8 tips for saving money on groceries


  • FILE - In this March 1, 2011, file photo, a worker stocks the fresh meat shelves at a Kroger Co. supermarket, in Cincinnati. The supermarket is one of the most important places to be shopping-savvy. The good news is that there are so many easy and effective way to slash your grocery budget. Photo: Al Behrman, AP / Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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I do not know of a single person who doesn’t like to save money. And the supermarket is one of the most important places to be shopping-savvy.

The good news is there are so many easy and effective ways to slash your grocery budget.

Here are 8 tips that will bring that receipt total down considerably.

1. Buy whole fruits and vegetables. Pound for pound, whenever you buy anything that has been peeled, cut up or prepped in any way, you are paying a premium. And not only are you paying more for the work that went into the prepared food, you may lose additional money on the back end, since these items are more perishable than their whole counterparts. Pre-diced onion might only last for a handful of days in the fridge, for example, while whole onions will last for weeks.


2. Don’t snub store brands. House brand foods used to feel like an inferior version of name brand items, but these days stores have more formidable relationships with manufacturers, and often the house brand of something might be made by the same company as a reputable brand name product. You will have to taste some to figure out what you like. And stores like Costco with their Kirkland brand items, or Trader Joe’s with their eponymous line of groceries are powerful examples of how good store brand products can be.


3. Put the freezer to work. If pork chops are on sale but you don’t plan to make them this week, consider buying them and freezing them for later. Or if your market or price club has a great deal on bulk chicken or ground beef, take advantage of it, and just divide up the package into smaller freezer-proof containers or bags. Label everything and wrap it well. Frozen shrimp also deserves a special shout-out: Most shrimp that you buy “fresh” was actually frozen and defrosted anyway, so stash a bag in the freezer for quick weeknight dinners. Frozen vegetables and fruit are also great to have on hand.

4. Look for the bargain aisle. Many supermarkets have a designated aisle where they feature a selection of reduced-price items. Often these items are seasonal, and you might see them discounted further after a holiday (matzoh ball mix is practically free right after Passover, and candy canes are a steal on Dec. 26).

5. Look for “While Supplies Last” signage. In one of the markets where I shop, some of the sales signs on the shelves have additional language (in small print, so get in close to check!) letting shoppers know that an item is in limited supply and intended to sell out. Often these prices are discounted heavily since the store is trying to clear its shelves for new products.


6. Stock up on on-sale non-perishables. If you have the storage space, when you see that canned broth or tomatoes or beans or pasta is on sale, throw a few extra into your cart. I once bought 10 containers of mustard because the price was so good (I happen to really love mustard).

7. Look for clearance areas in the market. Day-old pastries and bread (perfect for French toast or stuffing!) might be tucked into a small shelf near the bakery. Corners of the store may have shelves with collections of miscellaneous products that no longer warrant space on the main shelves. This might be because they are close to expiration, or there are just a few left and they aren’t being restocked. You could also get some serious steals on packages that got a little dinged up, but the contents are still fine. (Who cares what the outside of the box of cereal looks like?)

8. Look at the store circular before you go. Many major markets have a website that will show you the items on sale that week. A chance to think about this in advance means that you can meal-plan around the pot roast that is on special, or decide this is the week to stock up on snacks for back to school.

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Katie Workman has written two cookbooks focused on easy, family-friendly cooking, “Dinner Solved!” and “The Mom 100 Cookbook.” She blogs at http://www.themom100.com/about-katie-workman. She can be reached at Katie@themom100.com.

BlackRock, Microsoft developing 401(k) retirement tool

BlackRock and Microsoft’s 401(k) retirement tool will include guaranteed income planning and rewards for saving, according to the head of the asset manager’s retirement group.

The technology giant and the asset manager overseeing 15 million Americans’ 401(k) portfolios are developing an app and desktop tool aimed at narrowing the widening gap between what workers will need in retirement and how much they’re saving, said Anne Ackerley in a session at SourceMedia’s In|Vest conference.

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With so many factors unknowable, planning for retirement is perilous

That gap expands by $3 trillion each year, Ackerley noted, for reasons relating to culture, politics and financial literacy. Social media posts celebrate spending money rather than saving it, and millions of people have no access to a 401(k), she said.

Companies “need to have a social purpose,” Ackerley said.

She continued: “Both Microsoft and BlackRock really believe that financial security and financial well-being need to be in everybody’s reach, not just the wealthy. And we’re putting the resources from both companies together to try to help that.”

Ann Ackerley, head of BlackRock’s retirement group

Anne Ackerley, head of BlackRock’s retirement group, spoke at the SourceMedia In|Vest conference on the asset management giant’s plans for its upcoming retirement planning collaboration with Microsoft.

Ben Norman

The strategic partnership, unveiled in December, includes visualizations around the so-called next dollar problem, solutions on how to deal with student debt and simulations involving guaranteed income, Ackerley said.

An annuity will figure in the mix of the upcoming investment product, with Microsoft providing the technology platform, according to BlackRock spokesman Logan Koffler. The firms will begin rolling out their tool later this year, Koffler said in an email.

Why advisors ‘must love technology more than they fear change’

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Microsoft and BlackRock are also designing methods of showing workers how much extra contributions today could end up netting them in retirement, Ackerley said. Rewards for additional contributions could be as simple as confetti appearing in the app, she said.

“We’ve been out testing it, and I know it sounds sort of simple, but people actually reacted to it,” Ackerley said. “They liked it, and they said it might get them to do something.”

The firms are also considering monetary payments from employers to incentivize workers to sign up as part of the “whole bunch of things” that could act as rewards, she added. Ackerley expressed support for employers automatically enrolling workers in 401(k) plans and increased access to 401(k)s.

Retirement planning covers a wide range of areas, and workers need tools to assist them if they are going to achieve financial security, she said.

