Monthly Archives: August 2016

Tips For Young Investors

Moving out of mom and dad’s house provides a great deal of freedom, but that freedom also comes with responsibilities, such as rent and utilities. Then there’s your car payment, school loans and credit card bills. You probably also have aspirations for a better car, a nice vacation and a home of your own. Of course, your social life isn’t free and many of the things that your grandparents never heard of – from Starbucks and cable television to cell phones and iPods – are luxuries that many young people can’t live without. Actually, a cell phone isn’t a luxury anymore for most of us.

Unfortunately, everything costs money. With so many places to spend it, it can sometimes be hard to have enough of it by the end of the month. If you’re new to the workforce, the distant future may seem too remote to even rate as a priority – especially when you’re just learning to balance your finances. In this article, we’ll go over how to begin working with the limited resources you have now in order to prepare for the future – you’ll be glad you did.

Retirement Seems So Far Away
You probably keep hearing about how Social Security won’t be there when you need it, but with retirement such a long way off, it’s hard to be worried. Retirement?! When you are in your 20s, retirement seems like a distant event – and it is! You’ve been on the planet for only two decades, and you’ve got probably twice that amount of time standing between you and your last day at work. So why think about retirement now, especially when there are so many other things competing for your cash?

The answer is simple. Despite the time and distance involved, the future is something that will be here before you know it. Someday, either because you’re tired of working or because your health isn’t what it used to be, the idea of schlepping off to work will no longer have the same appeal that it does today. When that day comes, you need to be ready for it.
How to Prepare
When it comes to preparing for your future, the most important step is to get started. The first thing that you need to do is make a commitment to saving money. While the long time horizon and huge amount of cash required to support yourself if you stop working can seem overwhelming, the way to tackle the task is to start small. Choose an amount of money that you can relate to – and afford – and set aside that amount each week.

Even as little as $25 a week adds up to $1,300 over the course of a year. If you invest the money, and every investment you make doubles every eight years, that first $1,300 becomes $2,600 in eight years, which becomes $5,200 after 16 years, $10,400 after 24 years, $20,800 after 32 years and $41,600 after 40 years.

While the sums are small and the math is simple, the example provides a pretty good idea of what a realistic savings plan can do for your future. To really put the power of time to work for your portfolio, find out if your employer offers an employer-sponsored savings plan. If so, and the company offers to match your contributions, you won’t want to pass up that opportunity. Not only will the money that you contribute grow, but so will the money that the company adds to the pot.

When you get a raise, increase the amount that you contribute. When you change jobs, take the money with you and deposit it in your new employer’s plan or roll it over to an individual retirement account (IRA). The important thing is to keep your money growing throughout the course of your career. Always add to the total and never do anything to chip away intentionally at your savings.

More Than Just Retirement – It’s a Lifestyle
Retirement isn’t the only financial goal that you will have. Raising a family, the need to replace your car multiple times, and simply keeping yourself fed and clothed over the course of a lifetime are also expensive propositions. To meet these challenges, you’ll want to keep your wallet fat and your expenses thin. Making this happen requires a serious commitment to a thrifty lifestyle. You need to manage your money and not let your money manage you.

Start by eliminating your bills. Make extra payments any time that you can, even if it’s only a few dollars. Pay off the highest interest items first (credit cards before school loans, school loan before 0%-interest car payment). While you’re working to pay down and pay off your bills, don’t make new bills. It’s important to avoid recurring debt, like music services, unnecessary telephone services, computer-gaming fees, magazine subscriptions, credit cards and everything else that comes with a monthly bill attached.

Even when you spend cash, be sure to buy things that you can afford. Maybe that Jaguar will have to wait until the Ford Fiesta is paid for. Or that week in Cabo could be skipped in favor of a weekend in the mountains. Regardless of where and how you spend your hard-earned dollars, just make sure you don’t spend all that you earn.

To keep yourself on a sustainable track, figure out how much you earn and how much you need to pay your bills. Make sure your bills come to less than what you earn, and make it a habit to live on less than you earn. From there, make sure that the first bill you pay each month is your 401(k) plan or other form of long-term savings, like an IRA.

