Monthly Archives: September 2015

4 Common Money Misconceptions About Women

In a decade-long Prudential survey that studied the financial experiences of women, research data showed that since the 2008 financial crisis, women have made significant improvements in their financial behavior. Still, many continue to admit a lack of knowledge and understanding of sophisticated financial products.

That lack of knowledge causes more than 50% of women to rely on someone else to make financial decisions regarding their future. On the other hand, the study dispels several myths about female financial behavior, casting a more positive light on women’s money habits.

Here are four common money misconceptions about women.

1. Women Are Impulse Shoppers

One of the most common misconceptions is that women are impulse shoppers. Data from the survey showed that often, the last-minute purchases referred to as impulse buys are made using funds already set aside within a budget. And the majority of respondents (70%) claimed to spend based on need, not wants.

2. Women Don’t Know How to Manage Money

Most people don’t fully understand money management — but that’s a problem for both sexes, and not unique to women. However, a majority of women distrust the process of turning planning over to a financial professional — six in 10 prefer the help of family and friends. This differs from men, who often prefer outside sources of help.

3. Women Don’t Understand Retirement Planning

Women’s understanding of workplace retirement plans and IRAs showed considerable improvement since the 2008 crisis, up from 47% to 72% of respondents. While many women have more to learn about other retirement products such as annuities, a majority of female respondents have seen progress in their understanding of retirement planning.

As women increasingly become primary earners or amass significant net worth of their own, their financial behaviors and understanding of money management will undoubtedly continue evolving.

4. Women Don’t Make Financial Decisions in Their Households

The belief that women don’t make household financial decisions is an entirely outdated and erroneous one, according to the data. The survey showed that 95% of women consider themselves financial decision makers, and 85% of married women say they manage the household’s financial decisions themselves, or jointly with their spouse. That means today’s women are developing (or in many cases already have) a much more thorough understanding of personal finances and investing than earlier generations.

Do you cling to any of these money myths about women?

What You Need to Know Before Leasing a Car

Leasing is now more popular than ever. In fact, Millennial car buyers are leasing 46% more over the past five years because they are able to afford their dream car at a much lower cost. If you’ve thought about leasing a vehicle, then we’ve provided what you need to know before visiting the dealer.

Benefits of Leasing

You will pay for the car while you need it, and at the end of your lease, you’ll simply return it.

There are a number of other benefits associated with leasing a vehicle, such as:
Lower repair costs, because the warranty will cover most of them.

  • Lower sales tax, since you’ll only be responsible for paying sales tax on the portion of the car you finance.
  • Lower monthly payments compared to buying.
  • Typically, there is no down payment, or a very low down payment, required.
  • Fewer obligations — at the end of your contract, you simply turn in the keys and walk away.
  • New vehicles every few years. Once your lease term is up, you can choose a new lease and enjoy all the benefits and features of a new car. This also means that you can drive a better car for less money every month. On the other hand, you won’t be able to customize your vehicle.

Length of Lease and Key Contract Terms

Lease terms usually last between two to four years. However, every leasing contract is different, so you want to find out specifics, like the length of the term and the mileage cap (which is typically between 12,000–15,000 miles/year).

Most drivers agree that leasing contracts can be very confusing, even more so than when buying a vehicle. If you’d like to go in as prepared as possible, consider reviewing some common contract terms. There’s a long list of costs, terms, and fees on a lease contract, but the key items to look for are pretty clear.

Gross Capitalized Cost

This is the sticker price of the car. Like everything else in life, it’s negotiable. Don’t pay full price!

Adjusted Capitalized Cost

This is the price of the car less negotiation, rebates, trade-in, and down payment.

Residual Value

When you turn in the car at the end of the lease, the carmaker estimates it will still be worth something; the car’s residual value. The higher this number, the lower the depreciation (and the lower your payments).

Depreciation

This is the value of the car over the months and miles you will be driving it. You can think of this as the rental fee for the car. Or you can think of it as Adjusted Capitalized Cost – Residual Value.

Money Factor

This is the interest rate you’ll pay, but it’s not a straight forward interest rate.To compare it with an actual interest rate, multiply it by 2400, so you have a better idea of the value of the loan. This is also negotiable.

This interest rate will be charged to the sum of Adjusted Capitalized Costand Residual Value. It seems like double counting, but you’re paying for both the use of the car and money the finance company “loaned” you to lease the car. It may appear on your bill as Finance Charge or Rent Charge.

Monthly Lease Payment

Finally, this is what you’ll pay each month. It’s simply the Depreciation + Finance Charges + Sales Tax.

A good lease deal is one with the lowest Adjusted Capitalized Cost, the highest possible Residual Value, and the lowest possible Finance or Money Factor. Be sure to negotiate for all three!

