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Life insurance 101: Do you need it and how much does it cost?
No one likes to think about needing life insurance. But the only way to understand is to, well, understand it. Before you decide that you do or don’t need life insurance, you need to understand what it is, what it costs, and what it could mean for you and your family.
What is life insurance?
Life insurance is a service provided by insurance companies – in exchange for monthly payments, they provide a lump sum payment, known as a death benefit, to the beneficiaries of the person paying when that person passes away. For most people, the beneficiaries would be their family members.
How do I get it?
If you (or your spouse) receive insurance benefits through your workplace, it is likely that there is a life insurance plan available as well. Reach out to your Human Resources department to find out if life insurance is an option for you through your company, and what you need to do to learn more about it. There are also insurance companies that offer life insurance to anyone who qualifies – you do not have to go through the insurance provided by your work.
But wouldn’t using my current insurance provider make it easier?
There are pros and cons to acquiring life insurance through your work. On one hand, it is much more convenient to do a work-sponsored plan, and you will likely get a better rate. On the other hand, that means your life insurance is tied to your job, so if you lose your job for any reason, you would lose those benefits, and potentially have a gap in coverage where you would no longer have life insurance until you found your next job.
What does it cover?
Life insurance, much like your typical medical insurance, can be tailored (to a degree) to fit your needs. For instance, if you have children, you will want to ensure that the payment amount of the death benefit would be sufficient to cover their expenses until other resources are available.
Or if you are about to get married, look for policies that cover things like student loan debts, home expenses, and other daily needs. If you have a family member with special needs who requires medical equipment or therapy, you will want to consider those costs as well.
Can anyone get it?
There are eligibility considerations when it comes to life insurance. The majority of people will qualify for life insurance without an issue. But, just like other types of insurance, there is an underwriting process that takes place to determine your eligibility.
The underwriter will look at things like your health, medical history, family history, lifestyle habits (i.e., smoking, any dangerous activities you undertake regularly, etc.), and you may also need a physical exam before the insurance company makes a final decision. You may learn that you have to pay more than you expected because you are a higher risk to insure, but there is little chance you will not be eligible at all.
Are there different kinds?
There are three different types of life insurance policies that you may have to choose between: term, universal, and whole. The main differences are the longevity of the policy, the flexibility of the policy, and the cost. For instance, term life insurance is designed to cover a specific period in your life, such as the next 20 or 30 years. But it also costs less than a whole life insurance policy, which is more expensive but covers your entire life instead of just the pre-determined time period. Work with your insurance provider to understand all of your options.
Do I really need it?
Again, this is not a pleasant subject for anyone to consider. But it is a necessary one. Only you and your family can determine together if life insurance is the right step; however, we would encourage you to give it some serious thought before making a decision.
It is a financial obligation, and if you have other ways of providing for your family in the unlikely event of your death, you may decide life insurance is not for you. Or if you are worried about how your family would function without your income, you might realize that having this extra insurance policy is worth the extra cost in the long run. It all depends on what you need and what you’ve already planned for your future.
Who can help me understand this better?
When you Google “life insurance,” you will be greeted with a page full of ads, but very little information. Look for resources like this Fidelity website, which breaks down some of the basic questions, or this website that takes you through the underwriting process.
Your best bet is to call the insurance company directly and ask, or, if you are comfortable doing so, talk to a coworker who uses your insurance to see if they are satisfied with the service they receive. Human Resources will also be able to give you additional help and places for research.
How does real estate investing work and is it right for you?
You probably know someone who invests in real estate, or have at least seen an episode of Law & Order where they interview someone who has. While you might have a general idea of what they’re talking about, you may also be wondering how it all works – and whether you should be doing it, too. We’ve compiled a few tips and tricks for you to consider as you decide if you should get in on the real estate investing business.
Know the Basics
There are different kind of real estate investments, each with their own sets of pros and cons. We’ll cover a few of them here, but before you take any other steps, you need to know what you’re getting into. A real estate investment is any property you own for the purpose of either making money (like a house you rent out) or another investment purpose (like leasing a building you own to a company).
Research Your Choices
There are a lot of real estate options for you to invest in. Below are some of the most common types of investments and what they mean for you:
Many people who have to move but can’t sell their former house utilize this option. You are able to rent your home to other people and recoup the mortgage expenses. Keep in mind that this can be a risk if you get some unruly renters, but vetting your rental applicants will help you minimize these issues.
If you have ever watched a DIY home renovation show, you have seen someone buy an old house for a good deal, fix it up, and sell it for a profit. Flipping a house can take a little longer to turn a profit, but if you have the resources and a finger on the pulse of the real estate market, it can be a great investment.
Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)
This option is growing more popular and is best compared to investing in mutual funds. As the investor, you work with a corporation or trust, which uses your money (and the money of other investors) to buy and operate income properties. Setting this up can take some knowledge of the finance industry, so consult with your accountant if you have questions.
While these options are certainly not the only ones available, they are popular with a lot of investors who are still learning the ropes.
Consider Other Factors
Before you invest in any type of real estate, you also need to keep some important factors at the front of your mind.
Location (Location, Location)
The first rule for any type of real estate venture, picking a good location for your investment will go a long way in helping you turn a profit. Look for things like proximity to public transportation, major highways, restaurants, and shopping centers. If you are renting a house you moved from or a room inside your house, you can’t exactly transport your home to be closer to the interstate. But you can still highlight the best things about the area that made you want to live there in the first place.
Have a Goal
What are you hoping to accomplish through your investment? Is this investment long-term or just until you sell your home? Are you trying to break even or do you want to make some money? Knowing what your goals are will help you take the right steps.
Know the Market
You don’t have to be a real estate agent to invest in real estate. But keeping up with the market and its ups and downs is a must if you want to invest successfully. Make it a priority to research the real estate market as well as to stay updated on current and expected conditions.
Talk to the Experts
If you really want to know how to invest in real estate the right way, you need to find the right people. This may be a realtor, accountant, attorney, or a combination of the three, but even just an initial consulting appointment can go a long way in helping you make smart decisions.
Make a Plan
We already went over why you need a goal to work towards. Now you need a way to accomplish it. You need to create a budget, work up a cost-benefit analysis, and factor in all parts of your investment. For instance, if you decide to flip a house, you need to know how much you can spend and what you expect to get when you sell it.
Prepare for obstacles
In a perfect world, the real estate market would remain steady all the time. But, as with every financial market, it ebbs and flows. That means that when you bought that house to flip a year ago, your expected profit could be different now than what you projected then. Being flexible and adaptable will be your best tools to overcoming unexpected issues.
Manage Your Credit
Your credit score and history will go a long way in helping you make a profit on your investments. Be sure to keep up with your credit score on a regular basis, and take steps to ensure that your score does not fall.
If you’re new to the idea, real estate investment may seem overwhelming. But having a plan in place and knowing your options means you can begin your new investing adventure with confidence. Decide which choice is right for you and get your investments underway.
What should you be doing with your investments?
Uncertain times bring, well, uncertainty, and that extends to your finances. The market is unpredictable, tensions are high, and financial advice seems to be flying everywhere, sometimes contradicting itself.
If you’re not sure what to do with your investments right now, or if you should be doing anything at all, we have you covered with some tips and ideas for helping your investments stretch as far as they can.
Take stock (no pun intended)
Before you decide to even look into making changes with your investments, you need to ask yourself why you are doing it. Is it because you’re worried about your employment status? Are you afraid that you won’t be able to make changes later as a result of the coronavirus? Taking the time to understand why you want to make these decisions is important, because you don’t want to let fear drive your financial choices. Make sure your reasons are sound before taking any further steps.
Make a goal
You might be new to the world of investments, and you followed the advice of your accountant to the letter without taking a lot of time to consider your options. It’s always a good idea to consult with an expert, but you also need to make sure you have a goal in mind for every financial aspect of your life, including your investments. Creating a “financial road map” will allow you to make informed decisions that are designed to benefit you in the long run.
Keep it diverse
Whether you are in the middle of a pandemic or it’s just another Taco Tuesday, financial experts agree that keeping your investments spread out over different categories can be beneficial in protecting your funds from changes in the market.
If you feel your investments are not diversified enough, contact your accountant to talk about your options. Again, this is not a message to panic and change everything because you think your portfolio is not diverse enough. Review your current plans and other options before making any changes.
Don’t panic sell
There are a lot of scary predictions out there right now for financial futures – everyone keeps hearing about the current financial crisis and how dire it is. While we would never advise you to ignore those warnings, it’s also imperative that you keep the big picture in mind when making decisions. Yes, times are currently rough for the economy – but that won’t always be the case. Don’t make rash decisions now that will affect you negatively in the future.
Leave your 401(k) out of it
It is very tempting to borrow money from your 401(k), especially if finances are tight. There are certain situations where the benefit outweighs the risk in this scenario, but they are few and far between.
Consider all of your options carefully before taking any steps in this direction. In the meantime, experts also suggest continuing your contributions toward your 401(k) – at the very least, contribute as much as your company will match. Remember, this current financial crisis will end, and your retirement will be waiting for you when it does.
