Savings

Flash Report - The Billionaire Money Rules

What our research shows about how the self-made Super Rich build their wealth.

If you are like nearly every other successful person, you’re not ready to rest on your accomplishments. You want to build on your success so far to create even more wealth and more value. In fact, according to our research, 94 percent of successful business owners want to be wealthier. (And even if you don’t own a business, you are effectively the CEO of your family, so this all applies to you, too.)

Why you need serious wealth

You’re not driven by greed or after wealth simply for wealth’s sake. Instead, you probably want to grow your wealth substantially to achieve goals that are deeply meaningful to you.

As the chart below shows, these goals likely include taking care of your family and other loved ones, supporting the causes you care deeply about and perhaps even changing the world for the better. 

Click here to read more:

The Billionaire Money Rules- Flash Report

 

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

 

10 Best Values in U.S. Colleges, 2017

Here is a nice article provided by Kaitlin Pitsker of Kiplinger:

 

By Kaitlin Pitsker, Staff Writer | March 2017

 

To help you sort through your college choices, we present the creme de la creme of our annual list of best value colleges and universities. These 10 schools are the top-scoring schools in our combined ranking, which compares private universities, private liberal arts colleges and public colleges (using-out-of-state costs) to help you see your options side by side. As always, we look for schools that meet our definition of best value: a blend of academic quality and affordability. Among our criteria for academic quality are a competitive admission rate, a high four-year graduation rate and a low student-faculty ratio. We look for schools with a reasonable price tag, generous financial aid for students who qualify, and low student debt at graduation. We’ve also included future earnings data, based on the median earnings of workers who started at a particular college 10 years earlier, to give you an idea of what attending a particular institution may mean for a student’s post-graduation salary.

 

In 2016-17, the average sticker price of a private college or university is $45,370, according to the College Board. The average sticker price for out-of-state students at public colleges is $35,370. Despite their higher price tags, private liberal arts colleges and private universities dominate the top spots on our combined list. Private colleges perform well in our rankings because they typically have higher graduation rates and more generous financial aid than public institutions – making a private education at some colleges more affordable than the in-state cost at a public school. But attending a public college – even one outside of your home state – can be a great value, too. Please take a look.

 

1. Swarthmore College

 

Location: Swarthmore, Pa.

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,586

Four-year grad rate: 87%

Total annual cost: $64,840

Avg. need-based aid: $44,256

Avg. graduating debt: $18,262

10-year salary yardstick: $48,500

 

High-quality academics and generous financial aid help Swarthmore College move up four places this year to head our 2017 combined best values list. This small college, located 11 miles southwest of Philadelphia, also leads our list of liberal arts colleges for the sixth time. Despite an annual sticker price of nearly $65,000, generous need-based financial aid, awarded to more than half of students, makes Swarthmore surprisingly affordable for many families. And Swarthmore’s financial aid package keeps loans off the table: All financial aid is awarded in the form of scholarships and grants. One-third of students still borrow, but the average debt at graduation among those students is about 40% less than the national average ($31,400) among private school borrowers.

This 152-year-old school with Quaker roots is highly competitive. Swarthmore accepts only 12% of applicants. Nearly two-thirds of incoming freshmen score 700 or higher on the critical-reading and math portions of the SAT. Once on campus, students can choose from more than 600 courses in more than 40 areas of study or select additional courses through the school’s agreement with nearby Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges as well as the University of Pennsylvania. Outside of class, Swatties can explore the school’s 425-acre campus, which includes Scott Arboretum and Crum Creek, or hop a train from the station on the edge of campus for the 30-minute ride to Philly’s bustling Center City.

 

2. Davidson College

 

Location: Davidson, N.C.

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,784

Four-year grad rate: 90%

Total annual cost: $62,923

Avg. need-based aid: $40,140

Avg. graduating debt: $19,929

10-year salary yardstick: $51,800

 

After breaking into our combined top 10 list last year, Davidson moves up two places this year to nab the second spot on our combined list. This tiny liberal arts college’s 22% admission rate and 90% four-year graduation rate have both improved in recent years, aiding the school’s climb. Davidson’s broad-based liberal arts curriculum allows students to select from more than 850 courses each year, with 26 academic majors, ranging from chemistry to religion. Life on Davidson’s 665-acre campus is governed by the school’s honor code, which emphasizes responsible behavior and trust between students and faculty. More than 80% of Davidson graduates go on to earn graduate or professional degrees.

The Wildcats have something else to cheer about: The school’s average need-based aid award has more than kept pace with increases in the school’s sticker price. And financial aid awards from Davidson don’t saddle students with debt. In 2007, the school became the first liberal arts college to eliminate loans from financial aid packages. Among the 27% of students who do borrow, the average debt is about $11,500 less than the national average among private school borrowers.

 

3. Princeton University

 

Location: Princeton, N.J.

Undergraduate enrollment: 5,402

Four-year grad rate: 90%

Total annual cost: $61,140

Avg. need-based aid: $44,890

Avg. graduating debt: $8,577

10-year salary yardstick: $77,900

 

Outstanding academics, generous financial aid and low student debt help Princeton University excel in our combined rankings. This Ivy League institution also earns top honors on our list of private universities for the third time in as many years.

Princeton’s slim 7% admission rate makes it one of the most selective schools on our list of 300 colleges. Nearly 70% of accepted students choose to enroll, and 97% of freshmen return for their sophomore year. Further solidifying the school’s place on our list: impressive test scores among incoming freshmen (72% score 700 or higher on the critical-reading portion of the SAT, and 79% score 700 or higher on the math portion) and the highest four-year graduation rate in our combined top 10. Once on Princeton’s 500-acre campus, about 50 miles from both Philadelphia and New York City, students can choose academic courses in 36 areas of study and sample some 300 student organizations.

An average need-based aid award of nearly $45,000 cuts the school’s annual sticker price by 73%. And Princeton’s definition of financial need may surprise you: Some of the nearly 60% of students who receive need-based aid come from families with an annual income of $250,000 a year or more. At Princeton, borrowing isn’t part of the deal. In 2001, the school became the first institution to establish a no-loan policy. Roughly one in six families report borrowing on their own, but the average debt for students who do borrow is among the lowest on our list of 300 colleges.

 

4. Duke University

 

Location: Durham, N.C.

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,639

Four-year grad rate: 86%

Total annual cost: $66,963

Avg. need-based aid: $44,725

Avg. graduating debt: $19,104

10-year salary yardstick: $76,700

 

Despite having the highest sticker price on our combined top 10 list, Duke University climbs seven places this year thanks to the school’s top-notch academics and generous financial aid awards. The Blue Devils rack up points in our rankings for strong academics, including a competitive 11% admission rate, high test scores among incoming freshmen (two-thirds scores above 700 on the critical-reading portion of the SAT, and 73% score 700 or higher on the math portion) and a six-to-one student-faculty ratio, which ensures that students get plenty of face time with their professors. More than half of undergraduates complete faculty-mentored research projects, and 83% of students go beyond their major to earn at least one more major, minor or certificate.

On the financial side, Duke’s average need-based aid award cuts the school’s sticker price by 67%. Like all schools in our top 10, Duke meets 100% of students’ demonstrated financial need. About one-third of students borrow, but the average debt of $19,104 is about 40% less than the national average for private school borrowers.

 

5. Washington and Lee University

 

Location: Lexington, Va.

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,854

Four-year grad rate: 88%

Total annual cost: $61,447

Avg. need-based aid: $42,322

Avg. graduating debt: $21,683

10-year salary yardstick: $72,900

 

Ample financial aid awards, combined with strong academics, help this small liberal arts college land the fifth spot on our combined best values list. More than 40% of students qualify for need-based aid, and the average need-based aid award cuts the school’s sticker price by more than one-third. W&L, which was named for Virginians George Washington and Robert E. Lee, also offers merit aid to 13% of students who don’t receive need-based aid, at an average of $33,756 per year in non-need-based aid for students who qualify.

The school’s campus, which is nestled between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains in the historic town of Lexington, Va., attracts exemplary students. Nearly 90% of incoming freshmen score 30 or higher on the ACT, and the eight-to-one student-faculty ratio generally translates into small classes. Students can select from 37 academic majors and join any of more than 130 student organizations. Students abide by the school’s honor code, which allows students to proctor their own exams, and a “speaking tradition” that encourages students and faculty greet everyone they pass on campus.

 

6. Harvard University

 

Location: Cambridge, Mass.

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,699

Four-year grad rate: 86%

Total annual cost: $64,565

Avg. need-based aid: $46,409

Avg. graduating debt: $16,723

10-year salary yardstick: $95,500

 

Outstanding academics – including a highly competitive 6% admission rate and high test scores among incoming freshmen – help this Ivy League institute secure its place on our best values list. Of the students who are offered admission, 80% of students enroll (the highest yield in our top 10 on the combined list). Harvard also boasts some of the highest test scores in our combined top 10: 78% of students score 700 or higher on the critical-reading portion of the SAT, and 79% score similarly high marks on the math section.

Harvard’s $35.7 billion endowment helps the school meet 100% of financial aid for students who qualify; nearly 60% of students receive need-based aid. Generous need-based aid awards, which on average cut the school’s annual sticker price by 72%, can make a Harvard education one of the best bargains in higher education. Like many of our top contenders, Harvard doesn’t include loans in financial aid awards. About three-fourths of families avoid borrowing – and the average debt among students who do borrow is about half of the national average for private school borrowers.

 

7. Thomas Aquinas College

 

Location: Santa Paula, Calif.

Undergraduate enrollment: 377

Four-year grad rate: 81%

Total annual cost: $32,500

Avg. need-based aid: $14,977

Avg. graduating debt: $16,901

10-year salary yardstick: $30,200

 

Thomas Aquinas College’s sticker price – which is about half that of many private colleges on our best values list – and generous financial aid awards propel this pint-sized, Catholic liberal arts college up 15 places on this year’s combined best values list. A tuition freeze that has been in place since the 2013-14 academic year and will continue through at least the 2017-18 academic year has kept the school’s annual sticker price, including room and board, from climbing. And yet few families will pay the sticker price – 75% of students qualify for need-based aid, and the average award brings the school’s net price to $17,523 per year.

Located 65 miles northwest of Los Angeles on the edge of Los Padres National Forest, Thomas Aquinas combines a classic curriculum with a religious emphasis that adheres to the morals and traditions of the Catholic Church. The school’s “great books” education focuses on analyzing the works of Aristotle, Homer and Shakespeare, among others. Thomas Aquinas admits 75% of applicants, and 56% of those who are admitted enroll.

 

8. Vanderbilt University

 

Location: Nashville, Tenn.

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,883

Four-year grad rate: 87%

Total annual cost: $62,598

Avg. need-based aid: $40,267

Avg. graduating debt: $21,506

10-year salary yardstick: $60,700

 

Located a mile and a half southwest of downtown Nashville on a parklike campus with ancient oaks and magnolia trees, Vanderbilt University racks up points in our ranking for its strong academics, including a competitive 12% admission rate, high test scores among incoming freshmen (92% score 30 or higher on the ACT) and an eight-to-one student-faculty ratio. Students can select from 69 majors, ranging from biomedical engineering and child development to economics and musical arts, and choose among more than 510 student clubs and organizations.

Thanks to generous need-based aid awards and the school’s no-loan policy, more than three-fourths of students graduate without taking out student loans. Among the 22% of students who report borrowing, the average debt at graduation is about $10,000 less than the national average. Nearly half of students qualify for need-based aid, and the average need-based aid award reduces the school’s annual sticker price by 64%. The school also awards non-need-based aid to 20% of students who don’t qualify for need-based aid.

 

9. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

 

Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.

Undergraduate enrollment: 18,415

Four-year grad rate: 82%

Total out-of-state annual cost: $46,576

Avg. need-based aid: $17,244

Avg. graduating debt: $20,127

10-year salary yardstick: $51,000

 

The Tar Heels continue their climb on the combined best values list, moving to number nine on this year’s list. Chapel Hill also deserves special kudos for topping our list of public colleges for in-state students for the 16th straight time – a clean sweep of Kiplinger’s public rankings. Solid academics, including a 30% admission rate and an 82% four-year graduation rate, combined with modest cost increases and robust financial aid awards, help this public research university continue to be a sweet deal.

Although UNC’s annual out-of-state sticker price is higher than the national average for out-of-state cost of attendance at four-year public colleges ($35,370), need-based financial aid awards cut the school’s annual out-of-state sticker price by 37%. Carolina and the University of Virginia (number 46 on our combined list) are the only two public colleges in our rankings to meet 100% of students’ demonstrated financial need – and much of this aid is awarded as scholarships and grants (which don’t have to be repaid) rather than loans.

