It was no 2020, thank goodness. But there were enough ups, downs, and head scratchers to warrant a retrospective.
These are the top financial literacy stories of 2021.
Memes rocked the financial industry. You read that correctly—memes.
It began with struggling companies like Gamestop and AMC soaring in value. The cause? Rabid speculation fueled primarily by Reddit. There was little rhyme and even less reason to the frenzy, with devastating results—the boom became a bust that wiped out $167 billion of wealth.¹
And notice, that’s not even counting the rollercoaster year that cryptocurrency enthusiasts have “enjoyed.”
Memes also literally became hot commodities in the form of NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens).
What’s an NFT? In short, it’s an image that’s modified with blockchain. The blockchain makes the image a one-of-a-kind collector’s item since it’s possible to verify the image’s identity. Think of it as a mix of cryptocurrency and trading cards.
That means almost any digital image has the potential to become incredibly valuable. For instance, one NFT sold in 2021 for $69.3 million.²
And it makes sense why people have turned en masse to memes to build wealth. They don’t know how money works. They’ve never been taught how to build a financial legacy. And deep down, they know it. So when something, anything, comes along that looks like an opportunity to stick it to the man, they take it. The results are predictable… and often tragic.
The housing market caught on fire. Speaking of extravagant pricing, the housing market boomed in 2021. The numbers speak for themselves. Rent increased 16.4% from January to October.³ More dramatically, home prices surged almost 20% between August 2020 and August 2021.⁴
The housing market serves as a window into other forces impacting consumers. Inflation raised the cost of almost everything in the last half of 2021. And with the supply chain in chaos, it seems possible that prices will continue to rise in 2022.
That makes financial literacy more critical than ever. Families have less and less margin for error, and common milestones seem harder to reach. Without the right knowledge and strategies, building wealth may be increasingly difficult.
Financial illiteracy cost Americans billions. An annual survey by the National Financial Educators Council revealed that financial illiteracy cost the average American $1,634 in 2021.⁵ That’s a total of $415 billion.
Worst of all, that’s likely an underestimate. Think of what $1,634 could do if it were put to work building wealth in a business or retirement account. That’s the true cost of financial illiteracy—both in the short-term AND building wealth long-term.
What are your top financial literacy stories from 2021? Do you foresee any exciting changes in 2022?
¹ “Meme Stocks Lose $167 Billion as Reddit Crowd Preaches Defiance,” Sarah Ponczek, Katharine Gemmell, and Charlie Wells, Bloomberg Wealth, Feb 2, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-02/moonshot-stocks-lose-167-billion-as-crowd-preaches-defiance
² “Top 5 Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) of 2021,” Rakesh Sharma, Investopedia, Dec 15, 2021, https://www.investopedia.com/most-expensive-nfts-2021-5211768
³ “Biden’s next inflation threat: The rent is too damn high,” Katy O’Donnell and Victoria Guida, Politico, Nov 10, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/11/10/rent-inflation-biden-520642#:~:text=The%20Apartment%20List%20annual%20National,expected%20to%20continue%20for%20years
⁴ “Home price growth is finally decelerating—and it’s just the start,” Lance Lambert, Fortune, Dec 6, 2021, https://fortune.com/2021/12/06/housing-market-slowing-heading-into-2022/
From January to October 2021, rent skyrocketed 16.4.¹ And the market hasn’t cooled off—housing costs increased for renters 0.3% between September and October alone.²
It briefly looked like the housing market boom was temporary. There were plenty of rumors that the bubble was about to burst. Queue the comparisons to the 2007-2008 housing bubble!
But prices have kept on rising. In fact, Americans have come to expect it—on average, they anticipate a 10% increase in 2022.³ Financial institutions agree—the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas predicts the surge to continue until December 2023.⁴
Why? Because of a perfect storm of…
• Supply chain woes • Housing shortages • Historically low interest rates • First-time home buyers
In other words, houses are in high demand, but there aren’t enough available and they’re expensive to build.
And those problems aren’t likely to be resolved anytime soon.
