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The Financial Benefits of Practicing Gratitude

Giving thanks can make you happier; focusing on gratitude has been known to help with anxiety and depression. But can gratitude make you richer? 

Greed and gratitude have long been regarded as opposites — just consider Scrooge’s transformation in “A Christmas Carol.” However, gratitude can come with some financial benefits. Here are just a few. 

Improved Financial Planning

Gratitude can improve your financial planning. Impatience and greed can promote impulsive financial decisions. But if you’re grateful for what you have, you’re less inclined to overspend on what you don’t. Gratitude is a remedy for the spending impulse that can shatter financial dreams.

If you want to cultivate this habit, simply take stock of the things you have to be grateful for. Family and friends might top your list, but it’s okay to be grateful for a place to live and a car that runs. Finding joy in your current situation can keep you from impulsively trying to seek out more.

Improved Investment Decisions

Gratitude is all about finding contentment in what you already have. And that kind of attitude can prevent you from the need to have it all — or the need to have it all right now. That can lead to better investment decisions. 

Instead of risking too much on that hot new startup, you might be better off investing in a “buy-and-hold” stock or mutual fund. These investments won’t bring a meteoric return on your investment, but they will provide sustainable, long-term growth. 

Try an experiment. Think about where you want to be, financially speaking, 10 or even 20 years from now. Now, consider the kinds of investments that might get you there. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make a few high-risk investments, but you’ll be better off with a stable, large-cap stock or even an index fund.

Improved Career Prospects

A life of thankfulness can make you more content with yourself. And that can change the way you handle your career. Think about the negative side for a moment. If you’re not grateful for your current job, you might just be miserable. You’ll be less likely to invest in your role, or even to engage your coworkers — unless it’s to complain.

However, if you can really see the positive side of having a job, then you’ll be more likely to give it everything you have. That sort of “can-do” spirit won’t go unnoticed by your employers. Being grateful for your current role can therefore help you achieve a promotion. Alternatively, at the very least, gratitude for your job might save you from looking through the want ads during a tough labor cycle.

Gratitude Benefits Your Wallet and Your Soul

Without gratitude, you’re condemned to the curse of Mick Jagger: you can’t get no satisfaction. But being thankful for what you have can make you feel fulfilled and spare you from the quest for something more. 

That’s good news for your wallet as well as your soul. Thankfulness for your current financial situation can prevent you from impulsive financial decisions and provide you with greater stability in your investments and your career.

Lifestyle

Gift Ideas That Promote Financial Literacy

Everyone likes getting money as a gift. Whether it’s a gift card in a Christmas stocking or $200 in cash tucked into a graduation card, giving money is a universally welcome gesture. But what about giving a present that offers more than money — one that reinforces the value of money?

The following gift ideas for people of all ages can keep on giving long after they’re first given.

Contribute to Their 529 College Account

If you know a young person planning to go to college, you can make their path a little easier by donating to their 529 college account. It helps them save for future college tuition and expenses by locking them in at current rates. More than that, 529 accounts typically come with loads of tax advantages that can prove extremely valuable in the future. 

Every U.S. state administers 529 accounts differently. Some offer varied investment options, and others may have unique tax policies. Check with a local financial pro to learn more before you give. 

Make a Charitable Donation in Their Name

Whether they want to help improve other’s lives or further important issues, everyone cares about something. You can help them promote their cause by contributing to a non-profit organization in their name.

This is a gift that’s rewarding on several levels. It helps form a bond between the recipient and the causes most important to them. It benefits people in need, not just the giver and recipient. On top of that, the gift is usually tax-deductible.

Schedule a One-Hour Session With a Financial Professional

This idea is good for teenagers or young adults who are just getting started in personal financial planning. They’re about to enter into a complex system that can be difficult to navigate, even at advanced ages. Just a little knowledge now can be greatly beneficial in the future.

A skilled and experienced financial professional can lay the groundwork for a life of fiscal responsibility. They can give your recipient a basic framework for saving, investing, budgeting, and more. 

