Budgeting Tips for the Sandwich Generation: How to Care for Kids and Parents

Everyone knows that raising kids can put a serious squeeze on your budget. Beyond covering day-to-day living expenses, there are all of those extras to consider—sports, after-school activities, braces, a first car. Oh, and don’t forget about college.

Add caring for elderly parents to the mix, and balancing your financial and family obligations could become even more difficult.

“It can be an emotional and financial roller coaster, being pushed and pulled in multiple directions at the same time,” says financial life planner and author Michael F. Kay.

The “sandwich generation”—which describes people that are raising children and taking care of aging parents—is growing as Baby Boomers continue to age.

According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, 17 percent of adult children serve as caregivers for their parents at some point in their lives. Aside from a time commitment, you may also be committing part of your budget to caregiving expenses like food, medications and doctor’s appointments.

Budgeting tips for the sandwich generation include communicating with parents.

When you’re caught in the caregiving crunch, you might be wondering: How do I take care of my parents and kids without going broke?

The answer lies in how you approach budgeting and saving. These money strategies for the sandwich generation and budgeting tips for the sandwich generation can help you balance your financial and family priorities:

Communicate with parents

Quentara Costa, a certified financial planner and founder of investment advisory service POWWOW, LLC, served as caregiver for her father, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, while also managing a career and starting a family. That experience taught her two very important budgeting tips for the sandwich generation.

First, communication is key, and a money strategy for the sandwich generation is to talk with your parents about what they need in terms of care. “It should all start with a frank discussion and plan, preferably prior to any significant health crisis,” Costa says.

Second, run the numbers so you have a realistic understanding of caregiving costs, including how much parents will cover financially and what you can afford to contribute.

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17 percent of adult children serve as caregivers for their parents at some point in their lives.

– The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

Involve kids in financial discussions

While you’re talking over expectations with your parents, take time to do the same with your kids. Caregiving for your parents may be part of the discussion, but these talks can also be an opportunity for you and your children to talk about your family’s bigger financial picture.

With younger kids, for example, that might involve talking about how an allowance can be earned and used. You could teach kids about money using a savings account and discuss the difference between needs and wants. These lessons can help lay a solid money foundation as they as move into their tween and teen years when discussions might become more complex.

When figuring out how to budget for the sandwich generation, try including your kids in financial decisions.

If your teen is on the verge of getting their driver’s license, for example, their expectation might be that you’ll help them buy a car or help with insurance and registration costs. Communicating about who will be contributing to these types of large expenses is a good money strategy for the sandwich generation.

The same goes for college, which can easily be one of the biggest expenses for parents and important when learning how to budget for the sandwich generation. If your budget as a caregiver can’t also accommodate full college tuition, your kids need to know that early on to help with their educational choices.

Talking over expectations—yours and theirs—can help you determine which schools are within reach financially, what scholarship or grant options may be available and whether your student is able to contribute to their education costs through work-study or a part-time job.

Consider the impact of caregiving on your income

When thinking about how to budget for the sandwich generation, consider that caring for aging parents can directly affect your earning potential if you have to cut back on the number of hours you work. The impact to your income will be more significant if you are the primary caregiver and not leveraging other care options, such as an in-home nurse, senior care facility or help from another adult child.

Costa says taking time away from work can be difficult if you’re the primary breadwinner or if your family is dual-income dependent. Losing some or all of your income, even temporarily, could make it challenging to meet your everyday expenses.

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“Very rarely do I recommend putting caregiving ahead of the client’s own cash reserve and retirement.”

– Quentara Costa, certified financial planner

When you’re facing a reduced income, how to budget for the sandwich generation is really about getting clear on needs versus wants. Start with a thorough spending review.

Are there expenses you might be able to reduce or eliminate while you’re providing care? How much do you need to earn each month to maintain your family’s standard of living? Keeping your family’s needs in focus and shaping your budget around them is a money strategy for the sandwich generation that can keep you from overextending yourself financially.

“Protect your capital from poor decisions made from emotions,” financial life planner Kay says. “It’s too easy when you’re stretched beyond reason to make in-the-heat-of-the-moment decisions that ultimately are not in anyone’s best interest.”

Keep saving in sight

One of the most important money strategies for the sandwich generation is continuing to save for short- and long-term financial goals.

