5 Quick Steps to Improve Your Finances in 2018

Losing weight and improving one’s finances are almost always at the top of most people’s lists of New Year’s resolutions. It makes sense to look out for your physical and financial health so you can enjoy life to the fullest. Following through on your resolutions is usually the tough part — it takes changes in certain behaviors, discipline and time to experience and maintain the results. This is as true for financial planning as it is for losing weight.

If improving your finances is one of your New Year’s resolutions, here are five steps you can take starting Jan. 1:

Immediately Pay Down Holiday Bills and Credit Cards.

Many people splurge on holiday gifts, parties and travel in December, but the bills will come due in January. Resolve to pay down those debts quickly to avoid large interest charges on your credit cards.

Set a goal to pay off the total amount on one card within a few months, if not sooner. If you or your spouse expects a bonus check from your employer in early 2018, use at least some amount from this check to pay down debt. Finally, start by paying off the credit card with the smallest balance. Even though this card may not have the highest interest rate, paying off the total amount on one card will provide the motivation to keep paying off the others.

Build an Emergency Fund.

Everyone should have at least three to six months of their living expenses set aside in a cash savings account. This number should be higher when you are retired, such as one to three years of spending needs, and should be coordinated with your overall investment mix. In order to accomplish this goal when you are working, set up an automatic draft from your paycheck into a separate savings account. This account can be used for emergency car and household expenses and will help avoid piling up new credit card debt on top of the existing debt from the holidays.

I personally use an online bank for my savings account. Online financial institutions often pay higher interest rates on cash and CDs than traditional brick-and-mortar institutions. Here’s another tip: Consider using different banks for your savings account and your checking account. It’s a little less tempting to access your savings account when the spending impulse strikes if it’s not at the same place as your checking account.

Increase 401(k) Retirement Plan Contributions.

The amount each person can contribute to a 401(k) retirement plan is increasing by $500 in 2018, to $18,500 for individuals under age 50 and $24,500 for people 50 and older. Everyone who is working should resolve to save an extra $500 for retirement this coming year.

If you are getting a raise going into 2018, increase your 401(k) savings rate by the amount of your raise if you are not funding your 401(k) to the maximum already. This is a discipline I have followed since receiving my first paycheck at age 22 — I kept increasing my 401(k) savings rate each year until I was able to reach the savings limit, and I’ve never looked back.

Let’s say you are getting a $5,000 raise in 2018. If you save this amount annually over the next 10 years, and at an average annual investment return of 5%, your retirement savings can be over $60,000 higher. That could buy you a shiny new car in retirement.

Rebalance Existing 401(k) and Retirement Account Investments.

In addition to adding to your retirement account, review your existing investments in January to ensure a reasonable mix of stocks and bonds. With equity markets at all-time highs, the percentage of your funds in stocks may now be higher than you planned. Over time, an investment account that is overweight in stocks can grow substantially, but during a recession or stock market downturn your balance can suffer, too.

If retirement is right around the corner for you, it’s especially important to consider the amount of stocks or stock mutual funds you are comfortable owning. Finally, while you are logged into your retirement accounts, check to see that your beneficiary designations are correct and up to date.

Review Home and Car Insurance Policies.

Over the last five years, the consumer price index for auto insurance has gone up over 20%, compared with the overall CPI of 4.5% during this period. Many insurance companies raise auto and home insurance premiums each year, and even small increases can add up over time.

I recommend sitting down with your insurance agent every three years to make certain you are taking advantage of any discounts available, and that you have proper coverage, given changing asset values. Managing risks and protecting your assets is an important part of financial planning. Also, review the deductible amount on each of your auto and home policies. This move can significantly lower premiums now. If you have an adequate emergency fund built up, you should be able to cover a higher deductible in the event of a loss.

It’s time to make New Year’s resolutions stick. Look out for your personal and financial well-being this coming year. You’ll find that making small progress will empower you, and motivate you to reach your goals. And the following year you may just resolve to keep your 2018 resolutions going!

  • jshir22

Retirement savings tips: 401(k) vs IRA

As the end of the year approaches and investors begin to take stock of their savings, one consideration they may want to take into account is how they should allocate money across 401(k) and IRA plans.

