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Retirement Planning

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Let’s be real, if it weren’t for the mandatory retirement required by my employer (we’re required to contribute 7%, which is matched dollar-for-dollar by my employer!), I’d probably be a ways off from any serious retirement discussion. I mean, we should all be doing it, but when you’re just trying to pay your monthly bills, you’re probably not super concerned about how you’ll be paying for your golden years.

But we should be! Especially with some hints of BIG changes on the horizon!

First, did you see the IRS’ announcement with 2018 pension plan and 401(k) contribution limits? If not, check it out here. For the time being, annual income limits are going UP for traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, and Saver’s Credit! That’s good news to those in the stage of life to be maxing out retirement contributions!

The reason I use the verbiage here (“for the time being”) is that, right on the heels of the IRS’ announcement, talk from the Whitehouse is suggesting steep reductions in the annual limits allowed for tax-deferred retirement accounts. Check out this piece from the New York Times with more info. Some of these (rumored) reductions would be seriously dramatic.

Where are you in the retirement savings spectrum? Are you actively putting away money for retirement or still in full-on get-out-of-debt mode? I have mixed feelings about my work situation. I like that I’m being compelled to save 7% (+ the 7% employer match!), but I do wish I had the freedom to drop down my retirement contributions in an effort to get out of debt quicker!!!

I sure do hope that by the time I’m able to fully focus 100% on retirement that the investment vehicles to do so still exist! My Dad (before being diagnosed with FTD) was a financial advisor all his life. He has cautioned us for years that he felt Roth IRAs would eventually be taken away in their entirety (note – this is just his gut – no special “inside info” here). He’s urged us for years to get our financial houses in order and be in a position where we can max out our Roths since, in his view, they could end up disappearing soon!

 


Sustainability Should Be a Priority When Planning For Retirement

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The local annuities market has grown over the last few years. At the same time, fewer individuals are opting for conventional life annuities, which is quite interesting since conventional life annuities are the only products that provide guaranteed returns for the rest of the retiree’s life. However, these products tend to be expensive (particularly ones that adjust for inflation) and income yields are low.

While some people are prepared for retirement, most are not saving enough. These retirees hope that the market will make up for any lack in capital and are opting for living annuities, which offer more flexibility and the potential to earn higher returns.

The real issue here is a lack of savings. If you find yourself in this category then don’t despair: Proper planning and rational investor behavior can help you manage the problem.

The key is planning

Investors need to examine their financial positions and speak frankly about their options long before they retire. This may be a painful exercise but will present you with more options and ultimately choices. Having as much information about where your funds are invested and what the best performing unit trusts are, help make these choices less daunting. Think about how much you have saved and how long you will need support yourself during retirement. The key risks most retirees face are outliving their money and inflation eroding their savings. Developing a plan will help you account for these risks. As our life expectancy continues to increase it is advisable that you limit your consumption during the early retirement years.

Facing the facts

A lot of capital is required to enjoy the same lifestyle after retirement. If you retire with less than you need you can offset it by drawing more income early on, but this is not sustainable. Spending too much after saving too little is guaranteed to end badly.

You can consider delaying your retirement a few years to save a bit more. It tends to be easier to extend your career rather than go back to work after retirement. This may not be the most attractive option available, but it allows you more time to save, less time to live off those savings and gives your capital more time to grow.

You should not underestimate the impact this extra time will have on your savings. Extending your career in your twilight years may not be that appealing, but it is a better option than having to survive on a low retirement income or running out of money too soon. While some factors may be out of our control we can at the very least influence the longevity of our savings.


Fully Vested and Planning for Retirement

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Just as I was getting my monthly budget together, the quarter was up and I was given the opportunity to invest in the company sponsored 401K plan…fully vested immediately.  The company matches up to 5% of my salary.

It has been a LONG TIME since I had a company matched 401K opportunity. So effective this week, I am investing 20% of my corporate job’s income in the 401K. I can change it at any time, but I have some catching up to do.

What do you think? I’ve picked a pretty mixed portfolio but lean toward more aggressive options.  I’m so excited.

Any tips or trips would be greatly appreciate for this as really it’s been years and I was in a VERY different place back then.

I have an idea of how this will affect my take home pay, but won’t know for sure until the end of this week when I get my first check with the deduction taken out.  Then I will post my new monthly budget.


Financial Goals: 2017 & Beyond!!!