“Very rarely do I recommend putting caregiving ahead of the client’s own cash reserve and retirement,” financial planner Costa says. “While the intention to put others before ourselves is noble, you may actually be pulling the next generation backwards due to your lack of self-planning.”

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Making regular contributions to your 401(k), an individual retirement account or an IRA CD should still be a priority. Adding to your emergency savings each month—even if you have to reduce the amount you normally save to fit new caregiving expenses into your budget—can help prepare you for unexpected expenses or the occasional cash flow shortfall. Contributing to a 529 college savings plan or a Coverdell ESA is a budgeting tip for the sandwich generation that can help you build a cushion for your children once they’re ready for college life.

When you are learning how to budget for the sandwich generation, don’t forget about your children’s savings goals. If there’s something specific they want to save for, help them figure out how much they need to save and a timeline for reaching their goal.

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Ask for help if you need it

A big part of learning how to budget for the sandwich generation is finding resources you can leverage to help balance your family commitments. In the case of aging parents, there may be state or federal programs that can help with the cost of care.

Remember to also loop in your siblings or other family members when researching budgeting tips for the sandwich generation. If you have siblings or relatives, engage them in an open discussion about what they can contribute, financially or in terms of caregiving assistance, to your parents. Getting them involved and asking them to share some of the load can help you balance caregiving for parents while still making sure that you and your family’s financial outlook remains bright.

The post Budgeting Tips for the Sandwich Generation: How to Care for Kids and Parents appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.

If left unchecked, extensive amounts of credit card debt can cripple your finances. The good news is there are many ways to handle debt, though each requires a dedicated effort on your part. But if you can manage to consolidate credit card debt, you will reduce your burden relatively quickly. In the process, you’ll avoid the exorbitant interest rates that accompany most credit cards. Below we take a look at some of the most effective techniques you can use to make this goal a reality.

Find Out Your Credit Score

Before you can work on improving your credit and minimizing your debt, you have to know where you currently stand.

Many credit card issuers allow cardholders to see their FICO® credit score free of charge once a month, so check out if any of your cards include that free credit score. The three major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax – also give out free annual credit reports. If that’s not enough, websites like Credit Karma™ and Credit Sesame provide a free look at your credit score and reports as well.

It is vital to review your credit report with a fine-tooth comb to ensure the accuracy of the information. If you find errors be sure to let the credit bureau in question know so the issue can be eradicated as soon as possible.

Zero Interest Balance Transfer Cards

Although it might seem counterintuitive to apply for another credit card to lessen your debt, a zero interest balance transfer card could really help. These cards typically include an introductory 0% balance transfer Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for six months or more. This ultimately allows you to move debt from one account to another without incurring more interest. However, once the introductory offer concludes, any leftover balances will revert to your base APR.

These offers aren’t totally free, though. Most cards also charge a balance transfer fee that’s usually between 3% and 5% of the transfer. Even with this initial payment, you will almost always still save money over leaving your debt where it stands currently.

If you want to consolidate credit card debt, here are three different balance transfer credit cards you could apply for, with varying introductory interest rates and transfer fees:

Balance Transfer Credit Cards Card Intro Balance Transfer APR Balance Transfer Fee Chase Slate 0% APR for first 15 months; then 16.49% to 25.24% Variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness No fee for first 60 days; then $5 or 5% of each transfer, whichever is greater Citi Double Cash Card 0% introductory APR for 18 months from date of first transfer when transfers are completed within 4 months from date of account opening; then 15.49% to 25.49% Variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness $5 or 3% of each transfer, whichever is greater BankAmericard® credit card 0% APR for first 15 billing cycles; then 14.49% to 24.49% Variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness No fee for first 60 days; then $10 or 3% of each transfer, whichever is greater Take Out a Personal Loan

Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

The thought of taking out another loan probably doesn’t sound too appetizing to consolidate credit card debt. But a personal debt consolidation loan is one of the speediest ways to rid yourself of credit card debt. More specifically, you can use it to pay off most or all of your debt in one lump sum. That way, your payments are all merged into a single account with your lender.

The APR and length of the offered loan and the minimum credit score needed for approval are the main factors that should go into your final decision on a lender. By concentrating on these three components of the loan, you can map out what your monthly payments will be. As a result, you can more easily implement them into your financial life.

