Financial Health 2021

Like millions of Americans, you’ve probably made some New Year’s resolutions. Money is typically at the top of the list, and this year is no exception. In fact, “65% of Americans age 18 and older are considering a financial goal for the new year” according to Fidelity Investment's 2021 financial resolutions study. Here are some simple habits that anyone can do to help improve their financial health:

Celebrate reaching every goal, no matter how small.

No one is perfect and you don’t need to be. Strive for progress and improvements rather than perfection. Many people are intimidated by big goals, but when you break them down into smaller incremental objectives, it will all feel a lot more manageable. You are more likely to reach your financial goals if you focus on your progress and celebrate each small milestone towards the bigger picture. Remember it doesn’t matter what it is; any kind of progress is worthy of celebration.

Never compare your financial situation to someone else’s

Everyone’s financial situation is different, and people tend to spend their money on things they deem to be important. Don’t think about that person who just purchased their brand new fancy dream car and be upset that you haven’t bought yours yet. Unless you have access to their bank accounts, you don’t truly know their financial situation! Sure, it could be that they paid in cash in full and don’t have a car payment, but maybe that’s because they just took out a third mortgage on their house in order to afford that car. Or it could be they had to finance at 22% interest and will be making extremely high monthly payments and sacrificing in other areas of their life. Instead of daydreaming about the what-ifs and the car they have, be happy with the car you have, even if it is a little older, has more miles, and is more modest. If it still runs good and gets you where you need to be, then you already have what you need for the moment and you can keep saving up and working towards making your dream car a reality.

Sometimes comparisons to others can drive us to improve ourselves and improve our outcomes, but be careful because these comparisons can also lead us into areas of negative personal reflection as many of our decisions are often fueled by emotions rather than facts. If you want to make a healthy comparison, use your own past instead. The most valuable point of comparison you have is yourself. Comparing your current financial state to your past financial state is the single best way to make sure that you are on a strong financial path. Look at where you were financially 10 years ago, 5 years ago, or even just one year ago, and use those as benchmarks for the next financial stage of your life. 

Expect the unexpected

Let’s face it, things happen. How you prepare for potential setbacks in life will determine your financial health going forward. Start by setting a “savings goal” by ranking all the things you're looking to accomplish financially. Keep the end result S.M.A.R.T. – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Today’s technology can do so much for us to help make life easier. Use the direct deposit option to deposit part of your paycheck directly into a savings account rather than your checking because “If you don’t see it, you are less likely to use it”. Many banks have an option for free automated transfers from checking to savings – make use of this to help build up an emergency fund. Utilize automatic online bill pay options to ensure all your bills are paid on time every time so you don’t incur late fees or extra interest charges.

Don’t ignore the details

There’s an old idiom that says “the devil is in the details”, meaning that when you do not concentrate on the finer points of something, you may run into unexpected problems. To be blunt: pay attention to the little things. For example, it’s fine to go out to eat and splurge for a special occasion, but do you really need that extra appetizer and a dessert with every meal? It’s fine to go out for an ice cream, but do you really need the chocolate sauce, sprinkles, whipped cream, and a cherry?? Fajitas and enchiladas are muy deliciosos (amirite?), but do you really need that extra side of guacamole and another bowl of queso?!? Yes, I’m being overly dramatic now but the point is this: stop spending on all those little things you just don’t need! Those bits and pieces can add up really quickly, so the trick is to be consistent and just remind yourself that until you’ve met your goal, less is more.

Stay “in the know”

It’s important to get the full picture of your financial situation if you want to stay out of trouble and make progress on your financial goals. Monitor your checking account regularly to see where your money actually goes. Check your credit card and utility statements as well. If you receive a “money-saving deal” advertisement for something you already do or use, or something new that interests you, don’t just blindly sign up – do the research to see if it will work for you. It might take a little extra time and effort but it is worth it if it truly will save you some money – and it’s worth not being taken advantage of if it’s a scam. Calculate your net worth and figure out your debt-to-income ratio no less than once a year so you are in good shape if you ever need an emergency loan.

