Saturday, December 19, 2015

Recent Release of the Followup to the Systemic Series -- Aftermath -- Now Available!

Just wanted to let everyone know that the followup to the Systemic Series -- Aftermath (parts 1-3) is now out and available on Amazon.com!

  

On Sunday, December 20th, I'm running a promotional free giveaway of Aftermath: Part I!  Make sure to stop in and pick up your free copy!  Enjoy!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Free eBook Giveaway on Sunday, November 1st!

Welcome in the new month with a free eBook copy of book #4 in the Systemic series: "Forsaken".  Be sure to pick up your copy at Amazon.com on Sunday, November 1st!

Thanks!  And hope you enjoy!

We do a Spending “Reset” Every Year

Like many other people, we have regular monthly and annual budgets by which we abide.  We also track our expenses throughout the year to gauge our spending.  However, just because expenses have been at a certain level throughout the year or even previous years, it doesn’t mean that we necessarily assume they’ll remain the same moving forward.  Things can change quickly at times when it comes to all sorts of various financial situations such as living location, type of living environment, size of family, job and career situation, health and medical costs, and more.

Therefore, we do a spending “reset” each year to ensure that we’re on the right financial path before we get too far along.

Reviewing last year’s budget and final totals
At the start of each year, I finalize our previous year’s budget and review the overall numbers.  This allows me to see what our total expenses were, what our estimated expenses were, how close we came to these estimates, what unexpected costs (or savings) were realized, where high and low cost months were and why, and compare overall costs to overall income to see whether we made or lost ground in our efforts to grow assets.

Adjusting for the new year
Once I’ve analyzed last year’s numbers, I can harness the data I’ve gleaned from those numbers and use them in making adjustments for the upcoming year.  This allows me to make changes in our budget forecast based upon not just one prior year’s information, but since we track this information every year, over multiple years to help smooth out the hills, valleys, and hiccups that occur throughout a single year.  Things like relocating, buying a new vehicle, buying a home, having a child, major home repairs and the likes can skew a year’s financial data, but over time, we can get a better average of overall costs and cost inflation.

Forecasting for the following year, but…
With such information in hand, I typically forecast our budget out by several years.  This is helpful since it allows me to better plan for major purchases and determine where income needs to be as well as where we might find cost savings over time.  However, I’m realistic when doing this.

I realize that things related to medical costs, home repairs, growing children, career changes, and similar items will come into play and may make my multi-year forecasts irrelevant or even obsolete.  Therefore, while my budget forecast helps with long-term planning when it comes to larger purchases and our overall financial pictures, I tend to take it with a grain of salt since as a family of four our costs are constantly changing and evolving each and every year.


Disclaimer:

The author is not a licensed financial professional.  This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind.  Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Free eBook Giveaway of "Forsaken" on Sunday, October 25th and Wednesday, October 28th!

Get your free eBook copy of Forsaken -- book 4 in the Systemic series -- at Amazon.com on Sunday, October 25th and Wednesday, October 28th!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Why Diversification Might Help You with Your Greatest Money Issue…Fear

Scared of money?  Impossible you might say.  People love money, right?  So how could they be scared of it?  But I hear time and again how people like to carry credit cards rather than cash so they don’t have to worry about it being lost or stolen.  I hear how people worry about identity theft and their financial information being stolen.  I read about the fear of inflation eating away at savings or fear of a stock market collapse.  There’s even a song by Notorious B.I.G entitled, “Mo Money, Mo Problems.”  So obviously, money fear is an issue for some people. 

So how could diversification help with combating such fears?

A nice combination of real and imaginary
Even though shares of stock might technically be “pieces of a company” this doesn’t necessarily translate to the shareholder directly as actually owning something physical.  For example 1000 shares of a car company doesn’t necessarily mean you own an actual part of an assembly line, six vehicle engines, or a vehicle itself.  Therefore, I consider things like stocks, bonds, ETFs, futures contracts, and non-physical commodities as more imaginary investments based purely on the faith that someone will compensate you monetarily for your shares rather than provide actual physical goods or services for those shares.

This might be best illustrated with commodities.  Owning futures contracts or ounces of silver or gold through paper contracts doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is actually setting these precious metals aside in some vault somewhere.  Meanwhile, if I go out and buy actual coins or bars and put them in a safe deposit box, I own actual precious metals.

Therefore, diversifying my investments between real (physical), and imaginary (promised) assets can make me feel better about my money and hedge against finding out down the road that the metals in my account were never there to begin with.

Winning a little a lot
Don’t you hate when the stock market is on the downturn and day after day you see your account balance fall?  But what if at the same time you owned gold or real estate and these values were increasing?  Or what if while gold and the housing market were trending down, the stock market was going up?  Or what if your US stock market holdings were down while your Asian or European holdings were up?

There are a variety of scenarios to play with, but my point is that when you’re well-diversified, you may see wins in different areas which could balance out or even exceed your losses.  While they might not be as big of wins, they are wins nonetheless, and as I mentioned previously, they may help take some of the sting out of losses in other areas.  Not only this though, they may help keep up your motivation to continue saving and investing, even when longer investment downturns take place.




Disclaimer:

The author is not a licensed financial professional.  This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind.  Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Get Your Free eBook Copy of "Descent" on Wednesday, October 21st!

Get your free eBook copy of "Descent" -- book #3 in the Systemic Series -- at Amazon.com on Wednesday, October 21st!

Some of My Best Money Habits Come in Pairs

I’ve developed a number of good money-related habits over the years.  And during this time, I’ve come to realize that some of my best money habits seem to come in pairs.  While I didn’t necessarily mean for it to happen this way, it has.  And in the process, these pairings have helped me better organize our family’s overall personal financial data.

Tracking not just expenses but income too
As a college student, I was forced to track expenses by my parents, but as an adult, I found this exercise in personal finance very rewarding.  Over the years, tracking my expenses have allowed me to gauge things like personal rates of inflation, determine where and how I was spending my money, as well as look for places to cut costs or spend more efficiently.  However, as I entered the working world, I realized that this was only half the battle, especially once I became self employed.

Gauging not just expenses, but income too allows me to determine when in the year I break even (income outweighs expenses) or whether or not I’m going to break even, which tells me that I either need to cut costs or increase income.  It also helps me gauge from where my income is deriving, in what amounts, and where I should or could better focus my income-earning energies and resources.

