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Short-Term and Long-Term Investments: Which Is Right For You?

Short-Term and Long-Term Investments: Which Is Right For You?

Investing your hard-earned cash is inherently risky. However, the risks you take vary depending on a variety of factors – one of the most prominent being the length of time you wish to keep your money out of your pocket and in the stock market.

Before you invest your money, you should know and understand the risks involved with both short- and long-term investments.

Capital Gains

Capital gains are simply the income you earn from an investment. You find it by subtracting the amount invested from the amount you ended up with. If you invest $500 and cash out $600, you’ve made $100 in capital gains. When calculating capital gains, you don’t take other factors – such as taxable income – into consideration just yet. However, it’s beneficial to have a good idea of where you will stand once you do factor in taxes.

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Short-Term

Short-term investments are those which last less than a single year. Because they last for a short period of time, they often won’t earn you too much money – unless you’re working with short-term, high-yield investments. In exchange for smaller rewards, though, short-term investments are usually much less risky. Short-term investments are usually finite in that investors will set a goal for how much they want to earn, and will “cash out” once they hit their goal.

The capital gains from short-term investments are lumped in with the investor’s regular income – no matter how large or small these gains may be. When it comes to paying income tax, the gains you’ve made on investments may drastically affect what tax bracket you land in, and how much you owe.

Long-Term

Long-term investments, by definition, are those which last for at least one year – and can stay open for as long as the investor chooses. Since long-term investments require leaving the money you invested out of your own pocket for longer periods of time, they’re much more risky than their short-term counterparts. You’ll also usually reinvest your capital gains into your long-term investments, as well. However, the gains you receive once you decide to sell tend to be much greater.

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The capital gains from long-term investments stand alone as far as taxation is concerned. The money you make from them has no bearing whatsoever on your income tax.

Tax Rate

As previously mentioned, the amount you are taxed on investments depends on if you intend to invest for a short or long period of time. It’s incredibly important to keep this in mind when deciding how to invest your money, because the tax you’ll pay may drastically affect your bottom line, and making potentially large capital gains not worth the investment in the first place.

Short-Term

Because short-term investments are lumped in with the rest of the money you make in a year, there’s no specific tax rate for investments that last less than a year. However, the money you make on a short-term investment may actually end up costing you in the long run. For example, if you made $37,000 in 2016, your tax rate is 15% – owing roughly $5,550. However, if you make an extra $700 from a short-term investment, you’ll be pushed up into the 25% tax bracket – meaning you’ll owe $9,425. While a $700 up front gain might seem enticing, you’ll end up losing almost $3,500 in the process.

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Long-Term

On the other hand, since long-term investments aren’t lumped in with the rest of your income, it’s much easier to figure out how much you’ll owe in taxes on your capital gains. While the most you’ll pay is 20% of your investment capital, if you only make 15% profit on your investment, you won’t owe any tax at all. In exchange for a lower tax rate, though, you’ll be keeping your money “on the table” for a much longer period of time – meaning you’ll be risking it for longer.

Verdict

Short-Term

Short-term investments are good for a quick win, and allow you to take your money out immediately if you choose to do so. They’re the best option if you don’t want to become too involved with the market, and are positive you’ll quit as soon as you hit a specific dollar amount.

On the other hand, short-term investments may cause more harm than good if you’re on the cusp of a certain tax bracket. Unfortunately, this is considerably counterintuitive to the purpose of a short-term investment. Most newcomers to the stock market looking to make a “quick kill” are doing so because they need some extra income immediately, but the system is set up to discourage people from making such investments. If you’re going to make a short-term investment, make sure you have capital to invest that the gains you make are worth the extra taxes you’ll end up paying.

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Long-Term

Long-term investments have the potential to drastically increase your net worth, as long as you’re patient. If you keep your investment open for longer than a year, you won’t have to worry about being bumped up into a tax bracket that you can’t afford to be in. Additionally, if you happen to lose any of your capital over the course of your investment, you may be able to claim these losses come tax season.

However, it (obviously) takes longer to reap the rewards of a long-term investment. Long-term investments are those made with the understanding that you don’t need the money right away, and are willing to go without for some time while your investment capital grows. You’ll also have to patiently wait out any dips in the economy, during which your investment may decrease heavily in value.

As long as you can afford to lose the money you put in, long-term investments end up being the much smarter bet.

Featured photo credit: Investment / Simon Cunningham / Flickr via farm6.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on January 2, 2019

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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How It Leads to Financial Improvement

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

Types of Personal Finance Software

When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

When to Use Personal Finance Software

So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

1. You Have Multiple Accounts

There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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How to Get Started

From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

Final Thoughts

Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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