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

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Term Life vs. Whole Life Insurance: Which Is Best for You?

A smiling mother lays on her bed with two smiling young children. They are looking at a tablet together.

Taking out a life insurance policy is a great
way to protect your family’s financial future. A policy can also be a useful
financial planning tool. But life insurance is a notoriously tricky subject to
tackle.

One of the hardest challenges is deciding
whether term life or whole life insurance is a better fit for you.

Not sure what separates term life from whole
life in the first place? You’re not alone. Insurance industry jargon can be
thick, but we’re here to clear up the picture and make sure you have all the
information you need to make the best decision for you and your family.

Life Insurance = Financial
Protection for Your Family

Families have all sorts of expenses: mortgage payments, utility bills, school tuition, credit card payments and car loan payments, to name a few. If something were to happen and your household unexpectedly lost your income or your spouse’s income, your surviving family might have a difficult time meeting those costs. Funeral expenses and other final arrangements could further stress your family’s financial stability.

That’s where life insurance comes in. Essentially, a policy acts as a financial safety net for your family by providing a death benefit. Most forms of natural death are covered by life insurance, but many exceptions exist, so be sure to do your research. Death attributable to suicide, motor accidents while intoxicated and high-risk activity are often explicitly not covered by term or whole life policies.

If you die while covered by your life
insurance policy, your family receives a payout, either a lump sum or in
installments. This is money that’s often tax-free and can be used to meet
things like funeral costs, financial obligations and other personal expenses.
You get coverage in exchange for paying a monthly premium, which is often
decided by your age, health status and the amount of coverage you purchase.

Don’t
know how much to buy? A good rule of thumb is to multiply your yearly income by
10-15, and that’s the number you should target. Companies may have different
minimum and maximum amounts of coverage, but you can generally find a
customized policy that meets your coverage needs.

In addition to the base death benefit, you can enhance your coverage through optional riders. These are additions or modifications that can be made to your policy—whether term or whole life—often for a fee. Riders can do things like:

  • Add coverage for disability or deaths not commonly
    covered in base policies, like those due to public transportation accidents.
  • Waive future premiums if you cannot earn an income.
  • Accelerate your death benefit to pay for medical bills
    your family incurs while you’re still alive.

Other
riders may offer access to membership perks. For a fee, you might be able to
get discounts on goods and services, such as financial planning or health and
wellness clubs.

One
final note before we get into the differences between term and life: We’re just
covering individual insurance here. Group insurance is another avenue for
getting life insurance, wherein one policy covers a group of people. But that’s
a complex story for a different day.

Term Life Policies Are Flexible

The “term” in “term life” refers to
the period of time during which your life insurance policy is active. Often,
term life policies are available for 10, 20, 25 or 30 years. If you die during
the term covered, your family will be paid a death benefit and not be charged any future
premiums, as your policy is no longer active. So, if you were to die in year 10
of a 30-year policy, your family would not be on the hook for paying for the
other 20 years.

Typically, your insurance cannot be canceled
as long as you pay your premium. Of course, if you don’t make payments, your coverage will lapse, which typically
will end your policy. If you want to exit a policy you can cancel during an
introductory period. Generally speaking, nonpayment of premiums will not affect your credit score, as
your insurance provider is not a creditor. Given that, making payments on your
life policy won’t raise your credit score either.

The major downside of term life is that your
coverage ceases once the term expires. Ultimately, once your term expires, you need to reassess
your options for renewing, buying new coverage or upgrading. If you were to die
a month after your term expires, and you haven’t taken out a new policy, your
family won’t be covered. That’s why some people opt for another term policy to
cover changing needs. Others may choose to convert their term life into a
permanent life policy or go without coverage because the same financial
obligations—e.g., mortgage payments and college costs—no longer exist. This
might be the case in your retirement.

