What is a Health Savings Account (HSA)?

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a convenient way to store funds specifically for medical expenses. If you qualify for an HSA, you will get to enjoy a few tax advantages as well. While this might sound like an ideal setup, not everyone is eligible for a health savings account. To qualify for a health savings account, you must be enrolled in a high-deductible health insurance plan (HDHP). The details of these plans are revised every year by the Internal Service Revenue (IRS), which sets the bar for:

  • The minimum deductible a plan must have to be considered a HDHP.
  • The maximum amount that a customer who purchases a plan is able to spend out-of-pocket.

The benefits of a health savings account

Here are some of the key advantages of having a health savings account:

  • It covers a large variety of medical expenses: There are many different kinds of medical expenses that are eligible, such as medical, dental and mental health services.
  • Pretty much anyone can make contributions: Contributions to your health savings account don’t have to be made by you or your spouse. Employers, relatives, friends or anyone who would like to contribute to your account can do so. There are limits, however. For example, in 2019, the limit for individuals was $3,500 and $7,000 for families.
  • Pre-tax contributions: Since contributions are generally made at your employer pre-taxes, they are not considered to be part of your gross income and are not federally taxed. This is usually the same case when it comes to state level taxes as well.
  • After-tax contributions are tax-deductible: Any contributions made after taxes are deductible from your gross income on your tax return. Doing so minimizes the amount you would owe on taxes for that year.
  • Tax-free withdrawals: You can withdrawal money from your account for approved health care costs without having to worry about federal taxes. Most states do not tax, either.
  • Annual rollover: Any unused HSA funds that are left over by the end of the year get rolled over to the following year.
  • Portability: Even if you change health insurance plans, employers, or retire, the money in your health savings account will continue to be available for qualifying health care expenses.
  • Having a health savings account is convenient: Most of the time, you will receive a debit card that is connected to your health savings account. This way, you can use your debit card to start paying for eligible expenses and prescription drugs on the spot.

The drawbacks to having a health savings account

While there are many advantages to having a health savings account, there are a few things to consider. For one, in order to qualify for an HSA, you must hold a high-deductible health insurance plan. The tax benefits might entice you to purposely sign up for insurance coverage under one of these health plans but think before doing this. Here are some of the disadvantages to having a health savings account:

  • The High-Deductible Health Plan: These types of health plans can end up being a lot more expensive in the long run, even with an HSA. If you have other options for health insurance that offer lower deductible, definitely consider those and don’t only choose a High-Deductible plan so that you can open an HSA.
  • You need to stay on top of your spending: If you have an HSA, you need to be willing to hold yourself responsible for recordkeeping. Keep track of all of your receipts so that you can prove you spent your HSA funds on eligible expenses.
  • Taxes and penalties: Using money from your HSA on other expenses that do not qualify as eligible health care expenses could result in you owing taxes. If you do this before the age of 65, you will have to pay taxes with a 20% penalty tacked on. If you are 65 or older, you will be responsible for paying taxes, but the penalty gets waived.
  • Fees: Sometimes, health savings accounts will charge additional fees, either per month or per transaction. Check with your HSA institution for more information on extra fees.

How an HSA works

In many cases, if your employer offers high-deductible health plans, they probably offer health savings accounts as well. Talk to your employer to find out what they offer. If your employer doesn’t offer HSAs, then you can sign up for a separate one through a different institution.

You get to decide how much you would like to contribute to your HSA annually, but keep in mind that you cannot exceed the HSA contribution limit. Once you are set up with an account, you will either receive a debit card or a series of checks that are linked to your HSA. Right away, you will be able to use the funds in your account for:

  • Deductibles
  • Copays
  • Coinsurance
  • Other eligible health care expenses that your insurance does not cover.

Generally, you cannot use HSA funds to pay your insurance premiums.  HSAs are not the same as flexible spending accounts, because HSAs rollover. Once you turn 65, you are no longer eligible to make contributions to your account, but you can still use the available funds for eligible out-of-pocket expenses. If you use the funds for non-eligible expenses, you will owe taxes on these amounts.

Investment Opportunities

Another benefit of HSA that you may or may not have heard of is that you can invest the money in mutual funds and stocks. If this is something that you are interested in, seek advice from a financial advisor for more information.

What is a Health Savings Account (HSA)? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Check-In: Expecting Couple Struggling with Debt, But Future Looks Bright

When I first connected with Julia and John, the Queens, NY couple was expecting their first child and grappling with some debt, a lack of savings and income prior to the baby’s arrival. The couple was basically living paycheck to paycheck and in need of some advice to break through that cycle.

We reconnected this month to see how they’ve been doing. Julia is now nearing the end of her third trimester. The baby is due to arrive in two months.

I was hoping that with a baby on the way the couple would have found some ways to chisel away their debt or bulk up savings. Unfortunately, fie months later, they’re more or less still in the same money boat.

But they did act upon a couple of my tips and are benefiting from the goodness of New York and their parents, which has their futures looking brighter.

First, John, who lacks a college degree and was struggling to find full-time work, is going back to school. Not to a college or university, but to a 9-month software boot camp in New York that’s going to give him the skills and network to become a software developer. His potential earnings in the first year in the market could be as much as $75,000 (based on some people I know who’ve gone through similar programs in New York.)

The program will be about $15,000, a fraction of what it would cost to earn a bachelor’s degree. John’s parents have agreed to loan him the money. The couple’s decided to place that $15,000 family loan in savings and, instead, take out a small student loan to pay for John’s school. I agree with that strategy, given that their family is about to increase in size and having some cash on hand will be very important.

Once John completes school and finds work, I’d recommend the couple prioritize the credit card debt by paying at least double the minimums each month. Be most aggressive with the highest interest credit card debt first. Their student loan will likely have a smaller interest rate and can be paid over a 10-year period, making the monthly minimums relatively manageable. Automate those payments as soon as possible and benefit from a 0.25% interest rate reduction when they do.

While they’re taking on more debt, I’m okay with it. Investing in John’s education is one of the best ways this couple can get ahead and better secure their finances in the future – so long as they commit to earning more and paying it down.

Ahead of that program starting, John’s also taken on a side hustle (per my advice). He’s been working a few shifts here and there at Julia’s company, working with special needs patients as a social aide, taking them to community and outdoor events.

Some other good news that’s developed since we last spoke is that New York State has enhanced its Family and Medical Leave Act by implementing Paid Family Leave. In the past, certain employers were only required to provide workers with their jobs back after taking a leave of absence for up to 12 weeks. Now, qualifying private employers must provide paid time off and a continuation of health insurance for 8 weeks in 2018.

This came as a surprise bonus for Julia, who was preparing for zero paid time off from her employer.

It would be my recommendation to use part or all of that extra money to pay down their high-interest credit card debt.

Once Julia returns to work after her maternity leave, her mother-in-law will be the go-to caretaker during the day, another huge help.

They’re fortunate to have free childcare from a trusted, loved one. With that very big expense covered and John’s schooling about to start, I feel confident that the couple’s future is a financially bright one.

The post Check-In: Expecting Couple Struggling with Debt, But Future Looks Bright appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

How I Paid Off $40,000 In Student Loans in 7 Months

Want to learn how to pay off student loans? With my student loan repayment plan, I was able to pay off $40,000 in student loan debt in 7 months!Want to learn how to pay off student loans? With my student loan repayment plan, I was able to pay off $40,000 in student loan debt in 7 months! One of the best ways to save money is to finally get rid of those pesky loans that are hurting your financial situation.

Learning how to pay off student loans can lead to many positives, such as:

  • You may finally feel less financial stress.
  • You may be able to use that money towards something more important, such as saving for retirement.
  • Getting rid of your student loans may allow you to pursue other goals in life, such as traveling more or looking for a better job.

I know these things are true because learning how to pay off my student loans is one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made.

No, it wasn’t easy to pay off my student loans that quickly, but it was definitely worth it. No longer having those monthly payments hanging over my head is a HUGE relief, and it allowed me to eventually leave my day job and travel full-time.

