5 Pieces of Money Advice No One Ever Wants to Hear From Me

You know how adults always told you to “eat your veggies” and greens when you were a kid? Well, that nagging advice doesn’t necessarily stop in adulthood. As a financial planner, I’m constantly giving people good advice they don’t want.

I know no one wants to hear this kind of money advice. But those who do listen — and more importantly, implement these ideas — tend to have better control over their cash flow, higher savings rates, and more financial power.

You might not like it, but much like eating broccoli and kale, taking it in is often for your own good.

1. Don’t buy so much house

Buying a home is rarely a data-driven decision. It’s an emotional one, and for good reason. For many people, homeownership represents stability, security, and even status.

These are not unimportant things, but too many people use their emotions as excuses to throw financial reality out the window when it comes to house hunting.

Set a budget and stick to it. We often recommend keeping your total annual housing costs to no more than 20% of your gross annual household income.

This helps ensure you retain flexibility in other areas of your cash flow so that you can own your home and keep pursuing other important goals or have money available for your other priorities.

2. And don’t assume your house is a good investment

I often caution people against thinking of their home as an investment. Again, that doesn’t mean buying is a bad idea or your house isn’t worth as much as you think it is. But an investment should provide a return.

A single-family home that serves as your primary residence (and does not provide rental income) may be an excellent utility. It is not, however, what I would consider a good investment.

Home values do tend to rise over time, but the cost of ownership, maintenance, and upkeep often erode most of the “gains” you might see when just looking at the transaction of buying and then selling your home on paper.

A reasonable, real return on single-family homes runs about 2%. That’s not nothing, but it’s also not something you can assume will fund your full retirement, either (especially when you have to live somewhere, retired or not, and most people put the equity from a home sale into their next purchase).

3. Save more than you think you need to

It’s really important to me that I help my clients strike a balance between enjoying their lives in the present while also building assets and future financial security. This would be much easier to do if we had a crystal ball and could accurately predict what life would be like in 10, 20, even 30 years.

We’d know your budget. We’d know what kinds of emergencies you’d have to deal with, and prepare accordingly. And we’d understand what your life would look like (including how long it would be).

With that clarity, it would be possible to say, “you need $X. Save just that and feel free to spend the rest.” That is, obviously, not how life works.

The solution? Save more than you think you need to, because then you give yourself a margin of safety. By saving more than you necessarily must save to “be OK,” you can better:

  • Handle emergencies
  • Take advantage of opportunities when they come up (either to spend on an unexpected trip, for example, or to use money on an investment you feel passionate about)
  • Incorporate new goals into your planning over time

Saving more that you think you need today also buys you more choice and freedom in the future. The usual guideline I give to clients to help them achieve this is to save 25% of annual gross income.

4. Have a backup plan

It might sound like a doom-and-gloom approach to finances, but I preach about always having a backup plan — or those margins of safety, or wiggle room, or contingencies.

No one wants to imagine a worst-case scenario, but if something actually went sideways in your financial life, you’ll be glad you had multiple levels of safety net built into your overall plan.

You can do this in a number of ways, including some we’ve already talked about, like saving more than you think you need to save.

Other ways of building in backups is by maintaining an emergency fund, using conservative assumptions around income, and overestimating your expenses when you do any kind of long-term financial projection, and not counting on any kind of windfall (from bonuses and commissions to inheritances) to make your plan work.

5. Stop trying to time the market

It is so tempting to think we can successfully time the market. Why? Because drops and spikes in the stock market look stupidly obvious with hindsight.

It’s very easy to look back at something like 2008 (or maybe even the spring of 2020 at this point) and feel like you know when the best times to buy and sell would have been… because they already happened. 

Guessing what comes next without the benefit of knowing how things played out is not the same thing. Data shows us that even professionals fail to time the market repeatedly. You may get lucky once, but repeating that performance over and over again for the next few decades is virtually impossible.

Build a strategic investing plan — and then stick to it, regardless of current events.

It’s probably not as fun and may not be as sexy as bragging about your stock picks on Robinhood, but it works a whole lot better in the long run.

By:

Eric Roberge, CFP, is the founder of Beyond Your Hammock. He helps professionals in their 30s do more with their money.