The Pros and Cons of Term Life

Even though term life insurance lasts for a
predetermined length of time, there are still advantages to taking out such a
policy:

  • Comparably lower cost: Term life is usually the more affordable type of life insurance, making it the easiest way to get budget-friendly protection for your family. A woman who’s 34 years old can buy $1 million in coverage through a 10-year term life policy for less than $50 a month, according to U.S. News and World Report. A man who’s 42 can purchase $1 million in coverage through a 30-year term for just over $126 a month.
  • Good choice for mid-term financial planning: Lots of families take out a term life policy to coincide with major financial responsibilities or until their children are financially independent. For example, if you have 20 years left on your mortgage, a term policy of the same length could provide extra financial protection for your family.
  • Upgrade if you want to: If you take out a term life policy, you’ll likely also get the option to convert to a permanent form of life insurance once the term ends if your needs change. Just remember to weigh your options, as your rates will increase the older you get. Buying another term life policy at 50 years old may not represent the same value as a whole life policy at 30.

There are some drawbacks to term life:

  • Coverage is temporary: The biggest downside to
    term life insurance is that policies are active for only so long. That means
    your family won’t be covered if something unexpected happens after your insurance
    expires.
  • Rising premiums: Premiums for term life
    policies are often fixed, meaning they stay constant over the duration of the
    policy. However, some
    policies may be structured in a way that seems less costly upfront but feature
    steadily increasing premiums as your term progresses.

Young Families Often Opt for Term Life

The rate you pay for term life insurance is
largely determined by your age and health. Factors outside your control may influence the rates you
see, like demand for life insurance. During a pandemic, you might be paying
more if you take a policy out amid an outbreak.

Most consumers seeking term life fall into
younger and healthier demographics, making term life rates among the most
affordable. This is because
such populations present less risk than a 70-year-old with multiple chronic
conditions. In the end, your rate depends on individual factors. So if
you’re looking for affordable protection for your family, term life might be
the best choice for you.

Term life is also a great option if you want a
policy that:

  • Grants you some flexibility for
    future planning, as you’re
    not locked into a lifetime policy.
  • Can replace your or your spouse’s
    income on a temporary basis.
  • Will cover your children until
    they are financially stable on their own.
  • Is active for the same length as
    certain financial responsibilities—e.g., a car loan or remaining years on a
    mortgage.

Whole Life Insurance Offers
Lifetime Coverage

Like with term life policies, whole life
policies award a death benefit when you pass. This benefit is decided by the
amount of coverage you purchase, but you can also add riders that accelerate
your benefit or expand coverage for covered types of death.

The biggest difference between term life and
whole life insurance is that the latter is a type of permanent life insurance.
Your policy has no expiration date. That means you and your family benefit from
a lifetime of protection without having to worry about an unexpected event
occurring after your term has ended.

The Pros and Cons of Whole Life

As if a lifetime of coverage wasn’t enough of
advantage, whole life insurance can also be a highly useful financial planning
tool:

  • Cash value: When you make a premium payment on
    your whole life policy, a portion of that goes toward an account that builds
    cash up over time. Your
    family gets this amount in addition to the death benefit when their claim is
    approved, or you can access it while living. You pay taxes only when the money
    is withdrawn, allowing for tax-deferred growth of cash value. You can
    often access it at any time, invest it, or take a loan out against it. However, be aware that anything
    you take out and don’t repay will eventually be subtracted from what your
    family receives in the end.
  • Dividend payments: Many life insurance
    companies offer whole life policyholders the opportunity to accrue dividends
    through a whole life policy. This works much like how stocks make dividend
    payments to shareholders from corporate profits. The amount you see through a dividend payment is
    determined by company earnings and your provider’s target payout ratio—which is
    the percentage of earnings paid to policyholders. Some life insurance
    companies will make an annual dividend payment to whole life policyholders that
    adds to their cash value.