Applying for a personal consolidation loan can have a detrimental effect on your credit. Unfortunately, most institutions will run a hard credit check on you prior to approval. However, many online lenders don’t do this, which might ease your mind depending on the severity of your debt situation.

These loans are available through a wide variety of financial institutions, including banks, online lenders and credit unions. Here are a few examples of some of the most common debt consolidation lenders:

Common Debt Consolidation Lenders Banks Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, Fifth Third Bank Online Lenders Lending Club, Prosper, Best Egg Credit Unions Navy Federal Credit Union, Unify Financial Credit Union, Affinity Federal Credit Union Auto or Home Equity Loan

If you own assets like a home or car, you can take out a lump-sum loan based on the equity you hold in them to consolidate credit card debt. This is a great way to reuse money you paid toward an existing loan to take care of your debt. When paying back your auto or home equity loan, you’ll usually pay in fixed amounts at a relatively low interest rate. Even if this rate isn’t great, it’s likely much better than any offer you’d receive from a card issuer.

Equity loans are technically a second mortgage or loan, meaning your house or car will become the loan’s collateral. That means you could lose your house or car if you cannot keep up with your equity loan payments.

Create a Budget

Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

To build a budget, you first need to figure out your approximate monthly net income. Don’t forget to take into account taxes when you’re doing this.

You can then start subtracting your variable and fixed expenses that are expected for the upcoming month. This is where you will likely be able to identify where you’re overspending, whether it’s on food, entertainment or travel. Once you’ve completed this, you can begin cutting back where you need to. Then, use your surplus cash to pay off your debt one month at a time.

It shouldn’t matter if you’re dealing with substantial credit card debt or not. A monthly spending budget should always be a part of how you manage your finances. While this is likely the slowest way to eliminate debt, it’s also the most financially sound. At its core, it attempts to fix the problem without taking funding from an outside source. This should leave very little financial strife in the aftermath of paying off your debt.

Professional Debt Counseling

Perhaps since you’ve found yourself in serious debt, you feel like you want professional help getting out of it. Well the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) is available for just that reason. The NFCC® has member offices all around the U.S. that are certified in helping you consolidate credit card debt.

These counselors won’t only address your current financial issues and debt. They’ll also work to create a plan that will help you avoid this situation again in the future.

Agencies that are accredited by the NFCC® will have it clearly displayed on their website or at their offices. If you’re not sure where to look, the foundation created an agency locator that’ll help you find a counselor nearby.

Borrow From Your Retirement

Taking money early from your employer-sponsored retirement account obviously isn’t ideal. That’s means borrowing from your retirement is a last-ditch alternative. But if your credit card debt has become such a handicap that it’s affecting all other facets of your life, it is a viable option to consolidate credit card debt.

Because you are technically loaning money to yourself, this will not show up on your credit report. Major tax and penalty charges await anyone who has trouble making payments on these loans though. To make matters worse, if you quit your job or are fired, you’re typically only given 60 days to finish paying it off to avoid incurring a penalty.

Tips To Consolidate Credit Card Debt

  • If you take the time to come up with a budget, don’t let it go to waste. While you might find it tough to stick to, especially if you’re trying to cut back, it is the best way to manage your money correctly. Even if a budget becomes habit, stay vigilant with where your money is being spent.
  • Although a financial advisor will cost money, he or she might be able to help you keep your finances in check while ultimately helping you plan for the future as well. However, if this isn’t an option for you financially, stay on track with your NFCC® debt counselor’s plan.
  • There are so many ways to gain access to your credit score that there’s virtually no excuse for not knowing it. It doesn’t matter if you do it through one of the top three credit bureaus, FICO® or one of your card issuers. Just remember to pay attention to those ever-important three digits as often as possible.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Liderina, ©iStock.com/ferrantraite, Â©iStock.com/cnythzl

The post Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

I Thought I Was Too Good For Community College

4 reasons you should go to community college firstWhether you are about to head to college (no matter what your age may be), if you have a child who is about to attend college, or if you know someone who is about to experience this, then this article is for you.

When I was around 17, I applied to several different colleges, but one mistake I made was that I didn’t even give community college a thought.

Unfortunately, there is a stigma attached to going to community college, like thinking it is for those that can’t get into a “regular” college, for those that don’t have enough money, or for those that have no other options. When, in fact, these are all far from the truth.

