Top Ten Stupid Retirement Tricks

I couldn’t resist.  In honor of David Letterman’s retirement I had to weigh in with a Top Ten list of my own.

Image result for david letterman top ten lists pictures

 #10.  Putting all your retirement money into equity-indexed annuities. Granted, if you do this, you just made your annuity salesperson very happy because you may have helped them earn enough to make The President’s Trip. But, before you sign up, do your homework and read up on them. Here’s what Bogleheads.org has to say: Equity Indexed Annuities.

#9. Quitting your job before you have enough quarters for Social Security.   Learn more here: Social Security Guidelines 

#8. Quitting your job before you have enough quarters for Medicare.  Use this calculator to verify you have worked enough to qualify:  Medicare Eligibility

#7. Quitting your job before you verified your pension benefits.  If you are one of the lucky ones who still qualifies for a pension at work, make sure you know what you’re getting.  For some people, taking the lump sum distribution is best while for others, the annuity payment makes the most sense.  Be sure to evaluate all your options before submitting that final paperwork.

#6.  Forgetting to sign up for Medicare.  Within 3 months of turning age 65 you need to sign up unless you are part of a group plan.  If you don’t sign up on time you may have to pay an enrollment penalty of 10% per month for twice the number of years you could have had Medicare but didn’t sign up.  Certain restrictions apply; learn more about them here:  More Medicare Information

#5.  Holding on to the distribution check from your 401(k) rollover for more than 60 days.  You need to deposit the distribution in a qualified account, like an IRA or another 401(k) plan sooner than that to avoid paying taxes on the entire amount.

#4.  Spending the lump sum distribution from your retirement plan on a timeshare while on vacation in Mexico.   Yes, the warm sun, sparkling waters, and colorful drinks inspire many people to do silly things.  I also know many people who own and love their timeshares but don’t buy new, while under pressure, on vacation.  There are thousands of timeshares for sale online that are available for a fraction of the cost of a new one.  But don’t use your retirement plan distribution to pay for it; invest that money in a tax-deferred account so it can continue to grow to support you through your retirement.   If you don’t have separate savings available, skip the timeshare altogether.

#3. Waiting until you’ve given notice at your job to figure out how much money you need in retirement.  Your desired lifestyle may cost more than you think and it is difficult to get a do-over on that final job departure.

#2. Making investment decisions on what you heard yesterday on CNBC or FOX News.  Retirement is a phase of life, not an event. You need a plan, not a hot tip.

And, finally,

#1. Not verifying your financial advisor is a fiduciary.  You need to make sure the person you are working places your interests before his or her own.  The CFP Board lays it out pretty clearly: CFP Board Fiduciary Standard.  

Happy Retirement, David Letterman!

Image result for david letterman golfing

Readers, if you have any retirement tips of your own, please share.

 

College Funding Sanity Check for High School Seniors

Oh my gosh — it’s spring already! Acceptance letters and financial aid packages have been received, final decisions on which school to attend are being made, the high school counseling office is excited to be notified, and graduation is just around the corner. All in all, an exciting time for high school seniors and their families.

 

DSCN1211

It is also an ideal time to take a sanity check and make sure the collegiate path chosen is one that fits not only goals and aspirations but finances as well. Each year I speak with young college graduates who feel overly burdened with student loan debt (well over $100,000 in many cases!) that I want to keep others from falling into the same trap.

College is an excellent investment. I have yet to meet anyone who graduated from college and regrets having a college degree. I don’t believe you need to know exactly what you’re going to do as a profession once you graduate. Most college graduates change majors at least once while earning their undergraduate degrees. College is a time for exploration. You develop critical thinking skills, you get to know people from a wider range of backgrounds, and you learn how to become a lifelong learner.

What concerns me is the desire among some high school students to attend a college at a cost that is way beyond their means. In the United States we have so many excellent choices for learning at widely varying price points that it is possible to get a great education at a price you can afford.

It’s natural to get swept up in the excitement of going to college. What can get lost is a thorough explanation and understanding of the financial cost of the student loans that are granted to new high school graduates. It is pretty easy for a student to borrow $25,000 per year for four years of college. This is the average cost to attend an in-state public university. In a typical loan arrangement, interest accrues but no payments are due until six months after graduation. Upon graduation, the balance due will be around $118,000 if the loans have a 6.8% interest rate. To repay this debt in 10 years, a typical repayment period, the monthly payment will be $1,358.