In a traditional, employer-sponsored 401(k) plan, employees can contribute tax-deferred money that is generally matched by a company up to a certain percentage. Traditional IRAs are accounts individuals set up independently, where earnings grow tax-free until they are withdrawn in retirement. For a Roth IRA, contributions are taxed first and then withdrawn tax-free, and a Rollover IRA allows individuals to transfer money over from employer-sponsored plans.

Here are some tips to help you navigate the retirement planning process.

Contribution levels

The maximum amount an individual can contribute to a 401(k) plan is significantly higher than what is allowed for an IRA. Beginning next year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will increase the contribution threshold for 401(k) plans by another $500 to $18,500 per year. The maximum allowable, cumulative contribution per year across both traditional and Roth IRA plans is $5,500 or $6,500 for those ages 50 and older.


“Most of the time people work for an employer and obviously the easiest way to invest is to make it automatic … [that’s also] typically the most advantageous,” David Hays, president of Comprehensive Financial Consultants, told FOX Business.

IRAs can be useful for a variety of purposes, however, including higher education expenses for yourself or your children or a down payment for a first-time homebuyer. If funds are withdrawn for these purposes when an investor is under the age of 59.5, they can generally be exempt from the 10% distribution penalty.

401(k) plans don’t provide those options, but Hays said the plans do offer loans for up to 50% of the vested account balance, or $50,000, whichever is less. Not all plans include this allowance.

Investment options and fees

While a traditional 401(k) usually offers limited investment options, IRA choices tend to be limitless, offering investors more flexibility to curate a unique portfolio.

In terms of fees, Hays said IRAs, which tend to be more on the retail side, sometimes comes with higher fees. With 401(k) plans, big companies can offer really low, competitive fees.


For a 401(k), if you are no longer working with an employer, you can generally withdraw funds if you are age 59.5 or older. In some cases, you only need to be over the age of 55. If you withdraw early, you will pay income taxes and a 10% penalty.

On the other hand, you can rollover your 401(k) savings into an IRA plan, should you choose to continue stashing cash away.

For IRA plans, the age 59.5 rule applies, and early withdrawal would also result in a 10% penalty on top of income taxes.

1 Investment to Rule Them All


A friend once asked me, “How do I start investing if I don’t have much money?”

That is a legitimate question, especially for students just out of college or working adults who have just entered the corporate world.

To answer my friend’s question, I jogged back my memory to recall out how I first started investing. I, too, didn’t have much money when I started my investing journey.

I remember all I had was the monthly allowance given to me during National Service, which I had squirrelled away diligently.

With the money I had, I invested in books on personal finance and stock market investing. I remember the first book I bought was Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. I also went for an investment course to help bring down the steep learning curve (I had no accounting or finance background from school).

Essentially, what I did was to invest in myself. By investing in myself and not on a broker’s hot tip, I accumulated the knowledge needed to navigate the stock market.

Warren Buffett, one of the most successful investors the world has seen, mentioned in an interview recently that the best investment you can make is one that “you can’t beat” and that is investing in yourself.

He said:

“Ultimately, there’s one investment that supersedes all others: Invest in yourself. Nobody can take away what you’ve got in yourself, and everybody has potential they haven’t used yet.”

By investing in ourselves first, we will have a proper foundation on which to build our stock portfolio. Without such knowledge, we might lose money from our investments without us knowing why.

Even after we have amassed the knowledge needed to invest in stocks, we should never stop learning.

In Tamil, there’s a saying that goes, “Known is a drop, unknown is an ocean”. There’s always something new to learn about investing every day since the stock market is very fluid.

  • jshir22

Money-Saving Tips for Millennial College-Entrepreneurs

Growing up during the last major recession means that today’s millennial college entrepreneurs are already in the savings mindset. They’ve learned how to live with less than previous generations, which has made them much more conscious of how much things cost. Unlike other generations, they’re looking to offset the cost of things like tuition, housing, food, entertainment, and healthcare expenses.

Knowing where they are going and what they want means that millennials are also empowered to say no to paying too much or relying on credit too often. That’s why this new breed of young entrepreneurs is constantly on the lookout for money-saving tips.

