How to Get Your 2022 Finances in Order

How to Get Your 2022 Finances in Order

Believe it or not, the New Year is here. If you’re trying to wrap your head around everything that’s ahead, one of the best things you can do is prepare yourself financially. Here are a few tasks you can get started on right away.

Look Back at 2021

Depending on how in-depth you want to go, this could take a couple hours or more. That said, ask yourself these questions: Did you spend as planned? Where do you want to adjust, increase or decrease spending thresholds? What kind of unexpected expenses came up? How did you handle it? Think about what you’ll do for the upcoming year. When it comes to money, the cliché “hindsight is always 20/20” will often ring true.

Tackle Your Debt

If you want 2022 to be the year you become debt free, it can happen. We’re talking about consumer debt, not your mortgage, rent, car payments or any other necessities. A good strategy is to make a list of your credit cards, balances and interest rates. Start with the account balances that are the highest and create a payment plan, then move down the list until you’re finished. Balance transfers to cards with zero interest (for a limited time) are a smart idea, too. Then freeze your spending for 30 days, or however long you need. It might take some time, but these days, financial freedom is well worth it.

Increase Your Retirement Funds

Good news: the maximum contribution limit for your 401(k)s increases by $1,000 in 2022 compared to 2021, for a total of $20,500. If you’re 50 or older, the limit is $27,000, which is great for those closer to retirement. If you can’t max out your contribution, just increasing it by one percent can have an incredible effect. According to calculations from Fidelity Investments, if you’re 35 and earning $60,000, this tiny bump could yield an additional $85,000 to your retirement fund over a 32-year period. That’s equal to putting aside $12 per week (how easy is that?), assuming a 5.5 percent return and consistent salary growth.

Create a Back-Up Plan

This probably isn’t something you want to think about, but it’s necessary should something happen to you. Take few minutes to update your beneficiaries on all your financial accounts, including retirement, investment and benefits accounts. Next, make sure you have a durable power of attorney, someone you trust to take care of all your monetary affairs. After this, designate a health-care proxy or power of attorney, who can speak for you if you become incapacitated. Finally, update your will. Decide who will inherit your assets. If you have children, you can even assign guardians for them. In the long run, if the worst-case scenario unfolds, you’ll save your loved ones a lot of time and trouble.

Carve Out Time for a Life Audit

This task might sound big, but it’s necessary if you want to achieve your dreams – financial or otherwise. Start with a pen or pencil, about 100 sticky notes, a journal and a large space, perhaps a door, board or wall. Turn your phone off, then get started. Look back at your life. Assess where you’ve been, where you are and where you’d like to go, then brainstorm. Do you want to save a certain amount of money this year? Put away some cash for a dream trip? Learn a language? When you think you’ve finished, then organize your goals into three categories: personal, work/career and money. After that, further divide them short-term and long-term goals. Take a photo of your notes and keep it near to remind yourself of what you’re trying to accomplish. More often than not, your dreams involve money, which is directly related to your priorities and how you budget.

Budget for 2022

Now that 2021 is in your rearview mirror (and perhaps you’ve even done a life audit), take what you’ve decided upon and create a budget you can live with. Then, download a budget app to keep you on track. If last year’s budget worked well and you’re already on your way to living your dreams, just hit “repeat.” If not, make necessary changes. That said, no matter the status of your finances, it might be a good idea to increase your emergency fund, given all the uncertainty we’re facing in our world.

If you think about it, taking time in January to look closely at your finances is kind of like going to the doctor for your yearly checkup: You want to make sure there are no red flags you need to address. After all, your fiscal health might be as important as your physical health.

Sources

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/11/17/use-this-checklist-to-get-your-finances-in-order-before-2022.html

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/23/why-you-should-increase-your-401k-or-ira-contributions-by-1percent.html

https://www.fidelity.com/viewpoints/retirement/save-more

8 New Year’s Resolutions for Dealing with Debt in 2022

5 Affordable Ways to Share the Holiday Spirit

5 Affordable Ways to Share the Holiday Spirit

Holiday SpiritThe holidays are a season of giving. While much of this involves financial expenditures, you can also give in ways that are more affordable and may hold more meaning. Here are some suggestions about how you can engage in acts of generosity and return to what the season is all about.

