Your Backyard Shed Can Be an Oasis

Everything old really is new again – including your old backyard shed. Forget fancy sunrooms or gazebos. Your shed can be all things to all people; you just have to decide what and to whom.

For example, your shed can serve as a miniature bar and lounge; add couches and a TV and it functions beautifully as a man cave or (especially popular now) a “she shed” for mom to entertain, relax or garden.

Older children can entertain friends, and the young ones can use it as a playhouse or fort.

Today’s shed isn’t just about leisure: it can become a home office, studio or workshop, so you can work at home but away from the house.

Decorate it beautifully, consider adding heat and AC, and voila: the perfect workplace.

If you don’t already have a shed, you can purchase prefabricated ones from many local hardware and gardening stores, or order online from businesses specializing in them. Be sure to check local zoning bylaws to see if they’re allowed and where they can be located.

Don’t think you can build it, and they will come: if you’re transforming your shed into something the whole family can enjoy, make sure they will – don’t skimp on finishes, and be sure to have a maintenance plan.

Oh, and your shed can also be a shed. If you’ve decided you should use your garage as a garage – for your car – you will likely have to move its contents to the shed.

It’s crucial to buy sturdy shelving designed around your needs. They should be wide, deep and accessible, but don’t forget to add some higher shelves to store collapsible patio furniture.

Even if your shed is just a shed, it still should look nice: ensure it’s solid and tidy inside and out, and surround it with attractive plantings. Now it’s not a shed; it’s an oasis.

Small Nest Egg; Big Dreams? Here’s How to Catch Up

If you’re dreaming of becoming a homeowner, or planning to upsize, you’ll need to tap your savings for a down payment and to support your mortgage application. Are you there yet?

If not, you’re not alone: Most adults over age 55 are behind on savings, according to a survey of 968 respondents conducted by Financial Engines. The survey showed that 68% of adults aged 55 and older have procrastinated when it comes to building a nest egg. And while most agreed that the best age to start saving is 25, many don’t start until 35…and it makes a difference.

The study provides a hypothetical example: This individual saves 6% of a $36,000 salary annually. The nest egg increases by 1.5% a year, due to raises, etc. If the saver begins at age 25, assuming a 3% employer-matching contribution and a 5% annual return, by age 65, he or she will have saved roughly $500,000.

But to reach the same goal when starting at age 35, the saver would have to contribute 12% of his or her income per year.

Making up for lost time isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible, thanks to the power of compounding. And if returns are compounded in a tax-deferred account, the potential income growth is even greater.

If you did get off to a late start, there’s still time. Talk to your advisor, and together you can build a solid savings plan to make your housing dreams come true. Just perhaps a bit later then you’d like.