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
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.
Love it or hate it, many Americans are spending more time at home. The coronavirus pandemic not only accelerated the work-from-home trend to warp speed, but it also shuttered schools and summer camps, scratched travel plans and canceled brunch and dinner reservations across the country.
Jen Dawson, a certified financial planner and managing director in Chicago, found that the uncertainty and stay-at-home lifestyle created by the pandemic prompted her clients to look at their financial situations in a new light.
âI think it just gives opportunities for people and families to reflect,â Dawson says. ââWhat do we want out of life? What do we want from our money?â Those conversations are really valuable.â
As Dawsonâs clients reflect on their goals, they (and many others) are also wondering, âHow should I adjust my household budget if weâre spending more time at home?â
How to optimize your budget for the stay-at-home economy in 4 steps
Ellen Rogin, a former wealth advisor and now a speaker, author and entrepreneur, notes that people across the country were affected by the pandemic in very different ways. While many workers were able to keep their jobs as they transitioned to working from home, many were not.
âThere are people who have lost their jobs and are being forced to make difficult decisions,â Rogin says. âAnd there are people who are still employed and earning the same income they did before, who have more options as they decide how they’re spending their money now.â
Even if youâve been spared serious financial challenges, you should still consider updating or creating a household budget or spending plan. This will allow you to determine how to save more money in the stay-at-home economy.
Rogin and Dawson encourage you to use this opportunity to ensure youâre at least staying on track to meet your savings goalsâand at best, shortening your savings timelines. Itâs also a chance to make sure that your spending habits, which have likely changed as youâve spent more time at home, are maximizing your happiness.
Below, we break down insights from Rogin and Dawson into four actionable steps you can take to save money in quarantine while living the best life possible. It all starts with taking an objective look at how your spending habits changed as you transitioned to a more domestic lifestyle.
Read on to see how to save more money in the stay-at-home economy by creating a new household budget:
1. Compare your spending trends before and during quarantine
As you set about creating a household budget for an at-home lifestyle and determining how to save more money in the stay-at-home economy, start by reviewing your spending.
âMost people donât really know how much money theyâre spending, whether times are good or bad. But it can really make you feel calmer to know what it takes to run your lifestyle.â
Dawson encourages you to refer to your debit and credit card statements to analyze the differences between your spending before staying home became the norm, and after. âYou can compare it and contrast and have observations and discussions around what changed,â she says. âWhat do you like that you want to keep going, and what do you not like about it?”
All you need, Dawson says, is a spreadsheet to total up your major expenses, such as housing, utilities, transportation, food and dining, travel, shopping and entertainment. Then, subtract the sum of those costs from the money you earned (aka income) over the same timeframe.
Do this exercise for three months of spending before quarantine and then again for three months of spending during quarantine. Youâll be able to compare the data to see whether you have more or less disposable income as a member of the stay-at-home economy.
Rogin notes that it can be a little scary to examine your finances like this, but thereâs no reason to feel anxious.
âMost people donât really know how much money theyâre spending, whether times are good or bad,â she says. âBut it can really make you feel calmer to know what it takes to run your lifestyle.â
If you see that your disposable income decreased while in quarantine (or that you no longer have disposable income at all), then youâll need to find ways to cut back on spending if you want to keep your savings goals on track. If your extra cash increased and youâre actually saving more money in quarantine, then you can start to consider how you might hit some or all of your savings goals more quickly.
Either way, you still have work to do as you consider how to save more money in the stay-at-home economy. Rather than focusing on external factors that are out of your control, Rogin and Dawson recommend that, as a next step, you ask yourself what matters most to you.
2. Ask yourself how your spending habits impact your happiness
Rogin considers the distanced, more remote way of life as a chance to reflect on whatâs really important in order to create your household budget. One example she points to is how many people have been cooking at home far more often than they once did.
âMaybe youâre spending more on groceries, but thatâs less than you were spending on eating outâand you enjoy it,â she says. âYouâre spending more time with your family. Youâre eating more healthily. So it gives you the opportunity to really assess your budget in a different way.â
Another example is travel. Rogin says that some people have told her that they really miss it, but others have been surprised to find how happy they are to pump the brakes on their jet-setting ways. In addition to saving money in quarantine from reimbursed travel and no more expensive trips, itâs allowed them to slow down and enjoy their time at home with family.
For her part, Rogin found that she wore the same two pairs of shoes during quarantine because theyâre comfortable, and no one can see them when sheâs video conferencing during work. As a result, Rogin cut this expense from her stay-at-home budget.
