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Should I stay or should I go? Wrestling with the decision to quit a career

J.D.’s note: In the olden days at Get Rich Slowly, I shared reader stories every Sunday. I haven’t done that since I re-purchased the site because nobody sends them to me anymore. But earlier this year, Mike did. I love it. I hope you will too.

Earlier this year, I sent my wife a text message: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how freaked out would you be if I quit my job this afternoon?”

My wife and I had only been married a short while, but she’d known since our second date that I didn’t plan to work in my traditional job until normal retirement age. She also knew that I hadn’t been very happy at work in recent months.

We’re very compatible financially — both savers raised in working-class families that didn’t always have a lot. We make a point of having what we like to call “Fun Family Finance Day” from time to time. On Fun Family Finance Day, we do everything from competitively checking our credit scores to discussing questions that get at the root of our money mindsets to help us create our goals.

But this question wasn’t part of the plan. Not then.

And it was never on any of the lists of questions that we’d discussed with each other. It was like a pop quiz, a pothole in the smoothest relationship road I’d ever traveled…and I was the one putting it there.

Dreams Remain Dreams Without Doing

My wife and I rarely argue, but when we do it’s usually about food. It’s the kitchen and the grocery store that are our battleground. Our finances are fine. Thankfully, when you’re confident in the life you’ve created and the person you chose to build it with, it’s a lot easier to be honest about what’s on your mind.

That still doesn’t always mean you get the answer you want. Or the answer you were expecting. She responded: “Wait what. Kinda. What would you do?”

A completely reasonable and fair question. Not to mention one that I’d probably have to get comfortable answering from a lot more people.

I think my immediate reaction was: We talk about this stuff all the time, where is my, “No worries baby, YOLO!”? (I must have watched too many romcoms back before we cut cable from our lives.)

Being a grownup, it turns out, is actually really hard sometimes. I was about to learn that talking about something, and actually doing it, are a world apart.

Life is full of dreamers and doers. Sometimes those two personalities cross over. But there are plenty of people who go through life talking about so many things they’ll never have the courage to try — or the discipline and determination to follow through with.

Which person was I? The dreamer? The doer? Or that fortunate combination of both?

Standing on the Ledge

There’s a quote perched atop my bucket list of long-term goals:

“At some point, you will need to take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself not just if this is something you wanted to do at one point, but if this is something you will want to have done.”

Words are meaningless without action. It was time for me to take that long look in the mirror. I thought back to one of the questions that my wife and I had previously discussed: What does money mean to you? To me, once I grew out of the “stuff accumulation” phase of my early- to mid-20s, my answer had always been freedom. Money meant freedom. To my wife, the answer was security. Money meant security.

You can probably see how freedom can conflict with security. That was the case here. Not only that, but I was asking to change the perfect plan, one that she was comfortable with and excited about.

That’s not one, but two shots against financial security. If I’d thought more about our financial blueprints and how they differ, I might have seen this coming from a mile away!

As I was standing on that ledge, about to quit my job, thoughts started to race through my mind. What did I actually have to lose if made the leap? Lots.

  • A happy relationship and marriage.
  • A secure job with solid income, not to mention a sixteen year investment in my career.
  • Great benefits, including lots of time off, health insurance, 401(k) — even a pension.
  • The ability to afford anything at any time without any real worry. (Our finances were already on autopilot.)
  • My work friends and work prestige.
  • The general day-to-day purpose of a job.
  • The opportunity to create generational wealth. If we worked until 65, the power of compounding would likely make us ridiculously wealthy.

Today at Get Rich Slowly, let’s perform a little exercise. Come stand in my shoes for a minute, won’t you? Join me on the ledge. Do you see the beautiful view? The endless opportunity? The excitement that’s felt only at the beginning of a grand adventure, an adventure where anything is possible?

Or do you get a queasy feeling in your stomach? Do you feel like you’ve lost your balance, like you’re on the edge of some great catastrophe? Do you see a frightening fall from grace? Does it make you want to back away immediately?

Let’s go back to what it felt like to make this decision…

Sitting on the ledge

My Situation

I’m 38 years old. I’ve worked for the same company since I was 22. Corporate insurance is all I know. I’m well paid. I work from home for a solid company with good benefits, plenty of time off, and I really enjoy most of the people I work for and with.

It’s the definition of stability — a solid guardrail protecting me from what lies over the ledge. So what’s the problem?

A year ago, I took a new position that seemed like a great opportunity. Only it wasn’t. The first misstep of my career. A year in, that spot has killed my enthusiasm and engagement. For the first time at work, I’m struggling to get things done.

As an extrovert that derives meaning from helping others, this feels like a prison. My job isn’t hard because it’s stressful. It’s hard because it’s boring me to death! And what are any of us doing thinking about personal finance and early retirement if we aren’t trying to make better use of our limited time on this planet?

There’s a project looming that would require some weekend work once in a while for the foreseeable future, I’ve avoided it in the past, but my luck is running out. My team — and, more importantly, my position — need to take it on. I understand completely. I just don’t want to do it.

At this point in life, my time is way more important to me than money. The weekends and vacations are what I live for. Adventures in the mountains with my friends, quality time with my wife, our dog, and our families – that’s what makes me feel alive.

Insurance? Meh.

No little kid ever said they wanted to work for an insurance company and play with spreadsheets and Powerpoint presentations when they grow up. I wanted to be a baseball player, a sports writer, even a professional forklift driver. (Because what’s more badass than a forklift when you’re a little kid and your dad works at a marina?)

A Glimpse of the Other Side

My wife and I just got back from a delayed honeymoon to Alaska. To say it was incredible would be an understatement. Denali. Kenai. Majestic train rides. Fjords. Glaciers. Bears. Bald eagles. Whales. Hikes.

Life slowed down.

I somehow managed to read five books while doing so many other amazing things. During our more than two weeks off, I got to see what my mind was capable of when it wasn’t drowning in useless information and mundane tasks that consume my braindwidth.

