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You’re contributing to your workplace retirement account–that’s great! But how are you dealing with the taxes of the money you can contribute. There are two ways you put money into your 401(k) retirement plan– pretax or Roth.
Pretax contributions are the traditional form of 401(k). This means contributions come out of your paycheck before taxes, and are your distributions in retirement are taxed. This is useful if you’re earning more now than you plan to in retirement. Plus, you lower your taxable income in the present!
Think of the Roth 401(k) as the rebellious little sister of the pretax 401(k). Introduced in the early 2000s, it takes the tax treatment of a Roth IRA and applies it to your employer-sponsored plan. That means contributions come out of your paycheck before taxes, and distributions in retirement are tax-free. That means you don’t pay taxes on your investment growth!
Let’s look at the similarities (and differences) between the two retirement contribution types.
If you’re a small business owner and need a 401(k) or Roth 401(k) plan for yourself and your company, only Ubiquity offers flat-fee plans plus free expert advice. We’ll fully customize your 401(k) to meet the specific needs of your small business.
The news headlines may have you feeling financially defensive. It’s natural to feel nervous about 401(k) contributions, even though the current laws allow 401(k) contributors to borrow from their plans without penalty. But is your situation dire enough to warrant a reduction in savings for your future?
Signs You May Need to Pause Your 401(k) Contributions
Conventional wisdom dictates that you treat your retirement fund as a non-negotiable expense. Of course, these are unprecedented times of crisis. If you have no other alternatives and at least half these factors apply to you, a short-term pause may be enough to keep you afloat:
Your income dropped, but your expenses didn’t go down. Sit down and look at your current spending and budget. Consider other ways of reducing expenses temporarily.
You’re falling deeper into credit card debt. Credit card debt can snowball quickly with high interest rates. If you’re missing minimum payments, the penalties can add substantially onto what you owe. Some financial institutions offer debt relief programs and fee waivers to get you out of the crisis without impacting your 401(k).
You’re very close to retirement. If you were planning to retire in the very near future, you may not want to add another year or two of work. Check to make sure you’re not overexposed to riskier equity investments. Instead of cutting your contributions, you may consider shifting over to less-risky investment choices like stocks and bonds.
Your employer suspended matching contributions. Employer matching makes 401(k) savings particularly lucrative. If your employer has suspended matching contributions, it’s less expensive to halt your savings in favor of paying down debt with that money instead.
You have no emergency fund and are at risk of losing your job outright. If you’re worried about losing your job, skipping a few paychecks’ worth of retirement savings can give you the cash reserves you need to temporarily pay for living expenses, should you suddenly lose your job.
Once you’re in recovery mode, consider doubling down on your contributions to catch up.
Reasons Not to Stop Contributing to Your 401(k) – And Maybe Ramping Up
Market volatility is troubling, but consider staying the course or even ramping up if:
You have plenty of time to retirement. People in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s have plenty of time to see a rebound and recoup any present losses.
You are looking to maximize your portfolio. In fact, now might be the perfect time to load up on quality investments at rock bottom prices. Stocks are on sale. Shares are cheap. You may have had your eye on a few different investments, but the acquisition price was too high. Now many prices have come down on investments that can only go back up as the economy recovers.
You like the idea of paying less in taxes this year. Remember, retirement savings lowers your tax liability. For most retirement plans, the money put in reduces the amount of income you’re taxed on, allowing your money to grow tax-free as well.
You’re spending less. Right now, you are not spending money on tickets for sports, concerts, movies, or museums. There’s no money spent at the bar, shopping for clothes, or vacations. Without all these drains on our cash reserves, the timing has never been better to invest more into your retirement, allowing this money to mature and grow your nest egg.
What to Do If Your Employer Cuts Its 401(k) Match
During the last financial crisis, over 200 U.S. companies suspended or reduced their 401(k) matches, affecting 4.9% of all participants. Fortunately, three-quarters of companies reinstated their match within a couple of years.
The consequences can be painful for savers, though; just one year of missing $4,040 in employer match (the average contribution), assuming 7% returns over 30 years would result in $30,753 in lost earnings.
