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Smart ways to encourage kids to start saving early
Are you tired of your kids spending money like it grows on trees? Encouraging kids to save their money in a world that revolves around spending is not necessarily an easy task. Given the fact that many Americans are distressingly under-saving, it’s critical that we instill the importance of saving for the future in the next generation. Here are some excellent ideas to make saving money attractive and, dare we say it, even fun for your kids:
1. Clear the piggy bank
The piggy bank may be synonymous with saving money, but drop a coin in the bank and it’s gone from sight. Use a clear jar so kids can see it visually accumulate. It’s much more exciting and increases satisfaction. Periodically, it might even be fun to change four quarters into dollar bills.
2. Set a savings goal
Save your hard earned money to purchase something, and it typically carries more value and appreciation. When your child finds something they’re just desperate to buy, help them set a savings goal. Might they have some birthday money coming soon or could they do some chores around the house? Be sure to encourage them along the way and celebrate their success when they reach their goal.
3. Match their savings
There’s no better incentive than making money when you save money. Consider matching your child’s saving efforts. Maybe not dollar for dollar, but an amount that’s fair and offers encouragement. You can tweak it as necessary so that it can grow with your child’s needs.
4. Open a savings account
A savings account is a safe place for saving money and it also gives older children an introduction to deposits, withdrawals, compound interest, bank statements, debit cards and banking processes.
5. Set a good example
Do you shop for bargains, use coupons, comparison shop? Your kids will mimic your behavior, so lead by example. Clip coupons and send them to look for the items in the grocery store. Show them how to compare prices as they get older, either in stores or online. Brand name versus generic, is it worth the price? They may sing a different tune when they have to spend their own money.
Your best bet is to start with simple discussions about saving and spending, and needs versus wants. Work conversations into your everyday life, offer lessons, different resources and tools to help them manage their money and you’ll have done your best to set them up for financial success. Starting small and early will help build a stronger foundation for financial health and hopefully lead to a more financially balanced group of savers.
6 tips on how to travel cheap
Memorable vacations can come with a price tag you’d rather forget. But with proper planning, smart research and a flexible attitude, you can travel cheap and still have an experience worth remembering. Here’s how.
1. Cut transportation costs
Before planning your trip, have a rough budget in mind. A vacation calculator can help. If you know how much you’re willing to spend on airfare, this map can give you ideas for destinations that are within your budget.
Traveling cheaply isn’t just about cutting costs — it’s also about getting the most out of what you spend. You may discover, for example, that the $400 you thought could pay only for a flight within the U.S. can actually take you to Paris and back.
If your travel dates are flexible, you may find an even bigger selection of places you can afford to visit. If you’ve already picked a destination, changing the departure dates could lower your airfare.
Setting up alerts for when prices drop should also be a part of your strategy. Try apps such as Yapta or Hopper, which will send you price notifications on flights you’re tracking. (Booking fees may apply.) You can also follow Twitter handles like @theflightdeal or @FareDealAlert for limited-time deals. If you find a price you like, scrutinize the airline’s baggage policy before booking. Some offer cheaper ticket prices, but have strict carry-on requirements or tack on sizable fees for overweight and oversized luggage.
If your destination is within driving distance, consider hopping in a car instead of on a plane. Use a trip calculator, like this one, to make sure it’s worth the tradeoff. Add in the cost of renting a car, if necessary.
2. Compare lodging options
Finding a cheap hotel room can be tricky and takes a bit of effort. Start by shopping around on sites like Expedia, Priceline.com and Kayak to find hotels in the area, and then search for hotel promotion codes online. Contact hotels directly to negotiate a lower price. Also consider staying in a hotel outside the center of the city and looking for last-minute deals.
If you’re open to alternatives, skip the hotel and book a room through a site like Airbnb, Homeaway and OneFineStay. Not only could those be more affordable, but often you’ll stay with a local resident who can point you to cheap restaurants and activities that aren’t in travel guides. Hostels can also be a money-saver if you’re OK with bare-bones accommodations and potentially sharing a room. Keep in mind that they may have age restrictions.
3. Eat wisely (and not just healthy)
Many travelers underestimate the costs of meals, snacks and tips, says guidebook author James Kaiser. He advises bringing your own food or buying it at a store when you arrive at your destination to save money.
That doesn’t mean you have to skip restaurants altogether and haul groceries around. Dining out is one of the most enjoyable parts of travel. The trick is knowing when to indulge and when to save.
Start by looking at your itinerary. Break down your meals each day and identify the times you want to splurge. Then look for ways to save money on the other meals. For example, you can avoid inflated prices at the airport by bringing food and an empty water bottle that you can fill once you’re past security (passengers are prohibited from bringing more than 3.4 ounces of liquids, per container, in carry-on bags at U.S. airports). For breakfast, pack energy bars so you can save time and money in the mornings.
Your spending will likely fluctuate from day to day, so remember to adjust your budget to avoid overspending.
4. Research your currency options
If you’re traveling abroad, find out if the country you’re visiting is plastic-friendly. If so, a debit or credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees could be your best bet. Otherwise, research your currency exchange options to avoid the poor rates and numerous fees common at airport kiosks. Those will shrink your vacation fund before you’ve even had the chance to unpack.