We talked to people who had ended up in this wild place through a history of taking risks. Parents that had hitchhiked cross-country and ended up there back in the 70s. Can you imagine? Where we live, a fair number of people never leave their town or state!

Before the trip, I had tried to apply for a few positions. For whatever reason, it just didn’t work out. I came home from an amazing glimpse into what life could be to a job that seemed like the polar opposite. (Isn’t that every vacation though?) I’ve felt like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole for a while now. Maybe normal life just isn’t for me anymore. Maybe I need something just a little less ordinary.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I’ve been practicing the classic tenets of personal finance since I was in my mid- to late-20s. I found an awesome woman in my mid-30s who just happens to be down with this lifestyle as well. We’re probably two to three years short of where we want to be based on our master plan of a fully-paid house and a really comfortable number in invested assets.

We’d likely fall somewhere between Agency and Security on the stages of financial freedom.

I know good jobs don’t grow on trees, especially where we live. The seasons of the economy are always shifting and there’s a chill in the air. Economic winter can’t be too far off. My wife still has a solid job, and we live a pretty simple life — albeit in an expensive part of the country. Our main splurge is travel, but otherwise we live well below our means.

All of this knowledge and preparation comes with a cost. Having options can be a burden too, because then you’re responsible for making hard decisions. And you’re responsible for the outcomes of those choices.

What other options are there?

  • Be a crappy employee/teammate, and still get paid? Plenty of people have played that game. Get a surgery or two, go out on leave, let performance management run its course for however long that takes, and keep cashing checks the whole time. I don’t think I have it in me to put people I respect through that. It’s just not who I am.
  • I work from home, and I still can’t bring myself to abandon my laptop. What if someone needs me?
  • Am I giving up too soon? The finish line seems just around the corner — somehow so close yet so far away.
  • Should I just suck it up and sell a little more of my soul? Slump my shoulders a little bit more as I trade another piece of myself for money I don’t need to buy things I don’t want?

As I go back and forth, sometimes I briefly wish I’d never found the personal-finance community. Like Neo in The Matrix, why’d I have to take the damn red pill? Being a mindless consumer wasn’t so bad. I would have invested 6-10% in my 401(k) with a traditional pension on top of it.

Forty years on autopilot would have produced a comfortable life of work, nice things — and maybe some time in old age to relax and travel.

Facing Freedom

The whole point of everything I’ve done since I started this journey was to be in control of my own life. To not be owned by things or circumstances. To have options. Freedom of choice. F-U money.

I have the corporate battle scars and survivor’s guilt to understand why that’s important.

I’ve sat on the phone while I heard that my old department was closing down. The sadness and tears in the room. Everyone that had taken me in, given me my chance, taught me the job…basically gone, casualties of a business decision.

I’ve seen people get laid off who are petrified because they don’t know how they’ll pay their bills in a couple of weeks. People will be okay eventually though, right?

What about my friend who was struggling last year and left the company? He committed suicide a few months later. Maybe everyone won’t be okay eventually. Depression runs in my family. Am I really built for this? That thought is haunting.

It’s been said that one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever make in life is whether to walk away or try harder. Every bone in my body tells me it’s time to walk away, to bet on myself.

The End?

About six months after the text exchange that blindsided my wife, with her support, I hit send on the scariest, most exciting and important one-line email of my professional career. It would also signify the unofficial end of it: “I will be resigning from my position effective Wednesday, June 26th.”

To combine a few lines from my favorite movie, The Shawshank Redemption, some birds just weren’t meant to be caged. It’s time to get busy living, or get busy dying.

Source: getrichslowly.org



Have You Met Mr. Market?

Do you know the allegory of Mr. Market? This useful parable—created by Warren Buffett’s mentor—might change everything you think about the stock market, its daily prices, and the endless news cycle (and blogs?!) built upon it.

The Original Mr. Market

The imaginary investor named “Mr. Market” was created by Benjamin Graham in his 1949 book The Intelligent Investor. Graham, if you’re not familiar, was the guy who taught Warren Buffett about securities analysis and value investing. Not a bad track record.

Graham asks the readers of his book to imagine that they have a business partner: a man named Mr. Market. On some days, Mr. Market arrives at work full of enthusiasm. Business is good and Mr. Market is wildly happy. So happy, in fact, that he wants to buy the reader’s share of the business.

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But on other days, Mr. Market is incredibly depressed. The business has hit a bump in the road. Mr. Market will do anything to sell his own shares of the business to the reader.

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Of course, the reader is always free to decline Mr. Market’s offers. And the reader certainly should feel wary of Mr. Market. After all, he is irrational, emotional, and moody. It seems he does not have good business judgement. Graham describes him as having, “incurable emotional problems.”

How can Mr. Market’s feelings fluctuate so quickly? Rather than taking an even emotional approach to business highs and lows, Mr. Market reacts strongly to the slightest bit of news.

If anything, the reader could probably find a way to take advantage of Mr. Market’s over-reactions. The reader could buy from Mr. Market when he’s feeling overly pessimistic and sell to Mr. Market when he’s feeling unjustifiably euphoric. This is one of the basic principles behind value investing.

But Mr. Market is a metaphor

Of course, Mr. Market is an imaginary investor. Yet countless readers have felt that Mr. Market acts as a perfect metaphor for the market fluctuations in the real stock market.

The stock market will come to you with a different price every day. The market will hear good news from a business and countless investors will look to buy that business’s stock. Will you sell to them? But a negative headline will send the market tumbling. Investors will sell. Please, they plead, will you buy my shares?!

Don’t like today’s price? You’ll get a new one tomorrow.

Is this any way to make rational money decisions? By buying while manic and selling while depressive? Do these daily market fluctuations relate to the true intrinsic value of the businesses they represent?

“Never buy something from someone who is out of breath”

Burton Malkiel

There’s a reason why Benjamin Graham built Mr. Market to resemble an actual manic-depressive. It’s an unfortunate affliction. And sadly, those afflicted are often untethered from reality.

The stock market is nothing more than a collection of individuals. These individuals can fall prey to the same emotional overreactions as any other human. Mr. Market acts as a representation of those people.