Cook Food

Nothing nourishes the heart and soul, not to mention your stomach, like food made with love from your own kitchen. Baking cookies is always an easy and fun thing to do, but a main dish (with protein) or hearty casseroles are also good options. People who are homebound due to an illness, those going through financial difficulties or even new moms will appreciate the gift of a warm meal. You might also ask co-workers, local churches or homeless shelters if they’re looking for some extra sustenance during this time of year.

Create Necessity Bags

Giving to those on the streets during the holidays is an easy, inexpensive way to make a difference. Fill a gallon-sized food storage bag with things like gloves, toothpaste and toothbrush, hand sanitizer, sanitary wipes, bottled water, snacks and a gift card to a grocery store. Then contact your local organizations and charities to see where the needs lie. You might also carry these bags in your car and when you see someone, give it to them. Moments like these are invaluable to those in need and for you, too.

Volunteer Time

Showing up with an extra pair of hands is often what someone needs. A great place to check out is VolunteerMatch. Just type in your ZIP code and you’ll find all kinds of opportunities to help everyone from seniors to children in many sectors, including education, arts and health. You might also find ways to help animals or read to the blind. These are feel-good, money-free ways to experience the joy of giving.

Donate Craft Items

How many times have you thrown away your toilet paper rolls or egg cartons? This year, save and donate them to nearby schools or community centers. All it takes is a few phone calls to find out what their craft needs are. You’ll also be helping the environment – sharing some love for Mother Nature. How simple is that?

Declutter Your Dwelling

This one has so many terrific benefits. You can get rid of clothes and belongings that crowd your closets, which is a wonderful feeling. One option is to sell them on eBay Charity and donate to a nonprofit of your choice. You choose what percentage of the sale goes to the organization (from 10 to 100 percent). eBay will even give you a credit on your selling fees based on the percentage you choose. If you want to give away gently used professional clothes, Dress for Success and Jails to Jobs, are groups that empower people to look their best when making a fresh start. If you’d like to rid yourself of shoes you’ll never wear again, Soles4Souls is a great resource and you can ship up to 15 pairs of shoes without paying a fee through the Zappos for Good program. Talk about good for the sole, er, soul!

For the most part, should you choose to get into the holiday spirit with these activities (aside from a few costs here and there), the main thing you’ll be spending is time. However, experiencing the joy of the giving is priceless.

Sources

https://www.discover.com/online-banking/banking-topics/affordable-ways-to-spread-generosity-holiday-season/

10 Ways to Pay Off Student Debt Faster

10 Ways to Pay Off Student Debt Faster

Pay Off Student DebtIf the thought of paying off your student loan causes a bit of anxiety, worry no more. Here are some ways to pay it off faster. Check them out.

Sign Up for Auto-Pay

This might seem like the most obvious thing to do, and yet, some alums don’t take full advantage of it. The psychology of this works well. When you decide to put your payment on auto-draft, you never miss it. You get used to living on a certain amount of money. Better still, there are lenders who offer refinancing at lower rates, ranging from 1.8 percent to 7.84 percent. But there’s more: Some lenders offer cash-back bonuses. With that said, the catch is you give up important benefits like income-driven repayment and student loan forgiveness. However, refinancing can help you save a bunch – like thousands of dollars.

Pay Bi-Weekly

If you can swing this, it makes good sense. Why? Interest on your student loan accrues daily. Just cut your monthly payment in half and make two payments per month. This way, it might be easier to juggle your finances, as opposed to doling out one big chunk every month. Also, paying more often gives you the feeling that you’re making progress – and you are because of the daily accrual. #WinWin

Use the Debt Avalanche Method

With this approach, you’re paying off your highest interest debt first. Makes sense, right? After you do this, make minimum payments on all of your other loans. If you have any extra cash left over, pay your highest interest loan. Keep at this until you’re paid in full.

