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Protect Your Wealth

You’ve worked hard and have been financially responsible. You’ve lived on less than you’ve made and saved those extra dollars. Let’s safeguard what you’ve built and look at four things that you can do to protect your wealth.

protecting wealth

Make sure you have the proper insurance in place:

Having proper insurance in place plays a critical role in protecting your wealth in the event of the unexpected. You want to make sure that you regularly review your health, homeowners, and auto insurance to ensure that you have the proper protection that is needed.

You also don’t want to forget to insure yourself and your family against any possible loss of income that may occur. Although not pleasant to think about, having a proper amount of life insurance is necessary in protecting your family’s financial picture.

Most experts recommend having enough life insurance to cover 10 times your annual income. This ensures that your family will be taken care of in the event of your death. My husband and I each have 20-year term insurance. We get the coverage we need, at a price we can afford.disability insurance

If your employer does not already offer it, you may also want to look into disability insurance so that an illness or injury will not destroy the savings that you’ve worked hard to build. Disability insurance will not replace your income, but it will provide a buffer, paying out 60% of what you would normally be making.

It might not seem likely that this type of insurance is something that you would need, but the Social Security Administration estimates that one in four 20-year olds will become disabled and be unable to work before the age of 67, so it’s better to be safe than sorry and make sure that you’re protected.

Have an emergency fund:

Setting aside 3-6 months of your living expenses will serve as insurance for the wealth that you have built and are continuing to build. The money is there when you truly need it, without having to go into debt or withdraw from your retirement savings.

We often think of our emergency fund in the case of job loss. Another good use for your emergency fund is to use it for any home, auto, or medical insurance deductible. We have enough to cover all of our deductibles. This meant that we could raise the deductibles on our various insurance policies and thus lower the premium payments freeing up some extra money each month.

Have an estate plan:

I have many friends who have avoided this step, because planning for your death is not the most glamorous of topics, but having a current will in place is a critical step in your financial plan.

Your estate plan will allow you to reduce administrative expenses and legal fees upon your death. It will also mean that you preserve and leave a lasting legacy for your loved ones. Finally, your will allows you to control, manage, and allocate who receives your assets upon your death.

estate planning

Name your designated beneficiaries:

As important as it is to have a current will in place, it is equally important to name your designated beneficiaries to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Be sure to name beneficiaries on any assets that will allow it such as your life insurance, pension plan, IRAs, or 401 (k)s.

Your Turn!

  • What steps have you taken to protect your wealth?

7 Ways to Prepare for Retirement

Financial independence doesn’t just happen once you turn 65. It takes planning and living on less than you make so that you can save and invest. Regardless of your age though, it’s good to know that it’s never too late to prepare for your retirement.

Retirement on beach

1. Pay off Your Debt and have an Emergency Fund

If you have not finished paying off your consumer debt or do not have a fully funded emergency fund in place, you want to focus on these things first before you start setting money aside for retirement. You want to set up a debt payment plan that would see you free from your consumer debt within 2-3 years and then very quickly move your focus to getting that emergency fund filled.

When you’re dealing with a reduced retirement income, the last thing that you want to be doing is still devoting income to your debt repayment or emergency savings. The goal here is to make sure you’re on a solid financial footing and are in a place where you can enjoy your retirement income that you’ve worked so hard for.

2. Start Saving and Stick To Your Goals

The sooner you’re able to start saving for retirement and able to stick to your monthly savings goal, the better off you’ll be. Ideally you’ve put yourself in a place where you can begin setting aside 10-15% of your monthly income into your retirement account. If you’re debt free including your home feel free to put in more than this.

In your monthly budget, make sure that you have a line for retirement savings and that you are sticking to your savings goal each and every month.

3. Know Your Retirement Needs

What you’ll need to save is dependent on the type of lifestyle that you would like to have when you retire. Most financial experts suggest that in order to retire comfortably you should aim to cash flow 70-80% of your peak pre-retirement income.

This amount is not written in stone. Many couples can retire on 60-70% of their pre-retirement income providing that they are debt free and their children are financially independent. There are many retirement calculators that you can use to help you determine how much is enough when saving for your retirement.

4. Contribute to Your Employers Retirement Savings Plan

If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, you want to make sure that you take advantage of it. Not only will you be able to take advantage of compounding interest, but your taxes will be lower, your employer may offer a match to kick in extra money, and automatic deductions make saving easy.

If your employer offers a traditional pension plan, you want to make sure that you ask for an individual benefit statement (if one isn’t sent to you automatically every year) to see what your benefit is worth. If you are planning on a career change or changing employers, you also want to find out what will happen to your pension benefit.

