Guidebook

Wealth-Building Financial Goals for Every Stage of Life

If building wealth is among your aspirations for the year ahead, below are some ideas for potential goals to set, depending on your age and stage of life. Although your priorities will surely change over time, the goal of continuing to build wealth may not. If you would like a referral to a financial professional in our network, give me a call!

In Your 20’s

Your focus: Start saving and balance debt-to-income

GOALS:

  • Reduce debt. Although it’s important to build credit, aim to keep your balances low and apply more money toward your payments, if possible.

  • Build retirement savings. Many investment models will encourage you to maximize your investment risk while you’re young and can weather market corrections easier than older people who have less time to save and recover.

  • Create an emergency fund. Aim to save enough to cover at least six months of expenses should you lose your job or face an unexpected circumstance.

In Your 30’s

Your focus: Save as much as you can for large goals while you handle the demands of growing a family or caring for aging parents.

Goals:

  • Save for a down payment on a home. They more you can save, the sooner you can build equity.

  • Fund your retirement. By this time, retirement should be a top priority. Aim to save 15% of your pretax salary each year, if possible.

  • Save for your children’s education. If you have children, the best time to begin saving for their education is when they’re young. A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan sponsored by states and several private colleges and universities that encourages you to save money to cover future education expenses.

In Your 40’s

Your focus: This is your peak earning decade: Research shows pay growth peaks at 49 for college-educated men and 40 for college-educated women.

Goal:

  • Grow wealth. This may include a variety of methods, such as investing in real estate, working with stocks and bonds or taking advantage of high-yield savings accounts. Ask your financial professional for strategies to meet your overall financial goals.

In Your 50’s

Your focus: Max out your savings and catch-up on saving for retirement. With retirement a little over a decade away, now is the time to save as much as you can.

Goals:

  • Maximize your retirement saving contributions

  • Add income-generating investments, such as an investment or rental property

In Your 60’s

Your focus: Retire and make your money last.

Goal:

  • Continue to make money grow for you. Speak with your financial professional about creating a mix of investments that will help you maintain your lifestyle and create a legacy.

Tip: Roll over any 401(k)s from previous employers into a retirement account. If it’s been moved to an IRA, work with your financial professional to help you track down the money and transfer it to your retirement account.

When to Get Excited About the Housing Market

Real estate professionals get that consumers, by and large, ignore housing statistics and the market until they become involved in the purchase or sale of a home. It's only natural then that what impacts the market is a bit of a mystery to many. What determines a buyers' or sellers' market? What factors influence home prices?

Of course the answers to these questions and more may be multi-faceted, but it's important to pay attention to them if you hope to keep more of your money when it's time to buy or sell real estate.

Believe it or not, even in what seems like the gloomiest of real estate markets, there will be a glimmer of light for some.

Pay Attention to Interest Rates

It certainly is no secret that obtaining a lower interest rate for a mortgage typically allows for a lower payment. Naturally then, low interest rates make home-buying an attractive venture—and, even whispers of a rate hike can spur folks to get out into the market.

For instance, by the end of 2015, the U.S. saw 5.26 million home sales, which was the most robust housing market since 2006. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), attributed the robust market, in part, to the mere “prospect of higher mortgage rates in coming months.”

And, rise they did, throughout the following year. In fact, late in 2016, mortgage interest rates rose eight times in nine weeks, according to bankrate.com. Sounds rather gloomy until one recognizes that, post-hike, rates were still at historic lows.

The bottom line is that if you're in the market for a home and interest rates decrease or remain attractively low, it's time to get excited about the housing market.

The Economy

The current economy is a key factor affecting the real estate market. “Broadly speaking, when the economy is sluggish, so is real estate,” claims Joseph Nguyen at Investopedia. Rather than look at the glass half-full, however, we choose to take the opposite tack—when the economy is humming along, the housing market is at its most attractive.

When job growth is robust, consumer confidence rises and we're more apt to spend money on high-ticket items, such as cars, appliances, vacations and, yes, homes.

Exciting Markets for Sellers

There's an old saying in the real estate industry that counsels homeowners that the best time to sell a home is when you need to sell your home. Yes, we understand that isn't very helpful. If you're one of the fortunate who has no compelling reason to sell (such as a job offer in a different town or divorce), you have the luxury of choosing when to put the home on the market.

