Are you in the market for a new or new-to-you car? If so, you’ve probably wondered “How much car can I afford?”
While your local car dealership might be happy to tell you the sky’s the limit regarding your car purchase, your personal budget might be telling you a different story. Spending more than you can afford on a car turns that car from a blessing into a burden.
How much should I spend on a car?
Deciding how much to spend on a car starts with knowing your current financial numbers. You'll need to know your current income, expenses, and savings amounts.
Know your numbers
There are several financial factors that can influence how much you should spend on a car. The amount of money you earn, of course, needs to be taken into account.
When determining how much you earn, always use your net take-home pay to start with. From there, factor in the other financial obligations you have.
In other words, look at your budget. If you don’t normally use one, now is a good time to start. Having a clear view of all other monthly financial obligations will help you better determine how much you can afford.
The 50-30-20 budget plan can be helpful. In short, the 50-30-20 budget plan works like this:
50 percent of your budget goes toward must-have and must-do obligations, such as housing expenses and child care
30 percent of your budget goes toward savings and debt obligations
20 percent of your budget covers unnecessary expenses and “fun” money
There are many ways to design a budget, but the 50-30-20 budget gives you a good place to start. It will certainly point out of there are any areas that are totally out of whack.
What do you have in savings?
Having a healthy savings account balance is important when making a car purchase as well. If you don’t have an emergency fund with a balance equal to three to six months’ worth of expenses, building that emergency fund up should be a priority.
If you don’t have an emergency fund with a balance equal to three to six months’ worth of expenses, building that emergency fund up should be a priority.
With an added car payment, having a plush savings balance will help you ensure you can cover the new payment even if you hit a financial bump. Or, for instance, if the car needs repairs.
Determine the total cost of the car
Once you have looked at your budget and determined the amount of money per month you are comfortable spending on a car you'll want to be clear on the total car costs before you make your purchase. Affording a new car isn’t simply about the payment.
There are several other costs associated with car ownership, such as:
Insurance policy costs
Fuel and parking costs
Maintenance and repair costs
You can call your insurance company ahead of time and get a quote for the new vehicle you're considering. If you are still trying to narrow down what type of car you want, check out this list of the most and the least expensive cars to insure.
Call your insurance company ahead of time and get a quote for the new vehicle you're considering.
Fuel costs are fairly easy to determine. A Google search will give you the MPGs of any car you could think of. Compare that to your current car to see if your costs will change.
Maintenance and repair costs can be harder to determine but you can get an idea by using averages across a brand. Here's an article from Autowise that displays the cheapest and most expensive cars to maintain.
Be sure to factor in an accurate estimate of these additional car ownership costs as you determine a purchase price and payment amount you’re comfortable with.
Get the right kind of car loan
Doing your due diligence as you shop for a car loan is important as well. You do not have to get financing through the dealership. You will likely do better getting a loan yourself through your bank. At the very least, have an understanding of what rate you would qualify for before heading into the dealership so you know if they are offering you a fair rate.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median sales price of new homes in May 2020 was around $317,000. Even if you’re purchasing a home that falls well below that average, chances are it’s one of the most expensive things you’ll ever buy. With such a big expense, you might be wonderingâhow much do you need to save for a house?
The good news? You don’t have to save for the entire purchase price. But the amount you might need on hand to buy a home can be significant. Get some idea of how much money you might need to buy a house below.
How Much Should You Save for a House Down Payment?
It all depends on the price of the home you want to buy and what type of loan program you qualify for. Down payments are usually a percentage of the home cost.
You might have heard that you need 20% down to buy a home. That’s actually not entirely true. Although the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau makes a case for the benefits of 20% down, it also notes that this number doesn’t work for everyone.
So, where does the 20% figure come from? It’s part of the guidelines set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, government sponsored, mortgage guarantee companies. You either have to pay 20% down or pay private mortgage insurance, because analysis indicates that loans without 20% down are riskier for the lenders.
Here’s a look at some common mortgage options and how much you might need to have for a down payment:
The CFPB notes that conventional loans with PMI can require 5 to 15% down on average. If the home price is $300,000, that’s $15,000 to $45,000.
Loans through the Federal Housing Administration require down payments of at least 3.5%. That’s $10,500 on a $300,000 home.
Some loan programs, such as those for rural borrowers through the USDA, or those who qualify for loans through the VA, don’t require a down payment at all.
Other Expenses to Save for
Down payments aren’t the only thing you need to save for when buying a home. Closing costs can be thousands of dollars, and you may need to foot the bill for inspections, home repairs or even fun things, like new furniture. To make the home-buying process less stressful, it’s a good idea to save more than you expect to need for closing costs.
How Long Will It Take to Save for a House?
Saving 20% of your income could catapult you into purchasing a home in the next one to three years, depending on your market. For example, if you’re earning $96,000 per year, that’s $19,200 saved after one year. It’s $38,400 after two years and $57,600 after three. Even if you need 20% down, these amounts are roughly enough to help you buy homes worth between $100,000 and $300,000 within three years.
How Much of Your Savings Should You Spend on a House?
It’s tempting to empty out your savings or cash in your 401(k) to buy your dream home. Even if the house is just your first step into home ownership and isn’t perfect, it’s tempting to do what it takes to get those keys.
But spending 100% of your savings leaves no safety net if something happens. What if something breaks in your new home or there’s a medical emergency? Having some savings on hand to cover these issues helps protect your home, because you’re more likely to be able to continue to pay the mortgage.
Planning to Purchase a Home
If youâre planning on buying a home in the future, it’s important to start saving today. Every little bit you can do to save for a home helps make it happen.
If you want to buy a home for around $300,000 and you can’t qualify for a loan program that requires no down payment, you’ll need at least $10,500 to $15,000. You’ll also need closing costs and other fees, which typically run between 2 and 5% of the purchase price. Assuming $10,000 in closing costs, you need $25,000 minimum to position yourself for home ownership.
A Short-Term Plan
If you’re looking to buy a home within the next year or two, you’d need to save $12,500 to $25,000 a year. Saving 20% of your income can help you save the bulk of that in one or two years if you make more than $50,000 annually. To do that, though, you’ll need to set an aggressive personal budget and be willing to cut out some extras, such as cable or eating out.
A Long-Term Plan
By starting your journey to home ownership as early as possible, you can stretch your plan to five years or more. If you save over the course of five years, that’s only $5,000 a year. That’s $416 a month or just under $100 a week. You really could save for a house this way simply by cutting out a few expensive coffees, pizza nights, dinners, etc.
Start Saving Today
How much should you save before you try to buy a home? It depends on so many factors that there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. So, do your research early, make a plan and stick with it. And, as you get close to being ready to buy a home, don’t forget to shop around to find the best mortgage rates. Because those mortgage rates, along with your home price, determine how much you’ll pay for your home.
The post How Much Money Do You Need to Buy a House? appeared first on Credit.com.
The holiday season is usually very busy for many families, but you can relax now, right? Now that it’s over? Unfortunately, there are other sources of stress in our day-to-day lives; it’s important to remember the things that help us relax even when we’re not bustling through the busiest season.
What helps you relax? What do you do to get through especially stressful days? Do you set aside time for self-care?
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This article is from Ashley Jacobs of Wise Bread, an award-winning personal finance and credit card comparison website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:
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So youâre at the point in your life where buying a home is not a question of if, but when. Youâre scrimping. Youâre saving. Youâre dreaming of walking through the front door of your very own home.
But as the decision draws near, you start questioning everything. Is now a good time to buy a house? Or is this the worst time? Is it more financially responsible to buy a house right now or wait? And what if you mistime the market, buying too soon or too late, and miss out on lower home prices?
