Budgeting

Guest Post: How to Spot the Signs That You Might Be Living Beyond Your Means on Your Credit Card


How to Spot the Signs That You Might Be Living Beyond Your Means on Your Credit Card

 

Today, I would like to introduce to you Patty Moore, a newish blogger at workingmotherlife.com She has some amazing tips and insight on how you may be living beyond your means on your credit card and way’s you can stop. I’d like to welcome her to my blog and to the blogosphere. You can connect with Patty on her blog referenced above and on Twitter at WorkMomLife!


It’s actually not that difficult to know when you might be living beyond your means on your credit card. By definition, you are living beyond your means when you need a credit card to fund any part of your lifestyle. But, it doesn’t usually dawn on people that they have a real problem until they are knocking on the door to credit card hell. Right now there are millions of Americans carrying an average balance of nearly $16,500 on their credit cards who are knocking on the door, beyond which is a life of financial servitude and dashed dreams. You don’t have to be staring into the abyss before realizing you have a problem. Just look out for the following signs.

You Carry a Balance on Your Credit Card

If you carry a balance month to month, it means you are spending more than you can afford. It may have started innocently enough with a small splurge and the rationalization that you would pay it off in a few months; but, because you are spending money you don’t have, it difficult the find the money to pay it off. Soon, you get accustomed to carrying the balance and build the monthly payments into your budget.

You know your credit card balance is getting high when you don’t bother to check it because you know you can pay it off anyway.

You Can’t Pay Any More than the Minimum Payment

If you continue with your spending habits — using the credit card to pay for things you can’t afford to pay for with cash — your balance increases. Unless something changes with your income or your budget, you will continue to carry a balance and it will grow. When your balance grows to $5,000 and you can only afford the minimum payment, you will spend more than $8,000 over 13 years to pay off the balance. When you start living your life making only the minimum payments, it’s time to reevaluate your lifestyle.

You Play the Credit Card Shuffle

The credit card shuffle is like robbing Peter to pay Paul. You’re juggling payments between the cards because you don’t have enough money to make the payments on time. You might make a payment on one card and take out a cash advance to pay another card.

You Can’t Qualify for a New Credit Card

One of the first things people do when they get into credit card trouble is to apply for another credit card. The day finally comes when you can no longer qualify because you’ve run up your credit utilization and you’re only making minimum payments, which causes your credit score to fall. If your credit card spending results in a late payment, you’ll have trouble getting another credit card for a while.

Budget? What Budget?

You may start out with a budget, but, when you start using credit cards to meet your living needs, the budget becomes obsolete. A part of it is denial because you don’t want to see how badly you’ve blown your budget. The other part is it is the recognition that you can’t really afford the lifestyle you are pursuing. If you had stayed strictly within your budget, to begin with, you wouldn’t be in the mess you’re in. Getting back on a budget is the only way out of the problem.

You Have No Savings

This really should be your first clue. If you aren’t saving money for an emergency or for your financial future, you could be on the road to financial ruin, especially when you carry credit card debt. What happens when you do have an emergency — your car blows up or you have a big medical emergency and can’t work for six months? A lifestyle pursuit should be put on hold until a six to 12-month cash reserve has been built up and you have the ability to set aside 10 percent of your income in savings.

When You See the Signs

The worst part of getting into credit card trouble is it’s a lot like getting into quicksand. Unless you do something immediately to get yourself out, you will only struggle and sink further. At the first sign, you should take these essential steps to correct the problem and turn things around.

  1. Reevaluate your lifestyle needs. You may have tried to bite off more than you could chew with your lifestyle choices. It’s time to get back to the basics of what you really need at this time in your life.
  2. Stop using credit cards. Put your credit cards on ice and commit yourself to cash. It guarantees you will only buy things you can actually afford.
  3. Establish a strict spending plan. Budget like you really mean it. Cut out the non-essential spending until you pay off your debt. Build your budget around your top priorities, which are to pay off debt and save.
  4. Set a goal to become debt and credit card free. You’ll enjoy the taste of financial freedom much more than an expensive dinner you can’t afford. Thinking about refinancing your credit card debt using a personal loan. Personal loans are relatively easy to obtain. They offered by a wide variety of financial intuitions including traditional banks, online lenders, and credit unions. By using a personal loan, you can lower your total interest expense and expedite your debt payoff.
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Book Review: The Authentic Budget by Sarah Li Cain

 

 

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I did not receive any compensation for this review. I was allowed to read the book free of charge in order to write this review. The opinions are my own. 

