Guides

How Much do I Need to Save for Retirement?

A 45 year old man working a typical 9-5 job might be thinking more intensely about saving for retirement than a 21 year old that just landed his first full time job with benefits. At the age of 21, he might start contributing 4% of his income to his 401k with a more aggressive market approach. His 45 year old neighbor is struggling tirelessly to contribute 10% of his pay with a much more conservative approach. They both share one common interest: saving for retirement.
retirment saving
How much should an individual really save for retirement, and what is the ideal contribution to a company match plan? Many people have relied on and researched retirement planning calculators on the internet for years. The majority of these will calculate a percentage of income that one should be saving and deliver a figure that will support his/her lifestyle in 40 years. The calculator doesn’t take into consideration what everyone’s standard of living will amount to then. The sum of money that an individual should save for retirement doesn’t rely on income; it relies on money spent. A man could make $60,000 a year, but his current lifestyle requires an annual spending figure of $80,000. Another might bring home $80,000 a year, and his current lifestyle requires only $40,000. Should they both contribute the same amount to their 401k? Not likely.

Calculating a substantial amount of savings for retirement relies on evaluating an individual’s current spending and determining the standard of living he/she wishes to uphold at retirement. The retirement calculators that are based on income are not completely worthless. They provide a valuable resource for determining a figure of funds that will be saved after a number of years. Before utilizing these calculators, the individual must determine the ideal amount to save. This number will be derived from deciding how much to spend at retirement. Will they live lavishly, or will they live comfortably? Once a decision has been made on how much they want to spend in 40 years, then they can decide what to save. If the current budget does not allow for that level of spending, then they must discover other ways to save.

Here are a few frugal tips on saving money now for the future:

Stay healthy. One of the leading money guzzlers in retirement are health expenses. Prescription medications, knee replacements, high cholesterol, and cancer all come with a hefty bill. Regular physical activity and proactive health precautions may reduce these expenses.

Make friends with the neighbors. Retirees benefit from friends and family. Several people are willing to lend a helping hand to a senior citizen; a solid relationship will open this door.

Weatherproof the home. Energy costs are rising every year, and they might only increase in 20-40 years. Visit a local home improvement shop to find sealant for windows to prevent cold winter drafts. Ask about clearance items during the contrary weather season.

Being frugal will allow the individual to contribute much more to their company match plan for retirement.

I Love It Not…

Valentine’s Day, for some, is fondly referred to as Single’s Awareness Day. So what do all singles people do on Valentine’s Day? Well, they can wallow in self-pity or bitterness, or they can do something that shows how much they care about themselves.  What is even better is that it can be inexpensive too.

1. Polish Party.

Get a few of your single girlfriends together, bring all the nail polish you have, and take turns giving each other mani’s and pedi’s while bad mouthing all the boys who have done you wrong and what celebrity got arrested the night before.  You will not only get some polish powered confidence, but some much needed girl time therapy.  What will this cost you? Nothing, unless you need to pick up some new polish!

2. Bubble Bath… That’s Right.

Stop by your local bath and body shop and pick up some bubble bath in your favorite scent.  Nothing says relaxation more than a bubble bath.  Now light some candles, grab a book, or just turn on some soothing music and take some time for yourself.  The max this one will cost you?  $15. Try it out, you will not regret it.

3. Need a Good Cry?

Pop in Dirty Dancing or Marley and Me and enjoy some of what I so fondly refer to as movie medication.  Get your favorite drink and snack ready. Put on those pajama pants that fit just right and those fuzzy socks that you love so much and over medicate yourself to your single heart’s content.  Using Red Box?  This one will cost you a max of $5 for the movie and $20 for your drink and snacks.  Indulge a bit.

4. Go Home!

If you are a college student like me and going home is a rare luxury, plan ahead and make the trek back home.  Be around people who truly love you, aka, your parents!  If your parents are like mine, they will smother you in hugs, candy, and free food (something every college student loves.)

 

Valentine’s Day does not have to be Single’s Awareness Day.  Make Valentine’s Day about you, and tell Single’s Awareness Day where to shove it.

Five Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bills

Gas prices keep rising and lowering (but definitely more rising). Our utility bills continue to increase, as does the overalls cost of living especially while food prices steadily continue to increase.

cut grocery bills

With that being said, we are looking for ways to save money and one of the easiest ways to save some quick cash is probably a way that you have never thought of before. Cutting your grocery bills will save a tremendous amount of money and it’s easy!

