Balancing Your Health and Lifestyle

There is a lot more to being healthy than seeing your physician once or twice a year. You also need to work on your eating habits and your physical activity. Don’t expect to end up with the body of a supermodel if all you do is eat bon-bons and sit on the couch. On the other hand, you shouldn’t expect to end up with perfect health just because you have a slim and toned physique. The best way for you to achieve your dreams of good health and the perfect body is to keep working on the different aspects of your life that contribute to your overall health.

Self-Acceptance Is Crucial

No matter where you are in your health journey, you need to feel completely comfortable with yourself at all times. There may be many reasons why your body does not look the way you want it to, some of those reasons may beyond your control. Either way, you need to accept your body now so if you do undergo some kind of metamorphosis later on, you’ll be happy and accepting of the new you right away.

Your self-confidence has a major impact on the way you eat, live, and view life. People who have low self-confidence are more likely to suffer from depression and engage in bad eating habits and live a sedentary life. If you don’t feel very happy or confident about yourself now, start doing daily affirmations in the mirror to help build your confidence up.

Exercise to Improve Moods

It is not necessary for you to resort to the use of recreational drugs or bad habits in order for you to feel good. Exercising is one activity that can boost the feel good endorphins in your brain naturally. The more you work out, the better you’ll feel mentally and at some point physically as well. If you are not comfortable starting off on your own, ask a friend to be your workout buddy. If you can’t find anyone willing to step up to the challenge, there are fitness coaches and trainers at your local gym for you to hire. Of course, if you aren’t used to exercising, it is best for you to start off slow and work your way up to the frequency and intensity that you want. You may also experience a little muscle fatigue and soreness as your body adjusts to your new routine.

Eat for Your Health

With all of the changes you are making so you can live your life better, you need to make sure you don’t neglect your eating habits. You have the option of changing your eating habits slowly or practically overnight. No matter which way you choose, try to remember that you may not like how things taste right away. Initially, you may feel tempted to sneak and cheat on your new diet. You may even feel like giving up altogether. Keep your eyes on the prize and you’ll persevere through.
Incorporate more lean red meats, fruits, veggies, and plant-based foods into your daily diet. Look for products from popular food producers, like Hampton Creek. Even though their foods are made from plant-based ingredients, most people who eat them don’t notice a difference in taste.

Get a New Crowd

One challenge you may encounter if you keep dining out with your usual group of friends is the urge to ditch your healthy eating habits. You don’t need to ditch your friends completely, but you should work on hanging with a new crowd that has similar health and eating goals. You need support and motivation in order for you to see any success and to stick to your resolve. You may have a challenging time getting those things from your usual group of friends and find that there is a steady abundance of them from your health-conscious peers.

As you become more comfortable with your new life, don’t forget that in order for you to sustain growth you need to evolve. Stay aware of the latest developments in the health food industry and don’t forget to look into the supplement side. You need to think of your health as a work in progress so you’ll be motivated to do what needs to be done to improve it. All throughout your life, your health and nutritional needs may change. As long as you are aware of what they are and what you can do to meet them naturally, you’ll be able to live a quality life.

Putting Your Feet Up: How to Create the Ultimate Retirement Plan

It is an understandably typical life goal to be able to enjoy a comfortable retirement where you have the security of enough money behind you to put your feet up and relax, but there are plenty of us who fall short of our ambitions.

 

Don’t stop, keep going

One of the simplest but effective bits of advice you can take heed of, is to start saving as early as possible and keep going for as long as possible.

Even if you start saving small amounts of money when finances are tight and maybe you are trying to balance the books while raising a family, it can accumulate into a tidy sum of money faster than you might think.

An ideal scenario would be to try and put 10% of your monthly income away and once you are in the savings habit, don’t stop putting as much money away towards your retirement, even when you can see the finishing line in sight.

Keep on saving for as long as you can and as much as you can. It will make a big difference to your retirement plans.

Make the most of tax benefits

Everyone likes the concept of getting a bit of free money, and from your point of view, if you sign up to your employer’s retirement savings plan, it can boost your retirement pot with the tax savings available.