Source: 5 Pieces of Money Advice No One Ever Wants to Hear From Me

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Dysfunctional Financial Markets Are Making Inequality Worse All The Time

Toy man looking up at another toy man standing on big pile on coins

The global market in government bonds has been bleeding red lately. “Bond market screams for help but no one answers”, says Bloomberg. It is “the worst start to a year in bonds since 2015”, according to the Financial Times.

Though bonds have been declining since last summer, the sell-off became a lot more violent in February. This meant that the yield on ten-year US Treasury bonds, which is inversely related to the price, rose by around 60% to peak at over 1.6% a couple of days ago, before falling back to 1.5% at the time of writing.

The US ten-year strongly influences the price of everything from mortgages to business loans in the US, and by extension around the world, so such a sharp rise has the potential to reduce borrowing and weaken the economic recovery from COVID –especially when there is so much debt in the global system. The world’s rampant stock markets responded by going into reverse in February as they factored in higher interest rates, as well as higher production costs because of surging commodity prices.

Bond prices can fall for several reasons. It can mean that the market thinks that economic growth is going to pick up (meaning investors shift their money into riskier investments). But it can also reflect fears that inflation is on the way without much accompanying economic growth, meaning that interest rates need to go higher so that lending is still profitable.

In the present case, it is a bit of both: the rollout of the vaccination programmes has made many observers more optimistic about the prospects of a recovery. But the rise in the price of commodities like oil, copper and coffee is more about pandemic-related supply issues than because this optimism has prompted a step-change in demand.

When Fed Reserve Chairman Jay Powell failed to announce any immediate intervention to put a floor under the sell-off in bonds during a public appearance in early March, it appeared to trigger more selling – a sign that falling bond prices have been more a reflection of fears than optimism.

Interestingly, in the hours since the new US$1.9 trillion (£1.4 trillion) US stimulus package has been agreed by Congress, the bond market and stock market have both been rising. Though there have been fears that sending US$1,400 stimulus cheques to most Americans will cause a further surge in inflation, the extra consumer demand will also prop up the economy. On balance, then, this appears to have been received as a net positive by the markets.

QE and perverse consequences

Any attempt to explain what is happening in the markets needs to be in the context of quantitative easing (QE). Shortly after the first wave of lockdowns in early 2020, central banks stepped in to help their national economies. They announced huge new QE plans in which they would create new money with which to buy government bonds and other financial assets. This drove up bond prices and hence kept yields (and interest rates) at very low levels to encourage as much borrowing from consumers and businesses as possible.

Most central banks originally began QE programmes after the 2007-09 financial crisis (besides the Bank of Japan, which began a few years earlier). This was primarily to help companies get access to capital to boost their business, in the hope that they would then hire staff, which would help to reduce unemployment rates that had been sent soaring after the crisis.

However, some companies took advantage of these low interest rates in another way: they borrowed cheaply and invested it in the stock market. With investors doing likewise, this has helped to drive the relentless rise in global stock markets over the past decade. It also helps to explain why these markets have been mainly climbing ever since the COVID panic sell-off of March 2020.

In the coming months, economies are going to reopen, but interest rates are to stay low. Fed Reserve Chairman Jay Powell may have declined to announce any new interventions to date, but it is fairly clear that he will only let yields rise so far.

This gives investors a great opportunity to continue taking advantage of the situation. So long as the gain from your investment in stocks is greater than the interest rate you have to pay on your borrowings, you are a winner. Better still, buy stocks in a company such as Apple whose bonds central banks have been buying as part of their QE activities. Apple is still trading at over double the lows of March 2020, even after the February correction.

But if you are not in a position to take advantage of this one-way bet, you are a loser. The central banks have already created a situation where major institutions like the biggest hedge funds and investment banks are achieving record earnings while many families are sinking into poverty on the back of the pandemic.

The endless stimulus is in danger of creating an ever more divided society. While it is true that the latest US package (and the support measures announced in the UK budget) will temporarily help those struggling during the pandemic, the shot in the arm is also another way of propping up markets that seem too overvalued to fail.

And if they can no longer survive without central bank life-support to keep bond yields low, the question is how to prop up the markets without exacerbating inequality. It’s not clear that anyone has the answer. It might be that a shift to a much more redistributive politics to offset the widening gap between rich and poor is about the best that we can hope for.