In certain fields such as engineering, computer science, or finance, $1,358 per month might be manageable. For others, however, such as education, psychology, or marketing, this amount eats up a third to half of the typical paycheck.
In either case, is this much debt desirable? It will certainly interfere with the ability to finance a car, condo, or just about anything else the first five years after graduating. “Saddling graduates with crippling debt limits their ability to take career risks and limits entrepreneurship,” according to Don Phillips, managing director at Morningstar. “It forces people to follow the highest-paying professions rather than their passions. It also creates generations of young people who will be severely constrained in their ability to save for their futures, thus putting a bigger drain on society.”1

Before helping your future college student sign on for this much debt I recommend three things:

1.Check out the Federal Student Aid website if you haven’t done so already. This site has information on the latest repayment plan options, sources for grants, scholarships, and work-study programs. A little research and legwork can save thousands of dollars.
2.Research the salaries in different fields of study — not just the ones your student is focused on but on some that are tangentially related — to get a feel for what it’s reasonable. A place to start is the National Association of Colleges and Employers. These surveys don’t reflect how many applicants there were for the positions hired so bear in mind that some fields are tough to break into.
3.Aim for graduating with no more than one year’s salary in student loan debt. Figure out how best to utilize other sources of funding such as savings, work-study, grants and scholarships, as well as less expensive education options to keep the debt in check.
Taking a sanity check on the cost of the college education, and balancing sources of funding against potential future salaries, means that not only can there be fun, rewarding times during college, but there will also be fun, rewarding times after graduating!

1Phillips, Don. “A Costly Education: Amid soaring prices, financial planners need a role in solving what ails U.S. Universities”, p10. Morningstar Magazine. April/May 2015.

Year of the Dentist

We smile, we chew. We grit and we grind.  Day in and day out we use our teeth. If you think about it, they never get a day off. Many of us go to the dentist regularly for check-ups, teeth cleaning, and the occasional cavity.  At some point, though, the fillings we got in our youth have been at work for decades and they’re unstable.  They’re in danger of cracking the teeth they were put in place to preserve and, let’s face it, those years of Jolly Ranchers had to catch up to us at some point. Good dental hygiene can only go so far and there comes a time when we need major dental work done.  I call this the Year of the Dentist.  Crowns, bridges, and implants become part of our daily conversations because in the Year of the Dentist, we’re spending a lot of time in the chair. It’s not just time either.  We’ll be spending a lot of money, too. Most dental insurance covers only a portion of what is needed to tackle all that deferred maintenance so restoring our smile to its proper glory usually involves money out of pocket as well. On the bright side, where there is expense, there is also opportunity.  With just the right planning you can save money.

Dr. Dawn Wehking, DDS, is the owner of Complete Family & Aesthetic Dentistry located in Lafayette, Colorado.  According to Dr. Wehking, there is a number of situations where patients require significant dental work.  Auto accident victims, hockey players, and the occasional loser of a bar fight need dental work in a hurry just to be able to eat and drink without pain. In other instances, major dental work is needed to help a patient recover from years of neglecting their teeth. Over time, though, even patients who have taken care of their teeth may need some major tooth repairs. “The cement used in old fillings breaks down and this can lead to cavities under the teeth,” Dr. Wehking says, “Sometimes teeth crack and need to be replaced with crowns. We also see patients who grind their teeth so severely we need to replace many of those as well.” Insurance only covers a portion of the cost and the expense can be substantial. You can’t minimize the amount of work that needs to be done but there are steps you can take to use these dental expenses to minimize something else: your taxes.

If this is your Year of the Dentist you may be able to save thousands of dollars through strategic tax planning. Dental and medical expenses are tax deductible so tax planning can help you reduce your tax bill for the year.  Of course, there are rules and restrictions that apply but the earlier in the year you begin planning, the larger your potential tax savings can be.  Let’s walk through the rules so you understand what you’re eligible to deduct.

1. The expenses are deducted through Schedule A: Itemized Deductions. If you pay state income taxes, mortgage interest, or make charitable donations, chances are you’re itemizing your deductions.

YODpic

2. You’ll notice on the example above that there is a threshold. In order to deduct dental and medical expenses they have to add up to more than 10%* of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI).  That’s why your Year of the Dentist can pay off.  In a normal year, you might not have enough medical bills to qualify and that’s okay because it means you were healthy!

*If you or your spouse is age 65 or older, the AGI threshold is only 7.5% through December 31, 2016.

