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I was sitting at the kitchen table with my son when he noticed a credit card bill addressed to me. He picked it up, looked at it, and thoughtfully asked, “How do you get money onto your credit card?”

Confused by the question I asked, “What do you mean?”

He answered as literally as a child could. “Well, you buy things all the time with your credit card. How do you put money into it in order to buy things?

Now I understood! I took the opportunity to explain that you didn’t send money to the credit card before you buy, but rather the bank kept track of everything that I bought during the month and this was the bill for those things that I needed to pay. I like to use real math examples, so I was able to tie in the concept of budgeting explaining that I knew how much money I could afford to spend in a month, and so as long as I didn’t exceed that amount, I just paid the bill at the end of the month.

That answer seemed to satisfy him, and then he asked an even more valuable question: “What happens if you spend more than you have to pay?”

A valid question and one we all know the answer to. Not wanting to overcomplicate the situation with interest charges, late fees, and the rest, I simply answered, “You pay what you can, but then you still owe more money to the credit card bank. That’s what gets people into trouble; they get into debt.”

My son knows enough to know that being in debt is not a good thing. “So then people shouldn’t buy things if they don’t have enough money to pay for them,” was his answer, matter of factly, and then he was onto the next topic. In his 6-year old mind, that was the best solution and warranted no further discussion.

If only more adults felt the same way!

We all know that growing credit card debt in this country is a big problem. According to NerdWallet, the total U.S. credit card debt is $854.2 billion dollars, with an average credit card debt per household exceeding $15k. Woah! That number is staggering!

While emergency situations arise that warrant the need to accrue credit card debt, many of us – myself included -sometimes use our credit cards to buy things that we want, but don’t necessarily have the money for at that moment (I needed those shoes, really I did!). And while splurging every once in a while probably won’t cause you to be knee-high in debt, it is a slippery slope. As parents, we need to both set a good example for our children by paying attention to our own spending habits, while teaching them the basics of good credit card usage at the same time.

Credit cards may have gotten a bad rap, but used responsibly, they can be a great tool. Think of the free miles and other perks that come along with your own card. I encourage fully the use of credit cards, but with one important caveat:

Always pay off your bill in it’s entirely each month. And don’t spend money you don’t have!

You can help your children develop good financial habits from an early age by turning it into a game. Give them a pretend credit card and a budget, and involve them in the day-to-day household spending. Set up a mock store with their toys and have them go shopping. Older children could even have a real budget for something like their school lunches. Give your child an amount of money and have them accompany you while grocery shopping. They might just be surprised at how much their dollars will actually buy!

The most important thing to remember is that by giving your children a good education in credit card spending, you are setting them up for a lifetime of good habits – and that is invaluable.

 

 

 

 

Congrats! You graduated college and accepted your first full-time position. The transition from college life to “the real world” can be quite challenging and, at times, confusing. However, right before you rush through that HR paperwork, realize that those forms may hold the keys to your first retirement plan.

Namely, your first 401k plan. Even though retirement seems like the last thing a new college grad should be thinking about, your commitment to your future starts now. By enrolling in your new employer’s 401k right off the bat, you are taking a giant step toward complete financial independence.

You might be done with classes, but don’t give up on learning just yet, especially when the subject is your future! Check out this 401k 101:

Look into your enrollment options.

Despite when your first day of work was, your enrollment period might not begin for another few months or even a whole year. Every company operates on a different enrollment schedule.

If you can’t enroll immediately, check with HR on when you will become eligible. Set a reminder on your calendar to revisit the open enrollment discussion when it gets closer to that period.

Why? Letting this slip off your radar will cause you to miss out on a tax break and compound interest (more about this below) — which is like flushing money down the toilet!

Find a happy medium in your involvement.

When it comes to your money, no questions should be off-limits, especially if you are new to your employer’s 401k plan. Take advantage of your plan provider’s representatives who are there to advise you on the nuances of your plan, investment choices and company match options during the open enrollment period.

Don’t discount the power of compound interest.

As you may have learned in your college economics class, those who begin saving earlier will wind up with more cash. This concept is called compound interest. Think about it this way: The earlier you save, the more vacations you will be able to go on in retirement (hello, world traveler)! It might seem like those first few dollars you save are entering a black hole, but your assets, or shall I say “vacation fund,” will build over time.

Don’t give up so easily.

Some companies, unfortunately, don’t have a way for you to save for retirement at work. While that’s a huge bummer, there are still options for you. Don’t shrug your shoulders and give up on your future – there are viable, easy solutions!

Turning to your local bank to begin an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is likely your best bet. In an IRA, you still have the ability to invest pre-tax dollars. Not only do you give yourself the opportunity to save, but your bank may also be more likely to loan you money in the future because you are establishing positive financial habits from the get-go.

