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

The Magical Third Paycheck: 5 Budgeting Hacks If You’re Paid Biweekly

If you get paid every two weeks, you’ve probably noticed extra money coming your way certain months. Maybe you even thought your company’s payroll made a mistake! But it’s no mistake. You get two magical months like this a year: when you suddenly have a third paycheck and—the best part is—your monthly bills stay the same. Yes, it’s appropriate to jump for joy—provided you have a plan for that extra income.

Why does this happen in the first place? If you’re paid biweekly, you get 26 paychecks throughout the 52-week year. That means two months out of the year, you end up getting three paychecks instead of your regular two.

Those two extra paychecks can go a long way. But without a plan in mind, they can also disappear. Fast. The first budgeting trick to saving two paychecks is to find out when they will hit your account. Grab a calendar and write down your paydays for every month in a given year and highlight the two extras. Maybe even put calendar reminders in your phone so you can track when the additional funds will hit your account. The extra paychecks will fall on different days every year, so tracking them in advance is key.

Samuel Deane, a founding partner of New York City-based wealth management firm Deane Financial, says there isn’t one correct way to budget with an extra paycheck, but that it should depend on your personal situation and financial goals. You could decide to give yourself some extra room in your budget throughout the year, for example, or use the extra money for something specific.

There are a few different ways to budget with an extra paycheck.

How can I budget for an extra paycheck? Consider these 5 budgeting hacks if you’re paid biweekly:

1. Pay down (mainly) high-interest debt

Once you’re done jumping for joy at the realization of the third paycheck, consider how your budget with an extra paycheck could help you pay down debt. “The first thing I usually tell my clients is to get rid of high-rate debt, which is usually credit card debt,” Deane says.

Before paying off debt with your new budget with an extra paycheck, make a list of all of your debts organized by balance and annual percentage rate (APR). Paying off the debt with the highest APR could save you the most money because you’re paying the most to carry a balance. Paying down a few low-APR, low-balance debts can also help you gain momentum and bring other financial benefits. For instance, if you owe close to your credit limit on a credit card, the high credit utilization—or card balance to credit limit ratio—could negatively impact your credit score.

If your budget with an extra paycheck includes debt repayment, you’ll start to owe less and have less interest accruing each month, freeing up even more cash from subsequent paychecks.

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“The first thing I usually tell my clients is to get rid of high-rate debt, which is usually credit card debt.”

– Samuel Deane, a founding partner of wealth management firm Deane Financial

2. Build an emergency fund

Paying down debt isn’t the only way to budget with an extra paycheck. “Taking a look at whether you have a sufficient emergency fund is pretty important,” says Dan Stous, director of financial planning at Flagstone Financial Management.

An emergency fund of three to six months of your regular expenses can help you weather financial setbacks, such as a lost job or medical emergency, without having to take on new debt. Keeping these funds separate from your regular checking and savings accounts can help you keep them earmarked for the unexpected (and reduce the temptation to dip into them for non-emergency expenses). Places to keep your emergency fund include a high-yield savings account, certificate of deposit or money market account.

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If creating an emergency fund or adding to an existing one is on your to-do list, a budgeting trick to save two paychecks is to automatically transfer your extra paychecks into your emergency fund account.

3. Save for a big goal

If you want to save for a goal like a new car or home, or contribute to tax-advantaged retirement accounts, contributing two full paychecks out of 26 can be a good start. “If a client is debt-free and doing well, they might be able to focus on other goals,” Deane says. If you’ve got a financial goal in mind, a budgeting hack if you’re paid biweekly is to transfer your two extra paychecks from your checking account to a savings or retirement account right away.

Using your extra paycheck to save for a goal, like a new home or new car, is a smart budgeting hack if you're paid biweekly.

If you have a 401(k) through an employer and already contribute enough to get your maximum annual match, Deane says you may want to consider a Roth IRA. A Roth IRA is for retirement, but it also allows first-time homebuyers who have held their account for at least five years to withdraw up to $10,000 to buy a home, Deane says. Your budget with an extra paycheck could then go to either major goal.

Even loftier, “you could put aside money to start a business,” Deane says. If you plan on starting a business someday you could put away the paychecks annually and let those savings build as start-up capital.