 

By: Lecturer in Finance, University of Bath

Source: Dysfunctional financial markets are making inequality worse all the time – here’s what to do about it

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Financial Targets Don’t Motivate Employees

Would you be excited if your boss started a meeting saying: “I want to remind you that you’re a cog in a machine whose primary purpose is to hit our financial targets”?

It’s hard to imagine that you would feel much joy or pride of ownership in your work if your contribution was reduced to your financial output. While this specific wording may be a bit exaggerated, it’s not a far departure from the message that many employees hear on a daily basis.

As we move into what (we hope) will be a growth period, it’s natural for leaders to emphasize the importance of hitting financial targets. Financial performance is crucial, of course. But making numbers the centerpiece of your leadership narrative is a costly mistake.

Financial results are an outcome, not a root driver for employee performance. A growing body of evidence tells us that overemphasizing financial targets erodes morale and undermines long-term strategy. When a leader spends the majority of their airtime on a “make the numbers” narrative, it creates a transactional relationship with their employees, making them more likely to create transactional relationships with their teammates and customers.

The events of 2020 remind us: Employee engagement is the lifeblood of an organization. What your team thinks, feels, and believes about your organization, and their own work, drives their behavior — and their behavior is what determines your success or failure.

Leaders seeking to ignite creativity and drive exponential effort must go upstream, using their time with their teams to build belief in the organizational purpose, the intrinsic value of the employees’ work, and the impact the teams have on customers, and each other. Here are three ways to do that:

1. Evaluate your leadership “airtime.”

When Mike Gianoni took over as the CEO of SaaS firm Blackbaud, he flipped the way they conduct town halls. Previous leaders spent the majority of their airtime sharing financial results. Gianoni took a different approach. He began using his time to discuss the impact Blackbaud was having on customers, and he directed his leaders to do the same.

“Shifting our airtime from internal metrics to customer outcomes jump-started the next level of customer empathy and value,” explains Blackbaud President and GM Patrick Hodges. “Over time, your attrition goes down. When people feel good about what they do and they’re more successful, they’re not going to look for another job.”

We recommend leaders aim for a 50/50 split, spending at least half their leadership airtime building belief in the meaning and external impact of the work, and half on internal metrics and deliverables. It’s not without coincidence that six months after Blackbaud adjusted their leadership airtime, they had an innovation breakthrough, employee engagement rose dramatically, market share increased, and revenue grew exponentially.

2. Discuss individual customers with emotion and specificity.

The more clearly an employee understands their direct impact, the more likely they are to go the extra mile; they also experience greater fulfillment in doing so.

Consider this research from organizational psychologist Adam Grant, who studied paid employees at a public university call center who were hired to solicit donations to the school from alumni. He divided the team into two groups. One group went about their day as usual, phoning potential donors. The other group, before jumping on the phones, had a short conversation with a scholarship student, someone who was able to get an education because of donations that the call center produced. After a month, callers who had spoken with the scholarship recipient spent more than two times as many minutes on the phone, and brought in vastly more money: a weekly average of $503.22, up from $185.94.

The same findings have been echoed in studies of lifeguards, hospital workers, and sales teams. When we know our work matters to an individual person, we rise to the occasion. Discussing customers in the aggregate does not create the same emotional pull. Instead, when you speak about customers, even if your team does not interact with them directly, use their real names, talk about the businesses they have, and show your team that real people are counting on them.

3. Resist the pull of the “FYI.” 

In our consulting practice we routinely observe well-intended leaders who in an effort “to keep their team informed” pass along everything that pertains to financial performance. It’s natural, because the gravitational pull of most organizations leans towards the numbers; it’s what gets reported and thus it’s routinely forwarded down.

But when a leader send their team decks filled with financial targets employees are often left to their own devices to figure out how to translate broader financial goals into their daily behavior. It’s confusing at best, dispiriting at worst.

Emotional intelligence expert Daniel Goleman says, “A primary task of leadership is to direct attention. To do so, leaders must learn to focus their own attention.” Instead of routinely hitting forward on every financial report, think about where you want to direct the attention of your team.

You can decide what to share and what not to share by asking yourself questions like: What does my team need to be thinking about on a daily basis to accomplish these goals? How do I want them to behave with customers and each other? Filter out the noise coming from other places in the organization and focus your language on the two things that are 100% within the control of your team: their mindset and their behavior.

