Thursday, October 25, 2012

Should I Retire?

Senior Thursday

One question more and more seniors are grappling with is whether or not it is the right time to retire.  With the cost of living going up, but income not keeping pace, coupled with the stock market collapse a few years ago, the question isn’t as easy to answer as it used to be. 

Another reason it can’t be answered easily is that everyone’s situation is unique.  We all have different levels of income, varying amounts of debt, and different health concerns.  Nobody’s portfolio (if you even have one) is the same, either.  Add factors such as health and life insurance coverage, ages of your children and grandchildren, your company’s pension plan and you start to see how the answer for you will be completely different from your neighbor or brother’s answer. 

If you’ve been earning a decent pay since college graduation, have put your children through school, and they are financially secure, you’ve grown your portfolio to six times your annual income, and your health is good, you can comfortably retire at 60 or 65.  However, if you’ve been living paycheck-to-paycheck all your life, have medical bills to pay and only one year’s income invested with no company pension, then you may have to work well past 60 or 65 just to make ends meet.

Your financial advisor and accountant can best help you answer this question.  In order to arrive at the best answer, though, you should have the following information/documents together for review:

·        Previous year’s tax return

·        Current pay stubs

·        Most recent statements from investments

·        Most recent statements from bank accounts

·        Summary of monthly expenses (mortgage/rent, food, pets, transportation, utilities, etc.)

·        Summary of assets (real estate, vehicles, savings accounts, etc.)

·        Most recent Social Security Statement

·        Most recent pension statement

·        Life Insurance policies

·        Health Insurance policies

You are never too old to start planning.  But beginning early will help make your retirement years as comfortable as they can be.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Adding Space to Small Kitchens

Tips for Tuesday

No matter the size of your family, a small kitchen can be a big drawback.  Where do you store your food, appliances, pots and pans, etc.?  It’s difficult preparing a meal or entertaining guests.  But there are some changes you can make to your kitchen to make it seem larger than it really is.  Here are some tricks of the trade:

·        Extend your upper cabinets to the ceiling.  The soffit above your cabinets is usually empty space behind the drywall.  Installing taller cabinets will give you space for storing those seldom-used items.

·        Use multi-purpose appliances.  Purchase a unit that chops and blends, or another that steams and deep fries.  Having less items to store will free up space.

·        Install a storage bench that can double as a seat for your kitchen table.  Use it to store linens, extra paper towels, or household files and bill-paying supplies.

·        Use the space under your upper cabinets.  Install hooks or magnetic strips for hanging knives or cooking utensils.  Install drop-down cookbook holders or spice racks.

·        Double the space on a shelf with a wire rack.

·        Use an island on casters so you can move it where you need it most.

·        Hang pots and pans from the ceiling.

·        Don’t buy in bulk, as tempting as the price is.  If you don’t have room to store it, it will be nothing more than clutter.

·        Downsize!  Get rid of everything you don’t need or use or like.  Be honest and brutal!  Peace of mind is worth more than the mugs you donate to charity.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Showing Your House Through the Seasons

Moving on Monday

As summer turns into fall, your house is still on the market.  You’ve been taking care of it, mowing the lawn and watering the gardens.  But now that the weather is cooler and leaves are starting to fall, there are other matters you must attend to for it to show at its best.

The most important part of your house when selling is the outside.  It is the first impression potential buyers have when they drive by or come for a viewing.  Before they even step into your house, they will be assessing the condition of the driveway, the size of the trees and bushes, and the amount of clutter on the porch.  If they are just driving by, they may decide to cancel an appointment with a real estate agent.  If they already have an appointment, they will probably still come in, but their opinions will be affected by what they saw outside, no matter how nice the house is inside.

So if you are showing your house during this change of season, make sure you keep up with maintaining the exterior of your home.

Rake the leaves, sweep the walkway and porch, and clean out the gutters.  Have your asphalt driveway sealed if necessary, or the cracks in your concrete fixed.  With the upcoming snow and ice, potential buyers know that little cracks can turn into large problems.

Clean all the cobwebs from the front door and windows.  This is what buyers look at when they are waiting for the agent to unlock the door.  All dead plants should be removed from the front porch, and replaced with fall foliage.  If there are any nests in the lights (bird or wasp), get rid of them, and any mess they may have left.  If the wreath or decoration on your front door is seasonal, swap it out for a fall version.

It gets dark earlier now, so make sure all the light fixtures are working properly.  Put both interior and exterior lights on a timer so buyers driving by at night can see the house lit up even if you aren’t home. 

Make sure your address is visible from the street both night and day.  Use numbers in contrast with your house color.  That is, use black numbers on a white house, or brass numbers on a brown house.  Look at your address as you drive up from both directions, both day and night.  Brass or silver numbers reflect the sun, making them difficult to read.  If your house is set back off the street, have your address on a mailbox or post near the street.

Finally, cut down flowers and plants as they die for the season.  If you have extensive landscaping with mature perennials and you want buyers to see what you have planted, then leave photos on the counter of what your house looks like in the summer. 

Keeping your house showing its best will keep you a step up from the competition.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Hanging Door Organizers Not Just for Shoes

Frugal Friday

I am a big proponent of using vertical storage.  One product that is great for this is Over-the Door pockets.  They come in a variety of materials and sizes.  Some have large pockets for shoes, some have smaller pockets.  They are plastic, canvas or fabric.  And their uses are endless.  While these organizers used to be for shoes, now we can find many other uses for them.  Here are a few:

·        Bathroom--use for shampoo, toiletries, face cloths, hair accessories, etc.

·        Bedroom--use for small accessories like bracelets, scarves, bulky necklaces, and belts.

·        Bathroom--use for hair accessories like headbands, elastic bands, barrettes, and bows.

·        Pantry--Use for spices, small packages, small appliances, and appliance attachments.

·        Linen Closet--Use for medications, first aid supplies, and extra toiletries.

·        Bathroom--Use for cosmetics, brushes and nail polish.

·        Craft Room--Use for crafting supplies like scissors, glue, tape, and markers.

·        Use for toy storage, organizing pieces by toy, color or size.

·        Bedroom--Use for socks and tights.

·        Laundry Room--Use for cleaning supplies such as spray bottles, scrub brushes and rags.

·        Bedroom--Use for small stuffed animals.

And don’t forget to label the pockets so everything goes back where it belongs, and you know what to buy when the pocket is empty.