Tag: savings

Basic Budgeting Tips

Many Americans have trouble with their finances. For some, it’s due to a lack of income. For others, it’s difficult to figure out how to divvy up money each month. That’s why it’s so important to maintain a budget. Budgets give households permission to spend a specific amount of money during a given month. A budget is a good way to track spending, and many millionaires claim that this step was an important key to their financial success.

Start With A Zero Balance

A family should account for every dollar when setting up a budget. Having a zero-based budget simply means that every dollar is accounted for at the beginning of the month. It does not mean that every dollar gets spent. Some of the money should go toward savings, but it should not be left without a home in the savings portion of the budget.

Save Automatically

That money that gets saved should get automatically deducted at the beginning of the month. Ideally, this will be the result of an automatic draw from a direct deposit. By saving automatically, there will be less of a temptation to spend the money on frivolities. Any cash that gets saved should be put toward an emergency fund, a long-term savings goal like a mortgage down payment or investments.

Prioritize Debt Repayment

Any money that’s left over after accounting for all necessary expenses should go toward paying off debt. One of the biggest drains on the average family’s finances is interest expense. By cutting out interest expenses and debt payments, many people who have financial stress could breathe much easier. Making more money and cutting expenses are the best way to accelerate debt repayment. Fewer payments going to debtors leaves more money for more enjoyable purposes.

Allow for Miscellaneous Spending

Setting aside some petty cash for small and unexpected expenses is a good way to avoid going into debt or dipping into an emergency fund. Few months are alike when it comes to expenses, so having a little cash on hand to deal with unusual expenses is a great step to take.

Budgeting is an important key to financial success. Rather than constraining a family, a budget can actually be a very freeing process. A budget allows for an easy assessment of where a family’s money is going. By gaining an understanding of where a household’s income is going, it’s possible to make adjustments to provide for more efficient use of that money.

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.

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.

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.

Steps to Setting Up a 529 College Savings Plan

As a parent, your number one concern is always your children and how you can best provide for them.  While they may be young still, the future of their education is likely only a few years away, and as time goes on, college tuition costs are increasing drastically.  This may concern you, especially if you’re still paying off your own loans from your college days! Luckily, there’s hope, and a great way to get your little one’s future college finances in order.  The solution: a 529 college savings plan. Wondering the best way to set one up? Here are some simple tips:

Pick a Plan that Works Best for You

When it comes to 529 plans, it’s not as simple as just one.  There are two main types of 529 saving plans that you can choose from.  You can decide if a prepaid plan works best for you, or if an investment plan is a better choice.  If you decide on a prepaid plan, you can think of it as a locked-in plan. You generally pay for a year or a portion of the tuition ahead of time, locking in the price.  Depending on your state, the requirement can vary. Investment plans give you the ability to choose how you want to invest your funds, and how you can use the money depending on the institution that’s chosen down the road.

Open the Account

To open your 529 account, you’ll need to submit an application; this can generally be completed online; however, in some cases, you may need to mail it in.  Additionally, you’ll need to choose the right account to work with, whether it’s an Individual (Custodial), Trust, or Business account. From there, you’ll choose the custodian (likely yourself), and the beneficiary, (your child).

Choose the Right Investments

Your investment portfolio is the next step in your process, and it usually depends on your investment preferences.  In most cases, you can choose an age-based portfolio that lines up with the age of your child (beneficiary). This way is usually the easiest way to manage your investments.  You can also go with an individual portfolio that will give you the ability to build your investments on your own, any way you’d like. Either way, you’re able to switch your options and change them if you want to down the road.

Submit Application & Deposit Funds

When your application is completed, either a physical copy to mail in, or done electronically online, you can submit everything with either a check or electronic funds sent to the account.  It’s always important to make sure the submitted information is accurate, or it could prolong the process.

6 Tips for Saving Money

When it comes to saving money, Americans are notoriously bad. Last month CNN reported that “nearly six in 10 Americans don’t have enough savings to cover a $500 or $1,000 unplanned expense” (Vasel). If you are one of the six Americans that CNN is referring to, then you’ll find the below tips useful.

Track the Money You Spend

You can’t save money if you’re not sure how much you spend each month. Every time you buy something make sure you get a receipt. Then at the end of the month tally up all of your expenses. If you’re comfortable with online tools, Mint is one of the easiest ways to track everything in one location. Tracking your expenses will show you where you spend the most money. If you find that you spend too much money on entertainment each month, then you might need to rethink your spending habits.

Plan a Budget

After tracking your expenses for a couple of months, you can create a monthly budget. This budget will help prevent you from overspending. Once you have a budget you’ll be better able to make spending decisions each month.

Start Saving

You should include a savings category as part of your budget. Saving 10-15% of your income each month is a good starting point. If you find that percentage to be too high, you might need to take a second look at your expenses. Think about cutting back on non-essential expenses like buying coffee each day or dining out each week.

Create a Savings Goal

It’s easier to save money when you have a goal you’re saving for. It’s easier to give up your daily latte when you’re saving for a vacation or a house. An emergency fund is another good savings goal. The above CNN article mentioned how unplanned expenses can catch a lot of people off guard. An emergency fund will help you avoid this unpleasant situation.

Pick Your Priorities

Saving money is easier when you prioritize what you’re saving for. For example, if you are saving for a new car you shouldn’t neglect your retirement savings in the process. Once you prioritize your goals you’ll find it easier to start saving money.

Decide How to Save

When most people think about saving money they think about savings accounts. While savings accounts are a great way to save your money, they aren’t the only way to do so. Take a look at this article to learn about the different ways you can save money.