How to Live Below Your Means

Living Below Your Means
Living Below Your Means

With rising prices ,ever increasing consumer wants, and it becomes more challenging for many individuals to live below their means. Credit card bills, keeping up with the Joneses, and other unnecessary expenses are among some of the reasons many individuals find it exceedingly hard to live below their means, finding themselves unable to spend less than the amount of money they are able to make each month. Continue reading

How to Save Money With Your Bank Account

As history has shown, a bank account isn’t always the best way to build a nest egg. Inflation and sub-par banking practices have forced many to adopt other mediums of finance such as cryptocurrencies. Many, however, still believe that their bank account is a secure medium for saving. To maximize the benefits of maintaining a bank account, several methodologies (albeit unconventional) must be adopted. Continue reading

How to Lower the Costs of Travel

Lowering the Costs of Travel
Lowering the Costs of Travel

Everyone loves to travel but not everyone can afford the luxury of time or the monetary costs of journeying through “unchartered” lands. With increasing competition in the travel industry, travel has become more affordable. With a few hours of desktop research, a few calls, and some good old budgeting, one can get ready for that next trip to Dubai. Continue reading

2018 Roth IRA Contribution Limits

2018 Roth IRA Contribution Limits

We all know that we should be saving for retirement.  Whether you have a 401k, a pension, or an IRA, retirement accounts give individuals great tax breaks to help them prepare for their golden years.  It is often reported that people misjudge how much they will need in retirement.  The rule of thumb for a long time has been you need your retirement income to supplement 80% of your income when you were working; however, this number is different for everyone based on a number of factors.  One thing is certain.  Maxing out your retirement accounts never hurts.  For 2017, the IRA contribution limits stayed the same as they were in 2016.  You could contribute up to $5,500 towards your IRA, and if you were 50 or older you can contribute an additional $1,000 bringing your total yearly contribution limit to $6,500.  The 2018 Roth IRA contribution limits won’t be released until October of this year, but we can speculate what they might be.

Each year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sets the income and contribution limits for IRA’s.  The last year that the IRS raise the contribution limit was for the tax year of 2013.  The contribution amounts for traditional and Roth IRA’s are the same each year.  They are evaluated and raised based on inflation.  The IRS will raise contribution limits in increments of $500.  This means that the next time they are raised, people under the age of 50 will be able to contribute a maximum of $6,000 a year to their IRA, while people over the age of 50 will be able to most likely contribute $7,000 a year.  In order for this raise in contribution limits to take place, inflation would need to be around 9% over a period of time for this to occur.

9% of $5,500 = $495

This would be near the $500 increment level the IRS would like to see to raise the contribution limits.

Since the last time the IRS raised contribution limits in 2013, inflation has risen by about 6.5% based on data tables.  This means that another 2.5% increase in inflation would be needed for the IRS to raise the contribution limits for traditional and Roth IRA’s.  With all of this being said, the most likely scenario is that 2018 Roth IRA contribution limits will remain unchanged.  A more likely scenario would be a raise in the contribution limits for 2019.

Despite the fact that the 2018 Roth IRA contribution limits won’t change, the IRS will still probably change some limits.  The limit they will change, and almost always do, is the income limits associated with eligibility for participation in IRA’s.  For 2017, the IRS raised the income phase-out limit to $118,000 for single earners and $186,000 for married, joint filling earners, raises of $1,000 and $2,000 respectively.

There are still many months to wait until the IRS reveals their 2018 Roth IRA contribution limits.  An increase in the limit would allow individuals to save an additional $500 a year in a tax-advantaged account.  Although an increase is doubtful, we can still remain hopeful.

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

Financial Spring Cleaning

Spring is finally here, regardless of whether it feels like it outside or not.  Around this time of year, many see it as their obligation to go through their homes and rid themselves of unnecessary items that clutter the place up.  The idea that a clean and happy dwelling is a rebirth and a new start.  Why not take this same approach to your finances?

At the start of every calendar year, I always suggest creating a new budget for the upcoming year.  Mapping out your income and expenses presents saving opportunities and fiscal responsibility.  We are now almost three months into the new year and expenses sometimes change.  That is why I always do a financial spring cleaning.  Below are my favorite three ways to do a financial spring cleaning:

Financial Spring Cleaning Tip 1:  This first tip is directly related to a normal spring cleaning of the house people already do.  Go through your closet and determine which clothes you don’t need anymore.  Maybe you have shoes you don’t wear, pants you’ve outgrown, DVD’s you no longer watch because of a Netflix subscription.  Or a lot of cravats and bow ties that are now out of style, or men’s bracelets that you aren’t using any more.

Gather up these items and donate them to a local shelter like The Salvation Army.  Not only will you eliminate these useless items from your place, but you will be giving to those who could benefit from such items.  The best part about all of this is most of the times you can receive a tax deduction for your donations.  This can lead to a higher income tax return for the 2017 year.

Financial Spring Cleaning Tip 2:  Clean out unnecessary clutter in your budget.  For example, maybe at the beginning of the year you signed up for a gym membership you no longer use.  Cancel it.  Go through the various categories in your budget and see if they are relevant to the remainder of the year going forward.  Perhaps you dedicated a portion of your budget to pay off debt, but now you no longer have that debt.  Eliminate that category.  Eliminating categories in your budget makes it simpler and much easier to read and track.

Financial Spring Cleaning Tip 3:  Review the dollar allocations in your budget.  Say at the beginning of the year you were eating out lunch every day, but now you realize the many health benefits and cost savings of bringing your lunch to work.  See if you can slash $30-$50 a month off your food budget.  Shop around for car insurance.  Perhaps you find the same coverage with a different company for $15 less a month.  Eliminating a little bit of money from a few categories adds up and helps boost your savings potential.

Financial spring cleaning allows you to revamp your finances for the remainder of the year.  Even if you haven’t done a good job of sticking to your budget, it is never too late.  A financial spring cleaning can allow you to set up your financial priorities for the remainder of the year and gives you a clear financial conscious heading into the spring and summer months.

Diworsification: How Much Diversification is too Much or Little?

Image result for diversification
Diworsification

When I was picking stocks, I saw my portfolio lose 15% of its value in one day.  Simply put, I had too many of my eggs in one basket or too many of my investment dollars in one stock.  I wasn’t diversified.  Sure, I could hit it big with a stock, but I could also lose.  I saw the amount of time I was spending on picking stocks and knew it could be put to better use if I let the professionals handle my money.

My portfolio was under diversified, but many people also suffer from too much diversification of their portfolio or diworsification.  Diworsification occurs when you continually invest in the same asset class and keep your risk low but hurt your overall return potential.  It would be the equivalent of investing in many different mutual funds that only contained U.S. stocks.  If you want exposure to the U.S. domestic stock market that is great, I highly recommend it, but pick a fund that gives you just that and move on.

My investment strategy has come a long way from my earlier days when I was picking and choosing stocks.  I thought just like many that I could pick homerun stocks that nobody else could.  I did well on some and poorly on others.  I would come home every day from work and watch Jim Cramer’s show Mad Money.  I soon realized that the effort I was putting in wasn’t yielding the rewards I desired.  I quickly shifted all my investments to a mutual fund.  Being young, I knew I wanted a large exposure to stocks.  What better stocks to invest in than the U.S. Stock Market?  Warren Buffett has been noted to say that when he passes he wants the remainder of his fortune put into a low-cost index fund that mirrors the S&P 500.  That’s right, just one fund.  If he wanted his fortune to be spread across many funds that mirrored the S&P 500 he would be subject to diworsification.  I decided to follow Warren’s advice.

While my investment dollars are placed into a single low-cost Index fund that mirrors the U.S. Stock Market, not everyone will agree with this position, and that is fine.  Investment advice can be given to you from a hired professional or you can decide on your own.  My knowledge came about through the reading of numerous books.  If you want to invest in South America, there are funds for that.  If you want exposure to corporate bonds, there are funds for that.  If you think that the pharmaceutical sector is the next big thing, then by all means find a fund that suits you for that investment.  There are many ways you can invest your hard-earned money, but try and keep to the One and Done Philosophy when investing in mutual funds to prevent diworsification: Pick one mutual fund that covers the class or sector you are wanting exposure to and leave it at that.  Not only does it simplify your portfolio, but it keeps you diversified and away from diworsification.