Ultimately, the experts say the answer is less about economies, markets and pandemics and more about you.
So, how do you think through this decision? Youâll want to take time to thoroughly review your personal financial situation and life goals. At the same time, youâll need to gain some understanding of the market dynamics that impact home costs.
This process will take some time, but itâs well worth the effort. With a firm grasp on your personal situation and some context on the housing market, youâll be able to confidently go forth knowing youâre making a fiscally informed decision about whether to buy a house right now.
Honestly assess these aspects of your finances
Financial security is always important if youâre trying to determine when youâre ready to buy a home. To decide if now is a good time to buy a house, ask yourself the following questions about your finances:
How secure is your income?
Job or income stability is an important factor if you are buying a home in a rocky economy, such as the one triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, says real estate economist Gay Cororaton. Even in a robust economy, your income security should be top of mind when youâre thinking of buying a house right now.
If you have any inkling that your position may be eliminated or that youâll be making a career change, you may want to delay buying a home. Even a recent break in employment that caused you to draw down some of your savings may raise a red flag with lenders, says Kate Ziegler, a real estate agent with Arborview Realty in the Boston area.
If youâre considering buying a house right now, you should avoid opening any new lines of credit right before purchasing a home.
Do you have enough money saved?
After income stability, savings is the next-most-important financial factor youâll want to consider to determine if now is a good time to buy a house, Ziegler says. The old rule of thumb was to save 20% of the price of the home for your down payment. While that is ideal, itâs not necessaryâfar from it, Ziegler says. In fact, it has become more common for first-time buyers to put down much less than 20%.
How much house can you afford?
The down payment is one side of the affordability coin. Your monthly mortgage payment is the other side. You need to know how much you can spend on both to determine if you can afford to buy a house right now, says Jeff Tucker, a senior economist at Zillow. Aim for a monthly mortgage payment that doesnât stretch you too thinâexperts typically put this at around 28% of your monthly gross income, according to Bankrate.
With those guidelines, you can determine what you can afford. For example, if you make $4,000 a month, you should typically spend no more than $1,120 on your monthly mortgage payment in total.
How much house that buys you depends on multiple factors: mortgage rates, property tax rates, homeowners insurance andâif you donât have the savings to put down 20%âprimary mortgage insurance, or PMI. To get a rough estimate, plug your income details into an online calculator. For a more specific figure, talk to a local lender and get pre-approved for a mortgage, Ziegler says.
Once you know your price range, you can determine how much savings you need in the bank to buy a house right now. Youâll also need to have money saved for closing costs, which vary but typically run 2% to 5% of the loan amount, according to Bankrate.
Again, Ziegler recommends talking to a lender to really understand what your individual down payment and closing costs would be. Finally, be sure to add a line item in your budget for home maintenance that will inevitably pop up after you move in. Whether itâs a dishwasher on the fritz or a leaky roof, you donât want to be caught off guard, so be sure to save money for emergency home repairs.
How is your credit?
Your credit profile is also important to lenders, and it will likely be a factor in what interest rate youâre offered. Given that, you should be checking your credit report and know your credit score before investing in a home. If youâre considering buying a house right now, you should avoid opening any new lines of credit right before purchasing a home, Tucker says.
What is your debt-to-income ratio?
Another factor lenders check is your debt-to-income ratio, or DTI, Tucker says. This is the percentage of your gross monthly income that goes to paying monthly debt payments, plus your new mortgage. Lenders typically require this ratio to be 45% or less but prefer it even lowerâin the 33% to 36% range.
Have you considered the opportunity cost?
Another financial consideration when deciding if now is a good time to buy a house is the opportunity cost of delaying a home purchase, Ziegler says. If youâre renting in a market where the rent is higher than your would-be monthly mortgage payment, you may be spending a lot more money each month than if you were to purchase a home. And of course, with a mortgage, your monthly payment increases your equity.
After taking a clear-eyed look at your income, savings and these other financial factors, you will have a better sense of when youâre ready to buy a home and whether nowâs the time for you to dip into the market.
Consider key market factors
Next, take a look at factors that are outside of your control, but still influence your purchase: prices, interest rates and national employment trends.
Where are housing prices?
As youâre looking at the market, one of the biggest considerations when you are ready to buy a home will be housing prices and availability. Research your local market by talking to real estate agents who work specifically in the area where you want to buy and asking them about market trends, Ziegler says.
Track current listings and recently sold prices to get a sense of how prices look today. Generally, the tighter the inventoryâmeaning the fewer houses availableâthe higher prices will be, Tucker says.
Whatâs going on with interest rates?
When youâre ready to buy a home could also depend on another major economic factor: interest rates. When interest rates are low, your housing budget is effectively supercharged, Tucker says, and you can afford a more expensive house because youâre spending less on interest. When they are high, the opposite is true.
This is what compels people to buy when interest rates are lowâyou get more for your money. If you get a 30- or 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, you lock in that rate for the entire life of the loan, which could save you money now and into the future, Tucker says.
How does employment look nationally?
Finally, if you want to get a general idea of where the housing market may be headedâif prices will drop or rise soonâcheck out the national employment trends, Cororaton says. Low unemployment means prices will generally trend upward because more people can afford houses, boosting competition and prices, she says.
But if unemployment is inching up, then people are losing jobs and will be more likely to remain in their current homes. As a result, there tends to be less competition for them, lowering prices.
You donât need to be an expert in the market to determine if now is a good time to buy a house, but a baseline understanding of these big-picture forces can give you the confidence you need to embark on your home-buying journey.
Think about your future plans
After reviewing your savings and income and assessing the market conditions, take a step back and think about your life plans over the next few years. Your lifestyle and goals will help determine whether now is a good time to buy a house.
âFor buyers who are not certain whether they will still be living in the same place in three or five years, I would caution against locking themselves into a certain location,â Ziegler says. âIf theyâre just not sure what the future holds, it may be better to have that flexibility.â
Itâs unlikely in many markets that you will see substantial financial gain from homeownership if you move within five years, Ziegler says. Your equity gains will likely be offset by the transaction costs of buying and selling your home.
That goes for remote workers, too. Are you working from a home office these days? While widespread remote work may allow buyers to consider homes farther from their offices, ask yourself: Is my company going to permanently allow employees to work from home? Do I think there will be other remote opportunities in the future?
While youâre thinking about the next three to five years of your career, also consider the next three to five years of your personal life. Will you have a family? Will that family grow?
These can be weighty topics, so be sure to think them through on your own schedule. Buying a house is a big decision, and itâs not one to be rushed. By taking the time to assess your life, from your job security to your financial health to your lifestyle, and considering the impact of market factors, youâll have a clearer sense of when you are ready to buy a home.
If youâve decided that buying a house right now is the best decision for you, itâs time to learn more about how it will impact your budget. Get started by reading up on these eight unexpected expenses when buying a home.
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 Is Now a Good Time to Buy a House? appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
Short term investments are those investments that can yield their returns within a short period of time — usually within 1 to 3 years. (contrary to a long term investment such as saving for retirement).
In other words, short term investing are typically used to meet short-term financial goals (such as buying a house or go on a vacation).
A bank checking account is one of the best known and popular ways to save for such a goal.
But your traditional checking account only pays a meager return, if at all.
If you can’t find an alternative to a checking account, no need to fret.
There are plenty of shortterm investments that will help keep your money safe and earn a good return at the same time.
Below, we’ve curated the best short term investments to help reach your investment goals.
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Things to consider:
First thing first, before you make any short term investments, you should know about the risk, return and investing time frame of short term investments.
