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I’ve Depleted My Emergency Fund. Now What?

I’ve Depleted My Emergency Fund. Now What?

Jan 2021

Perhaps you’ve lost a job, faced an illness or have been dealt a family crisis that emptied out your emergency fund. What are your next steps?


Take stock of your situation. First of all, stay calm. It’s much harder to make difficult decisions when you’re upset. Try not to panic and seek the support of friends and family — and the advice of a financial advisor. Every situation is different, so there are no hard and fast rules that apply to everyone, but here are some general points to consider as you navigate stormy seas.


If possible, stay current with bills and try not to use credit cards to bail yourself out. And if you must use credit, use the one with the lowest interest rate and try to negotiate an even lower rate with your creditor than what you currently have.


Hit the pause button on spending. Next, enact a short-term spending freeze. No restaurants, no new clothes and no vacation. Nothing non-essential until the crisis passes and you have some money back in your emergency account. Review your budget. Go through every single line item and see what you can reduce, pause or eliminate.

 

Downgrade cell service, drop online subscriptions and reduce extracurricular activities for kids and yourself. Place your gym membership on hold if you can, and work out at home or outdoors. Plan your meals to lower food costs and use coupons at the grocery (and anywhere else you can). If you have services for your house, pool or lawn put them on hold and go the DIY route when possible.

 

Talk to your lenders and see if you can negotiate a temporary reduction in payments for your house, car and personal loans. Especially now, many banks and creditors are extending a helping hand to pandemic-impacted clients. You may be able to get a forbearance on your mortgage while you recover financially.

 

Earn extra money. Sell your surplus clutter to raise some emergency cash fast. If you have extra TVs, furniture, electronics, kids toys, exercise equipment or anything else, post it on letgo, eBay or Facebook Marketplace. Put your proceeds right in the bank.

 

Can you pick up a side hustle? Sell your writing or graphic design services on Fiverr. You might also find part-time work with one of the companies that are still performing well during COVID-19.

 

Avoid this if possible. Raiding your 401(k) might sound tempting right about now, but avoid this drastic course of action if you can. While briefly pausing contributions may make sense, taking out large sums can set your retirement goals back for years. And there’s the opportunity cost of not remaining fully invested.

 

As soon as you’re right side up and paying all your bills again, begin rebuilding your emergency fund — and feel proud of yourself for having prepared for the unexpected in the first place.

Did You Know These 8 Things Are Taxable?

Did You Know These 8 Things Are Taxable?

Jan 2021

Every April, Americans face the often-dreaded ritual of filing their taxes. The prospect of a larger-than-expected tax bill is one common source of anxiety, but so is the possibility of making a mistake that runs the taxpayer afoul of the IRS. Here are some things that many people don’t realize are taxable.

1. Unemployment income. Yes, the unemployment income you receive after a job loss is taxable. And unfortunately, this is one issue that will affect many 2020 taxpayers. You can elect to withhold taxes from your benefits, but if you didn’t realize your unemployment was taxable, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise when you go to file.


2. Gambling winnings. Even when Lady Luck shines upon you, Uncle Sam still wants a piece of the action. Whether your earnings are from online fantasy football or the racetrack, those earnings are, in fact, taxable.


3. Forgiven debt. You may be fortunate to have a creditor forgive your debt, but that goodwill also triggers a tax liability. From the point of view of the IRS (the only one that matters when it comes to taxes), you received income when that debt was forgiven. Therefore, that amount is taxable except under certain conditions, such as a bankruptcy ruling.


4. Social Security. Social Security benefits can be taxable depending on your level of income from other sources. If you want a smaller tax bill, you can elect to withhold taxes from your Social Security or make estimated payments on a quarterly basis.


5. Severance pay. After losing a job, you might be in for a little more bad news. If you receive a compensation package after separating from a job, your severance pay — just like the income you received from your employer — is taxable.


6. Freelance income. If you work a side hustle on Fiver or Upwork to help make ends meet, you’re responsible for taxes on that income just as you are for the money in your company paycheck. However, since most people have taxes withheld from their employee compensation, but not from freelance earnings, you may end up owing more than you expected on this type of income.


