How To Become A Millionaire -16 Dos And Don’ts

How To Become A Millionaire -16 Dos And Don’ts

It’s no longer “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” but how to become a millionaire. You don’t have to be a contestant on a game show, win the lottery, or receive a windfall from a relative. Just follow the 16 Do’s and Don’t in this article, and you’ll be on the road to becoming a millionaire.

Four Money Mindsets Used by Millionaires

While it might be easy to think that millionaires are just lucky, they think about how their money can work for them, not just how they can work for money.

1. Use Time to Your Advantage

Most people look for concrete paths to becoming a millionaire. But the essential ingredient to becoming a millionaire is intangible. It’s time. The majority of millionaires utilize the compounding nature of time, where growth builds on itself over time.

My favorite imagery to describe compounding is to imagine the growth of a tree. In the first five years of a tree’s life, it will only grow a few feet. Its shrubbery is the size of a basketball. It’s a small, weak plant. In the next five years, will the tree double in size? No! It’s more likely to quadruple (or more) in size. It’s growing in all three dimensions—height, depth, width. It’s not a simple doubling.

We’ve all seen the social media megastar who goes from broke to millionaire in less than ten years. But they are exceptions, not the rule. Most millionaires grow their wealth at a slow pace. Over time, they utilize an explosion of compound growth—like a tree—to become a millionaire.

2. Create Financial Goals

Millionaires develop written financial plans that serve as roadmaps to reach their destination. These plans allow them to make financial decisions based on their goals. A good financial plan means that to reach millionaire status isn’t an if; it’s a when. They know where they are going to get there because their personal finance is all planned out.

If you’re unsure how to create a financial plan, then a certified financial planner (CFP) might be an excellent place to start. They might suggest you start investing or open a Roth IRA retirement account or first fill up your emergency fund. A financial advisor is there to share millionaire wisdom with you.

Becoming a millionaire goes hand-in-hand with retirement planning and retirement savings. For some, reaching the millionaire club will enable their financial freedom or the ability never to work again. Saving money allows a high net worth, and financial independence is the reward.

Big financial success requires big financial goals. A written financial plan sets those goals.

3. Millionaires Increase Earnings

There are a few ways to go about increasing your earnings on your path to becoming a millionaire.

The fact is that most millionaires have a full-time job. And they might work it for a full 40 years. If routine work is how you make money, you could ask for a raise. Easier said than done, sure. But there are sure-fire ways to speak with your management about increasing your base salary. The best part? An increased salary affects your income every year from now until retirement. You aren’t just doing it for your current self, but for your future self too.

You could switch jobs. Self-made millionaire Steve Adcock attributes changing jobs (and getting raises each time) to be one of the critical factors in becoming a millionaire. Steve also focuses on the need to work hard and start investing as early as you can. Or you could find sources of passive income or secure a second job. Surprisingly there are easy ways to generate passive income, tons of side hustles to start, real estate ventures, and other easy ways to earn money and build wealth.

Increased earnings can be invested and grow into future millionaire wealth. A simple rule of thumb is that a dollar invested today will grow into $10 in 30 years. Using this fact, one can quickly see how a few thousand dollars in extra earnings can make significant headway on your path to future millionaire status. The bottom line: increasing your earnings is how to become a millionaire. There’s no “best way” to do this, but it’s critically important to reach your millionaire financial goals.

4. Millionaires Also Decrease Their Spending

Many financial writers point out that the stereotypical “millionaire lifestyle” is antithetical to becoming a millionaire. Why? We think of millionaires as having a big house, a fancy car, the nicest clothes. But if you spend all your money, then you aren’t a millionaire anymore. The truth is that most millionaires find ways to decrease their spending. They don’t buy dumb crap.

This behavior—spend less, save more—is how to become a millionaire. It’s counterintuitive to our traditional thoughts. The people who don’t look like millionaires are the ones who frequently are millionaires. It’s the adage of the “millionaire next door.” The authors of “The Millionaire Next Door,” a worthwhile read, have a target net worth ratio with age added as a factor.

They might drive used or old cars. They wear non-designer clothes. They enjoy low-cost or free activities. They don’t dine out too much. They vacation economically. These are all ways that millionaires decrease their spending without feeling deprived.

There are plenty of counter-examples. We all see millionaires on T.V. who genuinely live the millionaire lifestyle. But for the average reader, the simple path to wealth involves decreasing your spending, not increasing it.

Five Ways to Invest Like a Millionaire

Did you know that millionaires put 44% of their investable assets in stocks? And that 2/3 of millionaires lean on experts by consulting with advisors? Let’s take a look at the most common path to Millionaire Road.

1. Millionaires Do Simple Stock Investing

The stock market is one of the most common methods for people to become millionaires. One investing strategy is simple to describe. Invest a regular percentage of every paycheck into a low-cost index fund. Rinse and repeat for ~35 years. Boom—that’s how to become a millionaire. But let’s take some time to break down those terms and that math.

First, what’s a low-cost index fund? Many people mistakenly believe that successful stock investing involves picking individual winners and losers. But that’s not true, and an index fund helps explain why. An index fund owns every stock in a given stock index. It doesn’t pick winners and losers but buys entire swaths of the market instead.

You’ve heard of some indexes—like the S&P 500 or the Dow Jones. An S&P 500 index fund chooses to own every stock in the S&P 500, regardless of its recent success or failure. Other indexes and index funds are less well-known. For example, some indexes track the energy industry, the automotive industry, or precious metals.

History shows that index fund investing is very successful. One of the key reasons is that index funds charge meager fees. Since there is less expertise required—no “skilled” picking of winners and losers—there is no need to charge high fees.

2. Millionaire Investors Leverage Time

Next, let’s discuss the long-term aspect of stock investing. Many people see the most expensive stocks—like Tesla—and think it’s typical for stocks to grow by 10x in five years. “If only,” they ponder, “I can discover the next Tesla.” Index investing circumvents that wishful thinking. Since brokerages design index funds to be average (they own everything), index funds return average profits.

Over the history of the stock market, that return has been about 10% per year. Once inflation is accounted for, the stock market has a “real return” of about 7% per year. 7% is not a lot until it starts compounding. One year of 7% turns $1000 into $1070. But what do 30 years of compounding do? The average person might think 7% times 30 years equals 210%…turning those $1000 into $1000+$2100 = $3100.

But the truth is that stock market returns compound over time, just like our tree from before! A 7% return compounded over 30 years equates to (1.07)^30 = 761%. Your $1000 investment turns into $8610. But $8610 doesn’t make you a millionaire.

3. Regular Investment, Regular Frequency Is the Path To Millionaire Status

That’s why many experts suggest the average person invest using a regular frequency and a uniform amount. That’s how you reach $1 million net worth. For example, Americans could choose to utilize their 401(k) account. They’d be investing a consistent fraction of their paycheck (uniform amount) each time they are paid (regular frequency). Some people call this “dollar-cost averaging,” although the exact definition of dollar-cost averaging is up for debate.

Let’s look at an example of dollar-cost averaging using a 401(k). Mikey invests $400 out of each of his paychecks. He does this from age 22 until he retires at age 60. Some quick math tells us that Mikey’s contribution is $400 per check * 26 checks per year * 38 years = $395,200. The technical term for this contribution is principal.

But once we account for investing growth (again, using the 7% per year historical average), Mikey ends up with a whopping $2.07 million. Remember, our 7% is the “real return,” meaning that Mikey has $2 million in today’s dollars. He hits 1 million dollars at age 51. That’s the power of consistent stock market investing over decades. In this case, 30 years of simple investing is how to become a millionaire.

4. Millionaires Invest in What They Know

Cryptocurrency has undoubtedly created many millionaires (and even some billionaires). Whereas stocks return an average of 10% per year, Bitcoin has grown by 196% per year since its invention in 2008. Crazy! But your correspondents here suggest the following when it comes to cryptocurrency: invest in what you know.

If you understand how Bitcoin works and feel confident in its long-term growth, then you likely have the constitution to withstand any ups and downs it sees in the future. But if you invest in crypto ignorantly, simply hoping to make a quick buck, then you might be in it for the wrong reasons. If prices dive quickly—which we know can occur—it will scare you into selling after a significant loss.

Investing in stocks—which represent ownership in the companies comprising our economy—is much more tangible for the average investor than the boom in digital currencies.