Ask about details of what retirement savings plans are available through your employer, such as a 401 (k) for example, as the compound interest and tax deferrals available through a scheme like this, can definitely make a worthwhile difference to the amount you have to retire with when the time comes.

You can’t rely on the state

A worrying amount of people are under the illusion that Social Security will as good as pick up the check for their retirement plans and give them the money that they need to survive in retirement.

The reality is very different to the perception and it needs to be firmly understood that the government does provide a financial safety net of sorts, but it is a very basic one, and if you don’t make any worthwhile provisions of your own and start saving for retirement, the stark reality for many, is that they are going to lead a pretty meager existence when they stop working.

It is never nice to hear bad news or to discover the truth is more unpalatable that you would like, but it is worth heeding the warning and ensuring that you have your own Plan A to work to, rather than the more unfavorable Plan B of relying on Social Security.

Crunching the numbers

Continuing on the theme of realism, you do need to crunch the numbers and work out exactly how much retirement income you will actually need in order to be able to do all the things that you have got planned.

Although your monthly expenses should be lower in retirement, once you have paid off the mortgage for example, but if you want to maintain the lifestyle you currently have, expect to need somewhere in the region of 80% of your pre-retirement income.

A simple calculation would therefore be to take the amount you earn each year at the moment and work out what 80% of that figure is. That number you get is your target annual income figure, which is a good starting point for working out how much you need to save in the time that you have left, to be able to have enough to draw that amount of annual income.

Life expectancy

We don’t ever know exactly how long we have left on this planet, which can make retirement planning a bit tricky.

You obviously hope to live a long and happy life, so the best guess to work with if you take the national average, is that you will probably have about 20 years of retirement to enjoy, give or take.

While you might not want to contemplate your eventual demise, it does make planning for your retirement much clearer, if you work on the basis that you will need to accumulate about twenty years of annual income.

Once you have a set of goals and plans in your mind, you can then set about creating a financial plan that allows you to meet these targets and enjoy a comfortable retirement.

Christopher Bryant is a personal finance consultant who works with a wide range of people, from millennials and newlyweds to those approaching retirement.

Six Ways Student Debt can Swallow up Your Budget

Chances are you won’t find a single postgraduate in the nation who doesn’t audibly groan and wince like they stepped on a Lego at the mention of “student debt”. The truth of the matter is that student debt actually has even more dire implications than people are aware of. Aside from simply needing to struggle with paying back their personal debt balance, student loan debt impacts your budget in ways that are far more expansive than you may know.

Less opportunity for independent proprietorship

Historically, people have been able to survive periods of economic destitution by starting small businesses to supplement their income. However, due to the costs for college skyrocketing in such a short period of time, the windows of opportunity for you to overcome a saturated job market by opening a small business are shrinking. Student debt isn’t just something that you need to pay back, but also an anchor on the amount of money that you can safely invest into improving your overall standard of living in general. The higher your debt grows, the less freedom you have to use innovative and independent methods for fighting it.

Inability to set aside money for a buying home

In the face of soaring student debt, you won’t have nearly as much of an ability to think about becoming a homeowner. Without being able to set aside as much money as you would if you were debt free, the costs of home ownership will likely be far higher than what’s reasonable. Without being able to escape loan debt, chances are that most postgraduates will have to resign to renting for the rest of their lives.

A much lower chance of getting any other kind of loan

Even if you sweep your student loan debt under the rug and refuse to think about it, student loan delinquency is never invisible. Your inability to pay back a loan will be recorded and have a direct effect on your credit score, which will essentially blacklist you from all credit unions that bring it up. Due to the difficulty of getting any loans, student debt can end up forcing you to pay for just about everything in cash.

Your retirement will be hindered

Obviously, when you’re so focused on keeping your head above water with your student loans, there are other responsibilities and needs that just go untouched. It’s not news that it’s becoming more and more difficult every year for Americans to make retirement their priority, but what is new is the amount of debt that young adults are having to take on to help pay for a degree.

If there’s one piece of advice that young adults need to take is that if your employer has a 401K plan, and they have a matching program, you should probably take advantage of it. Retirement advisors agree that the optimal time for Americans to start saving is 24 or 25. Even if it’s only $50 a month. Save.

