Money Management 101 for Single Parents Going it Alone

1. Determine What You Owe

As the head of the household, it’s up to you to make sure that your entire family’s needs are being met. In order to do that, you need to be extremely diligent when it comes to money management basics. This is not something that will happen by accident. Instead, you must plan for it and work toward it.

The first step is to set up your “office.” Gather all of your bills, a calculator, a pencil, and your checkbook.

I would also recommend that you grab an old binder that you can use to keep track of your financial data and a shoebox for storing paid bills.

Now you’re ready to begin:

  • Go through all of your bills, and pay anything that is due within the next week.
  • If you have bills coming due that you cannot pay, notify the company and ask them to set up a payment plan with you.
  • Print a copy of the chart “Paying Down My Debts” or make your own.
  • On the chart, list all of your debts, including any car loans, student loans, and credit card debt.
  • In addition, list the total balance left to be paid on all of these debts, and the percentage rate you are paying.
  • For now, leave the fourth column of the chart blank, and store it in your “Financial Data” binder.

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2. Eliminate Joint Debt

Before we create a plan for paying down your debt, it’s important to consider some special circumstances that may apply to you as a single parent. I asked LaToya Irby, Credit/Debt Management Expert, to share her expertise on handling joint debt:

Wolf: Let’s say a single mom still shares a credit card with her ex. What should she do?

Irby: Ideally, she would want her ex to transfer his portion of any joint balances onto his own credit card. That way, everyone is paying for their own debt.

Wolf: What about leaving both names on the account, and agreeing to pay part of the amount due? Is that ever advisable?

Irby: No. If you’ve made an agreement with your ex to split the debt payments on accounts that include your name, and your ex-misses a payment, it’s going to hurt your credit. If the ex-fails to pay altogether, the creditors and collectors will come after you. Not even a divorce decree can change the terms of a joint credit card agreement. In the credit card issuer’s eyes, you’re just as much responsible for post-divorce accounts as before.

Wolf: What about situations when a couple’s divorce decree mandates that one individual must pay off the joint credit card debt, but that person fails to do it?

Irby: You can always file contempt of court papers against him/her, but in the meantime, your credit score suffers. So I suggest paying off the debt to save your credit. If you can’t afford to pay the debt, at least make minimum payments to keep a positive payment history on your credit report.

Wolf: What about other accounts, such as utilities and cell phones?

Irby: The safest thing to do, if you have a service in your ex’s name, is to turn off the account and reestablish service in your name.

 

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3. Find Money to Pay Down Debt

Another thing we have to do before creating a plan to pay down your existing debt is to find money in your budget each month. To assist in this step, I contacted Erin Huffstetler, Frugal Living Expert.

Wolf: How much money do you think the average person can uncover just by being more intentional about spending and budgeting?

Huffstetler: The average person could easily uncover an extra $250 a month—and probably much more.

Wolf: What are the top 5 areas that you think people should look to first when they’re trying to cut their expenses?

Huffstetler:

  • Food spending (both groceries and eating out)
  • TV-related expenses (cable/satellite services, certainly; but also movie subscriptions and rentals)
  • Phone services (particularly extras like call waiting, caller id, long distance, and cell phones)
  • Insurance premiums
  • Miscellaneous spending (all those small amounts spent on coffee, vending machine snacks, and other indulgences)

Wolf: How can single parents, specifically, stretch their child support dollars and reduce child-related expenses?

Huffstetler: For single parents looking to stretch their child support dollars, creativity is the key. Look to children’s consignment shops and thrift stores to buy your kids’ clothes instead of department stores; sign them up for Parks and Rec-run activities instead of privately-run activities (which will always cost more); and don’t feel like you have to make up for being a single parent by buying them extra things—it’s you they need, not stuff.

 

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4. Pay Off Your Debt

The next step is creating a schedule for paying down your debt:

  1. Pay off the debts that charge you the highest interest first.Bob Hammond, author of Life Without Debt, recommends that you pay off the debts that are charging you the highest interest first since borrowing from those creditors is costing you the most money. “Concentrate on paying off the high-cost debts as soon as possible,” Hammond advises. LaToya Irby, Credit/Debt Management Expert, agrees. “Highest interest rate debts cost the most money, especially when those debts have high balances. So you’ll save money on interest charges when you pay off those high-interest rate debts first.”However, there are exceptions to this general rule. Irby notes, “If you’re likely to get discouraged because it’s taking a long time to pay off that high-interest rate debt, you can start with the lowest balance debt. Getting some small debts paid off will motivate you to keep going.”
  2. Pay more than the minimum payment. Aim for paying more than the suggested minimum payment, in order to pay off your debts as quickly as possible.Miriam Caldwell, Money in Your 20’s Expert, shares this advice:
    • Choose one debt to focus on.
    • Increase your payment on that debt by as much as you can.
    • Once you have paid off that debt, move all that you are paying on it to the next debt you want to pay off.
    • You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can get out of debt with this plan!
  3. Meanwhile, continue to pay the minimum balance due on all of your other debts.Record what you intend to pay toward each debt on the debt chart you made in Step 1.

 

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5. Budget Your Monthly Expenses

Now that you know where you stand financially, and you’ve created a plan for paying down your debts, it’s time to make sure that you’re making any other necessary adjustments so that you can keep up with your plan. And this means creating a budget.

I know this can be intimidating, but I’m going to make a suggestion for you: Sign up for Mint.com. It’s a free financial software program available on the Internet, and it will basically do your budgeting for you. It will create a visual pie chart showing how much you’re spending each month on housing, gas, food, entertainment, and more. This way, if it turns out that you’re spending a lot more on food than you really should, you can begin to make the necessary adjustments to get your spending under control.

If you would prefer to create your budget the traditional way, allotting a certain amount of money to each spending category, I’ve created an online budget calculator you can use, which includes categories for child support and other details specific to your life as a single parent.

Finally, in taking a look at where your money really goes each month, it’s important to know approximately how much money you “should” be spending in each category. Generally speaking, your net spendable income (after taxes) should be allocated as follows*:

  • Housing: 30%
  • Food: 12%
  • Auto: 14%
  • Insurance: 5%
  • Debt: 5%
  • Entertainment: 7%
  • Clothing: 6%
  • Savings: 5%
  • Medical/Dental: 4%
  • Miscellaneous: 7%
  • Child Care: 5%
  • Investments: 5%

 

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6. Set Financial Goals

Now that you’ve worked out a plan to pay down your debt, and you’ve created a budget, it’s time to determine your needs moving forward.

Specifically, as a single parent, you need to ask yourself some questions, such as:

  • Do you need to file for child support?
  • Do you need to get a higher-paying job?
  • Is it time to think about going back to school?
  • Do you need to consider moving into a home/rental that would reduce your overall monthly payments?
  • Are there alternatives, such as taking on another job or splitting expenses with another single parent family, that you need to consider at this point?

One of the things that I want you to know is that the ball is in your court. You determine where this goes from here on out. But unfortunately, you can’t do that if you’re ignoring your financial health, right?

So the fact that you’ve come this far in the process of getting a handle on your finances tells me that you’re determined to make the changes you need to make in order to provide for your family’s future.

