Sarang Ahuja | Finance

Leader, Financial Expert, Game Changer

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Top 5 Finance Books To Read Before You Turn 30

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Becoming financially successful typically cannot be done overnight. It takes a lot of time, practice and decision making to reach the ultimate peak. However, you don’t have to wait until your retirement to live financially free. One of the best things an individual can do to practice financial success is to read. Although it doesn’t sound like much, reading can help expand the mind of individuals and fill your brain with the confidence and power for strong decision making, problem solving, and analytical thinking. Here are 5 books you should read before turning 30, to get on the road to a financially free life.

 

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

As previously mentioned, decision making is a very important aspect of finance. Kahneman talks in detail about the two different types of thinking that drag our minds into making decisions, allowing us to understand the reasons behind why and how we make important, life decisions. This book will allow open your mind up in the way that we think and allow you to make choices in a way you never have before.

 

Debt-Free By 30 by Jason Anthony and Karl Kluck

As many people are burdened with debt, they also tend to think that there is no way out. However, Debt-Free by 30 offers resources, tools, and advice by two young men who have reached their peak debt point. The authors were living for and under control of their debt, when they decided it was time to get their lives back. Anyone who’s ever felt like they will never get their life back should consider reading this book and becoming prepared for the challenges that life can take us by. There is a way out.

 

The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke by Suze Orman

As many young people graduate high school and college and look for the next step in their lives, it is no surprise that millennials don’t know where to begin their financial journey. This book is a step by step guide in understanding your finances straight out of school. It even includes financial vocabulary to help reader gain a thorough understanding of finances in life. Schools typically don’t teach finances in today’s world, so whether you’re looking to buy a house, get out of debt, or come up with a financial plan, this book is a must read.

The Millionaire Next Door by, Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko

Many people believe in order to become a millionaire, one must be born into money. However, this book will help you understand why this concept is a myth and what it really takes to become a millionaire. Through hard work, dedication, and financial planning, you can be on your road to financial success.

 

The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money by Carl Richards

We live in a society where buying things for satisfaction controls our financial decisions and spending habits. Richards explains in detail the theory of “the behavior gap” for consumers to understand their reality and have the ability to change their train of financial thought.

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Post-College Financing

For those of you out there who have just finished another chapter of your life and graduated college, congratulations! You’re ready to take on life choices and decisions and you’ve officially entered adulthood. This means that you’re on the road to finding financial success and will most likely begin paying off your loans from the last four years. Although it can be a hard subject to think about, taking control of your finances post college life is attainable. By following these four steps, you can be on your way for financial success.

 

Calculate your Debt

As hard as it may be to think about how much money you don’t have, knowing how much you owe is crucial to come up with a plan to paying back your loans. Once you have established a number, write it down. This will allow you to keep track of your payback progress. When making monthly payments, it’s also a good idea to set up automatic payments. Automatic payments will ensure that your payments are always on time and establish a positive credit score and a good relationship with your bank.

 

Keep an Eye on your Credit Score

College is about learning from your mistakes, right? As soon as you get out of college ( or even before), you should keep an eye on your credit score. Whether you’ve applied for loans/ credit cards or not, monitoring your score will help protect you from fraud and identity theft. It’s also important to keep in mind that checking your credit report too often can actually hurt your score. If you’re planning on taking out a mortgage or big loan this year, keep the credit pulling to a minimum, such as 3 times a year. However, checking your monthly FICO score is a great idea to have an idea where your credit stands. FICO works by predicting what your actual score is. It’s usually offered with online credit card statements, therefore you can look at it as much as you’d like without worrying about your score going down.

 

Emergency Savings

Although setting up a 401k and retirement is important as a post college student, it’s more important to have an emergency savings account set up as soon as you can. If you come out of college with a job lined up, consider yourself lucky. Otherwise, you’ll need to set up a plan for living costs, such as moving back in with your parents or finding freelance work. When your income isn’t steady, an emergency living plan is more important than setting up a retirement plan. The reality is that you went to college to find a job, so eventually you will find one. But some unexpected costs may come up, such as car damages, shopping for interview clothes, or other emergencies could potentially come up, so you have to be ready.

