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Things to Think About Before Buying a New Car

Things to Think About Before Buying a New Car

In my 13 years of licensed driving, I’ve been lucky enough to only have gone through two cars. I’ve watched many friends go through one automobile after another for a variety of reasons: the cost caught up with them, it didn’t fit their needs, or it broke down beyond repair. A lot of the time, these issues could have easily been avoided if they had taken the process of buying a car a little more seriously.

I don’t consider myself a “car guy” by any stretch, but because of this I tend to go overboard when researching a new vehicle. When I invest my hard-earned money into a new car, I want it to last me a while. Knowing this, I’ve always taken the following into consideration:

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Purpose

What are you going to be using your new car for? Will you be the only one using it? Do you have children who constantly need a ride to events, parties, and practices? Will you need to drive long distances for work? Do you need to transport tools and other equipment for your job or hobbies? These are all questions you should ask yourself before you buy a new car, truck, or van, rather than going for what feels right at the time. Think about what you’ll be doing with your new automobile, and you’ll avoid having to give it away for much less than it’s worth when you realize it doesn’t fit with your lifestyle.

Need it or want it?

Along with figuring out why you’re in the market for a new car, think about whether you absolutely need one, or if you’re simply looking for an upgrade. On the one hand, if your current car is on its way out, you need to lower your standards at least a little bit when looking for a replacement. You don’t want to end up stranded with no way of getting to work, so you unfortunately don’t have the luxury of “shopping around.” However, you still don’t want to settle for “what works for now,” as it’ll likely end up costing you in the long run. On the other hand, just because you’re in a position to buy a new car because you want one doesn’t necessarily mean you should hold out for whatever is considered the absolute top of the line. In either case, make sure you make an informed decision and avoid splurging on the first thing on four wheels you see in the lot.

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Monthly cost

It shouldn’t come as a shocker to you that your car makes up a large part of your monthly expenses. Whether you’re buying or leasing a new car, don’t let a low monthly payment blind you to the hidden costs that come with an automobile. You’ll have to pay interest on your loans and monthly insurance costs, not to mention gas and other maintenance fees over the years. Failure to take all of these into consideration will almost certainly result in you giving your car away for less than its worth, while opting for something “a little more manageable.”

Safety features

This should actually be the first thing you take into consideration when buying a new car. Automobiles come with more safety features than ever before nowadays, so there really is no excuse for buying a car that you don’t feel safe driving. Seatbelts and airbags are commonplace nowadays, and the newer features – rear-view cameras, alert systems – are becoming more and more prevalent as well. Even with these accommodations, you should still check out the crash rating for your potential new automobile. While ignoring the other items on this list might set you back monetarily, ignoring the safety rating of your car could cost you much more.

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Add-ons

In addition to all the new safety features new cars come with, they also include a bunch of other extras that make one model more appealing than another. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi hotspots, iPhone connectors… all of this seems really awesome – and, well, it kind of is. However, is “awesome” worth the extra cost? Make sure you analyze the difference between the base price and the price for an all-included model, and think about whether or not you actually need your text messages to be read aloud to you on your ten minute drive home from the store. Then again, like I said: If you can afford it, and you’ve earned it, then go for it!

Featured photo credit: 2014 Proton Perdana 2.4P / Manoj Prasad via farm4.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

The Average Retirement Savings and How to Save Wisely

The Average Retirement Savings and How to Save Wisely

Are you on track for retirement?

If not, don’t worry, I’m not sure either. I save each month and hope for the best.

Fortunately, I’m at an age where most people don’t save so I’m ahead of the curve.

But, what if you aren’t in your 20s? What if you’re near retirement and are looking to gauge where you stand?

If so, keep reading. Here’s how to prepare for retirement and save wisely during the process.

What Does the Average American Have Saved for Retirement?

Saving for retirement is tricky.

Tell someone straight out of college to save $10k a year for retirement and it’ll be next to impossible.

Make the same request to someone decades older and they’d be more likely to be able to save this amount. But, a 20-year old college student can be “financially ahead” of someone saving more than them. Why?

Age matters in your financial journey. The younger you are, the more time you have to save and put compound interest to work. As you get older and have more saving power, you’d have less time to put compound interest to work.

Here are the average savings Americans hold by age bracket:

20’s – $16,000

During this stage, most people are paying loans and moving up the corporate ladder. Your best bet during this stage is to focus on eliminating debt and increasing your income. Don’t focus only on getting a high-paying job neither.

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Instead, focus on learning via Podcasts, reading books, and taking specialized courses. Doing this will make you more valuable and give you more career options.

30’s – $45,000

At this stage, you’ve hopefully escaped your entry-level salary and work at a career you enjoy. Your earning power has increased but you now have more obligations. For example, marriage, kids, and a mortgage.

Set a plan to pay off all your debt and focus on eliminating unnecessary expenses. Leverage financial tools like Personal Capital to ensure you’re on track for retirement.