If your employer has cut their 401(k) match:
Focus on damage control first. If you need money to put food on the table or keep a roof over your head, it’s okay to build your emergency cash reserves.
If you can, boost your contributions. If your job is secure, consider increasing your contributions to make up for the missing match. You might also consider opening up an IRA in addition to your 401(k) to take advantage of more investment choices and lower fees.
The Bottom Line
A short-term dip shouldn’t affect your long-term savings goals. That said, it’s worth checking your account periodically to see if you should consider adjusting your strategy to better align with your unique goals and risk tolerance.
There is no substitute for a quick consultation with a professional financial adviser. If you are interested in staying the course and starting or switching a 401(k) plan for small business, you can count on Ubiquity for affordable plans at a flat, fixed rate, with no AUM fees.
Since 2007, America Saves Week has been an annual celebration as well as a call to action for everyday Americans to commit to saving successfully. To celebrate, we’re sharing a guest post from their contributor and executive editor of WiseBread Janet Alvarez, taking a closer look at how paying off debt and retirement can coexist.
Conventional wisdom says you should pay off your credit cards before saving for retirement. While it’s generally true you should pay off high-interest credit card debt as quickly as possible, there are a few situations where retirement savings should come first. Let’s look at the benefits of each approach.
Benefits of Paying Off Credit Cards First
Credit cards usually mean high-interest debt, and the longer you take to clear it, the more you’ll pay in interest. Here are some key reasons why you should pay off credit cards first:
High-interest credit card debt can be hard to make a dent in. If you’re not making more than the minimum payment on your credit card, compounding interest means your balance will barely budge. Even if you never use the card again, you will end up making payments for a long time.
If you’ve got credit card debt, your finances might be strained. High credit card debt is usually an indicator that you’re living above your means. You should get your spending and budget under control before investing in retirement.
High-interest debt rates are usually higher than market returns. If your credit cards carry a 25 percent interest rate, but a retirement fund is likely to only earn about 8 percent per year in the market, that’s a whopping difference of 17 percent that you’d be missing out on by saving for retirement instead of paying down credit cards.
Benefits of Saving for Retirement While Paying Off Cards
Still, saving for retirement is critical, and there are several reasons why you might wish to do so even if it takes you longer to pay down high-interest cards. Among these are:
401(k)s and other retirement vehicles carry tax benefits. You can contribute to 401(k)s and certain other retirement plans using pre-tax dollars, thereby reducing your adjusted gross income and overall tax burden. This frees up extra cash for other purposes, such as credit card debt repayment.
The earlier you start saving for retirement, the better. Delaying retirement savings means missing out on months or years of compound interest. The longer you wait, the more likely you’ll end up pinching pennies in your 50s as you try to catch up on retirement savings. Compounding interest allows even people who never make big salaries to end up with comfortable nest eggs—but only if they start saving early.
Saving for retirement builds good financial habits. Socking money away for retirement is not only essential to your financial future, but it also helps you develop better money habits today. In doing so, you’ll learn how to budget better and address the sources of your debt. Plus, retirement accounts are usually difficult to raid (they often carry fees and penalties for early withdrawal). These extra hurdles discourage you from accessing this cash until you actually need it for retirement.
Cut through the complexity of choosing and customizing the right 401(k) for your small business. Get an instant quote.
Deciding whether to pay off credit cards or save for retirement first is a complex, personal issue. However, there are some special circumstances that suggest a clear direction:
Your employer offers a 401(k) match. A retirement savings match is free money. Even if you have high-interest credit cards, save at least the minimum required to get your full employer match, or you’re leaving money on the table.
Your credit cards have low-interest rates. If you’re able to carry or transfer your credit card debt on low or zero percent APR cards, then it makes sense to save for retirement while paying these off, since your low interest rates mean debt won’t snowball quickly—assuming you’re not making new purchases that add to existing debt.
You’re age 50 or older. If you’re 50 or older, savings are critical because you’re that much closer to retirement, and have less time to save or allow money to compound. Plus, savers 50 or older are allowed extra catch-up contributions to their retirement plans.
