What Are Your Financial Resolutions?

It’s that time of year again: new year’s resolution season. Along with the resolutions to get fit and eat healthier, the next most common resolution is to set and attain personal finance goals for the new year. If you’re one of the millions of Americans who want better financial wellness for yourself in 2019, I have some tips for you.

Create an Emergency Fund

An emergency fund should contain at least $1,000 – enough to cover emergency expenses such as a trip to the ER if you get sick, or to the mechanic if your car breaks down. The problem with emergency funds is that it often becomes too tempting to dip into them for non-emergency expenses, so a good tip is to keep your emergency fund in an account with a bank other than the bank where you keep your checking account. It should also be set up so that you can access the money in the account, but not immediately. If it takes you a few days to get your money, you’re less likely to withdraw it unless you truly need it.

Pay Down Debt

This can mean anything from paying off one small debt to making extra payments on a larger debt (or both). For example, you can finish paying off one credit card, or you can make an extra payment on your student loans over the course of the year. As long as you’re taking steps to pay down debt, you’ll get yourself closer to a more secure financial future.

Save for Retirement

If you have a 401(k) or IRA, you have a limit on how much you can contribute to those accounts each year. Did you max out this year? If not, make a plan to max out your contribution in 2019. And don’t forget it’s not too late to max out your contribution for 2018 – you have until April 15th to contribute to your retirement account for 2018.

If you’re already contributing the full amount to your 401(k), consider getting an IRA as an additional retirement fund and max out your contribution limits to both accounts if you can.

Go on a Shopping Ban

A shopping ban is a defined period of time (it can be as little as a week or as long as a month) during which you decide not to spend any money. Groceries can be an exception, and you should still pay your bills, but consider all the other things you might spend money on in the course of a week or a month: coffee; movie tickets; clothing; entertainment; drinks; eating out, etc. Stick to the essentials and see how that changes how you think about your money.

Budget

This is the simplest, and probably most important ingredient in any personal finance plan, and yet so many people fail to implement it. Take a good, hard look at your income and your expenses, then determine how much you can spend each month. Be sure to include a savings plan in your budget.

Invest in the Stock Market

This doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it might sound, especially with the very sharp downturn we saw the stock market take last month. But guess what? Right after stocks have plummeted is the best time to buy stocks – they’re going cheap and then you’ll be perfectly positioned to take advantage of the rise in stock prices when the market corrects itself. It’s also the best time to contribute to your IRA or 401(k) for the same reason.

Looking for more ways to get your finances in order this year? I can help. All you have to do is reach out.

The Long Game

                                       

When it comes to saving for retirement, it can be tempting to procrastinate, especially if you’re just starting out in your career and you’re not yet making a lot of money. Retirement feels like it’s ages away and you might feel like you just can’t afford to put money away for it right now, but the real question is can you afford not to?

The Long Game

If you’re using something like a 401(k) and/or IRA to save for retirement, then the money you put into it is getting invested so you end up with more money than you put in. But the way investing works is that it’s a long game. Investments don’t turn a small amount of money into a big pile overnight. Most investment strategies take time before you get the results you want, and the more time you put into it, the better your results will be.

Are You Increasing Your Investments?

The traditional retirement saving advice has been to put away 10% of your income into savings, but now experts have started saying that’s not enough – you need to put away closer to 15% or even 20% of your income every month in order to have enough to keep you financially stable throughout your retirement.

But that’s assuming you start saving as soon as you start working. That means the longer you wait, the more you’ll have to put into savings in order to get the same results. Depending on how long you wait, that could mean you should be putting away as much as a third, or even half your income for the rest of your working years. Will you be able to do that? Are you confident that one day you’ll be making so much money that you’ll be able to live on just half your salary?

Maybe someday you will be able to make much more money than you spend and that would be great, but what if that doesn’t pan out? What’s your retirement strategy then? And how will it be affected by the fact that you didn’t start saving early enough?

Market Volatility

The other thing you need to keep in mind when it comes to investing is market volatility. Just like you’ll have good days where the market goes up and so does the overall value of your portfolio, there will also be days when the market doesn’t perform as well and your portfolio will suffer as a result. The ups and downs of the market are inevitable and you need to be prepared for that.