Budgeting for student debt

Despite the reality of how daunting student debt can be, it isn’t impossible to successfully fight against it with the right budgeting techniques. The first step of the process to to simply come up with a budget in the first place, which is many people may initially find too intimidating to even consider. Maintaining a student checking account can help you monitor spending habits and determine how much you can afford to spend each month on your loan.

Mark off a weekend that you can sit down and identify all of the specific ways that student debt could potentially interfere with your personal ambitions; there is generally a six-month grace period allowed after graduation. Even if six months have already passed, you can still benefit from working the budget out as soon as possible.

Determine a monthly payment amount, and make a commitment that you can reasonably maintain. Even if you can only pay back a small amount at a time, anything is better than nothing at all. Calculate any payments on private student loans that you may have as well, and be sure to consider talking to any private lenders who may be able to guide you in the right direction.

After you know how much you’re going to be spending on loan repayment on a daily basis, take a moment to see how you budget can be reconfigured to accommodate it.

Building a Green Building: Key Principles

These days, a lot of people are becoming increasingly aware of the advantages of having an energy efficient home and this is why they employ the services of a reputable energy consulting firm to help them design a home that is sustainable and eco-friendly.

What is an Energy Efficient Home?

An energy efficient home often has features such as wind power, geothermal heating and solar panels. But green living is not solely based on the use of renewable energy. It’s also about designing the house in such a way that energy becomes more efficiently utilized; a home that is well insulated and properly positioned to rely mostly on passive cooling and heating

With this kind of home, you will use minimal energy to light, heat and your household appliances. A house with majority of its windows are facing south (passive solar) can lessen their heating requirements by up to 25% without spending anything.

But it’s also important to design the home properly so that during summer, you can avoid overheating. Your building should be well insulated and properly sealed so that cool air won’t escape due to leak or moisture.

Go for a Reasonably Sized Home

Naturally, the smaller the house, the more efficient it is. It also means you’ll need lesser materials to build it, less space to cool and less space to heat. If you’re a small family then you don’t need to build a big house. We recommend an average of 700 square feet per person.

Make Your Home Flexible

Design your home in such a way that it accommodates any future changes with little disruption. Your household size will change over time so you should also make your home flexible. You can lower environmental and financial costs brought about by a major renovation if you anticipate possible changes while you’re still at the design stage.

Use Reclaimed Materials

You can re-use existing building materials and doing so makes you part of the green building movement. Green building begins at the design phase so by incorporating used materials, you are doing your part to help the environment and at the same time, save money on construction costs.

Design Your Green Home

Regardless of whether you design your dream home yourself or you are going to hire a professional to do it for you, the important thing is that you keep in mind the principles of green living. If you have a designer for your home, make sure you pick one who shares your vision or at the very least, understands what you want.

There’s also the option of buying a pre-drawn plan which may be cheaper however, it can be difficult to find a plan for a green home. If you have the time and the inclination, you can draw up your own plan. It’s fun and rewarding, and you’ll learn a lot from this project too. Just make sure you understand the building regulations in your locality so you don’t end up breaking any rules.

What is More Sustainable than Living Off your Dividends

When I question whether something is sustainable I think of whether “it” can be responsibly maintained.  The goal of creating a dividend income stream should be to eventually use just the dividends letting the principal continue to grow.  It is analogous to living off the fruits of a tree rather than cutting down the tree itself, dividend payments can eventually provide an income stream that is sustainable since you don’t have to erode the principal.

This post was inspired by an interesting post the other day from a great dividend sites Sure Dividend that explored the idea of dividends paying stocks like a tree,

You start with something small – an actual seed, or a bit of hard-earned money.

Before you plant your seed or invest your money, you have to find the right place to put your tree seed or your money. Throwing a seed onto a rock will not do, nor will investing in a business on its last legs.

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Over time, your sapling becomes a tree. It now is producing seeds of its own. Your dividend stock’s payments have grown over time. In both cases, the cycle begins anew.

The tree’s seeds beget more trees. The dividend stock’s dividend payments are reinvested into other high quality dividend growth stocks.

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Once your first tree produces other trees, eventually you will have a forest of trees – let’s say they are fruit bearing trees.

You can now happily live off the sustenance your fruit trees provide.