5. Put Money into an Individual Retirement Account

Don’t just stop your retirement planning with your company’s 401(k) option or pension. You also want to make sure that you take advantage of the tax benefits that an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) offers.You can put up to $5,500 a year into an IRA and you can contribute even more if you are over the age of 50.

There are two different types of IRAs to choose from. If you go with a Traditional IRA, the yearly contributions you make are tax deductible on both your state and federal income tax while any withdrawals are taxed at your income tax rate. The Roth IRA provides no tax break on the contributions, but earnings and withdrawals are generally tax-free.

6. Find Out About Your Social Security Benefits

Social Security pays benefits that are on average 40 percent of what you earned before retirement. You can use a retirement estimator to see what your expected benefit may be as you get closer to your retirement age.

7. Ask Questions

When preparing for retirement, the most important thing you can do is ask questions. Not only ask, but make sure that you understand the answers that you are given.

Be sure to ask your employer and union about retirement planning that is available through work. You also want to talk to a financial advisor when setting up your investments to make sure that your investments are diversified and you are taking the appropriate risk level for your age, goals, financial circumstances, and your personal comfort level.

Your Turn!

  • What are your retirement goals?
  • What steps have you taken to help reach them?

 

How to Build Your Emergency Fund

Everyone needs an emergency fund. Life is going to happen, and those unexpected expenses can sometimes come with some serious sticker shock.The emergency fund provides that buffer between you and life, and prevents you from incurring debt when a true emergency arises.

emergency fund

When life throws you a financial curve ball, the emergency fund will turn what would otherwise be a crisis that has you running for your credit card, into an inconvenience that has you writing a check. Let’s look at the four steps you can take to help you start to build your fully funded emergency fund.

1. Open an account that’s accessible, but not too accessible:

When an emergency occurs you want to make sure that you can easily access the funds, but not have them so accessible that you accidentally spend the money on items that are not emergencies. Consider opening up a separate savings account that is not attached to your debit card. We have ours in a higher interest rate savings account where the money can be transferred into our checking account within 24 hours.

emergency fund

Remember though, your emergency fund is insurance rather than an investment. We’re not looking to make big returns on the money that is sitting in this account. If you make some interest (I think we earn $5 a month), that’s fine, but earning money is not the intention. The intention of this money is to protect the rest of your finances – including any investments.

2. Determine what 3 to 6 months of living expenses are:

Most financial experts agree that a fully funded emergency fund should contain 3 to 6 months of living expenses. In order to determine this amount, go back to your budget and look at the essential expenses that you would need to calculating living expensescover in order to get through each month. Add up your housing costs, transportation costs, monthly grocery budget, and any other monthly fixed expenses that you would still be obligated to make (insurance premiums, etc).

In order to determine whether you should be closer to the three or six month savings mark, you also have to factor your risks. If your job is stable and you are in good health or if you have disability coverage through work if you were to become ill, you could consider keeping your savings closer to the three month mark. If you are self-employed or have a variable income, you would want to set your savings goal closer to the 6 month mark.

3. Set aside a savings goal in your monthly budget:

When you add up the amount to save, it might seem overwhelming at first, but don’t let that stop you from working towards this goal. Start small with a starter emergency fund and once you get all of your debts paid off (minus your mortgage), then you can focus on building that emergency fund by taking what you were putting towards debt and now putting it into savings.

spare change

Each month when you make your budget, look at the money you have left over and commit a certain amount of it to your emergency fund until it is fully funded. The more you are able to set aside for your emergency fund, the faster you will hit your goal amount.

4. Only use the money for emergencies:

The best way to make sure that you are building your emergency fund is to only use the money in that account for actual emergencies. So what constitutes an emergency? Any major expense that you couldn’t have anticipated, such as:

  • An unexpected job loss
  • A medical emergency
  • A sudden, major car repair
  • A leaking roof during a storm

What doesn’t count as an emergency are those expenses that we should have anticipated and been planning for already. Christmas, annual insurance premiums, and regular car maintenance are not emergencies so be sure to plan for these somewhere else in your budget.

Our emergency fund has saved us in a couple of occasions over the last three years and turned those “emergencies” into much less stressful inconveniences. When it was not only raining outside during a particularly heavy storm, but also raining inside, we had the money to be able to put on a new roof. More recently when our minivan, and main form of transportation, decided to pack it in, we were able to use some of the funds from our emergency fund to purchase a new to us car with cash.

If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to leave your emergency fund sitting untouched, but if the time arises, you’ll be glad that it is there.

Your Turn!

  • What has life thrown your way that either made you glad you had, or wished you had, the extra funds available?

