6 Philly Finance Experts Share Their Best Money Advice

Fresh ways to build your wealth in 2017, from expert money managers.
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For the family on a budget

  • “Insurance tends to creep up with inflationary adjustment. Every two years, you owe it to yourself to get additional quotes for premium payments, to make sure you’re getting a competitive amount. It’s cumbersome and time-consuming to keep reevaluating your insurance policies, but the savings can be tremendous.” — Kim Dula, CPA and partner, Friedman LLP
  • “Check out gift-card purchasing apps. I frequently purchase a gift card that downloads to my phone while I wait in line and save as much as 20 percent at places I shop regularly.” — Jeffrey George, wealth management adviser, Merrill Lynch 

For the empty nester with a little cash

  • “If you’re still working, max out your retirement investing — 401(k) and IRA — for both spouses. Take advantage of catch-up contributions that allow you to invest more once you reach age 50. If you’re saving in non-retirement accounts, focus on tax-efficient investing options such as broad-market stock index funds.” — Maria Bruno, senior retirement strategist, Vanguard Investment Strategy Group
  • “Create a ‘stop-doing list’ of all the things you did because there were kids in your household. You’ll realize that some recurring expenses, like your pool membership, only made sense when children were around. I advise my clients to examine these expenses and do away with them if they can. Then it’s about redirecting the newfound money. Most people think that once they’re done rais-ing children and are still pre-retirement, they no longer need permanent life insurance. That’s not true. Everyone should be thinking about long-term care; that’s one area where you can direct the funds.” — Michele Burkholder, financial adviser, Penn Mutual’s local agency 1847Financial

For the young professional

  • “To this day, I still use money management software like Quicken and Microsoft Money to track every penny. These programs are under $100 and are very convenient.” — Kevin Norris, president, Univest Wealth Management Division
  • Start a small life insurance policy. You get the best rates now because, broadly speaking, this is the healthiest you’ll be. Also, don’t leave a single employee benefit on the table, from free life insurance to the full employer match for your 401(k) contribution. Consider starting a Roth IRA and contributing as much as possible now, because at some point, you might make too much money to contribute as much as you can now. It’ll grow tax-free for the rest of your life.” — Michele Burkholder

For the parents facing college costs

  • “I strongly recommend that families figure out at an early moment what their EFC, or ‘expected family contribution,’ might be when their child applies for financial aid. Use the College Board’s calculator, which helps you figure out what most schools will expect you to pay. You also want to get a sense of what schools consider to be assessable vs. non-assessable for purposes of financial aid. For example, after-tax investment accounts and 529 plans can count against you. A lot of families have been told that 529 plans are great savings vehicles, but if a family can qualify for need-based financial aid, the 529 may not be a good strategy. If you own a second home or rental property, the equity you have in the property counts against you. A lot of families can’t qualify for need-based financial aid — families that don’t make a ton of money but are right over the hump of where schools expect a family to pay a majority of tuition. To minimize the tuition blow, look for scholarships outside of the colleges. My go-to resources are Meritaid.com, Fastweb.com and Scholly.com.” — Vince DiPietro, financial adviser, MassMutual Greater Philadelphia

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First published as “Free Advice” in the April 2017 issue of Philadelphia magazine.