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Find important information on Personal Finance from the experts at Ubiquity Retirement & Savings. Get important news that can affect your personal finances, along with tips and advice from our team of financial experts. Call Ubiquity today for a Free Consultation at 855.466.5825.

How’s Your Financial Health?

Dylan Telerski / 15 Aug 2018 / Personal Finance

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.

 

So, what’s on your financial to-do list? If it’s learning about retirement options, we can help! Learn how you can get on the path toward a financially secure future with Ubiquity

 

4. Take a Peek at Your Debt

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 401k contribution comes out of your check pre-tax, you lower your taxable income. In a way, it’s like paying for your 401k 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.

 

Want to learn more?

Check out this jargon-free glossary to 401(k) loan terms

Watch our retirement expert Andrew answer your 401(k) loan questions

As tongue and cheek as this may be, it’s easy to nickel and dime your way out of retirement without even knowing your doing it. Want to know how? Check out this infographic on how you can save hundreds of thousands of dollars in your retirement by eating a few less tacos.

This year’s tax time deadline is April 17, 2018. To help you prepare, our partner, TaxAct, compiled these effective time and money-saving tips.

1. File now rather than later! Rushing to finish your taxes at the last minute can easily lead to avoidable typos. If you’re waiting to file because you owe taxes, you can e-file now – just schedule your payment anytime before April 17. Filing earlier can reduce your chance of tax return identity theft. The sooner your return is filed, the less opportunity there is for someone to file a fraudulent tax return using your name and Social Security number.

Reminder: Calendar year S and C corporation returns are due March 15. Personal (form 1040) and partnership (form 1065) returns are due April 17.

2. Get organized. Gather all your tax forms, statements, and receipts you will need before you start your taxes. You’ll finish your taxes faster and more easily. A simple way to make sure you don’t forget anything this year is to use your 2016 return as a reference.

3. Don’t pay too much to do your taxes. In just a few minutes you can compare the top DIY brands but don’t forget to ask these questions. How much is their product? Does that include the forms you need for your tax situation? Does that price include your state income tax return? Remember, since you don’t typically pay until you’re ready to file, you can take most online products for a drive.

Bonus for our blog reader: Save on TaxAct’s individual, partnership and corporate tax filing solutions now at www.taxact.com/ubiquity.

4. Double check your return for typos. Before you e-file, make sure this important information is correct on your return:

  1. Birth dates
  2. Social Security numbers
  3. Names, especially of dependents – must be identical to what’s on Social Security cards
  4. Bank routing and account numbers

5. Choose the fastest path to your refund. E-file and choose direct deposit to get your refund the fastest way possible. The IRS issues more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days.

Learn how you can lower your taxes in 2018 with a small business or solo 401k plan from Ubiquity

The New Year is is a great time to check in on your financial plan, make sure you are on track to meet your goals and get a head start on the path to your retirement security.

To do this, it’s crucial to consult great financial resources. That’s why we compiled a list of our favorite recurring TweetChats that offer tips and success stories from some of the best minds in finance.

1. Experian #CreditChat

Every Wednesday at noon PST/ 3 p.m. EST, use #CreditChat to follow a panel-led discussion hosted by @Experian about all things personal finance. Ask questions and learn smart strategies to manage student debt, credit scores, retirement savings and other timely topics.

2. Wise Bread Chat

Looking for creative or DIY ways to save money? Follow #WBChat on Thursdays at noon PST/ 3 p.m. EST to learn how you can take back control of your resources to reach, and even exceed, your financial goals.

3. MoneyChat

Led by personal finance expert and coach @DorethiaKelly, this biweekly chat takes place every first and third Monday of the month at 5 p.m. PST/ 8 p.m. EST. Follow #MoneyChat for the latest in business trends and personal finance advice.

4. BizHeroes

If you’re an entrepreneur interested in starting or running your own business, tune into this weekly chat on Tuesdays at 11 a.m. PST/ 2 p.m. EST. #BizHeroes covers a wide variety of small business topics, such as tips for running a business on a tight budget. This chat’s objective – help small business owners succeed!

5. #CashChat

Brush up on how to maintain healthy relationships with your money and credit by tuning into #CashChat. Tarra Jackson, aka “Madam Money” hosts this chat every Friday at 9 a.m. PST/ 12 p.m. EST.

Have you participated in any other TweetChats that propelled you or your business to the next level? We’d love to hear about them! Tweet the chat name and the lesson you took away from it to @UbiquitySavings.

Learn everything you need to know about 401k and retirement with Ubiquity 

Preparing for the unexpected with emergency savings can be difficult, particularly if you don’t have that safety net to rely on. Some of life’s most exciting and scariest moments come from surprises we never see coming. An unexpected expense ­– hospital bills, losing your job, etc. ­– can seriously impact your financial well-being in the moment, and in the future.