The research is telling us what we already knew in our hearts to be true: You cannot spreadsheet your way to passion. With ambitious goals on the horizon, it’s tempting to double-down on financial metrics. But hitting financial targets requires employees who are excited and care about their work.

As we face a future of potential uncertainty and unrest, it’s crucial for leaders to help their teams stay engaged. You can improve your team’s performance (and their emotional well-being) by making sure your airtime, your metrics, and your language communicate one simple message: Your work matters.

Decentralized Finance Is on The Rise What You Need To Know in 2021

Few had heard much about decentralized finance (DeFi) in its early days in late 2017 and late 2019, beyond murmurs about Bitcoin and a mysterious new digital technology called blockchain

But a pandemic can change everything. 

Since May of this year, the total value locked (TVL)—the amount of any currency locked into tokens, the vehicle of holding and moving assets on blockchain, in smart contracts on a blockchain ecosystem—in decentralized finance projects rose a whopping 2,000 percent, according to DeFi Pulse. Many investors would be hard-pressed to find such an astronomical rise of any assets or expansion of any financial ecosystem, but DeFi app developers seemed to find success. So what’s the rage, and why does it matter going into the new year? 

What is DeFi?

DeFi, many fintech leaders argue, is the world’s answer to the 2008 financial crisis. Thanks to poor decision making and a lack of proper financial regulation, legacy financial institutions brought the world’s economy to its knees in the most major financial crisis since the Great Depression. The knee-jerk reaction was to create an ecosystem dependent on every link in the chain, rather than centralized authorities—hence the term “decentralized finance.”

The concept of blockchain, a decentralized ledger, was designed to ensure financial transactions would be transparent. Moreover, transaction approval would come from network individuals incentivized to approve them by solving complex mathematical equations or by network consensus voting. 

Later, the idea of operating a decentralized financial system on a decentralized ledger, independent of legacy institutions, grew into a thriving, albeit relatively small, ecosystem. Now, users can find financial services on the distributed ledger for loans, insurance, margin trading, exchanges, and yield farming (yielding rewards from staking digital assets on a network to help facilitate network liquidity).

But there is still a way to go. Not enough consumers are comfortable with DeFi quite yet, because platform accessibility and blockchain tribalism remain a problem. Nevertheless, now the world is experiencing another economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and DeFi is finally getting its day in the sun.

Related: Getting Drawn Into DeFi? Here Are Three Major Considerations

E-wallets are leveling up

For companies and individuals already active in the space, navigating the ecosystem remains impeded by technical limitations. In order to access certain markets and execute transactions on the blockchain—whether it’s borrowing or lending, staking assets in liquidity pools, or trading on an exchange—users need to own an e-wallet that’s properly connected to the ecosystem. 

E-wallets are the backbone of transactions on blockchain. Just as the digital assets they help transact and store, these wallets are secure, transparent, and easily accessible to users. At least, that’s the idea behind them, though there are various degrees of security and transparency. For DeFi to attract more users, the wallets must be compatible with multiple blockchains running financial dApps (decentralized apps that operate on a blockchain system). One of the first wallets, created by Ethereum and called “MyEtherWallet” (MEW), lacked a user-friendly interface and was challenging to grasp for people outside the hardcore crypto crowd.

Since then, a number of blockchain developers have created alternative e-wallet solutions. Most recently, Spielworks, a blockchain gaming startup, reached an agreement with Equilibrium and DeFiBox to integrate its e-wallet “Wombat,” which is currently available on the Telos and EOS blockchain mainnet (a blockchain network that is fully developed, deployed, and operational).

The Wombat wallet provides users with access to several DeFi platforms that offer token exchanges, yield farming, borrowing, and lending. Wombat recently also integrated with Bitfinex’s new EOS exchange, Eosfinex, as well as 8 other DeFi networks. Rather impressively, the wallet also offers free and fast account creation, automatic key backup, and free blockchain resources. 

Related: Cryptocurrency Innovators Need to Simplify User Experience

Developments in blockchain wallets, such as Wombat’s, will be pivotal in the next few years in the growth of DeFi applications and the movement of users toward decentralized finance and away from traditional finance. While wallets are important, so are the underlying mechanisms to piece the entire ecosystem together, because one a DeFi ecosystem is not enough if confined to just one blockchain mainnet.

