Monthly Archives: January 2017

Saving Money Is Important

If you don’t earn much and you can barely pay your bills, the idea of saving money might seem laughable. When you only have $5 left at the end of the month, why even bother to try saving? Because everyone has to start somewhere, and if you work at it, your financial situation is likely to improve over time. Saving money is worth the effort. It gives you peace of mind, it gives you options, and the more you save, the easier it becomes to accumulate additional savings.

Peace of Mind
Who hasn’t lain awake at 3:00 a.m. wondering how they were going to afford something they needed? If money is really tight, you might be wondering how you’re going to pay the rent next week. If you’re a little further up the financial ladder, you might worried about how many months you could pay the bills for if you lost your job. Later in life, the money thoughts that keep you up at night might center around paying for your kids to go to college or having enough money to retire.

As you accumulate savings, your financial worries should diminish, as long as you’re living within your means and not always looking for new things to worry about. If you already have next month’s rent taken care of by the first week of the current month, if you know you can get by without work for three to six months, if you have savings accounts for your children’s education and your own retirement that you’re regularly funding, you’ll sleep better at night. The reduced stress from having money in the bank frees up your energy for more enjoyable thoughts and activities.

Expanded Options
The more money you have saved, the more you control your own destiny. If your job has you on the verge of a nervous breakdown, you can quit even if you don’t have a new job lined up yet and take time off to restore your sanity before you look for new employment. If you’re tired of living in an unsafe neighborhood, you can move to a safer area because you’ll have enough for a deposit on a better apartment or a down payment on a nicer home.

If you get sick and need expensive healthcare that your insurance doesn’t cover, you’ll have a way to pay for it even though you can’t work while you’re getting treatment. And knowing that you have options because of the money you’ve socked away can give you even more peace of mind.

No, money doesn’t solve every problem. It you are laid off, it might take as long as two years to find a new job. Some illnesses won’t go away no matter how many procedures you can afford, and random crime can happen even in a supposedly secure gated community. But with more money in the bank to deal with issues like these, you give yourself better odds of coming out on top.

Money Working for You
Most of us put in hundreds of hours of work each year to earn most of our money. But when you have savings and stash your funds in the right places, your money starts to work for you. Over time, you’ll need to work less and less as your money works more and more, and eventually, you might be able to stop working altogether.

What does it mean to have your money working for you? When you’re first starting to save, you’ll want to put your money somewhere safe, where you can access it right away for unforeseen expenses. That means an online savings account, where you might earn 1% interest annually and not even keep up with inflation, which tends to run around 2% to 3% per year. You’ll even have to pay taxes on your meager 1% earnings. Anything is better than earning 0%, though, or not having savings and going into credit card debt, which will cost you 10% to 30% in interest per year.

Once you’ve saved three to six months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund, you can start saving money in a tax-advantaged retirement account. That’s where the magic starts to happen. These accounts, such as a Roth IRA or 401(k), allow you to invest in the stock market. If you do it right, you’ll earn about 8% per year on average over the long run. You won’t pay any taxes on those investment gains along the way, which will help your money grow even faster. With a Roth IRA, you contribute after-tax dollars, and everything that’s in the account after that is yours to keep. With a 401(k), you get to contribute before-tax dollars, giving you more money to invest up front; you’ll pay taxes when you withdraw the money in retirement. (If you’re not sure whether it’s better to pay taxes now or later, you can hedge your bets and contribute to both your employer-sponsored retirement plan and a Roth IRA.) The third choice, a traditional IRA, allows you to contribute before-tax dollars as you do with a 401(k).

If you have a high income and low expenses, you might accumulate enough to retire in 10 years. For most people, it takes closer to 40 years. But at some point, if you save and invest regularly, you should be able to live off the income generated by your investments – the saved money that’s working for you. The earlier you start, the more time a small amount of money has to grow large through the miracle of compounding.

More Information About 6 Financial Lessons

When you hit your thirties, you might still feel young and invincible. The scary truth is that you are halfway to retirement. It is time to put the money foolhardiness of your twenties behind you and master these top financial habits.