Some potential downsides to consider include:

  • Higher cost: Whole life is more expensive than
    term life, largely because of the lifetime of coverage. This means monthly
    premiums that might not fit every household budget.
  • Interest rates on cash value loans: If you need emergency extra
    money, a cash value loan may be more appealing than a standard bank loan, as
    you don’t have to go through the typical application process. You can also get
    lower interest rates on cash value loans than you would with private loans or
    credit cards. Plus, you don’t have to pay the balance back, as you’re basically
    borrowing from your own stash. But if you don’t pay the loan back, it will be
    money lost to your family.

Whole Life Is Great for Estate Planning

Who stands to benefit most from a whole life
policy?

  • Young adults and families who can
    net big savings by buying a whole life policy earlier.
  • Older families looking to lock in
    coverage for life.
  • Those who want to use their policy
    as a tool for savings or estate planning.

To that last point, whole life policies are particularly advantageous in overall financial and estate planning compared to term life. Cash value is the biggest and clearest benefit, as it can allow you to build savings to access at any time and with little red tape.

Also,
you can gift a whole life policy to a grandchild, niece or nephew to help
provide for them. This works by you opening the policy and paying premiums for
a set number of years—like until the child turns 18. Upon that time, ownership
of the policy is transferred to them and they can access the cash value that’s
been built up over time.

If you’re looking for another low-touch way to leave a legacy, consider opening a high-yield savings account that doesn’t come with monthly premium payments, or a normal investment account.

What to Do Before You Buy a
Policy

Make sure you take the right steps to finding
the best policy for you. That means:

  • Researching different life insurance companies and their policies, cost and riders. (You can start by reading our review of Bestow.)
  • Balancing your current and long-term needs to best protect your family.
  • Buying the right amount of coverage.

If you’re interested in taking next steps, talk to your financial advisor about your specific financial situation and personal needs.

Infographic explaining the difference between term and whole life insurance policies.

The post Term Life vs. Whole Life Insurance: Which Is Best for You? appeared first on Credit.com.

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Why You Need ExtraCredit in Your Life

What do you need your credit score for? In a nutshell, a lot. Credit cards, loans, mortgages, APR, even renting an apartment—whether or not you qualify is based largely on your credit score. If your credit is less-than-ideal, you know it can make your life just that much harder.   

Having a bad credit score can hold you back. It can keep you from feeling in control of your life. You might feel like you’re in a vicious cycle: you apply for credit to improve your score, get denied, suffer a hard inquiry, watch your credit score drop and try again. And it starts over.

We get it. And we want to help. Enter ExtraCredit, the newest product from Credit.com. ExtraCredit is a comprehensive credit solution, with specific and encompassing features that helps you with every dimension of your credit. 

But ExtraCredit isn’t your typical credit solution. Think of it as a lifestyle change. Think of it as a way for you to take your life back. 

Check Out ExtraCredit

What’s ExtraCredit?

ExtraCredit is your one-stop-shop for all things credit. Need identity protection? ExtraCredit’s got it covered. Want a look at your FICO® Score? Sure! An exclusive discount with one of the leaders in credit repair? Yep, we’ve got that too. Ready to add more to your credit? We’ve got your back. ExtraCredit is here for you, no matter what your credit score is. ExtraCredit helps you own your life—starting with your credit. 

ExtraCredit has five features, each created to help you get where you want to be. Here’s the lowdown on each: 

Reward It

So you decided to sign up for ExtraCredit. Smart choice! Because you’ve made such a smart choice, we’ll send you an ExtraCredit card loaded with $5. That’s real money. And that’s what Reward It is all about.

It doesn’t end there. When you sign up with ExtraCredit, we start sending relevant financial offers your way. Let’s say you get approved for one of those financial offers. That’s a big deal! And we want to celebrate with you. Which is why we’ll load your ExtraCredit card with up to $200. That’s right—up to two hundred dollars. All for you, because of your smart financial decisions. 

Learn More about Reward It

Track It

There are a lot of credit scores out there. And there are a lot of apps and services that claim to have the score. You know, the one and only completely accurate score you need. But the thing is, that doesn’t exist. So the score you might be seeing on one of those other apps isn’t the same as the FICO® Score that lenders see. In fact, you have at least 28 credit scores. That’s a lot to keep track of.

