Financial Lessons Learned During the Pandemic

2020 has shaped all of us in some way or another financially. Whether it is being reminded of the importance of living within our means or saving for a rainy day, these positive financial habits and lessons are timeless and ones we can take into the new year. 

While everyone is on a very unique financial journey, we can still learn from each other. As we wrap up this year, it’s important to reflect on some of these positive financial habits and lessons and take the ones we need into 2021. Here are some of the top financial lessons:

Living Within Your Means

It’s been said for years, centuries even, that one should live within one’s means. Well, I think a lot of people were reminded of this financial principle given the year we’ve had. Living within your means is another way of saying don’t spend more than you earn. I would take it one step further to say, set up your financial budget so you pay yourself first. Then only spend what is leftover on all the fun or variable items.

Setting up your budget in the Mint app or updating your budget in Mint to reflect the changes in your income or expenses is a great activity to do before the year ends. Follow the 50/20/30 rule of thumb and ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you spending more than you earn?
  • Are there fixed bills you can reduce so you can save more for your financial goals? 
  • Can you reduce your variable spending and save that money instead?

The idea is to find a balance that allows you to pay for your fixed bills, save automatically every month and then only spend what is left over. If you don’t have the money, then you cannot use debt to buy something. This is a great way to get back in touch with reality and also appreciate your money more. 

Have a Cash Cushion

Having a cash cushion gives you peace of mind since you know that if anything unexpected comes up, which of course always happens in life, you have money that is easy to liquidate to pay for it versus paying it with debt or taking from long-term investments. Having an adequate cash cushion this year offered some people a huge sigh of relief when they lost their job or perhaps had reduced income for a few months. With a cash cushion or rainy day fund, they were still able to cover their bills with their savings.

Many people are making it their 2021 goal to build, replenish, or maintain their cash cushion.  Typically, you want a cash cushion of about 3- 6 months of your core expenses. Your cash cushion is usually held in a high-yield saving account that you can access immediately if needed. However, you want to think of it almost as out of sight out of mind so it’s really there for bigger emergencies or opportunities that come up.

Asset Allocation 

Having the right asset allocation and understanding your risk tolerance and timeframe of your investments is always important. With a lot of uncertainty and volatility in the stock market this year, more and more people are paying attention to their portfolio allocation and learning what that really means when it comes to risk and returns. Learning more about which investments you actually hold within your 401(k) or IRA is always important. I think the lesson this year reminded everybody that it’s your money and it’s up to you to know.

Even if you have an investment manager helping you, you still need to understand how your portfolio is allocated and what that means in terms of risk and what you can expect in portfolio volatility (ups and downs) versus the overall stock market. A lot of people watch the news and hear the stock market is going up or down, but fail to realize that may not be how your portfolio is actually performing. So get clear. Make sure that your portfolio matches your long term goal of retirement and risk tolerance and don’t make any irrational short term decisions with your long-term money based on the stock market volatility or what the news and media are showcasing.

Right Insurance Coverage

We have all been reminded of the importance of health this year. Our own health and the health of our loved ones should be a top priority. It’s also an extremely important part of financial success over time. It is said, insurance is the glue that can hold everything together in your financial life if something catastrophic happens. Insurances such as health, auto, home, disability, life, long-term care, business, etc. are really important but having the right insurance policy and coverage in place for each is the most important part.

Take time and review all the insurance coverage you have and make sure it is up to date and still accurate given your life circumstances and wishes. Sometimes you may have a life insurance policy in place for years but fail to realize there is now a better product in the marketplace with more coverage or better terms. With any insurance, it is wise to never cancel a policy before you a full review and new policy to replace it already in place. The last thing you want is to be uninsured. Make sure you also have an adequate estate plan whether it’s a trust or will that showcases your wishes very clearly. This way, you can communicate that with your trust/will executor’s, beneficiaries, family members, etc. so they are clear on everything as well. 

Financial lessons will always be there. Year after year, life throws us challenges and successes to remind us of what is most important. Take time, reflect, and get a game plan in place for 2021 that takes everything you have learned up until now into account. This will help you set the tone for an abundant and thriving new financial year. 

The post Financial Lessons Learned During the Pandemic appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

What Is a SEP IRA and How Does It Work?