To better prepare for an unexpected emergency, we’ve assembled tools to help you build a sturdy financial plan that protects you. Setting up an emergency fund, stepping up your budgeting skills and giving up on bad financial habits are all crucial steps to avoid an unexpected financial disaster.

1. 6 emergency fund myths you should stop believing

It’s easy to make excuses not to save money for a rainy day or emergency fund. Maybe you feel like you’re buried in too much debt, don’t make enough money or saving for retirement is hard enough! But according to this WiseBread article, you are never too young, old, poor or rich to stash away some extra money to prepare for life’s unpredictable twists and turns.

2. Survey: How Americans contend with unexpected expenses

According to this Bankrate study, 43 percent of respondents were forced to reevaluate their financial plans due to an unexpected expense. While you can’t predict the future, you can prepare for all the uncertainties it can bring. Should you dip into your savings, take out a loan, tighten your budget or utilize your credit? Check out this survey to find out what method is best for you.

3. Create a “life happens” fund in addition to your emergency fund

Have you mastered your savings and feel ready to take a break? Not so fast! This Lifehacker article suggests that in addition to an emergency fund, you should have a “life happens” fund for expenses that don’t necessarily qualify as emergencies, such as routine health care costs, car repairs or veterinary bills. That way, you avoid depleting your emergency stash and have the reassurance that you are covered for any minor snags.

 

Everyone is guilty of falling into bad habits, especially given the fast-paced world we live in. While juggling our careers, families and other personal responsibilities, it’s easy to forget to take care of ourselves and we frequently lose focus on long-term goals.

Oftentimes, that lifestyle negatively affects our finances, and before we know it, we’ve fallen into a pattern that threatens to derail our future.

No one is immune to becoming a victim of bad financial habits. Wondering if you are guilty? Here are three common ones that can affect anyone.

1. Ignoring the status of your finances

Whether your finances are stellar or unsatisfactory, it’s important to keep a pulse on them and consult with a professional so you stay in good financial shape. Too often, people bury their heads in the sand and try to enjoy blissful ignorance when it comes to their finances – but it never ends well.

This bad habit affects people on both ends of the spectrum: For example, someone can be in a tremendous amount of debt and may ignore seeking a solution to avoid confronting the realities of their situation. On the flip side, if someone is well off, they may miss the opportunity to save money that is already at their disposal.

The way to overcome this bad habit is to start paying closer attention to your finances. Regardless of whether you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck or if money is no object, you need to be keenly aware of your spending and saving patterns, and, if necessary, adjust them so you’re on the right course.

A big component of this bad habit is that people avoid talking about money with their spouses and families, but this is an extremely dangerous rut to fall into, especially for those who are in trouble financially – staying hush-hush won’t solve your problems.

While these conversations can be uncomfortable, it’s important to make them happen.

2. Believing you’re already maxing out your savings

Sometimes, when peoples’ finances are in a good spot, they get complacent and start to spend frivolously. It’s certainly important to reward yourself for your hard work, but you should also focus on saving extra money when you can.

You might be tempted to spend bonuses, tax returns and other windfalls on vacations or shopping sprees when you know you’re already allocating a certain amount to your nest egg. However, don’t get tricked into the mindset that extra cash should burn a hole in your pocket just because you are already contributing to retirement savings.

Find a balance between steadily contributing to savings and enjoying life. Know that you can always stash some extra cash away in a 401k (the max contribution limit is $18,500/year for people under 50 in 2018), in an IRA or in a rainy day fund. You never know when it will come in handy!

3. Not updating your retirement savings strategy

Have you recently moved, started a new job, got married or had children? These are examples of times when it is important to check in on your financial plan and make sure your retirement savings strategies are appropriate for how your life has changed. It’s your retirement and it’s up to you to take charge.

While some of these milestones in life can be overwhelming, it’s important to ask yourself: What can I afford to save? There is certainly a domino effect to outdated savings strategies that don’t reflect your current and future life and those in it. If you don’t take the opportunity to revise how you save now, you could be missing out on keeping hard-earned dollars down the road.

Download Ubiquity’s Definitive Guide to Small Business 401k

This week’s question comes from Casey who asked whether you need a spouse’s consent before taking a loan from your 401k.

While we always stress the importance of leaving your money in your retirement account, sometimes unforeseen expenses arise where you need to borrow or loan yourself money. Here, we answer Casey’s question and give some other great tips on the deal with taking a loan from your 401k!

Get more on 401k by downloading our Definitive Small Business 401k Guide

Hey there present-day Lisa – it’s me, future Lisa,

I just wanted to send you a big huge THANK YOU, because your smart savings plan has resulted in a kick-ass retirement for me and hubby. That’s right, we bought our flat in Paris, and we spend the days sipping red wine and sampling gorgeous French cheeses. C’est le paradis!

