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  • Five Tips to Vacation on a Budget

    Thanks to RBS Citizens Financial Group for this informative sponsored post. You can read the full CFO disclosure policy here.

    Desperate for a getaway but wondering how to pay for it? Arranging a vacation on a budget can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Create a budget for your family vacation, and start saving money each month for your next big trip. In the meantime, consider planning a cheap weekend vacation with your family, and follow these tips and budget vacation ideas.

    1. Create a budget for family vacations: Using a spreadsheet tool, outline the expenses for your trip. To do this, you’ll need to decide where and when you want to go. Don’t forget to include the costs of the following items:

    • Wardrobe: Will you need a new swimsuit or summer dress? A new ski parka?
    • Passport fees: If you’re going out of the country, be sure to get updated passports for the whole family.
    • Toiletries: Buying travel size items can get expensive. Instead, choose a bag to check, and pack enough toiletries for the family.
    • Camera: Will you need disposable underwater cameras? Don’t forget about extra batteries and a memory card for your digital camera.
    • Travel fare: Save enough for plane tickets, rental cars, buses, trains, gas or public transportation.
    • Activities: Plan out what you want to do before you go. Budget enough for these activities and the cost of any rental equipment required.

    2. Book early: If you’re going to fly, book as early as possible. If you can fly mid-week or on a red-eye, it’s typically cheaper. Get a credit card that will earn you frequent flier miles, and start racking up the savings.

    3. Travel during the off-season: One of the best ideas for a vacation on a budget is to travel during the off-season to save money on flights and accommodations. Plus, you won’t find your destination overrun by tourists. Consider Ireland in February, Jamaica in April, Las Vegas in August and Lake Tahoe in November.

    4. Take short day or weekend trips instead of extravagant vacations: You might be surprised how many scenic parks, historical sites and other places of interest are right in your backyard.

    5. Choose economic accommodations: When you’re planning a cheap vacation, consider splitting the cost of accommodations and meals with another family through a timeshare or vacation rental. Other options include home exchange, hostels or home stays, but be sure you thoroughly research these options. Finally, camping equipment may be expensive up front, but it can provide cheap vacation accommodations for several years.

    Budget for your family vacation by opening a savings account

    Take advantage of the above budget vacation ideas to save money during your trip, but remember that even planning a cheap vacation starts by opening a savings account. Look for an account that provides you with tools like automatic transfers and goal tracking to help you reach your savings goals. With the right tools in place, you’ll watch your savings grow – fast. To give your savings plan an additional boost, you may want to consider money market accounts or other high-yield savings options that can provide a greater return on your investment. Find a savings account that meets your needs, and set aside money each month so you have enough cash for your vacation expenses when the time comes.

    Help for Caregivers

    This post is sponsored by Genworth Financial. All opinions are my own. Read the full CFO disclosure policy here.

    As I see my own and my husband’s grandparents needing more care as they age, long-term care has really become a relevant topic for me. We’ve previously discussed what long-term care insurance is, whether and when to buy long-term care insurance, and the cost of long-term care.

    Long-term caregiving isn’t easy, whether you have to be a hands-on caregiver, or you’re more of a coordinator who ensures that your loved one is getting the care they need. That’s why I like Genworth Financial’s Caregiver Q&A on Facebook. Some of the topics covered are how to choose a professional caregiver, how to select a nursing home, protecting aged loved ones over long distances, and more.

    There are also ways to prepare long-term caregiving, as this USA Today article mentions.

    Even for those of us who are hopefully too young for this to be a pressing issue, it’s good to have a few things in place for the unthinkable: A power of attorney (which gives a specified person legal authority to make financial decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so yourself); a health care proxy (which gives a specified person the authority to make decisions regarding your medical treatment); and a living will (which should include instructions for end-of-life care).

    It’s important to have these documents yourself, to make things easier for your loved ones in case something happens to you. And that also gives you a nice opening for a discussion with those loved ones: I just had a durable power of attorney and living will made up, in case something happens to me. Do you have them too? Or something like that.

    Think of it the way you do life insurance: hopefully you won’t need it, but you’ll be kicking yourself (or worse) for doing nothing if you do end up needing it.

    The Cost of Long-Term Care

    This post is sponsored by Genworth Financial. All opinions are my own. Read the full CFO disclosure policy here.

    Last fall, we talked about what long-term care insurance is, and whether and when to buy long-term care insurance.