Budgeting AND forecasting
In my younger days (i.e. college), I kept a budget.  Each month, I would set out a limit for my spending in different categories and then track my costs throughout the month trying to match or beat that budgeted number.  However, I eventually realized that just about every month was different in some way.  Either there’d be an unexpected expense or an expense like vehicle insurance or holiday shopping that in the back of my mind I knew was coming but for which I still wasn’t fully prepared for.  This would in turn throw my monthly budget off, and I would find myself trying to cut costs the following month to compensate.

Therefore, I eventually realized that it was beneficial not just to budget monthly, but to forecast expenses out for the entire year – and eventually multiple years – in an effort to better prepare me for all the costs that I would encounter.  This made it much easier to more accurately budget, and over the years this allowed me to refer back to prior budgets in an effort to refine my forecast predictions for upcoming months and years.

Shopping AND selling resale
For years, our family has been good as shopping resale.  We’d find bargains at resale shops, consignment stores, antique malls, online, and garage sales.  And while we’d save a lot of money buying items through such venues, we eventually realized that we could make some good money through reselling at the same such venues.

With the internet making it easier than ever to find buyers for used items, we’ve turned our passion for shopping resale into a passion for selling resale items as well, improving our financial situation on both sides of the coin.



Disclaimer:

The author is not a licensed financial professional.  This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind.  Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Columbus Day Giveaway!

Get your free ebook copy of "Downfall" -- book #1 in the Systemic Series -- at Amazon.com on Monday, October 12th!!


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Get Your Free Copy of "Descent" on Sunday, October 11th and Wednesday, October 14th!!

Get your complimentary ebook copy of book #3 in the "Systemic Series" available at Amazon.com on Sunday, October 7th and Wednesday, October 14th!!

A Retirement ‘Bucket List’ Could Improve Finances

Building a bucket list in retirement could be a great way to outline some goals and life achievements that you may have wanted to accomplish for decades.  And while laying out such goals can be a great way to get your retirement dreams in line and organized, it may also work to improve your finances. 

While these goals don’t necessarily have to revolve around a list of craziness that includes things like skydiving or driving a race car (unless that’s what you want), creating such a list can be integral to organizing the financial components of your retirement.

Outlining goals can help with creating a budget
Some people look at retirement from afar as a time in which to relax, carefree and unimpaired by the worries of the working world.  Some such people will continue throughout their retirement unfazed by a lack of responsibility or purpose.  Other people however, may, after a time, become somewhat disillusioned with a life in which there are few goals or objectives.

For those types of people, having an idea of what they’d like to do before they actually reach retirement could allow them to forecast and create a budget that helps them meet such goals in a way that doesn’t have them stretching their finances.  Knowing that a certain retirement living location will come with a higher cost of living, that playing golf on a regular basis can become quite costly, that traveling overseas could add thousands of dollars a year or more onto a retirement budget, or that buying that boat to finally cruise around the lake or take to the ocean will run $20,000 or $30,000 and put a heavy dent in retirement savings could lead to a push in increase pre-retirement savings or to cut costs in other areas.

Goals may lead to location finalization
If a retiree wants to hike in the mountains, swim daily in the ocean, enjoy the desert landscape, or live near distant family members as a part of their retirement bucket list, relocating might be on the retirement menu.  Outlining these goals ahead of time could provide better clarity when it comes to retirement location finalization. 

With a location – or at least geographic area – pinpointed with the help of such bucket-list goals, a pre-retiree may then begin to investigate pertinent financial information related to the cost of living in such a location.  Things like property tax rates, local and state income and sales tax rates, insurance rates (both home and auto), utility costs, food costs, gas prices, and more might all be considerations.  This way, costs won’t come as such a shock or have a retiree rethinking their relocation ideas.

Trying a new career
Some retirees don’t want to quit working in retirement; they just want to quit working in a particular job or industry and have a desire to explore new employment realms and possibilities.  However, trying a new endeavor in retirement could prove risky and rely upon funds that might otherwise be set aside for covering retirement expenses.


Figure out what potential work or career options might be on the retirement career bucket list could allow pre-retirees to start researching such industries or roles ahead of time.  This can help in developing a business plan, setting money aside solely for this purpose, and maybe even try out some new ventures before retirement officially begins in an effort to see just how feasible such goals are in an effort to reduce risk and be better prepared financially.


Disclaimer:

The author is not a licensed financial professional.  This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind.  Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Get Your Free Copy of "Forsaken" on Sunday, October 4th!!

Get your complimentary ebook copy of book #4 in the "Systemic Series" at Amazon.com Sunday, October 4th!!


Using Experiments in Retirement Planning

It can be extremely difficult to know what retirement is truly going to be like before you get there.  And once you’re there, it’s going to be too late to prepare.  However, there are some relatively simple – and cost-effective – experiments you might try well in advance to your golden years in an effort to better ready yourself for retirement.  While these experiments could be designed to prepare you for a future that may be decades away, they might also have significant ramifications in cutting your costs in the here and now.

Saying no to expensive coffee
While it might seem difficult for those who crave that fancy gourmet coffee from the local coffee shop each morning, avoiding such temptations can lead to big savings and carry over into purchases for things like donuts or pastries, fast food, and similar convenience-type items.

CNN Money noted in 2011, “Americans spend an average of $8.43 each time they stop at a coffee shop, according to data compiled by Mint.com. With caffeine fiends filling up an average of 46 times last year, this adds up to a total annual bill of $385.97.”

Making these items an occasional treat rather than a regular buy can cut costs substantially and help make such items more special if you do indulge just once in a while. 

Dining in
According to Bundle.com, “The average monthly cost of Dining Out for people in the U.S. is $281.”

Reducing meals out – and the additional expenses that come along with them like taxes and tips – may act to push you to make tasty treats of your own at home and as a family.  Learning how to create your own delicious pizzas, get creative with pasta dishes – adding new herbs and seasonings – and cooking other delectable meals at a substantial cost savings as compared to going out can substantially reduce your dining budget and provide you with an extensive menu to carry with you into retirement.

