What Happens When You Earn 75 Cents and Spend $1

Did you know that for every 75 cents the U.S. government is taking in, it spends $1?  Further, if this continues, within ten years the 75 cents will be used to pay just the interest on the debt.  Shame on the government — but wait, shame on all of us as this is exactly what we are doing with our personal finances. That’s why the average person reaching age 65 still has a mortgage, still has credit card debt, and is still worried about retirement.

The solution to all this nonsense is to spend less than we make.  I challenge you to do this for one month and see how great you feel at the end of it! Then try to see if you can do it for two months and so on until you are saving 10 percent of your income each month.  To accomplish this you must build a plan to spend your money differently.  Go to www.moneymastery.com and sign up for the select program.  Use the online software to build three plans:  Spending, Debt and Retirement.  Then look at how all three can be worked on at the same time. For more information and help, please contact me: peter@moneymastery.com

How to Live a Long Life and Love It

One of the secrets to living a long and happy life is to save 10 percent of your income for the rest of your life.  If a person can save 10 percent of their income when they are a teenager, they are smart.  If a person can save 10 percent while going to college and not incur student loans, they are brilliant.  If a person can save 10 percent up and through their working years and into retirement, they are an absolute genius.  Which one are you?

Take the example of a person you work with who always comes to a scheduled meeting late.  That is just them.  They are late, late, late all the time!  Ask yourself why?  To me it is a habitual thing.  They just don’t plan to be early. 

So it is with money. Many people just don’t plan to save as much as they should. Why is it that most people don’t have money saved for an emergency? To me it is a habitual thing.  They just never got in the habit of doing it, so they have no plan to secure it. In addition, they don’t save money into the right categories. Not only should you be saving 10 percent of your income, but you should split that savings into three categories:

  • Emergencies
  • Emotional
  • Long-term (Retirement)   

Nothing will derail a long-term retirement plan quicker than putting all your eggs into a deferred investment program where you have no access to liquid funds. Break off some of your savings into a liquid passbook savings account that you can get at in case of an emergency, because they are guaranteed to happen. If you have nothing with which to replace the broken water heater, for example, you will put that expense on a credit card and incur further debt. Piled up debt will eat into all that long-term retirement money when it comes time to withdraw it. And on top of that, it’s not likely that the conservative funds you are invested in with your 401(k) or other IRA program are going to give you a rate of return greater than the rate of interest you are paying on your debt.

Another event that’s sure to happen will be emotional spending, where you spend money for nothing more than pleasure or impulse. There is nothing wrong with this, if you have planned for it, because this impulsive spending is bound to happen to all of us. The problem is when you don’t have any money saved for such events in an emotional savings account. You see a  new pair of shoes you really must have and purchase them on impulse with guess what — that’s right, your credit card. This kind of spending without a liquid savings plan to account for it will, just like emergencies, pile up debt to the point that your retirement income is in jeopardy.

Breaking old habits — like not putting any money away or worse yet, not putting that money into the right savings categories — is hard to do.  But it can become easier if you forecast yourself into retirement and envision what it will be like if you haven’t saved for emergencies, emotional needs, and long-term goals.

We all can learn new tricks, even if we are old dogs.  Don’t give up. Read the book, MONEY:  What Financial “Experts” Will Never Tell You” for some great info on how to start saving today, even if it’s only 1 percent, and working your way up to the magical 10 percent amount — a savings amount that truly will affect whether you live a long and happy life, or not.

The U.S. Budget vs. a Family Budget

Following are some numbers showing how the U.S. government spends money. These are big numbers, so it’s pretty hard to get any kind of perspective on what they really mean to you personally:  

U.S. Government Spending

  • U.S. Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000
  • Federal budget: $3,820,000,000,000
  • New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000
  • National debt: $14,271,000,000,000
  • Recent [April] budget cut: $ 38,500,000,000

The Gainesville Tea Party has taken these very large numbers and given all of us a very simple way to wrap our heads around these complex figures by simply lopping off 8 zeros (i.e. divide by 100 million) to produce a “pretend” U.S. household budget correlated to the U.S. government’s budget:

Sample U.S. Household Spending (Correlated to Actual U.S. Government Figures):

  • Annual family income: $21,700
  • Money the family spent: $38,200
  • New debt on the credit card: $16,500
  • Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
  • Budget cuts: $385 (You can see once you take off all those zeroes, that in comparison to the U.S. budget cut, this doesn’t amount to much of a cut.)

