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How to Avoid Overdraft Fees

How to Avoid Overdraft Fees


    The crash of 2008 was supposed to be a wakeup call to the dangers of negligent lending and irresponsible credit use. Yet, financial institutions continue to sell naïve customers on expensive credit products like overdraft protection.  Sold as an “essential” account add-on, Overdraft promises to protect clients for overdrawn funds on their account.

    In a recent article on Time.com, Martha C. White writes about the $30 billion in profits American banks have made from overdraft fees in 2011.

    “Once overdrawn, customers are subject to high interest rates and outlandish fees. For some customers the deficit is a permanent and damaging fixture in their account, setting themselves up for larger and more destructive financial issues..”

    Avoid the fees and exorbitant interest rates that accompany short-term credit products by being better prepared for account shortfalls.

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    Solid Financial Planning

    Financial institutions need to reorganize their priorities. Instead of focusing on credit products, banks need to emphasize sound financial planning and offer unbiased advice to their clients.

    Sadly, a simple inquiry at a bank can result in an undisclosed credit check, an offer for a pre-approved mortgage, and unsolicited preapproved credit card offers. Never agree to take on a financial obligation without taking the time to understand its impact on your financial and mental well-being.

    Protect yourself by developing a long-term relationship with a personal banker or financial advisor that is acting in your best interests, not the banks.

    Do you have overdraft protection?

    Remarkably, most customers are unaware that they have overdraft protection until they take a closer look at their account activity. For some, it can be years before they realize that they are paying for a service they never use.

    Remember, you are under no obligation to sign up for any service you do not want. This includes any products that the bank wants to bundle with an account opening or credit offer. Tied selling laws in Canada and the United States prohibit financial institutions from forcing you to buy an unrelated product in order to obtain another product.

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    Overdraft Protection

    The key to any budget is avoiding the small incidental costs that can accumulate over time and ruin your financial projections. This means that you have to avoid any additional services that are going to cost you fees or charge you interest.

    The first rule, is always keep your account in a positive balance.

    While easier said than done, examining your transaction history will allow you to see how, and where, you are spending your money. Sometimes, the reason for overdrawing your account can be as simple as bill payments not aligning with your paycheck. A quick solution is to call your bank and make sure your bills line up with your pay schedule.

    Other times, shortfalls in an account are the result of frivolous spending. After examining your account history, it will be apparent where you are spending your money. People are conscious of the large purchases and the essential bill payments, but smaller expenses seem so insignificant that you fail to consider them when examining your spending. Once you tally up the coffee and fast food purchases, you can see how they can push your account into the negative.

    Most importantly, be diligent in finding pre-authorized payments. Without checking, you may be paying for a long forgotten gym membership or a cancelled subscription to AOL’s dialup service.

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    Be alert

    No matter how diligent you are about money management, there is always going to be scenarios that are out of your control.

    Both financial institutions and financial software packages like Mint.com allow you to create alerts that will send you a text, phone, or email message when your account is low on funds.  Besides low fund alerts, you can also program some of these services to alert you to unauthorized debits from your account. Therefore, allowing you a chance to correct an error before a payment comes out.

    Going Old School

    Using cash is a great way to avoid account shortfalls. Based on the information you gleam from your transaction history create a cash budget for each week. This way you always know that a certain amount of money will be in the account to cover bill payments.

    Unless you are reviewing your transactions on a daily basis, you will find that you will unconsciously spend more with a debit card than you would with cash.

    Other strategies include avoiding preauthorized payments. By collecting all your bills and paying them one by one, you can gain a clearer picture of your financial health.  If you choose to go analog, be sure to be diligent about making your payments. Otherwise, a missed mortgage, insurance or vehicle loan payment can have devastating financial ramifications.

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    Emergency and Reserve Funds

    Instead of opening a single checking account, open a companion savings account. Dedicate yourself to putting away at least 20% of your paycheck into the new account. The account will allow you to limit your spending, and give you a financial cushion in case of a budgetary miscalculation or bank error.

    Make sure you have the ability to transfer money between the accounts at an ATM, or through online banking.  At any time, you can sure up a low or overdrawn account with the appropriate amount of money and avoid the need for costly Overdraft protection.

    In order to serve as a proper reserve or overdraft account, you need to maintain a months’ worth of mortgage, insurance, and loan payments.

    Conclusion

    In summary, good money management starts with taking responsibility for your spending and controlling what comes in and out of your checking account on a monthly basis. Once, you understand the problem, you can make adjustments to fix any issues and create a backup plan that protects your hard earned money and allows you to avoid any additional credit debt.

    (Photo credit: Fees in Wooden Letters via Shutterstock)

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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

    Reference

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