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Where do I Get Started in Saving for Retirement?

Your employer is usually the best place to start, but you can also open your own retirement account (an IRA or Roth IRA, for instance) at your bank or a major custodian (like Charles Schwab or Fidelity). In some cases, there are income limits for contributing to a retirement account, which a financial advisor can discuss with you. A smart idea is to set up an automatic contribution to your retirement account, such as 10% of your monthly income. That way you’re automatically saving, and saving regularly. Continue reading...

What is Lifestyle Inflation?

Lifestyle inflation is a term used in personal financial planning for the tendency of people to increase their spending and standard of living right along with any raises and monetary resources, even if it’s is at the detriment of any plans for debt reduction or long-term savings. Monetary inflation describes the phenomenon when more money has no more utility value than a lesser amount used to because the cost of goods is going up. Lifestyle inflation is when people select higher-priced goods and lifestyle spending habits when they have the money available to do so. Continue reading...

What Should My First Savings Vehicle Be?

Start basic, and just open a savings account at a bank or create a brokerage account at a major custodian (Charles Schwab, Fidelity, for example). As a rule of thumb, you should have six months’ worth of living expenses in this account. Another good rule of thumb is to avoid touching this money at all costs, and never invest this money in risky assets like stocks. It’s better to keep the money as liquid as possible, so even buying Certificates of Deposit (CDs) may not be the best idea. The purpose of this money is not to make you rich – this is your safety net. Continue reading...

When Should I Start Saving Money?

The answer is simple and needs only common sense to understand: you should begin saving as soon as you can! However, because of most people’s spending habits and the day-to-day realities of life, it is often difficult to follow that advice. Let’s compare how your savings would accumulate, depending on the age at which you begin to save. Your total savings will be much greater by the time you want to retire – say when you’re 65 – if you invest $5000/year at age 25 for just 10 years, than if you continuously invested $10,000/year at age 35, or $15,000/year at age 45. Continue reading...

What is the Difference Between a Thrift Savings Plan and Other Retirement Plans?

The main difference is that the TSP is only for Federal employees. A Thrift Savings Plan is essentially a 401(k) for employees of the federal government. It functions in the same ways and is subject to the same limitations. The contribution limits and catch-up limits are the same, as well as the employer contribution limit. The plan actually has lower fees than most 401(k)s, so that’s one difference. The investment options are fairly limited, but not much more than regular 401(k)s. There are basically 5 index funds to choose from and then a series of target-date funds that blend the index funds. Continue reading...

What Are the Contribution Limits for My SIMPLE IRA?

SIMPLEs allow higher employee deferrals than most retirement accounts. Employees are only able to make salary reduction contributions. As of 2016, they are able to defer up to $12,500 a year, but if an employee is over 50, they may defer an additional $3,000 as a “catch-up” contribution. However, an employee may choose not to contribute anything to their SIMPLE IRA. Employers, on the other hand, are required to make either a dollar-for-dollar matching contribution of 3%, or a non-elective contribution of 2% of the employee’s pay. The 3% match can be reduced to 1% in two out of five years if employees are notified before they make contributions. Continue reading...

What are the Contribution Limits for a Roth IRA?

If you are eligible to make Roth IRA contributions, you can fund an account for yourself and a non-working spouse, up to the contribution limits. As of 2016, if you are under 50 years old, you are allowed to contribute $5,500 a year to your Roth IRA. If you have a spouse, even if he or she does not work, you can make contributions into an account for him or her, up to the full limit. For two people, that means $11,000 a year can be set aside each year. Continue reading...

What are the Contribution Limits for My Money Purchase/Profit Sharing Plan?

Contributions are generally limited to 25% of employee compensation, but a small addition amount may be contributed for higher-income employees. Money Purchase plans and Profit Sharing plans are funded by employer contributions, and in general these contributions cannot exceed 25% of gross compensation. For a self-employed person or a partner in a pass-through entity, the real percentage of contributions cannot exceed 20% of net profits because self-employment taxes will reduce the amount of profits considered compensation, as will the actual contribution. Continue reading...

What Are the Contribution Limits for my Self-Employed 401(k)?

There is a high possible contribution you can make to your own 401(k), but you still have to pay attention to the limits. As of 2016, you may contribute up to $53,000 annually to your Self-Employed 401(k), plus a $6,000 catch-up contribution if you’re over 50. If your spouse is also on the payroll, you are allowed to have a combined contribution of up to $106,000, or $118,000 if you’re both over 50. Continue reading...

What are the 457 Plan Contribution Limits?

Contribution limits depend on if you are making contributions as a government employee, a non-profit employee, or a highly compensated employee. Government employees can defer up to $18,000, plus a $6,000 catch-up contribution for those over 50, in 2016. These plans use the same elective deferral limits as 401(k)s. A non-governmental, non-profit employee can only contribute the $18,000, and is not allowed to make the $6,000 catch-up. Both of these types of employees are allowed to use the alternate catch-up provision of 457s, however. Continue reading...