Honestly, the best reaction to a market downturn is to invest more money into the market so you can reap the benefits when it goes back up. At the very least you should leave your money in the market and wait for it to go back up and start returning all the money you lost (and often more). Too many people panic and pull out of all their investments when the market starts to go down, but that’s the exact wrong approach. You need to be patient, and if you started saving when you were in your 20s, then patience shouldn’t be an issue. But if you waited too long to start saving for retirement, can you afford to be patient?

If all of this sounds confusing, don’t be afraid to reach out to talk to me directly. I’m here to give people like you the knowledge and tools they need to achieve financial stability on their own – not with a financial planner.


120-year Life Span

Technology is advancing at a breath-taking rate – including healthcare technology. As we continue to find ways to eliminate common diseases and extend the average person’s lifespan, some people are claiming that this century will see people living to be as old as 120. According to Ric Edelman, a financial planner, anyone living in the year 2030 can expect to live to be 120 years old. If he’s right, that will have major implications for retirement planning.

When Should I Retire?

The first thing to be affected by longer life spans is the idea of the right age to retire. If you’re going to live to be 120 years old, retiring at 65 means you have less half your life to earn enough money to support you for the rest of your life. The prospect of living longer (and feeling better for longer) could prompt many people to work long past the age of 65.

How Much Should I Save?

This is the most common question that tends to come up in retirement planning. Unfortunately, there’s no good answer. While family history can give us an idea into how long we can expect to live, modern technology has the potential to completely disrupt that system – which means it also has the potential to disrupt the retirement planning system.

How Can I Plan to Live to Be 120 Years Old?

Living longer will most likely mean working longer for a lot of people, but it will also mean that we’ll have to make some changes to the way we plan and save for retirement. While saving has always been key, investing has grown increasingly important in recent decades and it will continue to gain importance. Rather than saving up to a specific amount that may or may not last us the rest of our lives, the ideal situation is when we accumulate enough sound investments that we can live off our dividends without diving into our principal. This strategy will become increasingly necessary if doctors and scientists really do manage to extend the average lifespan to more than a century.

Plan for Healthcare Costs

Healthcare costs are currently one of the biggest areas of spending for people of all ages, but especially for senior citizens and those in retirement. Retirement planning already requires a significant amount of planning for increased healthcare costs (including the possibility of long-term care). If we succeed in making the average person a centenarian, what will the repercussions be in terms of healthcare costs? Will the average person get to live to be 120? Or will the healthcare technology that makes such an age possible be available only to the wealthy? To those for whom it is available, will they want to live to the age of 120 or will they choose to forego that kind of medical care?

These are all things you need to consider when planning for your retirement. Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that your preferences might change as you near retirement, so be prepared to adjust your retirement plan if that happens.

Five Keys

5 Keys to Financial Freedom

Most of us dream of having more financial freedom. It gives us the power to achieve our other goals, without having to worry about the financial hit of a sick day, or even taking some time off to go on vacation. But financial freedom doesn’t have to be a dream that’s only attainable by being born into wealth or winning the lottery. It’s easy enough to attain it for yourself if you just follow these simple steps:

Define Your Goals

It’s hard to achieve any goal in life without first defining that goal. Financial freedom means something different to everyone, so your first step is to figure out what it means to do. More vacation time? More travel? Bigger spending account? Early retirement? You have to think about what financial goals you want to reach before you can start coming up with a plan to get there.

Save Before You Spend

Some people will tell you to save whatever money you have left over after paying all your expenses, instead of spending it on luxuries. But financial experts often recommend doing it the other way around: spend whatever you have left after saving. The idea is to make saving a priority. If you don’t, there’s always next month. And the next. Pretty soon your retirement is looming and you haven’t saved enough to stop working.

Invest

Investing doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds. It could be as simple as opening a 401(k) account with your employer or an IRA account with a reputable investment company. You don’t have to contribute much, but by contributing on a regular basis, you can let the market and the expertise of your portfolio managers grow that little investment into something that can make it viable for you to retire on.

Don’t Give Up

As with anything in life, the best advice anyone can give is to not give up. Achieving your goals takes time, and that’s as true of building your financial freedom as it is of anything else. Saving and investing are both long-term strategies that won’t pay off in a few months (or even years) so don’t expect them to. That’s why it’s so important to come up with a plan and make sure you stick to it. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Educate Yourself

This step should really go first because it’s hard to accomplish much of anything without first educating yourself on the topic, but it’s also a continuing process. We should always be striving to improve our knowledge and our skills, including our financial skills, especially with changes constantly happening in the markets and with various governmental regulations and influences. That said, just a little bit of financial understanding can go a long way.