Visiting your bank or credit union to exchange money before you leave may be the best option. Assuming it has that currency, you’ll likely get better exchange rates and lower fees. And, just in case you end up needing more cash once you’re abroad, ask if your financial institution has international branches or a partnership with a bank overseas. If so, you may be able to withdraw cash from those ATMs with low or no fees.
5. Get a prepaid phone or SIM card
A cell phone can be useful for navigating new cities, as well as staying connected to travel companions and life back home. But for international travelers, it may also come with data roaming fees. You’d save the most money by ditching the phone during your trip, but that may not be realistic. Your best option will likely be buying a prepaid phone once you arrive or having your carrier unlock your phone, if possible, so you can use a foreign SIM card when you land.
6. Keep souvenir spending in check
Like everything else, set a budget for souvenirs. Also consider doing some research on the best souvenirs and shops, so you’ll have a sense of what you might buy and the prices to expect.
If you find yourself on the verge of an impulse purchase, try an abbreviated version of the 72-hour shopping rule, in which you put off buying something for three days to see if you still want it. That amount of time is probably impractical when you’re on vacation, but if your schedule allows you to return to the store the next day or even later that same day, you may find that you can easily live without that $150 wool sweater from Iceland. You were only going to wear it once, anyway.
Average Wedding Cost Reaches $35k
Thinking about having a wedding soon? Are you prepared for the cost? According to The Knot’s 2016 Real Weddings Study, the average cost of a wedding in the US is $35,329. The study goes on to say that weddings today are less about the bride and groom, and instead are geared more towards entertaining guests. From the venue to food, decorations, and entertainment, couples are providing guests with unforgettable experiences. Don’t let this number scare you — it’s just an average, so there’s room for you to spend less (or more).
If you haven’t started saving for a potential wedding, now might be the time.
How Much 20-Somethings Should Save for Retirement
Your 20s may seem like an odd time to think of saving for retirement, but it’s actually the perfect moment to start planning for your later years. That’s because the earlier you start saving, the more time your money has to grow.
Savers who begin setting aside 10% of their earnings at 25, for example, could amass significantly more by retirement age than those who wait just five more years to start saving. You can use a retirement calculator to see how much you should start saving now to reach your retirement goal.
Building a nest egg on a starter salary and a shoestring budget can seem daunting, though. Focusing on the incremental savings, rather than the goal, can help your savings objectives feel more manageable.
How much to save for retirement
For those earning around $25,000 a year, the median income for 20 to 24 year olds in 2015, saving the recommended sum of 10% amounts to a little more than $200 a month.
It may seem like a reach, but consider this: If you start saving $100 a month at age 25 and invest it to return 7.7% a year — the average total return of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of U.S. stocks over the past decade — you’ll have more than $378,000 available at retirement age. And it could be tax-free.
If you wait until you’re 30 to start and save the same monthly amount at the same rate of return, you’ll wind up with less than $253,000.
Several vehicles can help you build a retirement fund. A 401(k) plan, typically offered by your employer, is often the most convenient and easily accessible of these. Contributions you make usually aren’t taxed, which helps reduce your income tax liability.
Pre-tax 401(k) accounts make up around 80% of retirement plans offered by employers, according to the American Benefits Council. Roth 401(k) accounts are another option, though these are less widely available, and money contributed to a Roth 401(k) account goes in after it’s taxed. Money withdrawn from this type of account — including earnings — is usually tax-free.
Companies that offer a 401(k) plan often match employee contributions, up to a certain percentage. This is essentially free money toward your retirement.
If your employer will match your contributions, try to take full advantage and commit a large enough percentage to get the full benefit.
Beyond a 401(k), individual retirement accounts, commonly referred to as IRAs, offer another solid option. There are two types: traditional and Roth.
Money put into a traditional account is tax-deferred, similar to funds put in a traditional 401(k) plan. That means those funds aren’t taxed until they’re taken out. But typically any earnings you make with the money are also subject to income taxes on withdrawal.
Money put into a Roth IRA has already been taxed when you earn it, so there’s no immediate tax benefit. When it’s time to withdraw the cash, however, you usually don’t pay taxes on it. And anything the money earns also can be taken out tax-free.
Contributions to both types of IRAs are currently capped at $5,500 a year for those under age 50, and $6,500 for older workers.
How much to save for emergencies
In addition to retirement, it’s also wise to save for a rainy day. Ideally, your emergency fund should be enough to cover three to six months of living expenses.
Some experts suggest setting aside even more for savings and investments: 20%. That’s roughly $415 a month on an annual income of $25,000.
That’s not always feasible, especially if a big chunk of your monthly income goes to student loan and credit card payments. Consider saving what you can, even if it’s just $10 a month.
Making a habit of saving now could serve you well down the road. And, as your income increases, the percentage you save can as well.
© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved
4 Financial Resolutions for the New Year
Another new year is upon us, and with it comes a fresh start. Take a moment to shake off all the bad vibes from 2016 and start 2017 off right by resolving to get your finances in order. Below are a few financial resolutions to start you down the path to better money management in the New Year.
