Say no to just paying minimum balances on your credit card

I have to keep my credit cards hidden. I have very little impulse control when it comes to shoes. I want those beautiful, new boots immediately. So, in order to save myself the agony of getting into debt over a pair of leather riding boots, I keep my credit cards stashed away. At home. In a box that is way up high in my closet. I do it in hopes that I will keep myself from using my credit card willy nilly. If I absolutely must have whatever trinket or bob I desire, I have to leave the store in order to go home and get my card. I would say that about 89% of the time, I reconsider and never go back to get the boots. It is awesome. But, it is not fool proof and I still use plastic from time to time. It is not surprising that most people in the US use credit cards. We like stuff. On average, an American has two credit cards. The American Bankers Association states that 42% of all credit card customers pay off their bill each month. That leaves 58% carrying a balance from month to month. Apparently, most of that 58% pay more than the minimum each month. And you should too!!! After doing a little research for this blog, I found that it is very important to pay more than your minimum balance each month. Paying only the minimum is a red flag to the credit company, according to American Bankers Association’s Nessa Feddis. It appears that your credit card company places you in a higher risk category when you pay the minimum and that can sometimes trigger an interest rate increase, just when you don’t need it. If and when that happens, the minimum payment can also go way up in conjunction with the interest rate. Yikes!!! In addition, if you are ever offered the option to… | Read More »

Prefunding your funeral brings peace of mind

While it is common to set aside funds in advance of major life expenses like adoptions, educations and weddings, it is far less likely that healthy individuals will pre-fund their funeral expenses. This lack of attention may make sense in the short-run, as people work hard to raise their families with the requisite mortgage payments, retirement planning, and daily living expenses this entails. The truth is, funerals are expensive and very few people have the resources to pay for them outright. Lack of planning can cause you to be a burden to the very family you worked your whole life to protect. Without advance planning and funding, some survivors find themselves dipping into savings accounts, using credit cards, taking out loans or even selling personal assets to pay for funeral expenses. Even if you have the money to pay for your own funeral, it may be tied up in probate at the time your grieving family is trying to access it. Obviously, no one wants to be a financial burden to their families, but very few people have access to extra disposable income to pay for a funeral up front. So, where do you get the money to prefund your funeral? Odds are you already have it.  It could be in the bank, money market, or even in another insurance policy.  Different payment plans are available from single pay to multi-year pay.  We can help tailor your policy to meet your specific needs and goals. Examples of vehicles used by many include savings accounts, certificates of deposits (CD), annuities, money market accounts, or mutual funds.  All of these can hold money for the purpose of paying ones funeral expenses, but not all are protected from creditors. Purchasing an insurance policy on yourself to cover the anticipated costs of your funeral and then assigning that policy to an irrevocable funeral trust allows you to enjoy the following advantages: At time of… | Read More »

Seven financial tips for celebrating Earth Day

With our obvious fondness for ginkgo trees here at Winch Financial, we are big fans of Earth Day. We support efforts to protect our planet and to encourage its people to achieve a healthy lifestyle. We want our clients to enjoy long lives, fulfilling retirements and good health. Toward those goals, we offer the following tips. Buy locally. We live in a four-season climate that recently suffered through one of the longest winters on record. Still, we like to buy locally produced food whenever possible.  The shorter the distance from food source to table, the fresher the taste and the higher the concentration of nutrients. We also like the idea of supporting our local merchants. Park the car. When possible, we like to walk or bike rather than drive. Our CEO Christina Winch starts each morning with a brisk walk around the free range farm she owns outside Appleton. Other employees walk or ride their bikes to work when possible. Not only does this save on fuel cost and emissions, it also allows you to feel a little sun on your face and breathe a little fresh air into your lungs during a busy work day. Plant a little something. The gardens our employees plant grow in a range from large fields to patio containers, but they all encourage a connection between the earth and the consumer. I have an indoor herb garden that makes my family room smell delicious year-round. You can feel an extra sense of pride when you eat something you’ve grown yourself.  It’s also increasingly important to understand your food source and the fertilizing process used to grow it. Educate yourself. We have a library of books on financial and physical health here in the office and we’re happy to share. A little research will help you decide which habits are healthy and which may be passing fads, Turn off the faucet. You’d be surprised how… | Read More »

Old life insurance policies can cost you money

Insurance policies, like other components of a well-designed retirement plan, require diligence both prior to their purchase and after their activation. The dangerous, though common, practice of purchasing Variable Universal Life and Universal Life Policies and then ignoring them through the years, can result in a significant loss of money. If you are not careful these policies can actually eat themselves from the inside, when the cost of insurance rises above the planned premium payments.  It is best to catch this as early as possible.  A telltale sign of this happening is when your cash value on the most recent annual statement is lower than the cash value on the previous year’s annual statement. This means that the planned premiums going in are not enough to cover the cost of insurance and the difference is being pulled from the cash value. We help people in this exact situation come up with the best solution to their insurance requirements all of the time.  Because we are an independent firm and not tied to a single insurance company, we can work with you and your insurance company to adjust premiums to carry your policy to a desired age, or we can look at alternatives with other insurance companies. Not all permanent policies get into trouble like this.  Sometimes Variable Universal Life and Universal Life policies are performing well and still growing cash value.  In general Whole Life Insurance will not run out of cash value.  Whole Life is designed to be more expensive up front with premium dollars, and they can return some of the unused premiums in the form of dividend payments.  This is a more expensive way to purchase permanent coverage. If you have a permanent policy (either Whole Life, Variable Universal Life, or Universal Life with cash value in it) you need to ask yourself one question: What is the purpose for this coverage?  If your goal is strictly… | Read More »

Five retirement tips to prepare you for every season of your life

Much like the financial markets, our lives progress in rollercoaster waves. A day might seem interminable, while a year flies by with frightening speed. Nothing is static, least of all the seasons of your life. That’s why we’ve developed the following tips to help you prepare for what we hope will be one of the most enjoyable times in your life, retirement: 1) Start now. It’s never too soon to think about retirement planning, thanks to the magic of compound interest. Set up an automatic monthly withdrawal from your savings account and invest it wisely in a safe, growth vehicle. Our mutual fund is a perfect example of how a steady investment of even a small amount can yield impressive rewards down the road. 2) Don’t stop planning. Conversely, you’re never too old to think about your retirement.  Life changing events can affect your plan dramatically, so notify your advisor any time you’re anticipating a wedding, the birth of a child, a major purchase, a divorce, a debilitating illness, a job change etc. 3) Think about your goals. You get to define your own retirement and it might not look like anyone else’s. Do you want to travel? Start a new hobby? Invest in an upstart business? Envision your golden years and devise a plan to make it happen. 4) Don’t skip the dirty work.  You have to dig deep and be honest about your spending habits and current financial situation.  Calculate your net worth, set up a budget and consider your goals. Don’t be afraid to add up your debt. Knowing is the first step to solving. Take a deep breath and crunch the numbers. 5) Be disciplined. You can splurge every now and then, but it’s best to stay vigilant in matters of your financial health. You’ve already done the hard work, the rest is simply maintenance. Sit down at least once a quarter to review your portfolio…. | Read More »