1. Actually Stick to a Budget
Most twenty-somethings have played around with the idea of a budget, have used a budgeting app and have even read an article or two about the importance of creating a budget. However, very few individuals actually stick to a budget. Once you turn 30, it’s time to ditch the wishy-washy process of budgeting and start allocating where every dollar you earn goes. This means that if you only want to spend $15 a week on coffee runs, you’ll have to cut yourself off after your third latte for the week.

The overall point of budgeting is to know where your money goes in order to make sound decisions. Keep in mind that one dollar here and one dollar there adds up in time. It’s fine to spend money on shopping or fun trips, as long as these purchases fit into your budget and don’t detract from your saving goals. Knowing your spending habits will help you discover where you can cut expenses and how you can save more money in a retirement fund or money market account.

2. Stop Spending Your Whole Paycheck
The wealthiest individuals in the world did not get where they are today by spending their entire paycheck each month. In fact, many self-made millionaires spend their income modestly, according to Thomas J. Stanley’s book “The Millionaire Next Door.” Stanley’s book found that the majority of self-made millionaires drove used cars and lived in average-priced housing. He also found that those who drove expensive cars and wore expensive clothing were actually drowning in debt; their pricey lifestyles could not keep up with their paychecks.

Start by living off of 90% of your income and save the other 10%. Having that money automatically deducted from your paycheck and put in a retirement savings account ensures you will not miss it. Gradually increase the amount you save while decreasing the amount you live off of. Ideally, learn to live off of 60% to 80% of your paycheck while saving and investing the remaining 20% to 40%.

3. Get Real About Your Financial Goals
What are your financial goals? Really sit down and think about them. Write them out and figure out how to make them a reality. You are less likely to achieve any goal if you do not write it down and create a concrete plan. For example, if you want to vacation in Italy, then stop daydreaming about it and make a game plan. Do your research to discover how much the vacation will cost, then calculate how much money you will have to save per month. Your dream vacation can be a reality within a year or two if you take the right planning and saving steps. The same is true for other lofty financial goals, such as paying off your debt or saving enough money for a down payment.

4. Figure Out Your Debt Situation
Many individuals become complacent about their debt once they hit their thirties. For those with student loans, mortgages, credit card debt and auto loans, repaying debt has become another way of life. You might even view debt as normal. The truth is that you do not need to live your whole life paying off debt. Assess how much debt you have outside of your mortgage and create a budget that helps you avoid gaining any more debt.

There are many methods to pay off debt, but the snowball effect is popular for keeping individuals motivated. Write down all of your debts from smallest to greatest, regardless of the interest rate. Pay the minimum payment for all of your debts, except for the smallest one. For the smallest debt, throw as much money as you can at it each month. The goal is to get that small debt paid off within a few months and then move on to the next debt.

Paying off your debts will have a significant impact on your finances. You will have more breathing room in your budget, and you will have more money freed up for savings and financial goals.

5. Establish a Strong Emergency Fund
An emergency fund is important to the health of your finances. If you do not have an emergency fund, then you are going to be more likely to dip into savings or rely on credit cards to help you pay for unplanned car repairs and health expenses. The first step is to build your emergency fund to $1,000. That is the minimum your account should have. By putting $50 of each paycheck in your emergency fund, you will hit the $1,000 emergency fund goal within 10 months. After that, set incremental goals for yourself depending on your monthly expenses. Some financial advisors recommend having the equivalent of three months living expenses in the fund – other recommend six months. Of course, how much you are able to save will depend on your financial situation.

6. Don’t Forget Retirement
Most people either enter their 30s without having a single dime contributed to their retirement, or they are making the minimum contributions. If you want that million-dollar nest egg, you have to put in the savings now. Stop waiting for a promotion or more wiggle room in your budget. In your 30s, you still have time on your side, so don’t waste it. Make sure that you are benefiting from your company’s matching contribution. Many companies will match your contributions up to a certain percentage. As long as you stay with your company long enough to become vested, this is basically free money for your retirement – and the earlier you start, the more you’ll earn in interest!