Financing and Payment Options

As is the case when purchasing a car, you will have a number of financing options available to you when leasing. Make sure to research lease specials and financing options in your area before visiting a dealership. Use Edmunds’ Price Promise tool to find special offers near you.

Leasing can be difficult if you don’t have good credit. If you aren’t getting the financing terms you’re after, then the DMV recommends first working on raising your credit score, offering a higher down payment, or lowering the annual mileage of your lease. If you have a vehicle trade-in, this can be a great start for your down payment.

Remember, the higher your down payment is, the lower your monthly payments will be. On the other hand, some experts recommend putting as little down as possible because if your vehicle is wrecked shortly after leasing, you will be out of any money you invested upfront.

 

10 Money Moves to Make After a Promotion

Congratulations on your promotion! You’ve just made another step toward a successful future.

Still, this isn’t the time to become complacent. A promotion comes along with new challenges and tasks. To help you make the very best out of your new job, here are the 10 money moves to make after a promotion.

1. Revisit Your Tax Withholding

Most promotions don’t come with just a title upgrade, they come with a well-deserved raise. If that’s your case, calculate whether or not you need to adjust your W-4 form and submit it to your HR department.

Let’s assume that you file a joint return with your spouse and your combined taxable income was $90,000. Your tax due would be $18,293.75 ($5,156.25 + 25% of the amount over $37,450). After your promotion, your new combined taxable income is now $100,000. Your new tax bill is $21,071.25 ($18,481.25 + 28% of the amount over $90,750). Assuming no offsets to your salary bump and no changes to your W-4, you would be $2,777.50 short of your tax bill! (See also: Top Three Tax Facts to Know for 2016)

Use the IRS Withholding Calculator and determine if you need to update your W-4.

2. Calculate Vesting of Company Shares

Vested company shares are another way that your employer could reward you. Very often, these restricted stock units vest over time, meaning that you gain ownership of those shares the longer you stay. The idea is that your employer wants you to perform well and remain with the company. Contact your HR department to find out the vesting schedule of your company shares so that you know how much you would actually take with you if you were to part ways with your employer.

3. Time Profit Sharing and Bonus Checks

When your promotion includes a large bonus or profit sharing check, pay attention to the date that the
payment will be issued on. An elective deferral contribution to your retirement accounts must be deposited by the tax filing due date (April 19, 2016 for Maine and Massachusetts residents and April 18, 2016 for everybody else). For 2015 and 2016, the contribution limit to 401K, 403B, and most 457 plans is $18,000, and to regular and Roth IRA plans it’s $5,500. If you’re age 50 or over, you can make an additional $6,000 in catch-up contributions. When you haven’t met the applicable contribution limit, take advantage of that windfall to fatten up your retirement accounts.

4. Identify Additional Costs

With great power comes great responsibility, Peter Parker! Take stock of the responsibilities of your new position and determine how much additional time you may need to perform those tasks successfully. Having to stay a bit longer at work may increase several costs, including paying higher fees for babysitters or preschools, and dining out more often than before the promotion. Your first weeks in your new position will provide you an idea of how much your budget will need to adjust.

5. Determine New Tax Deductions

The good news is that some of those new-job-related costs may also be tax deductible.

  • Keep track of mileage that you have to drive to off-site locations for job-related activities. You can deduct 54 cents per mile for business miles driven in 2016, down from 57.5 cents in 2015. Also, you may use that mileage to allocate a portion of your car expenses, such as insurance and maintenance.
  • Being able to telecommute from home allows you to designate a portion of your home as a business office. Use the percentage from your total home space used used for business purposes to allocate allowable deductions using Form 8829.
  • Having to dine and wine prospective clients may also be tax deductible.

Consult your accountant for more details on allowable deductions.

6. Prevent Burnout

Several human resources experts claim that the first 100 days on the jobare critical, particularly after a promotion. To thrive in your new role — and to maximize your number of fully vested shares if applicable — take steps to mitigate additional stress related to your new job. Whether it’s hitting the gym more often, signing up for a new class, or having “pizza day” with the kids once a week, you may have new costs to cope with stress. Make sure to include them in your new monthly budget.

7. Request a Credit Limit Increase

Now that you have a higher annual income, you may be eligible for a higher limit on your credit cards. If you’ve have been current in all of your payments for the last year, have an account in good standing, and haven’t requested a limit increase in several months, contact the issuers of your credit cards to submit your request. Most financial institutions allow you to do this over an online portal, but some may request to contact them via phone.

With a higher credit limit, you can effectively improve your credit utilization ratio, which accounts for 30% of your FICO credit score.

8. Ask for Education and Licensing Subsidies

Most promotions are the result of hard work, and some of them are the result of an important investment that requires a recurrent annual expense.

