Top 3 Summer Beach Resorts 2015

As a couple, trying to decide where to go for a romantic summer beach vacation is not as easy as it sounds. There are a million different choices, and it can be confusing trying to weigh the pros vs. cons.

We chose these 3 summer beach resorts as your must visit vacation destinations for 2015.

We had a few criteria in mind:

 

Some place that was unique, and not highly visited.
Some place that has great food, and amazing accommodations.
Some place where we could relax and unwind.
Some place that was under $350 a night and included some amenities.
Some place that was a little off the beaten path.

After hours of long research, we found our 3 contenders:
Mi Amor, Tulum Mexico 
Anakonda River Cruises, Ecuador

Yemaya Hideaway Resort, Nicaragua
 

All three places offered the ultimate in affordable luxury, relaxation, good food and amazing accommodations.

Join travel journalist, Jeff Game from The Traveling Game, and me on this podcast as we explore each of these picks, and discuss a few reasons why they should be on your must travel to list this summer.

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5 Things To Do Before You Invest in Stocks

Raise your hand if you feel like investing in the stock market is a little like that craps table in Vegas that sits there and just calls your name.

You hear of all these people making money in stocks, and you want in. I mean, who wouldn’t have wanted to grab a few shares of Apple stock 10 years ago and be sitting on some serious cash right now?

Before you start dreaming about how you would spend that money, we are going to talk about the 5 things that you MUST do before you rush out and open that account at ETrade.

ER Fund- Make sure you have 3-6 month's of expenses saved somewhere safe.
Get rid of credit card debt- debt is the biggest drainer of funds, so get on a plan to pay it off asap.
Get other debt on auto-pay- student loan, mortgage and car payment debt is ok debt to have. Make sure you get it on auto-pay so you never miss a payment. Low interest rates and an accountable payment schedule make this kind of debt ok to keep around.
Fund your retirement- IRA, 401K -make sure you fund your retirement no matter how old, or young you are. It's super important, and likely will be your first step into investing.
Extra fund- separate account with $500-$2500 of throw away money- picture yourself driving in a convertible with the top down. The wind is blowing in your hair, and $2000 suddenly blows out the window. If you are ok with this happening, then you are ready to start investing in stocks.

If you’ve checked these boxes off, then you want to look for 5-10 stocks that you KNOW. Start with what you know.

Investing is smart. It’s smart to make money. Just be smart about how you go about it. Watch, research, read, learn…then do.

 

 

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Last Minute Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Mother's Day is right around the corner, and if you've waited until the VERY last-minute to get mom something special, we've got you covered. Here are 4 last-minute mother's day gift ideas that won't break the bank.

1. Cook Mom a Meal- Going out and spending $40 per person on a buffet is totally over-rated. Instead, cook mom a nice meal at home, heck even just break out a box of Captain Crunch and some pop tarts. No matter what you cook, or don't cook, your mom is sure to love it, and your wallet will as well.

2. Kick it Old School- Remember when you were 5 years-old and you made your mom all those cute hand-made cards and gifts? Do it again! No matter how old, or young you are, your mom is going to love a hand-made gift. You can find a ton of ideas on Etsy and Pinterest. If that is too overwhelming for you, get a nice picture frame and put a picture of you in it. That's simple, affordable and says, “I love you mom.”

3. All the Pretty Flowers- Flowers are expensive, especially around Mother's Day. Here's the time to really be resourceful. If your mom loves flowers and insists on them, then think about ways you can get a nice bouquet for less. Do you have a nice garden that you can pick some flowers from? What about using your credit card points for flowers with FTD? Another tip is to go to the local grocery store and ask if you can buy some flowers that aren't being used in arrangements for less. Just make sure you don't wait until Mother's Day though to buy the flowers, or to make a reservation for flowers. They will be marked up for sure.

4. Going Out? Go Smart- If you have to go out for Mother's Day, use your Millennial Money skills. There are tons of ways to save money, or at least to get something for what you spend. Check out Opentable for reservations, deals and points that you can earn towards a $20 reward certificate which you can use at any Opentable restaurant. If you are looking for spa deals, check out Groupon and Living Social where you can save as much as 50-75% off retail price. Whatever you choose, make sure you are getting something for what you spend, and refuse to pay retail unless there is no other way.