So go ahead and ask yourself these questions. So much of single parenting is learning to roll with the punches and be creative in the face of adversity. If, indeed, you need to make some pretty major changes, now is the time to do it. Don’t incur any more debt where you are. Be resourceful, follow through, and do what you need to do to turn your financial situation around.

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7. Increase Your Net Worth

The next step is to determine your net worth and begin adding to it.

Determine Your Net Worth:

Your net worth is what you own minus what you owe. Programs such as Mint.com, Quicken, and Microsoft Money will calculate your net worth for you, automatically.

You can also determine your net worth simply by adding up all that you own, including all of your investments, the equity you may have paid into your home, the value of your car, and any other assets you possess; and subtracting what you owe in remaining debts.

Set Up a Savings Account:

Once you know where you stand, you’ll be ready to set up a savings account. You can do this through your regular bank, or begin investing in a mutual fund that pays interest.

Even if you can only afford to set aside $25 or $50 per month, it will begin to add up.

Before you know it, you’ll have an emergency savings plan in place, to protect you in the event that your car breaks down, or your home needs a major repair.

In addition, this regular savings will help you increase your net worth over time.

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8. Become Even More Frugal

Unfortunately, all of the work you’ve already done in steps 1-7 will have little lasting value if you don’t change your attitude toward money. Now is the time to become even more frugal and learn to live within your means.

Practice Discipline:

Stop imagining that more money is going to pour in tomorrow—through finally collecting on unpaid child support, winning the lottery, or getting a promotion. If those things happen, great! You’ll be even better off. But living as if they’re going to happen is causing you to spend money you don’t have.

Instead, force yourself to make purchases with cash only. Do not continue to pay outrageous interest payments toward credit cards for purchases you don’t absolutely need. You can get by without that new furniture, right? What else could you skip, in the interest of spending only what you have right now in the bank?

Try These Ideas:

  • Check Freecycle before you make another major purchase. Someone else may be giving away the very thing you’d like to buy!
  • When you’re getting ready to buy something specific, look for it on eBay first. I buy a lot of my clothes, new-with-tags, through online auctions!
  • Forget trying to keep up with “The Jones’s.” You already know your value; don’t get caught up trying to “prove” your worth to others by having “just the right” house, car, or appearance.
  • Do not use shopping, ever, to appease your emotions.
  • Finally, when you do go to make a big purchase, step back and give yourself a few days–or even a week–to think about it. There’s no reason to suffer through buyer’s remorse and try to justify to yourself purchases that you really can’t afford. Think it over carefully and make those purchases, when necessary, with cash.

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9. Schedule Your Own Weekly Financial Check-In

Grab your calendar and schedule a weekly financial update meeting with yourself. This is an extremely important step in managing your personal finances, and it’s one that you need to continue each and every week. During your “meeting” time:

  • Pay any bills that are due.
  • If your bank statement has arrived, take the time to balance your checkbook.
  • Check the balances of your checking and savings accounts.
  • Update your debt list to incorporate any recent payments.
  • This is also a good time to write out your grocery shopping list and check what’s on sale at your local grocery store this week (either using the store’s Web site or the sales circular that comes in the newspaper).
  • Finally, also make note of any upcoming expenses you need to anticipate and plan for.

An attitude of gratitude and finances.

 

 

References:
Irby, LaToya. Email interview. 24 Oct. 2008, 
Huffstetler, Erin. Email interview. 24 Oct. 2008. 
Sources:
Caldwell, Miriam. Email interview. 27 Oct. 2008, Hammond, Bob. “Debt Free Key: 10 Steps for Coping With Credit Problems.” Life Without Debt. Franklin Lakes, NJ: Career Press, 1995. 31-32, Irby, LaToya. Email interview. 24 Oct. 2008. 
“Spending Plan Online Calculator.” Crown Financial Ministries. 11 Oct. 2008.

Written By: Jennifer Wolf

Source: thebalance

 

 

 

Market Update: May 30, 2017

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Last Week’s Market Activity

  • S&P 500 Index and the Nasdaq closed at new record highs last Friday; seventh consecutive gain for S&P 500 and 20th record close year to date.
  • The combination of positive sentiment and low volatility suggests stocks may continue to absorb challenging headlines.  Investors weathered potential risks from last week’s news, including: fallout from Comey firing, growing investigation into Administration/Russia ties, White House’s 2018 budget proposal, terrorist bombing in Manchester, Moody’s China debt downgrade, CBO’s score for AHCA, and minutes from last Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting suggesting higher interest rates ahead.
  • Markets also handled disappointing economic reports, specifically weakness in new home sales, durable goods orders; instead focusing on longer-term trends such as positive global data (Germany, Japan), upward revision to U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in the 1st quarter.
  • Orders for durable goods fell in April, but good news in the details. Drop (-0.7%) in orders bested expectations (-1.0%) and March revision was strong (details below).
  • Orders ex-transportation showed a similar pattern. Nondefense capital goods shipments ex-air, a proxy for business spending, fell slightly (-0.1%) but better than forecast, following four consecutive monthly gains.
  • For the week, stocks rose +1.5% to +2.0%, powered higher by the unusual combination of utilities and technology sectors, each up >2.0%.  Investors likely hedging their bets, counting on growth prospects of technology, but not necessarily buying into Fed’s rate outlook as “bond proxy” utilities sector rose.
  • Weakness in energy (-2.0%) as markets appeared to have already priced in extension to OPEC production cuts, but investors wanted deeper cuts and pushed WTI crude oil down by >1.5% last week (after rising for three weeks) to ~$49.00/bbl.
  • Action in U.S. Treasury market also points toward less Fed activity after expected June hike, with 10-Year Treasury yield hovering in the 2.25% range, on track for fourth straight monthly gain.
  • U.S. dollar firmed slightly (+0.1%) on the heels of solid GDP revision.
  • Stocks in Europe basically flat Friday; euro & pound sterling weakened as Conservatives’ lead over Labour has narrowed considerably in recent weeks.
    Emerging markets stocks +2.0% on the week, maintaining year to date leadership globally.

Overnight & This Morning

  • Stocks in Asia little changed amid shortage of overseas leads.
  • Yen strengthened for a third day against the U.S. dollar (USD/JPY -0.3% to 110.9)
  • In Europe, shares down fractionally (Euro Stoxx 600 -0.1%); bank stocks, weakness in business & consumer confidence weighing
  • European Central Bank (ECB) Head Draghi was critical of U.S. trade proposals in speech to European Parliament yesterday.  He also reaffirmed commitment to maintaining ECB stimulus, placing pressure on the euro.
  • Euro down -0.1% to $1.11
  • Commodities – Mostly lower, led by weakness in precious metals and agriculture, with WTI oil holding below $50.00/bbl. COMEX gold (-0.2%) to $1265 and copper (-0.6%).
  • U.S. stock, Treasury yields down slightly in muted, post-holiday trading.
  • U.S. dollar weak vs. yen but stronger vs. euro and other major currencies
  • U.S. Personal Income and Spending for April met expectations after two consecutive shortfalls. Inflation metrics in this report are. Its preferred measure of price growth, the Core PCE deflator, key inflation metric for the Federal Reserve, at 1.7% from 1.6%.