 

I am a traditional, old school budget type girl, so I was a tad bit skeptical when I began readingThe Authentic Budget: Harness Your Personality to Manage Money Like a Pro on Your Terms by Sarah Li Cain of the popular personal finance blog Highfiving Dollars. I figured it was more of the same that all the rest of us personal finance guru’s preach. You know that spend less than you earn sermon. I was pleasantly surprised. In my opinion, this book is more for the millennial looking to find their way in personal finance.

Sarah does an amazing job telling her story about how traditional budgeting was not for her and her husband. By walking you through each of the most popular traditional budgeting systems, she breaks down the reasons why traditional budgeting may not work for some. She is thorough in her analysis, as many budgets do make you feel as if you are smothered and can’t spend one penny over.

Her budgeting system makes sense. It is called the value based spending. This is where, ” You spend money on the things you value, and eliminate or minimize ones you don’t.” Now I myself don’t call my budget a budget, I call it a spending plan, and it is similar to what Sarah does. In her system, you spend your money based on your core values and what works for you.  By having you use a step by step guide, she has you dig deep into your values and what you really desire out of life, so that, you can use your money in a more productive manner.

She says, ” Once you are clear on your values and what brings you the most joy in life, we will get you on a plan to assess your current spending habits and how to realign them with your life goals and values.”

Of course, she has you do one of my favorite things to have a client do and that’s track their spending. She has you do this because you need to see where your money is going and if your current spending aligns with your values.

Afraid you won’t be able to pay off debt? No worries, Sarah includes that for you too. She has thought of everything in this book. Do you have spending triggers? Sarah shows you how to tame them where they won’t interfere with your authentic budget.

I won’t spoil the book for you, but all in all it is a very well written book. You can tell that Sarah is very knowledgeable about the topic of personal finance and budgeting. I’m not a book reviewer per say, but if I were, I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars. If you would like to learn more about The Authentic Budget: Harness Your Personality to Manage Money Like a Pro on Your Terms and Sarah Li Cain, head on over to Amazon and purchase the book for $.99. It’s budget friendly, and it comes with a workbook that shows you just want you need to do to take your money to the next level.

I am so glad that I added this book to my personal fianace library and I recommend that you do the same thing too!

 

 

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Ten Terrific Tips to Take Charge of Holiday Spending

 

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Savings

Does this time of year stress you out financially? I know the holiday season can be a financially challenging time. In addition to the cost of gifts for friends and family, many people have extra expenses for travel, entertainment, food, decorations, tipping, charitable gifting, and utilities. The holidays don’t need to cause financial stress and they don’t have to. This year, while there is still time, take these 10 steps to reduce your stress and holiday spending:

Create a Holiday Spending Plan – Include gifts, of course, but also hidden costs of gifts such as wrapping and shipping. Also factor in other expenses noted above. A great online Holiday Spending Worksheet is available at http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/savings/holiday-spending-calculator.aspx.

Match Expenses to Income – Determine how many paydays you have left from early November through mid-January. Match holiday spending to your income, including any year-end bonuses, so expenses are paid with current income. For example, if you have $900 of holiday expenses and six paychecks, you’ll need to set aside $150 per paycheck

Play the Float – Always try to time charges on credit cards so bills can be paid in full when they arrive. For example, if your statement ending date is the 3rd of the month and you buy things on the 5th, you may have six or seven weeks before payment is due.

Use Credit Cards Wisely – Don’t charge more than you can repay.  Remember, a bargain isn’t a bargain when interest is added to a purchase! Check your account statements to make sure all charges are correct and avoid unnecessary expenses such as late, over-the-limit, and cash advance fees and penalty APRs.