Get excited if real estate professionals mention the words “sellers' market.” This is a period in which there are few homes for sale but buyer demand is high. During sellers' markets prices typically increase rapidly and homes sell at or above list price.

One of the biggest mistakes we see in sellers' markets is the homeowner who feels that the market itself will bring top dollar for the home, regardless of condition. Be aware that it's the homes in good condition that sell the quickest and for the most amount of money. Regardless if market conditions favor sellers, if your home isn't in move-in condition, it may be passed over by home buyers.

Buying a Home This Year?

A buyers' market—when there is a large selection of homes for sale and few other buyers in the market—is a great time to purchase a home. Unlike a sellers' market, prices aren't rapidly escalating and you won't be competing against a slew of other buyers. These markets are more relaxed so homebuyers can take their time deciding.

In a sellers' market, however, it's more important than ever to have all your ducks in a row before making an offer on a property. Ensure you know exactly how much you can spend and that you've obtained a preapproval letter from your lender. Make your offer stand out from others by keeping it lean and mean, with the shortest time periods for contingencies as possible. Finally, come in with your highest and best offer. A sellers' market moves too quickly to assume the homeowner will negotiate over price.

While the type of market may determine when to jump in, as mentioned earlier, interest rates can also cause excitement in the housing market. Low rates and relaxed lending guidelines, such as we saw in 2015 and 2016, presented a prime opportunity for many would-be buyers who previously couldn't afford to purchase.

Lower mortgage rates mean a lower monthly payment, which means you have more purchasing power, and that additional power can "mean the difference between buying a 2-bedroom home versus a 3-bedroom one; between buying a home with large closets versus small closets; and, between buying an upgraded home versus a dated one," according to Dan Green at The Mortgage Reports.

Regardless of the media's perception of the housing market, there is always a mix of good and bad news, depending on whether you are in the market to buy or to sell. Arm yourself with a professional real estate agent who can supply you with current and local market information (too often what you read in the news is stale and based on nationwide statistics), follow his or her advice and buying or selling a home in any market will be an exciting process.

Choosing the Right Home


Looking for the right home can be a daunting process for first time buyers and seasoned vets alike. From the style of the house to the type of appliances, there are countless factors that can go into such a big purchase. The following short checklist outlines the most important things you should think about when you're on the hunt for a new home. 

1. Define your budget: 

It's never fun to fall in love with a house that you can't afford. Avoid the heartbreak by taking the time to analyze your financial situation before you begin the search. Start by reviewing your credit score, monitoring your debt and choosing an appropriate down payment. Meeting with a financial professional can help you get an accurate picture of your financial situation and the loans you are eligible for. 

Looking at your debt-to-income ratio is one of the ways that creditors establish how qualified you are for a mortgage loan. Your debt-to-income ratio is determined by taking your monthly debt (think current mortgage payments, student loans, car loans, etc.) and divide them by your gross monthly income. Ideally, you want to keep that ratio at 43% or lower. According to the Federal Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, "studies of mortgage loans suggest that borrowers with a higher debt-to-income ratio are more likely to run into trouble making monthly payments. The 43 percent debt-to-income ratio is important because, in most cases, that is the highest ratio a borrower can have and still get a Qualified Mortgage." 

Don't skip the down-payment analysis! A huge factor in getting the best mortgage rate relies on how much cash you are able to put down initially. The rule of thumb has been to put 20% down as a minimum. Anything below the 20% rule will usually require mortgage insurance and end up costing you more on the loan long term. Determining the right path for you will require you to analyze your own situation—your budget, timeframe and any other factors involved in figuring out your financial capacity to save and put money away for your new home. 


2. Your Must-Have List: 

Always search for homes that meet your "must-have" list. A must-have list encourages you to write out exactly what you need in a new home and will significantly aid in narrowing down the scope of your search, especially when searching with another person. This list will also foster communication on critical aspects of your new home that might not have been discussed previously, and help you identify requirements that may be in conflict with each other. 

Focus your list on the high-level, pricey aspects of a home. Minor changes such as painting and smaller renovation projects can be worked on down the road, but changes that add up in time and money should be avoided (think kitchen remodels or adding another bathroom). Narrowing down your search to homes that don't require major changes will help ensure you choose a home that is within your budget. 

