When it comes to making a 401k early withdrawal, there are a number of reasons why it might be tempting. With millions still unemployed due to the pandemic, unexpected expenses are taking a particularly hard toll. One reason why early withdrawal isnât uncommon in the U.S. might be because itâs easy to assume youâll have time to rebuild your 401k nest egg.
However, is the benefit of withdrawing your retirement savings early truly worth the cost? For many people, their 401k is their primary method of investing in their financial future. Before making a decision about early withdrawal, itâs important to consider the penalties and fees that could impact you. Read on to learn exactly what happens when you decide to dip into your 401k so you wonât be surprised by the repercussions.
How Much Are You Penalized for a 401k Early Withdrawal?
On the surface, withdrawing funds from your 401k might not seem like a bad option under extenuating circumstances, but you could face penalties. Young adults are especially prone to early withdrawals because they figure they have plenty of time to replace lost funds.
If youâre not experiencing a significant hardship, 401k early withdrawal probably isnât the right choice for you. Ultimately, you could lose a substantial portion of your retirement savings if you choose to withdraw your 401k early to use the money to make other risky financial moves. Below, letâs delve further into the penalties that usually apply when you withdraw early.
1) Your Taxes Are Withheld
When you prematurely withdraw from your retirement account, your first consideration should be that youâll have to pay normal income taxes on that money first. This means youâre losing at least roughly 30 percent of your savings to federal and state taxes before additional penalties.
Even if you only have $10,000 you want to withdraw, consider that youâre automatically giving $3,000 of your cash to the government. In the best case scenario, you might receive some money back in the form of a tax refund if your withholding exceeds your actual tax liability.
2) You Are Penalized by the IRS
If you withdraw money from your 401k before youâre 59 Â½ , the IRS penalizes you with an extra 10 percent on those funds when you file your tax return. If we use the example above, an additional $1,000 would be taken by the government from your $10,000 â leaving you with just $6,000. If youâre 55 or older, you could try to get this penalty lifted by the IRS through the Rule of 55, which is designed for people retiring early.
Also, there are exceptions under the CARES Act, which is designed to help people affected by the pandemic. There are provisions under the act that state individuals under the age of 59 Â½ can take up to $100,000 in Coronavirus-related early distributions from their retirement plans without facing the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty under certain conditions.
3) You Lose Thousands in Potential Growth
Even if youâre not deterred by tax penalties, think twice before you sabotage your long-term retirement savings goals. When you withdraw money early, youâll miss out on potential future savings growth because you wonât gain the perks of compound interest. Compounding is the snowball effect resulting from your savings generating more earnings â not only on your principal investment but also on your accrued interest.
Also, if you make a 401k early withdrawal while the market is down, youâre doing yourself a disservice because youâll be leaving thousands on the table. Itâs unlikely youâll fully recover the lost years of compound interest you would have benefited from. You might need to get creative with a passive income stream to help support you later in life.
When Does a 401k Early Withdrawal Make Sense?
In certain cases, it actually might be strategic to move forward with 401k early withdrawal. For example, it could be smart to cash out some of your 401k to pay off a loan with a high-interest rate, like 18â20 percent. You might be better off using alternative methods to pay off debt such as acquiring a 401k loan rather than actually withdrawing the money.
Always weigh the cost of interest against tax penalties before making your decision. Some 401k plans do allow for penalty-free early withdrawals due to a layoff, major medical expenses, home-related costs, college tuition, and more. Regardless of your strategy to withdraw with the least penalties, your retirement savings are still taking a significant hit.
401k Early Withdrawal, Hardship, or Loan: Whatâs the Difference?
Knowing the differences between a 401k early withdrawal, a hardship withdrawal, and a 401k loan is crucial. Due to the many obstacles to make a 401k early withdrawal, you may find you want to keep it untouched. If youâre convinced you still need to use your 401k for financial assistance, consult with a trusted financial advisor to figure out the best option.
When Does ThisÂ Apply?
Your funds are withdrawn to pay off large debts or finance large projects.
Your 401k fund is typically subject to taxes and penalties.
Youâre only eligible for this type of withdrawal under circumstances such as a pandemic or natural disasters.
Withdrawals canât exceed the amount of the need and the funds are still subject to taxes and penalties.
The loan must be paid back to the borrowerâs retirement account under the plan.
The money isnât taxed if the loan meets the rules and the repayment schedule is followed.
If youâve left a job and donât know what to do with your Roth IRA, a 401k transfer is a good option. Most likely, you will save money and have a wider range of investment options when you transfer your funds. 401k fees can be high, and rolling over your funds to a Roth IRA account could be wise in the long run. Also, be aware that the process is more complicated for indirect rollovers.Â
If youâre one of the millions of Americans who rely on workplace retirement savings, early 401k withdrawal may jeopardize your future financial stability.
There are very few instances when cashing out a portion of your 401k is a smart move.
In most cases, any kind of early 401k withdrawal is detrimental to your retirement plans.
Stick to your budget and bulk up your emergency fund to stay one step ahead.
In short, 401k early withdrawals are usually counterproductive. Prevent compromising your hard-earned savings by using a free budgeting tool that will set you up for success. After all, being prepared and informed are two of the most important parts of maintaining financial health.