Average return to expect: 1 to 4% per year;
Risk: very low to low risk of losing money;
Time frame: 0 to 3 years
Best short term investments:
If you’re saving and investing money for the short term, i.e., to use it as a down payment on a house, you will not invest that money in stocks or mutual funds, right?
That’s because, stocks are high risk investments. And if you need the money for a certain time, it might not be available due stock market volatility.
Instead, a smart choice is to save that money in a low-risk investment where you can protect the capital invested and earn interest/income at the same time.
If you have a different investing goal, such as saving for retirement, it’s best to look at stocks or mutual funds. Investing in stocks or mutual funds is considered a long term investment as opposed to short term investing.
If you’re interested in investing for the long term, here’s how the stock market works.
So, what are your options? Here are some of the best short term investments to consider to earn some interest on your money.
1. Savings account.
A savings account at a bank is an excellent choice. And they usually pay more interest than a regular checking.
They are quite safe. Savings account are insured by the FDIC, but only for up to $250,000.
That means if a bank goes bankrupt, the government will step up and give you your money back.
In addition, they are very liquid. You have access to your money fairly easy.
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2. Certificate of deposit (CDs).
If you want a good rate of return on money that you don’t plan on using within the next couple of years, CDs is a safe place to do invest it.
Banks sell certificate of deposit for a specific dollar amount and length of time. As an investor, you agree to leave a certain amount of money with the bank for a specific time.
When the time is up, the CD matures. Then, you get your money back, plus interest.
CDs are also FDIC insured for up to $250,000. They provide a safe and competitive yield. That makes them some of the best short term investments to consider.
The minimum deposit requires to open a CD depends on the bank. But it usually ranges from a few hundred dollars to thousands.
The CIT Bank is paying 1.30% for an 11-month CD. There is an opening minimum of $1,000. With most CDs, if you tap into your money before maturation, you will get hit with an early withdrawal penalty.
However, with this CIT Bank CD, there is no penalty if you withdraw early.
CIT Bank has various types of CDs. If you prefer longer terms CDs, check them out now at the CIT Bank website.
3. Money market fund
While you can keep your cash at a bank in a savings account because they’re safe there, you don’t have to.
You can try a money market fund. They are safe as well.
A money market fund is a type of mutual fund (but thy don’t focus on stocks or bonds).
Mutual funds companies such as Vanguard offer money market funds.
Money market fund is not insured by the government, so there is a possibility you can lose money. However, they are quite safe.
They’re safe, because they have a dollar invested in securities for every dollar you deposit in your fund.
The principal money you invested does not change in value. When you invest in a money market fund, you earn dividends. That’s a good advantage.
Another advantage of a money market fund as a short term investment is that it provides higher yield than bank savings account.
It also allows you to write checks without incurring any charges.
So, if you’re saving money for a home that you’re going to buy soon, a money market fund is a safe place to grow your money.
4. Short-term corporate bond funds.
Bonds, in general, are similar to CDs. An exception is that they, just as stocks, are securities that trade in the market.
So, they may fluctuate in value, but not as much as stocks.
Bond funds are a collection of bonds from companies (large, medium, or small) from different industries. Hence, the name “corporate bond funds.”
Investing in bond funds can be used as a short-term investment. Sometimes, investors consider corporate bond funds to diversify their investment portfolio.
Just like a money market fund, corporate bond funds are not FDIC insured. But they are just as safe as a money market fund.
Plus, you don’t just invest in one bond or two bonds. If one bond in your investment fund takes a hit, it only affects a small amount of your money.
So while they are riskier than money market funds saving accounts, CDs, short term corporate bonds pay you more. That makes them one of the best short-term investments out there.
5. Treasury bonds.
One of the best ways to invest money in the short term is to buy treasury bonds. Treasury bonds are issued by the U.S. government.
There are three types: treasury bills, treasury notes, and treasury bonds. They are like CDs. Once the bond matures, you get the full money invested, plus interest.
Treasury bonds may provide the same or a better interest rate than CDs. But a big advantage is that, while they’re not FDIC insured, they are backed by the U.S. government.
In other words, the government promises to repay your money, which is considered to be very safe.
So if you have more than $250,000, you should consider a treasury bond.
Another advantage is that while interest on a CD is fully taxable, Treasury’s interest is state-tax-free.
In conclusion, short term investments are those in which you make for a certain and short period of time for a specific goal.
Short term investments aren’t the best if you’re seeking high returns.
But if you’re a beginner investor you should consider placing some of your money into these best short term investments.
Remember: don’t invest your money in stocks when you plan to use it within the next five years, because a stock market drop can dry out your investment portfolio.
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Speak with the Right Financial Advisor
If you have questions beyond short-term investments, 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 5 Best Short Term Investments to Grow Your Money appeared first on GrowthRapidly.
I love making things automatic. Whether it is bill-paying, direct deposit, prescription renewals, or investing, making things automatic makes life easier, and that is where our Betterment investing review comes in.
When it comes to retirement planning, an overwhelming number of online tools and websites promise to help you create a dynamic and profitable portfolio while minimizing fees.
This growing list of services includes robo-advisors, a class of financial websites that offer to manage your portfolio with minimal in-person interaction and a heavy reliance on the latest investing tools and software.
One of the most popular robo-advisors by far is Betterment. Conceptualized by its founders in 2008, Betterment has since grown to help its customers invest billions of dollars of their hard-earned dollars. This is an investment platform that puts your investing on cruise control, and even allows you to make money watching TV! You can open an account with no money at all, and get the benefit of professional, low-cost investment management that enables you to invest in thousands of securities with as little as a few hundred dollars.
It hasnât been easy. With other competitors like Wealthfront and Personal Capital always a few steps behind them, Betterment has struggled to find a way to stand out. Even with the competition, Betterment has emerged as one of the top online brokerage accounts and continues to grow its market share.
Open an account
0.25% to 0.40% annual management fee, depending on the plan
No trade, transfer or rebalancing fees
No minimum balance
Hands-off investing tailored to your goals and risk preference
Betterment is an online, automated investment manager that uses advanced algorithms and software to find the perfect investment strategy for your portfolio and individual needs.
The main difference between investing your money with a traditional financial advisor and Betterment is that there is minimal human interaction. Unless you email or call in, your communication with an individual advisor will be very minimal.
But, there is some good news to counteract the lack of individual service. Because of lower operating costs, Betterment is able to charge lower fees than traditional financial advisors. This can be huge for individuals who want to take a hands-off approach to their retirement accounts, yet donât want to pay top dollar for access to a top-tier financial advisor in their area.
Using complex investment software, Betterment allocates your investment portfolio based on your individual circumstances, investment time horizon, and thirst for risk.
In the meantime, they keep fees at a minimum by using ETFs (exchange-traded fund) that let you have a diversified portfolio, like mutual funds, but are tradeable much like stocks.
Since ETFs come with very low expense ratios, Betterment is able to pass those savings along to the consumer. Although the program already manages over $16 billion for their clients, they are still growing at a rapid pace.
Because the service is able and willing to deal with investors at all stages of wealth accumulation, it has become a go-to for both experienced and novice investors with various investing goals.
Further, Bettermentâs portfolio strategy isnât geared just for retirement savings; the service can also improve your returns on dollars you invest for short-term and medium-term goals like saving for college, taking an annual vacation, or building up a cash reserve.
How Betterment Works
Like post other robo-advisors, Betterment provides complete, automated investment management of your portfolio. When you sign up for the service, youâll complete a questionnaire that will determine your risk tolerance, investment goals, and time horizon. From that information, Betterment determines your portfolio will be designed as conservatives, aggressive, or some level in between.
