Social Security recipients who have lost a spouse may be eligible for a higher monthly payout if they switch to survivor’s benefits. But many recipients are unaware of this fact. That ignorance could cost them tens of thousands of dollars over the course of their retirement, according to an audit by the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General. The audit found that of 100…
Financial independence can mean different things to everyone. A 2013 survey from Capital One 360 found that 44 percent of American adults feel that financial independence means not having any debt, 26 percent said it means having an emergency savings fund, and 10 percent link financial independence with being able to retire early.
I define financial independence as the time in life when my assets produce enough income to cover a comfortable lifestyle. At that point, working a day job will be optional.
But what about the rest of America? How would you define financial independence? If freedom from debt is what you’re seeking, here are five areas that could be holding you back.
1. Not having clear, financial goals
If you’re not planning for financial independence, chances are you won’t reach it. The future is full of unknowns, but having an idea of when you’d like to achieve financial freedom should be your first step.
Do you want to retire before you turn 65? Do you want to travel the world with your spouse once you reach early retirement? Both goals will require a significant amount of cash stashed away, so it’s important to start saving ASAP to make those dreams come true. (See also: 15 Secrets of People Who Retire Early)
2. Not saving enough
It’s important to identify how much you’re currently saving, and how much you need to save in order to retire when you want to, or reach another major financial goal. Using a calculator like Networthify can help you play with various money-saving scenarios and make realistic projections about retirement.
Another way to make saving money easier is to automate it. Setting up an automatic weekly or monthly transfer from your checking account into your savings account will take the extra task off your already full plate. Even if it’s as little as $5 a week, it’s enough to start building that nest egg. (See also: 5 MicroSaving Tools to Help You Start Saving Now)
3. Not paying off consumer debt
If you’re carrying a credit card balance each month, financing cars, or just paying the minimum on your student loans, compound interest is working against you. Creating an aggressive plan to pay off debt quickly should be a number one priority for anyone who is serious about achieving financial independence. Otherwise, your money is working for your creditors, not you.
If you prefer to tackle credit card debt first, there are several debt management methods you can try, including the Debt Snowball Method and the Debt Avalanche Method. The Debt Snowball Method has you paying off the card with the smallest balance first, working your way up to the card with the largest balance. The Debt Avalanche Method is similar, but here you would pay more than the monthly minimum on the card with the highest interest rate first, working towards paying off the card with the lowest interest rate. Both are highly effective methods, and choosing one really just depends on your preference.
4. Giving into lifestyle creep
A high income does not automatically make you wealthy. As you move up in your career, the temptation to upgrade your lifestyle to match your income will be ever-present. After all, you work hard, so why not reward yourself with the latest gadgets and toys?
However, if you continue to spend and live modestly, you can put more money away for travel or retirement with every pay raise you earn. Financial freedom will be just around the corner if you resist that temptation to upgrade your home, car, and electronics to match your income bracket. (See also: 9 Ways to Reverse Lifestyle Creep)
5. Being driven by FOMO
Fear Of Missing Out, aka FOMO, is the modern version of keeping up with the Joneses. Except now you have access to the Joneses’ social media platforms, and they go on all kinds of fun adventures. Social media is a great tool for keeping in touch, but it can also make you want to spend all your money on lavish vacations, clothes, spa treatments, and other extravagent things. Resist that urge. And block the Joneses on social media if needed. (See also: Are You Letting FOMO Ruin Your Finances?)
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This article is from Toni Husbands of Wise Bread, an award-winning personal finance and credit card comparison website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:
5 Money Moves to Make Before You Turn 40
The 10 Commandments of Reaching Financial Freedom
16 Small Steps You Can Take Now to Improve Your Finances
The Pros and Cons of Paying Off Your Debt Early
How a Credit Card Can Actually Help You Get Out of Debt
Some of us know it as I.R.A while others pronounce it âeye-ruh.â No matter if youâre team âI-R-Aâ or team âeye-ruhâ, you should definitely know what it means!Â
These letters stand for Individual Retirement Account.Â
Donât roll your eyes! I know âretirementâ sounds like something you should only worry about when youâre much older, but I promise, youâll be thankful you learned all about this. Itâll help you learn a couple tips on smart tax moves and ultimately help out your future self!Â
You probably have a bank account where you put your money, right? So this is still relevant to you! Now, the question is: how much is the money sitting in your account growing each year? If youâre lucky, the answer is somewhere around 2% in the year 2020 (for a high yield savings account). But most people donât have that. Most people have a checking account that doesnât pay them any interest at all or a traditional savings account that offers an average of 0.09% in interest per year. That may not sound like a big difference – 2% versus .09% – but trust me: IT IS!Â
After 10 years of saving $100 every month (or $50 from each biweekly paycheck), a bank account with .09% interest rate or annual percentage rate (also called APR) will have a total of $12,059.56, while a high yield savings account growing at a 2% APR will have a total of $13,402.46. Thatâs a difference of over $1,000 of FREE MONEY! And, whatâs even more eye-opening is that the longer you invest and the more the interest compounds, the bigger the effect. So over a 40 year period of time, which is a typical American working career, the difference is more than $25,000!
What does any of this have to do with that Individual Retirement Account I mentioned earlier? Patience, weâre getting there!
When it comes to money, growth is key. How much can you grow your money in a year? In 10 years? In your working career? With a bank, your money is safe and protected, but it doesnât really grow that much. Thatâs where the stock market comes in! Itâs a good idea to put the money you may need for an emergency into a bank account for easy and guaranteed access, but also consider putting at least 5% of your earnings into an investment account for long term goals such as retirement.Â
For example, a 401k through your job allows you to invest your money in the stock market. If you donât have access to a 401k through your job, then you can open up an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) that also allows you to invest your money in the stock market. Similarly, a pension plan (if you can even get one of those in the 21st century!) also invests your money in the stock market.Â
So why do all of these fancy accounts put our hard-earned money in the stock market? The answer is: over the long term, (not just one year, but over many, many years) the stock market has a history of providing higher rates of return, thereby growing peopleâs money much faster than any bank!Â
When your job doesnât offer any workplace retirement benefits, then you can open an Individual Retirement Account on your own. Let me break down the basics for you:
What: Opening an IRA
Where: At a brokerage firm of your choice
When: Anytime you want
Why: Because your money can grow more in an IRA than it would in the bank over the long run
Now, letâs talk about the âhow.â First, choose whether you want to pay taxes on the money youâll be investing when you file your taxes next or if youâd rather pay them in the future when you file taxes for the year you took the money out. That will determine whether you open a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA.
