Monthly Archives: January 2017

Know Steps To $1 Million

Let’s face it: we all don’t make millions of dollars a year, and the odds are that most of us won’t receive a large windfall inheritance either. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t build sizeable wealth — it’ll just take some time. If you’re young, time is on your side and retiring a millionaire is achievable. Read on for some tips on how to increase your savings and work toward this goal.

Stop Senseless Spending
Unfortunately, people have a habit of spending their hard-earned cash on goods and services that they don’t need. Even relatively small expenses, such as indulging in a gourmet coffee from a premium coffee shop every morning, can really add up— and decrease the amount of money you can save. Larger expenses on luxury items also prevent many people from putting money into savings each month.

That said, it’s important to realize that it’s usually not just one item or one habit that must be cut out in order to accumulate sizable wealth (although it may be). Usually, in order to become wealthy one must adopt a disciplined lifestyle and budget. This means that people who are looking to build their nest eggs need to make sacrifices somewhere; this may mean eating out less frequently, using public transportation to get to work and/or cutting back on extra, unnecessary expenses. (To learn more, read The Disposable Society: An Expensive Place To Live.)

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go out and have fun, but you should try to do things in moderation – and set a budget if you hope to save money. Fortunately, particularly if you start young, saving up a sizeable nest egg only requires a few minor (and relatively painless) adjustments to your spending habits.

Fund Retirement Plans ASAP
When individuals earn money, their first responsibility is to pay current expenses such as the rent or mortgage, food and other necessities. Once these expenses have been covered, the next step should be to fund a retirement plan or some other tax-advantaged vehicle.

Unfortunately, retirement planning is an afterthought for many young people. Here’s why it shouldn’t be: funding a 401(k) and/or an IRA early on in life means you can contribute less money overall and actually end up with significantly more in the end than someone who put in much more money but started later. (To see how this works, check out Why is retirement easier to afford if you start early?)

How much difference will funding a vehicle such as a Roth IRA early on in life make?

If you’re 23 years old and deposit $3,000 per year (that’s only $250 each month!) in a Roth IRA earning an 8% average annual return, you will have saved $985,749 by the time you are 65 years old due to the power of compounding. If you make a few extra contributions, it’s clear that a $1 million goal is well within reach. Also keep in mind that most of your earnings are in interest— your $3,000 contributions alone only add up to $126,000.

Now, suppose that you wait an additional 10 years to start contributing. By this time, you have a better job that when you were younger, you earn more and you know you’ve lost some time —so you contribute $5,000 per year. You get the same 8% return and have the same goal to retire at 65. But by starting to save later, your compounded earnings won’t have as much time to grow. In this scenario, when you reach age 65, you will have saved $724,753. That’s still a sizeable fund, but you had to contribute $160,000 just to get there – and it’s nowhere near the $985,749 you could’ve had for paying much less.

 

Improve Tax Awareness
Sometimes, individuals think that doing their own taxes will save them money. In some cases, they might be right. However, in other cases it may actually end up costing them money because they fail to take advantage of the many deductions available to them.

Try to become more educated as far as what types of items are deductible. You should also understand when it makes sense to move away from the standard deduction and start itemizing your return. (To learn everything you need to know about filing your tax return, check out our Guide to Tax Planning 2016.)

However, if you’re not willing or able to become educated about filing your own income taxes, it may actually pay to hire some help, particularly if you are self-employed, own a business or have other circumstances that complicate your tax return.

Own Your Home

Many of us rent a home or an apartment because we cannot afford to purchase a home, or because we aren’t sure where we want to live for the long term. And that’s fine. However, renting is often not a good long-term investment because buying a home is a good way to build equity.

Unless you intend to move in a short period of time, it generally makes sense to consider putting a down payment on a home. (At least this way, over time, you can build up some equity and the foundation for a nest egg.) (For more insight on weighing this decision, read To Rent Or Buy? The Financial Issues.)

Avoid Luxury Wheels
There’s nothing wrong with purchasing a luxury vehicle. However, individuals who spend an inordinate amount of their incomes on a vehicle are doing themselves a disservice —especially since this asset depreciates in value so rapidly.

How rapidly does a car depreciate?

Obviously, this depends on the make, model, year and demand for the vehicle, but a general rule is that a new car loses 15-20% of its value per year. So, a two-year old car will be worth 80-85% of its purchase price; a three-year old car will be worth 80-85% of its two-year-old value.

In short, especially when you are young, consider buying something practical and dependable that has low monthly payments — or that you can pay for in cash. In the long run, this will mean you’ll have more money to put toward your savings —an asset that will appreciate, rather than depreciate like your car.

Don’t Sell Yourself Short
Some individuals are extremely loyal to their employers and will stay with them for years without seeing their incomes take a jump. This can be a mistake, as increasing your income is an excellent way to boost your rate of saving.

