Things To Do For Settling Your Dues

You are in the process of settling your dues. With the passage of time, what you find is that the debt burden is increasing. But since you are suffering from a financial crisis, there is little that you can do to overcome the debt-prone situation. Things have come to such a pass, that now and then, you have a creditor harassing you for the clearance of due. Under such a circumstance, what should you do? It is high time that you start working out a settlement with the respective creditors. It is important that you, as well as, the creditor come to a mutually workable agreement, with one another.

Seek professional help

You may be in the two minds to initiate a negotiation. In that case, you can seek obligation free help from the industry experts. The latter not only has the skills of negotiations but also knows how to release your monetary burden so that you can have a smooth sailing ride through the odds and ends. So, if you are afraid of going it alone with your moneylenders and creditors, you can solicit the guidance of the professionally knowledgeable companies that seek to relieve you from debts. Such companies represent your side and bring out the precariousness of your monetary situations.

A link of connection

The purpose of these companies is to serve as a link of connection between you, on the one hand, and the creditor, you owe on the other. If you owe money to multiple sources; then these companies serve as the common link of connection. As said previously, the purpose of the mediating company is to help arrive at a mutually compatible solution. The expert mediators will take the initiative to review the terms and conditions of payment. Then, they will review your financial needs and specifications. The factors that are deterring you from making the clearance will also be analyzed. You get help from these companies by getting credit card loan consolidation in order to make your life go smooth.

Reaches out to the creditor

All through the process, the mediating party will make it a point to keep the creditor informed. As a result, the creditor may think of renewing the terms and conditions of payment. That’s because he will have the assurance that the debt you owe him will be cleared if he relaxes the terms and conditions. The debt relieving company will also drive home the fact that you are willing to pay. But at the same time, the creditor will like to be aware and informed of your modality of repayment. In this context, it is worth noting that Bill consolidation loans are extended from the time to time, by the debt releasing facilities.

Usage of the loan

You can use the lump sum money that you get as a loan, to your advantage. Consequently, you will come to an agreement with the creditor that after a fixed time-span, you will clear your dues with the money that you have received as the loan. If you don’t have the loan; you will use the time span to save the amount, with which you will clear out the dues. But now that you know, that the money you were planning to save will come to you as the loan; you can think of consolidating your debt in terms of one-time payment.

Overwhelming Role And Relevance Of The Debt Releasing Facility

You have not yet decided whether to take the help of a debt relief facility. You are yet to be sure about their scope of operation. In this context, it is worth noting that the so-called debt reduction service can guide you through the path of settlement. In the process of settlement, the mediating party tries to thrash out a deal with your creditor in such a way that you end up paying for a balance amount that is lower than usual. Here, the debt releasing facility uses its negotiation skill to your advantage.

The beneficial aspects

You also have a proactive role to play, in this whole scenario. But if you are working with a debt-reducing facility, you can avail of the necessary guidance. For instance, you will know how to set aside money, on a regular basis. In the meantime, the facility tries hard to bargain, on your behalf, so that you have the newly revamped terms and conditions. So, when it is successful in lowering the balance, you can chip in with the money that you have saved. In this way, you will know that at least, you have been a success in achieving clearance from the debt.

Points to note

You can click here to know the details of the debt settlement process. In the course of the settlement process, when the company is trying its best to lower the balance due; you are not expected to pay a fee. You are expected to pay, only after the successful negotiation of debt has taken place. Do bear in your mind, that all along the process your credit score is likely to be affected. So, the sooner you clear out your dues, the better it is going to be on your credit score.

The next alternative

It may so happen that the process of settlement fails. In that case, the mediating company will think in terms of providing you with a consolidated solution. What you basically do in the process of consolidation is pay off all your dues, all at once, or in the fixed term of installments with the help of a loan. The question that comes up next is where will you get the loan? Here again, the debt-releasing company proves to be a great source of assistance. It will provide you with the loan package, which you can thus use for clearing your dues.

One more option

With consolidation, you can reduce the numbers of payment because the settlement is thrashed out in one single mode of payment. Generically speaking, the company takes note of your monetary situation and customizes a debt relief package that suits your needs. It all boils down to fixing up the most appropriate debt-reduction program. For instance, in some cases, the facility may collect money from you, on a monthly basis. The money that has been pooled in then goes to the creditor. All along this process, you need not fear about facing the harassment of the anxious creditors because you know that the debt releasing facility is doing its bit to pull you out of the doldrums.