SEP IRA stands for Simplified Employee Pension Individual Retirement Account. (Many people mistakenly think “SEP” stands for “Self-Employed”.) It’s a retirement plan that an employer or self-employed individuals can establish. This account is primarily for…

The post What Is a SEP IRA and How Does It Work? appeared first on Crediful.

Source: crediful.com

My Biggest Financial Mistake – Missing Retirement Contributions In My 20s

Setting up automatic contributions to your 401k or Roth IRA doesn’t just set you up for retirement; it lowers your stress. Boy, I wish I’d done it sooner.Setting up automatic contributions to your 401k or Roth IRA doesn’t just set you up for retirement; it lowers your stress. Boy, I wish I’d done it sooner.

The post My Biggest Financial Mistake – Missing Retirement Contributions In My 20s appeared first on Money Under 30.

Source: moneyunder30.com

How to Save for Retirement Without Your Employer’s Help

How to Save for Retirement Without Your Employer's Help

Saving for retirement is easy to put off, but delaying ultimately can make your life harder. Even if your work does not provide any retirement savings plan, you can still make it happen. It may seem frustrating to watch your friends add up their matching 401(k) contributions, but you do not have to be any further from post-work bliss than they are. Check out these tips on saving for retirement without your employer’s help.

Identify Your Goal

Carefully consider how you plan to live after you leave work so you can calculate how much savings you need for retirement. Once you have an amount in mind, you can figure out a realistic payment plan to reach it. A good rule of thumb is stashing 10% to 15% of your income for retirement. If that isn’t affordable, you can start with a smaller amount and grow your savings from there. One tactic is to just get started with a number you can afford and increasing your savings by 1% every year.

Know Your Options

Even without employer help, there are plenty of ways to save for retirement. An IRA, or individual retirement account, is the most common non-employer plan and opening one should be your first step in most cases. Contributions to a traditional IRA are tax-deductible, while nondeductible Roth IRAs are tax-free on withdrawal so investigate carefully which is best for you. Before investing, consider the risks, timing, fees and your liquidity needs — a financial professional can help you construct a portfolio.

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Put Your Savings on Autopilot

No matter what type of account you use, it’s a good idea to have the amount automatically transferred from your checking account once you get paid. This way you cannot make a decision that something else is more important than retirement saving and you can more easily stick to your commitment. It is also a good idea to increase your monthly deposit with every raise or bonus so you will likely have what you need to retire how and when you want.

The most important part about retirement planning is saving early and often — whether you have help from your employer or not, it’s important to get educated about retirement saving and take control of your finances. You can establish and maximize your retirement fund no matter how difficult or far away it may seem.

More Money-Saving Reads:

  • What’s a Good Credit Score?
  • What’s a Bad Credit Score?
  • How Credit Impacts Your Day-to-Day Life

Image: iStock

The post How to Save for Retirement Without Your Employer’s Help appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

How Much Life Insurance Do I Really Need?

Since it doesn’t have an immediate benefit – like health or auto insurance – life insurance may be the most underestimated insurance type there is. But if you die, life insurance will likely be the single most important policy type you’ve ever purchased.

And that’s why you have to get it right. Not only do you need a policy, but you need the right amount of coverage. Buying a flat amount of coverage and hoping for the best isn’t a strategy. There are specific numbers that go into determining how much life insurance you need. There are even numbers that can reduce the amount you need.

Calculate what that number is, compare it with any life insurance you currently have, and get busy buying a policy to cover the amount you don’t have. I’ll not only show you how much that is, but also where you can get the lowest cost life insurance possible.

How to Calculate How Much Life Insurance You Need

To make it easier for you to find out how much life insurance you need we’re providing the life insurance calculator below. Just input the information requested, and the calculator will do all the number crunching for you. You’ll know exactly how much coverage you’ll need, which will prepare you for the next step in the process – getting quotes from top life insurance companies.

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Now that you have an idea how much life insurance you need, the next step is to get quotes from top life insurance companies for their best life insurance products. And the best way to get the most coverage for the lowest premium is by getting quotes from several companies. Use the quote tool below from our life insurance partner to get those offers:

What to Consider when Purchasing Life Insurance

To answer the question of how much life insurance do I need, you’ll first need to break down the factors that will give you the magic number. You can use a rule of thumb, like the popularly quoted buy 10 times your annual income, but that’s little more than a rough estimate. If you use that as your guide, you may even end up paying for more coverage than you need, or worse – not have enough insurance.