3. Eligible expenses are only for what you paid; not for bills that were reimbursed by insurance or paid by others.  Expenses paid with Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA) dollars are not eligible.

With the general rules in hand, let’s take a look at the strategy.  In the Year of the Dentist, you probably have dental bills that exceed what your insurance coverage allows.  Start a file or a folder and save all your medical and dental receipts – prescriptions, medicines, acupuncture treatments, chiropractic care, therapy, health insurance premiums you are paying (not your employer), and even a portion of your long term care insurance premiums. Make this the year you take care of all your physical and mental ‘deferred maintenance’ – not just your teeth.  Get that new pair of eyeglasses or LASIK eye surgery. The list of eligible expenses is lengthy so the IRS has detailed explanations in Publication 502 Medical and Dental Expenses .  Look through the list and make note of all the expenses that apply to you.   Track your mileage to and from the dentist’s office and doctors’ offices.  This, too, is deductible at a rate of 23 cents a mile.  Short trips add up so it’s worth tracking.  If you are married and/or have dependents, save receipts and track miles for all. You might be surprised at how they add up.

Here is an example to illustrate.  Let’s assume we have a married couple with a teen-aged son.

Combined Salaries:                                                       $120,000

Other income (Interest, Ordinary Dividends) :                  $5,000

Adjusted Gross Income:                                               $125,000

Dental/Medical Threshold (10%):                                $12,500

Year of The Dentist

Dental expenses (all 3)             $20,000

Prescriptions                               $1,600

Chiropractic payments                $2,500

Eyeglasses & contacts                  $750

Mileage (100 miles @ .23/mille          $23

Total:                                           $24,873

$24,873 – $12,500 = $13,373

Our example family can deduct dental and medical expenses above $12,500 so lumping expenses, as much as possible, into one calendar year gives them a larger tax deduction than if they spread the expenses out across multiple years.  In the example above, the family can deduct $13,373 in dental and medical expenses.  In the 25% tax bracket, this saves them approximately $3,000 in income taxes. The IRS has an Interactive Tax Assistant    http://www.irs.gov/uac/Can-I-Deduct-My-Medical-and-Dental-Expenses%3F to help you see what can be deducted in your personal situation. It hasn’t been updated for 2015 yet but not much has changed so it is still useful.

Your Year of the Dentist may be two years away or ten but when it happens, plan to make the most of it.  By coordinating a year of substantial dental work with other medical expenses you may be eligible to deduct some of the cost on your income tax return.  Saving on taxes gives you the perfect reason to use that brand new smile!

 

NewRetirement.Com Article on Questions to Ask a Financial Advisor

Throughout life we face different transition points. At each transition it is important to review options and understand the trade-offs between them.  Recently I was one of several financial planners and advisors who were asked to provide input on an article for New Retirement about selecting a financial advisor.  If you are at or nearing a transition point for retirement, I think you might find some useful information here:

New Retirement: Questions to Ask a Financial Advisor

Happy Reading and, let me know what you think!

Judy 

8 Four-Letter Words You’ll Love for Financial Health

8 Four-Letter Words You’ll Love for Financial Health

 

Why is it that a few 4-letter words have given thousands of perfectly good four-letter words such a bad rap? It doesn’t seem fair, does it? I took it upon myself to give them a break. Make a habit of putting these 8 words into use and 2014 will be the strongest financial year you’ve ever had. They won’t offend anybody. You can even say them in front of your parents – how great is that?

 

Why 8? Well, I was reading an article about how we can be pretty hardheaded when it comes to making changes. The author suggested sometimes we need to get hit over the head with a (figurative) 2-by-4 to get a message.  Multiply 2 by 4 and you get 8.

 

Here you go:

 