Piecing it all together

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” President Lincoln’s famous quote referred to the Civil War that ravaged the United States at the time, but his historically renowned words can apply very well to the blockchain community today. 

For DeFi to reach its maximum potential, as a decentralized ecosystem that doesn’t answer to a central authority, blockchain platforms must stand united and interoperate. Could anyone imagine if payment transfers between regular banks were not possible? How could an economy function? This is the sort of technical problem plaguing the DeFi world: Each blockchain platform has its own benefits, but each remains largely separated from the others in its own silo. The root of the problem is attitude, the other part is technical limitations.

Related: 15 Crazy and Surprising Ways People Are Using Blockchain

Ethereum and EOS are primary examples of this sort of rivalry, both of which have their own technical benefits for dApp developers. If the two ecosystems could be connected to one another, EOS-based and Ethereum-based developers alike, for example, could benefit from each other’s platform’s strengths. Users could also benefit, via financial opportunities without having to sacrifice shifting their base from one blockchain to another.

This is precisely what LiquidApps’s latest development—its DAPP Network bridging—has solved. LiquidApps’s technology provides the technical mechanisms to connect separate blockchain mainnets and recently provided its tools to EOS-based developers to successfully deploy a bridge between EOS and Ethereum.

This was shortly followed by decentralized social media app Yup’s deployment that demonstrated the possibility of moving tokens easily between different once-separate blockchain mainnets. It still remains to be seen how long it will take before blockchain platforms themselves integrate built-in cross-chain technologies, but LiquidApps is starting the next crucial step to DeFi development.

Whether it’s cross-chain technology or the e-wallets that grant access to dApps, tech developments and attitudes in the DeFi space over the next few years will determine its success. The latest developments suggest the future of DeFi looks promising. Time to go decentralized.

By: Ariel Shapira Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

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Paris Fintech Forum

by O. Bussmann, CEO, Bussmann Advisory (CH) Speakers *M. Froehler, CEO, Morpher (AT) *H. Gebbing, Managing Director, Finoa (DE) *U. Shtybel, Vice president, HighCastle (UK) *N. Filali, Head of Blockchain Program, Caisse des Dépôts (FR) more on http://www.parisfintechforum.com/videos2020

99Bitcoins

Start trading Bitcoin and cryptocurrency here: http://bit.ly/2Vptr2X DeFi applications – https://defipulse.com/defi-list/ DeFi is becoming more and more popular as the main use case for cryptocurrencies. This video explains in detail what DeFi is and what you should know about before getting involved. 0:38 Bitcoin and Our Financial System 1:24 Our Centralized Financial System 1:59 What is DeFi? 2:22 DeFi Components 4:16 – DAI explained 5:51 – DEXs explained 6:33 – Decentralized money markets 8:06 Money Legos 8:56 DeFi Advantages and Risks 10:02 Conclusion For the complete text guide visit: https://bit.ly/2R35g6Z Join our 7-day Bitcoin crash course absolutely free: http://bit.ly/2pB4X5B Learn ANYTHING about Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies on our YouTube channel: http://bit.ly/2BVbxeF Get the latest news and prices on your phone: iOS – https://apple.co/2yf02LJ Android – http://bit.ly/2NrMVw2

Your Financial Year-End Checklist

2020 is over, and for many of you, it can’t end soon enough. There will be plenty of time to celebrate the end of one year and to hope for better days in the one ahead. But before we get to that, take these steps to get financially ready for 2021.

1) Review your goals: The end of the year is a great time to review the goals you made at the beginning of the year and set new ones for 2021. How did you do this year? Is there anything you’re proud of accomplishing? I like to start with bright spots because they can guide you toward success as you set new goals. But let’s be realistic, too; 2020 threw us a lot of curveballs.

Was there anything you wish you could have done better? You can also learn from any potential stumbling blocks and figure out how to use them as stepping-stones next year. You may also want to take time now to review your net worth. That’s one way to gauge the progress you’ve made in your financial health this year.

