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How Money Works Educator - Ron Harris

Ron Harris

HowMoneyWorks Educator

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April 8, 2021

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2 Concepts the Million Dollar Baby Strategy Puts to Work

2 Concepts the Million Dollar Baby Strategy Puts to Work

Most parents want their child to have a better life than they had.

While some parents are concerned they won’t have enough money for their own retirement, they have no idea what they can do to help their child’s retirement in 50 or 60 years. The good news is that they can do something now to put money to work for their child over those 50 or 60 years. What if you could start a small account now that has the potential to grow to $1 million dollars by the time your child is ready to retire?

The Million Dollar Baby takes advantage of 2 financial concepts:

Time Value of Money

The time value of money is the concept that money available to you now is worth more than the same amount in the future because of its potential to earn interest. Money saved today is worth more than money saved tomorrow because the money you save today has the potential to grow. That growth potential over time means you can save less today.

The Power of Compound Interest

The power of compound interest refers to the growth potential of money over time by leveraging the magic of “compounding,” which is interest paid on the sum of deposits plus all interest previously paid. In other words, interest earned on interest plus principal, not just principal.

Let’s consider a few hypothetical^ examples:

If at their child’s birth, parents put away $13,000 in an account that grows at an annual rate of 6.5%, compounded monthly until the child reaches retirement in 67 years, the account would grow to $1,000,042.

If they had waited 18 years before setting aside the $13,000, the account would grow to just $311,486 when the child reaches retirement at age 67. The loss of that 18 years leaves the child with almost $700,000 less for retirement.

For parents who aren’t able to set aside $13,000 at birth, they can still leverage the time value of money and compound interest by taking a more incremental approach. If at their child’s birth, parents put away $2,500 in a lump sum and then $250 every month for 4 years in an account that grows at an annual rate of 6.5%, compounded monthly until the child reaches retirement in 67 years, the account would grow to $1,008,059.

If they had waited 18 years before setting aside the $2,500 plus $250 every month for 4 years, the account would grow to just $313,857 when the child reaches retirement at age 67. Again, the loss of that 18 years leaves the child with almost $700,000 less for retirement.

How to start your own Million Dollar Baby program?

Step 1. Create a trust to own the account. If a parent owns the account, the account will pass through the parent’s estate upon death. With a trust, decisions are made by the parent trustee but the account will survive the parent’s death. The child can only access the trust account upon retirement or in an emergency medical situation before retirement. Depending on your budget, you can use a local attorney or an online service to set up the trust. NetLaw Inc. established a special Million Dollar Baby Trust just for this program.

Step 2. Select a long-term investment that will maximize the time value of money and the power of compound interest. Find a financial professional who will help you choose the right investment for you and your Million Dollar Baby.


– Kim Scouller


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^This is a hypothetical scenario for illustration purposes only and does not represent an actual product and there is no assurance that these results can actually be achieved. The hypothetical scenario does not take into account certain risks and expenses associated with an actual product such as performance risks, expenses, fees, taxes or inflation, if it had the results would be lower. Rate of return is an assumed constant nominal rate, compounded monthly. It is unlikely that any one rate of return will be sustained over time. Numbers are rounded to the nearest dollar in some cases. Retirement needs vary by income and cost of living - $1 million isn’t an adequate goal for every saver.

4 Simple Steps to Streamline Your Housing Budget

February 1, 2021

4 Simple Steps to Streamline Your Housing Budget

Decreasing your housing budget may mean more money in your pocket.

That’s because housing is the single largest expense for most Americans.¹ Reducing mortgage payments or rent by even a fraction can free up substantial cash flow.

The best part? You don’t have to move into a shack to make it happen. Here are a few strategies to increase cash flow by decreasing your housing costs.

Choose the suburbs over the city. On average, suburbanites save $9,000 per year on housing and child care when compared to city-dwellers.² By and large, the money you may save on the cost of living in the suburbs can outweigh the added transportation expenses. It’s not a shift for everyone, but relocating further from the city might make sense financially, at least for the short-term.