Here are five ways to cut your grocery bill, which means more money in your pocket for your mortgage payment, your utilities, or even a luxurious day at the spa (or golf course for you men out there!):

1. Clip Coupons – While it may not seem like 50 cents here and 75 cents there will save you money, it will if you know what to do and when. You want to save coupons and use them at the store when the store is having a sale on that particular item. In some stores, you can double or triple your coupons saving you that much more! Here’s how it works: let’s say you pay $2.50 for Prego spaghetti sauce and your favorite grocery store has it on sale for $2. Let’s say you have a coupon to receive 75 cents off that can of spaghetti sauce and let’s go on to say that the coupon doubles at the store for a total of $1.50 off the $2 sale price. That means you are paying only 50 cents for an otherwise $2.50 can of Prego spaghetti sauce. It pays to learn how to clip coupons and use them efficiently. Note: you can get easily coupons in your Sunday paper or online with the click of a mouse! And don’t forget to always be on the lookout for “Buy One, Get One Free” specials at the store and coupons. Match them together and that’s some savings to brag about (maybe even completely free!).

2. Stockpile During Sales – When items go on sale, stock up on them. Use your coupons, too. This means you will need to have plenty of room in your pantry – or somewhere! – so that you can store the additional items, but when the price goes up, you won’t need it saving you money on your grocery bill.

3. Purchase Store Brands – We don’t always have to have name brand stuff, do we? Sure, it’s nice sometimes, but store brand food is generally just as good and you can save a ton of money. This doesn’t only pertain to canned goods, this also relates to fresh fruits and veggies, frozen foods, baked goods and much more! In some cases, the store brand foods taste better than their name brand counterparts!

4. Avoid Convenience – Don’t purchase already cut-up carrots that are pre-packaged when you can purchase carrots individually and cut them up yourself for a lot cheaper. Avoid pre-made foods because in the long-run, you will save more cooking it from scratch at home rather than purchasing it in the frozen section especially in the long-term. Same goes for pre-cooked foods. It’s just better to buy the ingredients separately and make it at home. Next time you want the same meal, you’ll already have some of the ingredients on hand thus saving money!

5. Make a List – We all know that we spend more money at the grocery store when we go in without knowing what we need. By making a list of the things that we need (and sticking to it!), we are saving a ton of money on items that the household doesn’t really need such as extra junk food, an apple pie that looked too good to pass up, etc. So, check your fridge, pantry and cabinets before heading to the grocery store and make that list of the things you need to avoid excessive, unnecessary costs.

Utilizing the above-mentioned five ways to cut grocery bills, you will save a huge amount on your grocery bills each week. In fact, you will probably save more than you could have ever imagined you could save. When you go to the grocery store, make sure you are equipped with these five shop smart ways you can save money.

Do Young Adults Need Disability Insurance?

Many things go through the minds of young adults, but seldom do they think of being grievously ill or being prepared for the worst. Usually it is later life when these things are considered and dealt with accordingly. The chances of becoming disabled are considered remote, and therefore not something of which to be concerned.
disability insurance

This leaves many young adults unprepared for such an instance. Unfortunately it is in these years when most people are actually at a higher risk of a disabling injury. Everyone of working age needs to plan ahead of time to see that their bills would be paid if they were to become disabled.

Accidents and illness could potentially cause long lasting or even permanent disability. In the event of temporary disability, a policy would provide a portion of income that would help get bills paid until the illness has passed. The loss of employment resulting in no income for just a few months can have devastating financial consequences for the young adult and their family.

A big benefit in getting disability insurance while young is the reduced cost over getting it later in life. It may also be possible to get a policy during this time that cannot be cancelled by the company. It makes sound financial sense as it stays in force as long as the premiums are met in a timely manner. A policy such as this provides lifelong protection.

It’s no secret that a change in health comes with age. Medical history will play a big role in whether or not a person will qualify for disability insurance. Any kind of medical history will make an increase in the amount paid in premiums. This is where a policy purchase while in the health of youth makes so much sense.

Employers are the first place anyone should begin for any type of insurance. It could be readily available as an option in the company group insurance. Employees are responsible for inquiring about potential benefits they may qualify for as a current company employee. A quick trip to the human resources department will reveal what type of plans are available that can be automatically be deducted from earnings.