Let’s take a look at the various components that will give you the right number for your policy.

Your Basic Living Expenses

If you’re not using budget software to track this number, a good strategy is to review and summarize your expenses for the past 12 months.

When you come up with that number, the next step is to multiply it by the number of years you want your life insurance policy to cover.

For example, let’s say your youngest child is five years old and you want to be able to provide for your family for at least 20 years. If the cost of your basic living expenses is $40,000 per year, you’ll need $800,000 over 20 years.

Now if your spouse is also employed, and likely to remain so after your death, you can subtract his or her contribution to your annual expenses.

If your spouse contributes $20,000 per year to your basic living expenses, you can cut the life insurance requirement in half, allowing $400,000 to cover basic living expenses.

But in considering whether or not your spouse will continue to work after your death, you’ll need to evaluate if that’s even possible. For example, if you have young, dependent children, your spouse may need to quit work and take care of them.

Alternatively, if you have a non-working spouse, there’ll be no contribution from his or her income toward basic living expenses.

In either case, your need to cover basic living expenses will go back up to $800,000.

Providing for Your Dependents

It may be tempting to assume your dependents will be provided for out of the insurance amount you determine for basic living expenses. But because children go through different life stages, there may be additional expenses.

The most obvious is providing for college education. With the average cost of in-state college tuition currently running at $9,410 per year, you may want to gross that up to $20,000 to allow for books, fees, room and board and other costs. You can estimate a four-year cost of $80,000 per child. If you have two children, you’ll need to provide $160,000 out of life insurance.

Now it may be possible that one or more of your children may qualify for a scholarship or grant, but that should never be assumed. If anything, college costs will be higher by the time your children are enrolled, and any additional funds you budget for will be quickly used up.

Life insurance is an opportunity to make sure that even if you aren’t around to provide for your children’s education, they won’t need to take on crippling student loan debts to make it happen.

But apart from college, you may also need to provide extra life insurance coverage for childcare. If your spouse does work, and is expected to continue even after your death, care for your children will be necessary.

If childcare in your area costs $12,000 per year per child, and you currently have a nine-year-old and a 10-year-old, you’ll need to cover that cost for a total of five years, assuming childcare is no longer necessary by age 12. That will include three years for your nine-year-old and two years for your 10-year-old. It will require increasing your life insurance policy by $60,000 ($12,000 X five years).

Paying Off Debt

This is the easiest number to calculate since you can just pull the balances from your credit report.

The most obvious debt you’ll want paid off is your mortgage. Since it’s probably the biggest single debt you have, getting it paid off upon your death will go a long way toward making your family’s financial life easier after you’re gone.

You may also consider paying off any car loans you or your spouse have. But you’ll only be paying off those loans that exist at the time of your death. It’s likely your spouse will need a new car loan in a few years. Use your best judgment on this one.

But an even more important loan to pay off is any student loan debt. Though federal student loans will be canceled upon your death, that’s not always true with private student loans. Unless you know for certain that your loan(s) will be canceled, it’s best to make an additional allowance to pay them off.

Credit cards are a difficult loan type to include in a life insurance policy. The reason is because of the revolving nature of credit card debt. If your death is preceded by an extended period of incapacitation your family may turn to credit cards to deal with uncovered medical expenses, income shortfalls, and even stress-related issues. An estimate may be the best you can do here.

Still another important category is business debts, if you have any. Most business debts require a personal guarantee on your part, and would be an obligation of your estate upon your death. If you have this kind of debt, you’ll want to provide for it to be paid off in your policy.

Covering Final Expenses

These are the most basic reasons to have life insurance, but in today’s high cost world, it’s probably one of the smallest components of your policy.

When we think of final expenses, funeral costs quickly come to mind. An average funeral can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000, depending on individual preferences.

But funeral costs are hardly the only costs associated with total final expenses.

We’ve already mentioned uncovered medical costs. If you’re not going to include a provision for these elsewhere in your policy considerations, you’ll need to make a general estimate here. At a minimum, you should assume the full amount of the out-of-pocket costs on your health insurance plan.

But that’s just the starting point. There may be thousands of dollars in uncovered costs, due to special care that may be required if your death is preceded by an extended illness.

A ballpark estimate may be the best you can do.