Growing up with technology has also enabled these entrepreneurs to do price comparisons online and access deals and discounts for everything from appetizers to phone cases.

However, there may be some unfamiliar money-saving tips that can help millennials. The millennial wants to save money in areas that aren’t essential to launching their burgeoning startups but can further their frugal ways.

Separate Your Business and Personal Expenses

As a startup owner, especially while you are at college, may be challenging to determine what a business expense is and what a personal one is. It becomes particularly sticky given the fact that you might be running your new business from your dorm or apartment.

However, it’s important to keep good records that separate these expenses and account for them in distinct ways. For tax purposes, keeping good records can deliver additional savings in the form of deductions while lowering your risk of being audited.

Software like QuickBooks allows you and helps you to set up separate records for your business and personal accounts. QuickBooks can also be set-up to track the “what if” category. The What-if category is, “what if a portion of my dorm room can apply to tax credit?” These are the money spending categories you’ll check on when tax time comes. Boom! You track it, you’ll know what questions to ask and it helps you understand how to separate and track various types of expenses.

Because you’re always on the go, it also helps to use an expense-tracking app like Expensify. This app manages every type of expense you have, makes it easy to divide up expenses, and even integrates with QuickBooks.

Reduce Expenses through Comparison Shopping

As a millennial you already do online comparisons. Would you eat at a restaurant without checking on yelp or some other verification site? Probably not. Go to a movie without reviewing? Never. For a movie, you check the review; the movie has your 5 star rating. Next steps, you click over and get the ticket — hop on maps if you haven’t been to this venue (which you also checked out) and you’re outta here.

You may not have realized how savvy you are to the many ways you can undertake cost-cutting and tracking exercises. As millennials you are connected in such a way as to get the word out online where the savings can be found in any business sector. Use this same process for your dorm room entrepreneur system.

Your search now includes ways to reduce utilities, internet, TV services, and more that previously seemed impossibly challenging. Many of these service providers didn’t have competition before, so you were locked into paying what they felt like charging.

With the advent of cable-cutting companies, you can now negotiate. You can also seek out comparison shopping websites designed to save you a bundle with convenient connections to reduced internet services. There are numerous deals out there, and having a platform like this can help you locate and leverage them quickly. Like that movie. Boom, 60 seconds, not hours.

Establish Credit to Build a Good Score

Your business may need to tap into funding to grow and expand. Investors may not be as interested in you, or you may not need much in the way of capital. This is where credit can help, even if you’ve previously avoided it. Some use of credit can not only provide necessary capital, but it also offers a way to establish the credit score you need to get access to more credit later on.

When it comes to accessing business credit, both your business and personal credit scores are checked. With little to no experience with credit, it’s important to educate yourself before making any decisions about what kinds of credit to apply for and how to use it. After all, you don’t want to do anything that ruins this score and costs you more money.

Companies like CreditSoup are there to help. CreditSoup, for example, offers an effective tool that you can tap for learning how to get a credit card. With how fast the millennial searches, you’ll know how to determine which cards are best for your situation, what your credit score means, and what it takes to raise your credit score. The better decisions you make about credit, the more you can use it to manage cash flow.

Tap Campus Resources

Your university has charged you a considerable amount of tuition for access to the campus, including all of its facilities. Make sure you get the best bang for those bucks. Colleges often have school sites and pages where you can advertise your business. These are also sources for finding individuals who can serve as brand ambassadors or work as interns.

Additionally, your school most likely has an incredible library for completing research. And yes, sometime it’s just a quiet place to sit and look online accessing information, and furthering your knowledge of your startup industry or business niche. However the library databases cost money for those not attending a school with paid subscriptions. Get as much of this intelligence as possible while it’s free, and do your compare right there on the spot.

Your university may also have a radio station or other channels to get the word out about what you offer. Even your classes and professors may be able to connect you with more assistance and networking opportunities to grow your business. Look at what’s available, and use as much as you can while you’re still attending school. Also, consider creating an advisory list with contact information that can be beneficial long after you graduate.

Leverage the Sharing Economy

We live and work in the sharing economy, which emerged in response to the recession and continues to be a valuable way to save money. Most social media sites host groups of individuals who are looking to trade items and equipment for other resources. Scour these sites for items and products that could be useful to your business. You can also offload all that junk you collected in college — it might be a treasure trove to someone else.