Reducing the family vehicle fleet
Reducing the family fleet by just one vehicle could equate to substantial savings and help prepare you for retirement at the same time.  By reducing costs on things like a car payment, fuel, parking, insurance, maintenance, and repairs, savings in this area could equate to thousands dollars each year.  Not only this, but it can help you learn how to function with one less vehicle so that come retirement, it will be no great hardship to continue on this path should you desire to continue these savings.


Disclaimer:

The author is not a licensed financial professional.  This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind.  Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Making a Career Transition

Sometimes it’s difficult to know when to leave a career, and the process of making such a transition can be scary as well.  However, while there may be some risk involved in making such a transition, there are ways to help minimize some of that risk.

Making the move to a new career can be a huge step in your career life.  However, there are certain steps that can be taken to smooth the transition and that once in place, could raise flags to help you know that you’re ready.

An established reserve fund
It’s prudent that before leaving a role with a steady paycheck to move into an untested career, that you have some sort of financial backup in place.  Therefore, before handing in your notice, consider using the months preceding your career change to put in place a financial reserve to support you in your transition.  The amount of this fund is up to you, as you know your spending habits and levels best, but consider at least enough money to get you through a year’s worth of expenses even if you don’t make one penny in income.

Understand expenses
To create that reserve fund, it helps to understand expenses.  Tracking expenses over that period before a career transition can be critical to familiarizing yourself better with these costs and from where exactly they derive.  Then you can rely upon this data you’ve compiled to make forecasts about future expenses and how your costs could be affected –
both positively and negatively – by the transition. 

In doing so, you can see how costs might be affected in areas like transportation (since your commute might change), clothing (for work attire), income taxes, work supplies, healthcare and retirement benefits, and other work-related budget areas.

Reducing debt or even becoming debt free!
It can be harder to take a chance and attempt a career transition when you’re still carrying loads of debt.  Working toward doing things like paying off student loans, owning vehicles outright, and paying down or paying off credit cards before making such a transition can make the move less stressful.  It can also allow you to free up extra money ahead of time to put into a reserve fund, purchase necessary supplies for your endeavor, supplement your educational background in your new career area of interest, as well as cover potential relocation costs.  This might also mean that your expenses are lower (not having to make payments on debt) during a time in which income levels could largely be uncertain depending upon your type of career move.


Disclaimer:

The author is not a licensed financial professional or career advisor or counselor.  This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind.  Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Free Labor Day eBook Giveaway for Systemic Series Book 1: Downfall

Wanted to let everyone know that I'll be offering the Kindle eBook version of the first book in the Systemic Series (Downfall) for free Monday, September 7th as well as Wednesday September 9th at Amazon.com. 


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Is Uncertainty the Best Motivator for Saving?

Many people with steady paychecks don’t worry about the financial unknown until it’s too late.  Once they’ve been laid off or downsized or are hit with a huge bill for medical expenses or other unforeseen event, they suddenly find that it’s too late to start preparing emergency savings for the unthinkable. 

Looking ahead to potential financial calamities can be a good – albeit, maybe not fun – exercise for preparing to meet the worst case scenario head on.  Fear of an uncertain world and all the financial emergencies that can arise can help push you to start building an emergency fund to handle such costs before it’s too late.

Employment insecurity
As a self-employed individual for the past seven years, I’ve become quite adept at finding work and new income streams.  This doesn’t mean that all is hunky-dory in my income world though.  Having income suddenly and unexpectedly yanked out from under me can come as a shock.  And having gone through this process more than a time or two has left me better prepared for when the next blow comes.  However, the same type of thing can happened with regular employer-sponsored work roles through layoffs, downsizing, and work-hour reductions.

While this isn’t a fun way to conduct business, it’s allowed me to increase our emergency fund when times are good for when such drops in income occur so that we aren’t left high and dry or going into debt to pay the bills.

Fear of health issues
My wife is a type 1 diabetic.  And while she takes incredibly good care of herself by monitoring and adjusting her blood sugar levels, I still worry.  With kids now in the picture, my rate of concern over health-related issues or injuries goes even higher.

While it’s not fun to think about, considering health or medical emergencies and the associated costs that such emergencies could entail is enough to have us readying ourselves for the worst while hoping for the best.  We do our best to keep an emergency fund of $5,000 on hand to cover any such events.  This amount is enough to cover our deductible and out-of-pocket insurance costs.

Economic unknowns
Then there are all those economic unknowns.  From inflation and extreme government spending and debt, to a stock market or housing market collapse, there are any number of factors to plan for out there.

Personally, I think that being well-diversified is one of the best ways to be prepared for a variety of economic unknowns.  Through a combination of small and large-cap stocks, bonds, and cash in the stock market, savings bonds, money market funds, and cash, silver and gold coins, land, food and water, guns and ammunition, or whatever fits a personal savings strategy best, in many cases, the more spread out savings and investments are, the better we can protect against a variety of economic issues and conditions.  While it can take time to create such a portfolio of holdings, doing so may provide better peace of mind and cover numerous bases regarding the rise and fall of the economy. 



Disclaimer:
The author is not a licensed financial professional.  This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind.  Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.


Are Lowball Social Security Estimates a Blessing in Disguise?

As Laurence Kotlikoff noted in a past PBS News Hour piece regarding lowball Social Security Estimates, “The Social Security Administration’s benefit online calculators aren’t to be trusted for use for people under age 60, even for someone who is single and was never married and will never marry.”

The article goes on to note, “The reason is that unless you change their assumptions, they assume (in contradiction to the Social Security Trustees’ Report’s own assumptions) that the economy will experience zero economy-wide average real wage growth and zero inflation between now and the end of time. That’s an odd assumption for an economy that’s experienced positive average real wage growth rates as well as inflation for each of almost all the postwar years.”

But there are other reasons why lowball Social Security estimates could be a blessing in disguise. 

An insecure future for Social Security
With baby boomers retiring in droves, the employment participation rate as low as it’s been in decades, and more and more people partaking in disability benefits, one thing I can say with certainty is that I’m very uncertain about the future of Social Security. 

Kotlikoff’s article noted that, “According to table IVB6 of last year’s Social Security Trustees’ Report, the system needs an immediate and permanent 23 percent cut in all SSA benefits starting now and continuing forever to cover its long-term funding shortfall. And for those of you who think the system’s trust fund is real, this requisite 23 percent benefit cut does take into account all of the trust fund’s assets.”

With this type of action looming, I’m already reducing my own benefit estimates by 25 percent whether the Social Security Administration does it for me or not.

