There is barely ever a time when there are not competing calls on family finances. Recent graduates may well have student loans to repay and perhaps credit card balances that have been created to help subsidize student life. In the following years there may be real estate costs, auto loans then the costs of a growing family. As the children grow attention inevitably turns to education, potentially further education that is becoming increasingly costly, well above the rate of inflation.
All the while there is the issue of parents’ retirement with time running out the later those plans are initiated.
The dilemma becomes the extent parents can help towards further education costs as well as making a proper level of contribution to their retirement fund. The problem is that both demands are fairly immediate. Even parents fifteen years from retirement know that time is tight. Compound interest is a major ally to those saving for retirement but it must be given time to work. A recent report by E TRADE suggests that as many as a third of Americans regard the competing education and retirement demands as the most difficult they face.
While it may be a difficult decision to make retirement should be the top priority in virtually all cases. A different study by T. Rowe Price reveals that a similar amount of people, a third, have in fact taken a risk and borrowed from their 401(k) to help with children’s education. While the interest rate is relatively low if for some reason, typically redundancy, something unexpected happens, the full amount of the current fast loan balance becomes due in 60 days. In addition growth is lost on the sum withdrawn.
People who were questioned in both these studies had fairly similar recommendations. Over three quarters said they would advise younger people to start saving earlier; as soon as possible after beginning work. Indeed there is a product that allows children to start to save for themselves. Children who are taught the value of money are most likely to have their affairs in good shape throughout their lives. For example if a child is asked to do a little chore in exchange for an allowance that is a good starting point. Perhaps encourage a child to save part of the allowance against the cost of something they want to buy? These little lessons help.
Modern Day Realities
Where things go wrong it is important to take action. It is easy to build up credit card debt for example. It is costly because credit card companies make their money on the high rate of interest they apply to month end balances. Personal loans are much cheaper and should be used to eliminate such balances to ultimately release more money to put to more positive use.
A tax expert is useful. There are several things to look at when you make decisions on education costs and retirement provisions. Whenever you make a decision of any kind it is important to have all the information relevant in making a good decision. In the case of finance that means any tax benefits for one course of action over another.
The Value of a Student Loan
You might be surprised by the size of some student loans; there are a significant number at $100,000 and plenty at $20,000 at least. It is quite a daunting prospect starting a career needing to pay back such a debt. It is clearly something that concerns most parents who want to help as much as they can. A figure not far short of half actually admit to the fact that they now believe that the qualifications they received have not been worth the ‘’burden’’ they now have around their necks.
It is difficult to decide one way or another whether they are right or just expressing frustration. However what is certain is that all young people have much longer to get their financial affairs in place than parents who have to prepare for retirement with minimal help from elsewhere. Good financial management is not a subject youngster will be studying but the sooner they learn it the better their own future prospects.
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Learning to make and stick to a budget is one of the most important duties of adulthood. A well-kept budget is the key to financial stability, but a few too many mistakes in your calculations can send you reeling. One of the most common budget mistakes is forgetting to plan for financial obligations that occur less than once a month. Just when you get excited about having a little extra money to spend, you get an unexpected bill in the mail, and there goes your extra cash.
To avoid finding yourself in this situation, sketch out a rough budget several months in advance that includes these less-than monthly expenses. You do not have to be very detailed, but it is helpful to at least have some notes in your planner or spreadsheet. Some common expenses to watch for are detailed below.
If you own a home and/or a car, then you need to have them insured. Payment amounts and schedules vary wildly depending on your property, provider and plan. Be sure to go over the specifics of your policies so that you know when you are responsible for making payments and how much those payments will be.
For example, homeowner’s insurance is often, but not always, paid with the escrow portion of your monthly mortgage payments. Car insurance is sometimes billed for six months of coverage at a time, but in other situations, it is billed monthly. Failing to make your payments can result in hefty fines, so it is critical that you stay on top of them. Discussing your policy with an insurance agent can help you get the best prices for your situation.
Most cell phone service providers offer their subscribers free upgrades approximately every two years. It is always fun to pick out a pristine new phone and play around with its special features. What’s not so fun is receiving a higher-than-usual bill later that month. The fact is, even if your new phone is free in the store, there is often an associated service charge that is only mentioned in the fine print. Next time you are due for an upgrade, double-check the terms of your plan so that you are not blindsided by hidden costs.
One of the most irritating budgetary surprises is vehicle registration renewal fees. How often you must pay these fees depends on where you live. For example, Washington vehicle owners must renew their vehicle registrations once a year. You should get advance notice of the fees you owe, but they can still be shocking if you had not planned for them, especially if you have multiple vehicles. The cost of your registration fees will depend upon your vehicles’ specific characteristics. It is also worth noting that some states allow you to renew your registration several months in advance.