The post 401k Early Withdrawal: What to Know Before You Cash Out appeared first on MintLife Blog.
Iâm 51 years old and donât have a large nest egg. Iâm a single parent with three kids. Iâm a second career middle school teacher, so there is not a lot of money left over each month.Â
How much money should I be saving to be able to retire in my 70s? Where should I invest that money?
You still have 20 years to build your nest egg if all goes as planned. Sure, youâve missed out on the extra years of compounding youâd have gotten had you accumulated substantial savings in your 20s and 30s. But thatâs not uncommon. Iâve gotten plenty of letters from people in their 50s or 60s with nothing saved who are asking how they can retire next year.
I like that youâre already planning to work longer to make up for a late start. But hereâs my nagging concern: What if you canât work into your 70s?
The unfortunate reality is that a lot of workers are forced to retire early for a host of reasons. They lose their jobs, or they have to stop for health reasons or to care for a family member. So itâs essential to have a Plan B should you need to leave the workforce earlier than youâd hoped.
Retirement planning naturally comes with a ton of uncertainty. But since I donât know what you earn, whether you have debt or how much you have saved, Iâm going to have to respond to your question about how much to save with the vague and unsatisfying answer of: âAs much as you can.â
Perhaps I can be more helpful if we work backward here. Instead of talking about how much you need to save, letâs talk about how much you need to retire. You can set savings goals from there.
The standard advice is that you need to replace about 70% to 80% of your pre-retirement income. Of course, if you can retire without a mortgage or any other debt, you could err on the lower side â perhaps even less.
For the average worker, Social Security benefits will replace about 40% of income. If youâre able to work for another two decades and get your maximum benefit at age 70, you can probably count on your benefit replacing substantially more. Your benefit will be up to 76% higher if you can delay until youâre 70 instead of claiming as early as possible at 62. That can make an enormous difference when youâre lacking in savings.
But since a Plan B is essential here, letâs only assume that your Social Security benefits will provide 40%. So you need at least enough savings to cover 30%.
If you have a retirement plan through your job with an employer match, getting that full contribution is your No. 1 goal. Once youâve done that, try to max out your Roth IRA contribution. Since youâre over 50, you can contribute $7,000 in 2021, but for people younger than 50, the limit is $6,000.
If you maxed out your contributions under the current limits by investing $583 a month and earn 7% returns, youâd have $185,000 after 15 years. Do that for 20 years and youâd have a little more than $300,000. The benefit to saving in a Roth IRA is that the money will be tax-free when you retire.
The traditional rule of thumb is that you want to limit your retirement withdrawals to 4% each year to avoid outliving your savings. But that rule assumes youâll be retired for 30 years. Of course, the longer you work and avoid tapping into your savings, the more you can withdraw later on.
Choosing what to invest in doesnât need to be complicated. If you open an IRA through a major brokerage, they can use algorithms to automatically invest your money based on your age and when you want to retire.
By now youâre probably asking: How am I supposed to do all that as a single mom with a teacherâs salary? It pains me to say this, but yours may be a situation where even the most extreme budgeting isnât enough to make your paycheck stretch as far as it needs to go. You may need to look at ways to earn additional income. Could you use the summertime or at least one weekend day each week to make extra money? Some teachers earn extra money by doing online tutoring or teaching English as a second language virtually, for example.
I hate even suggesting that. Anyone who teaches middle school truly deserves their time off. But unfortunately, I canât change the fact that we underpay teachers. I want a solution for you that doesnât involve working forever. That may mean you have to work more now.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to AskPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
Can you retire at 50? On average, people usually retire at 65. But what if you want to retire 15 years earlier than that likeÂ at 50? Is it doable? Below are 10 easy steps to take to retire at 50.Â Retiring early can be challenging. Therefore, SmartAsset’s free tool can match you with Â a financial advisor who can help to work out and implement a retirement income strategy for you to maximize your money.
10 Easy & Simple Steps to Retire at 50:
1. How much you will need in retirement.
The first thing to consider is to determine how much you will need to retire at 50. This will vary depending on the lifestyle you want to have during retirement. If you desire a lavish one, you will certainly need a lot.
But according to a study by SmartAsset, 500k was found to be enough money to retire comfortably. But again that will depends on several factor.
For example, you will need to take into account where you want to live, the cost of living, how long you expect to live, etc.
Read: Can I Retire at 60 With 500k? Is It Enough?
A good way to know if 500k is possible to retire on is to consider the 4% rule. This rule is used to figure out how much a retiree should withdraw from his or her retirement account.
The 4% rule states that the money in your retirement savings account should last you through 30 years of retirement if you take out 4% of your retirement portfolio annually and then adjust each year thereafter for inflation.
So, if you plan on retiring at 50 with 500k for 30 years, using the 4% rule you will need to live on $20,000 a year.Â
Again, this is just an estimation out there. You may need less or more depending on the factors mentioned above. For example, if you’re in good health and expect to live 40+ years after retiring at 50, $500,000 may not be enough to retire on. That’s why it’s crucial to work with a financial advisor.
Get Matched With 3 Fiduciary Financial Advisors
Managing your finances can be overwhelming. We recommend speaking with aÂ financial advisor. TheÂ SmartAssetâs free matching toolÂ will pair you with up to 3 financial advisors in your area.
