Monthly Archives: March 2017

Know Financial Tips For Young Adults

Unfortunately, personal finance has not yet become a required subject in high school or college, so you might be fairly clueless about how to manage your money when you’re out in the real world for the first time.

To help you get started, we’ll take a look at eight of the most important things to understand about money if you want to live a comfortable and prosperous life.

Learn Self-Control

If you’re lucky, your parents taught you this skill when you were a kid. If not, keep in mind that the sooner you learn the fine art of delaying gratification, the sooner you’ll find it easy to keep your finances in order. Although you can effortlessly purchase an item on credit the minute you want it, it’s better to wait until you’ve actually saved up the money. Do you really want to pay interest on a pair of jeans or a box of cereal? (To learn more about credit, check out Understanding Credit Card Interest and our Credit And Debt Management feature.)

Take Control of Your Own Financial Future

If you don’t learn to manage your own money, other people will find ways to (mis)manage it for you. Some of these people may be ill-intentioned, like unscrupulous commission-based financial planners. Others may be well-meaning, but may not know what they’re doing, like Grandma Betty who really wants you to buy a house even though you can only afford a treacherous adjustable-rate mortgage.

Instead of relying on others for advice, take charge and read a few basic books on personal finance. Once you’re armed with personal finance knowledge, don’t let anyone catch you off guard – whether it’s a significant other that slowly siphons your bank account or friends who want you to go out and blow tons of money with them every weekend. Understanding how money works is the first step toward making your money work for you. (To find out how to have fun and still save money, see Budget Without Blowing Off Your Friends.)

Know Where Your Money Goes

Once you’ve gone through a few personal finance books, you’ll realize how important it is to make sure your expenses aren’t exceeding your income. The best way to do this is by budgeting. Once you see how your morning java adds up over the course of a month, you’ll realize that making small, manageable changes in your everyday expenses can have just as big of an impact on your financial situation as getting a raise.

In addition, keeping your recurring monthly expenses as low as possible will also save you big bucks over time. If you don’t waste your money on a posh apartment now, you might be able to afford a nice condo or a house before you know it. (Read more on budgeting in our Personal Finance feature.)

Start an Emergency Fund

One of personal finance’s oft-repeated mantras is “pay yourself first.” No matter how much you owe in student loans or credit card debt, and no matter how low your salary may seem, it’s wise to find some amount – any amount – of money in your budget to save in an emergency fund every month.

Having money in savings to use for emergencies can really keep you out of trouble financially and help you sleep better at night. Also, if you get into the habit of saving money and treating it as a non-negotiable monthly “expense,” pretty soon you’ll have more than just emergency money saved up: you’ll have retirement money, vacation money and even money for a home down payment.

Don’t just sock away this money under your mattress; put it in a high-interest online savings account, a certificate of deposit or a money market account. Otherwise, inflation will erode the value of your savings.

Start Saving for Retirement Now

Just as you headed off to kindergarten with your parents’ hope to prepare you for success in a world that seemed eons away, you need to prepare for your retirement well in advance. Because of the way compound interest works, the sooner you start saving, the less principal you’ll have to invest to end up with the amount you need to retire and the sooner you’ll be able to call working an “option” rather than a “necessity.”

Company-sponsored retirement plans are a particularly great choice because you get to put in pre-tax dollars and the contribution limits tend to be high (much more than you can contribute to an individual retirement plan). Also, companies will often match part of your contribution, which is like getting free money. (To learn more, see Understanding The Time Value Of Money and Retirement Savings Tips For 18- To 24-Year-Olds.)

Get a Grip on Taxes

It’s important to understand how income taxes work even before you get your first paycheck. When a company offers you a starting salary, you need to know how to calculate whether that salary will give you enough money after taxes to meet your financial goals and obligations. Fortunately, there are plenty of online calculators that have taken the dirty work out of determining your own payroll taxes, such as Paycheck City. These calculators will show you your gross pay, how much goes to taxes and how much you’ll be left with, which is also known as net, or take-home pay.

For example, $35,000 a year in New York will leave you with around $26,399 after taxes without exemptions in 2016, or about $2,200 a month. By the same token, if you’re considering leaving one job for another in search of a salary increase, you’ll need to understand how your marginal tax rate will affect your raise and that a salary increase from $35,000 a year to $41,000 a year won’t give you an extra $6,000, or $500 per month – it will only give you an extra $4,144, or $345 per month (again, the amount will vary depending on your state of residence). Also, you’ll be better off in the long run if you learn to prepare your annual tax return yourself, as there is plenty of bad tax advice and misinformation floating around out there. (To learn all about your taxes, visit our Income Tax Guide.)