Give Them Stocks as a Present

Stock shares — even just fractional ones — can help gift recipients build wealth. For those new to financial dealings, this gift can give them a context to learn more about investing in the future. Especially if there’s an industry or sector they’re passionate about, gifts of stock shares can be stepping stones to crafting investment strategies.

Buy stocks as you normally would through your brokerage, then transfer ownership to your recipient. Make sure you’re aware of the tax implications for both you and them.

Contribute to Your Spouse’s or Child’s IRA

Saving for a happy and healthy retirement is the main objective of long-term financial planning. If you’re married to someone with an earned income, or you have a child whose future you’d like to make a little easier, you can contribute to their retirement account.

There are guidelines in place for making donations to your spouse’s or child’s IRA. Some financial institutions even offer IRAs specifically for spouses and children. However, be aware that your recipient must be actively making earned income to receive the gift. Be absolutely clear on local and federal regulations regarding IRA donations.

Give Gifts That Will Last

These financial gift ideas provide more than instant gratification. They can help build and develop financial literacy that will last a lifetime.

Lifestyle

Financial Planning for the Holidays

Have you started counting down the shopping days remaining this holiday season? Despite inflation, consumer spending rose by more than 7% during the 2022 holidays. But that’s all the more reason to keep a tight rein on your finances and start the New Year off right. Here are some financial planning tips for a happy holiday season.

Set a Budget

You’ll likely exceed your usual monthly budget around the end of the year. But that doesn’t mean you should spend beyond your means. Instead, set a clear limit for gifts and end-of-year celebrations.

It’s important to start budgeting for the holidays ahead of time, allocating some of your discretionary income over the months leading up to the end of the year.

Watch Those Credit Cards

It’s tempting to pull out your credit card for major holiday purchases. But beware; the holidays make it far too easy to rack up credit card debt. When you must use your credit card, keep careful track of your spending and pay off your balance before the due date.

Also, be cautious about saving your credit card on popular e-commerce sites. Storing your credit card data makes it easier to come back and spend more money later on, which can lead to impulse spending that derails your monthly budget.

Look for Deals

One of the positive sides of the holiday shopping season is that retailers are competing for your business. Consumers can often find great deals on major items, so it pays to shop around before making a final purchasing decision.

Black Friday is practically a holiday unto itself, as is Cyber Monday. But most retailers offer promotional specials as early as several days before Thanksgiving, as well as promotions that run throughout the holiday season.

Get Creative With Gifts

Some of the best gifts don’t come from a store or online retailer. Consider giving experiences, such as volunteering during the winter months or even planning an affordable family vacation.

Bonus tip: Skip the big box chains entirely and purchase locally made products from small businesses in your community. While this might not save you money, anything you spend will go back into your local economy.

Plan Ahead for Next Year

Once January rolls around, it’s time to pay off any debts you accumulated over the holidays. It’s also time to think about next year. If you struggle to fit holiday shopping into your budget, you may want to set aside a portion of your disposable income every month for holiday shopping. 

The earlier you start saving, the better equipped you’ll be to cover all of your holiday costs without going into debt. You can rest easy in December, knowing you can celebrate with your loved ones without feeling the pain in January.

Having a Happy Holiday

The holidays are a season of love and charity, but that doesn’t mean you can let your guard down when it comes to spending. By following these tips, you can stay in control of your budget, all while having a happy holiday.

Lifestyle

How to Select an Assisted Living Facility

The decision to move a loved one into an assisted living facility is never easy. It often entails giving up some independence and saying goodbye to one’s home. Once you and your loved one have come to an agreement that an assisted living facility (ALF) is the best next step, it’s time to find the right one for your family member’s financial, health and lifestyle situations.

If you and your family member live far apart from each other, the first consideration may be the location of the ALF. Will your loved one move closer to you or stay near their current home? After you’ve chosen the vicinity, you can start searching for a facility.

