Attracting top-notch employees can be challenging when your business is first starting out. Although it may feel like an impossible task to compete with large firms with big budgets, there are plenty of no- or low-cost benefits you can offer employees to help attract the top talent.
All it takes is to determine what your recruits and staff really want and value, and a little creativity, says Jennifer Folsom, chief of corporate development for Summit Consulting in Washington, D.C. “Think about what will make your employees’ lives easier,” she says.
Summit got a lot of its human resources savvy on the job. The firm started out as one-person consulting shop in 2003, Folsom says. Now it employs nearly 100, and about half have been with the firm for 10 years.
Here are five unique ideas for low-cost perks you can offer to attract talent and keep employees happy:
1. Keep a well-stocked kitchen
Don’t underestimate the power of food. Summit Consulting spends about $1,000 a year on snacks for its employees, Folsom says, including a weekly fresh fruit delivery that costs about $100 a month. A Summit employee makes a weekly trip to buy snacks as part of his tasks, she says.
But, Folsom warns, don’t stock those kitchen cabinets with just any snacks. Summit sends employees a quarterly snack survey to make sure the team is satisfied with the food choices. If snacks don’t interest your team, perhaps a weekly team lunch or breakfast will. An added benefit of providing a weekly meal is your staff gets to bond while enjoying a perk.
2. Provide employees a convenience perk
Summit employees enjoy a free membership to the local bike share program, Folsom says. This is a great perk for a younger workforce living in a metro area. Fewer than half the staff owns a car, she says, and many opt to ride a bike to their client meetings rather than take public transportation. Other ideas for low-cost convenience perks include a weekly dry cleaning pick up and drop off or a Community Supported Agriculture (“CSA”) share, where local farmers drop off a weekly bag of produce for each employee to take home.
3. Offer hyper-flexible work schedules
Flexible work schedules benefit the entire staff, not just working parents. As more employees are asking for flexible schedules, more companies are responding positively as a way to attract top talent. Flexible schedules include offering employees the ability to work from home one day a week or allowing them to work longer hours four days a week with one day off.
Most employees are thrilled to eliminate one day of commuting time and expenses from their week. After working at Summit for six months, every employee, including support staff, can work from home one day per week, Folsom says. “It doesn’t cost a thing and it goes really far with employee loyalty and retention,” she adds.
4. Create a wellness room
Whether your staff needs Advil to relieve a data-induced headache or a stain pen to remove a lunchtime mishap from a shirt, employees will appreciate you converting a closet into a wellness room with a comfy chair and plenty of supplies, including breath mints, sunblock and Band-Aids.
5. Offer research hours
If you’re a startup trying to attract academic-level talent, offering employees time to research, publish and present their papers at conferences can be a magnet for attracting the best talent. According to Folsom, the key is to make sure the employee’s research aligns with your firm’s business development goals. Then it’s a win-win for both because employees are doing work that will support the firm while the firm supports their interests.
If you’re serious about attracting and retaining the best talent, there are some bigger steps you can take. Offering a competitive benefits package can be a serious lure for employees. To learn how you can implement a simple and affordable benefits plan, check out Nationwide’s Employee Benefits Suite.
Halloween is a night of fun and fright, but it does require extra caution when it comes to keeping your little monsters safe. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, “on average, twice as many child pedestrians are killed while walking on Halloween compared to any other day of the year, and more than 70 percent of accidents occur away from an intersection or crosswalk.” Follow these Halloween safety tips to help avoid common accidents and dangers.
Trick-or-treating safety tips
1. Provide adult supervision
Trick or treat is safer – not to mention more fun – in groups, and adult supervision is essential. So get together with other adults and make an evening of it. Bring cellphones for quick pictures and emergencies, but leave them in your pockets to avoid getting distracted.
2. Stay on the sidewalks
The thrill of the holiday often factors into accidents as excited kids rush from door to door. Keep children on the sidewalks, and shepherd them carefully when they need to cross the road. In areas without sidewalks, walk on the far edge of the road, facing traffic.