  1. PLAN – let 2014 be the year you outgrow impulse spending. If you’ve got some exciting goals – and I hope you do – planning before spending will make those goals happen sooner. Whether it’s clothes, groceries, or basic household matter, make a list before you head out to spend. You’ll get everything you need and you’ll be less likely to end up with 3 jumbo jars of peanut butter in the cupboard!
  2. COOK – sure, you’re busy, you’re tired. You come home and the last thing you feel like doing is cooking a meal from scratch. I get that. Take baby steps and make it fun.  When you’ve got a little downtime, check out a few online cookbooks and find a new recipe to try.  There are millions of recipes that don’t take long, don’t take many ingredients, and make great leftovers.  Aim for eating one less meal out and cooking one more meal each week.
  3. SWAP – tired of wearing the same scarves and belts over and over?  Tempted to go out and buy a bunch of new ones? Host a swap party instead. Start simple. Invite a few friends to each bring 5 accessories they’re willing to give up for a while and exchange.  It can be temporary or permanent – you decide.  Everyone will feel like they got something new to freshen up their wardrobes but nobody spent a dime. This doesn’t have to be just clothing, either. Sporting goods, furnishings, kitchen items, tools, and electronic gadgets are great candidates for swap sessions.
  4. SAFE – do what you need to do to keep what you’ve got.  If all your electronic accounts still use the same password you’ve had since seventh grade, it’s time to change.  No matter how fond you are of CheetosRgr8t you need to come up with something new and tougher to crack.  Don’t use just one password, either.  Set up different passwords for different accounts.
  5. SAVE – you know I was going to put this in here, right? I am sure you are already saving, so bump up your saving percentage by 1%. Go ahead, you’ll be glad you did. Little increases add up to big results.
  6. ROTH – start now. Open a Roth IRA and set up automatic transfers from your checking or savings account into it.  You will be so glad you did. I promise. Ever wonder why it’s a Roth?  That’s because the legislation was introduced by Senator Roth of Delaware. Just think, if you ran for Congress you could introduce a bill and have something named for you for ever after.  Pretty cool.
  7. DEBT – yes, this can be a good 4-letter word. If you’ve got debt of any sort, the good news is you are building a credit history. Make sure it’s a good one by paying your bills on time. At some point or another, you need to have a credit history in order to qualify for (more) debt.  I know, that sounds a little strange but if you want to buy a house someday, you get a better rate if you’ve got a higher credit score. The score is based on how well you’ve done in the past with paying off debt so show those financial institutions you’ve got it together.
  8. GIVE – almost all the healthiest, wealthiest folks all give time, money, or both to help make the world a better place. If you haven’t done this before try it, you’ll like it. Start giving just a little bit and you’ll be hooked. And if you’re already a giver pat yourself on the back and keep on keepin’ on.

Take these 8 four-letter words and make them a part of your life.  By the end of 2014 you will be in a stronger financial place than you are right now. Want to learn more?  Read Coin! A great 4-letter word and a book that is guaranteed to make you the very picture of perfect financial health. Learn more at www.CoinInTheBank.com.

Let me hear from you –what changes are you making for 2014?

4 Green Ways to Pay Less Tax

This month, Bridget Sullivan Mermel provides a guest post. Bridget is based in Chicago and specializes in socially responsible investing. The term and its applications are broader than you might think!

A lot of people think that green financial planning is all about investments.

I beg to differ. As a comprehensive planner, I love to talk about the good you can do without investing a dollar. One great way is to act green and save money is on your taxes. Here are four big opportunities:

1. Donate to charity
If you itemize, donating items that you don’t need is a great way to get a deduction.

When acting green, there are generally good, better and best alternatives. In this case, “good” is contributing your used clothing and household items to the charity of your choice rather than pitching it into the garbage stream.

Even better: you can also contribute used TVs and electronic items to charities that will recycle them.

And best is finding charities that will actually reuse your electronic items. Domestic violence shelters use cell phones. Other charities refurbish your old electronics and send them to schools and developing countries that need them. One time I even donated an old mountain bike to a charity that sends them overseas.

Here’s a nationwide website that connects you with local charity pickup services. You might have to scan the listings of each individual charity to figure out which accept items like mattresses and TVs that some charities won’t accept:

http://www.donationtown.org/

Here’s a Chicago charity that accepts electronics for re-use called FreeGeek. They have a resale shop and accept drop-offs:

http://freegeekchicago.org/donate

Here’s a handy list of Chicago charitable organizations that details what each organization is looking for and what they do with it:

http://www.chaostoorder.com/resources/donations/

And here’s where I donated my bike:

http://workingbikes.org/

Common sense caution applies. Donating a computer with a hard drive full of personal information? Make sure you are comfortable with programs that wipe it clean before setting up your pick-up. Even if you don’t want to donate your hard drive, giving away old printers, scanners and cords don’t offer security challenges.

2. Improve your home
These purchases get you a tax credit through 12/31/2013 if your purchases meet energy star criteria:

1. Insulation
2. Roofs (metal and asphalt)
3. Water heaters (non-solar)
4. HVAC systems
5. Windows and doors
6. Biomass stoves HVAC systems (I’ve got to admit that I didn’t even know what these were!)

