Credit Scores: What Are They? How Do They Work? How Can You Improve Yours?

As a society, we are increasingly dependent on using credit to purchase goods and services. In fact, you probably used a credit card today to buy something at a store or online.

But buying products on credit isn’t limited to using cards. We also use credit in the form of loans to invest in bigger-ticket items such as cars, college tuition, and homes.

What you might not realize when you use credit to purchase something is that, in most cases, you are paying more for that product than if you used cash. You are paying more because you borrow money from a lender, be it a credit card company, credit union, or bank, and they charge you interest on the transaction.

A variety of factors determine the amount you pay for a specific item, the biggest being the loan’s interest rate. And it’s your credit score that ultimately determines this rate.

But what exactly is a credit score? How is it defined? And what, if anything, can you do to improve this rating?

This article will answer these questions and provide additional information to help you manage your credit.

So, What is a Credit Score?

A credit score is a three-digit number ranging from 300 to 850 that uses a variety of financial factors to determine an individual’s creditworthiness. Lenders use this number to evaluate risk and decide how likely a person is to pay back a loan based on their credit history.

Why Does Your Credit Score Matter?

Because your credit score is an indicator of your overall financial stability, it is vitally important to maintain it as it directly affects:

  1. Whether you get approved for a financial product, such as a credit card or loan
  2. The amount of interest you will pay on that product if you are approved

As a rule of thumb, the higher your credit rating, also known as your FICO score, the more likely you will get approved for a credit card or loan. Plus, a high score usually means a lower interest rate. On the contrary, an individual with a low FICO score, in the poor to the fair range, will typically pay a higher interest rate or may even fail to qualify for a credit card or loan.

What is a Good Credit Score?

According to the FICO® Scoring system, which is used by 90% of the top lending institutions in the United States, a good credit score falls between 670 to 739. As previously mentioned, scores range between 300 to 850.

By design, the higher the number, the better your credit score. When evaluating credit, lenders may often refer to this number in terms of credit level or quality, such as poor, fair, good, or excellent.

What Factors Are Used to Determine Your Credit Score?

There are five primary factors used to determine a credit score. Each one of these factors is weighted differently and evaluated to help determine your credit score. These factors include:

  • Payment History (35%): Your payment history is one of the most critical components of your credit score. Lenders want to ensure that the money they provide is paid back on time. What they want to see here is a consistent history of paying debts. Therefore, even one missed payment in the past can hurt your score.
  • Amounts Owed (30%): Amounts owed, sometimes referred to as debt burden, is another crucial area of consideration among lenders. Generally, the less you owe, the better your credit will be. However, other factors, like your credit utilization ratio, will be examined.

Your credit utilization ratio is the number of credit limits you’ve used across all your credit cards and lines of credit. In short, the closer you are to maxing out your credit limits, the worse it will be for your credit score.

  • Length of Credit History (15%): Regarding your credit score, maturity matters. How long you’ve held credit accounts makes up 15% of your FICO® Score. This includes the age of your oldest credit account, your newest credit account, and the average age of all your accounts—generally, the longer your credit history, the higher your credit scores.
  • New Credit (10%): Every time you apply for a credit card or a loan, the lender will check your credit report with one or more of the major bureaus. The bureau notes this check as a “hard inquiry” on your credit report, which will negatively impact your credit score.
  • Credit Mix (10%): Not all debt is created equal. And, when it comes to evaluating your credit mix, lenders want to understand your loan landscape. As a rule, the more diverse your loans are, the better your score will be because it demonstrates that you have experience and can handle different types of debt.

How Can You Improve Your Credit Score?

There are many benefits associated with having good credit. The good news is if you have less than optimal credit, there are some things you can do to improve your score. Below are five steps you can take.

  1. Pay Your Bills on Time. As noted earlier, your payment history is the most influential factor in determining your credit score. As mentioned, you should do everything possible to avoid late or missed payments. One solution is to set up calendar reminders or autopay to manage recurring bills.
  2. Keep Your Credit Utilization Number Low. To help you manage your credit utilization ratio and keep it low, you should continually monitor your balances for each account to ensure you are not coming close to maxing out your credit limits.
  3. Only Apply for Credit When it’s Necessary. A hard inquiry is posted on your report every time you apply for a line of credit. Most lenders view too many or too frequent hard inquiries as a risk. To avoid the negative implications of a hard inquiry, you should refrain from applying for credit cards or lines of credit that you don’t need.

If you need to apply for new credit, do yourself a favor and research and try to get pre-approval or pre-qualification from the lender. In many instances, pre-approval results in a soft rather than a hard inquiry. Soft inquiries don’t affect your credit score, so you will reduce the risk of negatively impacting your credit score.

  1. Leave Old Accounts Open. Keeping old accounts on your credit report, like a paid-off student loan or credit card, can help your credit score. Therefore you should avoid the urge to wipe them from your credit history. Remember, having an account with a long history and track record of consistent payments is what lenders are looking for.
  2. Monitor Your Credit. When you view your credit report, a soft inquiry is pulled, which doesn’t affect your credit like a hard inquiry. Monitoring your score’s fluctuations can help you understand how well you manage your credit and whether you should make any changes.

Did You Know?

