6 Tips to Have an Excellent Life after You Retire

This is a Guest Post by Tina from ProFinanceBlog.com

Life after retirement – lovely images pop in your mind when you think of it, images of peace and tranquillity, uninterrupted by the hustles of a busy work life. Problem is you couldn’t take the scary images out because they might turn out the reality.

The greying gentlemen have limited financial options. But someone in his mid-30s or early 40s has many such options. Remember, which fruit you reap in the present depends on which tree you’ve sowed in the past. Same way, how your retirement life would be like depends on how you are managing your finances now.

The pre-retirement phase

The phase begins in your early 50s and ends with your retirement. Let’s pin on 52 as the beginning of this phase. At this stage, your priorities are to estimate the possible earning from social security and pension, and making an assessment of how much the employer-sponsored pre-tax retirement saving plans (with and without limit) might yield. A correct (or even semi-correct) assessment would reveal how much you’d pull out every month after you retire.

Investment opportunities

Don’t be too optimistic, you never know when the inflation will start to hover around the higher digits. Not to mention, the deposit interest rate has been historically low in this country, which means stashing the money that you receive from the IRA and 401(K) and 403(K) in the savings account won’t get you a satisfying monthly amount.

Hence, start exploring the investment opportunities from today. Just as I said in the beginning, people in their mid-30s or early-40s have some leverage. They can experiment and fail, only to pull their finances together and invest again, venture out from the frame of a safe investment, which is almost impossible for someone, who’s reaching 60. If you have the leverage, use it.

Life expectancy

Anticipate your life expectancy before you retire, or else you might face financial hardships in the late years of your life. Your retirement savings should be enough to give you financial support till the end. How much is enough? Depends on how long you live.

Most life expectancy calculators ask you to reveal your age and gender because they gauge the lifespan using geopolitical data. If you are 30 years old now, then your current life expectancy is more than 80 years. It’ll increase with time because of the advancements in the areas of medicine and therapeutic treatment, and the spread of health awareness.

Tax insinuations

Different areas making up your retirement income have different tax insinuations. Distribution methods are not uniform. For example, if you invest in equity now and get a handsome return when you retire (or freshly after that), it’d be completely tax-free.

On the other hand, the money you withdraw from the conventional IRA accounts and 401(K) come under tax. If you have securities in your taxable accounts, it’s wise to sell them out.

The best strategy is to hire a tax consultant or a financial advisor, so he explains various tax situations in your post-retirement life and you could decide your course of action.

Employ a tracking system

Do that today, and check your monthly budget a month down the line. If it looks like a balance sheet, then you are doing it right. A balance sheet has columns for losses and gains; that’s how the tracking system should make the budget look like. All the money that’s coming in, and all the money that’s flowing out should be tracked.

What’s the point of such a tracking system? It’ll stay activated even after you retire and keep a tab on all your earning and spending. Simply put, tracking all your retirement earning would be incredibly easy. Retired people may use money from fixed income sources such as pension and social security for leisure and entertainment purposes. A tracking system in which a stable income is mapped with paying for required utilities prevents them from doing that.

3 Ways to Save Money Towards a Mortgage

With the economy recovering steadily after the debacle of 2008 and income in a majority of sectors rising nicely, it’s as good a time as any to start working on your financial goals and improve on any areas that may require your attention. Although paying off your mortgage might sound like an overtly ambitious plan, especially if you’re recently gone for a long term refinancing, it makes sense to give serious consideration to paying off your home loan since it can have a positive impact on your finances in the long run.

Mortgage

Not only can an early mortgage payoff ease off a lot of burden off your shoulders, it’ll also net you considerable interest savings over the course of time since you’ll be free from scheduled monthly payments over the next couple of decades or more. However doing this not only requires a lot of discipline and intrinsic motivation, but also some smart moves from your side. Since it might be hard to cut down on expenses for most of you, we’ll cover some innovative ways of saving money that can help you put extra money towards your mortgage:

1. Check out Cashback Cards

Thanks to increasing competition, companies today are coming up with newer and better products in order to win over customers. Since this ends up benefitting end users like us, this usually results in savings over conventional products. Take for example cashback credit cards that offer you Cash Back on your everyday spending, thus lowering your expenses indirectly and resulting in considerable savings over a period of time, allowing you to put extra money towards your mortgage payments. This is exactly the reason why cashback schemes are becoming so popular these days. If you haven’t looked into them yet, then you should do that soon!