“In the short run, the stock market is a voting machine. Yet, in the long run, it is a weighing machine.”

Benjamin Graham

Votes are opinions, and opinions can be wrong. That’s why the market’s daily price fluctuations should not affect your long-term investing decisions. But weight is based on fact, and facts don’t lie. Over the long run, the true weight (or value) of a company will make itself apparent.

Warren Buffett’s Thoughts

Warren Buffett is on the record speaking to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders saying that Mr. Market is his favorite part of Benjamin Graham’s book.

Why? Because:

If you cannot control your emotions, you cannot control your money.

Warren Buffett

Of course, Buffett is famous for skills beyond his emotional control. I mean, the guy is 90 years old and continues his daily habits of eating McDonalds and reading six hours of business briefings. That’s fame-worthy.

Warren Buffett

But Buffett’s point is that ignoring Mr. Market is 1) difficult but 2) vitally important. Your mental behavior is just as important as your investing choices.

For example: perhaps your business instincts suggested that Amazon was a great purchase in 1999—at about $100 per share. It was assuredly overvalued at that point based on intrinsic value, but your crystal ball saw a beautiful future.

But Buffett’s real question for you would be: did you sell Amazon when the Dot Com bubble burst (and the stock fell to less than $10 per share)? Did Mr. Market’s depression affect you? Or did your belief in the company’s long-term future allow to hold on until today—when the stock sits at over $3000 per share.

The Woefully Ignorant Sports Fan

I know about 25 different versions of this guy, so I bet you know at least one of them. I’m talking about the Woefully Ignorant Sports Fan, or WISF for short.

The WISF is a spitting image of Mr. Market.

When Lebron James has a couple bad games, the WISF confidently exclaims,

“The dude is a trash basketball player. He’s been overhyped since Day 1. I’m surprised he’s still in the starting lineup.”

Skip Bayless: ESPN's different rules for me and Stephen Smith
Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless: Two Gods of the WISF world

Wow! That’s a pretty outrageous claim. But when Lebron wins the NBA finals and takes home another First-Team All-NBA award, the WISF changes his tune.

“I’m telling you, that’s why he’s the Greatest of All Time. The GOAT. Love him or hate him, you can’t deny he’s the King.”

To the outside observer, this kind of flip-flop removes any shred of the WISF’s credibility. And yet the WISF flip-flops constantly, consistently, and without a hint of irony. It’s simply his nature.

Now think about the WISF alongside Mr. Market. What does the WISF actually tell us about Lebron? Very little! And what does Mr. Market tell us about the true value of the companies on the stock market? Again, very little!

We should not seek truth in the loud pronouncements of an emotional judge. This is another aphorism from The Intelligent Investor book.

But I Want More Money!

Just out of curiosity, I logged into my Fidelity account in late March 2020. The COVID market was at the bottom of its tumble, and my 401(k) and Roth IRA both showed scarring.

Ouch. Tens of thousands of dollars disappeared. Years of saving and investing…poof. This is how investors lose heart. Should I sell now and save myself further losses?

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No! Absolutely not! Selling at the bottom is what Mr. Market does. It’s emotional behavior. It’s not based on rationality, not on the intrinsic values of the underlying businesses.

My pessimism quickly subsided. In fact, I began to feel silver linings. Why?

I’m still in the buying phase of my investing career. I buy via my 401(k) account every two weeks. And I buy via my Roth IRA account every month. I’ve never sold a stock. The red ticks in the image below show my two-week purchasing schedule so far in 2020.

Buy when high, buy when low. That’s the Lazy Portfolio way!

If you’re investing for later in life, then your emotions should typically be the opposite of the market’s emotions. If the market is sad and prices are low and they want to sell…well, great! A low price for you increases your ability to profit later.

And Benjamin Graham agrees. He doesn’t think you should ignore Mr. Market altogether, but instead should do business with him only when it’s in your best interest (ooh yeah!).

“The intelligent investor shouldn’t ignore Mr. Market entirely. Instead, you should do business with him, but only to the extent that it serves your interest.”

Benjamin Graham

If you log into your investment accounts and see that your portfolio value is down, take a step back and consider what it really means. You haven’t lost any money. You don’t lock in any losses unless you sell.

The only two prices that ever matter are the price when you buy and the price when you sell.

Mr. Market in the News

If you pay close attention to the financial news, you’ll realize that it’s a mouthpiece for the emotional whims of Mr. Market. Does that include blogs, too? In some cases, absolutely. But I try to keep the Best Interest out of that fray.

For example, here are two headlines from September 29, 2020:

Just imagine if these two headlines existed in another space. “Bananas—A Healthy Snack That Prevents You From Ever Dying” vs. “Bananas—A Toxic Demon Food That Will Kill Your Family.”

The juxtaposition of these two headlines reminds me of Jason Zweig’s quote:

“The market is a pendulum that forever swings between unsustainable optimism (which makes stocks too expensive) and unjustified pessimism (which makes them too cheap).”

Jason Zweig

More often than not, reality sits somewhere between unsustainable optimism and unjustified pessimism. As an investor, your most important job is to not be duped by this emotional rollercoaster.

Investing Based on Recent Performance

Out of all the questions you send me (and please keep sending them!), one of the most common is:

“Jesse – I’m deciding between investment A, investment B, and investment C. I did some research, and B has the best returns over the past three years. So I should pick B, right?”

Wonderful Readers

Great question! I’ve got a few different answers.

What is Mr. Market saying?

Let’s look at the FANG+ index. The index contains Twitter, Tesla, Apple, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Amazon, NVIDIA, and the Chinese companies Baidu and Alibaba. Wow! What an assortment of popular and well-known companies!

The recent price trend of FANG+ certainly represents that these companies are strong. The index has doubled over the past year.

Mr. Market is euphoric!

And what do we think when Mr. Market is euphoric?

How do you make money?

Another one of my favorite quotes from The Intelligent Investor is this:

“Obvious prospects for physical growth in a business do not translate into obvious profits for investors”

Benjamin Graham

You make money when a company’s stock price is undervalued compared to its prospects for physical growth. You buy low (because it’s undervalued), the company grows, the stock price increases, you sell, and boom—you’ve made a profit.