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For the past couple of years I’ve made our family’s financial goals public, sharing them with you all and tracking along throughout the year to see how we did (see 2015 goals here and 2016 goals here). We met our financial goals the past two years and hope this year will be no different.

2017 Financial Goals:

  • Pay $30,000 Toward Debt. This may seem like no big deal since we had this same goal last year and met it, no problem. But this year will be different because our salary is going to decrease a bit. Hubs is going back to school and mid-way through the year I’ll be leaving my part-time job. I’ve kept hinting that I have some news on the job front but I’m still not in a place where I’m able to share it. Probably within the next few weeks I’ll be able to elaborate on this. Overall, though, our salary will be down this year compared to last year.
  • Fully Fund A Roth IRA. Our first two years of debt payment were narrowly focused on debt payoff at the exclusion of all else. When I started my full-time job in August 2015, a 7% retirement contribution was required (and is matched by my employer). In the past year (we’re almost at the 3-year mark for our debt payoff journey), I’ve tried to add in a little extra balance. That means more of a focus on savings for retirement and on spending a little bit for fun (e.g., monthly date nights, kids’ activities, etc.). I’m still continuing to do my mandatory pre-tax retirement contributions (it goes into a 401(k) type thing, but the education equivalent…I think it’s a 401(c) or something??) I’ve also tried to separately put a little money into a Roth the past couple years, but we’ve only managed to do about $1,500 or $2,000ish each year. This year the goal is for us to have 1 fully funded Roth at the maximum allowance (I believe it’s still $5,500). In the future we’ll work toward having 2 fully funded Roths, but I think just having 1 will be a good goal for this year, as we still work diligently to reduce our debt.
  • Mom & Dad Getaway. This is still a very new and not fully fleshed out goal but one that has been floating around in my mind for quite awhile. For newer readers, hubs and I have twin 4.5 year old girls. One of our favorite (pre-baby) passions was to travel. We used to travel a LOT. In fact, that’s one of the reasons we have in our mind for why we want to be debt free: so we can have the freedom to travel! In February 2015 we set a goal to go on a cruise for my Mom’s 60th birthday and we did! We saved up for over a year and in April 2016, we went on a family cruise. It was a lot of fun and I’m glad we did it. But it kind of re-kindled this flame in my heart – this desire to travel with my husband! In the past nearly half-decade since we’ve had kids, we haven’t had a single overnight away from them. Not one. We love our kids, but I also think we’re now at the point that it would be healthy and good for us to have a little mini-getaway solo. It likely wouldn’t be for long (we’re thinking 4 days/3 nights) and it likely wouldn’t be extravagant (maybe drive out to San Diego since that’s only a few hours drive). So I’m sure it won’t be as costly as the cruise was. We don’t have defined or “set” plans in place, but we’ve talked to hubs’ mom about it and she’s volunteered to come out to Arizona and watch the girls for us so we wouldn’t have to be paying for childcare. I don’t know when this would be (maybe over summer; maybe not until fall), but it will happen sometime in 2017. It needs some work to make the goal more defined, but it’s a definitely goal we have for this year.

 

I know this is a get-out-of-debt blog, so some of the things I talk about (e.g., savings, spending) may be a little controversial. I am proud, overall, on how frugal we have been and how much we’ve been able to reduce our debt. I think ours is a success story. If we had less debt, we may have just been able to go gung-ho the whole time (we did for a solid 2 years!!!) and just eliminate the debt in its entirety. But with the amount of debt we’re grappling with, I didn’t think it was possible for us to be “gung ho” for a solid 5-6 years. I knew we would end up falling off the wagon. Therefore, we’ve purposely built our budget in a way where we can SUCCEED. That includes building in a little “wiggle room” for a monthly date night, weekly dance class for the kids, and having friends over for dinner every couple of months. These “life” things are important to us and we wouldn’t be able to make it through to the finish line if we didn’t allow them.

It’s been so encouraging to watch our debt shrink. We now owe $75,000 according to our most recent debt update. Here are our long-term goals:

2017: $30,000 toward debt payments

2018: $30,000 toward debt payments

2019: DEBT-FREE by the middle of the year!!!!

2019 still seems so far off! But then, we started this journey in 2014 and that feels like it was just yesterday! So I know 2019 will be here before we know it. We’re over half-way there!!! I hope you’ll continue to stick around while we’re on our journey. And I wish you luck on your journey as well.

 

What are your 2017 financial goals? Do you set annual goals for yourself and/or your family?


