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The Intelligent Life Blog

Helping millions of Americans become educated
in making intelligent decisions around their life needs

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How to Be Prepared for Unexpected Expenses

Jan 16, 2017 4:56:00 PM

If there's one thing in life that's certain, it's that plans often change. Your idea of a perfect vacation could go south with an unexpected illness, a broken down vehicle, or even the theft of some belongings. What was supposed to be a quiet winter season can turn stressful when the furnace breaks, or there's a sudden leak in the roof.

The common thread running through all of these events is money. When the unexpected occurs, it's usually not in the form of a winning lottery ticket. No, instead you unexpectedly find yourself parting with money. Here's what you need to know about unexpected expenses and a few tips on getting a good preparation plan in place.




10 Debt Traps to Avoid in 2017

Jan 12, 2017 10:40:00 AM

It's never fun being broke or having to live paycheck to paycheck. Wondering if you'll be able to pay your bills is stressful, and access to money is often limited. Those who have escaped debt will tell you that it is both a struggle and one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself and your family. Maybe you just see the potential for trouble on the horizon and want to avoid total financial disaster. Whether you're crawling out of debt or hope to avoid its pitfalls, here are just ten debt traps to avoid in 2017.

1. Spending Too Much on a Home

Buying too much home is a common mistake that gets many people in over their heads in debt. A standard monthly benchmark for housing is 30% of your income. Many go up to 40%, but too many families fail to consider such things as property taxes, insurance, upkeep, and repairs in their budget.




How to Make the Right Decisions

Jan 8, 2017 8:17:00 PM

Do you have difficulty making decisions? For many people, having to choose between even two simple alternatives is a stressful proposition, and life-changing decisions can be downright debilitating. If you'd rather not just throw caution to the wind and flip a coin when it comes to where you live, work, or who you spend your time with, some effective decision-making skills might be useful. Here are five exercises that can help you work through decisions, big and small so that you can come to better conclusions with less overall stress.

1. Identify Your Goals

It's difficult to make sound decisions if you don't have clear goals. In fact, people who aren't able to sit down and reflect on what they want are more likely to make bad decisions. If you want to avoid a series of bad, and potentially costly choices, sit down and list out your goals. The decisions that will help you achieve those goals will become more apparent.




Planning Your Finances for 2017

Jan 5, 2017 10:32:42 AM

The new year is often a time when we make resolutions about living a healthier lifestyle. While resolving to exercise and eat better is a wonderful thing, the overall health of your personal finances could often use some attention as well. The new year is the perfect time to create new financial habits, which includes setting some goals. Here are several important areas to consider as you plan your finances for 2017.

Assess Your Situation

Whether you're planning for retirement, trying to claw your way out of debt, or saving for the dream of home ownership, it's hard to make a plan if you don't know where you stand. Sit down and make a list of your assets and liabilities. This means that you list out everything that you own as well as what you owe. If this sounds tedious, but there are some free online tools can help you get this done, such as Mint.com.




Are New Year's Resolutions a Good Idea?

Dec 24, 2016 8:36:00 AM

Are you one of the many people that flood into the local fitness center during the first weeks of the new year, determined to make a change? How about tossing out all of the sugar in the kitchen or vowing to give up social media - except on the weekends? Many of us make resolutions at the start of the new year with the best of intentions, only to fall back into the same habits in short order. So, it's a pretty common debate about whether New Year's resolutions are a good idea at all or even healthy.

Why News Year's Resolutions Are a Good Idea

New Year's resolutions are an excellent idea for several reasons. Anyone who is willing to sit down and take stock of their life and see where a few things might need improvement should be commended. Setting goals can work but only if done properly.

Thousands of studies have been conducted on goal setting and the psychology of goals. Several overriding themes have surfaced from these studies. Among these are that goals should have meaning, be realistic, and be measurable. Setting a goal to lose 30 lbs. over the coming year is a noble quest, but without an action plan, you likely won't get very far. This is why too many goals, or resolutions, fall by the wayside.




Winterization: 7 Tips To Keep You Comfortable and Safe

Dec 20, 2016 6:43:00 PM

When the temperatures start to drop, it can be tempting to shut all the doors and curl up with a blanket until the spring weather arrives. If you care about your home or other expensive possessions, this could be a mistake. Winter conditions can be rough on your home, your vehicle, and even your lifestyle so a little preparation can save you time and money long-term. Here are just seven winterization tips to keep you comfortable and safe this coming winter.

1. Prepare Your Yard

There are several things that you can do outside to prepare for the coming cold snap. You'll want to mow the lawn one last time, cut back flowers and shrubs, and store away all of your lawn equipment. Also, be sure to empty fountains and hoses and cover or put away patio furniture to protect it from the elements. If you have winter gear, such as a snow blower and de-icer, now is the time to take stock of those items.




Top Gift Ideas for 2016

Dec 16, 2016 3:52:00 PM

Do you struggle with gift ideas for your loved ones? Buying gifts for a 2-year old might be a snap, but beyond a certain age, the holidays become a challenge for most of our loved ones. Whether you're shopping for your spouse, parent, teenager, or Uncle Joe, picking from the hottest trends is often a safe choice. If you're already straining for inspiration, we're here to help. Here are some of the top gift ideas for 2016 so far.

Top Children's Toys

Babies are easy to shop for, but even toddlers start to make choices about what they like and don't like to do with their time. A few of the hottest toys this year might actually get parents excited because they are both original and fire up our collective imaginations. Check out Hatchimals, which is a new release that was a hit at the 2016 Toy Fair. These are eggs that your children care for until they "hatch" a surprise animal like a bearakeet, draggles, or penguala.

Tech-savvy older children and adults alike will want to get their hands on the new PlayStation VR. Named one of the best inventions of 2016 by Time Magazine, this new virtual reality headset transports PS gamers inside their gaming universe for an entirely new, and unprecedented, experience.




Making the Holidays Meaningful, Even On a Budget

Dec 12, 2016 12:24:00 PM

Do you equate the holidays with stress and the potential to land yourself in a pile of debt? Few people consider that good times and saving cash can go hand in hand, but you don't have to break the bank to have a meaningful holiday season. After all, the spirit of this time of year really has nothing to do with "Black Friday" or scoring the latest electronics. Here are several ways that you can make the holidays special on a budget.

Emphasize Time With Loved Ones

Most people are gifted with time off from work during the holidays and children get those cherished school vacations. This is the perfect opportunity to place emphasis on family time and creating some new memories, which don't have to cost money. Turn off the television during meal times and catch up. Go to your community's tree-lighting ceremony or holiday parade. These are experiences that are much more valuable than the latest toy or gadget.