Options To Rely On For Debt Relief

You are knee deep in debt. But you happen to be the only breadwinner of your family. It is imperative that you overcome the debt-ridden scenario. All said and done; you know not how to steer clear of the stress-prone situation. It is a fact that you have the common day-to-day bills to clear, the family expenses to provide for. But at the same time, you have the mounting burden of debt to clear. At the back of your mind, you know the truth, and that is adding to your worries. You know that the money you owe is lots more than what you have been earning.

Make a plan

The situation looks bleak, but you should know how to find the alternate means and options. First, it is important to take stock of the situation. There are two basic questions to answer. First, is how much do you owe? Secondly, how much can you clear out? Create a spreadsheet that includes the essentials. The sheet that you have created should basically include the creditor’s name, the due date for payment, the amount you owe, and that which you will be able to clear out. Enter the least minimum amount that you can possibly pay to the creditor. In this way, you are at least, figuring out what to do, under the given scenario.

Get the supportive documents

The fact that you have the pen-picture of the entire scenario (your debt-ridden situation) proves to be advantageous. The next thing that you should do is gather documents that testify to your monetary crisis. These documents together with the spreadsheets will justify the precariousness of your situation. As a result, when you give a call to the creditors, they will come to know where exactly you lag behind. It is important that creditors understand the gravity of your financial crisis.

Seek the support of creditors

At your end, you should leave no stone unturned in soliciting the support of creditors. Calling creditors and briefing them about your situation is one of the things to do. The next that you should try to do is come into an agreement with the relevant creditors. It all boils down to providing your creditor with options. See if the creditor is ready to accept the same. For instance, you can request the creditor to reduce the rate. It may so happen that you are unable to manage an interest rate of fifteen percent. In that case, you can request the creditor so that he brings the rate down to twelve percent.

Seek professional help

Secondly, you can also request the creditor to provide you with a zero period of payment where you will have no loan repayment to make. The period granted as the timeout may cover two to three months. You can use the timeout thus granted for the purpose of reorganizing your finance. It takes quite a bit of patient and expertise to negotiate a favorable deal with the creditors. So, what you can do is click here for guidance and assistance. The professionally competent debt management site seeks to provide you with clues, cuts, and guidance so that you know how to battle out the woes of a debt-ridden scenario.

Stores Where You Can Almost Always Find a Discount

Inside A Gap Inc. Store As Earnings Figures Are Released

If you’re the kind of person who likes deals, then you’re in luck, because there are some stores that almost always offer mega-discounts to customers. As long as you know where to look, you can buy what’s in your shopping cart without doing too much damage to your bank account.

We might actually have the Great Recession to thank for these plentiful discounts. When the economy was struggling a few years ago, retailers started trying all kinds of tactics to get people shopping again. Sample sales and daily deal sites sprang up everywhere. While those types of sites are far less plentiful now that the economy has stabilized a bit, one thing that hasn’t changed is that retailers are still coupon crazy. Stores that once would rarely offer coupons now offer them constantly.

Some say that in response to the coupons, the retailers have actually raised their prices and thus are breaking even, and perhaps that is the case. What I do know is that regardless of the retailers’ intent, there are some stores where the coupons are so plentiful that it would be unwise to shop without one.
Here are five stores where you will never want to pay full price online. Just be sure to always look for any coupon codes you need to enter before checking out to take advantage of all available discounts. Sometimes it can also pay to be patient and wait for sales to roll around if you happen to be shopping at a time when the sales codes are sparse.

1. J.Crew. J.Crew has steadily gotten more expensive throughout the years, but over the past couple of years, they’ve been releasing coupons nearly as often as the other retailers on this list. You can normally find a J.Crew coupon at least once a week. Sometimes it will be an extra percentage discount on their sale section while other times it will be 25 to 30 percent off full-priced items. (Sometimes you might get really lucky and also score free shipping.)

In addition to using a web search to find any available coupon codes, you can also search for “free shipping” and “J.Crew” in case any additional discount codes pop up.

2. Ann Taylor. I’ve never once looked at the Ann Taylor website and not found a coupon available. If you don’t see one on the day you are order, come back the next day. Just check the website for any coupon codes and enter them at checkout. You can also check popular sites like RetailMeNot for listed sales.