If you or I tried to pull off the kind of financial insanity you can see the U.S. government is attempting, we would be forced into bankruptcy!  My experience shows 90 percent of all Americans over-spend their income.  This is why so very few people have enough money saved for retirement.  Keeping  our nation’s spending in mind, as shown above, check how you are doing.  Place your numbers alongside the sample U.S. household numbers above and see if you’re acting just as irresponsibly as the federal government. Make changes as needed.

For help in making those change go to www.moneymastery.com or send me an email:  peter@moneymastery.com.

How to Avoid Putting “Needs” Money at Risk as You Approach Retirement

As you prepare for retirement, you will undoubtedly want to accumulate the maximum amount of money and you will be tempted to use high-risk investments to do so.  Your reasoning is you have many years before you will need this retirement income, so even if the market were to drop substantially you have time for the market to return to higher and higher gains.  But this simply isn’t so.

The problem with this thinking is that things will be different as you approach the final ten years before retirement and just because another 10 to 15 years of work seems like a long time to you, it isn’t a long time in terms of the market. If it takes a downturn, 10 years will not be enough time to recoup losses.

To combat the temptation to take unnecessary risks as you get older, I caution you to change from an “accumulation” way of thinking to a “conservation of assets” way of thinking a good 10 years before you plan to retire.  It can be hard to change to a conservative way of thinking when you have been in the accumulation stage for so long — in my experience people work and save and put money at risk to get the highest possible return, all the while checking the market weekly for 40 years as they form a habit of watching. But this habit keeps people from changing as they grow older.

For example, if you see the leaves on trees drop and snow on the ground, you prepare for winter.  But old habits of investing in high-growth assets don’t show you strong enough signs like “snow on the ground” so you keep on doing the same thing you have done for years. But winter for some of us is coming, so now be the time to prepare for it by switching from accumulating money to beginning to conserve it.

Here is a graph that represents enough money to fulfill your basic needs at retirement.  Once these are covered with investments that are safe, then  “wants” money to put at risk to keep ahead of inflation on the “needs” money and provide income much later in retirement.

Wants are just that, WANTS, not must haves. If you continue to stay fully invested in market-risk assets with all of your money as you approach and enter retirement age, chances are the downturns will destroy your ability provide the needs you will have for your entire life.   

It’s always wise to change investing habits with the seasons of your life.  Be alert and put it on the calendar so you change the way you invest and save your money about 10 years before retirement. Pulling out some of the crop by harvesting the seed and storing it away to protect it is always safer than continuing to harvest and replant all of your seed every year. Doing so puts everything you’ve worked so hard for at terrible risk. Okay, so you won’t make as much if you harvest some of the crop and put it away for safe keeping as  you would if you kept reinvesting, but do you want to take those kinds of chances this late in the game? I don’t.

Make sure NEEDS are taken care of so you know how much assets you have left to fulfill WANTS, then take chances with that money.  Contact me with comments or questions:  peter@moneymastery.com

Why Insurance Premiums Keep Going Up…

Jeff Atwater is the chief financial officer of the state of Florida.  The numbers and issues he relates in the following letter will teach you why we all have to pay higher and higher insurance premiums. This kind of nonsense is happening all the time, in all the states.  Check out his letter then resolve to be on the look out to help curb this horrible cost.

Dear Friends,

As swirling conversations about rising insurance rates continue in Tallahassee, I’d like to talk with you about one reason for those rises that may not be top of mind:  fraud.

The FBI estimates that the total annual cost of insurance fraud in our country tops $40 billion, and that doesn’t even include health insurance fraud. When you break that number down, it comes out to roughly $500 per family per year in increased premiums.

There are as many types of insurance fraud as there are types of insurance, and crooks seem to always find a way to cheat the system.

Our insurance fraud and arson investigators recently ran across an outrageous case that outlines just how bold some of these criminals can be and just how quickly thousands of dollars can be stolen.

Late last year, a man from Orange County reported that his car, a 2016 Toyota Camry, had been stolen in the state of New York. A terrible ordeal, but it happens and that’s what insurance is for.

