Where You Retire Matters!
Where You Retire Matters!
Many people dream of relocating when they retire. While some spots are more popular for retirees, these areas often come with higher costs of living. And because most retirees live on a fixed income, it’s important to keep a close eye on costs. If you’re dead set on retiring to a pricier area, you may even need to continue working for a few years longer than you planned to make it happen. Here are things to consider when evaluating your options.
From state to state, and even from town to town, the baseline taxes that residents must pay can vary quite a bit. Some states, such as Florida, have no state-level income tax at all. Others have either a flat tax rate — where the state taxes all income at the same rate — or a progressive tax — in which those with higher incomes pay a higher rate. But even if your state has no income tax, your town’s property taxes may cut into your savings. It’s also important to assess the sales tax rates in the area where you’re hoping to move, as these could also add up. Some municipalities have local sales taxes as well, so be sure to do your research to determine if an area is truly affordable for your retirement budget.
Home prices and rental rates have increased steadily for years, but this is especially true in places with competitive real estate markets. It may be helpful to research future development plans in your area. If a large company is planning to build or expand a major facility nearby in a few years, for example, expect housing costs to increase as new employees want to move closer to their jobs.
Many of the most popular retirement destinations — particularly along the coast — are also in areas that are at particular risk of certain disasters. For instance, Florida’s hurricane season lasts for several months every year, and residents sometimes face catastrophic storm damage. Because of this, currently the average cost to insure a $250,000 home in Florida is $1,648 per year, compared to $681 per year in Delaware. Your car insurance may be higher in certain states, too, which often depends on the average number of uninsured drivers in the area and other factors.
Unless you enjoy (and can afford) frequent travel, it’s important to think about the proximity to the places you’ll want or need to go often. Being far away from loved ones could require you to spend a lot of your retirement income on visits, and if you’re an outdoorsy person, living in a city means you’ll be planning — and paying for — frequent getaways. But it’s not just leisure that could cost you. Living far from grocery stores, doctors, pharmacies and other necessary places can add significantly to your household budget, whether you drive yourself or take public transportation.
Depending on where you live, your Medicaid benefits could range from generous to very low, potentially leaving you on the hook for expensive in-home or facility-based care. Medicare premiums vary from state to state as well. If you’re able to self-fund your medical care, this may not affect you as much. But if you need to rely on state benefits, be sure to research the costs and coverage in the state where you intend to retire.
Overall Cost of Living
The cost of everyday items such as groceries, clothing, home services and more can vary tremendously depending on whether you’re located in a big city or rural area. With so many factors to consider for retirement, using an online calculator to help project cost of living in areas you’re considering can be a useful starting point. However, it may also be helpful to speak to a financial professional to help you figure out what you can afford, and which area suits your budget best, so you can adjust your retirement plan accordingly.
Holiday Gifts That Won't Break Your Budget
Holiday Gifts That Won't Break Your Budget
You’ve done a good job of sticking to your financial plan all year, but when it comes to holiday gift giving, it’s easy to let good intentions knock you off your savings path. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spend about $1,000 on winter holiday gifts. That can be a real budget-buster, but meaningful gifts don’t have to come with a hefty price tag. We’ve got some $25-or-less gift ideas for everyone on your list.
Office gifts are part of work culture. Maybe you manage a team and want to give your group a token of appreciation. Or you know one person who always gives gifts, and you want to return the favor. A work-appropriate gift that won’t put your account in arrears could be a nicely bound notebook, a quality writing pen or a gift bag of color-coordinated office supplies like paper clips, magnets and post-it notes. Keep it professional but fun to brighten your coworkers’ day.
Seasonal Presents to Service Providers
Postal workers, hair stylists and even your Grub Hub driver are people you might want to thank during the holidays. A batch of your favorite cookies presented in a festive box or tin is a low-cost way to show your gratitude for a year of good service. Make it extra special by including a handwritten note and a copy of the recipe.
Thank Your Terrific Teachers
Whether it’s your child’s 4th grade teacher or your yoga instructor, there’s lots of reasons to give extra thanks to the people who help us learn and grow. A pick-me-up, like a $10 gift card to a coffee shop, can help any teacher start their day off right. Make it more meaningful by supporting a local business close to your favorite teacher’s place of employment. Bakeries, ice-cream parlors or tea shops often offer gift certificates or cards that you can package in a pretty envelope or decorated box for that personal touch.
