Effective tax rates in the United States

I messed up! Despite trying to make this article as fact-based as possible, I botched it. I’ve made corrections but if you read the comments, early responses may be confusing in light of my changes.

For the most part, the world of personal finance is calm and collected. There’s not a lot of bickering. Writers (and readers) agree on most concepts and most solutions. And when we do disagree, it’s generally because we’re coming from different places.

Take getting out of debt, for instance. This is one of those topics where people do disagree — but they disagree politely.

Hardcore numbers nerds insist that if you’re in debt, you ought to repay high-interest obligations first. The math says this is the smartest path. Other folks, including me, argue that other approaches are valid. You might pay off debts with emotional baggage first. And many people would benefit from repaying debt from smallest balance to highest balance — the Dave Ramsey approach — rather than focusing on interest rates.

That said, some money topics can be very, very contentious.

Any time I write about money and relationships (especially divorce), I know the debate will get lively. Should you rent a home or should you buy? That question gets people fired up too. What’s the definition of retirement? Should you give up your car and find another way to get around?

But out of all the topics I’ve ever covered at Get Rich Slowly, perhaps the most incendiary has been taxes. People have a lot of deeply-held beliefs about taxes, and they don’t appreciate when they read info that contradicts these beliefs. Chaos ensues.

Tax Facts

When I do write about taxes — which isn’t often — I try to stick to facts and steer clear of opinions. Examples:

  • The U.S. tax burden is relatively low when compared to other countries.
  • The U.S. tax burden is relatively low when compared to U.S. tax burdens in the past.
  • Overall, the U.S. has a progressive tax system. People who earn more pay more. That said, certain taxes are regressive (meaning that, as a percentage of income, low earners pay more).
  • A large number of Americans (roughly one-third) pay no federal income tax at all.
  • Despite fiery rhetoric, no one political party is better with taxing and spending than the other. The only period during the past fifty years in which the U.S. government had a budget surplus was 1998-2001 under President Bill Clinton and a Republican-controlled Congress.

Even when I state these facts, there are people who disagree with me. They don’t agree that these are facts. Or they don’t agree these facts are relevant.

Also, I sometimes read complaints that the wealthy are taxed too much. To make their argument, writers make statements like, “The top 50% of taxpayers pay 97% of all federal income taxes.” While this statement is true, I don’t feel like it’s a true measure of where tax burdens fall.

I believe there’s a better, more accurate way to analyze tax burdens.

Effective Tax Burden

To me, what matters more than nominal tax dollars paid is each individual’s effective tax burden.

Your effective tax burden is usually defined as your total tax paid as a percentage of your income. If you take every tax dollar you pay — federal income tax, state income tax, property tax, sales tax, and so on — then divide this total by how much you’ve earned, what is that percentage?

This morning, while curating links for Apex Money — my second personal-finance site, which is devoted to sharing top money stories from around the web — I found an interesting infographic from Visual Capitalist. (VC is a great site, by the way. Love it.) They’ve created a graphic that visualizes effective tax rates by state.

Here’s a summary graph (not the main visualization):

State effective tax rates

As you can see, on average the top 1% of income earners in the U.S. have a state effective tax rate of 7.4%. The middle 60% of U.S. workers have a state effective tax rate of around 10%. And the bottom 20% of income earners (which Visual Capitalist incorrectly labels “poorest Americans” — wealth and income are not the same thing) have a state effective tax rate of 11.4%.

Tangent: This conflation of wealth with income continues to grate on my nerves. I’ll grant that there’s probably a correlation between the two, but they are not the same thing. For the past few years, I’ve had a low income. I’m in the bottom 20% of income earners. But I am not poor. I have a net worth of $1.5 million. And I know plenty of people — hey, brother! — with high incomes and low net worths.

It’s important to note — and this caused me confusion, which meant I had to revise this article — that the Visual Capital numbers are for state and local taxes only. They don’t include federal income taxes. (Coincidentally, I made a similar mistake a decade ago when writing about marginal tax rates. I had to make corrections to that article too. Sigh.)