3. Carefully check candy
Check candy for choking hazards like gum and hard candies. Throw away any candy that is not sealed with a wrapper and avoid homemade treats received from strangers.
Costume safety tips
4. Choose bright, visible costumes
When selecting a costume, opt for the bright-colored outfits and add a touch of reflective tape to the material. Stick some reflective tape on their trick-or-treat bags as well so they can be easily spotted by motorists. Lastly, don’t forget to make sure they’re equipped with a flashlight or glow stick – must-have accessories for any costume.
5. Make sure costumes are well-fitted and safe
Being visible isn’t the only safety consideration for a costume. The right fit is just as important. Here’s some advice on keeping your child’s ensemble safe and secure:
Prevent accidental tripping or entanglement by making sure costumes aren’t too big or long
Avoid masks that block vision, but if your child wears one – it should have large eye, nose and mouth openings. You can also op for makeup or face paint as an alternative
Costumes, wigs and accessories should contain a label indicating they are flame resistant
Make sure accessories such as swords, canes, or sticks are not sharp or too long
6. Makeup safety
If makeup is a part of your child’s Halloween costume plans, make sure it is non-toxic and test it on a small area first. Before your child goes to bed, make sure to remove all makeup.
Home Safety Tips
7. Jack-o-lantern safety
Young children can paint or color their pumpkins instead of carving. Or have them draw a face with markers and an adult can do the carving. Use colorful glow sticks inside your Jack-o-lanterns instead of candles to prevent burns.
8. Home decoration safety
If you’re turning your home into a haunted house, keep safety in mind: make sure steps, sidewalks, porches and paths are well-lit and free of decorations and holiday props. Keep decorations away from fireplaces and candles.
9. Take precaution against pranks and vandalism
Unfortunately, vandalism often increases during Halloween. That’s why taking these precautions is a good idea:
If you’re going away during Halloween, make it seem like you’re still home by turning down the volume of your answering machine and phone, covering your garage windows, and leaving your curtains in normal positions with valuables out of sight.
Install outdoor lighting (activated by a photocell or movement) to illuminate the area around your home during Halloween.
Consider purchasing a security system that directly alerts police to intruders.
Trim shrubs and large trees before Halloween so trespassers have fewer hiding spots.
Drivers need to take particular care on this chaotic night. Keep your car parked if you can, but if you have to drive through a neighborhood, take it much slower than normal. Watch for kids who may dart between cars and into the road without looking. Read our Halloween Driving Safety Guide for more useful tips.
11. Protect your car
Cars are another common target of vandalism on Halloween. Here are some ways you can help secure your car:
Park inside if you can on Halloween. Your garage is your best bet. If you do not have a garage you may want to consider investing in some outdoor lighting for your driveway and yard.
Make sure your car is locked on Halloween. Oftentimes, vandals complete their missions with ease when doors are unlocked and windows are down/cracked.
Consider a car alarm.
Hide your valuables on Halloween. Don’t give thieves any extra incentive to break into your car.
For more safety tips and information on everything from bunk beds to bicycle helmets, please check out Make Safe Happenand the Make Safe Happen app for iPhone or Android.
A place for everything and everything in its place is a great maxim, if you have plenty of space. Closets and drawers fill quickly, though. These innovative storage hacks will help you detect and use overlooked corners and surfaces, especially for hard-to-store items.
1. The over-the-door shoe caddy
The inside of doors – the surface you see when you’re inside the room – are blank slates for storing small unbreakable items. An uncannily useful piece of gear is the inexpensive over-the-door shoe caddy, which is a hanging panel of small pockets.
While it’s smart to avoid heavy and breakable items on a moving surface like a door, these caddies can corral a multitude of small things in nearly every room.
In the bathroom: Store cotton swabs, specialty combs, cotton balls, specialty towels, facecloths, unopened toiletries such as toothbrushes and razors.
