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Want to start a family? It helps to be financially prepared!

20/08/15 11:37 am | Comments (0) | Posted By:

When preparing to start a family, it is important to look at your finances, and assess your current financial situation. You are not always in a situation where you can do this, but if you can plan this ahead of time it could help ease some worry to know you are financially prepared. There is no exact amount you need to have saved when preparing to add a new family member, but it is important to make sure you have the bare essentials covered.

There are many added expenses that come with having a baby. A good way to plan for all of these new expenses will be to assess what is essential and put them at the top of your list to save for. A good way to limit your spending on some of the items needed would be to try to borrow them or buy them used.

Start looking at your financial situation by tracking all of your expenses to see if your income is covering your current expenses and determine if you have additional money left over. It is recommended to do this for at least a month, but this should only be used as a guideline since your monthly spending will vary, and this wouldn’t account for seasonal changes. Once you have listed your expenses, go through them and separate the items you need verse the ones you can go without. This will be helpful to determine the areas that you could limit your spending to help save.

When looking at your monthly income, it is important to factor in the difference in earnings that will occur when you are on maternity leave. Check to see what your company’s policy is for maternity leave. This can make a large difference to your monthly income if your plan is to take time off work and it is either unpaid or a percentage of your income.

Ideally, you should have enough savings to account for the change in your earnings over maternity leave, or if you are planning on changing your work schedules after you have the baby. It is also recommended to have an eight month emergency fund to keep you out of debt if anything unexpected occurs. It is never too early to start saving – the earlier you save the less of a burden it will be to set the money aside and get your finances in order.

 

Disneyland on a budget

13/08/15 11:15 am | Comments (0) | Posted By:

As summer winds down, Disneyland begins to get ready to start the transformation for Halloween, Christmas and New Years. If you have never had the chance to see what the park looks like during these special times of the year, I have to say that the transformation is quite spectacular. Growing up in Orange County, CA, I had many opportunities to visit Disneyland during these periods; often owning a season pass to help save me the most money while visiting the park. Season passes save you 15% on dining, 20% on merchandise, 20% on guided tours, 20% off special events, and even saves you money when staying in the Disneyland hotel. The season pass is your best bet if you plan to visit the park more than 4 or 5 times, but this is not possible for all of us. Many of us, as I do now; live too far away from Disneyland to plan multiple trips to the park during the course of just one year. So I am going to give you some other tips on how to save some money while visiting Disneyland that do not involve purchasing an expensive ($779) season pass.

  1. When purchasing your tickets to attend Disneyland Park, do not purchase your tickets when you get to the ticket windows at the park. The lines are incredibly long, and the prices are more at the park than purchasing from authorized sellers of Disneyland tickets. Authorized sellers of tickets include; AAA, Safeway, Costco, as well as many online retailers. Just be sure that you trust the website that you use to purchase your tickets if you do in fact choose to use an online retailer. Do not use eBay, Craigslist or a private party.
  2. With the addition of California Adventure, the park has only gotten more crowded and thus visiting all your favorite rides in one day may not be possible anymore. One way to combat this problem is that you can hold a fast pass (a pass that allows you to avoid the long lines) for one ride in both Disneyland Park and California Adventure at the same time. Thus, if you carefully plan your rides, you are more likely to get on more of your favorites using the two fast pass systems.
  3. Dining in the park can be extremely expensive, often costing upwards of $20 per person at many of the resort restaurants. If you still like to eat out, but do not have to eat inside the park, there are some slightly cheaper options in Downtown Disney, but there is not much of a reprieve there. Your best option for saving money on food is to bring your own food, something that most people think is not allowed, but food is allowed to be brought into the park. Bringing your own food is likely save you the most money, especially if you are like me and eat at least 3 meals a day if not more. It’s great if you plan a multiple day trip to Disneyland.
  4. Merchandise also runs at a very large premium within the Disneyland parks, so if you would like merchandise cheaper; your best bet is to visit Disney stores. These stores generally carry most of what you can find in the park, and you can get these items ahead of time to bring with you into the park if you so choose. My last piece of advice is to download the Mouse wait app in either Apple’s app store or in the android marketplace. This app will tell you ride wait times as well as many different secrets that I have not included here, including the search for the hidden Mickey’s.

 

Hiking Lake Tahoe

06/08/15 10:29 am | Comments (0) | Posted By:

If you are looking for cheap ways to enjoy the beautiful terrain in and around the Lake Tahoe Basin, hiking will be your best bet. There are relatively few locations on the Nevada side of the lake that require paid parking, whereas if you generally hike anywhere in California around Lake Tahoe, you are likely to be assessed a fee ranging from $5 – $20 to park your vehicle.
Personally I choose to purchase the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass which will run you $80, but comes with great benefits. This $80 pass gains you free entry to Yosemite which can run you $20 with a proposed price increase to $30 in near the future. Not only does this pass allow you to park at any Federal recreation site, but this pass will also save you money on overnight camping fees and amenity fees at all Federal sites. As I have said in my previous blogs, when analyzing whether an annual pass is worth it or not, plan out your hikes and camping trips before purchasing your pass and purchase the pass as close to the date of your first hike as possible. At $80, only hiking a place that costs $5 to park would take you 16 trips to that place before your pass has paid for itself, so make sure to research where you will be hiking or camping. Personally I purchase the pass because I do not want to deal with finding the pay station and depositing my money, plus I hike most weekends all summer and early fall.