Doing a more ambitious project to either your principal residence OR your second home? Consider following energy star guidelines and get a tax credit. The credit for these expires 12/31/2016:

1. Geothermal Heat Pumps
2. Small Wind Turbines (Residential)
3. Solar Energy Systems

Also for your principal residence (sorry, no second homes here) if you get one of these bad boys before 2016, you can get a credit:

1. Fuel Cells (Residential Fuel Cell and Microturbine System)

You can find more details about all the above credits here:

http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=tax_credits.tx_index

3. Buy a Plug-in Car
The credit for hybrid cars is gone, but there are still some credits left for buying a plug-in. Here’s the link:

http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Qualified-Vehicles-Acquired-after-12-31-2009

4. Get money from your state
Finally, most states have green tax incentives. Here’s the website to help you look up your state:

http://www.dsireusa.org/

I looked over Illinois’ list and it seemed to be primarily incentives that relate to the construction industry. However Illinois is in a fiscal-crisis-mode, not a dolling-out-tax-incentives mode at the moment. Other states are more promising.

By Bridget Sullivan Mermel

Coin: Making it Easy for College Grads to Manage Their Money Well

Coin (koin) n.

 

Definition:

1. flat round chunk of metal used to buy stuff

2. slang term for money

3. the personal finance book used by successful college graduates

Introducing “Coin: The Irreverent Yet Practical Guide to Money Management for Recent College Graduates.”

It’s about time!  Many of you know I have been working on this book for years.  But it’s ready now and if you see it I think you’ll agree that it turned out well.  Full of fantastic illustrations by the talented Jenna Kusmierek, Coin is the perfect book for anyone just graduating from college as well as folks who, perhaps, missed the money management lecture the first time around. It’s funny, it’s short, and it’s jargon-free.  What more could you ask for? In less than two hours the book walks you through what you need to know to be on the right path, financially.  And, I promise I’m not lying, you’ll laugh and have fun reading it.  So if you know someone who might need a nudge in the right financial direction, let them know about Coin.

Sticker-2-oval

 

 

 

Positive Focus

Ever feel like you are having a rough week and the list of things on your agenda keeps growing as the week goes along?  Or been so busy that you have no time to remember the good things that happened in the week?  Consider using the attached Positive Focus worksheet to prevent yourself from getting swallowed up by the stress and take a little time each day to reflect on what went well. It’s a great habit to form!

While this worksheet won’t prevent the bad things from happening or the list of things you have to do from piling up, it will give you an outlet to remember why exactly you do all of the things you do in the first place.  This worksheet is part of the Strategic Coach program by Dan Sullivan.  The program helps you tap into your potential by encouraging you to become more organized, and slow down to really look at what brings you value in your life.

Among the other tools and suggestions offered by the program is the idea that if you can, accomplish 3 pertinent tasks a day.  When you start to handle your tasks in this manner the stress and seemingly mountainous list of things to do will slowly dwindle down to a much more reasonable level.  Once you have the 3 things a day down pat, you can work your way up to handling extensive to-do lists in a well-managed and less stressful way.

As a participant in the Strategic Coach program, I’m encouraged to share the tools with you. In order to download the Positive Focus worksheet, click the link and feel free to utilize this worksheet as much as possible.  Positive Focus  If you are interested in learning more about Strategic Coach you can take a look at www.strategiccoach.com.

 

Financial Planning Week 2012

October 22nd-29th is Financial Planning week.  Conveniently positioned before the big holiday shopping season, there are many ways you can celebrate Financial Planning week to make the rest of your year (and the year after that) a lot less stressful.

Here are a dozen suggestions from the Financial Planning Association:

1.  Balance your checkbook

2.  Make a monetary contribution to your favorite charity

3.  Start a savings account for a child, vacation, or a gift for yourself

4.  Help teach your children how to save and spend wisely

5.  Get your estate in order: Create or revise your will & other estate-planning documents

6.  Call your financial planner and share your appreciation for their service

7.  Pay off a credit card

8.  Get a head start on college – investigate collegiate planning options

9.  Establish an emergency fund

10.  Evaluate your employee benefits and begin planning for open enrollment

11.  Develop your holiday spending budget

12.  Plan for year-end tax strategies

Rwanda: A Gem Waiting to Shine

As you may recall from earlier newsletters, the entire McNary family visited Rwanda in July of this year.  While the visit had a certain amount of apprehension to it, we all left with a newfound appreciation for a nation that is truly working towards a bright future.  Following the horrifying events of the genocide in 1994, Rwanda has felt a surge of unity under the leadership of Paul Kagame that is aimed at transforming the country from third-world to first-world in just one generation.  Although this goal is certainly a lofty one and may be out of reach for the time being, the nation has totally altered its’ identity and is now a place of hope, acceptance, and desire.