“This is a really hard problem,” Ackerley said. “You don’t know how long you’re going to live. You don’t know what your expenses are going to be, particularly your medical expenses. You don’t know what the rate of return is going to be in the market, and [you’re expected to] ‘hey, go figure it out.’ That’s what we’ve sort of done.”


Tobias Salinger


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Md. must address OPEB debts

Just like Montgomery County, Maryland used to pay OPEB expenses as they came up, a method known as “pay-as-you-go.” This was fine, initially, when Maryland and other states had relatively few retirees and near-retirees, but the fiscal calculus changed as the size of state workforces grew, making it necessary for states to pre-fund these benefits in order to avoid a severe future financial reckoning. In 2008, the federal Government Accounting Standard Board advised all states and localities to create OPEB trust funds and begin pre-funding the OPEB the same way pension funds are funded.

Newt Gingrich: President Trump, don’t embrace left-wing ideas to get something done on drug prices

What is the Trump administration doing to lower the cost of prescription drugs?Video

What is the Trump administration doing to lower the cost of prescription drugs?

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks with Steve Hilton on ‘The Next Revolution’.

In a recent column, I explained why the president and Republicans are on their way to a stunning victory in 2020. I predicted that a big factor in this victory will be the clear juxtaposition between the president’s methodical, step-by-step approach to lower health care costs with more transparency, choice, and accountability and the Democrats’ calls for radical change that would throw people off of their private insurance and replace it with a government-run monopoly.

In this column, I want to sound a warning about how things could go wrong, particularly when it comes to the president’s efforts to lower prescription drug prices.

Until a few days ago, I would have argued confidently that the president and Republicans were well situated to win on the issue of drug prices in 2020.

NEWT GINGRICH: IF DEMS KEEP DOING THESE FIVE THINGS, TRUMP WILL HAVE A LANDSLIDE VICTORY IN 2020

A record number of generic drugs were approved by the FDA in 2017, saving consumers nearly $16 billion with lower-priced alternatives. The Republican Congress also passed, and the president signed, a bill lifting the pharmacy “gag clauses” that prevented pharmacists from informing patients if they could pay less for a medicine by paying cash instead of going through insurance (some generic drugs are so cheap that they can cost less than a co-pay).

This early progress has led to a stunning result: for the first time in nearly 50 years, the consumer price index for prescription drugs is falling.

With a proof of concept that increasing transparency and consumer choice can lower drug costs, the president and Republicans could point to even bigger reforms being developed using the same strategies. This record of results using common sense, market-oriented reforms would provide a positive contrast with the Democrats’ calls for big government price controls that would lead to rationing of care and fewer medical breakthroughs like gene therapy, which would both cure diseases and create an economic boom in America.

Unfortunately, the administration’s efforts have hit several roadblocks in recent days. Worse, it appears some in the administration are abandoning market-oriented reforms that are working in favor of a more left-wing approach which would be a disaster.

Last week, a judge ruled that the administration could not require the prices of prescription drugs to be disclosed in direct-to-consumer advertising. This was a blow to efforts to use transparency and market forces to put downward pressure on drug prices.

Worse, the administration announced that due in part to misguided budgetary concerns, it was dropping its development of a rule in Medicare Part D to require all discounts and rebates given to pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to be passed directly to patients at the pharmacy counter.

Embracing watered-down, left-wing ideas to get something done on drug prices will not help American patients, who will face rationing and be robbed of future medical breakthroughs made possible through the free market, and it certainly won’t help politically in 2020.

This decision is incomprehensible. As I have explained before, this reform would have removed a huge incentive for drug manufacturers to constantly raise their prices in order to provide bigger discounts to PBMs. It is also a reform which would save seniors money in their out-of-pocket costs, making it easier for patients to follow their drug regimes, improving their health. Coupled with the fact that seniors would have started saving money in 2020, an election year, the decision to abandon the rule is both bad medicine and bad politics.

In an even more worrisome development, reports are that some in the administration are considering embracing Nancy Pelosi’s plan to impose price controls on drugs in Medicare by tying the rate of drug price increases to inflation. Unlike the rebate rule, using price controls to standardize the rate of price increases won’t reduce the amount seniors pay for their drugs. In fact, drug manufacturers will likely respond by increasing their initial prices.

In addition, in Pelosi’s plan, the penalty for raising prices faster than inflation is a tax, which would go to the federal treasury, not to seniors. So instead of reducing seniors’ drug costs, Pelosi’s plan would grow government.

The danger for President Trump is in is best summed up by this headline: ‘Trump leaning on Sanders-style ideas to save his drug plan’.

President Trump should heed Ronald Reagan’s advice for conservatives: raise a banner of “bold colors,” no “pale pastels.”

Embracing watered-down, left-wing ideas to get something done on drug prices will not help American patients, who will face rationing and be robbed of future medical breakthroughs made possible through the free market, and it certainly won’t help politically in 2020. The Democratic nominee for president will always be able to go further to the left than a Republican president offering “pale pastels” of liberal ideas.

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Instead, President Trump should stick to “bold colors.” He should announce that the rebate rule will be implemented as scheduled; fight for more transparency in drug prices in the courts; and make clear that while he is open to bipartisan legislation on drug prices, he is not going to adopt price controls that would ruin the innovation base making the drug breakthroughs possible in the first place.

Combined with President Trump’s other positive reforms in health care, this would be a “bold colors” health care platform that would win in 2020.

Disclosure: Newt Gingrich is an adviser to companies and organizations in health care, some of whom would be impacted by the policies discussed in this article.

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Fintech success story: TIAA and MyVest

You’ve acquired a fintech — congratulations.

Now comes the hard part: how can the firm be successfully integrated?

That process should actually start before the deal is sealed on both ends. Fintech firms need to ask themselves if they should stay independent, Anton Honikman, CEO of MyVest, told attendees at SourceMedia’s In|Vest conference.