I think most people would agree that the FANG+ companies all share prospects for physical growth. But, are those companies undervalued? Alternatively, have their potentials for future growth already been accounted for in their prices?

It’s just like someone saying, “I want a Ferrari! It’s such a famous car. How could it not be a great purchase?”

The statement is incomplete. How much are you paying for the Ferrari? Is it undervalued, only selling for $10,000? Or is it overvalued, selling at $10 million? The product itself—whether a car or a company—must be judged against the price it is selling for.

Past Results Do Not Guarantee Future Performance

If investing were as simple as, “History always repeats itself,” then writing articles like this wouldn’t be worthwhile. Every investment company in the world includes a disclaimer: “Past results do not guarantee future performance.”

Before making a specific choice like “Investment B,” one should understanding the ideas of results-oriented thinking and random walks.

Farewell, Mr. Market

Mr. Market, like the real stock market, is an emotional reactionary. His daily pronouncements are often untethered from reality. Don’t let him affect you.

Instead, realize that only two of Mr. Market’s thoughts ever matter—when you buy from him and when you sell to him. Do business with him, but make sure it’s in your best interest (oh yeah!). Everything else is just noise.

If the thoughts of Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffett, and the Best Interest haven’t convinced you, just look at the financial news or consider the Woefully Ignorant Sports Fan. Rapidly changing opinions rarely reflect true reality.

Stay rational and happy investing!

If you enjoyed this article and want to read more, I’d suggest checking out my Archive or Subscribing to get future articles emailed to your inbox.

Source: bestinterest.blog



How to Make Better Financial Decisions

Woman learning how to make better financial decisions

A key financial decision people struggle to make is how to allocate savings for multiple financial goals. Do you save for several goals at the same time or fund them one-by-one in a series of steps? Basically, there are two ways to approach financial goal-setting:

Concurrently: Saving for two or more financial goals at the same time.

Sequentially: Saving for one financial goal at a time in a series of steps.

Each method has its pros and cons. Here’s how to decide which method is best for you.

Sequential goal-setting

Pros

You can focus intensely on one goal at a time and feel a sense of completion when each goal is achieved. It’s also simpler to set up and manage single-goal savings than plans for multiple goals. You only need to set up and manage one account.

Cons

Compound interest is not retroactive. If it takes up to a decade to get around to long-term savings goals (e.g., funding a retirement savings plan), that’s time that interest is not earned.

Concurrent goal-setting

Pros

Compound interest is not delayed on savings for goals that come later in life. The earlier money is set aside, the longer it can grow. Based on the Rule of 72, you can double a sum of money in nine years with an 8 percent average return. The earliest years of savings toward long-term goals are the most powerful ones.

Cons

Funding multiple financial goals is more complex than single-tasking. Income needs to be earmarked separately for each goal and often placed in different accounts. In addition, it will probably take longer to complete any one goal because savings is being placed in multiple locations.

Research findings

Working with Wise Bread to recruit respondents, I conducted a study of financial goal-setting decisions with four colleagues that was recently published in the Journal of Personal Finance. The target audience was young adults with 69 percent of the sample under age 45. Four key financial decisions were explored: financial goals, homeownership, retirement planning, and student loans.

Results indicated that many respondents were sequencing financial priorities, instead of funding them simultaneously, and delaying homeownership and retirement savings. Three-word phrases like “once I have…,", “after I [action],” and “as soon as…,” were noted frequently, indicating a hesitancy to fund certain financial goals until achieving others.

The top three financial goals reported by 1,538 respondents were saving for something, buying something, and reducing debt. About a third (32 percent) of the sample had outstanding student loan balances at the time of data collection and student loan debt had a major impact on respondents’ financial decisions. About three-quarters of the sample said loan debt affected both housing choices and retirement savings.

Actionable steps

Based on the findings from the study mentioned above, here are five ways to make better financial decisions.

1. Consider concurrent financial planning

Rethink the practice of completing financial goals one at a time. Concurrent goal-setting will maximize the awesome power of compound interest and prevent the frequently-reported survey result of having the completion date for one goal determine the start date to save for others.

2. Increase positive financial actions

Do more of anything positive that you’re already doing to better your personal finances. For example, if you’re saving 3 percent of your income in a SEP-IRA (if self-employed) or 401(k) or 403(b) employer retirement savings plan, decide to increase savings to 4 percent or 5 percent.

3. Decrease negative financial habits

Decide to stop (or at least reduce) costly actions that are counterproductive to building financial security. Everyone has their own culprits. Key criteria for consideration are potential cost savings, health impacts, and personal enjoyment.

4. Save something for retirement

Almost 40 percent of the respondents were saving nothing for retirement, which is sobering. The actions that people take (or do not take) today affect their future selves. Any savings is better than no savings and even modest amounts like $100 a month add up over time.

5. Run some financial calculations

Use an online calculator to set financial goals and make plans to achieve them. Planning increases people’s sense of control over their finances and motivation to save. Useful tools are available from FINRA and Practical Money Skills.

What’s the best way to save money for financial goals? It depends. In the end, the most important thing is that you’re taking positive action. Weigh the pros and cons of concurrent and sequential goal-setting strategies and personal preferences, and follow a regular savings strategy that works for you. Every small step matters!

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Want to know how to allocate savings for your financial goals? We’ve got the tips on how to make financial decisions so you can be confident in your personal finance! | #moneymatters #personalfinance #moneytips


Source: feeds.killeraces.com



Money Audit: Should We Hold on to Our Rental Properties?

This week’s Mint audit helps out a couple, Pasquale, 46, and Jillian, 39, who are starting a new life together after each experiencing divorce. Both work in software sales earning roughly the same income. When combined, their earnings average $450,000 a year.

The New Jersey couple shares a new mortgage and a savings account. They recently purchased a home together and pool a fraction of their incomes together into a joint account to pay for shared expenses such as the home loan, property taxes and utilities.