After our brief visit in July, I (Tom) was truly riveted by what I saw the last time I was there, and thus was inspired to figure out some way to return.  I achieved this by signing up with a global volunteering agency to go back to Rwanda for the first few weeks of this October.  I was at first very nervous, for despite the praise Rwanda has received I was still not completely sold on the idea of being on my own in a third-world country without my family.  What I was met with completely blew me away and I am certain now that I have left a part of my heart there.  From day one I was greeted with smiles and open arms, not only by the workers of the volunteering cooperative, but by anyone and everyone whom I greeted on the street.  The people are friendly, outgoing, and brimming with a thirst for knowledge about the world around them.
This welcoming attitude was manifested perfectly on the first sunday I was there, in the town of Gisenyi which is right on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  As I was walking to the market that morning with a few other volunteers, we passed a church in session.  Curious, we peeked our heads in to see the sermon being delivered and we were immediately greeted and beckoned to join the churchgoers.  Two men who had a fair handle on English were assigned to us and they provided us with seats near the front of the church.  The two men were thrilled to have us in their church and to have a chance to try out their English, and so we received a full translation of the sermon.  Eventually as the sermon drew to a close, we were invited to stand up in front of the church of 300 and introduce ourselves.  While standing in front of a large crowd might have been daunting under different circumstances, I felt a sense of calm and acceptance as we told them who we were and where we were from.  Following our introductions we received a rousing round of applause and after the service ended for the day we spent almost an hour meeting with various members of the church and discussing our business for being in Rwanda as well as our thoughts on the country and people. This interaction left me smiling and I exchanged contact information with a number of the people who came to speak with us.

I am still blown away at how openly we were accepted into what some might consider sacred or private ground, and it was exciting to see our hosts boasting prideful smiles as they discussed their church and country.  This experience also showed me the impact that people like me could have by simply being there.  Most of the work I did consisted of building house foundations or gardening, but even then I was usually shooed out of the way by a tough Rwandan woman who would laugh at my pitiful attempts to till the soil.  Even though after most days I wasn’t sure if I had really done anything, I was reassured one day when all of the volunteers were invited to a celebration at the home of one woman in a village near Gisenyi.

The celebration consisted of about 20 women singing and dancing for us, while also cooking us a meal.  I was not the only one who was taken aback at what they had done for us, but the women then explained through a translator that before the volunteering program I was part of had been established, their lives had been a struggle.  Although almost every woman there lived in a tiny house with a floor composed of rocks filled in with soil, they were glowing with pride as they told us how their exposure to our volunteering agency had them going from living off of potatoes and kidney beans to now owning their own cows, chickens, cell phones, and even in some cases increasing the size of their homes.  The fact that we were willing to help out pleased them, but our impact was larger to them because we represented a channel to the outer world (or even out of their village) that allowed them to dramatically increase the quality of their lives.

When my few weeks there were up, I was surprised at how disappointed I was to be going home.  I had felt like I had integrated seamlessly into the culture there, and despite the occasional good-natured haranguing about my skin color (the term for which is umuzungu in the local language) I felt incredibly comfortable in a place where a troubled past clouts the beauty and unequivocal acceptance of the people who live there.  The main point of my writing this is to expose a nation that is truly on the right path and has thrown itself wholeheartedly into building a better future, and one that is free of corruption and violence at that.  While many people have a certain stigma that comes to mind when they think of Africa and especially Rwanda (I won’t deny that I did), the generalization could not be farther from the truth.  I hope in the future to build a lasting relationship with the people and the country, as it is a place where you really can feel the impact of your actions and see the change as it happens.

If you are interested in doing something like this or have a family member that is itching to make a difference or see this beautiful country do not hesitate to contact me as I would love to share more about my time there.  I have also heard from a reliable financial planner that sponsoring a volunteer to go do something like this is tax-deductible, so if you are reading this and wanted to help me make a return visit, I’m sure I could help you out there as well.  For any questions or comments you can reach me at mcnaryw@colorado.edu and I thank you if you have read this far!

Tom McNary