Always keep your eye out for other opportunities and try not to sell yourself short. Work hard and find an employer who will compensate you for your work ethic, skills and experience.

Know About 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.

Achieving Financial Security

When it’s time for you to retire, will you be able to afford it? Almost all of the research conducted on the subject, over the last few years, shows that most individuals are unable to demonstrate financial readiness for their retirement years. This only serves to underline the fact that saving for retirement is a challenging process that requires careful planning and follow-through. Here we review some helpful tips that should help you on your way to a comfortable retirement.

1. Start as Soon as You Can

It is obvious that it is better to start saving at an early age, but it is never too late to start – even if you are already close to your retirement years – because every penny saved helps to cover your expenses.

If you save $200 every month for 40 years at a 5% interest rate, you will have saved significantly more than an individual who saves at the same rate for 10 years. However, the amount saved over the shorter period can go a long way in helping to cover expenses during retirement. Also, keep in mind that other areas of financial planning, such as asset allocation, will become increasingly important as you get closer to retirement. This is because your risk tolerance generally decreases as the number of years in which you can recuperate any losses goes down.

Saving on a regular basis can be a challenge, especially when you consider the many regular expenses we all face, not to mention the enticing consumer goods that tempt us to spend our disposable cash. You can guard amounts you want to add to your nest eggfrom this temptation by treating your retirement savings as a recurring expense, similar to paying rent, mortgage or a car loan. This is even easier if the amount is debited from your paycheck by your employer. (Note: If the amount is deducted from your paycheck on a pre-tax basis, it helps to reduce the amount of income taxes owed on your salary.)

Alternatively (or in addition), you may have your salary direct-deposited to a checking or savings account, and have the designated savings amount scheduled for automatic debit to be credited to a retirement savings account on the same day the salary is credited.

3. Save as Much as You Can in a Tax-Deferred Account

Contributing amounts earmarked for your retirement to a tax-deferred retirement account deters you from spending those amounts on impulse, because you are likely to face tax consequences and penalties. For instance, any amount distributed from a retirement account may be subject to income taxes the year in which the distribution occurs, and if you are under age 59-1/2 when the distribution occurs, the amount could be subject to a 10% early-distribution penalty (excise tax).

If you have enough income, consider whether you can increase the amount you save in tax-deferred accounts. For instance, in addition to saving in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, think about whether you can also afford to contribute to an individual retirement account (IRA), and whether the IRA should be a Roth IRA or a Traditional IRA.

4. Diversify Your Portfolio

The old adage that tells us that we shouldn’t put all of our eggs in one basket holds true for retirement assets. Putting all your savings into one form of investment increases the risk of losing all your investments, and it may limit your return on investment (ROI). As such, asset allocation is a key part of managing your retirement assets. Proper asset allocation considers factors such as the following:

  • Your age – This is usually reflected in the aggressiveness of your portfolio, which will likely take more risks when you’re younger, and less the closer you get to retirement age.
  • Your risk tolerance – This helps to ensure that, should any losses occur, they occur at a time when the losses can still be recuperated.
  • Whether you need to have your assets grow or produce income.

5. Consider All of Your Potential Expenses in Your Financial Plan

When planning for retirement, some of us make the mistake of not considering expenses for medical and dental costs, long-term care and income taxes. When deciding how much you need to save for retirement, make a list of all the expenses you may incur during your retirement years. This will help you to make realistic projections and plan accordingly.

6. Budget

Saving a lot of money is great, but the benefits are eroded or even nullified if it means you have to use high-interest loans to pay your living expenses. Therefore, preparing and working within a budget is essential. Your retirement savings should be counted among your budgeted recurring expenses in order to ensure that your disposable income is calculated accurately.

7. Periodically Reassess Your Portfolio

As you get closer to retirement and your financial needs, expenses and risk tolerance change, strategic asset allocation must be performed on your portfolio to allow for any necessary adjustments. This will help you ensure that your retirement planning is on target.

8. Reassess Your Expenses and Make Changes Where Possible

If your lifestyle, income and/or fiscal responsibilities have changed, it may be a good idea to reassess your financial profile and make adjustments where possible, so as to change the amounts you add to your retirement nest egg. For instance, you may have finished paying off your mortgage or the loan for your car, or the number of individuals for which you are financially responsible may have changed. A reassessment of your income, expenses and financial obligations will help to determine if you need to increase or decrease the amount you save on a regular basis.

9. Consider Your Spouse

If you are married, consider whether your spouse is also saving and whether certain expenses can be shared during your retirement years. If your spouse hasn’t been saving, you need to determine whether your retirement savings can cover not only your expenses, but those of your spouse as well.

10. Work with an Experienced Financial Planner

Unless you are experienced in the field of financial planning and portfolio management, engaging the services of an experienced and qualified financial planner will be necessary. Choosing the one who is right for you will be one of the most important decisions you make