Most people are seemingly at their best during the young adult years. It is easy to overlook certain things at this age, particularly when it comes to topics of injury or death. However, it is the precise time to get prepared for all of the things that can catch us off guard. Disability insurance is not just for the elderly or frail. It is for all adults, young or old. These are the individuals that are smart enough to know they need it to take care of themselves should an unfortunate event occur.

Just a Tip

Saving money is something we all struggle with from the young age of 16 to the adult age of 50.  After a little experimenting I have found a couple simple and easy ways to save money.  As a college student, these few methods are very simple and very do-able.

Bank Your Change

You may have heard of programs like this on television.  You use your card to make purchases and the bank rounds the purchase amount to the next dollar, putting the difference into the account of your choosing.  For me, the account my change is placed into is my CD account. When starting a CD account, you choose how long you wish to keep your CD untouched.  That means you will be forced to save money through saving your change.

The Jar Technique…

…otherwise known as the literal save your change technique.  I do not like to carry cash, but when I do I try to break it down to as much coin change as possible.  I think put it in an old mason jar and save it to a certain date or till the jar is full.  I also like to put my one and five dollar bills in the jar.  If I have something planned, like a dinner date with friends, a bowling night with family, a car wash, etc., I get the money in cash and put it in the jar as well so that I know I have it when I need it.  If you are like me and spend cash when you have it, the jar technique is an experiment you may want to invest in.

Savings jar
Even spare change put in a jar works for saving.

These are two small and simple ways to save money.  Whether you are a college student scrimping by for loan payments or an adult just trying to save a little pocket change, both these methods are worth your time.  Check them out and let me know how you do!

Tax Credits for Higher Education

Tax credits for higher education, are forms of educational assistance provided to students and or their parents to undertake payment of education expenses.

There are two types of recognized tax credits within the federal tax system overseen by the Internal Revenue Service and the federal government: The American Opportunity Credit and The Lifetime Learning Credit. To get access to this credit facility, one has to pay their post-secondary tuition for themselves, their spouse or their dependent. The credit may be claimed by the student or parent but cannot be claimed by both.

One can choose to claim either credit for each student in a single tax year, not both credits. For instance, one cannot claim The American Opportunity Credit to pay their child’s tuition and then claim the Lifetime Learning Credit for more school expenses. However, if one incurs education expenses on more than one student within the academic year, they can opt to seek either credit individually, with each student/year case taken separately.

The American Opportunity Credit

This is an improved version of Hope Educational Assistance Credit. It was created as a part of the 2009 Stimulus Bill, which was part of the federal government’s intervention process during the economic crisis of this period. Whereas it is improved, it does have a few limitations; one can only claim expenses incurred during the first four years of college. It is also temporary, unless the congress acts upon it, it will expire at the end of 2012.

Credit can be up to $2,500 per eligible student. 40% of the credit is refundable, meaning that; one may be able to receive up t0 $1,000 even if they owe no taxes. Expenses that meet this criterion include tuition, fees, textbooks related to the course and equipment like lab and measurement equipment.

The student must be pursuing an undergraduate course or other recognized educational credential. The student must also be registered as studying for a minimum of half the time of the projected study year. The full credit is generally available to Individuals who make less than $80,000 or $160,000 in the case of married couples wishing to file jointly.

The Lifetime Learning Credit

Like the name suggests, it is fairly flexible and open to any education activity that is taken after secondary level, or any additional job or skills courses taken thereafter.

Credit can be up to $2,000 per eligible student. The credit one has access to be limited to the amount of tax you are required to pay as part of the returns.

As mentioned above, this facility is not limited to degree courses but has a fairly wide educational access qualification basis. The expenses that can be covered by this facility include tuition and fees, textbooks and assorted equipment.

Taxpayers who make earn less than $60,000 or $120,000 for married couples wishing to file a joint return can access the full breadth of this credit as well.

Links:
http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=218389,00.html
http://news.yahoo.com/tax-credits-higher-education-080023894.html

How to Stock Up and Save

As a college student, you will begin buying things you did not previously have to worry about, such as toilet paper and groceries. These things can sometimes be expensive and rarely go on sale. This means that you have to be aware of the sales and stock up while you can! Here are a few items to keep an eye out for sales!

