.

Moving may seem extreme, but when you think about it, you’re spending a quarter of your life (or more, depending on how far north you are) living a lower, more expensive quality of life. And if you’re suffering from medical conditions like COPD, asthma, or arthritis, the cold isn’t just unpleasant – it can be downright painful and even dangerous.

So maybe it’s time to make the move to warmer weather, become a snowbird, or at least plan extended trip to get away from the worst of winter.

If getting away from the cold weather appeals to you, here are a few cities you should consider retiring in if you want to save money. Best of all, we’ve skipped the costly old favorites like San Diego, Austin, and Ft. Lauderdale. Don’t get me wrong, those cities are well known for a reason, but these cities are just as good – maybe even better – and a lot more affordable, too.

Round Rock, Texas

What’s so special about this place? Round Rock is one of the fastest growing cities in America – and for good reason. The mild weather, sound infrastructure, and low crime make this a very enjoyable place to call home. Also, with a booming real estate market, many of the houses are sporting the latest comforts and amenities.

If you’re a fan of barbecue or Tex-Mex, you’ll be in good company in Round Rock. There are several restaurants specializing in either cuisine, and some of the best barbecue in the world can be found right next door in Austin.

  • Average Temperatures In December – 62 high, 41 low
  • Median Home Price – $275,800

Ahwatukee, Arizona

What’s so special about this place? Life in Ahwatukee is all about relaxing and enjoying the great outdoors. There are three golf courses and opportunities for hiking and trail riding. If cooking is your thing, you can try your hand at the famed Ahwatukee Chili Cookoff – this annual festival lasts three days!

The housing market is moving pretty fast, but don’t worry – with a couple hundred newer homes available, you’ll be sure to find one you love.

  • Average Temperatures In December – 66 high, 39 low
  • Median Home Price – $319,200

Las Cruces, New Mexico

What’s so special about this place? Believe it or not, Las Cruces is getting hot on the wine scene! You can go wine tasting at a number of wineries along the Las Cruces wine trail. If you’re not into the vino, there are tons of other things to do, too – camping, golf, and bird watching are all local favorites.

Whether you want a new custom home or an older home with acreage, Las Cruces has got you covered – just about anything you could wish for in a home is available here, and the housing market is cheaper than many other locations.

  • Average Temperatures In December – 58 high, 29 low
  • Median Home Price – $171,800

Jacksonville, Florida

What’s so special about this place? Anyone who loves the beach would love to call Jacksonville home. With 22 miles of coast, you can enjoy fishing, diving, and (most importantly in my book) surfing, as well as all sorts of other water sports practically year round. If you prefer watching sports, the Jacksonville Jaguars are a local fan favorite – and watching football when it’s warm at the stadium is pretty nice!

Jacksonville real estate isn’t just beachy shacks. If you’re into a particular style of architecture, you’re sure to find it here – there are thousands of homes on the market, so you’re sure to find the perfect one for you at a great price.

  • Average Temperatures In December – 68 high, 49 low
  • Median Home Price – $180,300

Lafayette, Louisiana

What’s so special about this place? A lot of life in Louisiana is all about the food. From crawfish to oysters to etouffee, be prepared to eat like a king! There’s such a rich tradition in this area – French blended with Cajun and Creole – that permeates just about everything, and with the second largest Mardi Gras celebration, a good time is usually had by all.

Simplicity is key in Lafayette homes – you’ll find many comfortable one-story ranch style homes here, and they’re all pretty affordable, too.

  • Average Temperatures In December – 64 high, 45 low
  • Median Home Price – $159,100

Murrieta, California

What’s so special about this place? While the median home price in Murrieta is higher than the others on this list, it’s also more than $100,000 cheaper than the rest of California. It’s also one of the safest cities in the state, and is just a short drive from San Diego or Orange County, so you can hit the beach, visit Disneyland (a great choice if you have young grandkids), or enjoy food and beverages at world class restaurants and breweries.

If you believe bigger is better, then you’ll love house shopping in Murrieta. You’ll find many homes that are 2500Sqft –or even bigger– and many of them are on the new side, too.

  • Average Temperatures In December – 67 high, 49 low
  • Median Home Price – $446,100

Charleston, South Carolina

What’s so special about this place? Charleston is rich in history, and you see that reflected everywhere. There’s a strong arts community here, and you can visit a museum or a beautiful old plantation just about any day of the year. If you prefer being active, they’ve got sailing, fishing, golf, and tons of other activities you can enjoy year round.

If you’re looking for a slice of Americana, you’ll love the homes in Charleston. There are a few classic architectural styles in town – you’ll be sure to enjoy them all.

  • Average Temperatures In December – 61 high, 46 low
  • Median Home Price – $316,500

With choices like these, does it really make sense to stay put through another harsh, horrible winter? Maybe it’s time to find somewhere you’d really love to live…

If you’re not completely sold on moving to one of these cities, now is the perfect time to schedule a trip to see how you like it. You’ll be able to see the sights, learn more about the community, and, of course, escape the cold for a little while!

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

The post Don’t Fret over Winter Woes. Do This Instead! appeared first on Daily Reckoning.