Annaâs email requesting help with her finances began with a unique confession.
âFarnoosh, my money problem garners little sympathy,â the 32-year-old wrote. âMy issue is that I make too much of it.â
Now, THIS is interesting, I thought. I immediately followed up with many questions.
Hereâs what I learned through our conversation:
The Denver-based Mint user earns $220,000 per year as an engineer. Annaâs also benefited from years of big bonuses and her net worth, not including her home equity, is close to a million dollars.
After paying taxes and health benefits and maxing out her 401(k), Anna takes home between $8,000 and $10,000 each month. Her expenses mainly consist of a $1,200 mortgage payment, car insurance, gas, food and utilities, amounting to maybe a few thousand dollars per month.
The rest either goes into savings where she stashes about $5,000 to $10,000 for unexpected expenses or into a brokerage account where she has roughly $800,000 invested. A wealth management firm manages that portfolio and charges, she says, an annual 1% fee.
Anna has no consumer debt, besides her mortgage, which amounts to about $338,000. Itâs a 30-year fixed rate loan with a 2.85% interest rate. The home has appreciated in recent years with about $100,000 in equity (including Annaâs initial 20% down payment).
So, what is the problem, exactly?
âMy big worry is that I don’t have the habits to manage money well,â Anna told me. Her sizeable bank balance has her feeling financially free, although she worries about getting carried away with spending sometimes.
âWhen I see money in my bank account I rationalize that âyea, that vacation is doable. I donât hold back on the things that may seem frivolous,ââ she says. But It seems she wants more financial grounding and to be able to evaluate expenditures and price tags more critically.
Annaâs situation may be unique, but I think relatable in the sense that we all would like to feel more thoughtful with how we spend, save and invest. And while some may do well with earning money, it should not be assumed that they can also manage that money well.
I applaud Anna for wanting to be sure that, even with an impressive net worth, she is actually making wise financial decisions.
Hereâs my advice.
Take a Deep Breath
No need to panic when spending on things and experiences that you enjoy. From what I can tell Annaâs prioritizing the serious financial stuff first like contributing the max to her 401(k) and saving all of her annual bonuses in a brokerage account. She has no credit card debt and pays all her bills on time. Thatâs terrific.
Sometimes we just want to hear that weâre on the right track with our money and I have a very simple way to measure this:
If you manage each paycheck by saving, investing and paying all your bills first, then by all means, youâre entitled to have fun with whatever is left without any fear or regret. Am I right?
If youâve done the good work of taking care of your future with your money, then donât hesitate treating yourself and others with the remaining funds today. Splurge away and enjoy your hard-earned money. And remember to enjoy the moment.
Ditch Your Money Managers
I do think Anna could find a better home for her investments.
Paying one percent of her managed assets to this firm may not seem that high of an annual fee. But when you think about Annaâs balance of $800,000, thatâs $8,000 this year. What about next year and the decades after that as she contributes more to the account? That fee, compounded over the next 30 years, will amount to – conservatively – over one million dollars. Ouch.
That doesnât even factor in the expense ratios for each mutual fund thatâs in her portfolio.
If all Anna seeks is investment assistance, she may be better suited stationing her money with an automated wealth platform or robo-advisor where her money is largely invested in low-fee index funds or exchange-traded funds (ETF) and the portfolio management fee is typically 0.50% or less.
Of course, breaking up with your financial advisor is not always so simple. Itâs especially hard for Anna, as she equated her money managers to âfather figures.â
If I were Anna, I would just explain to my advisors over email something like, “I want be more conservativeâ¯withâ¯my money and that includes being extra mindful of the various fees that I’m paying. To that end, Iâve decided to manage my money more independently. Iâm sure you can understand. I appreciateâ¯yourâ¯help over the years. Please let me know next steps.”
Planners know the drill and are used to having clients end relationships.â¯ Stay strong. Nobody can really argue with the fact that saving money is a good thing!
Establish Short and Long Term Goals
Anna wants to spend and save with more conviction. I think having some concrete, tangible goals can help.
For example, she shared that sheâd like to get married, have a family and own two homes â one near her office downtown and another in the mountains as a getaway.
So, the next step is to understand what these goals cost. What are, say, the going prices on a vacation home in her state? How much might she want to stash in a separate account for the future down payment on this property? Knowing the underlying costs of her goals can better direct how much to spend elsewhere.
Next time sheâs planning a vacation, she may be more inclined to price compare or hunt down better deals, as opposed to just judge whether the trip is financially âdoableâ by the amount of money in her bank account. Now sheâll have the image of that second home and its costs and will make a more informed choice.
Contribute to a Cause
Last but not least, when you feel you make more than enough, like Anna does, this is a great opportunity to be extra charitable. If sheâs seeking a way to give her money more meaning and feel purposeful in her financial life, this is a truly wonderful way to go about it. Discover a cause that youâre passionate about and make an impact as a volunteer and donor.
Have a question for Farnoosh? You can submit your questions via Twitter @Farnoosh, Facebook or email at firstname.lastname@example.org (please note âMint Blogâ in the subject line).
Farnoosh Torabi is Americaâs leading personal finance authority hooked on helping Americans live their richest, happiest lives. From her early days reporting for Money Magazine to now hosting a primetime series on CNBC and writing monthly for O, The Oprah Magazine, sheâs become our favorite go-to money expert and friend.
The post Mint Money Audit: Managing Money When You Make Enough appeared first on MintLife Blog.
Saving for retirement is an important financial goal and there are different options when it comes to where to invest. A qualified retirement plan can make it easier to build wealth for the long term, while enjoying some significant tax benefits.
Qualified retirement plans must meet Internal Revenue Code standards for form and operation under Section 401(a). If you have a retirement plan at work, it’s most likely qualified. But not every retirement account falls under this umbrella and those that don’t are deemed “non-qualified.”
So just what is a qualified retirement plan and how is it different from a non-qualified retirement plan?
Understanding the nuances of these terms can help you better shape your retirement plan for growing wealth.
What Is a Qualified Retirement Plan?
Qualified retirement plans allow you to save money for retirement from your income on a tax-deferred basis. These plans are managed according to Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) standards.
The IRS has specific rules for what constitutes a qualified retirement plan and what doesn’t. Public employers can set up a qualified retirement plan as long as these conditions are met:
• Employer contributions are deferred from income tax until they’re distributed and are exempt from social security and Medicare tax
• Employer contributions are subject to FICA tax
• Employee contributions are subject to both income and FICA tax
Following those guidelines, qualified retirement plans can include:
• Defined benefit plans (such as traditional pension plans)
• Defined contribution plans (such as 401(k) plans)
• Employee stock ownership plans (ESOP)
• Keogh plans
Section 403(b) plans, which you might have access to if you’re a public school or tax-exempt organization employee, mimic some of the characteristics of qualified retirement plans. But because of the way employer contributions to these plans are taxed the IRS doesn’t count them as qualified plans. The same is true for section 457(b) plans, which are available to public employees.
Defined Benefit vs. Defined Contribution Plans
When talking about qualified retirement plans and how to use them to invest for the future, it’s important to understand the distinction between defined benefit and defined contribution plans.
