• Podcast,  Retirement Planning

    Face The Fear Podcast – Erin Martin, Retirement Plan Adviser, Take 2!

    In this episode, we welcome back Erin Martin, Retirement Plan Adviser at Phillips Financial to talk about 401(k)’s, retirement accounts, vesting and withdrawing money from your 401(k) and how that can impact your long term goals.

    Joining us in this episode is Nick Lucas and Nick Shoemaker, students at the University of St. Francis!

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    XOXO – Nicole and Kaitlyn

  • Credit Cards

    Credit Cards: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

    Credit cards. A number of different images may flash through your head when you hear those two little words. Do you picture yourself freezing your card in a block of ice? Putting it through a shredder? Lighting it on fire?

    Or do you see yourself casually strolling out of a store, shopping bags in hand, feeling elated about all the fabulous things you just bought and didn’t have to pay for…(yet)?

    Either way, credit cards are a polarizing topic that seems to divide people faster than Donald Trump’s tweets. Some people equate credit cards with financial disaster and endless debt. Others view them as a way to build credit and save money through cash back and perks. Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Here’s a few of my own pros and cons of credit cards that will (hopefully) help you decide if owning a credit card is a good financial decision for you.

    Let’s start with the bad news first.

                Con #1: CREDIT CARDS CHARGE INTEREST – LOTS OF IT!

                You’re probably thinking, “DUH.” But, let’s just say it like it is. The #1 reason why credit cards have a bad reputation is the high interest charged on unpaid balances. Even though most people know credit cards can charge high interest, many overlook the details. For example, exactly how much interest is your credit card charging? When does interest begin to accrue? On what amount does the interest apply? Does your credit card offer a grace period? All of these details can be found in the fine print, usually in confusing legalese than can make you feel like a chimpanzee trying to do calculus. In summary, the best way to avoid interest altogether is pay your full credit card balance on time every month. If you don’t, you’ll be that chimpanzee trying to do calculus to figure out how in the world your $200 new TV (it was such a great deal!) ended up costing you $500 (OUCH). 

    (Also, side note, there is a myth floating around out there that you need to carry a balance on your credit card and pay interest in order to earn good credit. This is absolutely false. Carrying a balance may hurt you, not help you. That’s all. Carry on).

                Con #2: Credit Cards Can Be The Gateway Into A Deep Dark Debt Hole

                Credit cards can be the gateway drug into a seriously dangerous debt problem. Why? Because they are so easy to obtain and so easy to use. Here’s a personal example for you. When I started my first job out of college as a social worker, I was making about $32,000 per year. I signed up for my first credit card and was given a credit limit of $4,000. Wow – $4,000! That’s a lot of cash! My credit card company must think I’m really responsible…

    HOLD UP. Let’s do some math: Say my hypothetical take-home pay (after tax) was $28,000 annually. $28,000 / 12 months = $2,333 net monthly income. With a credit card limit of $4,000, I could choose to max out the credit card in the first month, buying a $4,000 all-inclusive vacation to Hawaii. Aloha to me!

    The problem is, in order to pay the balance off, I would have to use my entire $2,333 paycheck over the next few months to pay off the full credit card balance. This is nearly impossible, because I would have no extra cash left over to pay for rent, food, transportation, clothes, or anything else for that matter. As a result, that remaining unpaid balance gets carried over from month to month – and is charged interest in the meantime. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why credit cards can be a gateway drug. Easy to obtain. Easy to use. Easy to spiral out of control.

                Thankfully, I didn’t fall into this debt trap. I never used more than 25% of my credit limit and made sure I could pay the balance in full at the end of every month. Ironically, because I was using my credit responsibly, I received about five credit card offers in the mail every week and was offered a credit limit increase. All of this is great until too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing. It can be easy to become addicted to borrowing money – even if you are responsible with paying it back. Having $10,000 in debt and a great credit score is still not as good as having no debt at all. 