Pasquale and Jillian also arrived at the relationship owning their own properties. Pasquale has held onto his townhome in a nearby town that he bought after his divorce. He rents it out, earning a nice $500 monthly profit. Jillian also has a home in Florida, which she rents out. She more or less breaks even every month.

They would like advice related to managing their rental properties (should they sell them?), possibly buying a vacation home in the $250,000 to $350,000 range and, for Pasquale, saving up to help send his two daughters (ages 13 and 17) to college. They’re also wondering if they’re saving “enough” for retirement.

They had lots of good questions, and after an hour on the phone and a review of their finances, I was able to fit together some of their puzzle pieces.

First, here’s a break down of some their finances:

Retirement Savings

  • Pasquale: Contributes 5% to 401(k) and has about $500,000 in it. He also invests 15% in company’s ESPP (Employee Stock Purchase Plan)
  • Jillian: Contributes 5% to a 401(k) plus employer’s match, totaling 10%. She has about $200,000 saved. She also invests 11% in her company’s ESPP.
  • If they were to both cash out their ESPPs today, they’d have about $250,000 in gains, which are subject to income tax.

Child Support Payments

  • Pasquale: $4,000 per month

Debt (Credit Cards and Student Loans)

  • Pasquale: $18,000 in student loans
  • Jillian: $40,000 in student loans

Real Estate Holdings

  • Each of their individual properties has about $80,000 in equity.

 

Here are my top 3 recommendations:

Max Out the 401(k)s

The couple is doing fairly well with their retirement savings, but I think they are too exposed to their ESPPs. They contribute more to their ESPPs than their 401(k)s, which is very risky, considering an ESPP puts all your money in a single stock. A 401(k) is far more diversified.

They may benefit from reallocating some of those dollars back into their company 401(k). In doing so, I recommend they both aim to max out their 401(k)s, which also means a bigger tax deduction. This year’s maximum contribution is $18,500.

Transfer Some ESPP Earnings to College Savings

Every six months, each receives the chance to cash out some or all of the money in their ESPP. I recommend striking at the next opportunity to reduce their exposure to a market downfall and help pay for future college expenses. Taking 20 or 30 percent off the table and placing the dollars into a safer haven like a CD creates less risk.

For Pasquale, specifically, I’d look into selling some of his shares at the next opportunity and placing it into a plain vanilla savings account to cover at least the first two years of his daughter’s education. His daughter will choose a school soon and expects to receive some grants and scholarships to reduce the cost. At that point Pasquale can better estimate how much to withdraw from the stock plan.

For his youngest daughter, it’s not too late for Pasquale to open a 529-college savings account. That money can later be used for higher education costs without being subject to taxes. Investing $500 a month in a 529 starting today could help to afford at least the first year or two of school, depending on where she lands. Pasquale may even consider using some of the ESPP gains to fund the new 529 for daughter #2, if his eldest doesn’t need it.

Sell Rentals to Purchase a New Second Home

How emotionally tied are they to their individual properties? Pasquale said he could take it or leave it. The $500 cash flow is nice, but he’s open to selling it. Jillian, however, would be sad to part ways with the Florida home. While its rental income is just enough to cover the carrying costs, she likes the idea of keeping it. She’s always wanted to have a house by the water.

But I propose a scenario: What if they sold both rental properties and pooled the equity ($160,000) to afford a new second home that they’d both own? They’re eyeing a cabin near the Poconos in Pennsylvania. The estimated cost for a home that suits them is between $250,000 and $300,000. A 50% down payment on a $300,000 home would mean that their monthly mortgage would be roughly $700 per month, given today’s average interest rate of about 4.50% (or possibly higher for second homes.)

From selling the two properties they achieve their goal of affording a second home. Located in a popular resort area, they can also rent it out from time to time for more than $700 a week. Renting the place for just 8 or 10 weeks out of the year would probably cover the annual mortgage.

From there, any extra cash flow could be used to save more for retirement, travel, college, or whatever they wish.

 

Farnoosh Torabi is America’s leading personal finance authority hooked on helping Americans live their richest, happiest lives. From her early days reporting for Money Magazine to now hosting a primetime series on CNBC and writing monthly for O, The Oprah Magazine, she’s become our favorite go-to money expert and friend.

The post Money Audit: Should We Hold on to Our Rental Properties? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com



How Much Is Enough For Retirement?

If you’re thinking about how much is enough for retirement, you’re probably contemplating a retirement and need to know how to pay for it. If you are, that’s good because one of the challenges we face is how we’re going to fund our retirement.

Determining then how much retirement savings is enough depends on a number of factors, including your lifestyle and your current income. Either way, you want to make sure that you have plenty of money in your retirement savings so you don’t work too hard, or work at all, during your golden years.

If you’re already thinking about retirement and you’re not sure whether your savings is in good shape, it may make sense to speak with a financial advisor to help you set up a savings plan.

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How Much Is Enough For Retirement?

Your needs and expectations might be different in retirement than others. Because of that, there’s no magic number out there. In other words, how much is enough for retirement depends on a myriad of personal factors.

However, the conventional wisdom out there is that you should have $1 million to $1.5 million, or that your retirement savings should be 10 to 12 times your current income.

Even $1 million may not be enough to retire comfortably. According to a report from a major personal finance website, GoBankingRates, you could easily blow $1 million in as little as 12 years.

GoBankingRates concludes that a better way to figure out how long $1 million will last you largely depends on your state. For example, if you live in California, the report found, “$1 Million will last you 14 years, 3 months, 7 days.” Whereas if you live in Mississippi, “$1 Million will last you 23 years, 2 months, 2 days.” In other words, how much is enough for retirement largely depends on the state you reside.

For some, coming up with that much money to retire comfortably can be scary, especially if you haven’t saved any money for retirement, or, if your savings is not where it’s supposed to be.

Related topics:

How to Become a 401(k) Millionaire

Early Retirement: 7 Steps to Retire Early

5 Reasons Why You Will Retire Broke

Your current lifestyle and expected lifestyle?