Possible Reductions in the Amount of Life Insurance You Need

What’s that? Reductions in the amount of life insurance I need? It’s not as out-in-orbit as you may think – even though any life insurance agent worth his or her salt will do their best to ignore this entirely. But if you’re purchasing your own life insurance, you can and should take these into consideration. It’s one of the ways you can avoid buying more life insurance than you actually need.

What are some examples of possible reductions?

Current financial assets.

Let’s say you calculate you’ll need a life insurance policy for $1 million. But you currently have $300,000 in financial assets. Since those assets will be available to help provide for your family, you can deduct them from the amount of life insurance you’ll need.

Your spouse’s income.

We’ve already covered this in calculating your basic living expenses. But if you haven’t, you should still factor it into the equation, at least if your spouse is likely to continue working.

If you need a $1 million life insurance policy, but your spouse will contribute $25,000 per year (for 20 years) toward your basic living expenses, you’ll be able to cut your life insurance need in half.

But be careful here! Your spouse may need to either reduce his or her work schedule, or even quit entirely. Either outcome is a possibility for reasons you might not be able to imagine right now.

What About a Work Related Life Insurance Policy?

While it may be tempting to deduct the anticipated proceeds from a job-related life insurance policy from your personal policy, I urge extreme caution here.

The basic problem is employment related life insurance is not permanent life insurance. Between now and the time of your death, you could change jobs to one that offers a much smaller policy. You might even move into a new occupation that doesn’t provide life insurance at all.

There’s also the possibility your coverage may be terminated because of factors leading up to your death. For example, if you contract a terminal illness you may be forced to leave your job months or even years before your death. If so, you may lose your employer policy with your departure.

My advice is to consider a work policy as a bonus. If it’s there at the time of your death, great – your loved ones will have additional financial resources. But if it isn’t, you’ll be fully prepared with a right-sized private policy.

Example: Your Life Insurance Requirements

Let’s bring all these variables together and work an example that incorporates each factor.

Life insurance needs:

  • Basic living expenses – $40,000 per year for 20 years – $800,000
  • College education – $80,000 X 2 children – $160,000
  • Childcare – for two children for 5 years at $12,000 per year – $60,000
  • Payoff debt – mortgage ($250,000), student loans ($40,000), credit cards ($10,000) – $300,000
  • Final expenses – using a ballpark estimate – $30,000
  • Total gross insurance need – $1,350,000

Reductions in anticipated life insurance needs:

  • Current financial assets – $300,000
  • Spouse’s contribution toward living expenses – $20,000 per year for 20 years – $400,000
  • Total life insurance reductions – $700,000

Based on the above totals, by subtracting $700,000 in life insurance reductions from the gross insurance need of $1,350,000, leaves you with $650,000. At that amount, your family should be adequately provided for upon your death, and the amount you should consider for your life insurance policy.

Once again, if you have life insurance at work, think of it as a bonus only.

The Bottom Line

Once you know how much life insurance you need, it’s time to purchase a policy. Now is the best time to do that. Life insurance becomes more expensive as you get older, and if you develop a serious health condition, it may even be impossible to get. That’s why I have to emphasize that you act now.

Crunch the numbers to find out how much life insurance you need, then get quotes using the quote tool above. The sooner you do, the less expensive your policy will be.

The post How Much Life Insurance Do I Really Need? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps Explained

Whereas Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps have often been dissected one at a time, my goal in this post is to give an overview of the steps as a unit and explain why the order is essential.

dave ramsey baby steps explained

Hopefully, these steps can help you create a focused life plan for your finances, regardless of your age or financial well being.

First, the Baby Steps:

  • Step 1: $1,000 in an emergency fund.
  • Step 2: Pay off all debt except the house utilizing the debt snowball.
  • Step 3: Three to six months of savings in a fully funded emergency fund.
  • Step 4: Invest 15% of your household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement plans.
  • Step 5: College Funding
  • Step 6: Pay off your home early.
  • Step 7: Build wealth and give.

The Power of Focus

Dave’s premise with the Baby Steps is that people can accomplish great things IF they can just be focused. When you read over these seven steps, you think, “Yes. I need to be saving. But I also need to be investing for retirement. I should get my house paid off early. But I also need to be getting out of debt and saving for my kid’s college.”

You would readily agree that all of these goals are important for successful financial planning. The problem is that your stress level kicks into overdrive with the prospect of doing them all. You clench your jaw and do what you are capable of doing while feeling anxious about the goals you place on the back burner.

