Have You Made Your Year-End Money Moves?

Santa Claus isn’t the only one who should be making a list and checking it twice.

As we approach the holiday season and the end of yet another year, it can be tempting to put off financial decisions until next January.

Before you get caught up in the hectic year-end bustle, review your finances to determine whether you’re on track to meet the financial goals you set out to accomplish this year.

Here is a checklist to simplify your planning.

ESTIMATE YOUR 2019 TAX LIABILITY

Consult with your CPA or tax advisor to estimate how much you may owe for 2019. Review your last paystub to see how much you have paid so far year-to-date in taxes. Also, double-check every line item on your paystub to make sure your employer is withholding the correct amount and paying you correctly.

If you may owe more than anticipated, consider contributing more to your tax deferred retirement accounts to reduce your income tax liability.

BE MINDFUL OF ANNUAL RETIREMENT CONTRIBUTION LIMITS & DEADLINES

Roth IRA and Traditional IRA Contributions

Deadline: April 15, 2020.

Contribution limit: $6,000. If you are age 50 or older, you can contribute an additional $1,000. Keep in mind that the total contribution to your Traditional and Roth IRAs combined cannot exceed $6,000.

Roth IRA Conversions

Deadline: December 31, 2019.

401(k) and 403(b) Contributions

Deadline: December 31, 2019.

Contribution limit: $19,000. If you are age 50 or older, you can contribute an additional $6,000.

SIMPLE IRA Contributions

Deadline: December 31, 2019.

Contribution limit: $13,000. If you are age 50 or older, you can contribute an additional $3,000.

SEP IRA Contributions

Deadline: April 15, 2020. Contributions for a given tax year can be made up to the final tax filing date, including extensions.

Contribution limit: Contributions are limited to the lesser of 25% compensation or $56,000.

CHECK YOUR ACCOUNT BALANCES

How much do you have saved so far in your emergency savings account, investment accounts, and retirement accounts? Is the balance where you want it to be or do you need to contribute more to meet your annual savings goal in each type of account?

DETERMINE HOW MUCH YOU HAVE SPENT SO FAR THIS YEAR

You can download a report from your checking and credit card accounts that summarize your total spending year-to-date. Is it within or over the budget you established for the year?

This should help you set a clear budget for your holiday spending. That includes gifts, holiday parties, holiday event and entertainment fees, etc.

Lastly, if travel is a large part of your annual budget, now is a great time to start planning and mapping out your travel for 2020. Many airlines and hotels offer deals and discounted packages from now until after the New Year.

THE BOTTOM LINE

It’s never too early to start planning for the new year ahead. It may seem comfortably far away, but time passes quickly.

Before you set out to do your holiday shopping this year, invest in yourself first.

Written by Capital Benchmark Partners and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Capital Benchmark Partners

My Friends are Spending $30K on Their Wedding — And I’m Keeping My Mouth Shut

wedding

Thirty thousand dollars. I heard that figure and my jaw dropped. That's the amount that a couple of my friends are spending on their upcoming wedding.

Every time I hear about some new detail of the plans for the wedding, there's a little voice in my head that starts commenting on the bottom line. But here's the thing — it's not my wedding. I'm not going to say a word because my friends are adults and seem to be pretty pleased with what they're getting for their money.

The High Cost of Weddings

The Wedding Report, an industry publication, reports that the average wedding costs $29,000 in the U.S, so my friends aren't so far off the norm. The number may be hard to wrap your head around if you're used to thinking about things in terms of budgeting, saving money and all the other little things that go along with thinking hard about your personal finances, but it's also not so uncommon when you think about the number of cultures in which families bring themselves to the edge of bankruptcy for weddings, dowries and other related expenses.

Personally, I don't like those numbers but the simple fact of the matter is that I know I'm in the minority. My wedding cost just under $200 and I got exactly what I wanted (down to the perfect cake). While I have a hard time understanding the big numbers some people spend on weddings, many people have just as hard a time understanding how I could spend so little.

Nothing I can say or do will make my friends see things my way — and the reverse is just as true. And since they're happy, the only result I can see from saying anything at all is putting my friendships in danger. So, I'm keeping my mouth shut.