Related posts on how to pay off student loans:

  • 6 Ways I Saved Money On College Costs
  • How Blogging Paid Off My Student Loans
  • The Benefits Of Paying Off Student Loan Debt Early
  • 30+ Ways To Save Money Each Month
  • 12 Work From Home Jobs That Can Earn You $1,000+ Each Month
  • How Do Student Loans Work?

How to pay off student loans and create a great student loan repayment plan:

 

Total how much student loan debt you have.

The very first thing that I recommend you do if you want to learn how to pay off student loans is to add up the total amount of student loans that you have.

When you total your student loans, do not just estimate how much student loan debt you have.

You should actually pull up each student loan and tally everything, down to the penny. By doing so, you will have a much more realistic view of exactly how much you’re dealing with.

Plus, the average person has no idea how much student loan debt they have! Usually, they have far more than they originally thought.

 

Understand your student loans better.

There are many people who simply do not understand their student loans. There are many things to research so that you can create the best student loan repayment plan, and this will also help you understand your loans and interest rates.

You should understand:

  • Your interest rate. Some student loans have fixed interest rates, whereas others might have variable rates. You’ll want to figure out what the interest rate on your loans are because that may impact the student loan repayment plan you decide on. For example, you might choose to pay off your student loans that have the highest interest rates first so that you can pay less money over time.
  • What a monthly payment means. Many people believe that a monthly payment is all that you have to pay, are allowed to pay, or that by paying just the minimum monthly payment you won’t owe any interest. These three things are so incorrect! Even if you pay the minimum monthly payment, you will most likely still owe interest charges (unless your interest rate is 0% – but that is very unlikely with student loans).
  • Student loan reimbursements. Some employers will give you money to put towards your student loans, but you should always do your research when it comes to this area. Some employers require that you work for them for a certain amount of time, you have great grades, good attendance, and they might have other requirements as well. There are many employers out there who will pay your student loans back (fully or partially), so definitely look into this option.
  • Auto-payment plans. For most student loans, you can probably auto-pay them and receive a discount. Always look into this as you may be able to lower your interest rate by 0.25% on each of your student loans.

I recommend that you check out Personal Capital (a free service) if you are interested in gaining control of your financial situation. Personal Capital allows you to aggregate your financial accounts so that you can easily see your financial situation, your cash flow, detailed graphs, and more. You can also connect accounts, such as your mortgage, bank accounts, credit card accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and more. Plus, it’s FREE.

 

Determine if refinancing your student loans is right for you.

Student loan refinancing is when you apply for a new loan that is then used to pay off your other student loans. This may be a good option if your credit history or credit score is better than when you originally took out your student loans.

By refinancing your student loans, you may qualify for better repayment terms, a lower interest rate, and more. This is great because it may help you pay off your student loans quicker.

The positives of refinancing student loans include:

  • One monthly payment to simplify your finances.
  • Lower monthly payments.
  • Lower interest rates, and more.

Some companies, like Credible, allow you to refinance your federal student loans as well as your private student loans into one. On average, refinancing can save you thousands of dollars on your loan, which is amazing!

However, before refinancing a federal student loan, you will want to think about different federal benefits that you may be giving up. You may give up income-based repayment plans and loan forgiveness for those who have certain public service jobs (such as jobs at public schools, the military, Peace Corps, and more). By refinancing federal student loans, you are giving up any future option to these.

Read further at: Consolidating And Refinancing Student Loans – What You Should Know.

Related tip on how to pay off student loans: I highly recommend Credible for student loan refinancing. They are the top student loan refinancing company and have great customer service! You can significantly lower the interest rate on your student loans which may help you shave thousands off your student loan bill over time. Through Credible, you may be able to refinance your student loans at a rate as low as 2.14%! Plus, it’s free to apply and Credible is giving Making Sense of Cents readers a $100 bonus when they refinance.

 

Reduce your interest rate for your student loan repayment plan.

As I stated earlier, if you automatically pay your student loans each month or consolidate them, then sometimes you can get an interest rate reduction.

With Sallie Mae, I believe the reduction is 0.25%.

That may not seem significant, but it is something! Remember, every little bit counts when it comes to having a good student loan repayment plan.

 

Create the best budget.

If you don’t have one already, then you should create a budget immediately. This will help you learn how to pay off student loans as you’ll learn how to manage your money better.

Budgets are great, because they keep you mindful of your income and expenses. With a budget, you will know exactly how much you can spend in a category each month, how much you have to work with, what spending areas need to be evaluated, among other things.

Learn more at How To Create a Budget That Works.

 

Look for more ways to earn money.

Making extra money can allow you to pay off your students loans quickly because there is no limit to how much money you can make.

Finding ways to make extra money is how I was able to pay off my student loans so quickly!

And trust me, you probably do have time in your day to make extra money.

Just think about it: The average person watches 35 hours of TV a week and spends around 15 hours a week on social media. If you could use that time better and make more money with those extra hours, you’ll be able to pay off your student loans in no time!

Here are some ways to make more money so that you can learn how to pay off student loans:

  • Start a blog. Blogging is how I make a living and just a few years ago I never thought it would be possible. I earn around $100,000 a month through blogging. You can create your own blog here with my easy-to-use tutorial. You can start your blog for as low as $2.95 per month, plus you get a free domain if you sign-up through my tutorial.
  • Start a business. There are many business ideas that you could start in order to make extra money.
  • Sell your stuff. There are many things you can do to make money by selling items. We all have extra things laying around that can be sold, or you can even search for items that can be bought and resold for a profit.
  • Rent an extra room in your home. If you have extra space in your house, then you may want to rent it out. Read A Complete Guide To Renting A Room For Extra Money.
  • Answer surveys. Survey companies I recommend include Swagbucks, Survey Junkie, Pinecone Research, Opinion Outpost, Prize Rebel, and Harris Poll Online. They’re free to join and free to use! You get paid to answer surveys and to test products. It’s best to sign up for as many as you can as that way you can receive the most surveys and make the most money.
  • Become an Uber or Lyft driver. Driving others around in your spare time can be a great money maker. Read more about this in my post – How To Become An Uber Or Lyft Driver. Click here to join Uber and start making money ASAP.
  • Find a part-time job. There are many part-time jobs that you may be able to find. You can find a job on sites such as Snagajob, Craigslist (yes, I’ve found a legitimate job through there before), Monster, and so on.

Related articles that will help you learn how to pay off student loans:

  • 75+ Ways To Make Extra Money
  • 8 Things To Sell To Make Money
  • 10 Ways To Make Money Online From The Comfort of Your Home
  • 10 Things I’ve Done To Make Extra Money
  • Ways To Make An Extra $1,000 A Month

 

How to pay off your student loans – Find ways to reduce your expenses.

The next step is to cut your budget so that you can have a faster student loan repayment plan. Even though you may have a budget, you should go through it line by line and see what you really do not need to be spending money on.

There’s probably something that you’re wasting your money on.

Until you write it down in your budget, you may not realize how much money you are wasting on things you don’t need. And, remember, it’s never too late to start trimming your budget and to put your money towards important things like paying off student loans!

Even if all you can cut is $100 each month, that is better than nothing. That’s $1,200 a year right there!

