10 Reasons Why You Should Know Your Net Worth

10 Reasons Why You Should Know Your Net Worth

How are you today? I mean, how are you financially?

Know Your Net Worth:

  • It is a crucial benchmark at a particular time.
  • Will allow you to set near-term and long-term goals.
  • Track changes for better money management.
  • Highlight your liquid asset balances.
  • It helps you 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 high rent.
  • Provides the best road map to building your wealth.

 

You need to know the difference between net worth and net income.

What Is Your Net Income

Your net income is based on your gross or pre-tax income and reflects your annual salary or based on hourly wages times the number of hours you worked.

Gross income consists of commissions earned and interest income from investments.

Deductions for taxes and pension and retirement accounts will be your net income for the year.

Using A Budget May Help You To Control Spending

 Net income pays your monthly bills, your monthly loans, and other items in your budget.

For a better description of what goes into your budget plan, see our post, “How To Control Spending With A Simple Budget.”

Having a reasonable budget plan and spending less than you earn will add to your net worth.

That is your roadmap to building wealth and greater financial flexibility. Take that road!

How To Calculate 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.

It is total assets less total liabilities.

An excel spreadsheet of different assets and liabilities discussed below is an excellent tool for putting all of your categories in one place. Update this spreadsheet periodically. 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, but 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 to build the amount will work.

10 Key Reasons Why You Need To Know Your Net Worth:

1. Key Benchmark

Your net worth is an important benchmark that measures your household’s successes. 

2. Set Goals

Knowing your net worth is essential to set your immediate and long-term goals and planning your family. Your net income is likely at a lower level early in your career than in the later years when your net income should rise from the potential upside coming from promotions, training, and better jobs. With careful planning and a budget plan in place, your net worth should increase over time.

3. Track Progress

You should track changes in your net worth as early as possible to make sure you are making progress in managing your money correctly.

4. An Emergency Fund Is Essential

You must have liquid or cash-like assets for the potential problems that are likely to arise. An ample emergency fund should provide some needed padding for unexpected events like a lost job. Liquidity can vary among different assets we own. A money market account is typically far more liquid than your car or your home.

5. For Borrowing

When you go for a loan to buy a house, a car, for college tuition, or invest in a new business, you will want to review your net worth to make sure you can afford the incremental costs you will be taking on. Your bankers will want to review your financial statements, including an income statement with your earnings history and your net worth.

6. Pay Off Debt

Pay down your high-yielding debt, typically your credit card debt, which uses the magic of compounding interest against us if we only make the minimum interest payments.  The average credit card interest rate for April 2021 is 19.49%. Get rid of credit balances in full on a monthly basis.

7. Refinance Mortgage Debt

You could pay off all or some of your mortgage debt if your interest rate is over 5%. If it is significantly above that, you should be seeking to refinance your mortgage.  On the other hand, if you pay a low-interest rate, don’t make any changes. 

8. Build Assets

Add to your retirement accounts to the limit,  earn your employer’s match,  and increase investments in a low-cost index fund. While stocks can be volatile year-to-year as it was in 2018 and again, early 2020, longer-term, S& P 500 annual returns have averaged 9.9% since the 1920s. If you are not facing imminent retirement, stocks remain a great place to invest your money.

 If you don’t own your home and pay high rent in, say New York City or San Francisco (the most expensive cities to rent one-bedroom apartments in the US), you may consider buying a home while mortgage rates are still relatively low at under 4%.

9. Financial Planning

Your road map to building wealth starts with knowing your net worth and making valuable changes like reduced spending, increased saving, and investing. Your net worth statement is the basis for having a financial plan to achieve short-term and long-term goals, and make adjustments to your budget. 

10. Financial Security

Having financial security means not worrying about money and living comfortably with peace of mind. Knowing your net worth is having a tool to measure your financial security at any point in time. There are terrific apps like Personal Capital that can help you build your net worth, track spending and all key variables to this statement, and make changes.

How do you calculate your net worth?

List all your the assets that have current monetary values in the following categories:

Cash and cash equivalent assets are those financial assets that quickly convert into cash. These assets include cash on hand, prepaid cards, savings accounts, checking accounts, money market accounts, certificates of deposit, savings bonds, and emergency funds. You can also include short-term IOUs, money expected from tax refunds. You can get these amounts off your latest monthly statements. List these individually based on their current balances.

Other monetary assets include your taxable investment accounts, retirement accounts, real estate investment funds, pensions, and cash value of life insurance policies. List these at their current market value.

Monetary assets are more liquid, meaning they can convert them into cash more quickly with little to no loss in value.

Tangible assets would include your most significant investments that are part of your lifestyle.

Real Estate

These real estate assets are your primary home and another real estate you own, including vacation or second home, timeshares, land, and rental property. Separate your primary home from the other real estate.

Use current conservative market values for real estate. Appraised values may not reflect actual sales or liquidated values.  You should not be inflating your 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, Chase Home Estimator, or real estate websites for your zip code.