 

Create a Budget

My best overall advice for college graduates, is to start thinking about your future monthly expenses before you graduate so that you’re not shocked when it comes to paying your bills post college. Then, create a budget to keep in mind. This will also help you in the long run when you make more money than you’re spending, allowing you to create savings plans.

6 Ways To Save Money During the Holidays

6 Ways To Save Money During the Holidays

When the holidays roll around, it can be easy to empty your pockets with all of the gift shopping. When you’re getting your friends and family gifts, it can be difficult to stick to a budget. It certainly is challenging to save money during the holidays, but that it’s not impossible. Here are a few ways to save some cash during the holiday season:

1) Choose a budget first.

Many people make the mistake of starting out their holiday shopping by thinking of everyone they need to shop for. This can lead shoppers to spend a lot more money than they expect. Instead, set your holiday budget before you even enter a store. Make sure you consider the little extra costs like postage for holiday cards or party favors.

2) Make a list of people who will be receiving gifts.

Now that you’ve set your budget, you can make a list of everyone you want to buy gifts for. Then, go down the list and decide how much money you can spend on each person. If the sum of these hypothetical expenses exceeds your holiday budget, go through your list again and cut names or amounts. If you have a big family, make a gift list with other relatives so that you don’t have to buy a gift for everyone.

3) Temper your children’s expectations.

With all of the commercials for new toys that come on TV during the holidays, your children may write some pretty long Christmas lists. It’s a good idea to ask them to just write down one or two things they really want. You can get them more toys than that but it’s a good idea for them to understand that there are limits.

4) Engage in cheaper traditions.

Traditions play a big role in making the holidays special. However, some traditions can be pricey. If you travel during the holidays, buy your kids extravagant gifts or pay for a special attraction, you can find yourself in a financial rut when the New Year comes around. Instead, choose more cost-friendly traditions, such as baking together, touring neighborhood Christmas lights, sledding or watching a movie at home.

5) Budget your time.

If you wait until the last minute to buy a gift, you’ll have to pay a much higher value than if you’d shopped earlier. If you allow enough time for your holiday preparations, you’ll be able to save a pretty penny. In addition to shopping, these holiday preparations can include baking or wrapping presents that you’re planning to mail cross-country.

6) Give gifts with meaning rather than monetary value.

It can be easy to think that the best gifts are the most expensive ones. However, it is often the gifts with sentimental value that truly make people happy. Don’t get caught up in the cost but rather in the meaning of the gift. If you can make or purchase a gift that truly speaks to the person you’re giving it to, or says something about your relationship with the person, you’re bound to get a positive reaction.

It may seem like the holiday season is a time for excessive spending, but there are many ways to cut back. If you follow these helpful tips, you’ll be able to have a fun holiday season while still having enough money saved up for the new year ahead.

 

5 Ways to Make Sure Your Family is Protected Financially

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Financial security often feels like a tenuous thing. What you can afford today might not be quite so affordable tomorrow, especially if something happens to destroy your income: a job loss, the death of the family breadwinner, or an accident or injury that prevents the breadwinner from returning to work for a long period of time. While you can’t prepare for every possibility in life, you can take the steps necessary to ensure that your family is protected financially.

1. Define financial protection.

What does financial protection look like for your family? Your answer may be different depending on your family’s unique needs. In order to attain financial protection for your family, however, you must first define what “protection” looks like to you. Is it having a cushion that will provide for a few months in the event of an emergency or other unforeseen event? Do you need to provide for your family for a potential period of years in the event of your death? Take the time to clearly lay out what financial protection looks like to your family.

2. Think about future needs. 

When you’re evaluating your financial protection, you need to imagine the position you would be in if something catastrophic were to occur to your family and plan for it. Be sure to take all of the facets of your current situation into consideration. For example, if you’re the primary breadwinner while your spouse stays at home with the children, you might already know that you need to have a life insurance policy that will allow your spouse to complete their schooling, update their certifications, or take other steps to rejoin the workforce without having to worry about money. At the same time, however, you must take into consideration expenses that would occur should the stay-at-home spouse be lost. Small children might have to be placed in daycare, while older ones might have to transition to after-school care. Preparing for the possibility of these expenses should be part of your financial protection plan.