If you are struggling on where to start, think about what type of home you want to live in–Single Family or Townhome/Condo? How many bathrooms and bedrooms do you need? Do you want a fireplace or pool? What's the minimum lot size you would be comfortable with and do you require a garage? What about air conditioning? 

Keep your list short and sweet–try to keep your must-haves on the shorter side by focusing on major requirements and ranking them by importance. Prioritizing your list will help when it comes to decision-making time, as selecting a home will often require some flexibility. Your list will provide you with an easy way to determine which aspects you can compromise on and which are red flags telling you to move on. 

Compromise can be hard, but don't let small things completely take a home off of your short list. Remember, minor changes such as painting and smaller renovation projects can be worked on down the road, however, if there are a lot of these things the costs of those projects can add up. Focus on the minor modifications that you feel comfortable changing. 

3. Location, Location, Location! 

While the importance of location is often a no-brainer, the location of your potential new home serves multiple purposes. Location will impact your daily life and happiness as well as your home's value down the road. 

When looking at location in terms of resell value, you want to look at a multitude of things: school districts, crime stats, and the neighborhood & community. A little research can answer most of these questions, and this website offers Market Insider, a tool to give you details on all these factors and more! Besides looking at the current stats and trends, take this information and think about what the value of the area might be in 5 or 10 years when you potentially could resell your home. 

Along with the resale value, analyze the location of a home from the perspective of your wellbeing and happiness. Things such as your daily commute, surrounding noise, and community will greatly shape your experience in the home. 

Along with this checklist, seeking guidance from a professional is always a good idea! A realtor like me can offer a wide array of skills and expertise, from the showing of a home to the endless paperwork. You can count on me to guide you through the process and assist in your home buying decisions. 

Finding the right home might not necessarily mean finding the "perfect" home, but rather, finding the right home for you to make your own. Hopefully this checklist provides you with a guide to start your journey towards the right home. When you're ready to start looking, don't hesitate to give me a call!

5 DIY Improvements to Make Your Home Classier

Updating your home to be more chic - without looking cheap - is completely doable on a budget. 

If you're looking to add more class to your home, taking on a DIY project can give your house that extra sense of style while saving you money. No need to cringe at those three little words: "do it yourself." There really are fast, easy and affordable projects you can do on your own. Here are five relatively easy ways to enhance your home. 

1. Replace Your Light Fixtures 

Switching out an old or basic light fixture for a more elegant one is an easy way to shift the ambiance of a room. By adding a sophisticated light fixture, you can control the intensity of the light and character of your room. And you don't need to pay a pretty penny for expensive new fixtures - you can buy used fixtures online. 

2. Add Floating Shelves 

Installing floating shelves in your home combines the functionality of extra storage space with a bit of style and personal flair. Floating shelves can be mounted on walls in many different patterns, and they come in various materials to give your rooms a unique touch. For a small room choose shallow shelves to display framed photos; for a larger room you can afford to use deeper shelves to hold vases, books and unique trinkets. 

3. Paint an Accent Wall 

Painting an accent wall can add a pop of color and showcase your personality. Usually a low-risk project, a homeowner of any skill level can tackle this project in a day. You just need some painter's tape, a brush and the color that suits you! Just make sure the color you choose is complementary with the other colors in the room. Stay consistent between warm and cool tones. 

4. Install Decorative Molding

 Adding decorative molding around your home can add an extra touch of elegance. Install molding to the ceiling by capping walls, columns and cabinets, or add chair molding lower to the ground. With detailed molding you can add character to your rooms while also making them feel taller and more finished. 

5. Build a Stone Fire Pit 

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Take your sophisticated style outside by building a stone fire pit in your backyard. Completed in only a few hours, take uniquely shaped rocks or large stones and put them together to create a functional and stylish fire pit. Before starting the project, be sure to check your local fire codes or homeowners association to ensure you are safe and allowed to start building. 

Adding a touch of class to your home doesn't have to break the bank! Just be sure to start with one project at a time, allowing yourself to complete one before starting the next. Otherwise, you'll fall victim to chronic project incompleteness syndrome - not a good look! 

Now that you know about these five inexpensive DIY projects, which will you try?