                Con #3: Credit Cards Aren’t Necessary

                That’s right. You don’t need ‘em. In today’s culture, having a credit card is equivalent to having a cell phone. If you don’t have one, you’re living in the dark ages. But in reality, you really don’t need a credit card – especially if you’re able to build up credit through other sources, like student loan payments. Side note: credit cards + social media = disaster waiting to happen. Why? When we constantly see posts of people taking luxurious vacations, buying a new home, getting their dream car, or wearing designer clothes, we often (even subconsciously) feel like we’re missing out. In order to “keep up with the Jones’,” we swipe our credit cards to pay for a lifestyle we can’t afford. Guess what. A lot of people who appear to have it all on social media may actually be drowning in debt to keep up with the image they want to portray. Don’t fall into that trap. (Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now. Thank you for coming to my TedTalk). 

    And now for the good news:

    Pro #1: Credit Cards Help Build a Good Credit Score

                This is true – IF (and that’s a big IF) you diligently pay your full balance each pay period. And, as stated in Con #3, you really don’t need a credit card to build up your credit score. Other methods of building credit include paying off student loans, getting a secured loan or secured credit card (backed by your own pre-deposited money), or becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card (ideally someone with good credit history). In fact, I would argue that building credit through one of these methods is a much safer option than diving head first into an unsecured credit card. 

                As a disclaimer, here is my personal story. I graduated college without any student loans, and I will remain eternally grateful to my parents for their sacrifice to make that happen. As a result, I vowed to never put myself into unnecessary debt, since my family worked so hard to keep me out of it. But, this also meant I had no credit to my name. I started with one universal credit card with no annual fee and some small perks. I only used this card for a few designated expenses, like rent and gas, so my spending wouldn’t get out of hand. Over the next couple years, I paid this card on time each month and also added a couple store cards as well. I was able to build a solid credit score in a relatively short period by consistently paying the full balance, using different lines of credit, and keeping my credit limit usage under 25% at all times. BUT, this is my personal story. It is not the universal solution to building credit. Find a method that works best for your personal financial situation. 

                Pro #2: Credit Cards Provide Points and Perks

                If I’m being honest, this Pro could also be a Con. Here’s why: while most credit cards offer some incentive for use (like cash back or airline miles), the benefits may not outweigh the expenses. For example, if you have an airline credit card with a $100 annual fee, but you only take 2 flights per year to earn $50 in airline miles, then you really lost money by using the card (especially if you were charged interest on unpaid balances from month to month). Make sure if you’re purchasing a card with an annual fee, you calculate whether or not the annual fee will produce enough benefits to justify the cost.

    NerdWallet has an excellent credit card comparison tool to help narrow down which credit card will be the best fit for your lifestyle. (#NotSponsored). In fact, I used this tool to find my first two credit cards, based on my spending habits, credit score, and desired benefits. One of the cards I decided upon is the Amazon Prime Visa card (Again, #NotSponsored. But, Amazon, if you wanna slide in my DMs…)

     I already buy the majority of my essentials on Amazon, everything from dish soap, to cat food, to breakfast bars. By using the Amazon Prime credit card to make these purchases, I also earn 5% cash back on these transactions and 1% back on everything else. What makes this really valuable is, nearly every time I go to order some of these essentials Amazon, I have anywhere from $5-$25 cash back to use toward my purchase. Again, this is what works best for me, but it may not be the best fit for you. Try out the NerdWallet calculator to find your best credit card fit. 

                Pro #3: Credit Cards Teach Financial Discipline

                Just because you could eat a whole box of donuts in one sitting doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

    Similarly, just because you could spend your full credit limit in one month doesn’t mean you should. Using credit cards effectively requires discipline and discernment. Many people get themselves in deep debt trouble when they begin to disassociate their actual cash money from the motion of swiping their credit card. In other words, it’s easy to forget about the pain of paying for purchases when you have the ability to enjoy something instantly without paying a single penny upfront. Credit cards themselves are not the enemy. It’s the emotional and psychological response of purchase without pain that gets us in trouble. The good news is, we have the ability to acknowledge the mental pitfalls of credit card usage and shift our mindset to avoid them. Here’s a rule I personally follow to keep my finances in perspective: I never make a credit card purchase if I don’t have enough money in my checking account to cover it immediately. Credit cards make it easy to spend money we don’t have, but they don’t need to lead to financial ruin. A shift in mindset and a healthy dose of discipline is all you need to make sure your credit cards are working for you, not against you.

