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5 Financial Tips for Recent College Graduates

Robert Ingram Contributed by: Robert Ingram

financial tips for recent college graduates

Congratulations Class of 2019! This is an exciting time for recent college graduates as they begin the next phase in their lives. Some may take their first job or start along their career path, while others may continue their education. Taking this leap into the “real world” also means handling personal finances, a skill not taught often enough in school. Fortunately, by developing good financial habits early and avoiding costly mistakes, new graduates can make time an ally as they set up a solid financial future.

Here are five financial strategies to help get your post-college life on the right path:

1. Have a Spending Plan

The idea of budgeting may not sound like a lot of fun, but it doesn’t have to be a chore that keeps you from enjoying your hard-earned paycheck. Planning a monthly budget helps you control the money coming in and going out. It allows you to prioritize how you spend and save for goals like buying a home, setting up a future college fund for children, and funding your retirement.

Everyone’s budget may be a little different, but two spending categories often consume a large portion of income (especially for younger people early in their careers): housing costs and car expenses. For someone who owns a home, housing costs would include not only a mortgage payment, but also expenses like property taxes and insurance. Someone renting would have the rental cost and any rental insurance.

Consider these general guidelines:

  • A common rule of thumb is that your housing costs should not exceed about 30% of your gross income. In reality, this percentage could be a bit high if you have student loans, or if you want more discretionary income to save and for other spending. Housing costs closer to 20% is ideal.

  • A car payment and other consumer debt, like a credit card payment, can quickly eat into a monthly budget. While you may have unique spending and saving goals, a good guideline is to keep your total housing costs and consumer debt payments all within about 35% of your gross income.

2. Stash Some Cash for Emergencies

We all know that unexpected events may add unplanned expenses or changes to your budget. For example, an expensive car or home repair, a medical bill, or even a temporary loss of income can cause major financial setbacks.

Start setting aside a regular cash reserve or “rainy day” fund for emergencies or even future opportunities. Consider building up to six months’ worth of your most essential expenses. This may seem daunting at first, but make a plan to save this over time (even a few years). Set goals and milestones along the way, such as saving the first $1,000, then one months’ expenses, three months’ expenses, and so on, until you reach your ultimate goal.

3. Build Your Credit and Control Debt

Establishing a good credit history helps you qualify for mortgages and car loans at the favorable interest rates and gets you lower rates on insurance premiums, utilities, or small business loans. Paying your bills on time and limiting the amount of your outstanding debt will go a long way toward building your credit rating. What goes into your credit score? Click here.

  • If you have student loans, plan to pay them down right away. Automated reminders and systematic payments can help keep you organized. To learn how student loans affect your credit score, click here.

  • Use your credit card like a debit card, spending only what you could pay for in cash. Then each month, pay off the accumulated balance.

  • Some credit cards do have great rewards programs, but don’t be tempted to open too many accounts and start filling up those balances. You can easily get overextended and damage your credit.

4. Save Early for the Long Term

Saving for goals like retirement might not seem like a top priority, especially when that could be 30 or 40 years away. Maybe you think you’ll invest for retirement once you pay off your loans, save some cash, or deal with other, more immediate needs. Well, reconsider waiting to start.

In fact, time is your BIG advantage. As an example, let’s say you could put $200 per month in a retirement account, like an employer 401(k), starting at age 25. Assuming a 7% annual return, by age 60 (35 years of saving), you would have just over $360,000. Now, say you waited until age 35 to begin saving. To reach that same $360,000 with 25 years of saving, you would need to more than double your monthly contribution to $445. Starting with even a small amount of savings while tackling other goals can really pay off.

Does your employer offer a company match on your retirement plan? Even better! A typical matching program may offer something like 50 cents for each $1 that you contribute, up to a maximum percentage of your salary (e.g. 6%). So if you contribute up to that 6%, your employer would add an extra 3% of your salary to the plan. This is like getting an immediate 50% return on your contribution. The earlier you can contribute, the more time these matching funds have to compound. 

5. Get a Little More Educated (about money and finances)

Ok, don’t worry. Forming good financial habits doesn’t require an advanced degree or expertise in all money matters. To build your overall knowledge and confidence, spend a little time each week, even just an hour, on an area of your finances and learn about a different topic.

Start with a book or two on general personal finance topics. You can find reference books on specific topics, from mortgages and debt to investments and estate planning. Information offered through news media or internet searches also can provide resources. And you can even find a blog not too far away (Money Centered Blog).

Robert Ingram, CFP®, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® With more than 15 years of industry experience, he is a trusted source for local media outlets and frequent contributor to The Center’s “Money Centered” blog.

Why Retirees Should Consider Renting

Nick Defenthaler Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP®

“Why would you ever rent? It’s a waste of money! You don’t build equity by renting. Home ownership is just what successful people do.”

Sound familiar? I’ve heard various versions of these statements over the years, and every time I do, the frustration makes my face turns red. I guess I don’t have a very good poker face!

why retirees should consider renting

As a country, we have conditioned ourselves to believe that homeownership is always the best route and that renting is only for young folks. If you ask me, this philosophy is just flat out wrong and shortsighted.

Below, I’ve outlined various reasons that retirees who have recently sold or are planning to sell might consider renting:

Higher Mortgage Rates

  • The current rate on a 30-year mortgage is hovering around 4.6%. The days of “cheap money” and rates below 4% have simply come and gone.