Whether youâre facing a cash shortage or surplus from more time spent at home, Rogin says that extending this line of thinking into a âvalues-based spending planâ for the stay-at-home economy will allow you to direct your money to what matters most to you, while diverting funds away from what doesnât.
Once you add up the expenses that are no longer necessary in your stay-at-home budget, itâs time to put that money to work.
Tip: When looking at quarantine spending, donât get too granular
Dawson underscores that evaluating spending patterns can be an emotional exercise. If youâre reviewing your finances with a family member, partner or spouse, try to resist the urge to nitpick every purchase. The trends should be easy enough to spot from a birdâs-eye view.
3. Put your stay-at-home savings toward your financial goals
Dawson and Rogin recommend having a plan when youâre trying to figure out how to save more money in the stay-at-home economy. That plan should include what youâre saving for, as well as where youâll keep the funds as they add up.
Rogin recommends framing your financial goals from a positive angle. For example, when you create a household budget, instead of focusing on cutting spending, you can set a goal for how much extra money you want to save.
If you have children or live with a partner or spouse, Dawson notes that this goal-oriented approach can help get them involved. The objective might be to start an emergency fund to ride out unexpected headwinds. Or, the focus could be on saving up for a big vacation to look forward to when travel restrictions ease.
When deciding where to keep your savings, a standard checking account wonât allow your money to grow like a high-yield online savings account will. Rather than pooling the money youâve saved in quarantine into one account, Dawson suggests opening multiple savings accounts, one for each of your savings goals.
âBe really clear about what each savings account is for,â she says. âThen youâre more likely to fund it.â
Of course, luxury savings goals like a vacation should not take priority over your long-term savings goals, such as retirement or college funds.
4. When saving money in quarantine, remember to support those in need if you can
If you are saving money in quarantine, Rogin suggests considering all the benefits of earmarking extra cash for philanthropic causes. It could go directly to the local small businesses you love that are hurting for revenue. Or it could go to any number of nonprofit organizations that are doing good in the world.
âSo many people are in need now,â Rogin says. âThere are so many beautiful ways that can help you feel like youâre making a difference for people by reallocating some of that money towards causes and people that you want to support.â
How will you start saving money in quarantine?
The stay-at home lifestyle may not have been in your plans, but you have the opportunity to gain control of your finances inside your home by creating a household budget that works for you in this new reality.
When you analyze, assess and optimize your spending and consider how to save money in quarantine, youâll be in as strong a financial position as possible when life gets back to normal.
If youâve been fortunate enough to save money in quarantine, consider starting or adding to your emergency fund. Not sure where to store your savings? Check out the four best places to keep your emergency fund.
Articles may contain information from third-parties. The inclusion of such information does not imply an affiliation with the bank or bank sponsorship, endorsement, or verification regarding the third-party or information.
The post How to Save More Money in the Stay-at-Home Economy by Focusing on What Matters Most appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
I don’t know about you, but for me, a bathroom goes well beyond its practical uses; within the past years, I’ve come to think about it as a sanctuary of sorts, that room of the house that’s dedicated to pampering, relaxing, and deconnecting — a place where I can enjoy some alone time and use that alone time to take care of my skin, hair, body, and mind.
And just like any other space in my house, the more beautiful my bathroom is, the more I can enjoy the time I spend in it. But re-designing a bathroom or remodeling it altogether is quite an investment. That’s why today we’re going to look at a few handy ways in which we can improve our bathroom’s design without having to spend a ton of money in the process. Here are some tips to help you maximize your bathroomâs function and style while saving money — both on the short and long run:
For example, solid wood or plywood may not be a good choice for furniture, as it will likely warp and crack (and it can even lead to mold). Instead, a way better — and longer-lasting — choice would be PVC, which is extremely durable, completely waterproof and offers a great look and feel as well for bathroom cabinets. When buying blinds for your bathroom windows, choose waterproof blinds because they are stain and mold resistant, as well as fade-free. When picking appliances, make sure to avoid any metal that might rust, and preferably stay away from plastic; some of your best choices are brass, stainless steel, and zinc (or zinc alloys), as they stand the test of time and add a note of style to your bathroom.
Overall, focus on materials that can withstand humidity and water. This way, you donât have to spend money replacing them and you can rest assured that your bathroom will maintain its clean and brand-new look over the years.
#2 Widen and brighten your space with mirrors
Instead of adding a skylight or a new window to brighten a rather gloomy bathroom (which would call for a pricy renovation), consider using a large mirror, re-painting your walls in a light color, or adding extra light fixtures. These can all help create the illusion of space, making your bathroom look wider and brighter. Obviously, this technique is much more affordable than having to install an additional window to your bathroom space and you’d be surprised at how much of a difference adding a large mirror can make.