Enjoying Your Golden Years: Ways to Avoid the Top Retirement Home Buying Mistakes

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Choosing a place in retirement to call home is not a search to take lightly. Not only is it possible to end up in a place that is a poor fit for your lifestyle and personality, you can easily spend too much, go with the wrong financing alternative, or neglect to plan for the long term. Whether you hope to live in a retirement home or in a house that you buy, it’s important to head in with a plan, vetted by a personal finance adviser. Before you do any of this, though, you should look at kind of mistakes that others have made before you. You need to be careful to not repeat them.

Location

Whether you believe your home in retirement should be your own or like the idea of a managed retirement center, you can’t make informed decisions without experience. Buying without trying, however, is a common mistake.

Move to each location for a week to give it a test drive. There are all kinds of things that you can discover this way — that you don’t like the people, that you can’t stand being far from your friends and family, or that poor availability of public transportation makes your life more difficult. It’s even possible to find a location irksome for unpleasant noise levels or smells. It’s never a good idea to skip the trial part.

Know Yourself

If your friends have bought homes in retirement, you may decide that it’s the right choice for you, too. If you keep hearing all the time that West Somerset, Dorset, North Norfolk and other such places are the best for life in retirement, you may decide that there’s nothing left to do but to go to one of these places, yourself.

This is hardly the right way to go about building a life that makes you happy, however. Everyone has unique preferences, and you want to think about yours. While a coastal location might be very popular with some, you may personally hate windy locations, and the thought of storm floods may terrify you. Personally, you may prefer Liverpool city over West Somerset, for its Beatles connection (you can check it out online at EntwistleGreen.co.uk).

You may even decide that all your friends who have bought homes have ended up house-rich and cash-poor, and decide not to go down that path yourself. You need to exercise independent judgment every step of the way.

Don’t Underestimate Costs

Certainly, anyone would plan adequately for the initial payment up front, repairs, remodeling, maintenance, property taxes and so on. What they may forget, is how living expenses, transportation, healthcare and other expenses become more expensive each passing year. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to enlist an accountant for help finding out how much the actual costs will be over the next few decades. You will need to take these calculations into account when you plan to spend on a house. The more you need for day-to-day expenses, the smaller the home is that you will be able to afford.

Research Customer Satisfaction

Many retirement homes and communities think up innovative service offerings, and it can be easy to fall for them. Before committing to a location, however, it’s important to do considerable research talking to residents, looking online for complaints or lawsuits, and simply waiting to see how things develop. You don’t need to have your home waiting the very day that you retire, after all. Being an early adopter is never a good idea for a place that you need to go home in your golden years. If you are unsatisfied at some point down the line, it can be hard to find the energy to sell and move all over again.

Plan Ahead for Driving

Some retirement destinations provide easy access to public transportation, and others don’t — residents need to be able to drive themselves. Seniors can feel stuck in such locations, especially when they are no longer drive. It can also be a major source of annoyance to have no such easy access to important places nearby — stores, entertainment venues, places of worship so on. It’s always a good idea to be close to the places that you need to go to.

Consider Alternatives

Britain has many retirement villages — brand-new townships with every facility needed to be built right outside. It is one of the most important positives of these villages, that they also put hundreds of fellow residents within easy reach. Friends tend to be easy to make. Such villages are a viable and alternative to traditional retirement homes or flats where one is required to live one’s own. It’s important to investigate every alternative available.

Louise Fletcher has had a career in real estate ever since leaving school. Working in various positions, and niche’s over the years she has a lot of valued information to offer her readers.


Under Contract

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We are now officially under contract!!!

Not hubs & I (we still haven’t even started house-hunting, but plan to start in August!! Can’t wait!!!) – my dad’s Utah house!

After receiving a couple competing offers, we accepted one that we felt was more than fair (it’s actually over our listed asking-price). We’ve already completed inspection and all the requested repairs are super minor, so we’re paying a handyman to get it all fixed up.

At this point, the last hurdles are in regard to the buyer’s financing. Our realtor has been in contact with the lender and believes the loan will be funded without a problem. Given that the buying price is above the list price (and above the comparables our realtor pulled), we’re holding our breath and crossing our fingers that the appraisal comes in high enough to cover it. Fortunately, our realtor is a rock star and has made up a whole list of home improvements for the inspector and feels confident that the appraisal shouldn’t be a problem.

If all works out with buyer’s financing, we are set to close on August 15th! Super pumped!

Initially, we were thinking we wouldn’t make too much off the sale of this home. Remember, both my siblings were in favor of renting it instead of selling due to this reason.