5. Millionaires Invest in Themselves

While a smaller percentage, another path for millionaires is to “invest in themselves” via starting a business. Most business owners will tell you how this is a high-stress, high-risk, high-reward path.

First, there is stress. Business owners typically work long hours. They often take a little-to-no salary during the early years of the business. Instead, they opt to invest any earning to allow the company to grow. They are responsible to their employees (and those their employees care for) and responsibly for their customers to provide the best service possible. These responsibilities contribute to high stress.

And then there is the risk. Businesses frequently use debt (or borrowed money) to get started. This debt creates financial risk associated with the business failing. Some businesses utilize outside investment capital. In this case, the outside investors trade a share of the risk for a company’s percentage. This trade decreases the business owner’s risk but increases their stress (they now must answer to their investors) and reduces the owner’s reward (they share it with the investors).

After the risk and the stress comes the reward! Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of capitalism is that those who invest their capital (money and time) can later reap huge rewards. Business owners certainly fall into this category. Let’s go over a few quick examples of those rewards.

Bill Gates founded Microsoft with, essentially, zero start-up dollars. The company is worth $1.7 trillion today (though Gates is no longer close to being a majority or plurality shareholder). Elon Musk contributed $6.5 million to Tesla in 2004—yes, he was already a millionaire. But Musk earned his millions from cash-strapped start-ups, most notably PayPal. Jeff Bezos founded Amazon using “a few hundred thousand dollars” as a loan from his parents. The company is now worth $1.5 trillion.

Yes, this data set was cherry-picked in the “worst” way. These are possibly the three most successful entrepreneurs in the past 50 years. But it serves to drive the point home. A business can filter risk and stress to create an asymmetric reward.

Four Personality Traits of a Millionaire

Millionaires and other successful people tend to share similar personality traits. You might already have some guesses as to what those are. Authors Chris Hogan and Tom Corley identified the following characteristics the millionaires share.

1. Millionaires Seek Feedback and Have Mentors

Millionaires don’t exist in a silo. They often seek out external feedback to improve. In particular, millionaires frequently utilize experienced mentorship to help them stay on the path to wealth. Sure, some people strike gold by doing things their own way. But those people are exceptions to the rule.

2. Millionaires Persevere

The road of life is never smooth, whether you’re a millionaire or not. But one character trait that sets successful people apart is their ability to persevere through thick and thin. This perseverance might mean overcoming hardships. It might equate to ignoring critics. They keep pushing on, no matter the obstacle. It’s not guaranteed to make you millions. Plenty of hard-working people don’t end up as millionaires. But it’s even rarer for a lazy quitter to end up a millionaire.

3. Millionaires Are Consistent

Millionaires know that the tortoise beats the hare. Its slow and steady strategy wins the race. In other words, consistency wins in the long run. Consistency can take many forms. It can show up as hard work. It manifests as daily responsibility and intentional thinking. When these behaviors are practice day after week after month after year—consistently—then good results are sure to follow.

4. Millionaires Are Conscientious

Millionaires tend to be responsible and thorough. They follow through. They complete their duties to the best of their abilities. In other words, they are conscientious. Their inner conscience guides them.

Three Things Millionaires Don’t Do

On your journey to becoming a millionaire, it’s important to avoid some behaviors, or you’ll sink your efforts. You’ll be trying to fill your bank account with a leaky bucket. Let’s now discuss the actions that millionaires don’t do.

1.Don’t Accrue Dumb Debt

Debt is a double-edged sword. You can spend more money than you have and achieve wild growth. Or you can stumble into a pit of misery, stuck in debt for decades. Student loans, for example, are one of the most common debt vehicles today. Many current and future millionaires have suffered student debt. Why? Because education kickstarted their growth as nothing else could.

While some student loan debt is dumb, most people find their student loans manageable and worthwhile. Trading education for some debt was a good deal. But credit card debt is rarely worth it. It’s dumb debt. Purchasing consumer products using credit card debt is not a millionaire behavior.

2. Don’t Make Rushed Decisions

Remember when we said that “time is on your side.” That idea applies to more than just long-term investments. Millionaires realize that big decisions require significant time commitments. And how to become a millionaire is a big question to answer! It’s not something to rush.

Millionaires rely on well-researched decisions, rarely succumbing to hasty, irrational choices. What’s one example of a foolish choice? Millionaires don’t follow the crowd. According to author Tom Corely, the millionaires he has interviewed tend to separate themselves from “the crowd.” They don’t make decisions based on popular choices. Why? Because the popular opinion is often wrong!

3. Don’t Be Stagnant

Millionaires seek growth in both their personal and financial lives. They aren’t stagnant. Millionaires are constantly seeking to learn new skills and expand their knowledge set. They don’t settle for the status quo. And in their finances, millionaires understand the balance between risk and reward. They don’t use a savings account other than for their emergency funds.

In general, the most impactful rewards come from the highest risks. But there’s a “risk-adjusted” way to measure those rewards. Millionaires often strike a healthy balance between risk and rewards.

Final Thoughts

Even if (somehow) this advice doesn’t land you in the millionaire club, think of where you’ll end up. You’ll be a reasonably wealthy, high-earning, low-spending, self-invested, self-improving, perseverent, consistent, and conscientious person who avoids debt, doesn’t rush decisions, and never settles.

Not bad, right?

This article originally appeared on Your Money Geek and has been republished with permission.

Getting Stimulus Money? Spend This Money Wisely

Getting Stimulus Money? Spend This Money Wisely

The third and possibly final stimulus check from the federal government is on its way. Most people will get their stimulus money via direct deposit to tens of millions of bank accounts. If you and your family qualify for the most extensive distribution, you likely have some immediate or future needs. Whatever you decide to do, strategize to spend this money wisely.

Stimulus Checks And Extended Unemployment Benefits

Did you get your stimulus check yet? The maximum tax-free amount is $1,400 per individual ($2,800 per married couple if jointly filing), and $1,400 per dependent, including those ages 17 and up. The federal government extended unemployment benefits with a $300 additional supplement to state benefits through September 6, 2021.

Typically, unemployment benefits are fully taxable. However, the IRS gave a tax break by allowing taxpayers to exclude up to $10,200 ($20,400 for married couples filing jointly) benefits on their 2020 taxes for those who made less than $150,000 in adjusted gross income (AGI). As stimulus checks were going out to households, the IRS announced tax returns are now due on May 17 this year instead of April 15.

How To Use Your Money Depends On Your Needs

Every household varies as to their need for this money. For instance, lower-income families are more likely to devote much of their spending to living necessities.

In a June 2020  US Census study,  adults in households with income between $75,000 and $99,999 were more likely to use their stimulus money to pay off debt or add to savings compared to households overall. In contrast, 87.6% of adults earning $25,000 or below planned to use their stimulus payments to meet their expenses.

The stimulus money is part of more considerable fiscal support targeted to boost consumer and business spending. As the economy grows, more people will work.

The Fed has accommodated our weak economy with low-interest rates and continued liquidity. These efforts will stimulate our economy and help our financial markets, but they may cause higher inflation. Fears of higher inflation have added volatility in the stock market.

Some believe higher economic growth and inflation may be transient, causing some stock market opportunities ahead. Chair Powell seems to be staying on course of a stimulative monetary policy and will tolerate higher inflation over the 2% target. 

Is This A Financial Windfall?

Merriam Webster  defines windfall as “an unexpected, unearned, or sudden gain or advantage.” A windfall can range from being a sum of $1,000 to something far more significant. This money may result from an inheritance, legal settlement win, salary bonus, or a winning lottery ticket.

A small windfall, newfound money, or stimulus money can serve a similar function by bringing you a step closer to your financial goals. That is a win for you whether you direct the money to help you with your day-to-day expenses or cushion your retirement nest egg.

Strategize What You Need Now And For Your Future

Strategize before spending your additional money by paying what is most urgently needed now.  The funds should improve your financial situation. Most people receiving checks have had a difficult time making ends meet. They may have lost their jobs, had their hours cut, or their job remains in jeopardy.

You may need to shore up your finances now. Are there holes in your budget that need mending that you can take care of first?   Pay your bills, reduce your debt to manageable levels, eliminating high-interest credit card debt. Should you have money left over, save for emergencies.

On the other hand, if you have little to no debt, devote your extra money to where you can catch up on retirement savings and investing.  Allocate where you can boost your financial future–replenish your emergency fund, retirement, investing– by adding to where the money can potentially grow.