2. Find Good Deals

Another interesting way of lowering your expenses and augmenting your savings is by looking for good deals on products that you regularly consume. Even on medium to high ticket items, this can end up saving you substantial amounts – directly or indirectly since you could either get decent discounts on most products or other lucrative deals in the form of special offers. Usually it’s best to compare the prices of the items you want to buy online since you would be able to come across sites that offer the same product for much lesser prices than the others.

3. Opt for Alternative Products

While the above two methods would work well for most of you in saving money towards a mortgage, if you can combine it with this third one, it would be even better. Since there are alternative products available that are almost equivalent in quality to those manufactured by the top brands, you could look into buying these as there is usually a premium charged by the best companies for their products, which means if you switch over to an alternative brand or product, you could save considerable amounts. While these savings might seem small to you initially, they keeping accruing over a period of time and you end up saving a decent sum month over month!

The Best Free Online Tools to Manage Your Finances

With all the technological advancements in the last few years, coupled with the rise in efficient online services in diverse sectors, users now have more choice than ever. As with many other domains, a host of impressive online tools are available for managing your finances. If you are not using them, you’re missing out on an excellent opportunity to better manage your financial life.

So here are some of the best free online tools that not only provide a great medium to keep track of your finances but are also free to use:

1. Mint.com

online money management tools

Perhaps the most popular and widely used tool for the amount of features it offers. And rightly so. Very few, if at all, other online tools come close to offering such a complete set of money management tools that not only help your keep track of your expenses but also let you plan goals and budget if you wish to do so.

Mint has recently come up with its own Android app as well, which means it is easier than ever to manage your finances right from your smartphone! Of course the best part is both the online service as well as the app are 100% free!

2. SmartyPig

Another one of my favorite online tools, SmartyPig is a simple yet effective service focused on helping users accomplish their specific saving goals. Essentially it is a free online piggy bank that lets users design their own financial goals, by way of saving up money for specific items and helps them reach that goal. Although it is not a complete money management tool per se, but it is extremely effective when it comes to creating and reaching your financial goals.

The best part about this tool however is that if you save up money in an online account with them, you can redeem it for cash for a gift card at specific stores that offer you great deals and discounts.

3. Buxfer

A lesser known, upcoming online money management tool that is nonetheless feature rich and easy to use. It comes with a nice user-friendly yet modern interface and offers effective features to help users manage expenses and group their finances. The tool uses Google Gears to store account login and credentials on your computer so if you’re one who doesn’t like to trust new companies with their credentials, this one might be perfect for you.

Apart from offering usual money management features like credit card and bank account linking options, the USP of this service is that it lets you manage your shared expenses with friends and divides up each person’s shares and alerts the other group members as well, something that some find awkward to do in person.

How to Calculate Your Mortgage Payment Before You Apply

A home will probably be the biggest investment you will ever make. It’s for this reason that you should know as much as you can before going very far into the purchase process. After all, nobody likes surprises, and few things are more disappointing than having your heart set on a home, then finding out that you can’t afford something you like. Fortunately, the Internet is full of calculators that will make child’s play out of determining exactly what your mortgage payment will be before you set foot in a broker’s office. This article will give you what you need to know to make a mortgage payment calculator work to your advantage.

Mortgage Calculators

There are many mortgage calculators available on the Internet. Practically all of them operate much the same way. Choose one. Clydesdale Bank’s mortgage payment calculator is a fully featured example.

Whether you are looking to finance a new loan or refinance an existing loan, determine the amount you want to finance. There is normally a blank space where you will want to enter the amount to be financed. Put that number in the blank space.

Next, you will need to enter the amount of the mortgage term. This is the length of you want to pay off the loan. This figure is normally entered as years, and the calculator will automatically give you the number of months that this translates to.

