Tag: Finance tips (page 1 of 2)

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Certificates of Deposit For Investing

Certificates of deposit are a less exciting investment than the stock market or other investing methods that gain more attention, but they’re also a durable option that many investors appreciate. Like any investment, CDs have pros and cons worth considering before deciding what’s best for your financial needs.

The Benefits of Certificates of Deposit

They offer better returns than a savings account. Even with a high-yield savings account, you can often find certificates of deposit (CDs) with higher return rates for your money.

Your returns are predictable. One of the comforting advantages of a CD is that you will be locked into the term’s interest rate. When you invest in the CD, you will know exactly how much money you’ll be getting back at the end of the terms.

You have a lot of options. There are certificates of deposit available at financial institutions everywhere so that you can shop around for the best deal. This means looking at the highest interest rates for your return. It also means that you can find the timeline that works best for your needs.

It’s a safe option. Investing in the stock market comes with all kinds of risks. A certificate of deposit is done at a federally insured institution and is a predictable and safe way to invest your money.

The Drawbacks of a CD

Your money will be temporarily inaccessible. When investing with CDs, you are locking your money into the certificate of deposit until an agreed-upon date. While you could cash out in an emergency, this takes time and loses your returns. With a high-yield savings account, you can still have access to your money at any time.

Returns are low compared to other investment methods. The risk is also lower, but CDs are not the best option if you’re looking for significant returns.

There is a risk of inflation. If you put money into a five-year CD, it is possible that the low interest rate on your returns could be less than the inflation rate. Ideally, this won’t be true, but it happens.

When is a Financial Risk Worth Taking?

Every single day, there are many risks that we must face. Each risk poses a reward, and usually, the higher the risk, the greater that reward. Financial risks are among the most common risks that we face in our day-to-day lives. Everyone can make a risky financial decision, even if that means losing a bit of value in your investment.

While financial risk may lead to bankruptcy, it is not worth taking it. While leaving savings in a bank account may seem overly cautious, there are times when losing that money can be devastating. When is it appropriate to pursue a monetary risk? Which risks pose the most significant rewards without sacrificing your financial security?

Starting Your Own Business

Some people don’t consider entrepreneurship to be the best venture, but in reality, it is the best opportunity to utilize the resources you have. Such resources include work experience, education, unique skills, and the desire and ability to be your own boss. In fact, successful entrepreneurship can lead to incredible gains—if you own a business, you may see higher earnings throughout your life! 

Going Back to School

Some opportunities, whether those be professional or financial, require finely-tuned skills. And, some of those skills can only be learned from field or industry experts. Going back to school will help you gain more knowledge, thus allowing you to acquire new skills and improve upon existing ones. Whether you want to finally earn your undergraduate degree, or have always dreamed of pursuing a Ph.D., going back to school can reap incredible rewards.

Professional certificates are an alternative to higher education. For instance, accountants can enroll for management skills and human resource training to expand their job opportunities and build upon their current skills.

Buying a House

Purchasing a home for your family is another great investment. It may not seem like an investment, but being a homeowner means investing in a neighborhood and the future of your spouse and children. In urban areas, monthly rent for apartments is the standard. However, if you move out to the suburbs, you’ll want to look into pursuing a mortgage. Once the mortgage is paid off, you can rent or sell the home. If you’ve kept up with the home through repairs and additions, you may be able to sell at an increased price!

Be persistent and think less about failure

While some of the above financial risks might bring short-term losses, be patient and have faith that temporary losses will lead to future returns. When you put more effort and focus on succeeding, success will follow. At the end of the day, persistence is what matters—not failure.

3 Key Money Moves to Make Before You Retire

Proper planning is necessary for a successful retirement, as many essential moves are made years before a retiree leaves the working world. Here are three of the most crucial money moves you should be making in preparation for your retirement to live out the rest of your life comfortably.

 

Eliminate as Many Debts as Possible

Once you retire, you’ll likely be living on a primarily fixed income provided by a blend of pension payments, social security, and investments. Interest on debt payments can rapidly eat into this income, so you must pay off as much debt as possible before you retire. This means paying off all of your credit card balances, car payments, and mortgage, if possible. By getting rid of interest payments, you’ll make the most of your retirement income each month.

 

Adjust Your Portfolio’s Risk Level

For young investors, riskier investment strategies are often beneficial in producing long-term growth. As you approach retirement, though, you’ll need to re-balance your portfolio to reduce your risks and ensure that you won’t be wiped out by changes in the market. Often, this is accomplished by increasing the ratio of bonds to stocks held in investment accounts. A common rule of thumb is that your portfolio should be split evenly between stocks and bonds when you expect to live another 15 years.

 

Use Your Last Few Working Years to Bulk Up Your Savings

The final 5-10 years of your working life are some of the most important for successful retirement planning. These years should be spent saving as much income as possible while reducing expenses in preparation for retirement. If you remain healthy and avoid major financial pitfalls, you should be able to substantially take advantage of your late-career years to increase your retirement savings.