GRS readers quickly helped me remedy my mistake, pointing to the nonprofit Tax Foundation’s summary of federal income tax data. With a bit of detective work, I uncovered this graph of federal effective tax rates by income from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. (Come on. What parent names their kid Peter Peterson? That’s mean.)

Federal effective tax rates

Let’s put this all together! According to the Institute on Taxation on Economic Policy, this graph represents total effective tax rates for folks of various income levels. Note that this graph is explicitly comparing projected numbers in 2018 for a) the existing tax laws (in blue) and b) the previous tax laws (in grey).

TOTAL effective tax rates in the U.S

Total Tax Burden vs. Total Income

Here’s one final graph, also from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. This is the graph that I personally find the most interesting. It compares the share of total taxes paid by each income group to their share of the country’s total income.

Tax burden vs. total income

Collectively, the bottom 20% of income earners in the United States earned 3.5% of total income. They paid 1.9% of the total tax bill. The top 1% of income earners in the U.S. earned one-fifth of the nation’s total personal income. They paid 22.9% of total taxes.

Is the U.S. tax system fair? Should people with high incomes pay more? Do they pay more than their fair share? Should low-income workers pay more? Are we talking about numbers that are so close together that it doesn’t matter? I don’t know and, truthfully, I don’t care. I’m concerned with personal finance not politics. But I do care about facts. And civility.

The problem with discussions about taxation is that people talk about different things. When some folks argue, they’re talking about marginal tax rates. Others are talking about effective tax rates. Still others are talking about actual, nominal numbers. When some people talk about wealth, they mean income. Others — correctly — mean net worth. It’s all very confusing, even to smart people who mean well.

Final Note

Under the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014, the U.S. Department of the Treasury was required to establish a website — USASpending.gov — to provide the American public with info on how the federal government spends its money. While the usability of the site could use some work, it does provide a lot of information, and I’m sure it’ll become one of my go-to tools when writing about taxes. (I intend to update a couple of my older articles this year.)

U.S. federal budget

The USA Spending site has a Data Lab that’s currently in public beta-testing. This subsite provides even more ways to explore how the government spends your money. (I also found another simple budget-visualization tool from Brad Flyon at Learn Forever Learn.)

Okay, that’s all I have for today. Let the bickering begin!

Source: getrichslowly.org

Can You Afford that New Car? Here's How to Decide

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.

Continue reading on Wallet Hacks.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

How Much Money Do You Need to Buy a House?

A blue and white house sits on a green lawn, surrounded by trees.

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 wondering—how 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 you’re 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.

Source: credit.com

Is Now a Good Time to Buy a House?

So you’re at the point in your life where buying a home is not a question of if, but when. You’re scrimping. You’re saving. You’re 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? You’ll want to take time to thoroughly review your personal financial situation and life goals. At the same time, you’ll need to gain some understanding of the market dynamics that impact home costs.

External factors can make buying a house right now intimidating, but your personal finances are an important factor.

This process will take some time, but it’s well worth the effort. With a firm grasp on your personal situation and some context on the housing market, you’ll be able to confidently go forth knowing you’re 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 you’re trying to determine when you’re 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 you’re thinking of buying a house right now.

If you have any inkling that your position may be eliminated or that you’ll 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 you’re considering buying a house right now, you should avoid opening any new lines of credit right before purchasing a home.

– Jeff Tucker, senior economist at Zillow

Do you have enough money saved?

After income stability, savings is the next-most-important financial factor you’ll 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, it’s not necessary—far 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 doesn’t stretch you too thin—experts 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 and—if you don’t have the savings to put down 20%—primary 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.

If you're buying a house right now, aim for mortgage payments around 28% of your monthly gross income.

Once you know your price range, you can determine how much savings you need in the bank to buy a house right now. You’ll 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 it’s a dishwasher on the fritz or a leaky roof, you don’t 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 you’re offered. Given that, you should be checking your credit report and know your credit score before investing in a home. If you’re 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 lower—in 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 you’re 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 you’re ready to buy a home and whether now’s 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 you’re 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 inventory—meaning the fewer houses available—the higher prices will be, Tucker says.

If you're trying to determine when you are ready to buy a home, track current listings to get a sense of how prices look today.