You’re buying a house or applying for credit. If you’re applying for a mortgage or other forms of credit in the foreseeable future, you’ll want your credit card balances low, and your credit score as high as possible.
Paying off credit card debt and saving for retirement are both important financial goals.
Often, they can even be achieved simultaneously. Regardless of which one you pick, commit today to setting aside extra cash each month to achieve your financial goal.
Janet Alvarez is the news anchor for WHYY/NPR and the Executive Editor of Wise Bread, an award-winning consumer education publication focused on helping consumers make smarter credit choices.
Disclaimer: Guest posts and comments represent the diversity of opinion within the financial world. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Ubiquity Retirement + Savings who shall not be held liable for any inaccuracies presented.
We spoke our partners, the investment professionals at Kaye Captial Management, to deep dive into retirement savings strategies for surviving the market’s ups and downs.
In general, how do market downturns impact 401(k) accounts?
Investing in the stock market comes with inherent risks, including market volatility. One key to mitigating these risks is to take a long-term approach to investing. Retirement plans, like 401(k)s, should be seen as long-term investments that can handle market downturns, especially for younger participants. Think about the mountain of a stock market graph—although there are fluctuations downward, the general trend is positive. As such, sit tight with market downturns, because a well-diversified portfolio should net a positive return over the long term.
For individuals closer to retirement, choose assets with less risk to maintain principal. Because you have a shorter time horizon, selecting lower risk assets may not generate a high yield, but should help you retire comfortably by preserving principal.
How should 401(k) investors react to market volatility?
Market fluctuations are part of the game when it comes to investing. If you are properly diversified and you are able to stomach the volatility, you will be better off in the long-term.
Participants who are not in target-date funds or models should rebalance their portfolios during market volatility to make sure their accounts have appropriate risk parameters.
How does market volatility impact retirement savers over 50, or those close to retirement?
Market volatility is more impactful for those over 50 because they have a shorter time horizon for investment than younger participants. However, those over 50 tend to know what it’s like to go through market fluctuations, so they understand that although the market can be is volatile short-term, investing for the long-term can contribute to the growth of your nest egg. A participant over 50 is better served to invest in less-risky assets to preserve their principal. By doing so, they mitigate the potential for a major crash just before retirement.
People close to retirement do not have the luxury of waiting out volatility. Older savers should look at their total portfolio risk exposure and decide if they are comfortable with the risks they are taking in their portfolios.
What steps should retirement savers take now to prepare for a potential market downturn?
Rebalance your portfolios, or ensure your investment third party accommodates automatic rebalancing, to ensure proper diversification to mitigate short-term market downturns. Modern portfolio theory dictates that diversifying your portfolio among asset classes allows for a much more consistent and stable return on investment. Rebalancing annually also ensures the participant that they are properly diversified.
Savers should consistently monitor their portfolios and rebalance them to the correct risk tolerance they believe is right for them. You cannot predict a market turndown, but you can prepare by ensuring your portfolio has the appropriate amount of risk for the return you expect.
Generally, how important a consideration is age when planning for retirement as part of a couple? Is this something couples tend to overlook?
Investing early, and often as a couple, can dramatically impact your success for retirement and is often overlooked at a young age. Compounding interest generated over time benefits those who save early and can put you well ahead of your peers, helping you retire on time.
More important than age is creating a financial plan and sticking to it. Understanding where your money is going on a daily basis and creating a plan for the future is necessary for success. Each person is different; some want to work until they are 70 while others want to retire at 60. Creating a plan and sticking to it will help couples identify the best time to retire.
This blog serves as information material from Kaye Capital Management (“KCM”) and does not serve as investment advice or recommendations by KCM or Ubiquity Retirement + Savings (“KCM”). Please remember that past investment performance is not be indicative of future results. Different types of investments are associated with varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by Kaye Capital Management (“KCM”), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this newsletter will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful. Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from KCM or Ubiquity. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing. Both Ubiquity and KCM are neither law firms nor certified public accounting firms and no portion of the newsletter content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the KCM’s current written disclosure Brochure discussing their independent advisory services and fees is available upon request. Ubiquity is not affiliated with any independent services you may solicit from KCM.