Too many fintech firms focus on “the narrow and new” in an attempt to slice off market share from established companies, he says. But more often than not, he contends, this strategy results in gaining only a “tiny” share of a market and turns out to be “much ado about nothing.”

By contrast, established financial companies like TIAA must deal with issues that are “old and broad,” according to Scott Blandford, TIAA’s chief digital officer, who spoke on a panel Honikman.

Anton Honikman, MyVest CEO, speaking at InlVest in New York City.

Anton Honikman, MyVest CEO, speaking at InlVest in New York City.

Fintech firms that are able to solve problems for large financial institutions like TIAA can actually contribute “broader horizontal solutions” than they would have by remaining independent, Blandford observed.

TIAA’s acquisition of MyVest three years ago is an example of a combination of a fintech startup and an established institution that has worked, according to Honikman and Blandford.

Other examples include Invesco’s purchase of Jemstep, Envestnet’s acquisition of Yodlee and Fidelity buying eMoney, Honikman added.

The key to making these pairings work?

Above all, fight to maintain autonomy and your own identity, Honikman stressed.“Retain your own brand,” he told conference attendees. “Don’t co-locate. Have a separate office and a separate look and feel.”

Maintaining the fintech’s third-party customers is also critical, Honikman and Blandford agreed. “Having different customers keeps you competitive and dynamic,” Honikman said.

Indeed, TIAA encourages MyVest to have a separate customer base. “We benefit from the input and a fresh flow of ideas,” Blandford said.

Perhaps just as important to keep in mind is that fintech employees want to work for a fintech company, not for a large financial institution.

“If we had just one customer, 50% of my employees would leave,” Honikman said. Indeed, he said, the first consideration for an acquirer after buying a fintech firm should be “how do we retain talent?”

“If the buyer wants the firm they bought to grow and flourish, it starts with people,” he told the audience. “This is a talent-based business.”


Charles Paikert


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What You Don’t Know About Your Parents’ Finances Could Ruin Yours

 

I wasn’t too surprised when personal finance website GOBankingRates recently released a survey that found that 73% of Americans haven’t had conversations with aging parents about their finances. After all, most people are too busy trying to figure out their own finances to think about having money talks with their parents.

What did surprise me, though, was that 22% of the survey’s respondents said that they never plan to have this conversation with their parents because they think their parents’ finances are none of their business.

It’s one thing to assume that these conversations can wait until a health or financial emergency makes them necessary. But avoiding money talks with your parents altogether can be a mistake.

“If you don’t take the time to talk to your parents about their finances, your own finances could take a hit,” said Cameron Huddleston, author of the new book “Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances.” Why? There’s a good chance you’ll have to get involved with your parents’ financial lives as they age, she said. That can affect your own financial well-being if you aren’t prepared for that role.

You Might Have to Care for Your Parents

It’s well-known that Americans are living longer.  With longer lives, though, comes an increased risk of health issues. About 80% of older adults have at least on chronic disease such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes or dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, according to the National Council on Aging.

The latter – Alzheimer’s disease – is becoming increasingly prevalent as people live longer. The number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to more than double to 14 million by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Huddleston’s mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease when she was 65. Because her mom was divorced and living alone, Huddleston had to step in and start helping out her mom. For a few years, her mom lived with her – forcing Huddleston to juggle caregiving with her job as a financial journalist and her role as a mom of three children.

“My biggest regret is not talking to my mom about her finances before she started losing her memory,” Huddleston said. “She didn’t have long-term care insurance, and we didn’t have a plan for paying for the care that she needed.”

Only 5% of adults ages 55 to 60 have long-term care insurance, and only 11% of adults 65 and older have a policy, according to the Urban Institute. Long-term care insurance helps cover the cost of care in an assisted-living facility, nursing home or even at home. Medicare does not pay for this sort of care – which can be more than $8,000 a month.

It’s important to find out whether your parents have long-term care insurance or savings to cover this sort of care because, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center, 70% of adults 65 and older will need long-term care at some point.

“If you and your parents don’t discuss and prepare for how to pay for any care they might need, you could become your parents’ long-term care plan,” Huddleston said. “That could force you to cover the cost or stop working to help care for a parent.”

You Might Have to Help Support Them Financially

Even if your parents don’t need long-term care, they still might need your help as they age. A report published by the Stanford Center on Longevity found that half of Americans aren’t financially prepared for longer lifespans.  Your parents could be a part of this disturbing statistic.

They might not have enough saved for a comfortable retirement. In fact, your parents might be among the quarter of Americans who have no retirement savings. They might be drowning in mortgage, credit card or even student loan debt they took on to pay for your college education. They might have skyrocketing health care and prescription drug costs that they’re struggling to pay.

Huddleston said she interviewed several people for her book, “Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk,” who know they likely will have to help out their parents as they age because they aren’t doing well financially. Those who haven’t had detailed conversations with their parents about their finances expect to face a bigger burden than those who’ve been able to help their parents start managing their money better by having discussions with them, she said.

“Too many people think that only wealthy families need to be having money talks,” Huddleston said. “However, it’s even more important for adult children whose parents aren’t doing well financially to start having family money talks because they will more likely have to get involved with their parents’ financial lives.” Knowing sooner rather than later how much financial support you might have to provide parents can help you take steps to prepare your own finances.

“If you have siblings, it is important for all children to be in the loop regarding the parents’ finances, especially if it’s likely that they all would have to contribute toward taking care of their parents in the near future, whether it be a medical expense or even funeral expenses”, says Luis F. Rosa, financial planner and founder of Build a Better Financial Future, LLC, a virtual financial planning firm that focuses on financial planning for generation X. “Having the conversation among siblings will help all parties involved be better prepared. The last thing you need is a surprise costly financial obligation while at the same time dealing with the emotional stress of seeing a parent sick or deceased.”

