Category: Blog (page 2 of 5)

Money Moves for Retirement

Retirement planning is one of the biggest financial concerns for many Americans. There are many considerations to make when it comes to savings—retirees should be aware of what income sources they will be relying on in their golden years. It’s also important to be aware of how long investors have before they will need to access those savings. Finally, it’s important to think about how long people expect to live in retirement, and what they estimate their expenses will be. These are the considerations that must be made to accommodate the aforementioned concerns.

Retirement Income Sources

There are many sources of income that retirees can utilize. Social security is a program that most people will qualify for, but it typically is not enough to get by. Some workers may also have a pension to count on, although that’s becoming increasingly rare. Thankfully, savings accounts are one area over which individuals have personal control. Annuities are also an option for savers. Many retirees also look to their property holdings, including real estate and collectibles, as key sources for income in their old age.

Compound Interest

One of the most basic but most important lessons about retirement that everyone should know has to do with the power of compound interest. Compound interest is the accrual of money on interest over time. Saving a little bit while young can help workers build up a healthy amount of savings to fall back on during retirement. Additionally, tax-advantaged retirement accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs allow future retirees to put money aside and reap important tax benefits. However, even a standard savings account can be a good way to start saving. The older an investor gets, the more important it becomes to have money set aside in an account that won’t be touched. It’s also a good idea to look into catch-up deposits in tax-advantaged accounts. Sometimes, investors over 50 are able to exceed the maximum contributions allowed to the rest of the public.

Tax Considerations

Tax considerations should be a key guideline when choosing investments. In some cases, the gains made from selling a home are untaxed. Some investments are subject to capital gains taxes, even in retirement. Even tax-advantaged accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s can be subject to management fees. It’s a good idea to seek professional advice when it comes to specific investment decisions.  Reach out to a local financial advisor with any financial concerns!

How To Plan For Student Loan Payments

Many students get out of college and realize that they need to pay off their loans. With colleges sticker prices on the rise each year, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by student debt. However, if by applying these tips, students can plan for debt and pay off their loans as quickly as possible. 

Consider Refinancing Your Student Loans

Some people may not know where to start, especially if their student debt is going to be quite high. If you fall into that camp, you could look into refinancing your loans. Refinancing your loans means that you use another loan to pay off your student loans.

If you have a stable job and you can find loans with lower interest, then you may want to refinance. This way, you pay off the student loans and then don’t have to pay as much money over time when you work on the other loan.

Set Money Aside Each Paycheck For Your Loans

You should focus on budgeting your money so that you can set aside some of that income from each paycheck. This way, you can always pay off that set amount with each paycheck. Such a consistent system will go a long way in helping you pay off those loans.

Some people may worry that it would take too long to use this approach, but consistent payments do offer a tremendous benefit. Yes, it may take some time, but this method helps you calculate when you’ll have that debt paid off by. As your financial situation changes, you can accurately pivot and recalculate to get a clear picture of your debt payment schedule.

Prioritize Your Student Loan Payments

People tend to push their loans to the side, but you need to prioritize your loan payments. Sure, you can buy a new phone or gourmet coffee, but you should consider putting that extra money towards your loans. If you prioritize your payments, then you can put all your extra money towards your loans. This will help you to pay them off sooner and reduce interest.

Conclusion

While student loans are scary to think about, keep in mind that you can pay them off with careful planning. Look at how much money you make, set aside specific amounts and continue to prioritize your loans until you pay them off. This way, you can overcome your loans and start saving money for life’s next big adventure.

When Should You Consult an Accountant for Tax Help?

When people are making plans to file their taxes, they may discover that there is a need for an accountant to help them complete the forms. Those who are uncomfortable with filing should seek an accountant that can help them make sense of the tax rules and what they need to do to file before the deadline. Unusual circumstances, such as changes in marital status and career, may call for additional assistance. In such instances, accountants are a taxpayer’s best friend.

Amended Taxes

Inevitably each year, taxpayers file erroneous forms. There may be mistakes and letters from the IRS that indicate that there is income that has not been accounted for, an incredibly stressful situation for everyone involved. If you’ve dealt with erroneous forms in the past, or if you’ve received notice from the IRS that this year’s submissions contain errors, seek out an accountant to help you readjust and refile. 

Owing Taxes

Anyone who owes taxes can benefit from involving an accountant in the process. After all, taxpayers may take the standard deduction when they could owe less or no money at all, all because they’re unsure how to itemize deductions. It’s an involved process, one that requires an expert eye. For this reason, professional accountants are there to help; by pointing out any overlooked itemized deductions, accountants can provide a better understanding of the deduction process.