7. Profits on a sale. If you sell your rare Claude the Crab Beanie Baby for a profit, then you may be surprised to learn that you owe taxes on the profit you made — even if the sale was to a friend or family member.


8. Awards, prizes and contest winnings. Did you hit the Powerball jackpot or draw the winning ticket at the church raffle? You guessed it — those winnings are taxable in the eyes of the IRS.


Your individual circumstances may impact your tax liabilities, so always consult a qualified tax professional to see what qualifies as income in your case and what tax deductions you might be entitled to.

 

Sources:

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/031416/10-surprising-taxable-items.asp

https://turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tips/fun-facts/10-things-you-wont-believe-are-taxed/L3tQz7kej

https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p4128.pdf

https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-unemployment-compensation-is-taxable-have-tax-withheld-now-and-avoid-a-tax-time-surprise

https://www.kiplinger.com/article/taxes/t055-c032-s014-selling-your-stuff-the-tax-dimension.html

What If I Can’t Save Enough to Reach my Retirement Goals?

What If I Can’t Save Enough to Reach my Retirement Goals?

Sep 2021

You just ran the numbers on your retirement and realized that you aren’t going to be able to save enough to make it happen. Don’t panic: There are still things you can do to better your situation, especially if you’re willing to be flexible about your plans and your lifestyle.

The first step is to determine exactly where you are. In retirement, you may have income from a number of sources:

  • Social Security
  • Pensions
  • Investment income
  • An inheritance
  • Earned income from a side hustle

Next, estimate the likely cost of your future monthly expenses: rent or mortgage, utilities, automobile payments and insurance, credit card and loan payments, food, health care (insurance plus out of pocket) and emergency repairs. A good way to capture these categories is to look at your credit card statements and checkbook and list everything you’re spending on now. If you haven’t kept track of this on paper, most online bank and credit card services offer easy access to your transaction history.

Leave out or lower your estimate for anything you won’t spend as much on when you’re retired (your commuting cost should go down, for example). Now, what about potential costs for travel, hobbies and other post-retirement fun? Will you set aside money to give to grandchildren or other relatives in the years ahead?

Once you have your monthly income and expense estimates, compare the two. Are you still coming up short?

If you don’t have enough income to cover your projected expenses, there are some things you can do. But first, there are some things you should definitely NOT do:

  • Panic.
  • Shift into higher-risk investments to try to capture higher returns.
  • Decide your head hurts, avoid thinking about it altogether and assume your health and career will allow you to work long enough to make up the difference.

Here are some things you CAN do:

  • Make catchup contributions to an IRA. The tax code allows workers over 50 to make extra, pre-tax contributions to boost their savings.
  • Re-think your lifestyle. Do you really need to live on a golf course? Maybe you could live near a golf course and be just as happy.
  • Take on a side hustle to create a little extra income. This could be something that’s been a hobby – tying fishing flies, restoring old cars, or knitting comforters. Or work a few hours a week at a friend’s business. Be aware, however, that your earnings may have implications for your taxes and Social Security benefits. Because the tax code governing what portion of benefits can be taxed is complex and subject to change, you should talk to an accountant or financial advisor well versed in that part of the code.
  • Do you have two cars? Maybe one would do. Or perhaps you can do just fine with a used model with a reputation for reliability and longevity.
  • Downsize. Move to a smaller house or condo, and if you’re single, maybe take on a roommate.
  • Consider relocating to a lower-cost area. The cost of living in Knoxville, TN is about 17% below the national average, and there are plenty of other places below the norm: Cheyenne, WY (-8%), Green Bay, WI (-10%) and Sherman, TX (-14%) are just a few.
  • Tap your home equity to pay expenses.
  • Consider a reverse mortgage. However, be aware that the reverse mortgage products offered by various lenders are wildly different in their terms and risks. Look at this very, very carefully before committing.
  • Delay taking Social Security benefits. Waiting until at least your full retirement age boosts your monthly check significantly; your monthly benefit will increase by about 0.67% for each month you delay past your full retirement age, and will add about 8% for each full year you wait until you reach age 70. Your full retirement age depends on your year of birth. Use the calculator on The Social Security Administration website to figure all of this out for your particular situation based on your personal earnings record.