You Might End up in Court

The most important reason to talk to your parents about their finances sooner rather than later is to find out whether they have a will, power of attorney and living will or advance health care directive, Huddleston said.

A will spells out who gets what when you die. If you die without one, your state law will dictate who gets your assets. There are countless stories of families who end up in court battling it out over who gets what after a family member dies without a will.

A power of attorney document lets you name a person or people to make financial decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself. And a living will or advance health care directive specifies what sort of end-of-life medical care you would or would not want – such as life support – and lets you name someone to make health care decisions for you if you can’t. 

These legal documents must be signed while a person is mentally competent. If your parents don’t have these documents and a health issue compromises their mental capacity, they won’t be able to sign them and give you, your siblings or other trusted family members or friends the legal right to make financial or health care decisions for them. At that point, you would have to go through a lengthy and expensive court process to gain the legal right to make financial or health-care decisions for them.

Huddleston said she interviewed a man who spent $10,000 and nine months going through the court process to become his dad’s conservator because his dad had not named him power of attorney before he developed Alzheimer’s disease. If he had been named power of attorney while his dad was still competent, the son would have been able to access his dad’s bank account to pay his medical bills without having to go to court to prove his dad was no longer able to manage his finances on his own.

There is a cost to having estate planning documents such as a will, living will and power of attorney drafted by an attorney. But the several hundred dollars your parents would pay for these documents pales in comparison to the several thousand dollars you could pay if you end up in court if your parents didn’t have the documents and you needed the legal right to make financial or health care decisions for them or to divvy up their assets after their death, Huddleston said.

“Having legal documents in place that clearly specify your parent’s wishes are so important especially in light of the “coping gap” that occurs when they pass. Grief makes facilitating estate affairs so much more difficult on its own. A properly organized legacy plan provides the children an opportunity to “literally” get on the same page with their parents via a living trust package,” says financial planner Anthony Montenegro of The Blackmont Group

How to Talk to Your Parents About Their Finances

Your parents likely won’t think you’re being nosy by asking them about their finances if you let them know you want to have the conversation to be prepared in case they ever need your help, Huddleston said. “The key is to let them know that you’re looking out for their best interests,” she said.

You could start the conversation by asking your parents what they have in place to deal with “what if” scenarios. For example, you could ask what would happen if they had a health emergency and ended up in the hospital and you or your siblings needed access to their financial accounts to make sure their bills were paid, Huddleston said. Or you could ask whether they would want care in their home or a facility if they ever needed long-term care and whether they have a way to pay for that care.

Or you could start the conversation by talking about your own financial planning experience. You could tell your parents you recently had a will drafted and want them to know where to find it if something happened to you, Huddleston said. Then you could ask where their estate-planning documents are so you’ll know in case of an emergency. 

Jose V. Sanchez, a certified financial planner in Albuquerque, New Mexico can relate to this situation all too well. He adds, “I realized that my father had created online bill payments, online accounts for the utilities, and the like. None of this was shared with anyone including my mother who is not computer savvy. I then shared with them our experience with Everplans and showed the systems that helped us get organized and systematically address our digital estate.”

Sharing stories about people you know who had to care for a parent or deal with the fallout after a parent died without a will can open the door to conversations about long-term care and estate planning. Huddleston offers several more ways to get the conversation started, what information to gather and how to get through to reluctant parents in her book. “As difficult as these conversations might seem, the consequences of not having them can be far worse,” she said. “So start talking today.”

 

Finding “New Money” To Save For A Down Payment

 

Buying a house can be such an incredible experience. When we’re finally able to find the perfect place to call home, we get a sense of comfort and belonging that’s indescribable. Our home protects us, helps us plant our family roots and allows us to create memories that will last a lifetime.

Before we can take the plunge and buy our new home, we need the money to make it happen. That all starts with a down payment.

And for a lot of us, that large amount of money is not always sitting in our bank account readily available for purchase time. With the majority of our country living paycheck to paycheck, coming up with the money for a down payment can feel really difficult – if not impossible.

To support us in buying our dream home, here are seven ways that we can find “new money” for our down payment.

Not everyone gets a sizeable tax refund based on how they file, but if you do, consider putting it in a savings account for your future home down payment. With the average tax refund hovering around $2,800, this could be a great starting point for your new home fund.

It may be tempting to spend this sizeable sum on a relaxing vacation or another luxury purchase. Hey, we’re human, right?! But if you’re able to hold yourself back and think about your new future home instead of some fun in the sun, your future self will thank you.

There are plenty of smart things to do with a bonus. You could pay down debt, invest for the future and save for a down payment on your next home.

There is a trick to this one though – you have to pretend the bonus isn’t going to come and therefore, you won’t plan to spend it.

A lot of this down payment savings game is psychological. When you’re in control of your money – instead of the other way around – you win.

Let’s say bonuses don’t really happen where you work. That’s okay. There are other routes to increase your income with your employer. For example, you could ask for a raise.

Now there are smart ways to ask for a raise, and then … there are not. Don’t go demanding more money just because you want it. You should be exceeding career expectations and having continuous dialogue with your supervisor about your goals at work. If your work and progress is not measurable, that can make asking for a raise a lot harder.

If you feel like you’ve been crushing it at work and your supervisor calls you out as a top contributor, there’s no harm in asking for what you feel you deserve. Be sure to check out sites like Glassdoor to learn more about typical salary range potential. The process could be enlightening and help you better understand the growth path for your future home down payment.

Perhaps the potential for income growth in your full-time job is limited or you’ve already tapped those resources and you’re looking for more ways to save for your down payment. Well, look no further than the side hustle!