Make a Gift List – List the names of people/families receiving gifts and determine a monetary value for each gift so the cost of all gifts stays within your overall holiday. Then stick to the list.  For a helpful worksheet, see http://www.vertex42.com/ExcelTemplates/christmas-gift-budget.html.

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Look for Bargains – Specific strategies include deeply discounted online deals with free shipping, online and print coupons, “door buster” sales at certain hours, and high-end thrift shops.

Set Realistic Expectations – If your budget is tight, have a conversation with family and friends about ways to cut back. For example, consider replacing individual gift-giving with drawing names and buy one nice gift rather than many gifts.

Make a Gift – Homemade gifts show thought, effort, and love.  Consider baked goods, fancy pillowcases, photos, artwork, and embroidered, personalized items.  Try gift certificates for car washes, pet-sitting, house-cleaning, or baking.

PowerPay Your Debt – If you run up an outstanding balance, use the free online Powerpay program to pay it off quickly. Powerpay (http://www.powerpay.org) generates a debt repayment calendar. As soon as you pay off a debt,  apply its monthly payment to another starting with the highest-interest rate first.

Save Now for 2017 – Open a “Holiday Club” or similar savings plan with a bank or credit union.  Make regular deposits throughout the year. Come Fall 2017, you’ll have the money you need without the stress of having to cut spending or use credit for purchases.

Take charge of your finances to get the most out of the upcoming holiday season without financial stress.

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7 Reasons Why Your Personal Budget Is Failing and How to Fix It

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7 Reasons Why Your Personal Budget Is Failing and How to Fix It

When it comes to budgeting, I am a serial budget-maker. The number-crunching, the spreadsheets, the organization – I’m absolutely addicted. I won’t buy something as small as a Jolly Rancher, if it is not in my budget. However, over the years, I’ve nursed a love-hate relationship with my budget. I love how it organizes my funds, but I hate actually having to adjust my spending to meet what a spreadsheet tells me.

So, what’s someone with the best intentions, who is serious about budgeting to do when a budget isn’t working? It’s usually human error that makes a budget fail, and by investigating for possible gaffes, you might find out where you’ve gone wrong. Don’t fear your budget – just be vigilant and triple-check it for accuracy to ensure it works with you, not against you. And always keep an eye out for the major reasons that most budgets fail And always keep an eye out for the major reasons that most budgets fail.

Reasons Why a Budget Fails

1. It’s Too Restrictive

If you really want to save money, you might be tempted to strip your spending down to the bare minimum and challenge yourself to live with it. If you succeed, you’re going to show a hefty surplus at the end of the month. Of course, when it comes to the actual execution of a restrictive budget, you may be tempting yourself to max out your allotted funds, go over your spending limits, and finally toss your budget in the garbage because it “didn’t work.”

Solution: Pad your budget a little, and be ambitious as well as realistic. Cut back in a few areas at a time, rather than trying to completely overhaul your lifestyle all at once. While having a big surplus at the end of the month looks great on paper, if you can’t pull it off in practice, it’s an exercise in futility.

2. You Don’t Set Goals

It always helps to keep your eyes on the prize, and setting a goal can certainly help keep you motivated to stick to your budget. However, while “getting rich” is definitely an admirable goal, it may be too broad to really keep you on track when the going gets tough. The same goes for paying off all of your debt, or building up a down payment for a house.

Solution: Determine to save or pay off specific amounts in a given time period, and make sure these are achievable goals. Set other mini-goals along the way to help you stay strong when your money is burning a hole in your pocket. Then, reward yourself – modestly – when you meet them.

3. You Haven’t Adjusted It Since Day One

The thing about budgeting is that it’s all guess-work until you put it into practice. When you first draw up a budget, you can use utility bills, credit card statements, and pay stubs to develop the most accurate spreadsheet possible, but that doesn’t mean it’s all going to run smoothly once you put it into play. You’re going to have to make adjustments month-to-month, and if you haven’t touched your budget since you first formulated it, it’s probably not working out very well.

Solution: Revisit your budget on a monthly basis. You don’t have to give it a thorough overhaul – just devote a few minutes to adjusting for an extra windfall, new commissions, fluctuating utility bills, or anything else you didn’t plan for in the month prior.