Change of Status

Plenty of things can change in a year, not the least of which is household status. A single person that files as head of household may be unaware of changes in deductions when they get married. If you’re unsure about the best way to file taxes when your marital status changes, consider working alongside an accountant. 

First Time Tax Preparation

Filing taxes for the first time can be a confusing process. With all of the paperwork and math required for each form, it’s common for people to struggle to wrap their heads around everything. This situation is precisely what accountants handle regularly. Accountants want to help everyone ensure that all guidelines are followed and numbers are accurate. To pay taxes by the deadline, new taxpayers should schedule early consultations with local accountants. 

Four Easy Ways to Budget This Month

For some, creating and sticking to a budget is a simple task. For others, it’s a strenuous and seemingly impossible task. The temptation to eat out, splurge on clothes, and throw caution and cash to the wind can be huge, so it’s essential to find ways to stay on track. Here are four ways to create a budget that works and stick to it.

Meal Prep

In addition to various forms of outside entertainment, eating out is a considerable expense. Since most restaurants mark food up—sometimes as much as 300 percent—the only sure-fire way to save money on food is to cook meals at home. However, this is a lot more time-consuming and can be difficult for those without much cooking experience.

Take the time to plan meals, including the cost of ingredients, for at least a week’s worth of meals. Also, include the costs of snacks as well. One way to save on food is to buy in bulk. Look for items that can be purchased in larger quantities and divide up for later.

Set Up Autopay

Another way to stick to a budget is by setting up autopay. Instead of having to pay bills and charges every month manually, autopay lets budget-setters know what they pay and when. The same concept can also help track savings. Just have a set amount of money transferred each month into a savings account.

When it comes to paying utilities, look into budget billing. Customers pay a set amount for power and water. After a set time frame, they’re either refunded the difference or charged for any overages.

Entertain at Home

Simply put, going out is expensive. Everything from grabbing drinks to seeing a movie is expensive these days. Instead of breaking the budget, invite friends over and find ways to create a social atmosphere at home. Cocktails made at home cost half the price when ordered out. The same holds true for take-out. If your group wants pizza and a movie, rent a flick and make homemade pizza.

Track Success

Tracking success is a great motivator, so make sure you keep track of how much money you’ve saved over the month. After seeing positive results, you may feel even more motivated to stick to their budgets.

With a little planning, creating and sticking to a budget is easy. Since everyone has different needs, never compare budget planning. Finally, make sure that the budget isn’t so rigid that it’s impossible to follow. Just be sure to leave some wiggle room for the occasional splurge.

The Differences Between CFAs and CPAs

CFAs and CPAs may sound like the same thing, but their responsibilities differ. For people who are not familiar with the financial and investment industries, the differences between the two may not be that clear. While CFAs and CPAs are both financial professionals, these individuals travel along different educational and professional paths. 

What is a CFA?

A CFA, or chartered financial analyst, analyzes financial reports. Such reports include financial statements revolving around wealth planning and mutual and hedge funds. 

The job of a CFA, or a chartered financial analyst, is to analyze financial reports. These financial reports include financial statements that revolve around wealth planning and mutual and hedge funds. Typically, CFAs find employment with investment management companies, equity firms, and organizations that navigate mutual and hedge funds. In addition, CFAs can work with individuals to plan personal finances and offer advice on investing. 

The path to becoming a CFA involves a slew of experience, including four years of some mix of professional and educational experience. Typically, a bachelor’s degree or four years of professional experience are valid for becoming a CFA, and precede a triumvirate of exams to earn the CFA designation. Such a designation is awarded by the non-profit organization known as the CFA institute. This global organization lays out standards of professionalism and ethics in the investment industry. 

What is a CPA?

A CPA, or certified public accountant, is an individual who has passed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination. The exam is given by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Professionals must also meet their state’s requirements in order to be allowed into the ranks of the Institute.

The job of a CPA is to audit and put together the financial reports that CFAs analyze. They are involved with audits, accounting and taxes; specifically, CPAs keep track of the business dealings of the individuals and companies for whom they work. In addition to putting together this documentation, CPAs also file and officially report them. Outside of formal reports, CPAs are able to give advice about how to pay as little taxes and possible and how to profit as much as possible.

In conclusion, these are the differences between CPAs and CFAs. CFAs are involved in the analysis of financial reports, while CPAs create those reports. They are two very different types of professionals involved in finance that commonly get confused. However, knowing the differences can help you make better decisions when you need financial planning help!

Personal Finance for College Students

You’re finally living on your own, attending classes and joining new clubs and organizations. In college, it’s easy to overlook personal finance when focusing on your studies, but proper money management is vital for a successful future. If you’re new to college and money management, here is some personal finance advice. 