Side hustles can be work done through the gig economy (Uber, Lyft and DoorDash), taking freelance jobs (writing, graphic design and website management) or by turning your hobby into a moneymaking small business. If you have extra hours and the drive to grow your savings, developing a side hustle may be for you.

Just be careful not to burn yourself out. If you’re working during the day, at night and on the weekends, you won’t have much time to enjoy that new home of yours. Be sure to find a savings rate and time frame that works well for your lifestyle and your long-term goals.  

There are only so many hours in the day. Making more money at work or outside of work may be difficult for you. A great place to start is in your current place of living.

Set aside an evening to walk around your house and find 10 things that you can sell on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. These are things that you don’t use or things that don’t bring you joy anymore. Some ideas may include:

  • Bikes
  • Baby gear
  • Kid’s clothes
  • Purses
  • Suits
  • Furniture
  • Toys
  • Video Games/Movies
  • Electronics

This evening of cleaning, purging and selling could very well net you $500 or more. And hey, even if it doesn’t, you’ll definitely have a much cleaner house!

Every year or so, it’s smart to reanalyze your insurance coverage. Your personal living, driving and financial situation may change over time and making sure you have the proper coverage is key.

But you also want to make sure your current insurance provider is giving you the best coverage for the lowest price possible. Quite often, insurance providers slowly increase their prices over time and before we know it, we’re paying a lot more than we originally committed to.

Shop around to other competing insurance providers for policies like home, auto and umbrella. A few phone calls could save you thousands of dollars per year. This four-figure savings expedition could be a nice pile of cash added to your future home down payment reserves.

One of the top three areas where we spend our money is food. Eating out for dinner, swinging by the drive-thru and our typical grocery shopping can take up a big portion of our monthly budgets.

While we’re saving up for our next home, try to keep eating out at restaurants to a minimum. Those high-priced bills can steal a lot of our savings potential.

Additionally, there are plenty of hacks to save money at the grocery store. Some of my personal favorites are the following:

  • Shopping with a list
  • Limiting trips to once per week
  • Switching to a low-cost grocery store like ALDI
  • Buying fruit and veggies that are in season
  • Cutting back on pre-packaged foods

Diligence and a little preparation with our food plans can help us save money and stay healthy at the same time. This way, you’ll be healthy and wealthy in that future home of yours!

Remember, everyone’s financial situation is different and it’s best to speak with a licensed financial expert or advisor before making any major financial decisions.

What strategies are you using to save for your home down payment? Please let us know in the comments below.

Steven Merrell, Financial Planning: Financial resilience

Question: I was raised in a home where we didn’t have much. It seemed like Dad was always working to pay the bills and Mom was always working to keep the family together. They did their best, but I always felt a like we were on the edge of disaster. I want something better for my family. How do I help my children develop a sense of financial security?

Answer: Before I get into a discussion about helping children feel more financially secure, I want to commend you for your desire to build on the foundation your parents left you. The ethic of each generation improving on the previous generation is one of the great hallmarks of our society. Hopefully, we never take that for granted.

Your desire stands in sharp contrast to a conversation I had with a very successful attorney several years ago. I mentioned the idea of leaving the world a better place for the rising generation. She surprised me by saying, in effect, that she had given up on that sort of idealism. Now that her children were raised, she was going to live her own life and her kids would have to figure it out for themselves. She was not yet a grandmother, but I asked about her future grandkids. She said that was someone else’s problem.

In contrast, as a father of five and grandfather of four (almost five), I feel a very keen interest in the kind of world they inherit. And while much of what I see in today’s world troubles me, I also see great reason for optimism. It is this connection between living optimistically while remaining conscious to life’s dangers that gets to the heart of how we help our children stay healthy — emotionally, socially and financially — in a very complex world. The key is to teach them correct principles, including how to be resilient.

Resilience is the ability to adapt to the vagaries of life in a constructive way. It is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. It is a kind of mental and emotional toughness that acknowledges hardship but refuses to be cowed by it. In my mind, the question isn’t so much how we instill a sense of financial security in our kids as it is, how do we help them develop financial resilience.

The best way to teach our children is to model healthy living — including following sound financial principles. When financial reversals hit — and they almost always do at some point — our children will see our resilience and learn to incorporate it into their lives.

You can reinforce your message by intentionally drawing attention to it. For example, if you experience a layoff, you can say something like, “Layoffs are a real bummer, but I am so glad we put aside an emergency reserve to carry us through times like this.”

Correct financial principles enhance our resilience. Such principles include living within our means, saving for a rainy day, saving for retirement, avoiding consumer debt, avoiding excessive student debt, getting an education, staying current with your education, investing properly, carrying enough (but not too much) insurance, making do with what you have, and doing without things that don’t support your core values.

One of the most important things you can do to enhance your financial resilience is to develop and keep current with your financial plan. A financial plan will show you how all the pieces in your financial life fit together. It is also a great vehicle for teaching kids to be financially resilient by giving them a better foundation for understanding the financial decisions you make.

Steven C. Merrell is an investment adviser and partner at Monterey Private Wealth Inc., in Monterey. Send questions concerning investing, taxes, retirement or estate planning to Steve Merrell, 2340 Garden Road Suite 202, Monterey 93940 or smerrell@montereypw.com.

4 Types of Investment Accounts You Should Know

If you like having options, you’ve got plenty when it comes to investment account types. What’ll it be, an IRA? Taxable account? College savings account? That’s one of the first questions financial firms ask when you set up an account.

This guide to the various types of investment accounts will help you find the best one based on your savings goals, eligibility, and who you want to retain ownership of the account (yourself, you and someone else, or even a minor).

Investment account types

1. Standard brokerage account

A standard brokerage account — sometimes called a taxable brokerage account or a non-retirement account — provides access to a broad range of investments, including stocks, mutual funds, bonds, exchange-traded funds and more. Any interest or dividends you earn on investments, as well as any gains on investments that you sell, are subject to taxes in the year that the money is received.