Over time however, Betterment may adjust your portfolio to become gradually more conservative. For example, as you move closer to retirement, your asset allocation will be gradually shifted more heavily in favor of safe investments, like bonds.
Your portfolio will be constructed of exchange traded funds (ETFs), which are low-cost investment funds designed to track the performance of an underlying index. In this way, Betterment attempts to match the performance of the underlying indexes, rather than to outperform them. For this reason, investing with Betterment â and most other robo-advisors â is considered to be passive investing. (Active investing involves frequent trading of stocks and other securities in an attempt to outperform the market.)
Betterment also uses allocations based on broad investment categories. There are three in total:
Safety Net â These are funds allocated for near-term needs, such as an emergency fund.
Retirement â This will naturally be your long-term investment account and held in tax-sheltered IRAs.
General Investing â This allocation is dedicated to intermediate goals, maybe saving for the down payment on a house or even for your childrenâs education.
Given that each of the three broad goals has a different time horizon, the specific portfolio allocation in each will be a little bit different. For example, the Safety Net will be invested in cash type accounts for safety and liquidity.
Betterment Advantages And Disadvantages
Thereâs no minimum investment required.
The low annual fee of 0.25% on the Digital plan can allow you to have a $20,000 account managed for just $50 per year, or a $100,000 account for just $250.
Tax-loss harvesting is available at all taxable accounts.
Betterment Premium provides unlimited access to certified financial planners, providing a service similar to traditional investment advisors, but at a fraction of the cost.
The No-fee Checking and Cash Reserve give you cash management options to go with your investing activities.
Betterment offers several portfolio options, including Smart Beta, Socially Responsible Investing, and the BlackRock Targeted Income Portfolio.
The use of value funds also adds the potential for your investment accounts to outperform the general market, since value stocks tend to be underpriced relative to their competitors.
Flexible Portfolio will give you some control over your investment allocations, which is a feature absent from most robo-advisors.
Bettermentâs annual advisory fee is on the low end of the robo-advisor range. But there are some robo-advisors charging no fees at all.
Betterment doesnât offer alternative investments. These include natural resources and real estate, which are offered by some of their competitors.
External account syncing is available only with Betterment Premium.
The Betterment Investment Methodology
Like most other robo-advisors, Betterment manages your investment account using Modern Portfolio Theory, or MPT. The theory emphasizes proper allocations into various asset classes over individual security selection.
Your portfolio is divided between six stock asset allocations and eight bond asset allocations. Each allocation is represented by a single ETF thatâs tied to an index specific to that asset class. The single ETF will provide exposure to scores or even hundreds of securities in each asset class. That means collectively your investment will be spread across thousands of securities in the US and internationally.
The six stock asset allocations are as follows:
US Total Stock Market
US Value Stocks â Large Cap
US Value Stocks â Mid Cap
US Value Stocks â Small Cap
International Developed Market Stocks
International Emerging Markets Stocks
The eight bond asset allocations are as follows:
US High Quality Bonds
US Municipal Bonds (will be held in taxable investment accounts only)
US Inflation-Protected Bonds
US High-Yield Corporate Bonds
US Short-Term Treasury Bonds
US Short-Term Investment Grade Bonds
International Developed Market Bonds
International Emerging Markets Bonds
Since Betterment offers tax-loss harvesting with taxable investment accounts, most asset classes will have two or three very similar ETFs. This will enable Betterment to sell a losing position in one ETF to reduce capital gains in winning asset classes. Alternative ETFs are then purchased to replace the sold funds to maintain the target asset allocations in your account.
Tax-loss harvesting is becoming an increasingly popular investment strategy because it effectively defers capital gains taxes into future years. Itâs available only for taxable accounts, since tax-sheltered accounts have no immediate tax consequences.
How Betterment Compares
Here’s how Betterment compares to the previously mentioned companies, Wealthfront and Personal Capital.
Minimum Initial Investment
0.25% on Digital; 0.40% on Premium (account balance over $100k)
0.25% on all account balances
0.89% on most account balances; reduced fee on balances > $1 million
On Premium Plan only
Yes, on all taxable accounts
Yes, on all taxable accounts
Yes, on all taxable accounts
Yes, on Premium Plan only
Betterment Accounts and Options
For the first few years of Bettermentâs existence they offered a single investment account serving as a one-size-fits-all plan. But thatâs all changed. They still offer basic investment accounts, but they now give you a choice of multiple investment options.
This is Bettermentâs basic investment plan. There is no minimum initial investment required, nor is there a minimum ongoing balance requirement. Betterment charges a single fee of 0.25% on all account balances.
You can also add any other portfolio variations, except the Goldman Sachs Smart Beta portfolio, which has a $100,000 minimum account balance requirement.
Betterment Premium works similar to the Digital plan, but it delivers a higher level of service. The plan provides external account synching, giving Betterment a high altitude view of you your entire financial situation. External investment accounts can help in enabling Betterment to better coordinate your portfolio allocations with assets held in outside accounts. They can also make recommendations out to better manage those external accounts.
And perhaps the biggest advantage of the Premium plan is that it comes with unlimited access to Bettermentâs certified financial planners. In this way, Betterment is competing more directly with traditional investment advisors, but doing it with a robo-advisor component.
Youâll need a minimum of $100,000 to invest in the Premium plan, and the annual advisory fee is 0.40%. Thatâs just a fraction of the usual 1% to 2% typically charged by traditional investment advisory services.
Betterment Cash Reserve
The account pays a variable interest rate, currently set at 0.40% APY. Betterment doesnât actually hold these funds directly, but rather invest them through participating program banks.
Thereâs no fee for this account, and you can move money as often as you want. And for those with very high cash balances, the account is FDIC insured for up to $1 million through the program banks.
Betterment Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)
SRI portfolios are becoming increasingly popular in the robo-advisor space. It involves investing in companies that meet certain standards for social, environmental, and governance guidelines. Betterment indicates that the ETFs they use in their SRI portfolio have produced a 42% increase in their social responsibility scores.
SRI portfolios work with both the Digital and Premium plans, using a similar investment methodology. But they make certain modifications, holding ETFs based on SRI in place of the ETFs used in non-SRI portfolios.
SRI portfolios do not require a minimum balance and charge no additional fees. And like their Digital and Premium plans, taxable SRI investment accounts take advantage of tax-loss harvesting.
Betterment Flexible Portfolios
The key word in the name is âflexibleâ because the main feature is adding personal options to your portfolio allocations.
This is done by adjusting the individual asset class weights in your portfolio. For example, if you have a 7% allocation in emerging markets, you may choose to increase it to 10% if you believe that sector is likely to outperform others. But you can also decrease the allocation if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
Betterment Tax-Coordinated Portfolio
This is less of a formal portfolio and more of an investment strategy. It must be used in combination with a taxable investment account and a tax-sheltered retirement account. Betterment will then allocate investments based on their tax impact.
For example, income generating assets â that produce high dividend and interest income â are held in a tax-sheltered account. Investments likely to generate long-term capital gains are held in a taxable investment account, since you will be able to take advantage of lower long-term capital gains tax rates.
Goldman Sachs Smart Beta
This option is for more sophisticated investors, and requires a minimum account balance of $100,000. And since it is a high risk/high reward type of investing, it also requires a higher risk tolerance.
Betterment uses the same basic investment strategy as they do in other portfolios. But itâs an actively managed portfolio that will be adjusted in an attempt to outperform the general market. Securities will be bought and sold within the portfolio and can include either individual securities or Smart Beta ETFs.