That’s where Track It comes in. ExtraCredit will keep track of your 28 FICO credit scores, so you can keep track of every single one. But it goes one step further by showing you what each score is used for. Plus, you’ll get access to your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

Learn More about Track It

Guard It

Here are some statistics for you: in 2019, 14.4 million consumers were victims of identity fraud. Sure, that might not sound like a lot of people. But when you realize that it comes out to about 1 in 15 people, it feels like a much bigger threat. In total, 33% of adult Americans have been victims of identity theft. 

You might think that you’ve got all the protection you need. And maybe you have set up a few precautions here and there. But criminals nowadays are smart. Just look at those stats! They know what they’re doing. But don’t sweat it—so do we. Guard It’s here to save the day.

Guard It provides services to keep you nice and safe. There’s Dark Web Monitoring, which will continually scan hidden websites and file-sharing networks for data breaches. Then there’s Compromised Account Monitoring that’ll catch unauthorized bank changes and accounts opened with a stolen identity. And last, but not least, there’s Identity Theft Insurance. That’ll help protect you from financial danger with a $1,000,000 policy. Better safe than sorry. 

Learn More about Guard It

Build It

We all know that credit card payments play a major role in your credit score. But that’s just half the story. What about all the other bills that you pay, like rent and utilities? Shouldn’t those count? We definitely think so, which is where Build It comes in.

Build It uses Rent & Utility reporting to match transactions from your bank account. Think about that for a second—Build It will help you add more to your credit profile whenever you pay your rent on-time. How easy is that? 

From there, Build It continues to report your payments to all three major credit bureaus each month. 

Learn More about Build It

Restore It

So your credit’s not where you want it to be. And you need help. The good news is, you’re in the right place. Restore It will connect you with one of the leaders in credit repair. You’ll get an exclusive discount for CreditRepair.com, a credit repair service that has a killer track record. If they are not available in your area, you will get that discount with another leader in credit repair.

Learn More about Restore It

The Breakdown

Okay, we know that there are a lot of credit solutions out there. You’ve probably seen other services, like credit repair, ID protection and credit monitoring. But here’s the thing—no one offers a comprehensive service like ExtraCredit. 

With ExtraCredit, you get five killer features all wrapped up in a box with a bow on top. Here’s a breakdown of how much the ExtraCredit services would typically cost on their own:

  • Basic Credit Repair: $24.95+ 
  • Rent Reporting: $9.99 
  • ID Protection: $34.99
  • FICO Scores: $19.99

Altogether, that’d add up to a cool $89.92. But with ExtraCredit you get all five services at $24.99 a month, plus real cash back for select offers. 

The Bottom Line

Sure, there are a lot of credit solutions out there. But here’s the thing—ExtraCredit impacts every dimension of your credit. So you could go with one-dimensional services provided by the other guys. Or you could go with ExtraCredit, which offers so much more than the basics.

ExtraCredit is here for you. It’s like a team of credit pros, all focused on monitoring your credit and satisfying your credit score needs. All you have to do is sit back, relax and let ExtraCredit do the work. 

ExtraCredit is the last credit solution you’ll ever need. Join the revolution today.

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Source: credit.com

Credit 101: What Is Revolving Utilization?

Aerial view of a young woman with brown hair contemplating her revolving utilization. She has a pen in her mouth and an open notebook on her desk.

According to Experian, the average credit score in the United States was just over 700 in 2019. That’s considered a good credit score—and if you want a good credit score, you have to consider your revolving utilization. Revolving utilization measures the amount of revolving credit limits that you are currently using, and it accounts for a large portion of your credit score.

Find out more about what revolving utilization is, how to manage it, and how it impacts your credit score below.

What Is Revolving Credit?

To understand revolving utilization, you first have to understand revolving credit. Revolving credit accounts are those that have a “revolving” balance, such as credit cards.