4. Get ahead on bills

If you already have an emergency fund, are currently debt-free and are making good progress on your savings goals, try this budgeting hack if you’re paid biweekly and get a third paycheck: Pay certain monthly bills ahead of time.

“If you have the ability to prepay some of your bills, it can ease anxiety in the coming months,” Deane says.

Before using this budgeting hack if you’re paid biweekly, check with your providers to confirm that you will not be met with a prepayment penalty, and get up to speed on any prepayment limitations. Some providers may even offer a discount or incentive if you pay something like a car insurance bill all at once. You could also explore whether or not prepaying your bills makes sense for utilities, your cellphone or rent.

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5. Fund much-needed rewards

If you’re looking for budgeting hacks if you’re paid biweekly, consider that managing money isn’t only about dollars and cents. Emotions often play an important part in personal finance, and they’re often the root cause of people’s decisions. Accepting this fact could be an important part of successfully managing your money.

“From an emotional and behavioral standpoint, people should reward themselves for being responsible,” Stous says. “Basically, treat yourself.”

Perhaps you need a vacation from the daily grind, want to enrich or educate yourself or your family or simply want to get a date night at your favorite restaurant on the calendar. A budgeting trick to save two paychecks could be supplemented with some spending on yourself.

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“If you have an extra paycheck and a debt reduction goal, then maybe you apply the whole thing toward that goal. On the other hand, maybe you have a goal to retire in 10 years and you’re off track. Then, it’d be wise to put that money, or at least a portion of it, toward that goal.”

– Dan Stous, director of financial planning at Flagstone Financial Management

There’s no one-size-fits-all budgeting trick to save two paychecks

When you’re deciding how to budget with an extra paycheck, you might find yourself going back and forth between options.

“If you have an extra paycheck and a debt-reduction goal, then maybe you apply the whole thing toward that goal,” Stous says. “On the other hand, maybe you have a goal to retire in 10 years and you’re off track. Then, it’d be wise to put that money, or at least a portion of it, toward that goal.”

Even though budgeting solutions are not the same for everyone, being disciplined and proactive about the savings opportunity of a third paycheck can help you form a strong foundation for your financial future.

The post The Magical Third Paycheck: 5 Budgeting Hacks If You’re Paid Biweekly appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

The Ultimate List of More Than 50 Budget Categories You Must Use

The post The Ultimate List of More Than 50 Budget Categories You Must Use appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

It is no secret that you need a budget.  But, it is imperative that it includes everything.  Take the time to review your spending and don’t leave anything off of it.  Below you will find a list of household budget categories you need to include. Forgetting even one off might be a big mistake.

It is no secret that the number one thing you must do to take control of your finances is to create a budget.  Without one, you really can’t see where your money goes.  Or, more importantly, you don’t get to direct your money to be spent as you would like for it to be!

While there are posts on how to create a budget, one question I get frequently is, “What categories should I include in a budget?”   When you are new to making a budget, something such as a personal budget categories list can help.  I agree.

As you create yours for the first time, it is important you don’t leave off anything important. A successful budget is one that includes a line item for every way you spend your money.

If you are just learning about budgeting, you will want to check out our page — How to Budget.

There, you will learn everything you want to know about budgets and budgeting.

 

To help you get a jump start on with your budget, and to make sure you don’t leave off any categories, download our free budget template.  This form has helped thousands get started with creating a budget.

SIMPLE BUDGET CATEGORIES 

Once you have your form, you are ready to figure out your budget categories!  While you may not have each of these as individual line items on your form, just make sure you include them all somewhere in your budget!

 

DONATIONS OR CHARITY CATEGORIES

These are all of the monthly donations you make to various charities.  Don’t forget about those you may make only once or twice a year as well!

Church
Medical Research
Youth Groups

 

SAVINGS CATEGORIES

While not needed to live, it is crucial that you always pay yourself before you pay anyone else.  Once you meet your necessary expenses, ensure you are saving enough each month.

If you are in your employer’s retirement plan, you pay those before you get your paycheck, so you would not include them.  However, make sure you account for the different types of savings accounts you may have.

