rothIRA

I heard it mentioned somewhere on a show we were watching about someone looking into opening a Roth IRA for their (minor) child. This piqued my interest. Knowing the value of compounding interest and market performance over the long term could be huge, I decided to start doing a little research and thought I would share what I’ve found.

Keep in mind, as we’ve mentioned here on our about page, we’re not finance experts by any means; we’ve had no formal training or any certifications. Our writings are all based off of personal experiences. And don’t listen to me! Go do some research yourself. Google is a wonderful tool. Google-ize it! **I really should trademark that phrase**.

Like the Stones said, “time is on my side”!

Benefits
First, let us cover the benefits of opening a Roth IRA for your child and you!

Let’s assume a single $1,000 contribution is made when your child is 10 and nothing more is invested. Assuming a 5% rate of return, your child would have nearly $11,500 after 50 years. Yes, that many years! Remember, this is for retirement. Add a $50/month contribution starting after that initial $1,000 and your kid could have over $130k after 50 years. Talk about a little going a long way!

There’s a nice side benefit if you include your child on what you’re doing as well – you’re teaching them the importance of investing and saving for retirement. And being able to hand this off to them as they get older and can take over contributions for their future? Priceless!

And remember – With a Roth IRA, contributions can be withdrawn at any time without penalty.

Rules
Of course there are rules. The maximum limit applies to the child just as it does to an adult: $5,500 for 2014. Your child can contribute all income up to the $5,500 annual limit. For example, if your child earns $2,000, they can contribute just up to the $2,000. Likewise, if they earn $12,000, they are limited to the annual amount of $5,500.

Of course, there’s a stipulation and it’s this – the money put in the account has to qualify as income. It’s easier when one has a W2. However, income from mowing lawns or babysitting also qualifies. If there’s no W2, do yourself a favor and document it really well. How much was paid, who for (if you’re adding to more than one child’s Roth IRA), how long, what type of work, etc. And it should be realistic; you wouldn’t pay your kid $200 to mow the lawn for an hour.

The custodial account will have to be opened by you since they are a minor. Not a big deal, just be aware you’ll need to provide info on yourself as well.

What’s next?
In my opinion, it’s a great opportunity to get your child on the road to having a financially secure retirement. We all have examples of could haves and should haves. This is a good opportunity if you have children too young to start contributing on their own. And if you have young adult children now is a good time to encourage them to start putting money aside for retirement. Roth IRAs are quick to set up online with any of the major financial institutions. Many can be started with as little as $100. Putting a little away each month will add up because time is on their side!

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Work Perks

If your company is like many others, including mine, they offer a host of benefits aside from the typical medical, dental, and vision. I didn’t realize how many of them we have taken advantage of over the years until I was perusing the list.

Does your place of employment offer anything good? Have you checked? It’s a great way to save some $$$.

For example, here are the ones we’ve taken advantage of, which in some cases have literally saved us thousands of dollars.

Biometric Screening – Each year by taking a survey, as well as a blood test, we receive a credit of $150 for Nicole and another $150 for myself. They reduced this recently and it’s now down to $100 each but it couldn’t be easier and doesn’t take much time at all.

Mortgage Closing Costs – This was a big one; our closing costs when we refinanced were just a few hundred dollars.

New Vehicle Purchase Program Discount – We used this to purchase our last vehicle and saved about $2,500 off the sticker price.

Bike Helmets – My wellness program reimbursed us for new bike helmets we purchased. Bam! Another $50 saved.

Wireless Services – We get a 15% discount each month on our AT&T bill thanks to this one. We’ve had this one going for years.

It all adds up!

There are a host of others we haven’t taken advantage of too, including electronic purchases, theme park discounts, travel discounts, and financial services. With my wellness program we’d also be reimbursed a portion of our yearly health club fees. That would be handy if we used a health club, but many people do, so it’s worth checking into!