Should Know About A Financial Planning Checklist

While everybody’s financial situation is different, there are some options and strategies that can be used by all to get on the right financial path.

Financial Fundamentals
Develop a budget and stick with it: When making a budget it is important to develop a realistic one and stick with it. You need to decide how much you can afford to spend and what you should be saving each month. To be financially independent, it is important to start making wise choices early on in order to develop a habit of staying within your budget.

Figure out your credit score: Do you know what your credit score is and how much it can affect you in various areas of your life? How do you build credit in a responsible way to make sure there are no surprises down the road? There are ways for you to check your credit score. Visit one of the three reporting agencies for more information.

Money Saving Tips
Employee benefits: What benefits do you currently have and what benefits are offered at your job? Are you contributing enough to your retirement plan to get the full employer match? What other savings can you get by participating in the other benefits offered to you? Speak to your human resources department to make sure you understand all the benefits available to you.

Emergency fund: Do you currently have an emergency fund? Have you thought about what would happen if your car broke down tomorrow? What if it was something bigger? Most financial professionals recommend three to six months of your monthly expenses to be saved in a liquid account that you can access when you need it.

Pay back loans: When creating a budget, make sure you include any loans that you currently have. When looking at the amount to pay each month try to allocate a slightly higher amount than the required minimum payments. This could possibly save you money by lowering the amount of interest you could be paying.

Set up a savings account(s): Do you have a large purchase in your future? Think about setting up a separate savings account to start saving for any dreams or goals you might have. This helps to separate your money so you can see the progress you are making towards your purchase without tapping into your emergency fund. This can be beneficial if you are looking at purchasing a house as you will most likely need a down payment. (For related reading, see: 10 Ways to Effectively Save for the Future.)

Establish relationships with various insurance and financial professionals: In your 20s it is important to start developing these relationships because you will need various types of insurance and guidance to help you manage the risk that will be encountering on your own. Insurance professionals will ensure you and your possessions are covered, while a financial professional will help you with various financial strategies to help you achieve financial independence.

Set Long-Term Financial Goals
Start saving for retirement: Retirement might seem like a long way away, but it is never too early to start looking at the various retirement options you have. Taking part in the retirement options you have at work are a great start but for some people, it might make sense to look at alternative investments outside of work, such as a traditional IRA. If you qualify based on your income, a Roth IRA can be a great way to start saving for retirement outside of the workplace because it offers tax-free withdrawals during retirement.* You should talk to your financial professional about the different options that are available.

Develop goals and write them down: In your 20s everything can be changing so fast that you don’t know where to start. A great thing to do is sit down and start coming up with some goals. Break these down into short, mid and long-term goals. This helps by giving you some direction in your life. Focus on your goals and make sure what you are doing every day is keeping you on the right track to achieve them. (For more, see: Want to Be Financially Fit in 2017? Use These Tips.)

Guidelines to Achieve Success
Consider saving 30% of your income: This might seem like a lot starting out, but it is important to save for the various aspects of your life. Consider saving 10% for retirement, 10% towards your emergency fund and 10% towards any large purchases you might have coming up.

Have an emergency fund: It is extremely important to set up your emergency fund and not touch it unless needed for an emergency. This fund will help give you the peace of mind that if something were to happen, you can take care of yourself. Try to get six months of your living expenses saved up.

Minimize credit card debt: Credit cards can have high interest rates that can really cost you a lot of money in the long term. Try to pay off your credit cards every month or, if you have to carry a balance, try to keep it under your credit limit.

Buying a vehicle: When buying a car consider putting down a significant down payment. When financing the car consider doing so for no more than four years and spending no more than 10% of your gross income on car payments. If you are buying a new car, consider driving it for 10 years to maximize the car’s value and to limit the loss due to depreciation.

Buying a home: Like buying a car, put down at least 20% as a down payment on a new home. This will help you to lower the monthly mortgage cost, help your chances of getting a favorable loan and also make sure you don’t spend more on your home than you can afford. Some financial professionals will advise you to keep the total cost of your home under two or three year’s worth of annual income.