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Key Insights

  • The trend for business spending/capital investment is improving.  After years of hoarding cash, paying yield, and buying back shares, the business cycle has returned with upward shifts in pricing and U.S. monetary policy.  Businesses can no longer simply attempt to maintain market share, but rather, they must grow market share as the recovery/expansion enters its ninth year.
  • While personal consumption is still the primary driver of U.S. economic growth, we believe the rate of growth in the coming quarters/years will be driven by capital investment, which is taking up a larger portion of GDP contribution (details below).
  • 1Q earnings per share (EPS) (+15% year over year) faced the easiest comparisons and we look for remainder of 2017 quarterly EPS gains to hover in the mid-high single digit range. These are smaller percentage gains than what we’ve become accustomed to these past couple of quarters, but still indicative of sustained, late cycle growth accompanied by still low interest rates and inflation (details below).
  • We recognize current trading range is of concern. Despite the flattening yield curve, which could partly be the result of global sovereign credit valuations, there appears to be little stress evident in the credit markets (details below).

Fixed Income Notes

  • Despite equity markets at/near record levels, bond market continues to hang in there.  Constant maturity 10-year Treasury note up four consecutive months, Barclays Aggregate (+2.0%) and Barclays High Yield (+4.0%) providing positive returns year to date.
  • After 1.35% low last June, 10-year Treasury yield surged to 2.65% in late February/early March of this year. Since then, several factors have conspired to push yields lower, despite Fed’s plans to raise interest rates (see below). First, failure of the first vote on ACA repeal placed a great deal of uncertainty on likelihood of President Trump’s pro-growth policy agenda being fully enacted. Second, weak Q1 GDP enabled flattening of the yield curve. Third, some are projecting higher short-term borrowing costs will curb lending and growth, making it tougher for Fed to sustain 2.0% inflation target. Fourth (less sinister) reason has to do with relative valuation.  With Fed moving in a different direction from ECB and BOJ, those sovereign bonds trading at very expensive valuations, increasing attractiveness of U.S. government bonds.
  • This can be a blessing and a curse: curse is that a bid for U.S. Treasuries from global investors helps mask our spending profligacy. The blessing is global investors appear confident slow growth with low inflation likely to be sustained in U.S., without signs of excessive upside, or downside risks.
  • As a result, we continue to look for the U.S. benchmark Treasury yield to trade within the 2.25% to 2.75% range in the second half of 2017.
  • Corporate credit spreads (high yield & investment grade) remain narrow, credit default swaps (CDS) also held steady. If these critical market signposts (10-year Treasury yield, credit spreads, CDS) hold steady, financial markets likely to continue narrow trading range
  • Geopolitics may periodically cause near term uncertainty, but like equity markets, next catalyst likely move the bond market will be clarity on U.S. fiscal policy

Macro Notes

  • S&P 500 currently at another record level, 2415, but technicals suggest move to 2450-2475 within reach in coming months.
  • Bullish catalyst is necessary, could come in the form of: sustainable EPS growth, > expected GDP in Q2/Q3, less aggressive Fed in 2H17, corporate tax cuts, tax reform, global GDP etc.
  • Unfortunately, move of this magnitude highly dependent on fiscal policy changes, where uncertainty narrows trading ranges until clarity emerges.
  • Fundamentally, move toward this level can be justified, but anything above it would need more clarity on 2018 EPS increases, largely due to combination of repatriation tax holiday/reduction in corporate tax rate.
  • Assuming $130.00 in S&P 500 operating EPS this year, stocks currently trading ~18.5x calendar 2017; a move >2450 would take market price-to-earnings ratio (P/E) >19x.
  • Tax reform may be too big to achieve in current political environment, but corporate tax cuts still possible; if implemented, 2018 EPS could be >$140.00, which would bring target ranges for index 2500 to 2550 in 12 to 18 months
  • U.S. Q1 Real GDP revised higher from +0.7% to +1.2%, helped by a more positive picture of business investment, which had already posted a strong quarter, and a slightly better picture of consumer spending. The improvement alleviates some concerns of Q1 weakness and increases the likelihood of a Fed rate hike in June. Looking at Q2 GDP, prospects are for much stronger growth, and could be in the +3.0%, as pent up demand in cap-ex, housing, and an inventory rebuild from Q1 weakness propels GDP higher.
  • Though components of the durable goods report (airlines, transportation) can be volatile, the trend over the past year for orders (business investment) is still up approximately +5.0% year over year, despite last month’s weakness
  • A host of European economic data was released overnight, generally showing that the economic recovery continues, but at a somewhat slower pace than expected. The highlighted number was German inflation, running at 1.4%, below forecast and previous readings of 2%, which is also the ECB target rate. This data reduces some pressure on the ECB to alter its current monetary policy.
  • Politics continue to foil plans for European certainty. Just three weeks ago, the election of a Conservative government in the U.K. was seen as both a certainty and a boost for Prime Minister Theresa May. In the past few weeks, a Conservative victory, while still likely according to the polls, is now less certain. The British pound has also weakened, not coincidentally. In addition, there have been renewed calls for an early election, as soon as September 2017, as opposed to the 2018 election now expected. An early election would likely focus directly on the EU and the euro.
  • Corporate Beige Book supports strong earnings outlook. Much like first quarter earnings results and management guidance, our measure of corporate sentiment based on our analysis of earnings conference call transcripts was better than we expected. We saw a sharp increase in strong and positive words over the prior quarter, with no change in weak and negative words. Wwe believe the positive tone from management teams supports a favorable earnings outlook in the quarters ahead.
  • New highs and no volatility, more of the same. The S&P 500 Index closed at another new high on Friday, making it seven consecutive higher closes. It hasn’t been up eight days in a row since July 2013 and the previous two seven day win streaks ended at seven days. It also gained 1.4% for the week, avoiding its first three week losing streak since before Brexit. Last, the incredible lack of volatility continued, as the S&P 500 Index traded in a range of only 0.19% on Friday, the smallest daily range since March 1996 and the smallest daily range while also closing at a new all-time high since August 1991.
  • June is a busy month for central banks. Summer is nearly here and historically that has meant lower volume, but potential market volatility. As we turn the calendar to June, the three big events this month are all from central banks: as the Fed, the ECB, and the BOJ all have meetings to decide interest rate policy. These events, along with a few others, could make for an eventful month in June.