The next step is to enter the interest rate of the loan you are looking for. This is normally the percentage rate for a single year of financing.

Next, you will enter the date on which the proposed mortgage will start. This usually consists of the month, day, and year the mortgage starts.

Finally, you push a button that says “Calculate” or similar word. This calculates all of the figures you have entered and gives you the final amount of your monthly payments based on the data you have supplied.

Anything Else?

Actually, yes. You should understand that the amount you determine with the mortgage calculator will determine only your payment amount. You will still need to add the amounts of your insurance, taxes and other fees included in the purchase of your home, which will be included in the monthly payment. Some mortgage calculators also have spaces where you can include additional fees and payments that you will be making, but whether they are on the calculator or not, you will need to add them before you finish.

Also remember that as a rule of thumb, your final housing payment should not exceed 31 percent of your total income otherwise your application may be declined.

How could it get any easier to be good to yourself?

How to Create a Personal Budget You can Actually Stick to

One easy way you can manage your finances is by creating a budget. Budgets are effective because they directly underline your income versus expenses so that you can establish exactly how much money you are able to spend without over-spending. You are also much more likely to set aside money for saving, which can be extremely beneficial for many reasons. Money set aside in a savings account can not only accrue interest, but can help pay off future expenses such as large purchases like cars or houses, or unexpected life accidents or emergencies. While creating a budget can be helpful, this is only true if you actually stick to the budget. Straying from what you have already planned can have negative consequences on your finances and even cause you to fall into debt.

Budget

If you have decided to create a budget, you should:

Evaluate all of your finances— Before you can actually begin creating the budget, you must first have a complete understanding of all income as well as expenses. Your expense list should be as detailed as possible and include things like groceries, bills such as electric, water, and garbage, and any possible credit card, loan, or debt payments. It’s important to remember to tailor your expense list around your income and not the other way around. Make sure your income will be able to cover all of your bills and necessities before planning a budget that includes superfluities and indulgences.

Be realistic— It’s critical to keep a realistic and achievable budget in mind. If you’re sick a lot and spend a significant amount of money on prescriptions and doctor’s visits, be sure to plan for this, even if it forces you to give up or cut back on luxuries you have grown accustomed to. Gym and club memberships, vacations, as well as eating and going out are all examples of things that can be cut back on so that the money can be put to good use elsewhere.

Keep it routine and unchanging— After finding a budget that works for you, stick to it as much as possible and try not to adjust it unless it is required due to a change in your income or expenses. This way, you are better enabled to remember your budget, won’t have to refer back to any documents or records, and will therefore be more likely to stick to what you planned.

Have incentives— While paying off financial obligations and saving your money are both important to keep in mind, rewarding yourself for sticking to your planned budget is also important. When making your monthly budget, set aside some money for fun or relaxing activities like going to the movies. This will motivate you to keep abiding by your predetermined budget and keep you satisfied. For long periods of good financial behavior, reward yourself with even bigger incentives like a road trip or vacation.

Agree and discuss the budget with your partner, or any other individuals involved— One key factor to your budget’s success is making sure everyone who has access to your finances understands the guidelines of the budget, and is able and willing to follow these guidelines. It would be counterintuitive to have one person working to maintain a budget that another person disregards. Working together to make the budget is ideal, but at the very least, be sure to talk things over and reach an understanding.

Utilize personal budget software— Formatting your own budget and keeping track of your bank accounts and expenses can be a difficult task. That is why it’s extremely convenient and easy to install a program like Quicken on your computer and let it do all the hard work for you. You will be relieved of the important chore and guaranteed an error free budget. Look for a program that can link directly to your bank account and offers a mobile app that is compatible with your device of choice.

Seek out professional help— If you still cannot seem to manage a budget and keep your spending under control, you can always seek out professional help, or even research online forums that are dedicated to helping people with budgets and their finances. You’d be surprised with all the great tips and advice you can easily find on your computer at home.

Although the task of budget making may seem daunting at first, it is extremely effective when it comes to managing your finances. After finding a budget that works for you, with a little work and effort, you will be able to stick with it in no time.