ERISA recognizes both types of plans, though they work very differently. A defined benefit plan pays out a specific benefit at retirement. This can either be a set dollar amount or payments based on a percentage of what you earned during your working career.
This type of defined benefit plan is most commonly known as a pension. If you have a pension from a current (or former) employer, you may be able to receive monthly payments from it once you retire, or withdraw the benefits you’ve accumulated in one lump sum. Pension plans can be protected by federal insurance coverage through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).
Defined contribution plans, on the other hand, pay out benefits based on how much you (and your employer, if you’re eligible for a company match) contribute to the plan during your working years. The amount of money you can defer from your salary depends on the plan itself, as does the percentage of those contributions your employer will match.
Defined contribution plans include 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, ESOPs and profit-sharing plans. With 401(k)s, that includes options like SIMPLE and solo 401(k) plans. But it’s important to note that while these are all defined contribution plans, they’re not all qualified retirement plans. Of those examples, 403(b) plans wouldn’t enjoy qualified retirement plan tax benefits.
What Is a Non-Qualified Retirement Plan?
Non-qualified retirement plans are retirement plans that aren’t governed by ERISA rules or IRC Section 401(a) standards. These are plans that you can use to invest for retirement outside of your workplace.
Examples of non-qualified retirement plans include:
While these plans can still offer tax benefits, they don’t meet the guidelines to be considered qualified. But they can be useful in saving for retirement, in addition to a qualified plan.
Traditional and Roth Individual Retirement Accounts
Traditional and Roth IRAs allow you to invest for retirement, with annual contribution limits. For 2020 and 2021, the maximum amount you can contribute to either IRA is $6,000, or $7,000 if you’re over 50.
Traditional IRAs allow for tax-deductible contributions. These accounts are funded using pre-tax dollars. When you make qualified withdrawals in retirement, they’re taxed at your ordinary income tax rate. IRAs do have required minimum distributions (RMD) starting at age 72.
Roth IRAs don’t offer the benefit of a tax deduction on contributions. But they do allow you to withdraw money tax-free in retirement. Unlike traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs do not have RMDs, meaning you donât have to withdraw money until you want to.
A self-directed IRA is another type of IRA you might consider if you want to invest in stock or mutual fund alternatives, such as real estate. These IRAs require you to follow specific rules for how the money is used to invest, and engaging in any prohibited transactions could result in the loss of IRA tax benefits.
Advantages of Qualified Retirement Plans
Qualified retirement plans can benefit both employers and employees who are interested in saving for retirement.
On the employer side, the benefits include:
• Being able to claim a tax deduction for matching contributions made on behalf of employees
• Tax credits and other tax incentives for starting and maintaining a qualified retirement plan
• Tax-free growth of assets in the plan
Additionally, offering a qualified retirement plan, such as a 401(k), can also be a useful tool for attracting and retaining talent. Employees may be more motivated to accept a position and stay with the company if their benefits package includes a generous 401(k) match.
Employees also enjoy some important benefits by saving money in a qualified plan. Specifically, those benefits include:
• Tax-deferred growth of contributions
• Ability to build a diversified portfolio
• Automatic contributions through payroll deductions
• Contributions made from taxable income each year
• Matching contributions from your employer (aka âfree moneyâ)
• ERISA protections against creditor lawsuits
Qualified retirement plans can also feature higher contribution limits than non-qualified plans, such as an IRA. If you have a 401(k), for example, you can contribute up to $19,500 for the 2020 and 2021 tax years, with an additional catch-up contribution of $6,500 for individuals 50 and older.
If you’re able to max out your annual contribution each year, that could allow you to save a substantial amount of money on a tax-deferred basis for retirement. Depending on your income and filing status, you may also be able to make additional contributions to a traditional or Roth IRA.
Making Other Investments Besides a Qualified or Non-Qualified Retirement Plan
Saving money in a qualified retirement plan or a non-qualified retirement plan doesn’t prevent you from investing money in a taxable account. With a brokerage account, you can continue to build your portfolio with no annual contribution limits. The trade-off is that selling assets in your brokerage account could trigger capital gains tax at the time of the sale, whereas qualified accounts allow you to defer paying income tax until retirement.
But an online brokerage account could help with increasing diversification in your portfolio. Qualified plans offered through an employer may limit you to mutual funds, index funds, or target-date funds as investment options. With a brokerage account, on the other hand, you may be able to trade individual stocks or fractional shares, exchange-traded funds, futures, options, or even cryptocurrency. Increasing diversification can help you better manage investment risk during periods of market volatility.
While a qualified retirement plan allows investors to put away pre-tax money for retirement, a non-qualified plan doesnât offer tax-deferred benefits. But both can be important parts of a retirement saving strategy.
Regardless of whether you use a qualified retirement plan or a non-qualified plan to grow wealth, the most important thing is getting started. Your workplace plan might be an obvious choice, but if your employer doesn’t offer a qualified plan, you do have other options.
Opening a traditional or Roth IRA online with SoFi InvestÂ®, for example, can help you get a jump on retirement saving. Members can choose from a wide range of investment options or take advantage of a custom-build portfolio to invest.
Find out how an online IRA with SoFi might fit in to your financial plan.
SoFi InvestÂ® The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individualâs specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi canât guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . The umbrella term âSoFi Investâ refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below. 1) Automated InvestingâThe Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (âSofi Wealthâ). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (âSofi Securities). 2) Active InvestingâThe Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation. 3) Digital AssetsâThe Digital Assets platform is owned by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business. For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, http://www.sofi.com/legal. Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances. Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market. External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement. Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
The post A Guide to Qualified Retirement Plans appeared first on SoFi.
Using donor-advised funds is a more advanced tax strategy that has gotten more popular recently with the introduction of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) in February 2020. The TCJA nearly doubled the amount of the standard deduction, which makes it less advantageous to itemize deductions such as charitable contributions. For people with a lot of charitable contributions, donor-advised funds are one option to still get a deduction for charitable contributions.
What is a donor-advised fund?
A donor-advised fund (DAF) is a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization that accepts contributions and generally funds other charitable organizations. While the concept of a donor-advised fund has been around for nearly 100 years, they were typically only used by the ua-wealthy. And while it is true that donor-advised funds are still not going to be useful for the vast majority of people, recent tax law changes have made their use more prevalent.
You can set up a donor-advised fund with most brokerages, including Fidelity, Vanguard, and Bank of America. You can donate cash, securities, or other types of assets to the DAF. The exact list of assets eligible for donation depends on the brokerage. After you have contributed, you can then make charitable contributions from the balance of your account.
You can maximize your charitable tax deductions in one year
One common reason that people set up donor-advised funds is to maximize their charitable tax deductions in a particular tax year. To show why this can be beneficial, Iâll use an example:
Our example family files their taxes married filing jointly and has regular charitable contributions of $20,000 per year. The standard deduction in 2020 for married filing jointly is $24,800. Because their amount of charitable deductions is less than the standard deduction, they may not see any tax benefit from their charitable contributions (depending on their amount of other itemized deductions). In 2021 they again plan to contribute $20,000 to charitable organizations and again are unlikely to see any tax benefit from doing so.