Emergency Fund Savings
Annual Fees, such as taxes, insurance, and dues
College Savings
Investments
Christmas/Birthdays/Anniversaries
Additional Retirement (outside of your employer’s plan)

Read More:  Yearly Savings Challenge

 

CATEGORIES FOR HOUSING

No one will forget to add housing to their budget.  But, make sure you include the amount you may save for repairs and other expenses. To figure out how much to budget, look over your prior year spending and divide that total by 12.  You will add this to your savings, but you can track it under your housing budget category.

First Mortgage
Second Mortgage (if applicable)
Property Taxes
Insurance
Home Owner’s Association Dues
Maintenance
Housekeeper/Cleaning
Lawn Care

 

PERSONAL BUDGET UTILITIES CATEGORIES

You can’t live without your water and electricity.  It is essential that you don’t leave any of these off of your budget either!  These are some of the basic budget categories most people will not intend to forget, but just might.

Electricity
Water
Gas/Oil
Sewer
Trash
Cable/Satellite/Streaming Services
Internet (if not part of your cable bill)
Phone

Read more:  How to Lower Your Utility Bills

 

FOOD

You have to eat. There are only two ways that happens  — you cook or you eat out. Make sure you include both of these categories in your budget.

Groceries
Dining Out

 

TRANSPORTATION CATEGORIES

You have to be able to get around.  That doesn’t always mean a vehicle as it could mean using other means of transportation.  Whatever method you use, make sure you include all of those expenses in your budget.

Remember that you may not have to pay for some of these items each month, but it is essential you budget for them monthly so that the funds are available when needed.

Vehicle payment (make sure you include all payments for all vehicles)
Fuel
Insurance
Taxes
Tags/Licensing
Maintenance
Parking Fees
Taxi/Bus Fares

 

CLOTHING

A line item many people leave off of their budget is clothing.  They forget that it is a necessary expense.  While this doesn’t mean you should go and buy new clothes all of the time, it does allow you to replace items which are worn out.

It is also essential that parents include this item as kids need clothes a bit more frequently.

Adult Clothing
Kids Clothing

 

CATEGORIES FOR HEALTH

Don’t forget your health expenses when determining a budget.  Make sure you include the money you pay towards your co-pays during the year.

Health Insurance
Dental Insurance
Eye Insurance
Doctor Visits
Dental Visits
Optometrist
Medications
Deductible Savings

 

PERSONAL ITEMS CATEGORIES

Personal is a “catch-all” category which may contain much of your discretionary spending!  Some of the most common types you need to include:

Haircuts/Manicures/Pedicures
Life Insurance
Child Care/Babysitting
Toiletries (if not included in your grocery budget above)
Household Items (if you did not already include in your groceries budget above)
Education/Tuition
Dry Cleaning/Laundry
School Dues/Supplies
Magazines
Gym Memberships
Organization Dues
Postage
Pet Care (food, grooming, shots, boarding)
Photos (school and family photos)
Random Spending (always useful as a way to pay for the things you may not have broken out in your budget)

 

RECREATION

We all love to spend some time doing things we love.  Don’t forget to include your entertainment category when determining your budget.

Entertainment (movies/concerts)
Crafts
Hobbies
Parties
Vacations

 

DEBTS

Once you pay off your debt, these will go away entirely and will no longer be needed.  You can learn how to get out of debt and get started with that (once you have your budget).

Credit Cards (all debt)
Unsecured loans
Home equity loans
Student loans
Medical loans

 

Now you have the categories you need for your budget!  Take the first step in getting control of your finances by putting this to work for you.

caclulator on desk to figure budget categories

The post The Ultimate List of More Than 50 Budget Categories You Must Use appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

Advantages And Disadvantages of Money Market Accounts

Saving money in a place like a money market account can assure that the money will be there safely when you need it. A money market account is an alternative to savings account, and usually pays more interest rate than a savings account.

See, Money Market Vs. Savings Accounts: What’s The Difference.

Overall, money market accounts are worth it, especially if you’re saving for a short-term goal. However, like any investments, there are some disadvantages to money market accounts. 

In this article we will address three main things: what is a money market account and what are the advantages and disadvantages of money market accounts.

