Retirement 
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Average Retirement Savings by Age

Tradeking - Discount Online BrokerI don’t put much stock in most “averages,” whether they’re rules of thumb or average net worth, but every once and a while it’s good to know where you stand.

So where do we find the average retirement savings by age? We are forced to rely on the internet. Unfortunately, with the recent stock market crash, writing about nest eggs and average retirement savings hasn’t been very popular. To get data, we turn to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s latest report on Individual Account Retirement Plans (August 2009).

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 Personal Finance 
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Why Naming Beneficiaries Is Important

Editor’s Note: How many times have you opened an account and skipped over the beneficiaries section? I know I do all the time. In fact, any one who has an ING Direct account has skipped over that section because that section doesn’t exist! In this article, Jeff Rose, a CFP in Illinois, shares a chilling tale of how skipping this section could have disastrous consequences you never envisioned.

Three sons were to be equal beneficiaries from their widowed mom’s estate. She had a modest home, about $100,000 in CD’s at the local bank, and $250,000 in an annuity. The mother named the eldest son executor of the estate. The family had always gotten along and the mother never imagined there would be an issue settling her estate, especially since her wishes were spelled out in the will - each son would get an equal third.

Sounds straight-forward enough, right? Wrong.

One minor item was overlooked and it proved to be the catalyst that drove the three surviving brothers apart.

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 Career 
28
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My Wife Quit Her Job

Quit quit quit!Yesterday, my wife quit her job of nearly four years in the middle of the worst economic recession in many many decades.

Wait, that’s probably not framed in the best way. How about this:

Yesterday, my wife quit her job of nearly four years to pursue a doctorate at the University of Maryland.

Better? :)

Either way, neither one of us has a “traditional” job. As such, we’ve had to make a few adjustments in our life for the period between when she left her job (yesterday) and when she’ll start graduate school.

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 Personal Finance 
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How To Make Smart Tax-Advantaged Investment Decisions

You can avoid costly mistakes if you understand the difference between tax-advantaged investments and tax-advantaged accounts.

What are tax-advantaged investments? Investments that people make specifically because of the tax advantages they provide are referred to as tax-advantaged investments. In fact, if not for the tax advantages, most people would not buy those particular investments. Tax-free bonds, fixed and variable annuities are examples.

Mutual funds offer tax benefits but they are not generally considered tax-advantaged because people don’t buy them specifically for the tax benefits. Real estate also has tax advantages but is also not generally included in this category. What’s important to keep in mind is that these investments have tax advantages regardless of what account you hold them in.

What are tax-advantaged accounts? Retirement accounts are tax-advantaged. Examples are IRA’s, 401(k)s, SEP IRA’s, ROTH IRAs etc. What’s critical to understand is that you can buy any investment you like within these accounts and the returns are tax-advantaged. The tax benefits don’t depend on the investments you make within these accounts.

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 Retirement 
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Analyzing My Wife’s Old 401(k)

Hand Painted Piggy BankMy wife has a 401(k) with T. Rowe Price from when she used to work at L’Oreal. She never rolled it over before the economic crisis because it wasn’t a priority and there was never a huge incentive to move. The expense ratios were reasonable, there was no annual fee, and it was more important for her to focus on moving, finding a new job, and devoting her time towards that and not rolling over a 401(k), which she could do anytime.

With the stock market swinging so wildly these days, it’s risky to rollover a 401(k) because you might miss a big jump in the transition time. Since the 401(k) isn’t horrible expense-wise, we can do a little spring cleaning and wait for a better time to rollover.

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 Retirement 
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Three More Reasons To Not Rollover Your 401(k)

401(K)When you leave your job, one of the decisions you may have to make is whether or not you should rollover your 401(k) into a Rollover IRA. The process of rolling over your 401(k) is easy, so don’t let that be a deterrent, and the benefits of rolling over your 401(k) can be pretty substantial. However, it’s not always correct to rollover your 401(k). It was the subject of my Devil’s Advocate post on why you shouldn’t rollover your 401(k) but I thought of three more excellent reasons why you might want to avoid, or at least put off, rolling it over.

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 Taxes 
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Saver’s Credit: Retirement Savings Contribution Tax Credit

Hand Painted Piggy BankReader TTFK sent me an email this morning about the “Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions,” also known as the Saver’s Credit, claimed on Form 8880, a tax credit I haven’t covered recently. The Retirement Savings Contribution tax credit is a tax credit, up to $1,000 ($2,000 for joint filers), for contributions you make into qualified retirement accounts. It’s a great incentive for you to save towards your retirement if you’re able to and those who earn less than $26,500 ($53,000 married filing jointly) qualify for some of the tax credit. Unfortunately, if you earn more than that, you don’t qualify.

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 Investing 
15
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Basics of Retirement Investing

Seated Stock TradersFive years, on the first day of my first “real” job, the HR administrator of my company handed me a folder labeled XYZ Company Pension & Retirement Plan. Inside the folder was a description of the company’s pension and 401(k) package, two “things” that meant almost nothing to me. I knew what a pension was but had no clue was a 401(k) was, but the folder seemed to have enough information in it to help me start my own 401(k) company if I wanted to. I made some good decisions about my 401(k), mostly by luck (I put 40% of my money into emerging markets, which was a good choice but I did it for a bad reason – I had no reason!), but you shouldn’t have to.

Retirement investing is not rocket science, it’s just confusing with all the acronyms and the taxability and everything else. The basics, which we’ll cover in this Foundation series article, once you unravel the confusion, are fairly straightforward.

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