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10 Tips for Achieving Financial Security
When it’s time for you to retire, will you be able to afford it? Almost all of the research conducted on the subject, over the last few years, shows that most individuals are unable to demonstrate financial readiness for their retirement years. This only serves to underline the fact that saving for retirement is a challenging process that requires careful planning and follow-through. Here we review some helpful tips that should help you on your way to a comfortable retirement.
- Start as Soon as You Can
It is obvious that it is better to start saving at an early age, but it is never too late to start – even if you are already close to your retirement years – because every penny saved helps to cover your expenses.
If you save $200 every month for 40 years at a 5% interest rate, you will have saved significantly more than an individual who saves at the same rate for 10 years. However, the amount saved over the shorter period can go a long way in helping to cover expenses during retirement. Also, keep in mind that other areas of financial planning, such as asset allocation, will become increasingly important as you get closer to retirement. This is because your risk tolerance generally decreases as the number of years in which you can recuperate any losses goes down.
- Treat Your Savings as an Expense
Saving on a regular basis can be a challenge, especially when you consider the many regular expenses we all face, not to mention the enticing consumer goods that tempt us to spend our disposable cash. You can guard amounts you want to add to your nest egg from this temptation by treating your retirement savings as a recurring expense, similar to paying rent, mortgage or a car loan. This is even easier if the amount is debited from your paycheck by your employer. (Note: If the amount is deducted from your paycheck on a pre-tax basis, it helps to reduce the amount of income taxes owed on your salary.)
Alternatively (or in addition), you may have your salary direct-deposited to a checking or savings account, and have the designated savings amount scheduled for automatic debit to be credited to a retirement savings account on the same day the salary is credited.
- Save as Much as You Can in a Tax-Deferred Account
Contributing amounts earmarked for your retirement to a tax-deferred retirement account deters you from spending those amounts on impulse, because you are likely to face tax consequences and penalties. For instance, any amount distributed from a retirement account may be subject to income taxes the year in which the distribution occurs, and if you are under age 59-1/2 when the distribution occurs, the amount could be subject to a 10% early-distribution penalty (excise tax).
If you have enough income, consider whether you can increase the amount you save in tax-deferred accounts. For instance, in addition to saving in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, think about whether you can also afford to contribute to an individual retirement account (IRA), and whether the IRA should be a Roth IRA or a Traditional IRA.
- Diversify Your Portfolio
The old adage that tells us that we shouldn’t put all of our eggs in one basket holds true for retirement assets. Putting all your savings into one form of investment increases the risk of losing all your investments, and it may limit your return on investment (ROI). As such, asset allocation is a key part of managing your retirement assets. Proper asset allocation considers factors such as the following:
Your age – This is usually reflected in the aggressiveness of your portfolio, which will likely take more risks when you’re younger, and less the closer you get to retirement age.
Your risk tolerance – This helps to ensure that, should any losses occur, they occur at a time when the losses can still be recuperated.
Whether you need to have your assets grow or produce income.
- Consider All of Your Potential Expenses in Your Financial Plan
When planning for retirement, some of us make the mistake of not considering expenses for medical and dental costs, long-term care and income taxes. When deciding how much you need to save for retirement, make a list of all the expenses you may incur during your retirement years. This will help you to make realistic projections and plan accordingly.
Saving a lot of money is great, but the benefits are eroded or even nullified if it means you have to use high-interest loans to pay your living expenses. Therefore, preparing and working within a budget is essential. Your retirement savings should be counted among your budgeted recurring expenses in order to ensure that your disposable income is calculated accurately.
- Periodically Reassess Your Portfolio
As you get closer to retirement and your financial needs, expenses and risk tolerance change, strategic asset allocation must be performed on your portfolio to allow for any necessary adjustments. This will help you ensure that your retirement planning is on target.
- Reassess Your Expenses and Make Changes Where Possible
If your lifestyle, income and/or fiscal responsibilities have changed, it may be a good idea to reassess your financial profile and make adjustments where possible, so as to change the amounts you add to your retirement nest egg. For instance, you may have finished paying off your mortgage or the loan for your car, or the number of individuals for which you are financially responsible may have changed. A reassessment of your income, expenses and financial obligations will help to determine if you need to increase or decrease the amount you save on a regular basis.
- Consider Your Spouse
If you are married, consider whether your spouse is also saving and whether certain expenses can be shared during your retirement years. If your spouse hasn’t been saving, you need to determine whether your retirement savings can cover not only your expenses, but those of your spouse as well.
- Work with an Experienced Financial Planner
Unless you are experienced in the field of financial planning and portfolio management, engaging the services of an experienced and qualified financial planner will be necessary. Choosing the one who is right for you will be one of the most important decisions you make.