Now consider this same family now decides to set up a donor-advised fund in 2020. They have extra money sitting around in low-interest savings or checking account or in a taxable investment account. So they set up a donor-advised fund in 2020 and fund it with $40,000 in cash, stocks, or other assets. They are eligible to take the full $40,000 as an itemized deduction, even if they only use $20,000 to donate to the charity of their choice. Then in 2021, they can donate the remaining $20,000 to their preferred charity. They will not be able to deduct any charitable contributions in 2021 but can instead take the raised standard deduction amount.
You may be able to deduct the full value of stocks or other investments
Another reason you might want to set up a donor-advised fund is that you may be able to deduct the full value of stocks or other investments. Again, Iâll use an example to help illustrate the point.
Letâs say that you have shares that you purchased for $20,000 that are now worth $50,000. Many charities, especially smaller organizations, are not set up to accept donations of stocks or other investments. So if you want to donate that $50,000 to charity, you may have to liquidate your shares. This will mean that you will have to pay tax on the proceeds.
With a donor-advised fund, you can donate the shares to your fund and deduct the full fair market value of your shares. Then the fund can make the contribution to the charity of your choice.
Donate a wide range of assets
Another benefit to setting up a donor-advised fund is the ability to donate a wide range of different classes of assets. As we mentioned earlier, many charities are not set up in such a way to be able to accept non-cash donations. While the exact list of assets that a donor-advised fund can accept varies by the firm running the fund, it generally will include more types of assets than a typical charity.
Why you might not want to set up a donor-advised fund
While there are plenty of advantages to setting up a donor-advised fund, there are a few things that you might want to watch out for.
Itâs definitely more complicated than just making charitable contributions on your own. You may find that the tax savings are not worth the extra hassle.
On top of the added layer of complexity, most firms with DAFs charge administrative fees that can cut into your rate of return.
You may be limited on the charities that you can donate to. Each donor-advised fund typically will have a list of eligible charities. So you may find that a charity that you want to donate to is not available.
You also lose control over the funds that you donate – the donation to the fund is irrevocable, meaning once youâve donated to the fund you cannot get the donation back. While most advisors state that they will donate the money as you direct, they are not legally required to do so.
The money in a DAF is invested, so it may lose value. That means that the amount you were hoping to donate may be less than you were anticipating. You also typically have a limited range of investments available for your investment, and those funds also often come with fees.
It’s also important to keep in mind, the annual income tax deduction limits for gifts to donor-advised funds, are 60% of Adjusted Gross Income for contributions of cash, 30% of AGI for contributions of property that would qualify for capital gains tax treatment; 50% of AGI for blended contributions of cash and non-cash assets.
The post 3 Reasons to Set Up a Donor-Advised Fund to Maximize Your Charitable Tax Deductions appeared first on MintLife Blog.
Some of us know it as I.R.A while others pronounce it âeye-ruh.â No matter if youâre team âI-R-Aâ or team âeye-ruhâ, you should definitely know what it means!Â
These letters stand for Individual Retirement Account.Â
Donât roll your eyes! I know âretirementâ sounds like something you should only worry about when youâre much older, but I promise, youâll be thankful you learned all about this. Itâll help you learn a couple tips on smart tax moves and ultimately help out your future self!Â
You probably have a bank account where you put your money, right? So this is still relevant to you! Now, the question is: how much is the money sitting in your account growing each year? If youâre lucky, the answer is somewhere around 2% in the year 2020 (for a high yield savings account). But most people donât have that. Most people have a checking account that doesnât pay them any interest at all or a traditional savings account that offers an average of 0.09% in interest per year. That may not sound like a big difference – 2% versus .09% – but trust me: IT IS!Â
After 10 years of saving $100 every month (or $50 from each biweekly paycheck), a bank account with .09% interest rate or annual percentage rate (also called APR) will have a total of $12,059.56, while a high yield savings account growing at a 2% APR will have a total of $13,402.46. Thatâs a difference of over $1,000 of FREE MONEY! And, whatâs even more eye-opening is that the longer you invest and the more the interest compounds, the bigger the effect. So over a 40 year period of time, which is a typical American working career, the difference is more than $25,000!
What does any of this have to do with that Individual Retirement Account I mentioned earlier? Patience, weâre getting there!
When it comes to money, growth is key. How much can you grow your money in a year? In 10 years? In your working career? With a bank, your money is safe and protected, but it doesnât really grow that much. Thatâs where the stock market comes in! Itâs a good idea to put the money you may need for an emergency into a bank account for easy and guaranteed access, but also consider putting at least 5% of your earnings into an investment account for long term goals such as retirement.Â
For example, a 401k through your job allows you to invest your money in the stock market. If you donât have access to a 401k through your job, then you can open up an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) that also allows you to invest your money in the stock market. Similarly, a pension plan (if you can even get one of those in the 21st century!) also invests your money in the stock market.Â
So why do all of these fancy accounts put our hard-earned money in the stock market? The answer is: over the long term, (not just one year, but over many, many years) the stock market has a history of providing higher rates of return, thereby growing peopleâs money much faster than any bank!Â
When your job doesnât offer any workplace retirement benefits, then you can open an Individual Retirement Account on your own. Let me break down the basics for you:
What: Opening an IRA
Where: At a brokerage firm of your choice
When: Anytime you want
Why: Because your money can grow more in an IRA than it would in the bank over the long run
Now, letâs talk about the âhow.â First, choose whether you want to pay taxes on the money youâll be investing when you file your taxes next or if youâd rather pay them in the future when you file taxes for the year you took the money out. That will determine whether you open a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA.
Roth IRA vs. Traditional IRA
Roth IRA: Investment account that lets you put money away for your retirement. Money invested here is after taxes have been paid, so you donât have to worry about paying taxes ever again. Also, any profits you earn over time will never be taxed, and thatâs a BIG deal! Available only if you earn under a certain income level.Â
Traditional IRA: Investment account that lets you put money away for retirement, but claim a tax break on the amount invested when you file your taxes. Since you get a tax break now, when you take the money out in the future youâll have to pay taxes on your invested dollars and the profits earned. Available no matter what income level you fall under.Â Â
People who earn too much money for a Roth IRA tend to choose a traditional IRA (the limits for how much you can earn to have a Roth IRA changes every year.) Also, people who predict that they will earn less money in the future (at retirement) also like to choose a Traditional IRA because they like the idea of paying less in taxes as a result of being in a lower tax bracket.Â
Once youâve chosen the IRA type that you prefer, youâre ready to choose a brokerage firm. Choosing a brokerage firm is similar to choosing a bank. Make sure that you know what the fees are, what the customer service experience is like, what account types they offer, and what in-person versus web-based services or platforms they have. You can call them up or go online and create your account. Heads up: Youâll have to link the investment account (the IRA) to your bank account so that you can transfer money and begin to invest in the account you created.Â
What Do I Put Into My IRA?