Motivation to save harder
Personally, I find that when I think I’ll have less money – whether it’s now or in the future – I’ll work harder to earn and save more.  According to Kotlikoff’s article, numbers are “…intentionally used to produce low-ball benefit estimates so people will save more on their own and they won’t be so hurt if the system’s benefits are cut in the future, which seems likely.”

With Social Security’s uncertain future, I think that this is a reasonable approach, although whether it’s working or not for the majority of people could be debated.

A potential bonus in retirement
It’s often nice to get those unexpected little bonuses in life.  Whether at work in the form of a gift card, cash bonus, or just recognition by way of an award, at the store in the form of discounts or coupons, or when using a credit card in the form of cash back or rewards, there are any number of ways many of us find abundant bonuses in our everyday lives.

Well, I look at it no differently in retirement.  The potential to get a little bit more from Social Security than I expected is a bonus, and I would rather get more than I’m counting on than less.  Therefore, I’m happy that between the Social Security Administration’s estimates and my own, we’re hopefully both guessing a little lower with my future benefit totals.



Disclaimer:

The author is not a licensed financial or retirement professional.  This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind.  Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Free eBook!!!

Get a free copy of my eBook, "The M.O.D Files: The Guest Who Stayed Over" and "Quest" (book #2 of the "Systemic" series) available at Amazon.com on Wednesday, August 5th!  "Quest" will also be offered free on Sunday, August 9th!

I've included a brief summary of both below.  Please enjoy!






The Case of the Guest Who Stayed Over:

Robert Haze has been around the block when it comes to working in hotels, and not too long ago, he landed himself one heck of a job. He became the manager on duty – or M.O.D. – of one of downtown Chicago’s landmark properties, the world renowned Lanigan Hotel. 

In the position, Robert is charged with juggling any number of tasks, handling every variety of guest issue, and dealing with problems that pop up with regularity around the massive 1800-room property. While Robert is no slouch, he’s about to be thrown a curve ball…in the form of murder! 

When a Lanigan Hotel guest VIP is found dead, Robert’s managerial skills are put to the test. With the arrival of veteran Chicago Police Department detective, John Marino, Robert begins to realize that it might take more than just a seasoned detective to solve, “The Case of The Guest Who Stayed Over.” 

Combining the feel of Arthur Hailey’s, “Hotel” with a good old-fashioned murder mystery, The M.O.D. Files: The Case of Guest Who Stayed Over provides a sense for what life inside a landmark hotel is really like!


Quest:

The “Su flu” virus swept its way around the globe in a matter of weeks, decimating the world’s population and laying waste to modern civilization. 

Surviving the flu was just the beginning of the struggle for John Stevens and his family. After a vicious and unprovoked attack by rogue mercenaries forced them to abandon their camp deep within the forests of southern Illinois, they find themselves thrust in a vastly different world from the one they once knew. 

Now John and his group must struggle not only to find a place to call home, but learn how to survive in a landscape that no longer knows the comforts of modern amenities. Life has been reset to the 1800s, and John must quickly adapt in order to lead and protect his family in this challenging new environment. But not everyone who survived the flu is content to keep to themselves, and as John and his family will soon discover, outsiders are watching…waiting…and wanting what they have. 

3 Critical Aspects of Financial Controls in Business

There can be a litany of financial dangers posed to a business.  These dangers might come from within the business itself or be posed from external elements.  However, over my time spent as a hotel director of finance, I learned that there were three critical aspects to help maintain good financial controls in a business or organization.

Checks and balances
Checks and balances might be the most critical aspect to maintaining financial control in business.  Controlling what other people did, while other people controlled what I did helped not only to reduce the opportunity for dishonesty, but helped pinpoint errors or find better ways of doing things, as well as learn about other jobs and job duties inside the organization.

However, it was more than just checks and balances inside the hotel that helped reduce the chance of theft, fraud or mistakes.  I also had reports I had to make or things I had to get approval to do from the hotel’s corporate office, our bank, the hotel ownership, or our hotel general manager to ensure that things were on the up and up.

Separation of duties
Separation of duties among various higher-level power holders within an organization can also be a key aspect of good business financial controls.  Ensuring that any one person or department within an organization doesn’t have too much power can help eliminate or at least reduce the temptation for wrongdoing or corruption.

In my case, as director of finance, there were times at which portions of my duties were assigned to others outside my department – sometimes higher, sometimes lower on the organizational chain.  For example, since I was in charge of posting any payments due the hotel, I had a lot of money passing through my office.  However, there was a combination of checks and balances and separation of duties involved in the process.  Our human resources assistant received and opened the mail, creating a check log of monies received in the process.  I posted such payments to our accounts receivable, and our general manager and front office manager signed off on this, verifying that the amounts I posted matched the amounts we received.

Much needed time off
As a welcome requirement of my role, I was directed to take two consecutive weeks off each calendar year.  This wasn’t because my employer wanted me well rested and content with my work but rather to allow others to temporarily take on my duties to ensure things were being handled properly.

Two weeks can be a long time to attempt any sort of cover up of wrong doing in the financial world.  Unknown checks and invoices can arrive in the mail.  Shortfalls or imbalances in accounts might be noticed.  Odd variances could be unveiled.  Those handling my duties for several weeks would have a greater chance of uncovering potential oddities with me out of the office for a substantial period of time, and thus, the two consecutive weeks off each year.   



Disclaimer:

The author is not a licensed financial professional.  This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind.  Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Full Systemic Series Now Available on Amazon for Just $9.99!

I just wanted to let everyone know that my recent 5-book release, "The Systemic Series" is now available in one easy download at Amazon for just $9.99.



Hope you enjoy!  Thanks!

When it’s Time for a Career Transition

Sometimes it’s difficult to know when to leave a career, and the process of making such a transition can be scary as well.  However, while there may be some risk involved in making such a transition, there are ways to help minimize some of that risk.

Making the move to a new career can be a huge step in your career life.  However, there are certain steps that can be taken to smooth the transition and that once in place, could raise flags to help you know that you’re ready.

Establishing a reserve fund
It’s prudent that before leaving a role with a steady paycheck to move into an untested career, that you have some sort of financial backup in place.  Therefore, before handing in your notice, consider using the months preceding your career change to put in place a financial reserve to support you in your transition.  The amount of this fund is up to you, as you know your spending habits and levels best, but consider at least enough money to get you through a year’s worth of expenses even if you don’t make one penny in income.

