While many rewards enthusiasts focus on signing up for new credit cards to earn signup bonuses, not everyone has the time or desire to play the signup game. There is effort involved in tracking multiple cards, annual fees, and rewards programs, after all, and some people don’t want to spend their time or mental energy this way.
If you’re someone who falls into this category, you may be better off maximizing one or two cards instead of chasing rewards. Fortunately, you can earn plenty of rewards over time if you’re savvy about your card’s benefits and bonus categories.
The key to getting the most out of your rewards cards is understanding how they work and looking for opportunities to earn more points on your everyday spending. Here are some tips that can help.
Brainstorm every bill you could pay with a credit card
Because rewards cards offer points based on each dollar you spend, maximizing the amount you can spend on credit is the best way to boost your rewards haul. The smartest strategy to use here is figuring out how many of your monthly bills you can pay with a credit card.
While you may not be notified or aware, it’s possible that bills you’ve been paying with a check or debit card for years can be paid with a credit card without any fees. While your bills may vary, some expenses you should try to pay with a credit card include:
Utility bills like electric or gas
Cable television and internet
Auto and home insurance
College tuition or student loans
Keep in mind that these are just some of the bills you could be paying with credit. Depending on your situation, you could have additional, uncommon expenses to cover that could be paid with credit with ease.
Also, remember that these additional bills should be paid with credit on top of your everyday expenses like groceries, dining out, gas or bus fare, and miscellaneous spending. Every time you buy something in person or online, you should strive to pay with your rewards card if you can.
Leverage your rewards card bonus categories
It’s also important to leverage your favorite card bonus categories, whatever they may be. This is especially important if you have a few cards with different bonus categories since you’ll want to make sure you’re using the right card for bills that let you earn bonus points.
Let’s say you have a travel credit card that earns 3x points on dining and travel and another card that earns 6x points at the grocery store. In that case, you would be smart to use the travel card for dining and travel purchases and your other card when you stock up on food. While the amount of rewards you earn with individual purchases may seem nominal, using the right card for the right purchase can help you earn a lot more rewards over time.
Set up auto-pay bills to be paid with credit
Most of us have bills set up to be paid automatically, whether it’s our Netflix and Hulu subscriptions, gym membership, or utility bills. Make sure each bill you have set up to be paid automatically is set up to be paid with your rewards card and not a debit card. This way, you can earn rewards points on those expenses every month.
Use shopping portals and dining clubs
Many flexible rewards programs, frequent flyer programs, and hotel loyalty programs have shopping portals you can access to earn extra points. Major airlines like American, Delta, and United also have shopping portals that work similarly. (See also: How to Maximize Rewards Through Credit Card Shopping Portals)
Some programs like Southwest and Delta also offer dining clubs. These programs let you earn additional points or miles just for dining at participating restaurants in your area. It’s easy and it’s free to join, so you may as well earn extra miles on your spending if you’re going to dine out anyway. (See also: Everything You Need to Know About Airline Dining Rewards Programs)
How much the average family can earn
If you are skeptical the average family can rack up meaningful rewards without signing up for new cards over and over again, look at how this might work in real life. For example, imagine a family of four with two rewards card-toting adults. Across the two of them, they have:
A cash back card that earns 2% back
A travel credit card that earns 3% on dining and travel
A rewards card that earns 6% cash back at the grocery store on up to $6,000 in spending each year
To figure out how much this family might earn, we used Bureau of Labor Statistics spending averages from 2017. Here’s a rundown of that data for the year plus how much a family could earn in rewards over 12 months based on average expenses:
Food at home ($4,363): $261.78 in rewards at 6%
Food away from home ($3,365): $100.95 at 3%
Utilities, fuels, and public services ($3,836): $76.72 at 2%
Household operations ($1,412): $28.24 at 2%
Household supplies ($755): $45.30 at 6%
Household furnishings and equipment ($1,987): $39.74 at 2%
Apparel and services ($1,833): $36.66 at 2%
Gasoline and motor oil ($1,968): $39.36 at 2%
Other vehicle expenses ($2,842): $56.84 at 2%
Healthcare ($4,928): $98.56 at 2%
Entertainment ($3,203): $64.06 at 2%
Personal care products ($762): $45.72 at 6%
Education ($1,491): $29.82 at 2%
Total rewards: $923.75
While $900+ is a lot to earn in rewards within a year, you have the potential to earn a lot more. After all, these are just some of the expenses the average family faces and not all of them. If you could pay some additional big bills with credit each month like daycare or your rent, you could significantly add to your bottom line.
What to watch out for
While maximizing rewards cards is a smart idea if you’re using them already anyway, there are always pitfalls to be aware of when you’re using a credit card. Here’s what to watch out for during your quest for more cash back and travel rewards.
Fees for using credit
While there are many bills you can pay with credit without a fee, some vendors, merchants, and service providers charge a fee to use a credit card as payment. Fees are especially prevalent on bills such as utilities, cable or internet, rent, and insurance. Make sure to verify you aren’t being charged a fee to use credit before you proceed.
Don’t forget that some rewards cards charge annual fees. These fees may be worth it depending on your spending and rewards haul, but you should always factor them into the equation to make sure each fee is worth paying. If you’re against paying annual fees, look for rewards cards that don’t charge one.
Using a credit card for all your expenses may simplify your financial life, but it could also cause your budget to fall out of whack. Make sure you’re only spending on purchases you planned to make anyway, and that you’re tracking your spending and paying off your credit cards regularly.
Never use credit cards for purchases you can’t afford to repay if you’re pursuing rewards. The interest you’ll pay will always be much more than the rewards you earn. If you’re worried using credit will cause you to rack up debt you can’t afford to repay, you’re better off sticking to cash or debit instead.