High-Priced Weddings Aren't Going Away

But I'm still thinking about the matter.

I'm thinking about why people so clearly prefer big weddings, even with the price tag. For a lot of people, I think it's a matter of priorities: they've thought things through and the idea of a big wedding and all that goes with it (fun times with family, a great party and so on) is worth it. The experience of the perfect wedding is worth more than the alternatives of where they can spend that money.

At the end of the day, it's a matter of personal choices, as it should be. If your financial priority is your wedding, that's fine. You should be able to throw the rockingest party you can. The problems creep in when we think about the fact that not everyone manages their finances perfectly. Not everyone saves up money to pay for their wedding ahead of time or budget for what they can afford to spend. Some people choose to go pretty deep into debt in order to have the wedding of their dreams and wind up paying even more in interest, not to mention causing damage to their credit.

The idea of massive debt for one day of fun — charging an amount equivalent to at least a down payment on a house, if not most of the total cost — is what bothers me. I'm lucky enough that my friends aren't in that boat, but even if they were, it seems like it's not considered polite to even bring up wedding costs and talk about debts. It's not a friend's place to say anything. I can't help but wonder if costs would be a little lower if friends talked about how they were able to save money on their celebrations or talk candidly about staying out of debt.

The current state of the economy seems to be bringing a few more of those discussions out into the open. But we've still got a ways to go. I'm certainly not interested in risking my friendships just to talk about money. I don't think I'm the only one, either.

So, I wish my friends all the happiness in the world — a beautiful wedding and a wonderful marriage. I will be there for the happy day and I will gladly celebrate with them.

Written by Thursday Bram for MoneyNing and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Money Ning

Clear Creek Canyon Rock Climbing

Clear Creek Canyon Rock Climbing

Intro

Clear Creek Canyon in Golden is about 40 minutes from Boulder. As a sibling to Boulder Canyon, the rock climbing here is less established but offers a bit more variety in terms of rock — gneiss, schist and sandy granite are all present, most of it relatively solid. Because the canyon is about 12 miles long, there are over 700 established routes and many of the areas feature specific types of climbing. Sport and trad are both to be found, but bolted routes far outnumber trad lines.

What Makes It Great

Difficulties run the full gamut, from 5.0 to 5.14, with the majority of routes favoring more difficult climbs over 5.10. Pitch length can vary, from single pitch sport routes to multi-pitch lines over 600 feet. In other words, there’s something for everyone. The climbs at the top of the canyon are tougher to reach and in some cases, require the use of tyrolean traverses.

Knocking off a good project in Clear Canyon likely means topping out on 5.10 and tougher climbs. Overall, Clear Canyon caters more to advanced intermediate and expert climbers.

Who is Going to Love It

Climbers of all abilities, but dedicated intermediates and advanced climbers will love the variety of tough pitches. Sections can vary quite drastically between regions, employing a full set of climbing skills. Slabs, overhangs, off-widths, roofs are all present in Clear Creek Canyon. It is a little less crowded than Boulder Canyon most days, though the lower canyon can get very busy on weekends.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From Boulder, the best way to reach Clear Creek Canyon is to take CO Highway 93 (Broadway) straight south for about 25 minutes into Golden. Then take a right, heading west on US 6 into Clear Creek Canyon. Pullouts can be found along the highway, and most approaches are about 5-10 minutes.

There are no fees to climb in Clear Creek. For more info on specific climbs and crags, consult the Mountain Project website.

Written by James Dziezynski for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by James Dziezynski

The Best Full-Body Exercises For All Levels Of Gym-Goer

Work your upper body, lower body and core in one fell swoop with these beginner, intermediate and advanced exercises.

To accomplish any fitness goals it is necessary to run through a variety of exercises as part of your gym routine – and not just because doing the same exercise over and over again would get boring after a while. However, if you are short on time and want moves that hit multiple muscle groups in one go, turn to these full-body exercises.