What is your current lifestyle? To determine how much you need to save for retirement, you should determine how much your expenses are currently now and whether you intend to keep the current lifestyle during retirement.

So, if you’re making $110,000 and live off of $90,000, then multiply $90,000 by 20 ($1,800,000). With that number in mind, start working toward a retirement saving goals. However, if you intend to eat and spend lavishly during retirement, then you’ll obviously have to save more. And the same is true if you intend to reduce your expenses during retirement: you can save less money now.

The best way to start saving for retirement is to contribute to a tax-advantaged retirement account. It can be a Roth IRA, a traditional IRA or a 401(k) account. A 401k account should be your best choice, because the amount you can contribute every year is much more than a Roth IRA and traditional IRA.

1. See if you can max out your 401k. If you’re lucky enough to have a 401k plan at your job, you should contribute to it or max it out if you’re able to. The contribution limit for a 401k plan if you’re under 50 years old is $19,000 in 2019. If you’re funding a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA, the limit is $6,000. For more information, see How to Become a 401(k) Millionaire.

2. Automate your retirement savings. If you’re contributing to an employer 401k plan, that money automatically gets deducted from your paycheck. But if you’re funding a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA, you have to do it yourself. So set up an automatic deposit for your retirement account from a savings account. If your employer offers direct deposit, you can have a portion of your paycheck deposited directly into that savings account.

Related: The Best 5 Places For Your Savings Account.

Life expectancy

How long do you expect to live? Have your parents or grandparents lived through 80’s or 90’s or 100’s? If so, there is a chance you might live longer in retirement if you’re in good health. Therefore, you need to adjust your savings goal higher.

Consider seeking financial advice.

Saving money for retirement may not be your strong suit. Therefore, you may need to work with a financial advisor to boost your retirement income. For example, if you have a lot of money sitting in your retirement savings account, a financial advisor can help with investment options.

Bottom Line:

Figuring out how much is enough for retirement depends on how much retirement will cost you and what lifestyle you intend to have. Once you know the answer to these two questions, you can start working towards your savings goal.

How much money you will need in retirement? Use this retirement calculator below to determine whether you are on tract and determine how much you’ll need to save a month.

More on retirement:

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  • 7 Situations When You Need a Financial Advisor – Plus How to Find One Read More
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Working With The Right Financial Advisor

You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc). Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

The post How Much Is Enough For Retirement? appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com



How Tapping Home Equity Can Pay the Taxes on a Roth IRA Conversion

Single Family Home with Beige Clapboard Exterior and Trees in Autumn Colors (Foliage) in Sleepy Hollow, Hudson Valley, New York. OlegAlbinsky/iStock

The benefits of incorporating a Roth IRA into your retirement strategy are often praised by financial advisers, citing the ability for money to grow tax-free for decades and provide tax-free income in retirement. While a Roth IRA conversion is one way to take advantage of this savings tool, the tax implications of converting investments from a traditional retirement account to a Roth IRA typically deter most people. Yet the effects of new legislation and persistent market volatility make a Roth IRA conversion worth considering, and paying for it doesn’t have to break the bank.

A Roth IRA conversion uses assets from a traditional or rollover IRA, 401(k), SEP or Simple IRA to fund a Roth IRA. Unlike regular contributions to a Roth IRA, which are constrained by income limitations and annual contribution caps, there are no restrictions when converting retirement assets to a Roth IRA. Any amount can be converted regardless of your age, income, or employment status. But the Roth IRA conversion doesn’t come without a cost.

When you convert pre-tax assets in a traditional retirement account to your Roth IRA, the conversion is treated as income and you must pay taxes on the assets converted. The amount you pay in taxes depends on your income tax bracket for the year. In some cases, a substantial conversion in one year could boost taxable income by multiple brackets. To help manage that liability, a series of partial conversions over several years could be planned to keep the distributions within a targeted tax bracket.

For many retirees, income from a traditional IRA or 401(k) can create a tax headache, especially when required minimum distributions (RMDs) raise their tax bracket. That’s where a Roth IRA comes in.

A Roth IRA provides the flexibility to take tax-free withdrawals in retirement when you want and in whatever amount you want. This is unlike other retirement accounts that have RMDs beginning at age 72. The RMDs are taxable income, which means that in addition to your tax bracket they can also impact your Medicare premium bracket and the taxation of your Social Security benefit, whereas distributions from the Roth IRA will not.

This year the CARES Act temporarily pauses RMDs from traditional retirement accounts. So, if you are 72 or older and you don’t take your RMD then your income will be lower. This provides a potential opportunity to make a larger conversion while maintaining the same income tax rate.

Additionally, since the Secure Act of 2020 eliminated the stretch provisions for inherited retirement plans, the Roth IRA is also a great estate planning tool. Non-spousal heirs can no longer take distributions over their life expectancy, but rather all distributions must be taken within 10 years. While this is true as well for an inherited Roth IRA, the distribution would not be a taxable event.

The cost of an IRA conversion can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Conventional wisdom is to pay the resulting tax bill with non-taxable assets from outside the retirement plan. Using plan assets would defeat the purpose of the conversion as you will permanently give up a portion of the capital that is accumulating on a tax-free basis. In addition, if you’re under age 59 ½, the portion of plan assets used to pay for the conversion could also be subject to a 10% tax penalty.

If you have the cash on hand, that’s likely the best way to cover the tax implications. But depending on the size of the conversion and your tax bracket, the up-front costs could be significant. Another option is to take out a loan against your life insurance policy. While this permanently reduces the policy value if not repaid, the loan doesn’t count as taxable income so long as the policy isn’t surrendered, doesn’t lapse, and the amount owed doesn’t exceed the premiums paid. If any of these do occur then the tax implications will likely be even larger than the taxes paid on the Roth IRA conversion.

Considering a reverse mortgage

Alternatively, tapping into your home equity can provide the means to pay the taxes. You could leverage current low interest rates and get a home equity line of credit (HELOC), though many banks have stopped accepting applications for HELOCs in recent months. Additionally, a HELOC will require a monthly mortgage payment, decreasing your cash flow.