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Hack Your Travel Budget & Get Some Points

Here’s your strategy in 3 simple steps to hack your travel budget:

Get a credit card with rewards
Create a travel budget so you know how much you need to save by when
Use apps and discount sites

Yes, it’s actually that simple.

First, the credit card that you are looking for is a card that offers rewards when you sign up, and then points for everyday purchases. What card you can get varies greatly and is dependent on that all important credit score. The better the score, the better the cards you can have access to.

Building travel points is a bit of a strategy game. Most cards offer a nice sign-up bonus, sometimes up to 40,000 points if you spend a certain amount in 3 months. That’s the standard, but make sure you always check the terms. The sign-up points aren’t a given, you actually need to spend money to get those. That’s easy though. Since you are using these cards like your debit card and paying them off each month, you can just put your regular monthly expenses on this card because we want all the points we can get, baby.

A couple of great options are the Chase Sapphire Preferred card where you can earn 2 points for every dollar spent on travel and restaurants, no nasty foreign transaction fees and 1 for 1 transfer to participating airlines. It’s like having your cake and devouring it. Chase offers a great members reward area where you can use points on airlines and hotels, and lots of other cool stuff. To give you an example, say you have 65,000 points…that’s equivalent to around $800 dollars.

Capital One’s Venture card is another solid option. Capital One’s motto is that they offer hassle free rewards. You earn 2 points for every purchase no matter what- even for things like gas, books and groceries. Spend on average $1500-$2000 a month on misc expenses and those points can really start adding up. Capital One even lets you use points with sites like Kayak that shop for the best rate for any flight. Double bonus is your miles never expire, which means that you can save up points for years and years without worrying about losing them.

I’m actually super excited about what Citi is up to. They have revamped their cards, and the Citi ThankYou Premier card now offers 3 points for every $1 spent on modern travel. This card is on point for all your commuters out there. You get 3 points for every $1 spent on things like Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, bike share, parking, tolls, taxis and subway. So if you spend an average of $100 a week on modern travel, you will earn 300 points a week…or over 15,000 points a year just on everyday travel. I’m just giving Citi a big high-five for this card’s benefits.

If you like to stay at the same hotel brand, check out the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card. Not only can you use the points to stay at any Starwood- Westin, Le Meridien, St. Regis, Sheraton, W etc. around the world, but they offer great bonuses like stay 4 nights and get the 5th free- I’ve taken advantage of this a lot. You can also turn your points into airline miles, entertainment like Broadway shows, shopping and more. I’ve been a loyal Starwood card holder and stayed free at hotels around the world like Paris for instance many times. Starwood’s card is also how we’ve been able to travel to Europe, fly free, and stay almost free. That’s like putting an extra $3000+ in your pocket.

Bottom line- you need good credit, so make sure you get your annual credit report and aim for 720+ for a score. Don’t cancel any old cards that you have – why, because that lowers the amount of available credit you have access to, which can lower your credit score, just store them away, but make sure you get yourself a card with some points. Do your research too. Make sure you come up with a points strategy. I have a couple of cards that I use for points with various companies. Each one offers something a bit different.

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7 Smart Money Moves in Your 20’s

It's not easy in your 20's. You are just trying to figure out you, let alone know what to do, and not to do with your money. Take a listen to this episode that will teach you the 7 smart money moves that you should be making in your 20's.

1. Know your Credit Score

2. Make sure your credit cards are giving you something back – rewards, points or discounts

3. Investing should be your last stop on the financial highway. If you have the bug, do your research, and check out companies like Sprinklebit where you can set up a mock portfolio 

4. Student loan refinancing can be helpful, but know your fees and calculate how much additional interest you will end up paying

5. High yield savings account is a must…you want all that good interest accumulation

6. If your company offers a 401(k), sign up and start investing at least 10% of your income RIGHT NOW. Retirement is expensive

7. Check for undiscovered discounts with your college alumni association or credit union. They can save you money on trips, car insurance and all sorts of goodies to help supercharge your savings

Want more information? Check out my article for lots of great tips.

