Retiring soon? Better Know Your 4 R’s

If you’re lucky enough to retire in your 60s the chance that you’ll live another 20, 30 or possibly even 40 years is a good one these days. Of course retirement has changed greatly in the last few decades and, rather than sitting on the back porch in a rocking chair, most retirees today are out looking for new adventures and relationships.

If that sounds like your cup of tea, you’d best know the 4 Rs of retirement so that you can have the adventures, and live the retirement life that you’re dreaming about, once you stop  punching the time clock every day. Enjoy.

R #1: Reason. First, unless you’re content answering “I’m retired” every time someone asks you what you do, you’re going to need a good reason to get out of bed in the morning. If that reason is a part-time job doing something you’ve always dreamed about, volunteering at various organizations or simply indulging yourself in your favorite pastime, you’re all set. If you don’t have anything like that however, you need to find some good reasons and find them fast. Nothing drives a retired person crazy faster than having nothing to do, nothing to look forward to and, when someone asks, nothing better to reply then “I’m retired”.

R #2: Reset. Expounding on R #1, a lot of people retire and basically live the same life that they did when they were working full-time. For some that’s just fine but, unless you want to have absolutely nothing to show for your retirement, taking up a new hobby, joining with other retirees to do something fun or otherwise completely changing the status quo of your life is definitely necessary. The goal is to retire by design, not by default, and decide on something that you’d like to accomplish in retirement just as you did when you were working. If that’s learning how to paint, buying a sailboat and sailing around the Caribbean or homeschooling your grandchildren, hit that Reset button and go for it!

R #3: Relationships. As people get older inevitably their friends and family begin to pass away. As sad as this might be, if you’re still around you’d best get some new friends or keep your remaining family close because, let’s face it, living a life alone is really only good for hermits and misers. The fact is, experts on aging point out that the key to a long, happy life in retirement is to have a very active social life. Whether it’s with new friends or old, or close family members, doing things together as a social unit not only gives a sense of connection and security but also wards off negative behavior, depression and anxiety.

R #4: Resources. Okay, R #4 is definitely the biggest.  The foundation of a happy, contented and successful retirement definitely lies in having the Resources necessary to do what you want to do, when you want to do it. Unfortunately, nearly 50% of unmarried people and 25% of married couples rely on Social Security for the vast majority of their income. For most that won’t be enough to even cover the basics, let alone have any adventures or fun.

That’s why, as soon as you can, you need to start putting money into retirement accounts and other retirement assets as much as possible. If you’re only a year or two from retirement it might be too late (sorry) but if you’re 10 years or more away, there’s still time to start socking away as much money as possible so that, when retirement finally comes, you’re ready with great Reasons, awesome Relationships, ideas for your Reset and the Resources to tackle them all.

And by the way, here’s a final suggestion; start doing that today.

Delving Deeper — The Importance of Researching a Company

In today’s highly competitive world of retail, consumers are well and truly spoilt for choice. Numerous companies and corporations are vying for the customers’ attention with their latest and greatest goods or services, so, in many respects, purchasers need to be more careful than ever before with their money.

The rising cost of living coupled with precarious market conditions mean that consumers can’t afford to buy from retailers, who might not deliver on their promises or go out of business in a few weeks’ time. As a result, more and more shoppers are conducting company research before making a purchase.

There are various ways to check whether a business is legitimate or not, from looking at customer reviews online to researching company accounts. Doing so has its benefits as well.

Company research is a growing trend

Various studies suggest that scores of consumers conduct company or product research before parting with their cash. According to GE Capital Retail Bank’s Major Purchase Shopper Study, 81 per cent of consumers go online to carry out research before heading to a physical store. On top of that, the average shopper spends 79 days gathering information before making a purchase.

When it comes to looking for specific company and product details, the following were considered to be the most significant: warranty information (66%), pricing (52%), specs/model information (51%) and payment/financing information (47%). Other factors such as sales or discounts, availability and shipping information were considered less important.

So although consumers want to know about specific product details and pricing, they’re more concerned whether the retailer provides assurances or guarantees.

The benefits of company research

After-sales assurances

Customer service and after-sales care are crucial considerations for most consumers. Seeing whether your chosen retailer deals with returns or complaints amicably is highly recommended. However, if you do have any issues, institutions like the Better Business Bureau and Citizens Advice exist to provide help and advice.

Trust the brand

Trust is incredibly important when deciding whether to make a purchase. If consumers don’t believe a retailer can live up to expectations, they probably won’t buy. However, looking into a company’s past, checking its website or interacting with social media profiles should instil some belief and confidence.

Financial stability

In recent years, there have been a few horror stories about companies going bust. For instance, when tour operators go into administration, holidaymakers are often left stranded abroad. If you conduct comprehensive research and look at annual reports or company accounts, you can avoid this kind of situation.

Apart from impulse purchases, most buying decisions are a big deal, which require plenty of deliberation and contemplation. So if you do some extensive company research, chances are you’ll end up with the product or service you deserve.