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This article is from Holly Johnson of Wise Bread, an award-winning personal finance and credit card comparison website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:
5 Reasons Not to Use Debit Cards When You Shop Online
How to Resist These 4 Rationalizations to Spend Money
4 Mindful Spending Habits That Will Save You Money
6 Things to Consider Before Making a Big Purchase for Rewards Points
It’s a nonstop day. The usual. You’re at the grocery store, grabbing a few things for dinner (note to self: hit the ATM on the way out!), then a much-needed coffee at the drive-through (swipe that debit card), before you drop your tween at her first day of basketball practice (remember to bring your checkbook). Phew. And you’re only halfway done.
In the middle of it all, you certainly don’t want the nagging feeling that you can’t access your money at a moment’s notice, that you’re missing spending perks or that you’ll be hit with unnecessary fees. So a good question for you might be, “What’s the best checking account for busy families?”
How about a checking account that matches your lifestyle? Robert Farrington, founder of millennial personal finance site The College Investor and father of two, suggests that banking for busy parents should include an account that is âconducive to an on-the-move life.”
With everything on your plate, you may not realize that as your family’s needs change, the way you manage your money will likely need to change too. The good news is that many financial institutions offer bank accounts for busy families like yours, designed with features aimed at supporting your active lifestyle.
To select the checking account that best serves your needs, Farrington recommends first examining your current patterns. âNotice how you deposit money and how you spend it,” Farrington says. âLook at your banking trends and see where you’re being charged.”
Next, identify the unique features offered by each new checking account you are considering. To help you do that, here are four key things to look for as you narrow down your search:
1. Cash back rewards: More bang for your buck
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it costs about $12,980 a year to raise a child. Even if your kids get their share of hand-me-downs and you don’t buy them everything they want, you’re still spending a lot. The biggest costsâafter housing (29 percent of child-rearing costs)âare food (18 percent) and child care/education (16 percent). None of that even includes birthdays, holidays and so on…
If you’re trying to find the best checking account for busy families, consider that all those purchases could be a little less painful with a checking account that rewards spending, typically in the form of cash back or rewards points.
Ashley Patrick, founder of the blog Budgets Made Easy, loves the idea of a checking account that offers rewards. Patrick, whose blog tells the story of how she paid off $45,000 of debt in 17 months, recommends that budget-conscious families use debit cards for purchases. âIf those purchases were rewarded,” Patrick says, âthat money would multiply.”
Say hello to cash back on debit card purchases.
No monthly fees. No balance requirements. No, really.
Discover Bank, Member FDIC
If you’re using a checking account that rewards you for debit card purchases, some of those seemingly endless expenses can actually help you save a bit of extra cash. Discover Cashback Debit, for example, lets you earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.1 That means your monthly cash back earnings could yield $360 in total rewards each year. This feature of a bank account for busy families could pay for one night at your favorite family resort!
2. Easy account access: At home or on the run
You’re dropping off one kid, picking up the other, then have to get ready for a fundraiser. You are always on the go, so it’s time to find the best checking account for busy families that’s always right there with you. Patrick suggests opening a checking account with a bank that has a vast network of no-fee ATM locations. For example, Discover offers more than 60,000 no-fee ATMs around the U.S.
âI live out in the country, about 12 to 13 miles from town, so I need an ATM nearby,” Patrick says. âI usually go to town on Fridays or Mondays, get lunch for the kids, go to the store for groceries and get cash. Everything needs to be in one location.”
Besides getting money for day-to-day purchases, a conveniently located ATM is a must for depositing cash. Why make a special trip to visit your local branch when you can make deposits at an ATM that’s at or near a place you already frequent? Banking for busy parents is hard to imagine without this benefit.
âNotice how you deposit money and how you spend it. Look at your banking trends and see where you’re being charged.”
3. Online and mobile features: Save time in spades
In fact, you may not need a brick-and-mortar bank branch at all. Another option to consider is opening a checking account with an online bank.
The best bank account for busy families is one that offers maximum convenience. With an online checking account, all you need is a computer, tablet or smartphone to deposit a check (most online banks have a mobile app that allows you to take a photo of your check to deposit the funds). An online checking account also makes banking for busy parents effortless by allowing them to manage bills and bank statements from a deviceâeither while at home or out and about. Save the paper for your kids’ cute drawings that you tack up on the fridge.
Nermeen Ghneim, blogger at Savvy Dollar and mom of two, says the best checking account for busy families would offer a mobile app.
âI want to be able to access everything a bank can offer through my mobile device,” Ghneim says. âIt saves time, and it’s huge for a parent with a full-time job.”
Here are some of the other online and mobile features that are key if you’re looking for the best checking account for busy families:
Online transfers. Farrington says the ability to transfer money between accounts is especially important. Things come up unexpectedly and you may need to quickly transfer from savings to checking, or move those cash back rewards into a college fund for the kids. If you’re moving your cash back rewards into savings, you may even be able to make that happen automatically. For example, when you enroll in Discover’s Auto Redemption to Savings, we’ll automatically deposit your cash back into a Discover Online Savings Account every month.
Online bill payments. With everything else on your mind, you shouldn’t have to go through a stack of bills every month. The best checking account for busy families would allow you to set up automatic bill payments, so each month’s charges are automatically debited from your checking account.
Balance notifications. You should never be in the middle of a transaction and see those dreaded words: Insufficient Funds. Instead, you want to get a heads-up when your balance is close to zero, so there aren’t any surprises.
Debit card protection. While it’s important to be able to quickly and easily use your debit card, Ghneim says it’s just as important to be able to freeze it. Some banks offer a digital feature that enables you to switch your debit card on and off, so you can instantly freeze your debit card if it’s been misplaced or you want to curb spending.
Connecting to other digital applications. Nowadays, busy families rely on budgeting and spending apps to help manage their finances. A good bank account for busy families would be able to easily sync with those other tools online or via your mobile device so that you can efficiently manage your money and take advantage of the features of each app.
Farrington says that when selecting the best bank account for busy families, a no-fee checking account is a must-have, so it’s worth shopping around until you find one. For example, Discover Cashback Debit has no account-related fees.2 âYou shouldn’t have to pay a fee if you don’t keep a minimum balance,” Farrington says. âParents often don’t have the bandwidth to keep track of whether they’ve made a certain number of transactions.”