You are entitled by law to a free credit report from each of the major credit bureaus once per year. You can request these reports at There are also several credit monitoring apps and services, some of which are free that you can use to track your credit throughout the year.

Let’s Talk

Eight Steps to Establishing an Estate Plan in Maine

Why Do Maine Residents Need an Estate Plan?

For many Maine residents, creating an estate plan is a task that gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do pile. After all, we live in Vacationland and would much prefer living our lives than thinking about how we will handle our demise. There is also a big misconception that having an estate plan is only meant for the wealthy. 

The truth is that everyone has an estate and people they care about. And an estate plan is a valuable tool that outlines the maintenance, management, and distribution of your assets to those loved ones when you pass away or become incapacitated.

Some of the most common benefits of having an estate plan in Maine include the following:

  • Being able to define your medical directives if you become incapacitated clearly
  • Allowing you to choose who inherits your assets
  • It helps protect your family, including young children
  • It prevents your heirs from overpaying on Maine taxes
  • It could help to keep your assets out of Maine probate

Depending on your circumstances, there are dozens of additional benefits to developing an estate plan, so you can see why they are essential. 

But how do you create an estate plan? What documents do you need to draft? And where do you start? 

To help answer these questions, we’ve defined an eight-step process below. Of course, if you ever have any questions, you can contact us, and we’ll be happy to help you navigate the estate planning maze.

Developing Your Maine Estate Plan

Below is a list of steps you should take when developing your estate plan in Maine. You should note creating an estate plan is more than just a one-person job. There are times when you should consult with experts such as an attorney, accountant, or certified financial planner (CFP) to help you manage this plan. 

Other individuals you will want to consider and consult with as part of this process include a guardian, power of attorney, and a trustee.

As you assemble your team, they can help you identify and define each of the following steps.

Step 1. Set Your Estate Plan Goals

Like the development of any plan, you will want to take some time to determine what you wish to accomplish by creating your estate plan. Before you begin, please look at your life’s big picture and all those you share it with. Then, think about what goals you want to address.

A few estate planning goals include:

  • Ensuring financial support for your family
  • Choosing the beneficiaries of your estate
  • Naming guardians for any dependants and having a financial plan for their support
  • Dictating the future management of a business
  • Leaving your assets to a charity
  • Requesting specific funeral arrangements, senior care, or health care preferences
  • Specifying your preferences in the case of a medical emergency or incapacitation

Now, it’s possible that your plan could include many, if not all, of these goals. The important thing here is to make sure you identify and address the goals that are most relevant to you. 

Ideally, it would be best to understand your goals before creating key documents such as your last will, power of attorney (POA), or a trust

Step 2. Get Your Financial House in Order

Depending on how organized you are, you can either work independently or hire a financial professional, like a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), to help you document and compile a list of your debt and your tangible and intangible assets. 

By identifying how much you owe in debt, you will be able to determine the total amount of assets you can distribute for loved ones as part of your estate plan.

When analyzing debt, make sure you review the following:

  • Credit card balances
  • Student loans
  • Vehicle loans
  • Mortgages
  • Home equity lines of credit

When reviewing tangible assets, make sure you include material things, such as:

  • Land
  • Houses and other real estate investments
  • Vehicles (e.g., boats, cars, and motorcycles)
  • Personal valuables (e.g., books, jewelry, tools, and household furnishings)
  • Collectibles (e.g., art, coins, stamps, trading cards, and antiques)

Intangible assets include non-material things that you can’t touch or hold, such as:

  • Bonds, stocks, and mutual funds
  • Checking and saving accounts
  • Retirement plans
  • Life insurance
  • Businesses owned

Step 3. Create a Last Will and Testament

Your Last Will and Testament is the document with the most authority in your estate plan as it allows you to control and communicate how to distribute your assets after you pass away. It is also the document that a probate court will use to settle your estate.

When drafting your Last Will, you should consider working closely with an attorney as you will need to appoint an executor of your Last Will and a guardian if you have any children under the age of 18 years old. The attorney can also help you document how you wish to assign your assets to your beneficiaries.

If you have high-valued property or a significant amount of assets, you might want to consider establishing a trust. We will talk about the benefits of this option a little later in Step 6.

Understanding the Role of the Executor 

Choosing the right executor for your Last Will is crucial because they bear a lot of responsibility on your behalf.

As the executor of your Last Will, they are responsible for ensuring your requests or terms are carried out precisely as you wish. 

The executor of your Last Will is also responsible for:

  • Distributing your property and assets to your beneficiaries
  • Arranging for debt repayment
  • Recovering money from other parties who owe you
  • Filing necessary forms, including your final tax return
  • Acting on behalf of your business interests
  • Arranging for the correct parties to receive any charitable donations or gifts

Your executor should be someone you can trust, who is responsible, and willing to act as your personal representative. The executor’s role is often a spouse, friend, or relative.

Step 4. Establish a Power of Attorney (POA)

Establishing a Power of Attorney (POA) helps you with important matters while you’re alive or if you become ill or incapacitated. By creating a Power of Attorney (POA) document you are legally allowing one or more people (called an attorney-in-fact) the authority to make financial or medical decisions on your behalf. 

Many estate plans in Maine include two POAs that are effective even if you become incapacitated. 