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Being financially secure enough to enjoy your life in retirement is the last thing on the minds of those under 30. After all, with the stress of all the expensive “firsts” that often come about during this period, like purchasing a car, buying a house and starting a family, it’s hard to even think about saving for the future. However, working toward financial security need not be an exercise in self-deprivation, as many people assume. Attaining this goal even has some immediate benefits, as financial insecurity can become a serious source of stress.
- Have Fun
Enjoy yourself while you’re young – you will have plenty of time to be miserable when you’re older. Living a successful, happy life is about finding a balance between time with family and friends – and between work and leisure. Striking a proper balance between your life today and your future is also important. Financially, we can’t live as if today was our last day. We have to decide between what we spend today versus what we spend in the future. Finding the correct balance is an important first step toward achieving financial security.
- Recognize Your Most Important Financial Asset: Yourself
Your skills, knowledge and experience are the biggest assets you have. The value of your future earnings will dwarf any savings or investments you might have for most of your career. Your job and future career are the most important factors in achieving financial independence and security. For those just entering the work force, future career opportunities are as bright as they’ve ever been. The large number of retiring baby boomers is expected to create labor shortages; there will be room for advancement as companies scramble to fill empty positions.
Look at yourself as a financial asset. Investing in yourself will pay off in the future. Increase your value through hard work, continual upgrading of skills and knowledge and by making smart career choices. Efforts to improve your career can have a far bigger impact on your financial security than tightening your belt and trying to save more.
- Become a Planner, Not a Saver
Research has shown that those who plan for the future end up with more wealth than those who do not. Successful people are goal oriented: they set goals and develop a plan to achieve them. For example, if you set a goal to pay off your student loans in two years, you’ll have a better chance of achieving this goal than you would if you merely said you wanted to pay off your student loans, but failed to set a timetable.
Even the process of writing down some goals will help you to achieve them. Being goal-oriented and following a plan means taking control of your life. It is an important step toward improving your financial independence and security.
- Set Short-Term Goals – Long-Term Goals Will Take Care of Themselves
Life holds many uncertainties – and a lot can change between now and 30 years from now. As such, the prospect of planning far into the future is a daunting task for young investors.
Rather than setting long-term goals, set a series of small short-term goals that are both measurable and precise. For example: paying off credit card debt or student loans in a matter of months; or contributing to your company’s pension plan with a set salary reduction contribution each month.
As you achieve your short-term goals, set new ones. The constant setting and achieving of short-term goals will ensure that you reach your longer-term goals. If your goal is to be worth a million dollars by 40, you need to first reach smaller goals like having $10,000, $50,000 or $500,000.
- Planning For Retirement: Fuggetaboutit?
Just out of school, retirement planning is the last thing on your mind. So if you have to for now, just fuggetaboutit. If you follow the other tips, you will not only be more financially secure and prepared in the short term, but you will also be financially prepared for the distant future as well.
However, if you can take a few steps now to start saving, try setting up automatic monthly contributions to a retirement plan like an employer-sponsored 401(k) or your own Roth IRA; compounding will work in your favor, which makes reaching your goal much easier.
If you implement this pay yourself first ideal, you won’t have to worry about how much you’re contributing; the most important thing is to develop the habit of saving. You can increase your contributions when your income rises or when you’ve achieved more of your short-term goals.
- Make Sure Your Lifestyle Costs Lag Your Income Growth
Many new graduates find that in the first couple years of working they have excess cash flow. Still used to their more frugal student spending habits, it is easy to make more money than needed. Rather than using excess income to buy new toys and live a more luxurious lifestyle, put the money toward reducing debt or adding to savings. As you advance in your career and attain greater responsibility, your salary should increase. If the cost of your lifestyle lags your income growth, you will always have excess cash flow that can be put toward financial goals.
Where people get into trouble is by feeling entitled to a standard of living that exceeds what they can afford. However, if you keep your standard of living below what you earn, you won’t have to cut back to accumulate money.
- Become Financially Literate
Making money is one thing; saving it and making it grow is another. Financial management and investing are lifelong endeavors. Making sound financial and investment decisions is important for achieving your financial goals.
Research has shown that people who are financially literate end up with more wealth than those who are not. Taking the time and effort to become knowledgeable in the areas of personal finance and investing will pay off throughout your life.
- Seize the Opportunities: Take Calculated Risks
Taking calculated risks when you are young can be a prudent decision in the long run. You might make mistakes along the way, but remember, mistakes are the lessons of wisdom. You often learn more from your mistakes than from your successes. Also, when you are young, you can recover faster from financial mistakes, and you have many years to recover.