This week we were excited to announce the launch of CensiblyYours® Financial Wellness Tools, our newest innovation to help small business employers and employees make the most of their retirement plan and improve their overall financial health.
As part of our new suite of offerings, we’re providing participating savers access to Edukate, a fintech benefits platform that empowers employees through personalized financial education and guidance. So what exactly is financial wellness and how does it create a more productive, engaged workforce? We sat down with the experts at Edukate to discuss how investing in your employees’ financial well-being can set your business apart in the marketplace.
Define what financial wellness means to Edukate.
The concept of financial wellness can be a bit overwhelming as there are a number of definitions out there.
At Edukate, we believe financial wellness is the relationship between a person and their money.
A financially healthy employee is actively managing their day to day spending, is confident as to how they can protect themselves from future unexpected life events and is saving for their financial freedom.
How can companies adopt and promote financial wellness in 2019?
Open enrollment isn’t the only time you can make a difference in how your employees interact with their benefits.
Platforms like Edukate are breaking the mold of having to roll out benefits during open enrollment. The majority of Edukate’s plans are implemented outside of an open enrollment period.
When you’re looking for a financial wellness benefit, it’s important to find a platform that meets the specific needs of your organization.
For example, if employees aren’t participating in your 401(k), find out why. Employees may cite reasons such as not fully understanding the program or that they have other financial concerns they want to address first.
A strong financial wellness platform for your organization can educate users on how to use their 401(k) program and how they can tackle other debts or financial stressors to be able to start participating.
Typically, employees only hear about voluntary benefits right after launch or when they’re just starting at a company. To keep employees engaged, we recommend quarterly campaigns to ensure employees understand and feel empowered to use their benefits.
What are the key components to a company’s financial wellness program?
Like any benefit, a financial wellness program should be easy to access, administer, and use.
At Edukate, we focus on three key areas for success.
The first is employee engagement. Many employees never engage with their benefits because they’re boring and uninviting. By offering personalized guidance and interactive content, we’ve rethought employee engagement from the ground up.
The next is platform scalability. Edukate makes it easy to customize your employees’ experience, communicate with them, and get in-depth insights into how they are doing.
Lastly, is system integration. We are a one-stop benefits destination for employees by providing guidance for financial challenges and connecting them with the employer benefits that matter to them most— all while cultivating a culture of positive wellness.
Why is financial wellness important for employee retention?
There are plenty of statistics about how financial stress affects employee engagement and productivity.
When an employee is disengaged at work, the organization suffers. Lackluster productivity, absenteeism, and negative attitudes are common side effects.
When you offer benefits that employees need and want, they’re more likely to use them.
And if those benefits can help employees reduce their financial stress, productivity and engagement increases. When employees feel empowered by their benefits offerings, sentiments about their employer increase as well.
For some employees, this favorable perception of their employer drives loyalty to the organization.
The same survey also found that many employees would prefer more robust benefits offerings over an increase in salary.
Happy employees are productive employees.
How does achieving financial wellness work in tandem with saving for retirement?
Edukate’s approach to financial wellness is to help employees navigate every aspect of their financial lives, including managing their spending and saving habits, preparing for the future, and saving for retirement.
By helping employees address their financial stressors and feel more confident with their financial decisions, we believe that employees can better prepare for the future.
As employees learn about their personal finances, Edukate recommends existing employer benefits like retirement accounts to help them achieve their goals.
How does Edukate help promote financial wellness, and what inspired the company to pursue this mission?
Edukate was created with a belief that traditional retirement and financial education are broken and that there were better ways to help employees achieve their financial goals.
At Edukate, we empower employees to practice confident decision making to best utilize the benefits that matter to them most.
We accomplish this by offering an exceptional online platform that connects employees with education, tools, and benefits most relevant to their needs.
What has been the biggest barrier for small business to provide financial wellness benefits?
Even though financial wellness benefits can provide a positive return on investment, securing budget for a new benefits platform can be tough.