Hereâs how it works:
1.Â Answer these few easy questionsÂ about your current financial situation
2. In just under one minute, the tool will match you with up to three financial advisors based on your need.
3. Review the financial advisors profiles, interview them either by phone or in person, and choose the one that suits yourâ needs.
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2. Maximize your tax-advantaged retirement accounts.
Once you have an idea of how much you need in order to retire at 50, your next step is to save as much as possible at a faster rate. If you are employed and you have a 401k plan available to you, you should definitely participate in it. Nothing can grow your retirement savings account faster than a 401k account.
See: How to Become a 401k Millionaire.
That means, you will need to maximize your 401k contributions, for example. In 2020, and for people under 50, the 401k contribution limit is $19,500. Also, take advantage of your company match if your employee offers a match.
In addition to the maximum contribution of $19,500, your employer also contributes. Sometimes, they match dollar for dollar or 50 cents for each dollar the worker pays in.
In addition to a 401k plan, open or maximize your Roth or traditional IRA. For an IRA, it is $6,000. So, by maximizing your retirement accounts every year, your money will grow faster.
3. Invest in mutual or index funds. Apart from your retirement accounts (401k, Roth or Traditional IRA, SEP IRA, etc), you should invest in individual stocks or preferably in mutual funds.Â
4. Cut out unnecessary expenses.
Someone with the goal of retiring at 50 needs to keep an eye on their spending and keep them as low as possible. We all know the phrase, “the best way to save money is to spend less.”
Well, this is true when it comes to retiring 15 years early than the average. So, if you don’t watch TV, cancel Netflix or cable TV. If your cell phone bill is high, change plans or switch to another carrier. Don’t go to lavish vacations.
5. Keep an eye on taxes.
Taxes can eat away your profit. The more you can save from taxes, the more money you will have. Retirement accounts are a good way to save on taxes. Besides your company 401k plan, open a Roth or Traditional IRA.
6. Make more money.
Spending less is a great way to save money. But increasing your income is even better. If you need to retire at 50, you’ll need to be more aggressive. And the more money you earn, the more you will be able to save. And the faster you can reach your early retirement goal.
7. Speak with a financial advisor.
Consulting with a financial advisor can help you create a plan to. More specifically, a financial advisor specializing in retirement planning can help you achieve your goals of retiring at 50. They can help put in a place an investment strategy to put you in the right track to retire at 50. You can easily find one in your local area by using SmartAsset’s free tool. It matches users with financial advisors in just under 5 minutes.
8. Decide how you will spend your time in retirement.
If you will spend a lot of time travelling during retirement, then make sure you do research. Some countries like the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, the Philippines, and so many others are good places to travel to in retirement because the cost of living is relatively cheap.
While other countries in Europe can be very expensive to travel to, which can eat away your retirement money. If you decide to downsize or sell your home, you can free up more money to spend.
9. Financing the first 10 years.
There is a penalty of 10% if you cash out your retirement accounts before you reach the age of 59 1/2. Therefore, if you retire at 50, you’ll need to use money in other accounts like traditional savings or brokerage accounts.
10.Put your Bonus, Raise, & Tax Refunds towards your retirement savings.
If retiring at 50 years old is really your goal, then you should put all extra money towards your retirement savings. That means, if you receive a raise at work, put some of it towards your savings account.
If you get a tax refund or a bonus, use some of that money towards your retirement savings account. They can add up quickly and make retiring at 50 more of a reality than a dream.
Retiring at 50: The Bottom Line:
So can I retire at 50? Retiring at 50 is possible. However, it’s not easy. After all, you’re trying to grow more money in less time. So, it will be challenging and will involve years of sacrifices, years living below your means and making tough financial decisions. However, it will be worth it in the long run.
How Much Is Enough For Retirement
How to Grow Your 401k Account
People Who Retire Comfortably Avoid These Financial Advisor Mistakes
5 Simple Warning Signs Youâre Definitely Not Ready for Retirement
Speak with the Right Financial Advisor
You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning to retire at 50, saving, etc). Find one who meets your needs with SmartAssetâs free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.
The post How To Retire At 50: 10 Easy Steps To Consider appeared first on GrowthRapidly.
Whereas Dave Ramseyâs Baby Steps have often been dissected one at a time, my goal in this post is to give an overview of the steps as a unit and explain why the order is essential.
Hopefully, these steps can help you create a focused life plan for your finances, regardless of your age or financial well being.
First, the Baby Steps:
Step 1: $1,000 in an emergency fund.
Step 2: Pay off all debt except the house utilizing the debt snowball.
Step 3: Three to six months of savings in a fully funded emergency fund.
Step 4: Invest 15% of your household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement plans.
Step 5: College Funding
Step 6: Pay off your home early.
Step 7: Build wealth and give.
The Power of Focus
Daveâs premise with the Baby Steps is that people can accomplish great things IF they can just be focused. When you read over these seven steps, you think, âYes. I need to be saving. But I also need to be investing for retirement. I should get my house paid off early. But I also need to be getting out of debt and saving for my kidâs college.”
You would readily agree that all of these goals are important for successful financial planning. The problem is that your stress level kicks into overdrive with the prospect of doing them all. You clench your jaw and do what you are capable of doing while feeling anxious about the goals you place on the back burner.