Examples of calculated risk include: moving to a new city with more job opportunities; going back to school for additional training; or taking a new job at a different company for less pay but more upside potential. Starting a new company, working for a small startup, or investing in high risk/high return stocks is easier to do when you’re young. As people get older and assume more family responsibilities like paying off the mortgage or saving for the kids’ education, many are forced to play it safe and are unable to capitalize on riskier opportunities that present themselves.
- Borrow Money For Investments – Never to Finance a Lifestyle
Using credit for a life you feel entitled to is a losing proposition when it comes to building wealth. The constant borrowing will assure that there is no money available for investing, and the added interest expense of borrowing further increases the cost of the lifestyle.
Borrowed money should be used only for investing – where your gain will outrun your borrowing costs. This might mean investing in the literal sense (stocks, bonds, etc.) or it might mean investing in yourself for your education or to start a business or to buy a house. In these cases, borrowing can provide the leverage you need to reach your financial goals faster.
- Take Advantage of Financial Freebies
Not many things in life are free. If you belong to a company pension plan, take the free money it offers and make sure that you contribute at least up to the maximum of what your company will match.
You can also look for (legal) ways to take advantage of tax laws. For example, contributing to an individual retirement account (IRA) will result in a tax savings – in effect, the government is giving you free money to provide an incentive to contribute. There is also an incentive to invest in stocks because of favorable tax treatment on capital gains and dividend income.
What Is Financial Security?
Financial security refers to the peace of mind you feel when you aren’t worried about your income being enough to cover your expenses. It also means that you have enough money saved to cover emergencies and your future financial goals. When you are financially secure, your stress levels goes down, leaving you free to focus on other issues.
Budgeting for Success
Feeling financially secure requires knowing what your assets and liabilities are, as well as how your income compares to your expenses. If you aren’t tracking these, you might not know you’re struggling, but that’s like an ostrich sticking its head in the sand and hoping for the best. For true financial security, create a budget that addresses both your current needs, like food, clothing and shelter, and your long-term goals, like paying down debt and saving. You should also include insurance to cover the what-ifs in life.
Prioritizing Long-Term Goals
Pay yourself first, recommends Kiplinger, when it comes to making your budget. No, that doesn’t mean take the first fruits of your paycheck and go out to eat. Instead, it means make sure you’re setting aside money for long-range goals, like an education fund for your kids, a down payment for a future home or a retirement account for your golden years. If you’re struggling to find enough remaining money to pay down debt, look for discretionary expenses that you can cut.
Building an Emergency Fund
Whether you call it an emergency account, your safe money or a rainy day fund, setting aside several months worth of living expenses is critical for your financial security. That way, when something unexpected like a job loss, refrigerator breaking down, or a child having to go to the hospital pops up, you have the funds to deal with it rather than having to go into debt, especially high interest debt like a payday loan or a balance on your credit card.
Tracking Long-Term Goals
You can’t just set it and forget it when it comes to your budget. Instead, your budget requires maintenance and fine tuning over time to make sure you’re adhering to your goals. For example, if you haven’t been tracking your spending in the past, you might think you’re only spending $100 a month eating out, but could be spending two or three times that amount if you’re not tracking it. If you need help staying on top of your money, consider financial software like Quicken that can put all your accounts in one place so you can manage your money easier.
Credit problems can affect anyone at any given time. Whether bad credit scores arise from a layoff, wrongful termination, new or old medical conditions that cause large bills to pile up, divorce, improper money management, or other reasons raising a credit score can be a daunting task for even the most dedicated individuals. Not only can credit problems affect your loan interest rates but it can also prevent a person from landing a job that also bases a person’s character on their credit worthiness. When an individual finds himself or herself in this situation there are a couple potential solutions. One, to do the time-consuming research necessary to find the rules and regulations in order to fix your credit yourself, or two contact a reputable credit repair company that has already undergone the training and acquired the skills to negotiate through the credit lines and repair them.
What Repairs Do:
The process is started by reviewing your credit history on your credit reports. Once a thorough assessment has been made, we can determine the best course of action in your individual circumstance. Credit repair is not for everyone, and not all negative items can be removed from a credit report. Some items on a credit report may require settlements with an agreement that the specified item is modified to a positive line on the credit report while others take less drastic measures and require only the removal of the negative items. Contacting a credit repair company is the first step in beginning the repairing your credit.
How It Works:
There are legitimate negative errors on your credit report. A professional that repairs credit can contact the companies and have these errors fixed.