3. The Body Shop. I remember being a teenager and not being allowed to shop at The Body Shop because it was too expensive. These days they frequently offer 50 percent off site-wide deals, as well as buy one get one deals. Additionally, discounted vouchers for The Body Shop regularly pop up on Groupon. When you visit the website, be sure to look under the “Offers” section. You can find everything from free ground shipping to two for one deals.

4. Kohl’s. There are so many ways to save at Kohl’s these days. In addition to the store’s regular coupons that can usually save you anywhere from 15 to 25 percent (sometimes 30 percent if you have a Kohl’s charge card), be on the lookout for their Gold Star Clearance Days when prices get heavily slashed, and you can almost always earn $10 in Kohl’s Cash for every $50 spent. Kohl’s Cash can then be used on your next $10 and up purchase. Of course, the holiday season is prime time for the deepest discounts, so when you’re out hunting for other people’s gifts, be sure to look out for yourself, too.

5. Gap. There are maybe one to two days each week when you will not find a Gap coupon listed on their website. Gap sends out near-daily emails with new codes. In addition to the frequent online codes, coupons are frequently released for Gap Outlet. You might also receive “GapCash” to spend on your next visit if you make a big purchase. It’s so enticing that you might have to stop yourself from buying items you don’t need just to nab the discounts.

If you head to any of these sites and are unable to find a coupon highlighted be sure to check out a coupon aggregator site such as retailmenot.com for any available codes.

Don’t Raid Your Retirement Account to Pay for the Holidays

santa claus holding piggy bank...
Americans will spend more than they planned this holiday season, especially the case for parents buying their children presents. And they know it — resigning themselves to a fate of profligate consumerism.

That’s the gist of a recent study from T. Rowe Price, titled “2015 Parents, Kids & Money.” In it, the financial services giant states 62 percent of parents say, “I’ll spend more for my kids over the holidays than I should have.” And though 56 percent of parents will tap their bank account to pay for the holidays, some 47 percent will rely primarily on credit cards in a November and December shopping spree, the report adds. Most troubling, a small minority of parents will raid their retirement accounts and their emergency funds to pay for holiday shopping.

That’s not a good idea, financial experts say.

“It’s always tempting to splurge around the holidays, but parents aren’t doing themselves or their kids any favors by overspending,” says Stuart Ritter, a senior financial planner at T. Rowe Price. “We’re all inclined to be more generous this time of year, and it’s important to be mindful of the financial trade-offs we’re making and stick to a budget that aligns with our priorities.”

That’s all well and good, but a holiday splurge should be weighed against more pressing personal financial needs.

“Our long-term goals, such as retirement savings and having an emergency fund, should always take priority over anything that is presented with a bow and purchased during a Black Friday sale,” Ritter adds. “Kids will always have long wish lists, and it’s good for them to know that there isn’t enough money in the family budget to cover everything. Challenging them to prioritize their wants and make trade-offs is essential to helping them develop critical financial capabilities.”

T. Rowe Price reports acrimony comes part and parcel with excessive holiday spending. “Parents who overspend on holiday purchases are more likely to argue,” the report states. “50 percent of the parents who overspent on the holidays argue about money with their spouse, while only 27 percent of parents who did not overspend argue about money with their spouse.”

To keep a firm grip on spending over the next six weeks, leave the credit cards at home, or far away from any digital device you might use, to pay for the holidays.

“Try using cash for most of your purchases,” says Christopher McGill, chief executive officer at East River Bank in Philadelphia. “People who use it spend more wisely and are more accountable.”

Also, have a strict sending plan in place before you embark on any holiday shopping excursions, online and offline. “Keep your impulses in check by doing your homework before you shop, browse, and buy,” says Kristina Michniak, global apparel manager at Greensburg, Pennsylvania-based Spreadshirt. “Set your budgets and timelines before you switch to shop mode before you are sucked in by holiday ads, promos, and pressures.”

Steve Siebold, author of the book “How Rich People Think” advises consumers not to fall for marketing campaigns that make you feel as if you’re getting a great deal when you’re really not (i.e., buy it today — pay for it tomorrow). “Also, allocate a certain amount of money for each person you plan on buying gifts for and don’t overspend by even a dollar,” he adds. “Don’t even think of using a credit card unless you are 100 percent sure you can comfortably pay it off at the end of the month. Don’t get caught up in the moment. If your shopping cart is overflowing, step back, regroup and make sure you can really afford everything you plan to purchase.”

