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12 Things You Can Do Now To Improve Your Financial Life

12 Things You Can Do Now To Improve Your Financial Life

A vow to improve your financial state is the sort of grandiose statement that usually accompanies New Year’s resolutions. Fortunately, however, actually achieving this goal could be among the most tangible objectives on this year’s list.

Improve your financial life today by taking action on one of the following:

Educate yourself.

Do you know what an IRA is? What is the sales tax rate in your state? How often do you expect bank statements; do you know what all of the terms on your statement mean? You can’t make sound financial decisions if you don’t know anything about finances, so take the time to pick up the phone and call your bank, grab a book from the library or spend some time online regularly furthering your financial education.

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Save.

Finish this sentence: “A penny _____ is a penny earned.” You guessed it: saved! A penny saved is a penny earned, that goes toward your grocery bill, to fund a trip, put gas in your car, or provide for a child. Pennies add up. Save them.

Diversify investments.

As you build up your savings, create a healthy mix of liquid (i.e., can get to within a day in case of emergency) and static (things it would take you longer to cash in on) investments. A good financial advisor can talk you through how to build stock accounts, mutual funds, or invest in land, a home, or your own business.

Pay down your debt.

Owe anything to anyone? Make ridding yourself of debt your top priority. If you’re not sure where to start, or how to steadily chip away at larger debts like student loans, seek expert help. Then dig deep to find the discipline to carry out your plan.

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Put yourself in Florida.

Or on a yacht, or in the mountains, or on a beach anywhere else you would like to retire. What are you doing to get yourself there? Debate abounds concerning the future availability of social security and other benefits, and it is wise not to depend on any income but your own for retirement. Consider inflation, rising medical costs, and projected family needs when you plan, but the short version is that if you want to retire before you’re 70, you must start saving today, and increasingly aggressively as you age. Learning about Roth IRAs is a good place to start the educational process, if the idea of saving for retirement is new to you.

Watch what you put in your mouth.

Do you know the price at each of your local stores for the groceries you most often purchase? No? Time for a field trip! Your household’s grocery bill is a large, recurrent expense that can easily be chipped away at with smart shopping. Remember to Google and print coupons before you go, read those sale circulars you get in the mail before you toss them away, and consider warehouse stores or online merchants for goods with a longer shelf life. Food thrown away is money dumped right from your wallet into the trash, so shop as often as you need to.

Step away from the television.

How much do you spend on satellite or other television subscriptions each year? How much time do you spend watching television? What else could you do with that amount of money? How else could you earn money, with that amount of “extra” time each week? Put down the remote. Step away.

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Unwire, just a little bit.

How many gadgets do you own that have internet access, stream video, and allow you to chat in some way or another with your friends? Do you really need that much redundant capability? Ditch one electronic device, or downgrade subscriptions that you truly do not use. You will survive, and your budget will thank you.

Get organized.

Dreading the spring, when taxes are due? Not certain how much money you actually spend, or where it is all going? Get a filing system in place, whether formal or in a shoebox, and start collecting and tracking receipts. Log your expenditures in an spreadsheet, or by hand on a piece of paper. Update your logs regularly, and you will be pleasantly surprised by how much more effective your financial planning process becomes, and how easy it is to file your taxes next year.

Unsubscribe from merchant emails.

How many times have you logged onto your email account and seen a picture of something you didn’t know existed, had never thought about, but now see is on sale and can’t get out of your mind? Save yourself (and your budget) the anguish, and unsubscribe from those lists.

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Do it on the side.

Work, that is. In our wired world, a side gig could be only a few internet searches away. Someone in your neighborhood may need a dog walked while they vacation, or a babysitter once a week. The trash at a local school may need to be taken out for a small fee. Nothing is too menial or small, if it adds income to your bottom line.

Date creatively.

Those $15 drinks and swanky dinners add up. While impressing a date is always nice, wow them with your financial savvy by mixing things up with home-cooked dinners, picnics, outdoor activities, or matinees. If that isn’t attractive to the one you wish to woo, they probably aren’t a good financial partner for you, anyway.

Thirsting for more? Check out these Best 15 Money Management Apps that Make Financial Planning Easy.

Featured photo credit: taxcredits.net 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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