The Baby Steps plan works because when you stay focused on one step at a time, you can knowingly put some important goals on hold without the nagging feeling that you are leaving something undone.
You can also check out my YouTube video where I break down each of Dave’s Baby Steps here:
Because accomplishing each step puts you in a great position to accomplish the next one.
You begin to feel an empowerment and a sense of control as you get one step behind you and start the next one. You are making progress instead of treading water.
Why Are the Baby Steps in the Order They Are In?
Steps 1 and 2: $1,000 Emergency Fund and Debt Snowball
Notice that Steps 3 through 7 are all about using your money to do something positive for you and your family. Of course this money comes from your income, but the problem with most of America is that we are using our income on debt payments.
Because we are paying others instead of ourselves, we need to get rid of our debt (Step 2) in order to free up our income for Steps 3-7.
âWhat if I could use all the money I am currently paying to creditors to start âpaying myselfâ?
For many people this is $1,000 to $3,000 a month.
Baby Step 2 debt snowball is designed to do just that. Step 1 is necessary before Step 2 because you donât want to start paying off debt without having a small cushion to absorb the little unplanned expenses that will occur during Step 2.
Step 3: 3 to 6 months of Savings
After completing the first two steps, you are out of debt (except for your house) and now have that cash flow you dreamed about: all of the money you used to pay others is at your disposal. The temptation is to start investing for retirement or saving for your kid’s college or pay off your house early.
NOT SO FAST! You will get to those, but doing so prematurely is way too risky.
Stop, take a deep breath and use that cash flow to build up your emergency fund so you will indeed be ready for emergencies. This fund needs to be liquid (in a top savings account or money market account).
If you skipped the step and started any of the ensuing steps, how would you handle emergencies? Pull money from your retirement account? Rob the kidâs college savings? Borrow money against your house? All bad ideas.
Step 3 is therefore always ahead of the following steps
Steps 4, 5, and 6: Saving for Retirement, College Funding, Pay Off Home
You may be asking,
âWhy is retirement ahead of college funding? Wouldnât a good parent put his children ahead of himself?â
Good question. But what if you end up without sufficient retirement income because you made college funding a higher priority? Who will you be depending on in your later years? Your kids!
The thing about retirement planning is that you only get one shot at it. The years go by and you will someday be retirement age. You donât have a choice. On the other hand, college funding is full of choices: kids can get scholarship, they can work, they can attend community colleges, they can find work/co-op programs, etc, etc.
Step 4 is therefore ahead of step 5. But notice that Step 4 is 15% of your income. If you have cash flow greater than 15% you can apply that to college funding immediately, and if you have more than enough cash flow to accomplish both steps 4 and 5, you can use all of the extra to pay off your house early (step 6).
Note that Step 6 comes behind retirement and college funding because reversing the order could possibly give you a paid for house at the expense of a dignified retirement or helping your kids through college. Most of us wouldnât want that.
Not sure where to start investing for retirement? Here are some tips:
Best Places to Open a Roth IRA – Figuring out where to start investing your 15% of income can be confusing. A great place to start is a Roth IRA, but deciding a broker is confusing. This list will help you pick the best broker for your Roth IRA.
Best Online Stock Broker Sign Up Bonuses – You can get hundreds of dollars or thousands of airline miles just for opening up a brokerage account.
Beginner Investing Strategies – If you’ve never invested before it can be overwhelming. This list breaks down getting started into manageable pieces.
Step 7: Build wealth and give.
Life is now very good! You have no debt, a great emergency fund, and a paid for house. All of the cash flow that used to go toward debt reduction and house payments is now at your disposal.
This, by the way, is the step Mandy and I are on. Being semi-retired, we donât have a huge income, but it is very sufficient because we also donât have any debt. We continue to invest every month and we are able to give more than we have ever given before.
Once we got our house paid off, we started to budget âblessâ money, which we put into an envelope every month just to have available so we can bless others as we see the needs. We are also able to help our grown daughter and daughter-in-law cash flow their college.
As I said, life is good. Mandy and I are experiencing great financial peace and we are very grateful for Dave Ramseyâs Baby Steps.
I wish the same for you.
This article is a general overview of what Dave Ramsey has to offer and is not intended to replace his course, nor is this sponsored or endorsed by Dave Ramsey or the Lampo Group.
The post Dave Ramseyâs Baby Steps Explained appeared first on Good Financial CentsÂ®.
You probably donât need us to tell you that the earlier you start saving for retirement, the better. But letâs face it: For a lot of people, the problem isnât that they donât understand how compounding works. They start saving late because their paychecks will only stretch so far.
Whether youâre in your 20s or your golden years are fast-approaching, saving and investing whatever you can will help make your retirement more comfortable. Weâll discuss how to save for retirement during each decade, along with the hurdles you may face at different stages of life.
How Much Should You Save for Retirement?
A good rule of thumb is to save between 10% and 20% of pre-tax income for retirement. But the truth is, the actual amount you need to save for retirement depends on a lot of factors, including:
Your age. If you get a late start, youâll need to save more.