Our Recommendations For Spending The Money Wisely  

 

1. Prioritize Your Everyday Bills

If you have outstanding household bills for your rent, mortgage, or utilities that need attention, consider negotiating with your providers. Ask if lower rates are possible or stretch out due dates. You want to avoid being late paying bills and affecting your credit score. It never hurts to try to do that at a time when people are most understanding.

Staying current on your bills can relieve the angst. And you don’t want to pile on late charges and add to your debt load.

2. Paying Off Your High-Cost Debt First

When you carry a lot of debt–credit cards, car, mortgage, student loans, or personal loans–can be overwhelming. Your stimulus money may not stretch that far. Interest rates are low for mortgages, car, and student loans, so your best bet is to reduce your credit card balances. Card issuers typically charge 15%-16% interest rates, and the compounding effect makes that balance grow faster.

It may be tempting to spread the cash proceeds around to all of your loans but target the most detrimental cost first.

3. Neglecting Any Car Repairs?

During COVID, you may be using your car less. If you are not following through with tune-ups, you can damage your vehicle in the long run. Do you have any car repairs you postponed but now can bring into the shop? Your repair guy will likely welcome you back.

4. Replenish Your Emergency Funds Or Start One

Many people have withdrawn money during the past year. They may have had to close businesses, leave jobs to take care of their family, or lost their jobs. It is time to reassess your emergency savings. Refill this fund so you can cover six months of your basic living needs should something unforeseen happen. A job loss, pet surgery, an unexpected illness, or car accident can mean higher costs beyond your budget.

Replenishing these savings can give you peace of mind. Those unexpected events do happen, as many of us learned the hard way last year.

Make sure to keep this money in liquid assets such as a higher-yielding savings account that is readily accessible. These days there is very little income to earn from low yields. But, economists are expecting higher interest rates as the economy strengthens. Therefore, use short-term securities like CDs so you can roll this money into higher yields when they are available.  

5. Add To Your Retirement Savings

Whenever you have extra money from a bonus, overtime, or raise, consider adding some of this money to your retirement savings. Notably, a 401K employer-sponsored plan or an IRA and Roth IRA makes sense. If you don’t have a retirement account, this is a good time to do so. 

Technically, your tax-free stimulus payment is unearned income. As such, it may be tricky to deposit money into your Roth IRA directly. Therefore, you may want to substitute earned money from other accounts, replacing those dollars with your stimulus money.

It is worth the effort to do so. Putting some money into a Roth IRA makes it a triple tax-free win. You aren’t paying taxes upfront. The contributed amount grows tax-free, and when you withdraw money after your turn 59.5 years.

Be Aware of Contribution Limits

You can have both a 401K and an IRA, but there are IRS contribution and income limits you need to be aware of so you can get the full deduction. Be mindful of those income limits for traditional IRA and Roth IRA for 2020 and 2021. They vary according to whether you are the single or head of the household, married, filing jointly, a retirement plan at work covers one or both spouses.

Contribute generously up to the maximum amount allowed:

The 2020 and 2021 limits are $19,500 for 401K and most 400 plans, and with a catch-up limit, $26,000 for employees aged 50 or over.

Total contributions for 2020 and 2021 are limited for all traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs to $6,000 or $7,000 if you’re age 50 or older.

6. 529 Savings For College

These accounts have federal tax benefits, like retirement accounts. Open a 529 savings account to set aside some money for your children’s college fund. Earnings on investments grow on a tax-deferred basis and tax-free when you withdraw money for educational costs. Generally, there are no contribution limits except for the $15,000 cap to qualify for the annual gift tax exclusion.

Each state has its own plan, and you don’t need to reside in the state to use their program. You may think that they are young and it is too early to think about their future, let alone college, if they are still at the crawling stage. The truth is that time goes by quickly, and before you know it, they are in high school. Don’t let this valuable time slip away without putting money into this fund. It will help your children to avoid borrowing heavily for college tuition.

7. Allocate Your  Savings To Investing

In a perfect world, all of your extra money should go toward investing. If you have a strong financial foundation with manageable debt, you should invest the money. Add to your investments or opening up an investment account for you or your kids.

Any savings you have from stimulus checks to a significant financial windfall should go to your investment accounts. That is if you have taken care of other needs. Invest early and have a plan in mind which considers your risk tolerance, timeframe, and diversification. 

When you are beginning to invest, you may not know where to start. Buying individual stocks can be very rewarding but can be risky. Consider low-cost index mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) if you are uneasy purchasing individual stocks. Buying a pool of stocks is a popular way to own securities with diversification, avoiding concentration risk.

Professional portfolio managers actively manage mutual funds. They are constantly evaluating and choosing securities for the fund’s specific investment approach. Mutual funds are available for stocks, bonds, precious metals, other securities, varying risks,  and varying geographic markets. 

Active managers earn annual fees or expense ratios of your investment and are responsible for the fund’s performance. If you invest $1,000 in a mutual fund with a 1% expense ratio, you pay $10 per year towards the fund’s expenses.

Active Versus Passive Investing

Investors who buy actively managed funds pay higher expense ratios than passively managed index mutual funds that track a market-weighted portfolio. The latter index fund replicates the S&P 500 index via computers for a fraction of the fees, averaging 0.20%-0.50% expense ratios, below the typical 1%-2.5% costs of active managers.

You can buy a low-cost index mutual fund or an ETF consisting of a basket of securities, such as money markets, stocks, or bonds depending on your risk appetite. ETFs are similar to mutual funds but tend to be cheaper and more liquid. If both are available, I usually buy the ETF version. There are many funds with terrific choices, such as Vanguard, who pioneered indexed funds.

8. Give To Others

It is always a good time to give charitable donations to others. We always target giving 10% of our income to charitable contributions, but we have done more to offset the time we couldn’t do so. Everyone has their reasons for giving what they can and may stem from religious or ethical sources.

The minimum of one-tenth of one’s income belongs to God per measure handed down from the Patriarchs. As Jacob himself said to God, “Of all that You give, I will set aside a tenth to You” (Genesis 28:22). Giving 10% of your net income every year is a desirable goal—those who can do that.

Giving, like expressing gratitude, is among the most worthwhile healthy emotions to feel. Being grateful can even help us with our finances.

As part of 2021 $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, Biden extended the favorable tax deduction treatment in 2021 that was available last year. Taxpayers who take the standard deduction rather than itemize their tax deductions may set aside $300 (or $600 if you are married and filing jointly). The IRS suspended the typical limit of 60% of adjusted gross income for the amount of the charitable deduction made in a year.

The IRS has temporarily suspended limits on charitable contributions for those who itemize deductions on Schedule A. Check with your accountant whenever it relates to your taxes. 

 

Final Thoughts

Use your stimulus payment or windfall by spending the money wisely to improve your financial situation. It’s a personal decision based on your needs now or in your financial future. Strategize before spending this additional money so you can get the most of it. Hopefully, you are turning the corner to better times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Commandments of Personal Finance

Ten Commandments of Personal Finance

We revisit ancient views of money on ten central tenets of personal finance from timeworn texts and stories. Surveying these words adds a different perspective on finances whether you are celebrating the upcoming holidays or not. There is a common thread across varying beliefs on handling money, saving, overspending, debt accumulation, and investing.

Ten Commandments of Personal Finance:

 

1. Financial Planning

A financial plan is essential to achieve your short-term and long-term goals. According to Proverbs 21:15, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely haste leads to poverty.”

Understanding your priorities is an essential first step. With hard work, you can accomplish what you want so long as you know your preferences. Our goals are not always clear to us, especially when we are young. “Complete your outdoor work in order and prepare your field; after that, you may build your house.” (Proverbs 24:12).

Making a plan doesn’t happen overnight. Set reasonable priorities incrementally as you engage in deep thought and conversations with your partner. It is often hard to address many features of a sound financial plan on your own. Reduce some of the risks upfront, whether you are investing in stocks or starting a business.

 One of my favorite books, Richest Man In Babylon by George S. Clason provides some guidance. “Gold slippeth away from the man who invest it in businesses or purposes with which he is not familiar or which are not approved by those skilled in its keep.” Avoid recklessness when investing.

Consult A Fiduciary

Consider a financial advisor who as a fiduciary must act in your best interests rather than his or her own. Such an adviser can provide a framework to help you with your goals for retirement saving, investing and estate planning. “For by wise guidance you can wage your war. And in the abundance of counselors there is victory.” (Proverbs 24:6).