With a non-retirement account you have a choice in how it is owned:

  • Individual taxable brokerage account: Opened by an individual who retains ownership of the account and will be solely responsible for the taxes generated in the account.
  • Joint taxable brokerage account: An account shared by two or more people — typically spouses, but it can be opened with anyone, even a non-relative.

When you open a brokerage account, the firm will likely ask you whether you want a cash account or a margin account. A cash account is appropriate for the majority of investors. It allows you to buy investments with money you deposit into the account. A margin account is for investors who want to borrow money from the broker to buy investments. Margin trading is a riskier type of investing that is best suited for advanced traders.

Eligibility: You must be a legal adult (at least 18 years old) and have a Social Security number or a tax ID number (among other forms of identification) to open a brokerage account.

Good to know: There are no limits on how much money you can contribute to a taxable brokerage account, and money can be withdrawn at any time, although you may owe taxes if the investments you sell to cash out have increased in value.

Here are three brokerage firms that earned high marks in our reviews:

Open Account

Trade Fee

$4.95

$4.95

Account Minimum

$0

$0

Promotion

Up to $3,500

Up to $3,500

in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

Open Account

Trade Fee

$6.95

$6.95

Account Minimum

$500

$500

Promotion

Up to $600

Up to $600

cash credit with a qualifying deposit

Open Account

Trade Fee

$6.95

$6.95

Account Minimum

$0

$0

Promotion

60

60

days of commission-free trades with qualifying deposit

2. Retirement accounts

A retirement account, such as an IRA, or individual retirement account, is a standard brokerage account with access to the same range of investments. The biggest difference between a retirement account and a brokerage account is how the IRS taxes — or doesn’t tax — contributions, investment gains and withdrawals.

The most common types of retirement accounts are traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. Many brokers also offer specialty retirement savings accounts for small-business owners and self-employed individuals, such as SEP IRAs, SIMPLE IRAs and Solo 401(k)s. If the company you work for offers a 401(k) plan and matches any portion of the money you save in that account, contribute to the 401(k) before funding an IRA.

Depending on the type of IRA you choose, you get either an upfront tax break in the year you make contributions to the account (with a traditional IRA) or a back-end tax break that makes your withdrawals in retirement tax-free (via a Roth IRA). Joint IRAs are not allowed.

» All your IRA questions answered: See NerdWallet’s IRA Guide

Eligibility: You must have earned income (or a spouse with qualified earned income) to be eligible to contribute to an IRA. There are also income limits for contributing to a Roth IRA and for deducting contributions to a traditional IRA. Read more about IRA eligibility rules here.

Good to know: The maximum an individual is allowed to contribute to an IRA in 2019 is $6,000 if you’re under age 50, and $7,000 if you’re 50 or older. Per IRS rules, there may be taxes and penalties for dipping into IRAs before age 59 ½. If you think you’ll need access to the money early, the Roth IRA provides more penalty-free options.

These providers offer ample tools and guidance for savers looking for a place to open an IRA:

Open Account

Trade Fee

$4.95

$4.95

Account Minimum

$0

$0

Promotion

500

500

free trades with a qualifying deposit

Open Account

Trade Fee

$6.95

$6.95

Account Minimum

$0

$0

Promotion

300

300

$0 online stock and ETF trades, no minimum deposit required

Open Account

Management Fee

0.25%

0.25%

Account Minimum

$0

$0

Promotion

Up to 1 year

Up to 1 year

of free management with a qualifying deposit

3. Education accounts

One of the most popular types of accounts used to pay for education expenses is the 529 savings plan. (This is different from 529 prepaid tuition plans that let you lock in the in-state public tuition at the institution that runs the plan.) Most states offer their own 529 plans that you can open directly, but typically the money can be used at eligible schools nationwide. Some brokerages also allow you to open a 529 account. For example, TD Ameritrade offers 529 accounts through Nebraska’s plan, and Wealthfront offers them through Nevada.

Another education savings option is the Coverdell Education Savings Account. An ESA must be set up before the beneficiary is 18, and, like 529s, the money can be used for college, elementary and secondary education expenses.

Eligibility: Relative or not, anyone can contribute to these plans on behalf of a beneficiary. And anyone can be named a beneficiary on the account, as long as the money is used for qualified education expenses.

Good to know: Contributions to 529s and ESAs are not tax-deductible (though you might get a state tax deduction on 529 contributions), but qualified distributions are tax-free. The IRS allows people to contribute up to $15,000 per beneficiary into 529s in 2019 without having to worry about federal gift taxes. The maximum allowable contribution to an ESA is $2,000 a year (as long as you fall below a certain income level) until the beneficiary’s 18th birthday.

4. Investment accounts for kids

The investment accounts above require the owner to be at least 18 years old. But what about brokerage accounts for the budding young Buffett you know? There are a few options to accommodate minors:

Custodial brokerage account

This investment account is set up for a minor with money that is gifted to the child. An adult (the custodian) maintains account control and transfers assets to the child when he or she turns the “age of majority,” which is either 18 or 21, depending on state laws.

Two types of custodial accounts are the Uniform Gift to Minors Act (UGMA) and the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA). The difference is the type of assets you’re allowed to contribute to the account. UTMAs are able to hold real estate, in addition to the typical investments allowed in both types of accounts (cash, stocks, bonds, mutual funds). Once the money is in the account it cannot be transferred to another beneficiary.

Eligibility: A child does not need earned income for a UGMA. Some states allow UGMAs, some allow UTMAs and some allow both. A broker can determine whether your state allows you to open one for a beneficiary.

Good to know: Unlike money in an education account, money put into a UGMA or UTMA can be used for any purpose, not just college tuition. And be aware that if the child applies for financial aid, the assets in a custodial account are considered the student’s and can impact their eligibility and the amount of the aid package.