Whether your employer matches contributions. The 10% to 20% guideline includes your employerâs match. So if your employer matches your contributions dollar-for-dollar, you may be able to get away with less.
How aggressively you invest. Taking more risk usually leads to larger returns, but your losses will be steeper if the stock market tanks.
How long you plan to spend in retirement. Itâs impossible to predict how long youâll be able to work or how long youâll live. But if you plan to retire early or people in your family often live into their mid-90s, youâll want to save more.
How to Save for Retirement at Every Age
Now that youâre ready to start saving, hereâs a decade-by-decade breakdown of savings strategies and how to make your retirement a priority.
Saving for Retirement in Your 20s
A dollar invested in your 20s is worth more than a dollar invested in your 30s or 40s. The problem: When youâre living on an entry-level salary, you just donât have that many dollars to invest, particularly if you have student loan debt.
Prioritize Your 401(k) Match
If your company offers a 401(k) plan, a 403(b) plan or any retirement account with matching contributions, contribute enough to get the full match â unless of course you wouldnât be able to pay bills as a result. The stock market delivers annual returns of about 8% on average. But if your employer gives you a 50% match, youâre getting a 50% return on your contribution before your money is even invested. Thatâs free money no investor would ever pass up.
Pay off High-Interest Debt
After getting that employer match, focus on tackling any high-interest debt. Those 8% average annual stock market returns pale in comparison to the average 16% interest rate for people who have credit card debt. In a typical year, youâd expect aÂ $100 investment could earn you $8. Put that $100 toward your balance? Youâre guaranteed to save $16.
Take More Risks
Look, weâre not telling you to throw your money into risky investments like bitcoin or the penny stock your cousin wonât shut up about. But when you start investing, youâll probably answer some questions to assess your risk tolerance. Take on as much risk as you can mentally handle, which means youâll invest mostly in stocks with a small percentage in bonds. Donât worry too much about a stock market crash. Missing out on growth is a bigger concern right now.
Build Your Emergency Fund
Building an emergency fund that could cover your expenses for three to six months is a great way to safeguard your retirement savings. That way you wonât need to tap your growing nest egg in a cash crunch. This isnât money you should have invested, though. Keep it in a high-yield savings account, a money market account or a certificate of deposit (CD).
Tame Lifestyle Inflation
We want you to enjoy those much-deserved raises ahead of you â but keep lifestyle inflation in check. Donât spend every dollar each time your paycheck gets higher. Commit to investing a certain percentage of each raise and then use the rest as you please.
Saving for Retirement in Your 30s
If youâre just starting to save in your 30s, the picture isnât too dire. You still have about three decades left until retirement, but itâs essential not to delay any further. Saving may be a challenge now, though, if youâve added kids and homeownership to the mix.
Invest in an IRA
Opening a Roth IRA is a great way to supplement your savings if youâve only been investing in your 401(k) thus far. A Roth IRA is a solid bet because youâll get tax-free money in retirement.
In both 2020 and 2021, you can contribute up to $6,000, or $7,000 if youâre over 50. The deadline to contribute isnât until tax day for any given year, so you can still make 2020 contributions until April 15, 2021. If you earn too much to fund a Roth IRA, or you want the tax break now (even though it means paying taxes in retirement), you can contribute to a traditional IRA.
Your investment options with a 401(k) are limited. But with an IRA, you can invest in whatever stocks, bonds, mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) you choose.
If you or your spouse isnât working but you can afford to save for retirement, consider a spousal IRA. Itâs a regular IRA, but the working spouse funds it for the non-earning spouse.Â
Avoid Mixing Retirement Money With Other Savings
Youâre allowed to take a 401(k) loan for a home purchase. The Roth IRA rules give you the flexibility to use your investment money for a first-time home purchase or college tuition. Youâre also allowed to withdraw your contributions whenever you want. Wait, though. That doesnât mean you should.
The obvious drawback is that youâre taking money out of the market before itâs had time to compound. But thereâs another downside. Itâs hard to figure out if youâre on track for your retirement goals when your Roth IRA is doing double duty as a college savings account or down payment fund.
Start a 529 Plan While Your Kids Are Young
Saving for your own future takes higher priority than saving for your kidsâ college. But if your retirement funds are in shipshape, opening a 529 plan to save for your childrenâs education is a smart move. Not only will you keep the money separate from your nest egg, but by planning for their education early, youâll avoid having to tap your savings for their needs later on.
Keep Investing When the Stock Market Crashes
The stock market has a major meltdown like the March 2020 COVID-19 crash about once a decade. But when a crash happens in your 30s, itâs often the first time you have enough invested to see your net worth take a hit. Donât let panic take over. No cashing out. Commit to dollar-cost averaging and keep investing as usual, even when youâre terrified.
Saving for Retirement in Your 40s
If youâre in your 40s and started saving early, you may have a healthy nest egg by now. But if youâre behind on your retirement goals, now is the time to ramp things up. You still have plenty of time to save, but youâve missed out on those early years of compounding.
Continue Taking Enough Risk
You may feel like you can afford less investment risk in your 40s, but you still realistically have another two decades left until retirement. Your money still has â and needs â plenty of time to grow. Stay invested mostly in stocks, even if itâs more unnerving than ever when you see the stock market tank.