Rent until you’re ready. It’s worth considering leasing a house or apartment until you’re financially positioned to buy a house. Even if a mortgage payment seems cheaper on paper than renting, ownership can come loaded with unforeseen expenses. Flooded basement? That’s on you. Broken furnace? Also on you. Renting isn’t necessarily a permanent long-term strategy, but it beats potentially going into debt covering surprise repairs that are beyond your budget.

Find a reliable roommate. Sharing the cost of housing can free up a significant portion of your cash flow, especially in expensive cities. In New York City, for instance, having a roommate can save you up to $15,500 every year.³ Just be sure you take on a roommate that doesn’t flake out when rent is due.

Rent out a room. If you’re a homeowner with room to spare, consider leasing space to a trusted friend. The extra income can offset the cost of mortgage payments and result in more cash flow going toward saving, investing, or even paying off the house faster.

Contact me if you’re interested in learning more about how budgeting fits into an overarching financial strategy. We can review your income and expenses and make a game plan for how you can stop spending like a sucker and start saving like the wealthy.

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¹ “American Spending Habits in 2020,” Lexington Law, Jan 6, 2020, https://www.lexingtonlaw.com/blog/credit-cards/american-spending-habits.html

² “City vs. Suburbs: Where is Better to Live?,” The Perspective, 2020, https://www.theperspective.com/debates/city-vs-suburbs/

³ “What a Roommate Saves You in 50 U.S. Cities – 2020 Edition,” Nadia Ahmad, SmartAsset, May 11, 2020, https://smartasset.com/checking-account/what-a-roommate-saves-you-in-50-us-cities-2020

3 Painful Consequences of Minimum Payments

January 19, 2021

3 Painful Consequences of Minimum Payments

Do you send in more than the minimum payments on your credit cards each month? (The correct answer is ‘yes.’)

If you are making more than the minimum payments now—you’re thinking like the wealthy!

A minimum payment is the lowest amount you can pay on your credit card bill without suffering a late payment penalty. We all know making minimum payments may be necessary for a short period if you’re freeing up cash flow to pay down a bigger, more urgent bill. However, paying just the minimum for the long haul can lead to long-term negative consequences.

Just like any time you have to deal with challenges in life, considering long-term consequences is vital to success. It can wake you up from thinking and acting like a sucker with your money. It can give you the laser focus needed to pay off debts so you can start building wealth. What’s at stake? You know, just your future.

So what are those looming, long-term consequences of making only the minimum payments on your credit cards?

Consequence #1: You end up paying mostly interest forever. OK, maybe not forever, but it will feel like it. By making only the minimum payments over a long period of time, you’re basically giving the credit card company free money—your money. You’re not even paying down the principal for the item you originally purchased with your credit card. You’re basically paying a subscription to the credit card company for holding your debt—a monthly service for which you get nothing.

Here’s an all-too-common example:

Let’s say that an unexpected expense tightens your budget. As it stands, you owe $10,000 in credit card debt at a 20% interest rate with a minimum payment of 2%. In order to cover the basics like housing, food, and medicine, you drop your credit card payments to the minimum amount of $200 monthly.

In this scenario, it will likely take more than 30 years and interest payments of over $35,000 to fully eliminate your credit card debt. The credit card company becomes richer, and your financial future is squandered.
 Consequence #2: You can hurt your credit score. When you hold high debt on a credit card for a long period, even if you’re making minimum payments on time, your credit utilization ratio (or the percentage of available credit you’re using) can rise. If it remains above 30% of your credit card limit for long, your credit can take a substantial hit¹—hurting your ability to borrow for a car, education, or home mortgage—and hinder qualifying for lower interest rates on those loans. This all equals financial limitations for your future—less cash flow, higher interest payments, less money to save for the future.

Consequence #3: You never start saving. Today, the responsibility to save and build wealth falls on the consumer—that’s you! Your 401(k) and Social Security check may fall dramatically short of providing the income you need for the lifestyle you want during retirement. The earlier you start saving, the better chance you have of closing the gap on the money you need for the future. Paying minimum payments on your credit cards is a dangerous habit that can prevent you from saving enough.