How to Find Facilities

  • Ask for recommendations from friends or other family members who have experience with ALFs.
  • Consult your local or state Area Agency on Aging. You can find your nearest agency on the federally supported Eldercare Locator website.
  • Inquire with your loved one’s doctor for preferred nearby facilities, if staying in the same area.

Questions to Ask

When you call the facilities, you will likely speak to a salesperson who should be able to answer the following questions. Ask as many as are relevant to your situation. Use these as a guide and feel free to add more specific questions about the activities and amenities, special care your loved one may need or other preferences.

  • How many units or beds does the ALF have? Are there units with private bathrooms and kitchens?
  • Are the units furnished? Can residents bring their own furniture?
  • What amenities are on-site?
  • Is the facility pet-friendly?
  • What forms of payment or insurance programs are accepted?
  • How does the facility bill for additional services rendered?
  • Does each resident have a personalized care plan?
  • Who is on staff to tend to the residents? Staff can include nurses, physical therapists and pharmacists, as well as housekeepers, cooks and activity directors.
  • How does the ALF hire staff? Does it require a certain level of training? Does it conduct background checks?
  • If a resident needs more medical attention after moving in, can the facility accommodate a change in circumstances?
  • Can residents continue to be treated by their own physicians?
  • When a resident who needs to spend an extended period of time in a hospital or a rehabilitation center, will his or her unit be held until he or she returns?

What to Observe during Visits

After you’ve narrowed your choices down to a few ALFs, make plans to visit each one more than once. This way, you can see how the facility is run, observe the interaction between the residents and staff and speak to those who live and work there. Bring your loved one with you, if possible. Try to go during the day and in the evening so that you see two different shifts of employees. When you’re at the ALF, look for qualities and amenities such as:

  • Condition and cleanliness of the property
  • Emergency power source
  • Safety features, including fire alarms, sprinklers, call buttons and window and door locks
  • Clearly marked exits
  • Ample common areas
  • Friendliness of staff
  • Healthiness and happiness of residents

How to Read the Contract

Before you sign the contract of the ALF you’ve chosen, review it carefully. You might want to enlist an attorney or a financial adviser to take a look at it as well. Here are a few items to take note of:

  • Pay close attention to the fees, including any security deposit, so there are no surprises on your bill.
  • Look for language regarding your right to file a lawsuit. Some ALFs discourage cases against them by requiring arbitration to settle any claims of negligence or injury.
  • What is the ALF’s policy when it comes to termination of a resident’s contract? If the facility requests the resident to leave, how much notice will be given? What are the reasons that could lead to this discharge?
  • What happens if you’re no longer able to pay the monthly rent?

These guidelines are just a start to how to assess which ALF is best for you and your family member. Find trusted resources to help you make your decision, and visit often to ensure your loved one is getting the care he or she deserves.

Lifestyle

Planning for Retirement: What to Do When You’re No Longer Working

Make the Most out of Your Retirement

Some people know exactly how they want to spend their retirement years and others haven’t given much thought to their post-career lives. If you’re the latter, we have put together a few suggestions for how to occupy yourself during your hard-earned leisure years.

Volunteer

Do you have a favorite cause that’s near to your heart? Reach out to a local organization that serves that cause and find out how you can help out. Often, there are a variety of needs – anything from fundraising to carpentry, depending on the charity – so you can choose a volunteer position that suits your skills and interests.

If you still have a passion for your career, share your business experience and knowledge with students. Contact your city’s Junior Achievement office or your neighborhood high school to explore mentorship opportunities.

You can also search for organizations by interest, like family services or environment, and location on the AmeriCorps and Senior Corps website.

Take up a New Hobby

Have you always had an interest in an activity that you haven’t had the time to pursue? Or maybe you want to discover a side of yourself. Picking up a new hobby could be the solution for you.

