Saving for Your Next Vacation is Easy With a Plan
November 15, 2023
With world oil prices up, so is the cost of everything else. And now that interest rates are on the rise in an effort to combat inflation, hotel prices have risen by ten percent at many popular destinations. The benefits of traveling though are not worth foregoing due to rising costs. Travel is beneficial to your mental health by helping you feel calm and relieving stress and tension. With a little bit of creativity and determination, anyone can save up for a vacation and even get a great deal on travel costs.
How to Save for a Yearly Vacation
The best way to save for a vacation is to plan for it. If you have a specific trip in mind, start thinking about how much it will cost. Then create what is known as a sinking fund. If you think your vacation a year from now is going to cost $2,400, then put away $200 into an account every month. In a year’s time, you would have what you need for that vacation. If you continued the habit, then you’d have that vacation money saved every year.
When bills come in and unexpected expenses pop up, it can become difficult not to dip into your savings. This is why it’s important to keep your vacation account or sinking fund out of reach. Set up an automatic transfer for your savings every month instead of relying on yourself to transfer the money when you get paid. Gaby Dunn, author of Bad With Money, advises separating your money from your general savings so that you don’t use it for a different expense. “It’s also a good idea to open a specific account just for your vacation fund,” she suggests.
Once you’ve determined how much you’ll need to save, it then becomes time to get serious about sticking to a budget. “Many times, people will design their vacation and then attach dollars to it,” says Jesse Mecham, the founder of You Need a Budget. “But it’s better to come up with a reasonable number first, then whittle away at it when you start planning the trip. The reality is that we have only so much money.”
Budgeting really becomes about determining where you’re wasting money and where you can save money. Here are five easy ways to save for your next vacation::
- One of the best ways to cut back on spending is to eat out less often and cook more meals at home. “Anyone I’ve talked to who has saved up a lot of money or paid off a lot of debt has cut back on eating out,” says Mecham. “Learning how to meal plan has been the overarching approach that has worked.” It might take some getting used to, but meal planning on the front end of your week can save a lot of money in the long run that you can put toward your travel budget.
- Study your spending habits and cut back on buying unnecessary items. It might be coffees to-go, books that could have been borrowed from the library, or impulse clothing purchases. Notice your spending weaknesses and then get disciplined about avoiding those temptations.
- You may have some sneaking subscriptions to streaming services, apps, or memberships that you’re not using often enough to make them worth the added strain on your budget. Take an inventory and see which subscriptions you could go without. The twenty or so dollars you’re spending a month on something you’re not even using could easily go toward your sinking fund instead.
- Savings account interest rates are often higher with online banks than brick and mortar banks. Kelly Johnson of the travel blog, Snap Travel Magic, suggests finding the highest-yield savings account. Then, “Put 5% of each paycheck,” she advises,
directly into the account.”
- Use credit cards that reward you, whether it’s a bonus sign-up offer, regular cash back percentages on money spent, or points that can be put toward travel expenses. “Many credit cards offer sign up bonuses in which you can earn free cash back, extra airline miles and travel points for spending a certain amount of money within the first few months of account opening which you can use to cover a big portion of your travel expenses,” says shopping consultant Andrea Woroch.
The most important thing when it comes to saving for your travel goals may be to stay motivated. Keep in mind why you’re budgeting by placing a picture of your desired destination somewhere you look often or making it the background image on your phone or computer. This way, if you’re tempted to make a purchase through your phone, you’ll be reminded of why you’re working so hard to save money for your dream vacation.
How to Get the Best Deals on Travel Costs
If you’re willing to be flexible with where you travel to, there is another way to score inexpensive tickets. Companies such as Scott’s Cheap Flights and Secret Flying allow you to seize temporary deals. By entering your home airport into Google Flights, choosing a desired departure date, and leaving the destination blank, people can find startling low prices on round trip tickets. This is not to say you should forego your dream trip for a deal on plane tickets. This is just one strategy to consider if you’re more in need of a break than of an actual place you have in mind.