What’s going on with interest rates?

When you’re 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 you’re spending less on interest. When they are high, the opposite is true.

This is what compels people to buy when interest rates are low—you 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 headed—if prices will drop or rise soon—check 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 don’t 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.

So when are you ready to buy a home? Paying attention to big-picture economic forces can help you decide.

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.

“For 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,” Ziegler says. “If they’re just not sure what the future holds, it may be better to have that flexibility.”

It’s 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?

Is now a good time to buy a house? That depends on your lifestyle and long-term goals.

While you’re 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 it’s 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, you’ll have a clearer sense of when you are ready to buy a home.

If you’ve decided that buying a house right now is the best decision for you, it’s 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.

Source: discover.com

15-Year vs. 30-Year Mortgages: Which is Better?

Once you decide to become a homeowner, it’s likely that you will need to take out a mortgage to purchase your new home. While the conclusion that you need a mortgage to finance your home is usually easy to arrive at, deciding which one is right for you can be overwhelming. One of the many decisions a prospective homebuyer must make is choosing between a 15-year versus 30-year mortgage.

From the names alone, it’s hard to tell which one is the better option. Under ideal circumstances, a 15-year mortgage mathematically makes sense as the better option. However, the path to homeownership is often far from ideal (and who are we kidding, under ideal circumstances we’d all have large sums of money to purchase a house in cash). So the better question for homebuyers to ask is which one is best for you?

To help you make the most informed financial decisions, we detail the differences between the 15-year and 30-year mortgage, the pros and cons of each, and options for which one is better based on your financial priorities.

The Difference Between 15-Year Vs. 30-Year Mortgages

The main difference between a 15-year and 30-year mortgage is the amount of time in which you promise to repay your loan, also known as the loan term.

The loan term of a mortgage has the ability to affect other aspects of your mortgage like interest rates and monthly payments. Loan terms come in a variety of lengths such as 10, 15, 20, and 30 years, but we’re discussing the two most common options here.

The Difference Between 15-Year Vs. 30-Year Mortgages

What Is a 15-Year Mortgage?

A 15-year mortgage is a mortgage that’s meant to be paid in 15 years. This shorter loan term means that amortization, otherwise known as the gradual repayment of your loan, happens more quickly than other loan terms.

What Is a 30-Year Mortgage?

On the other hand, a 30-year mortgage is repaid in 30 years. This longer loan term means that amortization happens more slowly.

Pros and Cons of a 15-Year Mortgage

The shorter loan term of a 15-year mortgage means more money saved over time, but sacrifices affordability with higher monthly payments.

Pros

  • Lower interest rates (often by a full percentage point!)
  • Less money paid in interest over time

Cons

  • Higher monthly payments
  • Less affordability and flexibility

Pros and Cons of a 30-Year Mortgage

As the mortgage term chosen by the majority of American homebuyers, the longer 30-year loan term has the advantage of affordable monthly payments, but comes at the cost of more money paid over time in interest.

Pros

  • Lower monthly payments
  • More affordable and flexible

Cons

  • Higher interest rates
  • More money paid in interest over time

15-Year Mortgage

30-Year Mortgage

Pros

• Lower interest rates
• Less money paid in interest over time
• Lower monthly payments
• More affordable and flexible

Cons

• Higher monthly payments
• Less affordability and flexibility
• Higher interest rates
• More money paid in interest over time

Which Is Better For You?

Now with what you know about the pros and cons of each loan term, use that knowledge to match your financial priorities with the mortgage that is best for you.

Best to Save Money Over Time: 15-Year Mortgage

The 15-year mortgage may be best for those who wish to spend less on interest, have a generous income, and also have a reliable amount in savings. With a 15-year mortgage, your income would need to be enough to cover higher monthly mortgage payments among other living expenses, and ample savings are important to serve as a buffer in case of emergency.

Best for Monthly Affordability: 30-Year Mortgage

A 30-year mortgage may be best if you’re seeking stable and affordable monthly payments or wish for more flexibility in saving and spending your money over time. The longer loan term may also be the better option if you plan on purchasing property you couldn’t normally afford to repay in just 15 years.

