4 Tips for Planning for Financial Emergencies

May 19, 2017

Group of professionals leaving office after layoff or being firedWe don’t always know when the unexpected will happen. That doesn’t mean we can’t plan for it though.

In fact, one of the best things you can do for your finances is to look ahead and prepare for the inevitable emergency. Here are four tips you can use for your plan:

  1. Start with Your Rainy Day Fund

It’s old news, but the reality is that many Americans still don’t have the resources to handle a $500 emergency. That means you probably need to beef up your rainy day fund.

Get started even if you feel like you can’t set aside a ton. Every little bit helps. Set aside money each week that can be used for a rainy day.

This also includes paying attention to what’s happening with your expenses. While things do happen unexpectedly, the truth is that we often get clues that something is about to break down. The washing machine behaves erratically, or you notice something about the fridge. Once those signs appear, start setting money aside.

  1. Plan for Routine Costs

You know that the oil needs to be changed in your car every so often. There are plenty of other maintenance milestones that come with owning a car too. You need to plan for these items. From home maintenance to the fact that your kids need to get clothes for school every year, there are routine costs in your life.

Make a plan to save a little bit each month for these routine costs. You can use a system that helps you prepare to meet these challenges when they arrive, preferably a system where savings are automated. That way, you won’t have to rely as heavily on your emergency fund or (worse) your credit cards.

  1. Perform an Insurance Audit

When was the last time you checked your insurance coverage? Do you have the right amount? Will it cover your situation? Double-check your coverage.

Make sure your home is covered. What if you’ve recently bought some expensive items? Are they covered against loss? Look at your health insurance coverage. Will it be enough if you end up in the hospital? Is the deductible affordable? On the other hand, are you paying for too much coverage and not freeing enough money to save?

The right insurance coverage can go a long way toward helping you out when you’re in a pinch. And don’t forget the life insurance to cover your family, just in case you pass on.

  1. Know What You Can Cut

Finally, make sure you know what you can cut from your budget in an emergency. Which items are the first to go? Which items, when cut, could result in immediate savings? This exercise can help you spring into action once a financial emergency strikes. It’s a good way to stay on top of things.

Plus, looking at your spending with a critical eye can help you now. If you take the time to review your spending and identify areas of waste, you can plug those leaks now. Divert the money toward other goals, like building a rainy day fund or preparing to buy a new appliance.

As you get into making these plans, you are far more likely to see good results and boost your ability to handle almost anything that can come up. How prepare are you? Would a $500 emergency cripple your finances? Or is it more like a small bump on the road?

 

Source: MoneyNing

6 Important Credit Card Lessons Your Parents Didn’t Teach You

Shot of a mother using a credit card to buy something for her daughter onlineOur parents taught us many of life’s important lessons, but did they adequately prepare us for smart credit card use? Maybe not. Here are six credit card lessons your parents might not have taught you.

  1. Credit cards offer more fraud protection than debit cards

Credit cards offer a much greater level of protection against fraud than debit cards. Many credit companies come with $0 fraud liability, meaning you aren’t responsible for any reported fraudulent spending. In most of these cases, the creditor will credit your account immediately. However, with debit card purchases, it can take the bank up to two weeks to refund your money, and even then you might still be held responsible for a certain percentage of the charges.

  1. You must be proactive to build your credit

A common myth is that an open credit card account is all you need to build your credit. Credit scores reflect an individual’s relationship with debt management. Lenders and creditors want to see how you interact with finances, especially if you are going to take on more debt. This doesn’t mean you need to be in debt to have a good credit score. Instead, a credit score is established through paying your bills on time, whether that be your credit card bill or your mortgage.

One of the biggest factors in determining your credit score is your credit utilization ratio. Lenders want to see how much debt you have versus how much credit you have access to.

Build your credit by using and paying off your credit card, making payments on time, and asking for credit line increases.

  1. Keep your credit utilization ratio as low as possible

Generally, it is important to have a credit utilization ratio of 30 percent or less. For example, someone with $500 of debt on a $1,000 total credit line will look worse to creditors than someone who has $5,000 debt with a total credit line of $30,000.

Calculate your credit utilization ratio by dividing your debt total by your credit line total. For example, $500 of debt divided by a $1,000 credit line would equal a 50 percent credit utilization ratio, whereas $5,000 of debt divided by a $30,000 credit line is just over 16 percent. Remember, your credit line total is the combination of all lines of credit you have open.

  1. Interest payments can make debt hard to pay off

A few thousand dollars of debt can feel like an impossible hurdle if you try to pay it off in minimum payments only. You will feel like you are making zero progress on your debt when you have to pay interest. Interest makes anything you purchased with a credit card more expensive. Did you really mean to pay double for that clearance shirt?