Put Your Retirement Above Your Kidsâ College Fund
You can only afford to pay for your kidsâ college if youâre on track for retirement. Talk to your kids early on about what you can afford, as well their options for avoiding massive student loan debt, including attending a cheaper school, getting financial aid, and working while going to school. Your options for funding your retirement are much more limited.
Keep Your Mortgage
Mortgage rates are historically low â well below 3% as of December 2020. Your potential returns are much higher for investing, so youâre better off putting extra money into your retirement accounts. If you havenât already done so, consider refinancing your mortgage to get the lowest rate.
Invest Even More
Now is the time to invest even more if you can afford to. Keep getting that full employer 401(k) match. Beyond that, try to max out your IRA contributions. If you have extra money to invest on top of that, consider allocating more to your 401(k). Or you could invest in a taxable brokerage account if you want more flexibility on how to invest.
Meet With a Financial Adviser
Youâre about halfway through your working years when youâre in your 40s. Now is a good time to meet with a financial adviser. If you canât afford one, a financial counselor is typically less expensive. Theyâll focus on fundamentals like budgeting and paying off debt, rather than giving investment advice.
Saving for Retirement in Your 50s
By your 50s, those retirement years that once seemed like they were an eternity away are getting closer. Maybe thatâs an exciting prospect â or perhaps it fills you with dread. Whether you want to keep working forever or retirement canât come soon enough, now is the perfect time to start setting goals for when you want to retire and what you want your retirement to look like.
Review Your Asset Allocation
In your 50s, you may want to start shifting more into safe assets, like bonds or CDs. Your money has less time to recover from a stock market crash. Be careful, though. You still want to be invested in stocks so you can earn returns that will keep your money growing. With interest rates likely to stay low through 2023, bonds and CDs probably wonât earn enough to keep pace with inflation.
Take Advantage of Catch-up Contributions
If youâre behind on retirement savings, give your funds a boost using catch-up contributions. In 2020 and 2021, you can contribute:
$1,000 extra to a Roth or traditional IRA (or split the money between the two) once youâre 50
$6,500 extra to your 401(k) once youâre 50
$1,000 extra to a health savings account (HSA) once youâre 55.
Work More if Youâre Behind
Your window for catching up on retirement savings is getting smaller now. So if youâre behind, consider your options for earning extra money to put into your nest egg. You could take on a side hustle, take on freelance work or work overtime if thatâs a possibility to bring in extra cash. Even if you intend to work for another decade or two, many people are forced to retire earlier than they planned. Itâs essential that you earn as much as possible while you can.
Pay off Your Remaining Debt
Since your 50s is often when you start shifting away from high-growth mode and into safer investments, now is a good time to use extra money to pay off lower-interest debt, including your mortgage. Retirement will be much more relaxing if you can enjoy it debt-free.
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Saving for Retirement in Your 60s
Hooray, youâve made it! Hopefully your retirement goals are looking attainable by now after working for decades to get here. But you still have some big decisions to make. Someone in their 60s in 2021 could easily spend another two to three decades in retirement. Your challenge now is to make that hard-earned money last as long as possible.
Make a Retirement Budget
Start planning your retirement budget at least a couple years before you actually retire. Financial planners generally recommend replacing about 70% to 80% of your pre-retirement income. Common income sources for seniors include:
Social Security benefits. Monthly benefits replace about 40% of pre-retirement income for the average senior.
Retirement account withdrawals. Money you take out from your retirement accounts, like your 401(k) and IRA.
Defined-benefit pensions. These are increasingly rare in the private sector, but still somewhat common for those retiring from a career in public service.
Annuities. Though controversial in the personal finance world, an annuity could make sense if youâre worried about outliving your savings.
Other investment income. Some seniors supplement their retirement and Social Security income with earnings from real estate investments or dividend stocks, for example.
Part-time work. A part-time job can help you delay dipping into your retirement savings account, giving your money more time to grow.
You can plan on some expenses going away. You wonât be paying payroll taxes or making retirement contributions, for example, and maybe your mortgage will be paid off. But you generally donât want to plan for any budget cuts that are too drastic.
Even though some of your expenses will decrease, health care costs eat up a large chunk of senior income, even once youâre eligible for Medicare coverage â and they usually increase much faster than inflation.
Develop Your Social Security Strategy
You can take your Social Security benefits as early as 62 or as late as age 70. But the earlier you take benefits, the lower your monthly benefits will be. If your retirement funds are lacking, delaying as long as you can is usually the best solution. Taking your benefit at 70 vs. 62 will result in monthly checks that are about 76% higher. However, if you have significant health problems, taking benefits earlier may pay off.
Use Social Securityâs Retirement Estimator to estimate what your monthly benefit will be.
Figure Out How Much You Can Afford to Withdraw
Once youâve made your retirement budget and estimated how much Social Security youâll receive, you can estimate how much youâll be able to safely withdraw from your retirement accounts. A common retirement planning guideline is the 4% rule: You withdraw no more than 4% of your retirement savings in the first year, then adjust the amount for inflation.
If you have a Roth IRA, you can let that money grow as long as you want and then enjoy it tax-free. But youâll have to take required minimum distributions, or RMDs, beginning at age 72 if you have a 401(k) or a traditional IRA. These are mandatory distributions based on your life expectancy. The penalties for not taking them are stiff: Youâll owe the IRS 50% of the amount you were supposed to withdraw.
