Rhody Finance Guide 2023

From recession-proofing to investment advice, your local source for planning ahead and making the most of everything

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The flip of the calendar page, or swipe of an app, signals new beginnings! But in Rhode Island, the cold weather and rumblings of a looming recession also cause some anxiety. In this year’s guide, we aim to provide useful, sensible tips so that you can keep on striving to live your best life in the Ocean State.

Energy Efficiency

Heating bills giving you the chills? Energy.RI.gov is a great resource for things like the Weatherization Assistance Program, which helps income-eligible households reduce heating bills by providing whole-house energy efficiency services. Also find information on heating assistance, sales tax exemptions, and more. To determine how much energy you’re actually using and what to do about it, schedule a no-cost home energy assessment: an energy auditor will complete an attic-to-basement evaluation and provide a custom home energy report outlining recommended energy efficiency improvements. They will even install a few no-cost energy saving products which may include ENERGY STAR-certified LED light bulbs, seven-day programmable thermostats, faucet aerators, or low-flow showerheads. Based on your assessment, you may be eligible for rebates, a 0 percent interest HEAT loan, and thousands in savings towards a new insulation installation. 1-888-633-7947

Going Solar

There can be financial benefits along with energy independence for property owners opting for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Solar PV technology harnesses and converts sunlight directly into electricity, which can be used to power your home or small business. Before making an appointment with a door-to-door solar rep, consider doing some homework, starting at the State of Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources. Find information about the Renewable Energy Fund, how it all works, and a free downloadable guide at Energy.RI.gov

Recession Planning

A recession is defined by Merriam-Webster as a downtrend in the economy that can affect production and employment, and produce lower household income and spending; they can also be more localized, while depressions can have global reach. By taking preemptive steps, you’ll feel better prepared. Here are some ways to cut costs:

  • Now Streaming: Many of us have auto-pay subscriptions to a plethora of TV streaming services. Can’t let them go? Pick your favorite, cancel the rest, and rotate based on viewing habits.
  • Talk Ain’t Cheap: Look into cheaper cell phone plans and if you still have a landline (and your only call is about prescriptions that are ready), maybe it’s time to cut the cord.
  • Add a Side-Hustle: If you’ve got something to sell – whether it’s a pair of jeans or something you’ve hand-crafted – there is an app ready. Determine if any fees or time (taking photos, packaging, etc.) are worth the effort and if they are, you could make some extra cash.
  • Find Money: According to Treasurer Seth Magaziner, more than 300,000 Rhode Islanders have unclaimed cash and assets waiting to be returned, so he developed YOUR MONEY, a program that reunites Rhode Islanders with missing funds. Think this could be you? It doesn’t take long to search the database and could end up being totally worth your time. FindRIMoney.com

Is Investing Right for You?

The word investing can sound rather daunting to the everyday person but it’s possible to learn how or hire a financial advisor to help you. Not ready to call a pro? Begin by filling out a worksheet available at the US Securities and Exchange Commission website: SEC.gov/investor 

Beyond the typical stocks and bonds, there are creative ways to invest: 

Collectibles: Fine art and antiques are examples of wacky ways that pay off – if you know your stuff. Ideally, you buy a collectible for less than its worth, and sell it for more, requiring knowledge of the item and its resale value. Our state is filled with estate shops, antique stores, etc.

Real Estate: There’s a reason flipping houses is a popular pastime beyond HGTV. Investing in a piece of property is smart for many reasons, the first being that it’s a “real asset”, a physical commodity with value. You can rehabilitate and sell for a quick profit, or rent out for monthly income. When the market is low, you can find bargains, and when it booms, you can earn a fortune. 

Wine: Stockpiling fine wines? That might sound appealing enough on its own, but you can make a pretty penny off buying sought-after vintages and selling to wine connoisseurs. Find the right wines, keep track of when and where you purchased it, store in a temperature-controlled room, and reap the benefits of an investment that literally gets better with age. 

Precious Metals: When the dollar is weak, the coin reigns supreme – at least, the gold and silver kind. While this investment is not the most reliable, as is the rise and fall of the dollar, it’s worthwhile to have precious metal coins on hand in case of an economic or financial collapse, during which they can be used as barter. 

Planning Ahead: 

Elder Care with Laura Krohn

When practicing Elder Law, it’s important to achieve balance. A good attorney considers the needs of the client, as well as balancing legal advice with proper counseling and education. There’s a lot of hand-holding, especially as people face difficult choices about their future, not to mention end-of-life legal decisions.

“It’s a very special area of the law,” explains elder law attorney Laura Krohn who offers a holistic approach to elder law, focusing on the complete range of needs for her clients. “There are so many issues to deal with. Seniors are more vulnerable, a lot of them don’t have much experience with lawyers, so they’re very trusting; hopefully, they get the right advocate.”

Beyond her role as a lawyer, Krohn provides an education piece to clients. “My way of advising is very educational; I teach the client,” she explains. “There's not always a lot of information out there to help seniors navigate. They might think they're going to lose their home or their income if their spouse goes to a nursing home, so they may delay that level of care out of fear.”

Power of attorney is important, says Krohn. “Without a substitute decision maker, your family goes to court. Even if you're married, you have to go to court to become someone's guardian. So people should start early.”

Krohn's advice is to take some time to think about major decisions. “When I take on a new client, they're not allowed to make decisions until they get my follow-up letter, and then we talk about it. A lot of what I do is provide people with a good foundation for a time of medical crisis, that would be having the right documents with the appropriate people appointed for the appropriate job. Thorough, tailored counseling in the beginning of a client representation is crucial.Learn more at SeniorGuideRI.com

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