  1. Differences in interest rates do matter

Perhaps your parents didn’t make a big deal about the difference between an A and A-, but when it comes to interest rates, the difference is noticeable. Even a half of a percent can make a big difference when it comes to your monthly payments on a loan. Getting a $20,000 car loan for three years at 4 percent doesn’t seem much different from the same car loan at 3.25 percent, but it is. The difference is $6 a month, or $216 in the lifetime of the loan. Wouldn’t you rather that money go to something necessary or fun instead of an interest payment? The same is true of paying interest on a credit card.

  1. Rewards don’t negate debt

We know your mom always told you to look at the bright side of things, but credit card rewards are not the bright side. If you are constantly running up credit card debt to benefit from rewards points, then you will be sorely disappointed by their rate of return. There is no credit card on the market with a reward program that makes going into debt worth it.

Pay off your monthly credit card bill to ensure you benefit from the rewards, but aren’t being burned by the interest rate.

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Source: WiseBread

9 Expensive Mistakes of the Newly Retired

Home finances. Senior couple counting a monthly bills at home.Transitioning to retired life on a fixed income will undoubtedly have a few bumps in the road. This is a brand-new chapter of life for you, and it’s reasonable to expect some challenges ahead. The last thing you want to do, however, is compromise your nest egg with costly, easily avoidable mistakes. After all, you need that money to get you through the rest of your life.

As such, consider these costly mistakes of the newly retired so you don’t follow suit.

  1. Not balancing your portfolio

Retiring doesn’t mean you have to stop investing. You can still dabble in the stock market, but perhaps not as aggressively as you once did. Risky bets could cost you your life savings, which means that you’ll either have to go back to work past age 65, or put your hat out on a street corner. Neither of those options sound great in the golden years of life, so it’s important to ensure your retirement portfolio is balanced.

“Annuitizing a significant portion of one’s retirement income can complement a portfolio of stocks and bonds,” says Jim Poolman, executive director of the Indexed Annuity Leadership Council. “Fixed indexed annuities (FIAs) can serve as part of a balanced financial plan because they do not directly participate in any stock or equity investments and [they] protect your principal from fluctuations in the market.”

  1. Not changing your lifestyle after retirement

Your spending habits as a retiree will need to change if you’re going to make it for the long haul. This is especially true if you’re not receiving any kind of monthly payments, like Social Security or disability, to help with bills. You can live off what you have in the bank (hopefully; otherwise you shouldn’t be retiring yet), but you may have to downsize and rethink your spending strategy.

This means you need to start learning how to save money on everyday expenses, and re-evaluate your budget to find places for cuts. Don’t expect yourself to suddenly drop 30 percent or more of your spending. Work your way to it by making small cuts at a time before you retire.

  1. Not evaluating risk

When you start saving for retirement, you may have a certain monetary goal in mind — either based on what financial sources have told you, or what you’ve calculated you’ll need based on your lifestyle. But you may not be accounting for the ups and downs of Wall Street and inevitable inflation.

“Revisit your retirement plan to make sure your savings reflect your new needs, and adjust for market conditions,” Poolman advises.

  1. Spending too much money too soon

When you retire, what you have is what you have. Unless you still have income coming in somehow, you have to mind your money and avoid the temptation to spend it on splurges, especially if you find yourself bored in the first year of your forever vacation.

“Before finalizing your retirement, you must take into consideration that you will only be living on a fixed amount of money,” Andrew Fiebert, co-founder of Listen Money Matters, says. “Oftentimes the amount of retirement savings looks pretty large, but retirees must keep in mind that money will have to last a very long time — hopefully a very, very long time.”

The enticement to spend your money can be almost irresistible, but discipline is vital. Depleting your money beyond the interest that it earns will hurt the principal and leave you with nothing after just a few years.

  1. Loaning money to adult children

According to a 2015 Pew Research Center poll, a whopping 61 percent of parents in the U.S. admitted to helping their adult children financially. That may be well and good if you have that kind of disposable income lying around (though it only fortifies your children’s reliance on you; learn to say NO!). However, if you already need to cut back because you didn’t save enough to live an easy, breezy retirement — which applies to most Americans — providing handouts, the payback of which you may never see, could put you in a financial pickle.

Don’t be afraid to cut your grown children off. If you don’t have the extra money, neither do they.

  1. Taking Social Security benefits too early

The overriding argument against claiming Social Security benefits too early is that you won’t receive your full benefit potential. That could come back to bite you later in life.

If you decide to claim Social Security benefits before you reach your full retirement age, you’ll receive a smaller monthly payout — up to 30 percent less. If you absolutely need that money before your benefits fully mature, then by all means do what you have to do to survive. You’ll be better off, however, the longer you wait.