But take all that with a grain of salt. If there’s anything that the last two years have proven, it’s that anything is possible.
For now, it’s best practice to prepare your budget for rising rents.
¹ “Biden’s next inflation threat: The rent is too damn high,” Katy O’Donnell and Victoria Guida, Politico, Nov 10, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/11/10/rent-inflation-biden-520642
² “Biden’s next inflation threat,” O’Donnell and Guida
³ “Biden’s next inflation threat,” O’Donnell and Guida
⁴ “Biden’s next inflation threat,” O’Donnell and Guida
Even if you abide in a smaller house than you might have envisioned as a kid, it could still provide wonderful memories while offering a haven for your family.
Home ownership can be a desirable goal, but it may become a burden, however, if the home makes you “house poor”. Imagine if every spare penny had to go toward your mortgage or upkeep of your home with nothing left over. That’s the definition of things owning you instead of you owning things. Thankfully, there’s a different way.
If you’re in the market for a new home, there are four areas to consider before you start your serious search.
Save first. You might discover there are lots of ways you could buy a house with almost no money down. However, resist the temptation of low-down-payment loans. In what could be a still-volatile housing market, you would not want to run the risk of finding yourself in a negative equity position, which means you would owe more than your house is worth. You also may pay more for Private Mortgage Insurance, which is required for home loans with less than 20% down. Before you make your move, try to save up for the 20% down payment as well as any additional amounts to help cover closing costs. You’ll also want to have an emergency fund stashed away before you buy.
Think smaller. If you don’t need a “big” house, consider buying a smaller home. Everything in smaller homes may be less expensive to replace or maintain because there’s simply less square footage involved. (The purchase price could be lower as well.)
Keep your budget under 25%. The loan officer for your mortgage might say “yes” to an amount that would cause your monthly payments to be more than 25% of your take-home pay, but that doesn’t mean those payments will fit your budget. Leaving yourself some extra margin may help you navigate life’s surprises and may give you the freedom to save more, provide more for your kids’ college, or even plan that trip you’ve always wanted to take. Bear in mind that mortgage payments may include other fees, which may increase your final monthly payment amount significantly. A 30-year mortgage may provide flexibility
When you’re focused on how much you’re borrowing, a 15-year mortgage that pays down the debt faster may be tempting. Consider a 30-year loan, though. The potential flexibility of not being obligated to a possible higher monthly payment with a 15-year loan may come in handy when those unexpected emergencies happen.
All in all, it’s worth considering your long-term outlook before you even begin your new home search.
In fact, it can be a straightforward—and profoundly enlightening—exercise that reveals your available cash flow and where you can reduce spending.
Here’s your step by step guide to creating a simple budget!
Get a pen and paper (or laptop). You’ll need a place to write and crunch a few simple numbers. If you’re “old school”, a pen, piece of paper, and a calculator will work perfectly. But you can also use a text document or spreadsheet if you’d rather!
Also, consider using a budgeting app. They’re simple tools right on your phone that you can use to track your income and outgo.
Make a list of all your monthly expenses, including housing, utilities, groceries, and transportation. Then, log in to your online banking account. You should be able to determine your average monthly spending in all of your expense categories. Write down those numbers in your budget.
Add up how much you spend in each category. That’s your total average monthly spending!
Then, subtract that number from your income to calculate your average available cash flow. That’s how much money you have leftover each month to tackle debt, save for emergencies, or use to start building wealth.
If it’s a smaller number than you expected, it’s ok. You’ve taken a very important step to face reality and move forward financially! You now know what you’re spending each month, and on what. Look at categories like entertainment and dining out. Can you reduce your monthly spending in these areas?
If your budget is tight and cash still isn’t flowing as freely as you’d like, you may need to consider starting a side hustle or part-time business to help make up the difference.
Ask me if you need help constructing your budget. It’s a simple process that can seriously improve your financial wellness.
All parents must contend with the cost of childcare, education, housing, and food. But there are some unexpected expenses that can blindside you if you’re not prepared for them. Here are some hidden costs that every parent should anticipate in advance!
