A Primer on Retirement Saving (Part 3 of 5)

Okay, I think we are well on our way to saving for retirement.   In Part 1 of this series, hopefully I convinced you of how important it is to save for retirement.  In Part 2, I talked about the different options that exist for retirement savings.  In this installment, I will show you how to efficiently use the options that exist for your retirement savings. 

In order to make an informed decision, the first thing you need to do is decide how you see your lifestyle during retirement.  There are three options:

1)  You will not work at all. 

2)  You will work in some capacity.

3)  You are not sure if you will or will not work after retirement.

Your retirement savings decisions are highly dependent on which of these categories you see yourself in. 

If you are not going to work and will live solely off your retirement income, it makes more long term sense to max out your 401K, 403B or traditional IRA before investing in a ROTH IRA. 

If you are going to work or are not sure if you are going to work in retirement, it makes more long term sense to contribute to your 401K/403B up to your company match, then max out your Roth IRA and then max out your employee sponsored plan.  If you do not have an employee sponsored plan, max out your Roth IRA first and then max out your Traditional IRA. 

These assumptions are made based on the current income tax rates.  If these were to increase significantly, my advice would be very different.     If you are not sure if you are going to work in retirement or you are wary of income tax increases in the future – by all means utilize the ROTH IRA after taking advantage of any free money match from your employer.  It is a way to diversify your tax risk.  But if you know you want to relax on the beach, not work, and are confident that tax rates will stay constant or decline than make the most of your employer sponsored plan or Traditional IRA before participating in the ROTH IRA. 

Now you know that you should save for retirement, you know what vehicles are out there and what make the most sense for you to use – In Part 4 I will show you how to sign up for these retirement vehicles and get in the game.  Stay Tuned!

Please contact Dollars & Sense Education to bring our “Financial Health 101 seminar to your company or organization!

Dollars & Sense Education – Raising Your Financial IQ!
www.daseducation.com
nicole@daseducation.com
215 – 499 – 3834 

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A Primer on Retirement Saving (Part 2 of 5)

Hopefully, in Part 1 of this series I convinced you to start saving NOW for retirement!  If are convinced or if you were already doing so, read on.  Part 2 discusses the different types of retirement vehicles available to us and explains why we want to maximize their use.  Let me start with why you should maximize your 401Ks and IRAs for your retirement savings versus other types of accounts such as a savings account, online or traditional brokerage account.   One word, TAXES.  When you invest in retirement accounts your money grows tax free.  The amount you will save in taxes as your retirement account grows tax almost always outweighs the benefit of taxable accounts. 

Ideally you should maximize your retirement accounts before you begin after tax investing.  What retirement vehicles are available in the marketplace?  There are many, but the two major types are employer sponsored plans and IRAs.  The ability to participate in them is based on your employer and income.  I describe the most common vehicles below. 

Employer Sponsored Plans:

401(k) – For profit companies offer 401(k) plans.  These plans allow you to save up to $15,500 per year (for 2007), usually through payroll deductions.  If you are 50 or older, you can put away $20,500 for 2007.  Your employer’s plan may have lower limits.  Your contributions to a 401(k) are excluded from your reported income and thus are generally free from income taxes.  Your withdrawals at retirement are taxed at regular income tax rates.  Some employers don’t allow you to contribute right away.  Some employers match up to a certain percent; so in addition to saving on taxes, you get extra money.

403(b) – Not for profit companies offer 403(b) plans.  These plans allow you to save 20% or $15,500 per year (for 2007), whichever is lower usually through payroll deductions.  If you are 50 or older, you can put away $20,500 for 2007.  Your contributions to a 403(b) are excluded from your reported income and thus are generally free from income taxes.  Your withdrawals at retirement are taxed at regular income tax rates.

IRAs:

Standard IRA – Anyone with employment income can contribute to an IRA.  For tax year 2007, you may contribute up to $4,000 per year, $5,000 if you’re age 50+.Your contributions to standard IRAs may or may not be tax deductible.  If you are not covered by an employer sponsored retirement plan, you can take a full deduction regardless of salary.  If you are covered by an employer sponsored retirement plan, for tax year 2007, if you’re single your tax deduction is phased out when your AGI is between $50,000 and $60,000 – for couples they are phased out between $80,000 and $100,000.  Your withdrawals at retirement are taxed at regular income tax rates.

Roth IRA – Your contribution is not tax deductible but the money grows tax free and is withdrawn tax free.  For tax year 2007, you may contribute up to $4,000 per year, $5,000 if you’re age 50+.  However, there are income restrictions – Single: Up to $99,000 (full contribution); $99,000-$114,000 (partial contribution) Married: Up to $156,000 (full contribution); $156,000-$166,000 (partial contribution)

All individuals have at least one type of Retirement Account they can participate in, many have more than one.  As you plan your retirement savings, utilize these tools to their fullest potential. In part 3 of this 5 part series “A Primer on Retirement Saving”, I will discuss the best use of these retirement investment vehicles to meet your retirement needs.    Stay tuned! 