 

10. Wellesley College

 

Location: Wellesley, Mass.

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,355

Four-year grad rate: 86%

Total out-of-state annual cost: $65,016

Avg. need-based aid: $44,218

Avg. graduating debt: $12,455

10-year salary yardstick: $56,500

 

This small women’s college, with a 500-acre campus that includes a private lake and a golf club, lands on our combined top 10 list this year with an improved four-year graduation rate and strong financial aid awards that help keep student borrowing in check. Wellesley College also stands out for its low, seven-to-one student-faculty ratio, 30% admission rate and an alumni network that has been called “the world’s most powerful women’s network.”

Need-based aid awards, which are awarded to nearly 60% of students, cut the school’s annual sticker price by an average of 68%. The school’s financial aid awards keep borrowing to a minimum – eliminating or reducing loans for some students, but keeping the total loan amount to no more than $15,200 over four years for all students. About half of Wellesley students report borrowing, but the average debt among graduates who borrow is about 40% of the national average among private school borrowers.

 

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles. Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

13 Secrets Shoppers Need to Know About Aldi

Here is a nice article provided by Andrea Browne Taylor of Kiplinger: 

 

By Andrea Browne Taylor, Online Editor   | Updated June 2017

 

For many shoppers who are serious about spending less on groceries, a trip to discount supermarket Aldi is a weekly ritual. The chain, founded in Germany, credits its rock-bottom prices to low labor and operating costs, a limited selection of mostly inexpensive private brands, and a no-frills store design. Merchandise is often stacked in the aisles and sold straight from the cardboard box it was shipped in. Essentially, it's a grocery store that's the size of a convenience store.

 

If there isn't an Aldi near you, don't be surprised if one pops up soon. With nearly 1,500 stores already in 32 states (mostly along the eastern half of the U.S.), the discount grocer recently announced an aggressive growth strategy, which it's projecting will usher in 100 million customers per month to its various locations. The strategy includes dedicating $1.6 billion to remodeling 1,300 of its existing storefronts by 2020, as well as investing $3.4 billion to expand to 2,500 stores nationwide by 2022.

 

Never shopped at Aldi before? Here are 13 things you should know before your first trip.

 

Trader Joe's Is Part of the Family

 

Trader Joe's and Aldi are owned by sister companies Aldi Nord and Aldi Sud. Aldi Nord owns Trader Joe's, which it acquired in 1979, and operates Aldi stores in Europe. Aldi Sud operates Aldi stores in the U.S. The first one opened in Iowa in 1976.

Aldi was founded in Germany by brothers Albert and Theo Albrecht. The brand name is a combination of the first two letters of their last name and the first two letters of the word discount. The brothers, now deceased, launched their grocery empire right after World War II, but chose to split the business in 1961 reportedly due to a dispute over whether to sell cigarettes.

 

It's One of the World's Biggest Retailers

 

Aldi might not be a household name in the U.S., but it's well known around the globe. In the 2015 Global Powers of Retail Report, which identifies the 250 largest retailers in the world by retail revenue, Aldi ranked eighth globally, finishing ahead of Target and Home Depot. Walmart topped the list; Costco came in a distant second.

In the U.S., Aldi's nearly 1,500 locations outnumber better-known supermarket chains including Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Publix, Meijer, Food Lion and Giant. Albertsons (thanks to its acquisition of Safeway) and Kroger each operate more locations than Aldi, which plans to open 25 stores in Southern California by July as part of a westward expansion.

 

You Have to Bag Your Own Groceries

 

As part of its low-price business model, Aldi keeps a limited number of staff on the clock at any given time (typically just three to five people). This means that certain conveniences common at larger supermarket chains, such as having groceries bagged for you, is the responsibility of the customer.

You'll want to bring your own reusable shopping bags to pack up everything you've purchased. Otherwise, you'll have to buy shopping bags when you're ready to check out. At Aldi, plastic shopping bags can cost 10 cents each, while paper can run 6 cents per bag.

 

You Need a Quarter to Use a Shopping Cart

 

While shopping carts at most grocers are free for the taking, Aldi requires a 25-cent deposit to use a cart. The cart rental system is simple: To release a cart for your use -- the carts are chained together -- insert a quarter in the coin slot on the cart and the locking mechanism will disengage. When you return the cart and reinsert the chain, the quarter is returned. (Watch this YouTube clip to see Aldi's cart rental system in action.)

Why all the fuss over a quarter? Aldi says it saves money, which it passes along to shoppers in the form of lower prices, because it doesn't have to pay employees to wrangle stray shopping carts from the parking lot. If you want to avoid the 25-cent deposit altogether, it's OK to bring your own collapsible 

 

Nine Out of 10 Items Are Store Brands

 

More than 90% of the products found at Aldi stores are private brands, including organic and gluten-free brands. The company gets many of its store-brand products from the same food manufacturers that make name-brand products, says Lauren Greutman, founder of frugal living Web site IAmThatLady.com, meaning quality and taste are often comparable.

Aldi carries far fewer products than a typical supermarket -- 1,300 items versus 30,000 -- so stores are smaller and cheaper to operate, allowing the savings to be passed along to customers. "[Aldi] typically focuses on the most popular product items and package sizes," says Jon Springer, retail editor for Supermarket News magazine.

Shoppers can find a small inventory of name-brand products, too. Name brands stocked by the chain include Coca-Cola, Oscar Mayer, Gatorade and Tide, says Liz Ruggles, the company's director of public relations.

 

Store Brands Are Cheaper Than Name Brands

 

Aldi claims shoppers can save up to 50% by switching to its store brands from national brands, based on its own price comparisons. We decided to put Aldi's claim to the test. At a Washington, D.C.-area Aldi, a 13-ounce bag of Clancy's restaurant-style tortilla chips cost 99 cents, while the same size package of Tostitos cost $2.98 at a nearby Walmart. A dozen Goldhen eggs costs 99 cents at Aldi, while a comparable carton of Sunny Meadow eggs totaled $2.48 at Walmart. A 10-ounce container of Little Salad Bar Classic Hummus was $1.99 at Aldi, while Sabra hummus cost $2.98 at Walmart. Bottom line: The three items we priced were 53% cheaper at Aldi than at Walmart.

Everything isn't always cheaper at Aldi, however. Since you can't use coupons at Aldi, Cindy Livesey, founder of Web site LivingRichWithCoupons.com, says you may be able to find better deals on such items as cereal and paper goods at a grocery store that does accept them. This is especially true when you combine manufacturer coupons with supermarket sales.

 

Not Satisfied? Get a Replacement and a Refund

 

Aldi's "Double Guarantee" policy is designed to ensure that customers are completely satisfied with their purchases. Say you buy a box of store-brand cereal from the discount grocer and end up hating it compared to your usual name-brand cereal. Simply return the cereal, including original packaging, to the store manager to receive a full refund and a replacement item.

Note that Aldi's guarantee does not apply to certain items including alcohol and national name-brand products.

 

Multiple Bar Codes Make Checkout Faster

 

You'll notice that all of Aldi's store-brand products have multiple barcodes on them. This is intentional, says Ruggles, the Aldi spokeswoman. The design allows for a quicker checkout, because Aldi cashiers don't have to waste time searching for a single barcode to scan on each item in your shopping cart.

That's not the only way Aldi shoppers can save time. Since product selection is limited, stores are smaller than traditional supermarkets, and layouts are consistent from store to store, it can be faster to find everything on your shopping list at Aldi.

 

Checks and Coupons Aren't Accepted

 

If you're planning a trip to Aldi, remember to leave your checkbook at home. As part of its effort toward speedier checkout, the grocer only accepts cash, debit cards and (as of March 1, 2016) credit cards for payment. Remember, too, that coupons aren't accepted.

If it's any consolation, these restrictions can get you through the line faster since the person in front of you won't waste time filling out a paper check, fishing for an ID or scanning multiple coupons.

 

Stores Are Only Open During Peak Hours

 

Aldi locations operate during peak shopping hours, which typically means they aren't open as early or late as larger competitors. The company's rationale: "Staying open later would simply add to labor costs -- and raise our prices."

The Washington, D.C.-area Aldi store we visited operates weekdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The nearby Walmart Supercenter is open daily from 6 a.m. to midnight.

 

Best Things to Buy: Kitchen Staples

 

Heading to the supermarket for some basics, say a gallon of milk, a dozen Grade A eggs, a loaf of white bread and a jar of peanut butter? Strictly judging by the bottom line, you may want to give Aldi a shot.

We priced out these four kitchen staples at an Aldi in Northern Virginia, and then compared the everyday, non-sale prices to similarly packaged store brands at three other nearby grocery retailers: Giant, Harris Teeter and Target. Here are the results (from cheapest to most expensive):

 

Eggs: Aldi, 39 cents; Harris Teeter, $1.39; Target, $1.49; Giant, $1.99

Bread: Aldi, 85 cents; Harris Teeter, 97 cents; Giant, 99 cents; Target, $1.64

Peanut butter: Aldi, $1.49; Target, $1.79; Giant, $2.19; Harris Teeter, $2.29

Milk: Aldi, $1.49; Target, $2.98; Giant, $3.49; Harris Teeter, $3.59

 

Worst Things to Buy: Non-Food Items

 

Savings experts say it’s best to steer clear of most toys, home goods, cleaning supplies and other non-food items at Aldi. But if you’re tempted -- every so often, Aldi will score national-brand products and put what appears to be amazing prices on them -- first pull out your smartphone and price-compare.

“Make sure you check the price on these as they tend to be higher prices on lower quality items at Aldi,” says Brent Shelton of money-saving website FatWallet.com. “Plus, you can often find coupons for these types of items at other stores, even grocers, which would make buying them elsewhere a smart thing to do.” Aldi doesn’t accept coupons.

When we compared prices on a roll of paper towels, for example, Aldi’s price of 99 cents was the same as the price at Giant and Target. However, coupons and loyalty discounts could’ve brought down the price more at the latter retailers. (Aldi doesn’t have a loyalty program, either.)

 

Mixed Reviews: Fruits and Vegetables

 

Like most of Aldi’s goods, fruits and vegetables are typically sold from the bulk boxes they were shipped in. No fancy, bountiful horn-of-plenty displays. And unlike major chains, the bulk of Aldi’s stores don’t refrigerate produce.

“Produce [from Aldi] can spoil more quickly,” says Tracie Fobes, a money-saving expert at the website Pennypinchinmom.com, “so buy only what you can eat within a few days.”

Also, Aldi pre-packages many of its fruits and vegetables in bulk, so if you want, say, an apple you need to buy an entire bag. Most big supermarket chains sell similar produce loose. The latter approach allows shoppers to pick out the freshest individual items available.

However, Aldi is rolling out changes at new (and newly remodeled) stores aimed at fending off competitors including Whole Foods’ offshoot discount chain, 365 by Whole Foods. On top of better lighting and wider aisles, Aldi’s new store format puts fresh produce center stage and includes refrigerated units for the likes of greens, perishable fruits, and premade soups and dips. Bulk packaging still rules at new stores, but that’s a big reason why Aldi can keep produce prices so low.

 

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles. Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

Where Millionaires Live in America

Here is a nice article provided by Dan Burrows of Kiplinger:

 

By Dan Burrows, Contributing Writer | May 2017

 

A million dollars ain't what it used to be, but it still earns you entry into an elite group. Only 5.5% of the country, or about 6.8 million households, qualify as bona fide millionaires. That means they have investable assets of $1 million or more, excluding the value of real estate, employer-sponsored retirement plans and business partnerships.

 

Large populations and lucrative industries make New York and Los Angeles home to the most millionaires in America. No surprise there. However, it might surprise you that neither of these metropolises places among the top 10 cities with the highest concentration of millionaires.

 

Phoenix Marketing International, a firm that tracks the affluent market, ranked 915 urban areas, both large and small, based on the percentage of millionaire households in each. The following list of cities is limited to metropolitan areas with at least one urbanized area with a population of 50,000 or more. We will examine small cities with big millionaire populations in a separate story. Here are the 10 largest metropolitan areas boasting the highest concentration of millionaires in the U.S.

Estimates of millionaire households provided by Phoenix Marketing International. Investable assets include education/custodial accounts, individually owned retirement accounts, stocks, options, bonds, mutual funds, managed accounts, hedge funds, structured products, ETFs, cash accounts, annuities, and cash value life insurance policies. Metropolitan-area data on household incomes and home values are from the U.S. Census Bureau. Living costs are based on the Council for Community and Economic Research's Cost of Living Index .