The newborn utility bill spike When your baby first arrives home from the hospital (yay!), expect your utility bills to seriously increase. Chances are, your newest family member will require a cozy temperature all day to maintain their mood and sleep schedule. Plus, you’ll probably run a few extra loads of laundry and dishes every week! Before your child comes home, budget in some extra cash specifically for utility bills.
Birthday parties for preschoolers Nobody loves birthday parties more than preschoolers. If you’re not careful, you may end up paying far more than you ever expected on decorations, party favors, and gifts.
Come up with a budget-friendly gift giving strategy for your family early and stick with it. That might be placing a cost limit on what you give, or developing creative and heartfelt ways to make gifts from scratch.
Date nights will temporarily increase in cost Until your kids are old enough to look after themselves, you’ll need to hire a babysitter before you go on a date night.
There are responsible ways to save money on this often unexpected expense. If possible, have a family member look after your kids while you enjoy your romantic dinner. Also, consider swapping babysitting duties with a friend—you look after their kids on their date nights, they look after your kids on your date nights!
Extracurricular activities Music lessons, sports teams, and driver’s ed are sometimes far more expensive than parents realize. In addition to the upfront costs, you’ll also need to buy instruments, cleats, jerseys, and more to empower your kids to enjoy their favorite hobbies.
Create an extracurricular activities fund and start building it now. Then, decide how much you can pay each month for lessons and coaching.
What’s a parenting expense that caught you by surprise? I’d love to hear what it was and how you overcame it!
For example, how much would you spend on a meal at a restaurant before it moves into lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous territory? $100? $50? $20? To some, enjoying a daily made-to-order burrito might be par for the course, but to others, spending $10 every day on a tortilla, a scoop of chicken, and a dollop of guacamole might seem extravagant. Chances are, there may be some areas where you’re more in line with the average person and some areas where you’re atypical – but don’t let that worry you!
In case you were wondering, the top 3 things that Americans spend their money on in a year are housing ($20,091), transportation ($9,761), and food ($7,923).¹
Those top 3 expenses might very well be about the same as your top 3, but everything else after that is a mixed bag. Your lifestyle and the unique things that make you, well you, greatly influence where you spend your money and how you should budget.
For example, let’s say the average expenditure on a pet is $600 annually, but that may lump in hamsters, guinea pigs, all the way to Siberian Huskies. As you can imagine, each could come with a very different yearly cost associated with keeping that type of pet healthy. So although the average might be $600, your actual cost could be well above $3,000 for the husky! That definitely wouldn’t be seen as ‘normal’ by any means. And that’s okay!
What are we getting at here? It’s perfectly fine to be ‘abnormal’ in some areas of your spending. You don’t need to make your budget look exactly like other people’s budgets. What matters to them might not be the same as what matters to you.
So go ahead and buy that organic, gluten-free, grass-fed kibble for Fido – he deserves it (if he didn’t pee on the carpet while you were away, that is)! If Fido’s happiness makes you happy, then more power to you. Just make sure that at the end of the day, Fido’s food bill won’t bust your budget.
¹ “American Spending Habits in 2020,” Lexington Law, Jan 6, 2020, https://www.lexingtonlaw.com/blog/credit-cards/american-spending-habits.html
Auto leasing has been popular for several decades, but many people still aren’t sure about the sensibility of leasing vs. buying a car, how the math works, and which is really the better value.
Should you lease a car? In many cases, you can lease a car for less than the monthly payment for financing the exact same car. This is because with leasing, you never build any equity in the vehicle. Essentially, you are renting the vehicle for a predetermined number of miles per year with a promise that you’ll take good care of it and won’t let your kids spill ice cream on the seats. (After all, it’s not really your car.)
At the end of the lease – most often 2 or 3 years – you’ll have the option to buy the car. At this point, in many cases you would be able to find a comparable car for a few thousand less than the residual value on the car you leased. After the lease has expired, most people choose to lease another newer car, rather than buy the car they leased.