It pays to take a look to see what offerings are available, so why not take advantage?

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Budgets

I can’t stress enough the importance of doing a monthly budget, regardless of your income, and also computing your net worth month over month. How else do you know if you’re on track for long term goals or just want to make sure you’re not spending more than you’re bringing in?

We budget everything each month, and I do mean everything. With things are as tight as they are today, we need to stay on track and make sure we’re not increasing our debt. Every dollar counts!

Budgets can be pretty simple or really detailed. The good thing is it’s easy to start out and add more detail month to month if you want. If you have Excel, a little work up front will help make putting a budget together pretty easy.

In its simplest form a budget is a forecast. You calculate your income and subtract all expenses. Bingo, you’re done. Hopefully there’s a positive number at the end. If it’s negative, you’re spending more than you’re bringing in and your debt will grow. If you want to stay out or get out of debt, then changes need to be made.

Budget example:

Total Income = $1000

Expenses

    Rent $500
    Electric $75
    Cable $82
    Gas $65

Total Expenses = $722

Balance = $278

Not sure where you stand each month with your expenses? An easy way to figure it out is to use a credit card for the month to capture all expenses. Of course, as long as you can pay it off right away. No need to unnecessarily carry a balance and get hit with finance charges.

A budget helps with planning for one-time expenses too. A family vacation on the horizon? Maybe driving school for a new driver? Plugging that into your budget will help ensure you can cover these one-time expenses.

Net Worth

You may be asking yourself, why should I be interested in my net worth? Well, a couple of good reasons. Maybe you’ll be looking to get a loan for a car or a mortgage or have long term goals to retire someday and not work as much or at all. Tracking your net worth will tell you how well you’re doing. It’s an eye opening experience tracking your net worth month over month. Sometimes it’s not pretty, but it’s good to know where you stand.

Where a budget is somewhat of a forecast, net worth is actual. In short, it’s your assets minus your debts.

Net Worth example:

Assets

    Home $150,000
    Retirement $12,500
    Savings $3,000
    Checking $1,250

Total Assets = $166,750

Debts

    Mortgage $12,2000
    Credit Cards $2,200
    School Loan $23,000
    Auto Loan $9,800

Total Debts = $157,000

Net Worth (Assets – Debts) = $9,750

Even if your net worth isn’t a positive number. Don’t stress. You’re taking the first step in fixing it just by tracking your net worth. Now you can put a plan in action to turn it around!

In Conclusion

I challenge you to do a budget if you’re not doing one already, plan one out just a month or two. Track your expenses, this is huge. I have friends who did this and were amazed to find out how much they spend eating out. They weren’t tracking it before and now realize how quickly it adds up.

At the end of the month, update your budget with actual ending numbers so you can see if your budget was in line. Then do a net worth calculation. Month after month you’ll see you become somewhat addicted in finding out if you’ve made progress. And you can measure any changes you’ve made to see the impact.

We’re not financial experts, just sharing some things that have helped us out. But we’re willing to help. If you have questions, feel free to shoot us an email via the CONTACT US link and we’re more than happy to give our $.02 🙂

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We’ve all heard of the Latte Effect as it relates to personal finance, right? You know, cut out the cost of your daily high priced drink and save $5. Do that for a month and viola, $100 or so. Not sure I’d cut them out entirely. I mean, you’re entitled to a vice every now and then eh? And I love a vanilla latte every now and then.

No Pop

But the same pertains to regular pop and calories too. I love pop, especially Pepsi. If you’re a daily drinker the amount of sugar (calories) can add up quickly. Let’s do some math.

150 Calories in a can
365 Days a year
54,750 Calories in a year

54,750! That equals 15.6 lbs. Just by doing nothing more than cutting one can of pop a day out of your intake could save you nearly 16 lbs a year. Besides all that extra weight, you’re saving some money too with not purchasing the pop, or as much of it at least. Maybe that’s a little exaggerated with assuming a can a day. But maybe not. I can think of several people who I know are drinking a can or more a day or pop, every day.