When working with small businesses, we work to find ways to rollout financial wellness in phases to different employee groups to give HR managers room to grow the program over time.
Why was a partnership with Ubiquity important to your company?
Partnering with Ubiquity offered Edukate a way to scale a financial wellness resource to smaller employers.
We recognize the need for small business owners to provide robust benefits to their employees. Nearly 90% of employees in the US work for employers with fewer than 20 employees.
Because retirement planning is one of the key focus areas of Edukate’s platform, partnering with Ubiquity helps us connect employees with the resources they need to fully prepare for retirement.
This blog serves as information material from Edukate and does not serve as investment advice or financial recommendations by Edukate or Ubiquity Retirement + Savings (“Ubiquity”). To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with and independent professional advisor. Both Ubiquity and Edukate are neither law firms nor certified public accounting firms and no portion of the newsletter content should be construed as legal or accounting advice.
Financial management – especially for small businesses – can be a daunting task. That is why at Ubiquity we have made it our purpose to help make your retirement savings work for you. Our organization specializes in selling 401(k) plans to small businesses and entrepreneurs.
401(k) plans help small businesses attract and retain the best of the best employees. More importantly, small business owners can make good financial sense with a 401(k) plan without incurring additional training requirements and risk associated with inexperienced workers.
Since 1999, we have established several diversified 401(k) plans to help grow small businesses. We pride ourselves on each retirement consultant having knowledge and experience in retirement savings and financial management. Our unparalleled commitment to helping our clients is unmatchable.
That is why during this Financial Literacy Month, we offer these exclusive tips to help you in your business growth.
#1. Simplify your accounting process with streamlined tools.
The most crucial aspect that comes with owning a small business is the accounting process. It involves accurately documenting financial transactions in a comprehensive and systematic manner. The steps involved include:
Opening a bank account
Tracking your expenses
Developing a bookkeeping system
Setting up a payroll system
Analyzing any import taxes
Coming up with ways to be paid by clients
Establishing sale tax procedures
Calculating your gross margins, and
Evaluating your business methods.
Accounting is of paramount importance as it helps put complicated financial transactions in a format that can be easily understood. Not surprisingly, it can definitely also be one of the most boring and annoying parts of running your own business. In fact, almost half of small business owners said bookkeeping was their least favorite task.
And the more time the business owners spent running their businesses, the more they loathed the task — 58 percent of business owners working 60 or more hours a week said that bookkeeping was particularly draining.
This process entails estimating future sales. Every business must anticipate its viability in the coming years in order to make adjustments accordingly. Since 1999, Ubiquity has helped many small businesses to make informed retirement decisions based on long and short-term performance.
It is easier for any profit-oriented organization to forecast its future by use of its past sales data. This begs the question, “what about new businesses that do not have sufficient past sales information?” Of course, these setups can use advanced methods such as competitive intelligence and market research techniques to make a sales forecast.
#3. Tighten up your cash flow management
Cash flow management, as the name suggests, involves tracking the money coming in and out of a business. This process helps in the prediction of how much money will be in your company in the future. Notably, it helps to know how much money a small business will need to cover its debts. The process entails:
Measuring the cash flow
Managing payables, and
Cash flow management is vital because it helps business owners in maintaining running capital. It’s important to know your breakeven point (where your revenues meet youur expenses) and to pay attention to it as you grow your business.
#4. Streamline your human capital management
Human capital is a fancy term used to skill and experience gained by individuals that is crucial to a small business. It involves a measure of education, capacity, skills, and attributes that affect an employee’s earning potential and productivity capacity. Luckily there are an incredibly wide range of cloud-based solutions to help simplify your all your HR tasks. Make sure to take your time when comparing HR solutions and review all the details to make sure you find a product that gives you exactly what your small business needs.
#5. Keep Up With Paper Work
The Power of Balance Sheets and Profit Loss Statements
Balance sheets are an accounting tool which is a statement of business’s liabilities, assets, and equity at a particular point of time. In simple terms, it explicitly provides a financial position (net worth) of a small business at a moment in time. This data helps keep track of company performance because it covers all the operations of a business.