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9 Money Habits to Break

Everyone has bad habits that they need to give up. These are the things that you write down on your new years resolution every year. “This year I’m going to stop biting my nails.” Or “This year I am going to eat less fast food.”  Here are the 9 Money habits that you should break.
Being Scared to Negotiate
Have you heard of the Good Guy discount? No? Okay, well everywhere you go, you ask the  person who is ringing you up if they have any discount they can offer you. Even if they have no promotions going on now, you are a good guy, and they are a good guy, and it would really help you out. It works one out of five times.

Not comfortable doing that? Fine, there are plenty of other ways that you should be negotiating. That is bad money habit to break number one: being scared to negotiate. Call your cell phone carrier and, politely, explain that you are unhappy with your current plan. Can they offer you something better?
Not Paying Yourself First
Next, you pay money for your phone, your car, you home, every single month. Those are expenses that should be there. But the number one expense in your life should be you! You should be paying yourself first, no matter what. This means savings. Every month you should be cutting yourself a paycheck in the form of money going into a high yield savings account. Don’t know what a high yield savings account is – it’s the best place for your savings that accrues far more interest on your money that your standard bank savings account. Check out ally bank and capital one 360.
Not Setting Boundaries Around Your Splurges
How often do you happen upon the most amazing pair of shoes and you just HAVE to have them? How often do those shoes happen to be way out of your budget? My guess is most of the time. Splurges happen every once in a while, and that is okay. But there need to be some boundaries. Set yourself a thirty-day waiting period. If after those 30 days you still must have the kicks, then they can be yours. If in that amount of time, you have moved on to something else, then they were not worth the money to begin with.
Knowing How Much to Spend on What
This is always a tricky question to answer, but there is a really popular guideline that I think helps solve this. It’s the 50/20/30 method. You should spend no more than 50% of your income on fixed expenses – all the stuff you have to pay like rent, mortgage, car payments, savings, utilities and even monthly subscriptions.  20% is reserved for goals like paying down debt, or saving for the vacation home you want to buy in France. The last 30% is for your variable expenses and what I like to now call, funsies. These are day-to-day expenses and things like eating out, entertainment and shopping. If you begin this method you will do a good job of keeping your budget in line. Remember, no matter what, always track your expenses each month to make sure these numbers are within their guidelines.
Paying Full Price to Travel
We actually did a full episode about hacking your travel, so I will just give you a refresher and for more detail about this one, see Episode Number 3. First, when you decide you want to take a trip, you should start saving up all your credit card points or miles for the big-ticket purchase. Second, whether you are going 100 miles away or 1000 miles away, you should negotiate for a cheaper place to stay. The easiest way to do this it to find two places and use them as leverage to get a lower price on the place you really want or have them offer you additional perks. Third, put social media to work for you. Follow or subscribe to airlines and hotels on Facebook and Twitter. That is where they post deals. You can also write to them or tweet them to ask for a deal.
Letting bad interest accumulate on credit card debt
Bad interest is your enemy. Remember my motto be done with debt. Good interest, on the other hand is what you want from investments and hi…

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6 Tips to End Money Fights as a Couple

Money can’t buy you love, but it can buy a huge rift between you and your significant other. It’s no wonder that money is such a fierce topic with couples. In America, sadly our divorce rate ranges between 40-50% for first time marriages and a staggering 60% for second marriages.  Ask any therapist and they will tell you that the two most argued about subjects…well sex, and you guessed it, money. Here are 6 tips to end your money fights as a couple.

It won’t come as a shock to you that Tip #1 is something that I preach about all the time- Goals. It’s really important to set clear goals as a couple, otherwise you will definitely ram into each other (and not in the good ways), time and time again. Goals should be short and long-term and you should always make sure they are detailed. For instance, if you are saving for a trip to Hawaii next year, you need to know how much it will cost you, how much you need to set aside each month, and what you are willing to sacrifice on to get there. This is super old school, but creating a vision board, you know the one with all the cut out pictures on it, is a really good idea.