And, sadly, I bought into these myths and thought I was too good for community college. If you want to save money in college, community college is a great way to do that.

The stigma about going to community college is absolutely ridiculous.

And, I was a young kid, so, of course, I let other people’s opinions get to me. And, I thought everyone was right!

It isn’t just kids that believe those myths about community college, as even adults (parents or returning learners) buy into those myths.

Well, that is a big mistake!

For many people, community college should be their first choice.

College costs are increasing, and they’re not going to stop anytime soon.

According to College Board, the average yearly tuition and fees for a:

  • Private four-year college is $32,410.
  • Public four-year college for out-of-state students is $23,890.
  • Public four-year college for in-state students is $9,410.

Community college, on the other hand, is just $3,440.

Those tuition differences are huge, and just look at how much you could save if you did only your first year at community college!

For many people, going to college means taking out loans, and according to a student survey done by Nerdwallet, 48% of undergrad borrowers said they could have borrowed less and still have afforded their educations. And, 27% regretted going to a school that required them to take out loans to afford their tuition.

I know this regret personally.

I only spent one summer semester taking classes at community college, where I earned 12 credits, and I still regret not taking more. I probably could have saved over $20,000 by taking more classes at my local community college.

Yes, I could have saved that much money!

Whether you are in college already or if you haven’t started yet, taking classes at a community college can be a great way to save money.

Today, I want to talk about common myths I hear about community college, so that I can persuade more people to give it a shot. It can save you so much money, and is a great option for a lot of people.

Related content:

  • Should I Ruin My Retirement By Helping My Child Through College?
  • FAFSA Tips So That You Can Get The Most Financial Help For College
  • Learning How To Survive On A College Budget
  • How I Graduated From College In 2.5 Years With 2 Degrees AND Saved $37,500
  • How Blogging Paid Off My Student Loans
  • 16 Best Online Jobs For College Students

Here are common myths about attending community college:

 

But, all of my credits won’t transfer.

This is the top reason (and myth) I hear for not attending community college.

If you take the correct steps, the credits you earn at a community college will transfer.

If you decide to go to a community college first, always make sure that the 4-year college you plan on attending afterwards will accept all of your credits. It’s an easy step to take, so do not forget to look into this! You should take this step before you sign up and pay for any classes at the community college so that you are not wasting your time.

My four-year university made it easy and had a printed list of what transferred from the local community college – it’s seriously that easy! I’m sure many universities do this as well.

When I took classes for college credit in high school and at the community college, I made sure that all of the classes transferred to the university in which I was getting my degree from.

I have heard too many stories about people not checking this ahead of time and wasting years by taking classes that didn’t transfer, which means you are wasting time and money.

Make sure you get it in writing and talk to your college counselor as well about this. They can help you determine which ones will transfer and provide you proof of transferability.

Also, know that by accepting transfer credits, your four-year university is basically saying “these community college credits mean the same thing here.”

 

Community college won’t actually save me that much money.

I want to repeat, the average yearly tuition and fees for a:

  • Private four-year college is $32,410.
  • Public four-year college for out-of-state students is $23,890.
  • Public four-year college for in-state students is $9,410.

And, community college is $3,440.

As you can see, college tuition is a significant amount of money, and it is a drastic difference between four-year institutions and community college.

Now, the problem here is that many people “afford” college by taking out student loans, so the amount of money you are paying for college isn’t an immediate thing that you “feel” – because it’s all debt!

Note: If you are a parent and you are thinking about taking on debt to put your child through school, please, please, please consider having them attend community college first. Please, also read Should I Ruin My Retirement By Helping My Child Through College?

 

The classes won’t be as good.

I’ve heard this community college myth over and over again. Many people think that the classes won’t be “good enough” for them. That is usually far from the case, though. Your first two years, no matter where you go, are most likely going to consist of very generic classes or classes that are similar, if not the same, as ones at the four-year college you are thinking about attending.

It’s usually not until the last two years, after you get those beginner classes and electives out of the way, that your classes really begin to matter for your degree.

And, if you’re afraid you really need more of those beginner classes from a four-year college, I recommend at least taking a summer semester or two at your community college for elective classes. There are usually lots of elective options at community college, and you can at least take those at a more affordable rate. That is exactly what I did – one summer while I was attending my four-year college, I enrolled at the community college for a bunch of electives. I was able to easily, and affordably, knock out a bunch of electives.