How to Save Money

Confession time – I’m a natural spender. I always knew that I should save money, but I never knew how to save money. My idea of saving money was getting something on sale. Sure I spent $25 that I probably didn’t need to, but I “saved” $75!!

 

In order to get our finances in order and get our debt paid off, I had to go from being a spender to learning how to save money. This transition is not always easy, but here are 5 simple things that you can do to start saving money.

1. Save Your Raise:

Any extra money that you receive that you’re not used to living on, save it before you spend it. This can include any bonus or overtime pay, raises, and tax refunds. Before it disappears and you have no idea what happened to it, put those extra dollars into a high-interest savings account.

 

2. Save Your Spare Change:

Every day or at the end of the week, empty your pockets or coin pouch into a jar and watch the savings grow. Since we use cash for most of our daily purchases, our change adds up quickly. In 2016 we accumulated $160 in loose change which was used to purchase the gifts for our two daughter’s Christmas stockings. Not a bad way to use those coins that would normally weigh down your wallet.

 

3. 52-Week Challenge:

If you’ve spent even a minute on Pinterest, than you’ve probably seen this savings trick. The idea is that every week you save a predetermined amount of money. You start by setting aside $1 on week one, $2 on week two, so that by the time you get to the last week, you’re saving $52. Follow this and when the year is up, you will have saved $1,378.00. There are many savings challenges out there depending on what your goal amount is, and the reason why they work is because the savings goal for each week is a manageable amount therefore making it easier to stick with.

 

4. Pay Yourself First:

Another way to save money automatically is to pay yourself first. If you have your paycheck directly deposited, talk to your Human Resources department and see if they are able to split the deposit so that you have money deposited into your savings account with each pay. You can determine how much you would like sent into your savings. It could be $25, $50, or even 10% of your earnings. Since it’s being put into your savings account right away, you’ll be sure to save it before you can spend it.

 

5. Have a Spending Plan (aka The Budget):

This is the biggest money saver of them all. Set up a monthly budget where you list your monthly income that is expected and deduct the various expenses that will need to come out. From the remaining amount you can determine how much you would like to set aside into savings.

No matter what method or methods you use to save money, the trick is to make sure that you are consistent and stick with it. Happy Saving!!

 

Your Turn!

  • What do you do to make sure that you are saving money each month?

How to Make More Money

When you’re determined to get out of debt, or save for a big purchase, you want to do it as quickly as possible. Today we’re going to look at how you can make more money to hit your goals even faster.

Make More Money

Now, in all honesty, these 5 different suggestions are not going to make you rich, nor are they meant to replace your main form of income. Instead these are strategies that you can use in the short term to help you reach your financial goal.

Both my husband and I have used a couple of these tips to help us earn some extra money. My husband asked around to people he knew and ended up getting an on-call job with the city as a stagehand for our local auditorium. I on the other hand, decided to use my speaking skills and media skills as a teacher to create my own YouTube channel about personal finance and documenting our debt-free journey.

piggy bank with money

So if you’re willing to take some of your extra time and turn it into extra money for your bank account, let’s get started:

 

  1. Turn your hobby or your skill into extra money: Consider what you enjoy doing and know how to do and see if that is something that you can make some extra money from. For example, if you have a dog, and take that dog for a walk everyday, why not look into becoming a dog walker for other people in your neighborhood too? This is a great, easy way to make a few extra dollars. Crafty? Consider opening up an Etsy shop to sell your goods.dreams don't work unless you do
  2. Do some freelance work online: If you are interested in making extra money, but would like to do it from home, there is a great opportunity to pick up some freelance work. Check out Upwork. Becoming a freelancer allows you to select jobs that suit your interests and set your own workload.
  3. Flip thrift store finds: If you’re willing to spend the time searching through the racks, you may in fact find some sought after name brand labels that you could look at reselling online. You want to do your research to see what certain brand names go for in order to be sure it is worth your while, but this is a great way to supplement your income from the comfort of your own home.
  4. Selling your unwanted items: Do you have any old cell phones or tablets lying around if you’ve upgraded to the latest model? Do you have any DVDs hanging around that you don’t watch anymore? Do you have any home items that you simply don’t need? Selling your unwanted items is a great way to free up some extra money and get rid of some unwanted clutter. 
  5. Ask around: Let your friends and family know that you’re looking to pick up a few extra hours of work. Perhaps this will lead to some casual part time work either in a place of work or by helping others by completing small jobs.

 

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but will hopefully spark some inspiration about what you might be able to do if you are looking for ways to increase your income.

 

Your Turn!

  • What is something that you have done to earn extra money?
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