If you’re still confused, don’t hesitate to reach out. The purpose of this company is to help people like you understand their finances so they can reach their financial goals and finally realize that dream of financial freedom for yourself and your family.

Safety Net??

America’s Shrinking Social Safety Net Leaves Retirees Out in the Cold

Retirement is supposed to be a time of rest and comfort. Maybe travel, if you’re so inclined. Instead, for an increasing number of Americans, retirement is becoming a time of dire financial straits and even bankruptcy.

According to a new study, the rate of people between the ages of 65 and 74 filing for bankruptcy has tripled between 1991, when there were 1.2 bankruptcy filers per 1,000 people in that age range filing for bankruptcy, compared to 3.6 filers per 1,000 in the same age group in 2016.

And it’s not like this indicates a larger trend in the rest of the population. In 1991, 2.1% of all bankruptcy filers were 65 or older. In 2016 12.2% of filers fell in that same age group.

While the actual number of filers remains fairly small (approximately 100,000 filers per year), it’s worth noting that there are many more people in dire financial straits. The ones who file for bankruptcy are the ones who have hit rock bottom, which means there are many more that are managing to stay afloat, but just barely.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the problem is slowing down. In fact, it’s getting worse. The next generation is also filing for bankruptcy in greater numbers than their predecessors as they approach retirement, while the average age of filers continues to rise.

A big part of the problem is the shifting of financial risk from the government and employers onto individuals, which has been ongoing for the past three decades. As the social safety net continues to shrink, individuals are increasingly left to fend for themselves in retirement.

Longer wait times for full Social Security benefits, 401(k) plans replacing pensions, and more out-of-pocket costs for healthcare are also factors, as is the general decline in incomes, both before and during retirement.

Most older Americans rely on Medicare to cover their medical costs, but with increases premiums continuing to climb and coverage continuing to decrease, patients are required to cover more and more of their own medical expenses, making it difficult (if not impossible) to cover the rest of their living expenses. By 2013 the average Medicare recipient was spending 41% of their Social Security check on medical expenses.

More older Americans are also going into retirement with debt and often with more debt than previous generations.

Many of them said their finances had taken a hit when they had decided to help those around them. Whether helping to pay for the care of a parent or the education of a child (or both), the fact remains that more people have less money left over to save for their own retirement.

Bankruptcy attorneys who say they never used to see parents with student loan debt say they are seeing it more and more frequently. Parents are co-signing their children’s student loans, which commonly go as high as $100,000 and even higher, and can’t be discharged in bankruptcy. It creates an impossibly heavy financial burden which becomes even more impossible to bear when parents are living on limited, fixed incomes.

As a result, more older Americans are filing for bankruptcy – the last surviving bit of safety net. Squeezed between a rock and a hard place, they are left with nowhere else to turn.

Living paycheck to paycheck (or Social Security check to Social Security check) is one thing, although even that is often not enough for most retirees. Even when it is enough, it doesn’t take much to throw them off balance. An injury or a bad cold can bring unexpected medical expenses that retirees often struggle to pay without any additional income. Those already working in retirement have a hard enough time finding and holding down just one job. Trying to find and hold down a second job is almost impossible. Even when they do manage to find jobs, they’re usually working for less money than they ever made prior to retiring.

Although bankruptcy is still an option, it’s usually not enough. While it offers a blank financial slate, the fact remains that the older Americans filing for bankruptcy don’t have enough years left to get back on their feet.

This is why implementing a retirement plan early and following through on it is so important. Even if you’re living on a limited income, we can help you find the opportunities for savings so you can make the most of your retirement.

Nomadland

Nomadland

Everyone has their own idea of retirement. For some, it might mean downsizing to a smaller home that’s easier to maintain so you can spend your days however you want. Others dream of getting rid of a permanent home altogether in favor of traveling the country in an RV. Few people think of retirement as roaming the country in search of unskilled employment, taking on odd jobs that will give them a paycheck for a few months, or even just a few weeks.

But that’s the premise of Jessica Bruder’s book, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century.

Bruder spent months embedded in this RV culture that exists all over America today. While there is a subculture of people who choose the life, most of the people Bruder spoke with were past what we would consider retirement age (in their 60s and 70s) and were living in RVs because they had lost their houses. Instead of renting apartments, they got by in mobile homes because it was cheaper and it allowed them to go where the jobs are.