If you feel like you don’t have the space to add an additional mirror to your bathroom, consider replacing the mirror above your vanity with a far larger one. Bonus tip: choosing an unusual shape or a unique frame for the vanity mirror (like the one in the image below) can give an impressive look to your bathroom, and act as the centerpiece of the room.
#3 Update by regrouting
If youâre looking to update your bathroom quickly and on a tight budget, consider replacing the existing tile grout. RegroutingÂ is a two-step manual process by which you first remove the hardened old grout from the seams, or joints, between the tiles in your bathroom, then apply fresh new grout to make it seem like you have just installed your tiles (here’s a full walkthrough of the process). You’d be surprised how big of a difference this fairly simple update can make — especially since tiles rarely show signs of wear and tear, but the grout’s initial color fades away, and often gives a sense that it’s dirty, discolored and old.
This idea works best if the tiles in your space are still in great shape, that is, they donât have cracks or missing pieces. Although it may take a bit of work, itâs surely faster and cheaper than a major bathroom overhaul. Fresh grout will make the tiled area look brand new, and you can even apply a new grout color to make a more dramatic change to your bathroom.Â
#4 Get creative with designer tiles
Now, if you’re looking to add a splash of sophistication to your shower or bathroom tiles, but don’t have the budget to splurge on designer tiles, there’s a super easy trick you can turn to: use regular, budget friendly tiles across the walls of your bathroom, then add a pop of design and color in a small area using more expensive designer tiles.Â
Or, you can keep it simple and use classic tiles, but arrange them in an unusual pattern or install them at an angle to create an eye-catching effect. If you’re looking for the maximum effect, create an accent wall (preferably right where either the shower or bathroom vanity go, to highlight that space), like the one pictured below. It won’t cost as much as replacing all of your bathroom tiles, but will definitely give your space a great, updated look.
#5 Try to avoid current trends
We all like to think that we’re aligned with the latest trends and fads. But the truth of the matter is, the best way to waste money is to follow fads that in a couple of years will seem so outdated that youâll feel the need to renovate your bathroom all over again. You can make your design last way longer if youâll use natural finishes and neutral colors.
Classics also tend to be considerably less expensive than their trending counterparts, and they’re much more likely to stand the test of time. See below for a marble-themed bathroom that was all the rage a few years back, but that seems a little out of place in the more minimalist-inclined era that we live in today.
Because of this, you may be forced to buy new coordinating pieces, too. However, if youâll stick with traditional finishes, it will be simpler for you to create a cohesive look while still sticking to your budget.Â
#7 Re-use old furniture to create a unique look
If you have an old desk, table, dresser, or TV stand, consider using it in your bathroom (provided it can withstand humidity and isn’t easily prone to water damage, as we’ve stated above). Repurposing old furniture will give you a chance to show your personality while adding much-needed bathroom storage. Consider doing this as a DIY project, which can help you save money while also being earth-friendly.Â
Replacing bathroom elements will usually require removing or replacing plumbing fixtures, which comes with additional costs. It can also involve construction changes, demolition work, and new installation.Â Before deciding on replacing any of these fixtures, determine if they really need replacement. If youâre replacing them for aesthetic reasons, you might have the option to refinish them instead of replacing them altogether.Â
For example, you can refinish your old tub with a nice-looking, protective coating instead of completely replacing it. You can also paint your cabinet anew instead of purchasing a new one — and you can even get creative with the color you use. Check out this elegant bathroom below, whose owners chose to refinish the bathtub and paint it in a slight pinkish hue. Isn’t it just lovely?
The bathroom is one part of the house that needs some upgrading every now and then, and said upgrades can turn out to be quite expensive. However, with some rather small, but well-thought changes, you can spruce up your bathroom design without spending a pretty penny. And if our suggestions are not to your liking, there’s tons of helpful resources out there that can give you some great ideas to get you started.
More interior design tips
Hereâs Everything You Need to Set Up a Meditation Corner in Your House How to Turn Your Kitchen Into Every Coffee Loverâs Dream Design Trends that Add Extra Flair to Your Fancy Home How to Add a Touch of Luxury to Your Home without a Costly Renovation
The post 8 Money-Saving Tips for Improving Your Bathroom’s Design appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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This article is from Barbara OâNeill of Wise Bread, an award-winning personal finance and credit card comparison website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:
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