2. Saving More, Spending Less

Saving money is an essential financial habit. According to a CareerBuilder report, 78% of American workers were living paycheck-to-paycheck. The report found almost 1 out of 10 workers making $100,000 were having trouble making ends meet. When facing a weak economy, rising job losses cause financial stresses. For those reasons, having an emergency fund is necessary to pay for at least six months of basic living expenses. Having readily accessible funds in liquid funds such as money market securities helps you avoid increasing debt.

Joseph’s Emergency Funds

Emergency funds as a prudent strategy appear in Genesis 41:34-36.

In this passage, Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream about seven fat cows grazing by a river swallowed up by seven skinny cows. Joseph views the seven fat cows as seven prosperous years for Egypt, followed by seven famine years. As a result of planning for this disaster, Joseph advises Pharaoh to store grain during the good years for use in more challenging years. Save when you have more for those times you have less due to job loss, illness, or crisis.

Adopting a habit of saving more provides you with more flexibility to allocate into investment and retirement savings. Begin by setting aside small amounts of savings of $1,000 but don’t stop there. Tough times prove that amount is inadequate. Don’t think of these savings as wasteful assets. Instead, it is a means to avoid higher debt levels. As Proverbs 13:11 tells us, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little make it grow.”

3. Track Your Spending By Budgeting

Spending more than your means is a sour recipe that leads to borrowing more. It is far more profitable to save money and allocate to investments that yield 5% returns or more than having to borrow at mid-teen rates with credit cards to pay for your overspending habits. “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.” (Proverbs 28:19).

Track your spending carefully by budgeting according to your priorities. Bava Metzia 42a instructs us, “A person should always divide his money into three: one-third in the ground (for the future), one-third (invested) in business, and one-third in possession.”

That may be an old way of splitting your funds. There are several ways to budget, such as tracking your expenses, creating a monthly budget, or using the 50/30/20 rule. The latter budget is Elizabeth Warren’s rule of thumb using 50% of aftertax or net income for your needs, 30% of net income for your wants, leaving 20% for saving money and paying the debt. Budget in any reasonable way you can control your spending. Consider these budgeting methods.

Avoid Lifestyle Inflation

Overspending leads to materialism and lifestyle inflation that is hard to maintain. Mishlei Proverbs 13:7 tells us, “There is one who feigns riches but has nothing; one who feigns poverty but has great wealth.”  According to Psalms 128:2, “You shall eat the fruit of your effort–you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.” This proverb reminds me of another favorite book, “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko.

Stanley and Danko profiled and compared millionaires in two categories: those under accumulators of wealth (UAW) and the prodigious accumulator of wealth (PAW). The UAWs had a low net wealth compared to their high income because of spending to maintain their status. On the other hand, PAWs managed their wealth better, often living in blue-collar neighborhoods and buying used cars. It is an eye-opening account about the good and bad money habits of the wealthy.

4. Manage Your Debt Wisely

The successful millionaires practice budgeting and bargaining. They avoid debt accumulation to lower their risks.  According to Proverbs 22:7, “The rich rule the poor and the borrower is slave to the lender.” Manage your debt wisely. Pay your bills on time and in full. Don’t carry high credit card balances. You need to pay your card balances in full, not merely the minimum, or your debt will be accumulating quickly because of compounding growth.

Managing your debt and developing good credit habits are essential in your financial life. Learn how to avoid common credit mistakes in a recent post here.

Related Post: How To Pay Down Debt For Better Financial Health

5. Retirement Savings

Start saving for retirement in your 20s through your employer’s sponsored 401K plans. Deposits in small amounts in retirement accounts regularly benefit from tax advantages and compound growth over a long horizon. Automate your tax-deferred contributions to come out of your paychecks, and employers often match a portion of your contributions. The match contribution is like extra money you can earn from your employer. Separately, you can establish an IRA (Roth IRA) for further retirement savings. Target your contributions to amounts capped by the IRS for maximum growth for retirement.

One of my favorite quotes in The Richest Man is this: “It behooves a man to make preparation for a suitable income in the days to come when he is no longer young, and to make preparations for his family should he no longer be with them to comfort and support them.” Providing insurance should be arranged for your family to cover potential risks. “We cannot afford to be without adequate protection.”

6. Diversify Investments

Allocate some of your savings into investments. Whether you have a financial adviser to guide you, manage your assets, and diversify to reduce your risks. Don’t put all your eggs in a basket unless you are using Easter eggs for a holiday hunt. Ecclesiastes 11:2 says, “Put your investments in several places-because you never know what kind of bad luck you are going to have in this world.”

The financial markets go through turbulent times. Reducing risk by diversifying your assets into stocks, bonds, real estate (including home ownership), and money market securities is the best way to weather those stormy times. Diversify within each class of investments to avoid the pitfalls. That means having some stocks with growth portfolios and those with healthy dividend yields.

Bull Market To Bear Market In Record Time And Then…

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the stock market has been volatile. We saw severe moves,  going from a bull market to a short bear market. There has been fiscal support, sending out the third stimulus checks and extending federal unemployment. 

The Fed has stimulated the economy with lower interest rates and substantial liquidity. Fears of high inflation are now on the table concerning investors. Stock investing is always challenging to predict. It is even more challenging to time the market.

Stay the course rather than jumping in and out of the market. For long-term stockholders, staying the course rather than panic selling seems to be a better path. A more robust economy will likely fuel corporate earnings growth.

7. Don’t Obsess About Money

Maintain balance in your life without a focus on just wealth accumulation. According to Proverbs 21:20, “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwellings, but a foolish man devours it.”  While no one seeks to become poor, there are dangers of solely wanting to be rich. “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.” Hebrews 13:5

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. worried about the obsession with money in his famous speech called False God of Money. He said, “We attribute to the almighty dollar an omnipotence equal to that of the eternal God of the universe. We are always on the verge of rewriting the Scriptures to read, ‘Seek ye first money and its power and all these things will be added unto you,’ or ‘Money is my light and salvation, what shall I fear.”

King himself lived frugally, leaving little money for his family. However, he saw other goals like working hard, investing in education, and having faith as critical.

8. Add Knowledge And Skills 

Become a lifelong learner adding knowledge and skills. “Wisdom is a shelter as money is shelter but the advantage of knowledge is this: wisdom preserves those who have it.” (Ecclesiastes 7:12). By investing in yourself, whether learning a skill, a language or knowledge, you grow in confidence and are valuable to others. “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.” Proverbs 10:4

Work hard and persevere in your job, your career, and your profession. As a result of the coronavirus and social distancing, we see many people who do not have the luxury of working from home. I speak of doctors, healthcare workers, grocery store clerks, bus drivers, and untold heroes working hard to save lives or are engaged in essential jobs.

“The Street Sweeper”

Dr. King valued those who worked hard. Another favorite King quote, “If a man is called a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets sp well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

9. Be Ethical

We have a responsibility to be ethical to others. That means not to scam, steal, or be dishonest. Respect others’ property. Wastefulness is shameful according to the Torah and should destroy any useful objects according to Deuteronomy 20-19. Destruction is only forbidden when it is without purpose. For example, only trees that you know do not yield food may be destroyed.   We should not borrow anything without permission. According to Leviticus 5:23, “He must return the stolen article, the withheld funds, the article is left for safekeeping, the found article.”

10. Be Charitable

According to Jewish law, it is forbidden to impoverish one’s wealth by the distribution of all of one’s wealth to charity. However, one can leave one-third of his estate to charity in his or her will. A minimum of one-tenth of one’s income belongs to God per measure handed down from the Patriarchs as Jacob himself said to God, “Of all that You give, I will set aside a tenth to You” (Genesis 28:22). Give 10% of your net income per year as a desirable goal. Those who can, should.

According to HW Charles in The Money Code: Become A Millionaire With The Ancient Code, “Those who love people acquire wealth so they can give generously, after all, money feeds, shelters and clothes people.” We should strive to be as generous as possible to those in need.

Final Thoughts

Ten commandments of personal finance come from timeless scriptures. Sometimes ancient words remind us that money management was always a challenge. That said, you can learn money lessons wherever you look. Choose financial success by your actions in dealing with money. Determine your priorities and set out to accomplish them. The building doesn’t happen overnight. Many have lost jobs and the means to pay bills. It will take time to get back to normal. In the meantime, stay healthy.