If you are getting hit with a checking account fee for any of the items below, you may want to consider a new checking account to make banking for busy parents easier:
In-network ATM withdrawals
Replacement debit card
Online bill pay
Stop payment order
Official bank check
If you’re exploring a new bank account for busy families, Ghneim advises to watch out for hidden costs. Even no-fee checking accounts will sometimes hit you with unexpected charges. âThere should be no hidden fees because if a family is living off a budget, it’s very stressful to incur unexpected fees,” Ghneim says. Farrington agrees: âThere are some things that might cost you money, like wire transfers, but you shouldn’t have to pay for most features these days.”
âThere should be no hidden fees because if a family is living off a budget, it’s very stressful to incur unexpected fees.â
Banking for busy parents just got easier
Above all, Farrington says you want to prioritize the features that are most relevant to your family’s needs and lifestyle. If you’re always on the go, you may care most about convenient, no-fee ATMs and mobile check deposits. If your schedule necessitates a lot of out-of-pocket spending, you may want to prioritize debit card cash back rewards.
Keep in mind that when it comes to establishing the best banking for busy parents, you have options. âThere are so many checking accounts being offered now,” Farrington says. As long as you’re aware of the features that are available, you can make an informed decision and choose the account that’s best for you and your family.
1 ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as VenmoÂ® and PayPal, which also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.
2 Outgoing wire transfers are subject to a service charge. You may be charged a fee by a non-Discover ATM if it is not part of the 60,000+ ATMs in our no-fee network.
The post Banking for Busy Parents: 4 Essential Checking Account Features appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
Preparing for a career fair used to mean packing a bag, suiting up, and budgeting more time for travel. Now, preparational tasks include updating video backgrounds and Wi-Fi connections. Swapping in-person events for virtual events may sound like an outlandish idea, but itâs become the star of the show in 2020, as virtual networking events have become the safest meeting alternative amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whether youâre seeking a new career or an internship, youâll likely come across virtual career fairs as a way to talk to potential employers. This is a new experience for many, so weâve compiled 10 tips to make the most out of a virtual career fair. From preparing your stage to showcasing your skills, hereâs how to build your resume and salary potential. Landing a new job is the perfect time to enhance your budgeting skills as you allocate your new income.
What Is a Virtual Career Fair?
A virtual career fair is an event over video that pairs job seekers with employers. For people who want to advance their skills and income, finding a paid internship or new career path may be on this year’s agenda. These events bring together established companies looking to hire people just like you.
Virtual events may feel out of the ordinary compared to traditional in-person career fairs, but there are a few perks â like saving you travel time and expenses. Before signing up for a virtual networking experience, you probably have a few questions. Should you dress like you would for an in-person event? How will you stand out? Below, we share 10 tips to prepare for a virtual career fair and be seen by employers.
How to Prepare for a Virtual Career Fair
First things first, register! If youâre unaware of when or where these events may take place, contact your schoolâs career center or hosting company. Email, or call, to ask about future career events and opportunities. Keep reading to get the ball rolling with your new career by networking and interviewing from home.
1. Check Your Wi-Fi Connection
Wi-Fi has become more of a lifeline and itâs especially valuable for a virtual career fair. The last thing you want is to freeze or get kicked out due to an unstable connection. If your home has spotty Wi-Fi zones, make sure you set up in a reliable zone. Test your connection by calling a family member or friend with the video software youâll be using. If your Wi-Fi passes the test, set up your meeting station. If not, reboot your Wi-Fi router and try again in a different area.
2. Set Up Your Meeting Environment
Set your computer up in a professional and distraction-free zone. Setting your computer on your kitchen table with your back up against a white wall may do the trick. Ensure you silence your phone, sit in a well-lit area, and rid your area of sounds or visuals that may steal your attention. Test your video background by turning on your computer camera before starting the event.
3. Research Companies You Would Like to Speak With
Before starting the meeting, make a strategic plan. Ask your career center for a list of employers that may be attending this event. Research each employer on Google, LinkedIn, or job sites like Glassdoor. Scope out which positions youâd be interested in and may excel at. Once youâve created a list of top employers and positions, ensure you secure a meeting spot to chat with them. During the virtual career fair, emphasize your skills and how they may fit each companyâs needs.
4. Dress Up as You Would for an In-Person Career Fair
To get in a professional mindset, dress as you would for an in-person career fair or interview. Thirty-seven percent of employers ranked appearance as one of their key differentiators when seeing if someone is fit for the job. While employers may only see you from the waist up, dress up from head to toe. Dressing the part may help you act the part as a professional goal-getter. A classic button-up shirt, slacks, polished hair, and simple accessories will make the perfect outfit.
5. Test Your Equipment and Log In Early
After doing your research and picking your outfit, test your equipment. Double-check your computer’s battery, microphone, camera, and Wi-Fi connection. Then, log into any accounts or video conferencing software youâll be using for this event. If possible, ask a friend or family member to video chat beforehand to work through any technical difficulties. Have your notes, research, and a pen close by for the meeting ahead.
6. Practice Strong Communication and Body Language
When youâre on the call, present yourself with confidence and attention to detail. Look into the camera, sit up straight, and nod throughout conversations to show youâre engaged. When speaking up, avoid fidgeting or touching your face. When using hand gestures, consider sitting far away from the screen for attendees to see. Practice these skills by role-playing video conversations 30 minutes before the video call.
7. Be Patient and Listen
Technical difficulties and long conversations may happen. And thatâs okay! Practice your patience and professionalism by patiently waiting for an employer to sift through candidates or technical issues. If youâre cut short on time, ask the employer for their contact information. After the event, if you want to learn more, ask to set up an additional meeting to continue the conversation.
8. Ask for Email Addresses to Stay in Touch
You may consider asking each employer you speak with for their contact information. In most cases, youâll get an email address. After the event ends, compile your thoughts. Write a list of your top three employers and reach out directly. Send each an email thanking them for their time and kindly ask about next steps.