For homeowners age 62 or older, a reverse mortgage could pay the tax liabilities from the Roth IRA conversion, creating tax and cash-flow flexibility and potentially a higher net worth.

With a reverse mortgage, the available line of credit grows and compounds at a value that is tied to current interest rates. This can be particularly beneficial with a series of partial Roth IRA conversions as it provides a growing resource to pay future tax bills. The line of credit also provides flexibility to convert a greater portion of your retirement assets during market plunges, so you only pay taxes on the lower value at the time of the conversion and not on any gains in the Roth IRA when the markets recover.

Since there are no principal or interest payments required for as long as you live in your home, the line of credit from a reverse mortgage provides the liquidity to pay for the Roth IRA conversion with no impact on household cash flow or the need to sell other invested assets.

A good rule of thumb is to use a reverse mortgage if your home equity is less than or equal to the value of the retirement assets you plan to convert. If the home represents a major portion of your net worth, a reverse mortgage may not be the best option to cover the tax bill. In this case, the reverse could better serve as a tax-free source of supplemental income, or to pay for in-home care, or other retirement expenses that distributions from the smaller invested assets may not be able to cover.

Evaluating the use of a reverse mortgage also depends on the projected costs in comparison with the projected returns. For example, if interest rates on a reverse line of credit are at 3%, and your home appreciates at a 3% rate, you could borrow 50% of your home equity and still maintain a 50% retained equity position throughout the duration of the loan. Even if the home only appreciated at a 1% rate, you would still have a retained equity position.

Projected returns on the Roth IRA conversion would also need to be evaluated. For simplicity’s sake, let us assume you borrow a total of $250,000 from your reverse line of credit to pay the tax bills on $1 million conversion. If you accrue interest on the line of credit balance at a 3% rate and the Roth IRA grows at a 6% tax-free rate, the return could be quite compelling over time.

Of course, there are no guarantees on any projections, which is why you should consult a financial professional and evaluate your specific situation. A number of “what if” scenarios should be considered including changes in interest and tax rates, home and investment growth rates, and legacy desires. These considerations will help determine if using a reverse mortgage to take advantage of the benefits of a Roth IRA conversion could be a retirement strategy that makes sense for you.

The post How Tapping Home Equity Can Pay the Taxes on a Roth IRA Conversion appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com



Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer

Could logging in to your computer from a deluxe treehouse off the coast of Belize be the future of work? Maybe. For many, the word freelance means flexibility, meaningful tasks and better work-life balance. Who doesn’t want to create their own hours, love what they do and work from wherever they want? Freelancing can provide all of that—but that freedom can vanish quickly if you don’t handle your expenses correctly.

“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches,” says freelance copywriter Alyssa Goulet, “and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

Nearly 57 million people in the U.S. freelanced, or were self-employed, in 2019, according to Upwork, a global freelancing platform. Freelancing is also increasingly becoming a long-term career choice, with the percentage of freelancers who freelance full-time increasing from 17 percent in 2014 to 28 percent in 2019, according to Upwork. But for all its virtues, the cost of being freelance can carry some serious sticker shock.

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“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on, but for that you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Most people who freelance for the first time don’t realize that everything—from taxes to office supplies to setting up retirement plans—is on them. So, before you can sustain yourself through self-employment, you need to answer a very important question: “Are you financially ready to freelance?”

What you’ll find is that budgeting as a freelancer can be entirely manageable if you plan for the following key costs. Let’s start with one of the most perplexing—taxes:

1. Taxes: New rules when working on your own

First things first: Don’t try to be a hero. When determining how to budget as a freelancer and how to manage your taxes as a freelancer, you’ll want to consult with a financial adviser or tax professional for guidance. A tax expert can help you figure out what makes sense for your personal and business situation.

For instance, just like a regular employee, you will owe federal income taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes. When you’re employed at a regular job, you and your employer each pay half of these taxes from your income, according to the IRS. But when you’re self-employed (earning more than $400 a year in net income), you’re expected to file and pay these expenses yourself, the IRS says. And if you think you will owe more than $1,000 in taxes for a given year, you may need to file estimated quarterly taxes, the IRS also says.

That can feel like a heavy hit when you’re not used to planning for these costs. “If you’ve been on a salary, you don’t think about taxes really. You think about the take-home pay. With freelance, everything is take-home pay,” says Susan Lee, CFP®, tax preparer and founder of FreelanceTaxation.com.

When learning how to budget as a freelancer it’s necessary to estimate your income and expenses before setting aside savings for tax payments.

When you’re starting to budget as a freelancer and determining how often you will need to file, Lee recommends doing a “dummy return,” which is an estimation of your self-employment income and expenses for the year. You can come up with this number by looking at past assignments, industry standards and future projections for your work, which freelancer Goulet finds valuable.

“Since I don’t have a salary or a fixed number of hours worked per month, I determine the tax bracket I’m most likely to fall into by taking my projected monthly income and multiplying it by 12,” Goulet says. “If I experience a big income jump because of a new contract, I redo that calculation.”

After you estimate your income, learning how to budget as a freelancer means working to determine how much to set aside for your tax payments. Lee, for example, recommends saving about 25 percent of your income for paying your income tax and self-employment tax (which funds your Medicare and Social Security). But once you subtract your business expenses from your freelance income, you may not have to pay that entire amount, according to Lee. Deductible expenses can include the mileage you use to get from one appointment to another, office supplies and maintenance and fees for a coworking space, according to Lee. The income left over will be your taxable income.

Pro Tip:

To set aside the taxes you will need to pay, adjust your estimates often and always round up. “Let’s say in one month a freelancer determines she would owe $1,400 in tax. I’d put away $1,500,” Goulet says.

2. Business expenses: Get a handle on two big areas

The truth is, the cost of being freelance varies from person to person. Some freelancers are happy to work from their kitchen tables, while others need a dedicated workspace. Your freelance costs also change as you add new tools to your business arsenal. Here are two categories you’ll always need to account for when budgeting as a freelancer:

Your workspace

Joining a coworking space gets you out of the house and allows you to establish the camaraderie you may miss when you work alone. When you’re calculating the cost of being freelance, note that coworking spaces may charge membership dues ranging from $20 for a day pass to hundreds of dollars a month for a dedicated desk or private office. While coworking spaces are all the rage, you can still rent a traditional office for several hundred dollars a month or more, but this fee usually doesn’t include community aspects or other membership perks.