The portfolio has many variations, including a wide range of allocations. Stocks are chosen based on four qualities: good value, strong momentum, high quality, and low volatility.
And like other portfolio variations Betterment offers, there is no additional fee for this option.
BlackRock Target Income Portfolio
Betterment recognizes that some investors are more interested in income than growth. This will particularly apply to retirees. The BlackRock Target Income Portfolio invests in portfolios based on your risk tolerance. This can mean low, moderate, high, or even aggressive.
Those categories may seem unusual for an income generating portfolio. But while the portfolio attempts to minimize risk of principal, it also recognizes that some investors are willing to add risk to their portfolio in exchange for higher returns.
A low-risk portfolio may have a higher allocation in US Treasury securities. An aggressive portfolio may center primarily on high-yield corporate bonds or even emerging-market bonds that have higher interest rates due to greater risk.
Betterment No-fee Checking
Provided by Betterment Financial LLC in partnership with NBKC Bank, this is a true no-fee checking account. Not only are there no monthly maintenance fees, but there are also no overdraft or other fees. Theyâll even reimburse all ATM fees and foreign transaction fees you incur. And thereâs not even a minimum balance requirement.
Youâll be provided with a Betterment Visa Debit Card with tap-to-pay technology, that you can use anywhere Visa is accepted. All account balances are FDIC insured for up to $250,000. And as you might expect from a company on the technological cutting edge, you can deposit checks into the account using your smartphone.
Check out our full Betterment checking review.
Betterment Key Features
Minimum initial investment: Betterment requires no funds to open an account. But you can begin funding your account with monthly deposits, like $100 per month. This method will make it easier to use dollar-cost averaging to gradually move into your portfolio positions.
Available account types: Joint and individual taxable investment accounts, as well as traditional, Roth, rollover and SEP IRAs. Betterment can also accommodate trusts and nonprofit accounts.
Portfolio rebalancing: Comes with all account types. Your portfolio will be rebalanced when your asset allocations significantly depart from their targets.
Automatic dividend reinvestment: Betterment will reinvest dividends received in your portfolio according to your target asset allocations.
Betterment Mobile App: You can access your Betterment account on your smartphone. The app is available for both iOS and Android devices.
Customer contact: Available by phone and email, Monday through Friday, from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm, Eastern time.
Account protection: All Betterment accounts are protected by SIPC insurance for up to $500,000 in cash and securities, including up to $250,000 in cash. SIPC covers losses due to broker failure, not those caused by market value declines.
Financial Advice packages: Betterment offers one-hour phone conferences with live financial advisors on various personal financial topics. Five topics are covered:
Getting Started package: This package gives new users the professional vote of confidence they need as a professional will assess their account setup. $199
Financial Checkup package: This package takes it a step further, providing the customer with a professional opinion on their portfolio and financial circumstances. $299
College Planning package: As its name implies, this package helps parents who are investing with the goal of paying for their childrenâs college education in the next 5-18 years. $299
Marriage Planning package: Merging finances can be tricky, so Betterment created this plan to help engaged couples and newlyweds to succeed as they unite their lives and assets. $299
Retirement Planning package: Your investment goals and strategies change as you near retirement. This particular package helps keep you on target to meet them. $299
Retirement Savings Calculator: Robo-advisors are popular choices for retirement accounts. For this reason, Betterment offers the Calculator to help you project your retirement needs. By entering basic information in the calculator (it will sync external accounts if you have a Premium account â including employer-sponsored retirement plans) it will let you know if you are on track to meet your goals or if you need to make adjustments.
How To Sign Up For A Betterment Account
The Betterment sign up process is one of the most user-friendly out there for any brokerage. It comes with easy-to-follow instructions and as streamlined registration process which users can navigate through in a matter of minutes.
First get the process started by clicking the button below.
Sign up for a Betterment Account
After the initial sign up process, users can expect a simple transaction as they transfer funds into the account, much like moving money from a checking to savings account.
When you begin the sign-up process, youâll be given a choice of four different investment goals:
I chose âInvest for retirementâ. It will ask your current age, your annual income, then give you a choice of accounts to use. That includes a traditional, Roth, or SEP IRA, or even an individual taxable account. I selected a traditional IRA.
Based on a 30-year-old with a $100,000 income, Betterment return the following recommendation:
You even have the option to have the specific asset allocations listed. After clicking âContinueâ, youâll be asked to provide your email address and create a password. Youâll then be taken to the application, which will ask for general information, including your name, address, phone number, and how you heard about Betterment.
Once your account has been set up, you can fund it immediately, by connecting your bank account, or by setting up recurring deposits.
You can also set up other accounts, such as âManage spending with Checkingâ or âInvest for a long-term goalâ.
Why You Should Open An Account With Betterment
While nearly anyone who invests could benefit from the online portfolio management and advising, this service is definitely geared to certain types of investors. In most cases, Betterment will work best for:
Hands-off investors who have some investing knowledge â Since it takes care of the heavy lifting for you, it works best for investors who want to take a hands-off approach to their investment portfolio. Passive investors can let Betterment handle the logistics while using online account management to keep a close eye on their accounts.
Novice investors who need help â Beginning investors who are just learning the ropes can turn to Betterment for online portfolio management with low fees. The many online tools and user-friendly interface make it easy for beginners to get a grasp on basic financial concepts and investing strategies.
Robo-advisors are growing in popularity and could easily replace in-person advisors in the near future. With lower fees and advanced software that can maximize results, online investing is certainly gaining an edge.
Whether Betterment is right for you depends on your individual needs and investing goals. If youâre a hands-off investor who wants to grow your retirement funds without paying a lot of fees, then Betterment might be ideal. Additionally, beginning investors can benefit handsomely from the online tools and investing education offered through the Betterment website.
If you think Betterment investing might be exactly what your portfolio needs, sign up for a new account today.
However, if you determine that you would be better served by a more hands-on approach, check out the other online brokerage account options. Being a certified financial planner, I have had a chance to work with several of these platforms and have done the following reviews:
Motif Investing Review
Lending Club Review
Ally Invest Review
The post Betterment Investing Review: Make Investing Automatic appeared first on Good Financial CentsÂ®.
When you're ready to buy a home, choosing the best lender and type of mortgage can seem daunting because there are many choices. Since no two real estate transactions or home buyers are alike, it's essential to get familiar with different mortgage products and programs.
Let's take a look at the two main types of mortgages and several popular home loan programs. Choosing the right one for your situation is the key to buying a home you can afford.
What is a mortgage?
First, here's a quick mortgage explainer. A mortgage is a loan used to buy real estate, such as a new or existing primary residence or vacation home. It states that your property is collateral for the debt, and if you don't make timely payments, the lender can take back the property to recover their losses.
In general, a mortgage doesn't pay for 100% of a home's purchase price.
In general, a mortgage doesn't pay for 100% of a home's purchase price. You typically must make a down payment, which could range from 3% to 10% or more, depending on the type of loan you qualify for.
For example, if you agree to pay $300,000 for a home and have $15,000 to put down, you need a mortgage for the difference, or $285,000 ($300,000 – $15,000). In addition to a down payment, lenders charge a variety of processing fees that you either pay upfront or roll into your loan, which increases your debt.
At your real estate closing, the lender wires funds to the closing agent or attorney. After you sign a stack of mortgage and closing documents, your down payment and mortgage money go to the seller and various parties, such as a real estate broker, title company, inspector, surveyor, and insurance company. You leave the closing as a proud new homeowner and begin making mortgage payments the next month.
What is a fixed-rate mortgage?
The structure of your loan and payments depends on whether your interest rate is fixed or adjustable. So, understanding how these two main types of mortgage products work is essential.