But before you do any of these things, the most important step you can take is to talk to your financial advisor. Because they deal with the intricacies of the tax codes and Social Security every day, they can help you steer clear of landmines and set a course to that bright retirement you’ve been dreaming of.

Sources:

1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/investor/2017/06/09/what-to-do-when-you-havent-saved-enough-for-retirement/#368f06f06e20

2. https://www.aginginplace.org/are-there-taxes-on-social-security-for-seniors/

3. https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/1955-delay.html

4. https://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/retirement/T047-S001-cheapest-places-where-you-ll-want-to-retire-2019/index.html

#save #retirement #future #wellcents

ACR# 336900 NFPR-2020-8

Frequently Overlooked Retirement Costs

Frequently Overlooked Retirement Costs

Sep 2021

Think you know how much you’ll need to retire comfortably? You might want to think again. According to the Schroders Global Investor Study 2018, which surveyed more than 22,000 investors from 30 countries, 15% of retirees lacked sufficient income to support a comfortable retirement. Moreover, the research found that people anticipate budgeting 34% of their retirement income for basic expenses but actually require nearly 50%. This disparity is understandable given the many unexpected changes that can occur during this phase of life. With that in mind, here are some costs that are often overlooked or underestimated when planning for retirement.

Taxes. No more employer means no one is withholding income taxes from your Social Security check each month (unless you specifically request it from the Social Security Administration)— and that can lead to an unwelcome surprise at tax time. Many retirees don’t realize that their Social Security benefits are taxable as income, so it’s important to plan ahead for any retirement tax bills. And you’ll pay taxes on withdrawals in retirement from your traditional (but not Roth) IRA.

Home Maintenance. Hopefully you’ll remain robust enough to continue to maintain your home yourself during retirement, but it’s often wise to put aside a little extra in case you need to make routine repairs or hire outside help for some home maintenance tasks you’ve been handling such as lawn care, laundry and general housekeeping.

Medical Costs. While many retirees are often pleased when they’re finally Medicare eligible, they’re often surprised when they learn that some costs are not covered under the government plan. For example, many dental, vision and other expenses (e.g., hearing aids) are generally out-of-pocket expenses and can run in the thousands of dollars. Also, Medicare premiums, deductibles, copayments, coinsurance and medication costs can add up once you’re no longer on your employer-sponsored health insurance plan.

Aging-in-Place Renovations. Many retirees want to be able to remain in their homes as opposed to receiving care in an assisted living or nursing home facility. Often, however, modifications to an existing floor plan to accommodate wheelchair access or a live-in caregiver become necessary. For example, you might require a walk-in tub or shower, grab bars or an entrance ramp to your home. While needs in this area can be hard to predict, additional dollars in your emergency fund to cover such renovations constitutes smart retirement planning.

Home Care. While we all hope to maintain our independence throughout our lives, the reality is that most of us will require some additional help with activities of daily living as we age. And the cost of this assistance isn’t cheap. Purchasing long-term care insurance is one way to plan for this expense, but that can be quite costly as well. Another option is relocating to a state with more favorable Medicaid benefits. Speak with your advisor about this essential part of your retirement plan.

Family Assistance. Many retirees want to be able to help out their children, grandchildren and extended family. You may wish to contribute to a college fund, treat your grandkids to a nice vacation, or help your children with a first home purchase. Try to anticipate these wants and budget for them accordingly.

Vehicle Replacement. For many retirees, retirement can last for decades. So it’s likely that you’ll need to replace your car at least once or twice if you continue to drive. This can be a significant expense to cover if not budgeted for ahead of time.

Inflation. Again, with many retirements lasting 20-30 years, it’s important to take inflation and the degradation of your retirement dollars’ purchasing power over time into account. This can be a complex cost to calculate, and it’s another good reason to consult with a professional.