Besides these online social media groups — usually referred to as exchanges on sites like Facebook — other online sites, including Craigslist, offer opportunities to share, borrow, or trade things that might otherwise be too expensive. There are sharing sites for home and office items, clothing, transportation, and various services.

Go Crazy for Coupons

Coupons used to be all the rage for your parents. Your mom most likely clipped them from newspapers to use at the grocery store or to buy school clothes. While that saved money, carrying those everywhere meant they were frequently forgotten or lost.

Today, you can tap digital sites, coupon codes, and downloadable discounts. A quick search can find you immediate deals, and browser extensions like Honey can continue to hunt for you while you do other things.

There should be no shame in your money-saving game by taking advantage of coupons. It’s a great feeling to realize that you just saved a significant percentage of your purchase — no one wants to pay full price for anything.

Save, Save, and Save Some More

Those savings mean more money for other items; these strategies put dollars toward your emergency fund, savings account, or retirement planning. Here is a nifty macrs calculator to get there quicker. Best thing about all of this, they set your burgeoning company up for success today — and long after you’ve left school.

5 Little Told Tips for Startups for Efficient Finance Planning


Startups usually end up spending a lot of money on things that aren’t worth investing. This blog discusses top 5 tips to use startup funds wisely.

Startups are the result of great enthusiastic minds that have the courage to take calculated risks, invest money and a have lot of patience to wait to reap ROI. Those who face the challenges and struggles at the initial phase of establishment, with the right approach, see a bright future ahead.

At times, startup owners usually get influenced by suggestions of amateurs and choose the wrong method to spend their money and utilize resources. Considering the reports, statistics and success ratio of startups till date, following are consolidated 5 pointers for efficient planning of money and resources:

Do not fall in the trap of lawyers

As a startup, you may need legal assistance, but at a very basic level. You may come across law agencies and lawyers who offer packages to serve dedicatedly to your firm. You should know that your agency is not yet established in well manner and does not need dedicated law services.

Instead it is better to hire the service as and when required instead of contracting with the law agencies in advance for all types of legal assistance.

Avoid paying exorbitant ticket rates to attend conference and events

In an attempt to gain knowledge on how to groom startups, people usually end up attending a series of events and conferences. Not only is the entry ticket to these events too high but these are utter waste of time as no 2 to 3 hour session can skyrocket your startup.

One option to learn is to take advice of people you know personally and discuss your business challenges with them. Referring videos and learning from them is also a cost as well as time saving option.

Co-working office space isn’t always good option

In order to save money, startups may opt for co-working spaces. However, this may have a negative impact on your team. If the other people sharing your working space aren’t dedicated to their work, they may spoil the culture and overall working environment.

Though small in space, get your own workplace and establish a loyal, dedicated and healthy working culture. In such environment, developers can focus on their work and deliver fast outcomes.

Save on accounting and finance services

Your startup isn’t big enough to hire accounting and finance services. When you have a handsome number of people working for you, it is easy to manage their payroll on your own.

At a later stage when the strength of your company is above 30, you may look up for some cost-effective accounting and finance service provider that best suits your business requirements.

Keep a limited budget for advertising

Marketing and advertising is essential for a startup to build a good brand reputation and spread a word about its existence among target audience. Spend wisely on advertising services as this is a very vast field and there is no limit to the money you spent on different marketing mediums.

Set aside a budget for marketing to know that you are not overspending on it. Later when you have earned decent profit, you can add to this budget and take advertising strategy to a broader scale.

Wrapping it up…

Strategic planning and management of time, money and resources is the only key to a successful startup. Owners should have a broad vision as well as the talent to tackle run time challenges and dynamic problems. Stay at the forefront of technological advancements and trends and gain a competitive edge. Good luck to all startup owners!

  • jshir22

Good Reasons to Invest in Foreign Stocks Right Now

They’re cheap, rallying and provide diversification.

After badly trailing U.S. stocks for most of the past decade, foreign stocks are suddenly on fire. Is now the time to load up on them, or is it already too late? And what portion of your stock money should you invest overseas?