We asked Toby Lynes, The Fitting Rooms Gym personal trainer, to name and explain his favourite beginner, intermediate and advanced full-body exercises, and we’ve added in a few of our favourites as well. Despite the name, these exercises don’t work every single part of the body, but you can be sure they’re going to hit several muscle groups and many of them provide a cardiovascular workout as well.

Beginner Full-Body Exercises

Burpee

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Coach

“This is a great cardiovascular exercise,” says Lynes, “because it requires you to move your whole body from a horizontal position into a vertical position as quickly as possible. The movement requires a lot of muscle groups to work in co-ordination, including your shoulders, abdominals and lower body, especially your quads and calves. In order to power all these muscles, your heart rate will increase, which also means you’ll burn a lot of calories.

“From standing, place your hands on the floor by your feet, then jump your legs back so you end up in a press-up position. Jump your legs back in so your knees are close to your chest, then jump up and raise your hands above your head.”

Medicine ball slam

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“This is a fantastic movement for developing power, strength and speed,” says Lynes, “as well as burning a lot of calories. The muscle groups worked in this exercise are mainly your abdominals, quads, glutes, calves, back and shoulders.

“In a wide stance with your feet either side of the ball, squat down to pick up the ball then stand up on tiptoes and raise the ball above your head as quickly as possible. When you have fully straightened your arms overhead, throw the ball straight down as hard as you can.”

Dumbbell Romanian deadlift

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“This is a great exercise to strengthen your posterior chain – the muscles that run from the back of your neck to the back of your ankles – especially the hamstrings, glutes and back muscles,” says Lynes. “Hinging at the hip under the load is particularly good at improving your hamstring mobility as well as increasing strength.

“Stand holding dumbbells with your palms facing towards you. Draw your shoulder blades back and down, tuck your pelvis under into a neutral position and brace your abdominals. While maintaining this posture push your hips backwards with your knees slightly bent, lowering the weights in front of your legs. Don’t allow your spine to round. As soon as you feel your spine starting to curve, stop the movement and return to the top by bringing your hips forwards.”

Lunge to press

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Coach

Pressing is great for your upper body. Lunging is great for your lower body. Combine them in one fluid movement and you have a fantastic full-body exercise that also improves your balance and co-ordination.

Stand holding dumbbells by your shoulders. Take a large step forwards and lower until both knees are bent at 90°, but don’t let your back knee touch the ground. While holding that position, press both dumbbells above your head and then lower them slowly back to your shoulders. Push through your front foot to return to standing. Alternate the leg you lunge with for each rep.

Farmer’s Walk

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Coach

A great exercise for beginners, but one which can carry you a long way, all the up to World’s Strongest Man in fact. As a standing exercise this will really work your core, as well as your legs, forearms and upper back if done for an extended period of time.

If you’re in a gym dumbbells or kettlebells are your best best, although a barbell or trap bar will also work. If you find yourself in a dedicated strongman facility make for the farmer’s walk handles.

The move is as straightforward as you’d think – walk with your arms by your sides holding heavy weights – but since you’re loaded up, it’s wise to nail your posture. Stand upright, straighten your back, keep your shoulders tight and your chest proud.

Getting the weight right is difficult, but as you’re holding them by your sides in a natural position you have the option to try something slightly heavier. Aim for something like 20kg for dumbbells or kettlebells.

Intermediate Full-Body Exercises

Chest-to-floor burpee

“Add a press-up to the movement to include your triceps and chest in the muscle groups being worked,” says Lynes.

“From standing, place your hands on the floor by your feet and jump your legs back so you end up in a press-up position. Perform a press-up, making sure your chest touches the floor, then jump your legs back in so your knees are close to your chest. Jump up and raise your hands above your head.”

Dumbbell hang clean and press

“The hang clean and press can be very useful for developing power when the load is heavy,” says Lynes, “but also can be used in a HIIT session to get the heart pumping and burn calories. The main muscle groups worked are the quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, shoulders, back and abdominals.