Some expenses you may be able to cut include:

  • Lower your cell phone bill. Instead of paying the $150 or more that you currently spend on your cell phone bill, there are companies out there like Republic Wireless that offer cell phone service starting at $15. YES, I SAID $15! If you use my Republic Wireless affiliate link, you can change your life and start saving thousands of dollars a year on your cell phone service. If you are interested in hearing more, I created a full review on Republic Wireless. I’ve been using them for over a year and they are great.
  • ATM fees. You don’t need to pay ATM fees, but for some reason so many people do!
  • Sign up for a website like Ebates where you can earn CASH BACK for spending how you normally would online. The service is free too! Plus, when you sign up through my link, you also receive a free $10 cash back!
  • Pay bills on time. This way you can avoid late fees.
  • Shop around for insurance. This includes health insurance, car insurance, life insurance, home insurance, and so on. Insurance pricing can vary significantly from one company to the next. The last time we were shopping for car insurance, we found that our old company wanted something like $205 to insure one car for one month, whereas the company we have now charges $50 a month for the same exact coverage. INSANE!
  • Save money on food. I recently joined $5 Meal Plan in order to help me eat at home more and cut my food spending. It’s only $5 a month (the first four weeks are free) and they send meal plans straight to you along with the exact shopping list you need in order to create the meals. Each meal costs around $2 or less per person. This allows you to save time because you won’t have to meal plan anymore, and it will save you money as well!
  • Fuel savings. Combine your car trips, drive more efficiently, get a fuel efficient car, etc.
  • Trade in your car for a cheaper one. For us, we are car people. Cars are one of our splurges. However, if you only have a nice car to keep up with the Joneses, then you might want to get rid of it and get something that makes more sense.
  • Live in a cheaper home. I’m not saying that you need to live in a box, but if you live in a McMansion, then you may want to think about a smaller home. This way you can save money on utility bills and your mortgage payment.
  • Learn to have more frugal fun. We don’t spend anywhere near the same amount of money on entertainment as we used to. There are plenty of ways to have frugal fun.
  • Look for coupon codes. I search for coupon codes for everything. Today, I have two for you. I have a $20 Airbnb coupon code and a free taxi ride with Uber. Both are great services that I have personally used.

 

See if your employer will reimburse your student loan debt.

Some companies will pay your student loans quickly if you work for them. I even know of someone who receives a $2 bonus for each hour that she works to put towards her student loans.

$2 may not seem like a lot, but if you work full-time, then that’s over $300 a month. $300 a month for student loans is a good amount! And, because it’s free money, it can all be put towards paying off your student loans quickly.

 

Create a plan to pay off your student loans.

After you have completed the steps above, you’ll want to put it all together and create a plan.

Without a plan, you would just be all over the place, making it difficult to reach your goal of learning how to pay off student loans.

You should create a plan that details the steps you need in order to pay off your student loans, what will happen as you reach each step, when and how you will track your progress, and more.

Being detailed with your plan will help you reach your goal and become successful.

 

Stay motivated with your student loan repayment plan.

Finding motivation can be a hard task for anyone. Motivation is important because it can help you keep your eye on the goal even when you want to quit. Motivation will help you continue to work hard towards your goal, even when it seems impossible. Motivation is what keeps you going so that you do not quit.

Yes, student loan repayment can seem very stressful when you think about it. Many people owe thousands and thousands in student loans.

And, no matter how young or old you are, learning how to pay off student loans can seem difficult or even near impossible. However, think about your goal and how good life will be once all of your student loan debt is gone.

Please try to not let your student loans get you down. Think positively and attack that debt so that you can pay off your student loans fast!

Trust me, once you finally pay off those pesky student loans, you’ll be happier than ever!

Related post on how to pay off student loans: 8 Ways To Get Motivated And Reach Your Goals

 

Pay more than the minimum if you want to learn how to pay off student loans!

The point of what I’ve written above is to help you pay off your student loans. However, you can always go a little bit further and pay off your student loans more quickly.

The key to speeding up your student loan repayment process is that you will need to pay more than the minimum each month.

It may sound hard, but it really doesn’t have to be. Whatever extra you can afford, you should think about putting it towards your student loans. You may be able to shave years off your student loans!

What other ways can a person learn how to pay off student loans? What’s your student loan repayment plan?

The post How I Paid Off $40,000 In Student Loans in 7 Months appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

10 Financial Steps to Take Before Having Kids

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), raising a child to the age of 18 sets families back an average of $233,610, and that’s for each child. This figure doesn’t even include the cost of college, which is growing faster than inflation. 

CollegeBoard data found that for the 2019-2020 school year, the average in-state, four-year school costs $21,950 per year including tuition, fees, and room and board. 

Kids can add meaning to your life, and most parents would say they’re well worth the cost. But having your financial ducks in a row — before having kids — can help you spend more time with your new family instead of worrying about paying the bills.

10 Financial Moves to Make Before Having Kids

If you want to have kids and reach your long-term financial goals, you’ll need to make some strategic moves early on. There are plenty of ways to set yourself up for success, but here are the most important ones. 

1. Start Using a Monthly Budget

When you’re young and child-free, it’s easy to spend more than you planned on fun activities and nonessentials. But having kids has a way of ruining your carefree spending habits, and that’s especially true if you’ve spent most of your adult life buying whatever catches your eye.

That’s why it’s smart to start using a monthly budget before having kids. It helps you prioritize each dollar you earn every month so you’re tracking your family’s short- and long-term goals.

You can create a simple budget with a pen and paper. Each month, list your income and recurring monthly expenses in separate columns, and then log your purchases throughout the month. This gives you a high-level perspective about money going in and out of your budget. You can also use a digital budgeting tool, like Mint, Qube Money, or You Need a Budget (YNAB) to get a handle on your finances. 

Regardless of which budgeting tool you choose, create categories for savings (e.g. an emergency fund, vacation fund, etc.) and investments. Treat these expense categories just like regular bills as a way to commit to your family’s money goals. Your budget should provide a rough guide that helps you cover household expenses and save for the future while leaving some money for fun.

2. Build an Emergency Fund

Most experts suggest keeping three- to six-months of expenses in an emergency fund. Having an emergency fund is even more crucial when you have kids. You never know when you’ll face a broken arm, requiring you to cover your entire health care deductible in one fell swoop. 

It’s also possible your child could be born with a critical medical condition that requires you to take time away from work. And don’t forget about the other emergencies you can face, from a roof that needs replacing to a job loss or income reduction. 

Your best bet is opening a high-yield savings account and saving up at least three months of expenses before becoming a parent. You’ll never regret having this money set aside, but you’ll easily regret not having savings in an emergency.

3. Boost Your Retirement Savings Percentage

Your retirement might be decades away, but making retirement savings a priority is a lot easier when you don’t have kids. And with the magic of compound interest that lets your money grow exponentially over time, you’ll want to get started ASAP. 

By boosting your retirement savings percentage before having kids, you’ll also learn how to live on a lower amount of take-home pay. Try boosting your retirement savings percentage a little each year until you have kids. 

Go from 6% to 7%, then from 8% to 9%, for example. Ideally, you’ll get to the point where you’re saving 15% of your income or more before becoming a parent. If you’re already enrolled in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, this change can be done with a simple form. Ask your employer or your HR department for more information.

If you’re self-employed, you can still open a retirement account like a SEP IRA or Solo 401(k) and begin saving on your own. You can also consider a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA, both of which let you contribute up to $6,000 per year, or $7,000 if you’re ages 50 or older. 

4. Start a Parental Leave Fund

Since the U.S. doesn’t mandate paid leave for new parents, check with your employer to find out how much paid time off you might receive. The average amount of paid leave in the U.S. is 4.1 weeks, according to a study by WorldatWork, which means you might face partial pay or no pay for some weeks of your parental leave period. It all depends on your employer’s policy and how flexible it is.

Your best bet is figuring out how much time you can take off with pay, and then creating a plan to save up the income you’ll need to cover the rest of your leave. Let’s say you have four weeks of paid time off, but plan on taking 10 weeks of parental leave, for example. Open a new savings account and save weekly or monthly until you have six weeks of pay saved up. 

If you have six months to wait for the baby to arrive and you need $6,000 saved for parental leave, you could strive to set aside $1,000 per month for those ten weeks off. If you’re able to plan earlier, up to 12 months before the baby arrives, then you can cut your monthly savings amount and set aside just $500 per month.

5. Open a Health Savings Account (HSA)

A health savings account (HSA) is a tax-advantaged way to save up for health care expenses, including the cost of a hospital stay. This type of account is available to Americans who have a designated high-deductible health insurance plan (HDHP), meaning a deductible of at least $1,400 for individuals and at least $2,800 for families. HDHPs must also have maximum out-of-pocket limits below $6,900 for individuals and $13,800 for families. 

