Category Archives: Money

5 Ways to Contribute More to Your Retirement Plan

5 Ways to Contribute More to Your Retirement PlanIt’s never too early to start planning for retirement, but if you haven’t started yet, it’s not too late to contribute to your retirement plan and make up for lost time. Life gets pretty expensive, and the more you’ve padded your retirement fund early on, the less you’ll need to worry about covering your costs as you get older and prepare to retire.

But let’s face it – saving money for retirement can be downright challenging. Still, setting money aside for your retirement fund is crucial and deserves your full attention. Luckily, there are some simple strategies that you can employ to help you save up and beef up your contributions to your retirement fund so you can enjoy a nice financial cushion when you reach retirement.

1. Automate Your Savings To Your Retirement Plan

It’s tough to part with your money, yet setting aside a certain percentage of your income every month is extremely helpful in growing your retirement fund. Rather than manually transferring money from your checking into your retirement account each month, consider automating your savings instead. Most financial institutions allow their customers to make regular contributions every month. This is a great way to stick to your plan, and you won’t have to think twice about it.

2. Contribute to a 401(k)

If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, you can contribute pre-tax money to it. Contributions come out of your paycheck before taxes are taken out. If your company also offers a Roth 401(k), your contributions will be coming from your after-tax income, in which case you would should compare your tax bracket now to what you expect it to be in retirement to determine if this is the right option for you.

3. Meet Your Employer Matches

If the company you work for offers to match your 401(k) plan, take advantage of this perk by contributing! For instance, let’s say your employer offers to match half of your contributions up to 4% of your salary. If you make $60,000 per year and contribute $2,000 towards your 401(k), your employer would throw in another $1,000. This is a great way to get some support in building your retirement fund. Make sure you contribute enough to get the full match or you’ll be throwing money away!

4. Open an Individual Retirement Account (IRA)

Establishing an IRA is another great way to fund your retirement plan. With a traditional IRA, you might be able to get a tax break and grow your investment earnings tax-deferred until it’s time to withdraw the money when you’re retired. Roth IRAs are a great option if you’re young and just getting started in your career. They offer flexibility (withdrawals of principal can be made at any time), and if you’re in a low tax bracket now and expect to be in a higher one in retirement, it could save you big on taxes. Even my baby daughter has a Roth IRA!

5. Make Catch-Up Contributions if You’re 50 or Older

You’re limited in your annual contributions to 401(K)s and IRAs. But after you reach the age of 50, you can contribute more than the standard limit with catch-up contributions. If you did not start saving early, you can take advantage of this offer to help boost your retirement savings.

Understanding the importance of saving for your nest egg is crucial. Calculate how much you need to save up to live comfortably in retirement, and take advantage of creative ways to increase your contributions when you have the chance.

Are You Ready For Early Retirement?

Are You Ready For Early Retirement?

Within the last century, retirement age for most U.S. adults was extended to about 65 years of age. With recent Medicare changes and improved senior health and longevity, more people are working even longer. However, others are finding ways to make early retirement a reality, perhaps in their mid- to late fifties. If early retirement is your goal, it might be a good idea to give the following questions some thought before turning in your resignation.

How is your Health?

Although you may be 50 and feel great, consider what may lay ahead. For example, if your family has a history of heart disease or cancer, consider getting tested before making early retirement plans. If you are battling a chronic illness like diabetes, get your doctor’s opinion about the future prognosis of this illness so you can plan ahead. In addition to factors like the ability to work and monthly income adjustments when you retire, you should also think about health care coverage before and during retirement.

What Are Your Early Retirement Lifestyle Plans?

Do you want to travel when you stop working? Maybe you plan to downsize your home to a condo. Are there other life goals you hope to accomplish during your golden years? Consider how lifestyle changes may impact your monthly budget and whether or not you might get bored of all that free time. Would you prefer to work part-time or volunteer for a charity? As you envision the ways your life will change after retirement, make sure that you are ready mentally, physically, and financially to make the transition.

How Are Your Finances Holding Up?

Everyone with a stock portfolio or savings plans as well as a retirement fund should meet with a financial adviser at least yearly to keep tabs on their investments. If the economy takes a sharp downturn just when you’re about to retire, will your finances be enough to sustain the new life you have planned? Do you have a backup plan in case of an emergency or unexpected economic shift? Remember that expenses will change in retirement. If you have paid off your home and have no credit card debt to manage, you will be in better financial standing than someone who is loaded down with debt and possibly drawing less income each month than when they were employed.

What Role Will Your Family Play?

Middle-age people often breathe a sigh of relief when the last child graduates from college. But financial and familial obligations don’t necessarily stop there. Wedding expenses may pop up later, along with grandchildren to babysit and aging parents to care for. Give some thought to the time and money that you will need during your retirement years to help family members. When relatives know that you are no longer working full-time, they may expect you to help more often.

Most of us dream of a stress-free, financially secure retirement during which we can fulfill all our dreams. However, as in every stage of life, unexpected financial crises and new responsibility can replace long-sought dreams. Before rushing into early retirement, be sure you’re ready on all fronts so that you avoid disappointment and financial hardship.

5 Tips to Lower Utility Bills

5 Tips to Lower Utility Bills

Utility bills seem to shift frequently, due in part to instability in the energy sector and the volatility of certain environmental issues, including fracking that may endanger water wells and land management jeopardized by gas pipelines. Whatever the reason, most of us don’t see our utility bills dropping by much, if any, each year. Instead, they seem to rise almost predictably over time. Since utility company employees need to eat as customers do and our bills must be paid to maintain a good credit rating, we should pay utility bills on time. But there are simple things you can do to lower costs.

Double-Check Your Rates

Even a utility company can make a billing mistake. Double-check meter readings or compare to the previous month’s or year’s bill, and call the billing office to discuss any discrepancies. If a statement seems high, find out if a raise went into effect or if you have accidentally been overcharged, which can sometimes happen.

Compare Utility Providers

If you find that a utility company keeps raising rates consistently, or if there is a spike in the regular rate, check out the competition for lower prices. Your current provider may be willing to lower its rate to match one by a competitor. Alternately, you can switch to the lower-cost provider, but carefully check all costs to find hidden expenses before changing over to the new company.

Turn Off When Not In Use

Make a habit of turning off unused appliances like the television, computer, or lights when leaving a room. Equipment with lights that stay on during disuse can impact monthly utility bills. Collectively, several appliances that are turned off when unused may help to lower monthly costs. Check for leaky faucets and fix them to keep the water bill low. Close heat vents in unused rooms and close the door to avoid paying to heat unoccupied rooms.

Use Utilities Minimally

Cut back on utility use when possible. For example, instead of running the air conditioner around the clock in summertime, turn it on during the hottest part of the day and set it to the highest setting that will cool you off without draining the budget. Do the same for winter heating utilities involving gas, oil or propane, setting the thermostat to 68 degrees if everyone in the household can tolerate it, wearing sweaters and socks to ward off any residual chill. Use cool or warm water for the laundry instead of hot water, and consider hanging clothes outside to dry in good weather rather than using an electric or gas dryer. Opt for the basic cable television package rather than the deluxe version.

Include Utility Supplements

Instead of running air conditioners in the summer, consider installing ceiling fans or use table fans. Space heaters in cold weather can help reduce whole-house heating bills. Some people use wood burners or fireplaces in the winter to offset gas heating expenses.

Don’t let household necessities gobble up your monthly budget. A few simple steps like these can pare down those costly utility bills and save money for other important things.