Can You Use Your 401(k) to Buy a Car

While taking a loan from your 401(k) is certainly frowned upon by most financial advisors, there are certainly some occasions where even the most stringent of advisors would give you a pass. It’s not recommended, but financial hardship does come knocking and your 401(k) could help soften the blow; it could also come to the rescue should a car desperately need to be purchased, a home, or if substantial, and expensive, repairs need to be done on your home. You can find out how much super you need to retire by checking out the new Suncorp site.

Regardless of the reason why you’re considering borrowing from your 401(k), there’s a lot for you to consider before to dive into the deep end with your retirement savings. Below, I’ve compiled a list of commonly asked questions, or simply questions that should be asked, on the subject of borrowing from one’s own 401(k) to assist in your decision.

Q: Will my employer allow me to borrow against my 401(k)?
A:
It completely depends on your employer and the plan that they have in place for their 401(k) program. You’ll need to contact your plan’s administrator to find out what the ins and outs of the plan are and see what stipulations they place upon loans – for instance, some employers only allow loans in the case of extreme financial hardship.

Q: How much can I borrow from my 401(k)?
A:
There will almost never be a case where you’ll be able to borrow the entirety of your 401(k), but generally, you can expect to be able to take $50,000 or less, or one-half of the vested plan benefits – whichever happens to be less. However, if your account only has $20,000 to its name, your borrowing power will be capped at $10,000.

Q: Do I have to repay this “loan”?
A:
Yes, of course; it’s a loan and just like any other loan, it needs to be repaid or you’ll face penalties. For a 401(k), you typically have around 5 years to make good on the loan and are required to make regular payments to cover both the principal and the interest quarterly. An exception would be if you used the funds to purchase a home; in this case, you would be allotted more time to settle the loan.

Q: What happens if I don’t repay the loan?
A:
It’s highly important to repay all loans borrowed from your 401(k) in the exact manner that it calls to be repaid. If you don’t follow through on repayment – and are under the age of 59 ½ — the loan amount will be marked as a taxable distribution and you’ll be saddled with a 10% federal penalty tax; this is in addition to income tax on the outstanding balance.

Q: Are there any advantages to borrowing money from my 401(k)?
A:
There sure are, but only if you repay the loan. As long as the loan gets repaid in full, you’ll enjoy taking out a loan that is tax and penalty free – all for the same competitive interest rates as banks that offer similar loans. However, instead of those interest rates going to the bank, you’re simply paying them back to yourself – they go right back into your account, since you borrowed against yourself.

Q: What are the serious disadvantages?
A:
As mentioned, if you don’t repay the loan, you could face some serious taxes and penalties – that’s the big one. Also, you need to make sure that you’re happy with your job before you borrow. Should you leave your job with an outstanding balance, you’ll only have 60 days to repay the loan in full. Finally, by dipping into your 401(k) early, you’ll lose all tax-deferred interest that may have built up on the funds in your 401(k).

7 Ways to Save Money on Your Commute

With fuel prices soaring in the last few years, it has become quite a challenge for most of us to continue using our vehicles for our everyday transport, be it the commute between office and home, or the long drives on a Saturday night with our better halves.

However that doesn’t mean we should haul our cars in our garage and keep cribbing about the lifestyle inflation that is hitting us hard. There are always ways to manage things and get out of difficult situations. On that note, let’s take a look at some of the ways that can help save money on our commute:

1. Drive at Optimum Speeds

Although speed definitely thrills, it can create a hole in your pocket as it is not at all conducive when it comes to getting the optimum fuel consumption from your vehicle. Usually the recommend speed, which range from 45-55 kmph are the best to drive at, since they help achieve better fuel economy, there you some dollars every month.

2. Switch to Alternative Fuels

When you buy your next vehicle, whichever it may be, considering going the diesel or CNG route as their prices tend to be significantly less than petrol prices. Though diesel vehicles usually cost a bit more than their petrol counterparts, they make up for it by saving you a lot of money in the long run.

3. Maintain your vehicle

Maintaining your vehicle can also save you a bit of money every month. Normal maintenance includes airing up the tires to the recommended pressure, changing the oil every few months, minimizing AC usage etc.