Now, the toughest question of them all: What investments do I invest the dollars within my IRA into? The short answer is that it really depends on what your goals are. If youâre not trying to retire anytime soon, then you can afford to be risky. You can have mostly stocks and little to no bonds in the IRA. If you plan on retiring very soon, youâll want to make sure you have most of your money in more secure investments that donât change unpredictably in the market, such as bonds. The general rule of thumb when it comes to deciding how much to put in stocks versus bonds looks like this:Â
120 – your age = percentage of investment that should be stocks
So for example, A 30-year-old in 2020 should have 90% stocks in their IRA and 10% in bonds because 120 – 30 = 90.Â
Keep in mind that this can vary if youâre comfortable being more aggressive (more stocks) or more conservative (more bonds) with your investments. Itâs simply a good rule of thumb to get you started.Â
One final analogy to help you remember how this works, and then youâre on your way! The brokerage firm is kind of like your bank. Itâs where you open the account and do business. Your IRA is like the type of account you open at that bank. It has rules you need to follow and the rules change each year, so do your research. (When can you touch the money? How much money are you allowed to invest per year? Are there income limits on this account?) If you break the rules, then you may pay fees or maybe even penalty taxes. So make sure you understand the rules!Â
Stocks, bonds, mutual funds and ETFâs are what your dollars can buy and are held within the account. Finally, the annual rate of return is like your APR. While at the bank, the rate of growth or APR is offered to you upfront, thatâs not really possible with an IRA or any other investment account because the stock market is highly unpredictable. But remember, historical data shows that it averages much more growth than bank accounts do over the long run, so donât be afraid to put money aside for the long term if you can afford to.
Now, off you go! Youâre ready to open that IRA if you donât already have one!Â
The post IRA: #RealMoneyTalk, What Is That? appeared first on MintLife Blog.
Most Americans haveÂ credit card debtÂ and will die withÂ credit card debt. It’s one of the most accessible types of credit there is, becoming available as soon as you’re financially independent. It’s also one of the most damaging, as tooÂ muchÂ credit card debtÂ could hurt yourÂ credit report, reduce yourÂ credit score, and cost you thousands of dollars in interest payments.
But how much debt is too much? What is the averageÂ total debtÂ for American consumers and households and when do you know if you have crossed a line?
HowÂ MuchÂ Credit Card DebtÂ is too Much?
TheÂ averageÂ credit card debtÂ in the United States is around $5,000 to $6,000 per consumer. However, this doesn’t paint a complete picture as these figures don’t differentiate rolling balances. In other words, even if you repay your balance in full every month, that balance will still be recorded as debt until it is repaid.
For many consumers, $6,000 is not “too much”. It’s a manageable sum that they can afford to clear. However, if you’re out of work, relying on government handouts and have no money to your name, that $6,000 can seem like an unscalable mountain. And that’s an important point to note, because everything is relative.
To the average American, unsecured debt of $50,000 is catastrophic. It’s the sort of debt that will cause you to lose sleep, stress every minute of the day, and panic every time your lender sends you a letter. To a multi-millionaire homeowner who runs several successful businesses, it’s nothing, an insignificant debt they could repay in full without a second thought.
One man’s pocket change is another man’s fortune, so we can’t place an actual figure on what constitutes “too much debt”. However, this is something that credit reporting agencies, creditors, and lenders already take into consideration and to get around this issue, they use something known as aÂ debt-to-income ratio.
YourÂ Debt-to-Income RatioÂ (DTI)
YourÂ DTIÂ can tell you whether you haveÂ too much debt, and this is true forÂ credit card debtÂ and all other forms of debt (student loans,Â car loans,Â personal loans, and even mortgages).Â
DTI is not used to calculate yourÂ credit scoreÂ and won’t appear on yourÂ credit report, but it is used by mortgage lenders and other big lenders to determine your creditworthiness and if you don’t past the test then you won’t get the money.
To calculate yourÂ DTI, simply calculate theÂ amount of debtÂ payments that you have and compare this to yourÂ grossÂ monthly income. For instance, let’s imagine that you make $400 inÂ credit card paymentsÂ and $600 inÂ autoÂ loanÂ payments, creating aÂ total debtÂ payment of $1,000. YourÂ grossÂ monthly incomeÂ is $4,000 and you don’t have any investments.
In this scenario, yourÂ DTIÂ would be 25%. as yourÂ monthly debt paymentsÂ ($1,000) are 25% of yourÂ monthly income. If you have a $1,000Â mortgage paymentÂ to make every month, your obligations increase and yourÂ DTIÂ hits 50%, which is when you should start being concerned.
Many lenders will not accept you if you have aÂ DTIÂ greater than 50%, because they are not convinced you will make your payments. $2,000 may seem like a lot of money to have leftover at the end of the month, but not when you factor tax, insurance, food, bills, and everyday expenses into the equation.
If yourÂ DTIÂ is below 50%, you may be safe, but it all depends on those additional expenses.
How to Tell If You’ve Borrowed Too Much
YourÂ debt-to-income ratioÂ is a good starting point to determine if you have borrowed too much, and if it’s higher than 50%, there’s a good chance you have borrowed more than you should or, at the very least, you are teetering on the edge. However, even if yourÂ DTIÂ is above 30%, which many consider the ideal limit, you may have tooÂ muchÂ credit card debt.
In such cases, you need to look for the followingÂ warning signs:
You Can’t Pay More Than the Minimum
Minimum paymentsÂ cover a substantial amount of interest and only a small amount of the actual principal. If you’re only paying the minimum, you’re barely scratching the surface and it could take years to repay the debt. If you genuinely don’t have the extra funds to pay more money, then you definitely have aÂ debt problem.
YourÂ Credit Card BalanceÂ Keeps Growing
The only thing worse than not being able to pay more than the balance is being forced to keep using that card, in which case the balance will keep growing and theÂ interest chargesÂ will keep accumulating. This is a dire situation to be in and means you have far tooÂ muchÂ credit card debt.
Your Debt is Increasing as YourÂ Take-Home PayÂ is Reducing
If yourÂ credit card billÂ seems to be going in the opposite direction as your paycheck, you could have a serious problem on your hands. You may be forced to takeÂ payday loans; in which case you’ll be stuck repaying these on top of your mountingÂ credit card interest,Â reaching a point when your debt eventually exceeds your disposable income.
You Don’t Have Savings or anÂ Emergency Fund
A savings account orÂ emergency fundÂ is your safety net. If you reach a point where you feel like you can no longer meet theÂ monthly payments, you can tap into these accounts and use the funds to bail you out. If you don’t have that option, things are looking decidedly bleaker for you.
Dangers of Having TooÂ MuchÂ Credit Card Debt
The biggest issue with excessiveÂ credit card debtÂ is that it has a habit of sticking around for years. Many debtors only make theÂ minimumÂ monthly payment, either because they can’t look at the bigger picture or simply can’t afford to pay more.Â
When this happens, a $1,000 debt could cost them over $2,000 to repay, which means they’ll have less money to their name. What’s more, thatÂ credit card debtÂ could impact theirÂ credit score, thus reducing their chances of getting low-interest credit and of acquiring mortgages andÂ auto loans.
It’s a cycle. You use a credit card to make big purchases and are hit with a high-interest rate. That interest takes your disposable income away, thus making it more likely you will need to use the card again for other big purchases.Â
All the while, yourÂ credit utilization ratioÂ (calculated by comparingÂ available creditÂ toÂ total debtÂ and used to calculate 30% of yourÂ credit score) is plummeting and your hopes of getting aÂ lowerÂ interest rateÂ diminish.
What to do if you Have tooÂ MuchÂ Credit Card Debt?
