5 Tips to Budget for Christmas in July

5 Tips to Budget for Christmas in July

We know that it’s July, and no one is eager to be reminded of snow and sludge. However, given that Americans spend an average of 2% of their income on Christmas gifts[1], Christmas is an important budgeting line item. By preparing early, your clients can celebrate the holidays without an unexpected financial Grinch.


  1. Make a Christmas list early, and shop year-round.[2] By preparing your list early and shopping consistently, you can take advantage of seasonal sales throughout the year. In addition to targeting sales and increasing your savings, you can beat the maddening crowds during the holiday season.


  1. Have a post-Christmas shopping list.[3] As mentioned in the first tip, many specific items benefit from seasonal sales. This is particularly true for Christmas items. Even if your next Christmas list isn’t complete by December 26th, you can stock up on wrapping paper, ornaments, and other stocking stuffers in preparation for the following year.


  1. Create a Christmas fund.[4] Rather than dipping into your savings, create a specific stash for your gifts. A great resource for this reserve is your “under-budget” cash. If you come in under budget on monthly expenses, such as groceries or gas, you can save this surplus for Christmas gifts.


  1. Turn vacation savings into Christmas savings.[5] Summer vacations are a great way to relax…and overspend. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to save without sacrificing family fun. By driving to your vacation spot, shopping for groceries instead of eating out, or opting for low-cost excursions, you can save some cash for Christmas.
  1. Plan to avoid hidden costs.[6] From wrapping fees to photos with Santa, Christmas is full of costs beyond presents. If you can, plan! By making extensive lists of menus, gifts, and decorations, you will be able to weed out unnecessary expenses and stretch each dollar further.


[1] http://www.thesimpledollar.com/christmas-in-july/

[2] http://www.thesimpledollar.com/christmas-in-july/

[3] http://www.thesimpledollar.com/christmas-in-july/

[4] https://www.everydollar.com/blog/christmas-in-july

[5] https://www.everydollar.com/blog/christmas-in-july

[6] https://www.learnvest.com/2015/07/preparing-for-christmas-spending-early

The Importance of Interns

The Importance of Interns

…in conversation with Randall A. Hoover

In fall 2016, Randy Hoover presented The Power of Internships at our Practice Management Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. This week, we spoke with Mr. Hoover to ask some important questions, and see if any of his best practices have changed. We were delighted to learn the importance and value of interns in financial advisory firms, and below, we share some of his wisdom with you. If you have had an intern or plan to hire one, we would love to hear about your experience as well.


Q: For a firm that has never had an intern, how would you recommend getting started?

A: First, it is essential to determine what your intern will be doing in order to find the best candidate, and ensure that the experience is valuable to both the intern and your firm. Consider the projects at your firm that are important but not urgent, and that you and your full-time team will realistically never get around to. These are concrete projects that can be completed over a summer, but will benefit your bottom line year round. We consider our interns to be Research Assistants, who organize databases and compile information that will improve our operations long after they leave the firm. Many firms are tempted to utilize interns for immediate profit gain through cold calling and marketing projects, but this is usually not as valuable for either the intern or the firm. None of our interns are client-facing. Some interns may attend meetings, but they are only present to observe.


Q: How do you find potential candidates?

A: We employ our interns for multiple summers, which allows them to grow with our firm and increase their value to our team. This approach also provides leadership opportunities for veteran interns. However, our strategy requires onboarding interns as early as high school. By speaking in AP Economics classes, you will reach dozens of bright students and possible intern candidates. As your internship program grows, you can gain access to university internship placement programs and networks. We work with the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.


Q: How do you choose the best from the rest?

A: Start with traditional hiring practices. After that, consider the projects you have outlined and the qualities and experience necessary to complete the work efficiently and effectively. Remember, because you are likely hiring students in a research capacity, you are probably not looking for the best salesperson.


Q: Smart, motivated students are likely to receive several internship offers throughout their college careers. How do you keep them coming back for two or three summers?

A: We provide our interns with unparalleled responsibility, autonomy, and leadership experience. The interns work in a collaborative cohort, and understand the impact and value of their contributions. Moreover, interns who have previously worked with us have the opportunity to manage newer interns, which provides a unique element of management experience.


