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12 Money Hacks You Must Learn Now To Avoid Regret In 20 Years

12 Money Hacks You Must Learn Now To Avoid Regret In 20 Years

If you’re a young professional, the lifestyle of your 40s will be dictated by your choices in the coming years, and even in the coming months. They say 40 is the new 30, but for that to happen, you need to plan financially first.

Whether you want to build up passive income, get your dream job, or become immortal, you can’t miss the money hacks below.

1. Consider Moving While You’re Young

When you’re young, moving is much easier than once you’re older and have a family or elderly parents to take care of. If you limit yourself to jobs nearby, even if you’re in a big city, you’ll likely be missing out on your best career opportunities. Your first few jobs lay the groundwork for your long-term earning potential. When you are single, always remember that you have the power of flexibility. If you try out a high-paying job elsewhere, you can always move back if you can’t stand it.

2. If You Buy Stocks, Then Buy Ones That Pay A Dividend

According to The Motley Fool, stocks that pay dividends have historically outperformed other similar investments, with less instability. In addition, they pay out real cash. This makes them easier to keep during rough economic times. In addition, the dividend payouts of a good stock can increase as years go by.

If you put $3,000 into a stock with a 4% dividend yield, you’ll get $10 every month, in cash. That’s a free meal every month, by doing absolutely nothing! To encourage saving, try to go from earning 1 free meal a month to 2 meals per month, and keep going from there.

You can also look into preferred stock, which is more complex but can pay out much higher returns relatively safely.

Quick tips in regards to dividend paying stocks:

  1. Dividend payments can be cut, so look for big-name stocks that have a history of reliable dividend payments, and of increasing those payments as years go by. Ensure that they were paying dividends during the 2008 Financial Crisis.
  2. Do not look for high yields as a beginner. Between 2-4.5% is typical for major stocks. Because dividends pay “X cents per share,” if a company was mismanaged and it’s share price has dropped, the dividend “yield” or % return will look high. Avoid this rookie mistake.
  3. If love tech stocks, then 2 examples of companies that pay dividends include Intel (INTC) and Microsoft (MSFT). However, in my experience, investing in tech stocks is pretty risky.
  4. This recent article in MarketWatch showcases some interesting dividend stock ideas.
  5. Remember, I’m not a professional financial advisor. So, always do your research before you invest, and talk to a financial adviser first.

3. Wait For A Financial Downturn, Then Buy Stocks

We all know the mantra: “Buy low, sell high.” When Wall Street falls, it’s the perfect time to consider buying stocks. So, keep some cash ready for the next downturn. You can keep it in flexible investments like GICs, that can be taken out at any time.

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4. Do Not Rely On Stocks To Save For Emergencies

The most likely time for you to get laid off is when the economy is down. This will also be when your stocks are worth the least.

When the economy is down, family and friends may be in need. You may need extra cash, but there will be few side jobs available. Banks will be hesitant to loan people money. On top of this, your stocks will be worth much, much less at this time. If your emergency savings are in stocks, you will be forced to sell them at this low point.

In my opinion, this is one reason why the average person tends to make less money in the stock market than we are led to believe: they buy when they have savings and stocks are high. When the economy falls, they are forced to sell at a low point.

5. Buy The Place You Live In

Real estate is usually the best investment you can make. In my opinion, it’s a much better option than buying stock. While purchasing real estate for investment purposes is hard, buying your own home or condo is much safer, and often has tax advantages.

When paying off a mortgage, a significant amount of the monthly payment goes toward paying down your own loan each month (the “principle”). This increases your net worth by hundreds of dollars every month. (Rather than burning your money by paying rent.)

Keep this in mind: While there are fluctuations in the real estate market, the cost of rent goes up steadily.

When you buy a place for yourself, typically it will be a bit more expensive than renting, at first. However, over the next 3-15 years, the rent will go up, and if you don’t own a property, you’ll be finding it harder to make your rent payment. This is especially true in a big city like Toronto.

Home ownership has other benefits as well. For example, you can get a line of credit backed by the equity in your house, which has a very low rate. Be extremely careful with these since major banks love to offer new homeowners low-interest lines of credit in hopes that they accumulate debt that’s easy to collect because you have a hard asset. With such a low interest rate, it’s better to keep your line of credit as small as possible, since it’s tempting to dip in.

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Still have doubts about buying real estate versus stocks? A retired saleperson once told me, “All of my friends who invested in the stock market instead of buying real estate are in serious trouble.” I think that sums it up.