 

10. Anchorage, Alaska

Millionaire Households: 11,299

Total Households: 147,919

Concentration of Millionaires: 7.6% (U.S.: 5.5%)

Median Income for All Households: $78,326 (U.S.: $53,889)

Median Home Value: $290,500 (U.S.: $178,600)

You don't have to be a millionaire to live in Anchorage, but it certainly helps. The city's remote location and limited local resources mean you'll pay a premium for most goods and services. Add it all up and Anchorage turns out to be one of the pricier U.S. cities in which to live, with living expenses running 30% higher than the national average, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research's Cost of Living Index. Be forewarned that if you want to mingle with Anchorage's millionaires, they might not be in such a good mood. Persistently low oil prices have sunk Alaska into its worst recession in 30 years.

 

9. Lexington Park, Md.

Millionaire Households: 3,097

Total Households: 40,097

Concentration of Millionaires: 7.7%

Median Income for All Households: $86,987

Median Home Value: $297,200

The economy of St. Mary's County, and in particular Lexington Park, hinges on military spending. The Naval Air Station Patuxent River is situated there, and the Pentagon is less than two hours away by car -- even less by helicopter -- making the area ideal for defense and aerospace research. A host of military contractors including DynCorp, KBRWyle, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing account for thousands of high-paying science, technology and engineering jobs. With such a highly educated, highly skilled workforce, it should come as no surprise that there are so many millionaire households in and around Lexington Park.

 

8. Napa, Calif.

Millionaire Households: 3,941

Total Households: 50,890

Concentration of Millionaires: 7.7%

Median Income for All Households: $71,379

Median Home Value: $466,800

The wines produced by Napa's famed vineyards make the area a popular destination for casual drinkers and serious oenophiles alike. Roughly 475 wineries and 700 grape growers dot the Napa Valley area. Cult wines from renowned makers such as Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate can command prices ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars per bottle. Taken all together, the local wine economy is a $13-billion-a-year business and accounts for 46,000 jobs, according to Napa Valley Vintners, an industry trade group. And fine wine and tourism look to be lucrative businesses, judging by Napa's concentration of millionaires.

 

7. San Francisco, Calif.

Millionaire Households: 138,272

Total Households: 1,756,619

Concentration of Millionaires: 7.9% 

Median Income for All Households: $88,518

Median Home Value: $718,400

Years of relentless growth driven by high-paid tech workers have given San Francisco some of the highest living costs in the country, meaning even those with fat paychecks can struggle to make ends meet. Home prices are famously high, an obstacle for aspiring homeowners, and renters fare little better. Overall, San Francisco's cost of living is 77% higher than the national average. Still, those plump incomes help a healthy chunk of San Franciscans sock away serious savings. Out of the nearly 1.8 million total households in the metro area, fully 23,000 have more than $5 million in investable assets.

 

6. The Villages, Fla.

Millionaire Households: 4,538

Total Households: 57,165

Concentration of Millionaires: 7.9% 

Median Income for All Households: $51,335

Median Home Value: $243,500

Located an hour's drive north of Walt Disney World, smack-dab in the middle of Florida, you'll find The Villages, a sprawling retirement haven made up of multiple communities with town squares, stores, restaurants and recreational facilities. Well-heeled retirees who like to hit the links can play for free on any of the 36 executive courses at The Villages; plus, residents enjoy free membership at a dozen championship country club courses. If you prefer to hobnob away from the clubhouse, The Villages also sports a polo stadium. Retiring baby boomers with comfortable nest eggs are helping to make The Villages one of the fastest growing metro areas in the country.

 

5. Honolulu, Hi. 

Millionaire Households: 26,146

Total Households: 327,356

Concentration of Millionaires: 8.0% 

Median Income for All Households: $74,460

Median Home Value: $580,200

If you're looking to rub elbows with millionaires in an idyllic setting, Honolulu is the place to be. But the privilege comes at a steep price. Blame Hawaii's remoteness. Pretty much everything in Honolulu is more expensive than it would be on the mainland because it all has to make the long journey by boat or by plane. Overall living expenses in Honolulu run 90% above the national average, with costs for housing and utilities coming in particularly high. You can also blame the so-called Paradise Tax, says Jennie Allison of the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness, a nonprofit research group, referring to the premium residents are willing to cough up to live in such a paradise.

 

4. Oxnard, Calif.

Millionaire Households: 23,170

Total Households: 277,756

Concentration of Millionaires: 8.3% 

Median Income for All Households: $80,032

Median Home Value: $528,700

Also known as Ventura County, the Oxnard metro area includes the pricey locales of Thousand Oaks (median income: $100,946), Moorpark ($99,777) and Oak Park ($120,696). Its proximity to Los Angeles helps explain the large concentration of wealth. So does the number of celebrities who call it home, a list that over the years has included Clark Gable, William Shatner and Cher. It also appeals to millionaires looking for alternatives to Santa Barbara and Malibu, which bracket the Oxnard area to the north and south. With its Mediterranean climate and miles of relatively uncrowded beaches, it's easy to see the appeal.

 

3. San Jose, Calif.

Millionaire Households: 57,826

Total Households: 675,455

Concentration of Millionaires: 8.6%

Median Income for All Households: $101,980

Median Home Value: $823,700

As hard as it is to fathom, a million dollars might not be enough to get by in Silicon Valley. The cities that make up this metro area -- including San Jose, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara -- are famous for being home to some of the biggest tech companies in the world. They are also famous for being home to exorbitant living expenses. Google, Apple, Facebook, Intel and Tesla are based nearby. No wonder overall housing-related costs are the highest in the nation, according to the Cost of Living Index. A six-figure median income helps cushion the burden, but just barely.

 

2. Washington, D.C.

Millionaire Households: 197,103

Total Households: 2,283,117

Concentration of Millionaires: 8.6% 

Median Income for All Households: $93,294

Median Home Value: $401,500

The District of Columbia and its close-in suburbs such as Arlington, Va., are magnets for the highly educated seeking high-powered jobs. Luckily, many of those ambitious folks are highly paid. Fat paychecks come in handy considering rents and mortgages are more than double the national average, making the nation's capital one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. But if you can find an affordable place to live in the area, other living expenses are more manageable. D.C. health-care costs are slightly below the national average, for example, and a wide-ranging bus and metro system makes getting to and around the District surprisingly reasonable. And don't forget about all the free museums and monuments.

 

1. Stamford, Conn.

Millionaire Households: 30,227

Total Households: 348,421

Concentration of Millionaires: 8.7%

Median Income for All Households: $86,414

Median Home Value: $420,900

With its close proximity to New York City, Stamford has long welcomed wealthy commuters who make their livings in the Big Apple. Residents can also earn a good salary closer to home. The metro area, which includes Norwalk and Bridgeport, is the base for many hedge funds as well as prominent public companies such as Priceline and Pitney Bowes. And on top of Stamford being home to the highest concentration of millionaires in the nation, the state of Connecticut has the second-highest concentration of millionaire households after Maryland. You'll find the toniest of the tony population in Greenwich, a small town where the median household income tops $128,000 a year and the typical home is worth nearly $1.2 million. So forget millionaires. If you're looking for billionaires, this is the place to go.

 

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles. Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

8 Things Home Buyers Will Hate About Your House

Here is a nice article provided by Pat Mertz Esswein of Kiplinger:

 

By Pat Mertz Esswein, Associate Editor | February 2017

 

As a home seller, you don’t want to let the small stuff sabotage your sale.

 

These eight problems are among the biggest buyer turn-offs, and most of them are easy to fix without spending a ton of money. Take a look.

 

1. Haunted-House Landscaping

If your yard looks like the Addams family owns it, you need to tidy up. Otherwise, buyers may drive by but never come back.

Besides mowing the lawn, your to-do list should include trimming scraggly trees and shrubs and removing anything that's dead or beyond resuscitation. Edge, weed and mulch garden beds. Plant annuals in a plot or pot for a splash of color (see Cheap Ways to Improve Curb Appeal).

Cost to fix: Around $95 for a landscaper to prune and groom a small tree and a couple of shrubs, according to www.diyornot.com. If you’d rather be packing boxes than mowing the lawn, you'll probably pay a lawn service $40 to $50 for up to a half acre, but you might get a neighbor’s kid to do it for less. Of course, you can always spruce up the yard yourself.

2. Your Personal Paint Palette

Paint over colors that reflect your taste but may put off potential buyers, such as a scarlet-red accent wall, a lemon-yellow child’s bedroom or a forest-green den. "Fun colors are for living, but neutral colors are for selling," explains home stager Chrissie Sutherland, of Ready Set Stage, in Greensboro, N.C.

Avoid using stark-white paint, though. Choose a warm neutral color -- beige, ivory, taupe or light gray -- that makes your rooms look inviting, larger and brighter. Redo painted trim in white.

Cost to fix: A pro can prep and paint a 10-by 15-foot room with two coats of latex paint for anywhere from $400 to $927, according to www.homewyse.com.

3. Popcorn-Finished Ceilings

Anyone who has lived with this outdated mode of room-top styling knows that it accumulates dirt, defies cleaning and is hard to paint. Worse, if your home was built prior to the mid-1980s, it may contain asbestos (it was banned in ceiling products in 1977, but existing supplies may have been used later).

If you have any concerns, have the ceiling sampled and tested for asbestos by a licensed inspector. For more information, check out the EPA's Asbestos: Protect Your Family fact sheets. If the test result is positive, hire an asbestos abatement contractor who is federally or state trained and accredited (not the same company that tested the ceiling) to seal it with spray paint if it's in good shape (not peeling or crumbling) and unlikely to be disturbed, or to remove the ceiling treatment and properly dispose of it -- an expensive proposition.

Removal is usually a messy and laborious process, with or without asbestos. The material must be wetted down and scraped and the underlying wallboard wiped clean. Once the popcorn is gone, the ceiling often must be repaired with joint compound and repainted. Even if there’s no asbestos, you probably should hire a drywall or painting contractor for the job. (For a glimpse of the process, visit www.ronhazleton.com.)

Cost to fix: About $100 to $150 per sample to test for asbestos (multiple samples may be required), and if it’s present, about $2 to $6 per square foot to seal it or $54 to $64 per square foot for removal, according to www.fixr.com. If you can get by with a painter, expect to pay about $1 to $3

4. Wall-to-Wall Carpeting

Buyers these days expect hardwood floors, even in starter homes. If carpet hides your home's original hardwood floors, remove it, even if the wood isn't in the best condition. Even if you don’t have hardwood, you may want to consider having it installed in a first-floor living area. If you must keep the carpeting, make sure it looks and smells its best by having it professionally cleaned, especially in high-traffic areas or if you have pets.

To find a cleaner certified by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification, visit www.certifiedcleaners.org. Talk with your agent about the best strategy: whether to replace carpet or give buyers the option to choose what they want.

Cost to fix: A pro can clean 500 square feet of carpet for about $174 to $230, according to www.homewyse.com. The cost to refinish 500 square feet of hardwood flooring runs about $2,000, including labor, while the cost to install new hardwood runs from about $3,660 to $5,762. Pre-finished laminate flooring will cost somewhat less to install.

5. Brass Fixtures

From switch plates to chandeliers, builder-grade, shiny yellow brass is out. Replace it with chrome- or satin-nickel-finish fixtures for a contemporary look, or an oil-rubbed bronze or black finish to update a traditional room. This is a pretty straightforward do-it-yourself job.

For instructions, watch these YouTube videos: How to Replace and Install a Chandelier from Build.com and Buildipedia DIY's How to Replace a Light Fixture.

Cost to fix: You could buy two chandeliers (to put, say, over the kitchen and dining-room tables) and a few flush-mounted lights for $200 to $400 at a big-box store such as Lowe's or Home Depot. After that, it’s DIY.

6. Faux Crystal Faucet Handles

Acrylic knobs in the bathroom look cheap and can be hard to use by young, aged or soapy hands. Replace them with a faucet and handle set that matches the existing fixture's configuration (centerset or widespread) and meets the standard of the Americans with Disabilities Act with flipper- or lever-style handles. Polished-chrome finish will cost you the least and still be durable. Plus, the National Kitchen & Bath Association says that the finish is enjoying a surge in popularity over brushed or satin finishes.

Cost to fix: You’ll pay at least $26 for a centerset faucet, plus $75 to $150 for a plumber’s minimum service charge (or twice that much or more if there's corrosion or some other difficulty), according to www.costhelper.com. You can replace a tub-and-shower faucet set for about the same amount.