 

By taking these three necessary steps, you can set yourself up for the best possible retirement. While retiring takes years of planning and preparation, these essential money moves will help you navigate the process more efficiently and give you financial peace of mind after you leave the workforce.

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.

Where to Get a Loan Besides the Bank

When it comes to expenses, money can be a point of contention. With the cost of living and the need for appliances and machines on the rise, it’s not always easy for people to come out of expenditures with money in their pockets. For this reason, people often resort to loans to help keep themselves and their families afloat. While many people go straight to their local bank to take out a loan, there are other options that are not considered or even well-known. These are some of those lesser-known places to acquire loans.

A Credit Union

Acquiring a loan from a credit union is sometimes considered a better alternative to getting one from a bank. Credit unions can offer recipients lower fees and interest rates than a bank, which makes paying back the loan a lot easier on the wallet. However, there is a slight drawback to using a credit union. In order to qualify for a loan, people must be a member and meet their requirements. If you’re a member of a credit union such as Members 1st or PSECU, give customer service a call to learn more about how to qualify and what loans are offered.

A Payday Lender

A payday loan is a type of short-term loan amounting to, at most, $500. Often, these loans are taken out to cover unexpected expenses and late bills. Applying for one of these loans is simple; all you have to do is apply online or at a payday loan facility. 

While these loans are helpful in the short-term, there are a few drawbacks. To start, these loans must be paid back as soon as the recipient gets their next paycheck. Secondly, payday loans can be very expensive in terms of fees and interest. If the loan is not paid by the due date, the lender might extend it, but at the cost of tacking on additional fees. Think carefully about whether or not your situation calls for a payday loan.

A Pawnshop

There is one massive difference that pawnshop loans have over others; the shop won’t check credit scores or require an application. A pawnshop loan works like this; you take an item such as jewelry or an electronic to a pawn shop. Should the pawnbroker be interested in the item, they’ll offer a loan.

How much the recipient will receive varies on the overall value of what’s being pawned. Pawnshop loans are a great way to get money quickly, but this speed comes at the cost of substantially high interest rates. Extra fees may also be included, depending on the pawnshop.

Loans may be a surefire way of obtaining money, but they are a huge responsibility. It’s important that people consider all the factors of taking out and paying off a loan before making the investment. 

The Best Personal Finance Software

In the world of personal finance, there are some software programs that stand out from the rest. These programs make it much easier to manage budget and track spending within your household. If you’re looking for software to manage your personal finance, these are the programs you should check out.

Quick Books

If there is one program that has continued to stand out over the years when it comes to personal finance, it is QuickBooks. This software has become the cornerstone of personal financing for people who want to keep up with their household spending. The program allows people to set budgets and get running totals for their spending during the month. Users can see how much they deviate from the budget each month, and plan accordingly to save more in the next month. QuickBooks even offers the ability to compare previous years and see if a user’s spending has increased or decreased. With quick references and an easy budgeting interface, this is a great program for users who don’t want tons of fancy features.

Microsoft Money

Another program that stands out amongst personal finance software is Microsoft Money. This is a program that tends to work well for those that have already utilized Microsoft Excel spreadsheets over the years. Users have the ability to create formulas, track their spending, and create easy-to-manage documents.

The ability to add different categories of expenses becomes much easier with a program like Microsoft Money. It has a user-friendly interface that makes it easy for people that are not computer savvy to create documents of their personal finances. This program tends to be one of the favorites for people that like to create documents that can be saved in different formats. These documents can be exported to Excel spreadsheet or saved as PDF files, offering plenty of versatility depending on a user’s needs.

Mint

In the growing age of portable personal finance software, Mint is the finance tool that has gained a lot of attention with the younger crowd. Mint has offered the millennial generation a viable personal finance program that gives them access to an online platform that is not limited to their personal computers.

Mint users have the ability to add their credit and debit cards to track purchases without manually typing in everything that they buy. The Mint app for smartphones allows users to access their financial budgets whenever and wherever they want. 

4 Things You Should Know About The R&D Tax Credit

The Research and Development Tax Credit benefits almost any business, no matter the size, age, or industry. Since 1981, this incentive has offered reimbursement for innovative and highly-technical businesses. Here are four things you should know about the R&D Tax Credit.

It is available for many industries

From aerospace organizations to wineries and vineyards, several industries can reap the benefits of an R&D Tax Credit. Organizations within these industries must pass a four-part test to affirm that their research activities qualify for an R&D Tax Credit. The four parts of the test are:

  1. Technological in Nature – “Activities must fundamentally rely on the principles of physical or biological science, engineering, or computer science.”
  2. Permitted Purpose – “Activities must be performed in an attempt to improve performance, reliability, or quality of a new or existing business component.”
  3. Eliminate Uncertainty – “Activities intended to discover information that could eliminate technical uncertainty concerning the development or improvement of a product.”
  4. Experimentation – “All of the activities must include a process of experimentation including testing, modeling, simulating, systematic trial and error.”

