This page uses JavaScript. Your browser either does not support JavaScript or you have it turned off. To see this page properly please use a JavaScript enabled browser.
Getting Ahead
4th Quarter 2018

In this issue:

The Secret to Keeping Next Year's Financial Resolutions

Why You Should Sell Your Home in 2019

Six Things to Do in Winter to Prepare for Spring

The Secret to Keeping Next Year's Financial Resolutions

Resolutions Most people are feeling pretty good about their finances these days. There is, however, room for improvement.

About one-third of all Americans intend to make a financial resolution for the year ahead, according to a new report by Fidelity Investments.

"There's a connection between overall financial wellness and happiness," said Ken Hevert, senior vice president of retirement and income solutions at Fidelity Investments.

For the 10th year in a row, the most popular money promises include saving more, followed by paying down debt and spending less. Fidelity polled more than 2,000 adults in October.

When it comes to saving more, the majority of respondents aim to sock away an extra $200 a month toward their long-term goals in 2019 such as retirement, college and health care, Fidelity said.

To that end, nearly half said they will boost their contributions to a 401(k) or IRA — helped, in part, by the new, higher limits for 2019.

Of course, unexpected expenses could stand in the way, respondents said. Rising health-care costs, stock market volatility and the economy, as well as higher interest rates, topped the list of financial concerns, Fidelity found.

Nearly 6 in 10 also confessed to making a few mistakes that could derail their progress in the year ahead, such as eating out too often and splurging on something they couldn't afford.

Despite those setbacks, it is possible to keep your resolutions well into the new year, Hevert said.

"Anytime you want to make a major change, the resolution is simply a way to make explicit your intent. The real key is to make this into a habit."

Here's how:

1. Download a budgeting app:
When it comes to money matters, most Americans worry about making ends meet, unexpected expenses and health-care costs, according to a separate study by LendingTree, which polled more than 1,000 adults about their resolutions for 2018.

There is no magic formula for being able to make ends meet. You have to live within your means, and to do that you need to budget. Having a budgeting app on your phone makes it easier to accomplish that.

Apps such as Mint or Albert keep tabs on your spending and help find places where some expenses can be cut, such as dining out, recurring subscriptions or streaming services you hardly use. You can even set budgets that alert you when they start to top out.

Pocketguard is a simpler alternative. It tells you how much you have for spending after accounting for bills and savings goal contributions. Then you can see how much money is left "in your pocket" for the day, week or month.

Take the surplus and deposit it into an emergency fund or raise the amount that is taken out of your paycheck for retirement plan contributions. Even a 1 percent to 2 percent increase may not seem like much but can have a significant impact on your savings over time.

2. Look for a better rate on your savings:
Rising interest rates can help make the most of the money you've set aside.

As the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark rate, yields on savings accounts have increased, as well. While the average interest rate on a savings account is still only 0.2 percent, some top-yielding savings accounts are now as high as 2.25 percent and you can earn even more with CDs, or certificates of deposit.

Switch to an institution that offers at least a 2 percent return, if you haven't already. With a savings rate, or annual percentage yield, of 0.2 percent, a $10,000 deposit earns just $20 after one year. At 2.25 percent, that same deposit would earn $225.

On the flip side, higher interest rates also mean that it's more expensive to borrow, so pay down any credit card debt as soon as possible.

The average credit card interest rate is now over 17 percent, according to's latest report — near a record high.

Putting purchases on plastic is fine as long as you pay the balance in full and on time every month to avoid racking up such expensive debt.

3. Get ahead of health-care costs:
When it comes to medical expenses, this is the time to pay extra attention to what lies ahead.

If you've already met your health insurance deductible for 2018, you can save money by scheduling appointments and procedures before the end of the year — rather than waiting until 2019 when you begin a new year and your deductible kicks in again.

Keep in mind, though, your plan may have a maximum number of visits for certain things such as dental cleanings or physical therapy visits.

At the same time, it's use-it-or-lose-it time for many with flexible spending accounts. Unless your employer offers a grace period or rollover option, the pretax money you have in an FSA must be used by Dec. 31.

You can spend what's left on contact lens solution, cough medicine, first-aid kits, high-SPF sunscreen or even lip balm. Look to see what qualifies as accepted expenses.

(Health Savings Accounts, or HSAs, work differently than FSAs in that you have an unlimited amount of time to reimburse yourself for eligible medical expenses. Yes, you can still use the money now to cover health-care expenses without depleting your cash on hand, but leaving money in an HSA long-term will enable you to use those funds to cover health-care expenses decades down the road.)

Article courtesy of

Back To Top

Why You Should Sell Your Home in 2019

Few people are predicting that 2019 will be a record-breaking year for home prices.