Consider recent returns. Since the start of the year, the MSCI EAFE index of stocks in foreign developed markets rose 13.3%, and the MSCI Emerging Markets index soared 17.7%. Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, though it had a not-too-shabby return of 9.5%, is running far behind. (All returns in this article are through July 7.)

But foreign stocks’ recent performance follows a truly abysmal decade, when they returned virtually nothing. Over the past 10 years, the MSCI developed market index returned an annualized 0.8%, and the emerging-markets index returned an annualized 1.4%—even with the recent rally. Many foreign bourses have yet to climb above their 2007 pre-bear-market highs. Over the same 10 years, the S&P 500 returned an annualized 7%.

Vanguard founder Jack Bogle is one of many observers who see little or no benefit to investing in foreign stocks. Roughly 45% of the revenues from stocks in the S&P are earned overseas. Why take the currency and political risks of investing in foreign countries? And in emerging markets, particularly, companies must deal with far more government meddling and corruption than in the U.S.

But over longer stretches, foreign stocks have provided close to the same results as U.S. stocks. Plus, foreign stocks and U.S. stocks don’t move in lock step. Says Ben Johnson, a Morningstar analyst: “If diversification is the only free lunch in investing, investors are leaving a lot on the lunch table.”

From the start of 1970 through June 30, 2017, the S&P returned an annualized 11.0% while foreign developed stocks returned an annualized 9.2%. The performance gap can be almost entirely explained by foreign stocks’ recent slump. From 1970 through 2010, foreign developed stocks trailed the S&P by an average of just one-half of one percentage point per year.

Even more intriguing: Since 1970, foreign stocks and U.S. stocks have taken turns leading each other for multiyear periods. I had Morningstar look at rolling five-year returns over the years since 1970. By this I mean Morningstar computed returns from the beginning of 1970 through 1974, from 1971 through 1975 and so on.

U.S. stocks led foreign stocks over trailing five-year periods from 2011 through the present, from 1991 through 2003 and from 1983 through 1985. Foreign stocks were the winners from 2004 through 2010, from 1986 through 1990 and from 1978 through 1982.

Next, consider valuations. Partly because foreign stocks have been such abysmal performers of late, they’re cheaper on virtually every measure of value you can find—price-earnings ratio, price-to-sales ratio, price-to-book-value ratio, dividend yield and so on.

The S&P currently trades at a lofty 18 times estimated earnings for the coming 12 months. But foreign developed stocks trade, on average, at 15 times earnings, which is right in line with long-term averages. And emerging-markets stocks change hands at a mere 12 times earnings.

I don’t expect stocks in foreign developed countries, emerging markets and the U.S. to trade at the same price-earnings ratios anytime soon. Europe and Asia both face more headwinds than the U.S. Nor do I think foreign stocks will hold up as well as U.S. stocks in the next bear market.

But I do expect that valuations will grow closer to one another over time. Why? Consider some of the largest holdings in the foreign developed stock index: Nestle, Novartis, Roche, Toyota, BP and British American Tobacco. These are not so much foreign stocks as they are global multinationals. Ditto for some of the largest holdings in the S&P: Apple, ExxonMobil, Facebook, Johnson & Johnson and General Electric.

How much should you invest in foreign stocks? About 47% of global stock market capitalization is outside the U.S. Vanguard’s target retirement funds allocate almost 40% of their stock investments to foreign stocks. In a letter to shareholders, Vanguard Chairman William McNabb criticized “home bias,” the tendency of investors worldwide, not just in the U.S., to overweight their own country’s shares. “In their aversion to the unknown, investors can end up increasing, rather than lessening, their risks,” he wrote. “That’s because they’re sacrificing broad global diversification—one of the best ways I know of to help control risk.”

In my view, 40% in foreign stocks is too much. After all, U.S. investors, for the most part, spend dollars, not euros or yen. I recommend that investors put 25% to 35% of their stock money in foreign stocks in the current climate—with younger and more risk-tolerant investors skewing more toward the higher number.

What’s emotionally difficult about owning foreign stocks is that it guarantees you’ll be out of sync with the U.S. market for lengthy periods. And most of the day-to-day investing news we digest is about the U.S. market. The combination would have made it easy to throw in the towel on foreign stocks at the end of last year—which would have been precisely the wrong time.