Thank you for reading our piece. Please visit The Cents of Money for more articles and consider subscribing to get regular updates.

 

The Best Free Debit Cards For Kids To Teach Them About Money

The Best Free Debit Cards For Kids To Teach Them About Money

Giving your child a debit card can be an excellent way to teach them about money and budgeting early in life. With consumer debt in the US growing to over $14 trillion, according to CNBC and the Fed, any step you can take to help promote financial literacy early can go a long way.

However, not all debit cards for kids are created equal.

Some have higher monthly fees. Others are free but have ATM and card reload fees. And a few cards offer features above and beyond the competition.

It’s important to understand your options before choosing which debit card to get your kid, especially when it comes to cost. So below, we compiled a list of some of the best debit cards for kids, including a couple of free options you should consider.

What Debit Cards Can Teach Kids About Money

There are a lot of money lessons that kids can learn when using a debit card. Though, the one skill that they will likely pick up above everything else is budgeting.

By allotting them a predefined amount of money, you put the power in their hands to decide how they want to spend their cash.

Rather than saying they can purchase one toy when at the store or one candy bar when at the grocer, they have to look at each item’s price and decide what’s worth it and what’s not, just like the rest of us. They have to consider much more in terms of opportunity cost.

Plus, I think using plastic over cash can have some advantages. It’s like using training wheels before getting their first credit card.

With a kids’ debit card, you can put limits on how much they can spend. You can essentially make it impossible for them to overspend, and they might start to learn those boundaries.

Then, you take the training wheels off when they get their first credit card, and I think they’ll have a higher chance of not maxing out the credit limit right away because they have built the habit of sticking to a budget when using a card.

If we were following Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps, teaching someone about money early would be like step 0. Although, he’d probably frown against the credit card training…

I digress. At the very least, giving your kid a debit card and talking about money will help promote financial literacy. Hopefully, that will go a long way in stopping them from contributing to that multi-trillion consumer debt number mentioned above.

What Defines a Kid Debit Card

Before diving into the list of the best kids’ debit cards, I wanted to define what a kid’s debit card is to me. Generally, I think it must comply with three rules:

  1. A kid (under the age of 18) must be able to use the card on their own
  2. The card must be accepted at most retailers and online
  3. There must be spending controls and parental controls, including transferring preset amounts to the card from a checking account

Also, there are usually features that allow you to track and monitor spending and manage chores.

Most of the best debit cards for kids are prepaid cards that you can load money onto. Since they are prepaid, you avoid the need to open a checking account and eliminate any possibility of overdrawing an account. The card being “prepaid” is the training wheels from the example above.

The 6 Best Kids Prepaid Debit Cards

Before diving into the list, I wanted to call out that the first two options are free! Meaning, there is no monthly fee associated with them.

The rest are still good options, and in some cases, better options, but there will be a monthly fee associated with them.

1. Akimbo Prepaid Mastercard

  • Monthly Fee: $0
  • Card Purchase Fee: $0 (first sub card free, after that $4.95)
    • Reload Fee: $5.95
  • ATM Fee: $1.98

The Akimbo prepaid debit card is technically free. However, even though there is no monthly or annual fee, there is a litany of other costs.

On top of the hefty $5.95 cash reload fee, there is also a $4.95 card replacement fee and a $5.95 inactivity fee (if your card is unused for 12 months).

I like the card because it’s free, and creating sub cards for your kids to use is relatively easy and only comes with a one-time fee of $4.95. Still, the other expenses associated with this card add up fast (especially the fee to transfer money onto the card).

Learn more about the Akimbo Prepaid Mastercard here.

2. Movo Digital Prepaid Visa Card

  • Monthly Fee: $0
  • Card Purchase Fee: $0
    • Reload Fee: $0 (in most cases)
  • ATM Fee: $2.00

The Movo card outshines Akimbo as a free debit card for kids in a few ways.

For one, there is no reload fee if you opt for direct deposit or other approved methods, which is head and shoulders above the Akimbo card. Imagine reloading $20 onto a card for a kid’s monthly allowance and having to pay $5.95. That’s over a 25% fee!

Even if you loaded $100 at a time, Akimbo is still taking nearly 6% from you.

With Movo, it’s free, which is a massive advantage if you plan to load small increments of money onto the card frequently.

However, there is a $4.95 inactivity fee that kicks in after only 90 days (compared to 12 months for Akimbo). If your kid is a good saver and doesn’t use their card often, you may face this fee from Movo. Like many other cards on the list, you have to watch out for ATM fees with this one as well.

Learn more about the Movo Virtual Visa Prepaid card here.

3. Current Visa Debit Card

  • Monthly Fee: $3 ($36 billed annually)
  • Card Purchase Fee: $0
    • Reload Fee: $0
  • ATM Fee: $0 (for in-network ATMs)

The Current card is not free, but it does offer transparent pricing and a one-month free trial. For only $36 a month, you add money to your card as many times as you’d like, worry-free.

Plus, Current offers more than just a debit card. They offer a mobile app with a whole suite of products, including teen banking. It’s one of the most technology-forward options on this list.

Also, for what’s it worth, the card looks cool and wins style points there.

Learn more about the Current Visa Debit Card here.

4. FamZoo Mastercard Reloadable Prepaid Card

  • Monthly Fee: $5.99
  • Card Purchase Fee: First four cards free, then $3 per card
    • Reload Fee: Free when using a qualified bank transfer or direct deposit.
  • ATM Fee: Varys by ATM

The FamZoo card is probably the most popular kids’ debit card option on this list. That’s because it was designed to be a kid’s debit card, whereas some other options on the list are just prepaid debit cards that happen to be good for kids.

Because the card is designed for kids, it offers a lot of neat features, including:

  • Setting up payments for chores
  • Monitoring and tracking kids spending
  • The ability to set savings goals for your kids

The monthly fee is $5.99 per family – so the value gets better the more kids you have using the card. Plus, there are methods to reload your card for free to help keep costs down.

Learn more about the FamZoo prepaid debit card here.

5. Gohenry Prepaid Mastercard

  • Monthly Fee: $3.99
  • Card Purchase Fee: $0
    • Reload Fee: $0 (when loading via debit card)
  • ATM Fee: $1.50

Gohenry offers a free 30-day trial. After that, it is one of the more expensive cards on the list, coming in at $3.99 per month per child.

The premium price could be warranted depending on what you are looking for in a kid’s debit card. Gohenry is designed for kids, similar to FamZoo, and offers a sleek app intended to help teach kids about money.

Last, the ability to personalize the card is a nice touch and could help your kid get a little more excited about learning about money. However, it costs $4.95 to get a customized card.

Learn more about the gohenry card here.

6. Greenlight Kids Debit Card

  • Monthly Fee: $4.99
  • Card Purchase Fee: $0
    • Reload Fee: $0
  • ATM Fee: $0

Rounding out the list is Greenlight, another card designed for kids.

In fact, their tagline is “the debit card for kids, managed by parents.”

The pricing is set up similar to FamZoo, where you pay $4.99 per month but can have multiple kids on the account. It also offers countless great features to promote financial responsibility for kids, including:

  • Chore management
  • Allowances
  • Real-time transaction notifications
  • Parent-paid interest on savings
  • And more…

Learn more about the Greenlight card here.

Bonus: Open a Joint Checking Account

  • Monthly Fee: asdf
  • Card Purchase Fee: asdf
    • Reload Fee: asdf
  • ATM Fee: asdf
  • Rewards/Perks: asdf

The bonus option on this list is to opt for a regular (non-prepaid) debit card.

You can do this by opening a joint checking account with your kid, giving them access to an FDIC-insured bank account and a debit card at the same time.

The two watch-outs with this option are:

  1. You need to make sure that you won’t get hit with any overdraft fees
  2. You need to check the minimum age to open a checking account, which can vary by bank

If you can get by those two hurdles, this could be a great option because it’s free. There are typically no monthly fees associated with checking accounts and debit cards, and you don’t have to worry about “reload” fees either.

Pros and Cons of Getting Your Kid a Debit Card

Kids Debit Card Pros

Teaches Kids to Budget: As mentioned at the beginning of this article, giving a kid a debit card can be one way to teach them about budgeting and enforce good money management practices.

You Can Set Spending Amounts: Most prepaid cards put the parent in the driver’s seat to set spending limits and monitor accounts. You can start to let your kids spend money on their own without completely letting them loose.

