Tag: John Bowman Jr (page 3 of 3)

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.

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. 

Tips for Financial Independence and Early Retirement

What do you consider to be “retirement age”? Perhaps early 60s or late 50s. What about 30s and 40s? The FIRE movement, which stands for “financial independence, retire early,” has gained traction with individuals as young as their 20s. The idea of working 9-to-5 jobs for several decades is an intimidating one, and FIRE offers the chance to work hard and, earlier than expected, play hard. However, FIRE is not an easy process, and it takes plenty of planning to truly retire early. Here are some considerations to take into account if you plan on retiring early.

Do Your Research

Monthly earnings from social security and pensions, costs of present and future healthcare concerns, and similar factors must be considered before an individual takes any steps towards early retirement. There are several complications, ones that often work against each other, to sort out during the planning phase of FIRE, but these factors help paint a picture of your financial future. Make sure you understand what FIRE really is, and what it means for you and your situation. In some cases, research may prove that early retirement isn’t the best option; rather, switching to part-time work or taking a temporary hiatus from work is better. 

Speak With a Financial Advisor

Financial advisors often assist individuals experiencing drastic life changes, such as making a family or retiring. When it comes to the latter, financial advisors will examine whether a client’s current financial system sets a strong foundation for retirement. Additionally, financial advisors look to the future to predict potential issues. Taking all of this into consideration, clients and advisors can develop a plan to work towards that independence. While hiring a financial advisor does come at a cost, the benefits of receiving an expert’s advice and planning assistance can be a lucrative investment. 

Don’t Rush the Process

A simple Google search can unearth a plethora of FIRE horror stories. A common trend in these tales involves early retirees jumping the gun and retiring before they’ve hit their financial goals. For some, this means retiring several years sooner than planned. While earlier-than-early retirement is enticing, it’s unwise to throw your financial goals out the window. Doing so means deviating from your financial plans, which in turn leads to increased risks of your independence returning to dependence. Remain patient and diligent as you work towards retirement, and avoid making rash decisions to save time—that won’t always equate to saving money.

Understand Your Drive

Why do you want to retire early? Is it to avoid unhealthy amounts of stress? Are you trying to spend more time with your family? Has a hobby become your life-long passion? A thorough understanding of the “why” behind your desire to retire early will help you figure out how to reach your financial goals. Anyone can say they want to have more free time. But what are you going to do with that free time? Take some time to introspect and figure out what drives you towards early retirement. 

Why You’re Overspending (And How to Stop)

Compare your monthly income with your monthly spending. Do you notice a glaring discrepancy? Are your earnings in the red? Can’t figure out how you spent hundreds on groceries? You aren’t alone. Overspending is easy to do, and purchases can accumulate in the blink of an eye. Here are some reasons why you’re overspending and advice on how to stop.

You’ve fallen into a bad habit

Do you buy lunch at the deli down the street every day? This is just one example of a bad spending habit. It may be comfortable and convenient to make a daily or weekly purchase, but ten dollars per day, five days a week, four weeks a month equals $200 each month just for lunch. 

The best way to remedy a bad spending habit is to ease yourself out of the habit. For the lunch example, try packing a meal most days each week, and only go out once a week or so as a special treat. You don’t have to quit anything cold-turkey, and easing yourself towards a better spending habit might inspire you to be more mindful of what you buy.

You ignore automatic payments

This one is easy to notice, especially if you subscribe to magazines and newspapers that clog your mailbox. Still, with the rise of streaming services and other digital subscriptions, you may not be keeping track of all the services you subscribe to. It’s easy to let automatic monthly payments slip through the cracks, but those payments are also an easy way to lose money.

Each month, carefully study your credit card statement. Write down the names of subscriptions you used during the month, whether that means watching a movie on Netflix or flipping through a copy of Sports Illustrated. Next to that list, write down the subscriptions you didn’t use. Unsubscribe from the ones that you didn’t touch. You’d be surprised how much money you can save annually just by paring down your subscriptions.

You haven’t disciplined your spending habits

It’s hard to find someone who hasn’t disciplined their spending habits. Whether you fall victim to impulse buys at the checkout line or fill your gas tank before it hits the halfway mark, everyone has a spending vice. 

No two people have the same income, interests, and habits, which can make disciplining your spending habits difficult. The key is to figure out what you’re buying and why you’re buying it. It helps to break purchases up into categories, such as “loans,” “food,” and “entertainment.” Not only will this show how much you’re spending, but it will also reveal what exactly you’re spending your money on.

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.

Top Couponing Tips to Help Save Money

When it comes to saving budgeting and personal finance, one of the first things people think of is groceries. If you’re in a household with a spouse and kids, a monthly grocery bill can be quite expensive. On top of other bills that need to be paid, you want to find ways where you can cut back on certain things. Couponing is a great way to help you make ends meet. Here are some tips to help you in your couponing efforts.

Look for specific coupons from your local store. You can get on a subscriber list and they and post weekly deals. This is a good way to get updates and even download online coupons for the register to scan during your checkout. See if you can get a loyalty card to save even more money. This will really help with the budgeting process.

Make sure that you check the mail for deals. Some stores still do things the old school way and give you printouts of sale items. Carry this with you so you can scan the barcode and get good discounts off select items. Check any newspapers or coupon books during the week to take advantage of any deals.

Always keep in mind that coupons have an expiration date. Certain discounts may only apply for a week. Other discounts last a year. It’s important that you mark these dates down so that you don’t end up losing on a good discount that helps you with your personal finance.