Interest Deductibility

  • Roughly 92% of Americans now take the standard deduction ($12,200 for single filers, $24,400 for married filers). It’s likely that you’ll deduct little, if any, mortgage interest on your return.

Maintenance Costs

  • Very few of us move into a new home without making changes. Home improvements aren’t cheap and should be taken into consideration when deciding whether it makes more sense to rent or buy.

Housing Market “Timing”

  • Home prices have increased quite a bit over the past decade. Many experts suggest homes are fully valued, so don’t bank on your new residence to provide stock-market-like returns any time soon.

Tax-Free Equity

  • In most cases, you won’t see tax consequences when you sell your home. The tax-free proceeds from the sale could be a good way to help fund your spending goal in retirement.  

Flexibility

  • You simply can’t put a price tag on some things. Maintaining flexibility with your housing situation is certainly one of them. For many of us, the flexibility of renting is a tremendous value-add when compared to home ownership.

Quick Decisions

  • Rushing into a home purchase in a new area can be a costly mistake. If you think renting is a “waste of money” because you aren’t building equity, just look at moving costs, closing costs (even if you won’t have a mortgage), and the level of interest you pay early in a mortgage. Prior to buying, consider renting for at least two years in the new area to make darn sure it’s somewhere you want to stay.

Every situation is different, but if you’re near or in retirement and thinking about selling your home, I encourage you to consider all housing options. Reach out to your advisor as you think through this large financial decision, to ensure you’re making the best choice for your personal and family goals.

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Nick works closely with Center clients and is also the Director of The Center’s Financial Planning Department. He is also a frequent contributor to the firm’s blogs and educational webinars.


Any opinions are those of Nick Defenthaler, CFP® and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. The information contained in this report does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected.

New Year Financial To-Dos Help Keep You on Track

Kali Hassinger Contributed by: Kali Hassinger, CFP®

As we settle into 2019, the fresh calendar year provides an ideal opportunity to make plans and adjustments for your future. Instead of setting lofty resolutions without a game plan in mind, might I suggest that you consider our New Year Financial Checklist? Completing this list of actionable, attainable goals will help you avoid the disappointment of forgotten resolutions in February, and you’ll feel the satisfaction of actually accomplishing something really important!

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New Year Financial Checklist

  • Measure your progress by reviewing your net worth as compared to one year ago. Even when markets are down, it's important to evaluate your net worth annually. Did your savings still move you forward? If you're slightly down from last year, was spending a factor? There is no better way to evaluate than by taking a look at the numbers!

  • Speaking of spending and numbers, review your cash flow! How much came in last year and how much went out? Ideally, we want more income than spending.

  • Now, let's focus on the dreaded budget. Sure, budgeting can be a grind, so call it a “spending plan”. Do you have any significant expenses coming up this year? Make sure you're prepared and have enough saved.

  • Be sure you review and update beneficiaries on IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, life insurance, etc. You'd be surprised at how many people don't have beneficiaries listed on retirement accounts (or have forgotten to remove their ex-spouse)!

  • Revisit your portfolio's asset allocation. Make sure your investments and risk are still aligned with your stage in life, your goals, and your comfort level. I'm not at all suggesting that you make changes based on market headlines. Just be sure that the retirement or investment account you opened 20 years ago is still working for you.

  • Review your Social Security Statement. If you're not yet retired, you will need to go online to review your estimated benefit. Social Security is one of the most critical pieces of your retirement, so make sure your income record is accurate.

Of course, this list isn't exhaustive. The final step to ensure your financial wellbeing is a review with your advisor. Even if you don't work with a financial planner, at a minimum set aside time on your own, with your spouse or a trusted friend, to plan on improving your financial health. Do it even if you only get to the gym the first few weeks of January!

Kali Hassinger, CFP® is an Associate Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®

Social Security Increase Announced

Kali Hassinger Contributed by: Kali Hassinger, CFP®

The Social Security Administration recently announced that benefits for more than 67 million Americans would be increasing by 2.8% starting in January 2019. This cost of living adjustment (COLA for short) is the largest we've seen since 2011 when the benefits increased by 3.6%. 

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The Medicare Part B premium increase was also announced, and it will only be increased by a modest $1.50 per month (from $134 to $135.50).The premium surcharge income brackets have also seen a slight increase in the monthly premium on top of the $1.50 standard.These surcharges affect about 5% of those who have Medicare Part B.The biggest change, however, is the addition of a new premium threshold for those with income above $500,000 if filing single and $750,000 if filing jointly. This will affect:

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While the Social Security checks will be higher in 2019, so will the earnings wage base you pay into if you're still working.  In 2018, the first $128,400 was subject to Social Security payroll tax (6.2% for employees and 6.2% for employers).  Moving into 2019 the new wage base grows by 3.5% to $132,900.  Those who are earning at or above the maximum will pay $8,240 in Social Security tax each year.  With the employer's portion, the maximum tax collected per worker is $16,780.  

Social Security plays a vital role in almost everyone's financial plan.  If you have questions about next year's COLA or anything else related to your Social Security benefit, don't hesitate to reach out to us.

Kali Hassinger, CFP® is an Associate Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®


Source: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/2019-medicare-parts-b-premiums-and-deductibles