No Surprises, No Sweat
If you want to stick to your budget, then you must eliminate the possibility that you will have to deal with surprise expenses. Budgeting is a skill that can take years to master, and it is normal to experience a few hiccups along the way. Don’t worry, though—by planning in advance and remaining diligent, you will eventually experience the freedom that comes with financial security.
Formal budgeting is often seen as a cumbersome exercise, yielding more tedium than tangible financial gains. Record keeping aside, the process does furnish valuable insight for those committed to tracking expenses and accounting for household cost of living. The key to maximizing the positive impact of formal budgeting is applying discipline and using the data to take control of your financial life.
In its simplest form, a budget is balance sheet, accounting for income and expenses. And while there are many ways to manage household finances, budgets formalize the process, putting your bad spending habits under a spotlight. Identifying where your money goes enables you to divert resources to more important areas, as you realign spending priorities. Especially when financial difficulties cause cash flow problems, budgeting helps ensure your income stretches to cover all of your expenses.
If you’ve had limited success with prior attempts, or are creating your first formal budget, stick to these basic budgeting tactics.
Categorize – Your household financial flow operates like a small economy, addressing spending in several distinct areas. In order to create a realistic record of your spending, break it into smaller pieces, to track as related purchases. Your “Entertainment” category, for instance, includes spending on movies, concerts and music downloads, as well as cable TV subscriptions and nights out with friends. Another classification, called “Food and Dining”, captures spending at the grocery store and money paid for prepared meals. If your gastronomic explorations are more like entertainment than sustenance, you may choose to file restaurant costs in that category. The key is remaining consistent, so categories reflect the same type of spending each month. Additional categories to consider as you track spending:
Track Spending and Income – Effective budgeting balances income with outgoing spending. In order to build a meaningful budget foundation, it is important to closely track spending for an extended period of time. For the best results, note purchases in a ledger each month, for at least three consecutive billing cycles. Once each month is complete, budget columns can be reconciled, so you know exactly how much money was spent in each category. Over time, subsequent months can be used to identify and compare spending trends.
Accounting for income is fairly straightforward when it comes from a single source, but you should also include money made on the side. Investment returns, hobby businesses, and even gambling winnings should all be included in your plus column, before you begin to tally expenses.
Set Spending Limits – Once you’ve accumulated personal financial data, it is up to you to put it to good use. Using your established categories, turn your eye toward budget savings, setting spending limits in each category. Discretionary purchases yield the most potential for trimming, because ‘fixed’ monthly expenses do not change substantially from month to month. Be realistic, but also challenge yourself with budget limits forcing you to spend sensibly.
Make Adjustments – Even with several months’ worth of spending records at your disposal, it can be difficult to craft a manageable budget. Start with core costs, addressing big-ticket obligations like mortgage repayment, car notes and other fixed monthly costs. As you rein-in your discretionary budget, leave room for adjustments. A cancelled subscription, for example, can always be reinstated, should your budget yield resources to cover the cost. Likewise, ineffective budgets can be tightened further, when cost-cutting measures don’t add-up to sufficient savings.
Show Resolve – Budgeting is a directed effort, so commitment and resolve are key ingredients for success. If budgeting is uncomfortable, you are probably doing your job, leaving no spending unexamined. To assist those put-off by the process itself, budgeting apps and software simplify record keeping and furnish intuitive tools for managing cash flow. Use these and other resources to remain steadfast throughout the initial formal budgeting process. Once established, your budget becomes increasingly easy to maintain, as good habits replace poor spending outcomes.
Without an accurate understanding of where your income is spent, it is difficult to take control of your personal finances. Formal budgeting highlights cash flow trends, illustrating where your money goes. Armed with a ledger tracking expenses and a commitment to maximize resources, it is possible to carve out savings and stretch your financial reserves. Use these 5 steps to jump-start your personal budgeting resolve.Comments: 0 Read More
Budgeting… wow, this is something I haven’t done for soooo long!
As you can see, I’m becoming a lot more conscious about my debt repayment plans this summer. Once my wife starts her daycare in September, I want to put a super solid plan in place where we will kill our consumer debts within two years. In order to ensure my goal is achieved and I actually put this plan to work, I’ll setup a “bucket system” where I will pay myself first into several accounts.
What’s a Bucket System?
A bucket system is definitely not a new approach to personal finance. Many of my good friends use it and it definitely works. However, it requires discipline and a strict budget (or a lot of money coming in, hahaha!).
The goal is to receive all your income into a single account which is already the case for my wife and I. Then, the money is distributed into several other accounts called “Buckets”. Each bucket has its own purpose. Depending on your goals, you may have 1, 2 or 10 buckets. It’s a very effective way to make sure the money you earn is used for what you really want.