4. Your Spouse Isn’t On Board

If you’re determined to maintain your newfound self-discipline and financial responsibility and your spouse isn’t on board, your budget isn’t going to mean much – especially if your spouse happens to be the big spender in the relationship.

Solution: If you haven’t had the dreaded big money talk in your marriage, now is the time. Sit down and discuss your financial philosophy, and make sure that you have all your numbers handy. Point out that a budget isn’t necessarily restrictive. Instead, it simply acts as a road map for your finances. When your spouse sees you won’t have to drastically alter your lifestyle to gain the positive effects of a budget, you might find you’ve got a more willing partner than you initially thought.

5. You Didn’t Plan for Emergencies

A budget is well and good until your dog breaks his paw, your car needs a new transmission, or your toddler needs his tonsils removed. Emergency expenses can completely derail a carefully detailed budget if you don’t account for them. Before you know it, your monthly money is gone before you’ve even paid your bills.

Solution: Build up an emergency fund. Aim to have at least six month’s of living expenses saved, and shoot for more if possible. If you don’t already have the funds to create one, devote a line in your budget to establish it. Consider it a personally administered insurance policy, and take comfort in the fact that your premiums are still yours to keep, even if you never have to file a “claim.”

6. You Didn’t Give It Enough Time

Count me as one of those people who gets impatient with her budget. I’m so excited to see the fruits of my labor that you can find me obsessively checking my bank balance and wondering if I’m a millionaire yet. However, the truth is that budgets take time, patience, and a bit of trial and error before they really produce significant results.

Solution: Consider your first few months a beta test for your budget. If they don’t go smoothly, simply make some adjustments and try again. It can take time for you to iron out the creases and for any real changes in your spending habits and financial management to take effect. Go easy on your budget – and yourself – and give it a chance.

7. You Really, Really Hate Budgets

Hey, a budget isn’t the be-all, end-all to financial management. If the sight of budgeting software makes you steam, explore other methods of managing your money without all the spreadsheets and columns.

Solution: Seek out alternative budgeting techniques that may work better with your lifestyle and income. Try withdrawing the cash you need for a week, two weeks, or a month at a time, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. If you stick to the rules, this kind of regimen can teach you pretty quickly how to conserve money. Research your options and test a few budget alternatives to find one that works for you.

Finally

If you stick to it, a budget is going to work. It can help you make smarter financial choices and give you a sense of control over where your money is going each month. However, budgeting is not an exact science. It takes work, tweaking, practice, and a lot of trial and error to make it effective in the real world. If yours is tanking, don’t ditch it. Just retool it and try again until you find the right balance.

Do you have trouble sticking to your budget?

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Budget Bootcamp Day 30: Grand Finale And Review

budget bootcamp day 30 grande finale and review
Grand Finale

Welcome to day 30! We have reached the end of the 30 day budget bootcamp. I am so glad that you have joined me. Your life will never be the same once you implement a budget. You are on your way to financial freedom!

This is a different kind of review. I want you to comment below and let me know how this bootcamp benefited you and what you have learned.

Thanks again for participating!

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Budget Bootcamp Day 29: Multiple Streams Of Income

budget bootcamp day 29 multiple streams of income
Multiple Streams of Income

For most people, their job is their only source of income; their only method of earning money. We have been trained to go to school, get good grades, go to college, get a degree and then spend the next upteen years making someone else’s dream come true by working at a traditional job. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not knocking a 9-5, as a matter of fact, I work. But, my job is not my only source of income and hasn’t been for many years. I believe in multiple streams of income.

I started earning extra money to pay off my student loans, but even I after I paid them off, earning extra income became a part of my life. Having one source of income is just like having an investment portfolio where all of your money is invested in that one stock. If the only source of income is your job, what happens if you lose that job? You and your family may endure financial ruin.

Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket; create more sources of revenue, even if they aren’t as much as your full time job, so if something happens it won’t be nearly as disastrous. Here are a few way’s that you too can create multiple streams of income.