If you don’t drive many miles, there may be some advantages to leasing over buying, particularly if you prefer to drive something newer or if you need a late-model car for business reasons. As a bonus, for short-term or standard leases, the car is usually under warranty for the duration of the lease and maintenance costs are typically only for minor service items.
Should you buy a car? If you’re like most people, when you buy a car, you’ll probably need to finance it rather than plunk down a lump sum in cash. Rates are relatively low, but you can still expect to pay a few thousand dollars in interest costs over the course of the loan. Longer loans have higher rates and more expensive vehicles can make the interest costs add up quickly. Still, at the end of the loan, you own the car.
Older cars usually have higher maintenance costs, but it may be less expensive to keep a car with under 150,000 miles and pay for any repairs, rather than make payments on a new car. Cars are also running reliably much longer now. The average age of cars and light trucks on the roads currently is up to 12 years, which means if you had a 5-year loan, you could be driving for 7 years (or more) without having to make a car payment.[i]
So a big part of the savings in buying a car vs. leasing can occur if you keep the car for several years after it’s paid off. Cars depreciate most rapidly during the first 5 years of ownership, meaning you could take a big hit on the trade-in value during that time. Keeping the car for a bit longer puts you into a period where the car is depreciating less rapidly and you can benefit financially from not having a car payment. But if you think you might be tempted to trade the car in after 5 years (and you typically drive under 15,000 miles per year), you may want to take a closer look at leasing.
Keeping your car for 10 years How would you like to “make” an extra $28,000 over the next 10 years? That’s enough to buy another car! All things being equal (you make the same modest down payment on a leased car as a financed car), and assuming an average auto loan rate for a $30,000 vehicle, you can save nearly $28,000 in a decade by buying and keeping your car for 10 years instead of leasing a car every 3 years. And that savings applies to each car you own.[ii] (This calculation also assumes maintenance costs.)
Your savings will vary based on the type of car and its price of course, but buying a car and keeping it for a while after it’s paid off can “yield” handsome dividends.
Getting behind the wheel It’s really up to your personal preference whether you buy or lease. If you like to rotate your vehicles so you can enjoy a new car every few years and not have to worry so much about maintenance, then leasing may be a better option. However, if you like the idea of not having to make a car payment for a good portion of the life of your car, then buying may be the right choice.
Either way, before you take the keys and drive off the lot, make sure to ask your dealer any questions you have, so you can fully understand all the terms and any underlying costs for your situation.
[i] “Vehicles on the road keep getting older, and COVID could push the age higher,” Eric D. Lawrence, Detriot Free Press, Jul 28, 2020, https://www.freep.com/story/money/cars/2020/07/28/covid-average-vehicle-age-12-years/5519557002/ [ii] “Buy Vs. Lease Calculator,” Lauren Barret, Money Under 30, Nov 8, 2020 https://www.moneyunder30.com/buy-vs-lease-calculator*
Nationwide shutdowns and social distancing orders bottomed out home buying in the spring, only for demand to skyrocket over the late summer and fall.¹ All the ups and downs and uncertainty about the future have made it hard to tell if now is the time to buy or if it’s better to wait things out!
Fortunately, there’s a simple principle that can bring some clarity to your house hunting process. The 30/30/3 Rule can help you determine the right amount of house for you, whatever your stage of life! It’s composed of three mini-rules that we’ll explore one at time.
Rule 1: Don’t spend more than 30% of your gross income on mortgage payments. In other words, don’t sign away too big of a portion of your income in mortgage payments. This rule makes sure you have a healthy chunk of your cash flow available for other essential spending and building wealth. There’s definitely wiggle room to pay more as income increases, but 30% of your gross income is still a good target!
Rule 2: Have 30% of the home’s value saved in cash before you buy. Banking up a solid stash of cash before you purchase can protect you from several threats. Using about 20% of that cash as a down payment can get you lower mortgage rates and dodge private mortgage insurance.² Also, keeping a 10% buffer provides you with a useful line of defense against unexpected repairs and appliance replacements. Just remember to keep your housing fund away from risk. Think of it as an emergency fund for your house rather than a savings vehicle!