In the hobby or craft room: Store interfacing, patterns, rolls of binding, skeins of yarn, bags of floss, packets of needles and small quilting templates and tools.
On the back of a pantry door: Store rags, clean towels, plastic grocery bags, specialty cleaning cloths like silver polishing cloths, new sponges, rolled-up placemats, folded cloth napkins,
On the back of a laundry or utility room door: Store folded clean microfiber floor-mopping pads; feather dusters, dust cloths, mini-blind cleaners, boxes of dryer sheets; specialty ironing supplies such as press cloths.
On the back of a coat closet door: Store gloves, mittens, earmuffs, small scarves, and winter socks.
2. Slivers of space in the bathroom
Declutter the medicine cabinet by finding a new home for small or rarely used items.
Slip ring-and-clip curtain rings onto the shower rod and hang small bottles of specialty products, such as shaving cream, inside the shower.
Install slide-out drawers beneath the bathroom sink to easily access cleaning and paper supplies.
Install plastic hooks inside the vanity doors and hang rarely used appliances and tools, like specialty brushes and curling irons.
Install inexpensive wire spice racks inside the vanity door and store bandages and first-aid supplies.
3. More space in the kitchen
Kitchen gear can overwhelm counters and drawers. Move some of the clutter out of sight to simplify work surfaces.
Install a wall-mounted paper towel holder inside the sink cabinet and use it for rolls of trash bags.
Create note-boards inside kitchen cabinets by sticking on magnetic strips to hold pens and clips for grocery lists and freezer inventories.
To free up the junk drawer for more kitchen gear, attach magnetic strips to the insides of several cabinet doors and use small clips and bins to hold keys, markers, tape, and other useful items.
Use rollout shelves under the sink to store cleaning supplies.
Mount small bars on the exposed sides of cabinets and hang tools from the bars.
4. Hang it up
A rod and a hook: This simple combination can transform closets, garage and basement space. For the bars, use tension rods (as for curtains or shower curtain); inexpensive towel bars; or storage rods supported with hooks.
For the hooks, use S hooks from the hardware store; shower curtain rings; or clips.
Things to hang from utility hooks on garage or basement walls: Wreaths, umbrellas, brooms, mops, rakes, loops of holiday lights.
Things to hang from S hooks or shower curtain rings in clothes closets: Daily lingerie, tank tops, bathing suits, belts, scarves, lightweight purses and totes.
Things to hang from S hooks in the laundry room: Lingerie (by straps), hose, yoga wear – all items that should air-dry.
5. Book it with custom shelves
Books and decorative items add warmth and style to rooms but can quickly overwhelm. Here are three ways to merge in more shelf space for functionality and fun.
Build in bookshelves overhead: Run a single shelf around the perimeter of a room, eight to 10 inches below the ceiling. Make sure it is sturdy enough to hold books. Make sure that only unbreakable, light things are above doors, just in case an items falls when a door slams.
Triangular shelves set in corners of hallways and entryways can hold an astonishing number of things: keys, mail, lists, sunglasses, gloves, hats.
Install a shelf above the bathroom door, inside the bathroom, to hold towels.
6. Corral toys
Toys are only fun when you play with them, which is why they are always underfoot. Use these techniques for quick pick-up.
Use large plastic picnic tablecloths (from the dollar store) as play mats. Kids can scatter Legos, blocks or puzzles across the mats; when it’s time to clean up, pick up the corners of the tablecloth, folding the little pieces inside, and drop the whole thing in a plastic bin.
Store library and borrowed books in book bags that belong on the coat closet doorknob; it will be easier to remember them when it’s time to return them.
Lay old open-wire CD racks on their sides to organize children’s picture books.
7. Craft creative storage
Craft and creative inventories need to be clean, easy to find and ready to use when inspiration strikes. These tactics open the way for crafting success.