Knowing how to avoid the high season in certain places is an artform worth mastering. Besides dealing with less crowds on your vacation, you can also take advantage of lower prices on almost all of your costs. While school schedules affect peak travel times, time off varies depending on the location. The ideal time in most places is likely going to be in between seasons or “shoulder season,” such as May in tropical destinations and October in colder places, including Europe. A little research will tell you when it’s best to travel to the destination you have in mind.
Next, shop around and compare the prices of hotels and rental properties. For instance, the advantage of having a kitchen in a rental may vary widely based on where you’re going. In some places, it will be less expensive to eat out than to cook and vice versa. Whichever you choose – hotel or rental – pay close attention to reviews, especially with Airbnb, where only travelers who have stayed there are allowed to leave a review.
How to Save Even When Traveling
Once you’ve worked hard saving up for a trip and doing your research to get the best deal on transportation and lodging, you’ll want to avoid getting caught up in the moment on your trip and go crazy with frivolous spending. The biggest trap people fall into is the cost of meals on vacation.
One way to avoid overpriced dining is to eat where the locals do. Walking fifteen minutes in any direction out of the city can make a huge difference. Not only will you spend less at restaurants, but you’ll have a more authentic dining experience. Asking the locals for suggestions is another best practice to find places to eat, as most people will love the opportunity to share their recommendations.
Just as in avoiding the peak time to travel somewhere, the same goes for restaurants. Making reservations a little earlier or later than when everyone else is will cut down on the costs of that meal, as many restaurants provide specials outside of peak times. Another way to budget is to plan on one splurge meal a day. If you eat a light breakfast and grab a small lunch on the go, then spending more on dinner won’t feel as glutiness.
Beyond eating, be open to free activities, and again: do your research ahead of time. There are many museums that offer free or reduced admissions on certain days and times. Then there’s the gardens, parks, and general sightseeing that are always free-of-charge. Always check for local markets to get a taste of local fare and the unparalleled experience of people-watching in a new place.
Getting serious about saving money for travel will also help you to get your finances in tip-top shape and make the most out of your money in your everyday life. While you keep your eye on your goals, Insureyouknow.org can help you stay organized by storing all of your financial records, budgets, and plans in one place. Making a plan and sticking to it will be well worth it when you have the means to take a well-deserved holiday, perhaps even more than just once a year.
Legal and Financial Planning for Those with Alzheimer’s and Their Caregivers
November 1, 2023
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, then there are certain things that you will need to plan for legally and financially. An estimated 6 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, and it is currently the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Alzheimer’s is a brain disorder that slowly decreases memory and thinking skills, while dementia involves a loss of cognitive functioning; both cause more and more difficulty for an individual to perform the most simple tasks. Though a diagnosis can be scary, the right planning can help individuals and their families feel more at ease.
Putting Legal Documentation in Place
Christopher Berry, Founder and Planner at The Elder Care Firm, recommends three main disability documents that should be in place.
First, there needs to be a financial power of attorney, a document that designates someone to make all financial decisions once an individual is unable to do so for themselves. If an individual lacks a trusted loved one to make financial decisions, then designating a financial attorney or bank is an option.
The next document that needs to be in place is the medical power of attorney that designates someone to make medical decisions for an individual. In many cases, it may be appropriate to appoint the same person to be the financial and medical power of attorney, as long as that person is well-trusted by the individual. In the event that something happens to the original power of attorney(s), successor (or back-up) agents for power of attorney(s) should also be designated.
The last document is the personal care plan, which instructs the financial and medical power of attorney(s) on how best to care for the individual in need. For instance, those entrusted to the care of an individual will need to make sure they sign medical records release forms at all doctor’s offices; copies of the power of attorney or living will should also be given to healthcare providers.
These three documents provide a foundation to make decisions for the individual diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia when they no longer can themselves. It’s ideal to include the individual in these conversations in the early stages of their diagnosis, so that they may be a part of the decision-making process and appoint people that they will feel most comfortable with during their care.
How to Pay for Long-Term Care
Since Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, the level of care an individual needs will increase over time. Care costs may include medical treatment, medical equipment, modifications to living areas, and full-time residential care services.