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If you want to avoid office rent or dues as costs of being freelance but don’t want the kitchen table to pull double-duty as your workspace, you might convert another room in your home into an office. But you’ll still need to outfit the space with all of your work essentials. Freelance copywriter and content strategist Amy Hardison retrofitted part of her house into a simple office. “I got a standing desk, a keyboard, one of those adjustable stands for my computer and a squishy mat to stand on so my feet don’t hurt,” Hardison says.

Pro Tip:

Start with the absolute necessities. When Hardison first launched her freelance career, she purchased a laptop for $299. She worked out of a coworking space and used its office supplies before creating her own workspace at home.

Digital tools

There are a range of digital tools, including business and accounting software, that can help with the majority of your business functions. A big benefit is the time they can save you that is better spent marketing to clients or producing great work.

The software can also help you avoid financial lapses as you’re managing the costs of being freelance. Hardison’s freelance business had ramped up to a point where a manual process was costing her money, so using an invoicing software became a no-brainer. “I was sending people attached document invoices for a while and keeping track of them in a spreadsheet,” Hardison says. “And then I lost a few of them and I just thought, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t be losing things. This is my income!’”

As you manage the cost of being freelance, consider digital tools and accounting services to keep track of invoices, payments and income.

Digital business and software tools can help manage scheduling, web hosting, accounting, audio/video conference and other functions. When you’re determining how to budget as a freelancer, note that the costs for these services depend largely on your needs. For instance, several invoicing platforms offer options for as low as $9 per month, though the cost increases the more clients you add to your account. Accounting services also scale up based on the features you want and how many clients you’re tracking, but you can find reputable platforms for as little as $5 a month.

Pro Tip:

When you sign up for a service, start with the “freemium” version, in which the first tier of service is always free, Hardison says. Once you have enough clients to warrant the expense, upgrade to the paid level with the lowest cost. Gradually adding services will keep your expenses proportionate to your income.

3. Health insurance: Harnessing an inevitable cost

Budgeting for healthcare costs can be one of the biggest hurdles to self-employment and successfully learning how to budget as a freelancer. In the first half of the 2020 open enrollment period, the average monthly premium under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for those who do not receive federal subsidies—or a reduced premium based on income—was $456 for individuals and $1,134 for families, according to eHealth, a private online marketplace for health insurance.

“Buying insurance is really protecting against that catastrophic event that is not likely to happen. But if it does, it could throw everything else in your plan into a complete tailspin,” says Stephen Gunter, CFP®, at Bridgeworth Financial.

Budgeting as a freelancer allows you to select a healthcare plan that best suits your employment status, income and relationship status.

A good place to start when budgeting as a freelancer is knowing what healthcare costs you should budget for. Your premium—which is how much you pay each month to have your insurance—is a key cost. Note that the plans with the lowest premiums aren’t always the most affordable. For instance, if you choose a high-deductible policy you may pay less in premiums, but if you have a claim, you may pay more at the time you or your covered family member’s health situation arises.

When you are budgeting as a freelancer, the ACA healthcare marketplace is one place to look for a plan. Here are a few other options:

  • Spouse or domestic partner’s plan: If your spouse or domestic partner has health insurance through his/her employer, you may be able to get coverage under their plan.
  • COBRA: If you recently left your full-time job for self-employment, you may be able to convert your employer’s group plan into an individual COBRA plan. Note that this type of plan comes with a high expense and coverage limit of 18 months.
  • Organizations for freelancers: Search online for organizations that promote the interests of independent workers. Depending on your specific situation, you may find options for health insurance plans that fit your needs.

Pro Tip:

Speak with an insurance adviser who can help you figure out which plans are best for your health needs and your budget. An adviser may be willing to do a free consultation, allowing you to gather important information before making a financial commitment.

4. Retirement savings: Learn to “set it and forget it”

Part of learning how to budget as a freelancer is thinking long term, which includes saving for retirement. That may seem daunting when you’re wrangling new business expenses, but Gunter says saving for the future is a big part of budgeting as a freelancer.

“It’s kind of the miracle of compound interest. The sooner we can get it invested, the sooner we can get it saving,” Gunter says.

He suggests going into autopilot and setting aside whatever you would have contributed to an employer’s 401(k) plan. One way to do this might be setting up an automatic transfer to your savings or retirement account. “So, if you would have put in 3 percent [of your income] each month, commit to saving that 3 percent on your own,” Gunter says. The Discover IRA Certificate of Deposit (IRA CD) could be a good fit for helping you enjoy guaranteed returns in retirement by contributing after-tax (Roth IRA CD) or pre-tax (traditional IRA CD) dollars from your income now.

Pro Tip:

Prioritize retirement savings every month, not just when you feel flush. “Saying, ‘I’ll save whatever is left over’ isn’t a savings plan, because whatever is left over at the end of the month is usually zero,” Gunter says.

5. Continually update your rates

One of the best things you can do for yourself in learning how to budget as a freelancer is build your costs into what you charge. “As I’ve discovered more business expenses, I definitely take those into account as I’m determining what my rates are,” Goulet says. She notes that freelancers sometimes feel guilty for building business costs into their rates, especially when they’re worried about the fees they charge to begin with. But working the costs of being freelance into your rates is essential to building a thriving freelance career. You should annually evaluate the rates you charge.

Because your expenses will change over time, it’s wise to do quarterly and yearly check-ins to assess your income and costs and see if there are processes you can automate to save time and money.

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“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches, and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Have confidence in your freelance career

Accounting for the various costs of being freelance makes for a more successful and sustainable freelance career. It also helps ensure that those who are self-employed achieve financial stability in their personal lives and their businesses.

“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on,” Goulet says. “But for that, you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

The post Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com




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