Bellwether's Blog on life and money
Suddenly the air is cooler, and I'm getting that "back-to-school" feeling even though its been years since I've gone back to school. But there are things I'm hoping to get done in the next month to help me prepare for next year. Might be a good time for you as well.
Fall is Financial Preparedness Season
If you have a financial planner, Fall is a great time to check in with them and get their thoughts on the following topics. Some changes require forms being submitted, or review by your planner/advisor. They could take time for completion. To avoid a crunch and a longer wait later, get started now and you'll be ready for year end.
- Turning 70 1/2 next year? You need to think about minimum distributions from traditional IRAs and 401(k) plans.
- Still waiting to make your charitable donations for the year? Select recipients and make your donation. They'll appreciate it, and you could have some tax deductions to take advantage of.
- Is it open enrollment time for benefits? Collect information and discuss your options, then make the best selections for you and your family. Compare available insurance plans, and check into workplace retirement plans to take full advantage of any matching funds. If you don't you're leaving money on the table.
- If your FSA account ends at the end of the year, make sure to spend that money. Eye exams, teeth cleaning, chiropractor visits, new glasses, and annual exams are a great way to use up these funds! Remember, with flex accounts, if you don't spend it, you lose it. Elective surgeries, or procedures you've been putting off may cost more than your remaining flex account holds, but if that's the case, now may be the perfect time to consider increasing your flex account for next year.
No financial planner? Bellwether Community Credit Union offers all of our members access to a Financial Planner and a free financial assessment. Read more on our website.
Set up a folder for tax related paperwork. Forms and documents will start arriving over the next few months. Setting aside a special folder now and putting things in as they arrive is a safe way stay organized, whether you do your own taxes or have someone else do them.
Establish Next Year's Budget
If you don't already have one, consider setting up a budget for your household for next year. Look at your full year's bills, utilities, rent/mortgage, vacation, holiday shopping, school costs, groceries, car payments, etc and make this the year that you plan ahead, and live within your means! Maybe even set up a plan to get that credit card debt paid down or those student loans on a trend to getting paid off!
- Establish your holiday spending budget now and decide where those funds are coming from.
- If you haven't already, consider opening a holiday/club account at your local credit union so next year you'll know exactly how much you're spending and where those funds will be coming from.
Share Financial Knowledge with Your Children
Discuss budgeting with your children and set up savings accounts for them as appropriate.
Now may be a good time to discuss allowances, technology, online safety and other topics with your children. Just a refresher as you head into the new year with a refreshed focus on making this next year better than ever!1 Comment(s)
Until recently, I’d never been to the top of Mount Washington. It was always too far, too expensive, or the weather was not cooperating. This summer though, we had guests from out of town, so a sunny Saturday found us all enjoying this experience of a lifetime.
Weather in New England
This is New England, the weather on the mountain can change at a moment’s notice, and it usually does! You'll definitely be dealing with wind. Perhaps the balmy breeze we enjoyed, but more than likely a strong 35 mph or more depending on the time of year. Check Mount Washington’s website before you go. The Auto Road may be open in rainy, foggy weather, but you’re not going to see much!
Options for Getting There
“Taking the Cog”
The Cog Railway has been taking tourists to the summit 1868! It’s a fun way for everyone to enjoy the ride up. Available April – November.
- Discounts offered on the final run of the day
- Military discounts
- Check with your hotel or timeshare for a group discount
- Average price non-discounted for a family of four is >$200
The train fills fast so making reservations before you arrive is a good idea! Boarding starts 45 minutes before departure!
Guided Tours – “Take the Stage”
Enjoy the ride with a tour guide/driver. Round trip allows half an hour for travel up and down, and an hour spent on the summit. Reservations are accepted for first two trips of the day, "first come, first served" after that. Tickets sell out by 1 PM some days. Hikers and their dogs are welcome for a one way trip up or down.
In winter, take the SnowCoach to the 4,200 foot mark/tree line.
- Discounts for seniors
- Military Discount Available
Average price for family of four $100.
"This Car Climbed Mount Washington!" You'll find out why this is such a big deal. This is a narrow road with no guard rails, and half of the trip you'll have nothing between you and the multiple thousand foot drop. If anyone (especially the driver) is uncomfortable with heights, give this serious thought. There is no room to turn around if you change your mind. Thankfully, the ride down is less scary. But take it slow and use pull-out areas frequently to let your brakes cool. We drove our mini-van and had no issues, but stopped 3 or 4 times on the way down to take photos, and let the brakes cool a bit. Water is available half way down for radiators.
There is an electric car charging station at the bottom.
- $28 per car/one driver
- $8 each additional adult
- $6 per child
Fee includes a bumper sticker and certificate celebrating your momentous achievement, and a CD narrating your drive both up and down!
Mount Washington offers photo opportunities galore, lessons on rock formation, wildlife, weather, and ecology.
Healthy food options are available at the top of the mountain. There is a museum, tours of the observation center, and numerous trails that start and end at the top so you can drive up, do a bit of hiking, then drive back down.
With planning, this is a great experience for the entire family.0 Comment(s)
What to expect your first year out of college
Your first year out of college might sound like a scary time, but it doesn’t have to be if you know what you’re up against. As a recent college graduate I’m facing some obstacles, but for the most part embracing what lies ahead. In the same situation? This advice might ease the transition from student to post-grad life.
It’s easy to think you have a ton of money when you get your first job. News Flash: you probably don’t. If you are living at home with mom and dad, your financial situation may be a little easier, but if you are living on your own -think again.