Avoid Overdraft Fees: Using a prepaid card, you eliminate the risk of having a kid overdraft a debit card and rack up hefty fees.

Multiple Other Features: From setting interest rates in “savings accounts” to incentivize savings to rewarding kids for doing chores, many of the best prepaid debit cards for kids come with additional useful features.

Kids Debit Card Cons

The Cost: There is no getting around it; whether it’s a monthly fee, reload fee, ATM withdrawals fee, or another type of fee, kids’ debit cards are expensive. The high price you have to pay takes away the risk of overdraft fees, and in some cases, the cost is offset with fun features to help you manage the card and teach your kid(s) about money at the same time.

No Rewards: Unlike traditional credit cards, most debit cards do not offer the ability to earn cash back or rewards.

Age Limits: The age limit to open a card tends to vary by company. This is another thing to keep in mind and look up before moving forward with a card.

How to Choose a Debit Card for Your Kid

Choosing a debit card for your kid is easy once you know your options.

In general, I think there are three questions you should answer to make the decision.

1. Do You Want a Prepaid Card?

If you want the safety and security that comes with loading money onto a prepaid card, then you have started to narrow down your options in the direction of the six cards listed above.

If you are okay with taking the risk of overdrafting an account or are familiar with a bank that stops overdrafting in the first place, going the route of a traditional debit card might be a good fit for you.

2. Do You Want Added Features?

If you want a card and app that comes with many bells and whistles, then opting for the FamZoo, Greenlight, or gohenry card (or something similar) is probably a good choice.

Each card’s website details exactly what it can and can’t do (such as monitoring spending). Before signing up, it’d be wise to read those details over carefully.

3. How Often Will You Reload the Card?

If you plan to reload the card monthly or even weekly, you’ll want to pay extra close attention to the reload fees and methods for reloading a card.

If you only plan to load up the card once a year, the monthly fee associated with the card is the cost you will want to keep lower.

Final Thoughts: Best Free Kids Debit Cards

Getting a debit card for your kid to use can be a great way to help teach them about money and budgeting.

Though it can also be a great way to simplify your finances, instead of doling out an allowance in cash, you can manage money digitally, just like most of us do when paying our own credit cards or monthly bills.

The key when choosing a card is to make sure the benefits outweigh the costs. As you saw reading through this list, these cards are not cheap, and the monthly costs and fees can add up quickly!

This article originally appeared on Your Money Geek and has been republished with permission.

Why Liquid Net Worth Matters

Why Liquid Net Worth Matters

“Liquidity is a good proxy for relative net worth. You can’t lie about cash, stocks, and bond values.

Mark Cuban

Understanding your net worth and how to calculate it is hugely important for measuring your financial health at a particular point in time. It is simply the difference between assets and liabilities. However, it doesn’t consider the liquid nature of your assets.

For example, stocks and bonds tend to be more liquid than other assets as they can be quickly and easily converted into cash. Other assets like your house or car take time and negotiation to sell if you need money. Net worth remains a helpful benchmark but depending on the type of assets you have it may be a less accurate picture.

Liquid Net Worth Is A Realistic Snapshot Of Your Financial Condition

Liquid net worth is what really matters. It is a far more realistic reflection of your financial condition should you face an immediate need for money such as a medical crisis or a business opportunity. While liabilities remain the same for both calculations, your liquid assets have more significance when unforeseen events occur.

Those assets for readily available as cash with little or no loss of value to be counted in liquid net worth. Having liquid money provides a sense of financial security for disasters and opportunities alike.

Asset Rich Cash Poor Can Be Uncomfortable

To a great degree, when you need to take money out to pay for an unforeseen event, would it be easier to take $15,000 out of your savings account or sell your land? Depends if you have $15,000 in the bank. The expression “asset rich cash poor” comes to mind. Often, people have economic assets like land or other economic interests but are not able to easily liquidate them for money.

Land and antiques are assets we have owned and enjoyed. However, you can’t count on those assets to pay for a costly emergency in your life. When I think about mistakes I have made, those purchases stand as major regrets. You sleep easier with access to liquid assets.

What Is Net Worth?

Your net worth is your personal balance sheet that provides a snapshot of your financial position at that time. Net worth is all that you own less than all that you owe. For an expanded explanation, see 10 Reasons Why You Need To Know Net Worth.

The  Formula: Net Worth =  Total Assets less Total Liabilities

Using an excel spreadsheet with different assets/liabilities is an excellent tool for you to put all of your categories in one place that can be periodically updated. You should do it on at least a quarterly basis. However, if you are true to your monthly budgeting, reviewing your monthly net worth is better.

Try putting it on a spreadsheet first. You can use Personal Capital’s net worth app for tracking your investments. Frankly, any way you can keep on top of your net worth with an eye towards building the amount will work.

Knowing Your Net Worth:

  • is a crucial benchmark and report card at a particular time.
  • will allow you to set near-term and long-term goals.
  • track its changes for better money management.
  • highlight your liquid asset balances.
  • helps you to get a loan for a house, car, college tuition, or new business.
  • pay down high-cost debt.
  • refinance your mortgage loans.
  • encourage you to save and invest more.
  • buy your own home, rather than pay high rent.
  • is a great road map to building your wealth.

 

What Is Liquid Net Worth?

Although net worth provides a view of your current financial condition, it doesn’t differentiate the assets that can provide you with liquidity quickly and easily. When facing a medical crisis or an opportunity to buy a business, getting access to your money matters. Sure, you can sell your car quickly but likely for less than the estimated value. Understanding what assets are more liquid means they can be readily converted into cash with little or no loss in value.

The Formula = Liquid Assets Less Total Liabilities

You can either remove non-liquid assets from your total assets or discount their values from their appraisals. Additionally, you need to recognize that tapping certain assets too early such as retirement accounts could result in paying penalties and taxes. More than that, you lose momentum when you withdraw assets that were benefiting from compounding growth.

 

Your Liquid Net Worth:

  1. Understand the differences between your net worth and liquid net worth. Liquid net worth is what you need to count on for immediate funds.
  2. Liquidity varies among our assets which have different growth rates. Money market accounts are liquid but typically have lower returns than stock investments long term.
  3. Consider costs involved in the transactions such as penalties, taxes, fees, and such

 

How To Calculate Your Liquid Net Worth?

Liquid Assets:

  • Cash
  • Cash-Equivalent Securities
  • Brokerage/Investment Accounts

The most liquid assets are cash, cash-equivalent (or money market) securities, and investment or brokerage accounts. These are either already in cash or are those financial or monetary assets that can easily turn into cash with little or no loss in value.

Cash is the best form of liquidity but of course, doesn’t grow unless it is invested.  This category broadly consists of cash on hand, prepaid cards, savings accounts, checking accounts, money market accounts, certificates of deposit (CD), savings bonds, and emergency funds. If your CDs are in a fixed term like 6 months or a year, you may need to pay a small prepayment penalty but this is fairly accessible money. Separately, you need to have an emergency fund earmarked for unforeseen expenses.

Brokerage/Investment Accounts

All types of financial securities can be bought or sold in your brokerage account. Typically, they are stocks, bonds, REITs, mutual funds, and ETFs that are in these taxable investment accounts. While these accounts are liquid in a matter of three business days, you do pay taxes on price appreciation based on the time you held the security. Holding the securities for over one year is taxed at a lower 15% capital gains rate. Otherwise, you pay taxes at the same rate as ordinary income.

Less Liquid Assets

The cash value of your life insurance policy is fairly liquid but you may have to absorb small fees. Depending on the company, it can take more time (eg. 10-20 days) than access to financial securities. On the other hand, access to pensions and investments in real estate such as multifamily homes are less liquid.

Retirement Accounts

When withdrawing money from your retirement accounts before you turn  59.5 years,  you will likely be hit with a 10% penalty and immediate payment of taxes, losing the deferred benefit on that amount. Generally, if you withdraw early from a 401K plan or IRA account you will pay taxes at your marginal tax rate. The marginal tax rate is the tax rate paid on the dollar of earnings (eg 22%-24%).  On the other hand, Roth IRAs are treated differently. For those accounts, so long as you have had this account five years or more, you may withdraw contributions you made to your Roth IRA anytime tax-free and without penalty.

While you may have access to your retirement savings, these are not considered to be liquid. You should not dip into your retirement accounts unless needed as a last resort. By withdrawing these funds, you lose the compound benefit on this money for your future when you are less likely to earn money at your job.