3. Secure your savings.

A life insurance policy and a disability insurance policy will go a long way toward ensuring that necessary expenses are paid in the event of death or injury. To truly secure your family’s financial future, however, you must have savings that will help cover other eventualities, as well. Are you prepared for a long period of unemployment? A sudden illness that requires extensive medical care? Many financial professionals recommend a savings account that has been built up enough to cover six months of expenses. That gives you a cushion while you decide what you’re going to do next. Make contributing to your savings account one of the highest priorities in your regular spending.

4. Start with the necessities.

You can’t build your family’s financial future overnight. As much as you would like to be able to provide everything your spouse and children need even if something happens to you, you might not be able to fulfill that dream immediately. Instead, define actual needs. What’s the minimum that your spouse would need in order to survive following your death? What do your children have to have in order to make it through high school? Make those things the first priority. You can build your financial portfolio from there as your means increase. Take a hard look at what will be necessary in order to accomplish those goals, and make sure you’ve taken the time to run the numbers.

5. Ask for help.

If you’re struggling to juggle the combination of trusts, insurance policies, and investment accounts that will provide for your family, don’t force yourself to keep doing it alone! Instead, reach out to a trusted adviser to help you put the pieces together. That individual will be able to help you go through the numbers and develop a plan to help your family through those difficult days.

Financial protection is about one thing: peace of mind. Life has a way of throwing difficulty your way when you least expect it. Careful financial planning, however, can ensure that your family is financially protected enough to weather those storms. You can’t predict everything, but you can take the steps necessary to secure your family’s financial future for at least the period immediately following a potentially catastrophic event, offering an extra layer of protection and peace to your family.

4 Ways to Get Serious About Finances in Your 40s

Securing a firm grip on finances can be difficult for any age. Although many people wrongfully believe that struggling to make payments, put money into savings, or fall behind on credit card payments is only for the young just getting used to their first job, many people struggle financially well into their adult years.As you navigate through your 40s, there are a number of financial burdens you need to consider that may not have been a problem before. Children are approaching college age, retirement is just around the corner, and you’re still working to pay off your home, cars, and debt. It can be overwhelming to think of all the things you need to save but can’t figure out where that money is going to come from.

Financial instability, even in your 40s, doesn’t need to be the end of the world. You still have time to turn things around and gain financial independence. If you’re ready to get a grasp on your money, here are four steps you can take.

1. Consider what has worked.

Chances are, you didn’t get where you are by doing everything wrong. Think of things that had worked for you in the past, that you maybe could have taken to the next level to get a bit more benefit from it. Maybe it was automatically moving a portion of your paycheck to savings or cooking in for your meals.

Even these small changes can be built upon to make something larger. When you recognize something that you’ve maybe tried in the past, it can feel easier to ease it into your life today. It can also feel rewarding to know that you’re getting on a better track.

2. Think of the long term.

Many of us think of the things we need to afford now instead of the things we might need to save for in the future. Retirement seems so far away, so instead we buy a new car or upgrade our TV at home. We think that we have time to save for retirement and it isn’t a problem now.

When we reach our 40s, retirement has finally stopped being so far away. If we want to retire on time for the national average, that is only about 25 years away. When we want to save enough money to live the rest of our lives off of, that isn’t that much time.Stop looking at the short term and consider what’s further down the road. Forget about what you could buy now and instead think about helping a kid with college or putting into a retirement fun.

3. View savings as a requirement.

One of the biggest problems many of us have is not thinking of savings as a necessity. Instead of putting our money away like we should, we believe it isn’t as important as meeting our bills and making ends meet. While this may be true in some circumstances, we need to stop seeing our savings money as “extra.”

To force yourself to save, view your savings goals as bills for that month. If you want to save $300 to your savings account that month, charge yourself the same way you would a bill. Don’t think of as it as extra cash anymore.

4. Get excited.

When you’re thinking about planning your future, you should be excited. One way to fuel yourself to start saving is to create an image of what it will look like when you get there. Are you and your spouse going to travel during your retirement? Are you going to move somewhere warm? Are you going to stay home to be surrounded my family?