A fixed-rate mortgage has an interest rate that never changes, no matter what happens in the economy.
A fixed-rate mortgage has an interest rate that never changes, no matter what happens in the economy. The most common fixed-rate mortgage terms are 15- and 30-years. But you can also find 10-, 20-, 40-, and even 50-year fixed-rate mortgages.
Getting a shorter mortgage means you pay it off faster and at a lower interest rate than with a longer-term option. For example, as of December 2020, the going rate for a 15-year fixed mortgage is 2.4%, and a 30-year is 2.8% APR.
The downside is that shorter loans come with higher monthly payments. Many people opt for longer mortgages to pay as little as possible each month and make their home more affordable.
Here are some situations when getting a fixed-rate mortgage makes sense:
You see low or rising interest rates. Locking in a low rate for the life of your mortgage protects you against inflation.
You want financial stability. Having the same mortgage payment for decades allows you to easily budget and avoid financial surprises.
You don't plan to move for a while. Keeping a fixed-rate mortgage over the long term gives you the potential to save the most in interest, especially if interest rates go up.
What is an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM)?
The second primary type of home loan is an adjustable-rate mortgage or ARM. Your interest rate and monthly payment can go up or down according to predetermined terms based on a financial index, such as the T-bill rate or LIBOR.
Most ARMs are a hybrid of a fixed and adjustable product. They begin with a fixed-rate period and convert to an adjustable rate later on. The first number in the name of an ARM product is how many years are fixed for the introductory rate, and the second number is how often the rate could change after that.
For instance, a 5/1 ARM gives you five years with a fixed rate and then can adjust, or reset, every year starting in the sixth year. A 3/1 ARM has a fixed rate for three years with a potential rate adjustment every year, beginning in the fourth year.
When shopping for an ARM, be sure you understand how often the rate could change and how high your payments could go.
ARMs are typically 30-year products, but they can be shorter. With a 5/6 ARM, you pay the same rate for the first five years. Then the rate could change every six months for the remaining 25 years.
ARMs come with built-in caps for how much the interest rate can climb from one adjustment period to the next and the potential increase over the loan's life. When shopping for an ARM, be sure you understand how often the rate could change and how high your payments could go. In other words, you should be comfortable with the worst-case ARM scenario before getting one.
In general, the introductory interest rate for a 30-year ARM is lower than a 30-year fixed mortgage. But that hasn't been the case recently because rates are at historic lows. The idea is that rates are so low they likely have nowhere to go but up, making an ARM less attractive.
I mentioned that the going rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage is 2.8%. Compare that to a 30-year 5/6 ARM, which is also 2.8% APR. When ARM rates are the same or higher than fixed rates, they don't give borrowers any upsides for taking a risk that their payment could increase.
ARM lenders aren't making them attractive because they know once your introductory rate ends, you could refinance to a lower-rate fixed mortgage and they'd lose your business after just a few years. They could end up losing money if you haven't paid enough in fees and interest to offset their cost of issuing the loan.
Unless you believe that rates can drop further (or until ARM rates are low enough to offer borrowers significant savings), they aren't a wise choice in the near term.
So, unless you believe that rates can drop further or until ARM rates are low enough to offer borrowers significant savings, they aren't a wise choice in the near term. However, always discuss your mortgage options with potential lenders, so you evaluate them in light of current economic conditions.
RELATED: How to Prepare Your Credit for a Mortgage Approval
5 types of home loan programs
Now that you understand the fundamental differences between fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages, here are five loan programs you may qualify for.
1. Conventional loans
Conventional loans are the most common type of mortgage. They're also known as a "conforming loan" when they conform to standards set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These federally-backed companies buy and guarantee mortgages issued through lenders in the secondary mortgage market. Lenders sell mortgages to Fannie and Freddie so they can continuously supply new borrowers with mortgage funds.
Conventional loans are popular because most lenders—including mortgage companies, banks, and credit unions—offer them. Borrowers can pay as little as 3% down; however, paying 20% eliminates the requirement to pay an additional monthly private mortgage insurance (PMI) premium.
2. FHA loans
FHA or Federal Housing Administration loans come with lenient underwriting standards, making homeownership a reality for more Americans. Borrowers need a 3.5% down payment and can have lower credit scores and income than with a conventional loan.
3. VA loans
VA or Veterans Administration loans give those with eligible military service a zero-down loan with no monthly private mortgage insurance required.
4. USDA loans
The USDA or U.S. Department of Agriculture gives loans to buyers who plan to live in rural and suburban areas. Borrowers who meet certain income limits can get zero-down payments and low-rate mortgage insurance premiums.
5. Jumbo loans
Jumbo loans are higher mortgage amounts than what's allowed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, so they're also known as non-conforming loans. In general, they exceed approximately $500,000 in most areas.
Always compare multiple loan products and get quotes from several lenders before committing to your next home loan.
This isn't a complete list of all the loan programs you may qualify for, so be sure to ask potential lenders for recommendations. Remember that just because you're eligible for a program, such as a VA loan, that doesn't necessarily mean it's the best option. Always compare multiple loan products and get quotes from several lenders before committing to your next home loan.
The time has finally come: youâre ready to retire. For many, this means living off savings or social security, but in reality, now that youâre unemployed itâs time you started making real money. Investing after retirement is a great way to continue making income, cover expenses in lieu of a regular paycheck, and stay plugged into the booming American economy.
Social security is drying up
If you plan on retiring any time after the next 20 years, you shouldnât count on social security funds. A 2014 report estimates that social security will no longer be able to pay full benefits after 2033. This means that those that retire after this demarcation point should expect to supplement federal aid with individual income â such as investments.
Life expectancy is increasing
Clean living, improved healthcare resources, increased social awareness, and many other factors have all contributed to a steady increase in life expectancy over the years. Today, being young at heart means more than ever â retirees can expect to live an additional 15 – 20 years into their twilight years. The average life expectancy today is 80, which is almost a decade older than the to 71 year life expectancy of 1960.
Investing is fun
Many retirees will take up new hobbies to fill the time previously occupied by professional obligations. Why not make your daytime hobby making money? Day trading stocks is the perfect retiree activity because itâs just as complicated as you want it to be. You can trade casually, and pick up some minor gains here or there. Or, go in full bore and make it your new job. After all, investments provide extra money, so have some fun with it.
Delaying social security payments boosts your benefits
Letâs say your investments are performing exceptionally well, and maybe you donât necessarily need social security yet. Your social security payout increases by 8 percent for every year you delay payments. So if youâve held off on social security, and it has come time to cash out investments, your federal retirement benefits will be worth far more than usual.
Want to spend the next chapter of your life in Myrtle Beach? Naples, Florida? Now that youâre retired, youâre free to live anywhere you want â unfettered by professional constraints, the world is your oyster. But thereâs one problem: how will you afford it? Your savings account should be preserved for medical expenses, and you already checked the couch cushions for loose change. Well, investments with high yield interest rates or dividend payments are a good way to boost your income and gain a little extra cash.
You earned it
What has decades of penny pinching amounted to if you canât spend your savings during retirement? Part of the reason you budgeted so carefully in your professional years is to ensure security as you grow old. Well, here you are, and itâs time to tap that sacred savings account. As you assess your finances in old age, consider how much savings youâre willing to gamble on the market â what do you have to lose?