Which takes us to weight control. Am I some expert in nutrition and weight loss? Nope. But I have years of experience learning how my body reacts to food and exercise. We should all be working to keep weight in check. We all need to control our weight and be careful what fuel we’re putting inside. Want to know what I think is the secret to weight loss? There is no secret. Seriously, no magic pill, no special exercise, no juice fast (although it may be healthy once in a while). Weight loss is as simple as if you burn more calories in a day than your daily allowance, you’ll drop weight over time. That’s it. Have an allowance of 2000 calories per day, eat 1500 and you save 500 for that day. Add up all the saved calories and once they reach 3500, you just lost a pound. It’s just math, and simple math. I didn’t even have to take my socks off for that one.

The hard part is the will power. That’s tough, so much so I’m not even going to get into it. 🙂

As I get older, I’ve come to understand how important health is. Both for my longevity and even for my pocketbook. Here’s a stat that most don’t include when retirement planning. The ERBI estimates that it will cost the average 65 year old couple over $150k to cover just HALF the medical expenses incurred in retirement. My thought is, the healthier I am the less chance I’ll need that much medical help. Of course, there are some things that may just happen. But if I can help influence that number, I’m going to!

BTW – Here are two great apps to use for tracking your exercise and food intake if you’re interested in taking it to that level. Both are available on iPhone, Android, and Window devices.

My Fitness Pal
Runtastic

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Have you ever come across something in the house you completely forgot about until you seen it again? Sure you have, we all have. Well what about money you forgot about? Yeah, that happens too every once in a blue moon. I remember grabbing a winter jacket the following season to find a fiver inside, sweet!

Well, believe it or not people forget about money. Lots of money. In Illinois alone it amounts to $1.7 billion in cash plus contents from safety deposit boxes. That’s crazy! Well, what you may not know is this information and money is turned over to the state after 5 years of inactivity. Awful nice of them, eh? What’s even better is Illinois gives you an easy way to check through a website they’ve established just for unclaimed property. ICash gives you an easy way to check to see if you have anything. It’s a simple search by last name. And don’t forget to check on a loved one who has passed. I found a relative who passed on by searching.

icash

https://icash.illinois.gov/index.asp – Illinois unclaimed site
https://www.unclaimed.org/ – way to search by state

If you do find something on the site, the state makes it easy to claim with an online form. And of course proving you’re entitled to it.

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When it comes to shaving, I’ve been down most roads: disposable, electric, hair trimmer (beard days), and DE blades (safety razors). Disposable razors are easy but not cheap when you figure in how much they cost per shave, especially if you use those high end Mach blades. Yikes! Electric does a pretty good job, but I’ve found it irritates your face. And considering the cost of the replacement blades you may be better off buying a new razor. If you have a beard, the hair trimmer (shears) work great and are decent priced.

Last year I discovered safety razors after reading an article over at askmen.com. I decided to give it a try and the Mrs. was nice enough to indulge my Amazon wish list. I didn’t go high end right off the bat. I picked out an inexpensive $6 shaver along with a Van Der Hagen shave set for another $10. I had to start out small just in case I didn’t care for it. After reading the AskMen article, I realized there were countless styles and manufactures of blades. Upon a recommendation, I picked out a sample pack of 100 blades for $25. All in, around $41. Up front a little more than disposables, but this trial wasn’t over.

When I was little I used to watch my dad shave using a safety razor. As I got older, I just figured that was the old fashioned way of shaving. I used to think the same of my moms leftover meatloaf too, but my dad knew different, and now I understand that too. From the first shave with a safety razor, I was hooked. It did take me a little bit of time trying the different blades before I found the right one, but the overall shave experience is worth the effort. Yes, I said “experience”. It takes a little preparation to get a really good shave. Not some wine and candle preparation, but setting up your face for a good shave. Following my online guide suggestions, I was ready. I soaked my brush and razor in hot water while I showered. I cleaned my face really well and made sure to not completely dry my face (you get a much smoother shave if your beard has some moisture). With the right blade (Astra platinum for me), I end up with no red marks and a nice smooth face. Again, well worth the effort.