In 2020, individuals can contribute up to $3,550 to an HSA while families can save up to $7,100. This money is tax-advantaged in that it grows tax-free until you’re ready to use it. Moreover, you’ll never pay taxes or a penalty on your HSA funds if you use your distributions for qualified health care expenses. At the age of 65, you can even deduct money from your HSA and use it however you want without a penalty. 

6. Start Saving for College

The price of college will only get worse over time. To get a handle on it early and plan for your future child’s college tuition, start saving for their education in a separate account.  Once your child is born, you can open a 529 college savings account and list your child as its beneficiary. 

Some states offer tax benefits for those who contribute to a 529 account. For example, Indiana offers a 20% tax credit on up to $5,000 in 529 contributions each year, which gets you up to $1,000 back from the state at tax time. Many plans also let you invest in underlying investments to help your money grow faster than a traditional savings account. 

7. Pay Off Unsecured Debt

If you have credit card debt, pay it off before having kids. You’re not helping yourself by spending years lugging high-interest debt around. Paying off debt can free-up cash and save you thousands of dollars in interest every year. 

If you’re struggling to pay off your unsecured debt, there are several strategies to consider. Here are a few approaches:

Debt Snowball

This debt repayment approach requires you to make a large payment on your smallest account balance and only the minimum amount that’s due on other debt. As the months tick by, you’ll focus on paying off your smallest debt first, only to “snowball” the payments from fully paid accounts toward the next smallest debt. Eventually, the debt snowball should leave you with only your largest debts, then one debt, and then none.

Debt Avalanche

The debt avalanche is the opposite of the debt snowball, asking you to pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first, while paying the minimum payment on other debt. Once that account is fully paid, you’ll “avalanche” those payments to the next highest-rate debt. Eventually, you’ll only be left with your lowest-interest account until you’ve paid off all of your debt. 

Balance Transfer Credit Card

Another popular strategy involves transferring high-interest balances to a balance transfer credit card that offers 0% APR for a limited time. You might have to pay a balance transfer fee (often 3% to 5%), but the interest savings can make this strategy worth it.

If you try this strategy, make sure you have a plan to pay off your debt before your introductory offer ends. If you have 15 months at 0% APR, for example, calculate how much you need to pay each month for 15 months to repay your entire balance during that time. Any debt remaining after your introductory APR period ends will start accruing interest at the regular, variable interest rate. 

8. Consider Refinancing Other Debt

Ditching credit card debt is a no-brainer, but debt like student loans or your home mortgage can also weigh on your future family’s budget.

If you have student loan debt, look into refinancing your student loans with a private lender. A student loan refinance can help you lower the interest rate on your loans, find a manageable monthly payment, and simplify your repayment into one loan.

Private student loan rates are often considerably lower than rates you can get with federal loans — sometimes by half. The caveat with refinancing federal loans is that you’ll lose out on government protections, like deferment and forbearance, and loan forgiveness programs. Before refinancing your student loans, make sure you won’t need these benefits in the future. 

Also look into the prospect of refinancing your mortgage to secure a shorter repayment timeline, a lower monthly payment, or both. Today’s low interest rates have made mortgage refinancing a good deal for anyone who took out a mortgage several years ago. Compare today’s mortgage refinancing rates to see how much you can save. 

9. Buy Life Insurance

You should also buy life insurance before having kids. Don’t worry about picking up an expensive whole life policy. All you need is a term life insurance policy that covers at least 10 years of your salary, and hopefully more.

Term life insurance is extremely affordable and easy to buy. Many providers don’t even require a medical exam if you’re young and healthy. 

Once you start comparing life insurance quotes, you’ll be shocked at how affordable term coverage can be. With Bestow, for example, a thirty-year-old woman in good health can buy a 20-year term policy for $500,000 for as little as $20.41 per month. 

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10. Create a Will

A last will and testament lets you write down what should happen to your major assets upon your death. You can also state personal requests in writing, like whether you want to be kept on life support, and how you want your final arrangements handled.

A will can also formally define who you’d like to take over custody of your kids, if both parents die. If you don’t formally make this decision ahead of time, these deeply personal decisions might be left to the courts.

Fortunately, it’s not overly expensive to create a last will and testament. You can meet with a lawyer who can draw one up, or you can create your own using a platform like LegalZoom.

The Bottom Line

Having kids can be the most rewarding part of your life, but parenthood is far from cheap. You’ll need money for expenses you might’ve never considered before — and the cost of raising a family only goes up over time.

That’s why getting your money straightened out is essential before kids enter the picture. With a financial plan and savings built up, you can experience the joys of parenthood without financial stress.

The post 10 Financial Steps to Take Before Having Kids appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Medicare made simple

Medicare made simple is a post originally published on: Everything Finance – Everything Finance – Its all about Money!

It is important to have a thorough understanding of Medicare when heading into retirement. Medicare is not an income producing piece of your retirement plan so unfortunately it gets overlooked by financial advisors. We believe at J.A. Lawrence Wealth Management that understanding our expenses is a vital step in retirement planning. Since healthcare is a substantial piece of our expenses in retirement, it is important to do your due diligence on this subject.

Medicare is a federal insurance program for the elderly. All our adult working lives we have been paying into the Medicare system via the FICA tax. The FICA tax is broken into two parts. The first part is known as OASDI (Old age survivor, disability, and insurance). OASDI is often referred to as social security. This portion of the FICA tax represents about 80% of the total FICA tax. The Hospital insurance (HI) makes up the remaining 20%. The HI portion is also referred to as Medicare part A.

There are four parts of Medicare everyone needs to be knowledgeable about. Parts A, B, C, and D. Each part is vitally important and needs to be included in your health insurance strategy.

PART A: Also known as Hospital Insurance or HI. This part simply gets you in the building and in a bed. This does not pay for the physician treating you. This part of Medicare is paid for via the FICA tax. Generally, everyone qualifies for Medicare at age 65 and above. At the very least you must sign up for this portion of Medicare. People have been paying into this their entire adult lives and its time to reap some benefit.

PART B: This part pays for the physician service. Things like blood tests, equipment costs, home health care, and outpatient care are just some of the services Part B covers. The proper way to look at it is Part A gets you in the door and Part B pays for the services inside the building. Part B is not paid for by FICA. This on average costs $135 per month. If adjusted income is higher than $170,000 year when married Part B becomes more expensive. In my opinion part B is just as vital as part A.

Medicare parts A&B, also known as original Medicare, consist of 80% of Medicare. Part C and D make up the other 20%.

PART C: Also known as Medicare supplement. This part allows you to see doctors/specialists for non-emergencies. There are two options for this part Medigap and Medicare advantage.

MEDIGAP: Medigap is between $100-200 per month. Any doctor that accepts part A/B also accepts Medigap. It is very important to know that you are always within issue for Medigap when signing up parts A and B. In layman’s terms, everyone qualifies for Medigap if they sign up when enrolling in parts A and B. However, if you decline Medigap and elect for Medicare Advantage, we’ll talk about that in a moment, than you have to be underwritten down the road. Please know that Medigap will be sold through insurance companies. The plans are listed as such: Plan N, Plan F, etc. No matter the insurance company, each “plan N” will be identical in coverage to another insurance companies “Plan N”. Therefor if one insurance company is charging more for their “Plan N” then always choose the least expensive option. They are identical Medigap plans.

MEDICARE ADVANTAGE: Medicare advantage is also operated by insurance companies. However, it is operated like what we are used to in private health care system. Medicare Advantage is operated on a network base. If the network is strong in your geographical area, this is a potentially good option because Medicare advantage is typically less expensive then Medigap. This becomes important especially in the case of travelling throughout the US. For instance, there is no Medicare Advantage network available in Alaska, therefor Medicare advantage patients cannot use their Medicare Advantage coverage there. Because Medicare Advantage is similar to health insurance before turning 65- there are a lot of changes year to year. These can be difficult to keep up with-especially in retirement as we age. Medigap is a much more stable network with less changes than Medicare Advantage.