The Baby Steps plan works because when you stay focused on one step at a time, you can knowingly put some important goals on hold without the nagging feeling that you are leaving something undone.

You can also check out my YouTube video where I break down each of Dave’s Baby Steps here:

Why?

Because accomplishing each step puts you in a great position to accomplish the next one.

You begin to feel an empowerment and a sense of control as you get one step behind you and start the next one. You are making progress instead of treading water.

Why Are the Baby Steps in the Order They Are In?

Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps

Steps 1 and 2: $1,000 Emergency Fund and Debt Snowball

Notice that Steps 3 through 7 are all about using your money to do something positive for you and your family. Of course this money comes from your income, but the problem with most of America is that we are using our income on debt payments.

Because we are paying others instead of ourselves, we need to get rid of our debt (Step 2) in order to free up our income for Steps 3-7.

Ask yourself,

“What if I could use all the money I am currently paying to creditors to start “paying myself”?

For many people this is $1,000 to $3,000 a month.

Baby Step 2 debt snowball is designed to do just that. Step 1 is necessary before Step 2 because you don’t want to start paying off debt without having a small cushion to absorb the little unplanned expenses that will occur during Step 2.

Step 3: 3 to 6 months of Savings

After completing the first two steps, you are out of debt (except for your house) and now have that cash flow you dreamed about: all of the money you used to pay others is at your disposal. The temptation is to start investing for retirement or saving for your kid’s college or pay off your house early.

NOT SO FAST! You will get to those, but doing so prematurely is way too risky.

Stop, take a deep breath and use that cash flow to build up your emergency fund so you will indeed be ready for emergencies. This fund needs to be liquid (in a top savings account or money market account).

If you skipped the step and started any of the ensuing steps, how would you handle emergencies? Pull money from your retirement account? Rob the kid’s college savings? Borrow money against your house? All bad ideas.

Step 3 is therefore always ahead of the following steps

Steps 4, 5, and 6: Saving for Retirement, College Funding, Pay Off Home

dave ramsey baby steps

You may be asking,

“Why is retirement ahead of college funding? Wouldn’t a good parent put his children ahead of himself?”

Good question. But what if you end up without sufficient retirement income because you made college funding a higher priority? Who will you be depending on in your later years? Your kids!

The thing about retirement planning is that you only get one shot at it. The years go by and you will someday be retirement age. You don’t have a choice. On the other hand, college funding is full of choices: kids can get scholarship, they can work, they can attend community colleges, they can find work/co-op programs, etc, etc.

Step 4 is therefore ahead of step 5. But notice that Step 4 is 15% of your income. If you have cash flow greater than 15% you can apply that to college funding immediately, and if you have more than enough cash flow to accomplish both steps 4 and 5, you can use all of the extra to pay off your house early (step 6).

Note that Step 6 comes behind retirement and college funding because reversing the order could possibly give you a paid for house at the expense of a dignified retirement or helping your kids through college. Most of us wouldn’t want that.

Not sure where to start investing for retirement? Here are some tips:

  • Best Places to Open a Roth IRA – Figuring out where to start investing your 15% of income can be confusing. A great place to start is a Roth IRA, but deciding a broker is confusing. This list will help you pick the best broker for your Roth IRA.
  • Best Online Stock Broker Sign Up Bonuses – You can get hundreds of dollars or thousands of airline miles just for opening up a brokerage account.
  • Beginner Investing Strategies – If you’ve never invested before it can be overwhelming. This list breaks down getting started into manageable pieces.

Step 7: Build wealth and give.

Life is now very good! You have no debt, a great emergency fund, and a paid for house. All of the cash flow that used to go toward debt reduction and house payments is now at your disposal.

This, by the way, is the step Mandy and I are on. Being semi-retired, we don’t have a huge income, but it is very sufficient because we also don’t have any debt. We continue to invest every month and we are able to give more than we have ever given before.

Once we got our house paid off, we started to budget “bless” money, which we put into an envelope every month just to have available so we can bless others as we see the needs. We are also able to help our grown daughter and daughter-in-law cash flow their college.

As I said, life is good. Mandy and I are experiencing great financial peace and we are very grateful for Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps.

I wish the same for you.

This article is a general overview of what Dave Ramsey has to offer and is not intended to replace his course, nor is this sponsored or endorsed by Dave Ramsey or the Lampo Group.

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Source: goodfinancialcents.com