After the ball drops on New Year’s Eve, we dig up our hopes and dreams and make some resolutions. Getting back in the gym, losing weight, and eating clean, are usually at the top of the list, but what about your finances? The health of your accounts, spending habits, and investments are just as important to evaluate.
I don’t want to eat the spinach. I don’t like it!
As you approach retirement, you need to make some decisions. If you have limited assets, your choices are even more important.
- Should you work longer? (We typically recommend that you work as long as you can and save as much as possible.)
- Reduce your living expenses. If the car is too expensive and preventing you from saving, sell it.
- Can you work part-time?
- Defer your Social Security as long as possible. For older woman, this is often the primary source of income.
When looking at your home, consider the costs. If the house is too big and expensive, sell it. Is a reverse mortgage an option? Can you rent out an empty room or two?
Too many people are not prepared for retirement. A recent study by the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) sheds some light on the problem of poor retirement planning.
EBRI's 2011 study shows more pessimism about retirement readiness than any time over the last 20 years.
- In 1991, 11% of workers expected to work past age 65.
- In 2011, 36% expected to work past age 65.
- 27% of workers are not at all confident that they are prepared for retirement.
What is really concerning is that even though more workers are not confident, they have not done anything about it, like saving or planning more.
If you didn't see the PBS Frontline program "The Retirement Gamble," it is embedded on this blog post below. It is a wakeup call to everyone who wants to retire with dignity. I have summarized the key points below.
The numbers are not good for many people. One-third of Americans have not saved anything for retirement. Many have some savings, but not nearly enough for retirement.
The question this PBS special tried to answer is, "How did we get here, and has it always been this way?"
The short answer is, "no." We haven't always been here, and times have changed, for the worse. Frontline went on to identify the foundational issues that have caused the destruction of people's retirement savings.
When you want a job done right, you usually hire a professional to get the best results. The same can be said for managing your company's retirement plan. A financial advisor will try to minimize the financial risks for you by helping you determine the proper asset allocation to fit your goals and continuing to evaluate your investments to make sure they are still appropriate for meeting your short- or long-term objectives.
The Advantages of Working with an Expert
A financial advisor has the time, knowledge, research tools, expertise and experience that you may not have. After all, investment planning is his or her full-time job. It is important, however, to use due diligence in selecting the right advisor for you. Below you will find questions to help you determine if an advisor might be right for you.
This the second article in our "Getting Back to Financial Basics" series.
As I mentioned in the first blog post in this series, saving is key to getting control of your finances. The more you save, the more you will have. If you haven't done so already, you need start building an emergency fund of six months of living expenses.
Saving sounds like a simple thing to do, but many people find it a hard habit to embrace. But if there is a foundational component to growing wealth, this is it. You won't grow wealthy if you can't spend less than you make, save and invest the difference.
Successful business planning doesn't happen overnight. For many business owners, it's easy to get caught up in day-to-day operations without giving due focus to long-term goals. Secure a more successful future for your company (and yourself) by carving out some time in your busy schedule to address these six common business owner mistakes.
Mistake #1: Not Having a Succession Plan
When was the last time you revisited your succession plan? Business owners who put a succession plan in place early can maximize the monetary value of their business upon their own retirement or departure. As you develop a succession plan, also consider the impact a key staff member's departure could have on your company.
Finding one key advisor who can seamlessly coordinate your team of experts (e.g., tax, estate, investment or retirement) can help with succession planning.
This is the first of our series on getting back to financial basics. I watched a baseball movie recently, Trouble With The Curve with Clint Eastwood, and it reminded me of how important it is to practice the basics. It doesn't matter how good a professional is, they constantly need to practice the basics. I believe the same applies to our financial lives. While there are very sophisticated (and complicated) strategies—and I have learned many of them over the years—if you stick to the basics, you will do very well.
Give Your Finances the Time and Effort They Deserve
My wife and I lead Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University class at our church. If you ever have the opportunity to take this class, I highly recommend it. Even if you are doing great financially, it will enable you to refine and improve what you do. Remember, even the professional baseball players must focus on the basics every year, month and day to stay on top of their game.
Our class focuses on the basics. But don't think that practicing the basics is going to be easy. For most people, working on financial basics will take much time and perseverance. However, if you follow along with us, we will help keep you motivated to change your family's life for the better. Following these basic rules will:
- Get you on track for an incredibly successful retirement
- Reduce the stress of not knowing if what you are doing is right
- Reduce fights with your spouse over money (really)
- Eliminate debt in your life, forever
- Enable and empower you to spend less, thereby freeing up resources for living and giving
- Ensure you are well-protected from calamity and mishaps
- Help you take care of your family and children with less financial stress
- Allow you to save for your children's education
- Enable you to give like never before
When you're buying a home, it's easy to get distracted by the fanciest house on the block. Designer kitchens, spa-like bathroom and spacious master suites have an undeniable appeal. And most of us would also like a home in a great neighborhood. But all that comes at a price. While it may be tempting to take on a large mortgage so you can get a home with all the amenities you want, that's not always a smart financial idea. Below, I've highlighted some issues to consider when buying a home, as well as tips to help you choose an affordable mortgage.
Strive to Be Mortgage Free
We believe everyone should strive to own their homes debt free. By living within your means, you can use your excess cash flow to pay down the mortgage. This requires that you don't take on a larger mortgage payment than you can afford.
How do you do this?
- Save up, buy a small home. (This may be a home that costs $100,000 rather than one that costs $300,000.)
- Save some more, sell your home, buy a bigger home.