1. Take paid survey’s

Companies desperately want your opinion, and they are willing to pay for it. The trick, of course, is knowing where to find the paid surveys that pay the best. One of the most popular and legitimate survey sites is Swagbucks.  Not only can you make money taking surveys, but you can also make money by watching videos and even surfing the net. They also offer significant cash back for online shopping. This is something you can do from the comfort of your own home at your own leisure.

2. Ebay

It’s now easier than ever to run an online Ebay store. You can of course acquire products to resell on Ebay. But you can also create an online store to market products that others are selling on Ebay and share in the commissions generated by the sales.

3. Start and online business

Making money online requires very little cash investment and can be done on your schedule from home. There are two approaches to getting started. First, you can build a blog. Setting up a blog takes just minutes and costs very little. Second, you can set up a website. It’s much easier than you think.  Setting up a website a snap.

4. Virtual Assistant

Virtual assistants today can do just about anything for you that doesn’t require their physical presence. Many virtual assistants from places like India are working full time for people in the U.S. The best VAs can earn $30 to $50 per hour. The starting place if you are interested is Elance.

5. Home based business

The ideas and potential for a home based business are limitless. In fact, since I already have a camera, lighting equipment and editing software, I am thinking of adding video and photography as another stream of income. That added to my make-up business, my blog and my full-time job, will give me four streams of income. One of the great benefits about running a home based business is that it greatly reduces your initial investment.

Generating income (along with minimizing expenses) is the foundation of smarter money management. While earning extra income does take work, its payoff can be huge. If you are interested to taking the leap, I would love to hear your ideas. Comment below and let me know what you can do to create multiple streams of income.

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Budget Bootcamp Day 28: Consider A Cash Only Lifestyle

budget bootcamp day 28 cash only lifestyle
Cash Only

Credit cards have become essential in the world we live in, but data breaches in the news have raised privacy concerns regarding credit card security. Many people are transitioning back to a cash only lifestyle, and it is worth considering. In response to recent data breaches from credit card accounts at Target and Michael’s, many shoppers are embracing a new payment method that guarantees personal privacy: cash. According to an Associated Press poll cited in The New York Times, 37 percent of respondents said they started buying more often with cash than card after the aforementioned data breaches. If you find yourself interested in a cash lifestyle but don’t want to close your bank accounts and live off the grid, you might find an increased sense of security and control over your spending. Here are a few practical tips for managing your cash-based personal economy:

1. Use the “Envelope System”

Paying for daily expenses with cash can either make budgeting a snap or a swamp — it all depends on how you manage your supply. You don’t have to literally use envelopes, but if you separate cash for different purposes, then you’ll be able to avoid over-spending on one category. You’ll know when your lunch-money budget has been used and realize you need to pack leftovers from home, all while leaving your gasoline fund untouched. I used this system for many years and it was a Godsend for me at that time.

2.  Money Orders

Money orders are a versatile payment tool that is often overlooked in today’s digital banking universe. You can use them to pay for rent and utilities without showing off your bank account information. They’re available at the post office, bank or retail outlet. No account numbers are needed and your recipient can cash it at any bank. While money orders are readily negotiable because — unlike checks — they have already been paid for, they can also be replaced if lost or stolen.

3. Know Your Daily ATM Limit

Most banks limit the amount of cash you’re allowed to withdraw on any given day from an ATM. Being aware of this limit means that you’ll be able to plan ahead if you want to make a large purchase spontaneously, or if going into a branch of your bank isn’t feasible. Memorize your credit card PIN, so that in a bind you can withdraw a cash advance through an ATM. Credit cards charge high interest rates on cash advances, so keep this type of card use for emergencies and reimburse your account as soon as possible.

4. Ask for Smaller Bills

If you withdraw money at the bank, it might be tempting to request bills in fifty or one hundred dollar denominations for the pleasure of holding big bills, but these are inconvenient to spend. If you need a bottle of aspirin at the drug store and you only have a $50 bill in your wallet, you might be wary to split such a large bill. Putting your funds into $20 bills is wiser, as they’re universally accepted and don’t draw unwanted attention.