9. Practice Your Interview Skills
Sending in applications and speaking with employers may lead to an interview. And if so, congrats! To prepare for any short notice interviews, brush up on your skills early. Print out a list of commonly asked interview questions and topics specific to the industry. Consider curating responses to five interview questions each morning. Before you know it, youâll be ready for any impromptu interviews that come your way.
10. Maintain Your Network
You may choose to work for one employer over the other, and employers may go with another candidate. To keep a pulse on future career opportunities, stay in touch. Down the line, these employers may want to hire you. Send each person in your network an email check-in every six months. To ensure you keep tabs on your network, create a spreadsheet with contact information and check-in notes.
Questions to Ask at a Virtual Career Fair
The key to standing out is to ask engaging questions. While 56 percent of recruiters may hire candidates that donât ask questions during an interview, 44 percent wouldnât. If you want to be seen by employers in video meetings, ask questions! Here are 10 questions to ask employers youâre interested in working with:
What surprised you the most about [company/role]?
On a typical day, what does someone in [role] do?
Can you tell me about the different stages of the hiring process?
What are the highlights and lowlights of this position/your role/company?
I read an article about [event, role, candidate, campaign]. What was it like being a part of the team during that time?
What opportunities for growth are there at [company name]?
Whatâs the biggest challenge you and your team face?
I see you donât have any openings in [position]. Do you have a forecast on upcoming roles in this industry opening up?
Who will this potential candidate report to in this role?
How does your team measure performance?
Keep reading for quick tips to mastering the art of a virtual career fair.
your budget. You may have the opportunity to grow your career while getting paid. To track these financial changes, regularly check in on your budget. You may be able to put more towards your savings, credit card debt, or investments. While building your career portfolio, you could build your financial portfolio along the way.
The post 10 Ways to Master a Virtual Career Fair (+ Questions to Ask) appeared first on MintLife Blog.
Thereâs nothing like falling in love and finding the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. But when itâs time to shop for rings, itâs easy to get discouraged by the price tags. Just how much should you spend on an engagement ring? Weâll dive into the topic and discuss ways to save on the big purchase.
Find out not: How much do I need to save for retirement?
What the Average Engagement Ring Costs
Maybe you canât buy love. But if youâre in the market for an engagement ring, youâll quickly realize that it wonât be cheap. According to the Knotâs 2016 Real Weddings Study, Americans spent an average of $6,163 on engagement rings, up from $5,871 in 2015. Wedding bands for the bride and engagement rings combined cost between $5,968 and $6,258.
If you want your wedding to happen sooner rather than later, keep in mind that on average, couples spend more than $30,000 to tie the knot. Thatâs roughly how much you can expect to pay for everything from your wedding reception and DJ to your cake and your photographer. Location matters when it comes to weddings, however, so you might be able to save some money by choosing a more affordable place to host your ceremony.
How Much Should I Spend?
Conventional wisdom says that anyone planning to propose to their partner should prepare to spend at least two or three months of their salary on an engagement ring. But spending too much isnât a good idea for various reasons.
A recent study conducted by Emory University connected pricey rings to divorce rates. Men who spent more money on rings for their fiancees were more likely to end their marriages. Thatâs a possible long-term consequence of overspending on an engagement ring. In the short term, using a large percentage of your money to buy a ring might prevent you from using those funds to pay bills or stay on top of your debt, which can hurt your credit score.
If the marriage doesnât work out and your ex-spouse decides to sell their diamond engagement ring, its value wonât be nearly as high as it was when it was first purchased. Thatâs why diamond rings can be such bad investments.
So exactly how much should you spend on an engagement ring? Itâs a good idea to make sure that the price you pay doesnât prevent you or your partner from accomplishing whatever youâre planning to achieve in the future, whether thatâs buying a house or having a child. Rather than following an old-school societal notion that says you should spend x amount of money on a ring, itâs best to spend an amount that wonât compromise your financial goals or jeopardize the status of your relationship.
How to Save on the Ring
If you donât want the engagement ring youâre buying to break the bank, itâs a good idea to learn as much as you can about the rings and what makes some more expensive than others. Diamonds are the gems most commonly used in engagement rings, and if youâre buying one for your significant other, itâs important to familiarize yourself with what jewelers refer to as the four Câs: clarity, cut, color and carat weight.
In terms of clarity, the best diamonds are flawless, meaning that they donât have any blemishes when viewed under a microscope with 10 power magnification. Since no oneâs eyesight is that powerful, you can get away with choosing a diamond with a lower clarity grade that costs less. Getting a diamond that has fewer carats (meaning that it weighs less) or getting one that isnât completely colorless can also lower its overall price.
Or donât get a diamond at all. Your partner might be just as happy with a simple band, a white sapphire or an emerald ring and it probably wonât cost as much as a diamond engagement ring. Shopping for your ring at a vintage store, looking for one online rather than in-person and getting a ring with a series of smaller stones surrounding the center stone (also known as a halo ring) are a few additional ways to save when buying a ring.
Thereâs no need to spend a fortune on an engagement ring. And you donât have to feel guilty about cutting corners in order to find one that you can afford to buy.
Like any other major purchase, itâs a good idea to take time to save up for a ring. If you have to take on more credit card debt or a personal loan in order to buy an engagement ring, itâs a good idea to find out how long itâll take to pay off your debt. It isnât wise to begin a marriage by digging yourself (and your partner) into a deep financial hole.
Tips for Getting Financially Ready for Marriage
If you havenât already, start talking about money. Itâs important to establish an open dialogue and make sure you understand and respect each otherâs money values.
You might also consider sit down with a financial advisor before the big day. A financial advisor can help you identify your financial goals and come up with a financial plan for your life as a married couple. A matching tool (like ours) can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First youâll answer a series of questions about your situation and goals. Then the program will narrow down your options from thousands of advisors to three fiduciaries who suit your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while the program does much of the hard work for you.
You probably donât need us to tell you that the earlier you start saving for retirement, the better. But letâs face it: For a lot of people, the problem isnât that they donât understand how compounding works. They start saving late because their paychecks will only stretch so far.
