One Clear Sign You Have a Rotten 401(k)—And What to Do About It

One Clear Sign You Have a Rotten 401(k)—And What to Do About It

If your 401(k) is a big deal in your retirement savings strategy, you’re not alone. According to the Investment Company Institute (ICI), more than 52 million workers participate in a 401(k) plan. That adds up to $4.7 trillion in retirement assets, making 401(k)s one of the most common sources of retirement income for U.S. workers. But plans vary from employer to employer, so not every 401(k) plan is what it’s cracked up to be. The last thing you need is to throw your retirement investing budget away in a plan that’s going nowhere. Take a look at some reasons why you might consider stopping your contributions to your employer’s 401(k), then check out our suggestions for how to keep your retirement plan on track without one. No Match? No Deal All 401(k) plans come loaded with certain benefits. First, there’s the tax deferral that helps your retirement money grow faster. Then there are the automatic contributions that make regular retirement investing a breeze. On top of that, traditional 401(k) contributions lower your taxable income, allowing you to invest more without feeling the pinch in your paycheck. But the crowning glory of any 401(k) plan is the employer match. It can take many forms, but the most common is a 50% match on the first 6% of your salary, according to a recent Vanguard report. It’s an instant and guaranteed return on your money. Awesome, right? But without an employer match, the other benefits lose their punch. In fact, if your employer doesn’t offer a match, you’re better off to skip it (as a first step) and start by investing in a Roth IRA...
Draw a Line in the Snow: How to Set and Stick to Gift-Giving Boundaries

Draw a Line in the Snow: How to Set and Stick to Gift-Giving Boundaries

Blessing your children and spouse with gifts is one of the greatest joys of Christmas. But what about everyone else? Between friends, co-workers and extended family, where do you draw the line? You don’t want to leave anyone out, but you also don’t want to stretch your Christmas budget to the limit. Before you hit the packed mall and online stores this year, set some gift-buying boundaries. Figure out how much you have to spend and prioritize accordingly. And absolutely refuse to go into debt for anyone—no matter how cute they would look in that Rudolph sweater. Extended Family You thought you budgeted for every cousin, grandparent, niece and nephew. But then Aunt Mindy shows up with her new boyfriend and his two teenage sons in tow. So you swing by the store and grab some overpriced plastic junk, even though you can’t really afford it and they probably don’t want it. As your extended family changes and grows, it can get exhausting to buy gifts for 30-plus people—especially when surprise guests show up! So why not change the Christmas rules? Talk to your family about limiting individual gifts to smaller kids, and playing a fun game of Dirty Santa with the older kids and adults. (Just bring an extra gift for any unexpected visitors.) This keeps the focus on family time, rather than a carload of unwanted candles and picture frames. Casual Friends Of course you’re going to bless your closest friends with something special. But what about your Facebook friends, workout buddies or the next-door neighbors? Where do they fit in? You can’t be friends with everyone....
3 Ways to Defuse Heated Money Conversations This Holiday Season

3 Ways to Defuse Heated Money Conversations This Holiday Season

There you are, enjoying a plate of pita chips and salmon dip at your neighbor’s annual party, when someone mentions Dave Ramsey. Suddenly, you’re on trial. And you get an earful of questions and comments like: Oh, you’re a Dave fan? I agree with everything he says except . . . Be honest: How many credit cards do you really have? No one can afford to pay for Christmas with cash. It’s too expensive! After a few rounds of this, you start searching for the nearest exit. While it may not be fun to take the high road, it’s your best option.  Here are some easy tips for defusing a heated money conversation this holiday season: 1. Share Your Story. No one can dispute your own story. Instead of talking about their choices, turn the conversation into how much debt you’ve paid off and how much freedom you’ve experienced with a budget. If someone tells you that you can’t pay for Christmas gifts with cash, just say, “Actually, I just did. I’ve been saving all year, and it really wasn’t that bad.” That’s what we like to call a mic drop. 2. Don’t expect to change their mind. You could get through to this person, but chances are they just want to prove you wrong—and prove themselves right. If they’re trying to justify their car loans and second mortgages, don’t start preaching at them. If you do, the conversation will soon descend into who has the loudest voice and the best comeback. You can respectfully disagree without making a scene.   3. Ignore the Dave-bashing. People like to “catch”...
Funding Fluffy

Funding Fluffy

Written by Lauren Reisig for Sharpheels.com The Smart Girl’s Guide to Providing for the Needs of a Puppy or Kitten   Those of us who spend any significant amount of time online know the evils that come with the social media obsessed world we live in. Fortunately, there is a shining light amidst all the cyberbullying and heated debates regarding the election. Among the internet drudgery, there is a saving grace, a beacon of hope, which comes in the form of videos of adorable puppies and kittens. These videos, which feature our canine and feline friends doing everything from saving their owners in medical emergencies to simply yawning, can inspire even the most stoic of us to want to run out to our nearest humane society and adopt a furry friend. The impulse is hard to resist, and a dog or cat can be the perfect new member of a family, but there are other factors to consider, including the cost of responsibly owning a pet. Initial Cost for Cuteness It’s important to know what a new pet will cost before you adopt one. Your new four-legged friend has needs and wants just like you do, so it is vital to ensure you can actually afford to own a pet. Start by researching the cost of owning your preferred pet (check online sites like Costhelper) , then start setting aside some cash in a “pet fund” so you are prepared when you decide it’s time to take on your new dog or cat. It’s also important to remember that the first year of pet ownership can be the most...
Teach Your Teenager How to Handle Money with This 4-Letter Word: SAVE

Teach Your Teenager How to Handle Money with This 4-Letter Word: SAVE

Kids aren’t naturally patient. Okay, so that’s not really a shock to any parent. From the day you brought your kids home, they wanted to be the center of your universe—partly because they depended on you and partly because they wanted their needs met as quickly as possible. Even if patience is a virtue, it’s still a challenge to make it a part of our normal lives—and the lives of our kids. But one great way to nurture patience is by saving money, which is where you can connect with your kids in a meaningful way. After all, teens want stuff. Sometimes, they want big-budget stuff. So, challenging them to save up for those things actually teaches them some incredible life lessons, like goal-setting, delayed gratification, sacrifice, self-discipline and, yes, patience. With that in mind, here are five things your teen may be thinking about—and could be saving for—right now. 1. Emergencies Teen emergencies probably look different than adult emergencies. They may be dealing with a phone that fell in the toilet rather than a major medical event. But the scale isn’t as important as the habit. Building an emergency fund of at least $500 is something every teen needs so they’ll be prepared for the unexpected. 2. Technology Whether it’s a new phone, a new computer or a new gaming system, the price tag for technology can be high. But the sense of accomplishment and pride from saving up cash and buying it with their own money can make a powerful impression on teens. 3. Cars When it comes to saving for a car, nothing beats clear communication....