 

 

 

 

Places To Visit in February

 Places To Visit in February

February may be the shortest month of the year, but it certainly doesn’t come up short of travel options to various destinations around the world. Here are some of the best places to go in February depending on your interests and your travel companions:

For fun family vacations

Los Cabos, Mexico

The winter season, from December through February, offers lots of sunny days and mild temperatures in Los Cabos. February is a popular time for family travel due to the variety of activities and entertainment options available. Take the family for an evening stroll through art galleries in the historic downtown San Jose area. Sample delicious snacks at various food stalls as you walk through colorful surroundings and be entertained by exciting street performers, dancers, and musicians. Whale-watching season is in full swing this time of year as Humpbacks, Gray Whales, and Whale Sharks migrate through the area. Indulge in countless watersports or just lounge on the beach and enjoy the scenic views. No matter what you choose to do, you won’t be disappointed.

For the art enthusiast 

Montreal, Canada

It is easy to see why many travelers fall in love with Montreal. Known for its European charm and Canadian hospitality, Montreal is a great destination not only for its snowy season and winter activities but also for the abundance of festivals the city has to offer. Montreal is a city filled with culture and often hosts events centered on art, entertainment, and food that will bring you out of hibernation. If you happen to be in the Great White North in early February, check out the spectacular Quebec Winter Carnival. If you’re arriving in late February, check out the Montréal En Lumière festival. Held throughout late February into early March, this is a local favorite filled with wine tastings alongside endless live entertainment options. Best of all, the Montréal En Lumière is free every year! If you are looking for a break from the cold, make sure you visit Montreal’s brilliant Underground City. This massive maze of climate-controlled passageways will take you all over downtown Montreal and away from the elements. Discover countless shops, restaurants, and cinemas without ever having to touch the sidewalk.

For the party-goers

New Orleans, Louisiana USA

Without a doubt, one of the best places to visit in February is New Orleans. The weather this time of the year is comfortably cool and the celebrations are in full swing. USA’s biggest party, Mardi Gras, is happening this month. Take part in beautiful parades featuring massive floats and encounter colorful characters you’ll never forget. Celebrate Valentine’s Day all month long in a city known for its culinary flair. Make a late dinner reservation at one of the many restaurants offering a romantic ambiance, then check out some late-night live music. All are also welcomed to come ring in the Lunar New Year at Mary Queen of Vietnam Church where a three-day celebration bash is hosted with authentic cuisines, fireworks, games, dragon dances, and much more.

For the eco lovers

Costa Rica, Central America

Costa Rica is the perfect destination for travelers seeking sunny warm weather in February. This month falls right in the middle of the dry season in the Central Valley region when daytime temperatures hover between 75°F and 85°F. Not only will travelers enjoy pleasant temperatures, but will also be amazed by Costa Rica’s stunning natural beauty and biodiversity. Ancient volcanoes keep their mysterious intrigue by being shrouded in high-altitude clouds, but the combination of sunshine and cool northern breezes make it possible to explore many of the craterous mountains in Costa Rica during this season.

 

Ready to start your next trip? Galactic can get you there.

 

 

 

Heart-Shaped Natural Wonders

In honor of St. Valentine’s Day, we’re sharing these lovely locations with fascinating heart-shaped natural wonders that would be great places to visit for a romantic getaway. Even if you can’t travel at the moment, you can still create sentimental surroundings at home with a little bit of imagination and creativity. Temporarily rearrange the living room furniture to form a heart shape, plaster the walls with heart-shaped cut-outs, cover various surfaces with heart-themed fabrics, make a homemade heart-shaped pizza complete with that oh-so-romantic, ooey-gooey, stretchy, melty, mozzalicious cheese...  Sorry, I seem to have gotten distracted. Dreamy decorations and delicious delectables aside, simply cuddling on the couch while sharing these pictures with your special someone could be your perfectly ideal Valentine’s Day.

Piuqué Huapi, Nahuel Huapi National Park, Argentina

The lake region of northern Patagonia in Argentina, where Nahuel Huapi Lake is located, used to be wholly occupied by a glacier. As the ice melted and began flowing into streams, rivulets, and rivers, it carved its way through the terrain and eventually created the lake that surrounds the beautifully shaped land mass called Piuqué Huapi, which literally translates to “Heart Island”.

