All posts by marciamarcia

Future Millionaire

My Vanguard account has gone over the $800,000 mark. That’s an exciting milestone. Of course the market is going crazy good this month, Feb 2017;  the run may not last, but it is fun to see. Since I am self employed, I opened a solo 401K in 2016 and put in the max allowed, $24,000.  I’m approx $150,000 shy of my net worth hitting a million. (not counting the value of my house). I wonder how I’ll feel when I have  $1,000,000? It will be exciting at first.

I don’t think 1 million will be enough to retire on, especially since I will probably live to my 90s as both of my grandmothers did. I’d like to be a snowbird and have my house here in the Chicago suburbs and another in Arizona or some other warm place. I also like the idea of traveling during the first 10 years of my retirement.

In this blog I plan to share how I got here. A few things that were key:

Living below my means

Getting into a lucrative career I enjoy

Staying in the same house for 25 years

Starting long-term saving at 30

I didn’t start out with a plan to be a millionaire. My goal was to save enough money to feel ‘peace of mind’. If some sort of emergency came up I wanted to know I had the money to handle it. Gradually I saved more and more. At some point I remember having saved  $65,000 and feeling l I had a good amount of ‘peace of mind’.

Do you feel stressed about money? Would having money in the bank give you some peace of mind?  Start saving. Saving will reduce your stress, increase your health and help you feel more in control.


Make 2017 a year of change; a year of saving

Change is not easy. With the start of 2017 in a few days we often think about ways to make the next year better. If you want 2017 to be better–you’ll need to make some changes. This makes me think of the Einstein quote, ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.’


Sometimes I catch myself doing things over and over expecting different results especially with my computer. The rub is that in some cases doing it over and over finally does give me some sort of different results, though, not always what I want.

The gist is—in order to get the different results you want, you need to do things differently. But only you can determine what you are willing do differently in 2017.

What am I willing to do?

I want to save more money in 2017. I’m already doing lots of things to keep my expenditures low.  I know that I still spend money unnecessarily. To save more, I’ll need to keep a closer eye on my cash, spending and lifestyle. One of my favorite things to do is shop at the Salvation Army on Saturdays when the color tag of the week is 69 cents. I usually find some really cool things for cheap. Things that are worth $10 or more each. I don’t sell these things, I add them to my already large collection of clothes and ‘stuff’ in my house. My boyfriend thinks it is a bad addiction and I think his checking his cell phone 10x or more an hour is a bad addiction.

I really don’t want to stop going to the Salvation Army on Saturday mornings. What am I willing to change? Here are some ideas: limit spending to $10, limit visits to SA or stop going to SA cold turkey. When I think of not going to SA at all–I think, ‘I don’t want to stop going’. You might think the same thing about one of your indulgences. So cold turkey is out. What I can do is, agree with myself that I will only go to SA, every-other Saturday and only spend $10 per visit. That would be 14 items at 69 cents each. This I believe I can do.

Make incremental changes

Don’t over-promise to yourself with New Year resolutions to vaguely make and save more money. Decide what you can do and build on that. Raise your contribution in your 401k and/or savings. If you are saving $100 a month, start saving $125 a month.  Then later in the year, raise your savings a bit more.  You can change, just help yourself along, start doing things differently and ease yourself into money smart habits. It’s okay to take baby steps, just be sure to start taking any step. So many folks don’t save anything because they don’t think $10 matters. It does matter because it is a start.  Half of the effort is starting.

Be sure your advisor is a ‘Fiduciary’

If you’re going to hire a financial advisor, one of your first questions should be, ‘are you a fiduciary?’ The answer should be ‘yes’. If the advisor does not say ‘yes’ to being a fiduciary, get away from them.


Being a fiduciary means being legally and ethically bound to providing advice that is in the best interest of the client. The fiduciary is expected to manage their client’s money so it benefits the client rather than for his or her own profit. A fiduciary financial advisor can not benefit personally from their management of your money. They must put their interests below that of their clients.