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Monday

  • Memorial Day Holiday
  • Eurozone: Money Supply (Apr)
  • Japan: Jobless Rate (Apr)

Tuesday

  • PCE (Apr)
  • Conference Board Consumer Confidence (May)
  • France: GDP (Q1)
  • Germany: CPI (May)
  • Eurozone: Consumer Confidence (May)
  • Japan: Industrial Production (Apr)
  • China: Mfg. & Non-Mfg. PMI (May)

Wednesday

  • Chicago Area PMI (May)
  • Beige Book
  • France: CPI (May)
  • Germany: Unemployment Change (May)
  • Eurozone: Unemployment Rate (Apr)
  • Italy: CPI (May)
  • Eurozone: CPI (May)
  • India: GDP (Q1)
  • Canada: GDP (Mar)
  • Japan: Nikkei Japan Mfg. PMI (May)
  • China: Caixin China Mfg. PMI (May)
  • Japan: Capital Spending (Q1)

Thursday

  • ADP Employment (May)
  • Non-Farm Productivity (Q1)
  • Initial Jobless Claims (May 27)
  • Markit Mfg. PMI (May)
  • ISM (May)
  • Eurozone: Markit Eurozone Mfg. PMI (May)
  • Italy: GDP (Q1)
  • Brazil: GDP (Q1)
  • South Korea: GDP (Q1)
  • Canada: Markit Canada Mfg. PMI (May)
  • Japan: Vehicle Sales (May)

Friday

  • Change in Nonfarm, Private & Mfg. Payrolls (May)
  • Unemployment Rate (May)
  • Trade Balance (Apr)
  • Eurozone: PPI (Apr)

 

 

 

 

 

Important Disclosures: Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The economic forecasts set forth in the presentation may not develop as predicted. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide or be construed as providing specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual security. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal. Investing in foreign and emerging markets securities involves special additional risks. These risks include, but are not limited to, currency risk, political risk, and risk associated with varying accounting standards. Investing in emerging markets may accentuate these risks. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) are subject to interest rate risk and opportunity risk. If interest rates rise, the value of your bond on the secondary market will likely fall. In periods of no or low inflation, other investments, including other Treasury bonds, may perform better. Bank loans are loans issued by below investment-grade companies for short-term funding purposes with higher yield than short-term debt and involve risk. Because of its narrow focus, sector investing will be subject to greater volatility than investing more broadly across many sectors and companies. Commodity-linked investments may be more volatile and less liquid than the underlying instruments or measures, and their value may be affected by the performance of the overall commodities baskets as well as weather, disease, and regulatory developments. Government bonds and Treasury bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value. However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate. Investing in foreign and emerging markets debt securities involves special additional risks. These risks include, but are not limited to, currency risk, geopolitical and regulatory risk, and risk associated with varying settlement standards. High-yield/junk bonds are not investment-grade securities, involve substantial risks, and generally should be part of the diversified portfolio of sophisticated investors. Municipal bonds are subject to availability, price, and to market and interest rate risk if sold prior to maturity. Bond values will decline as interest rate rise. Interest income may be subject to the alternative minimum tax. Federally tax-free but other state and local taxes may apply. Investing in real estate/REITs involves special risks such as potential illiquidity and may not be suitable for all investors. There is no assurance that the investment objectives of this program will be attained. Currency risk is a form of risk that arises from the change in price of one currency against another. Whenever investors or companies have assets or business operations across national borders, they face currency risk if their positions are not hedged. This research material has been prepared by LPL Financial LLC.

The Truth About Present-Day Retirement

Times have changed and so has retirement! Nowadays, retirement is no longer what people once expected. If you’re preparing to retire, the way your parents did, you might be stuck in the past and need to face present-day reality. So, what has changed in the last 10 years? Well, the factors below will shift your perspective about how you should be preparing for retirement!

First, with all the advancements of medicine and technology that we’ve had in this last decade, it’s no surprise that people are living longer. In the past, living 30 years after retirement, was actually outside the norm of an adult’s lifespan. Therefore, the 4% safe withdrawal rate that many financial planners followed was a valid rule of thumb. This guideline told retirees that if they took out only 4% of their assets and adjusted to inflation in their retirement portfolio, the risk of running out of money 30 years after they retired was very low.

But it’s no longer the case! If you’re saving conservatively for an amount that would last you around 30 years, disregard the 4% rule. People are now living past the age of 95 and a good amount of them are even retiring early. The average portfolio return for the standard investor has also decreased and is subject to more risk from the impacts of market volatility. The chances of outliving your nest egg is a lot higher these days.

Not only are people starting to live longer, the divorce rate is also significantly higher. You can no longer assume that you’ll still be married once you retire! How is that an issue, you ask? Well, a divorce could be a serious stumbling block for your retirement plan since your income might be cut in half during your golden years. Not to mention, your retirement assets might be split among you and your ex-spouse. Because of a divorce, you’ll most likely have to change your retirement strategy and lifestyle.

Have you noticed that everything costs a lot more than it used to? Some of this increase can be a result of natural inflation in prices. But, according to our government, inflation is very tame and under control. Yet, the cost of everyday goods is a lot higher and will keep outpacing inflation throughout your retirement. And it is not just everyday expenses that you’ll need to factor into your budget, there’s the added healthcare costs as well. Given the fact that there’s a good chance you’ll live longer, there are more medical issues you’ll be susceptible to. Not to mention the fact that your chances of getting injured or breaking something will dramatically increase. This means a lot more medical bills and trips to the doctor’s office! On top of that, the fact that a third of us will require some sort of assistance or nursing care, and you can see how retirement costs can skyrocket! Basically, retirement is not as cheap as it used to be.

Finally, if you think about your assets, it’s safe to assume that your home is your most valuable one. You may be able to sell it at a profit, assuming that the value has increased over the years. However, that might be a misconception! In order to determine whether or not you’ll actually get a return on your investment, you’ll need to adjust for inflation and taxes. Also, if we experience any major volatility in the housing market like we did in the past, you might not be able to get as much money for your property as you expected. Like all markets, the real estate market can be unpredictable.

So, with all of these changes, how can one successfully save for retirement? Well, my biggest recommendation for every pre-retiree that I talk to is, BE PREPARED! It’s always better to set your retirement savings goal beyond your expected amount, than below it. With the unpredictability of divorce, age, and the financial markets, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you aim higher and save more, then your risk of running out of money during retirement will be a lot lower. Part of being prepared is to work closely with a financial planner that can guide your through your Golden Years. This ‘financial coach’ should be able to point out pitfalls that you might not have even thought of. It’s their job to make sure that you’re on track and don’t fall victim to your own wrongdoings. As well as to create a retirement game plan and an investment road-map that takes taxes and your risk tolerance into consideration.

Being prepared for retirement can be a daunting task. Especially given all the unknowns out there. But with proper preparation and guidance from a financial professional, you can glide into retirement knowing full well that you’re ready for the challenge!

Market Update: March 13, 2017

MarketUpdate_header

  • Traders cautious ahead of Fed decision. The S&P 500 is modestly lower this morning after advancing Friday, led by utilities (+0.8%) and telecom (+0.7), but snapping a six-week winning streak. Energy (-0.1%) lagged, but held up well given the 1.6% drop in the price of oil. Investors are trading cautiously ahead of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, which begins tomorrow; the market has priced in a 25 basis point (0.25%) rate hike. Overnight, Asian markets were led higher by the Hang Seng (+1.1%) and Shanghai Composite (+0.8%); Korea’s KOSPI (+1.0%) continued to climb after the country’s president was removed from office on Friday. European exchanges are mostly higher in afternoon trading, with the STOXX Europe 600 up 0.4%. Meanwhile, WTI crude oil ($48.30/barrel) is higher after last week’s slide, COMEX gold ($1203/oz.) is up modestly, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note is up 0.01% to 2.59%.