Thereâs no better time to invest than now
This is not to say that the market is particularly ripe for new investors right now â although 2017 saw record high economic numbers â but more so that anytime is a good time to invest. You can guarantee the market will fluctuate in your 15+ years of retirement, but thatâs not the point. As long as you build a portfolio that can bear a bear market, you will be in good shape to weather market slumps. As they say, âdonât play with scared money.â
Your kids are all grown up, but that doesnât mean youâre off the hook. As a retired grandparent, youâre in charge of vacations, dinners out, movie nights, and other fun activities with the grandkids. And, you guessed it, one of the best ways to bankroll fun money is through thriving investments. In fact, while it might not be the most exciting prospect for the kid, a safe, slow-maturing investment is a great grandkid birthday gift.
Jumpstart a startup
Are you passionate about the future of tech? Small philanthropies? Artisan dog treats? Whatever your calling may be, there is likely a startup that you can help get off the ground. One study found that 100 million startups try to get off the ground every year, and they need your help. Invest in a cause you care about, and in the process make someoneâs entrepreneurial dreams come true.
Broaden your horizons
Now that youâre retired itâs time to read those books you never got around to, learn a new skill, travel the world, and, most importantly, diversify your portfolio. Financial experts suggest that retirees pursue many different types of assets to help offsite potential market volatility.
For most, vacation tops the list of most anticipated retirement activities. Itâs easy to get swept up in fantasies of cold beer and catching rays on the beach, but you you need a way to pay for it. Investments are a good way to compound your savings, and make a little extra vacation money.
Studies show that retirees require upwards of $260,000 to cover medical expenses as they age. Maybe, thanks to years of frugality, you have this kind of money in savings, but it never hurts to stash away a little extra cash. The population nearing retirement needs to be able to expect the unexpected, so use the stock market as an opportunity to compound your emergency fund in case of expensive medical bills.
Just because youâre retired doesnât mean you can avoid the taxman â after all, according to Benjamin Franklin, alongside death, taxes are one of the two certainties in life. While you no longer have to pay payroll taxes, you will still pay taxes on social security benefits. Plus, you are required to pay taxes on IRA withdrawals. Tax season can feel extra overwhelming if you are without a reliable source of income, so avoid the April financial crunch and tap investment gains to pay taxes during retirement.
Support a company you care about
If youâre on the verge of retirement you probably had a long, prosperous career. Maybe you jumped around to different positions, or maybe you logged a couple decades at one company. Either way, chances are there is a company you want to be involved with that you never got a chance to work at. Investing in a company is a good way to gain a sense of belonging, and do your part to support a company dear to your heart â even if you never actually worked there.
Stay sharp on market trends
All of the financial benefits of investments aside, investing in the market gives you a reason to care. One of the scariest prospects of retirement is the threat of complacency, so fend off apathy by giving yourself a reason to stay up-to-date. You are far more likely to take a keen interest in economic trends when you have a little skin in the game.
If youâre concerned about your credit, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.comâs free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter gradesâplus you get a free credit score updated every 14 days.
You can also carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.
The post 15 Reasons to Invest After Retirement appeared first on Credit.com.
Iâm 51 years old and donât have a large nest egg. Iâm a single parent with three kids. Iâm a second career middle school teacher, so there is not a lot of money left over each month.Â
How much money should I be saving to be able to retire in my 70s? Where should I invest that money?
You still have 20 years to build your nest egg if all goes as planned. Sure, youâve missed out on the extra years of compounding youâd have gotten had you accumulated substantial savings in your 20s and 30s. But thatâs not uncommon. Iâve gotten plenty of letters from people in their 50s or 60s with nothing saved who are asking how they can retire next year.
I like that youâre already planning to work longer to make up for a late start. But hereâs my nagging concern: What if you canât work into your 70s?
The unfortunate reality is that a lot of workers are forced to retire early for a host of reasons. They lose their jobs, or they have to stop for health reasons or to care for a family member. So itâs essential to have a Plan B should you need to leave the workforce earlier than youâd hoped.
Retirement planning naturally comes with a ton of uncertainty. But since I donât know what you earn, whether you have debt or how much you have saved, Iâm going to have to respond to your question about how much to save with the vague and unsatisfying answer of: âAs much as you can.â
Perhaps I can be more helpful if we work backward here. Instead of talking about how much you need to save, letâs talk about how much you need to retire. You can set savings goals from there.
The standard advice is that you need to replace about 70% to 80% of your pre-retirement income. Of course, if you can retire without a mortgage or any other debt, you could err on the lower side â perhaps even less.
For the average worker, Social Security benefits will replace about 40% of income. If youâre able to work for another two decades and get your maximum benefit at age 70, you can probably count on your benefit replacing substantially more. Your benefit will be up to 76% higher if you can delay until youâre 70 instead of claiming as early as possible at 62. That can make an enormous difference when youâre lacking in savings.
But since a Plan B is essential here, letâs only assume that your Social Security benefits will provide 40%. So you need at least enough savings to cover 30%.
If you have a retirement plan through your job with an employer match, getting that full contribution is your No. 1 goal. Once youâve done that, try to max out your Roth IRA contribution. Since youâre over 50, you can contribute $7,000 in 2021, but for people younger than 50, the limit is $6,000.
If you maxed out your contributions under the current limits by investing $583 a month and earn 7% returns, youâd have $185,000 after 15 years. Do that for 20 years and youâd have a little more than $300,000. The benefit to saving in a Roth IRA is that the money will be tax-free when you retire.
The traditional rule of thumb is that you want to limit your retirement withdrawals to 4% each year to avoid outliving your savings. But that rule assumes youâll be retired for 30 years. Of course, the longer you work and avoid tapping into your savings, the more you can withdraw later on.
Choosing what to invest in doesnât need to be complicated. If you open an IRA through a major brokerage, they can use algorithms to automatically invest your money based on your age and when you want to retire.
By now youâre probably asking: How am I supposed to do all that as a single mom with a teacherâs salary? It pains me to say this, but yours may be a situation where even the most extreme budgeting isnât enough to make your paycheck stretch as far as it needs to go. You may need to look at ways to earn additional income. Could you use the summertime or at least one weekend day each week to make extra money? Some teachers earn extra money by doing online tutoring or teaching English as a second language virtually, for example.
I hate even suggesting that. Anyone who teaches middle school truly deserves their time off. But unfortunately, I canât change the fact that we underpay teachers. I want a solution for you that doesnât involve working forever. That may mean you have to work more now.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to AskPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
Coronavirus hasnât entirely ended life as we knew it, but itâs certainly caused changes, some of which are likely to be with us for a very long time.
For some the coronavirus is literally a matter of life and death, and it raises an important question: how does coronavirus affect life insurance?
No one likes to think about the possibility of losing their life, or that of a loved one to this virus, but for over 150,000 families here in the US, it has turned out to be a reality.
Letâs examine the impact it may have on your existing policies, and perhaps more importantly, how it may affect applications for new life insurance coverage.
How Does Coronavirus Affect Life Insurance You Already Have?
Thereâs good news if you already have a life insurance policy in place. Generally speaking, the insurance company will pay a death benefit even if you die from the coronavirus. With few exceptions, life insurance policies will pay for any cause of death once the policy is in force. There are very few exceptions to this rule, such as acts of war or terrorism. Pandemics are not a known exception.
If youâre feeling at all uncomfortable about how the coronavirus might impact your existing life insurance policies, contact the company for clarification. Alternatively, review your life insurance policy paying particular attention to the exclusions. If thereâs nothing that looks like death due to a pandemic, you should be good to go.
But once the policy is in place, there are only a few reasons why the insurance company can deny a claim:
Non-payment of premiums â if you exceed the grace period for the payment, which is generally 30 or 31 days, your policy will lapse. But even if it does, you may still be able to apply for reinstatement. However, after a lapse, you wonât be covered until payment is made.