These two POAs are commonly known as:

  • A financial POA: This designation allows allows someone to handle your financial or business matters, and
  • A health care POA: This person is allowed to make medical decisions on your behalf. (In Maine, this POA is combined with a living will, which lays out your wishes for medical treatment, and the combined document is called an “advance health care directive.”)

In most estate plans, these POAs are considered “durable” POAs, which means that they retain their effectiveness even after you’re incapacitated. 

When choosing a POA, you should seek out a person you trust who is of sound mind and body as they will, if called upon, be required to make important decisions on your behalf.

Step 5. Write A Living Will

Your estate plan can and should do more than provide instructions on how to disburse your financial assets when you pass away. A comprehensive estate plan can also include a Living Will. 

A Living Will guides your loved ones and medical professionals on your preferences for end-of-life medical intervention in case you become incapacitated and can’t communicate for yourself.

Most Living Wills provide instructions on how to handle:

  • Life-prolonging treatments, such as blood transfusions, medications, and surgery
  • Artificial life support and ventilators
  • Pain relief management 
  • Administration of food and water (including tube feeding)
  • Do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders

A Living Will can be as specific as you like, denote your religious preferences, and outline any plans for organ donation. 

Your attorney can help you draft a Living Will alongside the rest of your estate plan. 

When completed, send a copy to your primary care physician to ensure that your living will is easily accessible and becomes part of your medical record. 

Step 6. Build a Trust

Building a trust is no longer for the uber wealthy. Yes, an estate plan that includes a trust will cost more, but it also gives you greater control over your assets than a will. 

Why Should Your Estate Plan Include a Trust?

When you rely on the will you wrote, your intent is to leave assets to a specific person such as your daughter, brother, friend or favorite charity. The problem is a will is probated, and once it enters the courts it can be a long, expensive process that offers no guarantee that your wishes will be followed. 

By using a trust, you can avoid many of these risks and ensure that the right assets are going to be received by the right people in less time, and with less headache.

In fact, establishing a trust can also help:

  • Potentially reduce the taxes owed by your estate and heirs
  • Protect your assets from creditors and lawsuits
  • Put conditions on how and when your assets are distributed

Understanding the Three Types of Trusts

Trusts can either be testamentary (created after your death) or living (created while you’re alive). Living trusts can either be revocable or irrevocable. Here’s how each works:

Testamentary trust: Testamentary trusts are set up in a will and go into effect after your death. The trust becomes the owner of any assets that pass to it in your will.

Revocable living trust: These are set up during your life and have the most flexibility. After you create the trust, you have the option to change what’s in it, who manages it, and who the beneficiaries are.

Irrevocable living trust: This type of trust is also set up during your life and is usually used to reduce the amount of assets subject to estate tax.* Once you’ve established and funded it, generally it can’t be changed.

By adding a trust to your estate plan, your options become greater and more individualized. When considering a trust you should seek the advice of your estate planning attorney to make sure this recommendation is right for you.

Step 7. Organize and Store Your Important Documents in a Safe Place

Organizing and storing all of your documents in a central location, like a safe deposit box, helps ensure the execution of your estate to go more smoothly when the time comes. As part of this step, you should gather copies of all the important documents that you may need for your estate plan and keep them in a safe location that can only be accessed by the people you trust managing your estate.

Important documents may include:

  • Marriage, divorce, and separation documents
  • Adoption and birth certificates for children
  • Property deeds and titles
  • Business and investment share certificates
  • Bank account information
  • Social media account information
  • Having these documents alongside your estate planning documents can assist with proving ownership or relationship changes in the event of a dispute.

By laying out clear and legally sound estate plans and having all relevant documentation, you can help to make the process easier and less stressful for your loved ones.

Step 8.  Review & Update Your Estate Plan As Needed

Life moves pretty quickly, so it is important to review and update your estate plan, or specific documents in your plan, if you experience any major life changes. 

These sudden life changes may include, but are not limited to:

  • Getting married
  • Getting divorced or separated
  • A representative’s death
  • A beneficiary’s death
  • Purchasing any significant assets (such as a car or house)
  • Losing or acquiring debt
  • Having or adopting children

Outside of any major life changes, you should expect to revisit and evaluate your estate plan every 3 to 5 years to ensure it remains current.


We know that taking the time to develop an estate plan can be overwhelming, but it is vitally important to those you love. If you want to move forward, but still aren’t sure how, give us a call or email us to schedule a consultation. 

Need Help Developing Your Estate Plan?

Is a Reverse Mortgage Right for You?

Under the right circumstances reverse mortgages, also known as a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), can be a good means of supporting your retirement. On the other hand, they can also turn out to be an expensive way to borrow money.

To help determine if a reverse mortgage is right for you, let’s take a closer look at what a reverse mortgage is, review some background information, and discuss the pros and cons associated with this financial decision.

What is a Reverse Mortgage?

Simply put, a reverse mortgage is a loan that uses your home as collateral. The funds provided through the reverse mortgage can be used in a variety of ways such as supplementing your income, paying off debt, or making a large purchase.

When you take out a reverse mortgage, it’s important to note your house will remain in your name, and the income you receive is tax-free. Another point to note is that no matter how much you owe on your reverse mortgage, you can’t owe more than the value of your home.

