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Friday Financial Five – September 25, 2015

Friday, September 25, 2015


With financial markets experiencing turmoil over the last few months, the surest way to guarantee some positive returns is to review these parts of the personal budget:

Moving to a Health Savings Account

The Health Savings Account is a smart concept that has caught fire as businesses, governments and individuals explore different options to save money. Using HSA’s often results in lower monthly premium while the account holder accumulates a tax deferred retirement supplement. It’s only allowed in high deductible plans and the money not paid for health services remains in the account. The concept also incentivizes insureds to use medical services only when truly necessary.

Energy assessment savings

Small business owners and homeowners should partake in an energy assessment whenever possible, such as the one offer by National Grid. For those that qualify, the review could result in a complete overhaul of all lighting for free. Higher efficiency bulbs, which are expected to last for a longer period of time than traditional bulbs, may cost the owner nothing and be installed free of charge. So, the business or homeowner is looking at the possibility of free lights that will last longer and reduce monthly costs. What’s not to like about that?

Comparison of all insurances

One of the easiest ways to reduce expense is to put all personal insurances under the microscope. Home and auto insurance is a reasonable first place to look. Companies will incentivize the packaging of coverages, and while loyalty can be a good thing, there is always the possibility of significant savings with just a little bit of research. While savings is the goal, coverage shouldn’t be compromised and the insured shouldn’t absorb a large hurricane deductible to save a few dollars. 

Utilizing the company match

Retirement plan participants that have an employer matching provision should take all measures necessary to contribute at least the amount of the match. In very few other situations in life is 100% return guaranteed, but this is one of them and it saves tax dollars while putting money away for retirement. For those that are skeptical of the market, it still makes sense to get the match and leave the money in a cash account or stable value fund. Only in certain situations, such as the inability to meet basic monthly needs, should workers forgo the contribution up to the match.

Various options can replace cable TV

Many pay a hefty monthly amount for cable TV but also utilize subscription services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. It may make sense cut that cable cord. For Apple users, Apple TV will seamlessly stream music, videos and movies. For others, there’s Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Amazon Firestick. These devices allow access to apps and hundreds of different sites, including HBO Go, Hulu, and Netflix. Amazon Prime members gain access to thousands of movies and television shows. Sling TV is a monthly subscription service (like Netflix) that will cost $20 per month to access the best of live TV and sports. One possible sticking point is access to local news stations, which might require an antenna. For those unafraid of technology and looking to save money, there now exists a multitude of options to investigate.

Dan Forbes is a regular contributor on financial issues. He is a CFP Board Ambassador. He leads the firm Forbes Financial Planning, Inc in East Greenwich, RI and can be reached at [email protected]


Related Slideshow: Massachusetts Business Rankings

See how Massachusetts stacked up.

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Massachusetts has 2015's 28th highest insurance premium penalties for high risk drivers, according to a WalletHub report. 

Mass is behind Colorado and New Mexico who come in at 26 and 27 spots respectively while Mass is ahead of Tennessee and the District of Columbia who rank 29 and 30 respectively. 

Massachusetts ranks 14th overall in the category of DUI conviction annual premium increase with an amount of $756.

Massachusetts ranks 20th overall in the category of speeding over 20 mph annual premium increase with a total of $261 while ranking 21 overall in the category of  two accidents annual premium increase with a total of $1,364. 

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Massachusetts has been ranked as the 5th most eco-friendly state in the country, according to a recent study by WalletHub. 

Mass ranks tenth in environmental quality and fourth in Eco-Friendly Behaviors landing them in 8th overall. 

Mass is behind Minnesota and New York who are in the fourth and third spots respectively, and in front of Washington and New Hampshire  who come in at the six and seven spots. 

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The Economist

Small Business Friendliness Grade: D+

The Economist grades states on an A+ to F grading scale for its small business climate. Massachusetts ranks near the bottom of the nation, joining New Mexico and New York in receiving D+ grades.  9 states scored worse than a D+ in the Economist rankings. 

Overbearing bureaucracy and excessive licensing is stifling small business in America. 

Read More About The Economist Grade Here

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#25 CNBC

CNBC ranks each state in cost of doing business, economy, technology and innovation.

Massachusetts' unemployment rate as of May 2014 was 5.6 percent. The state added 9,100 jobs in the month of May.

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#13 Forbes

Forbes ranks each state in business costs, economic climate, and growth prospects.

The most damning in the commentary:

Massachusetts’ business costs, including labor, energy and taxes, are the highest of the 48 contiguous states—only Hawaii is higher—at 20% above the national average.

Read More About Forbes Ranking Here

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#47 ChiefExecutive.net

ChiefExecutive.net ranks each state in taxations and regulations, workforce quality, and living environment.

The most damning in the commentary:

Taxation and regulation are always the key barometers. Massachusetts and Oregon are the worst.

Read More About ChiefExecutive.net Ranking Here

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Tax Foundation

#25 Tax Foundation

Tax Foundation ranks each state in corporate tax rank, sales tax rank, and unemployment insurance tax rank.

Massachusetts ranked #49 in unemployment insurance tax.

Read More About Tax Foundation Ranking Here

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Wallet Hub

#10 Wallet Hub

Wallet Hub ranks each state in ROI rank, state tax rank, and overall government services.

Massachusetts ranked #49 in worst roads and bridges, but ranked #7 in overall government services.

Read More About Wallet Hub Ranking Here

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#41 ALEC

ALEC ranks each state in economic performance and outlook.

Although Massachusetts ranked low in economic performance, a forward-looking forecast is based on the state’s standing in 15 important state policy variables. Some of these variables include top marginal personal income tax rate and sales tax burden.

Read More About ALEC Ranking Here

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Kauffman Foundation

#29 Kauffman Foundation

Kauffman Foundation ranks each state in entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurial activity generally is highest in Western and Southern states
and lowest in Midwestern and Northeastern states.

Read More About Kauffman Foundation Ranking Here

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Free Enterprise

#18 Free Enterprise

Free Enterprise ranks each state in performance, exports, innovation + entrepreneurship, business climate, talent pipeline, infrastructure.

Massachusetts's reputation as a hotspot for science and technology endures in this year's rankings. The commonwealth is a center for STEM jobs and university research and development, ranking 4th and 2nd, respectively, in those two categories. It also ranks 6th as a center for high-tech establishments. Massachusetts is taking aggressive steps to bolster economic activity with high-impact university-industry R&D projects and new tools for tech-based startup companies.

Read More About Free Enterprise Ranking Here

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The Pew Charitable Trusts

#45 The Pew Charitable Trusts

The Pew Charitable Trusts ranks each state in job growth and job creation.

Massachusetts added 38,368 jobs in 2014.

Read More About The Pew Charitable Trusts Ranking Here


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