What are the Contribution Limits for My Keogh Plan?

The contribution limit for a Keogh Plan depends on what type of Keogh Plan you set up. There are Defined Contribution and Defined Benefit Keoghs. Defined Contribution plans could be profit-sharing or money-purchase plans. As of 2013, a Defined Contribution Keogh Plan allows the employer to contribute up to 25% of your income, or $53,000, whichever is less, and this will constitute the profit-sharing or money-purchase aspect of the plan. Continue reading...

What are Net Sales?

Net sales are the amount of sales that will actually be counted towards a company’s bottom line, meaning they account for goods returned or damaged goods. If a good is fully delivered to a customer and any return policy is expired, the good can be booked as a net sale for the company. Therefore, net sales gives a more accurate picture of the actual sales generated by the company, or the money that it expects to receive. Continue reading...

What if I Want to Retire Abroad?

Retiring abroad requires additional planning to account for visa requirements and currency exchange factors, but like any financial goal it can be reached with proper planning. Retiring in the U.S. is difficult on its own, given rapidly rising cost of health care and the fact that most Americans under-save. Retiring abroad, while possible, makes matters even more difficult. Amongst other factors to consider, a retiree needs to plan for a myriad of additional costs such as tax implications, currency fluctuations, visa requirements, and health care. Continue reading...

How Much Should I Withdraw from my Retirement Accounts Once I Retire?

A general rule-of-thumb is to withdraw no more than 4% of your retirement savings per year. Since your retirement money has to last you for the rest of your life (and in most cases, your spouse’s), it’s extremely important to carefully calculate how much you can withdraw each year without risking running out of money. Retirees should avoid withdrawing more than 4% of your total retirement assets in any given year, and that’s assuming that your assets are invested for growth over time (with some equity exposure). Continue reading...

What Websites and Apps Can Help Me With Personal Budgeting?

There is a thriving industry committed to helping people plan and maintain a personal budget through online tools and apps. Perhaps the most-used personal budgeting tool as of this writing is Mint, which allows a user to link their bank accounts into the budgeting software, and then sends the information right into a tax filing after the new year. A list such as this is almost definitely going to be outdated by the time you read it; your favorite search engine or app store may turn up more relevant results than this. Continue reading...

What is a Thrift Savings Plan?

A Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a 401(k)-style plan for Federal employees. A Thrift Savings Plan functions the same way a 401(k) does – you can elect to contribute a portion of your salary, known as an employee deferral or employee contribution, and the money will be allowed to grow in the account tax-deferred. The TSP is only available to Federal Employees and United States military personnel. There is a flat contribution of 1% from the employer, and, depending on the type of Federal job, employees may be eligible for a matching contribution from the employer. Continue reading...

What is an Account Balance?

An account balance is the amount either credited to or owed on a ledger assigned to a particular entity or line-item. The balance of an account is the net debit or credit assigned to it after all transactions have been documented for a current period. Transactions might be deposits, withdrawals, interest credited, fees, or other activity. The account in question could be a personal savings or checking account, or a ledger account at a business or institution, or another form of account, such as the macroeconomic concept of current national account. Accounts are said to be “in the red” when there is a net debit (negative) amount, and “in the black” when there is a net positive balance (net credit). Continue reading...

What is the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC)?

Created about the same time as the FDIC, the FSLIC, which insured up to $100,000 in deposits at savings and loan institutions, also known as “thrifts.” In the 1980s, the “savings and loan crisis” caused the FSLIC to become insolvent. In 1989 it was disbanded by the FIRREA Act and replaced by the Resolution Trust Company (RTC) which was merged with the FDIC a few years later. During the 1980s, a huge number of savings and loan companies (“thrifts”) went bankrupt. Continue reading...

How Does a Health Savings Account Work?

A Health Savings Account (HSA) allows the owner to save (and invest) money in an account, which can be used to pay for health expenses on a tax advantaged basis. Generally speaking, your contributions to a HSA are tax deductible, the earnings grow on a tax deferred basis, and you can withdraw the money tax free if used for a qualified health expense. As 2016, you are allowed to contribute $3,350 (for individuals) and $6,750 (for families) to the account, plus an additional $1,000 if you’re over 55. Continue reading...

What is Return on Sales?

Also called net operating margin, return on sales can indicate how well a company makes use of its sales revenue. By dividing Operating Profit by Net Sales, we can arrive at the Return on Sales. Essentially what we’ve done is broken down profits on a per sales basis. We can see what percentage of sales ends up as profit, or, on the other side of the coin, how much profit is generated per unit of sales. This can be useful for a comparison of companies of different sizes, because it excludes their assets, capital structures, taxes, and interest. Continue reading...

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