PART D: This part covers prescription drugs. Some Medicare advantage policies will include part D. Medigap does not have part D. Part D on average can cost $35/month. If you are going the Medicare advantage route you need to go through a broker and not a captive agent. There is just a lot to it and its constantly changing. Do not do it on your own. Just like home/auto insurance brokers, these health brokers will shop for you through various companies and sell you the optimum policy. Captive agents can only sell you the company they work for. Obviously, you want to be sold the policy that benefits you the most and not just the insurance company.

Do yourself a favor and understand the true cost in regard to Medicare. If you have any questions feel free to reach out to John Lawrence with J.A. Lawrence Wealth Management.

Medicare made simple is a post originally published on: Everything Finance – Everything Finance – Its all about Money!

Source: everythingfinanceblog.com

Should I stay or should I go? Wrestling with the decision to quit a career

J.D.’s note: In the olden days at Get Rich Slowly, I shared reader stories every Sunday. I haven’t done that since I re-purchased the site because nobody sends them to me anymore. But earlier this year, Mike did. I love it. I hope you will too.

Earlier this year, I sent my wife a text message: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how freaked out would you be if I quit my job this afternoon?”

My wife and I had only been married a short while, but she’d known since our second date that I didn’t plan to work in my traditional job until normal retirement age. She also knew that I hadn’t been very happy at work in recent months.

We’re very compatible financially — both savers raised in working-class families that didn’t always have a lot. We make a point of having what we like to call “Fun Family Finance Day” from time to time. On Fun Family Finance Day, we do everything from competitively checking our credit scores to discussing questions that get at the root of our money mindsets to help us create our goals.

But this question wasn’t part of the plan. Not then.

And it was never on any of the lists of questions that we’d discussed with each other. It was like a pop quiz, a pothole in the smoothest relationship road I’d ever traveled…and I was the one putting it there.

Dreams Remain Dreams Without Doing

My wife and I rarely argue, but when we do it’s usually about food. It’s the kitchen and the grocery store that are our battleground. Our finances are fine. Thankfully, when you’re confident in the life you’ve created and the person you chose to build it with, it’s a lot easier to be honest about what’s on your mind.

That still doesn’t always mean you get the answer you want. Or the answer you were expecting. She responded: “Wait what. Kinda. What would you do?”

A completely reasonable and fair question. Not to mention one that I’d probably have to get comfortable answering from a lot more people.

I think my immediate reaction was: We talk about this stuff all the time, where is my, “No worries baby, YOLO!”? (I must have watched too many romcoms back before we cut cable from our lives.)

Being a grownup, it turns out, is actually really hard sometimes. I was about to learn that talking about something, and actually doing it, are a world apart.

Life is full of dreamers and doers. Sometimes those two personalities cross over. But there are plenty of people who go through life talking about so many things they’ll never have the courage to try — or the discipline and determination to follow through with.

Which person was I? The dreamer? The doer? Or that fortunate combination of both?

Standing on the Ledge

There’s a quote perched atop my bucket list of long-term goals:

“At some point, you will need to take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself not just if this is something you wanted to do at one point, but if this is something you will want to have done.”

Words are meaningless without action. It was time for me to take that long look in the mirror. I thought back to one of the questions that my wife and I had previously discussed: What does money mean to you? To me, once I grew out of the “stuff accumulation” phase of my early- to mid-20s, my answer had always been freedom. Money meant freedom. To my wife, the answer was security. Money meant security.

You can probably see how freedom can conflict with security. That was the case here. Not only that, but I was asking to change the perfect plan, one that she was comfortable with and excited about.

That’s not one, but two shots against financial security. If I’d thought more about our financial blueprints and how they differ, I might have seen this coming from a mile away!

As I was standing on that ledge, about to quit my job, thoughts started to race through my mind. What did I actually have to lose if made the leap? Lots.

  • A happy relationship and marriage.
  • A secure job with solid income, not to mention a sixteen year investment in my career.
  • Great benefits, including lots of time off, health insurance, 401(k) — even a pension.
  • The ability to afford anything at any time without any real worry. (Our finances were already on autopilot.)
  • My work friends and work prestige.
  • The general day-to-day purpose of a job.
  • The opportunity to create generational wealth. If we worked until 65, the power of compounding would likely make us ridiculously wealthy.

Today at Get Rich Slowly, let’s perform a little exercise. Come stand in my shoes for a minute, won’t you? Join me on the ledge. Do you see the beautiful view? The endless opportunity? The excitement that’s felt only at the beginning of a grand adventure, an adventure where anything is possible?

Or do you get a queasy feeling in your stomach? Do you feel like you’ve lost your balance, like you’re on the edge of some great catastrophe? Do you see a frightening fall from grace? Does it make you want to back away immediately?

Let’s go back to what it felt like to make this decision…

Sitting on the ledge

My Situation

I’m 38 years old. I’ve worked for the same company since I was 22. Corporate insurance is all I know. I’m well paid. I work from home for a solid company with good benefits, plenty of time off, and I really enjoy most of the people I work for and with.

It’s the definition of stability — a solid guardrail protecting me from what lies over the ledge. So what’s the problem?

A year ago, I took a new position that seemed like a great opportunity. Only it wasn’t. The first misstep of my career. A year in, that spot has killed my enthusiasm and engagement. For the first time at work, I’m struggling to get things done.

As an extrovert that derives meaning from helping others, this feels like a prison. My job isn’t hard because it’s stressful. It’s hard because it’s boring me to death! And what are any of us doing thinking about personal finance and early retirement if we aren’t trying to make better use of our limited time on this planet?

There’s a project looming that would require some weekend work once in a while for the foreseeable future, I’ve avoided it in the past, but my luck is running out. My team — and, more importantly, my position — need to take it on. I understand completely. I just don’t want to do it.

At this point in life, my time is way more important to me than money. The weekends and vacations are what I live for. Adventures in the mountains with my friends, quality time with my wife, our dog, and our families – that’s what makes me feel alive.

Insurance? Meh.

No little kid ever said they wanted to work for an insurance company and play with spreadsheets and Powerpoint presentations when they grow up. I wanted to be a baseball player, a sports writer, even a professional forklift driver. (Because what’s more badass than a forklift when you’re a little kid and your dad works at a marina?)

A Glimpse of the Other Side

My wife and I just got back from a delayed honeymoon to Alaska. To say it was incredible would be an understatement. Denali. Kenai. Majestic train rides. Fjords. Glaciers. Bears. Bald eagles. Whales. Hikes.

Life slowed down.

I somehow managed to read five books while doing so many other amazing things. During our more than two weeks off, I got to see what my mind was capable of when it wasn’t drowning in useless information and mundane tasks that consume my braindwidth.

We talked to people who had ended up in this wild place through a history of taking risks. Parents that had hitchhiked cross-country and ended up there back in the 70s. Can you imagine? Where we live, a fair number of people never leave their town or state!

Before the trip, I had tried to apply for a few positions. For whatever reason, it just didn’t work out. I came home from an amazing glimpse into what life could be to a job that seemed like the polar opposite. (Isn’t that every vacation though?) I’ve felt like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole for a while now. Maybe normal life just isn’t for me anymore. Maybe I need something just a little less ordinary.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I’ve been practicing the classic tenets of personal finance since I was in my mid- to late-20s. I found an awesome woman in my mid-30s who just happens to be down with this lifestyle as well. We’re probably two to three years short of where we want to be based on our master plan of a fully-paid house and a really comfortable number in invested assets.

We’d likely fall somewhere between Agency and Security on the stages of financial freedom.

I know good jobs don’t grow on trees, especially where we live. The seasons of the economy are always shifting and there’s a chill in the air. Economic winter can’t be too far off. My wife still has a solid job, and we live a pretty simple life — albeit in an expensive part of the country. Our main splurge is travel, but otherwise we live well below our means.