Custodial IRA

If a child has earned income, they are eligible to contribute to a Roth or traditional IRA. The account is set up and maintained by an adult who transfers it to the child when they turn 18 or 21.

Eligibility: The earned income can come from anything, including babysitting, an informal lawn-mowing business or Instagram sponsorships, as long as it is reported to the IRS.

Good to know: In a Roth IRA, contributions — but not investment earnings — can be pulled out at any time without incurring income taxes or an early withdrawal penalty.

» Here’s more on how to open a brokerage account for your kids

Where should you open your investment account?

Most financial institutions offer, at a minimum, standard brokerage accounts and IRAs. Many also offer education savings accounts and custodial accounts.

If you want to pick and manage your investments on your own, opening an account at an online broker is the way to go. Here’s our list of the best online brokers for beginner investors.

If you want someone to manage your money for you, a full-service broker (a firm with an investment advisor calling the shots) or a robo-advisor can take the reins. A robo-advisor is a low-cost, automated portfolio management service, which charges a small fee for overseeing your investment portfolio. Here are the robo-advisors we recommend.

Teen wore her mum’s 20-year-old wedding dress to prom to save money


Grace in the dress for her prom and he mum on her wedding day
Grace in the dress for her prom and he mum on her wedding day (Picture: Caters News)

Prom dresses can come with hefty price tags and although you want to look great, you’ll probably only want to wear the dress once.

One teenager had a smart idea to save money and wear something completely unique – her mum’s wedding dress.

Grace Jeyes, 18, decided not to buy a new dress and instead she chose the sentimental outfit, saving the money she would have spent for driving lessons.

The white dress with buttons down the front, petal sleeves and jagged hem that mum Dawn wore when she got married in 1998 was pretty unconventional back then and Grace had always loved it.

Grace, from Melton Mowbray, Leics, said: ‘I didn’t see the point in buying a new dress that I will only ever wear once so I had a look in my wardrobe and then mum’s.

‘I found her stunning wedding dress and I fell in love with it – it fitted perfectly, and I knew this is the one.’


Grace wearing her mums wedding dress to her prom, with her dad David
Grace wearing her mums wedding dress to her prom, with her dad David (Picture: Caters News)

Grace even kept it secret until the night before her prom as a surprise for her mum and dad David, 49.

Grace adds: ‘When she saw me in it, she was so happy.

‘The dress means so much to my parents which made it even more special for me.

‘My friends and teachers were all complimenting me on my dress as it was different from the rest but nobody believed it was once a wedding dress.’


Dawn on her wedding day in 1998
Dawn on her wedding day in 1998 (Picture: Caters News)

Dawn, who is a business owner said: ‘Grace told me she already had a prom dress and didn’t want to shop for another one.

‘I assumed it was going to be one of her many dresses in her wardrobe, so when she came down in my wedding dress, I was so shocked.

‘I was extremely flattered and felt like I must have decent dress sense for her to wear it 20 years later.

‘She has always liked my wedding dress, but I didn’t think she would ever wear it out.

‘I am biased, but I thought she looked the best – she likes to be different from the rest.

‘Grace is very wise with money and thinks before she spends so rather than buying a new prom dress, we put the money towards driving lessons instead.’

MORE: Healthy lifestyle can reduce risk of dementia even if the condition runs in your family, study says

MORE: A self-service cocktail bar has launched in London

Bank of America considering subscription pricing model for Merrill Edge

Bank of America is “absolutely” considering creating a subscription service for its Merrill Edge service, potentially making it the second major Wall Street player to offer clients a nontraditional way to pay for wealth management services.

“Clients are simply getting used to paying to subscriptions. It’s a logical next step. It’s just a question of getting the pricing right,” says Teron Douglas, head of digital capabilities at Merrill Edge, who was speaking at SourceMedia’s In|Vest conference in New York.

Douglas, who was responding to an audience member’s question, noted there’s precedence for such a move, observing that Schwab and some fintech firms have already put forward such offerings.

In April, Charles Schwab introduced a subscription pricing model, which has gained traction with clients. The company’s robo advisor added $1 billion in new client assets in the last three months, according to Bernie Clark, head of Schwab’s RIA channel. Thirty-seven percent of clients are new customers, says Clark, who also spoke at In|Vest.

Bloomberg News

Bank of America, meanwhile, has been expanding its range of wealth management offerings. In June, the company added a digital-plus-human-advisor option dubbed “Merrill Guided Investing with an advisor.” The bank already offered a DIY platform (Merrill Edge), a robo advisor (Merrill Edge Guided Investing) and its traditional Merrill Lynch financial advisors.

The new digital-plus-human offering has a $20,000 account minimum and charges an annual fee of 0.85%, compared to a $5,000 minimum and an annual fee of 0.45% for the purely digital version. Discounts are available for members of Bank of America’s preferred rewards program.

A subscription model could resemble what cable companies offer; a basic plan with options to add more services as clients need or want — for a fee, of course.


Andrew Welsch


For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.


How to Manage Your Roth 401(k) at Work

If you’re lucky enough to have a Roth 401(k) at work, you might have a boatload of money in your traditional 401(k).

And if that’s the case you might want to investigate converting some or all your traditional 401(k) funds into your Roth 401(k) — over time or all at once. You might also think about contributing to your Roth 401(k) instead of your traditional 401(k) as well. Both tactics are designed to help you create tax-efficient income in retirement. But any time you convert money to a Roth account, there are a few key variables to consider.

Does your plan allow conversions?

First off, you need to determine what your 401(k) plan permits, says Marcia Wagner, the founder and owner of The Wagner Law Group. “In-plan Roth 401(k) conversions are not a required Code provision and, even if the plan permits them, there might be some limitations, such as being limited to active employees,” she says.