Some Ways To Prepare For A Personal Financial Crisis

The thought of being hit with a major negative event that could affect your finances, like a job loss, illness or car accident, can keep anyone awake at night. But the prospect of something expensive, and beyond your control, happening becomes less threatening if you’re properly prepared. This article will describe 10 steps you can take to minimize the impact of a personal financial crisis.
TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics

1. Maximize Your Liquid Savings
Cash accounts like checking, savings and money market accounts, as well as certificates of deposit (CD) and short-term government investments, will help you the most in a crisis. You’ll want to turn to these resources first, because their value doesn’t fluctuate with market conditions (unlike stocks, index funds, exchange traded funds (ETFs) and other financial instruments you might have invested in). This means you can take your money out at any time without incurring a financial loss. Also, unlike retirement accounts, you won’t face early withdrawal penalties or incur tax penalties when you withdraw your money – one exception is CDs, which usually require you to forfeit some of the interest you’ve earned if you close them early.
Don’t invest in stocks or other higher-risk investments until you have several months’ worth of cash in liquid accounts. How many months’ worth of cash do you need? It depends on your financial obligations and your risk tolerance. If you have a major obligation, like a mortgage or a child’s ongoing tuition payments, you might want to have more months’ worth of expenses saved up than if you’re single and renting an apartment. A three-month expense cushion is considered a bare minimum, but some folks like to keep six months or even up to two years’ worth of expenses in liquid savings to guard against a long bout of unemployment.

2. Make a Budget
If you don’t know exactly how much money you have coming in and going out each month, you won’t know how much money you need for your emergency fund. And if you aren’t keeping a budget, you also have no idea whether you’re currently living below your means or overextending yourself. A budget is not a parent – it can’t and won’t force you to change your behavior – but it is a useful tool that can help you decide if you’re happy with where your money is going and with where you stand financially.

3. Prepare to Minimize Your Monthly Bills
You might not have to do it now, but be ready to start cutting out anything that is not a necessity. If you can quickly get your recurring monthly expenses as low as they can be, you’ll have less difficulty paying your bills when money is tight. Start by looking at your budget and see where you might currently be wasting money. For example, are you paying a monthly fee for your checking account? Explore how to switch to a bank that offers free checking. Are you paying $40 a month for a landline you never use? Learn how you might cancel it, or switch to a lower rate emergency-only plan if you needed to. You might find ways you can start cutting your costs now just to save money.

For example, are you in the habit of letting the heater or air conditioner run when you’re not home, or leaving lights on in rooms you aren’t using? You may be able to trim your utility bills. Now might also be a good time to shop around for lower insurance rates and find out if you can cancel certain types of insurance (like car insurance) in the event of an emergency. Some insurance companies might give you extension, so look for the steps involved and be prepared.

4. Closely Manage Your Bills
There’s no reason to waste any money on late fees or finance charges, yet families do it all the time. During a crisis of a job loss, you should be extra studious in this area. Simply being organized can save you a lot of money when it comes to your monthly bills – one late credit card payment per month could set you back $300 over the course of a year. Or worse, get your card canceled in a time when you might need it as a last resort.

Set a date twice a month to review all your accounts so you don’t miss any due dates. Schedule electronic payments or mail checks so your payment arrives several days before it is due. This way, if a delay occurs, your payment will probably still arrive on time. If you’re having trouble keeping track of all your accounts, start compiling a list. When your list is complete, you can use it to make sure you’re on top of all your accounts and to see if there are any accounts you can combine or close. (Involuntary unemployment credit card insurance may help if you’re laid off, but it may just help your credit card company, check out Insuring A Credit Card Against Job Loss.)

5. Take Stock of Your Non-Cash Assets and Maximize Their Value
Being prepared might include identifying all of your options. Do you have frequent flyer miles you can use if you need to travel? Do you have extra food in your house that you can plan meals around to lower your grocery bills? Do you have any gift cards you can put toward fun and entertainment, or that you can sell for cash? Do you have rewards from a credit card that you can convert to gift cards? All of these assets can help you lower your monthly expenses, but only if you know what you have and use it wisely. Knowing what you have can also prevent you from buying things you don’t need.