Stock up and Save

1. Toilet paper

Toilet paper is an interesting product. You can by the cheap kind and risk chaffing and other uncomfortableness, or you can spend big bucks on the softest and most comfortable kind and really bring up your total at the cash register. Personally, I would rather spend more and avoid any unfortunate side effects of the cheap brand. Watch for sales and stock up while you can!

2. Soda

Soda or other beverages can really add up. Water bottles, Gatorades, Arizona Sweet Tea, Coca-Cola and Pepsi products go on sale rather often. Store and off brand products are almost always cheaper than name brand and usually are made by the same companies creating the name brand companies. Stock up on the beverages when you can! You can even recycle the bottles and cans and get money back to put towards your next purchase!

3. Toiletries

I do not know about all of you, but my wonderful Mother almost always purchased my shampoo, conditioner, soap, tooth paste, and other toiletries for me while I still lived at home. Now that I am buying these things on my own, I realize just how quickly they eat up my checking account. Hit up these sales whenever possible and you will never have to worry about not having something when you need it!

4. Favorite snacks

Crackers, chips, cereal, and cookies are all college favorites. If you are burned out on Ramen noodles and soup, sales on these items can be your relief! Sales on these items can come up often, but be sure to look for manufacturer coupons as well, to bring the price down even lower!

5. School Supplies

I lose my pens and pencils almost weekly. I go through notebooks and loose leaf paper like nobody’s business. So I am constantly watching for sales on school supplies. Better to over stock and have more for next semester, than be scrounging for writing utensils your last few weeks of classes!

Stock up and save on all these items and you will thank me later. Do not forget to watch for coupons as well! Sign up for sites, like Groupon, that will send you coupons for local products. Pick up a copy of your grocery store’s weekly ad and leaf through all the deals. Saving money is as easy as that.

How to Juggle College Finances

With disposable income becoming a bigger and bigger problem both in the United States and globally and inflation and the economic situation increasingly unpredictable, investment in aspects of our lives like education is becoming harder to manage.

college finances

College education, of course, makes a critical the most important part of one’s education and is traditionally a major source of concern for the majority of families in the United States.

College education represents an expense process that covers many facets, and for a lot of people, the one thing that is focused on is tuition fees. Of course tuition forms a critical part of one’s college education but several other expenses play a role as well, without which the college degree may be encumbered or possibly not even achieved.

Apart from tuition fees, colleges have different fee structures that include registration, and access to different facilities at the university that may not be included in the tuition fees structure.

Daily living expenses are also important, as one needs to take into consideration meals, accommodation, transportation and things of that nature. Study materials, like text books and laptop computers cannot be ignored either.

All these and many more mean the study process for a college student is a difficult and expensive one for a lot of people.

However, there are a number of ways of reducing the cost implications covering the requirements of a college education.

Keeping the college choice within your state of residence or home states cuts back on transportation costs considerably and makes access to scholarships easier especially if you focus on those which are within your locality; people tend, surprisingly, to ignore these.

You can also consider the advantages, cost-wise, of using community college, which have particularly pocket friendly tuition rates and permit one to carry college credit accumulated in high school.

Applying for Free Application for Federal Student Aid doesn’t hurt at all, especially if you have more than one child attending college. You may just fall through the cracks or the criteria can include you because of the obvious implied financial strain.

Once in college, it is important for the student to remain focused on his or her studies and goals. All those extra semesters or papers carried forward imply additional costs that add to your financial load. Some universities also offer programs that help you save or recoup on certain costs like tuition, travel costs for visiting family as well as text books (http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2011/08/24/colleges-offer-hidden-savings-to-students). It helps to be on the look out for such initiatives.

Being prudent with your money at this point in your life is always going to be a challenge but it forms an integral part of learning financial discipline. Look out for student discounts in college towns, which are usually on offer at restaurants, shops and clubs. Prioritize your technical needs, for instance, do you really need to have a printer in your room? Make the most of what the college does offer you, like meals which make an unnecessary dent in your personal expense account when you eat out.

When looking to cut costs or save, it’s more often than not, the little things that actually count and the same applies to college-related expenses.

This Holiday Seasons Most Popular Gifts

As the Christmas and New Year holidays drew near, certain products started flying off the shelves, or more accurately, getting ordered online. In no particular order, these include:
holiday gifts

“Steve Jobs”, a book about the late Apple guru that passed away on October 5th, 2011. His impact on the world of computing and mobile devices was totally unprecedented and it was no surprise that this book, written by Walter Isaacson, was particularly popular, retailing at $17.49.