4. Use Credit Card Offers

Normally most credit cards are tied up to one or the other gas chain and offer some sort of cash-back or discount on buying gas from there. Check out the offers and sign up for the card that offers the best rewards.

5. Share Carpool to Work

Car pooling is a fairly new concept that has evolved in the last few years as people felt the need to conserve fuel and minimize their commute expenses as well. It basically involves sharing an automobile with people from different households who are travelling to the same place.

6. Use Public Transport

If public transport is not too far from the place where you live, you should try to maximize its usage as it can lead to some real savings at the end of each month. Not only that, at times it can be much more relaxing than having to drive home from work after a hectic day.

7. Walk/Cycle to Work

Although not many people prefer going this route, it has an added benefit of helping you stay fit apart from saving you money on your everyday commute. With so much stress and anxiety in our lives, you cannot overlook the need to take care of your health for long, so you might as well start now before it’s too late.

How to Cope With a Financial Loss

There are times in life when we’re suddenly faced with a financial disaster. And it seems to happen exactly at the time when we’re not prepared for any such turmoil in our lives. Especially with the economy going through a tumultuous phase in the last 5 years and eventually starting to recover, most of us have gone through severe financial stress and huge losses that might take a long time to recover.

Financial Loss

However if you keep brooding over the losses time and again, you’ll never be able to achieve peace of mind. Instead, it’s better to let it all go and begin a new journey. Here are some tips that might help:

1. Stop All That Blaming

Generally whenever people incur a financial loss, instead of holding themselves responsible for it, they do whatever they can to make excuses and blame some other person or event for it instead. Although you may feel doing this might help you feel better, it actually does exactly the opposite – making you all the more bitter & frustrated towards life.

So it’s always better to accept responsibility for your actions and stop blaming others. Since you can’t control external circumstances, you’ve always got to be aware of the fact that the results you got are directly related to the decisions ‘you’ made at that point in time.

2. Accept It and Move On

What’s over is over. There’s no point in thinking about it for long periods of time as it’s only going to make you feel despondent and it would never let you move forward in life. So what should you do then?

The best thing to do would be to accept your financial mistakes and just try to move on. The sooner you accept the loss, the easier would it be for you to move forward and achieve better things in life. I know it’ll be easier said than done and your mind will try to play all sorts of tricks on you – reminding you about it repeatedly, but whenever you feel yourself thinking about it, just divert your attention and focus on something else. If you do it diligently over a period of time, all those sad memories will fade away and you’ll be a much stronger person.

3. Recognize What Went Wrong

While it’s certainly a good idea to get rid of the memories that make you sad time and again, you’ve still got to understand what lead to a financial loss for you. May be you were overly bullish on the stock market, invested at the wrong time or got scammed in a too-good-to-be-true get-rich scheme – whatever it is, unless and until you realize exactly what went wrong, you’re likely to make the same mistakes again in the future. So sit down and think about the decisions that backfired and what you could do the next time you’re faced with making similar kind of decisions.

4. Learn From Your Mistakes

Almost everyone fails a number of times in one’s lifetime, and trust me – it doesn’t make you a loser. However successful people are those who learn from their mistakes and do not make those same mistakes again in their life.

What good is your financial failure if you didn’t learn your lessons from it. For example, may be you had no idea how the markets worked, but when you saw your friends and family make a fortune out of their investments, you decided to test the waters and invested your money without realizing the risks, ultimately burning yourself and causing a financial disaster. In that case, you should have learnt the lesson that unless and until you fully realize what you’re getting into, it’s probably best to stay out of it.

5. Try to Make Up For It

I know a lot of people won’t really have the motivation left after a big financial loss to start working even harder and make up for it. However if you don’t do that and just sit back, pondering over the times gone by, you’ll only be moving backwards since you’ll be wasting your biggest asset – time.

So the best way is to think of some alternate ways of recovering the loss, partially or fully. You’ll most likely not be aware of it, but there are countless ways you can make a second income and slowly and steadily recover what you lost. Right now, there is a lot of demand for freelance writers, virtual assistants and other similar jobs that other people are just too lazy to do. So grab the opportunity and do what you can – not only will you have filled up your vault again, but you would probably have forgotten about the loss as well.