Whether youâre in your 20s or your golden years are fast-approaching, saving and investing whatever you can will help make your retirement more comfortable. Weâll discuss how to save for retirement during each decade, along with the hurdles you may face at different stages of life.
How Much Should You Save for Retirement?
A good rule of thumb is to save between 10% and 20% of pre-tax income for retirement. But the truth is, the actual amount you need to save for retirement depends on a lot of factors, including:
Your age. If you get a late start, youâll need to save more.
Whether your employer matches contributions. The 10% to 20% guideline includes your employerâs match. So if your employer matches your contributions dollar-for-dollar, you may be able to get away with less.
How aggressively you invest. Taking more risk usually leads to larger returns, but your losses will be steeper if the stock market tanks.
How long you plan to spend in retirement. Itâs impossible to predict how long youâll be able to work or how long youâll live. But if you plan to retire early or people in your family often live into their mid-90s, youâll want to save more.
How to Save for Retirement at Every Age
Now that youâre ready to start saving, hereâs a decade-by-decade breakdown of savings strategies and how to make your retirement a priority.
Saving for Retirement in Your 20s
A dollar invested in your 20s is worth more than a dollar invested in your 30s or 40s. The problem: When youâre living on an entry-level salary, you just donât have that many dollars to invest, particularly if you have student loan debt.
Prioritize Your 401(k) Match
If your company offers a 401(k) plan, a 403(b) plan or any retirement account with matching contributions, contribute enough to get the full match â unless of course you wouldnât be able to pay bills as a result. The stock market delivers annual returns of about 8% on average. But if your employer gives you a 50% match, youâre getting a 50% return on your contribution before your money is even invested. Thatâs free money no investor would ever pass up.
Pay off High-Interest Debt
After getting that employer match, focus on tackling any high-interest debt. Those 8% average annual stock market returns pale in comparison to the average 16% interest rate for people who have credit card debt. In a typical year, youâd expect aÂ $100 investment could earn you $8. Put that $100 toward your balance? Youâre guaranteed to save $16.
Take More Risks
Look, weâre not telling you to throw your money into risky investments like bitcoin or the penny stock your cousin wonât shut up about. But when you start investing, youâll probably answer some questions to assess your risk tolerance. Take on as much risk as you can mentally handle, which means youâll invest mostly in stocks with a small percentage in bonds. Donât worry too much about a stock market crash. Missing out on growth is a bigger concern right now.
Build Your Emergency Fund
Building an emergency fund that could cover your expenses for three to six months is a great way to safeguard your retirement savings. That way you wonât need to tap your growing nest egg in a cash crunch. This isnât money you should have invested, though. Keep it in a high-yield savings account, a money market account or a certificate of deposit (CD).
Tame Lifestyle Inflation
We want you to enjoy those much-deserved raises ahead of you â but keep lifestyle inflation in check. Donât spend every dollar each time your paycheck gets higher. Commit to investing a certain percentage of each raise and then use the rest as you please.
Saving for Retirement in Your 30s
If youâre just starting to save in your 30s, the picture isnât too dire. You still have about three decades left until retirement, but itâs essential not to delay any further. Saving may be a challenge now, though, if youâve added kids and homeownership to the mix.
Invest in an IRA
Opening a Roth IRA is a great way to supplement your savings if youâve only been investing in your 401(k) thus far. A Roth IRA is a solid bet because youâll get tax-free money in retirement.
In both 2020 and 2021, you can contribute up to $6,000, or $7,000 if youâre over 50. The deadline to contribute isnât until tax day for any given year, so you can still make 2020 contributions until April 15, 2021. If you earn too much to fund a Roth IRA, or you want the tax break now (even though it means paying taxes in retirement), you can contribute to a traditional IRA.
Your investment options with a 401(k) are limited. But with an IRA, you can invest in whatever stocks, bonds, mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) you choose.
If you or your spouse isnât working but you can afford to save for retirement, consider a spousal IRA. Itâs a regular IRA, but the working spouse funds it for the non-earning spouse.Â
Avoid Mixing Retirement Money With Other Savings
Youâre allowed to take a 401(k) loan for a home purchase. The Roth IRA rules give you the flexibility to use your investment money for a first-time home purchase or college tuition. Youâre also allowed to withdraw your contributions whenever you want. Wait, though. That doesnât mean you should.
The obvious drawback is that youâre taking money out of the market before itâs had time to compound. But thereâs another downside. Itâs hard to figure out if youâre on track for your retirement goals when your Roth IRA is doing double duty as a college savings account or down payment fund.
Start a 529 Plan While Your Kids Are Young
Saving for your own future takes higher priority than saving for your kidsâ college. But if your retirement funds are in shipshape, opening a 529 plan to save for your childrenâs education is a smart move. Not only will you keep the money separate from your nest egg, but by planning for their education early, youâll avoid having to tap your savings for their needs later on.
Keep Investing When the Stock Market Crashes
The stock market has a major meltdown like the March 2020 COVID-19 crash about once a decade. But when a crash happens in your 30s, itâs often the first time you have enough invested to see your net worth take a hit. Donât let panic take over. No cashing out. Commit to dollar-cost averaging and keep investing as usual, even when youâre terrified.
Saving for Retirement in Your 40s
If youâre in your 40s and started saving early, you may have a healthy nest egg by now. But if youâre behind on your retirement goals, now is the time to ramp things up. You still have plenty of time to save, but youâve missed out on those early years of compounding.
Continue Taking Enough Risk
You may feel like you can afford less investment risk in your 40s, but you still realistically have another two decades left until retirement. Your money still has â and needs â plenty of time to grow. Stay invested mostly in stocks, even if itâs more unnerving than ever when you see the stock market tank.
Put Your Retirement Above Your Kidsâ College Fund
You can only afford to pay for your kidsâ college if youâre on track for retirement. Talk to your kids early on about what you can afford, as well their options for avoiding massive student loan debt, including attending a cheaper school, getting financial aid, and working while going to school. Your options for funding your retirement are much more limited.