It also minimizes surprises in your budget. For example, I pay my municipal taxes as required by my city. This means that I make about 9 payments throughout the year to pay them in full. So I have some months where my municipal taxes are “free” since I don’t have to make a payment and others when I have to find about $400 to pay my bill. This $400 is sometimes a “surprise” in my budget when it happens. With the bucket system, I could easily split my yearly tax amount to be paid into 26 bi-weekly payments where I could take money from my bank account and save it in a bucket. Each month I need money to pay my taxes, I simply have to withdraw it from the bucket and it doesn’t affect my regular bank account.
My Own Bucket System
Without knowing so, I’ve already started my bucket system with my RESP and TFSA systematic investments. I will now just create more buckets to make sure my budget is under full control and that I concentrate the bulk of my extra cash in paying down my debts.
I already have my RESP and TFSA setup this way as I mentioned before. This money is automatically invested in mutual funds as it is free of transaction fees therefore it helps me manage a small amount of money. Eventually, I’ll probably buy stocks with my RESP as it is growing rapidly.
The line of credit payment will be used to drop it and generate liquidity. Each time I have enough room on my line of credit to pay off another debt as my pool loan is at 6.45%, I will draw a check from my line of credit to pay it off completely. I will then apply the debt snowball method to increase my line of credit payment and clear the next debt. The goal with this strategy will be to decrease my monthly payments used to pay consumer debts. Then, I will convert a part of my home equity line of credit debt into a flexible variable rate home loan.
Then, I will create three more buckets where money will be systematically invested in money market funds. I will grow an emergency fund for both house and car maintenance. The “fun account” will be used for several purposes such as paying for gifts, clothing, vacations and sporting activities.
Buckets are Restrictive but Efficient
The reason why I’ve been avoiding buckets my whole life is due to their highly restrictive aspect. Since the money is leaving your bank account as soon as it is being deposited, you have no room for extra spending. This is why it’s important to have a well balanced (and positive!) budget before you start with a bucket approach. There is no point of saving your money into buckets if you are about to take that money out to finance your lifestyle all the time!
On the other hand, buckets are highly effective since they serve a single purpose: putting money aside! The good news is that if my car doesn’t require maintenance this year, I will have a lot of money saved for bigger repairs in the future; same thing with my “fun bucket”.
The bucket system will start for my family in October 2013. Since we have committed to several expenses for the daycare between June and August, I will need the $2,000 generated from the daycare to balance my extra spending from the summer. Then, in October, I should be ready to start a new life!
Readers, have you tried the bucket system to manage your personal finances? How did it go?
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New Year has come and gone, and 2016 is slowly marching on. Now that January is all but a memory it’s time we all sat down and had a look at our finances. For many people around the world this doubly true with April, and the end of many country’s fiscal years, getting steadily closer. If you’re looking for ways you can save money in 2016, whether that’s for paying off bills or because you’re looking to start your very own investment portfolio, here are a few tips to help you get the ball rolling.
The first thing you need to do if you want to make a difference is taking a look at where you’re starting from. How much money did you make in 2015? Where did that money go? How much debt do you have to pay off? Take a look back over your spending for 2015 and try to get a rough idea of your spending habits. If you can’t make head nor tail of where your money went, track your spending over the course of the next month and multiply that by 12 – while it may not be an exact reflection of your annual spending, it will give you a ballpark figure of how much you spend on things like coffee and cigarettes.
Now that you have a rough set of figures in mind, you can start working out where you want to save money. Any money you save can be put towards something else, whether that’s paying off debts, paying towards a holiday or wedding, or even just putting aside to invest later on. If you need any help with the way you build or format your budget, there are plenty of free online tools and resources you can use.
There is a surprising amount of money which can be saved by changing everything from your energy provider to the people you bank with. Shop around for the best rates and be aware that the introductory bonus rates that you were given last year probably won’t apply for much longer. If you change any given account to one offering better introductory rates, you could feasibly save up to $150 per year – do that 5 times and you have an extra $750 to play with. Every little helps, as they say.
If you’re struggling with multiple debts it’s well worth looking into the idea of consolidating your debts into a single easy to pay loan. There are a huge number of loan products on the market which can help you do just this, though the products available to you will differ based on your location. If you live in England this could be an IVA; if you live in Scotland you could apply for a Scottish Trust Deed; if you live in the US there are further debt consolidation loans you can look into. Just make sure that whoever you talk to, whichever country you live in, you seek professional advice from a financially responsible, regulated body.
If you’re looking to invest your money you need to be aware of the risks. No investment is entirely safe, regardless of what you may have heard elsewhere online. The old adage ‘no risk, no reward’ is actually truer in the world of investment portfolios than almost anywhere else.
There are several ways you can invest your money, from discretionary portfolio management where you leave your financial decisions to a professional investment firm, to portfolio management options where you set the rules over how and when you want to sell your investments. Either way you need to make sure that you’re happy with how much you’re risking when you step into the arena. Every investment is a risk which may or may not land you a substantial reward. Depending on the company structure, you may actually become liable for further losses too, so make sure you do your research before you start investing money.Comment: 1 Read More
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