Retirement is an exciting time of transition that brings with it many changes to your budget and lifestyle. Speak with your financial advisor to help you create a realistic budget that will anticipate as many of your retirement expenses as possible. Then, when the time comes, you’ll be in a better position to sit back and enjoy the adventure.

#costreduction #overlookedcosts #wellcents #financialwellness

Sources:

1. https://www.schroders.com/en/media-relations/newsroom/all_news_releases/schroders-global-investor-study-2018-people-significantly-underestimating-cost-of-living-in-retirement/

2. https://www.advisortoday.com/2018/07/17/people-underestimate-cost-of-living-in-retirement/

3. https://www.ssa.gov/planners/taxwithold.html

How Much Will I Actually Need to Retire?

How Much Will I Actually Need to Retire?

Sep 2021

There are many formulas for figuring out how much money you need to retire. Almost all of them can end up being wrong for a variety of reasons.

Let’s face it: We love fast food, and we love “fast-food” formulas - simplistic rules of thumb that we can use instead of actually thinking about a problem in depth. The retirement investing space is filled with these. Some say you need eight-to-12 times your current annual income or that you should have 25 times your annual expenses, 80% of your income at the time of retirement or - and this is a good round number - $1 million.

While thinking seriously about retirement finances is useful, for most people, these formulas aren’t going to come close to what your retirement actually looks like.

Taking Stock

To truly get comfortable with your retirement plan, the first thing you need to do is actually plan your retirement. How long are you likely going to live based on averages, genetics and behavior? What will be meaningful and enjoyable to you after you finish working full time? Do you plan to travel or pursue a hobby? Where do you want to live? And what’s your style - hanging out at a pricey country club restaurant every night, or cooking for yourself and staying in? Do you expect to go shopping at trendy boutiques weekly, or are you more of a “I bought these pants at the Gap five years ago, and they still look good” person?

In short, it’s your lifestyle and your length of life that will drive your financial needs once you’re no longer working. To gauge your needs, try this exercise. Carve out a couple of hours of quiet time. Turn off your phone, close your email and tell your family members to leave you alone. Better yet, maybe you and your significant other can take a long weekend in a place that’s comfortable, but not so fascinating as to be distracting, and do this together.

Think really hard about what “retirement” means to you. At a younger age, “not having to go to work” seems like what retirement is - and should be - all about. But if your mentality never evolves beyond that, then you can’t take full advantage of new opportunities. Instead, think about your bucket list - places you want to go as well as experiences you want to have.

Think about how you want to live your life and where. Living in a dense urban area affords you easy access to cultural amenities like concerts, festivals, museums and more. However, it may be more crowded than living in a suburb, exurb or rural area. If you do live in the city, you probably won’t need to drive a lot, and you may not even need a car at all with easy access to public transportation. Have you considered moving to another part of the country? Or even another country altogether? Tens of thousands of people do. Some hate it and come back, but many find it’s an adventure that keeps them engaged.

List things that would be meaningful to you. They may be volunteering for a charitable organization, mentoring others, or painting, gardening, beekeeping, birding or learning to play the zither.

Now your future is starting to come into focus. Extend the exercise by imagining what an average retirement day is going to be like: Where will you be? And with whom? Doing what?

How Much is Enough?

Once you have a fix on your future - the where, the how, the what and with whom - it’s much easier to put actual numbers on that lifestyle. Multiply that need by the number of years you expect to live - taking into account slowing activity as you get older - and you’ll come to a much closer estimate than any formula can provide. Throw in a little extra for increasing lifespans. Want to feel optimistic? Here’s what the Social Security Administration’s actuarial scientists say: “That mortality rates are found to continue to decline, at every age for which adequate data are available, demonstrates that no absolute limit to the biological life span for humans has yet been reached, and that such a limit is unlikely to exist.”

Write a brief overview of your conclusions and then schedule a conference with your financial advisor. With a clear picture of where you want to go, he or she will be able to help you build a solid map of how to get there.

Be optimistic: Retirement really can be some of the best years of your life.

#retirement #wellcents

Source:

http://www.ssa.gov/oact/NOTES/as120/LifeTables_Body.html


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