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

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.

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.

Spend All Your Money on Paper so You Can See How to Create a Cash Surplus

We all want more money, but how can you make that happen?

First make a list of why you want more money.  Be comprehensive and make sure you don’t leave anything out.  Dream big and write down as much detail as you can so when you refer back to your list, you will be reminded of all these wonderful things.  Do this now.

Second, write down all the income sources, assets and other resources you have available to spend on this list.  Remember one of your assets is time, time to work extra hours, and time to get a better education and improve your ability to make more money.

Third, subtract the money you have from the list of wants and see if you come up short. This is the amount of money you need to find, learn how to earn, or acquire by selling an asset.

Let’s solve this money shortage problem right now.  In the illustration above let the circle represent all the money you will ever have in your lifetime.  Now you don’t know how long you will live, but just let this circle be the total amount of money you will have.  Don’t be critical of yourself for past mistakes in investments, don’t deride yourself for not getting more education, and don’t get depressed, just stay focused on this activity to the end.  I promise you will soon have more money.

Since this circle represents ALL the money you will ever have, why not spend it?  Use your list of wants and spend your money.  Take a slice of the circle and spend it on food and housing.  Then do the same for medical and dental expenses.  Spend some for vacations and fun activities.  Don’t use a monetary figure, just a percetage, like 1.5% for example.  Slice up your total money supply pie until it is all spent.  Don’t forget transportation costs and travel.  Now sit back and examine the money picture you have just drawn.  Remember you can have anything you want, you just can’t have everything you want.  So if you are a physician and will make $9,000,000 over your working life, you will not be able to spend more than that much money.

Your action item now, something for you to do immediately, is to take your “pie of money,” totaling all the money you will ever have, and spend it is such a way as to have a surplus and accomplish the essential goals of your life.  Don’t just spend it all, spend it so as to have a surplus. Doing this little exercise will help you see where you are spending money foolishly or help you see what you may need scale back on so that you can have a small surplus each month.

 Here are three case histories to put your “pie of money” into perspective in terms of creating a surplus:  The first case study is about a schoolteacher who lives in the mountains of Missouri making $23,000 annually.  She has debt and saves $300 each month.  The second study comes from Florida where he is a plastic surgeon making $100,000 a month, but has over-committed on leasing his building, equipment, plane and automobiles, so when he was called out of military reserves to serve a one year commitment in Afghanistan (making $29,000 a year), this forced him to have to file bankruptcy.  The third case history is a retired 87-year-old woman who lives in Stockton, California successfully living on $1,022 a month. We can see from each of these stories that it matters not how much you make but what you do with your money that counts. The school teacher isn’t making much and has debt but she still manages to create a surplus every month so she can save $300. The doctor is living large and has now lost that massive income on foolish living. He could have amassed a huge surplus by now but has spent it all. The elderly woman on a fixed income is managing her money by being smart about the way she spends so she has money to live on. Donald Horban taught this essential concept:

“We don’t need to increase our goods nearly as much as we need to scale down our wants.  Not wanting something is as good as possessing it.” 

Our financial peace of mind is to learn that a rich person is not one who has the most, but one who needs the least.

Don’t be discouraged, even though in my experience spending all your money on paper so you can see where you lack a cash surplus will be the hardest thing you will ever do.   Don’t procrastinate, create a circle representing your entire income of money and spend it.  Money is not the most important thing, but if you don’t have a surplus of it when you need it, it becomes really important.  I wish you all the very best! peter@moneymastery.com.

There Must Be Fun to Make the Hard Parts of Life Worth Living…

The Money Mastery system of personal financial management teaches that savings is actually just “delayed spending.” What this means is that all money is to be spent — some will be spent now, and the so-called “savings” we create will be spent later for future events.

So what kind of “delayed spending” accounts should we create? There are three:

  1. Long-term
  2. Emergency
  3. Emotional

The Long-term account is obvious — we need the most money here for the end of our life, when we stop working and hope to retire so we can do so comfortably.  I have written extensively about how to create this delayed spending account and I urge you to check out some of those posts here.

The Four C’s of Retirement Planning

How to Determine Retirement Needs Accurately

How You Define Retirement May Mean You Actually Get to Retire

The Emergency account is also obvious — problems crop up all the time and as I have tracked the emergencies my family has encountered it adds up to an average of $383 every month.  Because I have a historical picture of what life  has been like for our family through tracking, I just go ahead and set the $383 aside each month so I have this money to spend later when these emergencies arise BECAUSE THEY WILL HAPPEN JUST LIKE CLOCK WORK.  What about your family? Do you know what you need to set aside each month to plan for the inevitable?

The last account, Emotional, gets overlooked or in most cases has not even been considered as a needed delayed spending account.  But just like emergencies, the need for impulse spending for the sheer fun of it is bound to happen TO ALL OF US and if you’re not prepared for these events, you will spend money you do not have simply to fulfill an emotional need. And let’s face it, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with spending money impulsively, for no other reason than because you want to have fun and enjoy life — that is unless you have not prepared for it. Then spending money this way is what gets people into debt and keeps them that way for a long time.

My advice? If you don’t think you have much to set aside for emotional spending, start with a small amount like $25 for example. Put this away every month and then work your way up a little. That way, in a few months you have money that has been set aside only to be used when you want to do something fun on the spur of the moment. You can still pay your monthly bills while not depriving yourself or family members of the fun and enjoyment in life. Or let’s say you get a tax refund (which is something I suggest you not be getting every year but that’s a post for another time), but if you’ve gotten a recent tax return, I suggest you take a portion of that return, at least $500 of it and put it aside into a savings account to only be used when you want to do something fun on the spur of the moment. 

Now let’s spend this $500.  Let’s suppose that your spouse comes to you and tells of friends who went to a resort with natural hot water swimming pools.  He or she is sad and wishes your family could do something like this.  You spring into action and say, “Honey, let’s check our emotional account and see how much money we have.”  WOW, you have $500 and it would only cost $235 to do this same trip to the hot water pools.  All of a sudden your family gets to put some excitement back in life and together you have a wonderful family-bonding experience that provides happy memories for your children.

Not having money saved for emotional spending needs is like going on a diet and expecting to never eat another cookie or indulge in another ice cream cone again. Those kinds of diets do not work because they are too strict to give you the motivation you need to stay on them. Eating right is fine so long as you can splurge occasionally. The same goes for proper financial management. Fun times are needed every once in a while if you expect to stay on track. But, those fun times need to be properly funded, in advance.  Plan for emergencies, plan for retirement, but don’t forget to plan for emotional activities either.  Learn how by going to www.moneymastery.com.