Financial planning has long been associated with the wealthy. But in reality, it can and should be accessible to everyone at an affordable cost. Regardless of your financial habits, everybody can benefit from a financial plan. Wouldn't it be comforting to know that you have a savings account, a retirement plan, can afford your monthly bills, and have some wiggle room for a vacation? Many people try to handle their finances on their own, but the vast majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and don't properly prepare for the unexpected. A financial planner can work with you to get organized. We believe that the best financial planner is one that sees your goals from a holistic point of view. A leading company, LearnVest, is on a mission is to change the way people feel about their money.

LearnVest is a different kind of financial planner that provides a customized, comprehensive plan with the ease and convenience of an online service. All for a fraction of the cost of a typical financial planner, LearnVest assigns you a LearnVest Planner or Investment Advisor Representative (FINRA Series 65) to take you through your custom-built plan, step-by-step, to help get on track within a realistic timeline.

When you sign up, your financial planner will schedule a call to discuss your goals, dreams, and hurdles. If you're too busy, they'll find time to work with you on weekends or after work hours, and are always available by email 24 hours a day. After your initial consultation, you will receive a comprehensive financial plan with a detailed budget, a snapshot of your current finances, and a strategy to move forward. This is the blueprint for achieving your goals. You agree on the path to move forward and LearnVest makes it easy to stick to it. Once your budget is established, the next step is to look at retirement, credit cards, and an emergency fund.

Retirement

Many people are confused when it comes to saving for retirement. The retirement section of your plan will set forth an action plan based on your current projected retirement salary and replacement ratio. LearnVest will recommend the best retirement account for you, whether it be a 401(k), Roth 401(k), or IRA. You will talk about what you need for your nest egg, and what to put away now to help you get there.

Credit Cards

Credit cards are a huge emotional burden. Getting out of a credit card debt cycle can sometimes feel never-ending. The planner will advise that you start by eliminating debt with the highest interest rate first, prioritizing paydown order, and telling you what to do each step of the way. You will also get a debt-free date to mark on your calendar!

Emergency Fund

The most critical part of your plan is an emergency fund because it helps keep you from going into debt. In case of an emergency, you typically want to avoid using your credit cards or withdrawing from your retirement fund. Usually, LearnVest recommends having 6 months of take home pay in the bank as a safety net. LearnVest will help you determine an appropriate amount of funds to build your emergency fund and help you budget to meet that number.

Everything Else

Your financial plan may also include information on next steps. Can you afford a mortgage? When will you be able to buy your dream house? You'll also get recommendations about insurance policies and documents such as a will, trust, and beneficiary forms based on your personal picture and goals. With your carefully calculated budget, you can check off items on your financial calendar, get reminders, and manage your progress from the program dashboard.

Along with your personalized financial plan, you'll get quarterly check ins from your financial planner. You'll also have access to a host of free tools including classes, events and articles that can give you tips to stay on your path to financial freedom.

While most people need some help with their finances, many are reluctant to get started. LearnVest's free tools are designed to help get your feet in the water, and their premium service will help you on your way to achieving your financial goals.

Update: Follow this link and learn how to get your customized financial plan for just $149 (originally $299).

*$150 credit can be applied to the set-up fee for The LearnVest Program. Offer subject to expire at any time without advance notice. Cannot be combined with other offers. Log in to redeem.

LearnVest Planning Services is a registered investment adviser and subsidiary of LearnVest, Inc. that provides financial plans for its clients. Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Please consult a financial adviser for advice specific to your financial situation. LearnVest, Inc. is wholly owned by NM Planning, LLC, a subsidiary of The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company.

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Home garden and porch

As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.

Extensive Plants and Greenery

A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.

Lawn Care

As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.

Paved Pathways

There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.

Usable Outdoor Furniture

Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.

A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.

Unfortunately, giving back can sometimes go haywire. If you're ready to make a donation, first consider common mistakes made when giving back.

Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.

Acting Quickly Out of Emotion

Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.

Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.

Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation

Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.

If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.

Donating Unusable Materials

Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.

Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.

Strictly Giving at Year's End

As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.

With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.

Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.

The Age of Your House

Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.

The One-Percent Rule

An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.

The Square-Foot Rule

Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.

The Mix and Match Method

Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.

Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.