But given our higher-than-expected sale price, we should stand to net nearly $100,000!!! Not too shabby!

The next question is what to do with the money.

My dad does have a decent-sized net worth but, to date, we’ve done next-to-nothing with his investments. Everything is still in the original investment accounts he selected and has not been touched. We want to be somewhat conservative because my dad is legally disabled and will never be able to work again (if interested, read more about his condition here). His physicians have said that his illness tends to have a life expectancy of 2-20 years. If he lives another 20 years, he could easily burn through all of his savings. He’s already in assisted living and his care is incredibly expensive. So we really need to be smart and manage his money wisely so that costs of his care don’t end up falling on the shoulders of my siblings and me.

I’m a fan of pretty boring investment strategies. Mutual funds and such. My brother has talked about perhaps investing in real estate back in the Austin area (which makes it less complicated and risky than an out-of-state rental). He’s even thrown out the idea of establishing an LLC for a rental property so my dad’s other assets are protected. Depending on cost, we could possibly pay for a rental with liquid cash without needing to withdraw from current investments (the alternative would be putting a large amount down and taking out a small mortgage).

I’m open to various ideas, but I’m also a fan of EASY. Taking over my dad’s affairs has been incredibly time-consuming and, frankly, none of us has time for it. Meeting with an investment advisor once or twice a year is infinitely easier than dealing with rentals and such. That being said, in the past year that we’ve been in charge of my dad’s finances, his investments really haven’t performed great. He’s averaged about a 4% rate of return. I’d like to see closer to an 8-10% return, if at all possible. At only a 4% rate of return, we’re eventually going to eat into his nest egg. Fortunately, he had enough cash in the bank that we haven’t touched any investments at this point but eventually the liquid money will dry up and we’ll have no other option but to raid his investments in order to pay for his care.

What do you all think? If you were charged with caring for a parent’s estate, what types of investments might you make? What are your thoughts of investing in mutual funds versus investing in real estate?

Another possibility is to still invest in IRAs. My dad technically has an “earned income” because he received a generous severance package from his previous employer before having to leave due to his health issues (it’s paid out monthly for another year still). So would it be better to actually fund a retirement account versus buying mutual funds? Or is it better to keep the money more liquid than in retirement or real estate? Something like mutual funds that are easier to sell and claim the cash?? My dad is 60, by the way. I’d value any and all input you may have!


Year Of Becoming An Adult: Final Status

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Back in October 2014 I wrote about wanting to use 2015 to really “become adults.” To me, this meant taking care of some much needed issues that were in addition to my 2015 financial goals. I wrote a few posts throughout the year with updates (January update, March update, September update, October update), so this will be my final update of the series.

  1. Wills. Wills were actually drawn up at the beginning of 2015, but it took us awhile to actually get them notarized. This task was completed by mid-year. Final status = Complete
  2. Life Insurance For Hubs. We had intended to start working on this mid-year, but didn’t actually get around to applying until October. In November hubs completed all the bloodwork and in early December he was asked to supply some additional information (all stemming back to his mysterious illness at the end of 2013 where our medical bills are from). He finished everything on his end but we’re still waiting to hear back from the company. When I first applied for health insurance it took about 3 months to all be processed so I’m thinking this is normal (and not something directly related to his mystery illness). If he doesn’t hear back sometime in the next couple weeks we’ll check back with them but I’ve got my fingers crossed everything is in order and our next interaction will be mailing off a check to actually finish the process. Final status = Well underway, but waiting to hear back from insurance company
  3. Open Retirement Accounts. We opened up a Roth IRA in April 2015 and a 401(a) through my work in July 2015. I fund 10% of my pay to the 401, and we’ve saved a little extra here and there for the Roth (but a truly minimal amount…something I’d like to increase in 2016). Final status = Complete
  4. Open College Savings For The Kids. We opened up one 529 for each child in October 2015 and we’ve been funding them with $25/month each ($50/month total). Not a lot, but every little bit helps! Final status = Complete

Overall, not too shabby. I wish we’d started the life insurance stuff a bit earlier in the year so it was all wrapped up and done by now, but at least it’s well underway and if it doesn’t work out it will be because we were denied (not due to our own lack of trying). But hubs’ health has been great and, especially with his weight loss, I’m really hoping everything goes through smoothly and he’s able to be insured. It will certainly give me great peace of mind.

How have you done on your financial (or other) goals in 2015? Do you have any new goals or resolutions set for 2016? I’d love to hear them!

 


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