Best of Both: 30-Year Mortgage with Extra Payments

Want the best of both worlds? A good option to save on interest and have affordable monthly payments is to opt for a 30-year mortgage but make extra payments. You can still have the goal of paying off your mortgage in 15 or 20 years time on a 30-year mortgage, but this option can be more forgiving if life happens and you don’t meet that goal. Before going this route, make sure to ask your lender about any prepayment penalties that may make interest savings from early payments obsolete.

Best of Both- 30-Year Mortgage with Extra Payments

As a prospective homebuyer, it’s important that you set yourself up for financial success. Fine-tuning your personal budget and diligently saving and paying off debt help prepare you to take the next steps toward buying a new home. Doing your research and learning about mortgages also helps you make decisions in your best interest.

When picking a mortgage, always keep in mind what is financially realistic for you. If that means forgoing better savings on interest in the name of affordability, then remember that path still leads to homeownership. Try out these budget templates for your home or monthly expenses to help keep you on a good path to achieving your goals.

Sources: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The post 15-Year vs. 30-Year Mortgages: Which is Better? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

7 Ways to Diversify Your Investments Without Spending a Fortune

This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder. You know it’s a bad idea to pour your life’s savings into a single investment. It’s personal finance 101: Invest regularly, and diversify your portfolio. But a lot of times, there isn’t much guidance beyond that. So as an investor, you’re left wondering: How do you know if your portfolio is diversified? How many investments do you need in a…

Source: moneytalksnews.com

How to Budget Groceries: 11 Easy Tips

Have you ever sat down to go over your budget only to find out that you’ve outrageously overspent on food? Local, organic, artisan goods and trendy new restaurant outings with friends make it easy to do. With food being the second highest household expense behind mortgage or rent, our food choices have a huge impact on our budget. Using this monthly budget calculator can also help guide how to budget for food. 

You may be surprised to find out that the most nutrient-dense foods are often the most budget-friendly. It’s not only possible, but fun and easy to eat nourishing, delicious food while still sticking to your budget. Here are 11 ways to help you learn how to budget groceries.

1. Track Current Spending

Before you figure out what you should be spending on food, it’s important to figure out what you are spending on food. Keep grocery store receipts to get a realistic picture of your current spending habits. If you feel inclined, create a spreadsheet to break down your spending by category, including beverages, produce, etc. Once you’ve done this, you can get an idea of where to trim down spending.

2. Allocate a Percentage of Your Income

How much each household spends on food varies based on income level and how many people need to be fed. Consider using a grocery calculator if you’re not sure where to start. While people spent about 30 percent of their income on food in 1950, this percentage has dropped to 9–12 today. Consider allocating 10 percent of your income to food as a starting point, and increase from there if necessary.

3. Avoid Eating Out

This is the least fun tip, we promise. Eating out is a quick and easy way to ruin your food budget. If you’re actively dating or enjoy going out to eat with friends, be sure to factor restaurants into your food budget — and strictly adhere to your limit. Coffee drinkers, consider making your favorite concoctions at home.

4. Plan Your Meals

It’s much easier to stick to a budget when you have a plan. Plus, having a purpose for each grocery item you buy will ensure nothing goes to waste or just sits in your pantry unused. Don’t be afraid of simple salads or meatless Mondays. Not every meal has to be a gourmet, grandiose experience.

5. Keep a Fridge Grocery List

Keep a magnetized grocery list on your fridge so that you can replace items as needed. This ensures you’re buying food you know you’ll eat because you’re already used to buying it. Sticking to a list in the grocery store is an effective way to keep yourself accountable and not spend money on processed or pricey items — there’s no need to take a stroll down the candy aisle if it’s not on the list.

6. Eat Before You Go to the Store

If your mother gave you this advice growing up, she was onto something: according to a survey, shoppers spend an average of 64 percent more when hungry. Sticking to a budget is all about eliminating temptations, so plan to eat beforehand to eliminate tantalizing foods that will cause you to go over-budget.

7. Be Careful with Coupons

50 percent off ketchup is a great deal — unless you don’t need ketchup. Beware of coupons that claim you’ll “save” money. If the item isn’t on your list, you’re not saving at all, but rather spending on something you don’t truly need. This discretion is key to saving money at the grocery store.