Rule 3: Avoid houses over 3X your gross annual income. This one is simple: Don’t buy a house you can’t afford! Do you make $50,000 per year? Shoot for a maximum $150,000 price tag. This is a simple way of narrowing your house hunting and managing your overall debt.
Why The Rule Works. Let’s say you’re earning the average American income of $56,516 per year, or $4,710 per month.³ You read the headlines about the housing market and decide to snatch up a home. An opportunity presents itself; there’s a gorgeous home in a good neighborhood that’s selling for $169,548 (3X your annual income) with a 3.1% interest rate (the national average). With monthly payments of $724 per month, you’ll only be handing over 15% of your income to the bank. Almost $4,000 dollars of cash flow would be at your disposal!
What if you had the same income level but were looking at a house worth $339,096 (6X your annual income) with a 6.2% interest rate (double the national average). You’ll be forking over nearly half your income for your house. That’s a huge amount of firepower that could be used to build wealth or start a business!
The 30/30/3 Rule is an easy way to simplify your search and protect your income from costly mortgage payments. Don’t forget to review your home buying plan with a financial professional who can help put this helpful principle into practice!
¹ “‘The housing market is on a sugar high’: Home sales are soaring, but is it a good time to buy? Here’s what the experts say,” Jacob Passy, MarketWatch, Aug 24, 2020, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-housing-market-is-on-a-sugar-high-home-sales-are-soaring-but-is-it-a-good-time-to-buy-heres-what-the-experts-say-2020-08-21
² “Should You Go Beyond a 20% Down Payment?,” Crissinda Ponder, LendingTree, Aug 30, 2019, https://www.lendingtree.com/home/mortgage/large-down-payment/#:~:text=Compensates%20for%20a%20lower%20credit,risk%20for%20your%20mortgage%20lender.
³ “Here’s how much the average American earns at every age,” Emmie Martin, CNBC Make It Aug 24 2017, https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/24/how-much-americans-earn-at-every-age.html#:~:text=Here’s%20how%20much%20the%20average%20American%20earns%20at%20every%20age,-Published%20Thu%2C%20Aug&text=The%20median%20household%20income%20in,men%20and%2040%20for%20women.
⁴ “Current mortgage rates – mortgage interest rates today,” Jeff Ostrowski, Bankrate, Oct 7, 2020, https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/current-interest-rates/
Despite this well-known fact, credit card debt is at an all-time high, rising another 3% this past year.¹ The average American now owes over $6,300 in credit card debt. For households, the number is much higher, at nearly $16,000 per household.² Add in an average mortgage of over $200,000, plus nearly $25,000 of non-mortgage debt (car loans, college loans, or other loans) and the molehill really is starting to look like a mountain.
The good news? You have the potential to handle your debt efficiently and deal with a molehill-sized molehill instead of a mountain-sized one.
Focus on the easiest target first.
Some types of debt don’t have an easy solution. While it’s possible to sell your home and find more affordable housing, actually following through with this might not be a great option. Selling your home is a huge decision and one that comes with expenses associated with the sale – it’s possible to lose money. Unless you find yourself with a job loss or similar long-term setback, often the best solution to paying down debt is to go after higher interest debt first. Then examine ways to cut your housing costs last.
Freeze your spending (literally, if it helps).
Due to its higher interest rate, credit card debt is usually the first thing to tackle when you decide to start eliminating debt. Let’s be honest, most of us might not even know where that money goes, but our credit card statement is a monthly reminder that it went somewhere. If credit card balances are a problem in your household, the first step is to cut back on your purchases made with credit, or stop paying with credit altogether. Some people cut up their cards to enforce discipline. Ever heard the recommendation to freeze your cards in a block of ice as a visual reminder of your commitment to quit credit? Another thing to do is to remove your card information from online shopping sites to help ensure you don’t make mindless purchases.