5. Choose a Creative Stash in Your Home

Obviously you shouldn’t keep your life savings stuffed into your mattress, but keeping enough money for a week or two at your home is useful. It’s important to exercise some basic self-protection against break-ins, and keep the cash in a non-obvious location. Small built-in wall safes are excellent, as are cleverly re-purposed food containers and books in a large bookshelf.

6. Save Up Pocket Change for Your Bank

Using cash for daily purchases means you’ll have pocketfuls of coins at the end of each day. These coins pile up rapidly, and, if you’ve accumulated a five-pound jar of quarters, you may be tempted to just dump it into a grocery store coin machine. Bring your trove of loose coins into your bank instead, where they won’t take a cut of your change. Once you put these simple tips into practice, you’ll relish the sense of personal privacy that a cash-based personal finance system provides.

So, do you think that a cash only lifestyle is for you? Let me know in the comments below

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Budget Bootcamp Day 27:Passive Income

budget bootcamp day 27 passive income
Passive Income

Passive income is income received on a regular basis, with little to no effort required to maintain it. It is money that flows into your pocket while you go on about life doing whatever it is you do. You are probably wondering what passive income has to do with budgeting. All types of income have to do with budgeting, because you budget off of the income you receive. When you are collecting passive income, the money you are earning is grossly disproportionate to the hours you actually have to work to earn it. Your income loses correlation to your hours.

Passive income is not receiving something for nothing and it is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It does require some work on your part in the beginning. You will be planting seeds today, so you can harvest freedom for the rest of your life. Creating passive income involves changing your mindset from what you have been taught, which was grow up, go to school and get a good education, get a job and work the rest of your life for a pittance every week or every two weeks.

Passive income can help you get out of debt, without trading time for dollars. It can help with your overall financial situation and change the trajectory of your financial life. Still not on board with passive income? Here are a few ideas to help you with earning some extra cash with passive income.

1.Real Estate Investing

This probably falls more in the category of semi-passive income, since an investment in real estate is always at least a little bit of an active venture. Still, once you have a property that is established and fully rented, it’s mostly a matter of managing the property and keeping it performing well.

Additionally, there are professional property managers who can manage your property for you, usually for around 10% of the monthly rent. This professional management can make the investment much more passive, but will take a bite out of your cash flow.

2. Invest in real estate investment trusts (RIET’s)

In #1, we talked about investing in real estate. But let’s say that you want to invest in real estate, but do it in a truly passive way. You can do that through a real estate investment trust. This is something like a mutual fund holding various real estate projects. The fund is managed by professionals, so you never have to get involved.

One of the big benefits of investing in REITs is that they typically pay higher dividends than stocks, bonds, or bank investments. You can also sell your interest in a REIT anytime you like, which makes it more liquid than owning real estate outright.

3. Dividend yielding stocks

Shareholders of dividend-yielding stocks receive a payment at regular intervals from the company’s profits or reserves. Since the income received from the stocks isn’t related to any activity other than the initial financial investment, owning dividend-yielding stocks can be one of the most passive forms of making money.

4. Car Wash

There is a self service car wash on just about every corner near my house. They have both the “quarter machine” style car wash ports as well as a more sophisticated automatic washer that does all the work for you.  I’ve never seen one worker at these car washes.  But  I’ve used at lease one of those car washes countless times.  Whoever owns these places, is probably making off like a bandit collecting passive income everyday from people visiting their property and pumping money into their machines.

5. Laundromat

Go to any college town and you’ll find a self service laundromat on just about every street corner.  Why?  Because they know that college kids aren’t going to have laundry services available in their cheap apartments, and so this serves a need that they have.  Just like the car wash, I rarely ever seeing anyone working at a laundromat.  So that means that everything you make above your operational costs becomes passively earned income.

So now you see how passive income can be made and how it can help you have extra income in your budget.