Understanding your expenses
To create that reserve fund, it helps to understand expenses.  Tracking expenses over that period before a career transition can be critical to familiarizing yourself better with these costs and from where exactly they derive.  Then you can rely upon this data you’ve compiled to make forecasts about future expenses and how your costs could be affected –
both positively and negatively – by the transition. 

In doing so, you can see how costs might be affected in areas like transportation (since your commute might change), clothing (for work attire), income taxes, work supplies, healthcare and retirement benefits, and other work-related budget areas.

Reducing debt or even becoming debt free
It can be harder to take a chance and attempt a career transition when you’re still carrying loads of debt.  Working toward doing things like paying off student loans, owning vehicles outright, and paying down or paying off credit cards before making such a transition can make the move less stressful.  It can also allow you to free up extra money ahead of time to put into a reserve fund, purchase necessary supplies for your endeavor, supplement your educational background in your new career area of interest, as well as cover potential relocation costs.  This might also mean that your expenses are lower (not having to make payments on debt) during a time in which income levels could largely be uncertain depending upon your type of career move.


Disclaimer:

The author is not a licensed financial or career advisor.  This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind.  Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Free Book Giveaway for Systemic Series Book 1: Downfall

Just wanted to let everyone know that I'm doing a free ebook giveaway on Wednesday, June 10th and Friday, June 12th for book one (Downfall) of my recent series: Systemic.  Feel free to swing by Amazon.com and pick up your free copy for your Kindle or download their reading app.

Hope you enjoy!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Hot Ways we Battle Summer Cooling Costs

Even though we live in the Chicagoland area, things can get pretty steamy during the summer.  While there might only be a few weeks or even just a few days where temperatures hit the low to mid-90s, this doesn’t mean that humidity here in the Midwest doesn’t make it feel much warmer than it is.  And that steamy, muggy air can be stifling and have us pushing the thermostat down in an effort to cool things off and suck some of that moisture out of the air, which can push energy costs higher.

Check the long-term forecast
Knowing trends can help determine the correct course of action when it comes to our summer cooling plan.  By checking the 10-day forecast, while it’s not always accurate (especially the later out in the forecast we go), we can at least get a general idea of what we’ll be facing when it comes to summer temps.

In turn, this helps us make decisions as to whether it’s worth turning the air conditioning on or just bearing down and taking high temps for a day or two.  There’s little sense in us running the AC all day just getting the place cooled down when opening the windows later in the evening would have done the same job.  Meanwhile, if we know we’re facing a significant stretch of plus-90 degree days, it might be time to close up the windows and get the air running before the temperature spikes so that we don’t put additional strain on our air conditioner as it struggles to catch up once our home is already 87 degrees and draped in humidity.

Utilize cool nights
Cool nights can be a huge advantage to combating summer heat.  Opening windows or putting fans in the windows to draw in cooler air can help harness those lower night-time temperatures as a natural way to cool off a home’s interior.  In our case, we can often lower the temperature of our home significantly at night, closing the windows the next morning to retain some of that cooler air inside, which sometimes allows us to keep the air conditioning off for the remainder of the day or at least a lengthy portion of it.

We’re a fan of fans
Fans act as a great and affordable way to keep us cool during the summer.  As I mentioned, we use fans at night not only to suck in cool air from the outside but to cool us while we’re sleeping.  We also use ceiling fans during the day to help circulate stagnate air and provide a breeze that keeps us from cranking up the AC.

Go for cool meals
Turning the stove or oven on when it’s 90 degrees outside often isn’t one of our top options.  Cooking big meals can add additional heat to our home when the air conditioner is already struggling to keep pace.  Not only this, but it can pump up our utility bills.

Therefore, during warmer days, we often look to create cooler meals.  Things like salads, sandwiches, and if we have to cook, trying to use the toaster oven or microwave rather than the big oven or stove top are ways we look to limit our cooling bills when things are heating up.
 

Disclaimer:
The author is not a licensed financial professional.  This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind.  Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Keys to Successfully Selling on eBay

I’ve been selling on eBay for several years now, and the more I sell, the better I get at it.  And while online selling can have its ups and downs depending upon a variety of factors, I’ve realized that there are a few areas that have really made a significant impact upon my sales levels.  These relative constants are simple rules that I follow to make my products appeal to the masses, yet I’m surprised at how many competitor products I see on a regular basis not following what seem to be quite common sense rules.

Pictures, pictures, pictures
Pictures can be an integral part of the online selling process.  Especially when I’m trying to convey quality or give customers a better sense of the detail of the products I’m selling, ensuring that I have good pictures can mean the difference between a quick sale and no sale at all.

It’s amazing to me that with the availability of affordable cameras with very good picture quality and even the amazing photo quality of many cell phones these days, I still see a number of very poor quality pictures for online products.  From fuzzy photos, to poor lighting, bad camera angles, or just too few photos, there is little excuse these days for not providing customers with a decent idea of what a product looks like.

Detail and description
I make an effort to describe my products and be as detailed as possible when putting them out for customers to view.  I find that it goes against my personal views of ethical business practices to try to hide any flaws or defects.  Not only does this break my golden rule of doing business (treating others the way I would want to be treated), but they’re likely to discover such defects eventually anyway.  Not only would this likely disappoint buyers, but would probably result in a lack of repeat business as well as poor buyer ratings, which could in turn result in loss of good standing or even my seller account as a whole.

Reasonable pricing and affordable shipping and handling charges
While I would love to make a killing on every product I sell, this typically isn’t the case.  I have to balance my product prices with what is fair and reasonable, with what will make me a profit, and that will make it worth the time it takes me to purchase, list and describe my item.  I also have to consider my competition’s prices when determining pricing of my own as well as how long it will take a product to sell at a particular price, which could affect my cashflow for purchasing additional inventory.

And while I would love to be able to pay the shipping and handling chargers for every product I sell online, sometimes it just isn’t profitable.  However, this doesn’t mean that I have to jack up my shipping charges to compensate.  For items where my profit margin allows, I sometimes offer free shipping.  For those items where my profit margin is a bit tighter though, I often pass this expense on to the customer.  Sometimes I charge a little less than it actually costs me to ship though, and share this expense with a buyer, helping to ease the pain for both sides.