Please contact Dollars & Sense Education to bring our “Financial Health 101 seminar to your company or organization!

Dollars & Sense Education – Raising Your Financial IQ!
www.daseducation.com
nicole@daseducation.com
215 – 499 – 3834 

A Primer on Retirement Saving (Part 1 of 5)

Save for Retirement?  C’mon, that is soooo far away.  This is the last thing on most people’s minds.  They want to travel, they want to buy nice clothes while they still look good in them, they want drink good beer.  I get it, I get it.  So do I.  But you need to realize that you are going to want to do all of these things when you retire and you need to have a way to pay for it!  So a little self sacrifice now will go a long way later.

 Let me use an analogy: Say Jim graduates from college and makes $40,000 a year.  His company offers a 401K plan and he decides to put away $4,000 annually.  His 401K returns an average of 9% per year for the next 43 years.  He does this until he retires at age 65 with $808,000* in the bank.

Aaron also makes $40,000 dollars per year.  He does not begin investing for retirement until he turns 40.  At this point he starts to sock away $8,000 per year in his employer’s 401K plan.  Like Jim his investments earn about 9% per year.  He does this until he retires at age 65 with $462,000* in the bank.

In terms of sheer dollars Jim saved $28,000 less than Aaron but he retires with $346,000 more than him. 

How did that happen?  Compound interest!  Compound interest is the concept that your interest earns interest and this makes you more money.

So moral of the story…Start saving early.  If I haven’t convinced you to start saving for retirement, well, don’t bother reading parts 2-5 of this series.  But please don’t cry to me when you are 85 and still working.  The most critical part of this whole process is to just do it – start planning for retirement early.

 In part 2 of this 5 part series “A Primer on Retirement Saving”, I will discuss the different investment vehicles you can use to save for retirement.  Stay tuned!

*adjusted for 3% inflation per year

Please contact Dollars & Sense Education to bring our “Financial Health 101” seminar to your company or organization!
Dollars & Sense Education – Raising Your Financial IQ!
www.daseducation.com
nicole@daseducation.com
215 – 499 – 3834

A Guide to Scoring

Next time you are at the checkout counter at Victoria’s Secret and the cashier asks if you would like 10% off your purchase by opening a credit card, STOP.  No, no, you can buy your bras and panties, but don’t sign up for the card. Why, you ask?  Unfortunately, common mistakes such as opening new credit can adversely affect your credit score.  I want to advise you how to minimize such errors and maximize your buying power. 

A credit report is a record of one’s past borrowing and repaying.  This information is recorded by three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.  Your numerical credit scores are based on the reports.  FICO is the scoring system that all three of the major credit bureaus use.  FICO scores range from a low of 300 to a high of 850.   Lenders use credit scores as a predictor of likelihood of defaulting on loans.    Your credit score helps determine whether a lender is willing to extend you a particular loan and at what interest rate.  This can mean the difference of thousands of dollars when financing a big ticket item.  For example, two women borrow $250,000 for a mortgage.  The woman with good credit (Ms. G) gets a fixed 30 year loan at 6.5% and the woman with bad credit (Ms. B) gets the loan at 7.5%.  Ms. G will save $228,000 in interest over the next 30 years.  That’s a lot of dough! 

First Step: Obtain Credit Reports and Scores Annually Get a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the three credit bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com.  Next, purchase your credit scores for each of your reports at the credit bureaus’ websites for about $15.  

Second Step: Fix Any Errors on Your Credit Report When you deal with either the credit bureau or an actual lender, make notes of your conversations.  Take down names and extensions.  Bureaus are required by law to respond to a request to fix a credit error within 30 days. 

1.     Have accounts removed if they aren’t yours.  Call the bureau and explain that you need more information because you don’t recognize the creditor.  If the creditor made a mistake, call or write the creditor to get them to correct the erroneous information that they sent the credit bureau. 

2.     Have late or missed payments more than seven years old removed. 

3.     Have a bankruptcy more than ten years old removed. 

4.     Provide a 100 word or less explanation for a minor credit infraction that is accurate but was the result of extenuating circumstances to be placed on your file.  

Third Step: Play by FICO’s Rules and Maximize Your Credit Score Your score is based on the following: Payment history (35%), Length of credit history (15%), Amount of new credit (10%), Types of credit used (10%), Amount of debt (30%). Following the guidelines below will keep you in FICO’s good graces. 

1.      Pay your bills on time.  

2.     Be loyal if it doesn’t cost you.  The older the age of the loan accounts you have open, the better.  Closing old accounts and opening new ones generally lowers your credit score.   

3.     Minimize new credit card applications and debt accounts.   

4.     Pay down consumer debt.  The higher your consumer loan balances, the lower your score. 

Follow these steps and you will be well on your way to good credit.  Who knew buying a thong could hurt your credit score?