Stack spools of ribbon on an inexpensive freestanding paper towel holder.
If you need to store fabric in bins where it’s hard to see and access, create a quick-reference swatch notebook. Staple a swatch of each fabric to pages of the notebook and jot down how much of each fabric you have. Take this with you when you shop – so you can buy complementary fabric or yarn and won’t buy more of what you already own.
Hang a tension rod in your craft closet and use S hooks or shower curtain rings to store clear ziplock bags of fragile supplies, such as beadmaking wire and beads, templates and patterns, and specialty rulers.
Pick up a wine rack at a thrift or dollar store. Nestle found and repurposed containers into the rack and use them to sort and store buttons, beads, notions, markers, stickers, tools and other crafting and sewing supplies and tools.
Small organizational and storage projects can fit into corners of your schedule, too. Pick a couple of small projects for each weekend and you’ll be organized in no time! Want to deep clean your space once it’s organized? Check out these 20 spring cleaning hacks to simplify your life.
For the last 40 years, two-car families have been the norm in the United States. And it hasn’t been uncommon for some families to own three or more cars
But auto-industry experts now say societal and technological changes could spell the end of the two-car family.
“Right now in the U.S., 57% of households have two or more cars,” says Gary Silberg, KPMG’s national sector lead partner for the automotive industry. “But I think we’re going to see that change. The rationale for ownership is changing. We’re getting to the point where maybe you only need one car instead of two.”
Silberg predicts that by 2040 the share of two-car families will decrease to 43% – and that percentage will continue sliding. Two major forces that are driving the change, he says: self-driving cars and the growing popularity of on-demand, ride-share services.
Counting the cost
A car has long been viewed as more than just a means of transportation in American culture. It’s often been a symbol of a person’s taste or affluence. However, for many Americans today the economics of car ownership no longer make sense, Silberg says.
“Spending approximately $30,000 for something that loses 11% of its value the minute you drive it off the lot, and then sits idle 90% of the time, isn’t the most rational economic decision,” he notes.
The realization for many, according to the Los Angeles Times, is that cars are “one of their most underutilized – but most expensive – assets.”
As new alternatives to driving appear and the use of mobile communication devices increases, owning a car is becoming less of a necessity, according to Silberg. Today, more people live in urban areas than in rural settings, which makes mass transportation and emerging alternatives more accessible.
“In urban areas, the cost of vehicle ownership tends to be much higher, and other alternatives ranging from bikes to mass transit to mobility on demand much cheaper and more convenient,” Silberg says.
If the overall cost of purchasing and owning a car seems expensive, you want to find ways to save. Affordable car insurance with many opportunities for discounts is a great place to start.
Sharing the ride
Ride-sharing services have made getting around in urban areas easier than ever. But the concept isn’t as new as we might think. In 1914 a Los Angeles-based car salesman named L.P. Draper came up with an innovative solution to the long lines of people waiting for rides on the trolleys.
Draper put a sign on his car and offered to take passengers where they needed to go for a nickel. Within a year, operations had expanded and his fleet was averaging 150,000 passengers a day in Los Angeles, 50,000 a day in Seattle and 45,000 daily in Kansas. But as cars became more accessible the company faltered, and by 1919 it had disappeared.
According to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, that model is being resurrected through ride-sharing services that are going to continue evolving with the addition of components such as carpooling and, eventually, self-driving cars.
“With the technology in our pockets today, and a little smart regulation, we can turn every car into a shared car,” Kalanick said in a TED talk in February.
Who needs a driver?
Driverless cars, which until just three or four years ago seemed like a fantasy reserved for science fiction, are creating another ripple in the waters of change. When combined with the ride-sharing and on-demand mindset, self-driving vehicles may change the dynamics of car ownership in ways that present a wide range of opportunities for both technology and automotive companies.