Great Gifts for Grandparents
Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins — you want to remember your extended family in your holiday giving, but the costs can add up. Go for truly personal, budget-conscious family gifts by using the photos you take during the year to make photo-mugs, photo-calendars or even a family photo t-shirt! You can look online for low-cost, photo-personalized gift services. And at some big-box stores or national pharmacies, you can connect your camera or thumb drive to their in-store kiosk for easy ordering and processing.
Treat Yourself Too
No one should fault you for indulging in a holiday gift to yourself, but you should be as mindful here as you are in your presents to others. Money you receive as gifts (and funds you save by using our budget gift ideas!) can add up to a special treat and an end-of-year contribution to your retirement savings account. Talk to your WellCents financial professional about how catch-up contributions can help maximize your retirement savings and give your future self the gift that keeps on giving — a more financially secure retirement.
Be Aware of Crypto Risks
Be Aware of Crypto Risks
The last few months have been a whirlwind for cryptocurrency. Markets have dipped several times, including the drama of mid-2022, which saw the popular cryptocurrency Bitcoin fall in value by 70% from its all-time peak in November 2021. But despite the unsteady markets of late, Bitcoin is making its way into the offerings of some 401(k) plans.
In May of 2022, Fidelity announced it would soon begin allowing participants to allocate up to 20% of their retirement savings to Bitcoin. A much smaller provider, ForUsAll, made a similar announcement in June, and more may follow suit in the months and years to come. While cryptocurrency has been a lucrative investment for some, it’s important for investors to weigh their options carefully and approach crypto with caution if their retirement plan begins offering it.
Volatile Assets Mean Higher Risk Levels
Cryptocurrency is a notoriously volatile asset. This means the values of cryptocurrencies tend to go up and down often, and by large amounts. Significant upswings and downswings in a single day have made frequent headlines. Several economists have noted that cryptocurrency doesn’t tend to behave similarly to other asset classes given similar market conditions, making it increasingly hard to predict how crypto will perform in periods of inflation or recession, for example.
Caution Is Warranted
One of the best ways to make sure you’re making the right decision before you add cryptocurrency to your portfolio is to do your homework. Cryptocurrency is a new asset with different underlying mechanisms than stocks, so it’s important to understand the technology that enables crypto and the factors that influence its value before you invest.
A good rule of thumb is to only invest money in cryptocurrency that you’re prepared to lose. Some investors have lost nearly all of their crypto, whether due to market drops, crypto provider failures or even rare instances of hacking. In addition, cryptocurrency is decentralized, which means that no government or single financial institution backs it, even when it’s included in a highly regulated account like a 401(k). If this is money that you’re depending on, a more stable asset with a strong institutional backing may well be a better choice for you.
Let a Professional Help You
Though some successful investors and celebrities have touted the benefits of cryptocurrency, it’s important not to be swayed by the hype, particularly when you’re saving for retirement. Remember, high-income investors can afford to lose money due to volatility that everyday retirement savers might not be prepared to lose.
Do your research, make sure you understand this asset and be prepared for high volatility. It’s also important to diversify your portfolio and choose a mixture of assets to balance it out. If you’re planning to add cryptocurrency to your retirement fund, it may be useful to talk to a financial professional first who can help you find the right amount of cryptocurrency for your portfolio — which for many might be exactly zero, depending on their personal risk tolerance.
How to Budget for a Pet
How to Budget for a Pet
If you’re a pet owner, you know just how much fun they can be. But adopting a pet is a big decision that comes with many responsibilities — and expenses. Here are some considerations when planning for the next four-legged addition to your family.
Adoption & Licensing
Most pets require spaying/neutering and vaccinations, and some may also need to be microchipped and trained. If you obtain your furry friend from a breeder, not only does the purchase price go up, but you may also have to pay all these expenses on top — which can bring total costs above $6,000. In contrast, adopting a dog or cat from a shelter or rescue organization can be below $500, which generally includes initial vet work. You’re also giving an at-risk animal a happy home. Certain shelters will reduce the price further for older pets that can be good companions for seniors. In addition, some local governments require an annual license that‘s generally below $25 if you spay or neuter.