7. Vanity Strips

Nothing says 1970s like a Hollywood-style strip of bare, round lights over your bathroom mirror. Replace it with a fixture that includes a shade for each bulb or a bath bar in a style and finish that complements your faucet set.

If you have a one-person mirror, you could replace the vanity strip with a wall sconce on either side of the mirror to achieve better lighting for shaving or applying make-up.

Cost to fix: A three-light fixture with shades runs $28 to $100 at www.lightingdirect.com. You should be able to handle this job yourself.

8. Clutter and Dirt

Ugh. You want buyers to imagine living in your home, not to wonder “How can these people live like this?” when they come through the front door.

Pack up your tchotchkes and other non-essential stuff (store the boxes neatly in your garage or other storage area). Then thoroughly clean your house and be prepared to keep it that way until you move out.

If your house has unpleasant odors—say, from smoking or pets--that will turn off buyers, too. You may want to hire a specialist to help you (see www.iicrc.org).

Cost to fix: Nothing but the cost of cleaning supplies if you supply the elbow grease. For pro cleaning, you can expect to pay from $188 to $234 for a 2,000-square-foot house with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, or $269 to $335 for a 3,000-square-foot house with four bedrooms and three bathrooms, according to www.homewyse.com.

 

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail  info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles. Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

Time-Tested Tactics to Build Your Wealth

Here is a nice article provided by the Editors of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance:

 

By the Editors of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance | April 2017

 

We have doled out a lot of good advice over the 70 years we’ve been publishing Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. So in many ways it was easy to come up with 70 ideas on how to create wealth. But when our editorial staff submitted nearly 300 ideas, the editors had to roll up our collective sleeves and distill the advice into absolute gems.

 

In this post, we offer advice on how to build, protect and enhance your wealth, time-tested strategies to help you keep your eye on the ball, and our top tips for finding value, so your hard-won wealth doesn’t leak out in dribs and drabs. We devote a section to the biggest goal of all -- a secure retirement. And because life isn’t all about making money, we include fulfilling ways to give back. Take a look.

 

Save Early and Often

The sooner you start to save, the easier it will be to amass a comfortable nest egg -- thanks to the power of time and the magic of compounding. A 25-year-old who saves $450 a month in a tax-deferred retirement account and earns an average yearly return of 7% will have about $1.1 million by age 65.

If the same investor waits until age 35 to start saving, she’d have to sock away $950 a month to reach roughly the same balance by age 65. Try to save 15% of your income, including any employer match for your retirement plan. If that’s not doable, put away as much as you can and increase the percentage as your income and budget allow.

“Getting started, even if you’re saving 3% of your income or $10 a week, is the critical goal,” says Molly Balunek, a certified financial planner in Cleveland. “Once you see progress, it becomes easier to save 1% more, or $5 more a week.”

Create an Emergency Fund

If you have a dedicated stash of cash at the ready in case of a job loss or an unexpected bill -- say, for a major car repair or hospital visit -- you won’t have to resort to racking up credit card debt or, say, tapping retirement savings to cover the tab.

Squirrel away at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses in a safe, easy-to-access savings or money market deposit account. (For a more personalized amount to save, use HelloWallet.com’s tool.) Look for an account with no monthly fee, a low (or no) minimum balance requirement and a competitive rate, such as the Synchrony Bank High Yield Savings and the GS Bank Online Savings accounts. Both recently yielded 1.05%.

Make the Most of Employer Incentives

For the slow-and-steady way to get rich, take full advantage of your company’s 401(k). You can contribute up to $18,000 ($24,000 for people 50 and older) in 2017 to this pretax account; your employer may kick in another 4% to 6% of your pay, or even more. Many companies enroll employees automatically, at a contribution rate of, say, 3% of their salary. But aim for 15% of your income, including the company match, from the beginning of your career until the end. If you have to cut back for a few years -- say, to buy a house or pay college bills -- try to kick in at least enough to get the full company match, and boost your contributions later to get back on track.

Teachers typically have access to 403(b) plans, which carry the same terms and benefits as 401(k)s but generally lack the breadth of investment options. Public-sector workers may be offered a 457 plan, which is also similar to a 401(k) plan but has a higher contribution limit for people within three years of normal retirement age, usually defined as the age when they can collect unreduced pension benefits.

Open a Roth

Another surefire wealth builder is a Roth IRA. You fund this account with after-tax dollars, so the pain is up front. The payoff? Withdrawals are tax-free if you’re at least 59½ and have held the account for at least five years (you can always withdraw your contributions tax- and penalty-free). You don’t have to take required minimum distributions from a Roth, as you do with traditional IRAs and 401(k)s, allowing you to withdraw the money strategically or let it grow and leave it to your heirs. And because withdrawals from a Roth aren’t reported to the IRS as income, they won’t increase the taxes on your Social Security benefits or trigger the high-income surcharge on Medicare Part B or Part D.

You can contribute up to $5,500 a year to a Roth ($6,500 if you’re 50 or older) in 2017. The allowed contribution starts to shrink if your modified adjusted gross income is more than $118,000 ($186,000 for married couples filing jointly) and disappears altogether at $133,000 ($196,000 for joint filers).

Earn too much to qualify for a Roth? Your employer may offer a Roth 401(k), which has no income limits and carries the same contribution cap as a regular 401(k).

Roths aren’t just for grown-ups. One of the best ways to help your children or grandchildren build wealth is to get them started early with a Roth IRA. Children of any age who have earned income from a job can contribute up to $5,500 to a Roth IRA (or their earnings for the year, if less), and you can give them the money to get started. Not all brokerages let children open Roths, but several -- including Fidelity, Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade -- offer custodial Roths with little or no investing minimum and no IRA maintenance fees.

Ask a Pro for Advice

A financial adviser can help you blaze a path to financial success -- especially when you’re starting out or facing a complex financial situation. A certified financial planner (CFP), for example, offers guidance in strategizing retirement savings, allocating or managing investments, creating an estate plan, and performing other tasks.

At napfa.org, you can search for a fee-only adviser, who avoids conflicts of interest by accepting no commissions from selling investments or other products. If you need extra assistance with tax planning, look for a certified public accountant (CPA) with a personal financial specialist (PFS) designation at aicpa.org.

You don’t need deep pockets to get help. At GarrettPlanningNetwork.com, search for planners who charge hourly rates and require no asset or income minimum. Independent outfits, such as Betterment and Wealthfront, as well as full-service firms, such as Charles Schwab and Fidelity, offer online “robo” adviser services, which provide low-cost, computer-generated advice and portfolio management.

Polish Your Credit

Good credit helps you get the lowest interest rates and best terms on a credit card, mortgage or other loan, and your credit history may even affect your job prospects, insurance rates, and ability to get an apartment or cell phone plan. Generally, a credit score of 750 or higher (on a 300-to-850 scale) is considered top tier. The most important credit-building step is to pay all of your bills on time.

Another score booster: Keep the amount that you owe on your credit cards as a percentage of their overall limits (known as your credit utilization ratio) as low as possible. On each card, use no more than 30% of your limit, and keep the ratio to 10% or less on each card if you plan to apply for a loan soon.

Open a Brokerage Account

Once you’ve established a bank account and started to participate in your employer’s retirement savings plan, take your wealth-building program to the next level by opening a brokerage account. That will allow you to invest in individual stocks and exchange-traded funds, which most people can’t do in their 401(k), as well as no-transaction-fee mutual funds. You’ll need $2,500 to open an account at Fidelity, our top-ranked online broker; Charles Schwab requires just $1,000, which is waived if you sign up for automatic monthly deposits of at least $100.

Set Specific Goals

You’re more likely to accrue wealth if you have specific goals and a plan to reach them. That means coming up with short-term goals, such as paying off debt, buying a house, and saving for a rainy day or a vacation, as well as long-term goals, which may include funding your retirement and your children’s college education.

Make your goals specific and realistic. “Instead of saying that you want to save for your child’s education, say you want to have $50,000 saved for your child’s education in 15 years, and you’ll get there by depositing $200 a month into a 529 savings plan,” says Roger Ma, a certified financial planner in New York City.

Live Like the Invisible Rich

Live within -- and ideally below -- your means. By resisting the temptation to buy a big house or expensive cars, you can invest in things that will create long-term wealth, such as stocks and real estate.

Cultivate Your Career

Want to move ahead in your organization or switch to a more lucrative job? Keep your skills sharp and never stop networking, says Mary Eileen Williams, a career counselor and author of Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50. An updated LinkedIn profile is critical because most employers use the website to vet potential candidates, Williams says. And learning new job skills doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Khan Academy, a nonprofit website, offers video tutorials on everything from statistics to computer programming.

Your local community college may also offer career-advancement courses. Considering an advanced degree? According to Payscale.com, nurse anesthetists, MBAs in business strategy and chemical engineers earn the highest salaries after graduate school; graduates with master’s degrees in education and human services earn the lowest pay.

Another secret to success: Spend half an hour a day learning about your job, industry or a dream you’re pursuing. More than 95% of self-made millionaires spend at least 30 minutes every day reading materials related to their careers or self-improvement, says Tom Corley, a certified financial planner who spent five years researching the habits of wealthy people for his book Rich Habits.

Buy a Home (When You're Ready)

Owning a home is one of the best ways to build wealth. You can still lock in low mortgage rates, and Uncle Sam offers a helping hand in the form of tax deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes. Ideally, you’ll put down at least 20% of a home’s purchase price, which allows you to avoid private mortgage insurance. The bank may be willing to lend you more than you can comfortably afford.

To avoid feeling house poor, however, figure out how much of your monthly budget you can devote to a mortgage payment and still have enough left over for retirement and college savings, travel, and just plain fun. And note that the maxim “Buy the worst house in the best neighborhood” doesn’t pay off.

In Zillow Talk: Rewriting the Rules of Real Estate, Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow, and Stan Humphries, chief economist, write that the data prove you should “buy a decent house in the right neighborhood.” What’s the right neighborhood? The most expensive one where you can afford a home that is not in the bottom 10% of listings by price. Homes in the bottom 10% don’t appreciate as well as homes in the top 90%.

Save for College as Soon as Your Kids Are Born

Too many parents sacrifice their own wealth by raiding their retirement savings to pay for their kids’ college. Or their children graduate with large student-loan payments to go with their sheepskin. If you set aside money in a 529 college-savings plan every year starting when your children are born, you’ll have a big chunk of the tuition bill saved when they’re 18.

They can use the 529 money tax-free for college costs, and you may get a state income tax deduction for your contributions. Go to SavingForCollege.com for more information about each state’s rules. If your state doesn’t offer a tax break, check out Utah’s plan, which features low-cost Vanguard funds and FDIC-insured accounts.

Fill the Gaps in Home Insurance

Your home may be your biggest asset, so make sure you have enough insurance to protect it from disasters. Review your policy to see if your dwelling coverage is enough to rebuild. (Your insurer may inspect your home, or you can get an estimate for $25 at e2value.com.) Let your insurance company know about any major improvements that affect the value.

Check the amount of coverage for your possessions, and consider buying a rider to cover special items, such as jewelry. Add insurance for sewage back-ups (typically $130 for $10,000 of coverage), and consider flood insurance if you’re concerned about that risk (ask your homeowners insurance agent for a price quote, or go to FloodSmart.gov for additional information).

Shield Yourself From Lawsuits

The most important part of your auto insurance policy is the liability coverage, which protects your assets and future earnings if you are liable for injuries and damage as the result of an accident. State liability coverage requirements are usually inadequate; most people should get coverage to pay at least $250,000 per injured person and $500,000 per accident. Also make sure you have uninsured-motorist coverage (and underinsured-motorist coverage, in states with inadequate liability limits). That can pay for damage to your car, medical expenses and lost wages for you and your passengers if the at-fault driver does not have insurance.

Most families with typical risks should also safeguard their assets and future earnings with an umbrella policy. You can boost your auto and home liability protection by $1 million with an umbrella policy for about $200 to $400 per year. Make sure you have at least as much liability coverage as your net worth.

Get Enough Life Insurance

Life insurance would replace lost income if you or your spouse died early. One rule of thumb calls for buying at least eight to 10 times your gross income, and you can get a refined estimate by using a life insurance calculator (such as the one at LifeHappens.org). A 20- to 30-year term policy, which has no savings component, is best for most families. The policy would likely cover you until your kids are out of college, you pay off your house or you stop working.