  1. Not taking required minimum distributions after age 70-½

Starting at age 70-½, you must take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from your traditional, SEP, or SIMPLE IRA each year to satisfy rules set forth by the IRS. If you don’t, you’ll pay penalties.

You can calculate your required RMD by dividing your IRA account balance as of Dec. 31 of the prior year by the applicable distribution or life expectancy. Qualified charitable distributions can satisfy your RMD, by the way, which you would report on Form 1099-R on the calendar year in which the distribution is made. Do good and save yourself the penalties while you’re at it.

  1. Falling victim to money scams

Scammers love retirees and the elderly. Why? Because they’ve usually got money to burn, and they’re much easier to fool than the average working-age person. Sad, but true.

There are plenty of scams out there, too, and they’re getting more intricate all the time — like one where the scammer poses as the victim’s grandchild and begs the grandparent to send money. To prevent yourself from being scammed, remember these two major rules: Never provide personal information over the phone or via email, and never wire any money unless you’ve spoken directly to your family member or friend who is requesting the transfer. (See also: What to Do When You Suspect a Scam)

  1. Failing to account for the unexpected

The reality of retirement is that while you’ll certainly have more time to kick back and relax, life isn’t necessarily going to get easier — and you have to prepare for that. Everyone will die eventually, and it’s smart to plan ahead not only for end-of-life accommodations, but also long-term medical care.

You may live a long and healthy life, but eventually you’ll need someone to care for you — whether that’s in a family member’s home or a professional facility — and that will cost money. Hedge your bets by looking ahead and putting those funds aside now.

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Source: WiseBread

Do I Need Life Insurance?

Smiling Father Playing With Baby Son At Home Lifting UpDo you remember what it’s like being a kid with no financial responsibilities? Neither do I. It seems like we have been adulting forever. If life insurance isn’t quintessential adulthood, I don’t know what is. As you are reading and researching life insurance, one of the biggest questions you ask yourself is “Do I even need life insurance?”

Ask yourself this question: Does someone rely on me financially? If the answer is yes, then you likely need life insurance. Let’s discuss a few different types of people and their need for life insurance.

Single? You probably don’t need it.

If you are single and have no children, you probably don’t need life insurance. However, if you’re an ultra-planner or want to have a family sooner rather than later, locking in those low rates while you’re young and healthy can be a wise move.

Here are a few situations in which buying life insurance would be recommended even if you’re single:

Co-signed loans

Maybe your grandparents are co-signers on your private student loans or your parents co-signed on your mortgage. If you die before the balance is paid, the creditors can go after your co-signers. Life insurance can pay for these debts.

Caring for relatives

If you are caring for siblings or aging relatives you should consider life insurance to ensure that your loved ones are still provided for even if you are no longer around.

Have dependent children? You definitely need it.

Those with children have the greatest need for life insurance. Children rely on you for food, clothing, shelter, medicine, and everything else. If you die, life insurance can continue to fund these things, and it can also pay for hopes and dreams such as college tuition or a wedding.

Let’s take a closer look at specific parental situations:

Dual income families

If your household has two incomes contributing to standard of living, the sudden loss of a parent can cause financial upheaval if there is no life insurance to replace the lost income. One parent is now responsible to provide what two incomes previously did. For example, the proceeds from a life insurance policy can pay off the mortgage ensuring the children do not have to be uprooted from their home or school district.

Single parents

Let’s face it, the loss of a single parent to a child would be devastating. When married couples purchase life insurance, they often plan with the possibility that one spouse will remain to care for the children. Single parents do not have this luxury and absolutely need life insurance.

Stay-at-home parents

When you think of life insurance, you may only think a breadwinner needs coverage and not a stay-at-home parent – this could not be further from the truth. Imagine everything a stay-at-home parent does: babysits, cleans, cooks, transports, grocery shops… the list goes on. According to Salary.com, a stay-at-home mom is worth approximately $112,962. If the stay-at-home parent were to die unexpectedly, life insurance can pay for someone to help with these tasks.

Married? You most likely need it.

You don’t need to have children to rely on your significant other’s income. You’re building a life together and doing so requires money. You are likely both contributing to rent or a mortgage, car payments, utilities, and credit card bills. What happens if one of you were to die prematurely? The death benefit from a term life insurance policy can help pay for those expenses and cover the cost of a funeral.

It’s not uncommon today for couples to be in a committed relationship but postpone marriage. While it’s a little easier to own life insurance on your significant other if you are married, non-married couples can still purchase life insurance on one another as long as they can prove insurable interest.