Set payment goals.
Paying the minimum amount on your credit card keeps the credit card company happy for 2 reasons. First, they’re happy that you made a payment on time. Second, they’re happy if you’re only paying the minimum because you might never pay off the balance, so they can keep collecting interest indefinitely. Reducing or stopping your spending with credit was the first step. The second step is to pay more than the minimum so that those balances start going down. Examine your budget to see where there’s room to reduce spending further, which will allow you to make higher payments on your credit cards and other types of debt. In most households, an honest look at the bank statement will reveal at least a few ways you might free up some money each month.
Have a sale. To get a jump-start if money is still tight, you might want to turn some unused household items into cash. Having a community yard sale or selling your items online can turn your dust collectors into cash that you can then use toward reducing your balances.
Transfer balances prudently.
Consider balance transfers for small balances with high interest rates that you think you’ll be able to pay off quickly. Transferring that balance to a lower interest or no interest card can save on interest costs, freeing up more money to pay down the balances. The interest rates on balance transfers don’t stay low forever, however – typically for a year or less – so it’s important to make sure you can pay transferred balances off quickly. Also, check if there’s a balance transfer fee. Depending on the fee, moving those funds might not make sense.
Don’t punish yourself.
Getting serious about paying down debt may seem to require draconian measures. But there likely isn’t a need to just stay home eating tuna fish sandwiches with all the lights turned off. Often, all that’s required is an adjustment of old spending habits. If your drive home takes you past a mall where it would be too tempting to “just pick a little something up”, take a different route home. But it’s important to have a small treat occasionally as well. If you’re making progress on your debt, you deserve to reward yourself sometimes. All within your budget, of course!
In fact, money matters are the leading cause of arguments in modern relationships.* The age-old adage that love trumps wealth may be true, but if money is tight or if a couple isn’t meeting their financial goals, there could be some unpleasant conversations (er, arguments) on the bumpy road to bliss with your partner or spouse.
These tips may help make the road to happiness a little easier.
1. Set a goal for debt-free living.
Certain types of debt can be difficult to avoid, such as mortgages or car payments, but other types of debt, like credit cards in particular, can grow like the proverbial snowball rolling down a hill. Credit card debt often comes about because of overspending or because insufficient savings forced the use of credit for an unexpected situation. Either way, you’ll have to get to the root of the cause or the snowball might get bigger. Starting an emergency fund or reigning in unnecessary spending – or both – can help get credit card balances under control so you can get them paid off.
2. Talk about money matters.
Having a conversation with your partner about money is probably not at the top of your list of fun-things-I-look-forward-to. This might cause many couples to put it off until the “right time”. If something is less than ideal in the way your finances are structured, not talking about it won’t make the problem go away. Instead, frustrations over money can fester, possibly turning a small issue into a larger problem. Discussing your thoughts and concerns about money with your partner regularly (and respectfully) is key to reaching an understanding of each other’s goals and priorities, and then melding them together for your goals as a couple.
3. Consider separate accounts with one joint account.
As a couple, most of your financial obligations will be faced together, including housing costs, monthly utilities and food expenses, and often auto expenses. In most households, these items ideally should be paid out of a joint account. But let’s face it, it’s no fun to have to ask permission or worry about what your partner thinks every time you buy a specialty coffee or want that new pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing. In addition to your main joint account, having separate accounts for each of you may help you maintain some independence and autonomy in regard to personal spending.
With these tips in mind, here’s to a little less stress so you can put your attention on other “couplehood” concerns… Like where you two are heading for dinner tonight – the usual hangout (which is always good), or that brand new place that just opened downtown? (Hint: This is a little bit of a trick question. The answer is – whichever place fits into the budget that you two have already decided on, together!)
Huckabee, Tyler. “Why Do People In Relationships Fight About Money So Much?” Relevant, 1.3.2018, https://bit.ly/2xiflG9.
If you’re approaching retirement age, it’s important to check on your numbers to be sure you’ve considered all the factors. If you’re younger, it might be difficult to know exactly how much to save. Think of it this way: strive to put away as much as you can.