Guard Your Health

If meeting monthly health insurance premiums seems impossible, what will you do if you have to go to the emergency room, where a single visit for a minor injury like a broken bone can cost thousands of dollars? If you’re uninsured, don’t wait another day to apply for health insurance; it’s easier than you think to wind up in a car accident or trip down the stairs.

You can save money by getting quotes from different insurance providers to find the lowest rates. Also, by taking daily steps now to keep yourself healthy, like eating fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, not smoking, not consuming alcohol in excess, and even driving defensively, you’ll thank yourself down the road when you aren’t paying exorbitant medical bills.

Guard Your Wealth

If you want to make sure that all of your hard-earned money doesn’t vanish, you’ll need to take steps to protect it. If you rent, get renter’s insurance to protect the contents of your place from events like burglary or fire. Disability-income insurance protects your greatest asset – the ability to earn an income – by providing you with a steady income if you ever become unable to work for an extended period of time due to illness or injury.

If you want help managing your money, find a fee-only financial planner to provide unbiased advice that’s in your best interest, rather than a commission-based financial advisor, who earns money when you sign up with the investments his or her company backs. You’ll also want to protect your money from taxes, which is easy to do with a retirement account, and inflation, which you can do by making sure that all of your money is earning interest through vehicles like high-interest savings accounts, money market funds, CDs, stocks, bonds and mutual funds.

Know Financial Tips For Millennials

Managing money is generally not taught in elementary school. About 17 states require students to take a personal finance course in high school, but only a handful require testing on the topic, according to the Council for Economic Education.

When it comes to money, it’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes than to make your own. Follow these tips when you’re young to avoid financial hardship in life.

1. Go to college

You may want to do something that doesn’t require a college degree, such as playing professional golf. But give serious consideration to enrolling in college anyway. Yes, it’s a major investment, but if your parents are unable to help you pay for it, make it happen yourself, even if it means taking out loans. Just don’t get in over your head; try to borrow no more than the amount you expect to earn the 1st year after graduation. That way you can pay off the loans within 10 years. One way to save on costs: Go to a community college first; then transfer to a 4-year university after 2 years.

It’s easier to get a degree when you’re young than when you have a home, family and all the attendant adult responsibilities. Your earnings potential increases significantly with a college degree — which will come in handy if your other dreams don’t materialize. Plus, you will likely experience a love of learning that you will never outgrow.

2. Find your purpose

If you’re having trouble figuring out what you want to do with your life, look within. You were born with certain talents and natural abilities. You know which subjects you excel in and which ones you struggle with. Choose a career that enables you to maximize your gifts in a way that fulfills you or helps others. As you grow, your career may change along with your desires. But for now, gravitate toward a field that feels like home.

3. Begin retirement planning with your 1st job

This tip is so important. If the company you work for offers a 401(k) plan, sign up at your 1st opportunity. If there’s no such plan, divert some of your paycheck into an IRA. Believe it or not, if you’re lucky, one day you’ll find you are older, so it’s best to be prepared. Setting up automatic contributions to either one of these retirement vehicles at a young age will help you build wealth painlessly.

Naturally, the more you earn, the more you can stash. Sock away at least 7% of your earnings in the beginning, and increase it each year until you’re diverting 15% a year.

4. Place a value on money

It doesn’t buy happiness, but it can certainly make you comfortable. Just understand what it’s worth. Money is what you earn in exchange for your time in some productive pursuit. Let’s say you earn $20 an hour at your job, and you’re considering purchasing a TV for $500. You may calculate that you spend 25 hours, or about 3 days, earning that money. It’s worth it, you may think. But that’s not an accurate value estimate. If you’re single, you’re in the 25% tax bracket, so you actually spend about 33 hours earning the net income required to make the purchase. It still may be worth it, but there may be competing demands for that money, such as rent and car payments, not to mention your retirement fund. Each purchase represents a trade-off. Make these decisions wisely.

5. Use the credit card sparingly

This tip is also really vital. It’s easy to spend now with plastic and much harder to pay later. Use credit responsibly. Comparison-shop for your card. Remember that you’ll be relying on your future earnings to pay for today’s credit card purchases. And if you keep a running balance, you’ll also be paying interest, sometimes at usurious rates. Don’t fall into this trap. Instead, save money to meet financial goals.

6. Follow the golden rule

Contrary to popular belief, the duplicity and craftiness of Machiavellian tactics won’t really help you survive. Instead, they’ll engender mistrust in your relationships. Treat others fairly, the way you wish to be treated. No one looks good when trying to make others look bad. When you’re on the job, avoid gossip. Beware that when someone takes you into his or her confidence to point out someone else’s foibles, it’s only a matter of time before your foibles come to light.

7. Select your partner wisely

Choose someone whose values match your own — not just where money is concerned, but more importantly, ethical and moral values. Get to know your soul mate over the course of at least a year. Passion is important, but trust even more so. Make sure you are free to be yourself. If you hook up with an angry or overly critical partner, you will be subjected to hostility and may lose your sense of self. Conversely, if you’re the one with anger issues, resolve them before they poison a perfectly good relationship. Learn to make decisions with your heart, along with your head.

