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personal finance

6 Year End Tips for a Financially Productive 2017

As 2016 comes to a close in a few weeks and we start into 2017, here are some good tips to consider to start 2017 off with some good strategies that will hopefully become habits. If you’re not doing so already, set up your payroll deductions to save the maximum to your 401k. There’s plenty of time to your payroll allocated so your deductions start coming out on the first paycheck in January. The 2017 maximum contributions are $18,000 for those under age 50 and $24,000 for those age 50 or older. To deduct the max, simply take the number of pay periods you have annually and divide it into your maximum contribution amount. This will allow you to save the maximum amount over 2017. Consider doing the same to maximize your IRA contribution. Those limits are $5,500 (under 50) and $6,500 (over 50) respectively. Check your allowances on your […]

The Power of Dollar Cost Averaging

If you’re like most investors systematically saving for retirement through their employer or with an IRA chances are you’re taking advantage of dollar cost averaging. Dollar cost averaging is a method of investing a specific dollar amount, generally monthly, no matter how the market is reacting. It’s also a way for an investor to fully fund a retirement account without requiring the maximum amount allowed in one shot. For example, let’s assume that an investor under the age of 50 wants to save to an IRA. The maximum contribution to the IRA for 2015 is $5,500. Should the investor want to save monthly and still invest the maximum allowed for the year, he would simply divide by 12 and invest a sum of $458.33 monthly. The beauty of this strategy is that the investor takes advantage of market swings, whether high or low. If the market is considerably high (as […]

Should a CFP® Be Required to Always Act as a Fiduciary?

Folks interested in engaging a professional for financial planning help and advice should generally seek out the advice of a CFP®. A CFP® has had the education, experience, ethics and exam (the Board’s 4 E’s) that qualifies he or she to hold the mark. We often encourage clients that they should look for this designation at a minimum before engaging with a financial planner and then meet with the planner to decide if the client and planner are a good fit. Due to an excellent marketing campaign by the CFP® Board many clients understand what a CFP® is, what they do, and how they may be able to help. Many folks choose to work with a CFP® because they know that the CFP® is held to a higher standard. Some may believe that the CFP® is always a fiduciary – meaning the CFP® must always put the best interests of […]

The Designation Everybody Should Be Aware Of

At some point in your life you have probably started a new job, applied for life insurance, started an IRA or retirement account, or opened a bank account. You may remember when filling out the paperwork that the form asked for a beneficiary – both primary and contingent. This is simply telling the account’s custodian to whom you want your account to go to should you pass away. Your primary beneficiary is the first (hence the name primary) that receives account balance or death benefit. The contingent is who receives the account balance in the event your primary beneficiary predeceases you. When choosing beneficiaries you had the choice of allocating a certain percentage to the primary and some to the contingent if needed. You may have even had two or more primary beneficiaries that you allocated a certain percent of your account to totaling 100% Then you may have forgotten […]

Do I Need My Life Insurance Through Work?

Many employees have access to employer provided benefits such as health insurance, a retirement savings plan disability insurance and life insurance. Generally the coverage is group term coverage that will pay a specified death benefit up to a certain amount that is usually based on a multiple of the employee’s salary. An employee making $50,000 per year may have group term life insurance that pays a death benefit of $40,000. Generally the employer will pay the premium for coverage up to a certain death benefit amount. Usually this amount is $50,000. The reason why is the IRS allows the employer to pay the premiums on a group life insurance policy up to a face amount of $50,000 without the employee having to include the amount the employer pays for premiums in gross income. Sometimes the employee can elect to have coverage for a higher amount but will most likely have […]

How Much Do I Need to Save?

Frequently I’m asked by folks how much they need to be socking away for retirement. Many people I talk to are concerned about having enough (a very common concern I would say among most people) for retirement and fear running out of money. As much as I would love to give them a rock-solid answer and as much as they want a definitive answer, the true answer is that it depends – on a number of factors. 1. How much do you plan to spend in retirement? This question can be difficult to answer especially if you’re young and can’t contemplate nor even come close to an estimate of what expenses will be in retirement. For others, this may be more readily a number to come up with especially if one is close to retirement or in the peak accumulation years of their careers which is usually later in life. 2. […]

Book Review: The $1,000 Challenge

I picked up this book at FinCon 2013, the Financial Blogger’s Conference held last year in St. Louis.  The author, Brian J. O’Connor, is the Personal Finance Editor and syndicated “Funny Money” columnist at The Detroit News.  The book is the compilation of a 10-part series O’Connor wrote in 2010, wherein he opened up his personal financial situation to his readers and attempted to come up with ways to save an on-going $1,000 per month on regular, everyday expenses. The result is a surprisingly interesting (not to mention humorous!) journey with the author into the depths of personal financial dealings – everything from babysitting expenses to transportation costs to groceries.  The author takes each section of his personal finances in turn, laying out what the current costs are, and the steps he took to make reductions in his monthly outlay.  He the takes the series a step further to recommend […]

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