You can compare rates for several insurers at AccuQuote.com. If you need insurance longer—for example, if you’re supporting a child with special needs -- consider a permanent insurance policy, such as whole life or universal life, which builds cash value. (Note that premiums for permanent coverage tend to be much higher than for term insurance.)

Buy Disability Insurance

If you become disabled and unable to work, you don’t want to be forced to raid your retirement savings or incur expensive debt. You may have some disability insurance through your employer, but employers’ policies typically cover just 60% of income, with a $5,000 monthly maximum, and don’t take bonuses and commissions into account. Plus, payments from employer disability plans are taxable.

Calculate how much your policy will pay out every month, compare that with your monthly expenses, and consider buying an individual policy to fill the gaps (see Why You Need Disability Coverage). You may be able to cover up to 85% of your income, and payouts from individual disability policies are tax-free.

Make the Most of a Health Savings Account

Instead of using HSA money to cover current medical bills, let the money grow long term and cover medical costs out of pocket. Keep your receipts for eligible medical expenses you incur after you open the account and withdraw the money later -- even in retirement.

To set up an HSA, you need an eligible health insurance policy with a deductible of at least $1,300 for individual coverage or $2,600 for family coverage. You can contribute up to $3,400 to the HSA for individual or $6,750 for family coverage, plus $1,000 if you’re 55 or older. Your contributions are tax-deductible (or pretax if they’re through your employer), and the money grows tax-deferred.

You can’t contribute to an HSA after you’ve enrolled in Medicare, but you can use the money already in the account tax-free to pay premiums for Medicare Part B, Part D and Medicare Advantage, plus a portion of long-term-care premiums based on your age.

Invest in Stocks

The best way to build wealth over the long haul is to invest in stocks. U.S. stocks, as measured by Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, have returned about 10% per year compounded. Stocks are notoriously fickle and volatile over the short term, and after their long ascent, they are due for a breather or possibly a full-fledged bear market. But with interest rates still in the gutter, stocks will almost certainly outpace bonds and cash-type investments (for instance, savings accounts and money market funds) over the next decade and beyond.

Start investing with low-cost exchange-traded funds, such as iShares Core S&P 500 (symbol IVV), which tracks the S&P 500, or Vanguard Total Stock Market (VTI), which follows a benchmark that includes nearly every U.S. stock. You can rev your engines with a sector ETF, such as Vanguard Information Technology ETF (VGT) or Guggenheim S&P 500 Equal Weight Health Care ETF (RYH). But don’t invest money you’ll need soon.

Monitor Your Credit

You may not know if an ID thief has struck or when a mistake is marring your credit record. To check, go to AnnualCreditReport.com and order your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). You can get a free report from each bureau once a year. Pore over each one for mistakes, such as variations on your name or accounts you never opened. If you find an error, file disputes with both the lender and the bu­reau(s) that reported the error, preferably by certified mail so you can create a paper trail.

On a more regular basis, monitor your credit score for un­explained dips that could signal something fishy is going on in your credit report. If your bank doesn’t offer a free FICO score, look up services that do.

Thwart ID Thieves

Cleaning up after identity theft can be costly and time-consuming. Worse, ID theft may prevent you from getting credit, at least until you finish the painstaking process of cleaning up your credit files. Rule one: Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or give out your Social Security number unless you’re sure it’s needed, and shred unneeded documents that include the number.

If a thief has already stolen your SSN, he may try to file a tax return in your name and collect a refund. To deter such an attempt, submit your tax return as early as possible. Watch out for calls or e-mails from crooks posing as representatives of your bank, the IRS or other entities in attempts to collect your personal information or money, and never click on a link in an e-mail or text message unless you’re sure of its source. Password-protect your PC and smartphone, and use strong and diverse passwords for your online accounts, too.

Update Your Estate Plan

Pat yourself on the back if you already have a will and other estate-planning documents, including a durable power of attorney (which lets the person you appoint manage your finances and legal affairs) and health care power of attorney (which gives a trusted person the authority to make health care decisions on your behalf if you can’t). Now make sure these documents reflect current circumstances, including the birth of a child, a divorce or a move to a new state (see Estate-Planning for Snowbirds). Also review the beneficiaries of your life insurance, 401(k) and IRA.

Do your family another favor by leaving instructions as to whether you want your body to be buried, cremated or donated to science, and let family members know whether you prefer a funeral service or a memorial service, and where it should be held. Better yet, plan and put aside funds for the whole thing yourself (see How to Plan Your Own Funeral). The median price for a traditional, full-service funeral runs $7,180, not including cemetery costs or extras, such as flowers, according to a 2015 report by the National Funeral Directors Association. Prices vary widely even in the same area, however, so check costs at several funeral homes.

Let Uncle Sam Help Pay for Raising Your Kids

The Department of Agriculture says middle-income parents will spend more than $233,000 to raise a child to age 17, and high-income parents will spend more than $372,000. You’ll feel less of a pinch in the pocketbook if you take advantage of family-friendly tax breaks. Parents who pay for child care are eligible for two breaks: a dependent-care flexible spending account and the child-care credit. You usually have to choose one or the other, and for most families, the flex account is a better deal (assuming your employer offers one).

You can set aside up to $5,000 pretax in a dependent-care FSA. (The maximum contribution is $5,000 per household each year, even if both spouses have access to a dependent-care FSA where they work.) That money avoids not only federal income taxes but also the 7.65% Social Security and Medicare tax, and it may bypass state income taxes as well. The higher your tax bracket, the bigger the benefit. If you have two or more kids, you can max out your dependent-care FSA and still take the child-care credit for up to $1,000 in additional expenses. Don’t forget to count all child-care costs (even the cost of summer day camp) for children younger than 13.

Teach Your Children Well

Raising financially literate and responsible kids should be part of your estate plan. Be up front about the wealth you have and your plans for it, and make sure your legacy is as much about your values as it is about your bank account. Start teaching budgeting skills at an early age. Have teens use allowance to pay some of their own expenses, and steel yourself to let the cell phone go dark if they fall behind on the wireless bill. Seed an investment account for young adults, and perhaps promise to match a portion of the investment returns. The kids are free to withdraw the money, but parents can’t add to the principal. This shows the power of compound growth as well as the opportunity cost of robbing a nest egg.

Shelter Retirement Income

The general post-retirement rule is to draw from taxable accounts first: When you sell investments in a taxable account, you pay tax only on the profit, and if you’ve held the investments for more than a year, the profit is taxed at the long-term capital-gains rate, which tops out at 20%. But you may get an even sweeter break: In 2017, married couples with taxable income up to $75,900 and single people with income up to $37,950 are eligible for a 0% capital-gains rate. (President Trump’s tax reform plan would retain the 0% capital-gains rate; under the House Republican tax reform plan, the lowest hit on capital gains would be 6%.)

With pretax accounts, every dollar you withdraw is taxed at the ordinary income tax rate of up to 39.6%. Generally, it’s best to tap such tax-deferred accounts after your taxable accounts, letting Roth IRAs -- which aren’t subject to required minimum distributions—ride to take advantage of tax-free growth. There are lots of exceptions to these rules of thumb, so consult an adviser if you’re not sure what’s best for you.

Keep an Eye on Recurring Fees

Don’t let recurring charges nibble away at your assets. Households with two cell phones, a landline, and a cable and internet bundle spend a whopping $2,700 a year, on average, on those services, according to a Consumer Federation of America report. Consider sharing a phone plan with family members and dropping your cable plan in favor of using an antenna to get over-the-air channels and signing up for streaming video. You may also find you’re not getting your money’s worth out of, say, your satellite radio or audiobook subscription. And don’t overlook hidden fees, such as hotel resort fees, airline charges and bank fees, which can add up to big bucks. You can look up resort fees at ResortFeeChecker.com and airline fees at Kayak.com. Search for low-fee checking accounts at FindABetterBank.com.

Invest to Beat Inflation

Kiplinger expects inflation for 2017 to be a still-modest 2.4%, up from 2.1% in 2016. That’s nowhere near 1970s-style runaway levels, but it’s enough to merit some inflation protection in your portfolio. One good option: Treasury inflation-protected securities. The principal value of TIPS is adjusted to keep pace with increases in consumer prices. Buy TIPS directly from Uncle Sam at TreasuryDirect.gov. Another inflation fighter is Fidelity Floating Rate High Income (FFRHX), which invests in loans that banks make to borrowers with below-average credit ratings. The interest rates adjust periodically in response to changes in short-term rates, which are likely to rise as inflation accelerates. Commodities should also perform well as inflation heats up. For exposure to commodities, consider Harbor Commodity Real Return Strategy (HACMX). For more on staying ahead of inflation, see Inflation-Proof Your Assets.

Capitalize on a Windfall

About one-fifth of U.S. retirees are expected to have estates that top $390,000, according to the banking and financial services organization HSBC. If you are the beneficiary of parental largesse (or you win the lottery), start by doing nothing. Stash your bounty in a safe place, such as a savings or money market account, for six months to a year. That will give you time to come up with a solid plan to get the most out of your good fortune. It will also give you time to assemble a team of advisers to help you manage your money.

Your team should include a financial planner and a certified public accountant or enrolled agent. Depending on the nature of your windfall, you may also need help from a lawyer and an insurance professional. Resist the temptation to tell your boss to take your job and shove it. Windfall recipients often underestimate how much money it will take to replace their income. Plus, once you quit, you’ll stop earning income that contributes to your Social Security benefits -- which you may need if your investments go sour.

Spread Out Your Investments

Playing it safe with a diversified mix of stocks and bonds can help your portfolio stay afloat during bad times and improve your long-term returns. If you have at least 10 years until retirement, for example, hold 70% of your portfolio in stocks and 30% in high-quality bonds. A mutual fund can work nicely, too. Vanguard Wellington (VWELX), a member of the Kiplinger 25 (the list of our favorite mutual funds), holds about two-thirds of its assets in stocks and the rest in bonds, and it has an annualized 8.2% return over the past 20 years.

Give Emerging Markets a Shot

Before delivering modest gains in 2016, stocks in developing markets, such as China and India, had lost money in four of the previous five years. But emerging-market stocks still deserve a place among your assets. Not only are the stocks relatively cheap, but corporate earnings in emerging-markets firms are expected to expand by more than 13% in 2017—far more than firms in the U.S. For access to these stocks, invest in Baron Emerging Markets (BEXFX), a Kiplinger 25 fund, or in exchange-traded iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (IEMG), which tracks an index.

Don't Try to Time the Market

Wondering if it’s time to sell all of your stocks? Don’t. First, what are you going to do with the proceeds? Cash pays almost nothing, and bonds come with their own set of risks. And how will you know when it’s time to get back in the market? Our advice: Set an appropriate allocation, then rebalance.

Take a Flier on Small Stocks

After you’ve stashed money in an emergency fund and maxed out contributions to retirement accounts, consider taking a moonshot on stocks that could turbocharge your returns. Small, fast-growing companies may be a good bet now because small companies should benefit from a focus on the healthy U.S. economy, and they could get a lift from fewer regulations and lower corporate tax rates now being considered in Washington. Two top choices: T. Rowe Price QM U.S. Small-Cap Growth Equity (PRDSX) and T. Rowe Price Small-Cap Value (PRSVX), both members of the Kip 25.

Also on our shopping list these days are companies cashing in on high-tech trends. Chipmaker Broadcom (AVGO), factory robotics firm Cognex (CGNX) and cybersecurity company CyberArk Software (CYBR) all look compelling. We also like biotechnology stocks for their long-term growth prospects. You can buy a bundle of them in an exchange-traded fund such as SPDR S&P Biotech ETF (XBI).

Get a Side Gig

Turning a hobby or activity you love into a part-time enterprise can help you raise money to pay down debt and beef up savings. If you’re well along in your first career, it could also lay the foundation for your next one or turn into a part-time retirement job. Websites such as Etsy and Zazzle provide a way to turn your creative endeavors into cash.

Plan to relocate when you retire? Consider buying a property in your retirement destination now -- which will lock in the price -- and renting it out until you’re ready to move.

Rebalance Regularly

You’ll need to trim your winners periodically and add to your laggards to keep your mix intact. Check your brokerage statements every six months to see if your portfolio has veered off track. If your allotment to a particular category has drifted by more than five percentage points from your target allocation, make the needed trades to bring your allocations back into alignment.

Get on Top of Your Spending

You can’t set long-term goals unless you get a handle on where your money goes. Budgeting apps make the task a lot easier. After you monitor your cash flow for several months, you’ll have the tools to hew to your spending limits. With Mint, for example, you link to credit card, loan, bank and investment accounts to track and categorize balances and transactions automatically and get a snapshot of your net worth. You can also create budgets for each spending category and set savings goals, and Mint sends you alerts when you exceed your limits.