 

My degree will be worth less coming from a community college.

When you graduate with a four-year degree, the school name on your diploma will be the name of the college you graduated from. It won’t say, “graduated from here but took some classes at community college.” This is because your community college credits transferred (if you followed the step above).

So, no worries here.

Nowhere on my college degree does it say that I took some classes at the community college.

Did you attend community college? Why or why not?

The post I Thought I Was Too Good For Community College appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

I’ll Retire With a Military Pension and Want to Move to a Bicycle-Friendly, Beer-Loving Place—So Where Should I Go?

A beer garden at one of Knoxville, Tenn.'s craft brewers.Visit Knoxville

Dear MarketWatch,

I have five years until I retire. I have a nest egg of $1 million and will also have a monthly military pension of approximately $6,000, and Social Security on top of that.

I like cycling 60 miles a day and want to retire in a place that is known for good, safe cycling. I hate hot humid weather and don’t want a lot of snow. I love craft beer. And I would prefer a place with limited or no income tax on a military pension.

Where should I retire? Fort Collins, Colorado, and Asheville, N.C., seem like good places, but the cost of living in Fort Collins seems above average, and I am told Asheville has a lack of housing.

What other places should I consider and how do they compare with the two locations already mentioned? My wife likes the sound of “the Hill County in Texas,” but she knows the heat is bad.

Charles

 

Dear Charles,

The Fort Collins and Asheville areas sound lovely. And popular places tend to be more expensive — that’s just the reality of supply and demand. If that’s where you want to be, the trade-off might be as simple as a smaller house/condo/rental.

You also could seek cheaper housing a bit further from these two cities — Greeley, Colo. (don’t believe everything about the smell), or Hendersonville, N.C. (recommended here), for example. Or what about Raleigh-Durham, with the American Tobacco Trail as the trail network’s spine? You’d have to accept more humidity with that one, however.

I started my search by looking at the League of American Bicyclists’ bicycle-friendly communities. Five, including Fort Collins, are platinum. Housing in only one is cheaper than Fort Collins, but I don’t think you’ll appreciate the snow in Madison, Wis. I ruled out Davis, Calif., because the state is one of seven that taxes military retirement pay in full. (It doesn’t tax Social Security checks, though.)

So I looked further down the list while taking weather and taxes into consideration. You can estimate your state taxes using this calculator, but you may want to verify that with a tax professional.

I’ve described three suggestions for you below. Boise (a silver-level BFC) and Corvallis, Ore. (a gold BFC), recommended here and here, may be other places to consider.

As always, taxes, housing costs, the number of craft brewers and even bike-friendliness can change over the next five years. And some of these places may not mesh with whatever your wife’s wish list includes.

Another piece of advice: Be sure to experience a place in all weather, or at least the worst season, to make sure it’s a fit. Data can only tell you so much. Consider renting, at least at first. Your pension and Social Security may cover your regular expenses, but don’t make yourself house-poor.

Equally, state income taxes aren’t always everything. Virginia, which does tax retirement pay, is rated the best state for military retirees according to this survey and scores second-highest for the “economic environment,” behind Alabama.

Why not check out your shortlist on a bike tour?

A kayaker and a paddleboarder in Mead’s Quarry, part of the Ijams Nature Center in the South Knoxville section of Knoxville, TN.
A kayaker and a paddleboarder in Mead’s Quarry, part of the Ijams Nature Center in the South Knoxville section of Knoxville, TN.

Justin Fe/Visit Knoxville

Instead of Asheville … Knoxville, TN

Asheville is one of America’s premier craft beer destinations, but Knoxville has an above-average number of breweries too. By moving here, you’d get a city twice the size (nearly 190,000 people) and the state’s flagship university (33,000 students and the potential for practically free classes starting at age 65). You’d be in a valley with the Smoky Mountains visible to the east; Asheville’s elevation is more than 1,000 feet higher. Average July highs would be a couple of degrees warmer than in Asheville, and January highs would be a couple of degrees cooler, but a little less snow.

Knoxville is a bronze-level bike-friendly community, as is Asheville. Check out bike rides that tour the breweries. You can also join BikeWalk Knoxville on one of its rides to explore the city.