    **P.S. If you read this and thought, “Well, shitake mushrooms. I’m already up to my eyeballs in credit card debt. Now what?” No fear! We will be tackling debt reduction planning in our future content very soon!

    Written By: Kaitlyn Duchien

    Contact Us: facethefearfw@gmail.com

  • Podcast

    Face The Fear Podcast – John Redmaster, CFP – Where should Millennials put their money first?

    John Redmaster, Certified Financial Planner and fellow Millennial, joins us to break down where Millennials should focus their money first. Should we pay down student loans or credit card debt? Save for a home? Invest in a 401(k)? Build up an emergency fund? John helps us find answers to these questions and more on this week’s episode:

    • What tips would you give to Millennials who just graduated college (or are several years into the workforce) who feel like their student loan debt is unmanageable?
    • Since you have the CFP designation, can you explain a little bit about what exactly that designation means and why it may be important to consider when seeking a financial advisor?
    • What can Millennials do TODAY to get their finances on track?

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    https://www.financialfocusonline.com/

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    Advisory Services offered through Investment Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor and Division of ProEquities, Inc. Securities offered through ProEquities, Inc., a registered Broker/Dealer and member FINRA/SIPC.  Financial Focus is independent of ProEquities, Inc. Ash Brokerage and its affiliates are not associated with ProEquities.

  • Podcast,  Retirement Planning

    Face The Fear Podcast – Father’s Day Chat with Darrell and Allison Perry

    On this special Father’s Day episode, we chat with Darrell and Allison Perry, a father-daughter duo! We hear from Darrell, the father of Allison on how he raised his two kids, advice he has given them in regards to finances and how that influenced Allison so far in her life. You won’t want to miss what they have to say!

    And if you like us, don’t forget to subscribe and leave a review! XOXO

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  • Insurance,  Podcast

    Face The Fear Podcast – Jenny Crabill, Life Insurance

    On this episode of Face The Fear, we break down the basics of life insurance with Jenny Crabill, a fellow Millennial and Advanced Life Insurance Case Analyst. Here are a few of the questions Jenny helps us answer:

    • What exactly is life insurance & why is it important?
    • Why do I need life insurance now if I’m young, healthy, and don’t have anyone depending on my income?
    • When is the best time to buy life insurance?
    • How much does life insurance really cost?
    • How do I purchase life insurance?

    LifeHappens.org

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  • Podcast

    Face The Fear Podcast – Mother’s Day Money Talk ft. Becky Rogers & Robin Schuller

    On this special Mother’s Day episode, we do some girl talk with Becky Rogers and Robin Schuller, two of the coolest moms of Millennials that we know! Becky and Robin share the financial secrets they wish they’d known when they were in their 20s and 30s, as well as the advice they’ve given their Millennial children about managing money. If you want to find out how to slay your financial goals, stay tuned!

    And if you like us, don’t forget to subscribe and leave a review! XOXO

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  • Podcast

    Face The Fear Podcast – Matt Erpelding, Estate Planning

    In this episode, we dive into Estate Planning 101 with Matt Erpelding, Director of Advanced Markets at Ash Brokerage. Think that Estate Planning is just something that rich people need to do? FALSE! 

    Here are a few of the questions Matt helps us answer:

    • What is estate planning and why is it important?
    • What are the differences between a trust, will, and estate?
    • What is a Power of Attorney?
    • When should someone start to create an estate plan?
    • How should Millennials start the conversation with their parents and family members about estate planning?
    • Where can someone go for guidance when creating an estate plan or will?

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  • Podcast

    Face The Fear Podcast – Chad Tallman, Financial Advisor

    In this episode, we chat with Chad Tallman, Financial Advisor*, about everything from investing, to budgeting, to retirement planning – all from a Millennial point-of-view. Chad debunks some common myths about financial advisors and provides tips for finding the right advisor who will best meet your needs. 

    Here are a few of the questions uncover in this episode:

    • How does someone start investing? 
    • What does “risk tolerance” mean?
    • Why is it important for Millennials to have a financial advisor and to develop a financial plan?
    • What does a holistic financial plan look like for a Millennial?
    • What questions should someone ask a financial advisor to make sure they are the right fit for them?
    • What is one thing you wish you know about finances when you were in your early 20s?