A Temporary Exception

The federal government had waived the 10% penalty if you made a withdrawal between January 1 and December 31, 2020, for those impacted by COVID. Qualified individuals that put back this withdrawn money within a three-year time frame will be excused from paying taxes on the money.

If you are including retirement accounts in your liquid net worth, you should discount your retirement balances by 25% to be conservative.

529 College Savings Accounts

Like retirement accounts, withdrawal of money saved in a 529 college savings plan may be subject to a 10% penalty and you will have to pay taxes. The exception to this rule for 529 savings is withdrawals made for qualified education expenses such as tuition, fees, books, computer, and related costs.

If you are including 529 accounts into the liquid net worth, I would use a similar discount of 25% off the account balance.

Other  Assets

The cash value of your life insurance policy is fairly liquid but you may have to absorb small fees. Depending on the company, it can take more time (eg. 10-20 days) than access to financial securities. On the other hand, access to pensions and investments in real estate such as multifamily homes is less liquid.

Tangible assets

These assets are real and personal property that reflects your lifestyle and is harder to liquidate for funds.

Your Primary Home

If you own the primary home you live in, this may be your largest asset. While the home is an investment, it is not a liquid asset like financial securities you invest in. You cannot count on liquidating real property for quick conversion to cash. You need to figure out how the real estate market is faring in your area using Zillow Zestimate and other sources.

Selling your home is a complex process that can take several months or more to accomplish. An appraisal value is not necessarily your sales price which is often lower. Also, to complete your sale, you are responsible for fees and costs including broker fees of 5%-6% on the sales price, closing costs of 1%-2%, and attorney costs.

Most likely you are carrying a mortgage that is picked up in total liabilities. Upon the sale of your home, you will pay off your mortgage in full from the proceeds of the sale of your home, reducing your liabilities.

Your primary home as an asset should be discounted about 25%-30% off its estimated value for purposes of liquid net worth.

Other Real Estate

Besides your primary home, you may own other types of real estate, including vacation or second home, timeshares, land, and rental property. Having just sold a plot of land, I can tell you that we took a 30%-35% hit from our cost basis in an ugly market after putting it on the market over a year ago.

Use current conservative market values for real estate. Appraised values may not reflect actual sales or liquidated values. You should not be inflating your liquid or net worth unrealistically.

You would need to approximate the value of your home, cooperative, condominium, cars, boats, and any other large items. To approximate real estate values, you can look at Zillow Zestimate, Redfin, Chase Home Estimator, or real estate websites for your zip code.

Your Business(es)

If you own businesses outside of your primary income, it is tricky to calculate a value let alone consider it to be a liquid asset. While you may want to include in your net worth statement a discounted multiple of annual revenues, it doesn’t make sense to include for purposes of liquid net worth unless you had the business appraised and a ready buyer.

Personal Property Is Tricky To Value

Unless you have a meaningful fleet of cars and boats, you should not add these to your assets for your net worth or liquid net worth.  These assets depreciate too fast and sell too slowly to add fairly to your liquid net worth. If you do have that fleet, for cars, you can look at Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds, or AutoTrader. Similarly, for boats, you can consult Boat Trader.

What Else Goes Into Total Assets?

Art, rare books, rugs, and antiques may be a large part of the net worth of wealthy households handed down to the next generation. Unless they are highly desirable or rare, these assets tend to be wildly low liquidated values to count on if you needed money in a pinch. Musical instruments have their value, but again, they are very difficult to peg and their sales are less predictable to raise capital.

This category has a lot of sentimentalities but its value may be very difficult to ascertain. In my opinion, these assets should not be counted on unless you work with an estate professional steeped in knowledge and who has a terrific network to help you sell the items.

My Own Personal Experience Provides A Valuable Lesson

When I worked on Wall Street, I was restricted from making investments in financial securities. If on that rare occasion I was able to buy certain securities, I was often not allowed to sell that security when I wanted to. So, on either side of the trade, I was burned and finally abandoned investing until I left my career as an equity analyst.

So what did I invest in?

A large part of our assets was in art, rugs, rare books, and antiques. What was I thinking?

These assets are on our walls (art), in our bookcases (rare books such as the first edition of the Federalist Papers), on the floors (ancient rugs), and antique furniture (signed in the mid-1760s by the cabinetmaker).

Ever try to sell an 18th-century Tiger Maplewood card table? We have! And we are still waiting for that sale.

Beautiful stuff, but they can’t pay the bills! So I don’t include these personal assets. The few pieces we have sold were at prices 70% below what we paid for them.

I digress but a worthwhile lesson for those who are collectors.

List all your Liabilities By Current Balances

 

Mortgages

  • Your mortgage loan balance is probably your largest liability.
  • The home equity loan balance.
  • Separate mortgage loan balances for the other real estate property (listed above in assets)

Other Loans

  • Student loans at the current balance.
  • Loans associated with the business(es) even though you aren’t including the value of the businesses.
  • Personal loans
  • Credit card account balances (you should break these out individually).

Related Post: Pros And Cons of Credit Cards

Total Liabilities

As mentioned earlier, the formula is fairly easy:

Total  Liquid Assets minus Total Liabilities = Your Liquid Net Worth

Depending on the composition of your assets, it is possible that your liquid net worth may be negative, especially when you are conservatively discounting large assets like your home but including the full mortgage balance. It is important for you to consider whether you need to adjust your investment strategies, spend less, save more, and make sure you have money for emergency purposes.

 

How Can You Build Up Your Liquid Net Worth: Make Good Trade-Offs

Track changes in your liquid net worth statement as early as possible to make sure you are making progress towards your goals.

Track your spending, review for areas you can reduce and produce savings

Have an ample emergency fund of 6-12 months for unexpected events like a lost job. Invest this fund in a liquid account like money markets.

Put more of your money into investment assets like stocks that can expand wealth rather than in personal possessions.

Add to your retirement accounts to the contribution limit. Avoid withdrawing money from these accounts which trigger penalties and taxes. The same goes for 529 plans.

Making more money at your job or a side gig to boost income.

Consider buying recently used cars than luxury fast-depreciating vehicles.

Choose to invest based on your appetite for risk and where you are in your life cycle.

Related Post: How To Make Better Trade-Offs

Where Should I Invest My Money To Maximize My Liquid Net Worth

Stocks are riskier but generate higher returns than keeping your savings in bank accounts at low returns.

According to Bankrate, the best annual percentage yield (APY) which is your effective annual return as of August 28, 2020 ranges from  0.60%- 0.91% for the top ten banks. Those paltry rates which do not provide much in the way of income. Typically, banks may require a minimum balance from $1 to $25,000 and have monthly fees up to $15.

The younger you are, the more able you are to ride out the greater risk found in stock investing, with the benefits of compounding effects.

Homeownership remains a worthwhile investment with currently low mortgage rates. But your home is less liquid than financial securities.

Decreasing your loans or debt liabilities will increase your liquid net worth.

Your Mortgage Loan Deserves Your Careful Attention

Look into refinancing your mortgage if you carrying a mortgage with more than 5% loan rates. You may realize savings.

Target carefully what you borrow, for how long, and at what rate. Look at taking out a 15-year mortgage loan versus a 30-year mortgage loan. While your monthly payments will be higher for the 15-year loan, total borrowing costs will be lower.

Taking on a mortgage loan is a big cost but home prices have generally kept pace with inflation until 2008-2009 when subprime mortgages played a huge factor in declining home values.

Lower Your Debt Where Possible

Pay off your credit card debt in full. It’s likely your highest cost debt so use extra savings, bonus, or tax refund to lower this amount. Otherwise, slow your spending.

Pay off your student debt as soon as you are able.

Final Thoughts

While net worth is a more common benchmark, refining your assets for liquidation purposes gives you a more realistic picture. Tracking liquid net worth helps you to understand your ability to deal with a crisis or an unexpected opportunity. When facing an immediate need for cash, you don’t want to withdraw funds that are earmarked for retirement.

Thank you for reading! If you found this of value, consider reading other articles on our blog, and join us by subscribing to The Cents of Money. Please let us know your thoughts!

Saving For Retirement In Your 20s

Saving For Retirement In Your 20s

Saving For Retirement Yet?

Savings, investing, and retirement are very related, yet the topic of retirement planning gets pushed off to the side.

We fear dealing with the unknown, or we are neglectful.

Instead, planning early and often for retirement will empower you to control for a stage of life that could quite exciting if done right.