Consult the experts
Don’t have an accountant? That’s okay. Odds are high that you know someone who does and can connect you for some basic questions. If that doesn’t work for you, do what the rest of us do and consult the all-knowing internet. Be mindful of your sources – you want to make sure that any blogs or websites you find are the real deal. But once you discover the right advice from the right expert, it will be easy to apply it to your own investments. Time Magazine compiled a list to get you started. Happy reading!
Don’t make choices based on the future
While it’s true that experts can make educated guesses when it comes to the financial health of the country, at the end of the day, there are many factors that could change your personal situation. We don’t say that to scare or discourage you; rather, it is vital that you not place all of your eggs in one basket, so to speak, when it comes to making financial decisions based on the future.
One expert may say the economy will recover in six months; another may say it will take ten years. Take your time, do your research, and make educated decisions based on facts and figures.
No one likes to make hard financial decisions during an economic downturn, but you can protect yourself from doing more harm than good with just a little research and understanding. Set aside some time to review your investments, adjust only where needed, and ride out the financial storm to where your smart planning is waiting on the other side.
Five mistakes not to make when transferring a 401(k)
You may be worried about transferring your 401(k) – or you may be worried because all you know about 401(k)s is what you’ve learned from characters on sitcoms. Whatever level of expertise you have, it’s about to get a whole lot higher after you read our best tips for avoiding common mistakes when it comes to protecting your future.
Don’t fake it ‘til you make it
If you’re at a wedding and can’t remember a cousin’s name, it is perfectly acceptable to refer to them in vague terms until your spouse can whisper the name to you. But when it comes to your financial security, you’ll want to understand every detail. If you’re not sure about how your 401(k) works through your current job, or even if you’re not sure that you are currently enrolled in a 401(k), now is the time to ask! Better late than never, right?
Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions
Yes, you may feel like the world’s most annoying gnat when you sit down with your HR rep and discuss your 401(k) options and ask question after question. But asking questions is how you learn – and in your retirement years, you will be glad that you risked being banned from the HR hallway forever to ask just one more question and increase your financial knowledge.
Don’t forget to consult an expert
Hiring an accountant or tax professional isn’t always necessary, but it certainly helps you navigate your options and decide which path is the best one to take to secure your comfortable retirement. If you don’t want to use an accountant for all your financial needs, consider consulting one to help you transfer your 401(k) and guide you through the necessary steps.
Don’t skip the details
Did you know that you have 60 days to finalize your 401(k) transfer into a new account? That is just one example of the many rules and regulations that come with managing and transferring a 401(k). It is crucial that you know and understand the necessary steps in order to avoid penalties – like losing over 50% of your 401(k). Even if you are consulting an expert, do your own research to ensure that every last detail is covered.
Don’t think you can’t learn more
Once you have successfully transferred your 401(k), you deserve a pat on the back. However, that doesn’t mean you’re done managing this account! It’s important to stay up to date on trends and recommendations to keep your funds secure, along with making regular checks to ensure that the amount you think you have matches the official record. You don’t have to become an expert yourself, but keeping up with these small details can make a big difference.
A few more suggestions for 401(k) success:
- Take a class or look for webinars on the best ways to maximize your 401(k).
- Speak with trusted family members or friends to find out tips and tricks they have learned through maintaining their own 401(k).
- Ask your HR rep if there is anything additional they would recommend to facilitate a successful transfer.
- Remember that all final decisions are up to you – if a recommended step does not seem like a good fit, even after a lot of research, you don’t have to take it.
- Join a Facebook group, set up a Google alert, or find a Twitter account that has the expertise you need to allow you to stay current on any relevant information.
Your future is important – which means your 401(k) is a priority for you. Take the necessary time to ensure that you are doing everything you can to make your 401(k) transfer a complete success. And, remember: it’s always the right time to consult an expert!
What the Coronavirus could mean for your money
Among the many concerns that COVID-19, or coronavirus, has brought to Americans and people worldwide is that of finances.
With school systems shutting down and some states even enacting a state-wide policy that allows only certain businesses to operate during certain hours, those who are still able to go to work may be wondering what they should expect as far as their paychecks – while those who have already been called out of work are wondering how to stretch their paychecks as far as they can. Read on for information on what the biggest concerns are, and how you can combat them.
Overall financial concerns
There is good and bad news here. You’ve seen the stock market took a hit. Bad news. But as a result, the Federal Reserve is taking extra steps to keep the economy afloat as everyone tries to predict how long this crisis will change our daily lives, such as lowering interest rates for student loans and home loans. Good news.