All of this knowledge and preparation comes with a cost. Having options can be a burden too, because then you’re responsible for making hard decisions. And you’re responsible for the outcomes of those choices.

What other options are there?

  • Be a crappy employee/teammate, and still get paid? Plenty of people have played that game. Get a surgery or two, go out on leave, let performance management run its course for however long that takes, and keep cashing checks the whole time. I don’t think I have it in me to put people I respect through that. It’s just not who I am.
  • I work from home, and I still can’t bring myself to abandon my laptop. What if someone needs me?
  • Am I giving up too soon? The finish line seems just around the corner — somehow so close yet so far away.
  • Should I just suck it up and sell a little more of my soul? Slump my shoulders a little bit more as I trade another piece of myself for money I don’t need to buy things I don’t want?

As I go back and forth, sometimes I briefly wish I’d never found the personal-finance community. Like Neo in The Matrix, why’d I have to take the damn red pill? Being a mindless consumer wasn’t so bad. I would have invested 6-10% in my 401(k) with a traditional pension on top of it.

Forty years on autopilot would have produced a comfortable life of work, nice things — and maybe some time in old age to relax and travel.

Facing Freedom

The whole point of everything I’ve done since I started this journey was to be in control of my own life. To not be owned by things or circumstances. To have options. Freedom of choice. F-U money.

I have the corporate battle scars and survivor’s guilt to understand why that’s important.

I’ve sat on the phone while I heard that my old department was closing down. The sadness and tears in the room. Everyone that had taken me in, given me my chance, taught me the job…basically gone, casualties of a business decision.

I’ve seen people get laid off who are petrified because they don’t know how they’ll pay their bills in a couple of weeks. People will be okay eventually though, right?

What about my friend who was struggling last year and left the company? He committed suicide a few months later. Maybe everyone won’t be okay eventually. Depression runs in my family. Am I really built for this? That thought is haunting.

It’s been said that one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever make in life is whether to walk away or try harder. Every bone in my body tells me it’s time to walk away, to bet on myself.

The End?

About six months after the text exchange that blindsided my wife, with her support, I hit send on the scariest, most exciting and important one-line email of my professional career. It would also signify the unofficial end of it: “I will be resigning from my position effective Wednesday, June 26th.”

To combine a few lines from my favorite movie, The Shawshank Redemption, some birds just weren’t meant to be caged. It’s time to get busy living, or get busy dying.

Source: getrichslowly.org

5 Legal Documents You Need During a Pandemic

As Americans grapple with how to stay physically and financially healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s critical to make sure you and your family have the right emergency documents. It’s much easier to prepare for a potential disaster than to recover from one that blind-sides you. After a tragedy occurs, it may be too late to make critical decisions.

Let's talk about the different emergency documents and why you may need to create or update existing paperwork. If you get COVID-19 or have another unexpected illness or accident, these documents will help you manage your finances and make essential decisions with more clarity and less stress.   

5 emergency and legal documents to have during a pandemic

Instead of being caught off guard during a difficult time, consider if you should have these five legal documents.

1. Last will and testament

The purpose of a will is to communicate your final wishes after you die. Too many people don’t have one of these incredibly important documents because they mistakenly believe it’s something just for old rich people.

The fact is, every adult should have a will. If you die without one, the courts decide what happens to your possessions, not your family.

The fact is, every adult should have a will. If you die without one, the courts decide what happens to your possessions, not your family.

And once you have a will, don’t forget to update it periodically to make sure it addresses all your wishes, assets, and beneficiaries. Critical life events—such as getting married, divorced, having a child, or losing a spouse or partner—should trigger you to update your will.

If you’re starting from scratch, make an inventory of your assets—like bank accounts, investments, real estate, vehicles, expensive belongings, and sentimental possessions—and decide what you want to happen to them. You can list beneficiaries for specific items, like who gets a piece of heirloom jewelry or an artwork collection. You can also create distribution percentages, such as 50 percent of the value of your assets go to your partner and 50 percent to your only child.

In addition to dealing with your possessions, a will allows you to name a guardian for your minor children.

In addition to dealing with your possessions, a will allows you to name a guardian for your minor children. And don’t forget to leave instructions for what you want to happen to your pets, digital assets, intellectual property, and business assets. You can create a plan for your funeral, such as where you want to be buried and whether you want your organs donated.

Someone must carry out your final wishes and legal details. You can name a designated family member, friend, or attorney to be your “executor” and handle all the arrangements. Depending on the size of your estate, this can be a challenging and time-consuming task. So, make sure they’re capable and willing to do the job.

The bottom line is that having a will makes death easier for the loved ones of the deceased. It can help keep peace in your family by settling disagreements, minimizing bureaucracy, and even saving your heirs from unnecessary expenses. You don’t need a lawyer to create a will, but if you have a high net worth or many different types of assets, it’s a good idea to hire one.

2. Living will

In addition to a last will, you also need a living will. This document specifies what you’d want to happen regarding your end-of-life care. It would help if you were unresponsive for an extended period or in the final stages of a terminal condition.

Having a living will makes your wishes clear when you’re facing death. It’s an essential guide for family and doctors who might need to know if you’d want to extend your life by artificial means or to die without any interventions.

3. Health care proxy

When it comes to your health care, another critical document is a health care proxy. You might also hear this called a health care power of attorney or a health care surrogate. In it, you designate someone to make medical decisions for you when you can’t.

Imagine that you’re in an accident or come down with a severe illness and become mentally incapacitated. Having a health care proxy allows the person(s) you choose as your representative to make medical decisions for you or admit you into a health care facility.

Having a health care proxy allows the person(s) you choose as your representative to make medical decisions for you or admit you into a health care facility.

You might want to name two proxies in case one isn’t available when you need them. Consider who you’d trust with your care and discuss the responsibilities and your wishes with them.

Some hospitals won’t allow medical professionals to disclose any information about you—even to your health care proxy—unless you have a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability) medical privacy release. Your family needs to speak to your doctor about your medical situation without creating a legal problem for the doctor, so consider having this legal document as well.

4. Power of attorney

Even if you don’t need a designated proxy to make medical decisions for you, you likely need someone you trust to help with other types of decisions, such as managing your finances or legal affairs. Creating a power of attorney (POA) allows another person to stand in for you as an agent if you’re incapable of making routine transactions, such as paying bills or signing contracts.

You can use it power of attorney any time you’re not capable of doing something like selling real estate, making insurance claims, filing taxes, or making financial decisions.

There are different kinds of POAs, but the most common is a durable power of attorney. You can use it any time you’re not capable of doing something like selling real estate, making insurance claims, filing taxes, or making financial decisions. You can also create one or more limited powers of attorney, which name people to act on your behalf for specific transactions during a limited period.

Having a POA is how the financial end of your life can run smoothly if you become incapacitated. It’s also a tool for giving someone the authority to manage nearly any aspect of your life if you’re unavailable or don’t have time to handle it yourself.

5.  Childcare authorization

If you’re the parent of a young child, you should have a childcare authorization. This document can address a variety of situations, such as whether your child’s school or daycare can release them to another individual.

You can use this authorization to allow someone else, such as a partner or nanny, to temporarily make decisions for your child in your unexpected absence.

Do you need emergency documents if you’re married?

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you don’t need emergency or legal documents because you’re married. While a spouse may be able to make some crucial decisions for you, you could both die or become incapacitated at the same time.

Let’s say your spouse is in a coma in the hospital due to a disease or accident. If you had a financial hardship and needed to sell assets, such as jointly owned investments or real estate, it could be difficult. Each of you would have to authorize the transaction.

Married couples and domestic partners should give each other power of attorney to avoid having financial restrictions during a crisis. And each of you should have wills and healthcare proxies.

Therefore, married couples and domestic partners should give each other power of attorney to avoid having financial restrictions during a crisis. And each of you should have wills and healthcare proxies.

Also, consider what would happen to your minor children if you and your spouse were in an accident together. It’s critical to name a guardian in your will, so the court doesn’t appoint one for you that you may not like.