8. Embrace the Bulk Section

Not only is the bulk section of your grocery store great for cheap, filling staples, but it’s also the perfect way to discover new foods and bring variety into your diet. Take the time to compare the price of buying pre-packaged goods versus bulk — it’s almost always cheaper to buy in bulk, plus eliminating unnecessary packaging is good for the planet.

Bonus: a diet rich in unprocessed, whole plant foods provides virtually every nutrient, ensuring optimal health and keeping you from spending an excess amount on healthcare costs.

9. Bring Lunch to Work

Picture this: you’re trying to stick to a strict food budget, and one day at work you realize it’s lunchtime and you’re hungry. But alas, you forgot to pack a lunch. All the meal planning and smart shopping in the world won’t solve the work-lunch-dilemma. Brown-bagging your lunch is key to ensuring your food budget is successful. Plus, it can be fun! Think mason jar salads and Thai curry bowls.

10. Love Your Leftovers

Would you ever consider throwing $640 cash into the trash? This is what the average American household does every year — only instead of cash, it’s $640 worth of food that’s wasted. With millions of undernourished people around the globe, throwing away food not only hurts our budget but is a waste of the world’s resources. Tossing food is no joke. Eat your leftovers.

11. Freeze Foods That Are Going Bad

To avoid wasting food, freeze things that look like they’re about to go bad. Fruit that’s past its prime can be frozen and used in smoothies. Make double batches of soups, sauces, and baked goods so you’ll always have an alternative to ordering takeout when you don’t feel like cooking.

Sticking to a food budget takes planning and discipline. While it may not seem fun at first, you’ll likely find that you enjoy cooking and trying a variety of new foods you wouldn’t have thought to use before. Being resourceful and cooking healthfully is a skill that will benefit your wallet and waistline for years to come.

 

Sources: Turbo | Fool | Forbes | Medical Daily | GO Banking Rates | Value Penguin

The post How to Budget Groceries: 11 Easy Tips appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

3 Financial Self-Care Habits You Can Start Today

If you’re someone who struggles with financial anxiety and stress, practicing a financial self-care routine could help. Just like other areas of your life, the more consistent you are about financial self-care, the better. This is why I am emphasizing the idea of building habits. The reality is that anxiety and stress are life’s constants. We ourselves don’t have the luxury of removing those factors from our environment, but what we do have are tools to help manage and reduce them. 

Before I get into it, I want to note that there’s a pretty extensive list of financial-self care options available, but what I’ve realized is that when we are struggling, we often overcommit ourselves to perfectionism instead of trying to be a little less imperfect. I’m the first to admit that it’s really tough not to go all-in when reading advice that sounds life-changing. Often, we find ourselves trying out anything and everything to feel in control, and it is for this reason that I won’t offer you the extensive list today. Instead, I hope to help you focus on taking things slow for once so that you don’t set yourself up for failure (and ultimately right back in the anxiety-ridden state you first found yourself in). You can view these three foundational habits as a starting point for a long-term financial self-care routine that you will work to enhance over the course of your life. With this in mind, let’s dive in.

HABIT # 1: REVIEW & CATEGORIZE YOUR TRANSACTIONS DAILY

Building awareness of what and how much you’ve spent can be a game-changer. This habit not only takes the dreaded guessing game out of your end-of-month leftover income and total spending, but it can help you course-correct throughout the month to ensure you hit budgeting goals, cut back in areas you may find yourself regretting, or even upping your spend in areas that bring you joy. A few added bonuses of this habit include saving time at the end of the month if you’re someone that typically sits down for 4-5 hours to get yourself organized, in addition to helping you catch fraudulent transactions faster! 

Pro tips for building this habit: 

  • Make it easy: If you don’t already use Mint, download the app today to have all of your transactions organized and easily viewable in one place. 
  • Make it obvious: Set a calendar reminder on your phone to check Mint each day at the same time. I’d recommend early morning before your day gets busy.
  • Make it attractive: Check your spending after a ritual or habit you enjoy doing. For example, after you sit down to drink your coffee, open up Mint to review your transactions.    
  • Make it satisfying: After reviewing your transactions, do something rewarding. For example, after categorizing and reviewing, consider checking it off your to-do list for the day to feel progress.