40’s – $63,000

This is the stage where you’re at the prime of your career. Top financial institutions recommend you have at least 2 to 4 times your salary saved up. If you’re falling behind, start maxing out your 401K and Roth IRA accounts.

50’s – $115,000

During your fifties, you’re close to retirement but still, have time to save. You may be helping your kids pay college tuition and other expenses. Since you’re at the peak of your earning power, max out all your retirement accounts.

60’s – $172,000

By this point, you should have about eight times your salary saved up. If not, you’ll depend primarily on social security benefits averaging $1400 per month. Max out all your retirement options as much as possible before retiring.

Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget

The sad reality is that most Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement.

Even high-earning power isn’t enough to secure one’s financial future. You need to have the discipline to save for retirement while time is in your favor. Don’t wait for you to have a high salary to save, start with having a small budget.

First, get a clear picture of where you stand. Write down a list of “needs” and “wants.” For example, Netflix and Amazon Prime are “wants” and a “cell-phone” is a need.

Use tools like Personal Capital to analyze your spending patterns. Personal Capital allows you to add all your financial data in one place–making it a powerful option to gauge where you stand.

Once you know all your expenses, organize them from highest to lowest expense. When you can’t cut more expenses, call your service providers to negotiate a lower price. If you’re not good at negotiating, use services like Trimm to lower your monthly expenses.

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How to Save Money Each Month

By this point, you know the average amount of money you should have saved for retirement based on your age.

But, breaking this down into monthly goals can be challenging. Here are some rule of thumbs to follow:

Aim to contribute 10%–15% of your salary each paycheck. Review your progress each week.

Why so often? The reality is that life gets in our way and you will have many financial setbacks. Your goal isn’t to be perfect but to get back on track instead.

Reviewing your finances weekly lets you know where you stand with your retirement. This doesn’t have to be a long process either. All it takes is login in Personal Capital to view your net worth and check how much you have saved for retirement.

Turn saving into a game and aim to save more each month. It will get challenging but you’ll get creative and find more ways to save.

Top Money Saving Challenge Tips

To prepare for your financial future and not be another statistic you need to be different.

How?

By adopting new habits that’ll help you become a saving machine. Here are some ways you can save more:

Automatically Contribute Towards Retirement

If you’re working for a company, you can automatically contribute towards your 401k. If you’re not currently contributing more than 10%, make this your goal. Contribute 1% more today and automatically increase this amount a year from now.

Odds are that you’re not going to be negatively affected by contributing 1% more. Many times we spend our money on things we don’t need. Contributing more towards retirement is a great way to secure your financial future.

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Use the Right Tools to Know Where You Stand

Once you’re contributing more towards your retirement accounts, gauge your progress. Make use of finance tracking apps to help you view the big picture of your retirement.

When I’d first signed up for the app Personal Capital, I didn’t know I had a negative net worth. Despite saving thousands of dollars, my debt brought my net worth to the negative. Knowing this motivated me to save more and spend less.

Now, I have a positive net worth. But, it was because I was able to view the big picture using the app. Find out what your net worth is using a finance tracking app and you may surprise yourself.

Bring in Experts to View Your Blind Spots

If you have too little or too much money saved, you should consider hiring financial experts.

Why?

You may need someone to hold you accountable to help you reach your financial goals. Or, you may need help managing your money as effective as possible.

Regardless of the reason, getting help may help improve your financial situation.

Before you hire an expert, find out which areas you need help the most. For example, if you’re constantly overspending, find a debt counselor. If you’re struggling with choosing the best investment options, hire a financial advisor.

Speed up Your Retirement Contribution

After learning how to manage your money well, the next best thing is to earn a higher income.

You’re capped at how much you can save but not much you can earn. Even if your employer isn’t giving you a promotion, you can still take charge of your financial future. How?

By starting a side-business.

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This will be something you’d work on after you’ve finished your day job. Once you start earning income from your side-business, you’ll be financially better off.

The best part is the more work you put into your side-business,[1] the more potential it has to earn more money.

So start a side-business in an area you’re familiar with. For example, if you enjoy writing, do freelance writing for small e-commerce businesses.

Once you’re earning a higher income, you can contribute more towards your retirement. Don’t wait for the right opportunity to secure your financial future, create one.

Reach Financial Freedom with Confidence

What if you were able to retire tomorrow with no problem, all because you’d have enough money saved up and little to no debt left to pay off? How would you feel?

My guess is that you’d feel happy and relieved.

Most Americans are falling behind their retirement goals for many reasons. They’re not prepared, they carry bad money-habits and are thinking short-term.

For you to retire successfully, you need to work backward and adopt better habits. Contribute more towards your 401K and focus on growing your income.

If you do, you’ll save money and pay debt faster.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re behind your retirement goals. Take the first step today towards a brighter financial future. Isn’t retirement worth the hard work and sacrifice to be at peace?

Featured photo credit: Huy Phan via unsplash.com

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