 

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Budget Bootcamp Day 26: Retirement

budget bootcamp day 26 retirement
Retirement

A secure, comfortable retirement is every worker’s dream. And now because we’re living longer, healthier lives, we can expect to spend more time in retirement than our parents and grandparents did. Achieving the dream of a secure, comfortable retirement is much easier when you plan your finances. That is why you need to include retirement as a category in your budget. Financial security in retirement doesn’t just happen. It takes planning and commitment and, yes, money. Putting money away for retirement is a habit we can all live with. Remember…Saving Matters! Below are a few facts about retirement and 10 ways you can start preparing for retirement today.

Retirement Facts

  • Fewer than half of Americans have calculated how much they need to save for retirement.
  • In 2012, 30 percent of private industry workers with access to a defined contribution plan (such as a 401(k) plan) did not participate.
  • The average American spends 20 years in retirement.

1. Start saving, keep saving, and stick to your goals

If you are already saving, whether for retirement or another goal, keep going! You know that saving is a rewarding habit. If you’re not saving, it’s time to get started. Start small if you have to and try to increase the amount you save each month. The sooner you start saving, the more time your money has to grow. Make saving for retirement a priority. Devise a plan, stick to it, and set goals. Remember, it’s never too early or too late to start saving.

2. Know your retirement needs

Retirement is expensive. Experts estimate that you will need at least 70 percent of your preretirement income – lower earners, 90 percent or more – to maintain your standard of living when you stop working. Take charge of your financial future. The key to a secure retirement is to plan ahead. Start by requesting Savings Fitness: A Guide to Your Money and Your Financial Future and, for those near retirement, Taking the Mystery Out of Retirement Planning.

3. Contribute to your employers retirement plan

If your employer offers a retirement savings plan, such as a 401(k) plan, sign up and contribute all you can. Your taxes will be lower, your company may kick in more, and automatic deductions make it easy. Over time, compound interest and tax deferrals make a big difference in the amount you will accumulate. Find out about your plan. For example, how much would you need to contribute to get the full employer contribution and how long would you need to stay in the plan to get that money.

4. Learn about your employers pension plan

If your employer has a traditional pension plan, check to see if you are covered by the plan and understand how it works. Ask for an individual benefit statement to see what your benefit is worth. Before you change jobs, find out what will happen to your pension benefit. Learn what benefits you may have from a previous employer. Find out if you will be entitled to benefits from your spouse’s plan. For more information, request What You Should Know about Your Retirement Plan.

5. Consider basic investment principles

How you save can be as important as how much you save. Inflation and the type of investments you make play important roles in how much you’ll have saved at retirement. Know how your savings or pension plan is invested. Learn about your plan’s investment options and ask questions. Put your savings in different types of investments. By diversifying this way, you are more likely to reduce risk and improve return. Your investment mix may change over time depending on a number of factors such as your age, goals, and financial circumstances. Financial security and knowledge go hand in hand.

6. Don’t touch your retirement savings

If you withdraw your retirement savings now, you’ll lose principal and interest and you may lose tax benefits or have to pay withdrawal penalties. If you change jobs, leave your savings invested in your current retirement plan, or roll them over to an IRA or your new employer’s plan.

7. If your employer doesn’t have a retirement plan ask them to start one

budget bootcamp day 26 retirement
Save for Retirement

If your employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan, suggest that it start one. There are a number of retirement saving plan options available. Your employer may be able to set up a simplified plan that can help both you and your employer. For more information, request a copy of Choosing a Retirement Solution for Your Small Business

8. Start an IRA

You can put up to $5,500 a year into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA); you can contribute even more if you are 50 or older. You can also start with much less. IRAs also provide tax advantages. When you open an IRA, you have two options – a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. The tax treatment of your contributions and withdrawals will depend on which option you select. Also, the after-tax value of your withdrawal will depend on inflation and the type of IRA you choose. IRAs can provide an easy way to save. You can set it up so that an amount is automatically deducted from your checking or savings account and deposited in the IRA.

9. Check your social security benefits

Social Security pays benefits that are on average equal to about 40 percent of what you earned before retirement. You may be able to estimate your benefit by using the retirement estimator on the Social Security Administration’s Website. For more information, visit their Website or call 1-800-772-1213.