HousesBut relatively speaking, 2019 might be the best time for you to put your house on the market. Especially if you’re on the fence about selling this year or next, Nick Ron, CEO of House Buyers of America, recommends going with the devil you know rather than the devil you don’t.

“I think it’ll be better than 2020 and 2021 – who knows what’s going to happen in those years,” Ron says.

Home price growth slowed in the second half of 2018, with fewer buyers entering the market, at least partially due to rising interest rates issued by the Federal Reserve. In 2019, consumers shouldn’t expect homebuyers to flood the market again and drive prices through the roof, but it’s also unlikely to be a crisis for home sellers.

If you bought your house in the last year or two, still love it and don’t want to part with it, go ahead and wait another five years before revisiting the thought of selling. But if you’re weighing your options to sell, considering selling this year or maybe the year after, don’t play the waiting game. Here are four reasons to sell your house in 2019.

New buyers are still entering the market. As interest rates rise, some buyers will hesitate to make an offer on a home or apply for a mortgage, so be ready to see occasional drops in buyer activity. And if your house is at the higher end of the price range in your market, you should expect less buyer interest than before. Ron notes the combination of rising mortgage rates and home prices exceeding buyers' budgets are what has caused the slowing of homebuyer activity in recent months.

But with available housing inventory remaining low, even with rising interest rates, buyers who are ready to make a purchase will still shop for homes. The biggest wave of new homebuyers will be among millennials, who are mostly first-time buyers. In a Harris Poll survey of 2,000 U.S. adults commissioned by real estate information company Trulia, more than one-fifth of Americans between ages 18 and 34 said they plan to buy a home within the next 12 months. Already, millennials make up the largest share of homebuyers at 36 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors, which released the number in March 2018.

The bottom line: While houses may sit on the market for a few more days on average compared with 2017 when the market was white-hot, buyers remain active and it’s still possible to profit from your home sale.

Interest rates are still low-ish. Mortgage interest rates are rising, reaching 4.87 percent in November for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage, per data from Freddie Mac. While rates are at their highest level since February 2011, they remain much lower than the historic high of more than 18 percent in 1981.

It’s important to keep in mind that while mortgage rates tend to mirror the Fed’s interest rate activity, mortgage rates are based on the market in that moment, your financial status and the property you’re looking to purchase.

Just because the Fed raises rates at one meeting doesn’t mean mortgage rates will follow that exact pattern. “Not every Fed increase is passing on (to) a mortgage rate,” says John Pataky, executive vice president and chief consumer and commercial banking executive at TIAA Bank.

A sudden leap in mortgage interest rates is unlikely in 2019, though Pataky notes that you should be ready to see rates continue to climb. “We do expect over the next 12 months that mortgage rates will continue to drift higher,” he says.

If you’re looking to get the lowest interest rate possible on your next house, try to make a deal sooner rather than later.

You have high equity. Homeowners who bought during the recession or shortly after benefitted from historically low interest rates and, up until around 2015, lower home prices that were still in recovery mode. If you fall into that category, your home equity has risen with nearly every mortgage payment, each renovation you made to the house and all the other houses on the block that sold for a higher price.

The higher your equity in your home, the more you net from the sale, which can easily go toward the down payment on your next house. The larger your down payment, the better you look to lenders and the lower your interest rate will be, and the less likely you'll need to increase monthly payments with private mortgage insurance.

Selling in 2019 vs. 2020. If not selling your home in 2019 means putting your house on the market in 2020, the sooner option is the best one. In a survey of 100 U.S. real estate experts and economists by real estate information company Zillow, released in May, almost half expect the next recession to occur in 2020. Another 14 percent believe the recession will hold out until 2021, while 24 percent of panelists expect the recession earlier – sometime in 2019.

Whether you believe the recession is imminent or a long way off, current real estate patterns indicate a sudden upswing in activity or prices is unlikely in the near future. Real estate markets tend to operate on a cycle of their own, the length of which varies by market but can be between 10 and 16 years total and flow from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market with a period of balance in between.

“It doesn’t look like there’s anything on the horizon that’s going to cause a big spike in home prices or increase demand dramatically,” Ron says.

Article courtesy of US News & World Report

Back To Top

Six Things to Do in Winter to Prepare for Spring

GardenThose of us who love to work in the dirt can get a bit depressed and stir crazy in the dead of winter. When I look out at the brown fields, or at the horses rolling around in the mud pasture, it’s hard for me to remember the abundance (and heat, sweat, and weeds) that make up the bulk of the summer at Three Leaf Farm. But as January hits, and the seed catalogs start arriving, I start to get that little bit of excitement to start the whole process again. I spend hours pouring over the seed catalogs, making lists, cross checking them, studying seeding dates, and mapping the fields. The time I spend preparing gives me an opportunity to learn more, become inspired, and organize my farm for the upcoming season. So what can be done in January and February?