For more information on internship programs for small businesses, click here for a guide from the U.S. Small Business Association.

5 Tips for Boosting Your Summer Savings

Summer spending can drain your bank account before it’s time to drain the pool. While summer is a fantastic time to take advantage of great weather and vacation time, it is important to stick to your annual budget. These five tips could help your clients stay afloat through the fall.

  1. Air-wareness. Air conditioning is a wonderful luxury. It allows us to cool down the house with the windows closed (avoiding mosquitos!), and create a cool, healthy sleeping environment during the muggy summer months. However, air conditioning is expensive both in your house and in your car. Being mindful about when to use air conditioning can have a major impact on your summer energy costs.


  1. Travel smart. Thousands of families travel throughout the summer months. Although summer travel can be incredibly expensive, creative research can dig up some fantastic deals. By planning carefully, you can ensure a fabulous trip without breaking the bank. However, the most economical vacation is just to stay home. Click here for some great ideas from Forbes about how to make the most of a “staycation”.


  1. Shop summer sales. Whether you have your Christmas list ready or could just spruce up your wardrobe, summer offers some great deals. Many retailers mark down off-season winter gear or home appliances. As summer nears its end, take advantage of close-out sales to buy summer clothing for the following year.


  1. Create a summer savings plan. Although a smart saver budgets all year, summer can serve up temptations that sneakily increase spending. By crafting a special summer budget, you are less likely to succumb to unnecessary expenses this season.


  1. Optimize your barbecues. Summertime barbecues are a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family while enjoying a meal outside. Fortunately, they are also a great way to save money while entertaining! When all your guests pitch in, potlucks allow everyone to try many dishes for a fraction of the overall cost. Moreover, cooking outside keeps the house cooler, reducing your need for air conditioning.


5 Things to Know About a 529 Plan

Whether a child is 8 or 18 years old, you and your clients should financially prepare for his or her college education. Many clients have questions and concerns about 529 plans, especially if college may not be an immediate priority. Here are some common questions and answers to help guide the conversation toward savings success.

  1. We are expecting a baby. Is it too early to start a 529? No way! With college costs continually rising, you will need as many resources as possible to pay for your child’s higher education. The power of compounding means that the earlier you open the 529 account, the more your family could potentially benefit. Put whatever you can into the plan, and then go paint the nursery.
  1. I’m not sure if my child will go to college. What will happen if he or she doesn’t use the money in the plan? There are several ways to use the funds in a 529 plan without funding an education for the original beneficiary.
  1. The funds can be transferred to anyone related to the original beneficiary.
  2. The funds can be removed for purposes other than education, but will be subject to a 10% penalty as well as income tax on the earnings.

You can also refer to this article1 for more information.

  1. Can we use the funds for expenses other than tuition and fees? You can pay for several expenses beyond tuition and fees with funds from a 529, as you will find listed here2. If your student receives a scholarship, the amount of the scholarship can be removed from the 529 and used for non-qualifying expenses without incurring the 10% penalty (earnings would still be subject to income tax).
  1. Do I need to be able to fully fund the 529? No! Put in as much as you can. Again, the power of compounding can potentially affect the balance, so start as soon as you can.
  1. Is this the only way to pay for college? Absolutely not. A 529 is a great way to get started saving for college, and to benefit from growth over time. However, thousands of scholarships, grants, and interest-free loans may become available when your child begins applying to colleges.

The Internal Revenue Service provides guidance on 529 Plans in their Q&A3. We recommend seeking the counsel of a tax advisor as tax laws change over time and may differ by residency and other factors.

Note: The information contained in this blog does not constitute tax advice and is provided for informational purposes only. Clients and financial advisors should consult their tax advisor, local taxing authority, and/or plan provider or sponsor for more information.


1 https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/2014/07/09/beware-of-5-myths-about-changing-a-529-plan-beneficiary

2 https://www.forbes.com/sites/brianboswell/2016/10/02/what-can-you-spend-your-529-savings-on/#17aa0724c3cd  

3 https://www.irs.gov/uac/529-plans-questions-and-answers


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