Some advisors only follow a suitability standard that requires them to make only suitable recommendations to their clients. The suitability standard only details that the advisor has to reasonably believe that any recommendations made are suitable for their clients, in terms of the client’s financial needs and objectives. This is much less of a commitement than being a fiduciary.


It’s not hard to believe that there are financial advisors out there that don’t have their client’s best interest in mind! When I was in my 30’s I went to a couple financial advisors that were not making recommendations in my best interest. One suggested I put $5000 in an annuity (not good advice for the amount of money and my age). Which I did. And the next one put my small  nest egg in loaded funds (It is much better to buy non-loaded funds). It took me 7 years to get out of the loaded funds without a penalty and nearly 20 years to get out of the annuity. Read more about why hiring a fiduciary based advisor is so important.


A fee-only financial advisor has fiduciary obligation to act in your best interest. You may want to consider a fee-only advisor when you have a more complex financial situation that you don’t feel comfortable managing alone. Never hurts to hear some opinions on the subject: Should you Choose a Fee-only Financial Advisor?


A new fiduciary rule  is scheduled to go into effect in April, 2017, is being fought by some financial advisor and brokers. The new president may also have some impact on the viability of the new rule. Read DOL Fiduciary Rule: Everything you need to know


Start where you are # 5-8

#5 Sell your house or car if you bought too much house or car. Sounds drastic, I know. Do you have trouble paying your monthly bills? Are you drowning with a big house or car payment? Maybe you bit off more than you can pay for, or maybe you lost some of your income? Get a smaller house or rent. Drive an economical car for years. These actions are not necessary for everyone. Look at your financial situation and decide if it’s a good move for you downsize your house or car in order to start living below your means. If you have some other expenditure that is dragging down your ability to get out of debt or save for retirement–get rid of it. Things such as boats and vacation homes are examples of things that may be keeping you down.

#6 Get an education and into a money making career. If you are in a low paying career, make a plan to improve your income potential. This will often include getting more education. Find a vocation that taps into your strengths and passion–and pays well. Education is an investment in your future.

Ten years after my undergrad degree in Communication Studies, I went back to NIU and got a MsED in Instructional Technology–the smartest thing I ever did. Having this degree opened up the Instructional Design field for me. I have been a self-employed instructional designer for nearly 20 years. This career taps into my strengths and passion for learning and teaching.

#7 Take care of your health. Get enough sleep. Eat healthy foods. Get some exercise. Take your medications. Be in top working order so you can tackle your goals with energy.

#8 Start a side hustle. Get off the phone and get busy. There are two ways to get the money to save: spend less or make more.  Being frugal is how you spend less and a side hustle is how to make more money. If you are motivated to get out of debt or build your wealth you need to be working more than your full-time job. Most anything you can do can be a side hustle. Here are 99 side hustle business ideas you can start today.

If you want more ideas on getting smart with your money check out: How to build wealth in 17 surprisingly simple ways. OR 10 Good Financial Goals


Start where you are # 1-4

Having money smarts includes being debt-free and saving no less than 15% for retirement. Each person is in a different place with their finances and money smarts. What is right for you, may not be right for someone else. Decide what your goals are. Take a good look at your financial situation and decide what you need to do to get going on being money smart and reaching your goals.

As I see it, there are 8 basic money smart ideas to start with. I’ll cover 4 here and 4 more on the next post.

#1 Contribute to the 401K plan at work up to the amount your company matches. If your work matches dollar for dollar–that’s great. If they match 50 cents to every dollar you put in, that’s still great! If you are not utilizing  a 401K at your place of work where there is some matching, you are leaving money on the table. That’s free money! Don’t pass up free money, especially from ‘the man’.  Since most 401K plans have high fees, I suggest you only contribute up to the match.