Claim the Student Loan Tax Deduction

This is cool. You can write off up to $2,500 of your student loan interest. Now, the amount you can write off depends on your income because there are phaseouts and gradual reductions in place. Just use the 1098-E form (you can get this from your loan servicer) to figure out how much interest you’ve paid. Then get going.

Pay While Still in School

Talk about getting a head start.You’ll cut down on interest (a good thing) while forgoing in-school deferment, and start paying down your debt pronto.

Pay Off Private Student Loans First

Should you have public and private student loans, this is the best strategy. Here’s why: private loans don’t offer student loan forgiveness or income-driven repayment. And they have limited deferment options. You’ll be better off doing this, given all the stipulations that exist for these kinds of loans.

Use Employer Repayment Assistance Programs

This is a sweet deal. Check with your employer to see if they offer such a program. Generally, they offer reimbursement or allocate funds to help you. Don’t forget to ask!

Pay During the Grace Period

This is the six-month period after graduation. While this might not be something that’s initially appealing, think it through. It helps keep interest in check and prevents your balance from growing during your grace period. Also, starting earlier means you’ll finish earlier. Gotta love that.

Consolidate Federal Student Loans

This is a great idea for those with limited resources. You can lower your payment and extend the repayment terms. You’ll most likely pay more interest, but for a short-time solution it’s a good one.

Exceed the Minimum Payment

If you have the means to make this happen, by all means, do it. Another great way to make incredible progress is to make double payments. If you can’t pay double, at least try to pay over the required amount. It’ll help eat away at the interest and eventually, the principal.

Student loans are great while you’re in school, right? They enable you to get the education you want. And while paying them off might be overwhelming, if you use these methods, you’ll be ahead of the game and pay them off sooner than you think.

Sources

107 Ways to Pay Off Student Loans Faster (That You Can Start Right Now)

7 Ways to Save for a Home Down Payment

7 Ways to Save for a Home Down Payment

So you want to save for a down payment for your dream house, but you aren’t sure how to get there. It might even feel overwhelming. But take heart, here are some tried and true methods that you can start today that will help you save sooner than you think.

Save a Fixed Amount Monthly

This is super easy, but first you need to figure out how much of a down payment you want to make. Remember, the higher your down payment, the lower your loan and monthly mortgage payment will be. With that said, put this amount on auto draft and deposit it into your savings account. Once you get used to this, you won’t miss it. Never use this savings for any other purpose except your down payment. Keep your eyes on the prize and stay the course.

Lower Your Expenses

If you don’t have a budget, make one. Review how much you’re spending on necessary items like rent, utilities and food. Also look at how much you’re spending on discretionary things, like going out to eat, subscriptions to magazines, driving instead of walking, etc. You might also evaluate how much those short-term indulgences mean to you. Only you can decide, but if you stick to a budget and start saving, the dream of a down payment can become a reality.

Skip Vacations For a Year

This one might be hard to swallow. However, if you save the money you’d otherwise spend on your vacation, you can make a significant contribution toward your down payment. If skipping a vacation is out of the question, try a staycation; or at least drive or take a bus or train to someplace near you that won’t cost an arm and a leg, like a natural park, an area lake or even, if you’re lucky enough to live near one, a beach. With every decision you make to delay gratification and focus on your long-term goal of home ownership, you’ll be more likely to stay on track.

Reduce Your High Interest Rate Debt

Credit card interest rates can really eat into the amount of money you are trying to save. If you can pay them off, do so – and start with the one that’s the highest. When you’ve paid it off, close the account and move on to the next one. You can also apply for a card with a temporary 0% interest rate (for maybe 15 months) and transfer your other balances to this one card. Good options include Bank of America’s Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card, Discover it Balance Transfer and Citi Double Cash Card.