Heart Lake, Ontario, Canada

The 418-acre Heart Lake Conservation Area is home to the aptly-named Heart Lake, a gorgeous kettle lake in the middle of a lush forest to which local elementary school students add new trees annually. Kettle lakes are formed by enormous blocks of ice that were left behind from retreating glaciers. The ice blocks became surrounded by sediment and buried, then eventually melted, leaving large water-filled depressions up to 10 meters deep. Although there is a dirt road leading to the lake, it is technically not a public road and the County of Frontenac does ask people to be aware of local wildlife and cautiously respect the various hunting seasons throughout the year.

Lac du Montagnon, France

France’s Pyrénées National Park boasts over 45,000 hectares, or 176 square miles, of scenic mountains and valleys, diverse flora and fauna, lush forests and rocky formations, as well as numerous picturesque waterfalls and lakes. High up in the “heart” of the park, Lac du Montagnon rests at an elevation of just over 2,000 meters. Best seen in early spring when full from the melted winter snow, the view from Montagnon d’Iseye just above the lake is simply breathtaking.

Makepeace Island, Queensland, Australia

This private island on the Noosa River is home to an exclusive high-end luxurious retreat that is focused on preserving the environment from the wildlife to the water, and even to the very air that surrounds it. All products and amenities are sourced regionally to support local communities and the owners are committed to only enacting and practicing measures that ensure long-term sustainability.

Lough Ouler, Wicklow Mountains, Ireland

On the side of Tonelagee Mountain, amongst uneven terrain and windblown wildflowers, lies the massive heart-shaped Lough Ouler, a beautifully picturesque and romantic spot for a picnic or a proposal. Though a beautiful sight and worth the effort, keep in mind the trek to reach it isn’t easy and includes marshy bogs, squelchy mud, and the occasional slippery rock. Despite the difficulties, however, the site is quite popular for daytrippers as a full hike around the lake only takes about four hours and the view from any angle is néal álainn, or “stunningly beautiful”.

Lago di Scanno, Apennines Mountains, Abruzzo, Italy

Hidden in Abruzzo’s Marsicane mountains amongst several man-made artificial lakes is a massive natural beauty that was formed sometime near the end of the last ice age when a landslide on Mount Genzana blocked the Tasso River and flooded the surrounding valley. Over time, the waters pooled naturally into the sight we behold today as the heart-shaped Lago di Scanno in the Sagittario Valley. The largest natural lake in Abruzzo, Lago di Scanno has a recorded depth of 32 meters so locals and tourists alike enjoy gathering on its beachy edges and going boating, swimming, fishing, and even windsurfing.

Tupai Island, Bora Bora, Tahiti

Ten miles north of Bora Bora, the islet of Tupai idles leisurely in the tropical climate, hosting a broad coral reef surrounded by a double lagoon. Sea turtles take advantage of the uninhabited island and use its sandy white shores to lay their eggs while a plethora of exotic birds take shelter in the branches of coconut trees. While the island has no amenities and no permanent residents, it is possible to visit the island for a day and sip champagne while enjoying the soft breeze and lounging under the shade of broad coconut palms.

Dhumba Lake, Himalayan Mountains, Mustang, Nepal

“Small but mighty” are the words to describe Dhumba Lake, a diminutive hidden body of water at the base of Mount Nilgiri in the Mustang region of Nepal. The lake holds great religious and natural significance to the local municipality and is considered a sacred Buddhist lake. As such, the crystal-clear blue and emerald waters are fenced with prayer flags, swimming is prohibited, and fish from the lake is never consumed. Only about 150 meters long and 100 meters wide, the entire lake can be circumnavigated by foot in 30 minutes or less.

Ozero Lyubvi, Arkhyz Mountains, Russia

Only accessible via a walking route, the Ozero Lyubvi, or “Lake of Love”, is located a few miles outside the village of Arkhyz and is quite a sight to behold – if you look at it from the right angle. The heart shape is really only apparent when the lake is viewed from above, but the rest of the landscape doesn’t disappoint either. Rolling hills saturated in green surround the lake in a simple but beautiful valley. Fresh mountain air helps cleanse both body and mind while spectacular views calm and soothe the spirit.