Food & Supplies
Fish, rodents and birds are often more economical to feed — from around $15 to $50 annually. Cats, ferrets and small dogs may cost approximately $200 to $325 per year, while larger dogs can run up to $400. These prices don’t include special treats or prescription food for older animals. Then come the supplies. Smaller animals can make up for their lower purchase cost with the need to maintain an aquarium, cage or other habitat. Cats and dogs have collars, leashes, crates, carriers and toys that you may replace several times during their lives. Cats have the infamous litter box to repeatedly fill, but dogs can have their own high-ticket demands: After all, they may be the reason you decide to fence in your yard!
Grooming & Veterinary Visits
Cats are generally self-cleaning and may even resent your efforts to groom them (thank you very much), although long hair varieties tend to require more maintenance. Dogs can be a different story. Some even love getting bathed and will try to get you to do it with them. But even if you handle bathing on your own, you’ll still need to buy shampoo, brushes and combs — and some breeds benefit from an occasional haircut. You’ll also need to schedule annual checkups with the vet and may have to purchase heartworm medication or a hairball preventative. You may also want to go to the vet between checkups for
certain delicate procedures you don’t feel comfortable with, like trimming nails or — yuck — expressing glands.
You can’t take your pet everywhere but getting a sitter before your vacation or during the holidays usually isn’t cheap. Professional pet sitters can charge different rates depending on the time frame. This can be around $75 a night. Another option is a boarding facility, where your pet can have 24-hour care for about $50 per night. And many pet parents choose to install in-home wifi cameras to monitor their pets when they’re out (some even include remote treat dispensers).
The Joy They Bring … Priceless
Some costs can be difficult to anticipate, such as a pet deposit or monthly fee for renters. It’s important to include all costs as budget line items. And consider a dedicated expense account for furry, feathery or scaly companions. But if you‘re responsible with your pet spending, you’ll find that all creatures great and small can be worth every penny for the joy they bring you.
The Benefits of Estate Planning
The Benefits of Estate Planning
It’s the one personal finance topic people often try to avoid, even though they know they shouldn’t. Estate planning refers to a number of activities dealing with how decisions are made, and assets are handled and disposed of just prior to and following death or incapacity.
While far from the most upbeat of topics, it’s a very important one to contend with, nonetheless. But rather than focus on specific estate planning strategies, let’s consider the potential benefits of addressing this issue at all.
Leave a legacy. Many people want to leave something tangible to those they love, whether to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews or friends. Knowing that your lifetime of hard work and saving can make affording college, buying a first house, a car, or starting a business easier or possible for someone you love can be gratifying. A final will and testament spells out the specifics of how your assets are disposed of. And you can also leave an explanatory letter to your beneficiaries to let them know what they meant to you, why a gift was made and how you hope your bequest will help enrich their lives.
Unburden your loved ones. Making difficult end-of-life medical decisions can be stressful and anxiety ridden for those who care about you. But this is a burden you can take off their shoulders by putting in place advanced directives — otherwise known as a living will — that express your wishes for continuation of life-support and other medical decisions if you aren’t able to make them for yourself. And it’s a very loving thing to do for your children or other family members
Support a charity. Do you have a charity that means a lot to you? You can leave a lasting gift by remembering that nonprofit organization in your will. Whether you want to support curing childhood diseases, environmental efforts, animal welfare, or a church, synagogue or mosque, you can take comfort in knowing that you’ll help support the causes that matter most to you even after you’re gone.
Take control. Estate planning in some ways, is the ultimate assertion of control over your final destiny. Whether through the establishment of a trust, the creation of a will or the documentation of your advance directives, you’ll be able to maintain greater control over important decisions throughout your life and beyond.
Remember, estate planning isn’t only for the wealthy. Everyone will have to make end-of-life decisions that have tremendous consequences for themselves and their loved ones. Once you have all the essential documents in place, you most likely will not have to revisit these decisions very often. And with an appropriate estate plan in place, you can get on with enjoying your life in the here and now.