6. Pay Down Your Credit Card Debt
If you have credit card debt, the interest charges you’re paying every month probably take up a significant portion of your monthly budget. If you make it a point to pay down your credit card debt, you will reduce your monthly financial obligations and put yourself in a position to start building a nest egg, or be able to build one more quickly. Getting rid of interest payments frees you to put your money toward more important things.

7. Get a Better Credit Card Deal
If you’re currently carrying a balance, it could really help you to transfer that balance to another card with a lower rate. Paying less interest means you can pay off your total debt faster and/or gain some breathing room in your monthly budget. Just make sure that the savings from the lower interest rate are greater than the balance transfer fee. If you’re transferring your balance to a new card with a low introductory APR, aim to pay off your balance during the introductory period, before your rate goes up.

8. Look for Ways to Earn Extra Cash
Everyone has something they can do to earn extra money, whether it’s selling possessions you no longer use online or in a garage sale, babysitting, chasing credit card and bank account opening bonuses, freelancing or even getting a second job. The money you earn from these activities may seem insignificant compared to what you earn at your primary job, but even small amounts of money can add up to something meaningful over time. Besides, many of these activities have side benefits – you might end up with a less cluttered house or discover that you enjoy your side job enough to make it your career.

9. Check Your Insurance Coverage
In step three, we recommended shopping around for lower insurance rates. If you’re carrying too much insurance or if you could be getting the exact same coverage from another provider for the same price, these are obvious changes you can make to lower your monthly bills. That being said, having excellent insurance coverage can prevent one crisis from piling on top of another. It’s also worth making sure that you have the coverage you really need, and not just a bare minimum. This applies to policies you already have as well as to policies you may need to purchase. A disability insurance policy can be indispensable if you sustain a significant illness or injury that prevents you from working, and an umbrella policy can provide coverage where your other policies fall short.

10. Keep Up with Routine Maintenance
If you keep the components of your car, home and physical health in top condition, you can catch and problems while they’re small, and avoid expensive repairs and medical bills later. It’s cheaper to have a cavity filled than to get a root canal, easier to replace a couple of pieces of wood than to have your house tented for termites and better to eat healthy and exercise than end up needing expensive treatments for diabetes or heart disease. You might think that you don’t have the time or money to deal with these things on a regular basis, but they can create much larger disruptions of your time and your finances if you ignore them.

Some Financial Tips For Young Adults

Unfortunately, personal finance has not yet become a required subject in high school or college, so you might be fairly clueless about how to manage your money when you’re out in the real world for the first time.

To help you get started, we’ll take a look at eight of the most important things to understand about money if you want to live a comfortable and prosperous life.

Learn Self Control
If you’re lucky, your parents taught you this skill when you were a kid. If not, keep in mind that the sooner you learn the fine art of delaying gratification, the sooner you’ll find it easy to keep your finances in order. Although you can effortlessly purchase an item on credit the minute you want it, it’s better to wait until you’ve actually saved up the money. Do you really want to pay interest on a pair of jeans or a box of cereal?

If you make a habit of putting all your purchases on credit cards, regardless of whether you can pay your bill in full at the end of the month, you might still be paying for those items in 10 years. If you want to keep your credit cards for the convenience factor or the rewards they offer, make sure to always pay your balance in full when the bill arrives, and don’t carry more cards than you can keep track of.

Take Control of Your Own Financial Future
If you don’t learn to manage your own money, other people will find ways to (mis)manage it for you. Some of these people may be ill-intentioned, like unscrupulous commission-based financial planners. Others may be well-meaning, but may not know what they’re doing, like Grandma Betty who really wants you to buy a house even though you can only afford a treacherous adjustable-rate mortgage.

Instead of relying on others for advice, take charge and read a few basic books on personal finance. Once you’re armed with personal finance knowledge, don’t let anyone catch you off guard – whether it’s a significant other that slowly siphons your bank account or friends who want you to go out and blow tons of money with them every weekend. Understanding how money works is the first step toward making your money work for you.