Coeur de Voh, New Caledonia

A mangrove swamp in New Caledonia gained fame years ago when renowned photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand captured an image unlike any seen before. A natural clearing in the swamp covering about 4 hectares just happened to form an almost perfect heart shape surrounded by verdant trees, turquoise waters, and majestic mountains. New Caledonia’s unique confluence of vegetation and geography resulted in this age-old symbol of love emanating from Mother Nature herself. The Coeur de Voh, or “Heart of Voh” centers on a bed of porous limestone, over underground river channels and riverine silt which, with the ebb and flow of the tide, overflows with seawater and leaches the soil away. Over years and years of the seawater “salting” the area, the affected vegetation has grown into the beloved shape we see today.

 

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Skiing and Snowboarding in the Midst of a Pandemic

 

Imagine being nearly alone on the top of a gorgeous mountain, ski poles in hand, breathing in the fresh air. The sun is beating down, yet because it’s below freezing there is not a bit of slush on the ground, just perfect powder to glide through. You’ve got your mask, your goggles, and your gloves, and you’re ready to get going. This is the essence of a ski trip, and one might even call it social distancing or taking safety precautions, but that’s the beauty of skiing and snowboarding – they are naturally less risky in a pandemic environment.

While on the slopes there may be a potential for delays due to slower and longer lift lines, but just show up early and beat the crowds. On a positive note, fewer people going uphill means fewer people going downhill, which will make it a more relaxed experience. A mask actually comes in handy because it will most likely be below freezing, so you will be glad you wore that extra layer.

According to an RRC Associates survey conducted last summer, it was revealed that 93% of respondents felt safe participating in dispersed outdoor recreation during the pandemic. So while lounging in lodge areas and lift riding may look different, outdoor enthusiasts are still heading to ski destinations.

Are you ready to embrace the winter’s icy winds and heavy snowfall? If so, here are some of my favorite ski vacation getaway locations:

  • Breckenridge, CO
  • Park City, UT
  • Jackson Hole, WY
  • Vail, CO
  • Steamboat Springs, CO
  • Big Sky, MT
  • Telluride, CO
  • Aspen, CO
  • Lake Tahoe, CA/NV
  • The Finger Lakes, NY
  • Taos, NM
  • Sun Valley, ID

So pack up your masks, boots, gloves, and goggles and get ready to take a breath of that cold mountain air because yes, even though 2020 was a year of uncertainty, we all need and deserve a relaxing escape, socially distanced and all. With good planning, a trip to the mountains may be that perfect and peaceful getaway experience you need.

Ready to getaway? Galactic can get you there!

 

 

 

Trophy Value: Is It Really Worth It?

Chances are you currently own a big-screen television, a high-tech mobile phone, a fancy coffee-maker, or possibly a deluxe outdoor grill. Do you remember when and where you got any of those items? Maybe you went to a big box store, or ordered it online. Maybe you scrimped and saved to get it, carefully doing heavy research and budgeting your expenses to be sure the cost was worth it. Or maybe – just maybe – you earned one or more of those items through your company’s incentive program. What’s that, you say? Earning a television? How is that possible? And why is that important?

Acquiring high-priced items through an incentive program adds extra value to an earned reward by providing “trophy value” – the lasting memory of receiving an incentive reward. The memory itself increases the value of the item earned by causing an emotional reaction in the recipient every time the item is remembered, used, or even just seen. Walking into the room and seeing that 4K flatscreen TV invokes the memory and acknowledgement of “I earned that through my hard work. My company rewarded my efforts with that, therefore, I am valuable to my company.”

I know what you’re thinking. Companies prefer a simpler approach and it’s so much easier to just add an extra bonus to employees’ paychecks. “Great job! Here’s an extra $250. Go buy yourself something special.” The problem with this modus operandi is that most people simply see this “bonus” as additional compensation and use it just as they would the rest of their paycheck – to buy groceries, put gas in the car, pay bills, or as mentioned above, save it to buy a much-wanted item later. By providing a variety of tangible merchandise to choose from instantly as a reward instead of cash, participants in an incentive program will invest more time and effort into their work in order to achieve and exceed their target goals.

The main value of a reward is not based on the cost of the item, nor the fact that a person qualified to obtain that reward. The true value of a reward is measured by how long one remembers why the reward was received – this is the “trophy value”, and yes, it is absolutely worth it.

 

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