What age do you want to retire?
Social Security can play a big role in retirement income, and the difference on a monthly basis between taking a benefit at age 62, 65, or waiting until age 70 to begin drawing benefits can be substantial.[i] If you choose to wait until 70 to take benefits, the total amount paid is comparable for all three options. However, from a cash-flow perspective, the bump in pay could be valuable when the monthly bills arrive in the mail.
How long will your money will last?
One rule of thumb for knowing how much to take out of your retirement account each year is the “4% rule”.[ii] As its name suggests, you would withdraw 4% of your retirement savings each year. If you have a larger amount saved, your “income” from your retirement savings will be higher. The 4% rule is designed to prepare for 30 years of income after retirement. Of course, if your expenses are higher than your income, the money has to come from somewhere, potentially drawing your savings down faster – and that’s where many people get into trouble. Save as much as you can now.
Are you prepared for your health care needs?
The cost of health care for a couple retiring at age 65 varies, with estimates ranging between $197,000 and $265,000.[iii] This is the expense that often catches retirees by surprise. It’s relatively easy to budget for housing, food, utilities, and other essentials but medical care costs can vary widely and your actual expenses can be much higher or lower than average estimates.
By building a strategy for income from multiple sources, you’ll be much better prepared for retirement. Taking the time to prepare now is essential. Once you leave the workforce there might be less room for mistakes and fewer ways to earn additional income. When it’s time to retire, you’ll find that there’s no such thing as too much when it comes to retirement savings.
You might think that deciding when to start preparing for retirement requires complicated algorithms. Yes, there may be some math involved – but the simple answer is – if you haven’t started preparing yet, the time to start is right now!
The 80% rule
Many financial professionals recommend saving enough to provide 80% of your pre-retirement income in your retirement years so you can maintain your standard of living. Following this rule isn’t an exact science though, because expense structures for each household can differ greatly. It is, however, a good place to start. How do we get to 80%? Living expenses typically decrease in retirement because costly commutes, investing in business clothing, and eating lunch out 5 days a week are reduced or eliminated. The other big expense that often changes is housing. At retirement, it’s common to trade in your 3, 4, or 5-bedroom home for something smaller, easier, and less expensive to maintain.
Preparing for retirement when you’re young
When you’re younger, preparing for retirement may be a fairly simple process. The main considerations are life insurance and savings. This can’t be overstated: Now is the time to buy life insurance. If you’re young and healthy, rates are much more likely to be low. This also can’t be overstated: Now is also the time to start saving. Every penny you put away now can get you closer to your goal. As anyone who’s older can tell you, life is full of surprises that end up costing money, and these instances have the potential to interfere with your savings strategy.
Another consideration is that we’re living longer. In the U.S. in 1960, life expectancy for men was 67 years. By 2016, life expectancy had increased to over 76 – with even longer life expectancy likely in following years – as medicine advances and as we become more aware of behaviors that affect our health.[i] Women tend to live even longer, with an average life expectancy of about 81 years.
Life expectancy rates are essentially averages, with low and high numbers in the mix. If you’re fortunate enough to beat the average life expectancy, your retirement savings may become slim pickings in your later years, a time when you might not be able to generate supplementary income.
Manage your expenses
Whether you’re young or getting on in years, the time to start saving is now. But if you’re nearing retirement age, it’s also time to take an honest look at your expenses. Part of the trick to stretching retirement savings is to eliminate unnecessary costs. If you’re considering moving to a smaller home to cut costs – and you’re feeling adventurous – you might want to consider moving to a different state with a lower tax rate to enjoy your golden years. If you’re younger, it’s still a great time to assess your budget and eliminate any and all unnecessary spending that you can.
For younger people, time is your ally when it comes to saving for retirement, but waiting to start saving might leave you with less than you’d hoped for later in life. If you’re closer to retirement age, there’s still time to build your nest egg and examine your projected expenses. Talk to your financial professional today about options that may be available for you!