The potential shift in the automotive market brought about by self-driving vehicles is something already being studied at the University of Michigan. Through an initiative involving government and auto-industry representatives, the school’s Mobility Transformation Center is working to make its home base of Ann Arbor the first city to have a fleet of networked, self-driving cars. The mobility center is creating a 30-acre test area to allow researchers to study how the cars will act in a city environment, in hopes of having the program operating in 2021.
The Michigan model could result in Ann Arbor residents not needing to own vehicles. They could use technology to summon a car when needed and the driverless vehicle would pick them up, take them to their destination and then move on to the next passenger. Larry Burns, a former General Motors research chief and a professor at the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering, says such developments would eliminate the current state of cars sitting idle and taking up parking spaces while not in use.
Kids these days
Analysts are also pointing to changes in the habits of young people entering their licensed-driving years as additional factors influencing car ownership. While earning a driver’s license and getting a car has long been a much-anticipated teenage rite of passage, many millennials say they are content with a car-free lifestyle. A study by the research firm Penn Schoen Berland found that more than half of millennials like the idea of sharing rides, and more than one-third were willing to rent out their cars.
Furthermore, a 2015 study by Frank N. Magid Associates found 18% of respondents age 18 to 64 had used a ride sharing service in 2015 – a jump from 5% in 2014 – and 22% would delay buying a new car because of the availability of such a service.
The study’s findings prompted its author, Andrew Hare, director of digital research and strategy at Magid, to paint a picture of a new landscape for the auto industry.
“Even if only a modest number of consumers begin to prioritize car-sharing over ownership, the car industry is in trouble,” he wrote.
Have you ever had an idea for a small business? Maybe it’s a unique product you believe would be a hit, or a brick-and-mortar storefront that would provide a needed service to a neighborhood.
For those would-be entrepreneurs who actually take steps to realize their business idea, however, many eventually hit a brick wall. Financing a business startup can often prove too big of an obstacle or present too much of a commitment in time and resources. As much as you may want to run your own small business, quitting your full-time job and mortgaging your home in order to get a business off the ground can be too much risk to take on.
But many businesses can be started on a shoestring budget without a full-time obligation. In fact, some of the best small business ideas can be found in favorite hobbies you’re already doing in your spare time. There are countless stories of entrepreneurs who turned their weekend passions into full-time, successful businesses. The key to a successful shoestring startup is to combine an activity you enjoy with an identified business niche. It’s also wise to protect your new startup and its assets with the right business insurance, such as Nationwide’s businessowners policy (BOP), designed with the small business owner in mind.
Building a hobby into a business
Following a passion can be a key ingredient in a successful shoestring business, which is loosely defined as requiring less than $1,000 in startup costs. Such startups should not require special skills, or skills that can’t be acquired in a short time with the right resolve.
An example of a shoestring business might involve a person’s love of photography—the shutterbug who is always taking photos of family events or nature scenes. That passion could be parlayed into work in wedding photography, gaining experience by assisting an established photographer or building a portfolio by photographing friends’ or family members’ weddings for free. It’s also a business with working hours on the weekends, making it easier to manage with a full-time job.
Likewise, an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast could turn his passion into a business by leading tours as a field guide. Or, a dedicated knitter could build a following by selling her unique patterns and designs online.
Promoting your new business
Small business owners such as these are able to keep marketing expenses on a shoestring level by promoting themselves through word-of-mouth, or by designing a website on the cheap to help drive business. Social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook are excellent tools to attract customers and are free—other than the time needed for posting content.
Harnessing the power of social media is a great no-cost way to promote a shoestring startup, such as one inspired by a love of food and cooking. Whether you enjoy baking desserts or re-creating beloved family recipes, posting a menu and photos of your day’s offerings and taking delivery orders can be done online or through popular mobile apps with no overhead costs required. A food-centric business such as this can also gain customers at farmers markets or as a street vendor tweeting out times and locations to followers.