Financial experts are all saying the same thing: Don’t panic-sell anything! Now is not the time to throw years of investments and planning away because things seem so dire right now. Eventually, this crisis will pass – and you will need your investments when it does.
Adapt to change
When changes like this occur, it’s smart to evaluate and take a fresh look at your budget. For instance, you may be working from home right now – but that means you are using way less gas than usual. Your grocery fund will go up, but your school activities will be at a standstill. Reallocate your funds as needed to get you through the next few weeks.
Stretch it out
This isn’t a comment on your time at the gym (please don’t go to the gym). You can find creative ways to stretch your dollars even beyond their usual point. Turn the week’s leftovers into a meal all its own. Buy off-brands instead of your usual store brand for groceries. If you can work from home outside of your typical job description (i.e., help the front desk send emails, do some digital filing, etc.), take the hours that you can so you can keep some cash flow coming.
Cut it out
How many digital streaming services do you have? Probably more than one – so why not stop subscribing to some of them for now? We know that having your kids home with no Netflix may sound like the worst idea ever, but split the difference and keep the one service your family uses most. Also consider reducing the level of service you purchase to save a few bucks.
Refinance student loans
Remember what we said about interest loans being reduced? Since you have a lot of extra time at home right now, why not look into refinancing your student loans to see if you qualify for a lower interest rate? That may not change your immediate situations, but it will certainly be useful down the line when we all return to our usual routines.
Save for emergencies
Again, we realize that you may be scraping by while things are uncertain. But as soon as you’re able, go ahead and start an emergency fund. A good rule of thumb is to have three months of your salary stashed away. But you can start small. That change from the gas station? Drop it in a jar. The next time you find a $10 bill in your wallet, put it aside. A little here and there will mean big changes later on.
No one can predict the future – but you don’t have to let it control your finances. Spend wisely, save daily, and remember that this is temporary.
How compound interest can change your life–really!
Nobel Prize winner and renowned physicist Albert Einstein is rumored to have called compound interest the eighth wonder of the world. Regardless of whether he said it or not, it might actually be true, at least in the mathematical world. Compound interest is a powerful income-generating, wealth-building tool that can substantially impact your financial future.
If you don’t know what compounding interest is, or better yet, how it works, don’t worry—you’re in good company. According to ValuePenguin, who asked 2,000 Americans if they could accurately define some financial terms like net worth, credit score, and compound interest, nearly 70 percent of Americans had to ask Siri for help. Let’s see if we can fix that.
Simple vs. compound interest
There are two different types of interest: simple and compound. Simple interest is interest earned on only the principal amount of your investment. Consider a certificate of deposit (CD), for example. At the end of the term, you’ll receive your initial investment amount plus a fixed amount of interest.
Compound interest, on the other hand, is interest earned on interest, and it’s the quickest way to bump up your balance. Each period’s interest (daily, monthly, quarterly, or annually) is earned on the initial amount of your investment plus all the previously accumulated interest.
Here’s an example:
If you invest $10,000 at 7% simple interest, $700 in interest will be added to your account after Year 1. In Year 2, another $700 in interest will be paid to your account… and again in Year 3, Year 4, and so on. As long as the interest rate remains the same, you can count on earning the same $700 amount year after year.
If your $10,000 investment paid 7% compound interest, you’d see the same $700 interest in your account after the first year. However, in Year 2, your interest will be calculated on the new balance of $10,700, not your original investment of $10,000. The interest payment for Year 2 will be $749, which is then added to the $10,700 in order to calculate the interest for Year 3, and so on.
The effect of compound interest is extraordinary. At 7% simple interest, your $10,000 investment would be worth $27,500 after 25 years. With compound interest, the value would have grown to more than $50,000. It’s easy to see which one puts your money to work, and makes the biggest difference.
Invest sooner than later
You don’t need to be a mathematical whiz to benefit from compounding interest.
When you’re saving or investing money, compound interest will continually give you a financial boost. The more time your investment has to run the cycle of earning interest, adding it to the investment balance, and then earning interest on the new balance, the better. Want to see how much a specific investment amount could grow with compound interest? Check out this compound interest calculator.
Put your money to work
Compound interest works the same way, regardless of the amount of money you invest, and it adds up faster than you think. At 6 percent compound interest, your money should double in about 12 years and be worth four times as much in 24 years–that’s the Rule of 72. Simply take the interest rate and divide it into the number 72, which will estimate the number of years it will take for your money to double in any one investment.
Compounding interest can be an important component of your overall financial strategy. It’s ideal for investors with longer time horizons, but it also works for investors who’ve gotten a late start saving for their future. Whatever your situation, don’t wait another day. Put your money to work now and take advantage of the power of compounding.