Remember that Louis Vuitton bag that you were going to buy in 2012, but instead chose to take that money and throw it into your 401k? Well, that decision has paid off for you ten-fold, because now that you are living the good life here in Paris, you can shop the boutiques all the days because you don’t have to work anymore. I know there were times when you had to sacrifice the wants and be responsible, but trust me, you are a lot happier now for it. You don’t have to rely on your kids to support you; instead, you get to spend precious time with your grandchildren because you don’t have to worry about working.

Retirement is great!

It seems like just yesterday that you took your first job out of college, and they handed you all the new hire forms, one of which was enrollment in a 401k plan. I know at the time you didn’t really know what it was, only that your parents told you that you should start saving, so you did. And that money grew. And grew and grew and grew and those years that seemed SO FAR in the future went by in a flash. Yes, the market went up and it went down, but overall those few dollars you saved back when you were 21 years old have grown into a few million dollars by now.

Plus, your husband was also super responsible and squirreled away lots of cash into savings all while telling you that you were “over-budget” for the month. Maybe he exaggerated just a little bit, but he knew you would want to spend it and he knew he had to save for your future. I just gave him a big thank-you kiss for that one! Merci, Mon Cherie!

When you were in your twenties, retirement seemed really far away, but now that you are in your late-thirties, you realize that time goes by faster than you want it to and now you have a family to think about. Making a few sacrifices now to invest in your future is not only the SMART decision, it’s the ONLY decision.

So thank you, again. I am off to grab a croissant and browse around the Louvre. They have a new Chagall exhibit and you know how much you love his paintings.

A bientôt,

Future Lisa

I have always been a diligent saver, scared at the thought of racking up huge credit card debt or not being able to pay my mortgage. Lucky for me, my husband is the same way and we have always been good about saving money. Having that “rainy day savings fund” has always been an integral part of our monthly budget, a safety net in the event of something unexpected. We have always heard that it’s a good idea to have at least six months salary saved up in case of a job loss or medical emergency, but it wasn’t until recently that we discovered just how important this was.

Imagine you are in a life-or-death situation, and to navigate it you need a little bit of money. You’d want to be certain that you had the money to spare, right?

The Importance of Emergency Savings

Dexter rests after surgery

Rewind 14 years, when I used to work for a pet rescue organization. During that time I trapped, socialized and nurtured back to health a small white kitten just three weeks old who I named Dexter. Dexter has been with me throughout many important life events – my marriage, the birth of my child, and countless other memories. He sits with me on the couch, sleeps with me at night and provides me constant companionship, along with my two other cats.

A few weeks ago I noticed Dexter limping, and a few days later he suffered a fall jump whereupon he fractured his left heel. An emergency room visit, exam, and x-rays set me back $450, but that was just the beginning. It was during that visit that we found out that it was more than just a fracture, in fact, Dexter had bone cancer.

The follow-up visit to the vet for more x-rays and bloodwork totaled $527, so by that point, we had already placed almost $1000 on our credit card, but how could I not provide care for my pet of 14 years when he was limping around in pain? I couldn’t bear to see him suffer so I met with the oncologist who laid out my options.

To put in bluntly, either we proceed with amputation surgery to remove his leg (and the tumor), or my cat spends the rest of his (shortened) life in pain while cancer spreads throughout his body. If we want to end that pain early, well… you can figure out what that option was. Without even a second glance at the estimate of $3,200 I asked the oncologist to proceed with the surgery because regardless of the cost, I wanted to give Dexter the best life and medical care that he needed.

I could choose to do this because I had been a diligent saver all of these years. I didn’t have to rack up huge credit card debt or take out a small loan because I had squirreled away money in my savings account in case of an emergency. Sure it was hard to put my extra money in the bank and not buy those shoes but at the end of the day, who gives a hoot about material goods when I was able to save a life!

It’s been two weeks now since his surgery and Dexter is adapting to life with three legs. The fibroid sarcoma was removed and the vet told me that there is a 75% chance that it would not have metastasized (fingers crossed!). If within a year his follow-up x-rays are clear, then Dexter will have beaten cancer!

I certainly don’t know what the future holds. Did I extend his life by a few months or a few years… that’s yet to be determined. But I do know that however long he is with me, living pain and cancer-free, it was all worth it. And it was all made possible by the fact that I had an emergency savings account!

*November is National Pet Cancer Awareness Month. If you have a furry companion, please educate yourself on the signs and facts of cancer.

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© 2018 Ubiquity Retirement + Savings / Privacy Policy
1160 Battery Street, Suite 350, San Francisco, CA 94111 / Support: 855.401.4357