Roth IRA vs. Traditional IRA
Roth IRA: Investment account that lets you put money away for your retirement. Money invested here is after taxes have been paid, so you donât have to worry about paying taxes ever again. Also, any profits you earn over time will never be taxed, and thatâs a BIG deal! Available only if you earn under a certain income level.Â
Traditional IRA: Investment account that lets you put money away for retirement, but claim a tax break on the amount invested when you file your taxes. Since you get a tax break now, when you take the money out in the future youâll have to pay taxes on your invested dollars and the profits earned. Available no matter what income level you fall under.Â Â
People who earn too much money for a Roth IRA tend to choose a traditional IRA (the limits for how much you can earn to have a Roth IRA changes every year.) Also, people who predict that they will earn less money in the future (at retirement) also like to choose a Traditional IRA because they like the idea of paying less in taxes as a result of being in a lower tax bracket.Â
Once youâve chosen the IRA type that you prefer, youâre ready to choose a brokerage firm. Choosing a brokerage firm is similar to choosing a bank. Make sure that you know what the fees are, what the customer service experience is like, what account types they offer, and what in-person versus web-based services or platforms they have. You can call them up or go online and create your account. Heads up: Youâll have to link the investment account (the IRA) to your bank account so that you can transfer money and begin to invest in the account you created.Â
What Do I Put Into My IRA?
Now, the toughest question of them all: What investments do I invest the dollars within my IRA into? The short answer is that it really depends on what your goals are. If youâre not trying to retire anytime soon, then you can afford to be risky. You can have mostly stocks and little to no bonds in the IRA. If you plan on retiring very soon, youâll want to make sure you have most of your money in more secure investments that donât change unpredictably in the market, such as bonds. The general rule of thumb when it comes to deciding how much to put in stocks versus bonds looks like this:Â
120 – your age = percentage of investment that should be stocks
So for example, A 30-year-old in 2020 should have 90% stocks in their IRA and 10% in bonds because 120 – 30 = 90.Â
Keep in mind that this can vary if youâre comfortable being more aggressive (more stocks) or more conservative (more bonds) with your investments. Itâs simply a good rule of thumb to get you started.Â
One final analogy to help you remember how this works, and then youâre on your way! The brokerage firm is kind of like your bank. Itâs where you open the account and do business. Your IRA is like the type of account you open at that bank. It has rules you need to follow and the rules change each year, so do your research. (When can you touch the money? How much money are you allowed to invest per year? Are there income limits on this account?) If you break the rules, then you may pay fees or maybe even penalty taxes. So make sure you understand the rules!Â
Stocks, bonds, mutual funds and ETFâs are what your dollars can buy and are held within the account. Finally, the annual rate of return is like your APR. While at the bank, the rate of growth or APR is offered to you upfront, thatâs not really possible with an IRA or any other investment account because the stock market is highly unpredictable. But remember, historical data shows that it averages much more growth than bank accounts do over the long run, so donât be afraid to put money aside for the long term if you can afford to.
Now, off you go! Youâre ready to open that IRA if you donât already have one!Â
The post IRA: #RealMoneyTalk, What Is That? appeared first on MintLife Blog.
If you’re one of those investors with very little time to research and invest in individual stocks, it might be a good idea to look into investing in mutual funds.
Whether your goal is to save money for retirement, or for a down payment to buy a house, mutual funds are low-cost and effective way to invest your money.
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What is a mutual fund?
A mutual fund is an investment vehicle in which investors, like you ad me, pool their money together. They use the money to invest in securities such as stocks and bonds. A professional manages the funds.
In addition, mutual funds are cost efficient. They offer diversification to your portfolio. They have low minimum investment requirements.
These factors make mutual funds among the best investment vehicles to use. If you’re a beginner investor, you should consider investing in mutual funds or index funds.
Investing in the stock market in general, can be intimidating. If you are just starting out and don’t feel confident in your investing knowledge, you may value the advice of a financial advisor.
Types of mutual funds
There are different types of mutual funds. They are stock funds, bond funds, and money market funds.
Which funds you choose depends on your risk tolerance. While mutual funds in general are less risky than investing in individual stocks, some funds are riskier than others.
However, you can choose a combination of these three types of funds to diversify your portfolio.
Stock funds: a stock fund is a fund that invests heavily in stocks. However, that does not mean stock funds do not have other securities, i.e., bonds. It’s just that the majority of the money invested is in stocks.
Bond funds: if you don’t want your portfolio to fluctuate in value as stocks do, then you should consider bond funds.
Money market funds: money market funds are funds that you invest in if you tend to tap into your investment in the short term.
Sector funds. As the name suggests, sector funds are funds that invests in one particular sector or industry. For example, a fund that invests only in the health care industry is a sector fund. These mutual funds lack diversification. Therefore, you should avoid them or use them in conjunction to another mutual fund.
Index funds. Index funds seek to track the performance of a particular index, such as the Standard & Poorâs 500 index of 500 large U.S. company stocks or the CRSP US Small Cap Index. When you invest in the Vanguard S&P 500 Index fund, youâre essentially buying a piece of the 500 largest publicly traded US companies. Index funds donât jump around. They stay invested in the market.
Income funds: These funds focus invest primarily in corporate bonds. They also invest in some high-dividend stocks.
Balance funds: The portfolio of these funds have a mixed of stocks and bonds. Those funds enjoy capital growth and income dividend.
Related Article: 3 Ways to Protect Your Portfolio from the Volatile Stock Market
The advantages of mutual funds
Diversification. You’ve probably heard the popular saying “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.” Well, it applies to mutual funds. Mutual funds invest in stocks or bonds from dozens of companies in several industries.
Thus, your risk is spread. If a stock of a company is not doing well, a stock from another company can balance it out. While most funds are diversified, some are not.
For example, sector funds which invest in a specific industry such as real estate can be risky if that industry is not doing well.