Disclaimer:

The author is not a licensed financial or sales professional.  This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind.  Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Systemic Series Kindle release

    












After nearly a year, I've finally finished my work on the five book Systemic series.

The following is a brief summary of the first book.  I'd write more, but I don't want give away too much.  

Feel free to follow the link above to Amazon's Kindle Store to get your copy today!

Thanks!  And hope you enjoy!


SYSTEMIC: DOWNFALL 
Something terrible is breeding in the mountains of northwest China…a virus so infectious, its symptoms so overwhelming that its mortality rate is almost absolute.  The “Su flu” as it eventually becomes known, quickly ravages the body of its host, killing it within just days, and worse yet, it’s gone airborne.  Just weeks after making its appearance on the world stage – the earth’s population held as its captive audience – the virus has taken that stage and annihilated nearly all its spectators.

Writer and stay-at-home dad John Stevens never considered himself a “prepper” like the ones he’d seen on television.  Just a regular guy, married to a regular girl, with a wonderful two-year-old son, life in the suburbs of Chicago is good, and John and his family are living the American dream…that is, until the Su flu strikes.

With mankind suddenly gripped by the worst pandemic in history, will the foresight that led John to prepare some emergency supplies and an evacuation plan be enough for him and his family to survive not just this deadly virus but the devastating aftermath and chaos that ensues?  Or will they succumb to the renegade lawlessness that has turned much of humanity’s remnants into a vicious, scavenging, do-anything-to-survive populace?  


As John and his family search for some semblance of the world they once knew, they’ll discover just what they’re willing to do to survive in a grueling post-pandemic world. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

People are Just Now Figuring Out that a Home’s not a Good Investment?

I’ve been writing about the downsides of homeownership since before the housing market collapse and before I even became a homeowner.

It’s not that homeownership is a bad idea for everyone, but sometimes it’s hard to know just what’s involved and how much it could cost before you get there.  And if you’re looking to make money off a home ownership experience, well, unless you either live in California or are a home flipper, or both, it might not be as easy as you think.

A recent USAToday.com article quotes Noble Prize winner Robert Schiller as saying, "From 1890 to 1990, real inflation-corrected home prices were virtually unchanged."

Here are some of the costs that can make home ownership a poor investment even over the long haul.

Mortgage costs
Mortgage costs can cripple your hopes of squeezing a profit out of your home.  But it’s not just the costs of obtaining a mortgage or carrying mortgage insurance – which can be sizeable expenses in themselves – that can be the real killers, but interest on the loan itself.

Even just a percentage point different in rate can equate to tens of thousands of dollars in additional interest over the course of a mortgage.  And a 15-year versus a 30-year mortgage could make an even greater impact in the overall mortgage interest paid.  This is why it can be so important to utilize a mortgage calculator to find out just how much in interest such a loan will cost over time and how to best proceed to minimize such costs since the interest alone could end up nearly doubling the purchase price of a home over the loan’s timeframe.

Property taxes and insurance
Costs related to property taxes and insurance are often combined with a mortgage payment so that they aren’t as noticeable as individual costs.  This can mask their true cost.  However, these expenses can add significantly to the carrying cost of a property. 

Depending upon the size of your downpayment, there might be mortgage insurance involved with your loan.  The location of your home and natural or geographic dangers posed to it could substantially raise the level of your home insurance, and property taxes can fluctuate from area to area and home to home, ranging from only a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars per year.

All those extras
Owning a home can come with a variety of additional costs.  From yard maintenance and lawn care to home repairs, updates, furnishings, and more, upkeep of a home can cost thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars a year depending upon the size, age, condition, and needs of the home and property.

Some put the average annual costs for repairs and maintenance at around 2 percent of the home’s value, but expenses can rise or fall dramatically from year to year depending upon the need for higher-cost repairs like a roof replacement, kitchen or bath remodel, or similar big-ticket expense.

And with all these costs involved in home ownership, unless you’re living in a location where property values rise consistently and at a decent rate, it can be difficult to make money with a home over the long run.



Disclaimer:

The author is not a licensed financial, mortgage or real estate professional.  This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind.  Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Preferring Tangible over Financial Assets

The stock market rise of 2013 and 2014 seems almost unstoppable.  Even when there are pull-backs, it seems they’re brief in duration and small in their contraction.  While this is great for many investors at the moment, it could make the fall all the more difficult to bear when it eventually comes.  And it’s just one reason why I prefer tangible over financial assets.

According to a recent excerpt posted on DollarCollapse.com from “The Money Bubble” by James Turk and John Rubino, “Wealth comes in many forms, but only two general categories: tangible and financial. Tangible wealth is made up of real, physical things like buildings, farmland, oil wells, commodities, etc. These things can be seen and touched, and – crucially – they don’t have counterparty risk. That is, no one else has to make good on a promise for a tangible asset to have value.”

The excerpt goes on to note, “Financial assets like bank deposits, insurance policies, bonds, and annuities do have counterparty risk, which is to say they depend on someone else’s promise. A bank deposit, for instance, only has value if the bank is willing and able to produce that money when the account holder requests it. And a piece of paper currency is only valuable if the government manages the money supply properly.”

While I find that in many cases, a broad diversification of assets is the best route to go, here are some of the other reasons why I prefer tangible over financial assets.

Broader diversification
I’ll admit, having financial assets is almost a necessity in any portfolio these days.  Most people with an eye toward their retirement future will likely have a 401(k), IRA, 403(b), Roth IRA, individual stocks, or similar stock-based plan.  However, to me, these are all loaves in the same breadbasket…the stock market.

Tangible assets can open up a variety of investing options – land and real estate, physical commodities, precious gems, antiques, collectibles, and more – that can add diversification to an investment portfolio.

A hedge against uncertainty
And what if the stock market were to crash suddenly and/or our financial system no longer functioned as it has for decades?  What if all those paper assets were suddenly worthless?  What if all those blips and figures on a computer screen or paper statement printout were meaningless?  All you might have left are things like land, a home, precious metals, and other useable or exchangeable tangible assets that suddenly might mean much more than any amount of money in a stock market fund.