Reverse mortgages can be an attractive option for some because you are not required to make payments as long as you live in your home. On the contrary, once you leave your home for more than twelve months, sell the residence, or pass away, the outstanding balance of the loan must be repaid, typically with interest.

It is worth noting that the first reverse mortgage was done right here in Portland, Maine as a tool to assist a local widow who wanted to stay in her home after her husband’s passing.

Fees Associated with a Reverse Mortgage

While you won’t be required to make payments as long as you live in your home, a reverse mortgage comes with its fair share of fees, and can actually cost more than a conventional mortgage.

Generally speaking, lenders will charge 1) mortgage insurance premiums (initial and annual) 2) third-party charges 3) origination fee 4) interest and 5) servicing fees. These fees can be paid upfront or by financing them over time from the proceeds of the loan.

How Much Can Be Borrowed?

The amount that can be borrowed depends on several factors including your age, the value of your home, and current interest rates. The older you are, and the more equity you have in your home, the more you can borrow – especially if interest rates are low.

Reverse mortgages do have limits on how much you can borrow your first year, and how much of the value of your home you can borrow against.

As of 2022, the HECM FHA mortgage limit is $970,800. So, even if your home is valued at $5 million, the HECM will only let you borrow against $970,800 of its value. You would then be able to borrow anywhere between 35-75 percent of this amount depending on age, equity, and interest rates.

Who is Eligible to Take Out a Reverse Mortgage?

In order to qualify for a reverse mortgage, the individual must be at least 62 years old and own their home outright. Additionally, the home must be the primary residence (i.e. no secondary residence or real estate property), and there must be documentation that the home owner maintains the property, and pays property taxes, insurance, etc.

Who is the Ideal Candidate for a Reverse Mortgage?

As noted in the introduction, a reverse mortgage is not a good fit for everyone. However, if you are over the age of 62, own your own home, and meet any of the following scenarios, you might be a good candidate for a reverse mortgage.

  • Seniors who are encountering significant costs late in life (and may not have Long-Term Care Insurance)
  • People who have depleted most of their savings, but have considerable equity in their primary residences
  • People who don’t have heirs who wish to inherit the home

What are the Potential Benefits of a Reverse Mortgage?

For the right candidate, a reverse mortgage can help you:

  • Strengthen your retirement. A reverse mortgage can allow you to turn an otherwise illiquid asset, your home, into cash that you can use to cover expenses in retirement.
  • Avoid downsizing so you can live in your home longer. Instead of selling your home to liquify your asset, you can keep your primary residence and get cash out of it. This can help you avoid downsizing or getting priced out of your neighborhood if you had to move.
  • Pay off Existing Home Loans. Your home doesn’t have to be paid off in order to take out a reverse mortgage. In fact, you can use the proceeds of a reverse mortgage to pay off an existing home loan. This frees up money to put toward other expenses.
  • Reduce Tax Liabilities. According to the IRS, money you get from a reverse mortgage is considered to be a loan advance rather than income. That means the funds aren’t taxed, unlike other retirement income such as distributions from a 401(k) or IRA.

What are the Potential Downfalls of Taking Out a Reverse Mortgage?

While a reverse mortgage might seem to have many benefits, there are also some very serious risks to consider which include:

  • Losing your home to foreclosure. To qualify for a reverse mortgage, you have to maintain the payment of your property taxes, homeowners insurance, HOA fees and any other expenses associated with owning your home. The home must also serve as your primary residence for most of the year. If at any point during the loan period you become delinquent on these expenses, or spend the majority of the year living outside the property, you could default on the reverse mortgage and lose your home to foreclosure.
  • Compromising other retirement benefits. While income generated from a reverse mortgage may have certain tax benefits, taking out this loan could impact your ability to qualify for other need-based government programs such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). You should discuss this with a benefits specialist to ensure your eligibility in these programs won’t be compromised.
  • Limiting, or even eliminating the opportunity to leave a legacy to your heirs.  A reverse mortgage requires that the full balance be paid when you die. It also eats away at your home’s equity over time. This combination  usually results in your heirs having to sell the home in order to repay the debt. As a result they are left with little to no inheritance.
  • Paying high upfront fees. With loan origination fees up to $6,000, upfront mortgage insurance premiums worth 2% of your home’s value, and other closing costs, reverse mortgages are more expensive than other home loan types. In short, a reverse mortgage can be an expensive way to borrow money.

So, Is a Reverse Mortgage Right for You?

The answer is never an easy yes or no. Like any big financial decision, you should consult your financial advisor or a trusted expert to help you evaluate the pros and cons of applying for a reverse mortgage.There are many cases when an individual should avoid applying for a reverse mortgage. Be sure you fully understand reverse mortgage pros and cons before taking one on.

Have a Question about a Reverse Mortgage?

Long-Term Care Insurance: When & Why It Can Be a Good Investment Idea

It’s a fact. People around the world, including the United States, are living longer. According to the United Nations, the number of seniors aged 60 or older is projected to reach 1.4 billion by 2030 and swell to 2.1 billion by 2050.

As the elderly population increases, the cost for long-term care support services offered through adult day care, nursing home, and assisted living residence is also on the rise. If not accounted for, these long-term care costs can easily wipe out a lifetime of savings.