Some of my favorite hikes to undertake in the Tahoe area are Angora Lake, Marlette Lake via the flume trail, and anywhere on the Pacific Crest Trail. All of my favorite hikes involve ending up close to a body of water, as there is no better way to rest on a hike than taking a dip in the clean lakes around Tahoe. The Marlette Lake hike via the flume trail is a great hike for looking out over Lake Tahoe from 7500’ up on the east side of the lake. The hike begins in Incline Village and is 14 miles round trip, but well worth every step taken. Being 7500’ up on the east side of the Lake you get a great overhead view of Sand Harbor and can even see the entrance to Emerald Bay on clear days. Angora Lake is a beautiful lake that does not tend to get the crowds that you find around Lake Tahoe. The hike is a mild 3 miles round trip and is on a very well paved path as there are also lake cabins that may be rented by the lake and thus the hiking trail doubles as a road. The Pacific Crest Trail runs down the west side of the lake and takes you by Squaw Valley ski area, directly through the Desolation Wilderness, and down through the Carson Pass. This hike can be easy or difficult depending on the section of the trail you decide to hike, but no matter what section you hike, you are going to see all sorts of beautiful landscapes.

Any one of these hikes as well as many others that can be found in the Lake Tahoe area are some of the best hikes I have been on in the continental United States. Lake Tahoe does not contain all the poisonous plants and animals that most other regions have to deal with and so while hiking you can spend your time looking at the landscape as opposed to worrying about running into poison oak. My biggest piece of advice before hiking is to make sure you do some research on the area before starting out on your hike; as you want to be sure to know the area you will be hiking very well. Websites such as everytrail.com and summitpost.org provide great details on many different hiking trails all throughout the United States. Not only do these sites describe the hikes in great detail, but they all give great suggestions on what to bring and what to watch out for while hiking. Happy exploring!!!

 

Star Power – Is It Portable?

30/07/15 10:06 am | Comments (0) | Posted By:

 

Harvard Business Review OnPoint’s Summer 2015 issue includes an article on “How Star Women Build Portable Skills” suggesting that women, in their efforts to maneuver in a male oriented environment, actually build skills that are more portable than men. The research study was conducted on stock analysts starting several years back.

Strategy #1 – Build an external network

Female star analysts take their work environment more seriously yet rely on it less than male stars do. Their decision to maintain an external focus rested on four main factors:

  1. Uneasy in-house relationships: People are most comfortable forging relationships with those most like themselves.
  2. Poor mentorship: Most female analysts who become stars have had mentors. Those who did have mentors received less support from them than male stars did. They missed out on one of the most valuable services a mentor provides: access to a network of relationships.
  3. Neglect by colleagues: Locker-room and sports-bar cultures make it difficult for female analysts to forge strong bonds. Men gravitate to who they tend to think will be around…the men…they think women will leave when they marry or have kids.
  4. A vulnerable position in the labor market: Even female-friendly firms tend to lay off more women than men during economic conditions.

Strategy #2 – Scrutinize prospective employers

Men tend to concentrate on compensation. Women are more likely to weigh multiple considerations such as attitudes of the research director and the existence of female colleagues and role models. Women look at the culture of a department in terms of how women fit in along with its value, atmosphere, and tone.

Have things changed much? Awareness, maybe, resulting in a more concerted effort to develop and implement women’s initiatives within organizations. The HBR story line emphasized what can be learned from this study:

For employees, the decision to change jobs should be made strategically, not only with an eye toward promotions and raises, but also from an informed awareness of the new firm’s resources and culture.

For organizations, the focus should be on building talent from within and taking measures to retain the stars they create.

Balance internal and external relationships. Your life changes as you move up the ladder. To succeed you must develop peer relationships at the firm. That’s how things get done. That’s how trust evolves. Whether they are internal or external “trusted relationships” are the key.

Lost and Found Dogs? There’s an App for That!

22/07/15 8:39 am | Comments (0) | Posted By:

 

On June 22, 2015, Washoe County announced that it was the first in Nevada, along with the Nevada Humane Society, to team up with Finding Rover, an app that uses facial recognition to help identify lost dogs. Finding Rover consists of a free mobile app and website and is very easy to use. It has been extremely beneficial in assisting dog owners reunite with their lost pets in a timely manner. Here is how it works:

The app and website use a lost and found dog notification system that sends out push notifications to users within a 10-mile area. When a potentially lost dog is identified, the user takes a picture of the dog, either within the app or uploads the picture from his or her device’s photo album, and Finding Rover’s facial recognition software determines whether or not the uploaded picture matches one of the lost pets on file. Once a dog has been identified through the software, the finder receives information on how to contact the dog’s owner.

 Washoe County Regional Animal Services and the Nevada Humane Society are now using the Finding Rover app to help Washoe County residents find their lost dogs. Both shelters now upload pictures of all newly found or admitted dogs to Finding Rover, which not only matches up found dogs with lost dogs submitted by users, but also allows users to browse the shelters’ listings of found dogs right from their phones or computers. In addition, the Nevada Humane Society now registers all newly adopted dogs with Finding Rover at the time of adoption, which could prove to be an extremely valuable resource in the event that a dog goes missing.

For more information on the app, visit Finding Rover’s website at www.findingrover.com

 

 

 

 

 

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