Hopefully you have a better idea of how to go about enrolling in and taking advantage of your first retirement plan. You not only passed college, but you just aced 401k 101.

Handling Heartfelt Hardships

Andrew Answers / 17 Jul 2017 / Personal Finance

When I think of summertime, hardships are not what immediately comes to mind. For many, it’s made for vacations, nice weather, and a more laid back time to celebrate. For others, it means hurricane season. Having grown up on the outer banks of North Carolina, I’ve lived through my share of storms. My grandmother had a magnetic map tracking the various hurricanes and tropical storm paths to plan out how affected we may be.

Sometimes, I look fondly back at the times where my family and I were holed up with candles and games. Unfortunately, this same experience can leave folks with property damage or homelessness, which we’ve seen so much of in the last year. 

Your 401k can come to your rescue if your plan has a hardship provision.

What is a hardship provision and how do you qualify? Here’s how:

  1. Medical expenses
  2. Purchase of a primary residence
  3. Ongoing education
  4. Prevention of eviction from primary residence
  5. Burial or funeral expenses
  6. Expenses for the repair of the damage to primary residence

While this access is great, it’s got its own rules around it. These distributions are taxable in the year money is received along with a 10% penalty for taking out prior to retirement. It’s also important to note that not all 401k plans contain this provision. Loans are much more preferred and come without 10% penalty while allowing you to pay yourself back.

Talk to your controller/HR person/plan sponsor for more information on what kind of access you have. While it’s great to maintain your savings, it’s nice to know it’s got your back when you need it!

As the Mom of a 8-year-old, it’s hard to imagine that one day he may be graduating college. Those years will go by faster than I will want them to, I have no doubt about that, and there is a lot I need to teach “D” between now and then! I have been thinking about what I would say to him if that time was already upon us, and so here is my letter to my future college graduate:

Dear (future) D,

As you graduate college, I want to impart some knowledge and advice that I have acquired throughout my lifetime. I hope that as you start on this next phase of your life, you will keep these words close to your heart.

Be true to yourself – Don’t ever sacrifice your morals or integrity because someone asks you to. If you find yourself in a job or situation that makes you uncomfortable, just walk away. It’s easier to cut ties than to live with the consequences of making a bad decision. Have the courage to walk away!

If money is the answer to what you like most about your job, then it’s not the right job for you – Whatever career path you choose should bring you happiness, help others and be rewarding on many different levels, not just financially. The worst thing about a high paying job is that you will adjust your standard of living to meet that salary, and it’s hard to ever go back. If money is what is driving you, then it’s time to rethink your priorities.

Fund your 401k from your very first paycheck – Retirement seems like an ambiguous concept, but it’s not. Somehow time moves more quickly when you become an adult, and your ’20s will become your ’70s in a blink of an eye. You’ll want to live out your golden years without worry and anxiety, and you won’t be able to enjoy yourself if you haven’t planned accordingly.

No one will ever love you more than your Mom – It may sound like a cliché but it’s not. There is nothing stronger than a bond between a mother and her child, and no matter what happens, I will always be here for you.

There is only one Mother Earth. Respect her and protect her – Generations before you have already started down a path of destruction. There have already been many things done to our precious earth that cannot be reversed. It’s up to your generation to prevent any more harm from taking place. Fight against the people and companies who care only about profits and nothing about humanity.

Better to try and fail, than to not try at all – Many people go through life afraid of taking chances because they are afraid to fail. I encourage you to take a chance and dream big because you never know what will happen. So what if you fail? It just means you have another opportunity to succeed.

And I will end this letter by reminding you of the one thing that I have been saying to you since you were born. If you can live by one principle alone, then let it be this one: Love Others – because at the end of the day, nothing else really matters!

Love,

Mom

 

 

Hey, graduates, you may be thinking to yourself how much of what you just endured will actually be used IRL (in real life). If you’ve just graduated from High School, you’re thinking Algebra will NEVER come in handy. In college, it’s likely you barely remember what class you got up for, but probably remember the first beer you legally purchased. Those of you finishing your masters or doctorate, you’re free to brag that you remember every detail of your education (yeah, right).

We all took economics in our High School years. We may have even taken something like that in college somewhere along the way. It’s during this course when you likely spent at least one period talking about 401ks. It’s so buried in all the other things you need to remember that it’s difficult to actually recall when you need to. This is where real life education and what’s actually taught in school start to diverge.

You actually know more than you give yourself credit for. For all our new hires, I teach a class on Intro to 401ks. I begin by finding out how much my students actually know. Turns out, all the basics are normally covered.

• It’s a retirement account provided at work.
• Money is taken from your paycheck pre-tax.
• Sometimes there’s a match.
• Your money goes into mutual funds you can manage.

