This is the second post on money ideas for 2021 to improve your financial world. The ideas are taken from our weekly Moneysavers posts and the FinancialVerse books and are focused on improving your financial health and well-being.
Idea 11 – Prepare for Filing Your 2020 Income Tax Returns
As a result of the pandemic, many people received unemployment benefits in 2020 from both their state of their residence and the Federal government. Please remember that these payments are taxable and that you should make sure you do not have an unexpected tax bill coming. Also, if you took any distributions from your retirement accounts to help you out be sure you factor in any income taxes due on these withdrawals.
Idea 12 – Get a Fulfilling Stage Income Checkup
Each year, just like most of us get an annual medical examination, we should get an examination of what we are saving for our later years and what income your efforts will generate. I cannot tell you how important it is to understand that you are very likely to have a very long life – living past age 85 – and you will need the money to pay your expenses in these later years.
Idea 13 – Fully Fund Your Emergency Fund
You can read the frequent media headlines stating that the vast majority of families can’t come up with $400 to cover the cost of an unexpected bill. We also read that with average monthly expenses of about $5,000, most families have less than that amount in savings for an emergency. These are not things you want to do in the FinancialVerse.
You should have at least six months of cash expenses on hand to protect you against the uncertainties of the FinancialVerse, including unexpected medical bills, the loss of your job, family emergencies, and home or car repairs. You can’t rely on others for these needs; you have to prepare for them yourself. Overall, on a longer-term basis, I am an advocate of building an emergency fund over time that equals one year of expenses.
Idea 14 – Consider Refinancing Your Student Loans
Student loan debt is strangling the financial flexibility of our nation. The total amount of such debt outstanding now exceeds $1.6 trillion. One thing most of these debtors should do is to look into refinancing their debt to reduce interest expense and shorten the time it takes to pay-off the loans. The Consumer Finance Protection Agency has run posts on this subject. Go to consumerfinance.gov for more information on this topic.
Factors you should consider include:
Refinancing private student loans
Understanding your loan rates
Considering possible tax consequences. For example, your new refinanced loan may not be considered a student loan for the purposes of the student loan interest tax deduction.
Are there benefits lost if a federal loan is refinanced?
As the CFPB states, "Refinancing your student loan could help you take advantage of your improved credit profile, as well as today’s historically low interest rates. It can be a useful way to lower your monthly payments and build your savings but be sure to consider the risks and benefits before signing on the dotted line.”
Idea 15 – Set Up an IRA
Many financial experts estimate that you may need up to 60 to 85 percent of your pre-retirement income to support your financial needs in later life. An employer-sponsored savings plan, such as a 401(k), might not be enough to accumulate the savings you need. Fortunately, you can contribute to both a 401(k) and an IRA, subject to the mandated income restrictions. An IRA can help you:
Supplement your current savings in your employer-sponsored retirement plan.
Gain access to a potentially wider range of investment choices than your employer-sponsored plan.
Take advantage of potential tax-deferred or tax-free growth.
You should try to contribute the maximum amount to your IRA each year to get the most out of this savings plans. Be sure to monitor your investments and make adjustments as needed, especially as retirement nears and your goals change.
Idea 16 – Ladder Your Savings Accounts
Many times savers hurt themselves by opening a single certificate of deposit (CD) at a local bank. In fact, there are advantages to parking your money in multiple CDs with different maturity dates by creating what is called a CD Ladder.
Building a CD ladder isn’t as complicated as it sounds. CD laddering involves a saver buying multiple CDs at once that mature at different intervals. For example, while you’re opening a one-year CD, you could open a three-year and five-year CD at the same time. By having different maturity dates you are protecting yourself against rates changing.
Idea 17 – Get a General Insurance Checkup
Make a detailed listing or inventory of all your general insurance policies. This would include car insurance, homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance, personal liability insurance, accident insurance, and any personal liability umbrella coverage you may have in place. Then arrange a time to meet with your general insurance agent to review your coverage and make sure they are still needed and cost effective.
Idea 18 – Change Your Money Mindset
One of the best ways to reduce financial stress and anxiety is to change your money mindset. What this means is to be more aware of how you approach money, understanding what your spending and saving habits are, and how you are explicitly making money decisions each day. Having this awareness and making it part of how you conduct your life will lead to better money decisions.
A great way to do this is to follow the 10 Must Dos that I have included in the book, The FinancialVerse – A Common Sense Approach for Your Money.
Idea 19 – Look for a New Job or Side Hustle
As you look at your cash budget, there are typically two ways to improve your net cash flow – reduce expense outlays or increase cash inflow by taking on a second job. People take on second jobs to save for a house, pay-off unexpected bills, to have kids, fund their retirement or for other long-term objectives. And while getting a raise, a promotion, or a new, higher-paying job is often how people go about increasing their incomes, those options aren’t always on the table.
In fact, according to an April 8, 2020 post on sidehustlenation.com 45% of working Americans report having a side hustle or roughly 70 million people. Remember, in the FinancialVerse you need to get to positive cash inflow each month. A side hustle may enable you or your family to reach this goal.
Idea 20 – Review Your Living Expenses
What does it cost you to live? How much do people spend to live each year? Is there a baseline amount you need to live? These are questions people ask as they begin to really look at what they spend each year and how it compares to other people. Each year you should look at what you are spending to live and make decisions on the appropriateness of each expenditure.
Luckily, there are reference sources you can consult about what is a reasonable amount to spend on various categories. The most sourced reference is the federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Each year, BLS publishes a survey of data on consumer expenditures, income, and other demographic information. This comprehensive survey defines a consumer unit as a household with either a single person or two or more people living together who make joint financial decisions.
What you spend to support your lifestyle is a key decision you make. Must you have the most stylish clothing? Should you purchase a new car every four years? Must you eat out several times per week? Do you need to attend all the latest movies, shows, and sporting events? Do you need to have all the available streaming services, or can you get by with just one? If these are your choices, the end result is that your lifestyle will be much more expensive than someone who displays much more frugal habits such as keeping their car for twelve years, not owning a car and using Lyft or Uber or carefully maintaining an attractive but less stylish wardrobe. The lifestyle decisions are yours, and they do differ significantly from person to person.
The costs of your lifestyle determine your basic cash outflow needs in the FinancialVerse. These needs differ for each individual and are based on their daily decisions as to what is important.
In the first quarter of 2021, the FinancialVerse Guide to Savings – 600 Practical Cash Savings Ideas will be published. Stay tuned for this comprehensive compendium of cash savings ideas.
Idea 21 – Spend2 in 2021
Financial literacy and knowledge is of utmost importance. According to a recent survey by Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, the average person spends 2 minutes and 24 seconds each day on financial matters. This is just not enough money time.
In order to improve your money knowledge, I believe you need to spend 17 minutes a day or two hours per week (Spend2) learning and studying the world of personal finance. Knowledge is power. You must make boosting your financial literacy a priority. All the information you need is available for little or no cost. It can be accessed from several key sources that include websites, podcasts, and printed publications. Go to financialverse.com/spend2 for more information.
Remember each week the FinancialVerse publishes two Moneysavers blog posts with ideas you can use to improve your financial health and well-being. If you are not a subscriber, just go the website and enroll. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
If you like our posts, you’ll love our books. Our sole source of income for the FinancialVerse comes from sales of our books. If you would like to know more about the practical side of your money, give one of our books a read.
Our two most recently released books are:
The third book in the series, Today’s Annuity Products – A Tool To Create Protected Lifetime Income will be released in December.
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