When the holidays are over, plan way ahead for 2016 and set up a savings plan for next Christmas, thus cushioning any potential financial blow down the road.

“After the holidays, set up a separate savings account for your holiday season 2016, and put money from every paycheck into a savings account separate from all other money for next year,” says Julie Murphy Casserly, a certified financial planner and author of the book “The Emotion Behind Money.” “So, if you want to spend $1,200 in December 2016, and you’re paid two times per month, then take $50 per check and put it into the separate savings account.”

Electronic savings accounts are the best for this tactic, Casserly says.

If you do overspend for the holidays, you’re not alone. Even so, it doesn’t have that to be that way. Stay within your budget and you’ll still have a great time during the holidays.

3 Real Life Reasons to Get a Credit Card Right Now

young woman shopping online...

A recent survey indicates that just 61 percent of millennials have at least one credit card. This makes some sense given that new laws about marketing credit to people under the age of 21 have gone into effect in recent years. But now that most millennials are in their young adulthood, we should expect to see those number rise in the coming years. At least I hope so!

Credit cards get a bad name and it’s not entirely undeserved. Some credit is designed to get people caught up in a never ending cycle of borrowing and repayment. We all know someone buried in debt, with little hope of ever digging their way out. Having grown up in the post-Recession world, many millennials are paranoid about taking on debt of any kind.

The thing is, some debt is necessary to build the kind of financial life that most of the readers of this post will want to have. One of the best ways to move in this direction is to have one or more credit cards. Doing so can help you in the following ways.

1. You need credit to borrow money in real life situations. There are some financial advisers in pop culture (who will remain unnamed) who recommend that their listeners never get a credit card at all. Instead, these talking heads talk about the power of cash and spin stories about buying new cars with briefcases of big bills. Almost nobody can live out this fantasy. Most of us start with very little money and very little income. To make necessary purchases in life (a car, a house, a business expense), we’ll have to borrow.

Unless we’ve demonstrated to creditors that we have the ability to pay our debts back responsibly, we’ll be unlikely to find a lender to give us money. Those that do give us a loan will likely charge us very high interest rates, just in case we don’t pay back the loan. After all, we have no credit history to show that we’re honest and trustworthy with borrowed money. A credit card is a simple way to show that you can handle a little bit of credit. You don’t have to spend more money just because you have a credit card. Open the account, use it, pay it off quickly, never carry a balance if you can help it and you’ll start to build immaculate credit which will result in cheaper money for those times when you absolutely need to borrow.

2. A credit card gives you another way to approach spending. While it’s important to spend less than you earn, there are times in life when you’ll need to spend on credit. Maybe you work for yourself and you’re waiting for an invoice to be filled, but you’ve got to pay your electric bill. Maybe you need to reserve some money in your bank account while you cover an unusual purchase with your credit card.

Furthermore, there will come a time when you’ll have an emergency you need to cover (you’re broken down on the side of the road, you need to change your flight at the airport, you need to break up your emergency room bill into a few monthly payments rather than a lump sum). Personal finance can get complex and anyone serious about it has found times when a credit card comes in handy. You should always pay off a balance as fast as possible, but there are some times in life when a credit card is indispensable. If you have a solid emergency fund in place, this plays really well with the convenience of credit card spending.

3. Credit cards give you rewards when you use them. Credit card companies like when you use their product. It’s how they make their money, so the more you spend, the better for them. This is why they provide rewards for big users. Rewards have been known to ensnare people in debt cycles, but if you use a credit card for necessary purchases, then pay it off with cash, you can get all the benefits of good rewards with none of the downsides. For people who like to travel internationally, like to eat at awesome restaurants, or enjoy seeing sporting events in person, this is a great method to take advantage of the best perks. Do some research about a credit card that kicks off rewards for stuff you’re interested in. This might be a good first card for you.

You don’t have to use a credit card even if you open up an account. Simply having a credit account open for a long time works wonders for your credit score. So, at the very least, simply open up a single credit card, put it in a box and never think about it again.

Secured credit cards are another way to open up a first credit account without fear of going into debt. Whatever you choose, having a credit card that you don’t use is better than nothing. Read up, sign up and enjoy the benefits of your own credit card. It’s part of being an adult and it’ll help you a lot in the future if you use it right.