Know Where Your Money Goes
Once you’ve gone through a few personal finance books, you’ll realize how important it is to make sure your expenses aren’t exceeding your income. The best way to do this is by budgeting. Once you see how your morning java adds up over the course of a month, you’ll realize that making small, manageable changes in your everyday expenses can have just as big of an impact on your financial situation as getting a raise.

In addition, keeping your recurring monthly expenses as low as possible will also save you big bucks over time. If you don’t waste your money on a posh apartment now, you might be able to afford a nice condo or a house before you know it.

Start an Emergency Fund
One of personal finance’s oft-repeated mantras is “pay yourself first”. No matter how much you owe in student loans or credit card debt, and no matter how low your salary may seem, it’s wise to find some amount – any amount – of money in your budget to save in an emergency fund every month.

Having money in savings to use for emergencies can really keep you out of trouble financially and help you sleep better at night. Also, if you get into the habit of saving money and treating it as a non-negotiable monthly “expense”, pretty soon you’ll have more than just emergency money saved up: you’ll have retirement money, vacation money and even money for a home down payment.

Don’t just sock away this money under your mattress; put it in a high-interest online savings account, a certificate of deposit or a money market account. Otherwise, inflation will erode the value of your savings.

Start Saving for Retirement Now
Just as you headed off to kindergarten with your parents’ hope to prepare you for success in a world that seemed eons away, you need to prepare for your retirement well in advance. Because of the way compound interest works, the sooner you start saving, the less principal you’ll have to invest to end up with the amount you need to retire and the sooner you’ll be able to call working an “option” rather than a “necessity.”

Company-sponsored retirement plans are a particularly great choice because you get to put in pretax dollars and the contribution limits tend to be high (much more than you can contribute to an individual retirement plan). Also, companies will often match part of your contribution, which is like getting free money.

Get a Grip on Taxes
It’s important to understand how income taxes work even before you get your first paycheck. When a company offers you a starting salary, you need to know how to calculate whether that salary will give you enough money after taxes to meet your financial goals and obligations. Fortunately, there are plenty of online calculators that have taken the dirty work out of determining your own payroll taxes, such as Paycheck City. These calculators will show you your gross pay, how much goes to taxes and how much you’ll be left with, which is also known as net, or take-home pay.

For example, $35,000 a year in New York will leave you with around $26,430 after taxes without exemptions in 2015, or about $2,032 a month. By the same token, if you’re considering leaving one job for another in search of a salary increase, you’ll need to understand how your marginal tax rate will affect your raise and that a salary increase from $35,000 a year to $41,000 a year won’t give you an extra $6,000, or $500 per month – it will only give you an extra $4,129, or $344 per month (again, the amount will vary depending on your state of residence). Also, you’ll be better off in the long run if you learn to prepare your annual tax return yourself, as there is plenty of bad tax advice and misinformation floating around out there.

Guard Your Health
If meeting monthly health insurance premiums seems impossible, what will you do if you have to go to the emergency room, where a single visit for a minor injury like a broken bone can cost thousands of dollars? If you’re uninsured, don’t wait another day to apply for health insurance; it’s easier than you think to wind up in a car accident or trip down the stairs.

You can save money by getting quotes from different insurance providers to find the lowest rates. Also, by taking daily steps now to keep yourself healthy, like eating fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, not smoking, not consuming alcohol in excess, and even driving defensively, you’ll thank yourself down the road when you aren’t paying exorbitant medical bills.

Guard Your Wealth
If you want to make sure that all of your hard-earned money doesn’t vanish, you’ll need to take steps to protect it. If you rent, get renter’s insurance to protect the contents of your place from events like burglary or fire. Disability insurance protects your greatest asset – the ability to earn an income – by providing you with a steady income if you ever become unable to work for an extended period of time due to illness or injury.

If you want help managing your money, find a fee-only financial planner to provide unbiased advice that’s in your best interest, rather than a commission-based financial advisor, who earns money when you sign up with the investments his or her company backs. You’ll also want to protect your money from taxes, which is easy to do with a retirement account, and inflation, which you can do by making sure that all of your money is earning interest through vehicles like high-interest savings accounts, money market funds, CDs, stocks, bonds and mutual funds.