Protecting your new business
While money can be tight for a startup, you shouldn’t cut costs when protecting your company and yourself from the risks involved with running a business. Luckily, Nationwide offers customized insurance solutions tailored to your budget and needs. Learn more about how small business insurance can help build and protect your company, and request an online quote today.
College students may think they’re indestructible, but like many other groups they are susceptible to injury and illness. That can make student health insurance valuable.
College students are part of a demographic that is generally very healthy, although college living often creates its own specific health-care needs. Health insurance for students can help provide coverage for these needs.
Student health coverage options
When it comes to college student health insurance, families have three options:
Buying a student health plan through the college (if it is offered)
Cost is a big consideration. A student plan is often less expensive than other types of health insurance, and it provides the care most likely to be needed by young adults. If student health insurance is billed along with tuition and fees, then it can be paid for through the student’s financial aid package.
Another consideration is access to providers. Because health insurance is generally local, the parents’ plan may not cover services in the college town. That could mean high out-of-network rates, especially for an emergency room visit. A student health plan will include local providers, alleviating that problem.
For students attending a college that does not offer a student health plan, parents may want to research services that are included in different plans offered by their employers. This is especially important if the student has conditions that require working with a local health care professional. In some cases, it may make sense for the student to purchase a plan on the insurance marketplace. The student’s physician may be able to recommend local providers, making the selection process easier.
Some college health insurance plans include coverage for study-abroad programs. Others offer coverage specifically for students who will be taking advantage of these opportunities.. Health coverage is a concern, but there are policies that address it.
Staying on a parent’s plan
The choice of health insurance plan for a college student isn’t a “one and done” decision. Under the Affordable Care Act, people under the age of 26 can stay on their parents’ health insurance plans in most circumstances. They are also allowed to leave their parents’ plans and return, so using student health insurance will not affect that benefit. So, if it takes new college graduates a while to find a job, they can still have access to coverage through the family plan.
If staying on a parent’s plan isn’t an option, getting an individual student health policy might be the right choice for you. Click here to find out more about college student health insurance.
For Millennials, figuring out how and where to save money and invest it is a little trickier than for previous generations.
In many ways this group has the same financial concerns of previous generations. They might be paying off student debt, saving for a house, putting money into retirement accounts, building an emergency fund and even saving for their kids’ schooling. While similar, though, the Millennials’ situation isn’t exactly the same as it was for previous generations.
What ages are Millennials and Generation Y?
Millennials, also known as Generation Y, were born somewhere between 1980 and 2000, the specific years depending on who’s defining it. Right behind them is Generation Z, born after 2000. This group includes anyone from a baby to a high-schooler. Some may be thinking of their future, but they’re probably aren’t doing much to plan for it. But they’ll face the same financial constraints of Generation Y.
How is financial planning different for Millennials?
Combine pension uncertainties with Millennials moving more than previous generations, as well as the prospect of their becoming entrepreneurs or freelancers rather than paid employees, and it makes sense that the retirement burden will fall on them. This, of course, adds more financial pressure than previous generations experienced.
Financial advice for Millennials
Have a cash emergency fund with three to six months of living expenses. That helps with any unforeseen expenses, such as car or home issues not covered by insurance or job loss. This way an emergency doesn’t cause the person to tap into his or her retirement account, which can trigger adverse tax consequences, or to acquire high interest credit card debt. Once the emergency fund is established, it’s time to tackle other financial issues.
Pay down debt. Start with consumer credit cards, as the interest rates on these are usually the highest, often around 18% to 20% ,. Managing student debt is a big concern for this generation. According to the National Financial Capability Study, about 40% of Millennials have student debt and more than a third have car loans. About 30% have more than one type of long-term debt, which might also include a mortgage. That makes debt management a big priority.
Start a retirement account. Starting one in your early 20s makes it much easier to reach a retirement goal than in your 40s. Take advantage of an employer’s 401(k) match, if available. That’s free money. With additional money to invest, open a Roth IRA where the money grows tax free.