When you have an idea of the lifestyle you’re saving for, you’ll do what you can to start saving to get there. Having an image in your head gives you something to work for and grounds the goals to something real.

Finances can be a struggle, but the more you put them off, the harder they will become. If you’re in your 40s and just beginning to consider savings, getting out of debt, and becoming financially independent, you don’t want to waste any more time.

It is never too late to get started, you just need to take the first step.

6 Financial Questions You Should Ask Your Partner Before Saying I Do

sarang ahuja couple financeCouples getting ready to walk down the aisle tend to spend a lot of their time focused on things like flowers, color schemes, meals, playlists, guest counts, etc. However, experts say that there is a major part of creating a “happily ever after” that is often not discussed before the long awaited walk down the aisle: finances.

Before you commit to forever with your partner, it is extremely important that you first discuss some strategy for how you plan to make financial decisions. The financial decisions that couples make in the early years together have a huge impact on their future income.

Everyone’s situation is unique, but it all comes back to one simple principle — the earlier you have the conversations about money and the sooner you take action on that discussion, the better off you’ll be.

Financial talk in the midst of wedding planning can seem like it might be a buzz kill, but money is a leading catalyst for marital disputes and a top cause for divorce, according to experts. Wouldn’t you rather have a potentially difficult conversation now, before you’ve committed the rest of your life to someone, than a difficult conversation down the line that could end your marriage?

Couples should understand they are likely to run into disagreement about one or more aspects of finance, but what matters most is how they handle it.

Here is a list of questions to get the conversation started, click here for more:

  1. In case of an emergency, do you know where your financial and legal documents are?
  2. How confident are you in taking full responsibility for your retirement savings strategy?
  3. Everyone pictures retirement differently. What does yours look like?
  4. You just received a large tax refund. What are you most likely to do with it?
  5. Who manages your day-to-day household finances (paying bills, deposits, budgets, etc.)?
  6. When it comes to investing for your retirement, who takes the lead?

More than anything, you want to ensure that you and your fiancé discuss items like these BEFORE you get married. Half of your stress can be eliminated just by making sure that you and your future spouse are on the same page when it comes to your finances. You don’t have to agree on everything. But you want to make sure you share similar viewpoints when it comes to managing debt, budgeting and your future goals. A shared financial vision can go a long way toward ensuring you both live your happily ever after.

Personal Finance for Children

Kids and MoneyIt has long been discussed at what age people should start learning how to manage personal finance. It was only recently that some high schools began to require personal finance courses for graduation. Also, of course, there is the ever-popular list circulating the internet stating ‘Things I Never Learned in High School,’ most of which is related to personal finance. High schoolers, college students, and recent graduates are almost demanding that some personal finance that will be pertinent to the future is taught in school, yet the question of how early to start teaching it still remains. A new report suggests that the ideal time to start teaching personal finance may be earlier than anyone has thought before.

This Building Blocks Report, by the Consumer Financial Protection Board, makes the assertion that personal finance should start being taught at age 3. That’s right; preschoolers should be encouraged to practice make-believe play in order to develop their executive functioning. Executive functioning is, in part, learning control and how to plan, which is very helpful in budgeting. It gives people the willpower to maintain control over their actions, so, the sooner it is developed the better. Some make-believe activities that may help children to develop this section of mental processes are setting up a pretend supermarket in your home, playing accountant, and giving children calculators.

Of course, preschoolers will not be able to understand more complicated personal finance lessons, but they will understand basic concepts. Some things that should be impressed upon them include exchanging money for goods and saving money to get something better later. Remember that this is only the first phase of personal finance lessons.

Once children reach their pre-teenager stage, allowance can be used to further teach about personal finance. For example, requiring those receiving the allowance to save a portion of it each time it is given will teach how beneficial saving can be. It can also instill in them the sense that impulse buys, while fun at the time, are not always the best choice. When kids reach their teenage years, purchasing decisions can really start being discussed. At this age, it is recommended to discuss spending habits in all family activities, from filling up on gas to eating at a restaurant. Teenagers should be helping the family make spending decisions, which will ultimately prepare them for making spending decisions with their own finances in the future.