Your Business(es)

If you own your business or businesses, use conservative market values. It can be a complex matter. A simple rule of thumb is to look at sales at simple companies or a multiple of revenues, such as 0.6 times annual revenues.

Personal Property Is Tricky To Value

Unless you have a meaningful fleet of cars and boats, you should not add these to your assets even though they relate to those assets that you include. These assets depreciate too fast and sell too slowly to add much to your net worth. If you have that fleet, you can look at Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds, or AutoTrader for cars. 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 many households’ net worth. Unless they are highly desirable or rare, these assets tend to wildly low liquidated values to count on if you needed money in a pinch. Musical instruments have their value, but they are challenging to peg, and their sales are less predictable to raise capital.

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

Let My Mistakes Provide A Valuable Lesson

When I worked on Wall Street, my company restricted analysts from investing in financial securities. If I could buy certain securities on that rare occasion, 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 investments did I make?

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

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 according to their current balances.

Mortgage

Your mortgage loan balance is probably your most significant 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)

Personal loans

credit card account balances (you should break these out individually)

Professional services unpaid

Taxes owed

Total Liabilities

Total Assets minus Total Liabilities= Your Net Worth

How can you build your net worth? Start with writing out the ways.

You should look at your net worth statement with your budget to see what areas of growth and reduction in spending could build your net worth.

Look at your potential trade-offs.

Increasing your assets by increasing your savings could increase your net worth.

Making more income at your job would boost net worth.

Cutting your spending in areas that you can allow you to put more money into interest-bearing bank accounts or stock investments.

Investing in financial securities can expand your wealth.

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

Where should I invest my money to maximize my 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) for bank savings accounts in April 2021 ranges from  0.40%- 0.60% for the top banks. Check for minimum balances and monthly fees that can go up to $15. These low rates will not make your net worth grow but will provide liquidity.

Having cash on hand is critical for your emergency fund. In November 2018, 76% of families reported having at least $400 in liquid accounts, according to the Federal Reserve.

Your net worth will grow faster if you invest in a diversified basket of stocks, which will provide more significant upside potential long term.

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

Homeownership remains a worthwhile investment despite the slide in property prices in 2008-2009 but is less liquid than financial securities.

After household net worth plummeted in the Great Recession in 2008 to $58.996 trillion, having been impacted by declining home and stock market values, household net worth has improved to $130.0 trillion at the end of 2020, though consumer debt growth continues to dampen net worth for many families

Savings and investments in financial securities will enhance your net worth and are more liquid. Liquid net worth is a great benchmark for understanding your financial flexibilities when there are emergencies or opportunities. 

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

Reducing your debt levels will also improve your net worth situation.

Your mortgage loan deserves your careful attention

When borrowing, research rates for different time frames. Look at taking a 15-year mortgage loan versus a 30-year mortgage loan. The shorter borrowing time results in paying less overall interest. 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 high cost, but home prices had generally kept pace with inflation until 2008-2009, when subprime mortgages played a massive factor in declining home values.

The median household net worth for 2019 was $121,700, up 18% from 2016,  according to the Federal Reserve’s latest survey.  

The Fed has kept the fed funds rate at zero to 0.25% in 2021. According to the latest Bankrate numbers, fixed mortgage loan rates remain low at 3.110% for the 30-year and 2.400% for the 15-year. 

Final Thoughts

If you receive a sizable tax refund this year, earned a higher bonus, inherited money, or experienced a sudden windfall, what would you do with the proceeds?

Lower your debt where possible, Then allocate to saving to invest more. Pay off your credit card debt. Card balances are likely your highest-cost debt, so use your tax refund or bonus to lower this amount. If there is some money, pay off more of your student debt. The way to build wealth is by growing your assets faster than your liabilities.

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.

What are some of the things you are doing today to increase your assets, reduce your liabilities, and raise your net worth? Where can you reduce your spending to put more money into savings and investments? We would love to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pros And Cons of Credit Cards

The Pros And Cons of Credit Cards

“Once you get into debt, it’s hell to get out. Don’t let credit card debt carry over. You can’t get ahead paying eighteen percent.”

Charlie Munger, Vice-Chairman, Berkshire Hathaway

 

For me, credit cards have always been a double-edged sword, a fight between good and evil, or in Biblical terms, a blessing and a curse. Growing up, my parents predominantly used cash, using their retail business’s checking account to pay bills. I was the first in my family to go to college and the first to have a credit card. My parents celebrated the former and not so much the latter. They only accepted cash from their customers, refusing to believe in the benefits of the credit card. That’s where I probably get my reluctance to use credit cards instead of cash at times.

They may have been onto something though it may have been something else altogether. My mom, I still believe, may have been irked by the fact that women, on their own, could not get their cards until the passage of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974. Before that, women needed to have a man (husband or father) cosign for a credit card. How was it fair that my Dad, not my Mom, the brains behind all our finances, could get a credit card? Just saying why I think my Mom, until the day she died in 2000, never had any interest in a credit card (pardon the pun!).