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Mutual funds are professionally managed. These fund managers are well educated and experienced. Their job is to analyze data, research companies and find the best investments for the fund.
Thus, investing in mutual funds can be a huge time saver for those who have very little time and those who lack expertise in the matter.
Cost Efficiency. The operating expenses and the cost that you pay to sell or buy a fund are cheaper than trading in individual securities on your own. For example, the best Vanguard mutual funds have operating expenses as low as 0.04%. So by keeping expenses low, these funds can help boost your returns.
Low or Reasonable Minimum Investment. The majority of mutual funds, Vanguard mutual funds, for example, have a reasonable minimum requirement. Some funds even have a minimum of $1,000 and provide a monthly investment plan where you can start with as little as $50 a month.
Related Article: 7 Secrets Smart Professionals Use to Choose Financial Advisors
The disadvantage of mutual funds.
While there are several benefits to investing in mutual funds, there are some disadvantages as well.
Active Fund Management. Mutual funds are actively managed. That means fund mangers are always on the look out for the best securities to purchase. That also means they can easily make mistakes.
Cost/expenses. While cost and expenses of investing in individual stocks are significantly higher than mutual funds, cost of a mutual fund can nonetheless be significant.
High cost can have a negative effect on your investment return. These fees are deducted from your mutual fundâs balance every year. Other fees can apply as well. So always find a company with a low cost.
How you make money with mutual funds.
You make money with mutual funds the same way you would with individual stocks: dividend, capital gain and appreciation.
Dividend: Dividends are cash distributions from a company to its shareholders. Some companies offer dividends; others do not. And those who do pay out dividends are not obligated to do so. And the amount of dividends can vary from year to year.
As a mutual fund investor, you may receive dividend income on a regular basis.
Mutual funds offer dividend reinvestment plans. This means that instead of receiving a cash payment, you can reinvest your dividend income into buying more shares in the fund.
Capital gain distribution: in addition to receiving dividend income from the fund, you make money with mutual funds when you make a profit by selling a stock. This is called “capital gain.”
Capital gain occurs when the fund manager sells stocks for more he bought them for. The resulting profits can be paid out to the fund’s shareholders. Just as dividend income, you have the choice to reinvest your gains in the fund.
Appreciation: If stocks in your fund have appreciated in value, the price per share of the fund will increase as well. So whether you hold your shares for a short term or long term, you stand to make a profit when the shares rise.
Best mutual funds.
Now that you know mutual funds make excellent investments, finding the best mutual funds can be overwhelming.
Vanguard mutual funds.
Vanguard mutual funds are the best out there, because they are relatively cheaper; they are of high quality; a professional manage them; and their operating expenses are relative low.
Here is a list of the best Vanguard mutual funds that you should invest in:
Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Funds
Vanguard 500 Index (VFIAX)
Total International Stock index Fund
Vanguard Health Care Investor
Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund
If you’re looking for a diversified mutual fund, this Vanguard mutual fund is for you. The Vanguard’s VTSAX provides exposure to the entire U.S. stock market which includes stocks from large, medium and small U.S companies.
The top companies include Microsoft, Apple, Amazon. In addition, the expenses are relatively (0.04%). It has a minimum initial investment of $3,000, making it one of the best vanguard stock funds out there.
Vanguard S&P 500 (VFIAX)
The Vanguard 500 Index fund may be appropriate for you if you prefer a mutual fund that focuses on U.S. equities. This fund tracks the performance of the S&P 500, which means it holds about 500 of the largest U.S. stocks.
The largest U.S. companies included in this fund are Facebook, Alphabet/Google, Apple, and Amazon. This index fund has an expense ration of 0.04% and a reasonable minimum initial investment of $3,000.
Vanguard Total International Stock Market
You should consider the Vanguard International Stock Market fund of you prefer a mutual fund that invests in foreign stocks.
This international stock fund exposes its shareholders to over 6,000 non-U.S. stocks from several countries in both developed markets and emerging markets. The minimum investment is also $3,000 with an expense ratio of 0.11%.
Vanguard Health Care Investor
Sector funds are not usually a good idea, because the lack diversification. Sector funds are funds that invest in a specific industry like real estate or health care. However, if you want afund to complement your portfolio, the Vanguard Health Care Investor is a good choice.
This Vanguard mutual fund offers investors exposure to U.S. and foreign equities focusing in the health care industry. The expense ration is a little bit higher, 0.34%. However, the minimum initial investment is $3,000, making it one of the cheapest Vanguard mutual funds.
Mutual funds are great options for beginner investors or investors who have little time to research and invest in individual stocks. When you buy into these low cost investments, you’re essentially buying shares from companies.
Your money are pooled together with those of other investors. If you intend to invest in low cost investment funds, you must know which ones are the best. When it comes to saving money on fees and getting a good return on your investment, Vanguard mutual funds are among the best funds out there.
They provide professional management, diversity, low cost, income and price appreciation.
What’s Next: 5 Mistakes People Make When Hiring A Financial Advisor
Speak with the Right Financial Advisor
If you have questions beyond knowing which of the best Vanguard mutual funds to invest, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc).
Find one who meets your needs with SmartAssetâs 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.
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The post What Are Mutual Funds? Understanding The Basics appeared first on GrowthRapidly.
Money may not be the most romantic topic of conversation for couples sampling wedding cake and planning honeymoon adventures, but the way a couple approaches it can be a strong predictor of a marriage’s long-term success. Several studies have actually found that money is a top cause of stress in relationships.
But finances don’t have to cause friction for you and your soon-to-be spouse. A survey conducted by MONEY Magazine found that individuals who trust their partner with finances reported feeling more secure and having fewer arguments. Learning how to talk about money before you get married can be key to developing that financial confidence in your own relationship.
How do I talk about money before getting married, you ask? As you prepare to tie the knot, consider these five money questions to ask before marriage:
1. Do we understand our debt, assets and expenses?
One helpful way to talk about money before marriage is to sit down as a couple and take inventory of all the debt and assets you’re each bringing into your long-term commitment. This includes everything from student loans and mortgages to savings and retirement accounts. You may also want to get into the nitty gritty of your salaries and monthly expenses. Putting all of the details into a spreadsheet or an app that helps you manage your money can allow you to see your full financial picture.