But even if you plan permits such conversions, you have to decide if it makes sense. “The decision to convert 401(k) money into a Roth 401(k) should be based on the same variables that apply for converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, says Tim Steffen, director of advanced planning at Baird Private Wealth Management. “Don’t let the fact that it’s inside your employer’s retirement convince you that this decision is any different.”

Do you have cash to pay for the taxes due on the conversion?

The primary tax advantage is that distributions from a pre-tax account are tax-deferred, while distributions from a Roth 401(k) account are excluded from tax, so long as the applicable age and service limitations on distributions from such accounts are followed, says Wagner.

But if you decide to do in-plan Roth 401(k) conversion remember that it’s a taxable event on the federal level, and depending upon the state, at the state level as well, says Wagner. In essence, the amount you are converting is a distribution and taxed as ordinary income. You won’t, however, have to pay a 10% early distribution penalty if you’re under age 59½.

Steffen says it’s a good idea to make sure you have cash available to pay the tax that’s due on the conversion. “This is even more important with 401(k) conversions than with IRA conversions,” he says. “If you convert an IRA, you can easily keep some of the money from the conversion aside to pay the tax. We would never recommend that, as using IRA dollars to pay conversion tax never makes sense, but it’s at least an option.”

With a 401(k) conversion, however, you likely can’t access any of that money until you leave the employer, so you really need to make sure you have other money available to pay the tax, says Steffen.

What’s the tax cost?

Steffen also recommends asking the following question when contemplating a 401(k) Roth conversion: What is the tax cost you’re going to pay to convert today, as compared to the tax cost you would pay if you withdrew the money from the traditional account during retirement? “It’s very hard to justify paying a higher tax cost now than you would in retirement,” he says.

If you’re a younger worker, with a relatively low income level, your tax rate today might be less than it would be in retirement, says Steffen. “But if you’re older and well established in your career, right now you might be paying the highest tax rate you’ll ever pay in your life since most people see their income fall when they switch from working to retirement,” he says.

How soon will you need the money you’re putting in the Roth?

According to Steffen, a Roth conversion, of any kind, means you’re accelerating a tax liability that could have been deferred perhaps for many years, even decades. “To justify that accelerated tax cost, you need to give the Roth money time to grow tax-free,” he says. “Converting today and then withdrawing the funds shortly after doesn’t allow you to recover that tax cost.”

As for what that time frame is, Steffen says it’s at least a few years, but the longer, the better.

It’s irreversible.

One drawback to doing a Roth 401(k) conversion, according to Wagner, is that the decision to convert is irreversible. “Recharacterization back to a pre-tax account is not permitted,” she says.

The difference between the two Roth accounts:

Steffen also says there’s one significant difference between Roth 401(k)s and Roth IRAs. In both accounts, he says the plan needs to be open for at least five years for the earnings in the account to be tax-free upon withdrawal. “There are other requirements as well, but that’s the first one you must meet,” he says.

If you convert to a Roth 401(k), your five-year window begins Jan. 1 of the year you first put money in that account, says Steffen. “The same applies for a Roth IRA,” he says.

However, when you roll money out of the Roth 401(k) and into a Roth IRA at retirement, that five-year window will reset, says Steffen. “You can’t use the time in the Roth 401(k) to count towards time in the Roth IRA. “If the Roth 401k has been open for more than five years, you may be able to withdraw earnings from the account tax-free,” he says. “If you roll that money to a new Roth IRA, however, that five-year window starts over.”

The better thing to do, he says, is to roll the Roth 401(k) money to an existing Roth IRA. “In that case, the five-year window on the Roth 401(k) dollars will go back to when the Roth IRA was opened,” says Steffen.

If you don’t have a Roth IRA today, but you do have a Roth 401(k), Steffen says it probably makes sense to open a Roth IRA now to get that five-year period started. “Then when you roll the Roth 401(k) into that Roth IRA, you don’t have to start all over,” he says.

Note, however, Roth IRA contributions have limits based on your income. This table shows whether your contribution to a Roth IRA is affected by the amount of your modified AGI as computed for Roth IRA purposes.

Should you start contributing to a Roth 401(k) instead of a Roth 401(k) conversion?

For the contributions, you have to look at what’s more valuable – the tax deduction today or the tax-free income in the future, says Steffen. “If your future tax rate will be lower, then the traditional makes more sense — get the deduction now at a higher rate, then have taxable income in the future at a lower rate,” she says. “That’s probably the case with older, more established workers.”

Younger workers, on the other hand, would probably benefit from the Roth to start, says Steffen. “They have lower income now, so the deduction isn’t as valuable to them today as the tax-free income will be in the future,” he says.

From a pure math standpoint — if your current and future tax rates are the same — the Roth and traditional plan work out to be the exact same.

Steffen gave this example: Say you contribute $18,000 to a traditional 401(k) that earns 7% every year. After 30 years you’ll have $1,700,294. But if you tax adjust that for a 25% income tax, you really only have $1,275,221.

On the other hand, if you pay the same 25% tax on the $18,000 and then put the balance in the Roth, your contribution is just $13,500. If that grows at 7% for 30 years, the Roth will be worth the same $1,275,221.

If the future tax rate is higher — say 30% — the traditional is really only worth $1,190,206, while the Roth is still worth $1,275,221.

If the future tax rate is lower — say 20% — the traditional is now worth $1,360,235, compared to the Roth at $1,275,221.

“There’s also the concept of ‘tax diversification,’ where you ignore any tax issues today and instead focus on creating different pools of money to withdraw from in the future, knowing that tax rates could be literally anything in retirement,” says Steffen.

It’s never too late – or too early – to plan and invest for the retirement you deserve. Get more information and a free trial subscription to TheStreet’s Retirement Daily to learn more about saving for and living in retirement. Got questions about money, retirement and/or investments? Email Robert.Powell@TheStreet.com.