IAM Financial, LLC
In the 7th grade I knew that I wanted to work with money, like my dad. In 1997 I received a bachelors in finance from Michigan State University. In 2001 I became a Certified Financial Planner because CFPs are the standard for giving financial advice.
The longer I worked in the industry, the more I heard about a group that had an even higher standard - NAPFA. NAPFA, or the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, has the most stringent membership requirements of any association in my profession. They offer truly comprehensive, fee-only Fiduciary advice with no commissions, surrender fees, or hidden fees. That's why out of the more than 800,000 individuals in the country who claim to be financial advisors/planners, less than 2500 qualify for NAPFA. Because of my love for organizing, and desire to be a part of an even more prestigious group, in 2004 I became a NAPFA Registered Financial Advisor.
To further enhance my specialty of working with retirees, in 2011 I added a tax service and became an Enrolled Agent with the Internal Revenue Service. Only Enrolled Agents, attorneys and CPAs may represent taxpayers before the IRS. This added service makes it easy for my seniors to have their planning, investment and taxes done in one location.
I currently serve as the membership director for the Midwest Board of NAPFA and on the Strategic Communications Committee for the Small Business Association of Michigan.
In my free time, I enjoy playing golf, teaching Yoshokai Aikido to kids and adults, and working on a personal finance blog, called Thinking Beyond Numbers, that’s changing the way the world thinks about money.
BS, Finance, Michigan State University
There are really two ways to save. The first is just start putting "x" amount in a separate account every month or paycheck and let it grow. The hope is that your other expenses adjust, and you don't incur any debt.
The second way to save is to look at all your income, subtract your taxes for your net income. Then you review your expenditures using a program like mint.com or quicken, total them up and subtract that from your net income.
If you have money left over, you save this moving forward. If you have no money left over, you are over-spending and need to look at your expenses and figure out where to make cuts. Reduce your insurance premiums by changing carriers and qualifying for "new business" discounts. Maybe cut back on latte's as David Bach explains in his book "The Automatic Millionaire", or get rid of cable and go with a sling, etc.
The best way to reduce expenses quickly is to look at the big two - home and auto. The key is to have no debt. Most people have more than enough when they do not have debt payments. So the next time you want something, save for it. If you pay off debt, don't get anymore, save! Good luck.
Your answer depends largely on what you can afford. If you can buy a home with cash that meets your family needs, that might be the best alternative. If you have to finance and you can have the home paid off in 15 years or less and there are relatively low property taxes, it might be worth financing. If renting is inexpensive in your area, you might be better off renting just to keep things simple so you can focus your efforts on caring for your son.
Term insurance is what most people call "pure insurance". It only pays if you die. Universal insurance has a cash value that builds up as you pay premiums. Premiums are higher than term insurance because of the savings component. It's sort of a hybrid savings account insurance product. I prefer term if you only need coverage against loss of income. Universal can be used as a planning tool, but at a cost. Consult a good, independent agent that doesn't have an interest in selling you a product to have an analysis done as to which is best for you.
Your answer depends largely on the product you are asking about. Many of these equity index annuities have high internal fees and limited returns specific to the product you are buying making it virtually impossible to answer your questions.
The key words in this non-answer include "high internal fees" and "limited returns". If you do a little research you'll find that they are one of those "it sounds to good to be true" ideas that seldom pan out in my experience. "All the return and none of the risk" is often how they are sold. BTW, they are almost always sold and very seldom invested in. By that I mean, nobody wakes up and says, "hey, I have some money, I think I'll find the best equity indexed annuity I can find." But some people go to large institutions and are "suggested" that they buy these products. The high fees go towards covering large commissions. If you're really interested, ask someone to do an independent analysis for a small fee. Someone that cannot sell you one at the same time so you know the advice you're getting is objective. Good luck.
Vanguard ETFs are a great way to get exposure to US markets at a low cost. They will also give exposure to currency here in the US. Because they don't offer commissions or other fees, many advisors don't suggest them unless they charge a fee to manage, like I do.
As for dividend versus growth, if it's in a taxable account, I usually prefer growth to avoid extra taxes on dividends each year. Of course, check with your accountant to determine if this strategy fly's in Canada too!