Imagine the man’s surprise when just a few months later, his car is found on fire near Orlando. He’d already filed an insurance claim worth $10,000, and when the local fire department asked our arson investigators to look into the cause of the blaze, they quickly became suspicious.

As the story unfolded, the man ultimately confessed that he paid someone $300 to destroy his car and to make sure it was never seen again. Why would anyone do that? Maybe he was tired of making his payments or perhaps he wanted a different car to drive. Whatever the reason, the fact remains: By stealing from his insurance company, he’s causing all of our insurance rates to rise.

Now he faces 20 years in jail, but the reality is that this sort of thing happens frequently.

It happens when people intentionally inflict damage to their homes or when they stage automobile accidents. It happens when employers cheat their way out of paying proper premiums for workers’ compensation. It even happens when people fake injuries to get out of going to work.

Insurance is a business just like any other, and insurance companies can’t afford to absorb $40 billion in fraud without raising prices.

I think we can all agree that no one enjoys paying more for their policies, and we must all do our part to help stop this cost driver.

If you see something that looks suspicious, say something. Our investigators are doing a great job, but they can’t be everywhere all the time. If you think there’s something they should look into, give us a call…

We’ll keep working, and I hope you’ll keep your eyes peeled.

Sincerely,

Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

When Did the Concept of “Retirement” Come to Be?

As you can well imagine, the idea of “retirement” did not exist in Roman times, nor medieval times, and certainly not when Pilgrims discovered America.  What about during the days of Lewis & Clark?  Or when the wild West was being settled?  History teaches us that a Roman peasant had to fight for food every day of their life.  A peasant could not even fathom taking life easy, sitting back to watch the evening news, or going out to eat and taking in a movie. How could an English Lord even conceive of “retiring?” He had to manage a kingdom and train new knights to protect him and his vassal serfs.

Some examples of newly created words, along with the idea of “retirement” in the last 100 years include:

  • Internet
  • World wide web
  • iPhone
  • Light bulb
  • Polyester
  • DVD
  • Contact lens

We have seen so many advances in technology and medical care in the last century that we have a lot more time on our hands than anyone born before the turn of the last century. That extension of life plus all that time we have available has been the reason the idea of retirement even exists.  “Retirement” is a new concept, only around since just before World War II broke out. Up until 1920, most people died before they reached the age of 60, so retirement wasn’t even an option.  When people started to live past age 65, some elderly folks started to save money for when they could no longer work, and thus the concept of retirement was born.

Four problems came along with this new concept. The first problem is outliving your income. Today 92 percent of everyone who is retired is totally dependent upon their Social Security benefit.

A second huge problem is inflation.  Just use your Web browser to see what one gallon of milk cost 20 years ago and you will be shocked.  You will most likely need to double the money you think is needed at retirement, because of inflation.

A third problem is continual taxation.  As you take money from you retirement savings plan to live, this income is taxed and can cause Social Security benefits to be subject to income tax as well.

A fourth gigantic problem is the cost of medical, long-term care and nursing home expenses.  The national average shows costs for a retired couple for medical/nursing care is $250,000 before they die.  This kind of cost is eating up all possible savings most people manage to squirrel away for retirement.  When all resources have been exhausted, the surviving spouse becomes destitute and is classified as being on welfare.

Considering these four problems, now is the time to decide what “retirement” means to you and whether you will be able to make that vision a reality. You have heard about the importance of planning for retirement your entire life, while those who lived before 1920 did not even have an inclination of what that meant. Before it’s too late, define what you want to happen when you reach age 65 because unlike your grandpa and great grandpa you will likely live longer than 60 years, so you will need to be prepared for that long life and how you want to live it.  It’s never too late to get going on this.  Go to moneymastery.com and sign up for the Basic online training package and see for yourself how much money you need to be saving for retirement, or calculate how long your money will last. For more help, contact me directly: peter@moneymastery.com.

Know the Rules about Your Privacy… Or Lack Thereof

Money Mastery Principle 5 teaches: Know the Rules. In this post, I will illustrate the importance of knowing the rules when it comes to your financial privacy.

Following is a redacted privacy policy that you will notice is pretty much the same as every other privacy statement you have ever come across.  At the top the publisher will reference federal law that gives consumers the right to limit sharing of their personal information, “but not all sharing.”  