While it is great that some high schools are making personal finance courses standard, it is clear from the above report that personal finance learning should begin even soon. For more information, check out this Forbes article.

How to Fix and Avoid Debt

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First off, don’t become discouraged by debt. Nearly everyone has some debt, especially those who frequently use credit cards or attended college. It’s all a matter of handling it step by step without feeling overwhelmed and also avoiding acquiring further debt.

How to fix it

There is no quick fix to debt, so don’t let shady internet schemes or ads on TV tell you otherwise. Though your debt cannot be magically erased, there is a lot you can do to get out of debt if you’re determined.

The first step is to acquire a realistic understanding of your debt. Instead of avoiding looking at the overall amount on a bill and quickly scribbling out a check for the minimum payment, gather all your bills together, sit down, and figure out just how much you owe. Take notes and keep an organized list of the debt you currently have. Look at the minimum payment and interest rates and get a basic understanding of how it all works.

Once you understand your debt and where you stand, there are various methods that exist, which can help you manage debt. You may want to pay off the largest balance first, which will make it easier to tackle the smaller ones later on. An alternative method would be to work smallest to largest, because paying off the smaller debts first gives you a sense of accomplishment that encourages you to continue with the current plan.

Find out what plans work for you and maybe even consult an expert for advice on payment plans. Look into credit counseling to help you manage your debt. For now, avoid using a credit card unless you absolutely have to so you don’t pile up even more debt!

How to prevent it

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the emotional rush of making a new purchase, or of buying something for your kids or partner that you wouldn’t buy for yourself. People spend money in an effort to feel happy, though we’ve all heard the age-old saying “money can’t buy happiness”. No, but it can give you a nice rush of endorphins. Don’t get caught up in the instant gratification of a purchase. Instead, remind yourself of the goal of saving or of paying off debt. This mindset is not natural to most people, so you’ll need to remind yourself constantly and learn to have a lot of self control. It’s easy for people to be more concerned with the now instead of the future. Be kind to your future self and avoid large credit card bills.

Try not to use your credit card for small purchases. While it might be tempting, when you don’t have cash on you or are waiting for your next paycheck to replenish your bank account, spending $20 to eat out really adds up over time. Use your credit card for large purchases, like appliances or cars, and avoid small luxury items until you have the disposable income or make a plan to save up to purchase the item. You could even make two separate bank accounts, one just for money you can spend on more frivolous items and the other to pay bills and purchase necessities. Keep the two cards separate and don’t allow yourself to budge when using them.

It’s important to make budgets that accurately reflect your current income. By being aware of your means and having a spending plan, it can help you avoid spending above them.

Read this guide for more information about debt in the United States.

7 Characteristics of a Great Business Leader

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In order to be a truly successful business leader, you’ll need quite a few skills and traits. Luckily, many of these can be cultivated and learned. Here’s a helpful list that can prepare you for your career as a successful business leader!

1) Perseverance

When working in business, it’s important that you persevere. Somedays, your job will be mighty difficult, especially if you’re a leader of a large company. Instead of feeling discouraged, give yourself a pep talk to power through the obstacles and keep working toward your end goal.

2) Passion

No matter what your career is, passion is necessary in order to succeed. The people around you will notice this passion and be drawn toward you. Having passion helps you with networking and advancement in your career, because you’ll put effort into your work and be able to think of innovative ideas to accomplish goals. Passion is an admirable trait in any capacity, but it can be particularly helpful in your career.

3) Ability to take criticism

It’s important that you can handle constructive criticism if you’re a business leader! Lots of people will be closely scrutinizing the work you do and will have lots of ideas on how to improve it. You must handle the comments thrown at you well and also sift through them to find the positive feedback and suggestions that can actually help you. At the same time, you should be able to dismiss the criticism that you know is harsh and unconstructive.

4) Never settle

In order to advance your career as a leader, learn never to settle with where things are. This doesn’t mean you should be an unhappy person who is never satisfied, but it does mean that you should always be looking ahead with your business and career. Always make goals and strive to achieve them. Once you attain a goal, move on to the next one!