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What is a money market account?

Before we get to the advantages and disadvantages of money market accounts, it’s best to define what a money market account is.

A money market account is an interest bearing account that you can open at a bank or credit union. It is more like a savings account, though there are some key differences.

Money Market Accounts Advantages and Disadvantages.

Advantages

Let us consider the advantages of money market accounts.

Interest rate: The main benefit of a money market account is that the interest rate is much higher than that of a regular savings account. For example, CIT bank offers a money market account with 1.00% APY. Whereas the interest rate for a typical savings account is anywhere around 0.10%. MMAs interest rates are similar to those of certificate of deposits. The main difference, however, with a CD you earn a fixed interest for a fixed amount of time. And CD rates are higher than MMAs. And a penalty may apply if you withdraw your money early.

FDIC Insured. One of the benefits of money market accounts is that they are FDIC insured. Your money is secured by the federal government of up to $250,000. If you have more money than that, then you will need to open another account so all of your money can be protected.

To recap, money market accounts are FDIC insured, they offer higher interest rates than savings accounts, and they permit check writing privileges. Despite these many advantages, money markets also have disadvantages.

What are the disadvantages of a money market account?

Minimum balance: Most money market accounts require a minimum deposit account of $1,000. Although, that’s not a big amount, it may not be feasible for a young saver. Plus, a penalty will apply if your balance falls below the minimum requirement.

Limited check writing: While MMAs offer check writing privileges, there is a limit. With a money market account, you can only write six checks per month against your balance, which can be a disadvantage if you pay a lot of bills every month. So, money market accounts are a disadvantage for those who need to write more than six checks per month. 

Account fees: Another disadvantage of money market accounts is the fee. If you don’t maintain the required minimum balance, a fee will apply. So, maintaining the minimum balance is important because any fee will eat out your interest or earnings.

Taxes: Taxes are another disadvantage of money market accounts. You will pay taxes on whatever interest you earn in a MMA.

Inflation: just like taxes and account fees can reduce your interest, inflation can do the same thing. Let’s suppose you generate a 3% return on your money market account per year, and the inflation is 4%. That can impact your total return significantly.

Best Money Market Accounts

CIT Bank Money Market Account

The CIT Bank money market account is one of the best ones out there. Currently, the money market account offers a 1.0% APY.

This is very competitive comparing to other MMAs.  Moreover, CIT Bank’s MMA has a required account minimum of only $100.

Open a CIT Bank Money Market Account.

Bottom line:

While money market accounts offer several benefits, there are disadvantages as well. The main disadvantages are that the minimum balance can be high for a young investor. Moreover, taxes and account fees can eat away whatever interest you might earn. 

Related: 

  • 7 Best Short-Term Bonds to Buy in 2020
  • Vanguard CD Rates: How Much Can You Earn
  • Grow Your Money: Mutual Funds & CDs

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

  • If you have questions about your finances, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc).
  • Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.
*TOP CIT BANK PROMOTIONS*
PROMOTIONAL LINK OFFER REVIEW
CIT Bank Money Market 1.00% APY Review
CIT Bank Savings Builder 0.95% APY Review
CIT Bank CDs 0.75% APY 1 Year CD Term Review
CIT Bank No Penalty CD 0.75% APY Review

The post Advantages And Disadvantages of Money Market Accounts appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

How COVID-19 is Affecting Auto Loans

COVID-19 is having a massive impact on the global economy and very few industries have been untouched by it. If your business relies on employees working in a physical space and profits only when people are willing to shop and spend, there’s no escaping it. 

It’s no surprise, therefore, that the auto industry has been so negatively affected. In a recent guide, we looked at the many auto loan relief options that manufacturers offering in light of the coronavirus. In this guide, we’ll highlight the ways this industry has been stung by the pandemic and look at what it means for the future of the US automobile and car financing sectors.

How is the Coronavirus Affecting Car Sales?

The automobile manufacturing industry experienced a minor surge at the beginning of 2020 but COVID-19 began to impact sales heavily in March. Many companies, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors included, began the year with strong momentum behind them, but March hit them hard and negated all the gains made during the first two months.