Keep Your Mortgage
Mortgage rates are historically low â well below 3% as of December 2020. Your potential returns are much higher for investing, so youâre better off putting extra money into your retirement accounts. If you havenât already done so, consider refinancing your mortgage to get the lowest rate.
Invest Even More
Now is the time to invest even more if you can afford to. Keep getting that full employer 401(k) match. Beyond that, try to max out your IRA contributions. If you have extra money to invest on top of that, consider allocating more to your 401(k). Or you could invest in a taxable brokerage account if you want more flexibility on how to invest.
Meet With a Financial Adviser
Youâre about halfway through your working years when youâre in your 40s. Now is a good time to meet with a financial adviser. If you canât afford one, a financial counselor is typically less expensive. Theyâll focus on fundamentals like budgeting and paying off debt, rather than giving investment advice.
Saving for Retirement in Your 50s
By your 50s, those retirement years that once seemed like they were an eternity away are getting closer. Maybe thatâs an exciting prospect â or perhaps it fills you with dread. Whether you want to keep working forever or retirement canât come soon enough, now is the perfect time to start setting goals for when you want to retire and what you want your retirement to look like.
Review Your Asset Allocation
In your 50s, you may want to start shifting more into safe assets, like bonds or CDs. Your money has less time to recover from a stock market crash. Be careful, though. You still want to be invested in stocks so you can earn returns that will keep your money growing. With interest rates likely to stay low through 2023, bonds and CDs probably wonât earn enough to keep pace with inflation.
Take Advantage of Catch-up Contributions
If youâre behind on retirement savings, give your funds a boost using catch-up contributions. In 2020 and 2021, you can contribute:
$1,000 extra to a Roth or traditional IRA (or split the money between the two) once youâre 50
$6,500 extra to your 401(k) once youâre 50
$1,000 extra to a health savings account (HSA) once youâre 55.
Work More if Youâre Behind
Your window for catching up on retirement savings is getting smaller now. So if youâre behind, consider your options for earning extra money to put into your nest egg. You could take on a side hustle, take on freelance work or work overtime if thatâs a possibility to bring in extra cash. Even if you intend to work for another decade or two, many people are forced to retire earlier than they planned. Itâs essential that you earn as much as possible while you can.
Pay off Your Remaining Debt
Since your 50s is often when you start shifting away from high-growth mode and into safer investments, now is a good time to use extra money to pay off lower-interest debt, including your mortgage. Retirement will be much more relaxing if you can enjoy it debt-free.
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Saving for Retirement in Your 60s
Hooray, youâve made it! Hopefully your retirement goals are looking attainable by now after working for decades to get here. But you still have some big decisions to make. Someone in their 60s in 2021 could easily spend another two to three decades in retirement. Your challenge now is to make that hard-earned money last as long as possible.
Make a Retirement Budget
Start planning your retirement budget at least a couple years before you actually retire. Financial planners generally recommend replacing about 70% to 80% of your pre-retirement income. Common income sources for seniors include:
Social Security benefits. Monthly benefits replace about 40% of pre-retirement income for the average senior.
Retirement account withdrawals. Money you take out from your retirement accounts, like your 401(k) and IRA.
Defined-benefit pensions. These are increasingly rare in the private sector, but still somewhat common for those retiring from a career in public service.
Annuities. Though controversial in the personal finance world, an annuity could make sense if youâre worried about outliving your savings.
Other investment income. Some seniors supplement their retirement and Social Security income with earnings from real estate investments or dividend stocks, for example.
Part-time work. A part-time job can help you delay dipping into your retirement savings account, giving your money more time to grow.
You can plan on some expenses going away. You wonât be paying payroll taxes or making retirement contributions, for example, and maybe your mortgage will be paid off. But you generally donât want to plan for any budget cuts that are too drastic.
Even though some of your expenses will decrease, health care costs eat up a large chunk of senior income, even once youâre eligible for Medicare coverage â and they usually increase much faster than inflation.
Develop Your Social Security Strategy
You can take your Social Security benefits as early as 62 or as late as age 70. But the earlier you take benefits, the lower your monthly benefits will be. If your retirement funds are lacking, delaying as long as you can is usually the best solution. Taking your benefit at 70 vs. 62 will result in monthly checks that are about 76% higher. However, if you have significant health problems, taking benefits earlier may pay off.
Use Social Securityâs Retirement Estimator to estimate what your monthly benefit will be.
Figure Out How Much You Can Afford to Withdraw
Once youâve made your retirement budget and estimated how much Social Security youâll receive, you can estimate how much youâll be able to safely withdraw from your retirement accounts. A common retirement planning guideline is the 4% rule: You withdraw no more than 4% of your retirement savings in the first year, then adjust the amount for inflation.
If you have a Roth IRA, you can let that money grow as long as you want and then enjoy it tax-free. But youâll have to take required minimum distributions, or RMDs, beginning at age 72 if you have a 401(k) or a traditional IRA. These are mandatory distributions based on your life expectancy. The penalties for not taking them are stiff: Youâll owe the IRS 50% of the amount you were supposed to withdraw.
Keep Investing While Youâre Working
Avoid taking money out of your retirement accounts while youâre still working. Once youâre over age 59 Â½, you wonât pay an early withdrawal penalty, but you want to avoid touching your retirement funds for as long as possible.
Instead, continue to invest in your retirement plans as long as youâre still earning money. But do so cautiously. Keep money out of the stock market if youâll need it in the next five years or so, since your money doesnât have much time to recover from a stock market crash in your 60s.
A Final Thought: Make Your Retirement About You
Whether youâre still working or youâre already enjoying your golden years, this part is essential: You need to prioritize you. That means your retirement savings goals need to come before bailing out family members, or paying for college for your children and grandchildren. After all, no one else is going to come to the rescue if you get to retirement with no savings.
If youâre like most people, youâll work for decades to get to retirement. The earlier you start planning for it, the more stress-free it will be.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to DearPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
We all have our favorite small businesses, including our go-to date night restaurant and favorite thrift store. These places serve more than great food and looks â they build jobs in the community, put children through school, and are the realization of your neighborâs dream.Â
These stores are built on hard work and love, and supply some of the best quality products you can find. Small businesses are a great sign of a thriving economy, but theyâre also the first to suffer from economic downturns, like 2020âs COVID-19 recession. This is why itâs more important than ever to find ways to support your communityâs businesses.