MacroView_header

  • Busy week ahead in a very busy month. March is an unusually busy month for global markets. This week, the FOMC meeting, along with Bank of Japan and Bank of England meetings, are accompanied by an election in the Netherlands, a press conference by Chinese Premier Li, and a ton of key U.S. economic data (retail sales, CPI, housing starts, leading indicators). President Trump will release his fiscal year 2018 budget document, the G-20 finance ministers meet in Germany, and the U.S. will hit its debt ceiling.
  • FOMC preview. This week, we ask and answer key questions that investors may have about the Fed and monetary policy ahead of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting. With a 0.25% rate hike fully priced in, markets will want to gauge the pace and timing of rate hikes over the rest of 2017 and into 2018, as well as Fed Chair Yellen’s thoughts on fiscal policy and the impact on monetary policy.
  • How much does the current bull market have left in the tank? The bull market celebrated its eighth birthday last Thursday, March 9. During that eight-year period, the S&P 500 rose 250% in price and more than tripled in value (including dividends), leaving many to ask the question: How much does this bull run have left? We try to help answer that question by looking at some of our favorite leading indicators. Although valuations are rich and policy risks are high, none of our favorite leading indicators are sending signals suggesting the bull market is nearing its end.
  • The weekly win streak is over. The S&P 500 ended with a slight gain on Friday to close the week down 0.4% – just missing out on the first seven-week win streak since late 2014 and ending a six-week win streak in the process. The big move last week came in crude oil, as it sank more than 9% for the week – the largest weekly loss since right before the election. Small caps, as measured by the Russell 2000, fell 2.1% and high yield also saw a big drop. Many have noted that weakness in energy, small caps, and high yield could be a warning sign for large caps. We will continue to monitor these developments.

MonitoringWeek_header

Monday

  • ECB’s Mario Draghi Speaks in Frankfut
  • China: Retail Sales (Feb)
  • China: Fixed Asset Investment (Feb)
  • China: Industrial Production (Feb)

 Tuesday

  • Small Business Optimism Index (Feb)
  • Germany: ZEW (Mar)

 Wednesday

  • Empire State Mfg. Report (Mar)
  • CPI (Mar)
  • Retail Sales (Mar)
  • FOMC Decision (Rate Hike Expected)
  • FOMC Economic Forecasts and “Dot Plots”
  • Yellen Press Conference
  • General Election in the Netherlands
  • China’s Premier Li Holds Annual Press Conference

 Thursday

  • Philadelphia Fed Mfg. Report (Mar)
  • US Debt Ceiling Reinstated
  • President Trump to Release His FY 2018 Budget
  • UK: Bank of England Meeting (No Change Expected)
  • Japan: Bank of Japan Meeting (No Change Expected)

 Friday

  • Index of Leading Indicators (Feb)
  • G20 Finance Ministers Meeting in Germany

 

 

 

 

 

Important Disclosures: Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The economic forecasts set forth in the presentation may not develop as predicted. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide or be construed as providing specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual security. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal. Investing in foreign and emerging markets securities involves special additional risks. These risks include, but are not limited to, currency risk, political risk, and risk associated with varying accounting standards. Investing in emerging markets may accentuate these risks. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) are subject to interest rate risk and opportunity risk. If interest rates rise, the value of your bond on the secondary market will likely fall. In periods of no or low inflation, other investments, including other Treasury bonds, may perform better. Bank loans are loans issued by below investment-grade companies for short-term funding purposes with higher yield than short-term debt and involve risk. Because of its narrow focus, sector investing will be subject to greater volatility than investing more broadly across many sectors and companies. Commodity-linked investments may be more volatile and less liquid than the underlying instruments or measures, and their value may be affected by the performance of the overall commodities baskets as well as weather, disease, and regulatory developments. Government bonds and Treasury bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value. However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate. Investing in foreign and emerging markets debt securities involves special additional risks. These risks include, but are not limited to, currency risk, geopolitical and regulatory risk, and risk associated with varying settlement standards. High-yield/junk bonds are not investment-grade securities, involve substantial risks, and generally should be part of the diversified portfolio of sophisticated investors. Municipal bonds are subject to availability, price, and to market and interest rate risk if sold prior to maturity. Bond values will decline as interest rate rise. Interest income may be subject to the alternative minimum tax. Federally tax-free but other state and local taxes may apply. Investing in real estate/REITs involves special risks such as potential illiquidity and may not be suitable for all investors. There is no assurance that the investment objectives of this program will be attained. Currency risk is a form of risk that arises from the change in price of one currency against another. Whenever investors or companies have assets or business operations across national borders, they face currency risk if their positions are not hedged. This research material has been prepared by LPL Financial LLC.

Budgeting Apps Feel the Pinch

 

Provided by Thinkstock

Tools that let you track all of your financial accounts in one place, such as Mint.com, rely on a steady flow of data from banks, brokerages and credit card issuers to operate smoothly. Lately, that steady access hasn’t been a given. Mint experienced disruptions in its feed from Chase last fall because of heavy traffic on the bank’s Web site. Plus, Chase later notified some customers that they would have to log in to their Chase accounts and go through steps to ensure that desktop ap­plications such as Quicken would continue to sync data. About the same time, Mint users with Wells Fargo accounts dealt with service interruptions—possibly an inadvertent side effect of security updates.

Chase and Wells Fargo assert that software updates and clogged servers caused the blockages. Even so, banks may have other reasons to think twice about keeping an open line with aggregators. First, they’re competitors: Financial in­stitutions offer their own money-management tools. Chase Blueprint lets customers with certain credit cards set and monitor spending goals, and Wells Fargo’s My Money Map provides similar options. In late 2014, Mint launched a separate application, Mint Bills, which allows users to pay bills online from one portal—just as many customers can do with their bank’s online bill-pay feature.

Banks are also on edge about the security risks involved when customers provide account information to third parties. Some have posted disclaimers on their sites that customers could be on the hook for financial losses that result from sharing log-in information with other services. That might not hold up under federal law, says Lauren Saunders of the National Consumer Law Center. “You still have the right to contest unauthorized charges on your bank account.”

Whether a budgeting tool would be liable in the event of a data breach is an open question, and one that won’t be resolved until lawmakers create clear rules or an app is hacked and the courts decide. In 2015 through December 8, there were 66 data breaches in the banking, credit and financial sector, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center.

Mint and similar sites haven’t suffered any known breaches (but in today’s hostile environment, no entity is infallible). Mint says that its encryption standards match those of a bank. If a crook were to log in to Mint’s budgeting tool with your credentials, he couldn’t see account numbers or make transactions, but he could move money with Mint’s bill-payment app.

Because consumers usually have financial accounts with a variety of institutions, banks aren’t likely to provide the big-picture value that applications such as Mint offer. And customers who are unhappy with how an institution is handling its relationships with third-party services can vote with their feet. “If there’s a backlash, banks will adjust,” says S&P Capital IQ analyst Scott Kessler.