Borrow From Your Retirement Plan

If you want to expedite getting into a house and are comfortable doing this, the look for penalty-free withdrawals from your retirement plan. Many company-sponsored 401(k) or profit-sharing plans allow you to borrow against your nest egg to purchase a home. Just ask your HR or payroll department.

Sell Some of Your Investments

While this option might not be instantly appealing, think of this as a way to move some of your current investments into another – your house. Once you’ve moved in and are paying your mortgage, you’ll be building equity. As your house increases in value, so does your investment.

Look Into Down Payment Assistance

Yes, this is a thing! There are organizations that might be able to help you, like the Federal Housing Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Housing Service and the Veterans Administration. Another source is your local housing authority.

These are a few options to help you move toward a down payment. But no matter what you choose, don’t wait. Get started today. This way, you’ll be packing up and moving in no time.

Sources

https://www.bbt.com/education-center/articles/top-10-ways-to-save-down-payment.html

https://www.creditkarma.com/credit-cards/balance-transfer?gclid=Cj0KCQjwtMCKBhDAARIsAG-2Eu8NmKerM3dO4cPjC0KvMCj_S3HPjJ_r4ge6MV50wWiQf51VLK4HOwUaAncZEALw_wcB

How to Catch Up on Your Retirement

How to Catch Up on Your Retirement

How to Catch Up on Your RetirementIf you’re 40 or 50 and aren’t where you’d like to be in terms of saving for retirement, don’t despair. You can remedy this situation. And since people are living well into their 80s and 90s, it’s never too late to start. Here are a few things you can do.

Max Out Your 401(k)

This could be a game-changer. Stuart Ritter, a certified financial planner with T. Rowe Price, recommends that you save at least 15 percent of your income for retirement, including the amount your employer matches. If your company is contributing 3 percent, then you should save 12 percent. If you can’t go this high, then increase the amount by 2 percent each year. So, if you’re saving 3 percent this year, bump it up to 5 percent, then 7 percent, and so on. If you’re under 50, try to hit the $19,500 limit. After you turn 50, you can increase your annual savings to $6,500 on top of this $19,500 limit. Note: You have to be 59 ½ to withdraw money without any penalties. However, the early withdrawal penalty doesn’t apply if you’re 55 or older in the year you leave your employer. All this to say that the sooner you start doing this, the more you will save and the more you’ll have down the road.

Contribute to a Roth IRA

With this product, you can grow your money on a tax-deferred basis. For instance, if you’re 40 and invest $6,000 each year at an 8 percent return, then by the time you’re 65 you’ll have more than $473,726. Even if you wait until you’re 50 and save 6k a year, using the same rate of return, you’ll save as much as $175,946 by the time you’re 65. However, there are some income limitations. If you’re single and your modified adjusted gross income is more than $125,000, your contribution limit is reduced. If you’re single and make over $140k, you can’t contribute. Michelle Buonincontri, a certified financial planner, says that the beauty of Roth IRAs are that they allow for tax-free compounding. Further, when withdrawal rules are followed, the withdrawals, including the earnings, will be tax-free. And when you’re in the withdrawal phase, it can minimize taxable income, which can add up and help your money last longer during retirement.

Take Advantage of Your Deductions

Not everyone takes standard deductions. That’s why if you have a significant amount of mortgage interest, deductible taxes, charitable donations, and business-related expenses that your employer doesn’t reimburse you for, you’ll most likely want to itemize your deductions. Talk to your CPA and figure out whether this is a good plan for you. Then start saving your receipts and keeping good records. As you get closer to retirement and if money is tight, remember: it’s not what you make, but what you save that makes the difference.

Don’t Forget About Home Equity

While home equity probably shouldn’t be used as your main source of income when you’re retired, it’s a viable solution. Retirees might consider borrowing against it to fund living expenses. In fact, you can use a home equity line (HELOC) to draw from when needed. Other options include selling, downsizing, and either living off the equity or investing it. But before you sell, you should consider tax consequences. Married homeowners who file a joint tax return can make up to $500k without owing taxes on capital gains. If you’re single, the cap is $250,000.