One option to mitigate the risk of depleting your nest egg is to invest in long-term care (LTC) insurance. Under the right circumstances, LTC insurance can help protect you and your loved ones while helping you navigate your long-term care needs. 

But, is LTC insurance a good option for you?

In the following article, we’ll take a closer look at what LTC insurance is, what it covers, and discuss when and why it can be a good tool that rounds out your financial plan.

What is Long-Term Care Insurance?

Long-term care insurance helps cover the costs associated with long-term care needs, which are services that are not typically covered under regular health insurance. These services may include assistance with daily activities like bathing, dressing, and transportation.

A LTC insurance policy is designed to help individuals cover the costs of care when they have a chronic medical condition, a disability, or a disorder like Alzheimer’s disease. Most policies will reimburse the policyholder for care received in a variety of places, such as:

  • Your home.
  • A nursing home.
  • An assisted living facility.
  • An adult day care center.

The Difference Between Traditional & Hybrid LTC Insurance

There are two types of LTC coverage. The first is traditional, also known as standalone LTC insurance, and the second is hybrid LTC insurance. 

Traditional LTC insurance policies require you to pay a monthly premium for the coverage, which you may or may not actually end up needing. 

Hybrid LTC insurance policies combine coverage for long-term care with whole (permanent) life insurance. If you end up needing long-term care, those costs will come out of your death benefit (the payout to your loved ones under your life insurance policy). If you don’t need long-term care, your death benefit will stay intact. 

While traditional LTC insurance follows a use-it-or-lose-it model, hybrid LTC insurance allows you to retain at least some of what you paid. However, hybrid LTC insurance tends to be more expensive.

What Does LTC Insurance Cover?

It bears repeating that LTC insurance is designed to help offset costs associated with services that are not covered under regular health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. Therefore, different policies may limit what conditions are covered. 

For example, it’s not unusual for substance abuse or a war injury to be exempt from coverage. And while they might not stop you from getting coverage, pre-existing conditions such as heart disease or a past cancer diagnosis may not be covered under the policy. 

As a rule of thumb, the policy holder becomes eligible for benefits when they can no longer perform two daily living activities such as bathing, dressing, eating, using the toilet, getting in and out of bed, and managing incontinence — or become cognitively impaired. At that point, premiums typically are waived while you receive benefits.

When Should You Consider Buying Long-Term Care Insurance?

Like any investment, timing counts when deciding to buy LTC insurance. If you purchase LTC insurance when you are too young, you run the risk of paying premiums for a very long time. On the other hand, if you wait too long to buy LTC insurance, you run the risk of either being turned down or paying astronomical premiums that make this type of investment impractical.

That said, most people who buy long-term care insurance do so in their fifties and sixties. In some cases people are now looking to purchase insurance in their late forties.

Keep in mind that the rates you pay for LTC insurance are determined by several factors such as your age, health history, gender, marital status, and the amount of coverage you wish to purchase. 

Also, please keep in mind that prices for the same amount of coverage will vary among insurance companies. That’s why it’s important to compare quotes from different carriers.

Are There Any Tax Benefits to Buying Long-Term Care Insurance?

The short answer is yes. Long-term care insurance can have some tax benefits if you itemize deductions, especially as you age. Federal and some state tax codes let you count part or all long-term care insurance premiums as medical expenses, which are tax deductible if they meet a certain threshold. The limits for premiums you can deduct increase with your age. Check with your tax professional first to be positive of your situation.



2021 Federal Tax Deductible Limits for
Long-Term Care Insurance

Age at the End of the Year
Maximum Deductible Premium
40 and Under
41 to 50
51 to 60
61 to 70
71 and Over

Please Note: Only premiums for tax-qualified long-term care insurance policies count as medical expenses. Such policies must meet certain federal standards and be labeled as tax qualified. Ask your insurance company whether a policy is tax-qualified if you’re not sure.

Things to Consider Before Investing in LTC Insurance

Ultimately, the decision to buy LTC insurance comes down to your risk tolerance, and your comfort level with this type of insurance policy. Like any investment, you should discuss the pros and cons of buying LTC insurance with your financial advisor or accountant.

If you do decide to purchase LTC insurance, you should consider the following:

  • Your overall financial situation.
    While weighing out the cost benefit of purchasing LTC insurance, you will first need to consider your overall financial situation to see if the long-term benefits are a good match. Some people would prefer to sell their second home, or downsize their existing home to help cover the cost associated with growing old. Others may set up a longevity fund to cover not only long-term care, but also all the costs that come from living longer than average. One advantage of self-funding: total flexibility in how you spend your care dollars.  The downside is that it is difficult to accomplish for most people.  You would also purchase LTC insurance as a method of protecting your assets.  If you don’t have a lot of assets, you may want to consider other options.


  • Your ultimate financial goals.
    Understanding your overall financial goals is also an important consideration when weighing out whether or not you should buy LTC insurance. If you put a high value on leaving money behind for loved ones, then purchasing a policy may make sense. If you are content without leaving a legacy, then you might be able to forego this purchase.