Amazon’s Kindle was another popular Christmas gift, with shoppers not being daunted at all by its $199; indeed, most considered it a steal for the tablet, despite it’s relatively short-time span on the market.

Nintendo surprised everyone with the game Just Dance 3, a sing and dance video that could also double as a cardiovascular regime guide. Unlike the usual role-playing or first shooter videos, this broke from the norm and was an instant it at $29.96.

Olay put out a cut price beauty product called the Olay Professional Pro-X Advanced Cleansing System that was hugely popular with the ladies. At only $ 26,it claimed to compete solidly with similar product packages used by professionals and was ten times cheaper. It would seem they were telling the truth, because it simply flew off the online shelves.

Apart from topping charts, Adele’s sophomore album “19”, sold at $9.99 was also a huge hit with Christmas shoppers with the singer-song writer from England making a mockery of poor CD sales in the industry.

Toys and holidays are synonymous and the Alex Toys Friends 4 Ever Bracelet Making Kit, handy for making friendship bracelets using beads and floss was a hit with children, selling at $20.47.

Movies also were best sellers during the holiday, and true to tradition, one of the best- selling movies was from Walt Disney Studios. The help, sold at $16.99 compared to traditional favorites from the industry in terms of sales.

Levi, the jean making brand, is a traditionally strong selling item all year round and sales shot up during the holiday season, with the jeans available in a conveniently wide array of sizes and selling at $39.99.

Beads seemed to be a central theme this holiday and the affordablely priced jewelry from Heart Mother & Daughter Beads Charm, selling at $9.99 worked as the perfect mother and child holiday gift as well.

With the holidays and a White Christmas comes the inconvenience of using a touch screen. Well, along came Agloves with the Agloves Original Touch Screen Gloves which made using a touch screen during winter for phones, tablets and other media much easier.

Honorable mention also goes to the following gifts: Janae cuff links, the ultimate in statement cuffs; gift-wrapped pistachio cookies; classy but affordable earrings from Mark; the hugely popular HoodieBuddie With HB3 Technology Sweatshirt, a hit with husbands all over the country and finally comfy Minnetonka Men’s Slippers, all of which retailed affordably at stores during the holidays.

Five Great Gifts that Cost Less Than $5

During the holiday season, like Christmas and the New Year holiday, and in fact, during any other occasions that give cause for celebration, like birthdays, finding a gift can be quite the task, especially when you consider the different considerations of what the person may actually want or like. Apart from this, in today’s difficult economic climate, or if you are a prudent person regarding spending, you might want to be interested in something that is tasteful but also still cost-effective.

Here are some suggestions that just might fit the bill.

SE Mini 45X Brass Microscope w/Illuminator

This toy is ideal for children between the ages of six and ten, especially those with a scientific leaning of sorts. At just $3.18, it can be used to examine plants, devices and anything your young aspiring son might be interested in. It has proven to be a particularly popular toy, especially with boys that age that typically, always want to take a closer look at the world around them.

Coffee Mug with an Imprint

A coffee mug with a name or an image that represents the person or something important to the person is a great gift, especially for an adult. If it is a special occasion, like a graduation or something similar, this would carry even greater weight if an insignia representing this is printed onto the mug. The cost you can expect for something of good quality? About $4.10.

A Picture Frame

A picture frame is always a great gift, especially for a female recipient. Retailing for about $4.50, picture frames vary, and you can make some excellent selections depending on the age of the person receiving the gift. Go with something bright and fun for a female child, something trendy and zany for a teenager, something urbane and sophisticated for a young female adult and something ornamental for anyone older.

A Classic Book

Some of the older classics, especially from the thrift stores make delightful gifts, especially for young adults interested in reading and who have not been exposed to some of this great work. Luckily, one has a great selection to choose from, from Lord of the Flies, the works of William Shakespeare, Lord of the Rings, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, the list is endless. Retailing at just under $5, these make a really great and thoughtful gift.

Oven Mitts or any Kitchen Accessory

Oven mitts make a great holiday gift and are also great for birthdays or celebrations like Mother’s Day. Indeed, kitchen accessories can be a touching fit of sorts especially if your intended target is a dab hand around the kitchen. They combine practicality with elegance and have the benefit of being available in festive colors as well. Other kitchen accessories that would work quite well include kitchen towels. All these retail at just under $5 as well.