The Credit Card Landscape

Credit cards are a financial tool. But like buying a new buzz saw, you need to use it with care. Some people collected credit cards like baseball cards when I was growing up. That seems like a formula for disaster to me. Clearly, we are not yet a cashless society with nearly 1 in 4 people unable to get approval for a credit card due to lack of credit history or discipline. Roughly 33 million people in the US are unbanked or underbanked, meaning they largely use financial products outside the banking system.

When COVID hit our shores in March 2020, new card applications dropped 40%. Inquiries for all kinds of loans–auto and mortgages–dropped substantially as our priorities changed during the pandemic.  The irony is that the use of credit cards increased out of necessity due to fear of touching cash on the risk of getting a coronavirus-related infection. That behavior is just another example of the strange happenings in 2020. Growth in new card applications should resume in 2021. 

Credit Card Statistics:

  • About 176 million or  67% of Americans have a credit card with about 3.1 cards per person.
  • The average card balance is $5,897 per person end of 2020.
  • Roughly 58% of cardholders carry some kind of balance.
  • The average FICO score for credit cardholders was 735.
  • The current credit card interest rate averages were 14.58%, but for those with fair credit scores, the rates rise to 23.13%For new credit cards.
  • The average rate was 17.87%.

 

Advantages of Credit Cards

 

1. Convenience

Compared to cash, credit cards are a suitable financial product. Before COVID, retail businesses were increasingly not accepting cash from customers. Credit cards provide fast payments, transfers between accounts, and withdrawals.

There are far more shopping options with a card. It is easier to make, change, and cancel travel, hotel, and car rental arrangements.  When traveling overseas, credit cards allow you to realize currency conversions automatically.  Let’s face it, carrying a lot of cash is hard –bills and change– around in your pockets, jingling around. That said, I do like window shopping without my wallet, so I don’t feel tempted to spend money unnecessarily.

2. Build Up Your Credit

For those who lack credit history, like young people, becoming an authorized user on your parents’ credit card is a rite of passage. This is an excellent way to build up a credit history so long as your parents’ credit scores are strong. Otherwise, it won’t help your credit situation at all.  Most states do not have minimum ages for your child to become an authorized user. I’d suggest you teach your kids about the responsibility of using a card safely and responsibly first.

Getting a new card may be a second chance to improve your credit score. You have missed payments, hurting your credit score in the past. If you are ready to be responsible, you should consider getting a secured card, putting some cash on account. You don’t need a massive number of cards to strengthen your payment history and length of credit history. Understand common credit mistakes and how to avoid them.

Related Post: 6 Ways To Raise Your Credit Score

3. Easy To Track Spending

You should regularly review your credit card bills helps you track your spending. It is easy to do (except when you know you spent a lot of money) and an excellent way to improve your financial discipline. Although spending cash is the best way to feel pain immediately, regular examination of the amounts you are consuming is a realistic way to correct yourself. The credit bills provide a purchase record when making returns.

One particular month, I recall seeing a very high bill with several items that seemed uncharacteristic of me. It was a posh store with a great salesperson.  Looking around,  I realized that the dress  “I had to have” was still in the bag with the tags on along with new shoes. Who did I buy that for? Not me, apparently so I returned those things and stayed clear of that salesperson.

4. Automate Your Payments

Paying your bills, especially credit cards, are so much easier when you use the automation feature. Most cards have this feature that you can set on or before the due date so you are not late on your bill payments. Also, consider paying more than once a month if the lower amounts feel better to digest. As payment history accounts for 35% of your credit scores, automating payments is one way to help you not miss the due date.

5. So Many Perks

Having a credit card may entitle you to perks. Typically, the card use may provide perks such as cashbacks, rewards, airline points, merchant discounts, hotels, travel insurance, welcome bonuses, access to tough-to-get tickets, and free museum passes. Before signing up a specific perk, make sure it aligns with your needs. One time I ordered four tickets for Hamilton on Broadway for my family, only to realize they were preview tickets for the opening in LA, 3000 miles away. The issuer reimbursed us and waived the fees.

6. Protections For Consumers, Not Necessarily For Businesses

Credit cards offer several features for consumers. When you lose cash, it is gone forever. The good news is that money is typically not attached to your personal information, like the loss or theft of your credit cards. Some cards provide zero-liability fraud protection. In a fraud situation, just notify your issuer to cancel your card. Alternatively, the issuer can get you a new account number at no charge. Safety is important.

Typically, when you lose your credit card, your losses are capped at $50 so long as you let the issuer know promptly. There may be a higher fee and responsibility for any charges that aren’t yours if you delay reporting them. I once thought I lost my card, I called the card company quickly to find that my card fell out of my wallet into a nook in my bag. Paying the fee was a fine for a lesson learned to at least look for your card first.