    Chad’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chadtallman/

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    *(Securities offered through Sigma Financial Corporation, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisory Services offered through Sigma Planning Corporation, A Registered Investment Advisor. CLN Financial is independent of Sigma Financial Corporation and Sigma Planning)

  • Budgeting

    Budgeting: 5 Tips & Tricks to Make the Budget Stick

    Have you ever spent an obscene amount of time researching and crafting the perfect budget, only to give up on it a week later like a poorly executed diet plan? Do you find yourself trying to stick to your budget but your inner Donna Meagle just won’t let you?

    If the answer is yes, you’re not alone! Only about a third of Americans actually make and maintain a budget (Yikes!). Being a college student newly introduced to the world of ‘adulting,’ I have tried countless methods in an attempt to set myself financially free. Here are some tips and tricks that have made my life easier (and hopefully yours, too).

    • Find an app or budgeting system that works for you.

    Mint and EveryDollar are great apps that allow you to budget and track your expenses. BUT, in case you want more options, Buzzfeed has already found, rated, and summarized 17 other apps to help you stay accountable. Other ways you can budget include Excel Spreadsheets, good old fashion pen and paper on templates like this template, journals, whiteboards, and more. You’ll want to make your budget before the month starts and adapt the budget to each month. Whether you’re picking up a side hustle in summer time or celebrating birthdays, you’ll need to account for everything! At the end of each month, see where you overspent and try to improve your budget for the next month ahead.

    • Get a calendar, find a place to hang it where you’ll see it, and fill in the boxes.

    Add your bills, the due dates, pricier events like birthdays, etc. to help you organize your expenses. It takes some time, but it’s totally worth it! If you have a fluctuating income, you could even add your day-to-day earnings on the calendar. This will help you visualize your month ahead and show you how much you need to have in your account by the next bill. Not to mention the satisfaction you’ll have when you get to cross out that bill for the month! If you want a more private alternative to this, create events with this information in your phone’s calendar and set reminders for yourself.

    • If you can, try to pay cash!

    I’m not suggesting you carry your entire life savings on you but try to keep only what you budgeted to spend for the day. This will force you to stay on target, and you won’t have to deal with credit card interests if you use cash! People tend to spend more money when they use a debit or credit card compared to when they use cash. With cash, you can look directly at what you have left and adjust your spending habits accordingly.

    Another reason why paying with cash can be helpful is all the loose change you’ll accumulate! You can keep these coins to yourself and cash them in at a later time for cash, or gift cards if you want to avoid fees. If you choose the cash option, you can turn that coin fund into an extra savings fund for your personal goals. You’ll be surprised how quickly coins add up.

    • Find a way to organize your cash.

    Some people like Dave Ramsey’s method of using envelops, but that’s not the only way. Another easy way to organize cash is by purchasing a hanging shoe organizer and put labels on each pocket with different budget categories such as groceries, gas, rent, clothing, etc. You could hang this in your closet, your office, or anywhere you feel would be safe. This cash should be for short-term purchases, not for your emergency fund or savings goals. For that money, I recommend a safe savings account. You can find a good savings account here.

    • Lastly, don’t be afraid to say no.

    In the beginning, budgeting will be difficult because you’ll have to tell yourself no more often—especially compared to your friends that don’t budget. Does this mean you have stay home all day and watch re-runs of the Office instead of hanging out with your friends?

    Of course not! There are plenty of free-to-low-cost ways to have fun. If you’re running low on your recreational fund, try some of these. Not only will this help you stay on track, but it will challenge you to do something different. Also, saying no lets you say yes later. Instead of spending money on late night trips to Taco Bell, you can put that money towards a short-term savings goal like a road trip!

    These tips have made me perfect my budgeting habits, and they may help you conquer the budget! If you need more ideas, Pinterest and Google will be your best friends. Just remember that the hardest part about budgeting is keeping yourself accountable and accepting that you’ll make mistakes. You will fail. You will adapt. You will overcome. Be patient and find a system that works for you. Your current self and future self will thank you!

    Article Contributed By: Kianna Dalton

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