Where should you keep emergency documents?

Keep your original signed legal documents safe, such as at your attorney’s office, in a fireproof safe, or a bank safe deposit box. Also, maintain copies of everything at home in case you need them at night or on the weekend. You should scan and upload them to a cloud-based storage service, such as Dropbox or Evernote.

Do yourself and your family a favor by getting all your emergency documents created as soon as possible. If you already have them, put an annual reminder on your calendar to make any necessary updates. You’ll feel at ease knowing you’re as prepared as possible for the unexpected. Your emergency documents make sure that you and your children’s future is protected no matter what happens.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

How Much Life Insurance Do I Really Need?

Since it doesn’t have an immediate benefit – like health or auto insurance – life insurance may be the most underestimated insurance type there is. But if you die, life insurance will likely be the single most important policy type you’ve ever purchased.

And that’s why you have to get it right. Not only do you need a policy, but you need the right amount of coverage. Buying a flat amount of coverage and hoping for the best isn’t a strategy. There are specific numbers that go into determining how much life insurance you need. There are even numbers that can reduce the amount you need.

Calculate what that number is, compare it with any life insurance you currently have, and get busy buying a policy to cover the amount you don’t have. I’ll not only show you how much that is, but also where you can get the lowest cost life insurance possible.

How to Calculate How Much Life Insurance You Need

To make it easier for you to find out how much life insurance you need we’re providing the life insurance calculator below. Just input the information requested, and the calculator will do all the number crunching for you. You’ll know exactly how much coverage you’ll need, which will prepare you for the next step in the process – getting quotes from top life insurance companies.

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Now that you have an idea how much life insurance you need, the next step is to get quotes from top life insurance companies for their best life insurance products. And the best way to get the most coverage for the lowest premium is by getting quotes from several companies. Use the quote tool below from our life insurance partner to get those offers:

What to Consider when Purchasing Life Insurance

To answer the question of how much life insurance do I need, you’ll first need to break down the factors that will give you the magic number. You can use a rule of thumb, like the popularly quoted buy 10 times your annual income, but that’s little more than a rough estimate. If you use that as your guide, you may even end up paying for more coverage than you need, or worse – not have enough insurance.

Let’s take a look at the various components that will give you the right number for your policy.

Your Basic Living Expenses

If you’re not using budget software to track this number, a good strategy is to review and summarize your expenses for the past 12 months.

When you come up with that number, the next step is to multiply it by the number of years you want your life insurance policy to cover.

For example, let’s say your youngest child is five years old and you want to be able to provide for your family for at least 20 years. If the cost of your basic living expenses is $40,000 per year, you’ll need $800,000 over 20 years.

Now if your spouse is also employed, and likely to remain so after your death, you can subtract his or her contribution to your annual expenses.

If your spouse contributes $20,000 per year to your basic living expenses, you can cut the life insurance requirement in half, allowing $400,000 to cover basic living expenses.

But in considering whether or not your spouse will continue to work after your death, you’ll need to evaluate if that’s even possible. For example, if you have young, dependent children, your spouse may need to quit work and take care of them.

Alternatively, if you have a non-working spouse, there’ll be no contribution from his or her income toward basic living expenses.

In either case, your need to cover basic living expenses will go back up to $800,000.

Providing for Your Dependents

It may be tempting to assume your dependents will be provided for out of the insurance amount you determine for basic living expenses. But because children go through different life stages, there may be additional expenses.

The most obvious is providing for college education. With the average cost of in-state college tuition currently running at $9,410 per year, you may want to gross that up to $20,000 to allow for books, fees, room and board and other costs. You can estimate a four-year cost of $80,000 per child. If you have two children, you’ll need to provide $160,000 out of life insurance.

Now it may be possible that one or more of your children may qualify for a scholarship or grant, but that should never be assumed. If anything, college costs will be higher by the time your children are enrolled, and any additional funds you budget for will be quickly used up.

Life insurance is an opportunity to make sure that even if you aren’t around to provide for your children’s education, they won’t need to take on crippling student loan debts to make it happen.

But apart from college, you may also need to provide extra life insurance coverage for childcare. If your spouse does work, and is expected to continue even after your death, care for your children will be necessary.

If childcare in your area costs $12,000 per year per child, and you currently have a nine-year-old and a 10-year-old, you’ll need to cover that cost for a total of five years, assuming childcare is no longer necessary by age 12. That will include three years for your nine-year-old and two years for your 10-year-old. It will require increasing your life insurance policy by $60,000 ($12,000 X five years).

Paying Off Debt

This is the easiest number to calculate since you can just pull the balances from your credit report.

The most obvious debt you’ll want paid off is your mortgage. Since it’s probably the biggest single debt you have, getting it paid off upon your death will go a long way toward making your family’s financial life easier after you’re gone.

You may also consider paying off any car loans you or your spouse have. But you’ll only be paying off those loans that exist at the time of your death. It’s likely your spouse will need a new car loan in a few years. Use your best judgment on this one.

But an even more important loan to pay off is any student loan debt. Though federal student loans will be canceled upon your death, that’s not always true with private student loans. Unless you know for certain that your loan(s) will be canceled, it’s best to make an additional allowance to pay them off.

Credit cards are a difficult loan type to include in a life insurance policy. The reason is because of the revolving nature of credit card debt. If your death is preceded by an extended period of incapacitation your family may turn to credit cards to deal with uncovered medical expenses, income shortfalls, and even stress-related issues. An estimate may be the best you can do here.

Still another important category is business debts, if you have any. Most business debts require a personal guarantee on your part, and would be an obligation of your estate upon your death. If you have this kind of debt, you’ll want to provide for it to be paid off in your policy.

Covering Final Expenses

These are the most basic reasons to have life insurance, but in today’s high cost world, it’s probably one of the smallest components of your policy.

When we think of final expenses, funeral costs quickly come to mind. An average funeral can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000, depending on individual preferences.

But funeral costs are hardly the only costs associated with total final expenses.

We’ve already mentioned uncovered medical costs. If you’re not going to include a provision for these elsewhere in your policy considerations, you’ll need to make a general estimate here. At a minimum, you should assume the full amount of the out-of-pocket costs on your health insurance plan.

But that’s just the starting point. There may be thousands of dollars in uncovered costs, due to special care that may be required if your death is preceded by an extended illness.

A ballpark estimate may be the best you can do.

Possible Reductions in the Amount of Life Insurance You Need

What’s that? Reductions in the amount of life insurance I need? It’s not as out-in-orbit as you may think – even though any life insurance agent worth his or her salt will do their best to ignore this entirely. But if you’re purchasing your own life insurance, you can and should take these into consideration. It’s one of the ways you can avoid buying more life insurance than you actually need.

What are some examples of possible reductions?

Current financial assets.

Let’s say you calculate you’ll need a life insurance policy for $1 million. But you currently have $300,000 in financial assets. Since those assets will be available to help provide for your family, you can deduct them from the amount of life insurance you’ll need.

Your spouse’s income.

We’ve already covered this in calculating your basic living expenses. But if you haven’t, you should still factor it into the equation, at least if your spouse is likely to continue working.

If you need a $1 million life insurance policy, but your spouse will contribute $25,000 per year (for 20 years) toward your basic living expenses, you’ll be able to cut your life insurance need in half.

But be careful here! Your spouse may need to either reduce his or her work schedule, or even quit entirely. Either outcome is a possibility for reasons you might not be able to imagine right now.

What About a Work Related Life Insurance Policy?

While it may be tempting to deduct the anticipated proceeds from a job-related life insurance policy from your personal policy, I urge extreme caution here.

The basic problem is employment related life insurance is not permanent life insurance. Between now and the time of your death, you could change jobs to one that offers a much smaller policy. You might even move into a new occupation that doesn’t provide life insurance at all.

There’s also the possibility your coverage may be terminated because of factors leading up to your death. For example, if you contract a terminal illness you may be forced to leave your job months or even years before your death. If so, you may lose your employer policy with your departure.