Is Relocating for Cheaper Rent Worth It?

moving boxes guitar flower...
If there’s one thing all renters worry about, it’s how much they’re paying for rent. While most financial experts agree that the amount you pay monthly should be less than a third of your monthly income, young renters with entry-level salaries sometimes have a tough time paying less than half of what they make.

This is especially true in big cities. For example, take San Francisco: The median rental rate for a one-bedroom is $3,931 a month, according to Rent.com data, and the census says the per capita income is $48,846. Let’s do some quick math: The cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment for 12 months in San Francisco at the median rate is $47,172 — or 97 percent of the per capita income for the city.

With rent prices going up across the country, many apartment dwellers are questioning whether paying so much is even worth it. While many people would never give up a great location downtown — even though they’re paying a few thousand more each year — others may wonder if moving farther away from cities for cheaper rent could help them create a more fulfilling lifestyle. So, what do you think? Is relocating to give yourself a financial break worth it? Here are some tips to help you decide.

Think about the other side of the coin. If you’re considering relocating to a smaller city, town, suburb, or a less expensive neighborhood, you’re likely considering the benefits. And these advantages are nothing to scoff at, either:Paying less for rent means more money for necessities, entertainment, savings and retirement. In turn, this means less financial stress overall. For most people, that would be a huge weight lifted.

However, before taking the plunge and relocating, it’s crucial to look at the flip side of the coin. You know what you’re gaining, but what might you be giving up? A great location with a lot of things to do nearby? Living in the same city as your friends or family members? Being a quick jaunt away from work on public transit? These factors should be considered.

Give the commute a try. For many, relocating to pay less in rent means lengthening their commute substantially. Some people in this situation opt to find another job, while others choose to commit to the long commute. However, it can be easy to underestimate the toll of this longer trip from home to work.
Tacking on an extra 45 minutes to and from work takes almost two hours out of your day. Before committing to the relocation, give the commute a try and see how long it will realistically take. Will you be able to handle it daily if you decide to move?

Ask friends and relatives. It’s never a bad idea to talk to your friends and relatives about whether relocating is right for you. In particular, try to talk to someone who lives in the city or town where you’re considering relocating. Does he or she think the move will be worth it? Is it a place he or she could see you flourishing?

Do some exploring. If you do decide to relocate, what will you miss most about where you currently live? If you live in a big city, spend some time exploring your favorite places and neighborhoods, and really think about whether you would miss having easy access to them.

Then, explore areas of the city you don’t know as well. Walk around neighborhoods that are less expensive than where you’re currently living, and see what they have to offer. Maybe you’ll find that relocating to a neighborhood that doesn’t cost quite as much is a good compromise.

Don’t forget to consider the costs of moving. Moving isn’t cheap, so taking all your belongings to a new city or town is probably going to cost you a pretty penny. Whether you hire movers or try to do the whole move yourself, you’ll likely drop at least a few hundred dollars on packing and transporting everything, and even more applying for a new apartment and putting down a security deposit.

If the amount of rent you pay drastically decreases, these moving expenses will balance out over the first few months following your move — but you’ll need to make sure you have some money saved to cover the upfront costs.

Consider your quality of life. All the tips outlined above are really just about weighing the pros and cons of relocating. In the end, a move out of a city is right for some people and not for others. Consider what you’ll be giving up if you relocate, and decide if paying less in rent each month is worth that loss. If you think moving will give you a better quality of life overall, then what are you waiting for? Take the plunge, and do what you know is right for you.

Thanksgiving: The Cost of Cooking vs. Takeout vs. Dining Out

Rustic Thankgiving Dinner
Thanksgiving is a time for friends and families to share a festive meal and reflect on their blessings. Along with that comes the expectation of a full-on turkey dinner, not to mention the stress associated with planning, spending, and cooking. But hosts have options besides preparing a meal from scratch: carry out from a commercial eatery or grocery store, organize a potluck or dine at a restaurant.

Believe it or not, the alternatives are easier on the wallet. In a comparative price check, Cheapism.com found that a home-cooked meal for eight rang up at $13.20 a person compared with $10 for restaurant takeout, $11.25 for grocery store takeout, and $11.99 for an adult restaurant meal.

Takeout

Many restaurants and grocery stores offer prepared meals that include everything needed to satisfy Thanksgiving cravings. A quick survey of takeout menus and prices at several national chains found that a Thanksgiving meal with all the fixings can be procured for about $10 a person.