If you’re primarily interested in keeping an eye on cash flow and investment performance, check out Personal Capital, which lets you both watch the big picture and dig in to expenses, income and other areas with easy-to-navigate charts and graphs.

Set It and Forget It

Set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings or brokerage account (or both) each month shortly after payday so that your emergency and retirement funds will fatten up before you have a chance to spend the cash. Alternatively, see if your employer can divvy your paycheck between two accounts. Automating certain payments can also pay dividends: A number of auto insurers, including Allied, Allstate and Geico, offer a small discount or cut you a break on fees if you enroll in auto-pay.

You can also slice 0.25 percentage point off your federal student loans by signing up for automatic debit. Even AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Cricket Wireless trim the monthly charges for some plans if you sign up for auto-pay. For the rest of your bills, use automatic bill payments through your bank. Your payment will arrive before the due date, you’ll avoid late fees, and you won’t have to buy stamps and envelopes, either.

Target Your Investing

Target-date funds, which are widely available in 401(k) plans, are designed to be set-it-and-forget-it investments. They are best for investors who aren’t sure how to invest or don’t want to bother figuring out how much of their portfolio should be in stocks or bonds or when to rebalance.

In a target-date fund, the pros do the work for you, shifting the stock-bond mix to a more conservative allocation as you get older and even after you retire. Choose the fund with the year in its name that matches when you plan to retire. Our favorite target-date series are Vanguard Target Retirement, which holds index funds, and T. Rowe Price Retirement, which holds mostly actively managed funds. If you’re 18 years from retirement, for example, go for Vanguard Target Retirement 2035 (VTTHX).

Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards

By playing your (credit) cards right, you’ll earn hundreds of dollars annually in cash back or free flights and hotel stays. For travel, choose a card that offers a hefty sign-up bonus. The Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee) ponies up 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months, as well as double miles on travel and dining purchases.

For cash back, the no-fee Citi Double Cash card can’t be beat for its flat return of 2% on every purchase. You might also want a card with a return of 3% to 5% in cate­gories you spend the most on, such as groceries or gas. You can also save money with the perks that many credit cards offer: extended warranties, price matching, coverage for damage and theft of recent purchases, rental car insurance, and travel insurance.

Get All the Insurance Discounts You Deserve

Ask your auto and home insurers for a list of potential discounts. You may get an automatic break (typically 10% to 20%) by bundling your home and auto policies with the same company or keeping a clean driving record, but you may need to let your insurer know if you qualify for other discounts. Most insurers offer a good-student discount (usually worth up to 25% if your student maintains a B average or better).

Some offer a break of 10% to 15% for certain jobs, and a 15% discount if you’re 55 or older and sign up for a defensive-driving course. You may get a bigger break -- as much as 50% -- by signing up for a data-tracking service, such as Progressive’s Snapshot or State Farm’s Drive Safe & Save, if you have low annual mileage and practice sedate driving habits. You could get home insurance discounts for many home improvements, such as adding storm-proof shutters (up to 44%, depending on the state) or an alarm system (up to 15%).

Tap the Sharing Economy

The sharing economy isn’t always about sharing. It’s often simply about saving money. For example, you can rent a house, apartment or private room (or a castle, houseboat or yurt) through sites such as Airbnb and HomeAway. The nightly rate may be lower than a hotel, especially when you’re splitting the cost among a group. To avoid paying for accommodations at all, swap your home with another traveler through a service such as HomeLink or Intervac.

If you live in an area with a car-sharing service, you could skip the high cost of buying, insuring and maintaining a car or two. Car2Go charges $15 per hour or 41 cents per minute, and Zipcar typically charges $70 per year or $7 per month plus hourly or daily rates. Need home services? At TaskRabbit or Handy, you can find gardeners, painters and plumbers, among a plethora of other helpers, who often charge surprisingly low rates.

Reshop Your Car Insurance Every Year

Rates can vary a lot by insurer, and by shopping around, you may be able to trim your premiums and put hundreds of dollars a year back in your pocket. Compare premiums at InsuranceQuotes.com or Insurance.com, or look for an independent agent at TrustedChoice.com. You can find sample prices for all insurers licensed in your state at most state insurance departments’ websites (find links for each state at naic.org, and search for the auto insurance shoppers’ guide).

Contact the companies with the best rates for the situation most like yours and compare premiums for the same amount of coverage you have now. If one offers a better rate, let your current insurer know before switching; it may offer to match the lower rate if you’re a longtime customer.

Never Pay Retail (Part 1)

A new car starts to depreciate as soon as you drive it off the dealer’s lot. After three years, it has typically lost half its original value. Those numbers bolster the argument for buying used, which can save tens of thousands of dollars over the years. The growth of factory-inspected, certified preowned vehicles, which are the cream of the used-vehicle crop and come with a warranty, has injected transparency into what you might charitably call the opacity of the used-car industry.

What if you are stubbornly in the new-car camp? Negotiate hard. Shop for an identically equipped model at several dealers, then use your best price to squeeze concessions from the other dealers. (Or use a service that does this for you, such as CarBargains.org.) If you lean toward the luxury side of the market, consider leasing. Carmakers often offer subsidies that hold down monthly payments.

Never Pay Retail (Part 2)

You can get money back from your online shopping sprees if you route your purchases through a cash-back site such as BeFrugal, CouponCabin, Ebates or Splender. The process is easy: Register at the site, search for your retailer, and click the site’s link to make your purchase (browser cookies must be turned on). You’ll typically earn back less than 10% of your purchase price, but rebates can go as high as 35% to 40%. Once your cash stash reaches a certain level, you can collect it via check, PayPal or gift card. Compare offerings for retailers across various sites through CashbackHolic.com or CashbackMonitor.com.

Negotiate for Practically Everything

You know it pays to haggle hard over cars and homes. A lot of other purchases are ripe for negotiation, too. Avoid naming your top price right away. If the seller has a lower figure in mind than you do, you won’t save as much as you could have. Instead, ask the seller how much he could come down in price.

Keep Investing Costs Low

All else being equal, the less you pay, the more you get to keep for yourself. Start by opening an account with an online broker, such as Fidelity or Charles Schwab. You’ll be able to buy and sell stocks for roughly $7 per trade. In addition, many of the top discounters let you trade select ETFs without sales fees. Fund investors should focus on mutual funds and ETFs with low expense ratios. You can buy index funds, such those that track the S&P 500, with annual fees of roughly 0.05%. Top low-cost actively managed funds include Dodge & Cox Stock (DODGX) and Mairs & Power Growth (MPGFX), both Kip 25 members.

If you work with a money manager, you’ll probably pay about 1% a year. Try to negotiate a lower fee. Or consider signing up with a “robo” adviser, which uses technology to manage your port­folio. Betterment charges just 0.25% of assets under management annually. Wealthfront levies no management fee for balances under $10,000 and charges 0.25% a year for any amount above that.

Trim Your Wireless Costs

Families with children spent an average of $1,526 on cell phone service in 2015, or about $127 per month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number may be a lot higher if you have, say, a couple of data-hungry teens. Take stock of your typical monthly usage and shop for a plan that fits your needs at the lowest price. If you use data to stream several hours of music or video monthly, for example, switching to an unlimited data plan may make sense.

Consider smaller carriers, which often piggyback on the networks of larger ones and offer plans at lower rates. Use the tool at WireFly.com to search for suitable plans based on your typical usage. With the demise of subsidized phones, look beyond the latest iPhone or Samsung phones for more-affordable options. Or, rather than getting the latest model, consider buying a previous-generation phone (say, an iPhone 6s rather than an iPhone 7), which could save you $100. Or buy a preowned phone that has been refurbished and inspected by the carrier or manufacturer.

Find the Best Airfare

Scope out the cheapest dates to fly to your destination—or find a destination that fits your price range—using the flexible search features on Kayak and Google Flights. Register for airfare alerts from Airfarewatchdog.com and flight deals from ScottsCheapFlights.com, and skim Twitter for flash sales using the hashtag #airfare. Online travel agencies (OTAs), such as Expedia and Priceline, can piece together cheaper itineraries for international flights using multiple airlines on complex routes. To compare OTA fares with the airlines’ fares or with other OTAs, run your itinerary through Kayak or Momondo. Don’t forget budget airlines, such as Wow Air and Norwegian Air.

Vow to Be Debt-Free

High-interest-rate debt is an obstacle in your path to wealth. One way to attack the problem is to pay down the highest-interest-rate debt first. For example, if you’re carrying a balance on a credit card with a hefty rate, consider transferring the balance to a card such as Chase Slate, which charges a 0% rate for the first 15 months and no transfer fee if you move the balance within 60 days of opening the card. Just be sure to pay it off before interest starts to accrue. Auto and student loans are also candidates for accelerated payoff.

Foster Your Philanthropic Side

Money can’t buy happiness, but studies show that charitable giving can make you happier. Better yet, philanthropy can lower your tax bill. Your donations to a charity or, say, a school are tax-deductible if you itemize, and you’ll get an extra tax break if you give stock, funds or other investments that have appreciated in value. If you bought the investments more than a year ago, you’ll get a tax write-off for the current value of the donation, and you won’t owe capital-gains taxes on the increase in value since purchase.

Use Home Equity Strategically

Thanks to rising home values since the Great Recession, you may be well positioned to borrow against the equity in your home, which can help finance renovations or consolidate other, higher-rate debts. Recently, a home-equity line of credit (HELOC) with a $30,000 limit carried an average 5.1% rate, according to Bankrate.com. HELOCs often come with variable rates, so your payments will increase as interest rates rise. Some lenders allow you to lock in a fixed rate on all or a portion of your HELOC balance, which may be wise if you expect to spend a few years or more paying off the debt. A fixed-rate loan may be a good option if you have a one-time expense.

Give to Charity From Your IRA

Uncle Sam offers an extra incentive to be charitable when it’s time to take required minimum distributions from your IRAs. If you’re 70½ or older, you can transfer up to $100,000 each year tax-free from your IRAs directly to one or more charities. You can make the transfer anytime during the year. And your donation benefits you as well as the charity: The money counts as your RMD but isn’t included in your adjusted gross income. Lower AGI may push you below the threshold for the Medicare high-income surcharge or help make less of your Social Security benefits subject to taxes.

Open a Donor-Advised Fund

If you contribute to a donor-advised fund, you can take a charitable tax deduction for the full amount now but take as much time as you want to decide which charities to support. By making giving a family affair, you can build a charitable fund that lasts for generations and share your philanthropic values with your children and grandchildren. Mutual fund companies, brokerage firms and community foundations offer donor-advised funds. You can open an account at Fidelity or Schwab with $5,000 or at Vanguard with $25,000. You can donate cash, stock or mutual funds, and some donor-advised funds, such as Fidelity’s, even let you contribute real estate or shares of privately held companies.

Pay Off Your Mortgage

If you’re free of other debt and your savings are on track, put extra cash toward your mortgage or refinance into a 15-year mortgage to free up your finances by the time you retire. Patrick Lach, a certified financial planner in Louisville, Ky., offers this example: Say you want to refinance a $200,000 mortgage. With a 30-year loan at a 4.06% fixed rate, your monthly payment would be about $962. With a 15-year mortgage at a 3.2% fixed rate, your payment would be $1,400, but you would save more than $94,000 in interest.

Take Stock of Where You Stand

Estimate the future value of your current savings and see how much more you’ll need to save to hit your retirement goal. You could work with a financial adviser to make a plan, but in the meantime crunch the numbers with an online cal­culator, such as Kiplinger's Retirement Calculator. Our tool lets you factor in such variables as home equity and potential windfalls, such as an inheritance.

Write Down a Retirement Plan

Create a retirement budget, devoting one column to essential costs, such as housing and food, and another to discretionary expenses, including travel and hobbies. Factor in inflation for overall expenses, expected to be 2.4% over the next 20 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Consider making a separate calculation for health care costs, which are likely to have a much higher rate of inflation; HealthView Services, which analyzes health costs, projects a 5.1% inflation rate over the next 20 years.

Match expenses to guaranteed income, including any pensions and Social Security payments, plus the annual amount you plan to draw from savings. If there’s a gap, reconcile yourself to spending less—or working longer. Staying in the workforce for a few extra years gives you more time to contribute to your retirement accounts. Plus, you have fewer years to finance once you do retire.