Cards often have spending limits. Occasionally, you may want to lift the limit if you know you may be spending more for an overseas trip, for example, where you plan to shop for jewelry. A cardholder can let their issuer know that they want to “opt-in” to allow for transactions that may put you over your credit limit. You can let them know the specific dates you’ll be traveling. Spending limits are a good feature, especially if you’re prone to overspending.

The Credit CARD Act of 2009 enhanced more protections for consumers that do no apply to businesses. With this law, issuers need to notify consumers of significant interest rate hikes at least 45 days beforehand. Also, fees, previously hidden, must be better disclosed clearly. There are some other practices that improved with the CARD Act discussed here. Still, it is always important to read the tiny fine print, especially when it comes to credit cards.

Disadvantages of Credit Cards

 

 

1. Overspending Leads To Higher Debt

Spending beyond your means can be the root of all evil related to your finances. Credit cards enable people to shop impulsively.  Having a card rather than a finite amount of cash gives you the ability to borrow more than you should. Overuse of your card leads to carrying high-cost debt on your balances. Paying double-digit interest rates on these balances can be overwhelming.

The convenience of using credit cards as compared to cash may encourage higher spending, according to studies. In the now-classic MIT study by Drazen Prelec and Duncan Simester, MBA students held an auction for tickets to sporting events. One event was a desirable basketball playoff game, and the other was a regularly scheduled baseball game. Those participants were encouraged to buy tickets using credit cards spent up to 100% more than those paid in cash. They called this the credit card premium.

Other studies seem to validate the MIT findings that we tend to spend more with a credit card than cash. For me, spending cash for purchases gives me an immediate pain instead of a nearly month delay of having to pay my credit card balance.  to me, mental accounting bias and overspending

2. Irresponsible Use of Your Credit Card

When you pay your card bill in full every month, you don’t pay any interest. Your credit card provides a lot of benefits without the pain of paying high interest costs. Unfortunately, many people just pay the minimum amount due at the end of the month, carrying a balance forward. The issuers prefer cardholders to carry balances as it is a lucrative income stream for the companies. 

At an average balance of $3,000 with an average interest rate of 16%, it can take 16 years to pay off that balance at the monthly minimum rate, roughly 3%-4% using a credit card interest calculator. That assumes that you haven’t used a credit card during those years. It is a vicious cycle. The magical powers of compounding that work so well when investing or saving for retirement works against you when you are paying interest charges on interest accumulated. If you cannot use your card responsibly, you should work hard to reduce your spending. Some people have too many credit cards, maxing out their limits, losing control of their spending.

Watch out for the particularly punitive penalty interest charge when you are late on your credit card payment. The penalty interest rate could be as high as 29.99%, above your regular interest rate, and may stay in place for some time.

3. Lower Your Credit Score

Just as you may raise your credit score, misuse of your credit cards can destroy your score. Missing payments, applying for credit too many times, and using more than the 30% limit of your available credit all can hurt your scores. Even closing a credit card account, you don’t use will result in a decline in your score. Your credit score reflects your creditworthiness to lenders, landlords, and other professionals and could negatively impact you.

4. Read The Fine Print

Just like any contract you sign, make sure to read the terms and conditions of the credit cards you are considering. Despite legislation to protect consumers, issuers are well known for hiding information about their perks, fees, charges, and other liabilities from consumers. In recent years, consumers have been able to compare credit cards more quickly. Among my favorite sites are WalletHub, NerdWallet, and CreditCards.com, which have a ton of good information on credit card features.

Be aware that you are usually subject to mandatory arbitration if you have a dispute with your card issuer. This has been relaxed in recent years but is still in the terms and conditions. It is one of my pet peeves and a project I assign my law students to look at the fine print. The average consumer can’t fight the legions of arbitration attorneys that support card issuers.

Exercise Financial Discipline By Using These Rules:

  1. Shop wisely for a credit card, finding the perks that most suit you.
  2. Read the terms and conditions carefully even after you made your selection.
  3. Pay your credit card bill in full, so you don’t carry a  balance.
  4. Have an ample emergency fund, so you don’t put high unforeseen costs on your card.
  5. Spend below your means always and make savings and investing a priority.
  6. Don’t close any credit card. Instead, cut your card in a million pieces or simply put it in a drawer.
  7. If you have multiple cards, decide how to use them for different categories and don’t max out their limits.
  8. Avoid cards with annual fees unless they have essential features you will use.
  9. Don’t get addicted to credit cards. Limit the number of cards you have.
  10. When it comes to paying your card bills, automate and don’t procrastinate. The penalty rate is punitive for a reason.
  11. If your child is an authorized user of your credit card, teach them how to use the card wisely and safely.
  12. Be aware of behavioral biases of spending more when using your credit card instead of cash.
  13. Review your credit card bills for errors, poor judgment on your part, or correct impulsive spending.
  14.   Use cash for some of your discretionary spending.