There are many reasons why small business success is vital. Not just for the economy but for our communities. Thatâs why Small Business Saturday (November 28) is one of our favorite times of the year, and why we collected these ways you can support small businesses without breaking the bank (or leaving the house!).
Shop Small Businesses
Shopping small is the easiest way to support community businesses and clear your holiday list. Shopping locally doesnât have to drain your wallet, either.
1. Skip the Hallmark Card and Support a Local Artist
Cards are a classic gift for any and all celebrations. Theyâre small, affordable, and easy to personalize. This year skip the grocery store and see what artists you can support while still getting beautiful and unique gifts for your family and friends.Â
Most cities will have galleries, boutiques, and even tourist shops that display locally printed and designed cards to choose from. If you donât have a shop near you, you can browse thousands of creators on Etsy to find the perfect design for each of your loved ones.Â
2. Send Gift Cards
Gift cards are perfect for acquaintances, long-distance giving, and little acts of kindness every now and then. Instead of collecting Amazon and Starbucks cards, see what your local spots have to offer.Â
Most restaurants and stores offer a gift card option, and you donât have to waste the plastic! Send your gift via email to anyone, anywhere. So go ahead and thank your first mentor for their glowing reference with a gift card to their favorite coffee shop.Â
3. Shop Throughout the Year
Itâs true that handmade products can get pricey, but youâre ultimately paying for quality. If youâre already pinching pennies for the holiday season, start thinking about next year. Buying gifts for loved ones as you find them throughout the year is the best way to collect beautiful gifts without using credit. Plus, small businesses can use the boost year-round.Â
Show Support From Home
Most of us have a budget that prevents us from buying a new wardrobe every month and eating out every weekday, so it just isnât feasible to buy from all of our favorite local artisans all of the time. That doesnât mean you donât love them, youâll just have to get creative to show your support from home.Â
4. Share Your Favorite Products
When you do buy something new, take a photo! Sharing your favorite finds online and tagging the store is a great way to promote their products and quality to your friends and family. Even if youâre not buying, sharing a wishlist or their newest product could earn them another sale or new followers.Â
âI think people forget that their voice has influence, whether they are a huge celebrity or a humble stay at home mom. Itâs amazing just what one post can do for small business.â â Autumn Grant, The Kind Poppy
5. Write a Review
You should let the world know when you find a shop you love. From Google and Yelp to a company Facebook page, leave a review to let others know theyâre in good hands. Positive reviews are some of the best tools businesses have to convert sales.Â
âThese types [local] of businesses live and die by word of mouth. Their reviews are everything to them. Now that everyone can look up the average rating of a business or service, it’s vital for businesses to collect positive, honest reviews.â â Dan Bailey, WikiLawn Lawn Care
If you do leave reviews, detailed thoughts and photos perform the best. These give the consumer plenty of information and help your review seem authentic. Plus, reviews can help platforms like Etsy and Google know the business is valued.Â
6. Refer a Friend
Tell your friends when you find a new shop or service and share the love. Your friends trust you and likely have a lot of shared interests, so this word of mouth is a great way for businesses to earn customers.Â
âA referral is the single best compliment to a business owner. Trust me.â â Brian Robben, Robben Media
If you have friends and family from out of town you may also want to keep your favorite businesses in mind for when they visit. Keep a list of local restaurants, cafes, services, and shops that they canât get anywhere else and take your friends on a local tour.Â
Keep in Touch
Businesses have more ways than ever to keep you in the know, so make sure youâre subscribed to keep in touch! Newsletters and social media are a good way to keep your local faves and their promotional offers top of mind.Â
7. Sign-up For Newsletters
Most businesses send regular emails to notify you and other customers of their store details and deals. Newsletters are great ways to find coupons, sales, and new items youâll adore. Just subscribing isnât enough, though. Make sure you actually read their news and whitelist the email so you never miss a thing.Â
8. Follow and Interact With Their Social Channels
Social media is another easy way to stay in the know; it can also organically promote a business. When you follow a business, platforms learn more about who else may be interested in their offers. Stay active and like and comment on their posts, too, to increase their visibility and trust with other shoppers.Â
9. Swing By the Shop
Ultimately, the best way to support a business is to stop by and visit. You never know when something will catch your eye, and itâs a great way to share your find with friends. You may also get the chance to talk with the owner and learn more about the business while sharing your support.Â
âDrop a note to them of encouragement. Tell them why you love them and what they mean to you and the community…We’ve been absolutely floored when people have taken time out of their day to write us a note, telling us how much they like us/our product.â â Meaghan Tomas, Pinch Spice Market
No matter the product or service, small business owners will appreciate hearing that you love their shop and can benefit from your support. Tag a friend, buy a gift card, or write a review to help your favorite stores without busting your budget.Â
Small Business Administration | G1veÂ
The post 9 Ways to Support Small Businesses Without Breaking the Bank appeared first on MintLife Blog.
Prepping for a new baby’s arrival might kick your nesting instinct into high gear, as you make sure everything is just right before the big day. One thing to add to your new-baby to-do list is figuring out how to financially prepare for maternity leave if you’ll be taking time away from work.
Lauren Mochizuki, a nurse and budgeting expert at personal finance blog Casa Mochi, took time off from work for the births of both her children. Because she had only partial paid leave each time, she says a budget was critical in making sure money wasn’t a source of stress.
“The purpose of budgeting for maternity leave is to have enough money saved to replace your income for your desired leave time,” Mochizuki says.
But the question “How do I budget for maternity leave?” is a big one. One thing’s for sureâthe answer will be different for everyone, since not everyone’s leave or financial situation is the same. What matters most is taking action early to get a grip on your finances while there’s still time to plan.