Takeout From a Restaurant

National chain Bob Evans charges $79.99 for a complete turkey dinner for eight ($10 a person). Four can enjoy a similar repast for $49.99 ($12.50 a person).

  • Roasted turkey breast or sliced boneless ham (4 lbs.)
  • Bread and celery dressing (40 oz.)
  • Green beans with ham (40 oz.)
  • Buttered sweet corn (40 oz.)
  • Mashed potatoes with gravy (40 oz. potatoes/32 oz. gravy)
  • Cranberry relish (12 oz.)
  • Rolls (12)
  • Pumpkin bread loaf
  • Pumpkin pie with topping

Takeout From a Grocery Store

The Kroger supermarket chain offers the “supreme” Thanksgiving dinner, which serves eight, for $89.99 ($11.25 a person).

  • Roasted turkey (13-16 lbs.)
  • Mashed potatoes (two 24-oz. containers)
  • Stuffing (two 32-oz. containers)
  • Turkey gravy (two 24-oz. containers)
  • Cranberry celebration (two 16-oz. containers)
  • Dinner rolls (two 12-count packages)

Takeout From a Grocery Store (Express)

Kroger also offers just the essentials for six diners, which lowers the price to $49.99 ($8.33 a person). When planning the budget, remember to factor in a few homemade side dishes and dessert to round out the meal.

  • Roasted turkey (10-13 lbs.)
  • Mashed potatoes (24 oz.)
  • Stuffing (32 oz.)
  • Turkey gravy (24 oz.)
  • Dinner rolls (12)

Dining Out

To avoid meal prep and cleanup entirely, eating out is the way to go. The price is about the same as takeout for adults, and considerably less for children. Many restaurants offer kids’ meals at a savings of about $5. A Thanksgiving meal at the Cracker Barrel chain costs $11.99 for adults and $6.99 for children (tip and tax not included).

  • Turkey and gravy
  • Cornbread dressing
  • Sugar-cured ham
  • Sweet potato casserole
  • Cranberry relish
  • Choice of country side
  • Biscuits or corn muffins
  • Slice of pumpkin pecan streusel pie with real whipped cream
  • Beverage

Cooking From Scratch

Surprisingly, a Thanksgiving meal from scratch is the most expensive. Based on full prices for Kroger store brands, the grocery bill for eight people eating a complete turkey dinner at home totals $105.59 ($13.20 a person). Halve the number of guests and the price comes to $65.91 ($16.48 a person).

  • Turkey (16 lbs.): $25.44
  • Mashed potatoes/gravy: $15.41
  • Stuffing: $12.01
  • Green bean casserole: $8.86
  • Buttered corn: $4.14
  • Cranberry relish: $3.98
  • Pumpkin pie: $31.96
  • Rolls: $3.79

Savings Tips for Home Cooks

Raid the pantry before heading to the store, and keep an eye out for sales and savings that come with a loyalty card. Alternatively, purchase a pre-cooked turkey and the side dishes that are the costliest to make from scratch and prepare the rest of the feast in the kitchen. A no-frills takeout meal that includes mashed potatoes saves $10 for the ingredients, along with the time and effort required to boil and mash them. A store-bought pumpkin pie costs about $5 compared with nearly $15 to bake from scratch. Another money-saving idea: Delegate responsibilities by arranging a potluck. The host provides the turkey or ham and the guests contribute the fixings.

10 Money Steps to Take Before Your 70th Birthday

Plates of little iced cup cakes for a 70th birthday party UK
Our money needs — and demands — are constantly shifting as we age. By the time we reach our 60s, if we’ve planned well, we have a sizable nest egg that will support us into our older years as we scale back or stop work altogether. That doesn’t mean it’s time to take a hands-off approach to money, however. In fact, many financial advisers say the pre-retirement years comprise a critical period when it comes to making investing, spending and saving decisions.

“Everyone faces financial challenges at different points in life. The older you get, the less wiggle room you have, with fewer options to right your past wrongs,” says Erika Safran, a certified financial planner and founder of Safran Wealth Advisors based in New York. Older adults should also be on guard against potential cognitive decline, financial abuse and increased costs associated with declining health, all while planning to make accumulated nest eggs last a lifetime.