I’m not saying it's a cure-all, but visually seeing your goals is important. Have you heard the story about Jim Carrey writing a million dollar check to him and then posting it where he could see it? Not 2 months later did he score his first million dollar role.

Tip #2 is something I like to call the Money Huddle. You know how sports teams huddle together before a big play? Couples should do the same. When you are having disagreements or trying to decided whether to buy a big-ticket item and are at odds, huddle up for a few minutes. Remember your goals; remember that you are playing on the same team and set a time limit for a resolution. I usually think if you can’t solve it in 1 minute, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Now the money huddle can be used for good purposes too. Setting aside some time each month, maybe 15-20 min, to huddle up and make sure you are on track is quite positively one of the best money moves you can make as a couple. Are you on track for your goals? Did you get a bonus and you need to strategize about what to do? Is there a life change happening you need to plan for? Maybe it’s just a time for a quick high-five congratulating yourself on some good money teamwork.

If the money huddle doesn’t work, then sometimes you’ve got to get back to basics and call for an official Adult Time Out.  Yes, Tip #3 sounds silly, but honestly it works. Sometimes you’ve argued so much that you don’t even know what you are arguing about. Or, even worse, mud-slinging starts to take place and you find yourself having out-of-body experiences. We’re promoting unity here…not division.

The adult time out is used when you can’t simply come to an agreement. Instead, you agree to go to separate corners, sides of the house whatever it takes to clear your mind and think through the argument. Take a piece of paper and pen in the time out and write what you really want to say, what your frustration is. Then when you come back together, you can calmly look at what each other wrote and work to solve the money issue.

Tip #4 takes us back to the dreaded “B” word. Remember in our previous podcast that we weren’t going to use the word, “budget”,  but some other term that is a bit more tolerable. My husband and I like to call ours the itinerary because we love to travel.

If you are trying, or you tried, to do you finances separately, stop, please. I can tell you from personal experience that this doesn’t work. You can’t have two people managing the same account. That is recipe for disaster. You need a point person. Now, this person doesn’t have to carry the load of the finances, but it’s one person in charge of making sure everything gets paid on time each month, and that you are on budget.

What you need to do together is create the budget,

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7 Tips For Your Tax Return

It's tax time, and that means you are most likely waiting somewhat patiently for the refund check to come in the mail. Before you start dreaming of all the ways to spend your money, take a listen to this podcast about the 7 Tips For Your Tax Return.

1. Start your Emergency Fund

2. Be Done With Debt

3. Meet ROTH and IRA

4. Give it Away

5. Start a Car Fund

6. Start a Business

7. Splurge…With a Few Rules

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Tax Secrets – Can You Claim It? Part 1

It’s tax time, it’s tax time, it’s tax time. Right around the corner is April 15th, the day when your taxes are due. Even if you’ve filed your taxes a thousand times, it still can be a day that you dread.
All About The Pay
First, a little disclaimer. I am not a CPA. I’m a certified financial planner, and I know a lot about taxes, rules and regulations, but I am not the woman who files your tax returns. So, I encourage you to take this advice, research it yourself and always ask a CPA or accountant if you have a tricky question…capeesh?

Let’s set the stage a bit here. You’ve got essentially two ways to get paid- W-2 and 1099.

If you work for a company, most likely you are paid W-2 style, meaning that when you get your paycheck every 2 weeks or month the company has already taken out your taxes (federal, state, social security, etc.) When you go to file your tax return, chances are likely that you will get some money back. That is what you want, right?

Let me ask you another question. Would you rather the IRS hold your money all year-long and earn interest off your money, or would you? Maybe you are fine with that and you enjoy a big refund. That is cool. Those of you that paused when I asked you that question need to know that there is way to get more money in your pocket.

You are allowed to adjust something called your Federal Tax withholding. Put this podcast on hold and go grab your most recent pay-stub. Take a look at the number of federal tax withholding you have. My guess is 0 or 1. The higher that number is, the more money you get each month.

There are lots of ways to figure out just what that number should be for you. The IRS has a withholding calculator you can use, there are all sorts of manual deductions or you could use the good ole guess it technique. Most people stay around the 2-6 personal exemption range, but that depends on the person.