Before you get caught up in the new-baby glow, here’s what you need to do to financially prepare for maternity leave:
1. Estimate how long you’ll need your maternity budget to last
To financially prepare for maternity leave, you need to know how long you plan to be away from work without pay.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave from work per year for certain family and medical reasons, including for the birth of a child. Some employers may also offer a period of paid leave for new parents.
When estimating how long you’ll need your maternity budget to last, Mochizuki says to consider how much unpaid leave you plan to take based on your personal needs and budget. For example, you could find you’re not able to take the full period offered by FMLA after reviewing your expenses (more on that below) and how much you have in savings.
Even if your employer does offer paid maternity leave, you may decide to extend your time at home by supplementing your paid leave with unpaid time off, Mochizuki says.
Keep in mind that despite all of your budgeting for maternity leave, your health and the health of your baby may also influence how much unpaid time off you take and how long your maternity leave budget needs to stretch.
As you’re financially preparing for maternity leave, make sure your spouse or partner is also considering what benefits may be available to them through their employer. Together you should know what benefits are available for maternity or paternity leave, either paid or unpaid, and how to apply for them as you jointly navigate the budgeting for maternity leave process. You can then decide how to coordinate the amount of time each of you should take and when that leave should begin.
Contact your HR department to learn about your company’s maternity leave policy, how to apply for leave and whether there are any conditions you need to meet to qualify for leave. Ask if you’re able to leverage sick days, vacation days or short-term disability for paid maternity leave.
2. Babyproof your budget
When budgeting for maternity leave, make sure you review your current monthly budget to assess how budgeting for a new baby fits in.
In Mochizuki’s case, she and her husband added a category to save for maternity leave within their existing budget for household expenses (e.g., mortgage, utilities, groceries).
“We treated it as another emergency fund, meaning we had a goal of how much we wanted to save and we kept working and saving until we reached that goal,” Mochizuki says.
As you financially prepare for maternity leave, consider the following questions:
What new expenses need to be added to your budget? Diapers, for instance, can cost a family around $900 per year, according to the National Diaper Bank Network. You may also be spending money on formula, bottles, wipes, clothes and toys for your new one, all of which can increase your monthly budget. And don’t forget the cost of any new products or items that mom will need along the way. Running the numbers with a first-year baby costs calculator can help you accurately estimate your new expenses and help with financial planning for new parents.
Will any of your current spending be reduced while you’re on leave? As you think about the new expenses you’ll need to add when budgeting for maternity leave, don’t forget the ones you may be able to nix. For example, your budget may dip when it comes to commuting costs if you’re not driving or using public transit to get to work every day. If you have room in your budget for meals out or entertainment expenses, those may naturally be cut if you’re eating at home more often and taking it easy with the little one.
3. Tighten up the budgetâthen tighten some more
Once you’ve evaluated your budget, consider whether you can streamline it further as you financially prepare for maternity leave. This can help ease any loss of income associated with taking time off or counter the new expenses you’ve added to your maternity leave budget.
Becky Beach, founder of Mom Beach, a personal finance blog for moms, says that to make her maternity leave budget workâwhich included three months of unpaid leaveâshe and her husband got serious about reducing unnecessary expenses.
Cut existing costs
As you budget for maternity leave, go through your existing budget by each spending category.
“The best tip is to cut costs on things you don’t need, like subscriptions, movie streaming services, new clothes, eating out, date nights, etc.,” Beach says. “That money should be earmarked for your new baby’s food, clothes and diapers.”
Cutting out those discretionary “wants” is an obvious choice, but look more closely at other ways you could save. For example, could you negotiate a better deal on your car insurance or homeowner’s insurance? Can you better plan and prep for meals to save money on food costs? How about reducing your internet service package or refinancing your debt?
Find ways to earn
Something else to consider as you budget for maternity leave is how you could add income back into your budget if all or part of your leave is unpaid and you want to try and close some of the income gap. For example, before your maternity leave starts, you could turn selling unwanted household items into a side hustle you can do while working full time to bring in some extra cash and declutter before baby arrives.
Reduce new costs
As you save for maternity leave, also think about how you could reduce expenses associated with welcoming a new baby. Rather than buying brand-new furniture or clothing, for example, you could buy those things gently used from consignment shops, friends or relatives and online marketplaces. If someone is planning to throw a baby shower on your behalf, you could create a specific wish list of items you’d prefer to receive as gifts in order to offset costs.
4. Set a savings goal and give every dollar a purpose
When Beach and her husband saved for maternity leave, they set out to save $20,000 prior to their baby’s birth. They cut their spending, used coupons and lived frugally to make it happen.
In Beach’s case, they chose $20,000 since that’s what she would have earned over her three-month maternity leave, had she been working. You might use a similar guideline to choose a savings goal. If you’re receiving paid leave, you may strive to save enough to cover your new expenses.
As you make your plan to save for maternity leave, make sure to account for your loss of income and the new expenses in your maternity leave budget. Don’t forget to factor in any savings you already have set aside and plan to use to help you financially prepare for maternity leave.
Once you’ve come up with your savings target, consider dividing your maternity savings into different buckets, or categories, to help ensure the funds last as long as you need them to. This could also make it harder to overspend in any one category.
For instance, when saving for maternity leave, you may leverage buckets like:
“The purpose of budgeting for maternity leave is to have enough money saved to replace your income for your desired leave time.”
Budgeting for maternity leaveâand beyond
Once maternity leave ends, your budget will evolve again as your income changes and new baby-related expenses are introduced. As you prepare to go back to work, review your budget again and factor in any new costs. For example, in-home childcare or daycare may be something you have to account for, along with ongoing healthcare costs for new-baby checkups.
Then, schedule a regular date going forward to review your budget and expenses as your baby grows. You can do this once at the beginning or end of the month or every payday. Take a look at your income and expenses to see what has increased or decreased and what adjustments, if any, you need to make to keep your budget running smoothly.
Budgeting for maternity leave takes a little time and planning, but it’s well worth the effort. Knowing that your finances are in order lets you relax and enjoy making memoriesâinstead of stressing over money.
The post What You Need to Know About Budgeting for Maternity Leave appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.