Think about this: Compound interest works even better for teenagers than for mid-20s Millennials. A $2,000 savings in a Roth IRA, at 7%, will add up to more than $65,000 by the time you’re in your 60s. Wait for 10 years to invest the $2000 and you’ll wind up with about $33,000. Get more facts on Millennials and saving for retirement with this infographic.
While for Generation Z these suggestions might seem to deal with remote issues, high school is a good time to start thinking about finances. Attitudes about money and savings are formed early.
Raise your financial consciousness
Spend an hour a week on your finances, understanding what you owe on loans and living expenses and exactly what money is coming in and going out. If there’s continually not enough money at the end of the month, consider taking a part-time job or adding freelance work into the mix.
Another option: Lower your spending. During that weekly financial time, review your retirement plans and make sure you have the proper insurance in place, such as renter’s insurance.
Though conventional wisdom says to buy a house, that’s not the right decision for everyone. Buying a house doesn’t make sense in all situations, given the high divorce rate and Millennials moving frequently. Either contingency can make a home purchase problematic and can cause financial losses, especially if the home needs to be sold within the first few years.
When your finances are under control, take a look at your life goals, whether that means taking a big vacation to Europe, saving for an engagement ring or buying a house. Having a clear sense of priorities helps define goals and on how to get going on the path to those goals. Find a financial advisor you trust who can help get you started on the path to financial security.
You recently sent your last child off to college and now you’re an empty nester. Or maybe you’ve decided to sell your home and move to a smaller house because you don’t need so much space. Perhaps you’re tired of paying thousands of dollars in utility bills every year and would gladly trade a bigger home for fewer expenses.
The first step to downsizing your home is to figure out what’s in your house, and then get rid of anything you no longer use.
But there’s so much to go through you don’t know where to begin. At this point it can seem like an overwhelming task. There are years of memories in your home and you don’t want to get rid of anything important.
The good news is; You don’t have to. Downsizing your home can be simple and, in the end, make your home feel more comfortable and cozy.
The following are a few tips on how to begin downsizing your home.
Evaluate each item and its meaning for you
According to lifestyle and business coach June Saruwatari, “one reason people keep items in their houses, even if they have no function, is because they’re tied to them for emotional reasons.” You should look at each item, one by one, and ask yourself if you need it, if you love it, if it serves a purpose and if it’s significant in your life.
“When you start consciously going through your stuff, knowing there’s an emotional connection, you’re going to feel better,” Saruwatari says.
It may be difficult to throw away your child’s old report cards from elementary school. But if she doesn’t want them and they don’t serve a purpose for you, it may be necessary in order to make some room. If you saved a necklace that means a lot to you, simply find a place to keep it that’s not in the way of anything else.
Move the items out of the area first
Before you start decluttering a room, take everything out of it. Adrienne Breaux of Apartment Therapy recommends doing this so that you can see how great the space will look when it’s free of clutter. It’ll be easier to get rid of things if you know what the end result will be.
Figure out an item’s value right now
Let’s say you paid $800 for a painting 15 years ago. But the painting sits in your basement and you have no plans to hang it up anytime soon. Why keep it? Even if something cost you a lot of money a long time ago, if it doesn’t have any value for you today, it’s not worth saving.
If you’re having trouble parting with anything that was once expensive, consider selling your goods online and/or having a garage sale. If all else fails, you can make donations to different organizations such as Goodwill and The Salvation Army and then claim a deduction on your tax forms.
Do a little bit of decluttering every day
You’re going to be overwhelmed if you decide to take a week and begin downsizing your home. You may not be aware of it now but it’s physically and emotionally taxing to get rid of things. Instead, take 20 minutes out of every day to sort through your possessions and decide what to do with them. It may take longer but you won’t experience as much stress as you would by doing it all at once.