 

Final Thoughts

Credit cards serve an essential purpose as a financial tool in an increasingly cashless society. Used wisely, the advantages of credit cards will outweigh their disadvantages. Practice financial discipline in all aspects of money management. We have had our druthers about using credit cards, learned a hard lesson or two.

Thank you for reading! If you found some value in this article, please share it with friends, family, and colleagues. Consider subscribing to our growing community at The Cents of Money!

 

 

 

 

6 Ways To Raise Your Credit Score

6 Ways To Raise Your Credit Score

Our financial lives depend on our creditworthiness. When we go for a loan, lenders review our credit report and our FICO credit scores to determine our annual percentage rate (APR). Generally, the higher our score on a 300-850 score, the lower the borrowing rate we will pay on our loans for our car, mortgage, or college tuition.

7 Reasons Why You Need To Review Your Credit Report And Score:

 

  • People want to know where you stand before making important financial decisions.
  • I am borrowing for a home purchase.
  • Car loan or lease.
  • Student loan.
  • She is hecking for inaccuracies, identity theft, and fraud.
  • He was getting a job.
  • We are renting an apartment.

 

Can You Improve Your Credit Score?

The short answer is yes, you can!  We will go over tips to increase your scores. First, let’s talk about how the FICO Scores formula is calculated with its five different criteria of the total:

Payment History: 35%

This category carries the most significant weight in your score and is the most critical factor. The longer the credit history, the better. Having a sound track of not missing payments and being on time works in your favor.

So those who are new to being approved for their credit cards need to show a consistently positive pattern.  These are different account types such as credit cards, retail or store accounts, installment loans, mortgages, and finance company accounts.

Credit Utilization: 30%

As a significant influence on your credit score, credit utilization is the ratio of your total outstanding revolving credit balances divided by full available credit. Revolving credit refers to your credit cards and credit lines you may have but does not include your car loan (unless on your credit card) or your mortgage.

The utilization ratio is known as the balance of debt to available credit or debt-to-credit. It measures how much credit you have used for the amount available to you. You don’t want to “max out” your cards. You should not be above a 30% ratio as it will impact your score. I would stay in the mid-20s range so as not hitting the 30% level.

Credit History: 15%

How you handle credit is essential to lenders. The length of time of your oldest credit account and the average age of all of your accounts determine your credit history. The older the account, the better your credit score. If you are new to obtaining credit, it will take time to benefit from showing up in your score.

Credit Mix: 10%

Lenders favor some variety of borrowing in your mix of credit. A borrower handling different kinds of debt products may reflect less risk to lenders. When you don’t yet have a credit card, you may be at higher risk. That said, don’t go out and get different kinds of loans for the sake of improving your mix.

New Credit: 10%

When you apply for new credit, that inquiry is reported on your credit report for up to two years. That is called a hard inquiry and can negatively impact your credit score, particularly if you are making multiple inquiries. However, don’t let it stop you from doing comparison shopping for the same type of loan.

A soft inquiry occurs when you are checking your credit score or report. Soft inquiries do not generate negative hits.

Related Post: Common Credit Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

6 Ways To Increase Your Credit Score:

 

1. Check Your Credit Report For Errors

Reviewing your report for inaccuracies and missing information may be the fastest and easiest way to improve the score. An FTC study reports that 5% of consumers had errors that may carry enough weight to result in getting a lesser favorable loan. One in four consumers had errors in one of three credit reports.

If you find an error, contact each of the credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). You will need to give them specific information as to what you believe is incorrect. They must investigate the item(s) you have raised, usually within 30 days. You can do all of this online, but it is a good idea to follow up if you don’t hear back from them.

Fix Errors As Quickly As Possible

Initiate your inquiry as soon as you spot the error by following these steps. The credit bureaus may back burner your issue if they deem it frivolous, so be specific and provide the needed information as part of your inquiry.

Sometimes what appear to be errors are fraudulent charges and scams.

Read our related post: 9 Ways To Better Protect Your Privacy Against Fraud And Scams

2. Pay Bills On Time

The credit bureaus require you to pay the minimum amount required on time. They are looking at your payment history, which counts a lot towards your overall credit score. Missed or late payments are harder to repair and can lead to delinquent payments that take seven years to get rid of on your report.

Automate Payments

Consider automating payments online through your bank portals for credit card companies. Set up online payments with your other loan providers. Stick to a monthly schedule or pay these bills every two weeks to lessen the burden.

If you have missed payments, get current as quickly as possible. Be consistent after that as the creditors look for a clear pattern of timely payments before you see score improvements.

You do not want a collection account to appear on your credit report. Even if you pay that account, it has long-lasting adverse effects. It puts a 7-year stain on your report. Don’t let that be a disincentive from paying off the collection debt as it will stay on longer. You might want to check with the creditor to see if it was “charged off” as lousy debt before making a payment.