Both of these companies recorded losses for the first quarter of 2020, with Fiat Chrysler losing 10% in total.

Toyota, one of America’s biggest manufacturers, also recorded massive losses for March, with daily sales dropping by nearly a third during this month.

All of this is to be expected. The US has yet to announce the sort of national lockdowns we have seen in countries like the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, and Greece, but many citizens are in self-isolation, countless businesses have shut their doors, and there are fewer cars on the road as a result.

Combine this with the fact that people are losing their jobs and worrying about their futures, and it’s easy to see why car sales have been affected so severely. 

What are Manufacturers Doing About It?

Automobile manufacturers have moved quickly to stem the rising tide of financial devastation caused by COVID-19. Fiat Chrysler, for instance, is offering improved auto loan conditions to convince consumers to make sizeable purchases and keep the wheels turning. It has also made it easier to purchase a car for those in self-isolation or lockdown.

You can now buy a Fiat Chrysler online, with options for trade-ins, auto loans, and pretty much everything else you would get when buying in person.

They’re making it easier for you to buy because they need you to make that commitment. At the same time, the production of many new vehicles has been halted.

While some plants and showrooms are still open in the United States, Europe has experienced an almost continent-wide shutdown, leading to a decreased demand. 

Manufacturers are also anticipating that things will get worse, as many experts predict that the USA will experience a spread similar to that of Spain and Italy.

How Has COVID-19 Hurt the Automobile Industry?

We have already touched upon some of the ways that COVID-19 has impacted the automobile industry, but the problem goes far beyond people not being able to make it to their local showrooms. Furthermore, if events in Europe are anything to go by, the problems will only get worse and it could be several years before the automobile sector recovers.

Here are a few reasons the industry has been hit hard:

Uncertainty

There is a genuine fear that the COVID-19 pandemic will remain for all of 2020 and even beyond that. It seems unlikely that it will last for that long, but if the country doesn’t go into lockdown and a vaccine isn’t produced, it’s possible. 

With this in mind, many consumers are putting off buying new cars out of fear that they simply won’t need them. New cars depreciate rapidly and can lose 20% in the first year. What’s the point of spending $30,000 on a new car if it will be worth $24,000 by the time you actually get behind the wheel?

Struggling Stock Markets

The stock market doesn’t just impact big companies and investors. It also affects average American families who have their money tied into savings accounts, stocks, and pensions. Savers have lost a lot of money and are worried that they’ll lose even more in the near future, making buying a $30,000+ vehicle incredibly reckless. 

Price of Gas

One of the few things that the automobile industry has on its side is the price of fuel, which has plummeted in the past few weeks. The problem is, no one cares about the price of fuel when they’re stuck inside the house worrying about their health and their jobs.

Closed Plants

Automotive plants can’t simply shut down for a few weeks and then start up again when everything has cleared up. Many plants were already struggling to keep things together and once production stops and their profits disappear, they may close down entirely, taking hundreds, if not thousands of jobs with them. 

Bottom Line: Car Sales After COVID-19

It’s highly likely that the hard times will continue for the manufacturing industry. As the coronavirus continues to spread across the country, manufacturing plants will struggle to retain employees, showrooms will shut, and fewer Americans will be willing to pay the $30,000+ required for a new vehicle.

Whether this impacts the future price and availability of automobiles remains to be seen, but it’s highly likely that we’ll see some massive changes in this industry. America’s best-loved manufacturers will lose millions and could be sent to the brink of financial destruction, while many salespersons and mechanics will likely lose their jobs as demand drops and garages/showrooms close down. 

 

How COVID-19 is Affecting Auto Loans is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

The 5 Best Financial New Year’s Resolutions

Change has to start somewhere, and for many people that change is easier to make if the starting point has some meaning. It can be a birthday, an anniversary, or any other date with some symbolic weight. Most commonly, people choose the beginning of the new year.

If you’re looking for some New Year’s resolutions that will truly change your life, consider adjusting your financial strategy. Here are five things you can do in 2021 to take your money game to the next level.

Refinance Loans

Interest rates are at near-historic lows, which makes this the perfect time to refinance your debt. Refinancing means switching your loans from your current lender to a new lender in order to take advantage of a lower interest rate. Refinancing can save you thousands of dollars, depending on the original interest rate and total balance.