The goal you see is to get you to $0 tax refund. Yes, you heard that right. You know why though…it’s because you are getting more money each paycheck. So you really haven’t lost anything, in fact if you take that extra money and invest it month after month you could have a lot more.

If this is something you feel really nervous about, there are tons of articles online you can read, you can always call the IRS or ask your HR department for guidance. The best way is to speak with an accountant or CPA though.

Now for those 1099ers. If you are paid with a 1099 that means that you are essentially self-employed and you don’t have taxes taken out of your paychecks. Yes, the IRS will still want their money. It’s likely that if you are paid with a 1099 that you will be required to file quarterly taxes, so 4 times a year, instead of one big payment at tax time.

If you are 1099 though, you might also be able to deduct certain expenses from your income like self-employed health insurance, business travel, car payment, gas for your car, entertainment, business meals up to 50%, computers, phones, internet, books, magazines and so much more. This of course depends on what type of business you are in, and yes, the deduction has to be legitimate. You can’t deduct the cost of flying 4 friends to the Bahamas for your birthday, unless there is a legitimate business reason why you all need to be in the same place sipping Pina Coladas.
Here’s my rule of thumb: if you are paid 1099, you really should use an accountant or CPA. They know all the current tax laws and what are legitimate business deductions. If you were audited (that’s when the tax police come and want to look at all your receipts and statements to make sure you were hones with your taxes) I’d rather have a CPA to back me up then just me.
Remember though we learned that you could negotiate almost anything, so I would definitely try to negotiate a price with your CPA to do your return. There are a lot of great apps you can use to keep track of your r…

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The Art of Negotiation & How to Save Thousands

 

Negotiation is one of the most powerful money tricks you will ever learn, and if you practice it, negotiation can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a year.

You see, there are only two ways to repair an ailing budget- make more money, or spend less money. While making more money can be tricky, you’ve got the “spend less money” capabilities right now, so why not go for it?

Honestly, I used to hate the thought of negotiation. It was literally the last thing I ever wanted to think about, let alone try. I’ve watched so many men be really good at negotiation and thought, “I can’t do that.” What I learned though was that you don’t have to be mean to negotiate. You do have to ask a lot of questions and think on your feet.

Some of my very favorite things to negotiate that save a lot of money are:

– Your cell phone bill- oh yah, have you called to renegotiate your cell phone bill in the last 6 months? Why not? Yah, you thought the rate was the rate, but guess what, it isn’t. I guarantee you that if right after this podcast you go and call your cell phone carrier and ask them for a better rate, you will get it. On average, you will probably save between $15-$100 a month, depending on your carrier. Money is money.

– What about your car insurance? We all have to pay it; if you live in Los Angeles like me the rates are steep. If you’ve been in an accident the rates are budget busting. Did you know that there are all sorts of discounts that you can get, but most carriers won’t suggest them to you, you have to do the work? Good driver discount, multi line (other insure), and so on. There are even apps like Go Insurance Savings and Fast Discounts in iTunes store that compares your insurance cover and alerts you to savings. Check it out in the app store. I was able to save money on our current plan right away.

– Here’s a favorite of mine- rental deposits. Bet you didn’t know that you can actually negotiate your rental deposit (the money you give up front) AND your rent? I have NEVER paid the full rental deposit ever. You’ve got to have good credit and not be a psycho renter, please always try to impress your future landlord. For example, our last condo that we rented we saved over $1500 on the deposit alone. That’s a lot of money for just asking some questions and negotiating.

– What else? You can negotiate car purchases for sure, car leases, eBay, Stubhub tickets, office rent, checking account fees, credit card interest rates, and you all know my favorite negotiation tactic: Negotiation on vacation rental properties with Airbnb and VRBO- we love to travel, but don’t love to break the bank. We’ve rented apartments in San Francisco, Paso Robles, CA, Palm Springs, Paris and more and not only negotiated a cheaper rent, but also scored some freebies, again, all for asking.

Lots more tips and ideas on this weeks podcast. Be sure to email questions to us at yourmillennialmoney@gmail.com.

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