Consider Your Credit

Swiping a card is convenient, but that money has to come from somewhere. If you’ve fallen victim to overspending on your card, try to set up a system to evaluate your spending habits. Perhaps you could limit card spending and use more cash. Or, perhaps you need to change your card limit to dissuade yourself from making unnecessary purchases. In addition, you should keep track of when your credit card payments are due—missing those payments can harm your credit score, which can be difficult to improve later down the line.

Search For Perks

Many colleges and surrounding businesses offer benefits to students. From dining halls to student discounts, you’re bound to find ways to save money. For instance, shops close to your school may offer student discounts, allowing you to pay a set percentage less for meals and clothes. In the same vein, your school may offer textbook rentals as opposed to purchases, which can save money. Or, if you can find those books online at Amazon or from other e-commerce sites, you may be able to save bundles. 

Build a Budget

Understanding and implementing a budget can have positive long-term effects. If you’ve struggled with overspending or other money-related issues, budgeting can be a huge benefit. Calculate the amount of income you’ll make in a given month, including rates for on-campus jobs, and figure out your expenses. You’ll want to save a percentage of that income and avoid going over it. The sooner you establish a budget and learn to stick to it, the sooner you’ll save money and build your personal finances.

Find a Job

Colleges often have part-time jobs available for even the busiest of students. From cooking in the dining hall to operating an office desk to providing prospective students with campus tours, student jobs abound in academia. Taking on a job for just a few hours each week can help you better understand time management while generating income. If you want to earn academic credit while you work, internships and work-studies can be a great use of your time. Plus, any campus job is a terrific resume-builder for your post-grad job search. 

3 Things to Consider Before Investing in Stocks

As an increasing number of books, websites, and apps introduce the stock market to the general public, more people find the stock market to be accessible. Even though software and guides have streamlined the process, adequate research is essential for anyone hoping to get into the stock game. It’s crucial to keep numbers in mind, but nuggets of advice are equally important. Whether you’re a first-time investor or seasoned stock aficionado, the following three tips are important to keep in mind.

You have to set goals

Throwing your cash in random directions and hoping something sticks is the exact opposite of what a good investor should do. Look into the industries that interest you and seek out key players and up-and-coming competitors. Then, develop a strategy by deciding how much money you’ll invest total, and how much each investment will be. It’s best to start simple if you don’t have much investing experience, which means you should stick to regular investments and establish a well-researched foundation. Once you’ve started that foundation, give yourself a timeframe before you check on those stocks again—as you’ll see in the next section, obsessing over the numbers is going to hinder you.

You have to keep a level head

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett has maintained for years that the buy-and-hold strategy is the best option for any investor. Real-time updates cause dramatic fluctuations to the stock market. While sudden drops in stock rates are worrisome, a goal-focused investor should be safe, even if rates are down. This is especially key in the short-term, as split-second decisions can be dangerous for the success of an investor’s stock portfolio. A volatile market is one in which long-term negative changes come into play. A short-term downturn is not necessarily a cause for alarm.

You have to diversify your investments

Don’t just invest in a bunch of businesses from one industry. Check out a few industries and businesses of interest to you, and ask yourself whether they fit in with your overall goals and budget. A diverse portfolio reduces the overall effect of a downturn on your portfolio. This may not be doable early into your investing journey, but as your portfolio grows and your investing confidence improves, diversification is going to be important.

Building Financial Independence After College

College years bring forth an abundance of growth and independence for students alike.  You’re likely getting into the habit of managing your school work and class schedule completely on your own, and if you’re taking advantage of on-campus housing you’re living on your own for the first time.  With all of these new life milestones coming to light, there’s a good chance that though you’re taking your own independent strides, you may still be under a parental wing, financially. As graduation is approaching for many college students this month, it may be time for you to consider the best ways to adapt to the real world, and potentially build your financial independence.  Here are a few tips:

Open Your Own Account/Credit Card

The first major step to building your own financial freedom after college is looking into opening your own bank account or credit card if you haven’t already.  Visit a bank that you trust, and sit down with a banker that will help set you up with the right type of account, preferably one that builds interest or provides you with small rewards.  As for a credit card, building your credit is an essential part of growing up; however, always be careful when using a credit card. To build your credit wisely, make small purchases that you can pay off in full each month.  Racking up a high balance that requires you to make minimum payments can ultimately do more harm than good in the long run. Additionally, you’ll want to research which credit card would work best for you. Many companies offer different programs and rewards and incentives; make sure you find what fits your financial situation best.

Take on Small Bills

If your parents were assisting you with some of your bills, such as your cell phone or car payment, consider taking them on, on your own.  You can start small, by taking over your cell phone, and build as you go, moving forward with a car payment/insurance, rent, and your student loans.  These payments will not only help you practice paying bills on time, but many of them will also help build your credit score.