You don’t have to fall victim to these consequences. You can create a strategy to knock out your credit card debt by paying more than the minimums. How much more? As much as possible—until your credit card debt is gone. That big sigh of relief and your new ability to save will be well worth it!

An important caveat: Paying the minimum on a credit card while you build an emergency fund or pay down another debt can be advantageous, as long as you’re working with a licensed and qualified financial professional to reduce debt methodically.

Learn more about reducing debt in the book, HowMoneyWorks: Stop Being a Sucker. Email, text, or call me to discover how you can get a copy ASAP!

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How Inflation Eats Up Your Savings

How Inflation Eats Up Your Savings

Inflation is financial erosion, a slow and steady force that eats away at the value of money—YOUR money.

Here’s how it works. The trend is that over time, the prices of goods and services tend to rise. As a result, the purchasing power of your paycheck, your savings, and your retirement income is reduced.

The sucker ignores inflation—an abstract concept they may feel they have no control over. But the wealthy understand inflation and prepare for it—calculating the impact into their budget, their future purchases, and their retirement goals.

Here’s an example that drives it “home”…

Let’s say that in 1980 you received a $100,000 inheritance check. You were diligent enough to put the money into an account earning 2% annual interest. Your hope was that one day it would grow and be enough for you to afford a $200,000 dream home—a brick estate with a one acre yard, five bedrooms, three garages, and a pool in the back.

After waiting patiently for 40 years, retirement has arrived. The growth of your inheritance money had exceeded your goal—you now have over $220,000. Time to buy your dream home!

But while you waited, inflation was growing too. It increased at the average annual rate of 3.1%—more than tripling the average costs of goods… and houses.¹

Your $200,000 dream home with three garages and a pool in the back is now for sale at over $600,000.

The takeaway is that you can never ignore the impact of inflation on your goals for the future. You need to know how it could impact the value of your 401(k), the equity in your home, and the death benefit of your life insurance policy.

If you haven’t factored in the impact of inflation on your dreams for the future, there’s no time like the present. Consider scheduling a conversation with your licensed and qualified financial professional today to discuss strategies to beat inflation!

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¹ “Average Annual Inflation Rates by Decade,” Tim Mcmahon, InflationData.com, Jan. 1, 2021, https://inflationdata.com/Inflation/Inflation/DecadeInflation.asp

The Middle Class Saves…The Rich Invest

October 7, 2020

The Middle Class Saves…The Rich Invest

Saving money is a good habit, but a bad strategy.

That’s why the rich focus on investing. While the masses are getting .09% interest on their passbook savings account,(1) the rich are pursuing returns of 5% or more on the same money. That means with a $10,000 investment paying .09% interest, the saver pockets a whopping $9 per year. That same $10,000 investment paying 5% interest yields a $500 return.

Wealthy people know that a little strategy goes a long way, and when it comes to money, that could make the difference between a comfortable and miserable retirement. The good news is that you don’t have to have a PhD in finance to become a competent investor; you simply have to know how money works. While the masses may be buying used luxury cars, second homes, and living beyond their means, the rich are more inclined to create assets that leverage the power of compound interest and other people’s time—such as retirement accounts that yield interest, part-time businesses, and property. The rich put their money to work, while the masses simply go to work.

The secret to better investing is maximizing returns while managing risk. The rich rarely get greedy, and usually settle for reasonable returns with minimal risk. They generally don’t expose their financial future to the wild swings of the market. They know that the enemy of the investor is losing money, so they lean more towards calculated risks where returns are respectable and losses are not likely. It’s the old professional baseball strategy: Forget about hitting home runs and just get on base. Sure, it’s not as sexy as knocking the ball out of the park or being able to brag to your friends that you made a 50% return, but it reduces your exposure while simultaneously providing you with the potential to become incrementally wealthier every day.

Start by learning the Rule of 72, the Time Value of Money, and the concept of Wealth Equivalency. Next, learn how to protect your family from the fallout of premature death while building cash value you can eventually withdraw tax-advantaged. Lastly, learn how to leverage long-term care insurance for pennies on the dollar by adding it as a low cost rider on a life insurance contract. More people go broke from medical issues than any other reason.(2) These basic strategies will start you on your way to financial success.