To compile the following list of money steps to take before your 70th birthday, U.S. News asked members of the Financial Planning Association, a Denver-based organization with over 17,000 certified financial planners, to share their best tips. Here are their suggestions:

Review your current financial outlook. Safran suggests reviewing all of your current (and future) assets, income and expenses to make sure they are sustainable during retirement. If they aren’t, ask yourself what needs to be done, such as reducing debt, working for longer or paying off your mortgage. She urges people to budget conservatively for future costs, which might include additional health care or home upgrades and maintenance.

Map out any extra big expenses. If you’re planning to take a big trip to Machu Picchu, for example, then it makes sense to plan ahead for that expense, says Neal Van Zutphen,​ a certified financial planner in Tempe, Arizona. To figure out just how you might spend your time over the next decade, imagine life in your 70s and take time now to explore activities such as volunteering, mentoring or taking classes​ you might also enjoy later, he adds.

Lock down your estate plans. Consider your legacy, says Juan C. Ros,​ a certified financial planner at the Lamia Financial Group in Thousand Oaks, California. He suggests having not only a will and living trust in place, but also an advance directive for health care and power of attorney for finances. “Seniors approaching 70 should also double check their beneficiary designations in their company retirement plans, their individual retirement accounts, brokerage accounts, bank accounts and life insurance policies,” he suggests. He says he often notices clients have no beneficiaries or outdated ones listed.

Tell your adult children where important documents are located. Just in case you become incapacitated and need tohand over the reins to a family member, you’ll want to share the names of the financial professionals whom you work with, says Nivedita Persaud,​ a certified financial planner and managing director at Transition Planning & Guidance in Atlanta. On a similar note, she suggests using your smartphone to make short videos that share your money advice for your children and grandchildren. “It’s a great way to pass on financial literacy and values,” she says.

Consolidate retirement accounts. If you’ve amassed multiple retirement accounts throughout your career, as many people do, then it might be a good idea to consolidate them, says Taylor Schulte, ​certified financial planner and founder of Define Financial in San Diego. “When required minimum distributions begin at age 70½, clients are relieved when they only have to deal with one financial institution to calculate their [required minimum distributions] each year,” he says. “It also helps [them] simplify their life and feel more organized as they transition into retirement.”

Delay Social Security. If you think you’ll reach the average lifespan​ of 84 years (for men age 65 today) or 86 (for women age 65 today), according to the Social Security Administration, delaying Social Security until age 70 could pay off. You receive a higher monthly payout if you wait, explains Steve Burkett, ​a certified financial planner in Bothell, Washington. He adds that you might want to consider a Roth conversion if you are currently in a low income bracket because of retirement. “Consider locking in that tax rate and converting some IRA money to Roth IRA money, which will help you pay a lower tax rate now — and lower your future required minimum distributions subject to potentially higher future tax rates,” he says.

Keep investing. “Buy stocks to beat inflation,” says Scott Ranby, ​a certified financial planner at Kuhn Advisors in Denver. “Once you reach age 70, you’ve still got plenty of life ahead of you — some 14 to 16 years of life expectancy. Avoid the temptation to get overly conservative with your investments, and keep a good portion in stocks,” he says. That’s because stocks are more likely to stay ahead of inflation than cash or bonds, which can help you maintain your standard of living.

Start giving money away. If you begin formally gifting money to your children or grandchildren now, it could help reduce your family estate taxes in the long run, says Brian Power, a certified financial planner at Gateway Wealth Management in Westfield, New Jersey. “They most likely need the help,” he says, especially if adult children are in the high-cost years of raising a family.

Travel now. Yes, it’s expensive, but spending money on trips now can be a smart idea, too. “Your health may not always be with you in retirement, so don’t procrastinate big life experiences. Incorporate at least one bucket list item into your financial plan before you turn 70,” says Michael H. Baker, a certified financial planner based in Charlotte, North Carolina, who works primarily with baby boomers. ​

Spend time with those you love. On the same carpe diem note, Leslie Beck,​ a certified financial planner and principal at Compass Wealth Management in Wood Ridge, New Jersey, encourages clients to spend time with their grandchildren while they’re still relatively young and healthy. “The memories made will be precious,” she says.

Charities Push Giving Tuesday: Here’s How to Give Smartly

Dec. 22, 2010 - Modesto, California, U.S. - DARRYL BUSH/dbush@modbee.com - Finn Johnston, 4, of Modesto donates to the Salvation
Jim Wang and his family like to carve off some of the family holiday season budget for a great cause — giving to the needy.