 For example, let’s say you have a $200,000 30-year mortgage with a 5% interest rate, and you refinance to a 3% interest rate. Your monthly payment will be $244 lower, and you’ll save $31,173 in total interest over the life of the loan. 

You can refinance auto loans, personal loans, and even student loans. However, if you have federal student loans, you may want to hold off on refinancing. Refinancing a federal student loan converts it into a private student loan. This means you’ll give up extra perks and benefits like income-driven repayment plans and deferment and forbearance options.

Transfer Credit Card Debt

If you have credit card debt, you can pay less interest by transferring the balance to a new card with 0% APR on balance transfers. These special discounts usually last between 12 to 18 months, during which time you won’t be charged interest on the credit card balance.

For instance, let’s say you have a $5,000 balance on a card with a 17% APR. If you only make the minimum payments, you’ll pay $1,223.61 in total interest. If you transfer that balance to a card with 0% APR for 12 months and repay the balance in that time, you won’t pay any interest.

There is often a small fee associated with balance transfers, around 3% of balance transfers. For example, if you transfer $5,000, you’ll pay a $150 fee. That still leaves a net savings of $1,073.61 in the scenario outlined above.

Decrease Your Fixed Expenses

One of the best things to do for your budget in 2021 is to decrease fixed expenses like your car insurance, internet, cable, and cell phone. Call those providers and try to negotiate a lower rate.

 Go through your transactions for the past few months and write down all the recurring subscriptions like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and DoorDash. Then, group them into categories like “frequently use,” “sporadically use” and “rarely use”. Consider canceling anything you rarely use.

 See if you can get a better deal on your most popular subscriptions. For example, if you and your significant other both pay for Spotify Premium, get a Spotify Duo account instead, and save yourself $83.88 a year.

Open a Better Bank Account

Most people are missing out on an easy way to earn money through your bank account. You could be leaving hundreds of dollars on the table if you still have a traditional savings account.

According to the FDIC, the current average interest rate on a savings account is 0.05%. Many high-yield savings accounts offer rates between .40% and .60%. 

Let’s say you have $10,000 in a savings account with .05% interest. After one year, you’ll have earned $5.04 in interest. If you moved that amount to a high-yield savings account with .5% interest, you would earn $49.92 in interest over that same time period.

Start Investing

If you’re not investing for retirement yet, this might be the most important financial resolution you can make. Thanks to the power of compound interest, you can start investing now and see huge growth by the time you’re ready to retire.

IRAs and 401(k)s are the two main retirement accounts. Anyone can open an IRA, while only those who have access to an employer-sponsored 401(k) can open one.

 If you’re not sure how to invest in your retirement account, consider hiring a qualified financial planner through the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA).

If you’re not ready to work with a financial planner, you can use a robo advisor like Betterment or Wealthfront, which will create a portfolio based on your age, income, and expected retirement age. Robo advisors have low fees and are designed to help beginner investors.

How to Keep Financial Resolutions

First, start small. Pick one habit to change at a time. If you try to accomplish five goals at once, you’ll burn out quickly and give up. 

When you decide on a resolution, break it up into smaller, more manageable tasks. For example, if your goal is to talk to a financial planner about investing, break it down into the following steps:

1) Research financial planners through NAPFA

2) Send introductory emails to three financial planners

3) Choose the one that seems like the best fit

4) Schedule a consultation

Give yourself a deadline to accomplish each of these tasks, and ask a friend to hold you accountable.

Another tip is to tie your resolutions to a bigger goal. Like dieting or starting a new exercise plan, changing your financial habits is hard. If you’re used to grabbing lunch with your co-workers every day, bringing leftovers from home instead will seem like a huge change.

The key is to imagine the future version of yourself who will benefit from the changes you make today. If your goal is to open and contribute to a retirement account, imagine yourself as a senior citizen living comfortably.

When you’re tempted to skip this month’s retirement contribution to buy concert tickets, think about your future self, what you’d want for them and how they would appreciate your sacrifice. It can also help to remember some of the financial mistakes you’ve made in the past, and how much easier your life would be right now if you had made a different choice.