Get Disability Coverage

The reason for this is simple: to protect yourself and at least a portion of your income and retirement savings in a worst-case scenario. It is always a good idea to have a contingency plan.

Consider Your Cash Value Policies

This is a last resort, but again, a good option, especially if the original need for your insurance policy is no longer there. However, before you do anything or access its cash value, consult your tax advisor or insurance professional first.

No matter what your situation is, you can save for your future. All you have to do is begin now and take it one day at a time.

Sources

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/retirement/08/catch-up.asp

https://www.kiplinger.com/retirement/retirement-planning/602191/401k-contribution-limits-for-2021

https://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/401ks/articles/how-to-take-advantage-of-401-k-catch-up-contributions#:~:text=The%20401(k)%20Catch%2DUp%20Contribution%20Limit%20for%202021&text=Once%20you%20turn%2050%2C%20you,temporarily%20shield%20from%20income%20tax

5 Tips for Job Seekers Over 50

5 Tips for Job Seekers Over 50

Job Seekers Over 50You’ve got loads of experience in your field. You know things that only time can teach you. However, all of your experience and knowledge can sometimes work against you. And even though age discrimination is illegal, it doesn’t mean it isn’t prevalent. You can’t turn back the clock, but you can reshape how you present yourself. Here are a few good ways to get started.

Learn New Skills

If you see a job posting in your industry that requires knowledge of the software you don’t know, hop on YouTube or enroll in an online class. Certifications help, too, and are available in some of the most in-demand programs, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Systems Applications and Products (SAP), Hootsuite (used for social media), and Salesforce. This way, you’re demonstrating to employers that you have the necessary qualifications for the job – you’re a viable candidate – and you haven’t fallen behind over the years.

Rethink Your Resume

First of all, limit your experience to the past 15 years, unless there’s a job that reflects a title or skill that’s relevant to the position. You don’t want to appear, upon first glance, overqualified. Second, make sure your CV includes the right keywords. The days of HR managers poring over resumes is mostly gone; they often use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to weed out the candidates that are filling up their inbox at warp speed. Finally, if you’re using AOL or Hotmail, get a new account; this is a red flag that screams too old. Sign up for Gmail instead.

Widen Your Net

Think outside your industry’s box. For instance, you might be attracted to a big-name corporation or a hot startup, but it might not be the right environment for you, especially if there’s a chance you’d report to a much younger manager. You might find a better fit by going outside your comfort zone. Colleges and universities might be good options; you can leverage your experience by teaching. Smaller companies or startups that aren’t as well known might also be good places to look; you could take on multiple roles. Being open to contract or freelance jobs is another good idea. Getting your foot in the door is half the battle.

Use Personal Connections

While job sites like Zip Recruiter and LinkedIn, leads on social media and head hunters are places you might have found opportunities before, reach out to friends and former coworkers. It creates immediate familiarity and, when faced with a sea of resumes, helps move your name closer to the top. When you do get introduced to someone who has an opening, ask about their industry, role in the company, as well as what tools they’ve used, podcasts they listen to, or online classes they’ve taken to keep current. This not only shows your business savvy but also could help keep you top-of-mind if they hear of anything.

Own Your Experience

Your age doesn’t have to be the elephant in the room. Demonstrate why the invaluable skills you’ve accumulated over the years differentiate you from others. Craft an elevator pitch and jump right in. Talk about how, for instance, your breadth and depth of knowledge can help junior executives learn and grow. Busy employers generally want to know how quickly you meet the job requirements and if you can make their life easier, or help them shine.

Remember, you have so much to bring to the table. That’s why serving up your accolades in the right way can make all the difference in the world.

Sources

https://www.themuse.com/advice/jobhunting-after-50-the-new-rules