Pay Credit Card Balances In Full

Although the strategy of making the minimum payment on your credit balance is good for your score, it will keep you in debt longer. It is far better to pay off your monthly debt balances in full. Otherwise, you are paying those card balances at mid-high teen interest rates.

That makes the credit card companies happy, but, of course, that is not your goal.

3. Reduce Your Debt

The credit utilization ratio is an essential contributor to your overall credit score. Being disciplined about your debt levels is vital for the financial future. This ratio reflects how much of your available credit has been used. Lenders look at debt usage on a per-card basis and total debt relative to total credit available.

Creditors look at a 30% threshold. Ratios above that level may provide negative consequences to your score. Consider targeting a lower percentage in the mid 20’s if you must carry month-to-month balances at all. You may not realize that making sizable purchases such as moving to a new home caused you violated the 30% ratio.

Raising Credit Limits Too Tempting For Some

I have read others recommend that you seek higher limits on your credit cards to lower the ratio. That may work mathematically, but it is too tempting to have more credit available to spend more for some of us. It sort of reminds me of how our elected officials thrash out at each other, then raise our nation’s debt ceiling rather than reducing our borrowings.

Rather than raise limits on your credit cards, make a plan to zero out your debt balances to gain financial flexibility or stop using your cards and spend less.

If you are having trouble making ends meet because of exigent circumstances (e.g., job loss, death in the family), contact your creditors to see if there is something they can do, such as modify your credit terms temporarily. Another recommendation is to go to a financial counselor for some strategies to reduce your debt significantly.

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

4. Little To No Credit History

When you have a relatively “thin credit file,” it means you don’t have much in the way of showing that you are responsible with credit yet. Minimal credit history accounts for about 15% of your credit score. There are a couple of things for you to do.

You can become an authorized user on someone else’s account like a parent. Make sure that they use their credit responsibly, or it won’t be beneficial to you.

Related Post: A Guide To Your Child’s Credit Report: Pros And Cons

Strengthen Your Credit File

You can apply for a secured credit card where approvals are easier to get than unsecured credit cards. Your credit limits will be far lower, usually capped at around $500. You will need to post a refundable deposit as security. Secured credit cards are suitable for those with lousy history and those with little or no track record.

You may want to consider Experian’s recently launched free product, Experian Boost. It allows consumers to include utility and cellphone payments into their credit score calculations using this tool. It may provide an incremental boost for those with thin or poor credit history files. You are connecting your online bank account to your Experian credit report.

5. Don’t Close Any Unused Credit Accounts

If you have credit cards, you no longer use or need it, it is better to cut them up and put those cards in a drawer and forget about them. The exceptions to de-classing them to your sock drawer are you will be too tempted to spend or pay annual fees.

Otherwise, if you call the company to close the account, you will likely lose a few points off your score. Closed accounts, even if they have zero balances, stay on your credit report for ten years.

Keeping the account open and unused benefit your scores at least two ways:

  • your credit utilization ratio will rise because you have removed available credit.
  • Eliminating an account might hurt your credit history if it is an older account.

The impact of closing an unused account may be tougher on young people or someone trying to build up their credit file. I made this rookie mistake by closing a retail store’s account when I was younger. It was an expensive store and not one I found myself shopping at anymore.

I thought I was making a smart move when I closed the account and had my score dinged. I recommend the “scissors approach” and cutting the cards and put it away.

6. Apply For New Credit Sparingly And Only If Needed

Credit mix is a factor in your score, though not as influential as credit utilization. Think carefully before applying for more credit than necessary. It may result in counting as a hard inquiry on your credit report and, therefore, a harmful point reduction in your score.

 

How Long Does It Take To Rebuild Your Credit Card:

 

  • Credit errors or repairs  3-6 months
  • Closing accounts           three months
  • Hard inquiries                two years
  • Missed Payments         18-24 months
  • Car Repossess              seven years
  • Delinquencies                seven years
  • Bankruptcies                  7-10 years

 

Credit Score Ranges Per Experian:

  • 800-850 Exceptional
  • 740-799 Very Good
  • 670-739 Good
  • 580-669 Fair
  • 300-579 Very Poor

 

How Much Of A Difference Does A Credit Score Make On Your Loan?

Using myFICO Loan Savings Calculator,  here are national 30 year fixed mortgage rates with a 400,000 on April 16, 2021, according to the following scores:

Scores      APR                  Monthly Payment

  • 760-850    2.676%                 $1,617
  • 700-759    2.898%                 $1,664
  • 680-699    3.075%                 $1,703
  • 660-679    3.289%                 $1,749
  • 640-659    3.719%                 $1.845
  • 620-639    4.265%                 $1.971

 

If your score is currently at the low end, you can save up to $127,421 in total interest paid over the life of the loan by improving your credit to the 760-850 level. Becoming more creditworthy helps you save money.

 

Final Thoughts

Most of us are in the 620-719 score range. We have several ways we can raise our credit scores incrementally and produce meaningful savings. A better credit score improves our ability to borrow and satisfy those like our landlord who want us to be creditworthy.