A Profit Loss Statement (sometimes called a P&L statement) outlines the costs, expenses, and revenues incurred during a certain period. This duration can either be a fiscal or calendar period, quarterly or annual interval. It is synonymous to the income statement and outlines an organization’s financial position. Sometimes people confuse P&L statement with a balance sheet, but as you can see, they are nothing alike.
Overall, the aspects above are very crucial for any business, but especially for the small business owner.
It’s no secret that the life of a small business owner is a lot of work. Especially in situations where you only have a few employees (or none at all), you have to act like the Swiss army knife of your business––ready for anything and prepared for any situation. So, why add the hassle of having to pay for and run a retirement plan along with everything else? You might even wonder, is my business too small to for a 401(k) plan?
Here’s the scoop: A 401(k) is no longer a benefit reserved exclusively for large businesses with budgets to match.
There are budget-friendly, easy-to-use 401(k) solutions designed specifically for small businesses. Small business owners can now take advantage of the business tax benefits of a 401(k) plan and offer competitive retirement plan benefits for employees.
Not too familiar with 401(k) plans? No problem.
What is a small business 401(k)?
First things first: A 401(k) plan is a type of company retirement plan under Section 401(k) of the Internal Revenue Code. That part isn’t so important — here’s what is: A 401(k) allows you to save for retirement by putting away money on a pre-tax basis, which helps you to lower your taxable income. What’s that mean to you? It means you’ll get less of a tax bite on your annual salary in the short term, while your long-term investments grow tax-free until you’re ready to retire. Some 401(k) plan providers (including Ubiquity) also offer an after-tax (Roth) option, which means you won’t be taxed at the time you withdraw that money because you’ve already paid taxes on it.
A small business 401(k) is defined as a 401(k) plan for a company with anywhere from one to 100 employees. Here at Ubiquity, we specialize in the retirement plan needs of small and growing businesses, including owner-only and start-up businesses.If your business only employs you, your spouse or partner, and employees who would not be eligible to participate in a plan, a Single(k)® plan would your best option.
Myth #1: 401(k) plans are too expensive for small businesses.
It’s true that many 401(k) plans are designed to only suit larger businesses. But the growing trend is to offer efficient, Web-based 401(k) plans that are more affordable to businesses of all shapes and sizes. Plans cost less than a daily latte, and employers have options for splitting costs with their employees.
Myth #2: 401(k) plans require an employer match.
An employer match or profit-sharing contribution is entirely optional with a 401(k). If you choose to offer this feature to your employees, it could help to boost participation. Keep in mind that employer contributions are also tax-deductible for your business.
Myth #3: Our employees won’t participate because they don’t make enough money.
There is no minimum contribution required with a 401(k). Offering an employer match can provide additional incentive for your employees to participate in the plan.
Myth #4: It’s too complicated.
Starting a 401(k) plan doesn’t have to be convoluted. With the right plan, you can get a new plan running in just a few hours of your time. And it’s easy to manage, with tools and reports available right at your fingertips.
Today we’re sharing a guest post about how to be smart with your finances this holiday season from our friends at America Saves. Read on for some great tips!
The holidays are just around the corner, which means it’s time to enjoy vacations, catch up with family and old friends, and eat great food. While the holidays are about quality time and making memories, it’s easy to get caught up with spending money. Here are 5 holiday mistakes to avoid this year so you can enjoy the season with your finances intact:
1. You’re shopping without a budget or list.
It’s incredibly kind to get each of your relatives, colleagues, and in-laws thoughtful presents and cards to show them your appreciation, but your wallet might be crying for help after your first few purchases. One of the biggest financial mistakes you can make during the holidays is shopping without a spending plan.
When you’re shopping for loved ones, you’re imagining how happy they’ll be when they receive your gift. But remember, financial responsibilities don’t go on vacation during the holidays. Create a budget for your holiday spending. Once you know how much you can afford to spend, create a list that fits your budget.
2. You’re volunteering your home, food, and car to everyone.
If you’re the person that always offers food, transportation, and lodging to everyone, you might want to try a new approach this year. It’s thoughtful to go the extra mile during the holidays, but don’t stretch yourself or your pockets too thin.