While using this exercise as a way to talk about money before marriage may feel like a lot of work, it will come in handy when it’s time to make financial decisions, such as deciding what percentage of your joint income should go toward building an emergency fund, saving for retirement and paying down debt, explains financial expert Ginita Wall, co-founder of the nonprofit Women’s Institute for Financial Education.
“If one person in the relationship is maxing out her 401(k) contributions but eventually learns her husband is putting nothing toward retirement, it could become an issue,” she says. “An open dialogue that ensures that there will be no surprises about money, or any other topics for that matter, is important for a great relationship.”
2. Will we have joint or separate bank accounts?
Another way to talk about money before marriage is to consider whether you want to combine bank accounts, keep them separate or do a combination of both. The decision depends on each person’s preferences and the needs of the couple.
Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil, a relationship therapist based in New York City, believes that having one joint account, but also guilt-free separate accounts for spending, can be helpful for many couples.
Keeping a joint account, she says, can provide a clear window into a family’s complete financial situation so the couple can make financial decisions accordingly. “This demonstrates that the couple is working together toward long-term financial goals,” she says.
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The guilt-free separate accounts, on the other hand, give both individuals “freedom to make small purchases as needed,” Weil adds.
As you’re addressing this money question to ask before marriage, know that in some cases, couples could benefit from keeping their investments separate.
“If two people have wildly different investment styles,” Wall says, “they just might decide to invest their money in their own ways.”
3. How has money impacted our upbringing?
When deciding how to talk about money before you get married, consider having an open discussion about how your parents handled moneyâincluding what you think they did well and what they could have done betterâand how this has influenced your financial expectations and goals, Weil says. This is a valuable, but often overlooked, component of how to talk about money before you get married.
In many cases, an adult’s upbringing shapes his or her financial goals.
“If you grew up vacationing at the shore, chances are you might aspire to own a shore house as an adult,” Weil says. “This can become problematic if your spouse would much rather have a mountain house. Talk about where your goals originate from and then work toward making compromises.”
Individuals who trust their partner with finances reported feeling more secure and having fewer arguments.
4. How could our financial dynamic shift over time?
Your financial situation today may be significantly different from your financial situation tomorrow. While it’s impossible to predict exactly what the future holds for your finances and lifestyle, there are ways to talk about money before marriage to lay the groundwork for decisions you may ultimately face. If you plan to have children, for example, you may want to discuss how career and financial priorities may shift. Will both spouses maintain their working arrangements? Will someone pick up more work or scale back?
Weil says other money questions to ask before marriage that could impact your long-term financial plans include:
Will you save for your children’s college education?
Do you plan to take care of aging parents?
How will you respond to family members who ask for financial support?
What measures do you want to put in place for disability and life insurance?
If there are children from a previous relationship, who will be responsible for their college or wedding expenses?
While the answers to these types of questions are personal and will vary from couple to couple, Weil says the most important rule is ensuring couples address them early on so there’s a clear understanding of how to handle each situation when it arises.
5. When will we sit down to regularly talk finances?
While determining how to talk about money before you get married is an important milestone, ongoing communication is necessary. Weil believes it’s constructive to have a weekly money dialogue, while other experts, like Wall, say sitting down for a casual money meeting once a month is a good rule of thumb.
Choose a meeting frequency that works for you and stay committed to your schedule. This signals to your partner that your finances are important and that you’re willing to set aside the time to talk about joint objectives, Wall says.
When it’s time to meet, run through any financial concerns that may have popped up since your last conversation, as well as any financial goals or factors that could have an impact on financial planning for young families.
When differences arise during these talks, Weil suggests trying to walk in the other person’s shoes to understand his or her perspective. Being mindful and polite, as well as listening, are among the best ways to talk about money before marriage and beyond.
“An open dialogue that ensures that there will be no surprises about money, or any other topics for that matter, is important for a great relationship.”
Why talk money before saying ‘I do’
Money can carry a lot of emotions, and Wall says that a lot of financial arguments aren’t actually about money.
“It’s often about equality, being respected, being listened to or being loved,” she says.
If the same types of arguments seem to resurface, it could indicate underlying issues about power and cooperation that couples should handle together, Wall explains.
While every marriage is bound to have some financial conflict now and then, starting a partnership off with these money questions to ask before marriage could help you get off on the right foot. Learning how to talk about money before you get married can also help align your financial hopes and dreams for your happily ever after.
The post 5 Money Questions to Ask Before Marriage appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
Getting married for a second time following a divorce or the death of your first spouse can feel like a fresh start. But itâs important to consider how joining your life with someone elseâs may impact your financial plan, including how you manage your estate. What is fair in a second marriage and estate planning? It can be a difficult question to answer, especially when you or your new spouse are bringing children into the marriage or you plan to have children together at some point. Understanding some of the key financial issues surrounding a second marriage can help with reshaping your estate plan. So can consulting a financial advisor, especially one experienced in estate planning for second marriages.
Key Estate Planning Considerations for Second Marriages
Remarriage can bring up a number of important questions for estate planning. Both spouses should be aware of what the central issues are when updating individual estate plans or creating a new joint one.
Here are some of the most important questions to ask for estate planning in a second marriage:
What assets will be left to each of your children?
Do you plan to have additional children together and if so, what assets will be preserved for them?
Which assets will you each continue to hold individually?
Are there any assets that will be retitled in both of your names, such as a first home, vacation home or bank accounts?
Are either of you bringing any debts into the marriage or will you incur new debts after the marriage?
Do each of you have a will in place that needs to be updated?
Or will you establish a new joint will?
Besides a will, what other estate planning tools may be necessary, i.e. a trust, advance healthcare directive or power of attorney?
Will you continue working with your current financial advisors or choose a new advisor to help you manage your financial plan together?
Asking these kinds of questions can help you each get a sense of the otherâs perspective on estate planning. Ideally, you should be having these types of discussions before the marriage takes place to minimize potential conflicts later. This can also help you decide if a prenuptial agreement may be necessary to protect your individual financial interests. But if youâve already remarried, it may be a good idea to have this discussion sooner, rather than later.
At the same time, it can also help to complete an inventory of your assets and liabilities so you both know what youâre bringing into the marriage. This can help with managing the distribution side of your estate plan later as well as planning for how any debts may need to be handled should one of you pass away.
