10 Tips To Help You Take Control of Your Finances Like a Pro

Every single day we ask ourselves ‘money’ questions. Should I buy this? How can I save more? I really want to achieve this dream, but how? My retirement portfolio stinks, I wish I knew what to do with these stock pickings? Over the last decade,as an adviser in personal finance I’ve collected a list of common questions.  Below is a list of 10 tips to help you take control of your finances like a pro!




Personal Finance


1.  How do I know if I have any unclaimed money left over from a tax refund?  

What, wait, you’re saying I could have unknown monies sitting out there in my name? Yes. Many people do not know about the government’s unclaimed funds but, this is a national account that holds money belonging to everyday people like you and me. It’s just been forgotten. To find out more, go to the website National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators and you can start a free search. Or read these tips from a recent post titled,  “Are you Missing out on forgotten cash” .  

2. Should I buy or lease my next car?

Here is a simple guideline to use.  If you plan on driving more than $15,000 miles in a year and will own the vehicle for more than 4 years, it is best to buy.  A great calculator for comparison of buying versus leasing can be found at Edmunds.

3. How much life insurance do I need to have?

A quick rule of thumb would be six to ten times your annual income. You can do a quick calculation to determine where you stand.  You can find it here at Determining Amount of Life Insurance.

4. How can I accumulate $1 million dollars?

Assuming an 8% rate of return on your money annually, the breakdown is:

Saving for the next 20 years would require you to save $1,698 per year.

Saving for the next 30 years would require you to save $671 per year.

And saving for the next 40 years would require you to save $286 per year.

5. What should I do with stock that is worthless?

You can claim the loss on your Schedule D when you file taxes next year.  Be careful however, if you still have a market for the stock go ahead and sell it.  

6. Do I need a trust?

Most common reasons for creating a trust are:

  • Controlled transfer of estate to proper heirs
  • Reduction or elimination of death tax
  • Avoid the probate process all together
  • Potentially protect assets from lawsuits and seizures
  • Manage estate during mental incapacitation

7. I have an old Series E savings bond that was given to me when I was born.  How do I find information about it and is it still earning interest?

Go to Savingsbonds.com and look up the bond.  If it no longer is earning interest go to the bank and cash it.

8.  How much of an emergency fund should I have?

Most often three to six months of living expenses is standard. Since our primary clients are  widows we suggest an average of nine to twelve months.

9. Should I refinance my mortgage? Here is a simple way to find out if this makes sense.  Divide the monthly savings into the fee the bank would charge you.  


New loan savings:  $100 per month

Cost of new loan:  $2,000 refinance fee

Payback period is 20 months.  This means you would need to stay in your home for a at least 20 months to recoup the refinancing fees! Also for more detail you can try the Bankrate calculator

10. When should I apply for Social Security?  

First step is to use the Quick Calculator on the Social Security website.  They will have a number of calculators that can help with determining when to apply for benefits.

Remember, each person’s situation varies and may be different.  It is worth using these as a starting point and then continue to tweak accordingly.  This will allow you to start on the right path more effectively.

Question:  Do you have a question that did not make the list? Leave a comment below.