Consider splitting the responsibilities with your friends and family. You might not think you’re overspending by being so accommodating, but the more people there are in your home, the more likely you are to receive a high utility bill at the end of the month. You’ll also be surprised at how many trips you might have to make to the grocery store to restock on food, drinks, and toiletries.
You can suggest hosting a potluck style gathering this year. With a potluck, each guest is responsible for bringing at least one dish, beverage, or party supply. At a minimum, you’ll save money on food and drinks. If you need napkins or disposable utensils and plates, you can make one guest responsible for those items as well.
If you have a ton of relatives who need to be picked up from the airport or train station, see if you can rope in other family members to help with pick-ups and drop-offs. This will help you save on gas, time, and energy.
Splitting responsibilities will help you enjoy the holidays without being completely stressed out.
3. You’re shopping too late.
So you’ve created your list and a tight budget, that’s great! Don’t wait until the last minute to actually make your purchases. By then, sales may be over and supplies will be limited.
Start your shopping early so you can snag deals while they’re still available. When you have ample time to cross items off your list, you’ll have time to compare prices and bargain hunt. Some stores offer price matching, so keep that in mind as you start shopping and placing your online orders.
Time is of the essence. Shopping early will give you time to figure out what you actually need and get those items at the best price. When you wait until the last minute, you’re much more likely to bust your budget because you’ll just be rushing to cross people off your list instead of specific items that fall within your budget. Here are some tips to help you save while you shop.
4. You’re relying on your credit cards.
Do your best NOT to rely on your credit cards during the holidays. If you can’t afford to buy it now, don’t create a bill for yourself later. Once the holidays are over, you’ll be faced with a potential mountain of debt that you’ve built.
The holidays are a great time to enjoy the company of your loved ones, but you shouldn’t feel like the only way to show your love is through expensive presents and festive decor. Enjoy the holidays in a way that doesn’t destroy your finances. This year, make it a goal to spend quality time.
Don’t make the holidays a competition about who can wear the most expensive clothes, buy the flashiest gifts, or serve the swankiest dinner. Make the holidays about creating lasting memories and enjoying time with your loved ones, or simply yourself.
Darlene Aderoju works for America Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support Americans to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at AmericaSaves.org.
We all get check-ups to make sure our bodies are well and tune-ups to make sure our cars are running smoothly. But when was the last time you checked in on your financial health? If it’s been a while, we’ve got some tips to help you get started.
1. Dust Off Your Budget
If you haven’t been following a budget lately, now is the time to jumpstart the habit. A budget is your best tool for tackling any financial difficulties and achieving goals for future you! Budgeting lets you plan how you want to spend your money, while tracking your spending habits. When you track your spending consistently and stay on budget, you can start making things happen so that you reach your financial goals. Budget apps like Mint make it easy to connect to your bank account and see where your money goes. After you’ve done that, it’s up to you to split your income between bills, necessities, savings, and fun.
If you’ve already set up a budget, this step should be simple. Take a second look at where your money goes. It’s easy to overlook your gym membership getting more expensive or your car insurance going up a couple bucks. Those types of changes can add up quickly and have a big impact on your financial life.
No matter your starting point, once you’ve gone through your budget, it’s easier to search for places where you’re overspending. Are you really using all of your subscription services? Do you need to be celebrating Taco Tuesday that often (and did you need that extra margarita)? Can you stream a little less and get a smaller data plan? Try it! We believe in you.
2. Set it and Forget it!
Have trouble saving as much as you should? You’re not alone! Consider harnessing the power of automatic savings contributions. Having money taken out of your paycheck before you see it, streamlines the savings process and curbs temptation. It’s hard to spend money you don’t gain access to, whether by having money from each paycheck filter directly into a savings account or into your company’s 401(k). If you already have automatic deposits set up for your emergency fund and retirement accounts, nice work! Now consider increasing your contributions.
Once you automate your savings, take it a step further and automate your bill pay. You should always review your bills for accuracy, but paying at least some of them automatically will save you some hassle—and ensure your payments are always on time. To prevent any account-draining surprises, you may find it better to only automate bills that are the same every month (like your cable bill), rather than ones that vary every month (like your credit card bill).