Don’t expect the complex symbiotic relationship between banks and budget apps to end. “Banks rely heavily on these platforms to get new customers,” says Alex Matjanec, of MyBankTracker, a consumer site for bank information. For example, banks pay Mint to promote their credit cards to its users.

Written by Lisa Gerstner of Kiplinger

(Source: Kiplinger)

8 Ways to Rebound from a Credit Setback

© Provided by WisePiggy.com
© Provided by WisePiggy.com

Illness, job loss, an accident and plain old overspending when money gets tight can do a number on your credit. Here’s how to help your credit bounce back after a financial setback, no matter the reason.

1. Be patient

Fixing your finances and improving your credit takes time and patience.

“The time it takes to improve credit depends on a number of factors — it could be two or three years for more serious situations, and less than a year for the smaller setbacks,” says Bruce McClary, vice president of public relations for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. “The way forward is a marathon and not a sprint.”

2. Check your credit

Before you can improve your credit you need to see exactly what you’re working with, so get copies of your credit reports and take a close look at each of your credit account records.

Visit annualcreditreport.com to obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian).

“This helps you compare the reported account status for each debt that you owe with your own records, and allows you to start prioritizing how you will resolve any creditor issues,” McClary says.

You’ll also want to check your credit score — get your free credit score at WisePiggy.com. Checking it — and seeing it improve as you work on righting your financial setbacks — can be a huge motivator.

3. Review and rework your budget

Think long and hard about what you’re currently spending and what non-essentials you can cut out while you repair your finances.

“Review your income and expenses with an eye toward areas where there is room to focus on your two biggest priorities: paying debt and growing personal savings,” McClary suggests.

4. Prioritize your payments

Paying your bills on time and really working to pay down your debt will improve your credit score.

“Successful recovery depends on how quickly collection accounts are paid off while other accounts remain in good standing with on-time payments,” McClary says. “Once the collection accounts are resolved, it is the timely payment of open accounts that will help you reach full recovery.”

5. Move fast if you are behind on payments

Late on some of your payments? Make some quick moves to avert a credit disaster.

“Fast action is what is required when there are past-due accounts,” McClary advises. “If you have an open credit account that is a payment or two behind schedule, you’ll want to make arrangements to prevent it from falling further behind and going to collection status. Preventing an account from charging-off will protect your credit rating from the most severe damage, and will also allow you to have access to an open line of credit that can help restore your credit rating in the months and years ahead.”

6. Avoid the ‘quick fix’

Don’t be tempted by companies that charge big fees to help improve your credit. They can’t. Only time and a good payment record will do that.

“Don’t fall for ‘miracle’ solutions that promise instant debt relief and erasure of negative credit records, as those offers are simply scams that will leave you worse-off and with less money,” McClary says.

7. Ask for help

If you are current on your credit card payments but struggling to reach that minimum payment each month, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.

“Falling behind on minimum payments is a warning sign of more serious budget issues that deserve urgent attention. If you haven’t fallen behind but think you might, it is the perfect time to reach out to creditors and explore more affordable debt repayment options that will allow you to keep accounts in good standing,” McClary says. “This is also a good time to seek advice from nonprofit credit counseling agencies.”

8. Be persistent

If it is just a matter of paying down debt, your credit may turn around faster than you think once you get your payments are on track again, explains Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach.

“Recognize that it takes time to rebuild your credit rating — but probably not as much time as you might think,” Khalfani-Cox says. “Just focus on paying your bills on time every month. That is the single best way to strengthen your credit.”

Written by Lucy Lazarony of WisePiggy

(Source: WisePiggy)

Why Your Family Needs a Household Austerity Budget

© Thinkstock/Getty Images
© Thinkstock/Getty Images

Let’s talk about austerity. No, not the austerity proposed in Greece (although I’m probably the only one not writing about Greece). Rather, I’m talking about personal austerity. I frequently recommend that families develop an austerity budget. Let’s describe what this is and how it might help you.

In a budgeting sense, “austerity” refers to sharply curtailing spending in a time of financial crisis. Your family’s austerity budget is a plan you can put into effect in the event you lose your job or encounter some other financial hardship. Creating an austerity budget involves calculating the minimum amount of money you would need monthly or weekly to live indefinitely. I like to use this definition because it is the most practical minimum budget, as we will see in a moment. Here is what it should include:

  • Rent or mortgage
  • Basic utilities
  • Food
  • Insurance
  • Car payments
  • Debt payments (credit cards or student loans)
  • Any miscellaneous ongoing expenses that can’t be eliminated

Just as important is what it should not include:

  • Savings or investment expenses
  • Vacations or travel
  • Entertainment
  • Dining out

Since your austerity budget is meant to last indefinitely, you need to be realistic about what you will spend. For instance, it does no good to lop out all restaurant expenses if you know you won’t have the willpower to break your daily Starbucks habit. Be realistic — maybe even try living on your austerity budget for a month or two. If you find that life is unbearable without, say, your daughter’s dance lessons, then go ahead and include them in your budget. You might be able to live on a bit less than this budget for a short time, but not indefinitely.

Your austerity budget and an emergency savings account are your sword and shield against financial adversity. When crisis hits, you should know what your austerity budget is and what steps you need to take to get there quickly — such as cutting off cable TV or suspending your kids’ day care. This will maximize the amount of time you can live off your emergency savings.

For some, this might be a relatively straightforward exercise. If you’re single, you might find that your austerity budget is fairly easy to get to. Others with different obligations, such as supporting a family, may find that getting down to their austerity budget requires more action. You may also find that there are issues you should address now, so if there ever is an emergency, the people depending on you won’t be surprised by their circumstances.

I find that there is an added benefit to understanding your austerity budget. As you save and invest over your lifetime, you may find that you have socked away enough money that you could safely withdraw from your accounts an amount equal to your austerity budget. Using simple parameters like the 4% rule, you may find that you already have enough money to live a simple life indefinitely just based on your investments. Many people find peace of mind in knowing this. An austerity budget could be the true start of financial independence.

Written by NerdWallet of Money

(Source: Time)

The Exact Moment Big Cities Got Too Expensive for Millennials

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Provided by Creative Commons

(Bloomberg Business) — The rent has been “too damn high” in New York for so long that today’s young professionals might assume it was always that way. Yet it wasn’t until the second quarter of 2004 that the median rent exceeded 30 percent of the median household income for young workers, the threshold at which housing experts say rent is no longer affordable, according to an analysis conducted by Zillow.

Rents are stretching millennial budgets throughout the U.S. Nationally, the typical worker from 22 to 34 years old paid 30 percent of income for rent in the first quarter of 2015, up from 23 percent in 1979, when the analysis begins.  In those places, rental unaffordability is a distinct obstacle for people trying to carve out lives and careers, particularly in the nine major cities shown in the chart below, where more than half of households rent.

The median rent in Los Angeles has been out of the reach of young people since at least the Carter administration. Chicago, by contrast, was affordable for the typical young worker until 2012, the year Kanye West first appeared on Keeping Up With the Kardashians.Most millennials could responsibly budget for rent in Boston as recently as 2004, when the Red Sox broke the team’s long World Series drought. San Francisco dipped in and out of unaffordable territory for years, until—after roughly a decade of affordability—rents shot ahead of millennial incomes in 2003; they have continued to outpace salaries ever since.