  • Sign up for golf or tennis lessons at your local recreation center or sports club. You can likely purchase inexpensive, used equipment at a yard sale or sporting goods resale store. Dance, yoga, and even self-defense classes are other possibilities.
  • Teach yourself how to paint or register for an art or craft class at your local college, museum, or art supply store.
  • Take music lessons and perform for family and friends, become a member of a band, or just play for your own enjoyment.
  • Start or join a gardening club, a quilting bee, a book club, or another group to share your new interest.

Of course, these are just a few ideas to get you started. Keep an open mind and know you don’t have to commit to any one hobby. Have fun trying out new things. You never know what you will end up loving to do.

Go Back to School

If you love to learn, consider enrolling in a course or two – or even earning another degree, if you have the inclination and the means. Many community colleges offer continuing education programs with courses in everything from foreign languages to art to computer skills. You might find a new passion and meet new friends while exercising also your brain.

Travel

Once you’re retired, you don’t have to ask for time off or limit yourself to a one-week vacation, so the world is your oyster!

  • Explore the United States by driving cross-country. Consider buying or renting an RV for comfort and convenience.
  • Create a bucket list goal, like visiting all 50 states, every national park, or even every continent.
  • Go on a cruise – or many. You can choose from sailings that last only a few nights and world or transatlantic voyages.
  • Look into travel groups for people in your age range and interests. Organizations like AAA and AARP, as well as your college alumni association and perhaps your neighborhood association, might have such groups already in place.

Be sure to take into account your finances, your health, and other personal factors before making a large commitment regarding your retirement plans, but also remember to have fun dreaming and planning for your future.

Lifestyle

Your Guide to Florida Theme Parks

Florida’s theme parks are world-renowned, and they attract visitors from across the globe every year. Those of us lucky enough to live in the state, even part-time, can take advantage of the parks’ many annual events, and full-time residents may qualify for lower ticket prices. We have your guide to the 2020 special events at the main theme parks and how to save on admission.

Walt Disney World Resort

Consisting of four theme parks – Magic Kingdom Park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Walt Disney World Resort may be the most well-known of all Florida attractions.

Mark your calendar for the following popular events at both Disney World and Epcot in 2020.

  • Epcot International Festival of the Arts: January 17-February 24
  • Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival: March 4-June 1
  • Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party: August-October
  • Epcot International Food & Wine Festival: August-November
  • Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party: November-December

Florida residents can save money on three-day tickets and annual passes, among other ticket options.

Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure are the two main parks under the Universal Orlando Resort umbrella. Geared more toward older kids and adults than neighboring Walt Disney World Resort, it celebrates holidays with a grown-up vibe. Plan your visit around one of these two main events in 2020:

  • Mardi Gras: February 1-April 2
  • Halloween Horror Nights: September 10-November 1

If you’re a Florida resident, you can purchase annual passes and pay the cost over the year instead of one lump sum.

LEGOLAND Florida Resort

A relative newcomer to the Florida theme park landscape, LEGOLAND lets kids build with and trade LEGO figures and bricks, as well as go on rides and play in a water park.

The park, located between Orlando and Tampa in Winter Haven, has a few events planned in 2020, including a new pirate-themed one.   

  • PirateFest Weekends: April 18-19, April 25-26, May 2-3
  • Brick or Treat: Saturdays and Sundays in October
  • Holidays at LEGOLAND: November 27-29, December 5-6, December 12-13, December 19-20, December 24-31

Annual passes are available to everyone, with one exclusive to Florida residents for a discounted rate.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Busch Gardens is home to more than 200 species of animals, safari tours, exciting and child-friendly roller coasters, and Adventure Island water park (open seasonally). It’s fun for the whole family, whether or not you have kids in tow.

If you want to enhance your visit to Busch Gardens, coordinate it with one of the park’s annual events.

  • Mardi Gras: February 22-23
  • Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival: February 29-April 26
  • Howl-O-Scream: Fall 2020
  • Busch Gardens Christmas Town: mid-November-early January
  • New Year’s Eve Celebration: December 31

You can attend multiple events with an annual pass, which you can purchase online. Florida residents may pay monthly for their passes, with no down payment required.