For example, an architect needs to complete a series of hour requirements and exams to become licensed. Upon becoming licensed, an architect can choose to become a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), which has an initial cost of $442 per year and costs $600 each year thereafter to renew. Having the AIA in the title of a lead architect in a project bid makes a company more desirable to clients, so an architect could successfully argue that it’s in the company’s best interest to subsidize the annual cost of $600.

Similar scenarios take place in other industries, including accounting, engineering, and finance.

9. Inquire About Additional Company Benefits

Your promotion could unlock new or improved perks, including:

  • Health plans;
  • Flexible spending accounts (FSA);
  • Telecommuting devices (laptops, smartphones);
  • Fund options in retirement accounts;
  • Industry conferences; and
  • Parking options.

Find out what discretionary items are covered by your updated employment package.

10. Hire an Assistant

One time saving hack from the world’s busiest people is to outsource non-critical tasks, such as researching travel options, transcribing audio, and scheduling meetings, to an assistant. If your new job doesn’t include a personal assistant, then hire a virtual one for about $10 per hour through Upwork, Fancy Hands, or Zirtual.

7 Investment Accounts All 30-Somethings Should Have

You’re in your 30s now. If you’re finally looking to get settled in your financial life, you may want to consider ways to build wealth over the long term. But that checking account alone isn’t gonna cut it. It’s time to examine the options out there for someone in their 30s who finally has a little bit of money to invest.

Here are seven essential investment accounts all 30-somethings should have.

1. 401K, If Available to You

If you’re employed full-time, your company may offer a retirement plan that gives you access to a number of mutual funds and other investments, plus the great tax advantages that come with it. Under a 401K, 403B, or similar plan, contributions are deducted from your pre-tax income, and most employers will match a certain percentage of what you put in. Now that fewer employers are offering pensions, the 401K has become the primary vehicle for saving for retirement. Pumping cash into this account while you’re still relatively young gives your investments plenty of time to rise in value and give you a sizable nest egg. Even better, your investment is tax-deferred until you begin making withdrawals.

2. Traditional IRA

You don’t necessarily need a traditional Individual Retirement Account if you have a 401K with an employer match. But if you have 401K from an old employer, it might make sense to roll it into an IRA, because you have a much broader choice of investments to choose from — many with lower fees. With an IRA, you can invest in practically anything, including individual stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and even commodities. Traditional IRAs are also great for people who are self-employed or otherwise don’t have access to a 401K. Like a 401K, your contributions are deducted from your taxable income. You can open an IRA at most discount brokers such as Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, and E*TRADE.

3. Roth IRA

This account is a little bit like a 401K in reverse. The tax advantage is on the back end, when you can withdraw money upon retirement without paying tax on the earnings. That’s because contributions to a Roth IRA come from earnings after tax, unlike 401Ks, which draw on pre-tax income. Under a Roth IRA, you can contribute up to $5,500 annually, and you can withdraw contributions (but not your gains) before retirement age without paying a penalty.

4. Taxable Brokerage Account

While your main focus should be investing in tax-advantaged accounts that are designed for retirement, it’s good to have some investments available in this type of account due to the flexibility. You don’t need to wait until retirement age to access funds in this account, for one thing. That means you can use it to boost your income now, through the sale of stock or the gain of dividends. If you hold on to investments in a taxable account for a long time (generally over a year), you’ll pay only the long-term capital gains tax (mostly likely 15%) when you sell.

5. 529 College Savings Plan (If You Have Kids)

College is pricey, so nearly every state enables people to save for college by investing money for education in a tax-advantaged way. A 529 plan is similar to a Roth IRA, in that investments will grow tax-free until they’re withdrawn, as long as they are spent on higher education. In many states, you also get a tax break from the contributions. It’s possible to open a 529 for your child as soon as they have a social security number. Even if you don’t have kids yet, you can designate a beneficiary now — such as a niece or nephew — and change it to your own child later. (See also: The 9 Best State 529 College Savings Plans)

6. High-Interest Savings Account

Everyone knows you need a basic bank account, but if you want to boost your savings, it’s helpful to have a savings account with a higher-than-average interest rate. These days, interest rates are extremely low, but you can still find returns of above 1% in money market accounts and online banks such as Capital One 360. (See also: Best Online Checking Accounts)

7. Peer-to-Peer Lending Account

In addition to making it easier to invest in stocks, the Internet age has also made it possible for individuals to invest in other people’s debt. There are thousands of people who have hopped onto sites such as LendingClub and Prosper and report consistently solid returns. These sites generally work in the same way as banks, except that those in need of money are borrowing from individuals, who are seeking to make money on the interest. In most cases, people can invest based on the risk level of each borrower; those who aren’t as creditworthy promise a potentially higher return — but more risk — to the investor. Popular personal finance blogger Mr. Money Moustache has reported more than an 11% annualized return since 2012, and many others report similar gains. (See also: How to Make Money with Prosper)