What this means is that federal law allows marketing to you at every level unless you know the entity’s particular rules of privacy and take action against them.  Examine this privacy notice and you will see you can only limit three things:

  1. “Our affiliates’ everyday business purposes;
  2. “Our affiliates to market to you; and
  3. “Non-affiliates to market to you.” 

Neither you nor I can maintain the actual privacy of our personal information!  Pretty much anyone can use your Social Security number and income, account balances and payment history, and transaction or loss history and credit scores.   This is horrible!

Okay, but you may say, “but look, they provide a phone number to call and ask to limit your information towards the bottom of the notice.”  My response to that is, “so what?”  Look at all the ways they can still share and sell your information off to so many other marketing organizations!!

Research shows that the vendor can sell your information off for some small fee.  Let’s use 17 cents for each purchase of your private information.  I use 17 cents because if you go to buy qualified information this is a standard rate that’s often used. Run the calculations:  This vendor sells your private information once a day for the entire year.  This means your personal information just paid the vendor $62 that year.  In other words, your personal Social Security number, income and payment history, and credit scores just made them a profit of $62.  Now can you see why you get so much junk mail?  Can you see why you get spammed and marketed all day long?

Can you do anything about junk mail offers?  You cannot stop them.  If you send the offer back as “return mail” and tell them to stop then they know this is a good address and will keep sending marketing materials.

Can you do anything about marketing offers through your email? You can block the sender and even report spam, but surely they are smarter than all that reporting.  All they have to do is move your personal information over to a new URL and start again.

What is the worth of federal law limiting your privacy?  I think it is not worth the paper it is printed on.  Nevertheless, I still make the phone calls and limit what I can and feel you should, too.  There needs to be more discussion and further legislation to prohibit this travesty. While not much can be done at this point, at least knowing the rules will put you in a position to take action and try to fix problems when the opportunity arises. Not knowing the problems prevents you from doing anything about them should the chance ver arise. 

Take Caution: Read Disclosure Notices on Investment Projections Before You Sit Back on Your Retirement Laurels

Following is a typical disclosure notice you might see at the end of an investment report. Take the time to read this disclosure,  you might be surprised what you find:

If a numerical analysis is shown, the results are neither guarantees nor projections, and actual results may differ significantly.  Any assumptions as to the interest rates, rates of return, inflation, or other values are hypothetical and for illustrative purposes only.  Rates of return shown are not indicative of any particular investment, and will vary over time.  Any reference to past performance is not indicative of future results and should not be taken as a guaranteed projection of actual returns from any recommended investment.

If you reviewed a report that said your retirement is going to be adequate but then get to the small print at the bottom of the report and it says, “Any assumptions as to the interest rates, rates of return, inflation, or other values are hypothetical and for illustrative purposes only,” how should you feel? How much credence can you place in the numbers from such a report when planning your future?  For example, if an assumed interest rate went from 5% to 3% in real time as you are saving for retirement, you might run out of money with 12 years left to live!

Or let’s say you use the past 40-year average market gains to forecast your future income and then read, “Any reference to past performance is not indicative of the future results.” You probably aren’t going to feel super confident about what your direction is going to be.

Of course we need to plan and project, using the best tools available, but how can you do any of those projections given all the unknowns?

In my experience, the best way to use forecasting projections is to keep track of each year’s projections and review from year to year.  As the years go by you can watch out for adjustments that will surely force some changes.  This way when something isn’t quite working out like you forecasted, you adjust. It’s the simple principle of tracking and you should be applying it when it comes to retirement funds, but what I have found is very few people do, only about 3 percent of us actually track and adjust each year.

Think of you being the navigator on an airplane.  As you fly from San Francisco to Dallas, you are seldom going straight to your destination because of wind and weather.  A navigator must keep adjusting and changing the course according to what affects the plane.  This is the same for each of us financially.  The forecasting is so important, but the adjusting to changes is critical.  So for the 97% of those who don’t forecast, they will not end up in Dallas, financially speaking, but probably Minneapolis.  I hope they like the colder north country. For information on how to create a more predictable retirement that you cannot outlive, contact me for a no cost consultation: peter@moneymastery.com.

What Happens to You Financially If Your Health Changes?