So far, his creative way of doing so has helped changed his view of the holidays from receiving to giving.

“A few years ago, we started a charitable giving fund during a year we expected to be taxed heavily,” says Wang, a Pittsburgh resident who writes about personal finance for Wallethacks.com. “We contribute to it on a regular basis, so it’s part of our monthly budget. Then, at the end of each year, we recommend where a portion of those funds are donated. It never busts our budget because we make regular contributions and we can support our favorite organizations.”

The practice allows Wang and his family to give during the holidays on their own terms. “A good side benefit is that it gives us a good reason not to contribute to certain causes when friends and family ask us — we don’t have the available funds in our charitable giving fund but we’ll allocate it for next year,” he says.

That would make Wang a prime candidate for the newest theme day on the holiday map — “Giving Tuesday.”

Giving Tuesday, which occurs right after Cyber Monday, was founded in 2012 as a way to recognize the more than 1.5 million charities in the U.S. and kick-off giving season, during the last five weeks of the year when at least 24 percent of all charitable donations are made (which amounted to about $358 billion total in 2014).

U.S. companies are already climbing aboard the Giving Tuesday bandwagon. PayPal (PYPL), for example, is attempting a Guinness World Record for Giving Tuesday this year by going after the most money raised online for charity in 24 hours. Last year PayPal enabled a record amount of giving around the world by helping charities raise $5.7 billion through its charitable giving platform, company officials tell MainStreet.

The key for U.S. adults looking to cut a check or two on Giving Tuesday is obviously to help the less fortunate. Past that, you’ll want to give “in a smart and strategic way, maximizing every donation and doing so within your budget,” says Eileen Heisman, CEO of the National Philanthropic Trust and #GivingTuesdayambassador.

Actual charities love the idea. “Giving Tuesday reminds us to be selfless and share a bit of our own good fortune with those in need,” says Cristy Balcell, executive director at MitoAction, an organization dedicated to helping children and families who suffer from the rare disorder mitochondrial disease. “I know we appreciate Giving Tuesday’s national effort to join together.”

So flex your charitable giving muscles by participating on Giving Tuesday.

Start by using the website CharityNavigator.org to find the best and most legitimate charities. The site’s unbiased, objective, numbers-based ratings system to assess 8,000 of America’s charities.

CharityNavigator provides rating based on charity’s financial health, transparency and accountability, and it tracks how efficiently the charity will use your donation and how well has it sustained its programs and services over time.

Gift cards are also a great way to give to charities during the holidays. “There are two types of charitable gift cards,” states Shelley Hunter, a content manager at GiftCards.com. “The first is when a percentage of sale is given to charity. In this type, the recipient gets the full value of the gift card to spend. The charity gets a small portion. The second type of card results in the nearly the entire sale going to charity. The recipient simply designates where the money should go. This is a great way to do your holiday shopping and give back at the same time.”

Hunter offers a great list of charity-driven gift cards.

It’s also OK to get something in return when you donate to charity. “Look for acharity that offers something in return for your contribution, but be aware of where your dollars will go for that gift,” says Suzanne Kwok, executive director of Give To Cure, a charitable group that leverages crowd funding to raise funds to treat diseases. “For example, we have partnered with world famous street artist and activist Shepard Fairey to create fashionable merchandise and actual gifts that people can buy. Any money spent on those items goes directly to supporting clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease. This way, you get to do a good deed, and your loved one still gets something cool to unwrap and love all year.”

Get your kids involved in donation experiences, too. “Teach your children to give what they can,” says April Masini, a relationship and self-help expert. “A week of their allowance donated is a great teaching moment at this time of year when ‘gimme gimme’ is the mantra in many homes where retail is the religion of choice.”

Of course, keeping a close eye on scams and fraud should be a priority for donors on Giving Tuesday, too. “Scams are abundant during the holiday and scammers prey on the generous holiday spirit of consumers to ‘give extra’ to charities,” says Kiry Peng, president of the Business Consumer Alliance in Colton, California. “Our best tip is to avoid sending cash donations and never wire money. Donating by check made payable to the charity or by credit card is safer and consumers can use those receipts as tax deductions.”

Giving Tuesday is yet another theme-based date on the holiday character, much like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But unlike those commercially driven mini-holidays, Giving Tuesday offers Americans a chance to do well by doing good, and that’s much closer to the spirit and meaning of Christmas and the holidays.