#2 Build up a savings fund. Start saving money outside of your retirement account. Others call this savings an ’emergency fund’ and recommend it be  3 to 6 months of earnings. This can be your long-term goal. As a short term goal, save some each month and shot for $1000 in savings while you get out of debt.

I started building wealth by saving money at a credit union. I realized that one of my primary goals was to feel secure. As I built up my savings or emergency fund, I started to feel more and more secure. This empowered me to do more. Save more, be more frugal and have more and more faith in my ability to build my wealth and feel even more secure. I liked seeing my savings account balance grow.

# 3 Get out of debt. I know, easier said than done.  Yet you can do it. Create a goal and a plan to follow. There are numerous websites devoted to sharing ideas on how to get out of debt. Here are a couple: How I Crushed my Student Debt and Fixing Money Mistakes If you’re having an income crisis there a few good ideas at Club Thrifty/Income Crisis.

I’m not talking about your mortgage or car payment debt. I’m talking about getting out of credit card debt, loans, student loans, and any other money you owe to other people, including family.

#4 Live frugally. Being frugal means living below your means. I don’t think a  budget is the only way to manage your finances. I suggest you make a decision to be frugal in all areas of your life. This might be the most difficult thing to do because it means changing how you use your money and how you live.

There are hundreds of ways to live frugally that I’ll talk about in future blog posts. Right now,  stop all unnecessary spending.  Stop shopping, except for food at a discount food market, such as ALDI. Bring your lunch to work, make your own coffee, Stop eating out…take a look at your spending and eliminate non-essentials. Before making a purchase ask yourself one simple question: But what if I don’t?

Give being frugal a try. No one is saying you have to commit to a lifetime of frugality, but if you have debt and/or only a little retirement savings, being frugal will help you amass the money you need to get out of debt and build your savings.

It’s not  how much you make, it’s how much you save that counts.




Retirement and Social Security

Wow, writing a blog takes time! It’s been a few weeks since I created my first blog entry. During that time I had a back attack that had me laid up for a week and I took a week vacation to Arizona. I’ve also been getting my garden and yard ready for the Chicagoland winter.


I’m not fond of winter and plan to be a snow bird when I retire, spending 1/2 the year here and 1/2 the year in Arizona or some other warm place. While in Arizona, I checked out Sun City West, Sun City Grand and Sun Lakes–all retirement communities. One day it will be good for me to have the social aspects that these communities provide, as I a tend to be a loner and introvert–not good things when it comes to aging well.  I’m only 54 now, and not retiring soon, but I wanted to see what retirement communities had to offer.


I’ve been researching information on Social Security. Did you know that your SS yearly benefit is based on the top 35 income years you’ve worked? Check out: 10 things to know about SS
I don’t think they count the years til after age 21…it’s only been 33 years since I was 21 and a few of those years I worked very little or not at all when my kids were babies. So if I want to have decent numbers in my top 35 years, I’ll keep working. Not that I am ready to retire just yet, I enjoy my career as a self-employed instructional designer. Plus I want to make and save more money so I can retire comfortably.


If you want to learn more about SS check out: You can start a ‘My Social Security Account’, confirm your yearly earnings and calculate how you can optimize your SS. All this and much more.

My first blog entry

I did it! I set up a web page all by myself.  Well, I did use Rob Cubbon’s  online course. It was confusing with a lot of jargon I didn’t know. It took me some time, yet I kept reviewing the instructions and figured it out. I’ll savor the satisfaction  when I tell Keith (30) and Denise (28) that their mom set up a website with: a domain, web hosting and WordPress. Booya


It’s not easy to learn something new that is outside of your comfort zone. That’s what this website is going to do by helping you learn to be smart with your money. It’s easy to say–‘be smart with money’, but not so easy to do. Yet I believe everyone can learn to be smart with their money and successfully manage their own finances, savings and monetary goals. If you feel uncomfortable about your personal finances, keep coming back to Money Smarts Learning.

I’m excited to be sharing personal finance ideas that you can implement in your life right away.