  • Your age and health history.
    As discussed earlier, what you pay for a policy is directly tied to your age, health history, gender, marital status, among other factors. The older you are when you buy LTC insurance, the more it will cost. In some cases, some insurers will require that you take a physical exam, or require that they review your medical records, and conduct a telephone interview. In general, traditional policies have more stringent health requirements than hybrid ones, so keep that in mind as you are comparing your options.

  • Insurance companies and coverage.
    When comparing LTC insurance policies, it’s important to compare different carriers and coverage policies. It can also be very helpful to speak with a financial adviser who can put your options in the context of your overall financial plan.

  • Understand the tax implications and know how you are going to pay for the policy.
    In certain situations, you may be able to cover premiums, tax-free, using money from a health care savings account. You can also explore the tax advantages associated with exchanging an existing life insurance policy or annuity for a long-term care policy.  This can be complicated, so speak to your tax professional before making a choice for yourself.

Need Help Deciding Whether or not long-term care insurance is right for you?

How to Leverage Technology to Build and Maintain a Budget

Many of us were taught how to set a budget with pocket money we were given as children.  Now that you are an adult, you are managing your cash and figuring out how to budget on a larger scale. However, setting up and maintaining a budget is not always an easy task.

If you are struggling to have enough money for the month or wondering how you are going to afford big purchases like a computer or a car it’s time to sit down and create a budget. Even if it makes you uneasy. The good news is there are some things you can do to make this process a little less painful. Keep reading to find out how to easily manage your finances through online tools.

Take Advantage of Online Banking Tools

Most banks have websites and offer money management apps for their customers. Customers don’t realize that banking tools can do more than just withdraw money or pay. You can set these tools to automatically save a portion of your monthly paycheck. Directly from your banking tools, you can sort all your periodil bills and avoid late payment penalties.

These tools also assist in allotting different amounts to expenses, such as investment and emergency accounts. Apart from all of these benefits, the tools also generate reports of where your money is going and alert you when the account is low. Consult your bank and bank’s website to find out more about the capabilities of these banking tools.

Make the Most of Budgeting Apps

Technology has made processes better and more efficient. The financial sector has not been left behind, especially in personal finance matters. The rise and development of financial technology (fintech) have led to apps that help individuals manage their spending. Here are good examples of budgeting apps that help you track your expenses:

  • Mint
    There is so much you can do with Mint regarding personal finance. You can link the app to your bank accounts, investments, credit cards, and even a retirement account. The features in the Mint app allow users to see their actual income, update budget categories, and track expenses and credit—plus set and monitor investment and saving goals, just to mention a few of their helpful features.

  • Simplifi
    This budgeting app allows users to manage their money in many ways. You can connect all your bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and other investment accounts within the app. Using Simplifi, you can easily create and track multiple saving goals such as buying/building a home and planning for future vacations amongst other users.  The app has an easy, user friendly feel to it.

  • PocketGuard
    Just as the name implies, PocketGuard helps users direct their spending behavior within limits and put aside some spending money for savings. Consumers can link their bank accounts and credit cards to the app. Users create different categories, for example, savings and expenses. Any spending automatically uploads to the PocketGuard app, enabling accountability. It has a unique feature called “In My Pocket,” which shows how much money there is for everyday spending.

  • You Need a Budget (YNAB)
    You Need a Budget is a budgeting app that helps consumers have their money management matters organized. YNAB allows users to sync their bank accounts and credit cards, plus being able to set goals and customize spending categories. It’s designed with flexibility, such as shifting funds through different categories, the ability to budget with someone else, and planning for non-monthly, irregular bills.  Many people enjoy this particular app.

Utilize Spreadsheets

Most people are familiar with spreadsheets. But few have explored using spreadsheets as budgeting tools. If you want a simple and free tool for personal finance budgeting, then spreadsheets are the way to go. Examples of these tools are Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel.

You can choose to customize the spreadsheets so that they calculate your monthly income percentages for each category. Because spreadsheets offer financial templates and formulas, you can use them for creating a budget, monitoring spending, and generating financial reports.

Budgeting Knowledge Online Is Extensive

Most of us go online daily, and this is where we can get lots of ideas about budgeting. Many online platforms such as social media and online video platforms like YouTube and blogs have helpful information. Through these platforms, one can learn how to stay on top of their game in managing personal finance.

Be Cautious of Online Purchases

You need to be on the watch for small and impromptu expenses such as subscriptions and digital purchases. That can add up to substantial unplanned expenses. Parents, make sure your phone is secure to prevent toddlers and kids from accidentally draining your account through online purchases.  You don’t have to search long to find horror stories of children unknowingly racking up large purchases on their parent’s devices.

7 Benefits of Creating a Budget

  1. Budgeting helps one become financially stable because you become aware of all your expenses and plan your income accordingly. You avoid being financially overwhelmed.

  2. Budgeting helps you control where your money is spent, helping you be more financially organized and keeping you from spending what you don’t have.

  3. Budgeting guides you toward achieving financial goals like saving to buy a home or paying off credit card debt. You set personal finance objectives and track if you are in the right direction to achieve them or if you need to adjust your progress.

  4. Budgeting helps you prepare for unforeseen expenses and future expected expenses like retirement. So, you won’t be stranded and stressed during an already hard time.