3. Give Your Credit a Checkup
Credit Scores are often used as the barometer of your financial health. The higher your score, the more financially stable you seem. Knowing your credit score is essential—in the words of the old Schoolhouse Rock cartoons, “Knowledge is Power”. Even if the number isn’t as high as you’d like, your financial picture can’t get better until you have a picture of where you’re starting from.
Approximately 36 billion pieces of credit data are reported every year, so reporting mistakes are nearly inevitable. Since errors in your public records, personal information, and credit accounts can cause your credit score to tank, it’s important to keep a close eye on your credit. Any credit accounts listed that don’t belong to you could be a tip-off to identity theft or credit card fraud.
Luckily, you can request a free credit report every year from each of the three major consumer reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Or do it our favorite way, which is to request one free report from a different bureau every four months and monitor your credit throughout the year.
It’s really easy to put your head in the sand and not acknowledge the debt you have. Look at your credit card balances and other loans. Has your level of debt changed since the last time you checked? If it has decreased, way to go! You’re on your way. If it has increased, maybe it’s time to look at your budget again and find where you’re overspending. This is also a good time to check your interest rates,and see if you’re in a position to save by refinancing.
5. Review Your Retirement Plan Contributions
There’s no question that saving consistently for retirement is an important step toward a more financial future. By starting to save as much as you can now, you will have the freedom to choose how you want to live when you retire. And since your 401(k) contribution comes out of your check pre-tax, you lower your taxable income. In a way, it’s like paying for your 401(k) with money that you otherwise would have spent on your taxes. In 2018, you can contribute up to $18,500 to your 401(k) if you’re under 50 or $24,500 if you’re 50 or older.
At first glance, borrowing money from your 401(k) plan may seem the easiest, cheapest, and most sensible way to get the funds you need for a major purchase (like a new home or a car), to consolidate other debt, or for any other reason.
After all, it’s your money. You don’t need to fill out any lengthy forms or reveal personal credit information, the interest rate is usually lower than a bank or lending institution, repayment is easy, and you’d be paying the money, plus interest, back to yourself.
In some cases, this may be true if you really need the funds and don’t have any other suitable alternative. But there are drawbacks to borrowing from your retirement plan that can have a major impact on your future by limiting the amount available to you at retirement.
You lose the compounding advantage.
One of the major advantages to saving in a 401(k) plan is the ability of your money to compound on a tax-deferred basis. Over time this can be a powerful tool in building funds for your retirement. Borrowing from your account slows that compounding growth and you lose the time value of the money you borrow. The amount you borrow from your 401(k) account immediately stops earning whatever investment returns you would earn if it remained invested in the available funds.
Paying yourself interest isn’t that good a deal.
Your loan repayments are made with after-tax dollars. But that money is being paid into a tax-deferred plan account. When you are ready to retire your distribution (including your loan repayments) is considered a taxable event. This means your 401(k) loan payments are taxed twice. In addition, a loan from a retirement plan is considered a consumer loan and the interest is not tax-deductible, as it would be for a home equity loan.
The disaster of default.
Perhaps the most compelling reason not to borrow from your 401(k) plan is what can happen if you terminate your plan with an outstanding loan balance–or if you are simply unable to make your payments. If you terminate your plan for any reason while you have an outstanding loan, the remaining loan balance is due immediately. If you can’t afford to repay the loan in full, the entire outstanding principal becomes taxable and is deemed to be a distribution.
This can spell disaster.
Not only will you have to pay a tax on the distributed amount at your regular tax rate you will also be hit with a 10% non-deductible Federal tax penalty and a state penalty if the state you live in has one (if under age 59½). Depending on the amount it adds to your taxable income, the loan distribution may actually push you into a higher tax bracket–making costs even higher. The additional costs created by a loan default can be financially devastating.
Of course, it’s still comforting to know that if the need arises you do have access to your 401(k) funds. But if you consider taking a loan against your retirement, be sure to take all the consequences into consideration.