There you have it. It’s the simple basics that are easy to understand and true in most circumstances. Are there differences? Yes. Are these overgeneralizations? Probably. However, there’s one unmistakable truth: Saving at work provides more benefits than your savings account and could result in free money.

As you’re out there entering the workforce, get to know your benefits. Much of our economy comes from small businesses. If your new job doesn’t have a 401k, ask them to start one up. This is the benefit that keeps on giving directly to you.

In case you didn’t know, there is a looming retirement crisis in America.

The wealth inequality in this country is astronomical, and every week there is a new financial crisis. The Debt Ceiling, the Fiscal Cliff, the Sequester, and (spoiler alert) coming soon to a Congress near you, the Debt Ceiling: Part Deux.

So how do we fix the lumbering, patchwork operations of the monetary system?

Well, maybe we just quit using money altogether.

I know that is very idealistic, but it is a solution.

The problems of human wants/needs on this Earth are not driven by scarcity but rather distribution. Before the days of money, we lived directly off the land, sustaining ourselves. With the specialization of skills, a system of exchange naturally arose. In modern America, we are born into a society where money has become a necessity. We recognize that one cannot simply opt out of participation; in fact, leaving the monetary society ironically requires a great deal of money. But could we evolve beyond money, as we developed beyond hunting and gathering?

We could, with ease, power the entirety of humanity’s energy needs from geothermal sources or thorium plants. We grow enough food already to feed the world’s starving. We are on the edge of the graphene revolution which will literally change everything about our daily lives (even more so than computers), and technology is rapidly advancing to a point where robots can literally just do everything for us.

We just need to stop being greedy individuals and start actually working together as a society. We’re a world full of strangers…

3d printers can literally replicate themselves… 3d printers could print 3d printers that print robots that assemble robots that perform labor and produce goods, and meanwhile, humanity studies art and science and space. The need for money disappears in the abundance of food and material wealth.

Money only makes sense in the arena of scarcity and competition. “There isn’t enough for everyone so I have to make sure that my efforts and hard work are tallied and recorded so I will be appropriately rewarded for my hard work.” But what if there was enough of everything for everyone, why would you even need money?

Mom. Dad. Pack Your Bags.

Andrea Sobotor / 21 Jan 2017 / Personal Finance

I was talking with my Mom the other day. The conversation went something like this:

“I talked with my financial planner, and I am going to be able to retire by 66,” she said. “And when I asked him, how long I could live, taking the amount I need to survive, he said ‘forever.’

That may seem pretty wonderful, but like a whole lot of people, she is one dramatic health event away from ZERO retirement dollars. ONE! Well, she’d have social security, but that wouldn’t be enough to live on.

My sweet 79-year old Dad’s an artist and is collecting Social Security now. His income is super fixed—obviously, people don’t typically become artists for the money, even though he has work in museums. Death makes artists rich, not life. Typically.

The good news is that their house is paid off. The bad news is that they have a three-story house on a whole lot of acres that require a whole lot of maintenance and it’s out in the middle of Nowheresville. All I can think about is one of them falling down the steps with no one to hear their screams except wildlife that has no opposable thumbs or 911 dialing capabilities.

America? You could learn a thing or two.

I think a lot of people are in a similar boat. You know, the boat that is one petite iceberg away from busting in half and sinking to the bottom of the ocean? Americans could learn a lot from other cultures. For instance, how they live in multigenerational households and support one another.

Welcome to my Retirement Community! Now accepting Mom(s) and Dad(s).

So, when it comes down to it, I am not putting my parents in a retirement home. I am making them come live with me. Why? They did it for me! Plus, elderly people live longer when they are surrounded by things or people or pets that engage them and LOVE them.

I can be that loving thing/people/pet! And of course they are going to tick me off (and vice-versa), and likely on a frequent basis, but that’s what family is about, right? And the America we live in now is not one of huge wealth, pension plans, and lavish, resort-style assisted-living (unless you have one gazillion dollars.) And if you do, I doubt you are reading this blog.

How do you feel about the multigenerational household? What are you going to do differently, given the current (and sad) economic outlook?

Welcome to the farm otherwise known as the stock market.

So what the heck does Bull vs. Bear market mean? It’s actually quite simple:

  • Bull: Everything is fabulous, the economy is booming, stocks are rising, and unemployment? What unemployment?
  • Bear: Market is hibernating! It’s bad, the recession is looming.

So, you think that playing the market all the time with your retirement is a good plan?

Actually, over time, it all equals out. There are stocks in the bear market that do well, and conversely, there are those in the bull market that tank. Depending on how you invest—conservative, moderate, or aggressive—and where you are in your life—whether you are just starting to invest, are are a late bloomer like me, or are sitting at the gates of freedom—these things could alter or modify your course of action.