These are a few tips to make couponing more successful. This helps you save more and spend less to increase your quality of life.

Halloween Shopping on a Budget

For families who look at their personal finance situation before budgeting for special occasions, there are great reasons to celebrate Halloweens fun festivities. While many kid friendly holidays and events can be rather expensive, this is one of the holidays that is easier on the family budget. While there is no shortage of expensive Halloween costumes out there, there are also some rather inexpensive alternatives for families on a tight budget to still ensure everyone has a great time.

Finding Inexpensive Costumes

The biggest expense for Halloween are the costumes. But the good news is inexpensive costumes can be put together quite easily with a little imagination and preparation with these few tips:

One of the best resources for inexpensive costumes are thrift stores. While they often sell traditional costumes, they also sell many clothing items such as gowns, black dresses, capes, sports clothing, winter snow clothing, hats, children’s costume toy accessories, rhinestone shirts, tiaras, costume jewelry and more. These clothing items are perfect for creating a whole series of different costumes at a fairly inexpensive price which ensures parents will have little drain on their personal finance situation.

Another great resource are dollar stores and discount stores as they can provide a great place for costumes and accessories. In fact, many store retail chains like Dollar Tree and Dollar General carry dress up costumes or accessories year-round for princesses, fairies, angels, cowboys, ninja warriors and more.

Inexpensive Treats and Candy

At this time of year, there are many coupons available for candy. This is because chocolate and candy manufacturers gear up for one of their busiest times of year from Halloween to Valentine’s Day. Coupons and sales flyers are abundant and can usually show what stores are having the best sales. Grocery stores and pharmacies often have the best deals and if added with coupons they can make the stocking of treats quite inexpensive. For people who love to give chocolate bars, and may sneak one or two for themselves, dollar stores also often sell 8-10 candy bar packets for $1.00 year-round. If you take time to shop around there is no shortage of sweet treats to be found at a great price.

Finance Apps

Apps make everything easier, especially personal finance. If you’re like most people your day is usually busy, and you don’t always have the time to fire up your computer to check your bank statement. In fact, you might only check your finances once per week due to your schedule and responsibilities. Or you might be the sort of person who very rarely thinks about budget and spending. The good news is that there are many apps that can help you stay on top of your finances and track your money. Here’s a list of some of the top finance apps available.

Mint
I’ve written about Mint a number of times in the past. The site is so popular for a simple reason: it’s one of the best personal financial tools on the market. Mint’s app is just as useful as the site—if not more useful since all of the information you want to access is right there on your phone. The app gives you the ability to sync all of your accounts in one place so you know how much you spend each month. One of the most useful features is the alerts that you receive when you are close to going over your budget.

Level Money
After you enter your accounts and bills into the Level Money app, it will present set a monthly spending goal for you. Additionally, the app will give you recommendations on how much money you should save each month. The app updates in real time, so you can review your budget after every purchase to make sure that you’re on track with your spending and savings goals.

Digit
If you have trouble saving money each month Digit can help. You can connect your bank account to the app, and it will gain an understanding of your income and how much you spend on a regular basis. Once it has this information Digit will create a savings account and withdraw small sums of money from your checking account. Every month it takes into account how much you spend, so the amount that it withdraws is different each month. Digit’s savings account doesn’t earn interest, so in the long run, you should transfer your money to a better account. However, it’s a great place to start.

Goodbudget
Goodbudget gives users the ability to create “envelopes” for different categories. For example, you can create envelopes for food, entertainment, and bills. Then you decide the budget for each envelope. If you go over your budget, the app will let you know. Goodbudget doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles that Mint has, but it is a simple budget app that anybody can easily use.

3 Ways You Can Save Money This Summer

During the summer there are many ways that you can overspend. When the weather is warm and inviting it’s difficult to stay inside. Plus, there’s a good chance that you want to purchase new clothes for the vacation that you planned. If you live in an area where it gets hot, then you likely spend a lot of money on your electric bill each month. However, it’s possible to save money and enjoy the summer months at the same time. Below are some of the simplest ways that you can save money during the hot summer months.

Staycation

Every family knows how expensive vacations can be. If you really want to save money, think about some of the ways that you can have an enjoyable staycation. Do you know anybody with a pool membership? Maybe they will let you and the family tag along for a day. Other ideas include the movies, miniature golf, or even a local amusement park if you want to go on rides. Eating out while on vacation is one of the most expensive aspects of the trip. You’ll save a lot of money just by cooking at home or packing your lunch if you visit an amusement park.

Turn Off the Air Conditioner

It might sound crazy, but turning off the air conditioner is one of the easiest ways to save money over the summer. Instead of blasting the AC every day think about using a ceiling fan instead and open up the windows. Obviously, in some situations (like during a heatwave) you should absolutely keep the AC running. However, on days when it’s not too hot or humid, don’t be afraid to turn off the AC, get a drink of something cool, and dress lightly. Then you’ll save money and stay cool at the same time.

Don’t Waste Water

If you want to save money over the summer, then be careful not to use too much water. One of the biggest wastes of water is lawn sprinklers. The possibility of drought is a real concern for many areas of the United States. Even if you don’t live in a part of the country that has experienced a drought, it’s still a good idea to put the sprinkler away. In most cases, it’s better to let Mother Nature take care of your lawn for the most part. If you must water your lawn, just make sure you’re not overdoing it.