We should be more financially responsible by reducing debt, paying our bills on time and zeroing out our costly credit card balances. We need to have greater financial flexibility and make better decisions for our  fulfilling our needs and wants in our lives.

If you are new here, welcome! Subscriber and join our growing community, get our free newsletter, freebies and free Personal finance email course.

Related post: Are You Creditworthy? All About Your Scores And The Five C’s

Have you checked your credit report recently? It is important to review to do so for errors and ways to improve before core ahead of your needs to borrow. Do you have any experience you can share that you dealt with repairing credit errors  or increasing your score?

We would like to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Being Frugal When Saving Time And Money

Being Frugal When Saving Time And Money

“Price is what you pay; value is what you get.”

Warren Buffett

I bristled when they called me a cheapskate when I was a young kid. It cast a dark shadow over me. We lived in a modest neighborhood in the Bronx, so it wasn’t like some of us were from the upper class. Still, our lifestyle was far more humble than others. I was laughed at for getting an ice cream without sprinkles or wearing ratty clothes. My parents were more frugal for a good reason. They struggled with their small business and needed to save money for our basic needs. For many people, frugality is a necessity. For others, it may be a choice.

Cheap Vs. Frugal

Nowadays, calling someone frugal is more of a virtue, like giving a badge of honor to that person. Being frugal or cheap is sometimes used interchangeably, but the terms have different meanings. According to Merriam-Webster, frugal is characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources. On the other hand, cheap has a range of definitions. Cheap has two or more meanings: charging or obtainable at a low price and inferior quality or worth.

While both terms are about saving money, being cheap is usually motivated by price and paying less. On the other hand, being frugal considers price along with quality and value in evaluating the purchase. There is a gray area but considering if a person is cheap or frugal, you’ll know the difference by their actions or words. Cheap people are penny-pinchers who will mostly pick the lowest price option even if the quality is suspect, regift presents, and are poor tippers. Many will engage in D-I-Y projects like plumbing and electrician work just for the sake of not spending the money.

When Frugality Can Go Too Far

Being overly cheap or extreme frugality without reason and lack of generosity is a symptom of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) by the International OCD Foundation. The American Psychiatric Association has pointed to this symptom as when “a person adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others.” Growing up, my Uncle Harry lived with us for many years. He was a Holocaust survivor of the death camp Auschwitz. As a teen, he suffered from the camp’s traumatic effects. He lost his family, except for my mom, and married late in life. Unfortunately, he divorced soon after.

It was extreme frugality that killed his marriage. His wife, Doris would come home with a dozen eggs or too many groceries and he would have a breakdown over the potential for wasted food. His psychiatrist noted his anxiety about saving money or extreme frugality was a tragic symptom of his experience.

In contrast to being cheap, frugality is a strategy that saves money and considers the whole picture: quality, durability, value, and price of what you are buying. Those who are frugal are savvy about saving money for themselves and others. They will consider other variables like whether that purchase is good for the environment and other causes.

The Frugal Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett is as legendary for his frugality as he is for his investing acumen. He lives in the same Omaha home since 1958. Buffett frequents McDonald’s and his company’s cafeteria. He is a value-seeker when investing or in his lifestyle. Yet, for all of his frugalness, Warren Buffett has generously donated $37 billion since 2006.  One of my favorite Buffett quotes: “It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.”

6 Benefits To Being Frugal  

 

1. Having A Purposeful Mindset

Adopting a frugal mindset means being more thoughtful about your purchase decisions. It is not about having it all but about choosing your purchases carefully for you and your family.  Having a frugal attitude favors good money habits like saving money and better financial management overall. It is not about choosing the lowest price option basing your decision on price alone. Other factors are part of the value proposition.

Frugality is a lifestyle that people adopt for the simple pleasures of life. It is not new. Plato and Henry David Thoreau in Walden advocated modest or minimalist living. It contrasts with societal desires for materialistic possessions which often leads to overspending just to keep up with your peers. Being thrifty has its merits and can lead to sound well-being.

Related Post: 10 Ways To Better Manage Your Spending

2. Motivate Yourself By Knowing Your Goals

It is easier to save or manage money when you have a plan for your future. Determine your short and long-term goals. Those who plan to retire early,  work hard to set aside money for savings, retirement, and investments. Their plan will motivate them to be financially independent and retire early (FIRE). It is not for everyone, but it does give you a chance to develop good money habits for future financial flexibility. By adopting frugal ways to save more, spend less now so you can retire early in life. Spending within your means allows you to choose what you want to do later on at a still young age.

I left my job on Wall Street in 2001, before the FIRE movement became popular in the 2010s. My choice was to go to law school and practice for a few years, have kids, and teach at a college. For me, it has worked out fortunately though it was a big adjustment that could have been smoother. To be honest, I didn’t have a well-developed plan though I did want to return to school because I enjoyed learning new things. Goal setting is essential even if you finetune through the years.