Estate Planning for Second Marriages With Children
Having kids can add a wrinkle to your estate planning efforts when youâre getting remarried. For example, you may wish to leave certain assets to your children while your new spouse may want your assets to be equally distributed among his or her children as well as yours. Or there may be questions over who would assume control over assets on behalf of minor children should one of you die.
When there are children in the picture, itâs important to consider any provisions youâve already made for them in a will or trust and how that might affect any assets your spouse stands to inherit. You may need to update your will or set up a separate marital trust, for example, to ensure that your spouse receives the share of your assets you wish them to have while still preserving your childrenâs inheritance. Provisions may also need to be made for any children you plan to have if youâre still relatively young when a second marriage occurs.
Itâs important to consider the age of your children when deciding what is fair in a second marriage and estate planning. If you have adult children, for example, it could make sense to gift some of their inheritance to them during your lifetime. But if you have minor children, you and your new spouse would need to decide who should be in charge of managing their inheritance on their behalf if one of you dies prematurely.
Check Beneficiary Designations
Assets that already have a named beneficiary may need to be updated if youâre remarrying. For example, if you named your previous spouse as beneficiary to your 401(k), individual retirement account or life insurance policy, youâd likely want to change the beneficiary to your new spouse or to a trust youâve set up so that your former spouse canât collect on those assets.
You should also consider other assets, such as bank accounts or real estate, should be titled. Adding your new spouse to your home as a joint tenant with right of survivorship may seem like the right move for keeping things simple in your estate plan. But doing so means that if something happens to you, your spouse will automatically assume full ownership of the home. They could then do with it as they wish, regardless of what you might have specified in a will or trust.
Look for Gaps in Your Estate Plan
When deciding what is fair in a second marriage and estate planning, consider where the gaps might exist that could leave your assets in jeopardy. Not having a will, for example, could be problematic if you pass away. Without a will, your stateâs inheritance laws would be applied â not your wishes. That means your assets may not go to your children or other heirs as youâd like them to.
A trust can also be a useful tool in estate planning for passing on assets to your spouse or children as well as managing estate and inheritance taxes. If either of you are bringing considerable assets into a second marriage or you want to minimize the potential for conflicts over asset distribution later, setting up one or more trusts could be a good idea. Talking to an estate planning attorney can help you decide whether a trust is necessary and if so, which type of trust to set up.
Also, consider whether you have sufficient life insurance coverage to provide for the surviving spouse and any children associated with the marriage. Both spouses in a second marriage may need to have life insurance coverage, particularly if one person is the primary breadwinner while the other is the primary caregiver for children. Checking your existing life insurance policies and talking to your insurance agent can help you determine whether what you have is enough or if more coverage is necessary.
Finally, think about what you may need in terms of end-of-life planning. Long-term care insurance, for instance, can help pay for nursing home costs so that your spouse or either of your children arenât left in the lurch financially. An advance healthcare directive and a power of attorney can ensure that your wishes are carried out in end-of-life situations where youâre unable to make financial or medical care decisions on your own behalf.
The Bottom Line
Deciding whatâs fair in a second marriage and estate planning can be tricky and itâs important to get the conversation started early. Understanding what the biggest challenges of estate planning in a second marriage are can help you work together to shape a plan that you can both be satisfied with. And if you have adult children, itâs important to keep them in the loop so they understand how a second marriage may impact their inheritance.
Tips for Estate Planning
Consider talking to a financial advisor about the implications of a second marriage and what it might mean for your portfolio. You and your spouse may choose to maintain your current advisors or find a new advisor to work with together. In either case, finding the right professional to work with doesnât have to be hard. SmartAssetâs financial advisor matching tool can offer personalized recommendations for professional advisors in your local area, in just minutes. If youâre ready, get started now.
Trusts can be a useful estate planning tool for couples, including those who are getting married for a second time. A marital trust, for example, goes into effect when the first spouse dies. This can be helpful for passing assets on to a surviving spouse while minimizing estate taxes. You may want to create this type of trust, along with a second living trust set up specifically for your children, to manage assets more efficiently while also protecting them from creditors.
One of the lessons Iâve learned as I continue to work my way out of debt is that you need to treat yourself and celebrate your little successes along the way so you can avoid debt fatigue down the road. Celebrating small milestones, like getting another $1,000 knocked off your debt total, starting to put money aside for retirement or paying off a credit card balance, is important for both your sanity and your familyâs sanity.
Find out now: How much money do I need to save for retirement?
I donât have kids, but several of my personal finance blogger friends do, and they have talked about how kids donât always understand how they can contribute to the family financial goals since they donât earn any money. Plus, sometimes kids donât understand why there is a sudden need to cut back on expenses they have come to know as normal- things like going out to eat or having a night out at the movies with friends. Allowing yourself and your family to celebrate your financial wins as you work your way out of debt will help them understand that while your family is now living on a different budget, itâs still okay to enjoy the present.
With that in mind, here are five frugal ways you can celebrate your financial successes, so you donât erase all your progress!
1. Go out for Dessert
As a kid, whenever weâd go out for dessert after a home-cooked meal, it felt like a real fancy treat. Now I know that this was mom and dadâs way of having a celebration without spending a lot of money on paying for a whole meal.
2. Rent a Movie
This may not seem like a treat if you rent movies all the time, but if you are living on a very strict budget and donât often rent movies, this could be a treat for you and your family. Make it the full experience â popcorn, candy, etc. Renting a movie and making popcorn at home is a fun way to celebrate, and itâs still a lot cheaper than going to the theater.
12 Affordable Ways to Have Fun on a Tight Budget
3. Hit a Matinee
Wait, didnât I just say to avoid the theater to save money? Yes, but sometimes movie theaters offer cheaper matinee movies earlier in the day. Often showings before noon can be as little as half price. This is a more budget-friendly way to enjoy a new movie.
4. Buy a Book or Magazine
One of the first things that got cut from my budget when I started focusing on financial goals was my magazine subscription. Most of the time I donât miss it as I have plenty of things to keep me busy, but sometimes itâs nice to somewhat mindlessly flip through a magazine in the evenings. Buying yourself a new book â maybe one of these investing books â or magazine is a fairly cheap way to entertain yourself and if itâs a rare occasion, it can serve as a reward too.
