So I’m on vacation at my parents’ house in Florida. Today my mom and I are taking a side trip to visit her family in Washington DC. Like a crazy person I put a trip within a trip. So Q&A Thursday is a little of you guys and little of me. My two questions are ones I had before and while I was traveling that I think some of you have while the other two are straight from you guys.
Q1. What is the best way to save money on a vacation?
A. Great question, Verhanika. First, shop around for deals. We’re going to Disney World and they are just throwing discounts your way on hotel, park passes, even food. I think the best way to save money overall on a vacation is to limit how much you eat out. If your only joy on a vacation is the food, then you need to cut somewhere else like staying in a much cheaper hotel or making sacrifices in activities or how you get to your destination. Just like with a wedding, think about what part of your vacation is the most important part to you and that’s where you spend your money. I saved somewhere around $40 on my travel day by avoiding eating in the airports. I brought a salad and some snacks and ate breakfast at home. Sure the restaurants were tempting, but I knew that by not giving in I was not only getting a healthier meal, but also saving $40 I could spend on a fun activity with my family.
Q2. I want to keep to a good workout routine. Should I shell out the money for a weekly pass at a gym?
A. Maybe. If you are visiting family and absolutely must get inside a gym for equipment or because of weather, go as a guest of theirs. Most gym memberships come with 1 or 2 guest passes a year. If not, considering submitting to the sales pitch so you can get a trial membership. These last anywhere from 4-7 days. And finally, if none of that works, then ask how much it is for a day versus a week. My mom’s gym charges $10 a day and $35 for a week. If I knew I only needed to be in a gym for 2 days it makes mathematical sense for me to just buy a day pass each time and not a weekly pass. I lucked out and get to use mom’s 2 guest passes, plus the woman at the counter gave me a freebie today so I can go 3 times while I’m here!
On to you:
Q3. When should I talk to my parents about their retirement?
A. ASAP. Most of us who are of an age to be aware of this have parents in their 50s or 60s. Talk to your parents now about their retirement and also their estate planning. I have helped many kids and their parents work out if they’re set for retirement, how much the kids need to be involved, if they need insurance, etc. It’s a tough conversation to have because it is something of a role reversal, you are leading your parents to make sure they are set for their retirement. But you are also ensuring your own security by making sure down the line your parents won’t rely on you to make ends meet.
Q4. If you receive a lump sum, is it better to invest it (like for retirement) or pay it towards debt?
A. If you get a lump sum the first thing to do is a gut check. Are you sleepless because of your debt or are you nervous about retirement? That is usually where you should go. If you’re unsure, split it 50/50 or 60/40 into debt repayment and retirement. I understand that you are inundated with the message to save for retirement as soon as possible. Especially from me. But if you’re paying 12%, 18% or even 20% on credit card debt pay that off. I don’t think student loans or a mortgage should be paid down any faster unless your rate is something like 8% on a big amount.
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