Life sustainability
With such assets available, you could find that they are much more life sustaining in an uncertain environment than loads of cash or a million dollars worth of stock.  Being able to harness the power of land – cut trees for fuel, grow produce, raise livestock, hunt and fish for food – could prove to be a real lifesaver…literally.

So while those who promote such assets might sometimes take hard knocks as being the overly-conservative prepper types, tangible assets may protect against a variety of financial occurrences, add diversity to an investment portfolio, and help hedge against uncertainty.



Disclaimer:

The author is not a licensed financial professional.  This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind.  Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

I don’t Know Anyone Waiting Until 70 to Retire

I keep reading and hearing advice about waiting until age 70 to retire.  And there was even an article on MainStreet.com entitled, “Retirement Delayed: Why age 70 is the new 65”.  It notes, “More Americans are holding off on retirement until they reach their seventies. A recent research paper published by the Center for Retirement Research (CRR) at Boston College reveals that Social Security’s real retirement age is now 70.”

But for those with whom I associate, this isn’t the case.  Far from it in fact.  Most people I know who are retiring or nearing retirement are either doing so at or before age 65.  So why are they not heeding the advice to delay their retirement?

Social Security payments will go up…if you live that long
The Mainstreet.com article I previously mentioned states, “Delaying your Social Security benefits has the potential to increase the total amount of income you'll receive throughout your lifetime by $100,000 or more.”

To me, and many other future retirees, the key word in that quote is “potential”.  Sure, you might recoup all or even more than the amount in benefits you’d receive by retiring on time, but how long will that take?  While longevity and family health history can certainly play a part in this equation, figuring out just how much longer you’d have to live to make higher payment amounts worth the missed five years of monthly payments worthwhile may be a worthy endeavor before assuming delaying payments is the right move. 

Part-time work
Some of the retirees that I know find part-time work is a strong possibility in their retirement years.  And while this work may not be through a regular employer, it garners them income through activities that they enjoy doing and that make them feel useful and/or productive.

This not only makes for a more meaningful and satisfying retirement in which there is a maintained sense of purpose, but it provides further financial stability (even if the income made from such activities isn’t substantial compared to previous income levels) that can allow for an on-time retirement.

Family is a powerful force
Family can be powerful force when it comes to determining a retirement age.  Many of the people I know are retiring to be closer to family – especially grandchildren.  However, there is more to the retirement question than just proximity when it comes to family.

A family can also be a critical support system that can add security to a retirement and bolster confidence in an early retirement decision.  Knowing that family is there to provide support services (transportation, home repairs, yard work, monetary security, etc.) as well as a potential living situation, should it come to that, can add to the conviction that an earlier retirement may be a better move than delaying those golden years.


Disclaimer:

The author is not a licensed financial professional.  This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind.  Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

There’s No Excuse for not Understanding Your Finances these Days

If you’re reading this article then I assume you have access to the internet.  And if you have access to the internet, then – whether you realize it or not – you may have the opportunity to utilize all sorts of incredibly easy-to-use financial tools.

You don’t necessarily have to be any financial wizard or have a business background to utilize a litany of available financial tools these days.  So there is little excuse for not harnessing these tools to better understand your personal finances.

Debt payoff calculators
According to CNN Money, “The average American household with at least one credit card has nearly $15,950 in credit-card debt (in 2012), according to CreditCards.com, and the average interest rate runs in the mid- to high teens at any given time.”

Figuring out how to tackle consumer debt can be difficult.  Which debts to payoff first, how much to apply to those debt, and how long it will take to pay down the debt are all questions that might be lingering in a person’s mind when looking at their overall debt situation.  Using a debt payoff calculator could help getting a better grasp on just what loans are outstanding, how the overall interest obligation may be reduced if such loans are consolidated, what the payoff timeframe would be if making extra payments in certain amounts, as well as assist in sorting the loans by type, amount, associated interest rate, and remaining number of payments.

Mortgage and amortization calculators
It’s amazing to me how many people have mortgages but understand so little about how these debt obligations can affect their finances over time.  How mortgages are amortized (broken down between interest and principal), how interest rates affect how much such a loan costs over time, whether it’s a good idea to refinance at a particular interest rate, how much interest is paid on top of the loan amount itself over the course of a mortgage, and the total cost of a mortgage are all things that various mortgage calculators can help determine.  Not only this, but a mortgage payoff calculator might help with seeing just how much of a difference extra payments can make when applied to a mortgage and how small contributions can add up to big savings in this area.

Investment calculators
But financial calculators can be helpful in more than just determining how best to pay back money.  They can also help determine how best to make it.  However, it can be hard these days to find safe investments that earn much in interest.  In many cases, certificates of deposit, savings bonds, savings and checking accounts, money market funds, and the likes just aren’t paying out much in returns.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not worth trying though.

Understanding what certain investment returns can earn you over time can still be critical to the financial planning process.  Investment calculators allow you to see investment amounts grow over time, set short and long-term goals, review your net worth, and determine where to put money to maximize its growth and return potential.



Disclaimer:

The author is not a licensed financial professional.  This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind.  Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Why Does the Country Keep Falling for ‘Wimpy’nomics?

As a kid, I used to watch old Popeye cartoon reruns.  I still remember the character Wimpy and his catchphrase, “I’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

As a child, this statement was funny and I really didn’t pay much attention to the meaning behind it.  However, as this now seems to be the common catchphrase for a growing segment of the American consumer, I don’t find it funny at all.  In fact, I find it rather scary.  And after the financial crisis and ensuing recession, I wonder why the American public keeps falling for what I like to call, “Wimpynomics” or the constant borrowing of money for things today that might be paid for later. 

Debt, debt, debt
From homes, vehicles, and educations to phones, appliances, computers, televisions, and more, it seems like so many of the major – and even not so major – purchases people make these days are done so with credit.

As CNBC.com notes in a May 2014 article, “Outstanding household debt rose by $129 billion from the previous quarter, boosted by a $116 billion jump in mortgage debt and smaller rises in student and auto loans, the report said. Total household indebtedness was $11.65 trillion, which is still 8.1 percent below the peak in the third quarter of 2008.”

A little delayed gratification might be the answer we’re looking for
Sometimes a little delayed gratification is all it might take to keep debt at bay and even appreciate the things we have, want, and eventually buy, a little bit more.  This could also have kept poor Wimpy’s rotund waistline a bit trimmer.