A couple of forces are making major cities increasingly unaffordable for millennials at the outset of their working lives. Stagnant wages in many cities have made rental and for- sale housing harder for workers to afford.

Demand for leases has also outweighed supply in many places. In the nine cities shown on the map below, the number of renters is growing faster than the number of rental units, according to a report published in May by the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University. That trend is likely to continue if predictions for falling homeownership rates are realized.

For many cities, the affordability gap hasn’t been a growth-killer; in many, it’s a consequence of their sustained popularity. People continue to flock to San Francisco for opportunities in its technology industry, despite median rents that were unaffordable to young workers for the first time in 1982. Looming rental affordability problems in Dallas and Houston are probably the result of booming local economies that have attracted workers faster than builders can erect new housing.

Not unexpectedly, the poor have suffered most from the dearth of reasonably priced housing. In 2013, 60 percent of low- income renters were severely rent-burdened, meaning they spent more than half their income on rent, according to the Furman report. Middle-class renters are also struggling to find affordable housing: More than one-third of moderate-income renters were severely rent-burdened in Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York.

The 30 percent threshold, it should be noted, is merely a proxy for affordability. Transportation costs, which are typically the second-biggest expense in most household budgets, can vary greatly for workers who take public transit and for those who carry car payments and auto insurance. That makes renting in Los Angeles look especially unappealing.

Millennials, meanwhile, can look forward to longer commutes and a harder time putting money away for a mortgage downpayment. Or move to Missouri.

Zillow compared median rents for each metropolitan area with the median income for young workers within that metro, on a quarterly basis, from 1979 through the first three months of 2015.

Written by Patrick Clark of Bloomberg

(Source: Bloomberg)

5 Steps to Save Your Financially Stressed Marriage

Do money troubles have you feeling like your marriage is circling the drain?

Don’t give up on your spouse yet!

Even financially stressed marriages can be salvaged, although it’s not always easy. Your family’s unique circumstances will determine how best to approach — and solve — money problems, but here are five steps to get you started.

Step 1: Air out your financial dirty laundry

© Jetta Productions/Getty Images

You’re upset that he spends an obscene amount with his friends each week, and he may be furious that you nit-pick every purchase he makes. Get it all out.

In my mind, this may be the most important step. You can’t move forward positively until you get rid of all the resentment and anger that linger over past mistakes.

“Bring everything to the table,” advises Anne Malec, a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of “Marriage in Modern Life.” “You need real openness and honesty to address the issue. Both sides need to be accountable.”

Well, you think, this surely sounds like a perfect recipe for a knock-down, drag-out fight. And you’re right. It can go horribly wrong, so you need to go about this carefully.

The best way is to go to a third party – a therapist, a financial planner, a pastor – who can act as a mediator for this emotional discussion.

If you believe that isn’t possible, you need to think long and hard about when and how best to bring up the subject with your spouse. Pick a low-key time and drop the accusatory tone. Use “I” statements whenever possible and take a soft approach to opening the discussion.

As in:

I feel frustrated that our bank account is always overdrawn. What can we do about that?

Not:

You need to man up, think of the family and stop spending so much!

Regardless of how nicely you put it, be prepared for them to respond with something critical about you and then seriously consider whether it has any merit. Remember you’re probably not perfect either, and you can’t make headway if you can’t admit your shortcomings.

Step 2: Have a monthly money meeting


© Bill Truslow/Getty Images

So now that you’ve cleared the air, it’s time to keep the lines of communication open. The best way to do that is to have a monthly money meeting.

“You look at how you’re doing this month compared to last month,” Malec says. “You work jointly as partners to address upcoming expenses.”

Step 3: Create a budget together

© Richard Elliott/Getty Images

If your finances are in the toilet, chances are you don’t have a budget. Or if you do have a budget, it’s one that one spouse created and then decreed the other spouse follow.

You need to identify your shared vision for what your family will look like. What are your goals? What are your priorities? Then work together to create a budget that supports those dreams.

Step 4: Give each spouse their own spending money

© Indeed/Getty Images

Your budget isn’t done until it includes a little cash for each spouse to spend freely each month.

“Each couple gets an equal amount and gets to spend it without criticism or question from the other,” Malec says.

This is so important because spending is such a huge piece of the financial happiness puzzle. Zero spending cash can make a spouse feel stifled or controlled while unbridled spending can spell bankruptcy.

According to a survey conducted by Edelman Financial Services, 56 percent of those polled said spending was the main reason for money-related divorces. So agree that each partner can spend, within reason, and remember that you don’t get to say anything about how your better half uses their cash, even if you do think it’s ridiculous to blow $50 on pizza and beer.

Step 5: Commit to being a team

© Dann Tardif/LWA/Getty Images

Did you play a team sport in school? Do you remember what that was like?

You may have had one particular teammate who didn’t do such a great job. They might make a mistake and cost the team a point, but assuming you were a good team player, you’d still pat them on the back and tell them it was OK.

You need to have that same team attitude with your spouse. Don’t think of them as an adversary or an obstacle you need to overcome. Instead, play to their strengths and be their biggest fan, even when they make mistakes.

“A person who doesn’t want to talk about [money] may feel uneducated about money, may feel anxious about money or don’t want to be held accountable,” Malec says.

You need to figure out what’s going on with your spouse and develop a game plan to address it without making them feel like a total loser. Malec adds that those who become defensive or angry over money probably didn’t see healthy financial discussions growing up and may just be modeling bad behavior they witnessed as children.

Saving a financially stressed marriage involves a lot of hard work and compromise, but for those who come out the other side in happier marriages with better finances, the sacrifices are well worth the rewards.

Written by Maryalene LaPonsie of MoneyTalksNews

(Source: MoneyTalksNews)

Retiring with Debt: How to Tackle the New Normal

© Ken Reid/Getty Images
© Ken Reid/Getty Images

Bora Paloka, a 65-year-old former hairstylist in New York City, is not living the type of retirement her husband and she had always imagined. For the past five years, the couple has been using welfare money to cover basic monthly expenses, and to make matters worse, the credit card debt she entered retirement with has ballooned.

Saving enough money to retire comfortably has long been the goal of the American worker as pension plans have disappeared. But now an added wrinkle complicates the scenario for those like Paloka: retirees are increasingly entering their golden years with crippling debt.

Households headed by those 75 or older saw debt double to $27,409 in 2010 compared to $13,665 in 2007, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI). And it’s not just mortgage debt that poses the problem: credit card and student loan debt are stifling retirees’ plans for leisurely days on the golf course followed by 5 o’clock margaritas.

Coping with this sort of debt does not leave Americans in a solid position to exit the workforce: 82% of workers aged 60 and older expect to or are already working past age 65, according to the May 2015 survey of the Trans American Center for Retirement Studies. Among them, 56% believe they will not be able to afford to retire because of their income or health benefit requirements.