10. Ask questions

While these tips are meant to point you in the right direction, you’ll need more information. Talk to your employer, your bank, your union, or a financial adviser. Ask questions and make sure you understand the answers. Get practical advice and act now.

The following websites can also be helpful:

 

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Budget Bootcamp Day 25: Long Term Financial Goals

budget bootcamp day 25 long term financal goals
Long Term Financial Goals

Yesterday we discussed short-term financial goals. Just as you have short-term financial goals, you should have long-term financial goals as well. The distinction between the categories is usually related to the amount of time it takes to accomplish the goal and the financial commitment to achieve them. Short-term goals are achievable in the more immediate future and, long-term goals usually take more than five years to accomplish and require a disciplined saving and investing strategy over a long time period. The most important long-term financial goal for everyone is to save for retirement. For most people, this is the first priority over saving for any other goal.

The first step is to develop good savings and investing habits and establish a financial plan when you’re young. If you start contributing to an employer’s 401(k) plan or an IRA or Roth IRA as soon as you begin working, and consistently put money in those retirement accounts, you’ll be on the right track to accumulate enough money for your retirement years.

There are a few ways to become a disciplined saver and investor.

  • Set up automatic investments to your retirement plans and investment portfolio to help you avoid spending your hard-earned money when you get a paycheck. When you don’t see money in your bank account, you won’t spend it. Instead, you’ll be saving for your goals and your investment account will grow in value over time.
  • Try not to be emotional about your investments and don’t jump in and out of your holdings when the market is volatile.
  • Monitor your investments and risk regularly, and make adjustments to your portfolio when needed.

Even the most disciplined investor can expect some bumps in the road like the loss of a job or a family member who becomes ill and requires care. Likewise, events that might seem far away initially can somehow sneak up on you.

Below are a few long-term goal examples

1.College education

One of your long-term goals may be saving for your childs college education, which is six years away. However, more recently your child decided he/she wants to attend a private high school, resulting in you tapping into your higher education savings. As long as you started saving when your child was young, you may have enough to cover both private high school and college — or you could increase your savings now to pay for college.

2. Time value of money

The time value of money – a key concept in finance – is simply the increase in the amount of money as a result of interest earned over a period of time. Essentially, the earlier a person starts to invest, the greater the power of compounded interest over time.

3. Retirement

With as little as $50 from each paycheck ($100 a month or $1,200 a year), you have contributed $48,000 after 40 years. Assuming a seven percent annualized rate of return, you would have more than $260,000. Use the Time Value Calculator to see how the time value of money works.

The bottom line is: Start investing as young as you can – even if it’s a small amount – to get the most bang for your buck. Reinvesting any earned dividends and interest from investments over time purchases additional shares in your account which can help increase the value of portfolios – especially for long-term goals like retirement.

Monitor your investments

It’s important to check your investments regularly. I recommend personally reviewing your portfolio on a quarterly basis and meeting with your investment advisor at least twice a year. Manage your risks by making sure your chosen asset allocations are still in line with your overall goals. Make adjustments to your investments only when needed. One of the benefits of having an investment advisor is he or she can monitor your funds for you and recommend different investments when it’s necessary. Also, remember to revise your financial plan accordingly if your goals change or you identify new goals.

Withdrawing money from your retirement funds

When you stop working and have reached your goal of retirement, you’ll need to figure out how much and when to withdraw money from your retirement accounts. There are some tax rules you need to follow as well. When you turn 59½ years old, you’re allowed to withdraw money from a tax-deferred retirement account like a 401(k) or IRA without a penalty. When you turn 70 ½, there are required minimum distributions (RMD), which is a certain amount of money that’s determined by your age and value of your investments that must be withdrawn each year from your IRA or 401(k). If you don’t take the RMD on time, you’ll get hit with a 50 percent tax penalty of the amount you’re required to withdraw. Your first RMD can be taken by April 1st following the year you turn 70 ½ years of age. Subsequent RMDs must be taken by December 31st.

Aside from the RMD, you don’t want to take out too much money from your retirement accounts and deplete your savings too quickly. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommends annual withdrawals of three to six percent of the value of your investments in the first year of retirement, with adjustments for inflation in later years.

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