The post The 5 Best Financial New Year’s Resolutions appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Should I Cash Out My 401k to Pay Off Debt?

Paying off debt may feel like a never-ending process. With so many potential solutions, you may not know where to start. One of your options may be withdrawing money from your retirement fund. This may make you wonder, “should I cash out my 401k to pay off debt?” Cashing out your 401k early may cost you in penalties, taxes, and your financial future so it’s usually wise to avoid doing this if possible. When in doubt, consult your financial advisor to help determine what’s best for you.

Before cashing out your 401k, we suggest weighing the pros and cons, plus the financial habits you could change to reduce debt. The right move may be adjusting your budget to ensure each dollar is being put to good use. Keep reading to determine if and when it makes sense to cash out your 401k.

How to Determine If You Want to Cash Out Your Retirement

How to Determine If You Want to Cash Out Your Retirement

Deciding to cash out your 401k depends on your financial position. If debt is causing daily stress, you may consider serious debt payoff plans. Early withdrawal from your 401k could cost you in

Deciding to cash out your 401k depends on your financial position. If debt is causing daily stress, you may consider serious debt payoff plans. Early withdrawal from your 401k could cost you in taxes and fees as your 401k has yet to be taxed. Meaning, the gross amount you withdraw from your 401k will be taxed in full, so assess your financial situation before making a decision.

Check Your Eligibility

Depending on your 401k account, you may not be able to withdraw money without a valid reason. Hefty medical bills and outstanding debts may be valuable reasons, but going on a shopping spree isn’t. Below are a few requirements to consider for an early withdrawal:

  • Financial hardships may include medical expenses, educational fees, bills to prevent foreclosure or eviction, funeral expenses, or home repairs.
  • Your withdrawal is lower or exactly the amount of financial assistance you need.

To see what you may be eligible for, look up your 401k documentation or reach out to a trusted professional.

Assess Your Current Financial Situation

Sit down and create a list of your savings, assets, and debts. How much debt do you have? Are you able to allocate different funds towards debts? If you have $2,500 in credit card debt and a steady source of income, you may be able to pay off debt by adjusting your existing habits. Cutting the cord with your TV, cable, or streaming services could be a great money saver.

However, if you’re on the verge of foreclosure or bankruptcy, living with a strict budget may not be enough. When looking into more serious debt payoff options, your 401k may be the best route.

Calculate How Much of Your Retirement Is at Risk

Having a 401k is crucial for your financial future, and the government tries to reinforce that for your best interest. To encourage people to save, anyone who withdraws their 401k early pays a 10 percent penalty fee. When, or if, you go to withdraw your earnings early, you may have to pay taxes on the amount you withdraw. Your tax rates will depend on federal income and state taxes where you reside.

Say you’re in your early twenties and you have 40 years until you’d like to retire. You decide to take out $10,000 to put towards your student loans. Your federal tax rate is 10 percent and your state tax is four percent. With the 10 percent penalty fee, federal tax, and state tax, you would receive $7,600 of your $10,000 withdrawal. The extra $2,400 expense would be paid in taxes and penalties.

The bottom line: No matter how much you withdraw early from your 401k, you will face significant fees. These fees include federal taxes, state taxes, and penalty fees.

What Are the Pros and Cons?

What Are the Pros and Cons?

Before withdrawing from your 401k, there are some pros and cons to consider before cashing out early.

Pros:

  • Pay off debt sooner: In some cases, you may pay off debt earlier than expected. By putting your 401k withdrawal toward debt, you may be able to pay off your account in full. Doing so could help you save on monthly interest payments.
  • Put more towards savings: If you’re able to pay off your debt with your early withdrawal, you may free up your budget. If you have extra money each month, you could contribute more to your savings. Adding to your savings could earn you interest when placed in a proper account.
  • Less financial stress: Debt may cause you daily stress. By increasing your debt payments with a 401k withdrawal, you may save yourself energy. After paying off debt, you may consider building your emergency funds.
  • Higher disposable income: If you’re able to pay off your debts, you may have more financial freedom. With this freedom, you could save for a house or invest in side hustles.