2) Update your budget: Did you save the money that you wanted to? Pay off the debt that you needed to? The end of the year gives you a solid end point to assess whether met the goals you set at the outset of 2020. What if you didn’t have a budget or financial goals? You’ve got a blank slate ahead. Why not create a budget that works? 

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3) Create a holiday bucket: Holidays can be budget breakers, so why not incorporate them into your spending goals right from the start? Christmas may look a lot different this year. But you can still create a separate bucket for holiday spending and when that money is gone, stop spending. You’ll thank yourself in January when you don’t have an unusually large credit card bill.

4) Use it or lose it: Some of your benefits—like vacation days or a medical or dependent care flexible spending account (FSA)—expire at the end of the year. Take stock of what you have left and use these benefits to your advantage. MORE FOR YOUPPP Loan Forgiveness Application Guidance For The Self-Employed, Freelancers And ContractorsSBA Approving Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs): What You Need To KnowWhat You Can Do Now To Maximize Paycheck Protection Loan Forgiveness

5) Make any last charitable contributions: December 31st is the last day your charitable contributions can be deducted on your 2020 tax return. If giving to charity is a part of your spending plan, you can use these questions to help make the most of your charitable giving.

6) Pump up your 529: Just like charitable contributions, contributions to your 529 college savings plan must be made by December 31st to count for this tax year. Find out if your state is one of over 30 that allow you to deduct your contribution. You can find the specific deduction here. If your state is one of the four that allow an unlimited deduction, keep in mind the yearly gift-tax and super-funding rules.

7) Max out your 401k: While you have until April to make contributions to your traditional IRA, Roth IRA and HSA, you can only contribute to your 401k through December 31st. So, if you have extra cash and are looking to boost your savings, consider contributing your last couple of checks entirely to your 401k. Business owners can do the same with the employee portion of your Solo 401k contributions.

8) Find your tax return: You’ll be doing your taxes before you know it, so use this time to get prepared. Review last year’s return and make a mental list of records you’ll need to assemble. Year-end is also a good time to decide whether a Roth conversion makes sense for you.

9) Review your business structure: Evaluate your business structure and the QBI deduction to identify any changes you need to make to your business. You might want to set up a solo 401k, for instance, and if so, you’ll have to act before December 31st (although you can make employer/profit sharing contributions up to the business tax filing deadline).

10) Defer income and incur expenses: If you’re a business owner, you may also want to look at ways to defer income into 2021 or pay for business expenses you anticipate for early next year. This is any easy way to reduce your tax liability for 2020. However, remember not to spend money on business expenses that you wouldn’t otherwise incur just for a tax deduction. Spending a $1 to save 24 cents still costs you 76 cents.

 11) Will and trust review: The end of the year is a good time to take stock of changes in your life—like getting married or divorced, having children, starting a business or retiring.  Your estate plan should reflect these changes. Get out your will, documentation for trusts you’ve established and powers of attorney and make sure they match your current situation.

12) Insurance documents: Insurance documents also need to cover your current situation. Take a look at your life and disability insurance policies to make sure they protect your current income and those dependent on it. Your renters or homeowners insurance should cover any additional big purchases you made during the year. And lastly, you should review your health insurance policy for any upcoming changes for 2020. For those of you enrolling in the Market Place, you have until December 15th to pick your plan.

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My last bonus task is to enjoy this holiday season. I love the holidays because you can reflect and appreciate what you have. We’ve been tested a lot this year, living our lives through a pandemic, racial unrest and a contentious election. I hope the end of the year brings you comfort and peace. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website

Brian Thompson

Brian Thompson

As both a tax attorney and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, I provide comprehensive financial planning to LGBTQ entrepreneurs who run mission-driven businesses. I hold a special place in my heart for small-business owners. I spent a decade defending them against the IRS as a tax attorney and have become one as a financial advisor. It’s a position filled with hope and opportunity. It gives you the most flexibility to create the life that you want. I also understand the added stresses of running a business while being a person of color and a part of the LGBTQ community. You may feel like you don’t have access to the knowledge that others do. I’m here to help lift some of that weight from your shoulders.

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Critics:

A personal budget or home budget is a finance plan that allocates future personal income towards expenses, savings and debt repayment. Past spending and personal debt are considered when creating a personal budget. There are several methods and tools available for creating, using and adjusting a personal budget. For example, jobs are an income source, while bills and rent payments are expenses.

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