Errors on the credit report that cannot be verified. If any specific item in the credit report cannot be verified from, a company closing or being bought out our specialists can fix these errors by having the credit bureaus contact the lenders. Once they receive no response from the original creditor, the items must be removed.
Lenders willing to work with companies. The company contacts the individual companies and negotiates a settlement with them in order to create a positive remark on the individuals credit score. Not all companies are willing to negotiate with many companies, so this route does not always work.
Do I need to have my bad credit repaired?
You should ask this question before beginning the process of removal of derogatory marks from your credit.. While companies can help pretty much everyone with any type of credit repair it does cost money. If in your specific situation there are only one or two small problem lines which do not affect your credit score then companies are not of much use or if your payoff amounts for the negative lines are very small it may be easier and cheaper to just pay them off on your own. However, if you have a few or more lines with negative results or larger amounts owed which will require negotiation to lower the total cost to settle, it is in your best interest to contact a specialist today.
Discussing family accounts as a way to build credit, it was mentioned that people starting out will usually have student loans as their first credit account, unless they obtain a car loan or credit cards tied to a family member with credit history. Student loans are a tricky area of installment credit history because they are not looked on as favorably as you would imagine.
You might think that having opened student loan accounts when you first went to college would show a history of the account, but in actuality, only when you start making your first payment will student loans count as “credit payment history.” Most student loans are in a deferred status as long as you are in school. Once you are out of school, you have one to four months before the companies begin asking you to make monthly payments that pay down the principal and interest.
Yet, when you have student loans, you have an “amount owed.” This amount owed can actually be reducing your credit scores. One the one hand, you feel that making payments should increase your scores, but then you get dinged for having a high amount owed.
So what can you reasonably do about student loan debt? Do you want to pay it off right away?
According to people like Stephen Snyder and Robert Kiyosaki, if you have student loan debt, you want to leave it as the last items you pay off. It comes down to an IRS strategy. The history of this strategy has existed since student loans became necessary for people to go to college. The minute the IRS allowed you to use your student loan interest paid as a deduction is when this strategy came into being.
How it Works
- Each month you make a payment you pay interest and a little towards your principal, when you are newly paying on the account.
- When you file taxes, you are asked to enter the amount in student loan interest you paid.
- The amount paid is a deduction.
- During this same period, you are paying a little of the “amount owed,” thus reducing your overall debt amount.
- You are also making payments, and as long as they are on time and the full monthly amount, you are helping your scores.
- When you get to a point in the loan, where you are barely making any interest payment at all towards the balance, pay off the debt.
Student loans, when you first start taking them out appear on your credit report, but without any payment history. It is just an open installment account. The lack of payment history does not help your score, nor does it hurt it. The debt utilization ratio on the other hand will hurt your score a little. It is due to having this debt that makes your score a little lower than if you had no debt at all.
If this is the only debt you have, then it is also considered “little to no debt,” which also does not help when you are trying to get new loans to build your credit history.
When it comes time to make payments to the student loan companies as part of your installment agreement, you need to be on time and pay the monthly amount asked for. If possible, pay more than the monthly amount.
Paying interest helps lower your taxes owed. You want this deduction and the payment history. The deduction may be the only thing you have helping you get a tax refund. The payment history is also helping you increase your score, as the balance goes down.
There will come a point when you are going to pay off the debt in full. Do this when the deduction on your taxes is no longer significant. The reduction of debt owed will also help at this point. The reason behind this key point lies in the other credit you have built. You should be in your 30s or 40s, with a mortgage, credit cards, and other credit that weighs more significantly on your ability to get credit. You no longer need the payment history from the student loans. In fact, given the amount of debt you might have at this point, you want to reduce the “amount owed” you have overall.
If you are of the opinion that paying your bills late won’t have an impact on your credit score, think again. The late payment of bills under any circumstances can tarnish your credit history. Initially (for the first 180 days),the longer the debt goes unpaid, the more it will affect your credit score. In case the unpaid credit card debt reaches a point where the lender thinks that it will be irretrievable, it will be known as a “charge off”.
A charge off enables creditors to write off the debt and claim a tax exemption. Typically, an unpaid amount is recorded as a charge off when you don’t pay the bill for at least six months. However, the tenure varies from lender to lender.
Why Avoid Charge Offs?
A charge off means that you have been delinquent in making payment on the debts that you owe. After a debt is charged off, it is no longer considered as a revolving debt. It becomes a balance that is due to be paid. If possible, it is always advisable to avoid a charge off. This is because when your account is revolving, you still have the chances to pay off the debt and bring your credit score to a good position.