For example, farms need extra hands during certain times of the year, and the times when there’s work to be had varies depending on the region, so those living in “Nomadland” need to be able to move around as work in one area dries up, so they can relocate to areas where someone might have work for them. This means everything from digging beets out of the ground to picking items off shelves in Amazon’s warehouses during the busy holiday season and getting them ready to ship.

None of these jobs are ideal for senior citizens. Many of them involve hours of hard physical labor and those with fitness trackers say they walk 12-14 miles a day, 6 days a week in the aisles of Amazon’s warehouses during the holiday season.

These are not the kinds of jobs the nomads held prior to retirement. Many of them owned their own homes, but lost them due to one financial mishap or another. Others lost money when they got divorced and were no longer able to rely on that second income. Still others had a 401(k) or IRA, but lost money when the stock market crashed in 2008 and pulled their money out of the market before it had a chance to recover.

Almost all of them receive money from Social Security, but it’s often not enough to even begin to cover expenses. Many of them only receive about $500 per month, which is barely enough to cover rent in some areas, much less other necessities like food, clothing and utilities. So they do whatever work they can to supplement their income.

All this is to say: you need a financial plan in order to retire. You can’t rely on Social Security and even just contributing to your 401(k) or IRA isn’t always enough if something happens to the market. Instead, you need to understand the basics of finances and how the market works so you can be financially prepared for anything that life throws at you. Because you don’t want to end up a 21st-century nomad.

The Penalty

The Penalty for Not Saving for Retirement

Financial professionals used to recommend people put away 10% of each paycheck for emergencies and retirement. That recommendation has since gone up to 15%, but according to a recent survey from Bankrate.com, only 16% of Americans are actually putting aside that much or more. As much as 25% of the respondents said they’re saving between 6% and 10% of their income, while 21% said they’re saving less than 5% of their income, and 19% said they aren’t saving anything at all.

All this is despite the fact that unemployment is down and wages are up, but that won’t last forever. At some point, the economy is bound to take a downward turn, at which point employers will start laying off workers. Those who don’t have any savings set aside for such an eventuality will find it hard to pay the bills until they can get another job.

The same goes for retirement. Those who don’t save while they’re working will have a hard time paying the bills for an extended period of time when they’re not bringing home a paycheck. Based on the results of its survey, Bankrate expects half of Americans will have a hard time maintaining their current standard of living once they retire.

Another report from GoBankingRates found similar results, saying 42% of Americans have less than $10,000 saved for retirement and the average American currently has less than $5,000 saved up in any financial account, which is 20%-25% less than the recommended amount. For those aged 55-64 who are getting ready to retire, most only have $120,000 in their retirement savings account, which won’t last long without any source of income.

Most Americans (40%) listed expenses as their top reason for not putting more money in their savings accounts. Another 16% said their job didn’t pay well enough for them to put any money away after having paid all their expenses.

But that begs the question: how much do people need to earn in wages/salary in order to put money away for retirement?

The problem is, the more we make, the more we tend to spend as we hang out with people who make more, and therefore spend more, and we try to keep up. But if saving isn’t a regular part of finances, we could end up like Tom Palome, a retired marketing executive who used to fly first class to Europe on business trips. Now, at 77 years old, he’s getting paid $10/hr at two jobs just to make ends meet.

Prior to retirement, Palome was making six figures, which most Americans consider to be the standard of wealth. But he says he worked so hard to pay off his mortgage and put his kids through college that he failed to put enough money away for his own retirement. Now he says he earns in a week what he used to earn in an hour.

So while you’re working hard to climb the corporate ladder or pay off your debt, don’t forget to feed your savings account. The penalty is ending up right back where you started.

Register for Saving for Your Future Workshop - 7/26

Conrad Terry, Founder, President, and Lead Counselor of Financial Understanding Now, LLC will be offering a workshop through mox.E titled, Saving for Your Future, on July 26, 2018 from 6–8:30pm at Entrenuity. 

Learn the fundamentals for future financial stability as a business owner.

  • Understanding the value of investing for the future

  • Knowledge of investing as part of business planning

  • Ability to manage investments as a business practice



Entrenuity
2550 S State St, Ste 102
CHICAGO, IL 60605

Tickets: $15