Maximize Social Security

Postponing retirement also helps you delay taking Social Security. For every year after full retirement age (66 or 67, depending on when you were born) that you postpone claiming until you reach age 70, the benefit goes up by 8%. For help deciding when and how to claim benefits, bone up on your options with Kiplinger’s Boomer’s Guide to Social Security, $10. Then consult a financial planner with training in Social Security strategies. Or subscribe to software such as Maximize My Social Security, starting at $40, or Social Security Solutions, starting at $20. These programs run scenarios based on your circumstances and show how different filing strategies affect the total payout.

Tweak Your Investments as You Age

As you approach retirement, aim for a portfolio that generates enough growth to combat inflation but ratchets down risk. A mix of 55% stocks, 40% bonds and 5% cash accomplishes that goal. For more growth, adjust the mix to 60% stocks and 40% bonds and cash; for less risk, go with 60% bonds and cash and 40% stocks.

Supersize Your Retirement Contributions

If you’re 50 or older, you can make catch-up contributions to your IRA and 401(k). In 2017, you can add $6,000 to your 401(k) above the $18,000 annual contribution limit, for a total of $24,000 for the year. You can stash an extra $1,000 in a traditional or Roth IRA beyond the $5,500 annual contribution limit, for a total of $6,500 for the year. If you invest $24,000 in a 401(k) every year starting at age 50, you’ll boost your retirement savings by more than $580,000 by the time you’re 65, assuming your investments return 6% per year. If you invest $6,500 in your IRA during those years, you could amass more than $157,000 in your IRA in 15 years.

If you’re self-employed, you can also step up savings. In 2017, you can contribute up to 20% of your net self-employment income (business income minus half of your self-employment tax) to a SEP-IRA, up to a maximum of $54,000. In a solo 401(k) plan, you can put aside even more money because you can contribute as both an employer and an employee. In 2017, the maximum contribution is $54,000, or $60,000 if you’re 50 or older.

Retire to a Place That’s Healthy, Fun and Tax-Friendly

If you plan to relocate in retirement, scope out a city that boasts an array of opportunities for outdoor activities, restaurants that pique the palate and enough cultural amenities to keep the brain limber. All of our picks have those qualities as well as excellent health care, and they’re located in states with tax policies that are kind to retirees.

Austin, Texas, has outdoorsy options including Zilker Park, a 351-acre green space; Barton Springs Pool, a spring-fed swimming hole; and Lady Bird Lake, where you can go canoeing and kayaking. Downtown, you’ll find a bustling mix of shops, restaurants, taco trucks, barbecue joints, music and film festivals.

Naples, Fla., offers a sophisticated mix of cafés, art galleries and boutiques, as well as beaches and gracious homes in walkable neighborhoods.

Nashville’s music scene lately has competed with the thrum of the city’s construction boom, but you can also find quiet old neighborhoods bordered by parks and greenways. The city is home to Vanderbilt University.

Philadelphia boasts world-class museums such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Foundation. You can sample meats, cheese and produce at the Ninth Street Italian Market. The Manayunk Canal Towpath connects with 60 miles of trails along the Schuylkill River.

Seattle locals have easy access to the bounty of the Pacific Northwest as well as such urban attractions as the Pike Place Market and the Seattle Opera. Rain happens in Rain City, but mild temperatures let residents enjoy the outdoors year-round.

Create Savings Buckets in Retirement

Talk about a wealth killer: If you’re forced to sell your investments in a bear market, especially at the beginning of retirement, your carefully laid plans for making your savings last the rest of your life could be in jeopardy. To avoid that scenario, create three “buckets” for your savings. The first should hold enough cash, CDs and other short-term investments to cover one to three years of living expenses, after factoring in guaranteed income, such as Social Security. Create a second bucket with slightly riskier investments, such as intermediate-term bond funds and a few diversified stock funds. The third bucket is for long-term growth; fill it with diversified stock and bond funds. As you draw down the first bucket, you eventually refill it with profits from the second bucket, and the second bucket gets refilled with gains from the third.

Cover Long-Term Care

At a median cost of $92,000 a year, a stay in a nursing home can quickly deplete your retirement nest egg. Long-term-care insurance can help preserve your wealth. But the cost of long-term-care insurance has skyrocketed, so most people need to find an affordable way to set up their safety net. First, look up the cost of care in your area (see genworth.com/costofcare) and estimate how much of, say, a three-year stay you could cover with income and savings. Then shop for a policy to cover the gap. You can save money on premiums by lowering the inflation adjustment from 5% to 3%; shortening the benefit period or pooling it with your spouse to use between the two of you; or extending the waiting period from, for

 

10 Timeless Tips From Knight Kiplinger

Some lessons from our 70 years of giving readers practical advice on how to save, manage, invest and spend their money.

1. Wealth creation isn’t a matter of what you earn. It’s how much of it you save.

2. Your biggest barrier to becoming rich is living like you’re rich before you are.

3. Pay yourself first. Arrange to have your retirement and other savings deducted from your paycheck before the money hits your bank account. If there isn’t enough left over for your bills, cut your spending.

4. No one ever got into trouble by borrowing too little.

5. Conspicuous consumption will make you inconspicuously poor.

6. The key to stock market success isn’t your timing of the market. It’s your time in the market—the longer, the better.

7. Diversify, because every asset has its day in the sun—and its day in the doghouse.

8. Keep a cool head when others are losing theirs. When others are selling investments, it’s usually a good time to buy. The foundations of great fortunes are laid in bear markets, not bull markets.

9. Money can’t buy happiness, but it can make unhappiness easier to bear.

10. Sharing your wealth with others is more fun than spending it on yourself.

 

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail  info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles. Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

10 Secrets Trader Joe's Shoppers Need to Know

Here is a nice article provided by Andrea Browne Taylor of Kiplinger:

 

By Andrea Browne Taylor, Online Editor | Updated March 2017

 

Trader Joe's is well-known to its fans for low prices on unique food items, ranging from cookie butter to turkey corn dogs. The chain is also known for its quirky culture. Employees, easy to spot in their Hawaiian shirts, go out of their way to be helpful, and plastic lobsters are used to decorate stores.

 

The unconventional touches make shopping at Trader Joe's a far different experience than shopping at a typical supermarket. Stores are smaller and selection is limited, so you might not be able to cross off every item on your list. Trader Joe's stocks about 3,000 products, versus the 30,000 carried by traditional grocers. However, you can find basics such as bread, milk and eggs, as well as some produce and meats.

 

This is just the tip of the Trader Joe's iceberg. If you've never set foot inside one of its more than 400 locations, here are ten things you should know before you make your first shopping trip.

 

1. Aldi Is Part of the Family

Trader Joe's was founded in 1967 in Pasadena, Calif., by entrepreneur Joe Coloumbe. It was acquired in 1979 by Aldi Nord, a German company that also operates Aldi grocery stores in Europe. Aldi Nord's sister company, Aldi Sud, operates Aldi stores in the U.S.

Despite the corporate ties, the two chains have distinct marketing strategies. Aldi is price-driven and undercuts competitors by selling cheaper private-label versions of the most popular items at traditional supermarkets, says Jon Springer, retail editor for Supermarket News. Trader Joe's also aims for affordability, but its driving force is uniqueness. It focuses on its own line of mostly prepackaged products in unusual flavor combinations that you won't find anywhere else.

 

2. There Are No Sales or Coupons

Most supermarket chains put select items on sale every week. But at Trader Joe's, what you see is what you get when it comes to price, says Jeanette Pavini, a savings expert for Coupons.com. That means you won't find any Trader Joe's deals listed in your Sunday circulars.

The grocer claims that because it already offers the lowest prices it can every day, there's no room for sales, specials or coupons. To test this claim, we compared the price of Speculoos Cookie Butter (Trader Joe's most popular item) with that of a similar cookie spread found at Target. At a Trader Joe's we visited in the Washington, D.C., area, the Speculoos Cookie Butter cost $3.69 for a 14-ounce jar. At a nearby Target, the same-size container of Lotus Biscoff Creamy Cookie Spread cost 30 cents more.

 

3. Eight Out of 10 Items Are Store Brands

Eighty percent of the products carried by Trader Joe's are store brands, says Alison Mochizuki, the company's director of public relations. These include items with the Trader Joe's, Trader Jose's and Trader Ming's labeling. The grocer says the heavy emphasis on store brands helps keep costs low because it buys direct from suppliers whenever possible (no middleman markup) and then passes the savings on to its customers. "Most stores charge their suppliers fees for putting an item on the shelf," Mochizuki adds. "This results in higher prices, so we don't do it."

Health-conscious customers should know that the company claims all of its store-branded food and drinks are free of artificial flavors, artificial preservatives, synthetic colors and genetically modified (GMO) ingredients.

 

4. Its Prices Aren't Always the Lowest

To find out whether Trader Joe's really does offer lower prices versus other stores, we visited one of its Washington, D.C.-area locations to do some comparison shopping. We looked at the cost of everyday essentials such as milk, fruits and vegetables, and priced them against similar items available at Whole Foods, an upscale grocer, and Aldi, a discount supermarket.

Despite Whole Foods' reputation for high prices, a half-gallon carton of its 365 brand organic whole milk cost $3.99, the same as a half-gallon of Trader Joe's brand organic milk. A 16-ounce bag of Trader Joe's brand organic baby carrots cost $1.99, while at Whole Foods and Aldi the same same-size package of organic baby carrots was $1.49. At Trader Joe's, a four-pound bag of navel oranges rang up for $3.49, while the same same-size bag of oranges cost only $1.99 at Aldi.

Another thing to keep in mind, says Cindy Livesey, founder of LivingRichWithCoupons.com, is that a lot of Trader Joe's produce items are prepackaged, which doesn't allow shoppers to choose how much they actually want to buy.

 

5. Products Come and Go From Store Shelves

It's easy to get attached to your favorite snack. Just be warned that at Trader Joe's those snacks might not be around forever. Petits Palmiers -- puffed pastry cookies that had been on Trader Joe's shelves since 2003 -- were discontinued in 2015 due to declining sales. Last year the company also dropped round sweet potato tortilla chips, which had been around since 2011, but quickly replaced them with new and improved sweet potato tortilla chips that are triangular in shape.

Trader Joe's rationale? Because store space is limited and new products are introduced every week, items that don't catch on quickly with customers are wasting valuable real estate. Besides poor sales, Trader Joe's says a product might be discontinued if it's seasonal or if the cost of producing it increases significantly.

 

6. You Can Sample Anything Before Buying It

If you see something that piques your interest, but aren't totally sure you'll like it, Trader Joe's allows customers to have a taste on the house. Seriously. Simply ask an employee to open up whatever it is you're considering purchasing, so you can try a small sample before forking over your hard-earned cash. If you don't like it, you don't have to buy it.

Trader Joe's also has a no-questions-asked return policy. If you purchase something, try it at home and decide you don’t like it, simply bring whatever you haven't eaten back to your local store for a full refund.

 

7. Checking Out Can Take a While

You might need to set aside more time for a trip to Trader Joe's than you would a stop at your local supermarket. Depending on when you shop, you may very well experience an especially long wait in the checkout line, says Lauren Greutman, founder of IAmThatLady.com, a blog about frugal living.

While doing our comparison shopping, we made three separate trips to Trader Joe's. The first was on a weekend and, as you might expect, it was packed. The checkout line on a Saturday afternoon snaked through the store, and it took 25 minutes to reach a cashier. The second visit was mid-afternoon on a Thursday, and the wait at checkout was less than five minutes. We went back on Thursday night, about an hour before closing time, and again the wait was just five minutes.

The lesson: If you're in a hurry or need to do a big shop, go during off-peak hours. Trader Joe's tends to be busiest on weekdays right after work and on weekends. If you can, shop early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the crowds.

 

8. A Ringing Bell Means Help Is on the Way

Unlike most supermarkets that use intercoms to summon assistance, Trader Joe's has a bell system. In keeping with its kitschy maritime theme (remember the plastic lobsters?), the grocer uses actual bells located near the checkout area to signal to employees that help is needed.

One ring lets employees know that another cash register needs to be opened. Two rings mean there are additional questions that need to be answered at the checkout area. Three rings signal that a manager is needed for further assistance. While this system may be a bit odd, shoppers seem to like the chain's eccentricities. Trader Joe's ranked number one in customer satisfaction among supermarket shoppers, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index's 2016 Retail Report. Publix was second, Aldi ranked third and Walmart finished last.

 

9. Stores Donate Unsold Food to Local Charities

While offering customers quality products is a top priority for Trader Joe's, so is giving back to the community. On its corporate website, Trader Joe's states that its "long running policy is to donate products that aren't fit for sale, but are safe for consumption."