  5. Budgeting allows one to attain financial freedom and independence. Yes, I mean it! You avoid and get out of debt with budgeting. Being devoted to the budget that you created helps you address bad spending habits.

  6. Better family relationships. Most married couples generally have agreed-upon, transparent budgets, which reduce financial stress.

  7. Budgeting can help you save money for “rainy days,” a sudden job loss, or even just living in a world where inflation is the norm!


Technology is necessary to build and maintain a budget. There are lots of apps, and most of them are free. If you choose to pay for the advanced tools, it’s worth it.  Budgeting comes with many benefits that lead to healthy bank accounts and credit lines—giving you peace of mind in your day-to-day financial life.

How to Prepare Yourself for a Recession

You will inevitably experience a recession at some point in your life. Knowing what to expect and how to prepare will make the experience less stressful for you and your family. A recession is temporary. Remembering that will help you remain optimistic that things will eventually turn around for you.

What is Recession?

Simply put, the recession is a stage in the economic cycle where there is a dip in economic activity. It generally follows a period of growth or ‘boom.’ A recession is categorized in different ways but is generally identified by a widespread drop in spending. In some recessions, supply outweighs the demand leading to several adverse consequences. Inflation can be a cause of a market slowdown as well.  Recession can cause job losses, defaults on student loans and mortgages, hike in interest rates, and volatility in the stock market. All of which can have a profound impact on a person’s mental health as well as their finances.

How is Recession different from Depression?

When a recession drags on for a long period and turns severe, the economy is considered to be in depression. A recession is a normal part of a business cycle. However, depression is not. They are much more devastating in scale and impact. While recession can last for months, depression can last for several years. Economies only need to make minor market corrections to recover from a recession. But recovering from depression often requires drastic economic measures and significant policy shifts.

Early steps to take to prepare for a recession

Some people get nervous when the economy is doing well for long periods. Some even expect the “shoe to drop” and the recession to set in. They keep their affairs in order so that they will be positioned to survive whatever the economy does.  Some early steps to take may include the following:

1.  Reduce or eliminate your debt.

Some debt, like mortgages and car loans, are long-term.  But other debt, like credit card debt, can be reduced when hard times are expected.  There are many ways to do this. One effective way is to work on paying off the smallest balance first and then using the money that used to be paid on that debt to pay off the next smallest balance. For some people, being able to cross off debt from a substantial list is energizing. Others prefer to pay off the credit card with the highest interest rate first. This saves more money in the long run. Whatever you choose to do, have a plan. Talk to your financial advisor or find one of many books in your local library that will give you tips on how to pay down debt.

2.  Establish an emergency fund.

Set up an emergency fund that would cover roughly six months of expenses.  This has become more critical in light of the recent pandemic. If you live paycheck to paycheck, you will need to find additional ways to earn money.  Here are a few:

  • Go through your closets and cabinets to find items you no longer need.  Have a yard sale or garage sale.
  • Ask your boss for a raise and advocate for yourself at work.  Prepare a list of all your contributions to the company in the previous year. 
  • If you live solo and have rooms to spare, then get a roommate or more than one roommate. You can check college bulletin boards or online forums. Ask friends or members of your church. Carefully vet anyone you are thinking of letting into your home.

3.  Find ways to save money. 

When a recession is just around the corner, it’s time to tighten your belt!  Think through all of your current bills. Call every vendor to see where you can save money.  Do you really need 200 channels on your television?  Check out streaming services. Call your cable provider. Call your cell phone provider. In every case, tell them that you must cut costs and ask for suggestions. Be sure to mention that you will be checking with their competitors and plan to take advantage of the best plans.

If you eat lunch out often, change that to preparing your lunches. If you buy expensive brand-name grocery items, try the store brands.  Many store brands are made by the same manufacturers as the more expensive labels. You may not notice any difference in quality. Take advantage of coupons, store loyalty programs, and plan meals around the weekly specials. Cancel magazine subscriptions, streaming services that you don’t use, and anything else that is non-essential. If you and your friends give each other birthday presents, get together with them to discuss an alternate plan like perhaps going out for ice cream for each birthday. 

If you still send birthday cards, start buying them at a dollar store. Many dollar stores carry well-known brands of cards for rock-bottom prices. They also carry low-cost wrapping paper and gift bags, cosmetics, kitchen items, cleaners, personal care items, and many more things.

4.  Save on gas.

Plan your trips carefully so that you can take care of many chores in one trip.  Check Gas Buddy or a similar app to find where gas prices are the cheapest. Keep your tires properly inflated at all times. Don’t carry heavy loads in your car for days. Get together with a friend or neighbor to go grocery shopping together. You can drive one time, and they can drive the next. Use the pharmacy inside your grocery store, if it is a preferred provider, instead of going to a different pharmacy in another location.

5.  Evaluate your investments. 

A recession might not be the best time to invest heavily in the stock market. Be sure that your emergency fund is easily accessible. Keep an eye on online high-yield savings accounts, which often pay more than local brick and mortar banks and credit unions. Consider consulting a fee-only financial expert to see what recommendations they might have, especially one who is a fiduciary and a Certified Financial Planner (™).  Evaluate the fees on any 401(k) or IRA accounts that you have now. Maintaining your monthly or annual contributions to these accounts is also a good idea. Talk to a tax professional to see if transferring any IRA funds to a Roth IRA instead so that when you retire, your income will not be taxable to you. A recession would hurt even more in retirement if you’re unprepared, so it is vital to be able to look down the road and plan for the future.