Dividend stocks are the same way. Over time, your dividend income will grow. You will be able to live on the dividend payments of your dividend stocks.

Your Goal Should be to Live off the Dividends and Leave the Principal

Every time you eat into principal you are affecting your future income.  If you have a $500,000 portfolio yielding 4% ($20,000), but you sell another $20,000 of principal you are looking at $480,000 if that were to yield that same 4% (ignoring the growth of the underlying assets) you are looking $19,200 the following year.  Again, this is compounded when you still need that same $40,000 (now it is $19,200 of dividends and $20,800 of principal0.  In addition to the natural erosion of principal the problem compounds itself if it is a down year.

I am not sure if I’ll ever be able to a large enough portfolio where I can solely live off the dividends, but it’ll be a nice part of the income investments I’d like to create over the next few decades.

Buying or Renting is Not the Only Argument when it Comes to Housing

Housing debates, the kind that as you grow older start to fill your conversation with friends over drinks. Should I rent or buy? Should I get a roommate to share the cost? Should I invest in a rental property? or even Should I move in with my parents?

This is the new reality for today’s housing market. If you live in a major metropolitan centre you may have even been priced out of your market. Did you know that if you make an average income in San Francisco that you would need four roommates to get by? How about eight in Hong Kong?

This infographic from the real estate agents at Liberty Village Toronto, calculates the number of roommates needed for major cities across the globe. It also provides some really neat stats around home ownership that you may have not considered.

Spoiler: Hong Kong is probably not the place for you.

Do-You-Need-A-Roommate1

Graphic Design by Miami Seo Company, Vol & Tier Digital

Are Falling House Prices Really a Bad Thing?

Falling home prices are usually reported with all the doom and gloom expected of a smallpox outbreak. Yes, lower prices do decrease the wealth of homeowners as they lose equity in their property. That decrease in wealth can take its toll on consumer confidence and spending, and even the creation of new businesses. However, there are definitely some positive benefits of falling home prices in the marketplace.

  • Reduction in inflation: Falling home prices typically reduce inflationary pressure on the economy. This will keep prices in check for homes as well as consumer goods, autos, and even groceries.
  • Lowered interest rates: As prices for homes fall, and inflation lowers, the MPC can consider reducing interest rates in an attempt to stir the economy. History has shown that lowering interest rates does get the market moving again.
  • Homeowners can save by refinancing at lower rates: Lowered rates can help homeowners with equity to save on their mortgage payments by refinancing at the lowered interest rates.
  • Increases in home sales: Falling home prices can make them more attractive to potential buyers. Who does not love a bargain, after all? Of course, increasing home sales will help stabilize the falling home prices as well. In states like California and New York while it’s true that the prices tend to be on the higher side compared to other states, if you consult with a California mortgage broker or one in New York, to give you an example, they can better help you find these bargains as they know more about the real estate in their own areas.
  • First time buyers will qualify more easily: Many of those shopping for their first home will be better able to afford a property with falling prices. Where they may not have qualified for a mortgage in the past, they may now. The percentage a bank is willing to lend takes into account the applicant’s income, which is generally less for younger borrowers.
  • Renters may buy homes: In addition to first time buyers, renters might move to buy a home as prices come down, making homeownership more attractive than renting to them.
  • More people will qualify for mortgage loans: As prices and interest rates are lowered, many more people will be able to purchase a home. Lenders use a potential borrower’s debt to income ratios and a mortgage affordability calculator to figure out how much a borrower can afford to pay back. With lowered rates, a borrower will be able to afford a higher priced home. If you want to see how much you can afford, check out this mortgage calculator for details.

More affordable housing helps public sector staffing: When housing is not affordable in certain areas, the effect is to cause shortages of teachers, nurses and police officers in those areas, which in turn makes the local economy worse. Some areas have even turned to immigration to fill those jobs, which is not an ideal situation.

Falling house price points are definitely not all negative, as you can see. In fact, it just might stir up the economy and help many people own homes that had given up on that dream. Currently, the banks are in a position where they are now returning to lending levels that are similar to those that pre-date the global financial crash of 2008. The opportunities available to those who are in the house market are currently at their greatest abundance for 8 years. Are we going to see first time buyers taking advantage of this?