If you find yourself ticking off the boxes above and you have a sinking feeling as you realize that everything we’re describing perfectly represents your situation, then fear not, as there are a multitude of ways you can dig yourself out of this hole:
Credit counselorsÂ can help to find flaws in your budget and your planning and provide some much-needed insight into your situation. They areÂ personal financeÂ experts and have dealt with countlessÂ consumer debtÂ issues over the years, so donât assume they can only tell you what you already know and always look toÂ credit counselingÂ as a first step.
Credit card companiesÂ charge a higherÂ annual percentage rateÂ to consumers with poorÂ credit scoresÂ as they are more likely to default, which means they need those extra funds to balance their accounts. Another way they do this is to charge penalty fees, penalty rates, andÂ cash advanceÂ fees, the latter of which can be very damaging to an individual struggling withÂ credit card debt.
Cash advanceÂ fees are charged every time you withdraw money from an ATM, and the rate is often fixed at 3% with a minimum charge of $10. This means that if you withdraw as little as $20, it’ll cost you $10 in charges, as well as additional interest fees.
If theÂ cash flowÂ isn’t there, this can seem like a good option, but it will only make your situation worse and should be avoided at all costs.
UseÂ Debt Relief
Debt management, debt settlement, andÂ debt consolidationÂ can all help you to escape debt, creating aÂ repayment planÂ and clearing everything fromÂ credit card debtÂ toÂ student loanÂ debtÂ in one fell swoop. You don’t even need an excellentÂ credit scoreÂ to do this, as many debt management andÂ debt consolidationÂ companies are aimed towards bad credit borrowers.
AÂ balance transferÂ credit cardÂ moves all of your currentÂ credit card balancesÂ onto a new card, one with aÂ large credit limitÂ and a 0% introductory APR that allows you to swerveÂ interest chargesÂ for the first 6, 12, 15 or 18 months. It’s one of the best options available, assuming you have aÂ credit scoreÂ high enough to get the limit you need.
Monitor Your Situation
Whatever method you choose, it’s important to keep a close eye on your finances to ensure this never happens again. You should never be hit with an unexpected car paymentÂ orÂ mortgage payment, because you know those payments arrive every single month; you should never be surprised that you have interest to pay or that yourÂ credit scoreÂ has taken a hit because of a new account or application.Â
If you paid attention to your financial situation, you wouldn’t be surprised, you would understand where every penny goes, and as a result, you will be better equipped to deal with issues in the future.
How Much Credit Card Debt is too Much? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.
Saving money in a place like a money market account can assure that the money will be there safely when you need it. A money market account is an alternative to savings account, and usually pays more interest rate than a savings account.
See, Money Market Vs. Savings Accounts: What’s The Difference.
Overall, money market accounts are worth it, especially if you’re saving for a short-term goal. However, like any investments, there are some disadvantages to money market accounts.
In this article we will address three main things: what is a money market account and what are the advantages and disadvantages of money market accounts.
*TOP CIT BANK PROMOTIONS*
CIT Bank Money Market
CIT Bank Savings Builder
CIT Bank CDs
0.75% APY 1 Year CD Term
CIT Bank No Penalty CD
What is a money market account?
Before we get to the advantages and disadvantages of money market accounts, it’s best to define what a money market account is.
A money market account is an interest bearing account that you can open at a bank or credit union. It is more like a savings account, though there are some key differences.
Money Market Accounts Advantages and Disadvantages.
Let us consider the advantages of money market accounts.
Interest rate: The main benefit of a money market account is that the interest rate is much higher than that of a regular savings account. For example, CIT bank offers a money market account with 1.00% APY. Whereas the interest rate for a typical savings account is anywhere around 0.10%. MMAs interest rates are similar to those of certificate of deposits. The main difference, however, with a CD you earn a fixed interest for a fixed amount of time. And CD rates are higher than MMAs. And a penalty may apply if you withdraw your money early.
FDIC Insured. One of the benefits of money market accounts is that they are FDIC insured. Your money is secured by the federal government of up to $250,000. If you have more money than that, then you will need to open another account so all of your money can be protected.
To recap, money market accounts are FDIC insured, they offer higher interest rates than savings accounts, and they permit check writing privileges. Despite these many advantages, money markets also have disadvantages.
What are the disadvantages of a money market account?
Minimum balance: Most money market accounts require a minimum deposit account of $1,000. Although, that’s not a big amount, it may not be feasible for a young saver. Plus, a penalty will apply if your balance falls below the minimum requirement.
Limited check writing: While MMAs offer check writing privileges, there is a limit. With a money market account, you can only write six checks per month against your balance, which can be a disadvantage if you pay a lot of bills every month. So, money market accounts are a disadvantage for those who need to write more than six checks per month.
Account fees: Another disadvantage of money market accounts is the fee. If you donât maintain the required minimum balance, a fee will apply. So, maintaining the minimum balance is important because any fee will eat out your interest or earnings.
Taxes: Taxes are another disadvantage of money market accounts. You will pay taxes on whatever interest you earn in a MMA.
Inflation: just like taxes and account fees can reduce your interest, inflation can do the same thing. Let’s suppose you generate a 3% return on your money market account per year, and the inflation is 4%. That can impact your total return significantly.
Best Money Market Accounts
CIT Bank Money Market Account
The CIT Bank money market account is one of the best ones out there. Currently, the money market account offers a 1.0% APY.
This is very competitive comparing to other MMAs. Moreover, CIT Bankâs MMA has a required account minimum of only $100.
Open a CIT Bank Money Market Account.
While money market accounts offer several benefits, there are disadvantages as well. The main disadvantages are that the minimum balance can be high for a young investor. Moreover, taxes and account fees can eat away whatever interest you might earn.
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Speak with the Right Financial Advisor
If you have questions about your finances, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc).
Find one who meets your needs with SmartAssetâs free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.
*TOP CIT BANK PROMOTIONS*
CIT Bank Money Market
CIT Bank Savings Builder
CIT Bank CDs
0.75% APY 1 Year CD Term
CIT Bank No Penalty CD
The post Advantages And Disadvantages of Money Market Accounts appeared first on GrowthRapidly.
This page may include affiliate links. Please see theÂ disclosure pageÂ for more information. We hear a lot these days about alternative investments. Wall Street firms regularly tout their expertise in these investments and try to convince us we need them in our portfolio. In the beginning, alternative investments were only available to what most would consider…
The post Alternative Investments Are Not Just for the Wealthy appeared first on Debt Discipline.
Short term investments are those investments that can yield their returns within a short period of time — usually within 1 to 3 years. (contrary to a long term investment such as saving for retirement).
In other words, short term investing are typically used to meet short-term financial goals (such as buying a house or go on a vacation).
A bank checking account is one of the best known and popular ways to save for such a goal.
But your traditional checking account only pays a meager return, if at all.
If you can’t find an alternative to a checking account, no need to fret.
There are plenty of shortterm investments that will help keep your money safe and earn a good return at the same time.
Below, we’ve curated the best short term investments to help reach your investment goals.
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Things to consider:
First thing first, before you make any short term investments, you should know about the risk, return and investing time frame of short term investments.
Average return to expect: 1 to 4% per year;
Risk: very low to low risk of losing money;
Time frame: 0 to 3 years
Best short term investments:
If you’re saving and investing money for the short term, i.e., to use it as a down payment on a house, you will not invest that money in stocks or mutual funds, right?