Frugal Summer Fun for Adults
5. Go on a Day Trip
If you arenât traveling too far, the most expensive part of the trip is usually the overnight accommodations. By taking a day trip instead to the beach or somewhere else, you can get out of town and away from the norm without having to shell out for an expensive hotel room.
What other frugal ways can you think of to celebrate your debt successes?
It wasnât until a few months after my husband and I got married that I decided to check both our credit scores. While my husbandâs credit score wasnât horrible, it certainly didnât qualify as âexcellent.â This got me thinking about how newlywedsâ financial histories can affect both spousesâ finances moving forward, and how critical it is to acknowledge this realityâideally before getting hitched.
Why Itâs Important to Have a Good Credit Score
Manisha ThakorÂ cuts right to the chase in her bookÂ On My Own Two Feet:Â âYour credit score is essentially your financial reputation in numeric form.â
Aiming for an excellent credit scoreâgenerally defined as 750 or moreâis a worthy goal, owing to the range of ways in which it can save you money. Credit scores are critical when applying for loansâfor instance, car loans and mortgages. In addition, many employers consider prospective employeesâ credit scores during the hiring process.
A high credit score means you can access lower interest rates when borrowing, because creditors will view you as reliable. The perceived risk that youâll default on your loan is lower compared to those with poor credit scores. Lower interest rates, especially on large amounts borrowed over significant timeframes, can save you thousands and thousands of dollars!
A poor credit score can indirectly hurt your financial efforts as well; consider the fact that when youâre paying over the odds in debt repayments, youâre committing fewer dollars to saving and retirement planning.
photo credit:Â LendingMemoÂ via photopin cc
Till Debt Do Us Part
Marriage makes you one combined financial unit.
However, that doesnât mean your credit scores are merged; your credit history continues to be maintained on an individual basis. One spouseâs poor credit cannot directly damage the individual score of the other spouse.
That being said, if you apply for a loan as a married couple, creditors look at both your credit scores to determine your eligibility and terms. So, if one of you has the credit of an angel whereas the otherâs credit history is limited or even littered with missed payments and liens, you may find your application is denied.
But, this is not just about loan applicationsâpoor credit can belie more than just a few bad credit card habits. Other financial follies, like paying taxes late, not focusing on saving, and day-to-day overspending, could be lurking in the closet.
What Do You Do After Youâve Said I Do?
While bad credit isnât good news, itâs not necessarily a reason not to get married. And, itâs not necessarily the precursor to divorce! It is, however, an alarm signaling that it is time to get clear on your joint financial situation and start communicating. Make sure you do thisÂ respectfully and compassionatelyÂ to minimize blame and financial stress. (If youâre the type of person whoâd like to know this information from prospective partners before things get serious, there are nowÂ dating sites catering just to you.)
Once youâve identified that one of you has less-than-optimal credit, itâs time to take action. Here areÂ four top tips for taking immediate action:
1. Check your credit report for mistakes:Â Errors are, unfortunately, pretty common and can be really detrimental. CheckÂ your reportÂ at least once per year.
2. Make payments on time:Â Yes, this is stating the obvious, but it needs to be said!Â Mary Beth Storjohann of Workable WealthÂ says, â35% of your credit score is based on how you pay your bills (making this the biggest determining factor for your score)! Are you often late of missing payments? The impact of just one 90-day late payment goes way beyond the three months you took to pay, so set up automatic bill payments.â
3. Lower your debt-to-credit ratio:Â This is how much debt you have as a proportion of your overall credit limits. 30% of your credit score is based on the amount of money you owe versus the amount of credit available to you. The higher the amount of credit youâre utilizing, the more negative the impact on your score. Keep the debt level as low as possible (30% of your limits, or less).
4. Pay down your debt faster:Â Make more than the minimum payments wherever possible by utilizing the snowball method or targeting the balance with the highest interest rate to pay down first.
photo credit: natloans via photopin cc
Alongside these tips, itâs super important to remember that improving your credit score wonât happen overnight. The length of time it takes for your score to improve is directly related to reasons for the drop. It can take anywhere from a few months to several years for your credit report to reflect the positive changes youâre making. As Mary Beth notes, âThe most important thing is to be proactive in clearing up any issues.â In addition, two of the criteria factored into your score are the length of your overall credit history and the average age of your accounts.
So, donât be discouragedâbe patient and give it time.
And, Finally, Some Tips on What Not to Do!
There are always two sides to every coin so, while youâre following the tips above, make sure that youâre not unwittinglyÂ hurting your scoreÂ and negating your good work.
Be mindful of the following ways that you could be hurting your credit score:
1. Opening too many new accounts:Â This comes back to the point that the average age of your accounts is a key factor. Opening lots of new accounts reduces that average.
2. Closing too many old accounts:Â Older accounts indicate that you have managed payments for a long time and increase the average age of your accounts. When you close credit card accounts, this also decreases the amount of credit available to you, which can reflect negatively if you have other accounts that are still carrying high balances (it essentially increases your debt to credit ratio).
3. Signing up for lots of retail incentive programs:Â Every time you apply for credit, the company issuing the credit will request information about you from the credit bureaus. Too many of these requests can reduce your score.
4. Over-utilizing your credit.Â Mary Beth advises, âIf youâre depending on your credit cards to fund your daily expenses and lifestyle needs, but arenât able to pay them off in full at the end of each month, something needs to change. Start tracking your spending and get a handle on your expenses.â
In summary, start taking positive steps, be aware of actions that can hurt your credit, and focus on building solid financial foundations for the future.
This post was written by Erika Torres of GoGirl Finance.Â GoGirl FinanceÂ is a fast-growing community of women seeking and providing financial wisdom across money management, lifestyle, family and career. For more finance tips, follow GoGirl Finance on Twitter @GoGirlFinance
The post Spouse Has Bad Credit? How It Affects You. appeared first on MintLife Blog.
Womenâs earnings in the U.S. make up about 81% of menâs, according to Census Bureau data from the past several years. Though this figure has steadily grown over the course of decades, researchers predict the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic could set back pay for women. Bureau of Labor Statistics data unequivocally shows that the COVID-19 crisis has had a disproportionate impact on womenâs participation in the labor force and unemployment, and many analysts theorize this will carry over to womenâs earnings.