Our book, How Money Works: Stop Being a Sucker, will take you through the 7 Money Milestones. Study these milestones and contact your financial professional to put the proper strategies in place. If you take action, you can alleviate any worries about your financial future. It’s that powerful of a process. Once you’ve implemented these strategies, you can focus on the other things that really matter in your life. Give yourself the gift of financial security. You deserve it.

— Steve Siebold

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Your Emergency Fund: What you need to know.

September 23, 2020

Your Emergency Fund: What you need to know.

It really isn’t a question on whether or not you need an emergency fund.

(You do.) It’s the first line of defense when unexpected expenses show up (and they will—have kids?). Unforeseen emergencies threaten to undo your hard work and careful financial planning.

But what exactly is an emergency fund? What should it look like? And how do you start building one if you don’t have a sack of cash lying around?

What’s an emergency fund… and why do you need one?
An emergency fund is a dedicated amount of money to cover unplanned, unavoidable expenses. Establishing one is an important milestone on your journey to achieving financial independence! But why is it such a big deal?

Emergencies are a part of life. Nobody schedules a busted transmission or a broken arm, but you’ll need a way to pay for them when they happen. Who would have guessed that a global pandemic would force most of us to stay at home and cost millions of Americans their jobs? So it’s not a question of if you’ll need to cover something unexpected but how you’ll cover it. Without an emergency fund, you’ll be forced to either dip into your long-term savings (assuming you have them) or go into debt. For most people, either option can seriously throw off long-term financial plans. An emergency fund gives you the power to overcome sudden obstacles without sacrificing your retirement or piling up credit card bills.

Emergency fund ins and outs
One critical thing to grasp is that an emergency fund isn’t the same as your savings. Establishing a solid emergency fund is not a long-term goal that’s built over years or decades. Once the emergency fund is full, then you move on to other money milestones like conquering debt and saving for the future.

So how do you know you have enough in your fund? That depends on how much you make. A good rule of thumb is that an emergency fund should cover 3 to 6 months of income. That provides a buffer if you have an unexpected car repair, medical emergency, or if you’re temporarily unemployed due to an unprecedented global pandemic!

But what if you don’t have that much cash just lying around?
3 to 6 months of income might seem like a lot of money to set aside, especially if you’re currently living paycheck to paycheck. Building an emergency fund will take time and budgeting. Start with a goal of saving 2 weeks of pay. Then shoot for 1 month, then 2 months, etc., until you reach your goal.

The 2 Rules of Emergency Funds

Rule 1: An emergency fund is only, ONLY to be used in case of actual emergencies. It’s not for last minute getaways, much needed spa days, or killer video game sales. If those kinds of things come along, you can use a “fun fund”, which of course is part of your regular budget!

Rule 2: The emergency fund needs to be easily accessible. Make sure it’s in an account where you won’t incur fees for withdrawals when your car breaks down or you suddenly need a new AC unit. That’s why it’s there. Just remember to refill it as soon as the emergency has passed.

Once you’ve built your emergency fund and you know the rules, you’re ready to move on to the next stages of building wealth. Congratulations!You’re officially not broke and in the perfect position to chase your financial future!

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5 Myths You May Still Believe About Long-Term Care

September 16, 2020

5 Myths You May Still Believe About Long-Term Care

When a loved one needs extra help to take care of herself at home or needs to go into a nursing home,

the costs—averaging a total of more than $200,000¹—can be devastating. But the impact on families can be felt far beyond the pocketbook: An estimated 34.2 million Americans provide unpaid care to adult family members,² leading to greater incidence of depression and heart disease among caregivers, the majority of whom are women.² Anyone who has seen first-hand the destructive impact of these situations has at least thought about the need to protect their family from the threat of long-term care. But the vast majority haven’t taken action.³ That needs to change. Since change starts with financial literacy and education, let’s review the five most common myths about long-term care.