Donavan Group Consulting in Singapore and Tokyo, Japan on Mergers and Acquisitions

Donavan Group guides clients acquire the highest value by merging Approach, Determination, Implementation and Synergy. The company serves as agents of sellers and buyers of privately-owned small to medium-sized targeted-market firms. The company has successfully closed more than 100 deals, particularly engaging in M&A, confidential sale and valuation through our team’s excellent performance.


Positive results arise from applying a clearly-defined strategy. Comprehending how selling or acquiring a company can produce greater revenue is at the core of determining value, looking for buyers or sellers and closing the transaction. The company will guide you in designing the strategic structure for achieving a fruitful deal that benefits the two parties involved.


You must become clearly aware of what you are acquiring or selling and how it will end up bringing you greater benefits than the present situation you are in. Diligence based on an effective method leads you to appreciate how to build more wealth from a sale or a business acquisition. The company can guide you determine the vital options for existing and ongoing worth by performing meticulous research.


Our company effectively connects buyers and sellers and facilitates the transaction procedure by conducting personalized buyer or seller searches, producing or evaluating selling offers, helping legal advice and guiding the negotiations.


The process of merging businesses demands stringent execution of a complete list of integration steps. Proper integration requires a clear strategy that involves mixing the best practices and the most qualified people from every company concerned. Donavan Group will assist this process with its broad and highly relevant expertise.

Selling a Company

Financial and methodical buyers constantly seek firms to buy. Donavan Group will provide several offers at the greatest return and with the most satisfactory conditions. The company will offer your business to several pinpointed buyers under strict privacy. Donavan Group provides excellent assistance in selling businesses over several industries and will also design an exit strategy, assess your company worth, conduct searches for buyers and facilitate the buy/sale negotiation.

Acquiring a Business

Due diligence is a vital requirement in the acquisition procedure. Donavan Group will guide you in obtaining returns from a purchase by getting a better understanding of the prospective firm and forging a sound strategy for integration. Our focus is always on building wealth, well-guided due diligence, risk evaluation and responsive integration. The company gage success in negotiating by implementing a streamlined transition and attaining the greatest value possible. Donavan Group will also undertake the acquisition search, fulfill due diligence, evaluate the business operations, assess the company worth, facilitate the buy-or-sale deal and help raise capital (equity and/or debt).

Donavan Group Consulting in Singapore and Tokyo, Japan

It does not matter what status you have in life or what condition people you love are in their lives – we only have a single important question to ask: What is the most important thing in your life?

Donavan Group offers personalized solutions which include client-directed service options and comprehensive company-directed alternatives to allow you the freedom to create a bespoke investment and service program that satisfies your circumstances while attaining your financial objectives.


Donavan Group help companies pinpoint potential investment options and anticipate hazards along the way to delivering value to our clientele.

Mergers & Acquisitions

Donavan Group also provide M&A services, particularly in implementing a merger-&-acquisition, confidential sale and value assessment of small to medium-sized private firms.

Financial & Retirement

The early planner always reaches the goal

You may think that planning is such a waste of time because nothing seems to remain fixed in life. And so, plans may change at mid-stream; but what matters in all of this process is that you know your major priorities, your lifestyle choice and retirement objectives and that to achieve them you must create a sound financial plan. Being updated with new regulations, maximizing your many opportunities and strengthening your finances is essential in attaining your chosen lifestyle and financial goals. Remember: Be also aware of the many obstacles that may affect your future retirement life. You can address them creatively by anticipating and preparing to manage them in order to provide you with the assurance that your future financial situation is the most ideal.

Investment Advice

Having Your Own Dedicated Wealth Advisor

A complete investment plan and sound asset allocation can help enhance your benefits and reduce the risks to your overall portfolio, in keeping with your desire to achieve your personal aspirations. With the diligent assistance of our research and investment exerts, we strive to provide dependable support through regular up-to-date inputs on current market events and potential investment options for our clients. Our guidance includes both an alternative management portfolio and client-friendly strategy. Inherent in our team-oriented approach, we assure clients accessibility to our investment professionals at all times to handle all your investment issues.