In this study, SmartAsset uncovered the best cities for womenâs pay leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic. We compared the 150 largest U.S. across four metrics: median earnings for women, growth in womenâs earnings, womenâs earnings as a percentage of menâs earnings and the change in womenâs earnings as a percentage of menâs earnings. Both metrics that examine changes over time consider the years 2017 and 2019. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.
This is SmartAssetâs third annual study on the best cities for womenâs pay. Check out the 2020 version here.
Midwestern cities lag. Among the top 10 cities for womenâs pay, the Northeast, South and West are all represented. There are two cities in the Northeast, three in the South and five in the West. The first Midwest city in our ranking, however, is Overland Park, Kansas, coming in at 19th. Though both Chicago, Illinois and Cleveland, Ohio squeeze into our top 25, womenâs earnings fall significantly short of menâs. The pay gap in all three Midwest cities in our top 25 is greater than 10%.
Median earnings for women do not equal or surpass menâs earnings in any city in our study. Last year, we found that median earnings for women were equal to or exceed median earnings for men in four cities: Yonkers, New York; Spring Valley, Nevada; Tempe, Arizona and Aurora, Colorado. Though Sacramento, California has the highest womenâs earnings as a percentage of menâs earnings this year, it is still at 99.05%.
1. Raleigh, NC
Raleigh, North Carolina ranks in the top quartile of cities for all four metrics in our study. It has the 32nd-highest median earnings for women (about $50,300), and womenâs earnings make up the 10th-highest percentage of menâs earnings (almost 96%). Between 2017 and 2019, Raleigh had the sixth-greatest increase in earnings for women (18.62%) and fourth-highest increase in womenâs earnings as a percentage of menâs earnings (13.05%).
2. Tacoma, WA
Women in Tacoma, Washington earn roughly $49,700 on average. Though this figure does not fall in the top fifth of the study, Tacoma ranks within the top 15 cities for our other three metrics: Womenâs earnings increased by more than 17% between 2017 and 2019 and womenâs earnings make up about 93% of menâs earnings â almost 10% higher than in 2017.
3. Huntington Beach, CA
Womenâs earnings as a percentage of menâs earnings increased the most in Huntington Beach, California compared to any other city in our study. Census Bureau data shows that the gender pay gap closed by almost 16% between 2017 and 2019. Huntington Beach also has the 12th-highest median earnings for women, at $61,148.
4. Sacramento, CA
Sacramento, California has the smallest pay gap of all 150 cities in our study. In 2019, womenâs earnings made up 99.05% of menâs earnings. This figure is 7.27% higher than it was 2017. As a gross figure, median earnings for women in Sacramento are about $50,400, 31st-highest of the cities we considered.
5. Jersey City, NJ
Earnings for women in Jersey City, New Jersey grew by the second-highest rate of any city in the study. Between 2017 and 2019, median womenâs earnings increased by 22.82%. As a result of that growth, 2019 median earnings for women in Jersey City are the seventh-highest overall, at $62,530.
6. St. Petersburg, FL
Womenâs earnings in St. Petersburg, Florida have grown substantially over the past couple years. In 2017, median earnings for women were less than $40,400, and in 2019, they were greater than $45,700 â marking a two-year growth of 13.39%, 19th-highest in our study. Relative to men, women in St. Petersburg earn about 8% less on average.
7. Honolulu, HI
Honolulu, Hawaii ranks in the top third of our study for all four metrics we considered. It has the 38th-highest median earnings for women (about $47,700) and ranks 45th-best for womenâs earnings as a percentage of menâs earnings (88.51%). Between 2017 and 2019, the capital of Hawaii had the 20th-greatest increase in womenâs earnings (13.24%) and 19th-largest change in womenâs earnings as a percentage of menâs earnings (almost 7%).
8. Portland, OR
From 2017 to 2019, median earnings for women in Portland, Oregon increased by 18.40% â the third-highest increase of any city in our top 10 and seventh-largest overall. With that increase, Portland has the 17th-highest 2019 median earnings for women, at more than $55,200.
9. Baltimore, MD
Baltimore, Maryland ranks in the top 20 cities of the study for two metrics: womenâs earnings as a percentage of menâs earnings (92.31%) and growth in womenâs earnings as a percentage of menâs earnings (6.47%). Census Bureau data from 2019 shows that median earnings for women in Baltimore are about $47,500, 39th-highest across all 150 cities in our study.
10. Boston, MA
Boston, Massachusetts rounds out our list of the top cities for womenâs pay. Womenâs earnings in Boston are the 11th-highest in our study, at roughly $61,700. Boston additionally ranks in the top 25 for womenâs earnings as a percentage of menâs earnings (91.88%) and the two-year growth in womenâs earnings (12.23%).
Data and Methodology
To find the best cities for womenâs pay, SmartAsset looked at the 150 largest cities in the U.S. We compared those cities across four metrics:
Median earnings for women. Data comes from the Census Bureauâs 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
Womenâs earnings as a percentage of menâs earnings. This is median earnings for women divided by median earnings for men. Data comes from the Census Bureauâs 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
Growth in womenâs earnings. This is the change in median earnings for women from 2017 to 2019. Data comes from the Census Bureauâs 2017 and 2019 1-year American Community Surveys.
Growth in womenâs earnings as a percentage of menâs earnings. This is the difference between womenâs earnings as a percentage of menâs earnings in 2017 and 2019. Data comes from the Census Bureauâs 2017 and 2019 1-year American Community Surveys.
In all cases, earnings figures are for full-time workers 16 years and older.
To determine our final list, we ranked each city in every metric, giving a full weighting to all metrics. We then found each cityâs average ranking and used the average to determine a final score. The city with the best average ranking received a score of 100. The city with the lowest average ranking received a score of 0.
Tips for Maximizing Your Paycheck
Contribute to a 401(k). A 401(k) is an employer-sponsored defined contribution plan in which you divert pre-tax portions of your monthly paycheck into a retirement account. Some employers will also match your 401(k) contributions up to a certain percentage of your salary, meaning that if you chose not to contribute, you are essentially leaving money on the table. Take a look at our 401(k) calculator to see how you and your employerâs contributions can add up.