Cons:

  • Higher tax bill: You may have to pay a hefty tax payment for your withdrawal. Your 401k is considered gross income that’s taxed when paid out. Your federal and state taxes are determined by where you reside and your yearly income.
  • Pay a penalty fee: To discourage people from cashing out their 401k, there’s a 10 percent penalty. You may be charged this penalty in full.
  • Cut your investment earnings: You gain interest on money you have stored in your 401k. When you withdraw money, you may earn a lower amount of interest.
  • Push your retirement date: You may be robbing your future self. With less money in your retirement fund, you’ll lower your retirement income. Doing so could push back your desired retirement date.

6 Ways to Pay Off Debt Without Cashing Out Your 401k

6 Ways to Pay Off Debt Without Cashing Out Your 401k

There are a few ways to become debt-free without cutting into your 401k. Paying off debt may not be easy, but it could benefit your future self and your current state of mind. Work towards financial freedom with these six tips.

1. Negotiate Your Credit Card Interest Rates

Call your credit card customer service center and ask to lower your rates on high-interest accounts. Look at your current interest rate, account history, and competitor rates. After researching, call your credit card company and share your customer loyalty. Follow up by asking for lower interest rates to match their competitors. Earning lower interest rates may save you interest payments.

2. Halt Your Credit Card Spending

Consider restricting your credit card spending. If credit card debt is your biggest stressor, cut up or hide your cards to avoid shopping temptations. Check in on your financial goals by downloading our app for quick updates on the fly. We send out weekly updates to see where you are with your financial goals.

3. Put Bonuses Towards Your Debt

Any time you get a monetary bonus, consider putting it towards debts. This could be a raise, yearly bonus, tax refund, or monetary gifts from your loved ones. You may have a set budget without this supplemental income, so act as if you never received it. Without budgeting for the extra income, you may feel less tempted to spend it.

4. Evaluate All Your Options for Paying Down Debt

If you’re in dire need to pay off your debts, look into other accounts like your savings or emergency fund. While money saved can help in times of need, your financial situation may be an emergency. To save on early withdrawal taxes and fees, you can borrow from savings accounts. To cover future emergency expenses, avoid draining your savings accounts entirely.

5. Transfer Balances to a Low-Interest Credit Card

If high-interest payments are diminishing your budget, transfer them to a low-interest account. Compare your current debt interest rates to other competitors. Sift through their fine print to spot any red flags. Credit card companies may hide variable interest rates or fees that drive up the cost. Find a transfer card that works for you, contact the company to apply, and transfer over your balances.

6. Consider Taking Out a 401k Loan Rather than Withdrawing

To avoid early withdrawal fees, consider taking out a 401k loan. A 401k loan is money borrowed from your retirement fund. This loan charges interest payments that are essentially paid back to your future self. While some interest payments are put back in your account, your opportunity for compounding interest may slightly decrease. Compounding interest is interest earned on your principal balance and accumulated interest from past periods. While you may pay a small amount in interest fees, this option may help you avoid the 10 percent penalty fee.

As your retirement account grows, so does your interest earned — that’s why time is so valuable. While taking out a 401k loan may be a better option than withdrawing from your 401k, you may lose out on a small portion of compounding interest. When, or if, you choose to take out a 401k loan, you may start making monthly payments right away. This allows your payments to grow interest and work for you sooner than withdrawing from your 401k.

This type of loan may vary on principle balance, interest rate, term length, and other conditions. In most cases, you’re allowed to borrow up to $50,000 or half of your account balance. Some accounts may also have a minimum loan balance. This means you’ll have to take out a certain amount to qualify. Interest rates on these loans generally charge market value rates, similar to commercial banks.

Pulling funds from your retirement account may look appealing when debt is looming over you. While withdrawing money from your 401k to pay off debt may help you now, it could hurt you in taxes and fees. Before withdrawing your retirement savings, see the effect it could have on your future budget. As part of your strategy, determine where you’re able to cut out unnecessary expenses with our app. Still on the fence about whether withdrawing funds is the right move for you? Consult your financial advisor to determine a debt payoff plan that works best for your budgeting goals.

The post Should I Cash Out My 401k to Pay Off Debt? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com