Remember those days proceeding Christmas or your birthday as a child?  Do you remember how excited you got and the anticipation of what was or might be coming?  Sometimes the days leading up to the actual event were almost more exciting and the day itself somewhat anticlimactic.  Well, the reason you likely remember those days was because of all that anticipation.  And the appreciation of finally getting those toys or trinkets hopefully had you caring for them like they were your own children.

Well, the same can go for us as adults except that we no longer have parents to restrain us from creating our own little Christmas mornings all the time for ourselves with our credit cards.  Exercising a little self-restraint might not only keep us from greater buyer’s remorse but help us appreciate and care for our purchases a little more.

The reward for saving is saving itself
Some people use the excuse that due to low interest rates on savings, there’s really no reward for setting a little cash aside.  But sometimes, the reward for savings is the savings itself.

Even if your savings aren’t growing much, or even at all, they’re there.  They can act as reserve funds, ready for an emergency, to be put to use in a new business venture, be saved for retirement, or should the opportunity present itself, put to work in an investment with greater returns.  So while poor returns on savings can be an excuse, the savings themselves could be the reward for your self-restraint and saving efforts.
 

Disclaimer:

The author is not a licensed financial professional.  This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind.  Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Squeezing a Home Business Center into a Small Living Space

We live in a tiny, two bedroom one bath condo.  And with two small kids, while our home is economically beneficial, it certainly presents challenges when it comes to space…or lack thereof.

 This means that as someone who works from home, while also playing the at-home parenting role, it’s often difficult finding space to call my own when it comes to my work, a portion of which includes online selling.  This online sales role requires a variety of materials to make it successful, and setting up a home business center in a small living space has proved a challenge.  I’ve found certain ways to make our small space work for my business needs though.

Products
With space at a premium, I try to keep the things I sell online small.  By reducing the size of my products to envelopes or small box-size, I minimize the amount of space I need to keep a decent stock of inventory on hand.  Items like books, CDs, DVDs, coins, and similar sized things are easier to keep in our small space than items like larger electronics, dishware, lamps, artwork, and other larger, bulkier items.  In this way, I can lay everything out in my small business center sales space so that I can see what I have listed to sell, what’s waiting to be listed, and what I have in reserve inventory.

Devoting an area
Speaking of my sales and business center area, I have a specific space designated for this work.  With two small children in our home, I have chosen a large dresser, which allows me a flat surface upon which to spread out my shipping supplies, printer, scale, and sale items.  This also means that the dresser’s top is high enough to be out of reach of little hands, which keeps kid messes to a minimum.

This space is specifically for my business purposes and is not to be cluttered up with anything that is not business related (i.e. toys, clothes, homework, etc.).

Staying organized
Keeping my small workspace organized may be one of the most difficult aspects of having a home business center.  I’ve learned that by designating specific spots on this worktop for certain items, it makes it easier to give each item a home and keep everything in its place.  It also makes it quicker and easier to find things when I’m busy since I know exactly where to look for them.  Envelopes are in one spot.  Tape, the stapler, scissors, and paper clips are in another.  Bubble wrap and other packing materials are found in another space.  Ink refills are in another, and inventory in another.  By reducing clutter, it also helps me know when I’m getting low on supplies.

In this way, while space is limited, I maximize what’s available to me and make it work by getting organized and staying that way.




Disclaimer:

The author is not a licensed financial professional.  This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind.  Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Collectibles for the Rest of Us

An MSN Money article on the subject of collectibles noted that, “According to the KFLII (Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index), collectibles in some of the categories sold for record amounts last year. For example, a thimble-sized, 1,000-year-old Chinese bowl made during the Northern Song Dynasty that was bought at a garage sale for $3 in 2013 was subsequently sold at a Sotheby's (BID) auction for $2.2 million in March 2013, a record price for the time. Last year, the "Pink Star" diamond was auctioned for $83 million.”

Not all of us have $83 Million to drop on a diamond though. Many of us don’t even have $83 for buying extras at the end of the month.  But collecting doesn’t only have to be for the rich.  In fact, it’s often available in various forms to a huge portion of the population if they know what to look for and how to handle it.  Setting just a little money aside each month could have you forming a nice collection that you can not only enjoy but that could build value for the future.

Here are a few collecting ideas for those of us without substantial incomes and that my own family has partaken in over the years.

Art
People may dismiss art as a collectible for the common person simple because they associate it with art auctions in which paintings sell for millions or even tens of millions of dollars.  However, art is available in many forms and prices ranges.  Not every piece has to be a Van Gogh or a Picasso to eventually grow in value.

Woven rugs or handcrafted pottery, comic books or pieces of jewelry, a picture that a family member created or oddity purchased at a garage sale for a buck could all be affordable options when it comes to starting or growing your own art collection.  Remember, art is often in the eye of the beholder, and sometimes the odder it is, the more valuable it becomes.

Coins
I’ve had an interest in coin collecting since I was a kid.  There was just something about the history of a coin – where it’s been, who has held it, why it’s designed the way it is – that intrigued me, but I’ve never had the financial capacity to invest in really high value collectible coins.  Still, this hasn’t put my off my interest in coins.

You’d be surprised just how many rare coins and bills are still out in circulation, free for the picking if you know your stuff and take a few seconds to check your pocket change or wallet.  I just sold a flawed bill I got from the bank the other day on eBay for a $15 profit.  It’s not a huge amount, but the initial investment cost me nothing more than the time involved in checking the bills in my wallet. 

Home furnishings
You might be surprised at how furniture and other home furnishings can appreciate over time.  And such items may be available for purchase for far less than you’d expect or find in a retail setting.  From garage sales and resale stores to consignment shops and even just set out on the curb as trash, hutches, tables, chairs, mirrors, vases, cabinets, rugs, and more may all be items that we can not only utilize in our homes but that may be or eventually become collectibles.

With a little cleaning or refinishing, value may be added to such common household wares, and over time, with the proper care, these items may appreciate in price significantly, especially if the initial purchase price was next to nothing.

So just because you’re not a millionaire, it doesn’t mean that you can’t indulge in collectibles.  Often, the buy-in for these items is far less than you might think, and with a little knowledge and given some time, you could find yourself with a nice investment for the future.



Disclaimer:
The author is not a licensed financial professional or antiques or collectibles dealer.  This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind.  Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.