6. Stay In School Longer

After every graduation, there’s a temptation to finally enter the workforce. However, those who stay in school longer by taking a practical post-graduate degree end up with higher starting salaries. They are also more likely to be chosen for promotions in the long run. While they may be racking up student loans for a few more years, the long-term cumulative effect puts them ahead.

If you’ve dreamed of a career that requires a graduate degree and you’ve tried all other options for low-cost loans and tuition subsidies, find a bank that will lend you a student loan. Also, make sure the college program offers a co-op or internship. Graduating with lots of debt and no industry experience is a recipe for disaster.

Loans are awful, but leading a life in a career that you don’t want is even worse.

7. Negotiate Your Initial Salary

Most young professionals who get an initial offer don’t negotiate because they are excited or scared. It’s important to do your research by checking with friends, recruiters, and PayScale.com to see what you should realistically get as a starting salary.

Here’s a more detailed guide from The Muse which has some good tips. In my experience, the best bet is to find the salary that you think is reasonable and stick to your guns. If you get a much lower offer, I’d recommend using a printout of PayScale.com to demonstrate the expected market rate. However, be prepared for the possibility that they may reject you.

If you get an acceptable offer, typically there’s still room to negotiate. Asking for a huge increase for your first job may be unwise, but asking for an additional $1,000-$3,000 is pretty reasonable. The accumulating effects of that small increase over 20 years adds up a lot. It could be a big part of your down payment on a family home.

More importantly, future raises, pension benefits, and bonuses are often based on a percentage of your current pay. Even a small difference at the start of your career can snowball over time into a big change in lifestyle.

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8. Get Insurance

Insurance is extremely cheap when you’re young, but extremely expensive once you get older. Young people feel invincible. However, the instant they get a bad diagnosis it becomes too late to lock in a good price for things like life insurance and health insurance. Life insurance for a young and healthy person is extremely cheap.

Want immortality? You can even use life insurance to cryogenically “freeze” yourself until they find a cure for your disease (and freezing).

9. Eliminate Or Reduce Expensive Habits

Your daily cup of java or a smoking habit can have a huge consequence on your long-term finances, as well as your health. Make a list of all the expensive habits you have and try to eliminate those that are unnecessary, one at time.

Think of the free money you’d get by putting it into a stock with a monthly dividend instead.

10. Be Careful With How Much You Spend On A Car

60 seconds after you buy a new car, it loses 9% of it’s value, according to Edmunds.com. After just one year, it loses 19% of it’s value. However, the value drops only 12% by the next year. Furthermore, the drop is 9% between years 4 and 5. In other words, used cars maintain their market value better.

Dealers try to tempt buyers with low monthly lease rates on new vehicles. Avoid this at all costs. Even after years of payments, you’ll need to return the leased car unless you pay the remaining balance, which will seem insane 4 years later. If you do not have the cash, it’s better to get a loan or lease for a lower-cost used car. Aim to pay it off in a year or two. Later in life, you’ll have no monthly payments at all and you can sell that car for a significant portion of its value.

Financial Samurai recommends that the purchase price of your car should be 10% of your salary. That could mean you’re buying a car that will require a lot of maintenance. I personally think that 10%-20% is more realistic. From what I’ve seen, used Toyotas and Hondas can last over ten years with little maintenance.

In terms of buying a luxury vehicle, the costs are often a lot higher than anticipated. Here are some unseen costs of luxury cars:

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  • The maintenance and repairs costs on a luxury vehicle are much higher.
  • They often require premium fuel rather than standard fuel.
  • The engines themselves are typically more powerful and may get less mileage.
  • Once the car is old and loses it’s appeal, you’ll still be paying these overhead costs.

It could be wiser to use that money for something else, like real estate, which may appreciate in value rather than lose value.

If you hold off from spending $10,000 on your car, and put it into an investment that generates 6% compounded per year, you’ll have $32,071.35 in 20 years, or a $22,071.35 profit. Still worse will be the extra costs for maintenance, gas and repairs, which will average out to hundreds of dollars per month.

11. Maximize “Matching” Programs

Read the details of your employer’s benefits package. Often, there are offers where an employer will match contributions to things such as a pension. Do your best to max these out, since you’re immediately doubling your money.

In many cases, you can get low-interest loans to maximize the contributions. Because you’re doubling your money, this is one case where taking a small loan can be beneficial.