It’s a waste of space to keep all your old papers around. File the important ones you need in a drawer such as birth certificates and family records and electronically catalogue the rest. Simply invest in a scanner or download an app like CamScanner or Genius Scan. You can take documents, hold them up to your cell phone to photograph and then upload them into your computer in a PDF format. Then, toss the papers. Voila — you’re free from paper clutter.
Downsizing your home can be a tedious task, but the payoff is worth it.
Aside from the yearly reminder sometime before April 15 you need to gather up your financial documents and actually look at them, it’s easy to forget they exist the rest of the year.
One way to keep it at the top of your mind is to schedule a financial date night with your partner. Make it after you’ve filed your taxes; you’ll have a better idea of where your investments stand then, and you’ll be motivated to keep your financial house in order for the rest of the year.
To keep the tax-season momentum going, make a plan about what you need to discuss and analyze regarding your personal finances. Enjoy an evening out over dinner or cocktails to discuss your finances.
Here are some personal finance areas to put on the list:
Your IRA beneficiaries are not covered by a will. You have to name beneficiaries on the designation form. Each year, it’s a good idea to see who is on that form. Did you name the sibling you’re no longer talking to? Did you forget to remove your ex-spouse after the divorce? Did you have kids in the last year and you want them to receive the IRA proceeds? Would you rather support a charity with a portion of the money?
“You can name a charity as the beneficiary of your IRA, regardless of the account size,” said Dan Mathews, CFP in a post for the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. Talk to your partner during the date night about who you want to receive your IRA, and make any appropriate changes.
Life insurance protects the living and ensures that your family can survive – and thrive financially — if one of the main providers dies. Life insurance proceeds can be used to pay for housing, school tuition, outstanding debt, household expenses, taxes, funeral costs and childcare.
It’s helpful to analyze your life insurance needs each year, because circumstances can change. Perhaps you’ve moved into a more expensive home or a city with a higher cost of living. Maybe the kids are now in private school. Your income might have increased. All of these affect your family’s financial needs. Talk to your insurance agent about what you should have in life insurance, or check a financial life insurance calculator online.
According to the Social Security Administration, slightly more than one in four Americans who are currently 20 years old will be disabled before they’re 67. Disability insurance provides a portion of your salary should you become unable to work due to illness or an accident. Without disability insurance, could you cover your living expenses if you couldn’t work? Check to see if you have disability insurance through your employer. Find out how much it covers and whether you should supplement it.
The yearly check-in should include a look at your outstanding debts. It’s helpful to know what you owe, whether it’s student loans, mortgage, car loans, credit cards or anything else. How much of your debt are you paying off each year, and is there a way to pay off the loans with the highest interest rates first? Or perhaps you can adjust your budget to cut back on spending, applying that savings to pay off your debt.
If you’ve had your home for a long time, it’s possible that your mortgage rate is higher than it needs to be. See what you’re paying now and what the current rates are for refinancing. You might be able to save money by refinancing to a different, lower-priced mortgage.
A yearly review of your investments will help you understand how your investments are doing and whether you need to rebalance them. Make a spreadsheet to discuss during your date, noting your retirement account balances, investment accounts and available cash. Are your investments diversified? Do you have a good mix of stocks, bonds and cash, depending on your age? Make a plan with your partner about what you need to change in your investment mix in the next year.
Credit report and credit score
Every year, it’s a good idea to look over your credit report and make sure it’s accurate. You can get a free credit report from all three major reporting agencies from AnnualCreditReport.com. It’s helpful to look at your credit score, especially if you’re planning to make a big purchase requiring a loan, such as a car. This gives you time to make adjustments to improve your credit score.
Going over the finances each year with your partner can be a bonding experience. By making it a date night, you enjoy each other’s company along with some food and drink. Prepare all the paperwork ahead of time to ensure that it will be productive as well, understanding your joint finances and what you can do together to improve your financial future. Visit the Nationwide Bank Resource Center and use our helpful calculators to help you and your partner plan your savings, credit card payments, mortgage and more.