Insurable interest is when a person can expect to suffer financial loss upon the death of another specific person. Having both names on a mortgage loan, both named on a lease, or owning a business together are just a few examples of how you can prove insurable interest.

The two types of life insurance

There are two main types of life insurance: term life insurance and permanent life insurance.

Term insurance:

  • Basic, inexpensive life insurance
  • Temporary – lasts a certain length of time (typically 10, 20, or 30 years)
  • Ideal for most people

Permanent insurance:

  • Lasts a lifetime
  • Accumulates cash value
  • Much more costly than term insurance
  • Not necessary for most people

For most individuals, term life insurance is suitable coverage. It is designed to last only during the years in which you have the greatest need for it. Permanent life insurance can be beneficial for more complicated situations such as managing wealth for large estates.

The key benefits

Buying life insurance means you hand over some of your hard earned dollars to an insurance company – so what do you get in return?

  • Your life insurance policy will provide significant funds to your loved ones when they need it most, allowing them to grieve without the added financial stress.
  • The death benefit is typically considerably greater than the premiums you paid.
  • The proceeds are generally safe from creditors. Even if you die with debt, creditors cannot go after the life insurance proceeds paid.
  • Life insurance proceeds are typically not taxed by the federal government.
  • Peace of mind in knowing your loved ones will be financially protected if you are taken from them too soon.

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Source: MintLife

5 Downsides to DIY Financial Planning

Worried senior couple looking at each other while discussing financial budget at home. Horizontal shot.Resources for do-it-yourself financial planning are plentiful these days. There are websites with retirement calculators, guides and apps you can download and automated algorithm-based investment advisers that will tell you what to buy, hold or sell.

Even if you’re a savvy investor who’s perfectly capable of understanding financial concepts and applying them to your own portfolio, other factors could affect your success. Here are a few to consider:

  1. Can you keep your emotions out of it?

This is your money, your future, your legacy. People make the biggest financial mistakes when they panic and sell low in a bad market or get greedy and buy high in a good market. And who’s going to stop you if you decide to take $10,000 out of your 401(k) to go to Europe on a whim? (Or if not who’s going to stop you, who’s at least going to make a face and ask you if that’s really such a good idea and discuss the pros and cons of your decision?) If you’re on your own, you won’t have someone to talk you through those impulsive decisions.

  1. Do you have the time?

This isn’t just about talking to your brother-in-law and making some stock picks. To make good choices, you’ll need to do lots of research and read those prospectuses. Every. Single. Time.

Is your spouse going to nag you when you get home from work, give a quick kiss on the cheek and disappear into the world of finance on your laptop? And what will your spouse do if something happens to you?

Here’s a suggestion: If you really enjoy doing your own financial legwork, why not consider keeping control of 10% of your investments and letting an adviser take care of the rest? You’ll still get the mental stimulation, you can brag about your successes, but any mistakes you make won’t have as large of an impact on your overall retirement.

  1. You might not be as smart as you think you are.

If you’ve been investing successfully on your own for the past few years, that’s great. But just about anybody can do well in a bull market. The tough part comes when there’s a correction. (Note: That’s when, not if.) How are you protecting yourself for the downside? Do you even know about the products that are out there to help safeguard your income stream? A good financial adviser attends classes and stays up to date on financial strategies, tax law changes and more. And he has years of experience. He’s seen hundreds of people come through his office door, and he’s probably helped several clients with problems similar to yours.

  1. Every quarterback needs a coach.

Tom Brady led the Patriots to a Super Bowl victory — but he had a whole lot of people on the sidelines helping him make those plays. When it comes to your financial future, don’t you want to have a team of coaches behind you? Your financial adviser can work with others — tax experts, estate attorneys, insurance professionals — to build a plan that helps you meet your goals.

You’ll still be the MVP — but they’ll be there to support you on offense and defense to get you across the goal line.

  1. It’s only going to get more complicated.

Saving money was pretty easy when you were a kid. You just dropped your quarters into a piggy bank. Then came student loans and credit. A mortgage. The costs that came with having kids. And yet, all that pales in comparison to planning for retirement. You might have been fantastic at the accumulation phase of your financial life, but the distribution and preservation phase can be a scary place to negotiate on your own.

Sometimes, it’s just knowing what order to tap into your income streams that makes all the difference. Or understanding your risk tolerance as you get older vs. when you were young and fearless with your money. Even if you managed to build a pretty nice nest egg all by yourself, you may need an assist when it comes to making it last for 20 or 30 years in retirement.

Ask yourself this: If you wouldn’t plan your own wedding or funeral, or even a family vacation, without help, do you think you should fly solo when planning your financial future?

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Source: Kiplinger