12. Contribute To IRAs And RRSPs

IRAs and RRSPs (the Canadian version) are tax-deductible accounts. Here’s an example of how it works:

  • Suppose you make $40,000 per year.
  • Suppose taxes are 25%.
  • Therefore, your after-tax income would normally be $30,0000.
  • However, suppose you contribute $10,000 into your IRA or RRSP.
  • That $10,000 contribution is deducted from your taxable salary amount of $40,000.
  • Your new “taxable” salary is $30,000. At a 25% tax rate, $30,000 x 25% = $7,500 in taxes.
  • So, by contributing to your tax-deductible account, you get back $2,500 in taxes ($10,000-$7,500).

Once money is in that retirement account, there’s no taxes on any investments you make. Any dividends inside that account, or capital gains from stocks going up, are completely tax free for decades, until you retire. Once you retire, you can withdraw the money from the retirement account. You’ll pay income tax on any money you use from those accounts.Because the money isn’t accessible until 65, it’s okay to start small (assuming there’s no employer matching program). Small monthly automated deposits are a great way to save.

However, assuming your employer’s contribution plan allows it, you can withdraw $10,000 of your IRA (or $25,000 of your RRSP) to buy your first home. For this reason, it actually makes a lot of sense to use these accounts to save for your first home. Canadians should also look into opening up a TFSA, which allows significant tax-free savings each year.

Final Thoughts

When you’re young, it’s hard to make decisions that you know will affect your life later on. It;s important to remember that this decision making process is a privilege of the society we live in. There’s no perfect answer or approach. The important thing is that you make a formal plan soon, based on the best facts you’ve got and with a little bit of gut instinct.

Featured photo credit: Frankie Leon via flickr.com

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Published on May 7, 2019

How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

When it comes to stocks, I bet you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

Everyone who’s not a financial expert has been there. I’ve been there. But, time is passing and you need to be crystal clear with how you’re investing for your retirement.

Otherwise, it’s back to work until you can afford not to. So, how can you invest for retirement when you’re not a financial expert?

You take the time to learn the fundamentals well. If you do, you can grow your wealth and retire happy. The best part is that you don’t need to be a financial expert to make smart investment decisions.

Here’s how to invest for retirement the smart and stress-free way:

1. Know Clearly Why You Invest

Odds are you already know why should invest for retirement.

But, maybe you know the wrong reasons. It’s time you get clear on why you’d like to retire. Here are some questions to help you get started:

  • Will you spend more time with your family?
  • What does retirement mean to you?
  • Are you looking to launch that business you’ve been holding off for years?

Everyone wants to retire but not for the same reasons. Once you’re clear for why retirement is important for you, you’ll focus on making it happen.

Investing in the stock market allows you to take advantage of compound interest.[1] All this means is that your money earns money on top of its interest. A reason why investment in the stock market is one of the best ways to plan for retirement.

2. Figure out When to Invest

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”– Chinese Proverb

It’s true if you’d had started investing when you were 10 years old, you’d have a lot more money than you do today.

The reality is that most people don’t start investing until it’s too late. So, if you’re currently waiting for the perfect time to start an investment, it would be today. Open your calendar and block out 2 to 3 hours to choose how you’ll invest for retirement.

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A quick way to get a snapshot of where you stand is to use Personal Capital. Input all your personal information and spend some time setting your retirement goals. Once completed, you’ll know where you stand with your retirement.

Having a savings account for retirement isn’t planning for retirement. Why? Your money loses value when you factor in US inflation.[2]

3. Evaluate Your Risk Tolerance to Create the Perfect Portfolio

Investing your money well depends on your emotions.

Why?

Because when the market drops most people panic and withdraw their money. On average, the US stock market yields an annual 6% to 7% ROI (return on your investment.) But, this won’t happen if you’re worried about short-term loses.

Before you invest your next dollar, know your risk tolerance.[3] Your risk tolerance determines the number of risky and safe investments you’d have.

Regardless of your investing style, you need to view investing for retirement as a long term game. Know that some years you’ll lose money but recoup this in the long-term.

Avoid watching market-related new. Also, create a double authentication to log in your investment account. This way you’re less likely to withdraw your money.

4. Open a Reliable Retirement Account

Depending on your circumstance, you may need to open a new brokerage account. This is the account is where you’ll invest your money.

If you’re currently working for a company, odds are that they offer a 410K investing account. If so, here’s where you’ll invest most of your money. The only problem with this is that you’re limited to the stock options that are available.

You do have the option to open a separate IRA (individual retirement account.) Here are some of the best brokers:

  1. Vanguard
  2. TD Ameritrade
  3. Charles Schwab

5. Challenge Yourself to Invest Consistently

Committing to invest for retirement is hard, but continuing to do so is harder.

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Once you’ve started investment for your retirement, you run at risk from stopping. Often you’ll want to contribute less, so you’d have more money in your pocket.