    Now, Genworth Financial has a handy Cost of Care Map, which you can access by clicking on the image below:

    The map allows you to view compare costs across locations, and calculate projected long-term care costs.

    For example, in California, the median cost for a private one-bedroom apartment in an assisted living facility is $42,000 per year. In 30 years, when I may need such care, the cost is projected to be an astonishing $181,522! Yikes! If you’re in a high cost-of-living area, you may want to check out this list of the 10 most affordable cities for long-term care.

    The cost of health care is only going to go up. So it’s definitely worth investigating whether long-term care insurance is right for you. Start here to learn more about long-term care insurance.

    Fascinating Look at how IBM Helps Businesses Grow (Sponsored Video)

    I opted for a J.D. instead of an MBA, but I nevertheless find business management conceptually interesting. So I thoroughly enjoyed the two videos below, which give a taste of how IBM has helped two businesses – Papa Gino’s (a New England pizza chain) and Sun World (a California produce company) – develop real-time business analytics and strategies for using those statistics to help their businesses:



    Email and RSS readers may need to click through to the post in order to see the videos.
    I really liked how the specific examples given demonstrate how the information provided by IBM can help. In the case of Papa Gino’s, they were able to reduce the delivery time estimate they give their customers, and Sun World was able to increase communication among different levels of employees during their short harvest season. I’d read that real time statistics are important to companies, but as an outsider, it was very interesting to see just what that information can do for them.

    Disclosure: This post is sponsored by IBM. Any opinions are my own. Read the full CFO disclosure policy here.

    Should You Buy Long Term Care Insurance and When?

    We’ve previously discussed what long term care insurance is – it generally covers the cost of home health aides, skilled nursing, assisted living, and nursing homes. These are expenses not covered by medical insurance policies and Medicare, so you basically have four choices if you need long term care: 1) buy a long term care insurance policy; 2) save for long term care; 3) rely on family and/or friends; or 4) rely on government assistance.

    The first question, of course, is whether you will actually need long term care – though common sense would seem to say that yes, unless you die a tragic and untimely death, you will at some point require assistance. As I get older, I see my grandparents’ generation requiring more and more assistance. In fact, my husband and I have four living grandparents between us, and all but one receive some form of long term care assistance. The one who doesn’t lives with an aunt, so there’s some assistance there, though not intensive when it comes to day to day life activities. There are all kinds of studies out there, and the lawyer in me tends to be skeptical of studies sponsored by insurance companies, but it’s not hard to believe statistics like at least 70 percent of people over age 65 will require some long-term care services at some point. It seems safe to assume that if we are able to grow old, we will eventually need assistance.

    So assuming we’ll need long term care, let’s also assume that we don’t want to rely on government assistance or impose on family and friends. That leaves us with an insurance policy or personal savings.

    The consensus seems to be that you’ll need to have at least one million dollars in assets (per person) to be able to afford retirement and long term care. If you think you’ll get there in retirement savings before you retire, then you may not need long term care insurance (but keep in mind that the younger you are now, the more you’ll need for retirement – more than one million if you’re quite young now).

    For those of us who are not (yet) that wealthy, long term care insurance may make the most sense. Unfortunately, long term care insurance is like life insurance, in that the cost of the policy goes up as you get older. But unlike life insurance, which you are more likely to need when you are younger because of dependents, you are more likely to need long term care insurance when you’re older. Also, you’ll need to buy the policy while you’re still healthy – so someone who tends to be ill more might want to buy a policy at a younger age than someone who rarely gets sick.

    The worst news is that long term care insurance costs are going up – a lot. Most states regulate the increase in insurance premiums so they likely won’t be allowed to skyrocket, but they can go up 15% per year or more. That means even if you can afford a policy right now, you’ll have to decide whether you can afford increased premiums in the years ahead.

    Thus, whether and when you should buy long term care insurance seems like a really tricky, really personal question. But based on the way premiums increase as you get older, it makes sense to evaluate your health and financial situation and whether to buy a policy in your late 40′s.

    If you are currently in the market for a policy, here are some tips for selecting a long term care insurance policy, as well as some strategies to consider if you can’t afford a full policy, such as choosing a catastrophic policy.

    I’m grateful that I’m too young to worry too much about long term care right now, but I think I might have a chat with my parents about what’s going on with them.

    This post is sponsored by Genworth Financial. All opinions are my own. Read the full CFO disclosure policy here.

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