According to the Social Security Administration, 41 percent of all workers are required to retire earlier than planned due to a personal health problem — that’s four out of every 10 Americans. And the National Council on Aging has stated that about 91 percent of older Americans have at least one chronic health condition; another 73 percent have at least two.

What will you do if you’re one of the four out of 10 people who have to retire early?  How will you manage, and do you have enough money?  Get serious and create a plan based on the assumption that you might have this problem. After all, as stated above 91% of all seniors have a serious health problem — don’t gamble with those numbers and hope that whatever condition you get won’t keep you from working as long as you need to.  

Here are three things to do if you physically have to retire:

1.  Cut spending down to what money is available.

2.  Apply for Social Security benefits under handicapped status. This may take 6 months, but can help your income a lot.

3.  Stay mentally engaged with family, community and friends.

As you rearrange living expenses, this may lead you to consider downsizing your home.  This can help lower the cost of utilities and property taxes.  Think long-term when you are making these adjustments.

The Social Security administration has provided for those who get disabled at an age younger than 62.  This could be a source of income for the rest of your life.

When people finally retire, the most successful are those who stay actively engaged with the world.  They volunteer to make a contribution to the community around them.  By staying engaged, they are more alert and have a higher quality of life.

Plan for the event of bad  health and then if it doesn’t happen, you’ll still have the extra money plus you’ll have peace of mind, no matter what happens, and that is worth its weight in gold. peter@moneymastery.com.

Earn a $1,000 Credit for Saving…

The following information is taken directly from the IRS’s Web site on the Retirement Savings Contribution Credit (Saver’s Credit) program:

————————————————–

You may be able to take a tax credit for making eligible contributions to your IRA or employer-sponsored retirement plan.

You’re eligible for the credit if you’re:

  • Age 18 or older;
  • Not a full-time student; and
  • Not claimed as a dependent on another person’s return.

See the instructions for Form 8880, Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions, for the definition of a full-time student.

Amount of the credit

The amount of the credit is 50%, 20% or 10% of your retirement plan or IRA contributions up to $2,000 ($4,000 if married filing jointly), depending on your adjusted gross income (reported on your Form 1040 or 1040A). Use the chart below to calculate your credit.

*Single, married filing separately, or qualifying widow(er)

2017 Saver’s Credit

Credit Rate

Married Filing Jointly

Head of Household

All Other Filers*

50% of your contribution

AGI not more than $37,000

AGI not more than $27,750

AGI not more than $18,500

20% of your contribution

$37,001 – $40,000

$27,751 – $30,000

$18,501 – $20,000

10% of your contribution

$40,001 – $62,000

$30,001 – $46,500

$20,001 – $31,000

0% of your contribution

more than $62,000

more than $46,500

more than $31,000

The Saver’s Credit can be taken for your contributions to a traditional or Roth IRA; your 401(k), SIMPLE IRA, SARSEP, 403(b), 501(c)(18) or governmental 457(b) plan; and your voluntary after-tax employee contributions to your qualified retirement and 403(b) plans.

Rollover contributions (money that you moved from another retirement plan or IRA) aren’t eligible for the Saver’s Credit. Also, your eligible contributions may be reduced by any recent distributions you received from a retirement plan or IRA.

Example: Jill, who works at a retail store, is married and earned $37,000 in 2016. Jill’s husband was unemployed in 2016 and didn’t have any earnings. Jill contributed $1,000 to her IRA in 2016. After deducting her IRA contribution, the adjusted gross income shown on her joint return is $36,000. Jill may claim a 50% credit, $500, for her $1,000 IRA contribution.

In my experience, anytime you can get “free” money, go for it.  There are many people making less than $36,000 a year and to receive a $1,000 credit for saving $2,000 can make a big difference over 10 and 20 years.  In the above example for Jill, she is trying to save 10 percent of her annual income every year, so in her case that’s $3,600. When she adds this $1,000 credit to that annual 10 percent savings and keeps this money safe over 30 years it will grow to $265,000.  That’s a little over a quarter of a million dollars and an average annual growth rate of 8 percent! 

This may not seem to be a big deal, but a “free” $1,000 a year for someone making $30-35,000 annually, is like getting a 33 percent bonus.  If you will prepare a Get Out of Debt report and a Spending Plan using the Money Mastery tools, you will find even more money.  The younger you start, the better it will be.  Contact me for more information: peter@moneymaster.com.