5) Collaboration

The ability to work well with other people is vital to your personal success. It’s important to make connections and be able to accomplish goals with others’ help. No single person can achieve all their goals on their own, so it’s important to interact positively with your co-workers and any other people around you. Being able to work on projects and meet goals together will make you and your business great!

6) Willing to take risks

Don’t be afraid to take risks! Try a new concept out and, even if it doesn’t work out the way you envisioned, you’ll have learned something. Be open to learning from mistakes made, whether your fault or otherwise, and then move on and be more victorious than you were before. Train yourself to have a growth mindset instead of feeling downtrodden when events don’t work out exactly the way you hoped.

7) Stand up for yourself!

Finally, in the cutthroat world of business, it’s important that you can stand up for yourself and your ideas. If you want to create a bright career for yourself, you need to learn not to let anyone walk over you or take credit for your ideas. Whether this person is a superior or a co-worker, teach yourself how to voice your opinions and make yourself clear in a way that’s respectful, but still gets your point across.

Watch out for the Five Factors that are impacting your Savings

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When it comes to your finances, it is imperative that you be more strategic with your spending. The truth of the matter is that financial freedom doesn’t come easy. Just because you have large expenses does not mean you cannot save a good portion of your salary for your future. By learning your own particular spending habits, you will be able to accumulate the necessary wealth for a long and fruitful future.

If you are looking for improving your personal financial health, start off by evaluating your own spending habits. Evaluating your expenses with an open minded view will help clarify what is holding you back from financial success. Below, I have highlighted five particular spending habits that we have all encountered over time. If you are looking to buy a house or plan a trip to Madrid, it is vital that you start controlling your spending today.

The Real Cost of Happy Hours

Social happy hours may seem harmless. But in the grand scheme of things, these particular outings do add up. To help you take control of your financial spending, make sure you are aware of the overall cost this habit can have on a monthly basis. Outings such as lunch with coworkers or happy hours with friends can be incredibly expensive. To help prevent this, try and limit yourself from going out throughout the week. On average, people spend about $20 dollars a day on these particular social events. That comes out to $400 dollars a month, money that could be used to pay off your bills or to add into your retirement account. Once you understand the extreme ramifications of your spending, you will be more than likely to save for your future.

Stop Dining Out!

Similar to happy hour, dining out and expensive hobbies can take a toll on your savings. Let’s start off with dining out. I mean, do not get me wrong, who doesn’t love going out to dinner with your significant other and your friends. The only problem is that those nights are incredibly costly. Usually, restaurants will charge on average three times their food cost on what you are actually served. One option that can help resist the urge is by staying in and cooking instead. If you can cut back on dining out, this can absolutely impact the amount of money you can save yourself each and every month

The Membership Fees

Unlike college, group activities are separate expenses in your life. Take for example signing up for a membership at a wine of the month club or a private resort club. These dues and subscriptions can eat away at your hard earned cash. Even cheap subscriptions such as gym memberships can play a factor of what you could potentially be saving in the future. Now the problem with these memberships is that most are automatically debited from your bank account, so withdrawals can happen without you noticing. If it seems like these are just passive activities, try and decide if they are worth staying on. For most cases, it is better for you to just cancel that membership and utilize that extra money for something you actually enjoy.

Resist those Impulse Buys

Making expensive purchases on a whim can quickly diminish your savings. We have all been in that situation where we see something that catches our eyes and immediately have the impulse to buy. While satisfying as it may be, you must resist that temptation. To prevent this from happening, go into your stores with an overall inventory list of what you actually need. This will prevent you from loading your cart with unwanted buys.

Pay in Full

When it comes to credit card debt, it is important that you pay in full. Yes, there will be times where you cannot pay the full amount. But making only minimum payments on your credit card will be a disservice to you and your financial future. By paying the minimum amount, you are adding years to your payoff date. In addition, the interest compound increases making it almost impossible to get out of debt if this continues. Make sure you allocate your funds in paying off your debt. Yes, this will require a big sacrifice, especially for those social activities. But, it is also absolutely necessary to get you on track in building a healthier financial future.

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