It is always an excellent time to start thinking about saving some tax dollars long term.

Start As Early As Possible

You can start planning for retirement at any age, but the earlier, the better. Start in your 20s to take advantage of tax benefits, compounding interest, and peace of mind when you are older.

According to a 2017 study, 12% of Generation Zers are already saving for retirement. Another 35% of the participants plan to start saving when they are in their 20s. Gen Zers, also called iGen and Post-Millennials, seemed to have gotten the strong message that controlling your destiny, including retirement planning, should be in your hands.

A Mini Case Study 

As a college professor, I teach Gen Zers, but I learn so much from them. Recently, I opened up a discussion on marketing, lifestyle, and status with a question about how millionaires live.

Not surprisingly, many students volunteered with images of luxury cars, mansions, yachts, but one student yelled out, “They have lots of savings and invest more.”  Suddenly, the class took a turn, and others shared how they had “put some money away” while another had opened a retirement account.

One of my quieter students hesitated and then forcefully shouted out, “Professor, I am 18 years. There is no *#!^$ way I am saving now for retirement !” A hush came over the room, some students giggled, and suddenly several students started sharing their thoughts about saving, investing, and starting early on retirement.

My students said that their parents hadn’t saved much “for anything.” The students wanted to do better for themselves by planning for retirement early. They intend to put money into their retirement accounts. They don’t think Social Security will be there for them.

I always recommend books to my students and offer points toward their grade if they write a short essay. They seemed eager for points, so I suggested: The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy: Thomas J. Stanley, William D. Danko. If you haven’t yet read this book, it identifies the key traits of those who accumulate wealth by emphasizing that putting away money for your future is paramount.

By the way, a surprising number of my students have taken up the offer, read the book, and submitted an essay for their extra points.

 Why You Need Retirement Planning Early

  1. Life expectancy has increased significantly since 1960. Recent forecasts point to further increases to 83-86 years for men and 89-94 years for women in 2050. Assuming you retire at 65-66 years, you will need 20 years of savings at a minimum.
  2. There could be challenges for Social Security retirement income benefits. About 65 million, or nine out of ten Americans, aged 65 or older received $1 trillion in social security benefits in 2020.  These income benefits represent 33% of the income of the elderly.
  1. Defined pension benefits have a long history but were a 20th-century cornerstone for retirees. A defined benefit pension plan promises a specified pension payment or a lump sum payment from your employer when you retire. It is a particularly desirable compensation perk but declining in use like rotary phones (a now antiquated way to dial a telephone). Today,  only 4% of private-sector workers only participate in pensions, a significant decline from 60% in 1980.

 Retirement Goals You Should Consider

  • Start saving early in a retirement account even if they are initially small amounts. 
  • Raise your contributions accounts as you receive salary boosts and bonuses.
  • Put up enough dollars to earn your employer’s match.
  • Aim to contribute up to the limit allowed for your 401K employer-sponsored 401K and your Roth IRA plans. 
  • Borrow from retirement accounts only as a last resort. 

 

Retirement Accounts are Really Investment, Not Savings Accounts 

By saving early in your retirement, you are investing for the long term. Through the benefit and magic of compounding, you can have substantial funds by contributions, even if you begin with a relatively small amount in your 20s. 

 For example, Emily is 35 years old and puts 6% or $4,200 of her annual salary into the plan. Her account balance would be $279,044 with a 5% yearly return and 30 years until she retires at age 65. That amount would jump to $397,000 if she opted for a more aggressive fund at a 7% return along with higher risk. These amounts do not reflect an employer’s potential matching contribution.

Have Tax Advantages 

There are different retirement accounts, but they have a few things in common: they have tax advantages with varying growth scenarios depending on your preference. They have contribution limits set by the IRS that have increased over the years.

The best known of all retirement plans is the traditional 401K.  They have primarily replaced the defined pension benefit plans.

Most, but not all, employers provide the 401K plans for recruitment and retention purposes.

Small companies, which typically have resisted offering these plans because of cost concerns, often have many part-time or contract employees. They have been slower to adopt these plans and can choose to provide SIMPLE 401 K (see below).

Varying 401K  Plans

If you consider employment between two companies, examine the competing offers based on their sponsored plans for employer matching of your contribution.

Typically, a company will match 50% of every dollar you annually up to a percentage of your gross income, usually around 6%. Some companies match on a dollar to dollar basis but at a low rate of your salary.

Your contributions are on pretax dollars up to $19,500 in 2021, with an additional $6,500 contribution allowed if you are over 50 years as a catch-up measure.

Using pre-tax dollars, defer your federal and state taxes paid upon withdrawal, beginning age 59.5 years. Withdraws before that time will usually result in a 10% penalty. If you are retired, you must begin withdrawing required minimum amounts (RMDs)  by age 70.5 years. 

Greater Participation In Retirement Plans Can Happen

About 70% of all US workers have access to employer-sponsored plans, including 401K, 403b, 457, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings; 55% are participants. As more companies offer automation of contributions directly from paychecks, more employees will likely participate. 

If your company offers a 401K plan and will give you some kind of employer match contribution to add to your own, you are robbing yourself of that gift, and the compounding benefits for the many years you have until retirement. You are just leaving money on the table! 

Surveys have indicated that some employees say they don’t participate in their employers’ 401 K plans because they get overwhelmed by the possible choices they have and then postpone signing up for the program. Employers have encouraged employee participation by providing more information about investment choices and transitioning to opt-out offerings, rather than opt-in.

You can make changes in your selections if you think you picked a too aggressive or too conservative investing approach. Pick one and read your statements, familiarize yourself with the other choices if you want to make a change. Just make sure you start your plan and put in enough to qualify for and trigger your employer’s contribution. 

Roth 401K is similar to the traditional 401K but uses already taxed dollars, so your withdrawals are tax-free.  Roth 401K’s began in the retirement lexicon in 2006 after the introduction of Roth IRA.

Other 400 Plans For Different Organizations

403(b) plans are for employees of non-profit organizations.

The 457 plans are for state, local government employees, nonchurch, and other tax-exempt organizations. No employer contributions are allowed for this plan.

Employers with 100 or fewer employees offer Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees or SIMPLE 401 K. Employers must choose between making matching contributions up to 3% of each employee’s pay or nonelective contributions of 2% of employee’s pay.

Traditional IRA

If you don’t have access to a 401K plan, or even if you do, you can personally set up your retirement account with a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA.

Your contribution to a traditional IRA is in pretax dollars. You defer tax payments until you make withdrawals at age 59.5. If you take out money from your IRA before age 59.5, you will pay taxes and may trigger a 10% penalty plus tax. You may contribute $6,000 in 2021, or $7,000 if you age 50 or older.

IRA withdrawals begin at age 70.5 as required minimum distributions or RMD.

The logic behind paying taxes at an older age is that you may be in a lower tax bracket. However, the reason may be in reverse, and that’s why Roth IRA’s have increased in popularity. Of course, your tax brackets will reflect how well you do in your career, and it is not likely you know that in your 20s.

Roth IRAs

With Roth IRAs, you contribute after-tax dollars, and your money grows tax-free. Your withdrawals are tax-free after 59.5 years. 

Roth IRAs have no required minimum distributions like their older IRA counterpart. You may be able to withdraw your contributions, not your earnings, before age 59.5 years without penalty if your Roth IRA has existed for five years or more.

In many ways, Roth IRA has been the preferred vehicle for personal retirement accounts and are more tax-friendly longer term.

Arming yourself with both 401K and IRA retirement accounts is the minimum planning you can do when you are in your 20s and 30s.

Borrowing Money From Your Retirement Savings Is The Last Resort

There are times when you face financial hardship and consider borrowing from your retirement plan.  Your 401K plan (not your IRA plan) allows you to borrow from your retirement assets and repay the amount with interest to your account rather than to a financial institution.

One of the most significant drawbacks of using your retirement assets is the loss of tax-deferred compound growth for the loan duration. Taking assets out of a retirement account should be a last resort. We discussed withdrawals, and if you do so too early, you pay taxes and penalties.

Final Thoughts

You have long years in front of you. Starting early in your planning, even with small amounts, allows you to benefit from compounding growth through the years. Earning interest on interest adds significantly to your retirement fund. 

Do it early so you can avoid the real angst of not planning. Procrastination is not an answer for anything! You’ll be glad you are getting a headstart!

Thank you for reading! 

 

 

 

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