It covers a variety of expenses

With all of the activity that goes on in a given business, it can be difficult to track your direct and indirect R&D expenses. However, taking note of those expenses is essential for receiving the appropriate tax benefits. As a rule, the major expenses that qualify are salaries and supplies and materials. For salaries, employees who work in R&D or directly manage those in R&D are covered. Supplies and materials covers anything from nails to computers.

It offers unique benefits to smaller companies

If your small company has gross receipts for five years or less that average less than $5 million, your company may be eligible for an R&D Tax Credit. This is the case even if your company does not owe any taxes, and the covered amount can reach up to $250,000 of a payroll offset. If your small business does not have credit for offsetting payroll taxes in a given quarter, you can carry that credit into a different quarter. However, to do this, you must not exceed the $250,000 limit.

It undergoes regular updates

The R&D Tax Credit does not behave exactly as it did over a quarter of a century ago. As industries and economies evolve, the R&D Tax Credit does, too. In particular, the removal of the Discovery Rule in 2003 redefined research activities as those that would be “new to the taxpayer” rather than “new to the world.” More recently, the Protecting American from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act ensured that small, mid-size, and startup businesses could benefit from R&D Tax Credits.

John J. Bowman, Jr. is an accountant and tax professional based out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter for more blog updates!

Choosing Between a 401(k) and Roth IRA

When it comes to retirement savings, two of the more popular vehicles are the 401(k) and the Roth IRA. Both are tax-advantaged retirement accounts, but there are significant differences. Depending upon your specific situation, you may find that one fits your needs better than the other.

What are the savings limits?

For workers who haven’t yet reached age 50, it’s possible to save as much as $19,000 in a 401(k) as of 2019. Those who have passed 50 can save an additional $6,000 as a catch-up contribution. Depending upon their age, those who want to save in a Roth IRA can save $6,000 or $7,000 per year. Both are great savings vehicles, but those who are looking to max out their savings would most benefit from using a 401(k).

What is the tax treatment?

Most 401(k) plans save money on a pre-tax basis. This means that it’s possible to cut your tax bill in the current year. Savings put toward a Roth IRA are made with after-tax dollars. Both accounts will grow on a tax-free basis as long as the money is left in the account. The difference comes when you decide to withdraw the money. If you wait until age 59 and a half, you’ll pay no taxes on Roth IRA withdrawals. The government treats them as if you’ve already paid the tax due when you made the after-tax contribution. On the other hand, a regular 401(k) withdrawal will be taxed at your marginal tax rate. 

 

An additional benefit of a Roth IRA is the ability to withdraw your contributions at any time. Because you’ve paid the tax on the contributions, there is no tax due. If you withdraw the earnings from a Roth IRA before hitting age 59 and a half, you’ll owe regular income taxes on any growth along with a 10% penalty for early withdrawal.

Is using both a good strategy?

Many future retirees wonder if it’s better to save in a Roth or a 401(k). It’s possible to save in both. Many employers offer a 401(k) match, and oftentimes, this match will be on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to 6% of the employee’s salary. Therefore, it’s a good idea to save at least to the full amount of this match. Any additional money could go toward filling up a Roth IRA to maximize tax-free withdrawals upon retirement. After contributing the maximum to a Roth, contributing to a 401(k) up to the maximum is a great next step. Overall, you could save between $25,000 and $32,000 by maxing out both accounts.

Finance Tips for the Holiday Season

The holiday season can get pretty expensive. Starting with candy and costumes for family and neighbors in October, followed by a feast of food in November and all of the gifts, gatherings, and extras around the winter holiday season, bills can really add up. Unfortunately, your wallet may not be able to keep up with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. There are several ways to help you save money while still allowing you to delight in the magic and wonder of the holidays.

Set a budget

It’s easy to spend money when you don’t try to set a cap on how much you’re allowed to spend. Without a budget, you’ll be more likely to overspend. Sit down and work numbers before even setting foot in a store so you know exactly how much you have to spend. On average, people spend around $704 during the holiday season, but that is all dependent on an individual’s personal financial situation.

Do your research

Everyone is going to be advertising that they have the best deal on a specific product during the holiday season. It’s up to you to do your homework and see who’s actually telling the truth. You can comparison shop right from the comfort of your own home by looking up prices online. That way, you’ll know you’re getting the best deal.

Break out your DIY skills

Giving a homemade gift is the perfect way to save money while also expressing how much you care about the recipient. Anyone can go out and buy something from the store, but a homemade gift takes planning, time to make, and a lot of thought. It can also save you a lot of money by making the gift yourself.

Enlist the help of others

If you decide you want to host a holiday gathering, don’t feel like you have to do it all on your own. Most guests expect to bring something to a party—whether it be a dish to pass, a bottle of wine, or even paper products. You’ll be able to throw a great party on a budget that all of your guests will enjoy.

Talk to a financial advisor

If you’re really struggling to keep up with expenses and expectations at the end of the year, it might behoove you to sit down and talk to a financial advisor. Whether you’re dealing with personal finance concerns or family investment issues, a financial advisor can examine all of those complex moving parts and help you develop a plan for keeping the spirit alive during the holidays.