Myth #1: Medicare and health insurance plans cover long-term care. Private health insurance does not cover long-term care. Medicare only provides extremely limited benefits in a few very specific circumstances. The Medicare.gov website clearly states that Medicare does not cover most long-term care situations. There is one government insurance program that does cover long-term care: Medicaid. But to qualify for Medicaid, one must have income at or below the poverty level⁴ and in most states have less than $2,000 in financial assets.⁵ So unless one plans on being absolutely broke in retirement, they need to have a long-term care solution in place.

Myth #2: Long-term care means that you go into a nursing home. When we think of long-term care, we often think of an old lady wasting away in a nursing home. While a nursing home is certainly an example of a long-term care setting, only about 1/3 of care takes place in nursing homes.⁶ The majority of care takes place in a private residence. So if your stubborn father says, “I’d rather die than go into a nursing home,” your response should be, “fair enough, but how are we going to care for you at home?” When planning for long-term care, you should focus on solutions designed to help keep you in your home for as long as possible. Because no one wants to go into a nursing home.

Myth #3: Long-term care is only for the elderly. Many people are shocked to learn that 37% of Americans receiving long-term care are under the age of 65.⁷ One of the major reasons for this is that long-term care doesn’t only arise from getting old or getting sick. Sometimes long-term care claims stem from accidents or injuries—not illness. So something like a car accident or a traumatic brain injury can suddenly put you into a long-term care situation—even in the prime of your life.

Myth #4: It won’t happen to me. None of us wants to picture ourselves in a long-term care situation. We recoil at the thought of being a burden to our family—whether that burden be financial, physical, or emotional. But the fact is that 70% of us will need long-term care at some point in our lives.⁸ So if you don’t want to be a burden, you need to start planning now.

Myth #5: If it doesn’t happen to me, I will have wasted money on long-term care insurance premiums. If there’s a 70% chance you’ll need long-term care, there’s a 30% chance you won’t. Since there’s a 100% chance you want to retire comfortably, a 100% chance you want your kids to be able to go to college if they want to, and a 100% chance you want to protect your family in the event you die early, you need to prioritize the sure things in life. By the time you allocate money to cover all of the absolute necessities, there may not be any money left over to protect against things that are likely, but not guaranteed, to happen. In response to this conundrum, the financial services industry has evolved to create new products that can allow you to focus on the sure things while also protecting against long-term care. If you need it, these new solutions will cover your long-term care costs. And if you’re one of the lucky 30% of people who won’t need long-term care, all of the benefit for which you paid can go to your family in the form of a large, tax-free, lump-sum payment. Often, you can kill two, three, or four birds with one stone. That’s how money works!

Don’t be a sucker. Refer to page 87 of “HowMoneyWorks, Stop Being a Sucker” to begin increasing your literacy on this important financial concept. Then contact your financial professional to get started.


– Matt Luckey


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¹ “Genworth Cost of Care Survey 2019,” genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care.html and “Long Term Care Statistics,” LTC Tree, Dec 2018, ltctree.com/long-term-care-statistics/

² “Executive Summary: Caregiving in the US,” AARP, June 2015, https://www.caregiving.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/2015_CaregivingintheUS_Executive-Summary-June-4_WEB.pdf

³ “The State of Long-Term Care Insurance: The Market, Challenges and Future Innovations,” National Association of Insurance Commissioners, May 2016, naic.org/documents/ciprcurrent study_160519_ltc_insurance.pdf

“General Medicaid Requirements,” LongTermCare.gov, Oct 2017, https://longtermcare.acl.gov/medicare-medicaid-more/medicaid/medicaid-eligibility/general-medicaid-requirements.html

“Financial Requirements—Assets,” LongTermCare.gov, Oct 2017, https://longtermcare.acl.gov/medicare-medicaid-more/medicaid/medicaid-eligibility/financial-requirements-assets.html

“Long-Term Care Insurance Facts - Statistics,” The American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, 2020, https://www.aaltci.org/long-term-care-insurance/learning-center/fast-facts.php

“The Basics,” LongTermCare.gov, Oct 2017, longtermcare.acl.gov/the-basics/

⁸ “How Much Care Will You Need?,” Oct 2017, longtermcare.acl.gov/the-basics/how-much-care-will-you-need.html

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