8. Be prepared for the unexpected

Someday you may lose a job through no fault of your own. Prepare today by stashing money into an accessible emergency fund. The easiest way to do this is to automatically divert a portion of your earnings into a savings account in addition to the amount you’re contributing to a 401(k) plan or IRA.

Try not to use that 401(k) money for emergencies. It will cost you plenty, between income and penalty taxes. For instance, if you have $10,000 in your account and you’re in the 25% tax bracket, you’ll lose $2,500 to taxes, plus pay another $1,000 penalty for breaking into the money before you reach age 55. (For IRAs, the early withdrawal penalty applies up to age 59 1/2, with certain exceptions.) Bottom line: Your $10,000 dwindles to $6,500. Worse, you will have lost the opportunity for that money to compound and build wealth for your retirement.

9. Learn about investing or hire help

It’s not rocket science; in the beginning you just need to overcome fear and select 1 or 2 good, cheap mutual funds. After you’ve amassed some wealth, it may be time to hire someone. If you do, you will obviously have to pay for the service. Get referrals and then check out the qualifications and credentials of a prospective financial adviser or broker.

Make sure you understand the fee structure of the services. Is it commission-based or do you pay an hourly fee or a percentage of assets or some combination of these fees? Ask for a complete breakdown. Also, check with the appropriate authority to see if any disciplinary actions have been taken against a certified financial planner or broker before you initiate contact. If you’re confident enough to choose your own investments, you might find that going with a robo-adviser is the best bet.

10. Be thankful for your good fortune

It’s not all about money. If you work at it, you will have abundance — through strong family ties and solid relationships, as well as monetary assets. Take some time out each day to reflect on the good in your life. Spend at least 1 day a week in a recreational activity or hobby that you enjoy, and take a minimum 1-week vacation annually if you possibly can so you can totally unplug and unwind. Again, save for the trip.

If you have children, spend as much time as you can with them when they’re still young and dependent on you. Before you know it, they’ll be old enough to get a driver’s license, and you’ll see less and less of them from that point on.

How to Repay Student Loans Fast

Treat the loan like a mortgage

If you can afford it, treat the loan like a mortgage and simply make larger payments to cut the principal more quickly, says financial planner Allan Katz, CFP professional, president of Comprehensive Wealth Management Group in New York’s Staten Island.

For example, a $25,000 student loan with 6.8% interest with a 10-year payback period would cost $288 a month. Paying $700 a month instead of $288 enables the borrower to repay the loan in just over three years, Katz says.

Another strategy is adding payments and sending in checks every two weeks rather than monthly.

Once that college loan is repaid, the benefits proliferate. “It’s one less debt you owe. The money you make is now free to be invested and applied to owning a house, saving for retirement or putting a child through college,” Katz says.

Create a 3- to 5-year plan

Clayton Shearer, a wealth manager at A&I Financial Services in Englewood, Colorado, urges clients to create a three- to five-year plan to pare college debt.

Knowing exactly when the loan ends is comforting for many clients. Clients “have a goal in place, they’re committed to it and they know exactly what to pay monthly,” Shearer says.

For example, two clients had $50,000 combined in college debt and were making around $100,000 a year jointly. To pay it off, they established a budget and cut back on spending. Their budget was helped by two sizable bonuses from work, resulting in their sending $800 per month for two years to cancel their college debt. Had they not prepaid, it would have taken about 15 years to pay off the loan.

Establish a college repayment fund

Having money moved automatically into savings is effective because it’s forced, Katz says. It enables people to set aside money to grow that otherwise would be spent on clothes or dining out, Katz says.

Just make sure to set up an account that will be used only for paying back your college debt. Don’t use checking or savings accounts you already have because you might use that money for something other than your student loan.

Start early with a part-time job in college

Getting a part-time job while attending college is one way to keep college debt in check because it generates money to help offset student loans.

If a student can put away $1,000 a month, “that’s $12,000 (a year) less in student loans and not having to take that money out in loans — a big savings,” Shearer says.

Avoid the usual traps

The most compelling barrier stopping people from repaying loans faster is the need for “instant gratification,” Shearer says. People can lose sight of their future financial goals, live for today and “fall off the budgetary wagon,” he says. The most effective way to reduce debt is to plan ahead, make some sacrifices, focus on future financial goals and delay instant gratification.

Katz agrees. Maintaining financial discipline is a difficult hurdle for many people, he says. “Most people don’t have the discipline to save. Most people spend like goldfish eat, which is nonstop,” Katz says.

The people who succeed at cutting college debt are those who “live within their own means and are conscientious about saving,” Katz says.