Generate Income

During college, you may have had a part-time job or an internship.  Now that you’ve graduated and have more time available, you can consider adding more hours to your current schedule or looking for full-time work.  Either option will generate a consistent income that will help you build steady financial independence.  Once you’re building your income, consider making some of it automatically deposit into a savings account or an emergency fund.

What Your FICO Score Means

What your FICO score means

Just as the understanding of the value of a dollar comes with time, the importance of your credit score often evades us until we are deciding to buy a car or purchase a home. The gravity that a credit score holds is substantial. These scores influence the credit available to you and the terms that go along with it, such as interest rates. When looking to purchase a car or home, lenders rely on the consumer’s credit scores for an understanding of the risk they take on by loaning money.

While there are different credit scores, the most widely used and accepted is the FICO score created by Fair Isaac Corporation. Using the information provided by one of three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) FICO creates a credit score ranging from 300 to 850, with the higher number representing lower risks for lenders and insurers.

How exactly do they determine a consumers credit score? FICO analyzes five main factors, which each have a different impact on the score:

  • Payment History (35% of the FICO score)
  • Debt/amounts owed (30%)
  • Age of credit history (15%)
  • New credit/inquiries (10%)
  • A mix of accounts/types of credit (10%)

While the exact number of your credit score can be distracting, it is more beneficial to focus on the areas that require work, rather than feeling overwhelmed by your rank on the credit range. Let’s take a more in-depth look at the five main factors considered by FICO when determining consumer credit scores:

Payment History

This is simply how well does a consumer do with paying their bills on time. Credit reports show when consumer payments are submitted for lines of credit, and it specifies how long payments took to come in: 30, 60, 90, 120 or more days late. Since payment history is the most significant component of a credit score, it is essential to get all credit line payments in as soon as possible.

Accounts Owed

This refers to the amount of money a consumer owes in whole. Having a lot of debt doesn’t necessarily have a significant impact on your credit. Instead, FICO looks at the ratio of money owed to the amount of credit available. Put simply, do not max out your lines of credit.

Length of Credit History

The longer a consumer has had credit, the better this element of their score will be. FICO looks at how long the oldest account has been open, the age of the newest account and the overall average.

New Credit

This refers to recently opened lines of credit. If a consumer opens a bunch of new accounts in a short period, this signals FICO that there is a higher risk, which lowers the consumer’s credit score.

Mix of Accounts
Just like stockbrokers want to diversify their portfolios, consumers want to expand their credit portfolio. With a healthy mix of retail accounts, credit cards, installment loans, such as a car loan, and mortgages, a consumer has ensured a higher FICO score.

4 Ways to Wisely Use Your Tax Refund

4 Ways to Wisely Use Your Tax Refund (1)

Now that tax season is fully underway, you may be thinking about what you want to do with your tax return when it comes in.  For some, it might go right into a savings account.  For others, it might be an opportunity to splurge on different items you’ve had your eye on.  A healthy balance between the two, is looking into some wiser ways you can utilize your refund.  If you’re waiting on your refund to come in, consider some of these great options to put it towards:

Contribute to Your Emergency Fund

You may have one already, and if you don’t, it might be a good time to consider starting one.  An emergency fund is a great tool to have in case you encounter an unfortunate major expense that you wouldn’t regularly have the funding for.  You can contribute to your emergency fund on a regular basis depending on your pay schedule. However, when your tax refund comes in, depending on the amount, you may be able to make a large contribution, and give yourself a better financial cushion in the event of an unexpected expense.

Invest in a Down Payment

You may be in the process of looking for a new home, or even a car.  Both of these purchases are likely to require some sort of down payment, especially if you want your monthly payments reduced as much as possible.  Your tax return is a great way to contribute to a downpayment and significantly lower what your monthly costs or the length of your finance or mortgage term will be.  If you’re buying a home, for example, this lump sum of money will be a great contribution to your down payment or even your closing costs.

Pay Down High-Interest Debt or a Mortgage Payment

Any debt you’ve been carrying for a while is likely racking up interest, and depending on the company or what type of loan it is, the interest rate could be extremely high.  Your tax return would be a great way to pay down some high-interest debt and bring you closer to having it paid off completely. Additionally, you can also consider contributing to your mortgage payment if you’re a homeowner.  However, you should always make sure that your mortgage company isn’t going to charge you a penalty for early or pre-payment.  If you’re certain you won’t get a penalty charge, consider using your tax return to make some additional mortgage payments.

Make a Home Investment

If you’ve been wanting to make some interior or exterior home updates, refund time is a great time to do it.  This extra money may help you make improvements or updates that you might not have been financially ready for before.  In the long run, this will ultimately improve the value of your home while turning it into exactly what you envisioned.