When you are approved for a credit card, you are given a credit limit. If you have a credit card with a limit of $1,000 and you use it to buy $200 worth of goods, you now have a $200 balance and an $800 remaining credit limit.

Now, if you pay that $200, you again have $1,000 of open credit. If you pay $150, you have $950 of open credit. But your credit revolves between balance owed and how much open credit you have available to use. How much you have to pay each month—known as the minimum payment—depends on how much your balance owed is.

Other forms of revolving credit include lines of credit and home equity lines of credit. They work similar to credit cards.

What Isn’t Revolving Credit?

Unlike revolving credit, installment loans involve taking out a lump sum and paying it back in an agreed-upon fashion over a set term of months or years. Typically, you agree to pay a certain amount per month for a certain number of months to cover the amount you borrowed plus any interest.

With an installment loan, the amount of your monthly payment is determined by your loan agreement, not the balance due. Common types of installment loans include vehicle loans, personal loans, student loans, and mortgages.

What Is Revolving Utilization?

Revolving utilization, also known as “credit utilization” or your “debt-to-limit ratio,” relates only to revolving credit and isn’t a factor with installment loans. Utilization refers to how much of your credit balance you’re using at a given time.

Here’s how to determine your individual and overall credit utilization:

  1. Look at your credit reports and identify all of your revolving accounts. Each of these accounts has a credit limit (the most you can spend on that account) and a balance (how much you have spent).
  2. To calculate individual utilization percentage on an account, divide the balance by the credit limit, and multiply that number by 100.
    1. $500/$1,000 = 0.5
    2. 5*100 = 50%
  3. To calculate overall utilization (all revolving accounts), add up all of the credit limits (total credit limit) and all of the balances (total spent) on your revolving accounts. Divide the total balance by total credit limit, and multiply that number by 100.

If you have a credit card with a $1,000 credit limit and a balance of $500, your utilization rate is 50%, for example. For the same card, if you have a balance of $100, your utilization rate is 10%.

When it comes to your credit score, revolving utilization is typically calculated in total. For example:

  • You have one card with a limit of $1,000 and a balance of $500.
  • You have a second card with a limit of $4,000 and a balance of $400.
  • You have a third card with a limit of $3,000 and a balance of $600.
  • Your total credit limit across all three cards is $8,000.
  • Your total utilization across all three cards is $1,500.
  • Your revolving utilization is around 19%.

How Can You Reduce Revolving Utilization?

You can reduce revolving utilization in two ways. First, you can pay down your balances. The less you owe, the less your utilization will be.

Second, you can increase your credit limit. If you apply for a new credit card but don’t use it, you’ll have more open credit, and that can reduce your utilization. You might also be able to ask your credit card company to review your account for a credit increase if you’re an account holder in good standing.

Find the Right Credit Card for You

What Is Revolving Utilization’s Impact on Your Credit Score?

Your revolving utilization rate does impact your credit. It’s the second-largest factor in the calculation of your credit score. Your utilization rate accounts for around 30% of your score. The only factor more important is whether you make your payments on time.

Why is credit utilization so important to your score? Because to lenders, it can say a lot about you as a borrower.

If you’re currently maxed out on all your existing credit, you may be struggling to pay your debts. Or you might not be managing your debts in the most responsible fashion. Either way, lenders might see you as a riskier investment and be less inclined to approve you for loans or other credit.

How Do You Know If You Have a Revolving Utilization Problem?

Sign up for Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card. It provides a snapshot of your credit report and gives you a grade for each of the five areas that make up your score. That includes payment history, credit utilization, age of credit, credit mix, and inquiries. The credit report card makes it easy for you to see what might be negatively affecting your credit score.

You can also sign up for ExtraCredit, an exciting new product from Credit.com. With an ExtraCredit account, you get a look at 28 of your FICO scores from all three credit bureaus—plus exclusive discounts and cashback offers as well as other features—for less than $25 a month.

Sign Up Now

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