That’s because, stocks are high risk investments. And if you need the money for a certain time, it might not be available due stock market volatility.
Instead, a smart choice is to save that money in a low-risk investment where you can protect the capital invested and earn interest/income at the same time.
If you have a different investing goal, such as saving for retirement, it’s best to look at stocks or mutual funds. Investing in stocks or mutual funds is considered a long term investment as opposed to short term investing.
If you’re interested in investing for the long term, here’s how the stock market works.
So, what are your options? Here are some of the best short term investments to consider to earn some interest on your money.
1. Savings account.
A savings account at a bank is an excellent choice. And they usually pay more interest than a regular checking.
They are quite safe. Savings account are insured by the FDIC, but only for up to $250,000.
That means if a bank goes bankrupt, the government will step up and give you your money back.
In addition, they are very liquid. You have access to your money fairly easy.
CIT Savings Builder – Earn 0.85% APY. Here’s how it works: Make at least a $100 minimum deposit every month. Or Maintain a minimum balance of $25k. Member FDIC. Click Here to Learn More.
2. Certificate of deposit (CDs).
If you want a good rate of return on money that you don’t plan on using within the next couple of years, CDs is a safe place to do invest it.
Banks sell certificate of deposit for a specific dollar amount and length of time. As an investor, you agree to leave a certain amount of money with the bank for a specific time.
When the time is up, the CD matures. Then, you get your money back, plus interest.
CDs are also FDIC insured for up to $250,000. They provide a safe and competitive yield. That makes them some of the best short term investments to consider.
The minimum deposit requires to open a CD depends on the bank. But it usually ranges from a few hundred dollars to thousands.
The CIT Bank is paying 1.30% for an 11-month CD. There is an opening minimum of $1,000. With most CDs, if you tap into your money before maturation, you will get hit with an early withdrawal penalty.
However, with this CIT Bank CD, there is no penalty if you withdraw early.
CIT Bank has various types of CDs. If you prefer longer terms CDs, check them out now at the CIT Bank website.
3. Money market fund
While you can keep your cash at a bank in a savings account because they’re safe there, you don’t have to.
You can try a money market fund. They are safe as well.
A money market fund is a type of mutual fund (but thy don’t focus on stocks or bonds).
Mutual funds companies such as Vanguard offer money market funds.
Money market fund is not insured by the government, so there is a possibility you can lose money. However, they are quite safe.
They’re safe, because they have a dollar invested in securities for every dollar you deposit in your fund.
The principal money you invested does not change in value. When you invest in a money market fund, you earn dividends. That’s a good advantage.
Another advantage of a money market fund as a short term investment is that it provides higher yield than bank savings account.
It also allows you to write checks without incurring any charges.
So, if you’re saving money for a home that you’re going to buy soon, a money market fund is a safe place to grow your money.
4. Short-term corporate bond funds.
Bonds, in general, are similar to CDs. An exception is that they, just as stocks, are securities that trade in the market.
So, they may fluctuate in value, but not as much as stocks.
Bond funds are a collection of bonds from companies (large, medium, or small) from different industries. Hence, the name “corporate bond funds.”
Investing in bond funds can be used as a short-term investment. Sometimes, investors consider corporate bond funds to diversify their investment portfolio.
Just like a money market fund, corporate bond funds are not FDIC insured. But they are just as safe as a money market fund.
Plus, you don’t just invest in one bond or two bonds. If one bond in your investment fund takes a hit, it only affects a small amount of your money.
So while they are riskier than money market funds saving accounts, CDs, short term corporate bonds pay you more. That makes them one of the best short-term investments out there.
5. Treasury bonds.
One of the best ways to invest money in the short term is to buy treasury bonds. Treasury bonds are issued by the U.S. government.
There are three types: treasury bills, treasury notes, and treasury bonds. They are like CDs. Once the bond matures, you get the full money invested, plus interest.
Treasury bonds may provide the same or a better interest rate than CDs. But a big advantage is that, while they’re not FDIC insured, they are backed by the U.S. government.
In other words, the government promises to repay your money, which is considered to be very safe.
So if you have more than $250,000, you should consider a treasury bond.
Another advantage is that while interest on a CD is fully taxable, Treasury’s interest is state-tax-free.
In conclusion, short term investments are those in which you make for a certain and short period of time for a specific goal.
Short term investments aren’t the best if you’re seeking high returns.
But if you’re a beginner investor you should consider placing some of your money into these best short term investments.
Remember: don’t invest your money in stocks when you plan to use it within the next five years, because a stock market drop can dry out your investment portfolio.
The Best Ways to Invest $1000 For Good Return
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Speak with the Right Financial Advisor
If you have questions beyond short-term investments, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc). Find one who meets your needs with SmartAssetâs free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.
*TOP CIT BANK PROMOTIONS*
CIT Bank Money Market
CIT Bank Savings Builder
CIT Bank CDs
0.75% APY 1 Year CD Term
CIT Bank No Penalty CD
The post 5 Best Short Term Investments to Grow Your Money appeared first on GrowthRapidly.
I love making things automatic. Whether it is bill-paying, direct deposit, prescription renewals, or investing, making things automatic makes life easier, and that is where our Betterment investing review comes in.
When it comes to retirement planning, an overwhelming number of online tools and websites promise to help you create a dynamic and profitable portfolio while minimizing fees.
This growing list of services includes robo-advisors, a class of financial websites that offer to manage your portfolio with minimal in-person interaction and a heavy reliance on the latest investing tools and software.
One of the most popular robo-advisors by far is Betterment. Conceptualized by its founders in 2008, Betterment has since grown to help its customers invest billions of dollars of their hard-earned dollars. This is an investment platform that puts your investing on cruise control, and even allows you to make money watching TV! You can open an account with no money at all, and get the benefit of professional, low-cost investment management that enables you to invest in thousands of securities with as little as a few hundred dollars.
It hasnât been easy. With other competitors like Wealthfront and Personal Capital always a few steps behind them, Betterment has struggled to find a way to stand out. Even with the competition, Betterment has emerged as one of the top online brokerage accounts and continues to grow its market share.
Open an account
0.25% to 0.40% annual management fee, depending on the plan
No trade, transfer or rebalancing fees
No minimum balance
Hands-off investing tailored to your goals and risk preference
Betterment is an online, automated investment manager that uses advanced algorithms and software to find the perfect investment strategy for your portfolio and individual needs.
The main difference between investing your money with a traditional financial advisor and Betterment is that there is minimal human interaction. Unless you email or call in, your communication with an individual advisor will be very minimal.
But, there is some good news to counteract the lack of individual service. Because of lower operating costs, Betterment is able to charge lower fees than traditional financial advisors. This can be huge for individuals who want to take a hands-off approach to their retirement accounts, yet donât want to pay top dollar for access to a top-tier financial advisor in their area.
Using complex investment software, Betterment allocates your investment portfolio based on your individual circumstances, investment time horizon, and thirst for risk.
In the meantime, they keep fees at a minimum by using ETFs (exchange-traded fund) that let you have a diversified portfolio, like mutual funds, but are tradeable much like stocks.