That’s why it’s important that you create a budget that allows you to invest each month. If you’re working for a company, you can set a percentage for the amount you’d like to contribute each month. Most people by default contribute 1% but aim to contribute 10% to 15%.

Be the judge for how much you can afford to contribute after covering important expenses. To stay motivated, use Personal Capital to view your net worth.

A benefit to contributing money to your retirement account is not taxed. For example, if you earn $100 and invest 10%, you’d contribute $10, then get taxed on the remaining $90. As of 2019, the most you’re able to contribute towards your 401K is 19K but this can change.

6. Consider Where to Invest Your Money

The most common way to invest your money is in stocks, but it’s not the only way. Here are other ways to invest:

Robo Advisors

Robo-advisors[4] are fancy algorithms that’ll choose the best investments for you. Sites like Wealthfront make it easy for first-time investors to invest their money. You’d input information about yourself and set your risk tolerance.

Then, set your monthly contribution amount and your robo-advisor would do the rest. Robo-advisors charge a fee to manage your money, but less than regular advisors.

Bonds

Think of bonds as “IOUs” to whomever you buy them from.

Essentially, you’re lending money and charging interest. Like stocks, not all bonds are equal. Some will be riskier than others depending on their rating.

Here are the different types of bond categories:[5]

  1. Treasury bonds
  2. Government bonds
  3. Corporate bonds
  4. Foreign bonds
  5. Mortgage-backed bonds
  6. Municipal bonds

Mutual Funds

Picture a group of people dumping all their money in a jar that’s managed by a professional. This is how mutual funds work. The fund manager manages the money looking to earn capital gains (interest.)

One of the best types of mutual funds is index funds. Since these funds don’t try to beat the market and instead follow it, they need less research. Because of this they often charge the lowest fees and yield the best long-term results.

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Real Estate

Yes, buying a home is an investment when done correctly.

Imagine buying a home and using it as a rental property. After repairing it, you receive a monthly surplus check of $100 to $200.

This may not sound like a lot, but repeat this process enough times and you’d earn a large amount of passive income. That’s why real estate is one of the best investments to not only retire but become wealthy.

But, it requires a lot of money to start and you should expect losing money along the way as you learn the process.

Savings Accounts

Your money can still grow in a savings account. Nowadays most online banks offer a 2% annual return. Although the average inflation is higher your money will be available when you need it.

7. Master Disincline to Dodge Short Success

Investing for retirement is a long-term strategy. That’s why you need to master delayed gratification. All this means is delaying short-term pleasure for something bigger in the future. Research shows that those who have delayed gratification are more successful.[6]

So how can you master delayed gratification?

By building your discipline.

Think back to what retirement means to you. A clear purpose will help you avoid withdrawing your money during a market downturn. It’ll help you contribute more towards retirement when you’d want to waste it instead.

Your journey towards retirement will be long, so reward yourself along the way. Choose a reward that’s relevant and meaningful, so that you reinforce positive behavior. For example, after contributing more towards retirement, treat yourself to dinner.

8. Aggressively Invest on This One Investment

I’ve mentioned several types of investments but haven’t covered the most important one.

It sounds cliche but here’s why you’re your best investment towards retirement. The more you know, the more money you’ll be able to make. The more good habits you adopt, the more secure your retirement will be.

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More importantly, investing in yourself is an investment that no one can take away. There’s no market downturn nor tragic circumstance that’ll wipe your knowledge and experience.

But, how can you invest yourself?

Reading books, blogs, and anything that’ll help you learn new topics daily. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks on your commute to/from work.

Save money to buy courses and hire coaches. I used to believe hiring coaches was a waste of money when I could learn the subject alone.

But, coaches see your blind spots and hold you accountable. Hiring the right coach will help you achieve your goals faster than you would’ve alone.

Retire Happy with Excess Money

The key to a secure financial future doesn’t only belong to financial experts.

It’s possible for you and I. What if you were able to retire earlier than most people and weren’t a financial planner? What if you were able to focus on what you enjoy doing the most while your money was working hard for you?

I know this sounds impossible now, but the truth is you’re capable of taking charge of your retirement. I’m not a financial expert but I’ve learned how to invest my money by reading books and learning from others.

Investing your money is scary. So start small and invest a small amount of your money with a robo-advisor. Feel your money drop and rise for a month or two. Then, invest more and keep this up until you’re aggressively saving for retirement.

One day, you’ll wake up with a net worth you’re proud of – confident about your retirement. You now know a few strategies you can use to invest in your retirement. Will you take action to retire happy?

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Featured photo credit: Matthew Bennett via unsplash.com

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