The first thing a family can do is to use their own personal funds for care expenses. It’s important for families to remember that they will also pay in their time, as many children of loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia will become the main caregivers. It may be wise to meet with a financial planner or sit down with other family members, such as your spouse and siblings, to determine how long some of you may be able to forgo work in order to provide full time care.
When personal funds get low or forgoing work for a period of time becomes difficult, long-term care insurance can be a lifesaver. The key to relying on long-term care insurance though is that it needs to be set up ahead of the Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnoses, so considering these plans as one ages may be smart.
Veterans can make use of the veterans benefit, or non-service-connected pension, which is sometimes called the aid and attendance benefit. This benefit can help pay for long-term care of both veterans and their spouses.
Finally, an individual aged 65 or older can receive Medicare, while those that qualify for Medicaid can receive assistance for the cost of a nursing home. If someone’s income is too high to receive Medicaid, then the spenddown is one strategy to know; under spenddown, an individual may subtract their non-covered medical expenses and cost sharing (including Medicare premiums and deductibles) from their available income. With the spenddown, a person’s income may be lowered enough for them to qualify for Medicaid.
Minimizing Risk Factors During Care
Research published recently in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia found that nearly half of patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia will experience a serious fall in their own home. Author Safiyyah Okoye, who was at John Hopkins University when the study was conducted, recommends minimizing risks such as these by safeguarding homes early on in diagnoses. “Examining the multiple factors, including environmental ones like a person’s home or neighborhood, is necessary to inform fall-risk screening, caregiver education and support, and prevention strategies for this high-risk population of older adults,” she states.
The good news is that since the progression of Alzheimer’s is often slow, families have plenty of time to modify the home for increased safety.
In addition to fall prevention modifications, other safety measures may include installing warning bells on doors to signal when they’re opened, putting down pressure-sensitive mats to alert when someone has moved, and using night lights throughout the home. Coats, wallets, and keys should also be kept out of sight, because at some point, leaving the home alone and driving will no longer be safe. Conversations about these safety measures, such as when an individual will have to stop driving, are ones that caregivers should have early on with their loved ones. Including individuals in their future planning while they are still cognitively sound will help both them and their caregivers feel more comfortable with the journey ahead.
It’s important to remember that even though receiving an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis can be devastating, it is not the end. People with Alzheimer’s can thrive for many years before independent functioning becomes difficult. Both patients and caregivers will feel more calm through planning ahead. Insureyouknow.org can help caregivers stay organized by storing all of their important documents in one place, such as financial records, estate planning documentation, insurance policies, and detailed care plans. Above all, there is hope for those with Alzheimer’s; research is happening every day for potential therapies and future treatments.
How ChatGPT is Shaping Retirement
October 15, 2023
Chat GPT is an artificial intelligence program that can answer human questions. This chatbot is able to understand human language that is spoken or written and then uses algorithms to process and analyze this information in order to produce answers. For instance, you may ask ChatGPT informative questions such as how climate change is affecting endangered species, but Chat GPT can even be directed to write a poem. When it comes to finances, ChatGPT may even be able to help someone begin their retirement planning.
ChatGPT Provides Content, Not Human Advice
Anyone can ask ChatGPT anything, and they will receive a remarkably well-rounded response. If someone were to ask what their retirement plan should include, the chatbot will provide an outline of the basic elements of a common retirement plan. The problem with this is that ChatGPT won’t know the person asking the question and be able to understand the individual details of their life that would make a difference in their retirement planning.
While Chat GPT may not completely replace the value of a human financial advisor, that doesn’t mean that financial advisors won’t need to change the way in which they advise clients to plan for their retirement. If anyone can get a basic plan through ChatGPT, then the services provided by an advisor need to become more about the one thing ChatGPT can’t provide: the human understanding and emotional side of advice. Despite having spent decades taking the emotion out of financial decisions, financial professionals will have to pivot to provide more humanity than ever.