Since ETFs come with very low expense ratios, Betterment is able to pass those savings along to the consumer. Although the program already manages over $16 billion for their clients, they are still growing at a rapid pace.
Because the service is able and willing to deal with investors at all stages of wealth accumulation, it has become a go-to for both experienced and novice investors with various investing goals.
Further, Bettermentâs portfolio strategy isnât geared just for retirement savings; the service can also improve your returns on dollars you invest for short-term and medium-term goals like saving for college, taking an annual vacation, or building up a cash reserve.
How Betterment Works
Like post other robo-advisors, Betterment provides complete, automated investment management of your portfolio. When you sign up for the service, youâll complete a questionnaire that will determine your risk tolerance, investment goals, and time horizon. From that information, Betterment determines your portfolio will be designed as conservatives, aggressive, or some level in between.
Over time however, Betterment may adjust your portfolio to become gradually more conservative. For example, as you move closer to retirement, your asset allocation will be gradually shifted more heavily in favor of safe investments, like bonds.
Your portfolio will be constructed of exchange traded funds (ETFs), which are low-cost investment funds designed to track the performance of an underlying index. In this way, Betterment attempts to match the performance of the underlying indexes, rather than to outperform them. For this reason, investing with Betterment â and most other robo-advisors â is considered to be passive investing. (Active investing involves frequent trading of stocks and other securities in an attempt to outperform the market.)
Betterment also uses allocations based on broad investment categories. There are three in total:
Safety Net â These are funds allocated for near-term needs, such as an emergency fund.
Retirement â This will naturally be your long-term investment account and held in tax-sheltered IRAs.
General Investing â This allocation is dedicated to intermediate goals, maybe saving for the down payment on a house or even for your childrenâs education.
Given that each of the three broad goals has a different time horizon, the specific portfolio allocation in each will be a little bit different. For example, the Safety Net will be invested in cash type accounts for safety and liquidity.
Betterment Advantages And Disadvantages
Thereâs no minimum investment required.
The low annual fee of 0.25% on the Digital plan can allow you to have a $20,000 account managed for just $50 per year, or a $100,000 account for just $250.
Tax-loss harvesting is available at all taxable accounts.
Betterment Premium provides unlimited access to certified financial planners, providing a service similar to traditional investment advisors, but at a fraction of the cost.
The No-fee Checking and Cash Reserve give you cash management options to go with your investing activities.
Betterment offers several portfolio options, including Smart Beta, Socially Responsible Investing, and the BlackRock Targeted Income Portfolio.
The use of value funds also adds the potential for your investment accounts to outperform the general market, since value stocks tend to be underpriced relative to their competitors.
Flexible Portfolio will give you some control over your investment allocations, which is a feature absent from most robo-advisors.
Bettermentâs annual advisory fee is on the low end of the robo-advisor range. But there are some robo-advisors charging no fees at all.
Betterment doesnât offer alternative investments. These include natural resources and real estate, which are offered by some of their competitors.
External account syncing is available only with Betterment Premium.
The Betterment Investment Methodology
Like most other robo-advisors, Betterment manages your investment account using Modern Portfolio Theory, or MPT. The theory emphasizes proper allocations into various asset classes over individual security selection.
Your portfolio is divided between six stock asset allocations and eight bond asset allocations. Each allocation is represented by a single ETF thatâs tied to an index specific to that asset class. The single ETF will provide exposure to scores or even hundreds of securities in each asset class. That means collectively your investment will be spread across thousands of securities in the US and internationally.
The six stock asset allocations are as follows:
US Total Stock Market
US Value Stocks â Large Cap
US Value Stocks â Mid Cap
US Value Stocks â Small Cap
International Developed Market Stocks
International Emerging Markets Stocks
The eight bond asset allocations are as follows:
US High Quality Bonds
US Municipal Bonds (will be held in taxable investment accounts only)
US Inflation-Protected Bonds
US High-Yield Corporate Bonds
US Short-Term Treasury Bonds
US Short-Term Investment Grade Bonds
International Developed Market Bonds
International Emerging Markets Bonds
Since Betterment offers tax-loss harvesting with taxable investment accounts, most asset classes will have two or three very similar ETFs. This will enable Betterment to sell a losing position in one ETF to reduce capital gains in winning asset classes. Alternative ETFs are then purchased to replace the sold funds to maintain the target asset allocations in your account.
Tax-loss harvesting is becoming an increasingly popular investment strategy because it effectively defers capital gains taxes into future years. Itâs available only for taxable accounts, since tax-sheltered accounts have no immediate tax consequences.
How Betterment Compares
Here’s how Betterment compares to the previously mentioned companies, Wealthfront and Personal Capital.
Minimum Initial Investment
0.25% on Digital; 0.40% on Premium (account balance over $100k)
0.25% on all account balances
0.89% on most account balances; reduced fee on balances > $1 million
On Premium Plan only
Yes, on all taxable accounts
Yes, on all taxable accounts
Yes, on all taxable accounts
Yes, on Premium Plan only
Betterment Accounts and Options
For the first few years of Bettermentâs existence they offered a single investment account serving as a one-size-fits-all plan. But thatâs all changed. They still offer basic investment accounts, but they now give you a choice of multiple investment options.
This is Bettermentâs basic investment plan. There is no minimum initial investment required, nor is there a minimum ongoing balance requirement. Betterment charges a single fee of 0.25% on all account balances.
You can also add any other portfolio variations, except the Goldman Sachs Smart Beta portfolio, which has a $100,000 minimum account balance requirement.
Betterment Premium works similar to the Digital plan, but it delivers a higher level of service. The plan provides external account synching, giving Betterment a high altitude view of you your entire financial situation. External investment accounts can help in enabling Betterment to better coordinate your portfolio allocations with assets held in outside accounts. They can also make recommendations out to better manage those external accounts.
And perhaps the biggest advantage of the Premium plan is that it comes with unlimited access to Bettermentâs certified financial planners. In this way, Betterment is competing more directly with traditional investment advisors, but doing it with a robo-advisor component.
Youâll need a minimum of $100,000 to invest in the Premium plan, and the annual advisory fee is 0.40%. Thatâs just a fraction of the usual 1% to 2% typically charged by traditional investment advisory services.
Betterment Cash Reserve
The account pays a variable interest rate, currently set at 0.40% APY. Betterment doesnât actually hold these funds directly, but rather invest them through participating program banks.
Thereâs no fee for this account, and you can move money as often as you want. And for those with very high cash balances, the account is FDIC insured for up to $1 million through the program banks.
Betterment Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)
SRI portfolios are becoming increasingly popular in the robo-advisor space. It involves investing in companies that meet certain standards for social, environmental, and governance guidelines. Betterment indicates that the ETFs they use in their SRI portfolio have produced a 42% increase in their social responsibility scores.
SRI portfolios work with both the Digital and Premium plans, using a similar investment methodology. But they make certain modifications, holding ETFs based on SRI in place of the ETFs used in non-SRI portfolios.
SRI portfolios do not require a minimum balance and charge no additional fees. And like their Digital and Premium plans, taxable SRI investment accounts take advantage of tax-loss harvesting.
Betterment Flexible Portfolios
The key word in the name is âflexibleâ because the main feature is adding personal options to your portfolio allocations.