The Frugal Millionaire

In The Millionaire Next Door, a favorite read of mine, millionaires were profiled in two groups. The Under Accumulators of Wealth (UAWs) were the more typical white-collar professional millionaire, devoting more of their high income to luxury goods to maintain their status. As a result, they had lower net wealth compared to their income by neglecting savings and investments.

The Prodigious Accumulator of Wealth (PAWs) were more frugal millionaires. They avoided a showy lifestyle, bought used cars, often living in blue-collar areas. Goal-oriented, they made intelligent buying decisions, using savings to invest more of their money in securities or in businesses for good returns. PAWs spent less on luxury, accumulating higher net wealth relative to income from less.

3. Prioritize Spending To Improve Your Financial Health

Although you don’t want to penny-pinch, prioritize your spending. Frugal spenders tend not to be compulsive shoppers, accumulating lots of material possessions to regret. That doesn’t mean you can’t travel, buy good things, or enjoy your life. Quite the contrary. It is about spending thoughtfully and moderately and not on a whim. Know the difference between your wants and needs or living essentials. Your needs–food, rent, clothes, medical, education– should be a priority. Yes, you can have that latte if it gives you a particular pleasure.

Being frugal means spending below your means so that you can save money to improve your financial health. Those who are frugal tend to:

  • Save money rather than spend;
  • Avoid debt rather than purchase on credit;
  • Pay their credit card balances in full;
  • Have an ample emergency fund invested in a money market deposit account;
  • Contribute at least the minimum amount into your employer-sponsored 401K plan to earn their match; and,
  • Set aside money to build up an investment account.

Related Post: 10 Commandments of Saving Money

4. Price Vs. Value

Buying solely on a price basis without regard to quality is a hallmark of cheapskates. Those who are frugal make economic rather than impulsive decisions. Price is important, but there are other factors to consider. When making purchases, economic people will evaluate the quality, usefulness, reliability, durability, style, convenience, experience, and trustworthiness of the company or the brand. In other words, they will look at the whole picture.

Of course, the price versus value equation depends on the product itself. Frugal shoppers are not going to evaluate many factors for convenience products bought frequently. Price plays a bigger role when buying toothpaste or laundry detergent. For these products and many others, you can save money by buying generic brands at a discount to name brands. The price will be lower for generic brands, as much 35% reductions compared to name brands but the quality is often the same.

Don’t Shop On Price Alone

On the other hand, shopping for appliances, furniture, clothing, and other items less frequently bought quality and other considerations matter. Buying furniture chiefly because it is inexpensive is a recipe for disaster. That is being penny-wise pound foolish. Robert Burton is credited with that British saying in 1621 and is in The Anatomy of Melancholy. I am not sure Burton had our cheap bookcases in mind. However, that is what Craig and I remember saying after we bought cheap bookcases at a “bargain price.” We regretted that purchase made in our early years together almost immediately. The bookcase crashed in the middle of the night. Cheaply made, it didn’t hold up our books for too long.

5. Frugalness Is Good For The Environment

Practicing frugality has become part of the minimalism cult and more acceptable in recent years.  Mindless consumption is being frugal and less wasteful, which is good for the environment. Even if you are not saving money, reusing bags at the grocery store, or not taxing our utilities makes economic and environmental sense. Turn over your lights when leaving your room or home. Wash your clothes on the cold setting and lower or raise your thermostat. You may have personal savings, but you are also helping a cause.

6. Be Frugal About Wasting Time

Time is money. Both are valuable resources, but time is more precious because it is finite. We cannot replenish time. Saving money is necessary, but not when it causes you to waste time. Time is an element that many of us use poorly. Examples of how we splurge on time when trying to save money are:

  • Driving around to get the best gas price;
  • DIY projects when you aren’t handy or don’t even like doing them; and,
  • Grocery shopping at different places to get the best price at each store

Being frugal with our time means being more focused on how we are spending it. To save money, I sometimes over-research things for the best product. Make a “to-do” list to organize your time more meaningfully. Don’t go shopping without a list.

When your time is short, consider spending money on time-saving services. Studies say it can promote happiness when time constraints are stressing you out. On the other hand, Some people work more efficiently under a tight timeframe. I find that I often accomplish more with time constraints which help me to be more focused. Balance your needs of saving money and saving time according to your abilities and preferences.

Related Post: The Relationship Between Time, Money, And Productivity

Final Thoughts

No one wants to be a cheapskate. On the other hand, being frugal is often a virtue that may lead to a happier lifestyle. Just be sure you are not becoming obsessive like my Uncle Harry. Saving time and money are valuable goals that can help to eliminate stress while strengthening your financial health. Maintain a balance to live a life you enjoy. You don’t need to stop pleasures just for the sake of being frugal. Instead, prioritize what is essential for you.

Thank you for reading! If you find value in this post, please visit us more often or consider subscribing to The Cents of Money and get our weekly newsletter and other freebies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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