Check each theme park’s site for more details about the events, including any date changes, and information on how to buy tickets and passes. Most parks will require you bring your proof of Florida residency if you purchase an annual pass or ticket deal that’s exclusive to Floridians. Most importantly, have fun at Florida’s famous theme parks in 2020!

Lifestyle

Planning for International Travel

Going abroad, whether it’s for the first time or you’re an experienced traveler, always requires extra preparation. We’ve put together a checklist to help you get ready for your next overseas trip.

Have the Necessary Documentation

The most important documentation you will need is your passport. If you haven’t traveled abroad in a few years, check the expiration date on your passport weeks ahead of time. That way, you will have enough time to renew it if necessary. Keep in mind that your passport must not expire within six months of your trip. Also, if you have had a name change since you obtained your passport, you will need to update it with your current legal name.

Some countries, including Australia and India, require visitors to have visas in addition to valid passports. Check with your travel agent or tour operator to see if you need a visa and how to apply for one. Starting January 1, 2021, American travelers to 26 European countries will have to register with the European Travel Information and Authorization System.

You should also print out your travel documents from your tour operator or, if you planned your own trip, the hotels, cruise line, and other arrangements you’ve made. Store the paperwork in a safe place should you need to refer to it. You might not always have internet access.

If you’re planning to drive during your travels, you might need an International Driving Permit and additional auto insurance.

Secure Travel and Medical Insurance

An international trip is an exciting but expensive adventure. While it’s not likely, you could encounter a variety of situations prior to or during your visit that would add to your costs or even cause you not to go at all. Having insurance in place can prevent you from losing money due your or your travel companion’s inability to travel, a medical issue in a foreign country, or other circumstances.

There are three main insurance policies you want to investigate and possibly purchase before you go.

Trip cancellation insurance reimburses you in part or in full for your flights, cruise passage, or other transportation if you aren’t able to travel. Check the policy carefully for what is covered, what reasons are considered valid, and what paperwork is required to prove that you couldn’t travel.

Travel insurance will compensate you for your expenses in the event of travel delays, flight cancellations, or lost luggage. Your credit card or even your homeowners insurance provider may offer this type of insurance.

The third policy to consider is health insurance. Even if you have a good plan, it may not help you once you cross the border. For instance, Medicare doesn’t carry over to foreign countries. Some private health insurance plans might be usable abroad, so check with your provider to see if your plan is. Those with Medicare or a private insurance policy that won’t work overseas can purchase a short-term supplemental policy. Ideally, this policy will pay the hospital directly so that you won’t have out-of-pocket expenses or a lot of paperwork afterward.

Pack Your Carryon Carefully

Bring any medications, necessary toiletries, and a change of clothes on the plane with you. You will find them useful on overnight flights or in case your luggage is delayed. You might also want items to help you sleep, like an inflatable pillow, and something to keep you occupied while you’re awake, such as a book or e-reader and headphones to listen to music or an in-flight movie.

Gather or Purchase Necessities

Refill and pack prescription medications, along with over-the-counter remedies like pain relievers and indigestion aids. Borrow or buy voltage converters to enable you to use your electric devices, such as your phone charger and hairdryer, in your destination.

Make Financial Arrangements

Visit your bank to acquire a small amount of money in the currency of the country where you’ll be traveling. If you visit a small shop that only takes cash, you need to tip someone, or you lose your credit cards, it will be good to have money on hand.

Also, inform your financial institution and your credit card company of your travel plans and set up alerts for unusual transactions, in the event your card is compromised. You will also want to make note of the contact information on the back of your credit and debit cards so that you can immediately inform the issuers if your cards are misplaced or stolen.

Practice the Native Language

If you’re going to any countries where you’re not fluent in the native language, learn a few key words and phrases so you can communicate with the locals.

Following this checklist will help you have a safe and pleasant journey abroad. 

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