Have you experienced a financial loss? How are you coping with it? Do share your advice with our readers.

Three Important Things To Consider Before Retirement

When considering your potential for retirement, the best tool you might have at your disposal is a crystal ball. Unfortunately, if you happen to be fresh out of these handy tools, there are a few ways of thinking that might help you plan for a happy as well as financially solvent future. This article will serve as your primer for such a post-working future.

 Retirement

Lifespan

How long will you live? Talk about your ability to see into the future. Unfortunately, without at least a ballpark idea of how long you will live, it will be very difficult to determine how much you will need to live on for the remaining years of your life. If you don’t have a crystal ball and you’re fresh out of palm readers, get an idea by looking at your family tree. No, you don’t need to cut anyone in half and count the rings. Instead, look at as many of them as you can to get an idea. Do they live long and active lives? Chances are good that you will too.

Lifestyle

How much money will you need to live in a manner that you wish? Once you decide approximately how long you will live, you will need to determine how much money you will need to have in order to live. By the age of your retirement, you could probably have several assumptions under your belt such as having your home paid off, your children educated, and other givens which can cut the among of money you will need to make down considerably. This is not to say that you won’t need money, perhaps even a considerable amount, but you will probably need less than you did earlier in your life.

Life Plan

What will you need to have and do to make your chosen lifestyle possible? By this point in your homework you should have a rough idea of what you will need to retire. Considering how you would like to live during your retirement, does this mean you can live on what you have saved? Will you need to work more or perhaps at least part time? Are you taking a disability retirement? This brings with it another possible source of income. The point here is to determine what you will need to do to make living in a certain manner possible.

Perhaps this summary of evaluating your potential for retirement could be considered oversimplified, but it will give you an idea of what you will need to retire, comfortably and happily ever after.

Five Strategies to Establishing an Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is something that everyone should have in order to secure that finances are taken care of in the event something unexpected happens. An emergency fund may also be referred to as a certain type of savings and you may designate your savings account to start establishing this fund.

Urgency Fund

There are several reasons why you may need this type of fund. Loss of a job, unexpected injury or car repairs could set you back financially if you don’t have money set aside. If you are working on credit repair, many credit repair companies will suggest that you set aside money for emergencies. The reason for this is mainly because you may not have access to credit cards or be able to raise your credit limit with an existing account. Here are five strategies for establishing an emergency fund and creating a nest egg for the future.

Set a reasonable goal

In order to make sure the right amount is being funded to your emergency fund, you need to take a look at the big picture of your overall finances. First, write down all of the income that you know will be coming in each month. List all of the expenses you have including utility bills, gas, household expenditures, mortgage and groceries. Any money left over after the bills are paid can be used for your emergency fund. Stick to a minimum amount and build from there until you reach your goal.

Cut back on extras

Be sure to cut back on all extras until you reach your goal amount. This means cut your entertainment bills and switch to free items, such as watching cable movies through wireless internet. Start clipping coupons for your next purchase and only buying expensive items on sale. Eliminate eating out until you have enough money to reach your emergency fund is also a good option.

Ask for help

If you are not the only person in the household, ask everyone to contribute a certain amount each week. This is a great way to teach children the value of a dollar and how to reach a financial goal. Have them do chores and contribute a certain amount to the fund. Explain to them the added security involved with having the emergency fund in the bank.

Automatic withdraw

To make sure you are not tempted to spend your money as soon as you get your monthly salary, set up an automatic withdraw through your employer and your bank. This way, you won’t ever see the money pass through your hands and it will start improving your financial health greatly and your emergency fund will have grown considerably as well.

Separate accounts

While an emergency fund is a type of savings account, be sure to keep your regular savings account and the fund separate. Your savings account should be used to build up household savings or for a specific event. Keep the emergency fund separate so you can really keep track of how much money you are putting toward your goal and how long would it take for you to reach it.

Following these simple steps will assure you have easy access to the cash you need, when you need it.