Tennessee has been reducing its state income tax and will abolish it at the end of 2020. North Carolina will give you a more modest break on your pension and tax your Social Security check.

Housing is much cheaper in Knoxville than in Asheville, whether buying or renting. Here’s what’s for sale in Knoxville now, using listings from Realtor.com (which, like MarketWatch, is owned by News Corp.

And here’s Asheville.

You can flip to the rental market for both.

———

A sunrise near Wenatchee, WA
A sunrise near Wenatchee, WA

Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce

Instead of Fort Collins … Wenatchee Valley, WA

The Wenatchee Valley is a bronze-level bicycle-friendly area of 67,000 people in central Washington, so far from Fort Collins’ platinum status and even smaller than Asheville. The city of Wenatchee has nearly 35,000 residents, and the narrow, 50-mile-long Lake Chelan is an hour away. This is an agricultural area — fruit is a big crop, and there’s wine, too — so you should have plenty of rural roads to pedal on. Yes, you’ll also find craft brewers

Washington state doesn’t have an income tax, so Wenatchee checks that box. Colorado offers some tax breaks on both military pensions and Social Security.

The Wenatchee area is more affordable and less busy than Fort Collins, which you should think of as a cheaper(!) version of Boulder. Fort Collins has 170,000 people, plus there are almost another 80,00 in neighboring Loveland and 110,000 in Greeley. The plus side is that it gives you a broad range of neighborhoods and prices.

Average summer highs in Wenatchee are in the mid-80s; average highs in the winter are just above freezing. Fort Collins is a touch cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. You’d get little rain, unlike cities on the other side of the Cascade Mountains, but expect 7 to 9 inches of snow on average in December and January. Despite its higher average temperatures, the snow starts earlier in Fort Collins, lasts longer and you get more of it.

You will find plenty of retirees around Wenatchee. Nearly 20% of Chelan County’s 77,000 residents are 65 or older, according to the Census Bureau. Fort Collins comes with Colorado State University.

If Wenatchee looks too pricey, check out Spokane, another bronze-level BFC. It’s far bigger, with about 225,000 people (and 525,000 in the county), and has more craft brewers. The drawback is more snow. If you want to go smaller, Ellensburg, about 90 minutes south of Wenatchee, is a silver-level BFC and a touch cheaper than Wenatchee.

Here’s what’s on the market in Chelan County.

This is what the housing market looks like in Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley.

Indiana University's Little 500 bike race.
Indiana University’s Little 500 bike race.

Visit Bloomington

Wild card: Bloomington, IN

If you like older biking movies, you know this town of 85,000 people from “Breaking Away” and the Little 500 bike race. But did you know the home of Indiana University is a gold-level bike-friendly community?

And we’re not talking about just biking past miles and miles of corn fields on those 60-mile rides. (That would be retiring near rival Purdue University in West Lafayette, a bronze-level community.) Southern Indiana is hilly — test yourself on the brutal Hilly Hundred weekend ride outside of town during peak foliage. Others might prefer the all-terrain Gravel Grovel through the Hoosier National Forest. To chill, take the 9.2-mile trail that runs from the north end of town to the limestone quarry on the south side.

For beer, check out Upland Brewing, which won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2019. Six more gold-medal winners are in Indianapolis an hour to the north.

Indiana is changing how it taxes military retirement pay; your pension should be exempt as of 2021. The state also doesn’t tax Social Security income.

Temperatures in Bloomington reach an average of 86 in July, while January means an average high of 37 and about 5 inches of snow. If you want to hang out on campus, seniors get 50% off tuition, and the break starts at age 60.

Here are homes on the market now.

The post I’ll Retire With a Military Pension and Want to Move to a Bicycle-Friendly, Beer-Loving Place—So Where Should I Go? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

A Guide to Qualified Retirement Plans

woman on computer with notebook

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:

•  Traditional IRAs
•  Roth IRAs
•  403(b) plans
•  457 plans
•  Deferred compensation plans
•  Self-directed IRAs
•  Executive bonus plans

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 don’t 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 “free money”)
•  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.

The Takeaway

While a qualified retirement plan allows investors to put away pre-tax money for retirement, a non-qualified plan doesn’t 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 Invest®, 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 Invest®
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Source: sofi.com