Keep Investing While Youâre Working
Avoid taking money out of your retirement accounts while youâre still working. Once youâre over age 59 Â½, you wonât pay an early withdrawal penalty, but you want to avoid touching your retirement funds for as long as possible.
Instead, continue to invest in your retirement plans as long as youâre still earning money. But do so cautiously. Keep money out of the stock market if youâll need it in the next five years or so, since your money doesnât have much time to recover from a stock market crash in your 60s.
A Final Thought: Make Your Retirement About You
Whether youâre still working or youâre already enjoying your golden years, this part is essential: You need to prioritize you. That means your retirement savings goals need to come before bailing out family members, or paying for college for your children and grandchildren. After all, no one else is going to come to the rescue if you get to retirement with no savings.
If youâre like most people, youâll work for decades to get to retirement. The earlier you start planning for it, the more stress-free it will be.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to DearPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
Could logging in to your computer from a deluxe treehouse off the coast of Belize be the future of work? Maybe. For many, the word freelance means flexibility, meaningful tasks and better work-life balance. Who doesn’t want to create their own hours, love what they do and work from wherever they want? Freelancing can provide all of thatâbut that freedom can vanish quickly if you don’t handle your expenses correctly.
“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches,” says freelance copywriter Alyssa Goulet, “and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”
Nearly 57 million people in the U.S. freelanced, or were self-employed, in 2019, according to Upwork, a global freelancing platform. Freelancing is also increasingly becoming a long-term career choice, with the percentage of freelancers who freelance full-time increasing from 17 percent in 2014 to 28 percent in 2019, according to Upwork. But for all its virtues, the cost of being freelance can carry some serious sticker shock.
“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on, but for that you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”
Most people who freelance for the first time don’t realize that everythingâfrom taxes to office supplies to setting up retirement plansâis on them. So, before you can sustain yourself through self-employment, you need to answer a very important question: “Are you financially ready to freelance?”
What you’ll find is that budgeting as a freelancer can be entirely manageable if you plan for the following key costs. Let’s start with one of the most perplexingâtaxes:
1. Taxes: New rules when working on your own
First things first: Don’t try to be a hero. When determining how to budget as a freelancer and how to manage your taxes as a freelancer, you’ll want to consult with a financial adviser or tax professional for guidance. A tax expert can help you figure out what makes sense for your personal and business situation.
For instance, just like a regular employee, you will owe federal income taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes. When you’re employed at a regular job, you and your employer each pay half of these taxes from your income, according to the IRS. But when you’re self-employed (earning more than $400 a year in net income), you’re expected to file and pay these expenses yourself, the IRS says. And if you think you will owe more than $1,000 in taxes for a given year, you may need to file estimated quarterly taxes, the IRS also says.
That can feel like a heavy hit when you’re not used to planning for these costs. “If you’ve been on a salary, you don’t think about taxes really. You think about the take-home pay. With freelance, everything is take-home pay,” says Susan Lee, CFPÂ®, tax preparer and founder of FreelanceTaxation.com.
When you’re starting to budget as a freelancer and determining how often you will need to file, Lee recommends doing a “dummy return,” which is an estimation of your self-employment income and expenses for the year. You can come up with this number by looking at past assignments, industry standards and future projections for your work, which freelancer Goulet finds valuable.
“Since I don’t have a salary or a fixed number of hours worked per month, I determine the tax bracket I’m most likely to fall into by taking my projected monthly income and multiplying it by 12,” Goulet says. “If I experience a big income jump because of a new contract, I redo that calculation.”
After you estimate your income, learning how to budget as a freelancer means working to determine how much to set aside for your tax payments. Lee, for example, recommends saving about 25 percent of your income for paying your income tax and self-employment tax (which funds your Medicare and Social Security). But once you subtract your business expenses from your freelance income, you may not have to pay that entire amount, according to Lee. Deductible expenses can include the mileage you use to get from one appointment to another, office supplies and maintenance and fees for a coworking space, according to Lee. The income left over will be your taxable income.
To set aside the taxes you will need to pay, adjust your estimates often and always round up. “Let’s say in one month a freelancer determines she would owe $1,400 in tax. I’d put away $1,500,” Goulet says.
2. Business expenses: Get a handle on two big areas
The truth is, the cost of being freelance varies from person to person. Some freelancers are happy to work from their kitchen tables, while others need a dedicated workspace. Your freelance costs also change as you add new tools to your business arsenal. Here are two categories you’ll always need to account for when budgeting as a freelancer:
Joining a coworking space gets you out of the house and allows you to establish the camaraderie you may miss when you work alone. When you’re calculating the cost of being freelance, note that coworking spaces may charge membership dues ranging from $20 for a day pass to hundreds of dollars a month for a dedicated desk or private office. While coworking spaces are all the rage, you can still rent a traditional office for several hundred dollars a month or more, but this fee usually doesn’t include community aspects or other membership perks.