Of course, for those forced into an early retirement, the obstacles increase: life expectancy has lengthened, and the typical consumer needs to be able to cover costs incurred during 30 plus years of retirement.

The best way for Americans to tackle debt in retirement is to develop a strategy and time line so they can attack the most troublesome debt first. It’s also important for them to consider taxes, retirement portfolio withdrawals and income streams so that they don’t outlive your money or leave heirs with outstanding loans.

Prioritize Your Debt

If you have multiple debt burdens, choosing which obligation to attack first is important.

Tackling high interest credit card debt, whether the charges were for a necessity or indulgence, is a must, according to Michael Conway, CEO of Conway Wealth at Summit Financial Resources in Parisppany, N.Y. If a retiree has multiple credit cards with debt owed, he should first pay off the one with the highest interest rate and then work his way down. This is what personal finance experts call “the avalanche method.”

Next up, take care of student loan debt, a pesky phenomenon that’s increasingly rearing its ugly head into retirement for many Americans. With education costs only increasing each year, student loans now make up a large portion of retirees’ total non-mortgage debt, according to the study by Limra Secure Retirement Institute: individuals aged 65 to 75 have six times the student debt compared to 25 years ago.

Financing a college education for yourself or your children is a priority to most looking to increase earning potential over a lifetime, but luckily, this debt can move down your list of priorities because of the low interest rates on education loans — typically from 1.5% to 8.8% for private loans and currently 3.86% for federal loans.

Student loan consolidation can simplify your bill to one streamlined payment and give you more time to pay off the loan. When choosing whether to consolidate a loan or not, retirees should compare their current monthly payments with the monthly loan payment for the consolidated bundle and ask whether they can afford to pay loans for the next couple of decades.

Mortgages are the big X-factor when considering entering retirement with debt. Generally speaking, it’s safe to pay the monthly amount owed on your mortgage while you tackle paying off your credit card and student loan obligations; once you’re squared away on those debts, you can work toward paying your house off in full. That’s because with a fixed mortgage, prices remain the same and don’t increase with inflation. That decreased urgency to pay off the debt, coupled with the fact that homeowners get a tax a break on their mortgage interest payments, makes this debt more palatable and less destructive to a retiree’s bottom line. To boot, the mortgage you took out will appreciate in value and is considered good debt, as opposed to bad debt, the money you charged to take that weeklong trip to Cancun. (That exception for mortgage debt is an adjustable rate mortgage, an ARM, which should be paid off sooner rather than later, because of the increasing interest rate over time).

The option of refinancing your home in retirement can cut down your monthly costs and help in your quest to paying off your mortgage. Lower rates come through from changes in market conditions or an improved credit score. But caveat refinancer: refi does have costs and fees like a 3% to 6% refinancing fee on your principal balance.

A reverse mortgage can bring in some steady cash flow and access home equity slowly over the years. This route comes with costs, depending on the size of your loan, like upfront mortgage insurance and real estate closing costs. Mortgage insurance adds an additional 1.25% on top of an adjusted interest rate.

If all else fails, downsizing your home is an economically efficient way to save some cash for retirement and free yourself of burdensome debt. A realtor can help with costs of selling your home and buying a new cozy condo for two.

Timing

During the first year of retirement, couples usually spend the equivalent of 75% to 85% of what their income was, mainly on home, food and health-related expenses — decreasing that expenditure level as they head deeper into retirement. Retirees should look at income and tax brackets to help determine what strategy to take for monthly spending and withdrawals from retirement accounts, according to Neil Krishneswamy of Exencial Wealth Advisors in Plano, Texas.

Financial advisors would caution retirees, with credit card debt, of over-splurging in their first retirement years. Non-deductible and with high interest rates, credit card debt will financially stunt you if not paid off early in retirement. More friendly debts, like mortgage debts, can be left to simmer while you pay them off slowly throughout your 70s and 80s.

“Some people are comfortable with having debt during retirement, but it’s good to have other means to control tax burden,” said Krishneswamy, specifically referring to the trusty mortgage interest deduction.

Alternative accounts like an emergency fund for back up can soften up the debt burden for the future.

Of course, diversity of investments is key: Krishneswamy says that if all your investments are in a 401(k), then any distribution you make from investments comes from a 401(k). “If there is no flexibility, then there is a higher tax burden,” he says.

That’s why multiple streams of retirement planning vehicles are of the essence: retirees older than 59.5 can start making withdrawals from their traditional IRAs with no penalty. Withdrawals are subject to state and federal taxes but can be used toward paying down debt. Those with a Roth IRA are not subject to the same tax burden, as a consumer with such an account has already paid taxes on contributions.

In Brooklyn, N.Y., Sunny and Mary Gianetto use their Social Security earnings and tax free annuities from financial companies they invested in to stay afloat in retirement and pay off their obligations.

Sunny Gianetto retired at age 65 and his wife at 62. Now at 80 years old, Sunny hopes to exceed his monthly budget through additional earnings, because his Social Security check won’t do it alone. “The wonderful people in Washington give us a raise every year and the increase comes in January, but it’s not enough,” he said.

The Gianettos have monthly expenses of car insurance and home maintenance to pay for. “If we didn’t have the tax free investments, we would be in trouble,” Mary said. Both husband and wife try to plan smart for the future and have a monthly budget.

Taxes

For people burdened by excessive debt in retirement, sometimes drastic measures like moving are necessary to find tax advantages. That can make all the difference in chipping away at the debt and moving toward a financially independent lifestyle.

Conway says to consider moving out of a state unfriendly to tax advantages, like New York with a high income tax rate of 8.82%, to a tax friendly state like Arizona, with a 4.54% income tax rate. All the better, retirees can head to states like Nevada and Florida, which have no income tax rate. Retirees may often look to migrate to warmer climates, but they shouldn’t make the mistake of moving to one of the top least tax friendly states like California- 13.3% income tax rate.

Moonlighting for More Cash: Real Talk

If you have debt, you should try to hold off on retirement, says Sergey Kuznetsov of AXA Advisors in New York City. That’s a strong opinion urging people who exit careers with debt to find a side hustle or alternative income stream.

But it’s a realist policy, given that people who retire in their 60s need to have money for the next three to four decades.

“If you want to make sure you have enough money for retirement, you have to stick to a monthly game plan,” Conway says. Therefore, individuals who are about to retire with an unpleasant amount of debt should consider working longer or seeking part time work after retirement to keep up with monthly payments.

That’s exactly the strategy Paloka has employed when trying to whittle away at her credit card debt.

Fearful that her four children will inherit her credit card debt, she began knitting for Hania Bytloi, a company that sells handmade knitwear. “I sometimes work through nights to finish the products,” she said.

With her husband selling a few books here and there, the Palokas are still unable to pay for everything and go to their children for help. “My eldest daughter helps pay for my credit card debt, but she is constantly late on the payments, which puts me back even more,” said Paloka.

There’s not a one-size-fits-all strategy here, of course.

“It’s like a little game of chess or jigsaw puzzle, and you need to ask yourself, ‘What’s the best thing you can do with your money?'” Kuznetsov says.

Written by Qendresa Efendija of The Street

(Source: The Street)

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