Here where I live in New Jersey, we have the highest real estate taxes in the United States (and probably the universe as well!) with a whopping average of $3,971 per year. Now that we’re closing in on a new fiscal year in my town, and my first quarterly tax payment is due on August 1st, I am reminded again that many of us simply accept the tax evaluations we receive from our local assessor and pay up without really knowing what can be done. In fact, if there has been some kind of error made or even if you just need a further explanation as to how the assessment was calculated, there’s a lot you can do.
It matters not whether you pay your taxes through an escrow account (which I don’t recommend if you have that choice) or you do as I do and pay them directly to your local office, you still have the right to challenge your assessment and you may in fact have good reasons to do exactly that! Continue reading
It’s July and Americans are getting ready to celebrate Independence Day on July 4th! It’s a day with fireworks, great food, and gathering your loved ones together to appreciate all the good things we have here in the US and pay homage to it. Despite the headlines, we still know that this is the land of opportunity and we feel lucky to be a part of it. And so we celebrate our country’s independence. But have you ever thought about celebrating your financial independence day?
Financial independence (or FI as it’s known) isn’t a dollar amount you accumulate but rather a date that you have or will set for your financial freedom. Most of us think of it as a retirement date, simply because it will take some time to reach the goals for your independence. For some people it can come early in life, just ask Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. But for the rest of us, it’s a longer term goal and we get to it with good plans and habits. It’s what we want and look forward to, isn’t it? So let’s plan it right now: your financial independence day can come before retirement! Continue reading
A few weeks ago, in my roadmap to happiness, I mentioned knowing what is enough for you. In our consumer society, we always seem to want more and have a difficult time “settling” for what we already have. But having gratitude that we have enough—enough to eat, a place to live, health care when we need it, family and friends—can make us rich beyond our wildest dreams.
I was reminded of this wealth during the past few days. My wife Suzanne volunteers at a food bank, and the clients there don’t always have enough. It is difficult to see people struggling for basic needs. Thankfully the food bank is able to provide them with a considerable amount of food. The donations they receive provide not only canned and boxed goods, but fresh bread, dairy, and produce as well as frozen meats. Of course when you have perishable goods, it can be a challenge to manage the inventory with the demand before they spoil. And that is why last week we received the unexpected abundance of a case of zucchini, several pounds of carrots, and a case of ripe pears. Continue reading
In this day and age, perhaps more than ever, spending your money wisely is essential to keeping you and your family financially healthy. If you’re like me, you probably plan a budget and think about your big purchases long and hard before you spend any hard-earned money. You probably don’t think you waste your money, but sometimes our everyday habits leak money without our even realizing it.
Are you wasting money? Take a look at this list to figure out what ways your money may be disappearing right out of your pocket. Continue reading
Maybe you’re in your twenties and you’ve been out and about enjoying life. You socialize with your friends most nights and you finally got that apartment you always wanted even though it cost just a little more than you wanted to pay. You have a job, but it’s not the one you really wanted. It’s a paycheck and some experience, but you really want something better. And now this…you realize that you just can’t pay all your expenses each month and you’re in big trouble! Trust me on this: you’re not alone. Many young people (and even not so young people) start out with the idea that everything will just fall into place once they’re on their own. They’re all about the fun of independence, their first apartment and job, and what seems to be a great adventure with sunshine and happiness ahead. But, the reality is you never had to manage your own money before. Mom and Dad probably helped you quite a bit and if a shortfall ever arose, well they put a bandaid on it with a loan or a gift. There’s nothing to be ashamed of here. It’s part of growing up and now that you are an adult, you need to figure it out on your own!
So you can’t pay your bills…what can you do? Continue reading
After 40+ years of working in the retail world, and even more years as an astute shopper, I think I know that the intention of almost every retail establishment is very clear. Their goals are very simple. They want to make a profit (yes, it’s not a dirty word!) and to make you a happy, satisfied customer so that you will return again and tell your friends to do the same. There are “rules” to be followed in many cases (they’re also known as consumer protection laws), but mostly it’s a common sense approach to resolving issues and shopping mistakes.
As upfront as that sounds, things do occur that can prevent such simple goals from being achieved. What happens in reality often leaves a bad taste in the shopper’s mouth and prevents the goal of mutual satisfaction from occurring. Why? Well again, it’s not complicated. Sometimes an honest mistake is made by a store and its employees. Other times, it’s the chain of command and the retail staff feels the need to protect the store from being taken advantage of by customers (and that does happen sometimes), which can lead to tension and customers leaving unhappy. Here are some real life situations I’ve experienced and what I did to resolve them from both sides of the shopping transaction. Continue reading
Now that summer is upon us, and the days are getting warmer and warmer, the air conditioning is already starting to crank up. That’s why it’s that time again to look at ways to save money off your monthly utility bills.
I know saving on energy costs isn’t the sexiest money saving technique, but it can never be a bad idea to remind us all that we spend an ever-increasing amount on our utilities and appliances that “burn” our dollars almost constantly. In addition, saving energy will help in saving our planet by using less, polluting less, and keeping our own personal carbon footprint on the smaller side. That’s important to me and my personal philosophy to do so for the benefit of future generations. Continue reading
Many people don’t know a lot about investing, and so they’re afraid to start. This can have a significant impact on your retirement savings and the growth of your wealth. Learning the basics of investing isn’t that difficult, and in fact, it’s a bit like cooking good barbecue. What? Yes, you read that right. Before you write me off as crazy, follow along and I’ll explain how a good basic investing strategy is like cooking good barbecue (with the disclaimer that I’m neither a barbecue nor an investment expert). Despite my northern roots, I love good barbecue just as much as the next person. Brisket, ribs, pork butt, chicken…it’s all good. So last week, when the country pork ribs were on sale at the supermarket, I picked up a few pounds and my mouth started to water for dinnertime to arrive. While they were cooking, I had time to think over the process and how similar it can be to investing, and so here I present for your reading consumption: how to invest like you’re cooking barbecue. Continue reading
We all have decisions we make every day and we seem to survive just fine with the vast majority of them, even when we are young or inexperienced. We can usually decide how to spend our free time and what to have for lunch and dinner without much difficulty, despite the number of choices out there. There’s very little stress involved and any choice we make won’t affect our lives too much (barring some foolish behaviors like excess drinking or drug use).
But when it comes to financial matters and money choices, it’s a whole different ballgame. These decisions can be very tough, especially for new college graduates who have little or no experience in making them, and can cause heavy-duty, brain-busting stress. Especially because the money habits we start as young adults can have benefits, or consequences, far into our futures. Continue reading
The following blog post is part of the The Road to Financial Wellness Blog Tour.
Over a period of 30 days, the Phroogal team will go to 30 locations to raise
awareness about financial empowerment. Today they will be in Elizabeth, NJ!
Our goal is to help people learn about money by starting the conversation.
We understand that local conversations can help bring
about national awareness.
I worked for forty-five years in the business world before I began writing this blog in my retirement. That’s how long it took me to put together, in a simple way, how you can achieve happiness, success, and financial health in your life by focusing on a road to that very goal. By avoiding many of the mistakes I, and many others, have made over the years, you can improve your chances of feeling that feeling that makes you a success.
It seems like most of us work very long, hard hours, making personal sacrifices in the hope that we will make more money and get promotions. Despite doing that, most of us aren’t really happy in our current situation. We want more, but we don’t seem to know how to get there. A big part of the equations is that we think that being financially successful makes us happy, and that monetary wealth guarantees we will have it all. Continue reading