Set a Budget
Setting a budget is the first step to financial fitness. Without a budget, it’s difficult to know where you stand financially. Sure, you probably know roughly how much money you make each month, but do you really know where that money is going? Are you spending too much on your morning coffee or takeout or shopping? Could you be making greater payments on your debts or saving more toward retirement?
To get a better handle on your finances, you’ll need to create a budget. You’ll need to know your monthly income after taxes (net income) and your recurring monthly expenses, such as rent or mortgage payments, car payments, insurance, utilities, etc. Once you’ve gathered these items, you’ll add up your expenses and subtract them from your income. If you have money left over, you can allocate those funds for savings or other financial goals and toward things like shopping and entertainment.
Sticking to a budget is the tricky part for most. Budgeting apps like Mint can help greatly, and a quick Google search can provide you with printable worksheets if you prefer to go the pen-and-paper route.
Erase Your Debt
The average amount owed per household is nearly $8,400, making getting rid of debt another priority for 2017. Although $8,400 is a pretty daunting number, you can opt to set a goal for yourself that is more manageable. WalletHub suggests repaying 20% of your debt within a year. If 20% stretches you too thin, adjust it – try paying off 15% of your debt instead. Or, maybe you want to pay 20% of your debt off within six months instead of a year – that’s fine, too. The key is to set a goal that works for you and your current financial situation.
Don’t forget to look at other areas of your budget when you set goals. Are there areas in which you could reduce spending and then allocate those funds toward a credit card payment instead? Are there small lifestyle changes you could make to reduce spending? For example, using a reusable water bottle, walking to more places to save on gas or cab/Uber/Lyft fare, or reducing the number of times you eat out.
Save, Save, Save
Most of us know how unpredictable life can be, which is exactly why having a healthy savings account is so important in avoiding or lessening financial struggle in the case of emergency. Establishing an emergency fund is often advised before tackling other debts, and the ideal amount you should aim to save is three to six months’ worth of living expenses.
If you already have a good chunk in your emergency fund, start working toward your other savings goals. Maybe you’d like to save more for retirement, or maybe you’d like to take that trip to Europe you’ve been planning in your head for years. Look for areas in your budget that you can adjust to help you save toward those goals. Another good tip? Start saving all your $1’s and $5’s – it’ll add up faster than you think.
Plan for the Future
Even if you’re young and just starting out in your adult life and think you’ll start saving for retirement later, don’t – retirement is a huge expense! The average American spends 20 years in retirement, and experts estimate you will need to save 70% to 90% of your pre-retirement income to maintain the same standard of living after you stop working.
Take advantage of your employer’s retirement plan and contribute as much as you can. If you have a 401(k) plan, your employer will match your contributions, usually up to a certain amount based on how long you’ve worked for them. If you don’t have retirement benefits through your workplace, you still have options, such as a Roth or Traditional IRA, or if you don’t know what your best option for retirement is, we can help.
7 Money-Saving Tips for Teens
Most teenagers probably won’t leap at the prospect of learning about personal finance on their own. That’s why it’s important to take the time to teach them smart money management. To get the conversation started, here are seven topics worth discussing to help your teen avoid costly financial missteps in the future.
Encourage your teen to get a job
Preaching about the value of a hard-earned dollar isn’t quite as effective as encouraging your child to get a job. By working for their money, teenagers are likely to begin thinking critically about how they spend it, which is a good habit to pick up at an early age. If your child is too young for a job, you could provide a weekly allowance for helping around the house.
Help your teen set a budget
Once your teen starts earning money, explain how to set a budget. Consider explaining the difference between essential and nonessential expenses, providing examples from your own life.
Set financial goals together
Since creating a budget isn’t the most exciting activity, introducing the idea of saving up for a fun purchase might reinvigorate your teen. Putting away money every month requires discipline and is a great skill to practice at an early age by regularly stashing away some cash for a new smartphone, for example. Crunch the numbers with your child to determine how much needs to be saved each month to hit the savings goal by a certain date.
Help your teen sign up for a checking and savings account
So money doesn’t have to be stashed under their mattress, sign your teenager up for a checking and savings account. Although you’ll need to co-own the account if your child is under 18, your teen can have an active role in managing it. Just know that you’ll have to foot the bill if any fees, such as overdrafts, are incurred.
Encourage responsible credit card use
Although your child won’t be able to get a credit card before turning 21, anyone can be set up as an authorized user on your plastic at any age. Make sure to implement rules regarding when your teen can use the card, and make it abundantly clear that your credit score will take a hit if your card is maxed out.
Take your teen shopping
It can be tempting to overspend on name-brand products. To help your teen fight those initial instincts, shop together and explore the wonders of coupons, sales and store brand items. This should underscore the notion that popular products don’t always have to be the go-to option, which can save your child a lot of money over the years.
Teach your teen about compound interest
When it comes to saving money, compound interest is a person’s best friend. Teaching your child about the many benefits of compound interest should encourage contribution to a 401(k) plan in a future full-time job.
© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved