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Money Confidence Podcast Episode 9: The Blunt Truth About Financial Compatibility Before Marriage

Personal Money Trainer, author and speaker, Crystal Oculee, empowers women to get money confident with tips, advice, stories and special guest interviews. From the basics of budgeting to getting to the bottom of retirement vehicles – you’ll get insightful information you can turn into major savings and smart investments!

LISTEN  ON ITUNES: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/episode-9-blunt-truth-about-financial-compatibility/id1208123298?i=1000384439560

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL LEARN:

  • Ways To Have The “Money Talk” With Your Significant Other (Without It Turning Into A Fight)
  • One Common Mistake Couples Make
  • Why Having The Money Dialogue Can Avoid Other Painful “Talks” In The Future
  • Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Avoid Talking About Money
  • How To Identify Financial Red Flags Before Marriage
  • Financial Questions To Ask Your Partner In Any Stage Of Your Relationship
  • Bonus: The Budget Game (A Fun Way To Start The Dialogue)

Don’t Stop Here – Check Out These FREE Tools!  

LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

Money Issues That Concern Married Couples
http://www.pljincome.com/money-issues-that-concern-married-couples/

Top 5 Financial FAQ for Married Women
http://www.pljincome.com/top-5-faq-married-women/

Merging Your Money When You Marry
http://www.pljincome.com/merging-money-marry/

What To Do When a Saver Marries a Spender
http://www.pljincome.com/what-to-do-when-a-saver-marries-a-spender/

 

Get to Know Crystal – and Email Her With Questions! (She might answer it on the podcast.)

AskCrystal@PLJincome.com

http://www.pljincome.com/crystal-oculee/

 

If you like our Money Confidence Podcast, be sure to leave a review on iTunes!

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I get so many credit card reward offers. How do I know which one to choose?

Credit card reward programs are more popular than ever. In order to keep up with such high demand in a competitive market, credit card companies are coming up with new and more enticing offers every day. How do you know which one to choose?


Are you the type of credit card user who likes to travel and/or frequent a particular hotel or airline?


If so, then a travel rewards credit card might be the right option for you. Typically, a travel rewards card allows you to earn points (sometimes referred to as miles, depending on the card) for every purchase you make on the card.

Typically, cards offer a reward that is equal to 1% of your purchase, which means that for every $100 you spend, you will earn 1 point or mile. Some credit card companies offer even greater incentives, such as double points for specific types of purchases or bonus points when you open up an account.

Before signing up, however, be sure to read the fine print. Many travel rewards cards have specific rules that apply to point redemption and may charge a hefty annual fee.


Don’t want the hassle that sometimes goes along with redeeming points on a travel rewards card?


Consider a cash back rewards card. While not as thrilling as racking up points to take a trip to some far-off, exotic destination, cash back rewards cards may be better for individuals who aren’t frequent travelers and who tend to use credit cards for everyday purchases.

Most cash back rewards cards offer a flat cash reward on general purchases. Others offer higher rewards for different spending categories (e.g., dining or entertainment purchases). Consider your credit card spending habits to determine which cash back rewards card would be appropriate for you.

Finally, it’s important to remember that rewards cards work best when you pay off your account balance each month. Be sure to charge only what you can afford to pay off and avoid spending over your budget just to earn more rewards.

Otherwise, the unpaid balance you carry forward will create finance charges that may cancel out the value of any rewards you accumulate.

 

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Will vs Trust: Is One Better Than the Other?

When it comes to planning your estate, you might be wondering whether you should use a will or a trust (or both).

Understanding the similarities and the differences between these two important documents may help you decide which strategy is better for you.

What is a will?


A will is a legal document that lets you direct how your property will be dispersed (among other things) when you die.


It becomes effective only after your death. It also allows you to name an estate executor as the legal representative who will carry out your wishes.

In many states, your will is the only legal way you can name a guardian for your minor children. Without a will, your property will be distributed according to the intestacy laws of your state.

Keep in mind that wills and trusts are legal documents generally governed by state law, which may differ from one state to the next.

What is a trust?


A trust document establishes a legal relationship in which you, the grantor or trustor, set up the trust, which holds property managed by a trustee for the benefit of another, the beneficiary.


A revocable living trust is the type of trust most often used as part of a basic estate plan. “Revocable” means that you can make changes to the trust or even end (revoke) it at any time.

For example, you may want to remove certain property from the trust or change the beneficiaries. Or you may decide not to use the trust anymore because it no longer meets your needs.

A living trust is created while you’re living and takes effect immediately. You may transfer title or “ownership” of assets, such as a house, boat, automobile, jewelry, or investments, to the trust. You can add assets to the trust and remove assets thereafter.

How do they compare?

While both a will and a revocable living trust enable you to direct the distribution of your assets and property to your beneficiaries at your death, there are several differences between these documents.

Here are a few important ones.

  • A will generally requires probate, which is a public process that may be time-consuming and expensive. A trust may avoid the probate process.
  • In order to exclude assets from probate, you must transfer them to your revocable trust while you’re living, which may be a costly, complicated, and tedious process.
  • Unlike a will, a trust may be used to manage your financial affairs if you become incapacitated.
  • If you own real estate or hold property in more than one state, your will would have to be filed for probate in each state where you own property or assets. Generally, this is not necessary with a revocable living trust.
  • A trust can be used to manage and administer assets you leave to minor children or dependents after your death.
  • In a will, you can name a guardian for minor children or dependents, which you cannot do with a trust.

Which is appropriate for you?

The decision isn’t necessarily an “either/or” situation. Even if you decide to use a living trust, you should also create a will to name an executor, name guardians for minor children, and provide for the distribution of any property that doesn’t end up in your trust.

There are costs and expenses associated with the creation and ongoing maintenance of these legal instruments.

Whether you incorporate a trust as part of your estate plan depends on a number of factors. Does your state offer an informal probate, which may be an expedited, less expensive process available for smaller estates?

Generally, if you want your estate to pass privately, with little delay or oversight from a probate court, including a revocable living trust as part of your estate plan may be the answer.

 

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Four Things Women Need to Know about Social Security

Ever since a legal secretary named Ida May Fuller received the first retirement benefit check in 1940, women have been counting on Social Security to provide much-needed retirement income.

Social Security provides other important benefits too, including disability and survivor’s benefits, that can help women of all ages and their family members.

1. How does Social Security protect you and your family?

When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you’re paying for three types of benefits: retirement, disability, and survivor’s benefits.

Retirement benefits

Retirement benefits are the cornerstone of the Social Security program. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), because women are less often covered by retirement plans and live longer on average than men, they are typically more dependent on Social Security retirement benefits.*

Even if other sources of retirement income are exhausted, Social Security retirement benefits can’t be outlived. Many women qualify for benefits based on their own work record, but if you’re married, you may also qualify based on your spouse’s work record.

Disability benefits

During your working years, you may suffer a serious illness or injury that prevents you from earning a living, potentially putting you and your family at financial risk. But if you qualify for Social Security on your earnings record, you may be able to get monthly disability benefits.

You must have worked long enough in recent years, have a disability that is expected to last at least a year or result in death, and meet other requirements. If you’re receiving disability benefits, certain family members (such as your dependent children) may also be able to collect benefits based on your work record.

Because eligibility requirements are strict, Social Security is not a substitute for other types of disability insurance, but it can provide basic income protection.

Survivor’s benefits

You probably know the value of having life insurance to financially protect your family, but did you know that Social Security offers valuable income protection as well?

If you’re qualified for Social Security at your death, your surviving spouse (or ex-spouse), your unmarried dependent children, or your dependent parents may be eligible for benefits based on your earnings record.

You also have survivor protection if you’re married and your covered spouse dies and you’re at least age 60 (or at least age 50 if you’re disabled), or at any age if you’re caring for your covered child who is younger than age 16 or disabled.

2. How do you qualify for benefits?

When you work in a job where you pay Social Security taxes or self-employment taxes, you earn credits (up to four per year, depending on your earnings) that enable you to qualify for Social Security benefits.

In 2017, you earn one credit for each $1,300 of wages or self-employment income. The number of credits you need to qualify depends on your age and the benefit type.

  • For retirement benefits, you generally need to have earned at least 40 credits (10 years of work). However, you may also qualify for spousal benefits based on your spouse’s work history if you haven’t worked long enough to qualify on your own, or if the spousal benefit is greater than the benefit you’ve earned on your own work record.
  • For disability benefits (if you’re disabled at age 31 or older), you must have earned at least 20 credits in the 10 years just before you became disabled (different rules apply if you’re younger).
  • For survivor’s benefits for your family members, you need up to 40 credits (10 years of work), but under a special rule, if you’ve worked for only one and one-half years in the three years just before your death, benefits can be paid to your children and your spouse who is caring for them.

Whether you work full-time, part-time, or are a stay-at-home spouse, parent, or caregiver, it’s important to be aware of these rules and to understand how time spent in and out of the workforce might affect your entitlement to Social Security.

3. What will your retirement benefit be?

Your Social Security retirement benefit is based on the number of years you’ve worked and the amount you’ve earned. Your benefit is calculated using a formula that takes into account your 35 highest earnings years.

If you earned little or nothing in several of those years, it may be to your advantage to work as long as possible, because you may have the opportunity to replace a year of lower earnings with a year of higher earnings, potentially resulting in a higher retirement benefit.


Your benefit will also be affected by your age at the time you begin receiving benefits. If you were born in 1943 or later, full retirement age ranges from 66 to 67, depending on the year you were born. Your full retirement age is the age at which you can apply for an unreduced retirement benefit.


However, you can choose to receive benefits as early as age 62, if you’re willing to receive a reduced benefit. At age 62, your benefit will be 25% to 30% less than at full retirement age (this reduction is permanent).

On the other hand, you can get a higher payout by delaying retirement past your full retirement age, up to age 70. If you were born in 1943 or later, your benefit will increase by 8% for each year you delay retirement.

For example, the following chart shows how much an estimated monthly benefit at a full retirement age (FRA) of 66 would be worth if you started benefits 4 years early at age 62 (your monthly benefit is reduced by 25%), and how much it would be worth if you waited until age 70–4 years past full retirement age (your monthly benefit is increased by 32%).

Benefit at FRA Benefit at age 62 Benefit at age 70
$1,000 $750 $1,320
$1,200 $900 $1,584
$1,400 $1,050 $1,888
$1,600 $1,200 $2,112
$1,800 $1,350 $2,376

What if you’re married and qualify for spousal retirement benefits based on your spouse’s earnings record? In this case, your benefit at full retirement age will generally be equal to 50% of his benefit at full retirement age (subject to adjustments for early and late retirement). If you’re eligible for benefits on both your record and your spouse’s, you’ll generally receive the higher benefit amount.

One easy way to estimate your benefit based on your earnings record is to use the Retirement Estimator available on the SSA website. You can also visit the SSA website to sign up for a my Social Security account so that you can view your personalized Social Security Statement.

This statement gives you access to detailed information about your earnings history and estimates for disability, survivor’s, and retirement benefits.

4. When should you begin receiving retirement benefits?

Should you begin receiving benefits early and receive smaller payments over a longer period of time, or wait until your full retirement age or later and receive larger benefits over a shorter period of time? There’s no “right” answer..

It’s an individual decision that must be based on many factors, including other sources of retirement income, your marital status, whether you plan to continue working, your life expectancy, and your tax picture.


As a woman, you should pay close attention to how much retirement income Social Security will provide, because you may need to make your retirement dollars stretch over a long period of time.


If there’s a large gap between your projected expenses and your anticipated income, waiting a few years to retire and start collecting a larger Social Security benefit may improve your financial outlook. What’s more, the longer you stay in the workforce, the greater the amount of money you will earn and have available to put into your overall retirement savings.

Another plus is that Social Security’s annual cost-of-living increases are calculated using your initial year’s benefits as a base–the higher the base, the greater your annual increase, something that can help you maintain your standard of living throughout many years of retirement.

This is just an overview of Social Security. There’s a lot to learn about this program, and each person’s situation is unique. Contact a Social Security representative if you have questions.

Do you want to learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits?

We can help. Set up a call by clicking here or calling (310) 824-1000.

 

 

Important Disclosure

*Social Security Administration Publication–What Every Woman Should Know, Updated August 2016

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What It Means to Be a Financial Caregiver for Your Parents

If you are the adult child of aging parents, you may find yourself in the position of someday having to assist them with handling their finances.

Whether that time is in the near future or sometime further down the road, there are some steps you can take now to make the process a bit easier.

Mom and Dad, can we talk?

Your first step should be to get a handle on your parents’ finances so you fully understand their current financial situation. The best time to do so is when your parents are relatively healthy and active. Otherwise, you may find yourself making critical decisions on their behalf in the midst of a crisis.

You can start by asking them some basic questions:

  • What financial institutions hold their assets (e.g., bank, brokerage, and retirement accounts)?
  • Do they work with any financial, legal, or tax advisors? If so, how often do they meet with them?
  • Do they need help paying monthly bills or assistance reviewing items like credit-card statements, medical receipts, or property tax bills?

Make sure your parents have the necessary legal documents

In order to help your parents manage their finances in the future, you’ll need the legal authority to do so. This requires a durable power of attorney, which is a legal document that allows a named individual (such as an adult child) to manage all aspects of a person’s financial life if he or she becomes disabled or incompetent.


A durable power of attorney will allow you to handle day-to-day finances for your parents, such as signing checks, paying bills, and making financial decisions for them.


In addition to a durable power of attorney, you’ll want to make sure that your parents have an advance health-care directive, also known as a health-care power of attorney or health-care proxy.

An advance health-care directive will allow you to make medical decisions according to their wishes (e.g., life-support measures and who will communicate with health-care professionals on their behalf).

You’ll also want to find out if your parents have a will. If so, find out where it’s located and who is named as personal representative or executor. If the will was drafted a long time ago, your parents may want to review it to make sure their current wishes are represented.

You should also ask if they made any dispositions or gifts of specific personal property (e.g., a family heirloom to be given to a specific individual).

Prepare a personal data record

Once you’ve opened the lines of communication, your next step is to prepare a personal data record that lists information you might need in the event that your parents become incapacitated or die.

Here’s some information that should be included:

  • Financial information: Bank, brokerage, and retirement accounts (including account numbers and online user names and passwords, if applicable); real estate holdings
  • Legal information: Wills, durable powers of attorney, advance health-care directives
  • Medical information: Health-care providers, medication, medical history
  • Insurance information: Policy numbers, company names
  • Advisor information: Names and phone numbers of any professional service providers
  • Location of other important records: Social Security cards, home and vehicle records, outstanding loan documents, past tax returns
  • Funeral and burial plans: Prepayment information, final wishes

If your parents keep some or all of these items in a safe-deposit box or home safe, make sure you can gain access. It’s also a good idea to make copies of all the documents you’ve gathered and keep them in a safe place.

This is especially important if you live far away, because you’ll want the information readily available in the event of an emergency.

Don’t be afraid to get support and ask for advice

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the task of handling your parents’ finances, don’t be afraid to seek out support and advice. A variety of local and national organizations are designed to assist caregivers.

If your parents’ needs are significant enough, you may want to consider hiring a geriatric care manager who can help you oversee your parents’ care and direct you to the right community resources.

Finally, consider discussing the specifics of your situation with a professional, such as an estate planning attorney, accountant, and/or financial advisor. Click here to get more information from our affiliate company PLJ Advisors.

 

Important Disclosure
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Converting Retirement Savings to Retirement Income

You’ve been saving diligently for years, and now it’s time to think about how to convert the money in your traditional 401(k)s (or similar workplace savings plans) into retirement income. But hold on, not so fast. You may need to take a few steps first.

Evaluate your needs

If you haven’t done so, estimate how much income you’ll need to meet your desired lifestyle in retirement.

Conventional wisdom says to plan on needing 70% to 100% of your annual pre-retirement income to meet your needs in retirement; however, your specific amount will depend on your unique circumstances.

First identify your non-negotiable fixed needs — such as housing, food, and medical care — to get clarity on how much it will cost to make basic ends meet. Then identify your variable wants — including travel, leisure, and entertainment.

Segregating your expenses into needs and wants will help you develop an income strategy to fund both.

Assess all sources of predictable income

Next, determine how much you might expect from sources of predictable income, such as Social Security and traditional pension plans.

➢ SOCIAL SECURITY

At your full retirement age (which varies from 66 to 67, depending on your year of birth), you’ll be entitled to receive your full benefit.

Although you can begin receiving reduced benefits as early as age 62, the longer you wait to begin (up to age 70), the more you’ll receive each month.

You can estimate your retirement benefit by using the calculators on the SSA website, ssa.gov. You can also sign up for a my Social Security account to view your Social Security Statement online.

➢ TRADITIONAL PENSIONS

If you stand to receive a traditional pension from your current or a previous employer, be sure to familiarize yourself with its features.

For example, will your benefit remain steady throughout retirement or increase with inflation?

Your pension will most likely be offered as either a single life or joint-and-survivor annuity. A single-life annuity provides benefits until the worker’s death, while a joint-and-survivor annuity generally provides reduced benefits until the survivor’s death.1

If it looks as though your Social Security and pension income will be enough to cover your fixed needs, you may be well positioned to use your other assets to fund those extra wants.

On the other hand, if your predictable sources are not sufficient to cover your fixed needs, you’ll need to think carefully about how to tap your retirement savings plan assets, as they will be a necessary component of your income.

Understand your savings plan options

A key in determining how to tap your retirement plan assets is to understand the options available to you.


According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), only about one-third of 401(k) plans offer withdrawal options, such as installment payments, systematic withdrawals, and managed payout funds.2


And only about a quarter offer annuities, which are insurance contracts that provide guaranteed income for a stated amount of time (typically over a set number of years or for the life expectancy of the participant or the participant and spouse).3

Plans may allow you to leave the money alone or require you to take a lump-sum distribution. You may also choose to roll over the assets to an IRA, which might offer a variety of income and investment opportunities, including the purchase of annuity contracts.

If you choose to work part-time in retirement, you may be allowed to roll your assets into the new employer’s plan. Determining the right way to tap your assets can be challenging and should take into account a number of factors.

These include your tax situation, whether you have other assets you’ll use for income, and your desire to leave assets to heirs.

A financial professional can help you understand your options. Click here to get more information from our affiliate company PLJ Advisors.

If you need an unbiased second opinion on your retirement income plan, we can help. Call (310) 824-1000 or click here to request a call back.

 

Important Disclosure

1 Current law requires married couples to choose a joint-and-survivor annuity unless the spouse waives those rights.
2 “401(k) Plans: DOL Could Take Steps to Improve Retirement Income Options for Plan Participants,” GAO Report to Congressional Requesters, August 2016
3Generally, annuity contracts have fees and expenses, limitations, exclusions, holding periods, termination provisions, and terms for keeping the annuity in force. Most annuities have surrender charges that are assessed if the contract owner surrenders the annuity. Qualified annuities are typically purchased with pre-tax money, so withdrawals are fully taxable as ordinary income, and withdrawals prior to age 59½ may be subject to a 10% penalty tax. Any guarantees are contingent on the claims-paying ability and financial strength of the issuing insurance company. It is important to understand that purchasing an annuity in an IRA or an employer-sponsored retirement plan provides no additional tax benefits other than those available through the tax-deferred retirement plan.

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Money Confidence Podcast Episode 8: The Blunt Truth About The Female Financial Paradox

Personal Money Trainer, author and speaker, Crystal Oculee, empowers women to get money confident with tips, advice, stories and special guest interviews. From the basics of budgeting to getting to the bottom of retirement vehicles – you’ll get insightful information you can turn into major savings and smart investments!

LISTEN  ON ITUNES: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ep8-the-blunt-truth-about-the-female-financial-paradox/id1208123298?i=1000383322207

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL LEARN:

  • How to Open The “Money” Dialogue
  • Why Budgeting Is One of the Pillars To A Healthy Relationship
  • Why You Should Never Ignore Your Female Intuition
  • Why Financial Literacy Is Essential… Or This Could Happen To You

Don’t Stop Here – Check Out These FREE Tools!  

LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

Top 5 Financial FAQ for Married Women
http://www.pljincome.com/top-5-faq-married-women/

Merging Your Money When You Marry
http://www.pljincome.com/merging-money-marry/

What To Do When a Saver Marries a Spender
http://www.pljincome.com/what-to-do-when-a-saver-marries-a-spender/

What’s Lattes Got to Do With It? Easy Budgeting for Your Future
http://www.pljincome.com/easy-budgeting-stop-spending-more-on-cofee-than-your-retirement/

Joy-Based Budgeting—Is There Such A Thing?
http://www.pljincome.com/joy-based-budgeting

Money Diary Lite
http://www.pljincome.com/money-diary-lite-form/

Female Financial Paradox — What is it?
http://www.pljincome.com/female-financial-paradox-what-is-it/

Get to Know Crystal – and Email Her With Questions! (She might answer it on the podcast.)

AskCrystal@PLJincome.com

http://www.pljincome.com/crystal-oculee/

 

If you like our Money Confidence Podcast, be sure to leave a review on iTunes!

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Money Issues That Concern Married Couples

Marriage is an important step in anyone’s life and brings many challenges with it. One of those challenges is the management of your finances as a couple.

The money decisions that you make now as a couple can have a lasting impact on your financial future together. Careful planning of your finances can ensure that together, you achieve financial success.

1. Budgeting your money

► In general

When you were single, you managed your finances in a way that was comfortable for you and that you understood–no one had to approve or disapprove of your financial decisions.

Now that you are married, however, both you and your spouse have to agree on a system for budgeting your money and paying your bills.

► Discuss financial situations

You and your spouse must discuss your respective financial situations and expectations, and take stock of your individual assets (what you own) and liabilities (what you owe).

Revealing your financial situation is an important step when budgeting as a couple. If either of you has a financial problem, it is best to identify it now and begin solving it together.


This is the time to address questions such as what do each of you earn, and what additional sources of income do you have? What do you own? Will both of you work now that you are married?


Who will hold title to property acquired before and after the wedding? In addition, be sure to disclose all of your financial commitments. If you pay child support, let your partner know the amounts. If you have to repay student loans, discuss that as well.

► Discuss financial goals

After you discuss your financial situations, you should discuss your financial goals. You can start by each making a list of your short- and long-term financial goals.

Short-term goals are those that can take anywhere from three to five years (e.g., saving for a down payment on a home or a new car). Long-term goals are those that take more than five years to achieve (e.g., saving for a child’s college education or retirement).

When you have each determined your individual financial goals, you should review your goals together to achieve common objectives.

You can then focus your energy on those common objectives and strive to attain those goals (short- and long-term) together.

► Decide on the type of bank account(s) you will keep

Decide whether you and your spouse will have separate bank accounts or a joint account.

Advantages to consolidating your checking funds into one account include easier record-keeping, reduced maintenance fees, less paperwork when you apply for a loan, and simplified money management.

If you do choose to keep separate accounts, consider opening a joint checking account for household expenses.

Caution: When sharing a checking account, be sure to keep track of how much money is in the account at all times since both of you will be writing checks that draw from the same account.

► Prepare an annual budget

The first step in developing a financial future together as a couple is to prepare an annual budget.

The budget will be a detailed listing of all your income and expenses over the period of a year.

You may want to designate one spouse to be in charge of managing the budget, or you can take turns keeping records and paying bills.

Tip: Make sure that you develop a record-keeping system that both you and your spouse understand. Also, keep your records in a joint filing system so that you can easily locate important documents.

  • Begin with your sources of income–list salaries and wages, alimony and child support, interest, and any other form of income that you and your spouse may have.
  • List your expenses. It may be helpful to review several months’ worth of entries in each of your checkbooks to be sure that you include everything. Put all the expenses that are paid monthly into one category, and put all other expenses (every other month, quarterly, semiannually, annually) into another. Some common expenses are:
  • Savings
  • Rent or mortgage payments
  • Student loan payments
  • Groceries
  • Pet care
  • Utilities
  • Car payments
  • Credit card payments
  • Alimony/child support
  • Household items
  • Personal care/grooming
  • Major purchases
  • Insurance
  • Car repairs
  • Clothing
  • Tax payments
  • Medical expenses
  • Gifts
  • Automobile gas
  • Child day care
  • Entertainment/dining out
  • Estimate your expenses for each category. How much money do you spend on these items on a monthly basis and on an annual basis? Try to come up with a realistic amount for what you think you will spend in a year’s time. Add another category to the irregular expenses list, and call it Contingencies. This can be a catchall category for expenses that you might not anticipate or budget for. The amount to budget for contingencies should be about 5 percent of your total budget.
  • Add your sources of cash and uses of cash on an annual basis. Hopefully, you get a positive number, meaning that you are spending less than you are earning. If not, review your expense list to determine where you can cut your spending. Consider using computer spreadsheets or programs like Quicken for assistance.

► Create a cash flow system

After you have developed a budget, you should create a system for managing your monthly inflow and outflow of cash.


It is a good idea for both you and your spouse to become involved in this process–at least at first–so that both of you have a clear understanding of the costs of running the family and household.


Cash flow systems like the one described below are simple and painless to operate.

Once they are established, you will find that making financial decisions becomes much easier because you have done your homework.

  • Separate your regular monthly expenses from irregular expenses (every other month, quarterly, semiannually, annually) by using a different bank account for each. Otherwise, you may be tempted to use money that has been earmarked for something else. You should limit the number of checking accounts that you have in order to avoid confusion.
  • Each time you get paid, deposit some money into an account for irregular expenses. The amount of money you deposit should be equal to the total amount needed for the irregular expenses, divided by the number of paychecks you each receive annually. In so doing, you will have the money for the outlay when it arises. The rest of your pay should go into your checking account, to be used for regular monthly expenses and savings.
  • One variation to this system of cash flow management is to establish one or two additional bank accounts for one or both of you for personal spending money. Allocate the budgeted amount for personal expenses (e.g., lunches, haircuts, gifts) to this account. This way, you are free to spend the money in this account in any way you like without having to worry about meeting regular monthly expenses. However, all of these bank accounts may have fees.

2. Saving and investing your money

► In general

At some point in your married life, you will almost certainly encounter some large expenditures, such as a new home, your own business, or a college education for your children.

Chances are, you won’t be able to meet these expenditures from your current income. You and your spouse must discipline yourselves to set aside a portion of your current income for saving and investing your money to ensure its steady growth or, at the very least, protect it against loss.

► Save a percentage of your earnings

When figuring out your budget, savings should be considered one of your monthly expenses. Think of savings as a fixed payment (like a car payment) that must be made every month.

If you don’t and you wait until the end of the month to save whatever you have not spent, you’ll find that nothing ever seems to go into your savings account.

A good rule of thumb is for you and your spouse to save 4 to 9 percent of your combined gross earnings while you are in your 20s and then double that savings percentage as you reach your 30s and 40s.

In some cases, a dual-income couple may be able to live off one spouse’s salary and save the other salary.


Example(s): Mary and Richard, a married couple in their 20s, earn a combined annual gross income of $60,000. Together, Mary and Richard save 5 percent of their combined gross income each year, or $3,000.

Example(s): As another example, Christine and Tom, a married couple in their 30s, earn a combined annual gross income of $80,000. Together, Christine and Tom save 10 percent of their combined gross income each year, or $8,000.


► Build an emergency cash reserve

The savings that you accumulate can serve as an emergency cash reserve. Ideally, you should have in savings an amount that is comfortable for you to fall back on in case of an emergency, such as a job loss.

A common formula used for calculating a safe emergency fund amount is to multiply your total monthly expenses by 6. When determining how much cash should be in your emergency fund, a major factor is your comfort level.

If you and your spouse feel secure with your jobs and are confident that if you lost your current jobs you would be able to find a new one fairly quickly, an emergency fund of three times your monthly expenses should be sufficient.

However, if either of you has an unpredictable income, you may want to have an emergency fund that is equal to 12 times your monthly expenses.


Example(s): Christine and Tom, a married couple in their 30s, plan to build up an emergency cash reserve. Both Christine and Tom are attorneys and feel quite secure with their present jobs. Christine and Tom have monthly expenses of $3,000 and plan to build up an emergency cash reserve that is equal to 3 times their monthly expenses, or $9,000 ($3,000 x 3).

Example(s): As another example, Mary and Richard, a married couple in their 20s, plan to build up an emergency cash reserve. Both Mary and Richard are employed as freelance writers and feel that their incomes are at times unpredictable. Mary and Richard have monthly expenses of $1,500 and plan to build up an emergency cash reserve that is equal to 12 times their monthly expenses, or $18,000 ($1,500 x 12).


► Investing your money

When you have established an emergency cash reserve, you can begin to invest your money to target your financial goals.

There are three fundamental types of investments: cash and cash alternatives, bonds, and equities. Cash and cash alternatives are relatively low-risk investments that can be readily converted into currency, such as money market accounts.

Bonds, sometimes called debt instruments, are essentially IOUs; when you invest in a bond, you’re lending money to the bond’s issuer–usually a corporation or governmental body–which pays interest on that loan.

Because bonds make regular payments of interest, they are also known as income investments. Equities, or stocks, give you a share of ownership in a company.

You have the opportunity to share in the company’s profits and potential growth, which is why they’re often viewed as growth investments. However, equities involve greater risk than either cash or income investments.

With equities, there is no guarantee you will receive any income or that your shares will ever increase in value, and you can lose your entire investment.

In addition to these three basic types of investments–also known as asset classes–there are so-called alternative investments, such as real estate, commodities, and precious metals.


No matter what your investment goal, your overall objective is to maximize returns without taking on more risk than you can bear.


You’ll need to choose investments that are consistent with your financial goals and time horizon.

A financial professional can help you construct an investment portfolio that takes these factors into account.

Click here to get more information from our affiliate company PLJ Advisors.

3. Establishing good credit

► In general

Establishing good credit is an important step in the path towards a solid financial future. A good credit history can enable you to make credit purchases for items that you might not otherwise be able to afford.

Most creditors will require a good credit history before extending credit to you. If you do not have a credit history, it is important to establish one as soon as possible. If you have a poor credit history, you should take steps toward improving it right away.

► Individual or joint credit

Married couples can either apply for credit individually or jointly. One of the benefits of applying for joint credit is that both you and your spouse’s income, expenses, and financial stability are considered when a creditor evaluates your overall financial picture.

However, applying for separate credit has its advantages. If you and your spouse ever run into financial problems (e.g., illness or job layoff), separate credit allows one spouse to risk damaging his or her credit history while preserving the other spouse’s good credit.

In addition, separate credit can also protect you and your spouse from each other. If you and your spouse cosign a loan or apply for a credit card, you are both responsible for 100 percent repayment of the debt.

In other words, if your spouse does not pay his or her share, you can get stuck with paying the whole amount. On the other hand, if your spouse takes out a loan or applies for a credit card on his or her own, generally your spouse is solely responsible for the debt.

Tip: While the general rule is that spouses are not responsible for each other’s debts, there are exceptions.

Many states will hold both spouses responsible for a debt incurred by one spouse if the debt constituted a family expense (e.g., child care or groceries).

In addition, in some community property states, both spouses may be responsible for one spouse’s debts, since both spouses have equal rights to each other’s incomes.

You may want to discuss your state’s laws with an attorney if you live in a community property state.

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Spring Cleaning Your Finances

The arrival of spring often signifies a time of renewal, a reminder to dust off the cobwebs and get rid of the dirt and grime that have built up throughout the winter season. And while most spring cleaning projects are likely focused on your home, you could take this time to evaluate and clean up your personal finances as well.

Examine your budget..and stick with it

A budget is the centerpiece of any good personal financial plan. Start by identifying your income and expenses. Next, add them up and compare the two totals to make sure you are spending less than you earn. If you find that your expenses outweigh your income, you’ll need to make some adjustments to your budget (e.g., reduce discretionary spending).

Keep in mind that in order for your budget to work, you’ll need to stick with it. And while straying from your budget from time to time is to be expected, there are some ways to help make working within your budget a bit easier:

  • Make budgeting a part of your daily routine
  • Build occasional rewards into your budget
  • Evaluate your budget regularly and make changes if necessary
  • Use budgeting software/smartphone applications

Evaluate your financial goals

Spring is also a good time to evaluate your financial goals. Take a look at the financial goals you’ve previously set for yourself — both short and long term. Perhaps you wanted to increase your cash reserve or invest more money toward your retirement. Did you accomplish any of your goals? If so, do you have any new goals you now want to pursue? Finally, have your personal or financial circumstances changed recently (e.g., marriage, a child, a job promotion)? If so, would any of these events warrant a reprioritization of some of your existing financial goals?

Review your investments

Now may be a good time to review your investment portfolio to ensure that it is still on target to help you achieve your financial goals. To determine whether your investments are still suitable, you might ask yourself the following questions:

  • Has my investment time horizon recently changed?
  • Has my tolerance for risk changed?
  • Do I have an increased need for liquidity in my investments?
  • Does any investment now represent too large (or too small) a part of my portfolio?

All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there can be no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful.

Try to pay off any accumulated debt

When it comes to personal finances, reducing debt should always be a priority. Whether you have debt from student loans, a mortgage, or credit cards, have a plan in place to pay down your debt load as quickly as possible. The following tips could help you manage your debt:

  • Keep track of your credit card balances and be aware of interest rates and hidden fees
  • Manage your payments so that you avoid late fees
  • Optimize your repayments by paying off high-interest debt first
  • Avoid charging more than you can pay off at the end of each billing cycle

Take a look at your credit history

Having good credit is an important part of any sound financial plan, and now is a good time to check your credit history. Review your credit report and check for any inaccuracies. You’ll also want to find out whether you need to take steps to improve your credit history. To establish a good track record with creditors, make sure that you always make your monthly bill payments on time. In addition, you should try to avoid having too many credit inquiries on your report (these are made every time you apply for new credit). You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Visit annualcreditreport.com for more information.

Assess tax planning opportunities

The return of the spring season also means that we are approaching the end of tax season. Now is also a good time to assess any tax planning opportunities for the coming year. You can use last year’s tax return as a basis, then make any anticipated adjustments to your income and deductions for the coming year.

Be sure to check your withholding — especially if you owed taxes when you filed your most recent tax return or you were due a large refund. If necessary, adjust the amount of federal or state income tax withheld from your paycheck by filing a new Form W-4 with your employer.

 

Important Disclosure
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Money Confidence Podcast Episode 7: The Blunt Truth About Divorces Over 50

Personal Money Trainer, author and speaker, Crystal Oculee, empowers women to get money confident with tips, advice, stories and special guest interviews. From the basics of budgeting to getting to the bottom of retirement vehicles – you’ll get insightful information you can turn into major savings and smart investments!

LISTEN  ON ITUNES: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ep7-the-blunt-truth-about-divorces-over-50/id1208123298?i=1000382928404

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL LEARN:

  • How to avoid costly mistakes post-divorce
  • How to ask the hard questions pertaining to finance
  • Why keeping secrets about money can damage your marriage
  • What you can do to rebuild after divorce

Don’t Stop Here – Check Out These FREE Tools!  

LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

Divorce Survival Worksheet – Download This Important Divorce Checklist!  http://www.pljincome.com/getting-divorced-checklist/

Getting Divorced? Don’t Make These 4 Mistakes!  http://www.pljincome.com/you-need-to-do-this-now-if-getting-a-divorce/

Get to Know Crystal – and Email Her With Questions! (She might answer it on the podcast.)

AskCrystal@PLJincome.com

http://www.pljincome.com/crystal-oculee/

 

If you like our Money Confidence Podcast, be sure to leave a review on iTunes!