Each store has a donation coordinator who is responsible for working with local food banks and soup kitchens to arrange daily donations. "Store crewmembers evaluate products every day and if they feel something isn't safe for consumption, they will not donate it," says Trader Joe's Mochizuki.

In 2016 , the grocery chain says it donated $341 million worth of products to charities across the country, up from the $321 million in goods Trader Joe’s donated the previous year.

 

10. No Trader Joe's Near You? Ask for One

If you're now curious about visiting a Trader Joe's only to find out that there isn't a store near you, you have some recourse. Potential shoppers interested in bringing a store to their area should visit the Request a TJ's in My City page on Trader Joe's website and fill out the short questionnaire.

While Trader Joe's can't guarantee it will open a store in every requested city, if consumer demand is high enough in a particular area management vows to give it serious consideration. In 2016, the grocer opened 17 new stores ranging in location from Westfield, N.J., to Bellevue, Wash., and has nine more stores scheduled to open later in 2017 ranging in location from Jacksonville, Fla., to San Diego.

 

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail  info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles. Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

10 Kirkland Products You Should Buy at Costco

Here is a nice article provided by Bob Niedt of Kiplinger:

 

By Bob Niedt, Online Editor | January 2017

 

Years back, retailers got wise to the ways of store brands. You know the drill: Grocers stock their shelves with food items packaged just for them, from pasta sauces to pinto beans. For most, gone are the days of those products signaling to customers that yes, they’re less expensive than national brands -- and less tasty. I’m looking at you, old-school A&P with your Ann Page line of goods. Rest in peace.

 

Even warehouse clubs are mastering the game, none better than Costco with its Kirkland Signature line, which includes traditional grocery-list staples as well as non-traditional items such as clothing and luggage. In fact, high marks from readers on the quality of Costco’s store brands helped the bulk retailer place sixth in Consumer Reports’ supermarkets ratings, behind Market Basket, Fareway, Trader Joe’s, Publix and, the No. 1 chain, Wegmans.

 

Costco has turned on its head the notion that a store brand is a notch below a national brand by using its coast-to-coast strength to strong-arm suppliers to put quality as well as value into its Kirkland Signature offerings. We took a closer look at 10 Kirkland Signature products getting accolades from customers and critics. You should check them out, too.

 

1. Kirkland Bacon

Consumer Reports actually ran a “bacon test program” and saved Costco’s bacon, so to speak. The respected publisher and product tester awarded its highest score, based on flavor and texture, to the Kirkland Signature brand of regular sliced bacon. In Consumer Reports’ own words, the sliced bacon you can find at Costco “crisped up nicely, with a balance of fat and meat flavors, complemented by wood smoke and a hint of sweetness.”

Oscar Mayer’s thick-cut bacon finished a distant second in testing.

2. Kirkland Batteries

We’ve long recommended buying batteries in bulk at warehouse clubs for the simple reason that you’ll pay a lot less per battery than you would buying smaller packages at supermarkets or drugstores. You’ll save even more at Costco if you opt for its store-branded batteries. While the Kirkland Signature AA Alkaline batteries tested by Consumer Reports didn’t beat out Duracell or Rayovac on quality alone, Costco batteries did earn the coveted “Best Buy” rating, which is based on a combination of quality and value.

3. Kirkland Beer

Yup, beer. And beer aimed right at my sweet spot: light. None of those fancy craft beers. Kirkland Signature Light Beer is your basic watery light, with a hint of plain ol’ light beer taste, without Bud Light’s off-putting (in my opinion) aftertaste. We’ve seen it at very nice prices in 30- and 48-packs. Yes, please.

In fairness, Kirkland’s heartier handcrafted ales rate higher on BeerAdvocate.com, but I’ll stand by the light stuff.

4. Kirkland Coffee

Consumer Reports plugs Kirkland Signature Colombian Supremo whole bean coffee as a “Best Buy,” noting the medium-dark roast has a chocolate edge, with a “hint of dried fruit and some burnt notes.” The review went on to say that the coffee is “moderately bitter” (a good thing) despite exhibiting “a trace of woodiness” (a bad thing, apparently). They already lost me at bitter.

A handful of Colombian coffees scored much higher on taste, including a couple of coffee lines from Whole Foods, but none could compete with Kirkland’s price.

5. Kirkland Ice Cream

At $11 for two half-gallons, it’s a bit pricey in my world considering you can usually find a leading ice cream brand such as Breyers on sale at the supermarket for a lot less. Coupons can bring down the supermarket price even more. (Costco doesn’t accept manufacturers’ coupons.) Still, Costco’s Kirkland Signature Super Premium Vanilla Ice Cream earned a “Best Buy” rating from Consumer Reports, which called it “full and dense with big dairy flavor and complex vanilla-extract flavor,” though “sometimes slightly gummy.”

Vanilla ice creams from Ben & Jerry’s and Haagen-Dazs scored far higher than Kirkland’s, based on flavor and texture, but you’ll shell out a lot more for both of those brands. Further proof that you get what you pay for: Even though you can find it cheaper, Breyers scored much lower than Kirkland in taste testing.

6. Kirkland Golf Balls

Golfers got giddy over Costco’s new line of golf balls, so much that they sold out, were restocked – and sold out again right before Christmas. What’s the what? Kirkland Signature Four-Piece Urethane Cover Golf Balls are getting compared by the pros to the vaunted Pro V1 golf balls from Titleist, according to Golf Digest.

As of the first week of January, Costco’s hot new line was still listed as out of stock on Costco’s website. When you can find them, the balls come 24 to a pack, selling for $30. Dick’s Sporting Goods is selling a 12-pack of last season’s Titleist Pro V1 golf balls for $40.

7. Kirkland Greek Yogurt

Sour cream notes and slightly chalky texture,” opined Consumer Reports in its comparison of Kirkland Signature Greek Yogurt (plain, nonfat) to like brands, and noted it was the “best tasting nonfat.” It landed a “Best Buy” label. Fage scored higher than Kirkland on taste, but you’ll pay nearly twice the price for the brand-name yogurt.

If you’re a Walmart shopper, the big-box retailer’s Great Value Greek Yogurt trailed Kirkland yogurt only slightly in both taste and cost.

8. Kirkland Olive Oil

Costco’s olive oil rises to the top, notes the University of California, Davis, which conducted a chemical and sensory study of olive oils. Kirkland Signature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil was one of only a few imported oils that met international and U.S. standards for extra virgin olive oil. The many brands that fell short in the testing were diluted with cheaper oils and exhibited problems with quality and flavor.

9. Kirkland Salmon

I’ll put it up front: While I eat no fish or seafood (or much meat, for that matter), friends and family swear by the freshness, taste and bargain price (compared to Whole Foods and elsewhere) of Kirkland Signature Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon. The fillets come individually wrapped, and a three-pound package of salmon runs about $29. A recent check found wild caught Coho salmon fillets selling for $17 a pound at a Whole Foods in Northern Virginia.

10. Kirkland Vodka

Wine snobs are already familiar with Kirkland Signature wines, but spirits snobs might still be in the dark about Costco’s store-brand booze. Costco isn’t allowed to sell liquor in all its stores; many states limit the warehouse club to beer and wine. But some states do give the green light to Costco selling liquor, and its vodka is a hands-down winner, raves Bon Appetit.

I stumbled upon Kirkland Signature Vodka while shopping at a Costco on Florida’s Gulf Coast last fall. Not that I’m so into vodka, but I do know good from bad. Kirkland’s vodka ranks up there with my American fav, Tito’s.

 

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles. Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

8 Things You Must Know About Grocery Shopping at Publix

Here is a nice article provided by Rebecca Dolan of Kiplinger:

 

By Rebecca Dolan, Online Community Editor | February 2017

 

If you’re going grocery shopping in Florida, you’re probably headed to Publix. With more than 750 locations, the regional chain isn’t just ubiquitous across the Sunshine State, it is popular, too. The grocer ranks #2 (and has done so for four straight years) in research firm Market Force Information’s annual “loyalty index” that measures shopper satisfaction; in 2016, only Wegmans, which doesn’t operate any stores in Florida, ranked higher.

 

Based in Lakeland, Fla., Publix is the largest employee-owned grocery chain in the U.S.-- it has more than 350 locations outside Florida, for a total of 1,100 -- and it is one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For. If you’re not from the Southeast and have ever wondered what all the Publix fuss is about, you may soon get a chance to see for yourself. The chain is slowly migrating up the East Coast, with 12 new Virginia locations planned for late 2017 and beyond.

 

Find out what Floridians have known for ages. Here are eight things you need to know about shopping at Publix.

 

1. You Can Save Big With Coupons

If you’re a coupon clipper, you’ll get more mileage at your local Publix. “Publix has a very generous coupon policy compared with so many other grocery retailers across the country,” says Josh Elledge, chief executive of SavingsAngel.com, a money-savings website.

Manufacturer’s coupons, internet coupons and coupons from nearby competitors are good at Publix. (Look for a list of acceptable competitors at your local store.) Publix also allows you to “stack” your coupons, using more than one coupon per item, including a competitor’s coupon.

“The best deals almost always involve stacking multiple discounts,” says Elledge. “If you can stack a BOGO [buy one, get one] sale, a manufacturer’s coupon and a store coupon, you just might walk out of Publix with your groceries at 80% off or better.”

Filling a prescription? The Publix pharmacy also accepts prescription coupons from all local retail pharmacies.

2. It May Not Be the Cheapest Grocery Store In Town

Hold on to all of those coupons -- you might need them.

We compared prices for a basket of store-brand grocery items -- including a jar of peanut butter, a jar of pasta sauce, a box of spaghetti, a can of tuna, a half-gallon of milk, a cup of plain yogurt, one dozen grade A eggs and a bag of frozen corn -- at a Publix, Trader Joe’s and Walmart in the Jacksonville, Fla., area. Total cost: $12.30 at Publix, $11.62 at Trader Joe’s and $9.24 at Walmart.

A similar exercise conducted by Charlotte Observer reporters as Publix expanded in North Carolina in 2014 revealed Publix to be about 2% cheaper than Harris Teeter but 20% more expensive than Walmart.

3. Publix Makes It Easy to Locate Items

There’s no need to wander the aisles at every location in town if you’re looking for, say, a specific type of cake mix for Junior’s birthday party. Publix, as do some other grocers such as Wegmans, makes it easy to see if your preferred location stocks a specific item before you leave the house. Check the Publix online product catalog, which lists products that are carried by each store.

Already at your local Publix? Use the store’s app to identify the aisle in which any item you seek is located.

4. You Can Return Anything

Yes, even if it has already been brought home and opened. Food, too. That’s the Publix guarantee: “If for any reason a customer is not satisfied with their purchase, he/she can return the item and we will cheerfully refund them the entire purchase price,” says Maria Brous, director of media and community relations for Publix.

5. The Shelf Tags Are Written In Code

At Publix, those little tags under each item are meant to do much more than simply relay the price of each item. Using a variety of icons – look for the colored circles – the labels will tell you such things as if the item is organic or made with organic ingredients; if the product is made without artificial preservatives, flavors or colors; if the item is eligible for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) funds; and if the item is eligible for flexible spending account (FSA) funds.

6. The Deli Will Make You A Sandwich Your Way

If there’s one thing that makes Publix so beloved among its devotees, it’s the made-to-order deli sandwiches. The menu of “Pub subs” includes typical cold-cut options, as well as subs featuring the store’s popular chicken tenders.

But the staff will make a sandwich out of anything in the deli area, including the vast array of prepared salads or cold cuts not listed on the menu. This sandwich-lover’s secret isn’t advertised in stores or online, but Publix’s Brous says: “Publix is all about customer service. And, yes, our deli associates are known to go that extra mile to make our customers happy.” So go forth and design the sub of your dreams.

7. New Parents and Pet Owners Can Enjoy Extra Savings

Whether you’re a new parent or a pet parent, there’s a savings club for you. Join the free Publix Baby Club to score coupons on baby products (until a child turns two), as well as a free copy of the book Caring for Your Baby and Young Child for first timers.

If your child is of the furry variety, there’s also the Publix Paws club. Members receive monthly coupons for pet food, toys, treats and more. You’ll also get a heads-up on sales of pet products.

8. There's No Savings Club

Unlike other grocers, Publix does not offer a loyalty card that triggers extra savings at checkout on select items. “We do not have a loyalty program, as we believe every customer should be entitled to the same shopping experience,” says Brous. “[Publix is] all about saving our customers money with our programs, including our weekly BOGOs… and competitive pricing.”

 

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles. Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.