“The starting position looks like the halfway point on the way down of a deadlift – back flat and hips pushed back, with arms hanging down, hands holding the dumbbells with palms facing you. From there you stand up as quickly as possible, shrugging your shoulders up to your ears and going up high on tiptoes. This movement creates the momentum to enables you to lift the dumbbells from your sides to your shoulders. Then press the dumbbells above your head, bring them back down to the shoulders and return to the starting position.”

Wall balls

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Coach

This dynamic move is perhaps the only one that can challenge the burpee for the title of most exhausting exercise. Even with a light medicine ball the demands on your upper and lower body and your cardio fitness are high.

Stand facing a wall, close enough that you can catch the rebounding ball. Hold a medicine ball by your chest and drop into a squat. Push up explosively through your heels and use that momentum to throw the ball with both hands at a spot on the wall approximately 3m up. Catch the ball and begin the next rep immediately.

Crocodile walk

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From the top press-up position, lower yourself close to the ground, keeping your body in a straight line. Begin crawling by bringing one knee up towards the elbow on the same side while simultaneously moving the opposite arm forwards. Focus on keeping your posture the same throughout.

If you want to mix things up, reverse the movement so that you’re crawling backwards.

Advanced Full-Body Exercises

Man maker

“A man maker consists of a variety of movements strung together,” says Lynes. “When the dumbbells are heavy this exercise challenges your strength, in particular your core, back and shoulders, as well as your cardiovascular system.

“Stand holding dumbbells by your sides. Bend your legs to place the dumbbells on the floor by your feet but don’t let them go, and jump your legs back so you end up in a press-up position. Perform a press-up, then row one dumbbell to your chest at a time while holding the press-up position with the rest of your body. Jump your legs back to your hands and perform a clean by standing up quickly, shrugging and lifting the dumbbells to your shoulders. Then go into a deep squat with the dumbbells resting on your shoulders. When you stand back up, use the power in your legs to create momentum to press the dumbbells overhead. All of that is one rep.”

Deadlift

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Coach

“This is one of the best compound exercises for developing strength through your posterior chain,” says Lynes. 

“Stand with your toes under the barbell. Bend your knees, lean over and take hold of the bar with your hands just outside shoulder-width apart and your palms facing you. Push your chest out so your spine is in a straight line and straighten your lower back. Breathe in and brace your abs. Pushing through your feet and keeping your spine straight, lift the bar until you are standing in an upright position. Breathe out at the top, then breathe in and brace your abs again. Keeping your lower back straight and chest out, lower the bar slowly back to the floor.”

Just make sure you have nailed the form before you think about seriously upping the weight, because too many don’t follow that advice and do themselves a mischief. Our deadlift exercise guide should help, but there’s no substitute for an expert checking your form in person. 

Medicine ball over the shoulder

“This exercise is advanced because it requires the individual to learn how to brace correctly through the ‘corset’ of the body – all the core muscles including the lower back – in a rounded or flexed spine position,” says Lynes, “whereas a deadlift has a straight spine position.

“Start in a wide stance with your feet either side of the medicine ball. Squat down as low as you can – don’t worry about trying to keep a straight spine. Hook your hands, wrists and forearms around the ball to get a firm grip. As you pick up the ball, drive your hips forwards, and push up onto your toes to create the momentum and power to enable you to throw the ball over your shoulder. Turn around and repeat, throwing the ball over your other shoulder.”

Barbell thruster

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Coach

“This exercise combines a front squat and an overhead press,” says Lynes. “It’s great option to add to a HIIT session and it challenges your lower body and shoulders.

Hold the bar in front of your throat so it lies across your collarbones with your palms facing up and elbows pointing forwards. Squat to a good depth then explode up, pushing through your legs, and press the bar above your head. As the bar comes back down, start to lower into your next rep.

Burpee pull-up

For this exercise you’ll need a pull-up bar, a bit of floor space around it and a lot of determination, because this isn’t easy. Stand beneath the pull-up bar, drop your hands to the ground and jump your feet back so your body is in the top press-up position. (If you want, now is the time to do a press-up to make it even harder.) Jump your feet back to your hands, then jump up and grab the bar with an overhand grip and pull yourself up. Once your chin is above the bar, you can count a rep.

Written by Nick Harris-Fry for Coach and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Coach