How AI Can Improve an Advisor’s Abilities
Once upon a time, the internet threatened travel agents everywhere, as people could suddenly book their own plane tickets, hotel rooms, and rental cars themselves, from the comfort of their home computers. But travel agents are alive and well, and that’s because the internet still couldn’t do one thing that an agent could: understand a client’s needs and provide personal advice. Instead of mere transactional planning, personalized insight is the new premiere service that a travel agent can provide, and financial planners can grow to do the same.
While ChatGPT can provide concrete information, it cannot begin to factor in the unique preferences of an individual. True conversation is more than the exchange of information. It involves feelings and the confirmation that the person you’re speaking with understands you. A good financial advisor already understands this. Their job is about more than just offering retirement plans; people need empathy. Financial advisor Patti Brennan says her clients “are looking for someone who isn’t just focused on managing their money; that’s just table stakes. What they really want is to know they’ve got someone they can count on during times of crisis; someone who will be a trusted advocate for their future and quality of life.”
Mitchell Morrison, CEO and founder of Eyeballs Financial, says, “ChatGPT is like building a chassis for the financial plan. Its chief weakness is that the answers you get are only as good as the questions you ask.”
While a machine can provide the building blocks of a good plan, an advisor has the capability to understand the complexities of financial planning and the nuances of a person’s life. Together, ChatGPT and the advice from a professional can be used to formulate a plan that is more well-rounded than if someone just relied on one or the other. Rob Leiphart, a certified financial planner at RB Capital Management, adds that, “ChatGPT lacks one crucial step needed in financial planning and investment management: KYC,” or know your client. “It doesn’t begin by asking questions of its own in order to hone its responses. Instead, it provides generic or basic advice,” he says.
While AI ‘s abilities will evolve, financial advisors will be required to as well. Professionals should view ChatGPT as a tool and reevaluate their role in retirement planning. While clients can be well-versed through the framework that ChatGPT can provide them, financial planners can become educators, coaches, and navigators of their retirement plans.
What AI Can Do For You Now
ChatGPT can do more than provide information on how to begin planning for retirement. It can also be used as a resource to think outside of the box in terms of finances. Here are five ways anyone can use ChatGPT to improve their finances now.
Whether you’re interested in supplementing your income now or during retirement, you can ask ChatGPT, “What are the best side gigs for retirees, in my area, or in my field of work?” AI will provide a list of options ranging from consulting, house sitting, or personal errands.
2. Build a better resume
Perhaps you’d like to make more money in your working years or there are a handful of positions you’ve always wished you could land. ChatGPT can help make your resume stand out by suggesting which skills recruiters are looking for in certain positions.
ChatGPT could tell you how much you’ll need to start that business you’ve always dreamed of starting, including what resources you’ll need to get going, projected earnings, and even help with sales copy. Whether you’re selling goods or services, you’ll need good advertising to attract potential clients. ChatGPT can provide you with a better idea of what your business idea will entail and help you to create a detailed plan of action.
Planning to make money for retirement by selling your house or planning to move when you can retire are both common goals. An attractive house listing can help you get the best offer on your current property. Paired with gorgeous pictures of your home, ChatGPT can help you write the listing that will get you the most interest. You could even use ChatGPT to help you buy your home elsewhere by researching the most cost effective places to retire.
Once you’ve decided it’s time to start thinking about your retirement, ChatGPT can provide you with a list of qualified and highly-rated financial advisors in your area. Plus, educating yourself through ChatGPT on common retirement plans before you meet with your advisor will give you an idea of what to discuss at your meeting.
Retirement planning can be overwhelming, but you’ll benefit from using every resource available to you, including ChatGPT. For now ChatGPT is an excellent starting point but shouldn’t be the main resource of your final plan. Insureyouknow.org can help you compile your research, store your financial records, and serve as a valuable place to regularly revisit and fine tune your retirement plan.
Paying for Early Childhood Intervention Services
October 1, 2023
Over three million children in the United States had a reported disability according to the 2019 U.S. Census, and that number has risen 0.4% since 2008. Children experiencing developmental delays, not reaching developmental milestones, or those at risk may be eligible for early intervention services and supports.