Now down to brass tacks; I can get 100 of these blades for $9.89. That’s .10 each rounding up. I can shave 3 times before changing to a new one. So I can shave for only 3.3 cents each time. Even with the up front cost, you just can’t beat that. Sure, I could also get a $50 Merkur razor, but the one I have works just fine. Oh, and don’t forget the moisturizer!

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Without fail, at the beginning of each year, the office buzz is about 401ks and Roth IRAs. The reason here is simple – it’s performance review/bonus time. The conversations are always interesting. I’m all too happy to give my opinion, but what interests me even more is I get insight into how others prioritize their savings. I hear a little bit of everything – “I saw what happened to Enron, it’s not going to happen to me!” or “I put my money into my online savings before my 401k”. There is a lot of discussion around where to put your money first, so you may not share my opinion. I try to look at this as objectively as I can.

My company’s 401k provides a 100% company match up to 3%, so I prioritize my savings with that 3% first. There’s no place around you can get that kind of return on your investment. Anything more I can come up with to save gets funneled into my Roth IRA. My thinking is that the Roth IRA provides tax free growth, no required minimum distributions, and if you’re in a real bind, you can take out the money you originally contributed without penalty.

This is also the time of year where most companies hand out performance reviews, and if you’re lucky, a raise. It’s the perfect time to increase your 401k contributions. If you receive a 3% raise you can drop an extra 1% into your 401k and still see an increase in your paycheck. It’s a great way to build up your 401k contribution level. Before you know it you’ll be with the company for 10 years and have a nice nest egg building in your 401k. And don’t forget to look at it once in a year to determine if you need to re-balance your investments, but that’s a whole other post.

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Taxes

Are you the type who stresses over taxes or one who enjoys the annual task? Whichever type you are, you can benefit from the options these days we all have for filing our returns. Remember the days where e-filing and tax software seemed to cost a pretty penny? Well, depending on your income and some basic math, you can file without the need for expensive software or tax prepares. The Federal and State websites have a wealth of good info about completing your taxes. After all, they want their money!

Free Filing
If your income is $57k or less, there are a number of tax software companies who make their software available for use, for free! Some even support State returns.

If you’re comfortable completing the forms yourself, you can complete and submit for free regardless of your income. This way assumes you kind of know what you’re doing so there’s only filling in numbers and basic calculations are done. No State returns here though, just Federal.

Cheap Filing
This is the route we go. I like the H&R Block Basic Tax Prep Software. We usually end up paying $14.99. Sure, I’ve done this enough over the years that I feel pretty comfortable doing my own taxes. But the way I look at it is for $14.99 it buys me the comfort of knowing I didn’t miss anything. For this price, you can file multiple Federal returns and even long forms. It’s fast too – I can import my info from the previous year and then just enter some data from my W2.

State Returns
And my .02$ on State returns. Whatever method you’ve used to knock out the the Federal return, the majority of the work for the State return is done.

I’ll be honest, I always do the State the old fashioned way on paper and mail it. Once I have my Federal return done, the State form is as easy as filling out some information using the info from the Federal return.

For Illinois, using the MyTax website, after registering you can print, complete, and e-file your return according to their website. Maybe this year, I’ll give this way a go.

Of course since we live where we do, the State info is for Illinois. If you live in another state, simply Google-ize (yes, I made that up and have been using it for years) search your State along with the words “Department of Revenue”, and you’ll find your info.

Refunds
By now everyone knows you can get your money back pretty quickly when you e-file by having it electronically deposited into a checking/savings account. Take advantage of getting your money quicker!

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