My advice is to consider a work policy as a bonus. If it’s there at the time of your death, great – your loved ones will have additional financial resources. But if it isn’t, you’ll be fully prepared with a right-sized private policy.

Example: Your Life Insurance Requirements

Let’s bring all these variables together and work an example that incorporates each factor.

Life insurance needs:

  • Basic living expenses – $40,000 per year for 20 years – $800,000
  • College education – $80,000 X 2 children – $160,000
  • Childcare – for two children for 5 years at $12,000 per year – $60,000
  • Payoff debt – mortgage ($250,000), student loans ($40,000), credit cards ($10,000) – $300,000
  • Final expenses – using a ballpark estimate – $30,000
  • Total gross insurance need – $1,350,000

Reductions in anticipated life insurance needs:

  • Current financial assets – $300,000
  • Spouse’s contribution toward living expenses – $20,000 per year for 20 years – $400,000
  • Total life insurance reductions – $700,000

Based on the above totals, by subtracting $700,000 in life insurance reductions from the gross insurance need of $1,350,000, leaves you with $650,000. At that amount, your family should be adequately provided for upon your death, and the amount you should consider for your life insurance policy.

Once again, if you have life insurance at work, think of it as a bonus only.

The Bottom Line

Once you know how much life insurance you need, it’s time to purchase a policy. Now is the best time to do that. Life insurance becomes more expensive as you get older, and if you develop a serious health condition, it may even be impossible to get. That’s why I have to emphasize that you act now.

Crunch the numbers to find out how much life insurance you need, then get quotes using the quote tool above. The sooner you do, the less expensive your policy will be.

The post How Much Life Insurance Do I Really Need? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

8 Essential Rules for Surviving Financial Hardship

At some point, most people experience an unexpected crisis that shakes their financial world. It could be losing a job, receiving a huge medical bill, or having a car break down at the worst possible time. But surviving a pandemic is a situation you probably never thought you would face.

No matter what challenge you’re facing, you’re not the first.

Along with the public health toll, the COVID crisis has put millions of people out of work. For those struggling financially, here are eight critical rules to help you manage money wisely, stretch your resources, and bounce back from this unprecedented health and economic disaster.

8 rules for managing a financial hardship

Here are the details about each rule to manage a financial setback during the coronavirus crisis.

Rule #1: Accept your situation and use your resources to seek help

The key to successfully navigating a financial setback is to be realistic. If you’re in denial and don’t face money troubles head-on, you can quickly compound the damage.

Instead of focusing on the problem, getting angry, or letting stress overwhelm you, channel your emotions into finding solutions. Start talking about your challenges with people and professionals you trust, such as a money-savvy family member, financial advisor, legitimate credit counselor, or an attorney.

Instead of focusing on the problem, getting angry, or letting stress overwhelm you, channel your emotions into finding solutions.

The following financial associations have certified volunteers who can offer free help and advice:

  • National Association of Personal Financial Advisors
  • The Financial Planning Association
  • Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education

Rule #2: Get a bird’s eye view of your finances

To fully understand your situation, create a list of what you own and owe; this is called a net worth statement. Compiling your data in one place helps you evaluate your financial resources, make decisions more efficiently, and have essential information at your fingertips if creditors or advisors ask for it.

First, list your assets: 

  • Cash
  • Investments
  • Retirement accounts
  • Real estate
  • Vehicles 

Then list your liabilities:

  • Mortgage
  • Car loans
  • Student loans
  • Credit card debt

Include the estimated values of your assets, the balances on your debts, and the interest rates you pay for each liability. You could jot down this information on paper, enter it in a computer spreadsheet, or create a report using money management software.

When you subtract your total liabilities from your total assets, you’ve calculated your net worth, which is an indicator of your financial health. It’s not uncommon to have a low or negative net worth when you’re in financial trouble.

RELATED: 10 Things Student Loan Borrowers Should Know About Coronavirus Relief  

Rule #3: Understand your cash flow

An essential part of bouncing back from a financial crisis is keeping an eye on your monthly income and expenses. Create a cash flow statement that lists your expected income and typical expenses, such as rent, utilities, food, prescriptions, transportation, and insurance. Again, you can create this report manually or by using budgeting features in a financial program.

Understanding where your money goes is the only way to prioritize expenses and cut all non-essential spending.

Understanding where your money goes is the only way to prioritize expenses and cut all non-essential spending. Making temporary sacrifices will help you recover as quickly as possible with less long-term damage to your finances.

Rule #4: Shop your essential expenses

As you review your spending, it’s an excellent time to comparison-shop your essential expenses. Evaluate your highest costs first, such as housing, vehicles, and insurance, since they offer the most significant potential savings.

For instance, you may be able to move into a less expensive home, purchase or lease a cheaper vehicle, and shop your auto insurance to find better deals. Ask your utility provider about assistance programs that offer energy-saving improvements at no charge.

Rule #5: Communicate with your creditors

If you haven’t been in contact with your creditors, start a dialog with each one immediately. You’ll come out ahead and get favorable treatment from creditors if you are proactive and honest about your financial troubles. Ask them for solutions, such as deferring payments for several months, setting up a reduced payment plan, or refinancing a loan to reduce your financial burden.

You’ll come out ahead and get favorable treatment from creditors if you are proactive and honest about your financial troubles.

Creditors are likely to ask about details regarding your financial situation, so have your net worth and cash flow statements on hand when you speak to them. Be ready to complete any required assistance applications quickly.

Rule #6: Prioritize your debts carefully

Based on guidance from creditors and finance professionals, prioritize your bills and debts carefully. Your goal should be to conserve as much cash as possible without skipping essential payments. Always pay for necessities first: food, prescription drugs, and auto insurance.

Debts related to child support and legal judgments have severe consequences and should be prioritized

Use your net worth statement to rank your liabilities from highest to lowest priority. For instance, debts related to child support and legal judgments have severe consequences and should be prioritized. Keeping up with an auto loan is a high priority if you rely on your vehicle for transportation. Federal student loans are in automatic forbearance through September 30, and the relief may get extended through 2020.

Your unsecured debts—medical bills, credit cards, and private student loans—are lower priorities. Never pay these debts ahead of rent, a mortgage, or utilities when you have a cash shortage.

Rule #7: Don’t let collectors force you to make bad decisions

Prioritizing your debts means some may be paid late or not at all. If a debt collector contacts you about a low-priority debt, such as a medical bill or credit card, don’t allow them to persuade you to pay it before your highest priority bills.

Collectors may try various aggressive tactics, such as threatening to sue you or ruin your credit. A lawsuit could take years, and a creditor is more likely to negotiate a settlement with you. Remember that a creditor or collector can’t send you to jail for civil debts.

If you are behind on bills, that fact is likely already reflected on your credit reports. By the time a collector contacts you, the damage is already done, and paying the bill won’t improve your credit in the short-term.

Rule #8: Take advantage of local and federal benefits

If your income and savings have entirely dried up, use these resources to learn more about local and federal benefits.

  • FeedingAmerica.org has a map showing local food banks
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the federal food program you may qualify for based on where you live, your income, and family size
  • MakingHomeAffordable.gov can help you find a housing counselor or see if your mortgage is backed by the federal government and qualifies for forbearance
  • Benefits.gov has a questionnaire that helps you discover the benefits you’re eligible for
  • Medicaid.gov is the federal health insurance program you may qualify for based on where you live, your income, and family size
  • Healthcare.gov is the federal health insurance marketplace where you may find plans with substantial subsidies if you earn too much to qualify for Medicaid

Financial challenges can cause you and your family to experience a flood of emotions, including anger, fear, and embarrassment. As difficult as it might be to put a financial crisis into perspective, it’s critical. No matter what challenge you’re facing, you’re not the first. There are millions of people who are dealing with COVID-related financial hardships.

Face the fact that your recovery could take a while. Do everything in your power to manage your budget wisely by getting organized, seeking ways to earn more, and spending less. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from creditors, seek free advice from professionals, and take advantage of every local and federal benefit possible.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com