Consider professional help. A financial advisor can help you make smarter financial decisions to be in better control of your money. Finding the right financial advisor doesnât have to be hard. SmartAssetâs free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If youâre ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
Questions about our study? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you get paid every two weeks, you’ve probably noticed extra money coming your way certain months. Maybe you even thought your company’s payroll made a mistake! But it’s no mistake. You get two magical months like this a year: when you suddenly have a third paycheck andâthe best part isâyour monthly bills stay the same. Yes, it’s appropriate to jump for joyâprovided you have a plan for that extra income.
Why does this happen in the first place? If you’re paid biweekly, you get 26 paychecks throughout the 52-week year. That means two months out of the year, you end up getting three paychecks instead of your regular two.
Those two extra paychecks can go a long way. But without a plan in mind, they can also disappear. Fast. The first budgeting trick to saving two paychecks is to find out when they will hit your account. Grab a calendar and write down your paydays for every month in a given year and highlight the two extras. Maybe even put calendar reminders in your phone so you can track when the additional funds will hit your account. The extra paychecks will fall on different days every year, so tracking them in advance is key.
Samuel Deane, a founding partner of New York City-based wealth management firm Deane Financial, says there isn’t one correct way to budget with an extra paycheck, but that it should depend on your personal situation and financial goals. You could decide to give yourself some extra room in your budget throughout the year, for example, or use the extra money for something specific.
How can I budget for an extra paycheck? Consider these 5 budgeting hacks if you’re paid biweekly:
1. Pay down (mainly) high-interest debt
Once you’re done jumping for joy at the realization of the third paycheck, consider how your budget with an extra paycheck could help you pay down debt. “The first thing I usually tell my clients is to get rid of high-rate debt, which is usually credit card debt,” Deane says.
Before paying off debt with your new budget with an extra paycheck, make a list of all of your debts organized by balance and annual percentage rate (APR). Paying off the debt with the highest APR could save you the most money because you’re paying the most to carry a balance. Paying down a few low-APR, low-balance debts can also help you gain momentum and bring other financial benefits. For instance, if you owe close to your credit limit on a credit card, the high credit utilizationâor card balance to credit limit ratioâcould negatively impact your credit score.
If your budget with an extra paycheck includes debt repayment, you’ll start to owe less and have less interest accruing each month, freeing up even more cash from subsequent paychecks.
“The first thing I usually tell my clients is to get rid of high-rate debt, which is usually credit card debt.”
2. Build an emergency fund
Paying down debt isn’t the only way to budget with an extra paycheck. “Taking a look at whether you have a sufficient emergency fund is pretty important,” says Dan Stous, director of financial planning at Flagstone Financial Management.
An emergency fund of three to six months of your regular expenses can help you weather financial setbacks, such as a lost job or medical emergency, without having to take on new debt. Keeping these funds separate from your regular checking and savings accounts can help you keep them earmarked for the unexpected (and reduce the temptation to dip into them for non-emergency expenses). Places to keep your emergency fund include a high-yield savings account, certificate of deposit or money market account.
Sunny skies are the right time to save for a rainy day.
Start an emergency fund with no minimum balance.
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If creating an emergency fund or adding to an existing one is on your to-do list, a budgeting trick to save two paychecks is to automatically transfer your extra paychecks into your emergency fund account.
3. Save for a big goal
If you want to save for a goal like a new car or home, or contribute to tax-advantaged retirement accounts, contributing two full paychecks out of 26 can be a good start. “If a client is debt-free and doing well, they might be able to focus on other goals,” Deane says. If you’ve got a financial goal in mind, a budgeting hack if you’re paid biweekly is to transfer your two extra paychecks from your checking account to a savings or retirement account right away.
If you have a 401(k) through an employer and already contribute enough to get your maximum annual match, Deane says you may want to consider a Roth IRA. A Roth IRA is for retirement, but it also allows first-time homebuyers who have held their account for at least five years to withdraw up to $10,000 to buy a home, Deane says. Your budget with an extra paycheck could then go to either major goal.
Even loftier, “you could put aside money to start a business,” Deane says. If you plan on starting a business someday you could put away the paychecks annually and let those savings build as start-up capital.
4. Get ahead on bills
If you already have an emergency fund, are currently debt-free and are making good progress on your savings goals, try this budgeting hack if you’re paid biweekly and get a third paycheck: Pay certain monthly bills ahead of time.
“If you have the ability to prepay some of your bills, it can ease anxiety in the coming months,” Deane says.
Before using this budgeting hack if you’re paid biweekly, check with your providers to confirm that you will not be met with a prepayment penalty, and get up to speed on any prepayment limitations. Some providers may even offer a discount or incentive if you pay something like a car insurance bill all at once. You could also explore whether or not prepaying your bills makes sense for utilities, your cellphone or rent.
If you’re looking for budgeting hacks if you’re paid biweekly, consider that managing money isn’t only about dollars and cents. Emotions often play an important part in personal finance, and they’re often the root cause of people’s decisions. Accepting this fact could be an important part of successfully managing your money.
“From an emotional and behavioral standpoint, people should reward themselves for being responsible,” Stous says. “Basically, treat yourself.”
Perhaps you need a vacation from the daily grind, want to enrich or educate yourself or your family or simply want to get a date night at your favorite restaurant on the calendar. A budgeting trick to save two paychecks could be supplemented with some spending on yourself.
“If you have an extra paycheck and a debt reduction goal, then maybe you apply the whole thing toward that goal. On the other hand, maybe you have a goal to retire in 10 years and you’re off track. Then, it’d be wise to put that money, or at least a portion of it, toward that goal.”
There’s no one-size-fits-all budgeting trick to save two paychecks
When you’re deciding how to budget with an extra paycheck, you might find yourself going back and forth between options.
“If you have an extra paycheck and a debt-reduction goal, then maybe you apply the whole thing toward that goal,” Stous says. “On the other hand, maybe you have a goal to retire in 10 years and you’re off track. Then, it’d be wise to put that money, or at least a portion of it, toward that goal.”
Even though budgeting solutions are not the same for everyone, being disciplined and proactive about the savings opportunity of a third paycheck can help you form a strong foundation for your financial future.
The post The Magical Third Paycheck: 5 Budgeting Hacks If You’re Paid Biweekly appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.