HABIT # 2: CHECK YOUR SAVINGS ACCOUNT(S) DAILY

Checking your savings accounts is a great way to flood your brain with positivity about your financial situation. Having savings is a rewarding feeling, and even more rewarding, is seeing your savings progress over time. Getting in this habit will also be a good reminder to actively save for each of your financial goals. 

Pro tips for building this habit: 

  • Make it easy: Connect your savings accounts to Mint and use the goal-setting feature that allows you to customize your savings goals and connect your savings account to easily track your progress. 
  • Make it obvious: Consider setting your phone’s background to a photo of something you’re saving for so that everytime you check your phone, you’ll be reminded of saving. Mint also allows you to add photos of your goals in the web version and in the app. 
  • Make it attractive: In addition to checking your savings right after reviewing your transactions in Mint, consider starting a savings group with your friends and family. No need to talk about how much you’ve saved, but you can talk about your goals and turn to the group for motivation when you’re tempted to spend what you would normally save. 
  • Make it satisfying: Make sure to give yourself credit for doing this habit by also crossing it off as a separate to-do list item. Try to also make it a rule to never miss checking your savings twice in a row. Skipping a day here and there because life gets in the way is totally normal, just make sure to commit yourself to doing it the next day. 

HABIT # 3: REWARD YOURSELF 1X PER WEEK

I saved the best for last. Rewarding yourself is a critical step that most skip when trying to become more disciplined. Self-control can be a draining experience, especially at first. Make sure to set aside “free time” each week to do something for yourself. It doesn’t have to be big, and it doesn’t have to require a lot of money. Think of it as a way of telling yourself good job for working hard and trying to improve. 

Pro tips for building this habit*: 

  • Make it easy: Consider making your reward something that takes less than 2 minutes to start doing. Perhaps it’s turning on a Netflix show, making an easy dessert, grabbing a coffee at the Starbucks you just walked by, or even dancing in your living room to your favorite song. 
  • Make it obvious: As I write this, it sounds weird, but for some of us, setting aside time for ourselves isn’t something we’re good at, so commit yourself to a consistent day and time that’s for you to do what you want.

*Making it attractive and satisfying isn’t necessary here because the reward in and of itself will reinforce the habit. 

 

With that, you now have 3 habits to start building a financial self-care routine. Give this a shot, and let me know how it goes in the comments below. 

The post 3 Financial Self-Care Habits You Can Start Today appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

How To Retire At 50: 10 Easy Steps To Consider

Can you retire at 50? On average, people usually retire at 65. But what if you want to retire 15 years earlier than that like  at 50? Is it doable? Below are 10 easy steps to take to retire at 50.  Retiring early can be challenging. Therefore, SmartAsset’s free tool can match you with  a financial advisor who can help to work out and implement a retirement income strategy for you to maximize your money.

10 Easy & Simple Steps to Retire at 50:

1. How much you will need in retirement.

The first thing to consider is to determine how much you will need to retire at 50. This will vary depending on the lifestyle you want to have during retirement. If you desire a lavish one, you will certainly need a lot.

But according to a study by SmartAsset, 500k was found to be enough money to retire comfortably. But again that will depends on several factor.

For example, you will need to take into account where you want to live, the cost of living, how long you expect to live, etc.

Read: Can I Retire at 60 With 500k? Is It Enough?

A good way to know if 500k is possible to retire on is to consider the 4% rule. This rule is used to figure out how much a retiree should withdraw from his or her retirement account.

The 4% rule states that the money in your retirement savings account should last you through 30 years of retirement if you take out 4% of your retirement portfolio annually and then adjust each year thereafter for inflation.

So, if you plan on retiring at 50 with 500k for 30 years, using the 4% rule you will need to live on $20,000 a year. 

Again, this is just an estimation out there. You may need less or more depending on the factors mentioned above. For example, if you’re in good health and expect to live 40+ years after retiring at 50, $500,000 may not be enough to retire on. That’s why it’s crucial to work with a financial advisor.