Image by Alan Cleaver, used under Creative Commons license.

Need to Exchange Currency? Pay Attention

If traveling to a foreign country is in your near future, one of the biggest costs that you need to avoid is the often expensive exchange rate that you’ll be charged when switching from American dollars to another currency.

Tourist areas and airports are notorious for charging high exchange rates, for example,  and a number of credit cards and banks also charge you an exchange rate when you purchase something using in a foreign currency using their card.

Below are a number of tips that will help you to maximize your American dollars while also minimizing any exchange rates or fees that you’ll have to pay when vacationing. Enjoy.

  • Before making any exchange, ask how much you will get for the specific amount of money you want to exchange. The fact is, many currency exchange places will tell you that they don’t charge fees or that they have excellent exchange rates but, oftentimes, will give you a worse exchange rate than other locations. If you ask specifically how much money you will receive for a specific amount of money that you want to exchange, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting ahead of time and be able to determine whether or not their exchange rate is fair. Also, keep in mind that changing currencies in the country you’re visiting is usually less expensive than changing it here at home in the United States.
  • If your hotel or another business asks if you’d like them to convert their bill into American dollars, tell them no. In most cases their exchange rate will be much higher than the exchange rate that your bank or credit card might charge you (see below to avoid these too). Simply let them bill you in their currency and let your credit card or bank do the exchange after your vacation is finished.
  • If you have a smart phone (and who doesn’t these days) you should definitely get a currency converting app before you leave home. These are extremely convenient and, in most cases, very easy to use, and will tell you if you’re getting a good deal on your money exchange. Two of the best are GlobeConvert and XE Currency.
  • Finding and using a credit and/or debit card that doesn’t charge of foreign exchange fee is an excellent idea. Unfortunately, most credit cards charge from 2 to 3% for every purchase that you make in a foreign currency, which can add up very quickly. There are many cards that don’t however and, if you take a look websites like, and others, you’ll find cards that don’t charge anything.
  • Just like using a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign exchange fees, using a bank or checking account that doesn’t charge them is an excellent idea when you’re traveling abroad. You should definitely check with your bank before leaving to make sure that they don’t charge exchange fees and, if they do, consider opening an account with another bank specifically for your trip. It might take a little bit of time and effort but, depending on how much you plan on spending and how long your trip will take, it might save you quite a bit of money. If you want to find out which banks don’t charge exchange fees, will tell you.

Traveling abroad can be an amazing experience and quite an adventure. If you don’t want it to be an expensive adventure however, following the tips above is in your best interest and could save you hundreds of dollars. Bon voyage!

Paying too Much in Property Taxes?

Property taxes, especially in some states like New Jersey, are out of control. Even states that are considered “fair” when it comes to property taxes can sometimes charge too much and, if you feel that your property taxes are too high, the tips below will help you to check and, possibly, lower them. Enjoy.

First, make sure you know the exact square footage of your home. If the field record of the square footage doesn’t match the current square footage of your property exactly, and the error is in your favor, there’s a good chance that any case you bring for having your property taxes lowered will be won.

Interestingly, although most homeowners believe that the number of bedrooms makes a difference in the assessment of their property taxes, the 2 rooms that make the most difference are kitchens and bathrooms. In other words, the rooms that have running water. Many cities and towns will value a home’s bathroom based on how many fixtures it contains, including whether it’s a full bathroom, three-quarter bathroom or half bathroom. Each of these different types has its different assessment value.

Kitchens are also important to evaluate, especially if you have an in-law suite or a finished basement. For example, you might be paying more property taxes if your wet bar in the basement has been assessed like a kitchen.

Another important factor in the assessment of your property taxes ii the type and/or style of your home. For example, colonial homes are often valued higher than ranches. If you believe that your home has been incorrectly categorized, you might want to speak with your assessor to have its classification changed, which could possibly lower your property taxes.

The condition of your home is also a big factor in the assessment of your property taxes. The lower the condition, the lower your taxes usually will be and, if you feel that your home has been graded too highly, you may want to try and get this knocked down a bit. For example, although the difference between an “excellent” home and a “very good” home might be minimal to the casual observer, it may well make a large difference in the amount of property taxes that you are forced to pay.

Keep in mind that if you’re going to argue any of these points with your tax assessor, you should do your best to have all documentation prepared before you sit down to talk with them. Any glaring errors that can be found on your field card will probably be fixed without a formal procedure being necessary but, if that isn’t possible, you may need to file an abatement to send along with your tax bill until the change is made.

Also, since an inspection will no doubt be needed in most cases to ascertain whether or not of mistake has been made and your taxes should be lowered, it’s also possible that your valuation could rise and that you’ll end up paying higher taxes.

Nevertheless, if you feel strongly that you’re paying too much in property taxes, and you’ve done your research so that you can present your case with all of the necessary documentations, there’s a good chance that you will be successful. It might take some time and effort but, if you can save a significant amount of money every year, it will be well worth the time and effort that you put in.