Even if you pay the due amount in full, a charge off will stay on your credit report for the next seven years. This is because your past record for payments is considered as an indicator of your future behavior. In case you settle the charge off by paying an amount that is less than what you owe, both the transactions will reflect on your credit report.
Myths About Charge Offs
A myth that most people may have heard is that charge offs can be removed from your credit report. You may find it surprising to learn that your responsibility to pay off the debt does not end when it has been charged off. When your debt has been transferred to a collection agency, the contract that you signed to repay debt will stay in effect until you settle the account. An important point that you should remember when your debt is charged off, is that you may not be able to settle the payment with the original creditor, but with the company that is responsible for collection.
The Impact on Your Credit Score
Charge offs can hurt your credit score to a great extent. Whether you owe $100 or $1,000, charge offs can pose a big threat to your future investment plans. A charge off can make your credit score plunge dramatically. Like some of the other flaws in your credit report, a charge off can be a major setback in the case that you are making an effort to improve your credit score.
Financial Services is a term used to refer to the services provided by the finance market. Financial Services is also the term used to describe organisations that deal with the management of money. Examples are the Banks, investment banks, insurance companies, credit card companies and stock brokerages.
It is part of financial system that provides different types of finance through various credit instruments, financial products and services.
These are the types of firms comprising the market, that provide a variety of money and investment related services. These services are the largest market resource within the world, in terms of earnings.
The challenges faced by the these Services market are forcing market participants to keep pace with technological advances, and to become more proactive and efficient while keeping in mind to reduce costs and risks.
These Services have been able to represent an increasingly significant financial driver, and a significant consumer of a wide range of business services and products. The current Fortune 500 has listed 40 commercial banking companies with revenues of almost a $341 trillion, up a modest 3% since last year.
Importance of Financial Services:-
It serves as the bridge that people need to take better control of their finances and make better investments. The financial services offered by a financial planner or a bank institution can help people manage their money much better. It offer clients the opportunity to understand their goals and better plan for them.
It is the presence of financial services that enables a country to improve its economic condition whereby there is more production in all the sectors leading to economic growth.
The benefit of economic growth is reflected on the people in the form of economic prosperity wherein the individual enjoys higher standard of living. It is here the financial services enable an individual to acquire or obtain various consumer products through hire purchase. In the process, there are a number of financial institutions which also earn profits. The presence of these financial institutions promote investment, production, saving etc.
Customer-Specific: These services are usually customer focused. The firms providing these services, study the needs of their customers in detail before deciding their financial strategy, giving due regard to costs, liquidity and maturity considerations.
Intangibility: In a highly competitive global environment brand image is very crucial. Unless the financial institutions providing financial products and services have good image, enjoying the confidence of their clients, they may not be successful.
Concomitant: Production of these services and supply of these services have to be concomitant. Both these functions i.e. production of new and innovative financial services and supplying of these services are to be performed simultaneously.
Tendency to Perish: Unlike any other service, financial services do tend to perish and hence cannot be stored. They have to be supplied as required by the customers. Hence financial institutions have to ensure a proper synchronisation of demand and supply.
People Based Services: Marketing of these services has to be people intensive and hence it’s subjected to variability of performance or quality of service.
Market Dynamics: The market dynamics depends to a great extent, on socioeconomic changes such as disposable income, standard of living and educational changes related to the various classes of customers. Therefore financial services have to be constantly redefined and refined taking into consideration the market dynamics.
Promoting investment: The presence of these services creates more demand for products and the producer, in order to meet the demand from the consumer goes for more investment.
Promoting savings: These services such as mutual funds provide ample opportunity for different types of saving. In fact, different types of investment options are made available for the convenience of pensioners as well as aged people so that they can be assured of a reasonable return on investment without much risks.
Minimizing the risks: The risks of both financial services as well as producers are minimized by the presence of insurance companies. Various types of risks are covered which not only offer protection from the fluctuating business conditions but also from risks caused by natural calamities.
Maximizing the Returns: The presence of these services enables businessmen to maximize their returns. This is possible due to the availability of credit at a reasonable rate. Producers can avail various types of credit facilities for acquiring assets. In certain cases, they can even go for leasing of certain assets of very high value.
Benefit to Government: The presence of these services enables the government to raise both short-term and long-term funds to meet both revenue and capital expenditure. Through the money market, government raises short term funds by the issue of Treasury Bills. These are purchased by commercial banks from out of their depositors’ money.
Capital Market: One of the barometers of any economy is the presence of a vibrant capital market. If there is hectic activity in the capital market, then it is an indication of the presence of a positive economic condition. These services ensure that all the companies are able to acquire adequate funds to boost production and to reap more profits eventually.