All said and done

While these steps can be helpful when dealing with the realities of a recession, they are also useful in our everyday lives.  Why spend money on monthly bills that aren’t needed or wanted.  We get by doing it because we can absorb the cost.  With economic and financial stressors, these moves become more critical for long term success.  It’s important to stay focused and know that you can get through the tough times.

Newly Single: How to Create a Post Divorce Budget

If you and your spouse have finally decided that you are better off apart than together, you probably have a lot on your mind as you’re preparing for divorce and living single. Finding a place to live, establishing new routines, and learning how to manage household tasks by yourself can feel overwhelming for the first year or two after your divorce.

Continue reading

How to Prepare for a Divorce

Many people dream of grand weddings where they start their lives together with “that perfect someone.” They envision growing old together, celebrating successes, and having that “fairytale romance” inspired by Disney and reinforced in countless books, television shows, and movies.

As you’ve probably discovered, though, marriage is not always destined for “happily ever after.” In fact, the divorce statistics across the U.S. are daunting at best. About 50% of married couples who have not been previously married end up in divorce.

For those who have been married before, the prospects are even more challenging. For second marriages, the average divorce rate is 60%. A staggering 73% of all third marriages end in divorce.

For all of this doom and gloom, though, there is a positive side. If you have decided that divorce is the only path to a life that is more aligned with what you want for your future, there are steps you can take to effectively prepare for your divorce.

Preparation makes a major difference in how well people hold up while going through a divorce, as well as how well they manage their post-divorce lives. Careful preparation also helps ensure that children and others affected by the divorce are not negatively impacted by the change.

Integrating these simple steps can help minimize the financial, emotional, and health impact of your divorce, ensuring that you have the confidence, energy, and resources to thrive in your new, post-divorce life:

1. Find a Good Divorce Attorney

Couples who finally acknowledge that their marriages have fallen apart often want to avoid the expense of hiring attorneys, figuring that they can come to agreements on issues like finances, child custody, and asset ownership on their own.

Unfortunately, this comes after months or years of not being able to agree on things; otherwise, the divorce wouldn’t be happening in the first place. Add to that the complexity of divorce laws in the United States, and getting divorced without an attorney becomes a recipe for disaster.

Connect with a skilled divorce attorney with a proven track record of helping clients achieve equitable results in divorce proceedings. The investment can pay for itself many times over.

2. Establish a Support Network

Going through a divorce can feel isolating and overwhelming, especially once you have filed the initial paperwork. Managing these feelings requires a strong network of supporting people. This includes not only professionals like divorce attorneys and Certified Divorce Financial Analysts, but family and friends willing to lend an ear or offer insights. Don’t forget – health and wellness coaches, therapists, and fitness trainers should all be part of your support network too. 

3. Gather Relevant Personal Information 

You’ll need your marriage certificate, proof of residency, proof of identification, and other documents to file your divorce complaint and begin proceedings. Check with your state’s family court to obtain a list of personal information and documents you’ll need to bring when you initiate your divorce filing.

4. Collect Financial Information

Finances can often be among the most complex parts of divorce, so it’s essential that you obtain complete records of your finances, your spouse’s finances, and the debt, income, and assets you have jointly accumulated during the marriage.

Because each state’s laws are different, you’ll need to check with your state’s divorce court to determine the info you will need. If the process seems overwhelming, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst can assist by helping you gather and organize financial data, locate forgotten and hidden assets, assess joint debt, and perform many other similar tasks.

5. Get Organized

Once you have all of your documents and information, work with your attorney and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst to get all of this information organized to help streamline your divorce proceedings. You’ll also need to organize tasks such as changing your address, establishing utility service, and establishing new day to day living routines.

6. Find a Place to Live

Regaining a sense of stability quickly is essential to thriving after a divorce. This means knowing where you are going to live, and knowing that you can afford the expenses that come with your new living arrangement. If you will be leaving your marital home, the sooner you finalize your new living space, the lower your stress level will be as your divorce case proceeds.

7. Take Care of Yourself

Finally, remember that you need to give yourself the best treatment ever as you are completing your divorce and beginning your new life. You might feel like you have to harness your “superpowers” to keep up with your work, family, and social obligations while internally grappling with the implications of your divorce. Over time, though, running in “superhero mode.” is exhausting.

That’s why it’s essential to give yourself what you need to maintain your sense of wellness in such a stressful time. Your body, mind, and spirit need kind treatment and attention, and these needs don’t stop because you’re in the middle of a divorce.

Getting enough rest, treating yourself to a movie, buying yourself a small gift, and stocking your fridge with healthy meals and snacks instead of fried chicken and ice cream can all help you stay optimistic, energized, and ready to embrace all the new experiences and opportunities coming your way.

Uncertainty can’t be avoided, but by eating healthy, exercising, spending time doing things you enjoy, and surrounding yourself with supportive, loving people, you can quickly thrive in your new, free life as a single person! 

If you would like to learn more about August Wealth Management and our CDFA and CFP services, please feel free to contact us or schedule an appointment.