Providing false information on an application â if you fail to disclose certain health conditions that result in your death, the company can deny payment for insurance fraud. For example, if youâre a smoker, but check non-smoker on the application, payment of the death benefit can be denied if smoking is determined to be a contributing cause of death.
Death within the first two years the policy is in force â often referred to as the period of contestability, the insurance company can investigate the specific causes of death for any reason within the first two years. If itâs determined that death was caused by a pre-existing condition, the claim can be denied.
None of these are a serious factor when it comes to the coronavirus, unless you tested positive for the virus prior to application, and didnât disclose it. But since the coronavirus can strike suddenly, it shouldnât interfere with your death benefits if it occurs once your policy is already in force.
How Does Coronavirus Affect Life Insurance Youâre Applying For?
This is just a guess on my part, but I think people may be giving more thought to buying life insurance now they may have at any time in the past. The coronavirus has turned out to be a real threat to both life and health, which makes it natural to consider the worst.
But whatever you do, donât let your fear of the unknown keep you from applying for coverage. Though you may be wishing you bought a policy, or taken additional coverage, before the virus hit, now is still the very best time to apply. And thatâs not a sales pitch!
No matter whatâs going on in the world, the best time to apply for life insurance is always now. Thatâs because youâre younger and likely healthier right now than youâll ever be again. Both conditions are major advantages when it comes to buying life insurance. If you delay applying, youâll pay a higher premium by applying later when youâre a little bit older. But if you develop a serious health condition between now and then, not only will your premium be higher, but you may even be denied for coverage completely.
Donât let fears of the coronavirus get in your way. If you believe you need life insurance, or more of it, apply now.
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That said, the impact of the coronavirus on new applications for life insurance is more significant than it is for existing policies.
The deaths of more than 100,000 people in the US is naturally having an effect on claims being paid by life insurance companies. While thereâs been no significant across-the-board change in how most life insurance companies evaluate new applications, the situation is evolving rapidly. Exactly how that will play out going forward is anyoneâs guess at the moment.
What to Expect When Applying for Life Insurance in the Age of the Coronavirus
If youâre under 60 and in good or excellent health, and not currently showing signs of the virus, the likelihood of being approved for life insurance is as good as itâs ever been. You can make an application, and not concern yourself with the virus.
That said, it may be more difficult to get life insurance if you have any conditions determined to put you at risk for the coronavirus, as determined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Ages 65 and older.
Obesity, defined as a body mass index of 40 or greater.
Certain health conditions, including asthma, chronic kidney disease and being treated by dialysis, lung disease, diabetes, hemoglobin disorders, immunocompromised, liver disease, and serious heart conditions.
People in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.
Now to be fair, each of the above conditions would require special consideration even apart from the coronavirus. But since theyâre known coronavirus risk factors, the impact of each has become more important in the life insurance application process.
If any of these conditions apply to you, the best strategy is to work with insurance companies that already specialize in those categories.
There are insurance companies that take a more favorable view of people with any of the following conditions:
Certain lung diseases, including Asthma
Certain heart conditions
More Specific Application Factors
But even with insurance companies that specialize in providing coverage for people with certain health conditions, some have introduced new restrictions in light of the coronavirus.
For example, if you have a significant health condition and youâre over 65, you may find fewer companies willing to provide coverage.
The insurance company may also check your records for previous coronavirus episodes or exposures. Expect additional testing to determine if youâre currently infected. Most likely, the application process will be delayed until the condition clears, unless it has resulted in long-term complications.
Travel is another factor being closely examined. The CDC maintains an updated list of travel recommendations by country. If youâve recently traveled to a high-risk country, or you plan to do so in the near future, you may be considered at higher risk for the coronavirus. How each insurance company handles this situation will vary. But your application may be delayed until youâve completed a recommended quarantine period.
Other Financial Areas to Consider that May be Affected
Since the coronavirus is still very much active in the US and around the world, financial considerations are in a constant state of flux. If youâre concerned at all about the impact of the virus on other insurance types, you should contact your providers for more information.
Other insurance policies that my warrant special consideration are:
Employer-sponsored life insurance. Thereâs not much to worry about here, since these are group plans. Your acceptance is guaranteed upon employment. The policy will almost certainly pay the death benefit, even if your cause of death is related to the virus.
Health insurance. Thereâs been no media coverage of health insurance companies refusing to pay medical claims resulting from the coronavirus. But if youâre concerned, contact your health insurance company for clarification.
Action Steps to Take in the Age of the Coronavirus
Many have been gripped by fear in the face of the coronavirus, which is mostly a fear of the unknown. But the best way to overcome fear is through positive action.
I recommend the following:
1. Be proactive about your health.
Since there is a connection between poor health and the virus, commit to improving your health. Maintain a proper diet, get regular exercise, and follow the CDC coronavirus guidelines on how to protect yourself.
2. If you need life insurance, buy it now.
Donât wait for a bout with the virus to take this step. It’s important for a number of reasons and the consequences of not having it can be severe. Compare the best life insurance companies to get started.
3. Consider no medical exam life insurance.
If you donât have the virus, and you want to do a policy as quickly as possible, no medical exam life insurance will be a way to get coverage almost immediately.
4. Look for the lowest cost life insurance providers.
Low cost means you can buy a larger policy. With the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, having enough life insurance is almost as important as having a policy at all. Look into cheap term life insurance to learn more about what you can afford.
5. Keep a healthy credit score.
Did you know that your credit score is a factor in setting the premium on your life insurance policy? If so, you have one more reason to maintain a healthy credit score. One of the best ways to do it is by regularly monitoring your credit and credit score. There are plenty of services available to help you monitor your credit.
6. Make paying your life insurance premiums a priority
This action step rates a special discussion. When times get tough, and money is in short supply, people often cancel or reduce their insurance coverage. That includes life insurance. But that can be a major mistake in the middle of a pandemic. The coronavirus means that maintaining your current life insurance policies must be a high priority.
The virus and the uncertainty itâs generating in the economy and the job market are making finances less stable than theyâve been in years. Youâll need to be intentional about maintaining financial buffers.
7. Start an emergency fund.
If you donât already have one place, start building one today. If you already have one up and running, make a plan to increase it regularly.
You should also do what you can to maximize the interest youâre earning on your emergency fund. You should park your fund in a high-interest savings account, some of which are paying interest thatâs more than 20 times the national bank average.
8. Get Better Control of Your Debts
In another direction, be purposeful about paying down your debt. Lower debt levels translate into lower monthly payments, and that improves your cash flow.
If you donât have the funds to pay down your debts, there are ways you can make them more manageable.
For example, if you have high-interest credit card debt, there are balance transfer credit cards that provide a 0% introductory APR for up to 21 months. By eliminating the interest for that length of time, youâll be able to dedicate more of each payment toward principal reduction.
Still another strategy for lowering your debts is to do a debt consolidation using a low interest personal loan. Personal loans are unsecured loans that have a fixed interest rate and monthly payment, as well as a specific loan term. You can consolidate several loans and credit cards into a single personal loan for up to $40,000, with interest rates starting as low as 5.99%.
Related: The Best Life Insurance Companies
Weâve covered a lot of ground in this article. But thatâs because the coronavirus comes close to being an all-encompassing crisis. Itâs been said the coronavirus is both a health crisis and an economic crisis at the same time. It requires strategies on multiple fronts, including protecting your health, your finances, and your familyâs finances when youâre no longer around to provide for them.
Thatâs where life insurance comes into the picture. The basic process hasnât changed much from the coronavirus, at least not up to this point. But thatâs why itâs so important to apply for coverage now, before major changes are put into effect.
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