Talking with a financial advisor is your best bet. They’ll help determine where you are and what your financial goals should be. The fact is, the majority of people under-save! Things to consider:

  • When do you want to retire? Have you thought about the fact that people are living longer? If you retire at 65 and live to be 100 (I plan to live to 102), that’s a significant nest egg you’re going to need.
  • What does retirement look like for you? Are you going to live at the same level as you are today? Are you downsizing? Do you have adequate health insurances in order to not exhaust your savings in the event of an unforeseen crisis?
  • How much time do you have and how much do you have saved? I’ve just turned 43 and have enough to get me through about… a year of life? I have been paying into Social Security if I am fortunate to have it exist when I retire, but that is essentially a future flying autonomous car payment and solar charging station refill fee. I need to be incredibly aggressive at saving and my financial adviser had no problem saying so.

You don’t have to be a financial genius in order to start. There are people who do this for a living—your goals and your success are theirs as well.

There is only one mistake you can make right now. ONE! That is NOT getting started, NOT saving enough, and robbing yourself of comfort and happiness when you stop punching a clock. Ok, maybe that’s three, but they are all connected!l

PS. Want to know more about the looming retirement crisis that is affecting every single one of us? Get involved and join the conversation with this must-see documentary, Broken Eggs: The Looming Retirement Crisis in America. Bonus! It’s free. You just need to bring the popcorn.

As a working mom, one of the biggest benefits that a job can offer is flexibility. And included in that flexibility is the ability to work from home. I personally prefer to come into the office on most days because I really enjoy the social interactions. However, there are certain days when going to the office isn’t the best option for me or members of my team. Here are a few scenarios when working from home is really the best option:

  • Uh-oh, my child is sick! At one time or another, a working parent will always be faced with having a sick child who needs to stay home from school. If your employees can still take conference calls or work on a project that is deadline driven while working from home and tending to their child, then this is a great option. I have worked at places where working from home was frowned upon and I was forced to take PTO. But that’s a whole day’s productivity lost. If employees are able to get the majority of their work done at home, it’s a win-win for both parties.
  • Three, two, one, strike! The Bay Area recently made headlining news when the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit- one of our biggest public transit systems) workers went on strike for almost an entire work week. Can you say commuter chaos? Some of my colleagues were up at 5 a.m. just to beat the crowds getting into the city! Others were never even able to make it in. In times like these, better to just take your laptop home, log in to Skype or Slack and avoid commuter hell.
  • “Your appointment window is between 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.” – We have all had these types of cable, phone, Internet, etc. installations where your appointment is really just a window of time when the installation/repairman may or may not show up. And while we all hope for that 9 a.m. service call, it’s usually not until 4:30 p.m. that the doorbell rings. If you are forced to wait at home for someone, no sense to take PTO when you could be typing away. Plus, working really does help the time pass more quickly!
  • The soccer game starts at 3 p.m. – If you have school age children, then you know this one well. Recitals, games and performances start earlier than the workday finishes. As a parent, you want to go to every one. In order to make it work for both my child and my employer, I make sure to meet deadlines and commitments so that I can continue to have flexibility in the future. Sometimes this requires me to start working at 5 a.m. to finish by 3 p.m. and get to the game. Starting work at the crack of dawn is a lot easier in my pajamas and I get more work done by not having to waste time commuting.

Offering a flexible work schedule can really benefit both employers and employees. I think it adds to increased productivity AND employee loyalty.

Save Me from Myself

Dylan Telerski / 27 Feb 2013 / Personal Finance

It’s America Saves Week, and today’s theme is “Saving Automatically.” I wish I could say that I automatically save! But the truth is that you have to do a lot to get yourself into a situation where you don’t need to do anything.

Like you may have, I have an automatic transfer from my checking account into my savings account. However, there are times when I can just as automatically transfer it back. My savings account does not offer me the traction I need because I have too much access to the money. It is really like a less convenient checking account.

One thing I have to done to curtail my spending is to use cash over my debit card. For instance, when I go out to have a few drinks, I determine how much money I am allowed to spend and put that amount in my pocket in cash. When the cash is spent, the night is over. Having the cash on hand and trading it for goods or services creates the realization of loss that keeps me from frivolously spending every dime I have. Studies have shown that when someone uses a plastic card for a purchase that same sense of loss is not registered, and that is why so many people can easily run up extreme charges or exhaust their coffers with a painless swipe.

Another recommendation for automatic savings comes from our own Bianca Blanco. Each week a portion of her check is deposited into an account for which she has no checkbook, no debit card, no access to the money other than to physically go to the bank and withdraw it. Needless to say, that money is never spent impulsively.

What steps can you take to save yourself from spending your own money impulsively? How can you make saving automatic?

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© 2019 Ubiquity Retirement + Savings
Privacy Policy
44 Montgomery Street, Suite 3060
San Francisco, CA 94104
Support: 855.401.4357

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