Making a budget is hugely important to see where your paycheck really needs to go every month. (Not all of it will be in your pocket). Consider the following:
- Laundry (if not included in apartment)
- Cell Phone
- Car Payment
- Gas Money
- Student Loans
- Gym Membership
- Health Costs
Once the allotted money is set aside for all of your expenses, whatever is leftover can then be used for fun money or savings. I recommend saving at least part of every paycheck for future or unexpected bills and emergencies.
Apps, such as MINT, can help you manage your finances right from your smartphone.
You may have previous work experience and internships, but if you don’t, all the more reason to do your “homework”. This NY Times article offers real life first job experiences. Some tips you should gain from the article are:
- Invest in a professional wardrobe
- Take initiative
- Remember you don’t know everything
Don’t forget that being professional applies to both in the office and outside the office. If you have social media accounts-make sure they’re appropriate.
The reality is post-grad life can cause a lot of stress. It is important to keep in touch with friends and do the things that make you happy. Just like in college when you select a major based on what you enjoy, the job that you accept should make you happy too. It is important to find passion in what you are learning. You won’t be happy if you spend your life doing things you hate. Check out this link from Lifehacker.com about choosing a career you actually like.
The University Herald outlines 7 Tips to Thrive in Your First Year out of College. These tips stood out to me:
- Don’t apply to jobs that won’t make you happy
- Avoid stressing about your major and GPA
- Don’t fear the unknown
They’re important tips to remember. It is inevitable to stress about post-grad life, but you can’t let it get the best of you. The future is going to come and the best you can do is be open-minded and ready for new opportunities and adventures that come your way. This time will soon be gone and you’ll have responsibilities that don’t allow the flexibility you enjoy now. Stay alert and have fun.0 Comment(s)
For years, I balanced my checkbook every month! Saturday mornings I'd pay bills, and each month, when my statement came in the mail, I'd sit down, and go through the register, ticking off checks, making a note of anything that hadn’t yet been cashed, and congratulating myself when those columns added up and everything balanced. I remember spending two hours once trying to track down an 18 cent error. What a waste of a Saturday.
Enter the World of Electronic Banking
About 12 years ago, I was having lunch with a friend. She stopped eating mid bite,
“Ooh, give me a sec, I forgot to make my car payment.” She walked over to her computer and after a couple clicks of the keyboard, she returned to the table.
“What was that?” I asked.
“I just paid my car payment. I use that online banking thing and I love it! I don’t even balance my checkbook anymore! I keep track of everything online.”
I had visions of myself surrounded by checks and bills on a sunny Saturday. No more! The moment I got home I went online and signed up for online billpay. Back then they charged a fee for it, probably $4 or $5 a month, but considering the stamps, time and checks I’d be saving, that seemed a reasonable fee.
Flash forward a decade or more and it seems everyone uses online banking and bill pay, and it's FREE! Plus they offer eStatements and eBills which cuts back on mail. I usually set up bill payments a month or more in advance, use the recurring payment option for things like my mortgage, and I know that my payment will get where it needs to go, when it needs to be there! No more lost checks in the mail! No more sunny Saturdays trying to find eighteen cents!
Even With Electronic Banking, It's Best to Monitor Your Accounts
If you go with electronic banking, you still need to keep an eye on your account. I set up an automatic weekly reminder. This came in handy recently, when I noticed that an eBill had come in for the second month in a row showing that I was behind on a payment. I know I’d made it on time. After some research, I discovered that when I received a new credit card recently, I’d typed in the wrong number to my Bill Pay account. The payments had gone into a black hole at the credit card company and eventually got refunded… not credited to my account! I provided the credit card company with copies of eStatements, and explained the error I’d made with the account number. They happily refunded me the late fees! I'm not sure how long it would have taken me to discover the error if I'd been balancing checks the old fashioned way.
- Electronic Banking is a time saver!
- eStatements provide easy, paperless access to all your records and payments.
- You need to check your account information periodically.
Bellwether offers Online Banking, Free Bill Pay, eStatements, External Transfers, Pay Your Loan (so you can make payments on your Bellwether loans with funds from other financial institutions) and mobile banking so you can manage your accounts, transfer funds, and even make payments all from your mobile device.
There are lots of options to make your banking easier. Why not give it a try?0 Comment(s)
Have you ever wanted to sit outside and watch a movie with friends over dinner and drinks? Before you start draping a sheet from your deck and buying a projector, why not check out what the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce has done in downtown Nashua? Starting in June, and running thru August every other Wednesday night you can catch a classic movie such as Anchorman, Top Gun, or Office Space on the big screen, right on streets of downtown!
Hosted on East & West Pearl Street, you’ll enjoy an outdoor dining experience complete with a customized food menu and themed drinks from local restaurants. Some of the restaurants involved this year were Villa Banca, Surf and Martha's Exchange. Arrive by 6pm to claim good seats at one of the 20+ ten-person tables, order some appetizers and get the night started. The movie doesn’t start until the sun has almost set so you’ll have plenty of time to eat, chat and enjoy a beverage of your choice. Once the movie starts, servers continue to take orders. The street is blocked off, so you don’t have to worry about cars, and restrooms are located just inside the host restaurant. Watch for the 2015 schedule in May.
Even though the Downtown Dinner & Movie series is over for this year, there are other alternative outdoor movie venues to check out before the winter arrives.
Milford Drive-In: Open from April thru September, rain or shine. Enjoy new releases right from the comfort of your vehicle and full concessions are available. Check website for screen schedules.
Prescott Park (Portsmouth) Monday Night Movie Series: Enjoy family-friendly films like The Incredibles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Frozen under the stars. Concessions are available but be sure to bring your own blanket or chair. (Check the schedule before you go, some movies are rated R)
Outdoor Movie Rentals: Why not put on the best outdoor movie night possible for your friends and family, or your co-workers? You can with the help of Community Events and their Outdoor Movie Rental packages.0 Comment(s)