If you want to avoid office rent or dues as costs of being freelance but don’t want the kitchen table to pull double-duty as your workspace, you might convert another room in your home into an office. But you’ll still need to outfit the space with all of your work essentials. Freelance copywriter and content strategist Amy Hardison retrofitted part of her house into a simple office. “I got a standing desk, a keyboard, one of those adjustable stands for my computer and a squishy mat to stand on so my feet don’t hurt,” Hardison says.
Start with the absolute necessities. When Hardison first launched her freelance career, she purchased a laptop for $299. She worked out of a coworking space and used its office supplies before creating her own workspace at home.
There are a range of digital tools, including business and accounting software, that can help with the majority of your business functions. A big benefit is the time they can save you that is better spent marketing to clients or producing great work.
The software can also help you avoid financial lapses as you’re managing the costs of being freelance. Hardison’s freelance business had ramped up to a point where a manual process was costing her money, so using an invoicing software became a no-brainer. “I was sending people attached document invoices for a while and keeping track of them in a spreadsheet,” Hardison says. “And then I lost a few of them and I just thought, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t be losing things. This is my income!’”
Digital business and software tools can help manage scheduling, web hosting, accounting, audio/video conference and other functions. When you’re determining how to budget as a freelancer, note that the costs for these services depend largely on your needs. For instance, several invoicing platforms offer options for as low as $9 per month, though the cost increases the more clients you add to your account. Accounting services also scale up based on the features you want and how many clients you’re tracking, but you can find reputable platforms for as little as $5 a month.
When you sign up for a service, start with the “freemium” version, in which the first tier of service is always free, Hardison says. Once you have enough clients to warrant the expense, upgrade to the paid level with the lowest cost. Gradually adding services will keep your expenses proportionate to your income.
3. Health insurance: Harnessing an inevitable cost
Budgeting for healthcare costs can be one of the biggest hurdles to self-employment and successfully learning how to budget as a freelancer. In the first half of the 2020 open enrollment period, the average monthly premium under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for those who do not receive federal subsidiesâor a reduced premium based on incomeâwas $456 for individuals and $1,134 for families, according to eHealth, a private online marketplace for health insurance.
“Buying insurance is really protecting against that catastrophic event that is not likely to happen. But if it does, it could throw everything else in your plan into a complete tailspin,” says Stephen Gunter, CFPÂ®, at Bridgeworth Financial.
A good place to start when budgeting as a freelancer is knowing what healthcare costs you should budget for. Your premiumâwhich is how much you pay each month to have your insuranceâis a key cost. Note that the plans with the lowest premiums aren’t always the most affordable. For instance, if you choose a high-deductible policy you may pay less in premiums, but if you have a claim, you may pay more at the time you or your covered family member’s health situation arises.
When you are budgeting as a freelancer, the ACA healthcare marketplace is one place to look for a plan. Here are a few other options:
Spouse or domestic partner’s plan: If your spouse or domestic partner has health insurance through his/her employer, you may be able to get coverage under their plan.
COBRA: If you recently left your full-time job for self-employment, you may be able to convert your employer’s group plan into an individual COBRA plan. Note that this type of plan comes with a high expense and coverage limit of 18 months.
Organizations for freelancers: Search online for organizations that promote the interests of independent workers. Depending on your specific situation, you may find options for health insurance plans that fit your needs.
Speak with an insurance adviser who can help you figure out which plans are best for your health needs and your budget. An adviser may be willing to do a free consultation, allowing you to gather important information before making a financial commitment.
4. Retirement savings: Learn to “set it and forget it”
Part of learning how to budget as a freelancer is thinking long term, which includes saving for retirement. That may seem daunting when you’re wrangling new business expenses, but Gunter says saving for the future is a big part of budgeting as a freelancer.
“It’s kind of the miracle of compound interest. The sooner we can get it invested, the sooner we can get it saving,” Gunter says.
He suggests going into autopilot and setting aside whatever you would have contributed to an employer’s 401(k) plan. One way to do this might be setting up an automatic transfer to your savings or retirement account. “So, if you would have put in 3 percent [of your income] each month, commit to saving that 3 percent on your own,” Gunter says. The Discover IRA Certificate of Deposit (IRA CD) could be a good fit for helping you enjoy guaranteed returns in retirement by contributing after-tax (Roth IRA CD) or pre-tax (traditional IRA CD) dollars from your income now.
Prioritize retirement savings every month, not just when you feel flush. “Saying, ‘I’ll save whatever is left over’ isn’t a savings plan, because whatever is left over at the end of the month is usually zero,” Gunter says.
5. Continually update your rates
One of the best things you can do for yourself in learning how to budget as a freelancer is build your costs into what you charge. “As I’ve discovered more business expenses, I definitely take those into account as I’m determining what my rates are,” Goulet says. She notes that freelancers sometimes feel guilty for building business costs into their rates, especially when they’re worried about the fees they charge to begin with. But working the costs of being freelance into your rates is essential to building a thriving freelance career. You should annually evaluate the rates you charge.
Because your expenses will change over time, it’s wise to do quarterly and yearly check-ins to assess your income and costs and see if there are processes you can automate to save time and money.
“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches, and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”
Have confidence in your freelance career
Accounting for the various costs of being freelance makes for a more successful and sustainable freelance career. It also helps ensure that those who are self-employed achieve financial stability in their personal lives and their businesses.
“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on,” Goulet says. “But for that, you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”
The post Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.