When to Screen for Developmental Delays
If a child is born prematurely or with a genetic condition, then that child may qualify for early intervention as soon as birth. Early screening is part of the services that should be offered while parents are in the hospital for their child’s birth. However, if a parent becomes concerned about their child’s development after birth or notices any changes, they should refer their child for an early intervention evaluation. Eligibility for services is based on an evaluation of a child’s skills and abilities. A doctor’s referral is not necessary for an evaluation. It’s important for parents to educate themselves on which milestones their children should be reaching and not rely completely on their doctor’s recommendations; it is parents who spend the most time with their children, so they may notice something that a pediatrician won’t catch during a routine check-up. Emma Fitzsimmons, a New York mom who claims early intervention saved her son’s life, tells other parents, “If you’re worried that your child has delays, I would encourage you to seek out Early Intervention services and to ask for recommendations to find the best therapists in your area and a good service coordinator, the person who oversees your case.”
Know What Your State Offers
If eligible for early intervention, children may receive services to help with physical skills (crawling and walking), cognitive functions (thinking and learning), communication (talking and listening), adaptive skills (eating and dressing), and social-emotional development (play). Services are wide-ranging and can include speech therapy, physical or occupational therapy, psychological services, home visits, nutritional services, audiology (for hearing issues), vision therapy, social work, assistive technology, and even transportation.
The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, covers early intervention and school-aged services. Under Part C of IDEA, funding is made available to each state and requires services to be made available to eligible children with disabilities. While all states offer early intervention, the screening processes and services offered vary state by state. The first step in finding out what your child may qualify for is learning about what your state offers. The CDC offers links for each state in order to learn about the benefits your state offers. Each state has its own guidelines around how families qualify, but generally, a child must exhibit a developmental delay or have been diagnosed with a specific health condition that is known to lead to delays, such as a genetic disorder. The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (or ECTA) also outlines the services each state offers. In some states, children may be eligible for services if they are at risk and not yet exhibiting any delays, such as having been born at a low weight. If a child is found eligible for services, a care team will develop an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), which will outline the services a child will receive and the desired outcomes for those services. For instance, physical therapist Tonya McCool explains, “If a child presents with a delay that limits their abilities to complete age-appropriate milestones, a provider will assist by guiding the child into appropriate positions, providing them opportunities to experience new opportunities or helping them try new things so that their families can continue to work with them throughout the week to meet their goals.”
Under IDEA Part C, Child Find services, which include the initial referral, evaluations, the development of the IFSP, and service coordination must be made free to families, but depending on your state’s policies, some services may be provided at a cost or on a sliding scale. In addition to the federal education funds provided through IDEA, Medicaid and private insurance can also help cover the costs of interventions, such as speech therapy and hearing services. Finding a provider that is familiar with Early Intervention funding will know best how to help families cover the costs of these services. Although early intervention is mandated by IDEA and designed to meet the needs of children, it often requires a combination of resources to cover the costs of services. The ECTA’s website offers contact information for each state’s lead agency, who will be able to provide parents with the resources they’ll need to secure services and funding. If your child qualifies for interventional services, it will be important to become educated in what services must be provided at no cost to you through IDEA Part C.
Once a child is three, if they are still experiencing delays or require supports, then services will continue and transition into special education services. These are often provided through a child’s school at no additional cost to you. The age at which a child begins schooling also varies state-by-state, which is why it’s important for families to work with their initial early intervention team in order to ensure children continue receiving the supports they need. When an IFSP is developed, it should include any support for the transition to preschool when a child turns three. Plans should be reviewed every six months, as children change quickly from birth to age three.
Early intervention services can have an enormous impact on a child’s ability to meet developmental milestones. These services are provided not only for a child, but also so that their caregivers have the tools they need to create a healthy environment for their entire family. Insureyouknow.org can help you keep track of medical records, interventional resources, and your child’s IFSP, as well as their progress. When it comes time for your child to start school, having this paperwork organized in one place will help you provide their school with everything they require in order to ensure the necessary continued supports.