This is done by adjusting the individual asset class weights in your portfolio. For example, if you have a 7% allocation in emerging markets, you may choose to increase it to 10% if you believe that sector is likely to outperform others. But you can also decrease the allocation if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
Betterment Tax-Coordinated Portfolio
This is less of a formal portfolio and more of an investment strategy. It must be used in combination with a taxable investment account and a tax-sheltered retirement account. Betterment will then allocate investments based on their tax impact.
For example, income generating assets â that produce high dividend and interest income â are held in a tax-sheltered account. Investments likely to generate long-term capital gains are held in a taxable investment account, since you will be able to take advantage of lower long-term capital gains tax rates.
Goldman Sachs Smart Beta
This option is for more sophisticated investors, and requires a minimum account balance of $100,000. And since it is a high risk/high reward type of investing, it also requires a higher risk tolerance.
Betterment uses the same basic investment strategy as they do in other portfolios. But itâs an actively managed portfolio that will be adjusted in an attempt to outperform the general market. Securities will be bought and sold within the portfolio and can include either individual securities or Smart Beta ETFs.
The portfolio has many variations, including a wide range of allocations. Stocks are chosen based on four qualities: good value, strong momentum, high quality, and low volatility.
And like other portfolio variations Betterment offers, there is no additional fee for this option.
BlackRock Target Income Portfolio
Betterment recognizes that some investors are more interested in income than growth. This will particularly apply to retirees. The BlackRock Target Income Portfolio invests in portfolios based on your risk tolerance. This can mean low, moderate, high, or even aggressive.
Those categories may seem unusual for an income generating portfolio. But while the portfolio attempts to minimize risk of principal, it also recognizes that some investors are willing to add risk to their portfolio in exchange for higher returns.
A low-risk portfolio may have a higher allocation in US Treasury securities. An aggressive portfolio may center primarily on high-yield corporate bonds or even emerging-market bonds that have higher interest rates due to greater risk.
Betterment No-fee Checking
Provided by Betterment Financial LLC in partnership with NBKC Bank, this is a true no-fee checking account. Not only are there no monthly maintenance fees, but there are also no overdraft or other fees. Theyâll even reimburse all ATM fees and foreign transaction fees you incur. And thereâs not even a minimum balance requirement.
Youâll be provided with a Betterment Visa Debit Card with tap-to-pay technology, that you can use anywhere Visa is accepted. All account balances are FDIC insured for up to $250,000. And as you might expect from a company on the technological cutting edge, you can deposit checks into the account using your smartphone.
Check out our full Betterment checking review.
Betterment Key Features
Minimum initial investment: Betterment requires no funds to open an account. But you can begin funding your account with monthly deposits, like $100 per month. This method will make it easier to use dollar-cost averaging to gradually move into your portfolio positions.
Available account types: Joint and individual taxable investment accounts, as well as traditional, Roth, rollover and SEP IRAs. Betterment can also accommodate trusts and nonprofit accounts.
Portfolio rebalancing: Comes with all account types. Your portfolio will be rebalanced when your asset allocations significantly depart from their targets.
Automatic dividend reinvestment: Betterment will reinvest dividends received in your portfolio according to your target asset allocations.
Betterment Mobile App: You can access your Betterment account on your smartphone. The app is available for both iOS and Android devices.
Customer contact: Available by phone and email, Monday through Friday, from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm, Eastern time.
Account protection: All Betterment accounts are protected by SIPC insurance for up to $500,000 in cash and securities, including up to $250,000 in cash. SIPC covers losses due to broker failure, not those caused by market value declines.
Financial Advice packages: Betterment offers one-hour phone conferences with live financial advisors on various personal financial topics. Five topics are covered:
Getting Started package: This package gives new users the professional vote of confidence they need as a professional will assess their account setup. $199
Financial Checkup package: This package takes it a step further, providing the customer with a professional opinion on their portfolio and financial circumstances. $299
College Planning package: As its name implies, this package helps parents who are investing with the goal of paying for their childrenâs college education in the next 5-18 years. $299
Marriage Planning package: Merging finances can be tricky, so Betterment created this plan to help engaged couples and newlyweds to succeed as they unite their lives and assets. $299
Retirement Planning package: Your investment goals and strategies change as you near retirement. This particular package helps keep you on target to meet them. $299
Retirement Savings Calculator: Robo-advisors are popular choices for retirement accounts. For this reason, Betterment offers the Calculator to help you project your retirement needs. By entering basic information in the calculator (it will sync external accounts if you have a Premium account â including employer-sponsored retirement plans) it will let you know if you are on track to meet your goals or if you need to make adjustments.
How To Sign Up For A Betterment Account
The Betterment sign up process is one of the most user-friendly out there for any brokerage. It comes with easy-to-follow instructions and as streamlined registration process which users can navigate through in a matter of minutes.
First get the process started by clicking the button below.
Sign up for a Betterment Account
After the initial sign up process, users can expect a simple transaction as they transfer funds into the account, much like moving money from a checking to savings account.
When you begin the sign-up process, youâll be given a choice of four different investment goals:
I chose âInvest for retirementâ. It will ask your current age, your annual income, then give you a choice of accounts to use. That includes a traditional, Roth, or SEP IRA, or even an individual taxable account. I selected a traditional IRA.
Based on a 30-year-old with a $100,000 income, Betterment return the following recommendation:
You even have the option to have the specific asset allocations listed. After clicking âContinueâ, youâll be asked to provide your email address and create a password. Youâll then be taken to the application, which will ask for general information, including your name, address, phone number, and how you heard about Betterment.
Once your account has been set up, you can fund it immediately, by connecting your bank account, or by setting up recurring deposits.
You can also set up other accounts, such as âManage spending with Checkingâ or âInvest for a long-term goalâ.
Why You Should Open An Account With Betterment
While nearly anyone who invests could benefit from the online portfolio management and advising, this service is definitely geared to certain types of investors. In most cases, Betterment will work best for:
Hands-off investors who have some investing knowledge â Since it takes care of the heavy lifting for you, it works best for investors who want to take a hands-off approach to their investment portfolio. Passive investors can let Betterment handle the logistics while using online account management to keep a close eye on their accounts.
Novice investors who need help â Beginning investors who are just learning the ropes can turn to Betterment for online portfolio management with low fees. The many online tools and user-friendly interface make it easy for beginners to get a grasp on basic financial concepts and investing strategies.
Robo-advisors are growing in popularity and could easily replace in-person advisors in the near future. With lower fees and advanced software that can maximize results, online investing is certainly gaining an edge.
Whether Betterment is right for you depends on your individual needs and investing goals. If youâre a hands-off investor who wants to grow your retirement funds without paying a lot of fees, then Betterment might be ideal. Additionally, beginning investors can benefit handsomely from the online tools and investing education offered through the Betterment website.
If you think Betterment investing might be exactly what your portfolio needs, sign up for a new account today.
However, if you determine that you would be better served by a more hands-on approach, check out the other online brokerage account options. Being a certified financial planner, I have had a chance to work with several of these platforms and have done the following reviews:
Motif Investing Review
Lending Club Review
Ally Invest Review
The post Betterment Investing Review: Make Investing Automatic appeared first on Good Financial CentsÂ®.
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