1. Study and learn – If you’re an experienced gardener, you may already have a good idea about what grows well here in our climate, as well as what you’ve had success with in the past. You’ve probably experienced your own share of failures as well. But if you’re new to gardening, don’t worry, someone else has ALWAYS ALREADY tried, and probably failed, with just about every aspect of cultivation. That’s the good news! The bad news is that it takes a bit of work studying and reading to learn what is a sure bet for your region, and how to best plant, transplant, cultivate and harvest what you choose.

Reputable seed companies usually have careful instructions on how to grow different seeds. Take the time to read how to do it right and you’ll have a much higher rate of success. There are countless articles and blogs (like this one) on the internet now to help you in your quest for knowledge. Always keep in mind the region about which the author is writing, however, as climates can differ greatly. I write for the foothills of Colorado, which is unique in its hot summers, cold winter, low water, and dry climate. It’s very different in South Carolina!

2. Map your garden – This doesn’t have to be a huge project. You don’t need to create professional level blueprints here, but you do need to have a general idea about the space where you are planning to plant. There are four primary necessities for any successful garden: Light, Water, Soil, and Space. You need to determine the range of all of these so you can choose plants that are best suited for that area.

Measure and draw your garden as close to scale as you can. Draw in any large fixtures, such as the garage, a large tree, a big rock, or anything else that could potentially cause shade during the day. Determine which way is East so you can mark the map and so you’ll have a general understanding of the way the sun will move through the day. Determine your water source, and mark that on the map as well. Consider your soil, and what you will do to keep it healthy and productive. (A huge topic, best left for another article).

3. Make your seed graph – This is probably one of the most useful tools that I use each year, even though it does take me a bit of time to create it. Keeping my seed catalog in front of me, I create a spreadsheet that has the following columns:

Type/ Varietal/ Source/ Stock #/ Quantity/When to Plant/ When to Harvest/ Notes

Type: like Peas, Herbs, or Tomato.
Varietal: like Sugar Snap, Tarragon, or Beefsteak.
Source: I try to buy organic seeds when I can, so sometimes I have to use different sources. I like to keep track of the stock number too so I can easily remember next year what I bought.
When to plant: I indicate whether the seeds should be planted inside, to be later transplanted, or direct sown outside later in the season. Example: Out – Late April, In – Mid March. You can naturally be as detailed here as you like. One year I put exact days in this column, trying to be even more organized, but unfortunately since I can’t control the weather, or when my child gets sick and stays home from school, or any other thing that might throw a cog in my wheel (like laziness!), I make the schedule a little more flexible now!
When to harvest: Most catalogs will give you the days to maturity. For me, though, I do the math now so I can schedule accordingly at harvest time. If I plant June 1, and it has 85 days to maturity, I’m looking at around harvesting around August 15.
Notes: This can be anything I want to remind myself of for next year. Perhaps the plants grew slowly in the greenhouse and I should have started them earlier. Perhaps the tomatoes were so abundant that I don’t need so many of them next year (this year I went crazy with an heirloom varietal of tomato called “Indigo Rose.” It turned out I needed maybe 3 plants of it when I had about 50 in the fields. I also didn’t love the tomato, so – guess what I wrote in the note section?)

Other columns that I’ve used in the past are things like Light: do they need sun, part sun, or shade, and Spacing: how far apart to plant the seeds or transplants. Since I’ve done this for many years now, a lot of that is information that I no longer need to be reminded of, but you can add any column you think will give you information that will help you.

4. Order your seeds – Now that you’ve figured out what you want and where to get it, you get to order your seeds! I always order as early as possible to insure that what I want is not sold out or back-ordered. Potatoes are always notorious for this, so order early.

5. Organize your seeds – when the boxes of seeds arrive, I like to organize them. I will carefully check to make sure that my orders are complete and that I got everything I wanted. Then, I separate the seeds by what I need to start in the greenhouse to be later transplanted, and what can be direct sown in the fields. Next, I organize the seeds by planting date.

6. Inventory your supplies – Take the time in the dead of winter to inventory all your gardening supplies so that you’ll have what you need in the spring. For me, there’s nothing worse than being ready to get my hands dirty only to learn that I can’t find something I need and having to run to Home Depot and battle the spring crowds.

Pull out your tools and give them a good wash if you didn’t do so in the fall. Check to make sure you have seed starting soil, seed trays, pots, or anything else you will need if you plan to start seeds indoors.

If you use large power equipment, like a tractor, tiller, mower, weed eater, etc, this is the time to have it serviced if it needs it.

And then, the fun part, order what you need for the next season!

Article courtesy of Three Leaf Farm

Back To Top