Get Matched With 3 Fiduciary Financial Advisors
Managing your finances can be overwhelming. We recommend speaking with a financial advisor. The SmartAsset’s free matching tool will pair you with up to 3 financial advisors in your area.

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2. Maximize your tax-advantaged retirement accounts.

Once you have an idea of how much you need in order to retire at 50, your next step is to save as much as possible at a faster rate. If you are employed and you have a 401k plan available to you, you should definitely participate in it. Nothing can grow your retirement savings account faster than a 401k account.

See: How to Become a 401k Millionaire.

That means, you will need to maximize your 401k contributions, for example. In 2020, and for people under 50, the 401k contribution limit is $19,500.  Also, take advantage of your company match if your employee offers a match.

In addition to the maximum contribution of $19,500, your employer also contributes. Sometimes, they match dollar for dollar or 50 cents for each dollar the worker pays in.

In addition to a 401k plan, open or maximize your Roth or traditional IRA. For an IRA, it is $6,000. So, by maximizing your retirement accounts every year, your money will grow faster.

3. Invest in mutual or index funds. Apart from your retirement accounts (401k, Roth or Traditional IRA, SEP IRA, etc), you should invest in individual stocks or preferably in mutual funds. 

4. Cut out unnecessary expenses.

Someone with the goal of retiring at 50 needs to keep an eye on their spending and keep them as low as possible. We all know the phrase, “the best way to save money is to spend less.”

Well, this is true when it comes to retiring 15 years early than the average.  So, if you don’t watch TV, cancel Netflix or cable TV. If your cell phone bill is high, change plans or switch to another carrier. Don’t go to lavish vacations.

5. Keep an eye on taxes.

Taxes can eat away your profit. The more you can save from taxes, the more money you will have. Retirement accounts are a good way to save on taxes. Besides your company 401k plan, open a Roth or Traditional IRA.

6. Make more money.

Spending less is a great way to save money. But increasing your income is even better. If you need to retire at 50, you’ll need to be more aggressive. And the more money you earn, the more you will be able to save. And the faster you can reach your early retirement goal.

7. Speak with a financial advisor

Consulting with a financial advisor can help you create a plan to. More specifically, a financial advisor specializing in retirement planning can help you achieve your goals of retiring at 50. They can help put in a place an investment strategy to put you in the right track to retire at 50. You can easily find one in your local area by using SmartAsset’s free tool. It matches users with financial advisors in just under 5 minutes.  

8. Decide how you will spend your time in retirement.

If you will spend a lot of time travelling during retirement, then make sure you do research. Some countries like the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, the Philippines, and so many others are good places to travel to in retirement because the cost of living is relatively cheap.

While other countries in Europe can be very expensive to travel to, which can eat away your retirement money.  If you decide to downsize or sell your home, you can free up more money to spend.

9. Financing the first 10 years.

There is a penalty of 10% if you cash out your retirement accounts before you reach the age of 59 1/2. Therefore, if you retire at 50, you’ll need to use money in other accounts like traditional savings or brokerage accounts. 

10. Put your Bonus, Raise, & Tax Refunds towards your retirement savings. 

If retiring at 50 years old is really your goal, then you should put all extra money towards your retirement savings. That means, if you receive a raise at work, put some of it towards your savings account.

If you get a tax refund or a bonus, use some of that money towards your retirement savings account. They can add up quickly and make retiring at 50 more of a reality than a dream.

Retiring at 50: The Bottom Line: 

So can I retire at 50? Retiring at 50 is possible. However, it’s not easy. After all, you’re trying to grow more money in less time. So, it will be challenging and will involve years of sacrifices, years living below your means and making tough financial decisions. However, it will be worth it in the long run. 

Read More:

  • How Much Is Enough For Retirement
  • How to Grow Your 401k Account
  • People Who Retire Comfortably Avoid These Financial Advisor Mistakes
  • 5 Simple Warning Signs You’re Definitely Not Ready for Retirement

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

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 to retire at 50, saving, etc). Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s 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.

The post How To Retire At 50: 10 Easy Steps To Consider appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com